Author's Note: This hasn't been thoroughly betaed. And I'm having problems including scene divisions, so I apologize for the confusion until I manage to sort that out. I do have the next chapter in the works. I cannot make promises about when it will be posted.
Chapter 11 - Reminders of the Past
"Ron, you heard what Madame Hooch said. She can't fix my broom. It's useless, it's toast. It's been repaired so many times it can't be re-charmed. It was Charlie's first broom! The poor thing deserves a decent burial," Ginny said across the table to her brother. "Or perhaps a nice funeral pyre."
Ron made an impatient noise and glared at his sister. "For the last time, Ginny, no. I'm not holding tryouts for another Seeker. We'll work something out. Even if you have to fly a school broom, that's better than my having to train a new Seeker at the last minute. Now shut up and let me eat in peace!"
Hermione shook her head and sighed quietly. Ever since Ron and Ginny had begun playing on the Gryffindor Quidditch team together, their sibling spats had become more and more heated. Though, when she thought about it, she didn't remember them quibbling to this extent last year.
Of course, Harry was around last year, she thought sadly. Ginny had her own crowd of friends that she usually spent time with until this year. It wasn't as if she was trying to take Harry's place, more as if...now there was room for her. Hermione's eyes burned at the familiar and hated sense of loss and fear. To cover it, she intervened with Ron and Ginny.
"Ron, that's no way to talk to your sister," she broke in, and when Ginny smirked at her brother, she added, "Ginny, stop arguing about the Seeker position. Ron's got his mind made up, and I happen to think he's right."
Ron grinned at her, apparently surprised by her agreement. Hermione's face grew warm, but she smiled back in spite of herself. "Pass the pumpkin juice, please?" she asked, hoping he hadn't noticed her blush.
Overhead, the soft whoosh of wings flapping was heard as dozens of owls flew in with the morning mail. A large, grey one dropped a tightly rolled newsparchment in front of Hermione, while a tiny owl fluttered madly near Ron and Ginny. Ron reached for the letter that was clutched in Pigwidgeon's claws, but Ginny was quicker.
"It's addressed to both of us, from Fred and George," she said as she scanned the envelope. "I suppose it's too much to hope they've sent us merchandise vouchers, the stingy prats."
Ginny slid her finger under the flap of the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of parchment, which, after reading, she passed over to Ron.
"Excellent, they're opening a branch in Hogsmeade! And it will be open in time for the first Hogsmeade weekend!"
"It makes sense. The majority of their customers are Hogwarts students," Ginny said. "I can't wait to visit."
Hermione had remained silent, and when Ron poked her gently in the shoulder, she jumped, startled.
"There was a break-in at Ollivander's shop last night," Hermione replied, showing them the headline on the morning issue of the Daily Prophet.
"Was anyone hurt?" Ginny asked quietly, her face white and pinched. Stories of attacks ranging from vandalism to assault, and even murder had become frighteningly commonplace on the front page of the Prophet; often the names of the victims were familiar ones.
Hermione read further down the page. "I don't think so. It was after hours, so the store was closed. No, wait. Mr. Ollivander lives above the shop. This says he heard a disturbance, and when he came down to investigate, he was hit with a few nasty curses. He'll be in St. Mungo's for a few days, but he'll live."
Ginny looked relieved. "Good. I've always liked Mr. Ollivander. He was so nice to me whenever we went to get one of the boys a new wand. He even gave me my first toy wand. Was it Death Eaters?"
"They think so," Hermione said. "There wasn't a Dark Mark above the shop, but listen to this. 'The perpetrators not only stole several rare and valuable wands, but investigators discovered that Mr. Ollivander's sales record's had been stolen, dating back several hundred years.'"
"Why would anyone want to steal sales records?" Ron wondered.
Ginny understood, however. "Ron, Mr. Ollivander kept personal information on everyone who purchased a wand from him, especially if the wand was rare or a special request."
"Not only that," Hermione added, "but he documented the names of his customers' parents, and their lineage. You know...whether or not they're muggle-born or pure-blood. It was a hobby with him. He was interested in the types of wands chosen by different members of families and such...but that kind of information could be dangerous in the hands of the wrong people--people with a grudge against muggleborns. "
Hermione could see that Ron got the point. He turned towards her, a grave expression on his face. But before he could say anything, another owl landed in front of Hermione. This one was large and sleek with brown feathers. It thrust its leg towards Hermione and gave a sharp cry. The envelop in its grasp was deep purple, upon which Hermione's name was inscribed with gold lettering, but there was no return address. On the back was a wax seal impressed with the mark of a feather. Mystified, Hermione tore the envelop open, only to find that the parchment inside was blank.
"What on earth?" she wondered aloud.
"Put it away," Ron said in a low voice.
"But there's nothing here," Hermione said.
"You won't be able to read it here," Ginny explained quietly. "It's a secure communication, and you won't be able to read the contents unless you're alone. Dad gets them sometimes."
"But who would be sending me..." Hermione began, but at a quick shake of Ron's head, she fell silent. The envelope had risen from the table and folded itself into the shape of a phoenix, and as they watched, it burst into flames, leaving nothing behind, not even ashes. Hermione slipped the parchment into her robes to read later. She glanced around surreptitiously. Most of their fellow students had left for their classes already, and no one seemed to have noticed the strange missive. Hermione realized it must have been charmed to be inconspicuous to observers who weren't involved with the Order.
"We'd better go, or we're going to be late for History of Magic, Ron," Hermione said.
Ginny nodded at them. "See you at lunch?" she asked.
Hermione shook her head. "No, I'll be in the library. I want to get a head start on the project that Professor Shacklebolt assigned us for Defense Against the Dark Arts."
Ron heaved a sigh. "Hermione, that project isn't due until the end of the term."
"I know, and we're already almost a month in. Christmas break will be here before we know it."
They said goodbye to Ginny and walked to History of Magic together. Ron had fallen silent, and it occurred to Hermione that, save for Harry, they had never had very much in common. In fact, she'd often had the impression that Ron only put up with her for Harry's sake.
"Ron, you don't have to walk me to classes," she said abruptly.
Ron looked at her strangely. "We're going to the same class, Hermione. It's not like I've gone out of my way."
"Well, no, but...I thought...well, I wondered...maybe some days you'd rather walk with Seamus and Dean," Hermione nodded at the two boys who were climbing the staircase ahead of them.
"I never have before," Ron said, in a tone that indicated he thought this was a strange conversation to be having.
"Well, no, but before...it was different." A familiar lump had risen in Hermione's throat, though whether it was at the memory of Harry's death, or the thought of Ron's inevitable desertion, she couldn't have said.
"Well, there was Harry, and you, and me. And now, there's just...you and me."
"Well, I just thought...look, the point is, I don't want you to think have to walk me to and from classes all the time, that's all. We don't have that much in common and we don't have that much to talk about. You'd probably rather be talking about Quidditch and...and...girls. And I don't need your pity."
They had reached the door to Professor Binns class. Ron stopped short of entering and turned to Hermione.
"What are you talking about? I don't pity you. If anyone should pity anyone, they should pity me for having to put up with a nutter like you for a best friend."
"That's just it. You don't have to put up with me, Ronald Weasley," Hermione said sharply, stung by his words. "I'll even make it easy for you."
Hermione walked in and, instead of proceeding to her usual seat across the aisle from Ron, she chose a desk in front of Lavender and Parvati. She turned and greeted them. Lavender looked at her strangely, but returned the greeting, as did Parvati. Hermione asked to borrow a sheet of parchment, and then pointed out Terry Boot's haircut. The three of them began giggling.
"Girls are mad," Ron said loud enough for her to hear, shaking his head as he slid into a seat next to Neville. Hermione's face burned, but she ignored him and turned her attention to the front of the classroom as Professor Binns drifted in through one of the walls and began lecturing in his usual monotone.
The topic for the day was the Burning Times, and even though the subject fascinated her, Hermione's attention began to drift after a few minutes. As much as she chided Ron and Harry for not paying attention in class, she often had to stifle her yawns during History of Magic. He tended to recite the text word for word, and she had always read it before class. Hermione began surreptitiously turning pages in her text, reading ahead of the Professor's lecture. She had read about the persecution of witches in primary school, when she still believed she was "normal". To study it from the perspective of a witch was rather more horrifying.
Countless wizards' and witches' lives were lost during this period. Magical folk were blamed for everything from cows going dry to famines and plagues. Burning was originally used as a preferred method of death, but charms were soon developed that rendered the flames harmless. Muggles resorted to ganging up on their victims and performing strip-searches not only to look for "witches marks" which were ridiculous, but also to confiscate magical wands in order to conduct interrogations. Unfortunately, it is a rare witch or wizard who can cast magic effectively without a wand as a focal point. At that time, burning, drowning, crushing and hanging were used. Poor records were kept, but the number is estimated to be in the millions. The tragedies spread all across the globe, reaching even into the colonies. It was during this time that the wizarding world separated itself from the muggle world completely. However, it soon became noted that from time to time, muggle parents could give birth to a magical child. Genetecists are still uncertain if this is a natural evolutionary progression, or if at one time, all humans were magical and have simply lost those abilities.
Wizarding society never recovered from these tragedies, and our numbers have been dwindling ever since. Some magical geneticists theorize that wizarding society as we know it will cease to exist within the next several hundred years , that the bloodlines will be so dilute that we will be unable to function as a society and that eventually all magical ability will be lost.
It is upon these theories that several movements have been founded over the years, one of the most notable of which occurred in the 1970's during Lord Voldemort's reign of terror. Many pureblood families were duped into joining his crusade to keep bloodlines pure and strengthen our defenses against possible muggle infiltration.
Your assignments are to research and report on some of our more prominent "pure" bloodlines. Each of these families has made contributions for preserving wizarding society, your report is expected to contain those as well. You will work in groups of two and present your findings at the end of the term.
Professor Binns pointed his transparent wand at a stack of paper slips on his desk. Gently they floated up into the air, each fluttering towards a student. Professor Binns circled the room recording work groups onto a piece of parchment that was as transparent as he. Hermione was assigned to work with Neville, who gave her a shy smile until Ron scowled at him. Moments later, it was Hermione's turn to scowl when Lavender beamed at Ron flirtatiously, having been assigned to be his partner. She turned away as Lavender leaned over closer to Ron, so that the gap between her blouse and her flesh widened enough to reveal the lacy edge of her bra. Judging by the color of Ron's ears, he was enjoying the view.
Hermione glanced down to see that the parchment that had fluttered into her hands was now in tiny pieces. The family that she and Neville were to study were the Weasleys.
Harry gave a sigh of relief as the clock on the wall finally ticked away the final minutes of class. He had always hated History of Magic. The only thing that had ever made it tolerable was the company of Hermione and Ron, and now he was deprived of that as well. When the parchment containing his term paper assignment fluttered onto his desk, stifled a groan of dismay. If he'd had any enthusiasm for the project when it was announced, his assigned partner squelched that immediately.
His partner was Malfoy.
They were to study the Potter bloodline.
He glanced over to see his "partner" had thrust his hand into the air. Without waiting for the professor to acknowledge him, Malfoy complained loudly.
"I don't see the point in studying a bloodline that is now extinct, and what's more, wasn't pure at the time of its unfortunate demise," he said, casting a grin at Crabb and Goyle, who chortled. "Potter's mother was a mudblood."
Harry clenched his fists, struggling not to react. Evan Jameson had no reason to care about Harry Potter's bloodline.
"I think you'll find that the Potter bloodline remained as pure as any of the other families that call themselves so," replied the Professor. He was prevented from speaking further by the bell indicating the end of the hour. Malfoy left without another word, dutifully followed by his thugs. Harry dawdled while gathering his belongings. He had decided he would prefer to spend the year alone than befriend his roommates. To his relief, they were long gone when he finally exited the classroom.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. He sat alone at the Slytherin table during lunch. Malfoy was nowhere to be found, nor were Ron, Hermione and Ginny. His classes passed uneventfully until his last hour, which was Transfiguration. They had completed their review of plant and animal transfigurations and had moved on to human transfiguration. The assignment for the day had been to alter the length of their own hair. Unfortunately, Harry was still becoming accustomed to his new wand. His hair had spilled over onto the floor and was twining around the legs of the surrounding desks before he managed to halt its growth, eliciting laughter from most of his classmates, Ron in particular. Malfoy, however, though he had laughed, had refrained from commenting. Instead, when Ron's back was turned and Professor McGonagall was occupied with another student, he had aimed his wand at Ron and transfigured his ears into miniature versions of an elephant's. Harry couldn't help but snicker as they began to flap of their own accord, confounding Ron in the middle of his own attempt at growing hair, so that he wound up with a mohawk.
When Professor McGonagall came to investigate, no one pointed out Malfoy as the culprit, including Harry. So, rather than giving the entire class detention, she had set them an extra chapter and an essay for homework, due the next day. Harry had no idea how he would manage to complete the work before morning, unless he skipped sleep altogether. Classes may have been over for the day for everyone else, but he still had an Occlumency session.
When he arrived at Professor Dumbledore's quarters, the professor was waiting for him and had taken the liberty of pouring Harry a cup of tea, as he did at the beginning of each of their sessions. Harry sipped slowly from his cup. He had grown accustomed to the ritual, even to the slightly bitter taste of the herbal tea, and found himself relaxing slowly. They drank their tea together in silence. Unless Harry had anything particularly pressing to discuss, Dumbledore preferred to save all conversation for the end of their sessions, so as not to hinder the effects of the tea. Once they were finished, he removed the tea service and placed a lit candle before Harry.
After taking a deep breath, Harry focused on the candle. He had progressed enough that he could clear his mind in a matter of moments, and without the additional guidance of Professor Dumbledore's voice. Soon, all he saw before him was the candle, and in another moment, he had constructed the impenetrable stone wall in his mind. He closed his eyes and savored the peace and quiet for a while, then, as the Professor had instructed him during one of their previous sessions, he began to attempt to construct a window in the wall. He had been practicing and was now able to remove several stones without collapsing the wall around him.
"Evan? Can you hear me?" The professor's voice was faint, but audible, and Harry could understand him perfectly.
"Yes, sir. I can hear you," he replied.
"Good. Very good. You're progressing more quickly than I had hoped. You must continue to practice building the window, and, when you are comfortable with it, work on functioning for longer periods of time each day with the wall in place, until it becomes second nature to you, to the point that you are able to maintain it even when you are sleeping."
"However, Evan, I wouldn't recommend utilizing your wall during class just yet. After all, we can't have you failing."
Harry laughed. "No, sir."
"Now, then. Open your eyes."
Harry opened his eyes. At first, all he saw around him was the stone wall, tall and imposing. Then he located the window, and visualized himself walking towards it and peering out. Beyond his wall were Professor Dumbledore's quarters, and as he continued to peer through, his constructed wall receded, so that all he could see were his actual surroundings. But he could still feel the wall, there in his mind, and the sanctuary it provided. He looked over at Professor Dumbledore and grinned.
"I did it!"
"Indeed. You can still sense your wall?"
"Yes. It's there, but I can see past it. All I had to do was walk over to the window."
"Very good. Now picture yourself stepping back. And shut the window, if you can."
Harry did as the professor bid him and mentally stepped away from his window to the outside world. Immediately, the walls re-materialized around him, and he contemplated how to close the window. The stones he had removed to create it had disappeared, and he wasn't certain how to get them back. Then another thought occurred to him, and a wooden shutter appeared before him, securely fastened to the stone. Harry reached over, shut and locked it. After a moment, he reopened it and peered out again until once more, Professor Dumbledore was visible and Harry's wall had receded. Harry was pleased to see that the Professor was beaming at him.
"Excellent work, excellent. I think that will be all for the day. But don't bother dismantling your wall. You may as well begin practicing with it now."
The professor rose from his seat on the worn sofa and waved his wand in mid-air. A large, green steamer trunk zoomed in from another room and settled itself at Harry's feet. On its lid were engraved the initials H.P.
"I believe inside you will find the items you requested," the Professor explained.
Harry nodded and flipped the latches on the trunk. After rummaging inside for a moment, he located the items he wanted: a wand, a book, and a lumpy velvet sack. There was one item missing, however.
"Where's the..." Harry began, but before he could get the words out, a broomstick zoomed out of the same room as the trunk had before and hovered in front of Harry. He reached up to the sleek, highly polished handle, stroking it lightly with finger tips. "I've missed this. The Nimbus 3000 is a terrific broom, but..." he trailed off, unable to explain his attachment to the broom that his godfather had given him several years ago. Professor Dumbledore, however, didn't appear to need the explanation. He simply nodded.
"Why do you need these items, if I may ask? You know you can't keep them with you. There is too much potential--"
"For discovery. I know, Professor, you don't have to tell me. And I didn't ask you to bring them so I could keep them with me. Actually, I want to give them away."
Professor Dumbledore wrinkled his brows in consternation for a moment, but then a look of sorrow crossed his face.
"Harry...are you certain? You know that this has the potential to cause them more pain than happiness."
"At first, yes. But I've thought about it, Professor, and I have my reasons. I think...I think they'd like to have these things, even if they may not think so at first. After all...I changed my mind, didn't I?"
Professor Dumbledore nodded again. Harry gave one last look at the items before him, and as he reached for his old wand, he recalled the day that Professor Dumbledore had approached him with a similar set of items, just a couple of months ago. He had been studying the copy of Camouflaging Your Countenance that the professor had given him when the knock came at the door.
"Good afternoon, Harry."
Harry didn't return the greeting, as he was in the middle of an incantation.
"Purpureum caesaries !" he said, pointing his wand at his head. He felt a slight tingling sensation, so he knew something had happened. Professor Dumbledore, who had not moved from the doorway, gave a slight cough. Harry grabbed the hand-held mirror on the bed beside him and took a look.
His hair was bright purple, and he sighed in disgust.
"Well, it may look great on Tonks, but it's definitely not me."
"I think you might want to aim for something slightly more low-key. After all, the point of disguising yourself is to avoid attracting attention, rather than commanding it," the professor suggested.
Harry looked over at his professor with a sour expression. "It was supposed to be red. Like Ron's, or Ginny's."
"Ah. Yes, I've always thought the Weasley red to be an attractive color. I believe the incantation you need is Rubefactum rather than Purpureum. Keep trying. You'll get the hang of it."
"Tonks always makes it look so easy," Harry said, discouraged. He'd been practicing for days, and this was his most successful attempt yet.
"Tonks is a metamorphmagus. She was born with these skills, they come naturally to her. And, when she changes one of her features, it will remain that way until she decides to change it again. You, however, will have to remember that whatever appearance you eventually decide upon will have to be carefully maintained. Most transfiguration charms are not permanent."
"I understand." Harry noticed that the professor was carrying a small box in his hands. "Is that for me?" he asked.
"Yes. It is."
The professor's usual carefree manner was absent, and Harry knew that whatever was in the box must be important. Professor Dumbledore handed it to him, but stopped him before he could open it.
"Before you inspect the contents, Harry, there is something we must discuss."
Harry set the box aside as the professor drew a chair next to the bed and sat.
"You are aware that Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix LeStrange were members of the Black family."
Harry nodded, bile rising in his throat at the thought of Bellatrix, who had murdered her own cousin in cold blood during the Death Eater attack at the ministry barely two months ago While the pain was fresh, it seemed a lifetime ago.
"Sirius entrusted me with the responsibility of executing his will. He left everything to you, including Number 12 Grimmauld Place."
"I don't want it," Harry said. The thought of returning to the house that Sirius had hated so much, where he had been virtually imprisoned for the last few months of his life, it made Harry sick to his stomach. If he had his way, it would be burned to the ground, with Kreacher inside. And he'd use Mrs. Black's screeching portrait to kindle the blaze.
"It's just as well," the professor said in a grave tone. "Narcissa has contested the will, as a legitimate descendant of Phineas Nigellus Black. Unfortunately, the Wizengamot have a tendency to side with so-called pureblood families. As your mother is muggle-born, and in light of your untimely "demise", your claim was superseded by the Black sisters. The house and all its contents will go to Narcissa, as Bellatrix is currently a fugitive. As wizarding society considers house-elves to be property, Kreacher now belongs to Narcissa as well."
"Then, what's in the box, sir?" Harry asked, indicating the oblong object he had set aside.
"These are a few of Sirius's personal effects. I salvaged them from his room before the Order vacated the premises. They were not included in the official inventory and will not be missed."
Professor Dumbledore nodded at the box, indicating that Harry should open it, so he gently lifted the wooden lid. The small brass hinges protested with a harsh squeak, as if they hadn't been dislodged for ages. The box contained two wands, a gold, oval shaped locket, a small, square mirror.
A shiver went through Harry as he realized who three of the items must have belonged to. He picked up the mirror and held it in his hands.
"The wands belonged to your mother and father. And after you were born, I don't recall ever seeing Lily Potter without that locket around her neck. The mirror was not in the box. I found it on top of the lid."
"I know what it is," Harry said dully. It was the mate to the mirror Sirius had given him at the beginning of his fifth year, the one he had never bothered to use and had smashed in a fit of anger--the same mirror that might have prevented Sirius's death. Harry set it aside and picked up the locket instead. There was a catch at the seam; when Harry pressed it with his thumbnail it sprang open, revealing three locks of hair: one red, one black and coarse, and one black and downy, obviously a young child's. Harry snapped it shut again and placed it back inside the box.
"Why didn't he give these to me last summer?" Harry asked, when he trusted his voice not to crack.
"I can't answer that, Harry. I can only surmise that he was waiting for an opportune moment...and as you and I have both learned, there is never a truly opportune moment for things of this nature," the professor said in a regretful tone.
Harry knew he was thinking of the years that had passed in which he had kept Harry in the dark about a number of things...Sirius, his parents' struggle with Voldemort, and the prophecy that doomed him to an almost certain death. And while it may have been done with the best of intentions, Harry couldn't completely control his anger over the consequences. He said nothing to assauge his professor's feelings of guilt, nor did he enjoy his discomfort. He simply felt empty.
Idly, Harry picked up one of the wands. It was a sort of burnished golden color, the handle smooth and worn from use. The wood seemed to warm under Harry's fingertips, and when he pulled it from the box, a shower of sparks lit the air. Harry jumped in surprise, as did Professor Dumbledore.
"Well, now. That is fortunate, indeed."
"Sir?" Harry asked, confused. Why would it matter that the wand had shot sparks?
"You purchased your own wand from Mr. Ollivander, correct?" the professor asked. When Harry nodded, he continued. "No doubt he explained to you that the wand chooses the wizard, rather than the other way around. If the wand and the wizard are not a proper match, his magic will suffer for it. I believe young Mr. Longbottom will do much better in school now that Augusta is forced to purchase for him a proper wand."
"But what does that have to do with me?" Harry asked. Then Dumbledore's meaning became clear. He couldn't return to Hogwarts with his old wand. The chances were slim, but it was possible someone, Hermione or Ron, or even one of his professors, might recognize it.
"I see you've realized my point. To be honest, I wasn't certain how I would go about procuring a new wand for you to use during the coming school-year. Taking you to Ollivander's is out of the question. However, it seems the problem has resolved itself. Your father's wand has chosen you. And if I'm not mistaken, your father was one of Minerva's top students. Perhaps you should try your transfiguration again?"
Harry waved the new wand at his head and again chanted, "Rubefactum caesaries!" Once more his scalp tingled momentarily, and Professor Dumbledore nodded.
"Take a look," he said.
Harry grabbed the long-handled mirror he had been using earlier and stared at his reflection. His hair was now bright red, almost the exact same color as Ron's. He could have been a member of the Weasley clan. Harry dropped the mirror as if it had burned him.
"Maybe I'll try brown instead."
Judging by the saddened expression on his professor's face, he didn't need to explain.
Harry set his wand back on the table, along with the book and the lumpy velvet sack. He closed the lid of his trunk and began to refasten the latches, but reconsidered and instead drew one more item from the trunk: a beautiful, shimmery cloth embroidered with golden threads.
"This I'd like to keep, if that's all right."
Professor Dumbledore appeared as if he would argue, but instead cautioned Harry, "Invisibility Cloaks are extremely rare. Do not let anyone else know you have it."
"Very well. Do you wish to specify your bequests to your friends?" the professor asked, his tone now resigned.
Harry thought for a moment. He had considered whether or not to request that certain items be given to certain people, but then he had thought better of it. He knew Ron and Hermione well enough to trust they would know what to do with the items.
"No, sir. Just tell them you think I would have wanted them to have these."
"As you wish, Evan. I think that will be all for the evening. You may go."
"Yes, sir." Harry said and turned to leave, but when he reached the staircase, he stopped and turned. Dumbledore had not moved from the sofa and was watching him expectantly. "Professor, there's something I need to know."
"Certainly, if the knowledge is mine to give," the professor replied in a serious voice. Harry took a few steps closer, but stopped halfway between the entrance and the sofa, too uncomfortable to proceed any further. Dumbledore's gaze was piercing, and Harry dropped his eyes to avoid it, instead focusing on the candle which was burning low in it's holder.
"Where are they?" he asked in a quiet voice that was on the verge of cracking. He cleared his throat and continued. "My mother and father, I mean. Where were they buried? No one's ever told me. I...I thought I might like to visit them sometime."
"There is a private cemetery on the grounds. It's usually for staff members who have made Hogwarts their home, but your parents were interred there. Would you like me to take you to it?" the professor asked gently.
"Could you just tell me how to get there?" Harry asked. This was something he wanted to do alone.
"It's at the south end of the grounds, in a small grove on the west side of the lake. If you look for it, you will find it."
"Thank you, sir."
Harry mounted the spiral staircase, which slowly circled up towards the concealed opening behind the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's office and personal quarters. Before he stepped out, he donned the invisibility cloak. He was tall enough now that it just barely brushed the floor when he walked. With a bit of nostalgia, he remembered the days when he, Ron and Hermione were all easily concealed by the shimmering folds of fabric that rendered the wearer invisible to observers. But those days were gone. When Harry peered out into the second floor corridor, he was relieved to see it was empty. He made it to the front entrance of the castle without incident, though once there he was forced to wait several minutes for someone to come along and open the doors so he could slip out unnoticed.
To his dismay, the first people to come along were Dean Thomas and Ginny Weasley. Harry remembered the way her brief kiss had electrified his skin several days ago, and noticed that Dean had his arm wrapped securely around Ginny's waist. He was struck by the sudden urge to send a stinging hex towards his former roommate. Not enough to do any damage...just enough to make him move his hand, which had lodged itself uncomfortably close to Ginny's well-shaped bottom.
A hot flush crept over Harry, and he was grateful for the invisibility cloak that shielded him from view. He had no business ogling Ginny Weasley's bum. Ron was his best friend, and if he ever found out, it was likely Harry would be on the end of that stinging hex, or worse.
And as for Evan Jameson...well, Ron had made it perfectly clear that he wanted Ginny to have absolutely nothing to do with Evan whatsoever. Not that Ginny seemed to care, but then, he'd noticed over the past year or so that Ginny rarely did anything just because it was expected of her. In either case, however, neither Harry nor Evan--and it was still strange to be thinking of himself as two separate people--should be dwelling on any part of Ginny Weasley's anatomy, no matter how shapely.
During the course of his self-diatribe, Harry had missed the opportunity to follow Dean and Ginny out of the doors. His next chance came in the form of a group of third-years, giggling excitedly and chattering to each other about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend. Harry fell into step behind them and slipped out of the open door easily without being detected. He was glad when they veered off towards the Quidditch pitch, where the Ravenclaw team was practicing. There were other students walking alongside the lake, but it was easy for him to avoid them. When the lake began to curve around, he strayed away from the beaten path, towards a short, ancient-looking stone wall he'd never noticed before, nearly hidden by a thicket of trees. As he drew closer, he could see that the clearing encircled by the wall was scattered with gravestones.
The chill in the air seemed to grow thicker, and Harry was grateful for the extra warmth his cloak provided. He finally located a rusty, wrought-iron gate and passed through. The cemetery wasn't large, but there were, by his estimate, thirty or forty different gravestones. He began walking amongst them, stepping carefully to avoid treading over someone's final resting place. Eventually, at the edge of the clearing, under the overhanging branches of an ancient oak, he came to a mound of earth that the hardy, highland grass had only just begun to reclaim, and when he glanced up at headstone, his blood ran cold.
Harry James Potter
B. 31 July 1980
D. 8 August 1996
Beloved son, brother and friend
Nearby was a larger headstone, where two people have obviously been laid to rest side by side. Harry didn't need to look to know that he had found his parents' graves. He swallowed the bile that had risen in his throat and ignored the headstone of the Boy Who Lived and stepped over to inspect the other stone.
Lily Evans Potter----------James Bowman Potter
B. 30 January 1960----------B. 27 March 1960
D. 31 October 1981
Together in Eternity
There was a shape underneath the final line of the epitaph, but it was obscured by overgrown grass and many years accumulation of dead leaves. Harry knelt to clear the debris from the stone and discovered the carving was that of a phoenix in flight, half-engulfed by flames.
Harry stood and stared for a moment. He felt a little foolish. People usually brought flowers, but he didn't have any and didn't know where to get any. He supposed Hagrid would probably have an idea, but he, as Evan Jameson, couldn't very well ask for flowers to adorn the graves of James and Lily Potter, could he? He glanced around, wondering if there were at least any wildflowers growing nearby, and was startled to see two other figures approaching the stone wall, one red-haired, one dark. Ginny and Dean. As he watched, they stopped just short of the gate he had passed through earlier. After a few minutes of conversation, which appeared to be mostly one-sided on Ginny's part, Dean delivered a terse response and departed. Ginny watched after him for a moment, then shook her head and walked through the gate, approaching Harry's direction. Even though he was still safely concealed beneath his invisibility cloak, Harry stepped away from the graves climbed over the short wall to stand behind the stout trunk of the tree whose branches sheltered his parents graves, as well as his empty one. The dry autumn leaves on the ground rustled under his feet, even when he was doing his best to remain still, so while Ginny was still many meters away, he grasped a low branch and swung himself onto it, taking care to tuck the cloak around him so in order to remain hidden.
He leaned against the trunk of the tree, his breathing ragged from the exertion of climbing into the tree combined with his fear of discovery. Judging by the rustling of leaves underneath her feet, she stopped just a few feet from the tree. Harry's heart beat just a little faster in the silence that seemed to stretched for an eternity, then when she spoke, he felt as if she had punched him in the gut.
Ginny knelt to clear away some of the dead leaves that had fallen across the base of the headstone. Ron and Hermione had offered to come with her, but she knew they didn't really want to. They'd been here before, and their grief was still too fresh for them. But Ginny knew she had to see it for herself. Harry's death was blurry in her mind, almost surreal, from the moment he collapsed in the Leaky Cauldron to the day Molly kept her company during the funeral services. Being here, seeing his name engraved in the stone, was painful, perhaps more than anything else she'd ever experienced, save for her trial down in the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry was intimately connected with that pain, too. But even while the pain tightened in throat and threatened to choke her, she felt a quiet peace steal over her, and a restlessness stilled within her that she hadn't been consciously aware of. It had happened; it was real. Maybe now the expectation of seeing him at the Gryffindor table every morning with Ron and Hermione would begin to fade.
Ginny began tracing the engravings in the headstone with her index finger. Her mum and dad had, with Professor Dumbledore's approval, taken care of most of the funeral arrangements, including the headstone. She knew they meant the part about "beloved son" just as much as Harry's own parents would have. Ron had requested that "brother" be added as well; Fred and George had agreed wholeheartedly. Hermione had been too overcome by emotion to voice her own sentiments about Harry's epitaph, so Ron had requested that "friend" be added on her behalf. Ginny supposed it was for herself as well; at least, it fit as well as any other description she could come up with. She didn't know if she would ever work out what Harry had meant to her. She only knew there was an empty hole somewhere inside that he used to fill.
"I'm sorry it took me so long to visit. I just couldn't until now. And I can't stay long. I'll just start crying, and I think if I start again, I might never stop. I just wanted to let you know that we haven't forgotten you, and we miss you dreadfully. And I wanted to say I'm sorry. I know it wasn't my fault, but I keep thinking if I'd noticed sooner, if we had gotten you to St. Mungo's earlier, or seen something, or someone...you would still be here." Hot tears began to fill Ginny's eyes, and she blinked them away angrily.
"Oh, damn. I have to go, Harry," Ginny rasped. She kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed them to the headstone briefly before getting to her feet. She paused for a moment at the graves of the Potters, saying a brief prayer for them in her head.
She turned to find Evan Jameson leaning against the trunk of a huge oak tree. Shock mingled with embarrassment. She hated for anyone to see her cry, and she swiped hastily at her eyes. When she finally found her voice, she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry. I wasn't spying. I...uh..." Evan trailed off, apparently at a loss to explain his presence.
Ginny stepped closer, anger overcoming her embarrassment. "Did someone tell you he was here? Did you come to ooh and aah over the grave of the Boy Who Lived? Looking for a souvenir, maybe?"
Evan took a step back, shaking his head vehemently. "No! I swear, it wasn't like that. I just...I was taking a walk, exploring the grounds...and this is where I wound up."
He seemed sincere, as well as genuinely shocked by her accusation, and Ginny's anger abated somewhat. She inhaled deeply several times to calm herself; her entire body was shaking from the leftover adrenalin. Evan must have taken silence for continued anger.
"I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to intrude. And I'll go...but first, are you all right?"
"I'm okay. And you don't have to leave. You just surprised me, is all." Ginny looked around, wondering how she had missed Evan. "Where were you, anyway?"
"In the tree. It seemed like a good place to sit and think. Quiet. Out of the way."
Ginny eyed the huge old oak and nodded. "Yeah. I guess it would be. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to take a pop at you like that. It's just that Harry..." she trailed off, wondering if she should bother to explain.
Evan looked away, as if the subject of Harry discomfited him. "Do you want to sit down? I think I saw some benches back there."
He pointed towards a weather-worn marble tomb at the back of the cemetery, near the wall that delineated the borders of the Hogwarts grounds. On the other side was the carriage road. Funny, Ginny thought, how she had never noticed the cemetery before. She nodded and started walking. Evan fell into step beside her. She noticed he was still wearing his school robes and remarked on it, rather than resuming a conversation about Harry.
"Hogwarts doesn't require that students wear uniforms except during class, you know," she teased.
"Wha...oh. Yeah. I had a late class and decided to take a walk. I just didn't bother to change first."
"Avoiding your housemates?" Ginny asked. Evan didn't answer, but Ginny suspected she was right. "I can't say I blame you. What's it like down there, anyway? The Slytherin common room is in the dungeons, isn't it?"
"Didn't R-" Evan began, but stopped. "I mean, didn't you tell me that the common room location of each house is a closely guarded secret?"
"Well, yeah, but I all but showed you where the Gryffindor common room is. Tit for tat," she said with a laugh, nudging Evan gently with her shoulder as they walked. "Come on, I'm dying to know about it. I can't imagine living underground."
"Under the lake, actually."
"Really?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah. It's damp. But I guess the cool thing is that one of the walls is charmed so that you can see into the lake. Sometimes merpeople swim by."
"Ugh," Ginny replied, thinking of the second task during the Tri-Wizard tournament. She'd never seen a merperson close up before that. She would be perfectly happy never to see another. "You weren't here for the Triwizard Tournament, were you?"
Evan shook his head. "No. I was too young. They only let the students who were old enough to compete visit."
They had reached the benches. Ginny started to sit, but Evan stopped her.
"Just a minute." He pointed his wand and performed a warming charm on the bench.
"Thanks," Ginny said as she took a seat. Now that they had reached their destination, she was at a loss for words.
Evan nodded towards the gravestones they had left. "You...er...mentioned him before. Harry. Did you want to talk about it?"
Ginny took a deep breath. She felt a little funny talking about Harry to anyone. Hermione knew all about her crush on Harry and had frequently offered sisterly advice. It was at Hermione's urging that she had accepted a date with Michael Corner to spend the day at Hogsmeade together during spring term her third year. And her mum had always lent a sympathetic ear. But she hadn't talked to anyone about Harry's death, not since her stay in the hospital. Not even to Ron.
"Last year was really hard for Harry," she said finally. "The Daily Prophet was always writing slanderous articles about him, making it sound like he was crackers. Even the year before that, when he was a contestant in the Tournament, they wouldn't leave him alone. They printed stuff about his personal life, tried to make it sound like Hermione Granger broke his heart." She stopped and glanced at Evan. He seemed to be listening intently, so she continued.
"And now...they're making him out to be a martyr, some kind of saint. He didn't want all that. He never did. He just wanted to be Harry Potter."
Ginny stopped and took a breath. Tears of anger and frustration had sprung to her eyes once again, and it was a moment before she had collected herself enough to go on. Evan said nothing; he simply watched her. Ginny half laughed, half choked, imagining what he must think of her carrying on in such a fashion.
"He's here so that nobody can bother him. Except those of us who loved him," she added as an afterthought. "This is the first time I've been to his gravesite. I was in hospital the day they buried him."
"Why?" Evan asked. His voice was oddly hoarse.
Ginny laughed bitterly again. "Why am I telling you all of this? You can't possibly want some girl you barely know blubbering all over you the boy she used to have a crush on."
"I don't mind," he said, and then continued when she snorted, "No, really. You're...you're really the only friend I've got here. I like talking to you."
Ginny remembered how lonely she had been during her first year at Hogwarts. "You'll make friends, Evan. It just takes time," she said, smiling in what she hoped was a reassuring way.
He shrugged. "Maybe. But I kind of like the friend I've already got." He glanced sideways at her and then looked quickly away again, his cheeks coloring faintly.
Ginny's heart thudded just a bit harder, the same way it had when he had stared at her after she'd kissed his cheek on the staircase the other day. Somewhere in the back of her mind was the nagging thought that she shouldn't be feeling this way about another boy, that it should be Dean who made her heart beat faster in her chest. Her smile faded, and she looked away towards the lake, where the shadows had deepened, reaching like creepy, gnarled fingers across its glassy surface. The sun was quickly sinking into the horizon, and the windows of the castle were glowing with warm, yellow light.
"It's getting dark. We should go inside before we miss supper," she said.
Evan looked around, apparently just as surprised as she at the passage of time. He glanced back, mouth open as if to speak, but then he just stood and held out his hand to help her up from the bench. Ginny slipped her fingers into his, noticing they were rough and callused from hours of Quidditch practice, just as hers were. His hand closed warmly over hers and he tugged gently, pulling her easily from her sitting position. When he didn't let go, she drew her hand from his reluctantly and clasped both hands behind her back. Even in the fading light, she could see Evan's flush deepen as he shoved his own hands into the pockets of his trousers. An awkward silence stretched between them as they walked back to the castle. As they reached the Great Hall, Evan gave her a sharp nod and turned in the direction of the Slytherin table.
"Evan, wait," Ginny said, reaching out to catch his arm.
"Thanks." When he gave her a quizzical look, she added, "For listening, I mean." To Ginny's relief, he smiled.
"You're welcome," he said. Then his face darkened as he glanced over her shoulder. "I'll see you later."
Ginny turned and saw that Ron had risen from the Gryffindor table, his eyes following Evan's retreating back. Dean was still seated but was watching her, his expression blank. Ginny ignored her brother as she took the seat Dean had saved for her.
Hermione, who was seated with Lavender and Parvati several seats down from Ron, leaned forward to wave at Ginny. As Ron opened his mouth to deliver what was certain to be another lecture on the evils of Slytherin house, she asked pointedly, "Ron, would you please pass the potatoes?"
"Seamus is closer, and there's something I want to say-"
"Ron..." Hermione began in a warning tone.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Oh, fine," he grumbled in a disgusted tone. "But don't think this is the end of it."
He took his seat and shoved the bowl of potatoes towards Hermione, who ignored it and reached for a bowl of peas instead. Ron glared at her, but she simply smiled innocently as she dished peas onto her plate.
Next to Ginny, Dean scooted closer and slipped his arm around her shoulders. She gently shrugged it away as she began reaching for serving dishes.
"Sorry...it's hard to eat that way," she explained, though it hadn't bothered her before. Dean gave her a funny look, but then Seamus distracted him with a question. Ginny breathed a small sigh of relief, then glanced across the room. The seat he had saved for her was facing the Slytherin table, and Ginny could feel Evan's eyes on her as she ate mechanically, hardly tasting her food, although whenever she glanced his way, he was looking in another direction.
"Are you all right?" Hermione asked cautiously.
Ginny nodded, even though she wasn't sure that was true.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see us in his office after supper," Ron said.
"What for?" Ginny asked.
"Dunno. Professor McGonagall delivered the note while you were outside."
"Just us?" Ginny asked, as tendrils of fear crept up her spine, causing her scalp to prickle with the sensation of icy fingers walking across. "Has...has something happened?"
"No, he wants to see the three of us. Don't worry, Ginny, I don't think it's anything like that," Hermione said in an attempt to be reassuring, but even she didn't look completely convinced.
The potatoes that had been tasteless previously now turned to sawdust in Ginny's mouth. She swallowed hard and then pushed her plate away, noting that Hermione and Ron were already finished.
"Let's go, then," she said. She didn't bother to bid Dean farewell, as he was involved in an argument with Seamus and several of the seventh year boys about the contenders for the World Cup the next year. Ron and Hermione led the way and she followed behind. None of them seemed interested in talking, and a shroud of fear hung over the three of them.
"Snozzberry butterbeer," Ron said to the Gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the Professor's office. It hopped out of the way as a seam split in the wall to reveal the staircase. Ron indicated that she and Hermione should proceed him, and, as the staircase began spiraling upwards, Ginny's heart began racing. Whatever the reason Dumbledore had summoned them, it couldn't be good. The last time she had been there, she had been awoken out of a sould sleep and informed that her father had been attacked and was in hospital. The only other time she had been in Dumbledore's office, was the night Harry had rescued her from the Chamber of Secrets. She'd been sobbing too hard to remember much, but she had fully expected to be expelled from from school and have her wand snapped in half. She had even wondered whether or not the Ministry might have her declared a Dark Witch and thrown into Azkaban prison. And she had wondered if the Sorting Hat would betray her, let them know that it had always suspected she was tainted, that it had suggested perhaps she belonged in any of the houses but Gryffindor. She eyed it now as they entered the cluttered, dusty office. It was perched haphazardly on a shelf overhead and appeared to be sleeping, but as Ginny passed, she was certain it winked at her.
"Welcome Miss Weasley, Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley," the professor greeted them. Fawkes trilled a short greeting as well, and with a grin, Ginny stepped over to return the phoenix's greeting.
"Hello there," she said softly. Fawkes ducked his head towards her, which Ginny took as permission to stroke the silky feathers atop his head.
"Please, have a seat," Professor Dumbledore bade them. Ginny took the one nearest the phoenix's perch, while Hermione took the one in the middle and Ron the one on the other side.
"No doubt you are all wondering why I've called you here," the professor said, and when Ginny glanced nervously at her brother, he reassured them. "There is no need for alarm. Your families are all quite safe, I assure you. But I have asked you here on a matter of some delicacy."
Ginny heard Ron give a sharp intake of breath, and she turned to follow his gaze to a broomstick leaning against the wall behind the professor's chair.
It was Harry's firebolt.
Ginny's eyes darted to the collection of items on the desk, then to Professor Dumbledore. Obviously, these things had all belonged to Harry. Why were they here?
"These items were placed in my care after Harry's funeral. I thought you might like to have them," the professor said quietly.
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, then over at Ginny. Finally, Hermione answered. "No. No, sir, we...we couldn't."
Professor Dumbledore then added, "As you were his closest friends, I think Harry would have wanted you to have these things.
Neither Ron nor Hermione spoke. Hermione reached out to touch the slender length of wood that had been Harry's wand, then drew back as if it had burned her fingers. Ron had looked away and was now concentrating intently on a darkened spot in the stone floor in front of the professor's desk. Ginny's throat ached, and she longed for the solitude of her dormitory.
Ron spoke finally in a hoarse voice. "Thank you, sir."
He reached up to take the crimson velvet pouch, which was emblazoned with the initials HJP in gold lettering. It was the set of wizard's chessmen Harry had received for Christmas his first year at Hogwarts. He turned and nodded at Hermione, who reached for the leather-covered book. When she opened it, Ginny realized it was a photo album. The first few pages were scattered with pictures of a lovely red-haired woman and a man with messy, black hair and glasses. Ginny realized these must have been Harry's parents. As Hermione continued to flip through the pages, pictures of Harry appeared, first as a baby, then as a boy, usually accompanied by either Ron or Hermione or both. Hermione stared for a long time at one of the pictures of the three of them. Harry was in the middle, with an arm around both Hermione and Ron at either side of him. Every once in a while, they would turn and giggle or speak to each other before looking back towards the camera, waving brightly. Finally, she shut the book with a small sniffle and wiped surreptitiously at her eyes. Ginny looked away hastily, blinking furiously to clear away the own tears she could feel stinging her eyes once more. Then she felt Ron's hand on her shoulder.
Shocked, Ginny turned back to her brother. He was grim-faced with resignation, and Ginny realized he intended for her to take Harry's Firebolt.
"No," she said, shaking her head emphatically. "No, Ron. He was your best friend. He'd want you to have it. You take it. And I'll just borrow your broom."
"Ginny, you're the Seeker. And as much as I hate to admit it, a damned good one. But my Cleansweep can't match the Nimbus that Jameson is riding. Take the Firebolt. I think Harry would like knowing another Seeker was riding it. And I know he'd want us to beat the pants off Slytherin."
Ginny's insides quaked with both dread and anticipation. She'd always admired Harry's Firebolt, even dreamed that maybe, one day, she'd get to ride it. But not like this. Finally, seeing the determined expression on her brother's face, she relented.
"All right. I'll use it for Quidditch. But it should belong to you, Ron," Ginny insisted.
"We'll figure that out later," Ron said, effectively ending the discussion. They sat in an awkward silence until Professor broke it with a question.
"What about Harry's wand?"
Ron and Ginny looked at each other, and Ginny nodded. Ron turned to Hermione.
"You should keep it, Hermione."
"Why me?" she asked, her eyes wide. Ginny thought she seemed frightened by the prospect.
"Someone should keep it safe. It will probably be safest with you."
Hermione didn't answer. She simply nodded, then reached for the wand again, closing her fingers around the handle reluctantly. A thought occurred to Ginny then.
"Professor Dumbledore, whatever became of Hedwig?"
The Professor's glanced dropped away for a moment. "Magical owls sometimes return to the wild after the death of their masters. I suspect Hedwig has done just that. She disappeared the same night of the services."
Ginny's heart ached at the thought of the beautiful snowy owl's disappearance. She would have loved to have given her a home, but she hoped that Hedwig would be happy, wherever she was.
"If you have no further questions, you may go," the professor said.
"I need to speak with you for a moment, Professor," Hermione.
A look passed between Ron and Hermione that Ginny couldn't quite decipher, but she realized it was none of her business. Ron nodded, then reached over and picked up Harry's firebolt and handed it to Ginny. Not a word was spoken between them until they reached the common room. Many of their fellow Gryffindors had gathered to study or pass the time by playing Exploding Snap or Wizard's Chess. Ginny hoped to be able to slip in amongst the noisy students and pass through to her dormitory unnoticed, but a loud exclamation from Colin Creevey made that impossible.
"Cor, Ginny, that's a Firebolt! Where'd you get it?"
Colin had been playing Gobstones with Seamus, Dean and Neville. Neville glanced up at Ginny, his eyes widening in recognition when he caught sight of the broom she was carrying. He glanced over at Ron, who nodded slightly.
"That's Harry's broom," Seamus said softly. Dean nodded in agreement but remained mute. His eyes drifted from the broom to Ginny, then away to the fire crackling merrily in the fireplace. Ginny felt ill. She had hoped Dean would understand, but after the argument they'd had before her visit to the cemetery that afternoon, it seemed unlikely.
Several of the other students began to crowd around Ginny, oohing and aahing over the highly polished racing broom. Ron elbowed some of them away, clearing a path for her to the stairs. Ginny departed the common room without another word, leaving her brother to make her excuses for her.
"Leave off, you lot."
Safely alone in her dormitory, Ginny carefully stood the broom next to her wardrobe then fished a nearly empty vial out of her trunk before collapsing into her bed. She drew the curtains with a wave of her wand and a muttered "claudere." After extinguishing the took a long swallow of the dreamless sleep potion, draining the bottle, and she made a mental note to ask Madame Pomfrey for a refill before drifting off into oblivion.