He was walking along a mountain road in the cool blue light of dawn. Far below, swathed in mist, was the shadow of a small town. Was the man he sought down there, the man he needed so badly he could think of little else, the man who held the answer, the answer to his problemâ€¦?.cheap christian louboutin replica.
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â€œVoldemort. I think heâ€™s somewhere abroad, looking for Gregorovitch. It didnâ€™t look like anywhere in Britain.â€
â€œYou reckon you were seeing into his mind again?â€
Ron sounded worried.
â€œDo me a favor and donâ€™t tell Hermione,â€ said Harry. â€œAlthough how she expects me to stop seeing stuff in my sleepâ€¦â€
He gazed up at little Pigwidgeonâ€™s cage, thinkingâ€¦Why was the name â€œGregorovitchâ€ familiar?
â€œI think,â€ he said slowly, â€œheâ€™s got something to do with Quidditch. Thereâ€™s some connection, but I canâ€™tâ€“I canâ€™t think what it is.â€
â€œQuidditch?â€ said Ron. â€œSure youâ€™re not thinking of Gorgovitch?â€
â€œDragomir Gorgovitch, Chaser, transferred to the Chudley Cannons for a record fee two years ago. Record holder for most Quaffle drops in a season.â€
â€œNo,â€ said Harry. â€œIâ€™m definitely not thinking of Gorgovitch.â€
â€œI try not to either,â€ said Ron. â€œWell, happy birthday anyway.â€
â€œWow â€“ thatâ€™s right, I forgot! Iâ€™m seventeen!â€
Harry seized the wand lying beside his camp bed, pointed it at the cluttered desk where he had left his glasses, and said, â€œAccio Glasses!â€ Although they were only around a foot away, there was something immensely satisfying about seeing them zoom toward him, at least until they poked him in the eye.
â€œSlick,â€ snorted Ron.
Reveling in the removal of his Trace, Harry sent Ronâ€™s possessions flying around the room, causing Pigwidgeon to wake up and flutter excitedly around his cage. Harry also tried tying the laces of his trainers by magic (the resultant knot took several minutes to untie by hand) and, purely for the pleasure of it, turned the orange robes on Ronâ€™s Chudley Cannons posters bright blue.
â€œIâ€™d do your fly by hand, though,â€ Ron advised Harry, sniggering when Harry immediately checked it. â€œHereâ€™s your present. Unwrap it up here, itâ€™s not for my motherâ€™s eyes.â€
â€œA book?â€ said Harry as he took the rectangular parcel. â€œBit of a departure from tradition, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œThis isnâ€™t your average book,â€ said Ron. â€œItâ€™d pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. Explains everything you need to know about girls. If only Iâ€™d had this last year Iâ€™d have known exactly how to get rid of Lavender and I wouldâ€™ve known how to get going withâ€¦ Well, Fred and George gave me a copy, and Iâ€™ve learned a lot. Youâ€™d be surprised, itâ€™s not all about wandwork, either.â€
When they arrived in the kitchen they found a pile of presents waiting on the table. Bill and Monsieur Delacour were finishing their breakfasts, while Mrs. Weasley stood chatting to them over the frying pan.
â€œArthur told me to wish you a happy seventeenth, Harry,â€ said Mrs. Weasley, beaming at him. â€œHe had to leave early for work, but heâ€™ll be back for dinner. Thatâ€™s our present on top.â€
Harry sat down, took the square parcel she had indicated, and unwrapped it. Inside was a watch very like the one Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had given Ron for his seventeenth; it was gold, with stars circling around the race instead of hands.
â€œItâ€™s traditional to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age,â€ said Mrs. Weasley, watching him anxiously from beside the cooker. â€œIâ€™m afraid that one isnâ€™t new like Ronâ€™s, it was actually my brother Fabianâ€™s and he wasnâ€™t terribly careful with his possessions, itâ€™s a bit dented on the back, butâ€“â€
The rest of her speech was lost; Harry had got up and hugged her. He tried to put a lot of unsaid things into the hug and perhaps she understood them, because she patted his cheek clumsily when he released her, then waved her wand in a slightly random way, causing half a pack of bacon to flop out of the frying pan onto the floor.
â€œHappy birthday, Harry!â€ said Hermione, hurrying into the kitchen and adding her own present to the top of the pile. â€œItâ€™s not much, but I hope you like it. What did you get him?â€ she added to Ron, who seemed not to hear her.
â€œCome on, then, open Hermioneâ€™s!â€ said Ron.
She had bought him a new Sneakoscope. The other packages contained an enchanted razor from Bill and Fleur (â€œAh yes, zis will give you ze smoothest shave you will ever â€˜ave,â€ Monsieur Delacour assured him, â€œbut you must tell it clearly what you wantâ€¦ozzerwise you might find you â€˜ave a leetle less hair zan you would likeâ€¦â€), chocolates from the Delacours, and an enormous box of the latest Weasleysâ€™ Wizard Wheezes merchandise from Fred and George.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione did not linger at the table, as the arrival of Madame Delacour, Fleur, and Gabrielle made the kitchen uncomfortably crowded.
â€œIâ€™ll pack these for you,â€ Hermione said brightly, taking Harryâ€™s presents out of his arms as the three of them headed back upstairs. â€œIâ€™m nearly done, Iâ€™m just waiting for the rest of your underpants to come out of the wash, Ronâ€“â€
Ronâ€™s splutter was interrupted by the opening of a door on the first-floor landing.
â€œHarry, will you come in here a moment?â€
It was Ginny. Ron came to an abrupt halt, but Hermione took him by the elbow and tugged him on up the stairs. Feeling nervous, Harry followed Ginny into her room.
He had never been inside it before. It was small, but bright. There was a large poster of the Wizarding band the Weird Sisters on one wall, and a picture of Gwenog Jones, Captain of the all-witch Quidditch team the Holyhead Harpies, on the other. A desk stood facing the open window, which looked out over the orchard where he and Ginny had once played a two-a-side Quidditch with Ron and Hermione, and which now housed a large, pearly white marquee. The golden flag on top was level with Ginnyâ€™s window.
Ginny looked up into Harryâ€™s face, took a deep breath, and said, â€œHappy seventeenth.â€
She was looking at him steadily; he however, found it difficult to look back at her; it was like gazing into a brilliant light.
â€œNice view,â€ he said feebly, pointing toward with window.
She ignored this. He could not blame her.
â€œI couldnâ€™t think what to get you,â€ she said.
â€œYou didnâ€™t have to get me anything.â€
She disregarded this too.
â€œI didnâ€™t know what would be useful. Nothing too big, because you wouldnâ€™t be able to take it with you.â€
He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that was one of the many wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers must have toughened her up.
She took a step closer to him.
â€œSo then I thought, Iâ€™d like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you meet some veela when youâ€™re off doing whatever youâ€™re doing.â€
â€œI think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest.â€
â€œThereâ€™s the silver lining Iâ€™ve been looking for,â€ she whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion better than firewhisky; she was the only real thing in the world, Ginny, the feel of her, one hand at her back and one in her long, sweet-smelling hairâ€“ The door banged open behind them and they jumped apart.
â€œOh,â€ said Ron pointedly. â€œSorry.â€
â€œRon!â€ Hermione was just behind him, slight out of breath. There was a strained silence, then Ginny had said in a flat little voice, â€œWell, happy birthday anyway, Harry.â€
Ronâ€™s ears were scarlet; Hermione looked nervous. Harry wanted to slam the door in their faces, but it felt as though a cold draft had entered the room when the door opened, and his shining moment had popped like a soap bubble. All the reasons for ending his relationship with Ginny, for staying well away from her, seemed to have slunk inside the room with Ron, and all happy forgetfulness was gone.
He looked at Ginny, wanting to say something, though he hardly knew what, but she had turned her back on him. He thought that she might have succumbed, for once, to tears. He could not do anything to comfort her in front of Ron.
â€œIâ€™ll see you later,â€ he said, and followed the other two out of the bedroom.
Ron marched downstairs, though the still-crowded kitchen and into the yard, and Harry kept pace with him all the way, Hermione trotting along behind them looking scared.
Once he reached the seclusion of the freshly mown lawn, Ron rounded on Harry.
â€œYou ditched her. What are you doing now, messing her around?â€
â€œIâ€™m not messing her around,â€ said Harry, as Hermione caught up with them.
But Ron held up a hand to silence her.
â€œShe was really cut up when you ended itâ€“â€
â€œSo was I. You know why I stopped it, and it wasnâ€™t because I wanted to.â€
â€œYeah, but you go snogging her now and sheâ€™s just going to get her hopes up againâ€“â€
â€œSheâ€™s not an idiot, she knows it canâ€™t happen, sheâ€™s not expecting us toâ€“to end up married, orâ€“â€
As he said it, a vivid picture formed in Harryâ€™s mind of Ginny in a white dress, marrying a tall, faceless, and unpleasant stranger.
In one spiraling moment it seemed to hit him: Her future was free and unencumbered, whereas hisâ€¦he could see nothing but Voldemort ahead.
â€œIf you keep groping her every chance you getâ€“â€
â€œIt wonâ€™t happen again,â€ said Harry harshly. The day was cloudless, but he felt as though the sun had gone in. â€œOkay?â€
Ron looked half resentful, half sheepish; he rocked backward and forward on his feet for a moment, then said, â€œRight then, well, thatâ€™sâ€¦yeah.â€
Ginny did not seek another one-to-one meeting with Harry for the rest of the day, nor by any look or gesture did she show that they had shared more than polite conversation in her room. Nevertheless, Charlieâ€™s arrival came as a relief to Harry. It provided a distraction, watching Mrs. Weasley force Charlie into a chair, raise her wand threateningly, and announce that he was about to get a proper haircut.
As Harryâ€™s birthday dinner would have stretched the Burrowâ€™s kitchen to breaking point even before the arrival of Charlie, Lupin, Tonks, and Hagrid, several tables were placed end to end in the garden. Fred and George bewitched a number of purple lanterns all emblazoned with a large number 17, to hang in midair over the guests. Thanks to Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s ministrations, Georgeâ€™s wound was neat and clean, but Harry was not yet used to the dark hole in the side of his head, despite the twinsâ€™ many jokes about it.
Hermione made purple and gold streamers erupt from the end of her wand and drape themselves artistically over the trees and bushes.
â€œNice,â€ said Ron, as with one final flourish of her wand, Hermione turned the leaves on the crabapple tree to gold. â€œYouâ€™ve really got an eye for that sort of thing.â€
â€œThank you, Ron!â€œ said Hermione, looking both pleased and a little confused. Harry turned away, smiling to himself. He had a funny notion that he would find a chapter on compliments when he found time to peruse his copy of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches; he caught Ginnyâ€™s eye and grinned at her before remembering his promise to Ron and hurriedly striking up a conversation with Monsieur Delacour.
â€œOut of the way, out of the way!â€ sang Mrs. Weasley, coming through the gate with what appeared to be a giant, beach-ball-sized Snitch floating in front of her. Seconds later Harry realized that it was his birthday cake, which Mrs. Weasley was suspending with her wand, rather than risk carrying it over the uneven ground. When the cake had finally landed in the middle of the table, Harry said, â€œThat looks amazing, Mrs. Weasley.â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s nothing, dear,â€ she said fondly. Over her shoulder, Ron gave Harry the thumbs-up and mouthed, Good one.
By seven oâ€™clock all the guests had arrived, led into the house by Fred and George, who had waited for them at the end of the lane. Hagrid had honored the occasion by wearing his best, and horrible, hairy brown suit. Although Lupin smiled as he shook Harryâ€™s hand, Harry thought he looked rather unhappy. It was all very odd; Tonks, beside him, looked simply radiant.
â€œHappy birthday, Harry,â€ she said, hugging him tightly.
â€œSeventeen, eh!â€ said Hagrid as he accepted a bucket-sized glass of wine from Fred. â€œSix years ter the day since we met, Harry, dâ€™yeh remember it?â€
â€œVaguely,â€ said Harry, grinning up at him. â€œDidnâ€™t you smash down the front door, give Dudley a pigâ€™s tail, and tell me I was a wizard?â€
â€œI forgeâ€™ the details,â€ Hagrid chortled. â€œAll righâ€™, Ron, Hermione?â€
â€œWeâ€™re fine,â€ said Hermione. â€œHow are you?â€
â€œAr, not bad. Bin busy, we got some newborn unicorns. Iâ€™ll show yeh when yeh get backâ€“â€ Harry avoided Ronâ€™s and Hermioneâ€™s gazes as Hagrid rummaged in his pocket. â€œHere. Harry â€“ couldnâ€™t think what ter get teh, but then I remembered this.â€ He pulled out a small, slightly furry drawstring pouch with a long string, evidently intended to be worn around the neck. â€œMokeskin. Hide anythinâ€™ in there anâ€™ no one but the owner can get it out. Theyâ€™re rare, them.â€
â€œâ€˜Sâ€™nothinâ€™,â€ said Hagrid with a wave of a dustbin-lid-sized hand. â€œAnâ€™ thereâ€™s Charlie! Always liked him â€“ hey! Charlie!â€
Charlie approached, running his hand slightly ruefully over his new, brutally short haircut. He was shorter than Ron, thickset, with a number of burns and scratches up his muscled arms.
â€œHi, Hagrid, howâ€™s it going?â€
â€œBin meaninâ€™ ter write fer ages. Howâ€™s Norbert doinâ€™?â€
â€œNorbert?â€ Charlie laughed. â€œThe Norwegian Ridgeback? We call her Norberta now.â€
â€œWha â€“ Norbertâ€™s a girl?â€
â€œOh yeah,â€ said Charlie.
â€œHow can you tell?â€ asked Hermione.
â€œTheyâ€™re a lot more vicious,â€ said Charlie. He looked over his shoulder and dropped his voice. â€œWish Dad would hurry up and get here. Mumâ€™s getting edgy.â€
They all looked over at Mrs. Weasley. She was trying to talk to Madame Delacour while glancing repeatedly at the gate.
â€œI think weâ€™d better start without Arthur,â€œ she called to the garden at large after a moment or two. â€He must have been held up at â€“ oh!â€œ
They all saw it at the same time: a streak of light that came flying across the yard and onto the table, where it resolved itself into a bright silver weasel, which stood on its hind legs and spoke with Mr. Weasleyâ€™s voice.
â€œMinister of Magic coming with me.â€
The Patronus dissolved into thin air, leaving Fleurâ€™s family peering in astonishment at the place where it had vanished.
â€œWe shouldnâ€™t be here,â€ said Lupin at once. â€œHarry â€“ Iâ€™m sorry â€“ Iâ€™ll explain some other timeâ€“â€
He seized Tonksâ€™s wrist and pulled her away; they reached the fence, climbed over it, and vanished from sight. Mrs. Weasley looked bewildered.
â€œThe Minister â€“ but whyâ€“? I donâ€™t understandâ€“â€
But there was no time to discuss the matter; a second later, Mr. Weasley had appeared out of thin air at the gate, accompanied by Rufus Scrimgeour, instantly recognizable by his mane of grizzled hair.
The two newcomers marched across the yard toward the garden and the lantern-lit table, where everybody sat in silence, watching them draw closer. As Scrimgeour came within range of the lantern light. Harry saw that he looked much older than the last time that had met, scraggy and grim.
â€œSorry to intrude,â€ said Scrimgeour, as he limped to a halt before the table. â€œEspecially as I can see that I am gate-crashing a party.â€
His eyes lingered for a moment on the giant Snitch cake.
â€œMany happy returns.â€
â€œThanks,â€ said Harry.
â€œI require a private word with you,â€ Scrimgeour went on. â€œAlso with Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger.â€
â€œUs?â€ said Ron, sounding surprised. â€œWhy us?â€
â€œI shall tell you that when we are somewhere more private,â€ said Scrimgeour. â€œIs there such a place?â€ he demanded of Mr. Weasley.
â€œYes, of course,â€ said Mr. Weasley, who looked nervous. â€œThe, er, sitting room, why donâ€™t you use that?â€
â€œYou can lead the way,â€ Scrimgeour said to Ron. â€œThere will be no need for you to accompany us, Arthur.â€
Harry saw Mr. Weasley exchange a worried look with Mrs. Weasley as he, Ron, and Hermione stood up. As they led the way back to the house in silence, Harry knew that the other two were thinking the same as he was; Scrimgeour must, somehow, had learned that the three of them were planning to drop out of Hogwarts.
Scrimgeour did not speak as they all passed through the messed kitchen and into the Burrowâ€™s sitting room. Although the garden had been full of soft golden evening light, it was already dark in here; Harry flicked his wand at the oil lamps as he entered and they illuminated the shabby but cozy room. Scrimgeour sat himself in the sagging armchair that Mr. Weasley normally occupied, leaving Harry, Ron, and Hermione to squeeze side by side onto the sofa. Once they had done so, Scrimgeour spoke.
â€œI have some questions for the three of you, and I think it will be best if we do it individually. If you twoâ€ â€“ he pointed at Harry and Hermione â€“ â€œcan wait upstairs, I will start with Ronald.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not going anywhere,â€œ said Harry, while Hermione nodded vigorously. â€You can speak to us together, or not at all.â€œ
Scrimgeour gave Harry a cold, appraising look. Harry had the impression that the Minister was wondering whether it was worthwhile opening hostilities this early.
â€œVery well then, together,â€œ he said, shrugging. He cleared his throat. â€I am here, as Iâ€™m sure you know, because of Albus Dumbledoreâ€™s will.â€œ
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another.
â€œA surprise, apparently! You were not aware then that Dumbledore had left you anything?â€œ
â€œA-all of us?â€ said Ron, â€œMe and Hermione too?â€
â€œYes, all of â€“â€
But Harry interrupted.
â€œDumbledore died over a month ago. Why has it taken this long to give us what he left us?â€
â€œIsnâ€™t it obvious?â€œ said Hermione, before Scrimgeour could answer. â€They wanted to examine whatever heâ€™s left us. You had no right to do that!â€œ she said, and her voice trembled slightly.
â€œI had every right,â€œ said Scrimgeour dismissively. â€The Decree for Justifiable Confiscation gives the Ministry the power the confiscate the contents of a willâ€“â€œ
â€œThat law was created to stop wizards passing on Dark artifacts,â€œ said Hermione, â€and the Ministry is supposed to have powerful evidence that the deceasedâ€™s possessions are illegal before seizing them! Are you telling me that you thought Dumbledore was trying to pass us something cursed?â€œ
â€œAre you planning to follow a career in Magical Law, Miss Granger?â€ asked Scrimgeour.
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not,â€ retorted Hermione. â€œIâ€™m hoping to do some good in the world!â€
Ron laughed. Scrimgeourâ€™s eyes flickered toward him and away again as Harry spoke.
â€œSo why have you decided to let us have our things now? Canâ€™t think of a pretext to keep them?â€
â€œNo, itâ€™ll be because thirty-one days are up,â€ said Hermione at once. â€œThey canâ€™t keep the objects longer than that unless they can prove theyâ€™re dangerous. Right?â€
â€œWould you say you were close to Dumbledore, Ronald?â€ asked Scrimgeour, ignoring Hermione. Ron looked startled.
â€œMe? Not â€“ not reallyâ€¦ It was always Harry whoâ€¦â€
Ron looked around at Harry and Hermione, to see Hermione giving him a stop-talking-now! sort of look, but the damage was done; Scrimgeour looked as though he had heard exactly what he had expected, and wanted, to hear. He swooped like a bird of prey upon Ronâ€™s answer.
â€œIf you were not very close to Dumbledore, how do you account for the fact that he remembered you in his will? He made exceptionally few personal bequests. The vast majority of his possessions â€“ his private library, his magical instruments, and other personal effects â€“ were left to Hogwarts. Why do you think you were singled out?â€œ
â€œIâ€¦dunno,â€œ said Ron. â€œIâ€¦when I say we werenâ€™t closeâ€¦I mean, I think he liked meâ€¦â€
â€œYouâ€™re being modest, Ron,â€ said Hermione. â€œDumbledore was very fond of you.â€
This was stretching the truth to breaking point; as far as Harry knew, Ron and Dumbledore had never been alone together, and direct contact between them had been negligible. However, Scrimgeour did not seem to be listening. He put his hand inside his cloak and drew out a drawstring pouch much larger than the one Hagrid had given Harry. From it, he removed a scroll of parchment which he unrolled and read aloud.
â€œâ€˜The Last Will and Testament of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledoreâ€™â€¦ Yes, here we areâ€¦ â€˜To Ronald Bilius Weasley, I leave my Deluminator, in the hope that he will remember me when he uses it.â€™â€
Scrimgeour took from the bag an object that Harry had seen before: It looked something like a silver cigarette lighter, but it had, he knew, the power to suck all light from a place, and restore it, with a simple click. Scrimgeour leaned forward and passed the Deluminator to Ron, who took it and turned it over in the fingers looking stunned.
â€œThat is a valuable object,â€ said Scrimgeour, watching Ron. â€œIt may even be unique. Certainly it is of Dumbledoreâ€™s own design. Why would he have left you and item so rare?â€
Ron shook his head, looking bewildered.
â€œDumbledore must have taught thousands of students,â€œ Scrimgeour persevered. â€Yet the only ones he remembered in his will are you three. Why is that? To what use did he think you would put to the Deluminator, Mr. Weasley?â€œ
â€œPut out lights, I sâ€™pose,â€ mumbled Ron. â€œWhat else could I do with it?â€
Evidently Scrimgeour had no suggestions. After squinting at Ron for a moment or tow, he turned back to Dumbledoreâ€™s will.
â€œâ€˜To Miss Hermione Jean Granger, I leave my copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive.â€™â€
Scrimgeour now pulled out of the bag a small book that looked as ancient as the copy of Secrets of the Darkest Art upstairs. Its binding was stained and peeling in places. Hermione took it from Scrimgeour without a word. She held the book in her lap and gazed at it. Harry saw that the title was in runes; he had never learned to read them. As he looked, a tear splashed onto the embossed symbols.
â€œWhy do you think Dumbledore left you that book, Miss Granger?â€ asked Scrimgeour.
â€œHeâ€¦ he knew I liked books,â€ said Hermione in a thick voice, mopping her eyes with her sleeve.
â€œBut why that particular book?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. He must have thought Iâ€™d enjoy it.â€
â€œDid you ever discuss codes, or any means of passing secret messages, with Dumbledore?â€œ
â€œNo, I didnâ€™t,â€ said Hermione, still wiping her eyes on her sleeve. â€œAnd if the Ministry hasnâ€™t found any hidden codes in this book in thirty-one days, I doubt that I will.â€
She suppressed a sob. They were wedged together so tightly that Ron had difficulty extracting his arm to put it around Hermioneâ€™s shoulders. Scrimgeour turned back to the will.
â€œâ€˜To Harry James Potter,â€™â€œ he read, and Harryâ€™s insides contracted with a sudden excitement, â€â€˜I leave the Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch match at Hogwarts, as a reminder of the rewards of perseverance and skill.â€™â€œ
As Scrimgeour pulled out the tiny, walnut-sized golden ball, its silver wings fluttered rather feebly, and Harry could not help feeling a definite sense of anticlimax.
â€œWhy did Dumbledore leave you this Snitch?â€ asked Scrimgeour.
â€œNo idea,â€œ said Harry. â€For the reasons you just read out, I supposeâ€¦ to remind me what you can get if youâ€¦ persevere and whatever it was.â€œ
â€œYou think this a mere symbolic keepsake, then?â€
â€œI suppose so,â€ said Harry. â€œWhat else could it be?â€
â€œIâ€™m asking the questions,â€ said Scrimgeour, shifting his chair a little closer to the sofa. Dusk was really falling outside now; the marquee beyond the windows towered ghostly white over the hedge.
â€œI notice that your birthday cake is in the shape of a Snitch,â€ Scrimgeour said to Harry. â€œWhy is that?â€
Hermione laughed derisively.
â€œOh, it canâ€™t be a reference to the fact Harryâ€™s a great Seeker, thatâ€™s way too obvious,â€ she said. â€œThere must be a secret message from Dumbledore hidden in the icing!â€
â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s anything hidden in the icing,â€œ said Scrimgeour, â€but a Snitch would be a very good hiding place for a small object. You know why, Iâ€™m sure?â€œ
Harry shrugged, Hermione, however, answered: Harry thought that answering questions correctly was such a deeply ingrained habit she could not suppress the urge.
â€œBecause Snitches have flesh memories,â€ she said.
â€œWhat?â€ said Harry and Ron together; both considered Hermioneâ€™s Quidditch knowledge negligible.
â€œCorrect,â€ said Scrimgeour. â€œA Snitch is not touched by bare skin before it is released, not even by the maker, who wears gloves. It carries an enchantment by which it can identify the first human to lay hands upon it, in case of a disputed capture. This Snitchâ€ â€“ he held up the tiny golden ball â€“ â€œwill remember your touch, Potter.
It occurs to me that Dumbledore, who had prodigious magical skill, whatever his other faults, might have enchanted this Snitch so that it will open only for you.â€œ
Harryâ€™s heart was beating rather fast. He was sure that Scrimgeour was right. How could he avoid taking the Snitch with his bare hand in front of the Minister?
â€œYou donâ€™t say anything,â€œ said Scrimgeour. â€Perhaps you already know what the Snitch contains?â€œ
â€œNo,â€ said Harry, still wondering how he could appear to touch the Snitch without really doing so. If only he knew Legilimency, really knew it, and could read Hermioneâ€™s mind; he could practically hear her brain whizzing beside him.
â€œTake it,â€ said Scrimgeour quietly.
Harry met the Ministerâ€™s yellow eyes and knew he had no option but to obey. He held out his hand, and Scrimgeour leaned forward again and place the Snitch, slowly and deliberately, into Harryâ€™s palm.
Nothing happened. As Harryâ€™s fingers closed around the Snitch, its tired wings fluttered and were still. Scrimgeour, Ron, and Hermione continued to gaze avidly at the now partially concealed ball, as if still hoping it might transform in some way.
â€œThat was dramatic,â€ said Harry coolly. Both Ron and Hermione laughed.
â€œThatâ€™s all, then, is it?â€ asked Hermione, making to raise herself off the sofa.
â€œNot quite,â€ said Scrimgeour, who looked bad tempered now. â€œDumbledore left you a second bequest, Potter.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ asked Harry, excitement rekindling.
Scrimgeour did not bother to read from the will this time.
â€œThe sword of Godric Gryffindor,â€ he said. Hermione and Ron both stiffened. Harry looked around for a sign of the ruby-encrusted hilt, but Scrimgeour did not pull the sword from the leather pouch, which in any case looked much too small to contain it.
â€œSo where is it?â€ Harry asked suspiciously.
â€œUnfortunately,â€œ said Scrimgeour, â€œthat sword was not Dumbledoreâ€™s to give away. The sword of Godric Gryffindor is an important historical artifact, and as such, belongsâ€“â€
â€œIt belongs to Harry!â€ said Hermione hotly. â€œIt chose him, he was the one who found it, it came to him out of the Sorting Hatâ€“â€
â€œAccording to reliable historical sources, the sword may present itself to any worthy Gryffindor,â€ said Scrimgeour. â€œThat does not make it the exclusive property of Mr. Potter, whatever Dumbledore may have decided.â€ Scrimgeour scratched his badly shaven cheek, scrutinizing Harry. â€œWhy do you thinkâ€“?â€
â€œâ€“Dumbledore wanted to give me the sword?â€œ said Harry, struggling to keep his temper. â€Maybe he thought it would look nice on my wall.â€œ
â€œThis is not a joke, Potter!â€œ growled Scrimgeour. â€Was it because Dumbledore believed that only the sword of Godric Gryffindor could defeat the Heir of Slytherin? Did he wish to give you that sword, Potter, because he believed, as do many, that you are the one destined to destroy He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?â€œ
â€œInteresting theory,â€ said Harry. â€œHas anyone ever tried sticking a sword in Voldemort? Maybe the Ministry should put some people onto that, instead of wasting their time stripping down Deluminators or covering up breakouts from Azkaban. So this is what youâ€™ve been doing, Minister, shut up in your office, trying to break open a Snitch? People are dying â€“ I was nearly one of them â€“ Voldemort chased me across three countries, he killed Mad-Eye Moody, but thereâ€™s no word about any of that from the Ministry, has there? And you still expect us to cooperate with you!â€
â€œYou go too far!â€ shouted Scrimgeour, standing up: Harry jumped to his feet too. Scrimgeour limped toward Harry and jabbed him hard in the chest with the point of his wand; It singed a hole in Harryâ€™s T-shirt like a lit cigarette.
â€œOi!â€ said Ron, jumping up and raising his own wand, but Harry said, â€œNo! Dâ€™you want to give him an excuse to arrest us?â€
â€œRemembered youâ€™re not at school, have you?â€œ said Scrimgeour breathing hard into Harryâ€™s face. â€Remembered that I am not Dumbledore, who forgave your insolence and insubordination? You may wear that scar like a crown, Potter, but it is not up to a seventeen-year-old boy to tell me how to do my job! Itâ€™s time you learned some respect!â€œ
â€œItâ€™s time you earned it.â€ said Harry.
The floor trembled; there was a sound of running footsteps, then the door to the sitting room burst open and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley ran in.
â€œWe â€“ we thought we heard â€“â€œ began Mr. Weasley, looking thoroughly alarmed at the sight of Harry and the Minister virtually nose to nose.
â€œ â€“ raised voices,â€ panted Mrs. Weasley.
Scrimgeour took a couple of steps back from Harry, glancing at the hole he had made in Harryâ€™s T-shirt. He seemed to regret his loss of temper.
â€œIt â€“ it was nothing,â€ he growled. â€œI â€¦ regret your attitude,â€ he said, looking Harry full in the face once more. â€œYou seem to think that the Ministry does not desire what you â€“ what Dumbledore â€“ desired. We ought to work together.â€
â€œI donâ€™t like your methods, Minister,â€ said Harry. â€œRemember?â€
For the second time, he raised his right fist and displayed to Scrimgeour the scar that still showed white on the back of it, spelling I must not tell lies . Scrimgeourâ€™s expression hardened. He turned away without another word and limped from the room. Mrs. Weasley hurried after him; Harry heard her stop at the back door. After a minute or so she called, â€œHeâ€™s gone!â€
â€œWhat did he want?â€ Mr. Weasley asked, looking around at Harry, Ron, and Hermione as Mrs. Weasley came hurrying back to them.
â€œTo give us what Dumbledore left us,â€ said Harry. â€œTheyâ€™ve only just released the content of his will.â€
Outside in the garden, over the dinner tables, the three objects Scrimgeour had given them were passed from hand to hand. Everyone exclaimed over the Deluminator and The Tales of Beedle the Bard and lamented the fact that Scrimgeour had refused to pass on the sword, but none of them could offer any suggestion as to why Dumbledore would have left Harry an old Snitch. As Mr. Weasley examined the Deluminator for the third of fourth time, Mrs. Weasley said tentatively, â€œHarry, dear, everyoneâ€™s awfully hungry we didnâ€™t like to start without youâ€¦ Shall I serve dinner now?â€
They all ate rather hurriedly and then after a hasty chorus of â€œHappy Birthdayâ€ and much gulping of cake, the party broke up. Hagrid, who was invited to the wedding the following day, but was far too bulky to sleep in the overstretched Burrow, left to set up a tent for himself in a neighboring field.
â€œMeet us upstairs,â€ Harry whispered to Hermione, while they helped Mrs. Weasley restore the garden to its normal state. â€œAfter everyoneâ€™s gone to bed.â€
Up in the attic room, Ron examined his Deluminator, and Harry filled Hagridâ€™s moleskin purse, not with gold, but with those items he most prized, apparently worthless though some of them were the Marauderâ€™s Map, the shard of Siriusâ€™s enchanted mirror, and R.A.B.â€™s locket. He pulled the string tight and slipped the purse around his neck, then sat holding the old Snitch and watching its wings flutter feebly. At last, Hermione tapped on the door and tiptoed inside.
â€œMuffiato,â€ she whispered, waving her wand in the direction of the stairs.
â€œThought you didnâ€™t approve of that spell?â€ said Ron.
â€œTimes change,â€œ said Hermione. â€Now, show us that Deluminator.â€œ
Ron obliged at once. Holding I up in front of him, he clicked it. The solitary lamp they had lit went out at once.
â€œThe thing is,â€ whispered Hermione through the dark, â€œwe could have achieved that with Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder.â€
There was a small click, and the ball of light from the lamp flew back to the ceiling and illuminated them all once more.
â€œStill, itâ€™s cool,â€ said Ron, a little defensively. â€œAnd from what they said, Dumbledore invented it himself!â€
â€œI know but, surely he wouldnâ€™t have singled you out in his will just to help us turn out the lights!â€
â€œDâ€™you think he knew the Ministry would confiscate his will and examine everything heâ€™d left us?â€ asked Harry.
â€œDefinitely,â€ said Hermione. â€œHe couldnâ€™t tell us in the will why he was leaving us these things, but that will doesnâ€™t explainâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦ why he couldnâ€™t have given us a hint when he was alive?â€ asked Ron.
â€œWell, exactly,â€œ said Hermione, now flicking through The Tales of Beedle the Bard. â€If these things are important enough to pass on right under the nose of the Ministry, youâ€™d think heâ€™d have left us know whyâ€¦ unless he thought it was obvious?â€œ
â€œThought wrong, then, didnâ€™t he?â€ said Ron. â€œI always said he was mental. Brilliant and everything, but cracked. Leaving Harry an old Snitch â€“ what the hell was that about?â€
â€œIâ€™ve no idea,â€ said Hermione. â€œWhen Scrimgeour made you take it, Harry, I was so sure that something was going to happen!â€
â€œYeah, well,â€ said Harry, his pulse quickened as he raised the Snitch in his fingers. â€œI wasnâ€™t going to try too hard in front of Scrimgeour was I?â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ asked Hermione.
â€œThe Snitch I caught in my first ever Quidditch match?â€ said Harry. â€œDonâ€™t you remember?â€
Hermione looked simply bemused. Ron, however, gasped, pointing frantically from Harry to the Snitch and back again until he found his voice.
â€œThat was the one you nearly swallowed!â€
â€œExactly,â€ said Harry, and with his heart beating fast, he pressed his mouth to the Snitch.
It did not open. Frustration and bitter disappointment welled up inside him: He lowered the golden sphere, but then Hermione cried out.
â€œWriting! Thereâ€™s writing on it, quick, look!â€ He nearly dropped the Snitch in surprise and excitement. Hermione was quite right. Engraved upon the smooth golden surface, where seconds before there had been nothing, were five words written in the thin, slanted handwriting that Harry recognized as Dumbledoreâ€™s
I open at the close.
He had barely read them when the words vanished again.
â€œI open at the closeâ€¦. Whatâ€™s that supposed to mean?â€
Hermione and Ron shook their heads, looking blank.
â€œI open at the closeâ€¦ at the closeâ€¦ I open at the closeâ€¦â€
But no matter how often they repeated the words, with many different inflections, they were unable to wring any more meaning from them.
â€œAnd the sword,â€ said Ron finally, when they had at last abandoned their attempts to divine meaning in the Snitchâ€™s inscription.
â€œWhy did he want Harry to have the sword?â€
â€œAnd why couldnâ€™t he just have told me?â€ Harry said quietly. â€œI was there, it was right there on the wall of his office during all our talks last year! If he wanted me to have it, why didnâ€™t he just give it to me then?â€
He felt as thought he were sitting in an examination with a question he ought to have been able to answer in front of him, his brain slow and unresponsive. Was there something he had missed in the long talks with Dumbledore last year? Ought he to know what it all meant? Had Dumbledore expected him to understand?
â€œAnd as for this book.â€ Said Hermione, â€œThe Tales of Beedle the Bard â€¦ Iâ€™ve never even heard of them!â€
â€œYouâ€™ve never heard of The Tales of Beedle the Bard?â€ said Ron incredulously. â€œYouâ€™re kidding, right?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not,â€ said Hermione in surprise. â€œDo you know them then?â€
â€œWell, of course I do!â€
Harry looked up, diverted. The circumstance of Ron having read a book that Hermione had not was unprecedented. Ron, however, looked bemused by their surprise.
â€œOh come on! All the old kidsâ€™ stories are supposed to be Beedleâ€™s arenâ€™t they? â€˜The Fountain of Fair Fortuneâ€™ â€¦ â€˜The Wizard and the Hopping Potâ€™â€¦ â€˜Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stumpâ€™â€¦â€
â€œExcuse me?â€ said Hermione giggling. â€œWhat was the last one?â€
â€œCome off it!â€ said Ron, looking in disbelief from Harry to Hermione. â€œYou mustâ€™ve heard of Babbitty Rabbitty â€“ â€
â€œRon, you know full well Harry and I were brought up by Muggles!â€ said Hermione. â€œWe didnâ€™t hear stories like that when we were little, we heard â€˜Snow White and the Seven Dwarvesâ€™ and â€˜Cinderellaâ€™ â€“ â€
â€œWhatâ€™s that, an illness?â€ asked Ron.
â€œSo these are childrenâ€™s stories?â€ asked Hermione, bending against over the runes.
â€œYeah.â€ Said Ron uncertainly. â€œI mean, just what you hear, you know, that all these old stories came from Beedle. I dunno what theyâ€™re like in the original versions.â€
â€œBut I wonder why Dumbledore thought I should read them?â€
Something cracked downstairs.
â€œProbably just Charlie, now Mumâ€™s asleep, sneaking off to regrow his hair,â€ said Ron nervously.
â€œAll the same, we should get to bed,â€ whispered Hermione. â€œIt wouldnâ€™t do to oversleep tomorrow.â€
â€œNo,â€ agreed Ron. â€œA brutal triple murder by the bridegroomâ€™s mother might put a bit of damper on the wedding. Iâ€™ll get the light.â€
And he clicked the Deluminator once more as Hermione left the room.
The Deathly Hallows
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