AYNIL: Chapter Eleven: Goodbyes?

Following their accidental public declarations, Harry and Ginny snuck away so they could have some time together. Why did they always have to do things in front of crowds of people? Their first kiss had been in front of all of Gryffindor house, then they shared one on platform nine and three-quarters in front of all her family, and now this? How did they time things so they were around crowds of people??

It was nearly dark when Harry and Ginny finally found a spare corner of yard no one else was in. They were in the paddock more commonly used for playing Quidditch, and they were quite alone. Harry smiled broadly when he though of the last time that he had been here and the scene that he, Fred and George had witnessed between Ron and Hermione. Perhaps he and Ginny . . . but right now they needed to talk.

Harry didn’t know how Ginny found out that he, Ron and Hermione were going to be leaving the next day. It seemed logical that Hermione would have either told her, or let something slip, given that they shared a room. Harry hadn’t been trying to hide this from her so he could sneak off before she woke up. He had just found it hard to tell her that they were leaving so soon after arriving. He didn’t really want to tell her anyway, because he wanted to leave as much as she wanted him to go. Perhaps by not vocalizing this he could make it not true.

“Listen Gin, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you that we’re leaving tomorrow,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything from you, its just —“

“You didn’t know how to say it,” she supplied. Harry nodded. “Well, I can’t say that I wasn’t upset by it, but I understand . . . I guess. I’m sorry for before,” she waved her hand in the general direction of the celebration that was still going on. “I really don’t want to make this harder on you, I suppose I should have told you everything when you first got here. It’s just . . . I was so glad to see you, and then that night Hermione said you guys were going to be leaving again so soon. We’ve hardly had any time together the whole time that you’ve been here.”

“I know,” Harry smiled at her again. Ginny appeared to be back to her normal self. He hadn’t realized how different she had seemed just because she was trying to keep something from him. “But we’re not leaving until the morning. That gives us —“ he checked his watch by the light of his wand, “ — I dunno, about eight hours. We can make the most of our time,” he grinned roguishly at Ginny.

“Hopeless,” Ginny sighed as she rolled her eyes playfully. “Is that really why you dragged me out here?”

“D’you really want me to answer that?” Harry asked, that same playful and suggestive smile on his face.

“Well . . .” Ginny looked like she was thinking about it. “Nah, that’s just a waste of breath,” she said moving closer so that she could run her fingers through his hair. She’s right, Harry thought as he leaned down to kiss her. They could spend their time doing more worthwhile things than talking.

Morning came far too soon for both Harry and Ginny’s liking. They had stayed up all night, reveling in the last few hours had together for who knew how long. Mrs. Weasley called them in to the house shortly after midnight. She reprimanded them for being out alone. Mrs. Weasley mentioned they were both in danger, but something in her voice said that she was more worried that they had been alone in the dark.

Not long after the first rays of sun started to peak over the horizon movement could be heard from the upper floors of the Burrow. Both Harry and Ginny, who were sitting in the living room, looked up. They had long ago ceased talking, and were leaning against each other, dozing.

“I guess that’s mum,” Ginny said, raising her eyes to the ceiling. “She’s probably going to insist that you guys take all of the left over food from the wedding,” She wore a sad smile.

“We’re going to Grimmauld Place first,” Harry said, also looking at the ceiling. “It’s not like we are going on some unknown trek and won’t be able to get food or anything.”

“Yeah, but you know what mum’s like. She’s always trying for force a dozen helpings on everyone. She thinks we all have an appetite like Ron.”

“Yeah, its fantastic,” Harry said. He had always liked that about Mrs. Weasley. It wasn’t that she would over feed him. It was the fact that she cared he got enough to eat. That was definitely something that he never got at the Dursleys. Harry was sure that his aunt and uncle hoped that if they kept him malnourished he would develop some horrible disease and die. Then maybe Aunt Petunia would have been able to keep the fact that her son was a wizard quiet for the rest of her life.

Harry hadn’t thought at all of his aunt, uncle and cousin for the last three days. There had been too much else going on, with his birthday and the wedding. He hadn’t told them that he was going to have to leave. How were they going to take staying in Grimmauld Place alone? Well, not exactly alone, there were still Order members coming and going all the time. However, they would definitely be more alone than they had been when Harry, Ron and Hermione had been there. It was still amusing to think that the Dursleys, the most dry and boring people in the world were now stuck living in a place that was the epitome of everything they despised. How was that for irony?

“I guess I should go and finish packing,” Harry said reluctantly, looking at Ginny again. He had meant to do it the night before, but after everything that had happened it had not seemed that important.

“Yeah, I’ll come and help you,” Ginny offered. Thus, the two of them set off for the room that Harry was still sharing with Ron. The twins had left late the night before to return to their shop in Diagon Alley. When they entered the room Ron was being shaken awake by Hermione who looked fully alert. Ron was mumbling something about spiders and how they didn’t want to give him back his broom.

“Hermione, you’re being too nice,” Ginny said, amusement evident in her voice. “I’ll show you how to wake him up.” She pulled out her wand, muttered “auguamenti” And a jet of water shot at Ron who jerked awake, and, sitting up, was greeted with a mouthful of water. Ginny discontinued the spell.

“What was that for?” Ron asked angrily.

“Time to get up sleepyhead,” Ginny said innocently. Turning to Hermione she said, “I thought you would realize that trying to wake Ron is like trying to get my mother to stop worrying, it’s nearly impossible to do. You have to be very forceful with him.”

“Or try to drown me,” Ron said grumpily as he started to untangle himself from the sheets.

“Well, you didn’t respond when I tried to wake you,” Hermione implored, “and we do really need to get going, I’m just glad that we were able to get everything packed last night.”

“Yeah,” Ron stifled a yawn. He didn’t seem as glad of this as Hermione was.

“We really should get downstairs, your mum said that she was going to have breakfast ready shortly.” Ron perked up at this news as he got out of bed.

“We’ll be down in a bit, Harry still needs to pack,” Ginny explained to the other two. Ron looked from her to Harry suspiciously. “Really Ron, your mind is always in the gutter.” Ginny rolled her eyes at him. “I’m just going to help him, make it quicker you know.”

Ron and Hermione left the room, and Ginny closed the door behind them.

“Good that gives us about ten minutes,” she smiled mischievously.

Harry understood what she meant instantly. He had forgotten that he could use magic to pack. He waved his wand around the room and said ‘pack.’ His things began to fly into the rucksack he had brought with him two days before. They weren’t neat in any sense of the word, but he didn’t really care. Harry and Ginny spent the rest of their time more agreeably engaged.

An hour later Harry, Ron and Hermione were in the yard a few feet away from the house. Mr. And Mrs. Weasley were there, along with Charlie, and Ginny.

“You make sure to be careful,” Mrs. Weasley said in a stern voice, as she hugged each of them tightly.

“We will mum,” Ron said. He was still ill tempered, and Harry agreed with Ginny when she stated that it was probably both from the way he had been awakened and because he suspected how she had Harry had really spent their ten minutes.

“Write if you can,” Mrs. Weasley told them. They assured her that they would be in touch as much as possible.

“Ron did you remember to pack your -” Mrs. Weasley started. She had spent the whole of breakfast asking all three of them whether they had remembered to pack various articles. They had patiently told her they had packed everything.

“Yes mum, we’ve been through this already,” Ron said impatiently.

“Well . . . all right then,” she said in a defeated voice. She was wringing her hands as she backed away, and tears were glistening at the corners of her eyes. They hadn’t told her specifics of what they were going to do, but these were dangerous times. The less she knew for sure, the better she would sleep.

“We really should get on, Lupin’s waiting for us,” Hermione said edgily, checking her watch. Harry gave Ginny one last hug, meaning to back away from her after that so that he, Ron and Hermione could Disapparate. But she wouldn’t let go.

“Gin, c’mon, I have to go,” he said quietly to her.

“I know, it’s just . . .” she trailed off and was silent for a minute. Then she reluctantly let go. When Harry again tried to back away she kissed him, and it wasn’t just a little peck either, it was full of passion. After another minute she pulled away again, whispering in his ear,

“Something to remember me by.”

He certainly would, there was no doubt about that. The pair of them looked around. Harry looked a little embarrassed. He really wondered for the second time, why they seemed to only do these sorts of things in front of other people. Everyone else’s mouth was open in shock.

“Er . . . I think it’s time to go,” Hermione said, breaking the silence after a few seconds.

“Uh, yeah,” Harry agreed, letting go of Ginny completely.

They backed away from the Weasleys and made ready to Disapparate. Harry kept his eyes on Ginny, who was also watching him. He didn’t like that look on her face. It wasn’t sad or angry. She looked like she had made up her mind about something.

Remembering that he had to focus, Harry looked away from Ginny and turned his mind to where he wanted to go. A second later he had left behind the Burrow and was back in the rubbish strewn square called Grimmauld Place.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny watched as Harry, Ron and Hermione hoisted their rucksacks onto their backs. Why they had to leave so early when they were just going back to Grimmauld Place seemed odd. Ginny was quite certain that Sirius’s old house was not going to be their only destination that day.

Her mother was fretting incessantly. Ginny restrained herself from rolling her eyes, but it was difficult. She knew that her mother meant well, but sometimes her mollycoddling was a little too over the top. And it’s going to be worse here because I’m the only one left here now. With Voldemort knowing about Harry and I she’s going to make this place like a prison, Ginny thought miserably.

“We really should get on, Lupin’s waiting for us,” Hermione said, forcing Ginny’s mind back to the present.

She didn’t have much time to dwell on her own predicament at home, because Harry had come over to her and pulled her into a tight embrace. She readily hugged him back. She didn’t know when she was going to see him again. What if something horrible happened to him? Ginny knew that he was going to leave and that she couldn’t stop him, but he was here with her now, and that was all that mattered. She wished that this moment could go on forever., but she could feel he was already starting to pull away.

“Gin, c’mon, I have to go.”

“I know, it’s just . . .” She wanted to tell him everything that she was feeling again, but they had talked about that already. And in any case she knew nothing she said would be able to make Harry stay. Well, at least she could make this goodbye a little more memorable than just a hug would supply. She let go of him so that she could grab his head. She kissed him, pouring every ounce of feeling that she had for him into it.

Ginny didn’t care that her parents and Charlie were standing mere feet away. They had to realize that she wasn’t a child anymore. And besides that, Harry was leaving. Her mother was worried about him, surely she could understand how Ginny felt.

In the silence that followed their goodbye, Ginny felt worse. Instead of being pacified she was even more concerned that her boyfriend, brother and good friend were leaving to pursue the most feared wizard ever. And making things worse was the fact that she didn’t even know what they were going to do. Ginny didn’t like this. She didn’t like this at all.

In the fraction of time it took for Harry, Ron and Hermione to back away from the others so that they could Disapparate she had made up her mind. She knew what she wanted to do, she just needed to find a way to do it without her mother knowing.

* * * * * * * * *

Harry didn’t have the time to worry about the look Ginny had worn just before he left. The moment they stepped over the threshold of number twelve Grimmauld Place their ears were assaulted with Mrs. Black’s shrieking portrait.

“Seriously, I am so not going to miss that thing,” Ron said. He and Hermione stayed back to relock the door while Harry dashed up the stairs to restore silence, wondering again how the portrait had been set off. There was no noise in the house to speak of.

“Oh, thank god,” Dudley’s voice carried up from the stairs that lead down to the kitchen. “That thing’s been wailing for hours.”

“So why didn’t you shut it up?” Harry asked angrily. Dudley didn’t answer him.

“Where is everyone?” Hermione asked, interjecting into what could have become a violent situation.

“Dunno. Well, mum and dad went out . . . said something about looking for somewhere more normal to stay. Went with that pink haired —“

“What do you mean they’re looking for somewhere else to stay?” Harry asked. He thought it had been settled that the Dursleys were going to be staying at Grimmauld Place for the foreseeable future. What had suddenly changed that they were now looking for a new place to stay?

“Dad doesn’t want to stay here anymore,” Dudley said nonchalantly. “Said he needs to get back to the office or something, and he can’t do that if he has to leave here everyday. I think the last straw was that night you tried to blow up the kitchen. Woke us all up that did. To tell the truth, it is kind of boring here. You don’t even have a phone.”

“Of course not. Those sorts of Muggle things don’t work here,” Harry said inattentively. Tonks had gone with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia? Did this mean that Lupin thought it safe for them to leave? Or had he become that annoyed with them just this morning? “Where’s Lupin?” he asked his cousin.

“That bloke with the grey hair? No idea, haven’t seen him since before you left,” Dudley supplied carelessly.

Lupin wasn’t here? But he was the one that told Harry and the others to meet him at Grimmauld Place this morning.. What was going on? Was Lupin in trouble?

“He didn’t leave a note or anything?” Harry asked looking at Ron and Hermione. They too were looking nervous and worried.

“Nothing,” Dudley said again, as if he didn’t care who came or went in the house. “So where’s Ginny today?” he asked, showing interest for the first time since they had set foot in the house.

“She’s at home,” Harry answered, glaring at his cousin. Dudley’s face fell.

“Oh, that’s too bad. Cause I sure would have liked —“

“You don’t want to finish that sentence,” Hermione warned him. “Especially with her brother and boyfriend standing right here,” she added, stepping in front of both Ron and Harry as she did so.

Dudley looked at Hermione while she was talking. When she had finished he gazed at Ron appraisingly. From the expression he was wearing he seemed to think that he could take him, but cringed when he looked at Harry, Who was disgusted and angry at Dudley’s reaction to Ginny.

“Yeah . . . all right,” he said, backing away a few steps.

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve ever done,” Ron said, his arms crossed.

“S — so are you guys going to teach me any more magic today?’ Dudley asked hopefully, still looking nervously at Harry.

“No. We haven’t got time to go over levitation with you another three thousand times,” Harry said shortly as he pushed past his cousin and started up the stairs again, taking his bag to the room he and Ron were still sharing.

As Harry had told Ron and Hermione the day of Dumbledore’s funeral, their first stop was going to be Godric’s Hollow. Harry didn’t know what he was hoping to find there, but he still believed he needed to go. If nothing else he would be able to see his parent’s graves, this was something that he had wanted to do for as long as he could remember. Maybe it would give him a sense of peace about their deaths, that they were at least safe from Voldemort now.

The trouble was, he didn’t even know where Godric’s Hollow, and more specifically their house, was. This was the reason that he wanted to talk to Lupin. He was the only person left now, well other than Hagrid, Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort that knew where the Potters had lived. Lupin hadn’t been the secret keeper so he wouldn’t be able to tell Harry exactly where the house was, but he would be able to tell him where the village was. This was at least a start.

They didn’t have to wait long for Lupin. Within an hour of their arrival he was back, with a very big excuse for his tardiness and it came in the form of Rubeus Hagrid.

“Harry, Ron, Hermione,” he beamed at them as he entered the drawing room where they were all situated. “How’re yeh?”

“Great,” Harry said smiling at Hagrid. It wasn’t the truth, but they were much better now he was here and they knew Lupin was OK.

“”So you wanted to talk about Godric’s Hollow Harry?” Lupin asked as they all sat down. He wasted no time with idle chat, something Harry was grateful for.

“Yeah, we’re going there and we —“

“Why the ruddy hell would yeh want ter go there?” Hagrid asked loudly, looking at all three of them as if they were mad.

“Because its where my parents lived,” Harry explained. “And I want to see their graves. I’ve never got to do that.”

“WHY D’YOU WANT TO GO MESSIN’ ABOUT WITH THE PAST?” Hagrid thundered, jumping to his feet and surprising the other four people in the room.

“Because I want answers. I need answers.” Harry said firmly. “I asked Lupin here to tell me how to get there. That’s supposed to be why he’s here,” he looked at Lupin a little suspiciously. Had the werewolf brought Hagrid here to try and talk Harry, Ron and Hermione out of making this trip?

“Hagrid’s here because I thought he could help explain what you’re going to see when you get there,” it was Lupin’s turn to explain. “Its not a pretty sight and we want to make sure you’re prepared.”

“What’s makes it not a pretty sight?” Hermione asked nervously as she shuddered.

“Well, there was a battle and the house was all but destroyed. No one’s been able to repair the damage that was done there, not that we really wanted to go back. All we did was get Lily, James and you out. Then we, or rather Dumbledore, enchanted the place so it remained exactly as it was the night of Voldemort’s attack.”

“Why would he do that?” Ron questioned. “Really, what purpose would that serve?”

Harry should have felt disgusted or angry that they hadn’t even bothered to try and repair his parents’ house. Instead he felt relieved. He was unsure of why his former mentor would have decided on such a thing; perhaps it was to study what had happened that night, maybe so Harry could go back and see the destruction for himself. There might be something there that would help in bringing down Voldemort. Whatever his reasoning Harry was immensely grateful to Dumbledore.

“So . . . how exactly do we get there?” he finally asked. This was the most pressing question; the other stuff they could philosophize on later.

“The village itself is in Wales,” Lupin told them. He gave them more precise Apparition coordinates. “Quite a charming place really. The locals are always friendly, loved your mum before she and James went under the Fidelius charm.”

“They’d been there before?” Harry was surprised. He had always thought his parents had come to live in Godric’s Hollow when they had gone into hiding and after the charm had been cast.

“Yes. That was their — sorry — your house. Lily and James loved that village. They hadn’t lived there for about a year when they were on the run. They both decided that if they had to be hidden that they might as well go back to their favorite house. Even in hiding they would have been happy there and I bet still be living in the same place, if Peter —“ Lupin stopped, a look of fury in his eyes. He sighed, apparently trying to calm himself then continued, “James and Lily thought they would be safe there. Well that worked out brilliantly,” he finished bitterly.

“Yeah, the filthy little turncoat,” Hagrid roared. He was livid. Even so, Harry couldn’t help smiling. Hagrid had once said nearly the same thing about Sirius. That had been during Harry’s third year when everyone still believed he was a murdering traitor. “Wish I woulda stomped on ‘im when he was in me hut,” Hagrid growled.

“Yeah me too,” Harry, Ron and Lupin stated in unison.

“So now we know how to get there, exactly what are we going to find?” Hermione inquired, looking at them disapprovingly. The mood had been lightened considerably when Harry, Ron and Lupin and realized they were of a like mind when it came to Peter Pettigrew.

“Well, its not really something we can put into words,” Lupin replied. “I would venture to say that the best prose writer would have quite a job conveying the appalling scenes in that house.” He stopped talking for a minute. Lupin was wearing the same pained expression as when Dumbledore and Sirius had died. “I suppose its nothing compared to some of the atrocities perpetrated by Voldemort and his followers, but to know the victims and that they died for such a stupid reason makes it a million times worse.”

“Yeh’ve no idea,” Hagrid agreed, looking sad. “Barely able to get you out I was. Probably wouldn’ta done had I not been . . . well . . . “ Hagrid gestured to his huge frame blushing a little in embarrassment.

“Cheers Hagrid,” Harry replied in appreciation for what the half-giant had done for him.

“Yeah, shoulda kept yeh meself tho’, rather then give yeh to them Dursleys. Woulda done if Dumbledore hadn’t said to send yeh to them.” Hagrid was looking disgruntled as he said this, but smiled wickedly as he added, “but they got theirs didn’ they? Ha, serves ‘em right, treatin’ Harry Potter like rubbish an’ all.”

“Hey, you got one on them with that tail though,” Ron grinned. Hagrid looked at Lupin alarmed for a minute obviously fearing trouble for his illegal magic use, but Remus was smiling, that same mischievous grin, proving his marauder membership.

“A tail Hagrid, really?”

“Yeah, a curly pig’s tail, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had to pay to have it removed surgically.”

“Brilliant!”

“Is there anything else that you wanted to tell Harry about his parents house, or the village?’ Hermione asked, checking her watch.

“No, I guess that’s everything. Anything else that you wanted to add Hagrid?” Lupin asked.

“Nope, I guess tha’s all.”

“Well, we really should get on then. We don’t want to get there when it’s dark,” Hermione said checking her watch again, rather nervously. She, Ron and Harry had been over this numerous times during the weeks before the wedding. Harry had told them that he didn’t care what time it was, that once he got the exact location from Lupin he was leaving. The others had thought it best to go when it was light out. Hermione insisted that Voldemort might know that Harry would go to the village and have Death Eaters stationed there. In the end, when Harry became enraged they agreed to go along with him, no matter what.

“Yeah.” Harry was itching to leave. He was so close to seeing the last place that he had lived with his parents. He couldn’t honestly say that this was going to be a happy journey, but like he had been telling himself for a long time now, it was something that he needed to do. Even though he knew it was improbable, he was hoping that there would be someone there that would remember his parents.

Ron didn’t even argue. He knew how important this was for Harry. The three of them trudged up to their rooms. They were going to have to repack their bags before they left. Who knew how long they were going to be gone, or what they might encounter along the way.

* * * * * * * * * *

Harry, Ron and Hermione looked around, taking in their new surroundings. They had left London hundreds of miles behind them. They were now standing on a hill looking down upon a breathtaking landscape. In front of them were rolling green hills, covered in large trees. Peaked roofs poked out from the trees at random intervals, and they could see a small white church steeple over to their right. Below the hill they were standing on, was a river, which was glistening gold in the early evening sun.

“You used to live here?” Hermione asked in an awed voice.

“Yeah,” Harry replied, also looking around in amazement. He could now understand why his parents had decided to come back here when they went into hiding. That’s probably what he would have done. This place seemed absolutely fantastic. It was the quintessential village, still with old-fashioned charm and beauty. The industrial revolution certainly hadn’t had a visible impact on Godric’s Hollow.

“I guess we should get to the town. We don’t want to be walking through a forest in complete darkness,” Hermione said, a little of her former nervousness coming back.

The three friends descended the hill and walked over the bridge. As they entered the village they were treated to closer looks at some of the houses. A lot of them were constructed similarly to the hut that Hagrid occupied on the Hogwarts grounds. Harry thought they would make very good full-scale models of Gingerbread houses in the winter. Many of the windows were thrown open, the smell of cooking dinners was wafting into the street.

They found the inn ten minutes after arriving in the village. It was a cozy looking establishment, even from the outside. The building itself looked as if it had been there for several centuries. The white stone was in sharp contrast to the brown frames holding in the mullioned windows, several of which were standing open. Harry was sure that this inn could have no more than a dozen guest rooms.

They entered the inn and found themselves in a dark, but welcoming pub. An elderly gentleman greeted them cheerily.

“Good evening, young sirs and miss. How are yeh this fine evening?”

“We’re well, thank you,” Harry replied. He was starting to feel more and more like he had traveled back a few centuries. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling either. “We were looking for rooms, do you have any vacancies?’

“We rightly do,” the man’s face split into an even wider smile than the one he had given them upon entering. “I reckon yeh’d be lookin’ fer three rooms?”

“Yes, please,” Harry answered. The innkeeper turned his back on them, to a board that held a dozen keys. He pulled three from their pegs and turned back to face them.

“Our three best rooms, facin’ the water.” He smiled brightly at them again.

“Thank you.” Harry took the keys. Keeping one for himself, he gave the others to Ron and Hermione, then he pulled out some Muggle money, and made to pay for the rooms.

“No, no boy, we won’t accept any money until yeh leave,” The innkeeper stated. Harry’s shock must have registered on his face because the innkeeper smiled.

“Works better fer us, me and the Mrs.”

Harry thanked him again and stowed his money away. Yes, he thought, he was already growing to love this place. No one here knew him. Why would they? This village had nothing to do with the magical world. Harry was only famous around witches and wizards.

“Yeh’ll be wantin’ some dinner?”

“Er . . . “ Harry looked at Ron and Hermione. Ron was all for this idea, not that Harry would have expected anything else.

“We don’t want you to go to any trouble. We can just —“ Hermione started, but the elderly man held up his hand.

“it’s no trouble. We don’t get a lot o’ guests round here. Gives me and the Mrs summat teh do. THELMA.” He called at the top of his voice.

“What Henry?” came a female voice from behind a slightly open heavy wood door. Next moment a stout woman with short grey hair came bustling out, drying her hands on a cloth as she did so. Her eyes fell on the three new arrivals and a huge smile appeared on her face as well.

“Oh guests, welcome.”

“I’m just about to show ‘em to their rooms, they were lookin’ fer some supper,” the man called Henry said.

“As long as it’s no trouble,” Hermione said again.

“Oh it’s no trouble dears.” Thelma smiled sweetly at them. She reminded Harry of Mrs. Weasley.

“I’ll just show ‘em to their rooms, an’ you can bring the food there,” Henry informed his wife. The innkeepers waved away Harry, Ron and Hermione’s protests about the trouble and then Henry showed the three of them to their rooms.

“Here yeh are,” he said a moment later standing outside a door with the number one on it.

Harry had the key to this first room; he opened the door, which swung in to reveal a rustic décor, but one that was surprisingly up to date. The floor was a dark wood, as were the walls, making it feel like a log cabin. A patchwork quilt covered the bed, whose headboard and footboard were both made of thick wood spindles. Two nightstands were by the bed, one on either side. The one on the left held a telephone and lamp, while the one on the right only had a remote sitting on top of it. Harry noticed that sitting in a cabinet directly in front of the bed was a large television.

“I hope that these accommodations are to yer likin’,” Henry said. “The other two rooms are attired similarly. I can show yeh to them now.” He had turned to Ron and Hermione.

“No, thank you. We should be able to find our way,” Hermione stated. Ron hadn’t been listening to a word; he was walking around the room, taking in everything.

“Excellent. Thelma and I will bring yer food to yeh shortly.” Henry gave them a curt bow and exited the room, shutting the door as he left.

“This place is brilliant.” Ron collapsed on Harry’s bed, examining the remote. “What is this?” he asked holding it up.

“A remote,” Harry explained. Ron looked a little confused at the word. Harry took it from him and turned on the television. Ron’s eyes opened wide in amazement. He leaned forward so Harry could show him how it worked. A few moments later Ron was busy channel surfing.

“Maybe dad has a point, some of this Muggle stuff is cool,” he said.

“Really Ron, you can’t tell me that in all your seventeen years you’ve never seen a television?” Hermione asked. She had sunk into one of the large high backed chairs that sat by the open window, and was reading a large book she had pulled out of her bag. Ron ignored her and kept changing channels.

Harry answered the door ten minutes later when there was a knock. On the other side stood Henry and Thelma, laden with two large trays of food and drink. Harry beckoned them in, and they laid out the food on the large circular oak table that sat between the two chairs by the window, one of which Hermione was just vacating.

“Thank you,” Harry said again.

“It was no trouble at all,” Thelma replied. She was still smiling warmly at them. They stood there for a moment, none of the five people speaking, and then she nudged her husband hard in the ribs.

“Ouch!” He rubbed the spot where she had jabbed him. Henry looked a little put out for a minute before he fixed a smile on his face. “I always forget me manners. We haven’t been introduced. Henry and Thelma Clark.” He pointed from himself to his wife as he said this. “And yeh are?”

“Hermione Granger -” Hermione held out her hand, which the two Clarks shook. “- and this is Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.”

At the mention of his name Harry thought he saw a flash of recognition in the elderly couple’s eyes. But it must have been a trick of the light because next second they were shaking hands with both he and Ron, looking no different than they had before. Harry supposed he was just so used to people knowing who he was that he expected the recognition.

“It is getting late and I daresay after a day of traveling you three will want to freshen up and retire,” Thelma said half an hour later. She and her husband had just returned to the room to collect the cleaned plates of delicious food. “Please let us know when you are ready for breakfast in the morning. Good night.” With that she left the room. Ron and Hermione left shortly thereafter.

The room was completely dark, except for a few stray beams of moonlight coming in through the open drapery as Harry emerged from the bathroom, freshly showered. Even after the invigorating effects of soap and shampoo his eyes were still itching with tiredness. He hadn’t slept the night before, and didn’t expect to get much sleep tonight either. Why should he, when he had been having trouble sleeping for the majority of the summer?

He slumped down into one of the chairs by the window and watched the beams of moonlight dancing across the water below. He had only been in this village for a few short hours, had only met two of its inhabitants, and hadn’t even been to his former home or the graveyard where his parent’s bodies had been laid to rest. Yet he still felt that this was home. He could see settling down here one day, if he could ever experience something akin to a normal life.

His thoughts strayed back to the task that was ahead of him. They had destroyed one Horcrux, Harry supposed he was happy about this, but the danger that still lay before them seemed to overshadow the small victory they had gained. No matter which way he now thought about it, Harry was certain that the locket had been the easiest. They hadn’t even had to remove it from the place where Voldemort had left it. The removal was surely going to be the more difficult aspect of the Horcrux destruction, and there were at least two more of those left. He would do what he must though, at the very least so he could say that he had done everything to protect the world from t Voldemort’s brand of evil.

That eerie connection that Harry had developed between the Horcruxes and Ginny in his thoughts returned. He started to think of Ginny. He really didn’t like the look that she had on her face just before he had left that morning. An expression like that on the face of a Weasley usually meant that they were up to something, and it was rarely good. Harry really hoped Ginny didn’t do anything stupid.

He didn’t recall feeling sleep coming on, but he must have fallen into slumbers because the next thing he heard were noises outside his door, and then a sharp knock. Who could be calling at this hour? It was nearly one thirty, Harry noticed, looking at his watch. Maybe Hermione was right and Voldemort had stationed Death Eaters around Godric’s Hollow and that’s who was knocking. Harry contained his laughter, but barely. That was a stupid thought. If it was Death Eaters they surely wouldn’t knock.

He was halfway to the door when the innkeeper’s voice called out.

“Sorry to disturb yeh Mr. Potter, but there’s someone here —“ Harry opened the door, “ — someone here requesting to see yeh,” he finished, looking disheveled and a little annoyed at the disturbance. Harry looked behind him and saw Lupin standing there.

“I’m sorry to you both for the call at this late hour,” Lupin sincerely apologized. “It couldn’t be helped.”

The last time that Lupin had barged in on Harry had been the night Voldemort had appeared at Privet Drive. Were they going to have to flee again? Lupin didn’t seem as worried or in a rush, but he did look a little anxious.

“It’s fine.” Harry moved aside so Lupin could enter his room. As he did so he was apologizing to Mr. Clark for the disturbance as well. It was only when the old man turned to leave and Lupin started to walk in the room that Harry saw the real reason that Lupin had come this late at night. It didn’t have anything to do with Death Eaters at all.

Ginny was following Lupin into the room.

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