Friday, January 24, 2014

Chapter 6: An Elf’s Tale

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  _______________________________________________________________________________

After Ginny left and Mrs. Weasley calmed down, the trio went back to their research. Hermoine was still adamant about going through the books in the library in the day and the memories at night. Harry, however, could not concentrate on the book that Hermoine had assigned to him. He found himself worrying about Ginny. True, she has gone to Hogwarts only for a week but what if something happened to her there. It has already been proved that Hogwarts is not invincible. She could be in trouble there. This is the first time she was on her own there, without any elder Weasley to look after her. There was no one she could go to if she needed… He no longer felt that Mrs. Weasley was ‘just being silly’ for worrying for her youngest child and the only daughter. What if… Harry came out his reverie when he realized that Hermoine was talking to him. “…listening to me Harry? Harry?”
“I said, don’t worry, she will be fine.”
“The one you are worrying about.”
“Who said I was worried about anyone?”
“You weren’t worried? Then why were you lost in another world instead of reading that book?”
“Oh! I am just tired of being stuck inside. I was just thinking about quidditch to feel better.”
“Come on Harry. I have been your friend for the last six years. I can understand when you are thinking about quidditch and when you are worried about something or someone.”
“Oh yeah?! How can you tell that I wasn’t thinking about trying the ‘wonky faint’ thingy against Krum?”
“You can make fun about my knowledge of quidditch terms, but that won’t change the fact that you were worried about Ginny. You were frowning, Harry. You didn’t have the excited look about you that you usually have when you fly or even think of being on your broomstick, let alone thinking of some great moves like that one.”
“Okay, okay, I admit that I am a bit worried about her. This is the first time she is all by herself at Hogwarts. She doesn’t have any of us looking out for her.”
“She won’t be alone. She will be with her friends there and some of the DA members will also be there. Besides, you heard Professor McGonagall. There’s going to be more faculty members and ministry aurors than students right now.”
“That’s exactly it Hermoine. I do not trust the ministry guys. Some of them may be working for Voldemort or even be under imperious. How do you know that all of them can be trusted?” Ron, who had avoided saying anything so far, finally spoke up, “What McGonagall did not say then was that there are going to be order members patrolling the corridors to. And mate, whether we admit it or not, Ginny is one fiery witch. She can more than take care of herself.” Harry, realizing that he was outnumbered and his case lost, returned to his book without any further comments but only to be distracted by Hermoine shouting, “Outrageous”. Ron slid down beside Hemoine to peek at the book she was reading. “Can you believe how outrageous the ministry can be?”
“Tell us,” Harry said sarcastically.
“The ministry doesn’t allow an elf to use a wand just because it will mean that the elves will have the same standard as the wizards.”
“Oh no Hermoine. Not your spew again. We are supposed to be researching Horcruxes and founders’ relics here and not spew.”
“Shut up Ron. It is S.P.E.W and not spew. You have no idea how unfair this is. The elves’ magic is far more advanced than the wizards’. Yet they are forced to work as slaves for the wizards just because their magical power cannot be measured. Some ministry officials felt that if elves were allowed their rights and a wand, they‘d take over the wizards. So they stripped the elves of their rights saying that their magical powers are far too weak than the wizards and that they did not deserve a wand like wizards.”
“Hermoine, I know you are right. I just wanted to point out that finding the horcruxes should be on the top of our priority list right now.”
“Hang on, what did you just say Hermoine?” Harry sat up excitedly.
“Not you too, Harry,” groaned Ron. Hermoine ignored Ron’s comment and said, “I was simply saying that it is really unfair to the elves that…”
“No, no, no. Not that, Hermoine. What about their magical powers?” Harry interrupted.
“Elves are magically much more powerful than the wizards. Professor Binns told us that when…”
“Never mind what Binns said. What did you just say?” Harry impatiently interrupted her yet again. “You said that their magical powers cannot be measured even though they are much more powerful magically than the wizards? Magical power can be measured?”
“Yes Harry. Don’t you know that your magical powers can be measured? But why are you so excited about it?”
“Are you sure that elves magical power cannot be measured like wizards? Why?”
“No one really knows why, but even though they are magically much more powerful than wizards, their power hardly registers besides a wizard. It may be because of their advanced magic…”
“Yes! Why didn’t we think of it before? I am such a fool.” Harry had stood up from his chair in excitement.
“Mate, Hermoine has had her influence on you! Now even you are going crazy about spew.”
“No Ron, this isn’t about spew. This means that we now know who had accompanied Regulus to the cave. It was someone who would never give up his secret and someone whose magical power wouldn’t register while in the boat. Don’t you see? All these days we ere wondering who it could have been while the answer was right in front of us.” Comprehension dawned on Hermoine and she said, ‘Oh’, while Ron still had that lost look on him. Hermoine turned to Ron and explained Harry’s point, “Regulus may have taken Kreacher with him to retrieve the locket. Kreacher’s magical power wouldn’t have registered in the boat and he could be trusted not to reveal a thing as the house-elves are bound to keep their master’s secrets.”
“So what? It may have been Kreacher. But it doesn’t matter now, does it? We have lost the locket and this doesn’t give us any lead to where it might be.”
“Oh Ron! But it does. See, Kreacher is a witness. He not only saw Regulus retrieve the locket from the cave but he also saw it here at Grimmauld place. He may have seen Regulus destroying or at least trying to destroy it. He may be able to tell us if the horcrux is destroyed or not. Besides, he had this habit of keeping things; he might have saved the locket before Sirius threw it away with the other stuff.”
“But if he is bound to keep his master’s secrets, why would he tell us about him?”
“Because…,” Harry continued as if he had a bad taste in his mouth, “… he has no problems, whatsoever, in betraying his masters. Besides, I am his master now. He is bound to do whatever I say. If he doesn’t comply readily, I’ll only be too happy to make sure that he does.” Colour drained from Hermoine’s face. “Harry, I am not sure if your interrogating him is such a good idea. Maybe I can talk to him once you call him here.”
“Hermoine, you know I have nothing against the elves in general but that imp is a different story on the whole. He betrayed Sirius and I cannot forgive him for that. Never.”
“Hermoine, I know you care about them. But Harry is right. You cannot still feel bad for Kreacher. He betrayed his master and he should be punished for that. I think Harry has been generous to him by sending him to work at Hogwarts instead of hanging him…” Ron did not get to complete his sentence as Mrs. Weasley called them down for lunch. “We have to do this after lunch.”

The trio remained unusually quiet throughout lunch and Mrs. Weasley Kept throwing suspicious glances at each of them. After lunch, they all went up to Ron’s room. As soon as they had locked themselves in, Hermoine rounded up on Harry. “Harry, I still feel that it would be better if you let me handle Kreacher. You just call him and order him to answer whatever we ask him truthfully. Please Harry. If we cannot get an answer out of him, you can ask him, okay?” Harry agreed reluctantly. “Kreacher” There was a loud ‘Crack’ and Kreacher bowed in front of Harry. “Master called Kreacher?” ‘The mudblood loving Potter is back with his blood traitor friends. Oh if only Kreacher’s mistress knew…’
“Shut up Kreacher. I called you here because there is something we want to ask you. Now, I want you, no, I order you to answer whatever my friends here ask you and you must answer them truthfully, understand?”
‘The master wants me to answer the mudblood and the blood traitor brat. Oh what a shame…’
“Do you understand?”
”Kreacher understands.” Harry went to the other end of the room and sat down. Hermoine looked at him for some time, then turning to Kreacher she said, “Kreacher, did you ever go to a cave with your Master Regulus?’ Kreacher looked up at Hermoine with eyes wide open and started to hic-up. He obviously did not expect such a question and started to twist the filthy rag that he as wearing. Hermoine asked him again in a sweet voice, “Kreacher, it is very important that you tell us the truth. Did you ever accompany Regulus Black to a dark cave?”
“Did master Regulus remove a locket from that cave?”
“Can you tell us what happened?” Kreacher was clearly trying not to answer her. But with a direct order from Harry, he had no choice but to answer her with the complete truth. “One day master Regulus asked Kreacher to accompany him and Kreacher followed Master Regulus to a cave. Master Regulus had to cut his hand to enter the cave. Kreacher begged… begged master to let Kreacher cut his hand but master said that elf blood would not work and that master would need Kreacher strong for later… strong enough to get master away from what was waiting inside. There was an island in a dark lake in the cave. Master found a boat to cross the lake to go to the island. There was a cauldron full of nasty potion on the island. Master tried so many things but nothing worked and then… then…” Kreacher started to rock back and forth on the floor. “Did Regulus ask you to drink the potion?” Hermoine asked kindly. Kreacher shook his tiny head. “Kreacher realized that master wanted what was at the bottom of the cauldron and to get that the potion had to be drank by the seeker. Master tried to stop Kreacher from drinking the potion saying that he would find another way but Kreacher dank the potion so that Master could get what he wanted. The potion made Kreacher feel terrible. It reminded Kreacher of all the times he failed his masters and Kreacher wanted to die to punish himself for all his failures.” Harry, too curious about the story, forgot why he was sitting at the other end of the room, came and sat beside Hermoine. “When Kreacher drank the full potion, master got that locket from there. Kreacher was thirsty so Kreacher drank water from the lake and… and…” After several more hic-ups, Kreacher continued, “Thousands and thousands of inferi came out of the lake, trying to kill Kreacher and Kreacher’s master. Master fought bravely with fire. But there were… there were too many of them for master to fight alone… Master ordered… ordered Kreacher to go back home… but Kreacher could not leave master alone to fight the… those horrible creatures. So Kreacher tried to help master but master gave Kreacher the locket and ordered to go back and then destroy the locket… Kreacher did not want to leave master alone… what would mistress say if Kreacher let anything happen to young master Regulus… then Kreacher remembered master saying that he needed Kreacher to get him away from what was waiting inside… so Kreacher brought master back home… away from those horrible creatures.”
“You did the right thing Kreacher.”
“Master was too happy with Kreacher for remembering. He praised Kreacher but also asked Kreacher not to tell anyone about what Kreacher and master had done that day.”
“How did you get out of the cave with Regulus?”
“Kreacher apparated with master.”
“But you cannot apparate or disapparate in the cave!”
“Harry, their magic is different from ours. Didn’t I just tell you that their magic is much more advanced than ours? We cannot apparate or disapparate at Hogwarts, but the elves can. Remember Dobby?”
“Oh! So what happened to the locket?” Harry asked.
“Master locked himself up in his room for so many days. He worked on the locket. Even Kreacher helped him to get all the bad curses off it. But then master was afraid to open the locket… Then one day he did not return from his meeting with the Dark Lord. Oh! Mistress was so worried… We looked everywhere for young master Regulus… Then master was found dead. Poor mistress cried so much. Master Sirius had already broken her heart by running away and now young master turned up dead. Mistress was so distressed. Kreacher did all he could to help her but…”
“What happened to the locket Kreacher?”
“Mistress cleaned young masters’ room after months. She found the locket and kept it in the drawing room with some other things she found in his room.”
“So, Regulus managed to take off the curses from the locket but did not open the locket. So, Voldemort’s soul might still be inside it,” Ron sounded a bit disappointed.
“Oh no! There was no soul, no nothing inside the locket.” The trio looked at Kreacher and Hermoine asked him, “How do you know that, Kreacher?”
“Kreacher felt bad for not telling anyone about the cave when young master went missing because Kreacher knew Master Regulus must have been in trouble for taking the Dark Lord’s locket. When master was found dead, Kreacher had to punish himself. Kreacher also wanted to make sure that master Regulus had completed what he wanted to do. Since Kreacher could not tell anyone about the locket, Kreacher checked it himself. The locket opened easily and there was nothing inside. But Kreacher did see a crack on the locket that was not there when Kreacher had brought it from the cave or when Kreacher helped master to get all the bad curses off it.” The trio looked at each other… So Regulus had been able to destroy the horcrux before Voldemort could kill him for his betrayal. “Thank you Kreacher. You have helped us a lot. But there is one more thing. Do you know where the locket is now?” Hermoine asked. ‘The mudblood thanked Kreacher… even mistress never thanked Kreacher.’ Harry was about to shout at Kreacher but Hermoine caught his hand and pulled him back. “Kreacher, do you know where the locket is now?”
“Master Sirius tried to throw them all away. But Kreacher could not let him throw the locket that Master Regulus died for. Kreacher kept it.” Harry forgot his anger and said, “But I thought that Mundungus stole everything.”
“Oh no! Kreacher knows that man is thief. So Kreacher hid most of the expensive Black belongings when Kreacher saw him alone in the house.”
“You have the locket now? Can you show it to us?” Instead of replying, Kreacher vanished with a loud ‘Crack’ and then returned within a minute with an even Louder ‘Crack’. When he returned, he held the locket tightly in his hands. Harry went forward to take the locket from him but the Kreacher stepped back, “Master will, please, not throw it away again.”
“No Kreacher. We will not throw it away. We just want to see it so that we can make sure that Regulus succeeded in finishing what he started.” Kreacher seemed to believe Hermoine and handed the locket over to Harry. Three of them studied it carefully. It was the same locket that they had seen Merope wearing. It opened easily and was like any other ordinary locket. However, there was a diagonal crack throughout the front portion of the locket. Harry finally said, “Regulus successfully destroyed this one. There was a similar crack on the ring that Dumbledore destroyed.” Harry took the locket, and turned to Kreacher who was still standing there. “Here, you can have this Kreacher.” Kreacher was so shocked by Harry’s action that he simply stood there, staring at the locket. “But remember one thing; never ever repeat anything that you told us here, okay? No one should ever know that you went to the cave with master Regulus and that whatever was inside the locket was destroyed. No one should ever know that we know about the locket or that now you have it. Is that clear?” Kreacher, shaking badly, nodded and said, “Yes master.” Harry handed the locket over to the shocked elf and ordered him to go back to Hogwarts.

The trio sat discussing the day’s discoveries. “So now we know that the diary, the ring and the locket is gone. We are yet to find the Hufflepuff’s cup, something of Ravenclaw and Nagini,” Hermoine listed off for the tenth time that evening. “Yes,” said Harry. “We need to find the cup and Ravenclaw’s relic. Nagini has to be the last to be destroyed out of the six since Voldemort likes to keep her with him at all times.”
“I think its time for us to see the other memories too. May we can find something that we did not realize earlier, like the locket.” Hermoine and Ron took another trip into the pensieve, while Harry stayed back with a defense book that he had received from Lupin on his birthday.

That night Mr. Weasley returned home with a smile on his face. He had a copy of the Daily Prophet in his hands, which he passed on to Harry. Harry had not been able to follow the daily prophet as Grimmauld Place’s subscription had been cancelled as an extra precaution. He opened it to find his picture dominating the front page. It was clearly taken at the ministry. The headline read:

The ‘Chosen One’ refuses to co-operate with the ministry.

                 Harry passed on the newspaper to an eager Hermoine. He had read enough about himself in the papers for the past few years to last his lifetime. Hermoine and Ron read through it together and when they had finished reading, Ron commented, “Ruddy brilliant, Harry.”
“What do they have to say about ‘the-boy-with-a-scar’ this time?”
“They have reported what you said to Scrimgeour yesterday. They have actually trashed the ministry for the breakout in Azkaban, discrediting Dumbledore, Umbridge punishing you for telling the truth and misguiding the people about Voldemort’s return. They have even included the part about Stan Shunpike. Then there’s this whole paragraph on what Neville’s grandmother had to say about you.”
Mr. Weasley said, “This article has made waves. The minister’s office was full of owls from the readers. Some people even sent howlers, demanding the release of the innocent people and proper action against the known death eaters. The minister is actually regretting his decision of informing the reporters that you would be at the ministry. Scrimgeour actually came up to my office today to ask me to request you to meet him once. He is prepared to compromise and co-operate.”
“There’s no way I am meeting him… Not even if he manages to capture Voldemort! I have seen enough of him and the ministry. They were not ready to aid us when we needed it and now I am not prepared to associate myself with them.”
“Well, it is up to you to decide that, Harry. I just passed on the message.”
“Mr. Weasley, do you know where Professor Lupin is? I really needed to talk to him.”
“He is out on some work for the order. He will be back in a few days. You can tell me if you need anything or any help, Harry.”

“It is okay, Mr. Weasley. I’ll wait for him.” Harry had not forgotten about his plan to visit Godric’s Hollow. Lupin had promised to take him after he had received his apparition license, but Harry had not seen him recently. He was getting impatient and wanted to get going. But he had no other way than to wait for Lupin as he had no idea about where Godric’s Hollow was.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chapter 5: Birthday Surprises

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  ________________________________________________________________________________

Days passed by the teenagers at Grimmauld Place. There were more deaths and disappearances reported by the daily prophet. The house buzzed with activities of the order. Percy had finally joined the order. He proved to be quite useful as he provided the order certain inside news about the ministry. Harry, Ron and Hemoine kept up with their research. They were almost done going through all the books in the library and Harry had given up the hope of finding anything in them. Ginny was shuffling between revising for the O.W.Ls and researching with the trio. There was still no news about Charlie.

The trio had agreed that Regulus had someone with him when he had gone to the cave to retrieve the locket. It was quite impossible for a single person to retrieve it as there was no way that one person could have drank the potion, retrieve the locket and fought the inferi and still come out of the cave alive. Yet they could not think of anyone who could have accompanied him and fit in the boat along with Regulus. So, they had hit another dead end and could not find another way around it.

Harry woke up early on his birthday. Dudley was still asleep on the next bed. So he crept out of the room, careful not to make any noise and wake Dudley up. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” Hermoine greeted him with a smile and a hug as they met up on the stairs. “Thanks Hermoine.”
“Are you excited about today?”
“Yeah. A bit nervous too though.”
“Oh, don’t worry Harry. You will do just fine. After all, you did apparate yourself along with Dumbledore successfully last term and you’ve studied after that too.”
“I know. But I’d feel better if Ron took the test with me instead of taking it while I was away at Privet drive.” A chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ greeted Harry as he entered the kitchen. Mr. & Mrs. Weasley, Percy, Bill, Lupin and Kingsley were already at the table. Harry smiled and thanked everyone. Mrs. Weasley served him his breakfast that consisted of all of Harry’s favorite things. “Here you go Harry. Head up to shower after breakfast. You’ll be going to the ministry with Arthur and Kingsley a bit early than we had decided earlier.” Seeing the questioning look on Harry’s face, Mr. Weasley said, “Percy informed us that the minister called the press the moment he found out your test date and time. He has been trying to get to you ever since he stepped in as the minister and after failing to convince you to support him. So he just called the press assuming that you will avoid them and the press will take it that you are there to see him. We will go to the ministry early so that we can avoid the reporters who will be expecting you much later. You can wait in my office till it’s time for your test.” Before Harry could reply, Ron entered the kitchen and wished Harry.

Harry arrived at the ministry with Mr. Weasley and Kingsley well before time. They even reached Arthur’s office without anybody realizing that Harry was there. Harry waited patiently for his test. When it was time, Arthur accompanied him to level six: Department of Magical Transportation. Harry was pleasantly surprised to see Neville Longbottom along with his grandmother. “Hey Neville, How are you? Are you taking your test today?”
“Yes. Happy Birthday Harry.”
“Thanks and a belated Happy Birthday to you too.” Mr. Weasley, who was talking to Mrs. Longbottom, turned to Harry and said, “Harry, there’s an apparition point just at the end of this corridor. After you get your license, you can directly head back. I’ll get back to my office now, if it’s okay with you.”
“Sure Mr. Weasley.” After Arthur left, Harry continued to chat with Neville about the summer so far until Harry was called for his test. Neville wished him good luck.

The test was quite easy. Wilkie Twycross, their instructor was conducting the test himself. He asked Harry to apparate to different points within the room and asked him a few questions. Harry thanked Hermoine in his mind while answering the question because she had practically forced him to read the Apparition Manual. After some ten minutes, satisfied with the results, Twycross handed Harry his license with a smile. “Congratulations Mr. Potter. You have done well. I hope that this license will make things bit easier for you. After all, we all know that you have a lot to do.” Harry smiled but did not reply, as he was sure that Twycross was simply trying to confirm the ‘Chosen One’ theory.

A surprise was waiting for him outside in the corridor. As Harry stepped out of the examination room, he found himself facing Rufus Scrimgeour, the minister of magic. He was hardly aware of the reporters standing behind the minister. Harry tried to step past the minister and scowled when Scrimgeour took him by his shoulder and said, “Come on Harry, lets go to my office where we can talk in private.” Harry took a step away from him and said, “I don’t think so minister. You have called the press here today so that people know that we are working together, right? So let’s talk right here, in front of all this reporters.” Scrimgeour was taken aback. He had obviously expected Harry to be eager to avoid the reporters. However, he managed to regain his composure and asked, “Okay then. I just wanted to know if you have thought about my proposal.”
“What proposal?” Harry asked in turn, acting perfectly innocent. When Scrimgeour simply continued to look at him, he said, “Oh! you mean the proposal where you wanted me as your poster boy?”
“Not a poster boy Harry. You must have misunderstood me, Harry. I just wanted you to co-operate with the ministry and the ministry would in turn help you in whatever you need to do.”
“Have you released Stan Shunpike yet, minister?”
“That’s not the point Harry,” Scrimgeour was clearly starting to loose his patience.
“That’s exactly the point minister. How can you expect any sane person to co-operate with you when all you do is lock up innocent people in Azkaban while death eaters are at large? What were you doing while there was another mass breakout from Azkaban this summer and actual criminals escaped? What are you doing to stop the murders and kidnappings?”
“I am not answerable to you Harry.”
“No you are not answerable only to me. But you are answerable to the whole wizarding community.”
“Enough of your childish nonsense. Now, will you tell me what Dumbledore was up to?”
“No. The last time Dumbledore told the ministry about his ideas and whereabouts, the ministry called him a liar. I do not trust you one bit and I do not agree with your methods. So don’t expect me to act all ‘grateful and happy to help you’ unless you actually start doing something for real for the wizarding community,” with that Harry pushed his way through the horde of reporters. As he was leaving, he heard Mrs. Longbottom telling the reporters, “Harry Potter has more guts than the whole ministry put together. I have more faith in him and the Order of the Phoenix than the ministry. My grandson…” Harry practically ran to the apparition point and apparated back to the headquarters.

When he got back to Grimmauld Place, he was still feeling angry. So, since he expected everyone to be in the kitchen, having lunch, he quietly went to the library. However, he was surprised to find Ginny sitting there and studying. He tried to walk back out before she became aware of him, but… “Nice try Harry, but I already know that you are here,” Ginny said turning to face him. “So what’s up? Why are you sneaking around? Did you fail in the apparition test?” Harry had no choice but to walk back in. “No. I got my license. I just did not want to disturb your revision. After all, your exams are just around the corner.”
“So why aren’t you in the kitchen celebrating and having your lunch?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“We already had our lunch.”
“Oh! I guess I’ll go and have mine now.” Harry headed to the kitchen. But Ginny followed him. “What’s wrong Harry? I know you are angry about something.”
“Oh there you are Harry. I was starting to worry. Did everything go well? Come on in and have your lunch.” Mrs. Weasley called from the kitchen door. Harry entered the kitchen followed by Ginny. As he sat down to eat, Lupin entered the kitchen, followed by the twins. Lupin asked him, “Are you okay Harry? Arthur just informed me that Srimgeour had managed o corner you with his gang of reporters.” Harry launched into telling the whole thing. “I guess he thought that I won’t be willing to talk in front of the reporters. So I just turned it around on him.”
“Atta boy, Harry,” said George.
“You never cease to impress us,” added Fred.
“We are so proud of you,” continued George.
“Yeah, we couldn’t have done better,” said Fred.
“Enough. Fred. George. Let the boy have his meal in peace. Harry dear, you have had a tough time. Go and lie-in for a while after lunch.” Harry had his lunch and proceeded to Ron’s room where he found Ron and Hermoine waiting for him. He told them all that had happened at the ministry and then he and Ron cursed the minister and the ministry a lot. Then the trio proceeded to plan their moves in finding the Horcruxes.

It was late in the evening and way past the teatime, when Mrs. Weasley called them down. Till then they had not come up with anything. Harry was greeted by another round of ‘Happy Birthday’ as he entered the kitchen with Ron and Hermoine. The kitchen had been decorated beautifully. A banner hung from the wall that said “HAPPY 17th BIRTHDAY HARRY” the kitchen table was laden with food. It seemed that Mrs.Weasley had outdone herself. Harry found himself shaking hands and thanking several order members, including Professor McGonagall. Even Dudley came up to wish him. Harry felt a bit guilty. Dudley was a month elder than him and he had completely forgotten his birthday. Harry decided that he would have to make up for it by buying him something nice as soon as possible. Mrs. Weasley gave him her famous ‘motherly’ bear hug. For once, Harry found himself hugging her back. Finally when she let him go all he managed to say was, “Thank you Mrs. Weasley for… for everything.”
“You’re welcome dear. Now, cake first or presents first?”
“Cake first please! I am hungry.” said Ron and everyone in the room chuckled.

Harry cut his cake and then they had a delicious dinner. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Once Arthur had come up to Harry to apologize for leaving Harry alone at the ministry and Harry had assure him that it was perfectly alright and that he actually profited from the meeting. Finally, Harry got to opening his presents. Ron had given him a pack of assorted sweets. Mr. & Mrs. Weasley had given him a golden watch (just like the one they had given Ron). The twins had given him a big box of their latest inventions. Bill and Fleur had given him a nice set of dress robes. Hermoine, Tonks and Lupin had given him quite a few books on dark arts. There was a huge rock cake from Hagrid (delivered by a Hogwarts owl). Finally, there was a single big package left. He could not understand who it was from. Everyone he knew had already given him his present. The package was covered in brown paper and there was no note attached. It was quite heavy. “That is from Professor Dumbledore. He left it for you in his will. This seemed to be the perfect occasion to me to hand it over to you.” Professor McGonagall said with a sad smile on her face. The room fell silent. Harry felt a lump in his throat. He excused himself and went back to his room carrying the package. Ron, Hermoine and Ginny tried to follow him up but Lupin stopped them, “Don’t! Give him some time alone. He needs it.”

Harry sat on his bed, staring at the package. He was glad that his friends had not followed him up as his eyes were brimming with tears. He just could not get himself to open the package. It would make Dumbledore’s death so real and final. On one hand, he was curious about what Dumbledore might have left for him. He was sure that whatever the package contained, it was something that would help him in his task. On the other hand, he would rather have Dumbledore himself to guide him through, like always. He tried to guess the contents by feeling the packet, but he could not think of anything that big and heavy that could help him.

It could have been five minutes later or five hours later, Harry could not tell which, that the door of his room opened slowly and Hermoine peeked in. She stepped in tentatively, as if expecting Harry to shout at her to leave him alone. But Harry did not even look up from the packet that still lay unopened on his bed. Hermoine came up to him and sat on the edge of his bed. Ron and Ginny followed in. They all sat there quietly for sometime, each daring the other to speak first. Finally, Hermoine spoke up, “Aren’t you going to open that and see what it is, Harry?” There was no reply. Harry simply pushed the package a bit towards her. Hermoine understood him and started to open the package carefully. When it was completely unwrapped, there was a collective “Oooohh” from Hermoine and Ginny. Harry looked up to see Dumbledore’s pensieve sitting were the package lay few minutes earlier. There was also a of bunch small crystal bottles containing silvery white substances and instructions about how to use the pensieve.  Ron and Ginny leaned in to get a better look at the pensieve while Hermoine started reading the instructions. Harry could clearly remember his ‘special’ lessons with Dumbledore last term. He remembered every single word that Dumbledore had told him in his office on those occasions. He had gone over them all in his mind thousands of times since Dumbledore’s death… It seemed another lifetime to Harry, yet only couple of months had passed since the event. If only… “Harry, do you think these are the same memories that Dumbledore had showed you last term?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Would you mind if we see them?”
“What’s wrong Harry?”
“Nothing. Yeah you can see them.”
“Can we see them now?”
“It’ll take time, Hermoine. You can’t see them all tonight.”
“But we can start tonight, can’t we?”
“Okay. You go on. I don’t think I can do it now.”
“Then we’ll do it some other time then mate.”
“It’s okay Ron. You go ahead. I have seen them anyway.” Ron and Hermoine stared at each other for a brief moment and then decided to take the first trip right then. As Hermoine emptied the first bottle into the pensieve, Harry reminded them about Bob Odgen’s identity and the reason behind his visit to Little Hangleton. Then he watched them enter the pensieve. When Ginny entered at last, Harry closed his eyes and lay back on his bed.

It was quite sometime before Hermoine, Ron and Ginny came out of the pensieve. Hermoine was scowling, “I can’t believe that Voldemort preaches the pure-blood nonsense when he had a muggle father and a squib for a mother. Merope could not perform magic even life threatening situation. What a sham!” Hermoine would have continued for hours but Ginny interrupted her, “Listen guys, by any chance, are you people looking for the locket that Merope was wearing? I mean the one that R.A.B replaced?”
“Yeah why? Have you seen it somewhere?”
“YES! Not just me, you all have seen it too…” Harry sat up, “What? Where? When?”
“Don’t you remember? When we first came here, we had to help in cleaning this place up…”
“Yeah. How can we forget those glorious days?” Ron said sarcastically.
“Shut up, Ron. Anyway, the day we were cleaning the drawing room, we found a musical box that put us all in a trance…”
“And a locket that none of us could open. Yes!” Hermoine completed the sentence for Ginny and she beamed. “Yes, exactly! I am very sure that it is the same one because I remember thinking of Salazar Slytherin when I saw the design on the locket. Seems like I was right then.”
“But then Sirius threw them all, remember?” Ron reminded them.
“Oh no! I thought that we finally made some progress. But we are back to square one. It could be anywhere, including the muggle dumpsters…!”
“Dupster?” Ron looked lost.
“Not Dupster, Ron. Dumpsters. It’s the place where muggles throw their trash.”
“Oh.” The youngsters fell silent. “Well at least, we know that the locket was here. That means we were right about R.A.B’s identity. At least, we know a bit more than before.” Hermoine said a bit optimistically in order to raise everybody’s spirits. Still, no one said anything. So, she continued, “I think we have time for another memory tonight.”

Harry woke up quite late next morning. They all had stayed up quite late last night. On Hermoine’s insistence, they had all seen the second memory. Ginny had bid them goodnight and left after watching the second memory as she was due to return to Hogwarts today for her O.W.Ls which were due in two days time. However, the trio had stayed up talking and discussing things.

By the time, Harry got down to the kitchen; everybody was almost through their breakfast. “Ah, there you are Potter. I was starting to wonder if you were planning to sleep through the day. I need to talk to you before I get back to Hogwarts.” Harry was surprised to see Professor McGonagall having breakfast with rest of the Weasley clan. “Okay.”
“Everything okay Potter?”
“Yes Professor.”
“It doesn’t seem so.”
“I am just surprised to see you here so early.”
“Oh well, I did not get a chance to talk to you yesterday. So I dropped by now so that I could take care of two things at the same time… talk to you and accompany Miss Weasley back to Hogwarts.” Harry simply nodded and sat down beside Ginny and Mrs. Weasley served him his breakfast immediately. Ginny nudged him and said in a low voice, so that only Harry could hear her, “Harry, promise me that you will not let Ron and Hermoine see the rest of the memories before I return.” Harry turned to look at her. “Please, Harry.”
“I can’t promise you that, Ginny. You know how Hermoine is. If she wants to do something, I cannot stop her from doing it. However, I can promise you that if they seethe memories without waiting for you, then after you return, I will accompany you. Okay?” Ginny agreed reluctantly.

After he had his breakfast, McGonagall summoned him to the drawing room. She asked him to take a seat and came straight to the point, “Mr. Potter, Remus had informed me about your cousin’s case. I must tell you that this has never happened in Hogwarts before. I have searched and looked at all the rules before talking to the board of governors. A decision has been made regarding your cousin.” Harry waited for her to continue. She sat down on the chair next to Harry’s and continued, “I am sorry Harry, your cousin cannot attend Hogwarts at this age. However, do not be disappointed because I have found out another way for him to learn magic. He can study and learn magic at home and then appear for his O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts from Hogwarts when he is ready.”
“That means Dudley can study at home and can go to Hogwarts for his exams?” McGonagall nodded. “But how can he learn all those stuff on his own? And since he is not registered as a wizard, won’t he be in trouble for performing magic?”
“We can get him registered now and there are different sets of rules for performing magic for the people who study at home. And, Remus has kindly agreed to teach Dudley all his subjects. Though he cannot commit himself completely right now, he said that he is willing to help Dudleyas much a he can. After this war is over, he’ll take the total responsibility of teaching Dudley.”
“Oh you mean there are other people who learn magic at home and appear for their exams through some school?”
“Yes. Is there anything else that you want to know?” Harry shook his head. McGonagall said, “One more thing Harry. I know that Dumbledore left you his pensieve. A pensieve is not only very expensive but also quite rare. And this particular one is even more special because of the person it originally belonged to. So I suggest you take good care of it and use it well.” Harry nodded and followed McGonagall out of the room. They found Mrs. Weasley crying just outside the room, “…news of him and now you are leaving too. I know I’m just being silly, but can’t help being worried about you.”
“Mum, I know. But do not worry. I will be gone only for a week. And I am going only to Hogwarts mum.”
“You always manage to get into some trouble. Please dear, stay safe.” Professor McGonagall took over from Ginny and said, “Don’t worry Molly. There will be so few students right now that it will be easy for us to keep an eye on all of them. Besides, there will be aurors from the ministry guarding them all. In fact, there will be more faculty and aurors than students.”

“I am just being silly. But with what happened to Charlie, I just can’t help feeling worried and a bit scared.” Mrs. Weasley kissed her daughter goodbye. Ginny flooed to Hogwarts with McGonagall.