By Musings of Apathy
Here is my attempt at participating in the National Novel Writing Month. You can find more information on that here: NaNoWriMo
My goal will be to write 50,000 words in the month of November. What will be posted here wlll be un-beta'd. Upon completion of reformatting and Beta work, it will be reposted under it's correct sub-heading.
Appologies before hand on the quality of the writing of this story, as it will be written at such speed as to be a stream of conciousness, with little contemplation of each little detail. Correction of mistakes will be taken care of after the NaNoWriMo deadline for reposting as an edited work.
This is as far as I got during the official writing period of November 2006's National Novel Writer's Month. I believe my total is about 32,500 words at this point, which is nearly two
thirds of the goal. I will continue the story, as well as working on Cracked Reservoir. Thank you for reading.
Family Inseparable: Chapter 3
By: Musings of Apathy
"Vernon," Petunia called to her husband. "Before you leave for work, would you leave the key to the freak's cupboard?"
"Think he's been punished enough, do you?" Mr. Dursley answered from the door to their en suit loo. "After what he did to our Dudley, the boy can sit in there and rot for all I care."
"I agree," she told him. "I'm going to give the freak some bread and water so he doesn't die on us."
Vernon came back into the bedroom straightening his tie. "I don't have a problem with the freak's demise."
"Nor I," Petunia answered with a scowl on her face. "But someone knows he's here. One of those freaks would notice and what would we do then?"
"True," Vernon said. "Just don't let the freak out for long. 'Till Dudders is feeling better, the brat won't see the light of day, if I have my say."
"I'm making Duddykins favorite this morning," Petunia said. "I'm sure he'll be feeling better in no time."
"Did the freak make any complaints yesterday?" he asked.
"Not a peep," Petunia assured him.
"Maybe he's learning."
The first full day that Harry was at the Burrow, he ate just a little, being too used to his aunt and uncle's insistence that food eaten by him was wasted and, therefore, to be given at a minimum. On the second day, his appetite was becoming what might be considered by others as normal. The massive sandwich that Ginny prepared for his breakfast on his second day, he would have previously considered a full day's meal or more. However, before consuming the sandwich, he had eaten one of the apples that was left over in Ginny's nightstand on the way to his morning bath. A half hour after breakfast, Harry was feeling the extra food that his body was not quite ready for. With Ginny on lookout, Harry rushed to the loo under his new invisibility cloak. Shortly later, Harry was back in Ginny's room, suffering the punishment of gluttony. He would have to give his body a chance to get used to the volume of food that a normal child consumed in a sitting before he let his eyes talk for his stomach.
"Oh, Harry," Ginny said with worry. "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize there'd be a problem. Are you alright?"
Harry groaned. "I think I ate too much. I...I just need to lie down."
"You need to rest anyway, Harry," she told him. "You're still not healed from before."
"I'll be okay," Harry told her. "I am tired. I'm just going to sleep. Why don't you go ahead outside with your brothers."
"Oh, I was hoping that you could come out with me," she lamented. "But rest. You'll feel better tomorrow."
With her guidance, Harry settled on the bed. Ginny covered him in the invisibility cloak and tucked it in before covering him with her sheets and blankets. Harry was asleep before she would leave the room for the great outdoors.
Harry's Aunt Petunia slid the key home in the dangling padlock and turned it for a definitive click as the shackle popped out. She removed it and slid the slide bolt open, unlocking the door to the cupboard under the stairs.
"Come out, boy," she said harshly. "You have fifteen minutes to clean yourself up and use the loo before I lock you back in here. You'll get some bread and water to let you think of what you did wrong. Another couple of days and we'll see if you learned anything."
When she didn't hear any stirring, she let the glimmer of worry cloud her face. Was she too late? She peaked into the small space, but had to move to the side to allow enough light in so she could see the contents.
Ginny played with her brothers for most of the morning. She packed a small sandwich and a couple of more pieces of fruit with some cold water up to her room for Harry's lunch, but he didn't rouse. She kept quiet to not wake him and left the food on the lower shelf under the nightstand in case he should wake. It would not be evident there in any matter. She again spent the afternoon outside with her brothers.
Fred and George had filched a wand from the attic, most likely from Uncle Fabian or Uncle Gideon's trunk. The deceased twin uncles were heroes in the Fred and George's eyes. The prankster twin brothers of their mother had left journals that served as inspiration for their senses of humor and prank.
"Oi, Fred," Bill yelled. "Leh'me see that. I want to show Gin-gin something."
"You got a wand already, Bill," Fred argued. "Use your own!"
"We snagged this one fair and square," George continued.
"Long as mum isn't the wiser, it's fair anyway," Fred added.
"I may be an adult," Bill answered. "And can hex you two without a ministry letter. But the tracking charm hasn't faded yet."
Fred and George looked at each other in consideration. Ginny looked on with deep interest. She wondered what her eldest brother had in store for her, what he wanted to teach her.
"I'll give it back without telling mum if you do loan it to me," Bill bargained.
"Since you're so nice about it," Fred agreed.
"We'll be generous in sharing our bounty," George concluded.
"Good to know," Bill said. "Give it over."
"But, dear brother," George said.
"We'll bring it along," Fred continued.
"To the lesson ourselves," George concluded.
Bill fairly snatched the aged wand out of the twin's hand. "No, this lesson is just for our sister," Bill told them. Ginny's curiosity was at an all time high. "You two make enough trouble as it is."
"Downright stunned!" they claimed.
Bill smiled as he reached his arm back over Ginny's shoulder. "You'll get over it."
Bill turned himself and Ginny toward the wood behind the house.
"Come on, Ginny," the twins heard as they walked off. "I need to teach you some things so you can defend yourself."
"From who?" Ginny asked.
"Anyone. Your brothers, strangers, whomever."
"Call for you, Mr. Dursley," his secretary called to him over the intercom.
He pressed his button and spoke back to her, "Did you at least find out who it is? That is your job."
The secretary ignored his abusive tone and answered, "It's Mrs. Dursley, sir."
She was doubting that she needed this job enough to put up with the arrogance and abuse that rolled off her employer like the copious amounts of fat on the man's chins, but once again decided to keep a stiff upper lip and continue.
"Alright," Mr. Dursley answered. "No disturbances, Martha."
She cut off with a answer of, "Yes, sir."
"Hmm," Vernon said to the empty room. "At least this one has been trainable."
He pressed the blinking line and picked up the receiver. "Hello, Pet."
He listened to her for a a bit before interrupting, "Calm down, Petunia. Tell me what happened."
He listened to her tell the story for a bit longer before she paused, waiting for him to fix it. "Okay, this is what you do. If we're lucky, the brat's gone for good. Clean up his cupboard with bleach, make sure that all traces of him are gone from there. Move his clothes to Dudley's second bedroom and put sheets on the bed in there with a couple of the blankets from the upstairs cupboard. Make the bed look lived in. I'll take a long lunch and come home. Have his mattress and sheets from his room ready and I'll take it with me and dispose of them. When I get home this evening, we'll both go to the constable and report him missing; a runaway."
He listened to her worries over his plan before he responded, "We'll tell them he's runaway for a day or two before, so we didn't call thinking he would just be coming back like before. That'll make them not investigate much. With everything clean, they won't find anything anyway."
He listened to her agreement with his course of action. "I'll be there in two hours. Have everything ready. It'll be alright, Pet. You'll see."
He hung up and made arrangements to be gone from Grunnings for a couple of hours around his lunch time. In his mind, he was looking for holes in his plan and hoping that his freak nephew had left for good.
When they had walked a good way through the wood, Bill and Ginny entered a clearing well known to all of the Weasley children. It was a popular place for games and chases.
"Bill, what..." Ginny started but was cut off by a raised hand.
He raised his wand and waved it around the clearing, creating a gray mist. With a stab, the mist rushed from the center of the clearing and seeped into the trees all around. As it seemed to solidify into a wall connecting each boarder tree, they heard a duo of yelps from one side of the clearing.
"George, Fred," Bill yelled toward the yelp. "I'm serious, no eavesdropping."
He waved his wand in another spell that sent a lime colored bolt to a random spot on the coalesced white wall, causing the entire perimeter to glow green momentarily before it settled into a dull olive color.
"There," he said. "That'll keep this private."
"What's that?" she asked.
"A privacy ward," Bill said. "Even works in an open area."
"Wow, is that what you're going to teach me?" she asked.
He ruffled her hair in an affectionate manner. "No," he said. "You're quite the little sprite, but you won't be able to do that until the end of Hogwarts, if you're even that lucky. What I'm going to teach you is something that you can use to defend yourself and to teach any of us lot a lesson if we get out of line."
"Really?" Ginny asked. "But I wouldn't want to hex you."
Bill smiled. "Thanks, kiddo, but you never know. Besides, the twins need someone to keep them in line and to remind them not to mess with you."
"Cool!" Ginny insisted.
Bill drew the 'loaner' wand from his pocket and showed Ginny how to hold it and point it. Within the hour, Ginny had learned to be proficient at sending the sickly yellowish gray bolt at her target, in this case a regretful Bill, with the practiced incantation of, "Bates Mocus!"
To be nice to her brother, she also quickly dispelled the secretions from his nose with the equally newly practiced, "Finite Incantatem!"
Of course, much to Bill's detriment, the dispelling incantation was much harder to correctly pronounce than the hex itself.
All in all, Ginny learned some good magic that day, if only she has access to a wand when she needs one, such as the next time the twins start a new round of pranks.
By the end of the week Harry was more properly up and around. His bruises had faded fast with the assistance of Mrs. Weasley's potions and his lethargy had changed into the opposite, a new abundance of energy that was wasted inside Ginny's small bedroom. Without anything else to do, he devoured any and all books that Ginny would sneak up to him. Harry had reached a good pattern of going down to the kitchens in the times of the day and night when they knew that none of the family would discover him and cleaning up thoroughly behind himself so that his activities would not be noticed.
The only problem surfaced one morning when he was finishing his bath, He had taken a quick one, still not trusting there not to be an interruption, which was the saving factor. When the door knob jiggled as he was putting his boxers on, Harry panicked.
"Mum," he heard one of Ginny's brother's yell. "The bathroom door's stuck."
"Try harder, Ronald," Harry heard the matriarch answer from down the stair well. "No getting out of it. You have to bathe and go to your schooling."
"But it's summer," Ron whined.
While this was happening, Harry rushed to get the rest of his clothes in hand and his invisibility cloak from the sink counter. He had the cloak halfway over him when he noticed his necklace with the galaxy ball on the other side of the sink. He snatched it just in time to pull the whole thing together.
Ron tried the knob in earnest this time, and found it locked. He heard him trying to turn it as the cloak flowed to the floor around Harry's feet. With a deft flick, Harry unlocked the door after it went still and waited.
"But it's locked, Mum!" Ron whined.
"It is not," his mum answered. "All of your brothers and your sister are down at the breakfast table. No one is using the loo. Now, get in there and take your bath before you get yourself grounded."
The knob suddenly turned, unencumbered by the lock. "I'm already grounded," Harry heard Ron grumble as the boy moved into the bathroom.
He sucked himself to the wall, mindful of the hem of the cloak pooling at his feet. After Ron passed, Harry slipped out through the still open door. He saw Ron starting to take his pajamas off over his head, mind searing orange no less, as he slipped down the stairwell.
"And close the door before you start," Mrs. Weasley yelled up the stairs.
Harry heard more grumbling as the door was slung shut with an almighty crack. He managed to slip into Ginny's room without any more close calls, his heard pounding against his ribs as it was.
That left him behind her closed door with a damp head and an arm full of clothes.
Ginny was happily eating her bangers when she heard something that nearly made her panic. She saw her life flash before her eyes, as she imagined Harry being discovered and her mum storming into the kitchen, telling her that she should have known better, that Harry could never stay. She had done everything in her power, and some things that clearly stepped over the line, to keep Harry safe and with her. They had been doing good with the eating and bathing to this point. She had filched extra clothing, enough that he had a couple of changes still waiting for him.
"...All of your brothers and your sister are down at the breakfast table. No one is using the loo." she heard her mum yell up the stairs.
All she could think was, Harry! She knew he was the one in the bathroom, and that he would soon be discovered. And if he were discovered, he would be sent back to his 'family' no matter what was the story.
She did the only thing she could she waited. When no shout of discovery came, she excused herself from the table and stole up to her room, her heart pounding and her breath ragged.
"Harry," she whispered after she closed the door. "Are you there?"
After a moment's pause, Harry peaked his head from under the cloak. "Is it safe?"
Ginny flung herself into his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around his invisible body, pinning his left arm to his side and his right awkwardly in the air holding the cloak off his head.
"Is it safe?" she mocked. "You're asking me? I thought it was over."
"N-no," Harry stammered as he freed his right arm and returned the awkward hug. "I'm fine. I'd already drained the tub."
"Good," she agreed. "Oh, I'm so glad you're safe. I thought they would find you and then you'd be forced back with your aunt and uncle."
"What are we going to do?" Harry asked. "I can't bathe when you're eating breakfast, now, can I?"
"No," Ginny agreed. "I didn't realize, but with Ron's tutor back from holiday, he's going to have to eat and bathe earlier."
"When will I bathe?" he asked.
"When I do," she decided. "I used to bathe with Ron all the time. This way you can't be caught."
Not seeing any problem, Harry agreed, "If you think it'll work."
"Yeah," she said. "Come on. Get dressed and I'll ask mum if I can go to Luna's today."
"Really?" he asked. "Can I go?"
"Yeah, silly," she smiled, grabbing his hand and dragging him to the closet. "'Course you can."
A quarter hour later, the couple was walking to the dirt road that serviced the Burrow and a little ways down where there was a large meadow. Luna Lovegood lived on the far side of the meadow from the Burrow, leaving them to have a pleasant walk through the tall green grass under the cloud dotted summer sky.
"Harry," Ginny said as she looked back along the path they walked. "You can take your cloak off now."
Harry blushed unseen under the cloak. "Sorry, I forgot it was on. I'm used to it."
He pulled it off and folded it into a square small enough to fit in his back pocket, in this case in a pair of pants removed from some old clothes in the attic that used to belong to the twins. With two boys before Ron, the Weasleys had more than enough clothes to pass on to Ron, although he avoided the ones with obvious burn marks and off color bits from their amateur potions experiments and pranks. This left clothes still wanting in a trunk in the attic. The ghoul tended to harass any of the boys that went into its domain, but Ginny had a free reign. Apparently it liked her and didn't want to scare her off.
Harry was amazed at how small the huge cloth would fold, the first time he folded it. The fabric was finer than the finest silk but many times as strong. He had carelessly snagged the cloak on a protruding nail in a stairwell board and managed to not rip the sturdy fabric in the slightest. He could fit it in his pocket and it would still unfurl and cover him, and Ginny if necessary, in a heartbeat without creases or wrinkles.
"That's alright," she said. "I just wanted to see you while we walked in the sun, for once. And to hold your hand without the cloak in the way."
Harry blushed with a smile on his face. "Okay."
The meadow was so broad that the crossing took them a good amount of time at their leisurely pace. Harry was glad to be out from under the cloak, but felt secure in the necklace around his neck for keeping him somewhat protected from discovery and a trip back to Little Whinging.
When they reached the far side of the meadow, Harry silently donned the cloak once again and retook Ginny's hand with the thin fabric captured between.
They made it to Luna's house in a trice. Harry admired the unusual house with a smile. The house was in a classic country style with exposed brick exterior and a steep slate roof. Moss was working its way down from the eves while vines worked their way up from the foundation, giving a comfortable old look. The house sat on a calm, unmarked country road at the start of some more serious forested hills. A short distance from the low brick wall that peaked through the flowering overgrowth was a heavy stone monument, set with mortar, holding an ancient spring fed trough.
A placard read: Feel welcome to quench yourself, dry soul. The spring water is pure and clear. The trough old and worn. A life's journey aided, their goal fulfilled.
A small pipe sticking from the rock face supplied a steady stream of clear, cool water to the trough, which in turn spilled to a small, rock lined pond, not much more than a permanent puddle, that fed the heather and bracken. The vegetation gave way to large, full bushes and lush ground covers as they neared the house. The simple brick house was inviting in a way that the Dursleys would never have appreciated, making Harry love it all the more in an instant.
Ginny let them through the wooden gate in the low wall without hesitation and approached the door. Harry stood closely behind her shoulder as she knocked on the old panel door. He heard movement inside the house before it opened without preamble. On the other side was a girl, about Ginny's age, with long, dirty blond hair and silvery eyes.
"Hello, Ginny," the girl said with a happy, dreamy lilt.
As Ginny returned her greeting, Luna's eyes shifted steadily to a point over Ginny's right shoulder, looking directly into Harry's eyes, despite him being under the invisibility cloak.
"Hello, Harry Potter," she said definitely.
"How...?" Ginny started.
Before Luna could answer the unasked question, a blond man appeared behind her. He rested his hands on her shoulder and smiled at the visitors, both of them, which unnerved Harry a bit.
"Hello, Ginevra," he greeted. "Who is your friend?"
"How did you see him?" she asked.
"Is this thing even working?" Harry asked at the same time. He stuck his hand out of the cloak to see if there was a difference, although he couldn't see one way or the other if there was, due to his eyes being under the cloak in the first place.
"Oh, do come in," Luna invited. "Daddy will explain it all."
As she entered the home, both Luna and her father kept their eyes glued to Harry, despite his lack of presence in the visual spectrum. They entered the comfortable living room, which housed a surprising amount of furniture, enough to seat many guests, as well as the hosts themselves. They seated themselves at a love seat across from their hosts silently.
The silence stretched on as both Mr. Lovegood and Luna seemed to stare at the space where Harry sat under the invisibility cloak. Harry was uncomfortable, but couldn't break the silence himself, out of nervousness. The journey to Ginny's friend's house had started so care free and sunny, now he didn't know what to think.
Ginny cleared her throat for a hint of sound in the room and then giggled nervously when nothing else followed.
"Oh," Ginny suddenly said. "Introductions...Harry, would you take your cloak off?" When he silently complied with her request, she added, "Oh, and your necklace."
When Harry removed the galaxy, both of the Lovegoods blinked and shook their heads, as if clearing them.
"Oh, quite good," Mr. Lovegood exclaimed. "Thank you for removing your charm. Taps into a family trait or two, I'm afraid."
With a puzzled look, Ginny proceeded to introduce Harry, "Luna, Mr. Lovegood, this is my friend, Harry Potter. Harry this is my friend Luna and her father Lukasha Lovegood."
"Hi," Luna responded.
"Hello, Harry," Lukasha smiled. "It is nice to meet you. Sorry for our responses earlier. You just happened to stumble on two of the blood traits of my line. We can see through concealing magic, including things like your cloak and more natural magical camouflage that some magic creatures use. And second, diversionary magic, such as the Notice-Me-Not charms on your necklace, draw our attention instead of the reverse. Yours is so strong that it is nearly entrancing. I apologize for our rudeness, however."
"N-not your fault," Harry said. "I guess it's understandable now."
Ginny relaxed and smiled, the tension gone. "Harry, remember when you did that thing where I could look at you? Maybe it would work for them."
"Maybe," Harry replied. "If you don't mind, sir, I'm going to try to stop the necklace. Could you put your hand on my shoulder?"
"Worth a try," the man said with enthusiasm.
He stood in front of Harry with his hands on the boy's shoulders while the necklace was replaced. Immediately Lukasha Lovegood's eyes snapped back to Harry's face. With a bit of concentration, Harry managed to include the man with greater ease than the first had taken. The process was repeated with Luna, thankfully with the same results.
"Now," Mr. Lovegood continued once they were all seated once again. "How did Harry Potter come to be traveling with Ginevra Weasley under and invisibility cloak and heavy diversionary charms?"
"Um, well," Harry started. "I...my relatives aren't nice. After I met Ginny, she invited me to live with her where it's safer. Somehow, I guess I wished myself to Ginny, and there I was."
"Accidental apparition," Mr. Lovegood proclaimed. "And the hiding?"
"Harry can't go back," Ginny said. "If he's found, he'll have to go back."
"Okay," he responded. "I think your parents might surprise you, but I won't tell them if you're not causing any harm."
"Thank you," Harry said.
"Harry, you should go talk to the Goblins at Gringotts, however," Mr. Lovegood advised. "The Potters have been a fine, upstanding family for longer than they have been Potters. I'm sure there is something set up for your upbringing."
"They won't force me to go back?" Harry asked.
"They helped you with the cloak and necklace, Harry," Ginny reasoned.
"Okay," Harry agreed.
"Very good," Mr. Lovegood clapped. "I'll just floo your mum, Ginny, and see if she would allow you to come along this morning."
He rose and approached the fireplace. Harry was confused and momentarily frightened as the man stuck his head in the fire, which had turned green, but that abated when he didn't seem to come to any harm. Neither Harry nor Ginny could hear any of the conversation, so just waited patiently.
Shortly, Mr. Lovegood returned from the fire and requested that Ginny floo home for a moment before they embark. Harry was fascinated this time as Ginny disappeared in the green flame, leaving a calm fire and the echoes of her call of, "The Burrow."
When Ginny emerged once again from the green fire, she was clutching a small leather sack and had changed her clothes.
"Mum insisted I change into my new dress," Ginny said by way of explanation.
"Okay," Mr. Lovegood said, ushering them all toward the fireplace. "Ginny, why don't you go first to the Alley and Harry will follow. Luna and I will be along after."
Ginny agreed and showed Harry the Floo Pot where she had retrieved some powder for herself. She told him about the ash and when to take a breath and what to say. She told him everything her father had told her when she made her first solo floo trip. She then vanished in green flame to greet him on the other side.
"Your turn, Harry," Mr. Lovegood prodded. "Think you got it?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said with more confidence than he had.
He did as he was shown, tossing the powder in the yellow fire, watching the fire turn green, taking a breath, stepping in and calling out clearly, "Diagon Alley."
In Little Whinging, a doorbell sounded, interrupting the activities of one of the households. Each house looked the same, within a small margin; pale tan bricks, thin gray mortar lines, dark shingle roofs. So to distinguish this house from the hundreds of others, the sign at the end of the street said 'Privet Drive' and the number on the door was a simple '4'.
The door was opened by a slender woman, tall in stature, with a craning neck and long face.
"Hello Constable," Petunia greeted, keeping up appearances. "Please come in."
"Thank you, ma'am," the officer said, entering the house. "I'll try not to keep you."
"Please, have a seat," she entreated. "Would you care for tea?"
"No, thank you, I won't be long," he said, his creased black uniform flawless. In one hand he held a bound notepad and in the other his peaked cap from his uniform. "We have checked into your nephew's disappearance. We have found no traces. No neighbor saw him leave." As he was looking down at his notepad, he failed to see the look of unhappiness that showed on Petunia's face when she realized that the bobbies had went around asking about her family's business. "And he hasn't showed up at any hospitals or shelters. At this point the active investigation is over and he has been listed on the missing children's database. He will be looked out for throughout Surrey. If he is registered at any hospital or orphanage in England, you will be notified and he will be returned safely."
"Thank you," she replied evenly.
"There is no reason to worry, ma'am," the constable tried to reassure her, mistaking her tightly controlled voice for that of hidden concern. "There is no evidence of foul play. I am sure that he will be returned to you in as good of condition as he departed. Fear not."
The constable stood and departed with little show of emotion from Mrs. Dursley. This convinced him that the woman was just holding it together while a stranger was in her house. There was nothing further he could do to comfort her in his professional capacity. He drove away in his panda car, hoping for something to bring the case back to active for some hope for the woman.
With the constable gone, Petunia dialed a familiar number on her phone.
"Vernon Dursley, please," she paused as the receptionist asked a question. "Yes, this is his wife."
After a dizzying journey, with many unfamiliar grates flashing by before he decided that he would close his eyes, and remove his glasses before the next trip. Harry stumbled from what he hoped was the right fireplace. He was unsure how he was supposed to tell what was right, after listening to Mr. Lovegood's instruction to not step out of the wrong one.
Ginny caught him with a hug before she started to brush the soot from his clothes. The brush was surprisingly effective at removing the black carbon powder, an effect he had no trouble attributing to magic.
"You made it," she stated. "How was your first floo trip?"
Harry looked around the dingy pub that looked to be out of another century, but dismissed the thought, as he hadn't experienced pubs in the past, beyond hearing Vernon's rants and the few glimpses on the telly. The attendance in the pub was light, just a couple of patrons that were either sloshed or tired from a hard night's work and had yet found a bed.
"Strange," he said. As he did, Luna joined them without falling to the floor herself. Swiftly behind her was her father.
"Harry?" Ginny asked. "Would you carry this in your pocket? This dress doesn't have any."
She held up the small leather pouch which contained her allowance, one of the things she had to floo home for. The sack contained four individual sliver sickles and twenty-nine individual bronze knuts. Harry accepted the sack and shoved it in his front pocket were it would be safe. He could tell it was her coin purse, but didn't pry.
Mr. Lovegood ushered them through the pub without anyone recognizing Harry for who he was. Harry didn't know better, but Ginny was glad, as she didn't have Harry put his cloak back on. They emerged in a brick walled spot that seemed forgotten at the corner of four buildings. It was empty save for a couple of metal dustbins.
"That, Harry," Mr. Lovegood told him, "was The Leaky Cauldron, the primary entrance to Diagon Alley, our next destination. In case you ever meet him, the proprietor of the pub and inn is a man named Tom, but be cautions, the actual owner of the business is the Ministry of Magic and you can't trust what they put in the food. If it just says something like 'meat pie', you'll never know what kind of meat. Stick to things that are identifiable, like roast beef or chicken sandwiches. I once uncovered a plot by the Minister to rid himself of the Goblins by having them murdered and baked into the meat pies. Of course, we all know that wouldn't work. The Goblins are too ferocious to be taken like that."
"Wow," Harry said, not disbelieving anything, but not believing it whole either.
"Now, come along," he said, tapping the right brick with his wand. Harry had not seen too many wands to date, just a couple in the Weasley house while he was under his cloak, and the use of them still amazed Harry. Where Mr. Lovegood tapped, the brick started to wiggle, which caused the other bricks to wiggle in a wave as they retreated to form a large arched entry to a cobbled street that Harry would have never guessed to see behind a pub. "Welcome to Diagon Alley. Luna, keep an eye out for nargles and other creatures. You know how they like to visit busy magical places."
"Of course, daddy," Luna responded.
Harry didn't even question the thought of a creature he hadn't heard of before. He had read of many new and fascinating creatures in the books Ginny brought him to read, what was one more? Ginny, however, smiled, finally understanding that Luna and her father could really be seeing things others didn't.
They walked down the center of the alley along the cobbled streets. Harry's neck swiveled left and right in constant motion. He would need ten more eyes around his head to see all of the interesting things. The pet shop had hairy snakes and winged lizards in the window, as well as a bat hanging from their sign. Harry thought it to be part of the sign until it scratched its belly with
a claw sticking from its wing joint. There was a shop selling cauldrons; black, gold, silver and clear. There were shops with things in bottles and shops with books, ones with clothes and ones with brooms. There were cafes, a couple of pubs and an ice cream parlor.
"Up ahead," Mr. Lovegood said. "We'll go to Gringotts first."
In front of them, looming over the fork in the alley was a stark white building with stairs leading up to a huge set of burnished bronze doors, the likes of which Harry had never seen before. Dressed in a scarlet and gold uniform, a single creature stood outside, giving each person that approached an eagle eye, no doubt looking for trouble.
"That's a goblin, Harry," Ginny whispered to him. Harry accepted the information, but didn't do anything more than give a polite wave to the creature, for which he received no response.
Harry ascended the steps and pushed on the doors, expecting to find them unmovable, but was surprised when they moved smoothly under his strength. This led them to a small entry and another set of doors, these silver with an engraving that Harry couldn't read before he was ushered into the bank proper by his companions. There he saw more goblins working behind counters on tall chairs. There were ones counting gold, silver and bronze coins by the stack, there were goblins peering through complex looking eye pieces at large jewels, and there were others making entries in huge ledger books. Only a smattering of humans could be seen, mostly customers, but some workers behind the line of counters.
The four stood patiently at a line on the marble floor, waiting for an unoccupied goblin teller. Mr. Lovegood crossed his arms and held a content smile on his face, while the children all looked at anything and everything with curiosity.
"May I help you?" a goblin asked as he closed the ledger book he was working in. The four walked up to the counter the goblin was using.
"Go ahead, Harry," Mr. Lovegood urged. "You're the only one that can conduct your business."
Harry stepped forward nervously. "Um, hello."
"How can I help you?" the goblin asked, strain on his patience evident in his voice.
"Um...I wrote to Mr. Pickrake and he wrote back with some help for me. Can I speak to him?" Harry asked.
"Pickrake is a very busy goblin," the teller said. "What is your name?"
"Harry Potter, sir," he responded.
"Very well," the goblin said, showing no interest. "I will send a note to Pickrake, and he can decide if you are worth his time."
"Thank you," Harry responded.
"You can wait over there," the goblin dismissed. "A messenger will find you with an answer."
Harry and his companions stepped back and waited where indicated. Mr. Lovegood settled on the bench and proceeded to distract them with stories of searching for fantastic creatures, his wife's work for a small spell research firm and Luna's accomplishments in art. Luna was blushing furiously at his praising description of a bird she had sculpted from clay that proceeded to come to life and fly away. At her age of five at the time, she was inconsolable. Harry quite agreed with her logic when she said she decided to not sculpt another until she could figure out how to keep her art from flying away.
A half hour later, a wait made easy by Mr. Lovegood's stories, a goblin approached.
"Is one of you Mr. Potter?" the goblin asked.
Harry nodded and said, "I am."
"Pickrake will see you now," he said, turning and walking toward a hallway at the far end of the main banking room.
Harry looked at the assembled group and started to follow the goblin. Behind him, he heard Mr. Lovegood say, "We'll stay here and wait for you, Harry."
Harry turned around to see that he and Luna hadn't moved. Ginny, however, looked torn.
"Will you come with me, Ginny," Harry asked.
"Sure," she agreed. She was relieved to go with him. She had helped him in his dealings to date and felt a certain personal investment in his welfare.
They were directed into a large, stately office to find a more wrinkly goblin sitting behind a grand wood desk.
"Hello, Mr. Potter, I presume," he stepped around the desk and shook Harry's hand. "And this must be Miss Weasley. Please sit and we will get down to business."
Harry and Ginny sat in neighboring leather chairs facing the goblin. They were both nervous and unsure, to the extent that they sought comfort in each other. Their hands met between the chairs and clasp as if natural.
"What business brought you here today?" Pickrake asked.
"We were visiting Mr. Lovegood and he said that we should make arrangements since I am not at my aunt and uncle's anymore," Harry said. "Is there something given to the people I stay with?"
"There is, indeed, provisions in your parent's will that provide for your care," the goblin said. "Unfortunately, these provisions were not enacted due to circumstances surrounding your placement in the Dursley household. As they were forbidden to be your guardians, they could not be compensated in the slightest."
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked.
"The will specified two homes that you could be raised in and an executor to provide for your wellbeing should the both of those not be possible," Pickrake replied. "As they were not possible, the executor, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, chose a home for you of his own council. But, as he ignored your mother's wishes that you not go to her sister, payments could not be arranged to them and Gringotts would not recognize them as having any power of attorney over your assets. Gringotts informed Lord Dumbledore of their inability to receive any compensation for housing you, but the decision was his alone."
"Professor Dumbledore put him there?" Ginny asked.
"His reasons are his own," the goblin said. "But, yes it was his duty to make that decision."
"Can the Weasleys receive the money since I'm there?" Harry asked.
"That would be the fairest of choices," the goblin agreed. "How much would you like them to be compensated? Whether they know you are there or not, costs for your care are involved."
"Well," Harry considered. "Uncle Vernon once said that it cost a hundred to keep me. Would that be okay?"
Harry remembered that night in vivid detail, but not happily. He frowned. Vernon had been ranting about the cost of the ungrateful whelp, Harry, and the rising costs in Great Britain. Harry was glad, at the time, to be sequestered to his cupboard early that night. Vernon had figured the costs based on the food eaten at Number Four and the monthly energy bills to keep the house running. He had divided the totals up and come up with a figure of a hundred pounds a month for Harry's existence, a total that both Vernon and Petunia thought conservative.
"Yes, Mr. Potter," Pickrake said. "I will make arrangements for a hundred galleons to be transferred to the vault of Arthur and Molly Weasley on the first of each month, starting in two weeks. Is this acceptable?"
Harry looked to Ginny for confirmation, which she gave freely. She had five sickles total with her today, which was a lot for her, so the amount of a hundred galleons was inconceivable. But if his uncle said that it cost that much to keep him, she would agree with the arrangement.
"Yes, sir," Harry agreed.
"I have your vault keys here," Pickrake said. "You may have them. I had to make a copy of one that was still in the possession of the executor of your parent's will. I suspected that he would have discovered your relocation if I had recalled it from his person, so I chose to make another."
"Thank you," Harry said, accepting the ring of keys.
"You may wish to visit the Potter vault before you leave," he offered. "You may find some interesting and useful items for you there."
"Thanks, I would like to," Harry said again. "Can I ask a question?"
The goblin nodded clearly and Harry continued with the question, "You sent me the Potter rings. Am I Lord Potter?"
"Not yet," the goblin said. "Not until you are an adult or married, which would make yourself and your wife legally adults. You may find a book on wizarding traditions and marriages in the vault that would give you all the information you need."
"Is that why you sent the rings?" Ginny asked.
"I was unsure when in the future they would be required," Pickrake replied. "So I sent them in the case they were needed. Now, if you like, I will have someone take you to the Potter Family vault."
"Thank you," both Harry and Ginny said, taking their leave. A goblin waited outside the office that would take them and the Lovegoods to the vault.
Behind closed doors, Pickrake basked in the memory of the two polite human children. He could well see that they would cause quite a stir in their own time. A stir was good from his point of view, as long as it was not one of evil origins, and the departing couple could never be described as evil. Ah, the entertainment found by the outside observer.