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Chapter 43: Runes and Trips

Thank you to my invaluable Beta's Donalddeutsch and Sparky40sw.

By the time breakfast was fully underway on Boxing Day, both Harry and Ginny noticed the shared glances between Hermione and Bill, followed closely by their intense contemplation of Harry. For some reason, this made Harry and Ginny both think that the two intelligent magic casters were planning something. While not as frightful as when that same look was seen between the twins, Harry couldn't help but dread whatever they were contemplating. Harry looked around the relatively unpopulated Weasley table. Of the Weasley Boys, only Bill and Ron were back from visiting their girlfriends' parents; Hermione returning late Christmas evening with Ron and Bill arriving from France just before breakfast.

"What?" Harry asked nervously, shifting his eyes between Bill and Hermione and back again.

"Hmm?" Mrs. Weasley responded, not knowing that she wasn’t the object of Harry’s inquiry. She thought, momentarily, that Harry was objecting as she added a couple more rashers of bacon to Harry’s plate without him asking. She was immediately comforted when Harry accepted the bacon without a thought as he stared back at Bill and Hermione in turn.

"What are you two in collusion at over there?" Harry asked with narrowed eyes.

"Who us?" Hermione feigned innocence.

Harry’s response was interrupted by Ron having the dubious honor of being the first Weasley Brother of the morning to be victimized by Harry's ongoing prank. With the puff of a cloud of feathers, Ron turned into, what Harry could only assume was an ancient Dodo bird. Ron’s new bulky, cumbersome body was fluffy with gray feathers and topped by a solid head and menacing beak. The beak alone was the only threatening aspect of the bird, as it appeared able to do great bodily harm to any threat or source of food. Everyone’s shock continued as the turkey-sized bird sent his plate clattering to the floor with a good swipe of its head. The bird then followed the food to the floor, greedily snatching the kippers and starting on the toast.

"Well, that was…" Harry spoke seriously, "almost entirely disturbing."

"What is he?" Molly asked.

"Is that what I think it is, Hermione?" Harry asked.

"Well," Hermione answered, "there are no reliable models that I know of, but I did read a book last summer at my parent’s house and I think that it may just be."

"And for the uneducated amongst us?" Ginny prompted.

Harry smiled before leaning over and placing a loving kiss on her head. "Ginny, you could never be considered uneducated," Harry insisted. "We think that Ron turned into a Dodo bird. It’s an ancient bird that lived on an island in the ocean and died out a long time ago. We’re just surprised because the bird is extinct."

"Dodo, huh?" Bill said. "Fitting."

Harry may have thought he had escaped the machinations of the two intellectuals, but he had figured without their counsel. He had not even made it to his DA book on the table by the couch before he had been ambushed.

"Hello Harry," Hermione greeted from his right flank.

Harry was startled by the sudden appearance of his best friend. "Oh, hey Hermione," Harry returned cautiously. "I’m sorry. Didn’t I greet you at breakfast?"

"Of course you did," Bill said from his left flank.

Harry managed not to startle this time, not showing any surprise that the eldest Weasley brother was teaming up on him.

"We just wanted to talk to you about that Runic Transport System that you invented," Hermione said.

"Invented?" Harry clarified.

"Okay," Bill conceded for the young wizard, "Made. It really makes little difference. I have to admit that you've got me curious about how you managed this."

"And you did invent it," Hermione insisted, not giving up on the point as easily as Bill. "It hadn’t been done before and you did it. Even if you use parts from something else, it is still invention."

Much to Hermione's consternation, Harry just waved his hand indicating that he wasn't conceding the point, but wanted to move on. As a friend, she was dismayed by Harry's occasional lack of self worth, as she saw it.

"We thought that today would be a good day to look at this system," Bill continued.

"Today?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes," Hermione answered.

"Oh," Harry said. "I thought that I could practice my Animagus form."

" Oh, I hadn’t heard that you had finished the Animagus process," Bill responded, letting himself be distracted from the goals that he and Hermione had established earlier that morning.

"Yeah," Harry said, holding Bill’s attention. "Both Ginny and I completed it about a month ago. She’s a falcon and I’m a black panther. Have you ever gone through the process?"

"No," Bill said. "It was never in my area of learning. I wanted to concentrate on Ancient Runes and Arithmancy so that I could get the job I have now. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be able to transform with just a thought and be another animal. What's it like?" he asked with interest.

"Oh, I'd imagine that it's similar to the animal transformations that you’ve been going through lately," Harry said with a smile, more comfortable with the topic at hand. "What was it like this morning? The tiger that you transformed into was similar in physiology to my panther form."

Hermione looked between the two wizards as they talked, but she couldn't hold her patience any longer. She interrupted the discourse that had gotten so far off course, "Bill," she scolded. "Don’t let him distract us. We want him to show us what he did."

"You know, Hermione," Harry said with a joking smile tugging at the corner of his lips, "stuff like that make me want to stop giving you the antidote to my little prank."

"Oh," Bill realized, "So it’s a potion is it?"

"Maybe," Harry teased.

"You mean," Hermione gasped, appalled, "that I have been dosed with, not only, a potion to change me into an animal with a specific delayed trigger, but also the antidote and I never knew it was happening? How could I be so careless?"

Harry just shrugged before giving her just a bit of comfort. "It’s alright, Hermione. If it makes you feel any better, none of the others knew either."

"How is that supposed to make me feel any better?" Hermione asked. "Wait a second," she said sharply, "stop trying to distract us. Bill, stop falling into his distractions."

"Oh, yeah, of course," Bill said. "We thought that today would be a good day to learn about the runes, because we could work on that this morning and then, if you wanted, we could go to your family vault and help you to see what you wanted to see there."

"That is," Hermione interjected, "if you want the help in your vault. If not, Bill could just escort you to the bank and let you go down alone."

"Well…" Harry thought.

"Come on, Harry," she pleaded, "you promised to show us what you did."

Harry took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "Well, okay, but the first step'll be to go to Hogwarts so that you can copy the runic phrases down, in order to look them up."

Hermione and, to a lesser extent, Bill smiled in satisfaction that they were going to get to study the new system before any one else had. A second later Hermione realized what Harry had said and her smile retreated a bit.

"But, won’t you be showing us your notebooks on how you made it?" she asked with a bit of a whine.

"No," Harry answered absolutely. "First you’ll write what the phrases are and then I’ll show you the books you can use to look them up. I’ll tell you if you are on the right track, but you’ll understand it better this way, and you can tell me if I overlooked anything."

"But…" Hermione started, only to be cut off by Bill.

"That sounds like an intelligent approach," Bill hastened.

"Let me just get Ginny and ask Mrs. Weasley for permission," Harry rose and exited the room.

Hermione danced around in her seat for a second before deciding that she had better talk to Ron before they left, leaving Bill alone in the living room, waiting for the party to gather.

With Ron thinking them all mental for wanting to go back to school for the day when not forced, he wasn't included in their plans for the day. Harry just knew that Hermione had couched it to be about the learning and had not mentioned anything about the Gringotts trip later. That suited Harry just fine, as he knew his friend’s limitations, which he judged to not include exercising his maturity over his jealousy if he were to see Harry’s family vault. In Ginny, however, Harry had every confidence. She immediately agreed that it would be a wonderful day out, although Harry suspected a secret desire, on her part, to watch the expressions on Bill’s and Hermione’s faces as they tried to unravel what her boyfriend had done. That meant it was the four of them; Hermione, Bill, Ginny and Harry, that received permission and floo’d to the Headmaster’s office.

Harry was the last to arrive, but had forgotten Bill’s lesson about magical forms of travel and ended up cursing as he picked himself up from the stone floor. The others were gracious enough to pretend that they had not been paying attention to his less than elegant entrance, which Harry was thankful for, even if it was a lie.

Harry quickly cast a cleaning charm on both himself and Ginny, interrupting her attempts to brush the black soot from her sleeves.

"Thanks," she muttered quietly, but with sincerity.

"Sure," Harry returned with a brief hug.

They were brought into the greater conversation just then as it was their turn to be greeted by the Headmaster.

"Hello Miss Weasley," He smiled through his silver beard. "Hello Harry. What’s on the agenda today that has you back in school during your holiday, and with an alum as well?"

Harry returned the smile, "Well, due to a mistake on my part, Hermione learned about my summer project and Bill overheard. They insisted on learning about it, so I thought that we would start with them getting a chance to examine the runes."

"What an excellent idea," the Professor effervesced. "I, myself, have spent some very enjoyable time trying to discern the blocks used in your masterpiece, but, alas, you did nearly too good of a job. The seams between the blocks are most invisible. Quite exceptional work."

Harry blushed at the compliment as Ginny pulled him into a sideways, proud hug.

"How do you intend to make them able to see the runes in the crests?" Dumbledore asked.

Harry fished a small vial from his pocket and held the black liquid up for his professor to see. "Heartstone oil," he declared. "Ginny turned me onto the idea. While it’s more viscous than water, it has virtually no surface tension, so it can flow into the joints. With a mild polishing spell, the surface is clean and all that’ll show is the oil left in the cracks."

"Most clever," the Headmaster praised. "Twenty points to Gryffindor, Miss Weasley, for your creative insight. Where ever did you come across such an answer?"

"From potions class, sir," Ginny answered. "Professor Snape was warning us about the reactivity dangers of the oil in cleaning potions. He mentioned that it was needed to cut the surface tension of the other liquid ingredients, but too much and the Blow Fly Glow Sap would cause a chain reaction."

"Oh, yes," the Headmaster replied. "Very good."

Harry glanced around in the ensuing silence.

With a gathered breath, Harry moved the party along, "Well, Professor, we should be going. Care to come along?" Harry offered.

"No, no," Dumbledore said while stroking his long beard. "Thank you, but I am afraid that my duties continue despite the holidays. Go along. And if I am not in my office when you are finished, feel free to use my Floo. The pot is on the table," the Headmaster offered, pointing to a half round table beside the fireplace.

"Thank you, Professor," Bill responded for the group.

Harry led them over to the small crest that adorned the floor in front of the office doors.

"Okay," Harry told his companions, "grab a hold of me and we'll be down to the Chamber in a trice."

With nary a sound, the four disappeared from the Headmaster’s office.

And reappeared in the dark Chamber. Ginny was quick with the wand waving, causing the torches to flare to life.

"Nice hideaway," Bill complimented.

"Oh," Harry replied, "it wasn’t nearly this nice before the summer."

"Please Harry," Hermione suddenly interrupted with a shudder before Harry could give any sort of demonstration. "Don’t show us again. I don’t want to go through seeing that again."

Bill gave a curious look.

"Don’t ask," Hermione continued. "He scared the britches off the whole school at the Halloween Ball by showing them just how it looked before he changed it to this. Then he ‘greeted’ all of us by telling us that Four Hundred and Twenty Seven had entered, but only six had left alive. He just failed to mention that the students and teachers that had just entered made up four hundred and twenty one of those."

Bill laughed and congratulated Harry on pranking the whole school.

"Okay," Harry said with a small clap of his hands. "You kiddies stay right here while I go fetch some things."

Before they could react, Harry had vanished from where he was standing on the Chamber’s crest.

"I swear," Bill proclaimed, "that boy gets more strange every year."

Hermione bristled and looked like she might defend her best friend, but was interrupted when Ginny agreed, "You don’t know the half of it."

Minutes later, Harry reappeared, his arms laden with books stacked to his chin.

"Okay," Harry spoke as soon as he appeared, startling the other three. "Here we have some books that could help you in deciphering the runes that I used in making the crests. And here," Harry shuffled the books into Hermione’s arms and grabbed the original vial that he showed the Professor and one other larger one with a clear liquid, "are the Heartstone oil and a cleaning potion that will remove it completely from the crest when you’re done."

Hermione contemplated what Harry told them. "Why can’t we leave this crest marked so we will be able to recheck the runes?"

"Hmm," Harry said. "The problem is, as soon as you add the Heartstone oil, it seeps into the joints and separates the individual rune blocks from one another. This prevents the magic from being enacted, as each rune is then separate and not part of the whole. Until it’s cleaned, it’s out of service."

"Oh," Bill replied with a blink of his eyes. "Would the same work for the tombs in Egypt? Do you think that we could use Heartstone oil to deactivate the runic protections there?"

"Possibly," Harry answered. "Try it sometime."

Harry handed the two vials of liquid; black and clear, to Bill and turned with a wave. "Best to get busy. Let us know when you’re done. We’ll be at the other end of the Chamber practicing."

Hermione and Bill took no notice of the couple walking to the other end of the chamber as they poured the Heartstone oil on the crest and watched as the joints were highlighted in black.

"Bollocks," Bill exclaimed. "Why did I never imagine that he used such small rune blocks?"

"And so many of them," Hermione answered.

Harry walked casually beside Ginny until they reached the far end of the Chamber from the entrance and the crest. Once near the end, they both drew their wands and separated.

"What this time?" Harry asked.

"Duel, I think," Ginny responded, lowering herself into a dueling stance.

"Rules?" Harry asked.

"DA book through the fourth column," Ginny said. "Nothing intended on damage."

"Other spells not covered by the book?" Harry asked.

"No human transfiguration of yourself or your opponent," Ginny answered. "You haven't learned that well yet and McGonagall doesn't start it for me until next year."

"Okay," Harry agreed as he transfigured a jagged, dangerous rock behind Ginny into a down pillow and then silently summoned it into the back of her head, taking her by surprise and filling the air around her with floating feathers.

It was nearly noon when the more studious pair's marathon copying session ended. Harry and Ginny had been distracted for more than three hours, most of it spent on semi-genuine training issues, the rest exploring…things. When Hermione and Bill’s time had lapsed, they were finished with the monstrous task of isolating the patterns of rune patches. Some parts of the crest were made of one pattern woven of several sets of runes and others were different sets. They found their time best served in breaking down the image into the different sectors and copying the sets for each sector and then moving onto the next sector. This process took all of their time until Harry called a halt to their efforts when he saw them start to use the books to look up the meanings of the runes. He figured that step could take place on their time back at the Burrow when Harry and Ginny didn’t have to be along. Bill quickly shrunk the books when he noticed that their time was up, pocketing them.

After cleaning up the Heartstone oil and scraps of leftover parchment, Harry took the group back out of the Chamber, leaving the magic torches to fade as the magic infused in their lighting dissipated. They left Hogwarts for Diagon Alley after thanking the Headmaster, who was enjoying lunch at his desk, sucking on the pimento olive that had been speared to his beef sandwich.

In the Alley, they managed to find food in a variety other than that found in the Leaky Cauldron. Bill guided them to a restaurant Harry hadn't ever seen before and Hermione had never visited. It was safe to say that there wasn't a place in the Alley that Hermione had not noticed, but she hadn’t had too many meals while visiting. Ginny hadn’t been to the in years; since Bill had graduated Hogwarts and been hired at Gringotts.

They sat down at the Golden Aethonon and ordered what Harry thought sounded like wonderful food. Conversation flowed easily and avoided anything upsetting, such as the current dark lord or Harry’s lack of knowledge concerning his family history.

"How many pages did you end up with?" Harry asked Hermione.

"How many pages?" Hermione returned.

Harry and Ginny exchanged a glance. "How many pages of runes did you end up with this morning?"

"Oh, um, twenty?" she guessed uncertainly.

"Twenty?" Harry chuckled. "Twenty pages? Did you notice that there were repeats?"

Ginny tried to hide her giggle by shoving her vegetables into her mouth.

"Yes," she claimed. "We found the different sectors with different sets of runes for each. We tried to find each and copy all of them."

That strain of conversation was interupted with another pop, as Bill was replaced where he sat with a seal, it's slick fur a grayish black. The seal stayed stationary on the chair with a surprised look on its face. The other patrons of the restaurant looked on in curiosity and humor. Hermione was amused and glad that they had not chosen to eat in a Muggle establishment.

"Okay," Harry replied with as much seriousness as he could. "Dessert?"

Despite having a Gringotts employee with them, the four waited in line for the next available goblin. Bill told them that no special preferences were given to off duty employees at the bank.

"Besides," Bill said, "I can’t just take you down into the tunnels to your vault, now can I? Only Goblins can pilot the carts and we'd be hopeless to find the original vaults without their help."

Harry smiled and nodded in agreement. "I think I know what you mean," Harry replied. "Before first year, Hagrid took me to my vault for the first time. It took a key, but the other vault we went to had no keyhole. The goblin just stroked his finger down the door and it opened. Griphook said that they only check to see if a non-goblin tried to open the high security vaults every decade or so."

"But, why do they wait so long to check?" Ginny asked. "If someone did get to the vault, they wouldn’t know for as much as ten years."

Bill chuckled while Hermione fought between warring emotions of amusement and horror at her knowledge of what actually would happen.

"No," Bill said. "In that time they would just find a skeleton. The high security vaults just suck any non-goblin into the vault and lock them in. They would be long dead before they could ever be found."

"Oh," Hermione replied. "Do you think that the goblin that helps us would be willing to answer any questions?"

Harry and Ginny both kept silent with their own opinions and experiences of goblins and goblin banking practices. Bill, however, was not shy in offering his opinion of the creatures that he had been working for since leaving Hogwarts.

"I think that you would be welcome to ask," Bill answered. "The goblins prize knowledge on certain subjects, so they’ll understand and mostly cooperate with questions. But, realize, they won’t answer all of your questions. Don’t press them for answers."

Hermione beamed. Learning was, certainly, one of her greater joys in life. Before Hermione could respond verbally, they reached the front of the line where there was an impatient looking goblin waiting for them to state their business.

"Excuse me, sir," Harry said. "I would like to access vault number forty-two. My name is Harry Potter."

The goblin showed little interest as he paged through a ledger book on his desk. Closing that one and retrieving another from below the desktop, the goblin had yet to speak. By the time the goblin had viewed a half dozen pages in the second book, Harry was nervous. Had he not gotten the information correct? Was his inheritance just truly a mistake? Even without the money in his ancestral vault, Harry knew that he was well off, but the value of what he might find in his ancestral vault spanned so much more than could be measured through the counting of coins. The vault, to him, signified the chance to learn who he was and where he came from.

Harry was startled out of his dark introspection and worry when the goblin behind the counter suddenly said, "Very well, Mr. Potter. Wait by those doors. A goblin will be by shortly to escort you to your vault."

Harry’s eyesight, and indeed the others as well, followed the goblin’s long dark finger to a set of rich wooden doors at the end of the lobby. Vaguely, Harry recognized them as the doors that were always taken to the caves and vaults, but the curt demeanor of the goblin teller was intimidating, even for one as powerful as Harry.

With a brief ‘thank you’ to the disinterested goblin, Harry and the gang walked over and stood by the doors.

"Well," Hermione said, "if the other goblin that helps us is similar to the first, I don’t see myself able to find answers to my questions easily."

"Not sure that I’d try," Ginny whispered just loud enough for the four to hear.

They were not waiting long before a goblin swung the doors open.

"Welcome," the goblin greeted Ginny, Hermione, Bill and Harry. "I’m Gostwick. Vault number?"

"Hello," Harry stammered. "Um, vault number forty-two, please."

"Of course," Gostwick answered. "Enter the cart and sit securely in the seats provided. Be sure that nothing is sticking out of the cart, as Gringotts will not be responsible for any missing or damaged parts."

The goblin did not even acknowledge, or maybe even notice, the nods from Ginny and Hermione, or the smiles from the men.

"One last warning," the goblin said ominously. "You have requested to go to an original ancestral vault. If this is a fraudulent request, goblin law dictates the disposition of your remains. Your next of kin will be notified if that is the case."

Harry, Hermione and Ginny gaped in stunned silence. Mechanically, they did as they were told, entering the cart and sitting securely in the seats. Bill climbed in behind them, chuckling noticeably.

"What in Merlin’s name," Ginny growled at her brother, "is so funny, mister?"

"Oh, just, I had heard that the goblins that take new patrons to their ancestral vaults for the first time like to have fun with their customers," Bill replied with a certain amount of glee, "But this is too much," he smiled broadly.

"So they were just joking?" Hermione asked.

"No," Bill replied. "If anyone tries to gain access in any way to an ancestral vault fraudulently, they really wouldn't survive, or so legend goes."

"That's just..." Hermione started, but was cut off as the goblin, Gostwick, pushed a lever forward.

"Sit still, please," entreated the cart's pilot.

"That was..." Hermione staggered from the cart.

"Thrilling?" Harry said with a huge smile plastered on his face, as it had been since the cart first started to move. The cart ride had descended further down then Harry had ever gone before.

"I think 'trying' would be a word that I would more likely use, in this case," Hermione corrected.

"Oh, come on," Harry said. "I've never gone this far down before."

Hermione got that thoughtful look on her face that told anyone that knew her that she was preparing to ask a question.

"Yeah, about that," Hermione pondered thoughtfully, "Mr. Gostwick, would you mind if I asked a question or two?"

Harry looked at Ginny, connecting with her eyes before mouthing, 'One or two, only?'

Ginny responded with a shake of her head and a smile.

"My name is just Gostwick," the goblin responded. "Goblins do not use human prefixes. And yes you may."

Harry took silent direction from Gostwick to approach the indentation in the wall at the back of the ledge where they had stopped. Hermione hardly paid attention to her friend as she started on her questions.

"Harry just said that this is the farthest that he had ever traveled in the goblin tunnels," she prefaced. "How is that possible? It seems that the older tunnels would be the closest to the bank."

"I see your logic," the goblin said, "but what you don't know is the geology of London. The ground of this area of London is gravel over clay until you get about a hundred and forty feet down, where you hit chalk for the next six and a half hundred feet. Below that is green sand, all of which are useless for creating suitable conventional tunnels. Finally, nearly a thousand feet below the surface is something usable. Below all of those less secure layers is a sixty feet thick layer of oolite over strong limestone, either of which are excellent for the old ways of vault building. It wasn't until after the construction of the original tunnels that we invented ways in goblin magic to transfigure the upper layers into stable and permanent rock, so most of the modern vaults are carved in the transfigured chalk layer."

While Gostwick lost himself in one of two favorite goblin pastimes, geology, Harry had walked up to the rough stone wall that their guide had indicated. When he was standing in front of it, he felt a sensation wash over him, similar to passing through a sheet of water. Immediately it was the most invasive thing he had ever felt. He looked back at Ginny, who was the only one besides him not paying attention to the goblin's explanation of vault construction. She smiled at him, giving him the courage to take another step forward, with his hand raised to feel for any indications on the stone wall that there was a door to be opened, or something of the sort.

What he was met with was not the rough stone that his eyes told him was present. What he felt was a cold and formidable metal plane. With the contact of his hand, the rock seemed to melt away, leaving him facing that which he felt; a great metal door emblazoned with a family crest that Harry hoped was his own, given the magical punishments he was expecting if he were wrong. The rest of the door was formidable, albeit plain with the only other feature being the Gringotts seal in the lower right hand corner of the iron door.

Not knowing what to do, and seeing that the goblin was still distracted by Hermione and Bill's curiosity, Harry recklessly proceeded; placing his hand in the middle of the seal and waiting for a response. With nothing forthcoming, Harry gave a small push. He jumped back in surprise, landing solidly at Ginny's side, forcing them to grab onto each other to keep upright. They heard a clicking from the direction of the door. With a great groan that managed to attract the attention of the rest of the inattentive group, the thick iron door swung outward, forcing Harry and Ginny to step from its path of travel.

"Very well, Master Potter," the goblin turned to face Harry. "It would seem that, not only are you a Potter ancestor, but are the master of this vault."

Harry was confused at the statement. "What do you mean?"

"If the magics that had created the original vaults had not recognized your ancestry, you would have been subject to the justice established at the vault's founding," Gostwick educated Harry and his guests. "As you were able to open the vault door without any other action besides pressing the seal, it is obvious that you are the rightful master of the vault."

Harry decided that he never wanted to learn, directly or otherwise, what his family thought was sufficient justice for a potential thief at the time of the bank's founding. He assumed that it was not one of the more pleasant activities that could have taken place.

"Does that mean that Harry is the head of his family?" Ginny asked.

"In wizarding terms, yes," the goblin replied.

Hermione was thoughtful for a second, considering her question, "Pardon me for asking Harry," she said to her friend before turning to their escort, "I thought that that was well known. Harry's parents were killed when he was a baby, as you know. Wouldn't that automatically make him the head of his family?"

"Not always," the goblin said. "If there had been any adult living relatives in his family tree, conservatorship would have been given to them until Mr. Potter's majority."

"But I was emancipated over the summer," Harry argued. "For all purposes, I am past my majority."

"I am afraid, Mr. Potter," the goblin regarded him, "that if your holdings had gone into conservatorship, it would have had to have been transferred to you on your majority, an event that would have stuck in your mind."

"Oh," Harry said on a down beat. He took Ginny's hand and moved into the vault. "Thank you Gostwick," he said with a pause. He continued into the vault with Ginny silent at his side. "Hermione," Harry called without stopping or turning, "Would you do me a favor and check the books for any that would be interesting or helpful."

"Sure, Harry," Hermione called back.

"What's wrong?" Bill asked quietly, out of Harry's hearing. "I thought that he would have known that he had no relatives on the Potter side."

"Hmm," Hermione quietly pondered. "I believe Harry has held the hope over the years, since he was a child, that he had a distant relative that he could turn to for support of any kind. Even with his adulthood, Harry, I think, hopes for a family."

"Well," Bill said thoughtfully, "He has Mum and Dad and the rest of us, and I dare say that he will make a family of his own someday," he smiled. "Perhaps with Ginny."


Hermione and Bill moved into the fault to follow their friends and sister.

"Harry," Bill called. "Would you mind if I looked at the magical artifacts?"

"Sure, Bill, thanks," Harry answered as he approached a large tome on a plinth. "Just let me know if there is anything interesting."

Hermione moved to the far side of the large room that was lined in tall shelves filled neatly with leather bound books of all sizes. Bill flitted with his wand out from location to location around the impressive vault, detecting the properties of the many and varied objects large and small around the shelves and tables filling the vault.

"Ginny," Harry said quietly, "feel free to look at anything that you would like. Let me know if anything stirs your interest."

"I like what you have found here, Harry," Ginny replied. "Are you going to take this with you?"

She indicated the tome on the plinth that had first grabbed his attention due to its prominence at the center of the vault. Quickly they had found that it was a family grimoire that held highlights of his family's history and spells that had been invented for or by his ancestors. They recognized a few that he had found previously in either his school texts or in his time in the school library, but the vast majority he failed to recognize from his past dealings.

"Gostwick," Harry called to their goblin escort who was just outside the vault door. "Am I allowed to take just anything out of this vault, or are there restrictions?"

"This vault is your's, Mr. Potter," Gostwick replied, "as well as anything contained within. You may take anything within but the vault itself. Gringotts will be glad to transport anything of mass that you wish to not be burdened with for a nominal fee."

"Thank you," Harry told him, "I'll take this back with us and anything else of interest. I think that I'll have to take a lot more time to study it than I can give it now."

"Very well," the goblin said, all the while still not passing the threshold to the vault.

"Come on, Ginny," Harry said, moving off with her in hand. "Let's find something more fun in here."

With his want for a family history fulfilled in the depths of his family grimoire, the rest of the trip could be dedicated to more pedestrian goals. They moved toward Hermione, who had a stack of books on an ancient looking library table that surprised Harry with its presence. Hermione was intent and managed little more than polite greetings while she moved from subject to subject.

Harry and Ginny moved off, together the whole time, looking from jewelery to wands that looked to be more museum pieces than what you would want for your own use. His glance at the rings proved to Harry that he wouldn't have to shop in a jewelry story for an eventual engagement ring when the time came.

The group spent a couple of hours looking at what was available from Harry's ancestors, making several decisions of some useful and interesting things to bring along with them as they left. Harry was mesmerized for a good amount of the time staring at his family tree, as it was embroidered into a tapestry that hung from the wall to the left of the vault door. He was unable to find anything surprising; he didn't find that he was a descendant of all four founders or a direct descendant of the illegitimate love child of Merlin and Morganna. Hermione's own search was not complete, but she went through as many books as possible by only browsing and not reading anything in depth. Harry and Ginny could tell that she would like to have a more intensive search through the collection at a later time. She surfaced with several books on defense as well as a good representation of the other subjects in magical study. Bill didn't find any previously unknown cloaks or armor that would block the unblockable, but did find some objects that would normally be found only in the Department of Mysteries. Harry took a second invisibility cloak, just in case, but passed on a time turner, fearing the lure of abuse and the consequences of mistakes.

The vault did warrant future trips when Harry could spend time contemplating the objects and their importance to his family history, as he might find it in the grimoire, but that was a pursuit for later times.

During the trip to the surface Harry and the others found themselves looking at the walls of the caves they traversed, hoping to see the layers as they made their way from a thousand plus feet below the surface. Afterwards he thanked Gostwick for his patience and assistance. He asked if the goblins normally stayed with clients at the vaults whenever they visited, no matter the duration, to which he found out that it was, indeed, bank policy.

Harry was determined to spend the bulk of the remainder of his time before their return to Hogwarts on the reading of his family history and on his second Animagus form. With study and luck, he hoped to be completed with his drawings before boarding the Express, so that he could get his Transfiguration Professor to supervise his second transformation. Hermione and Ron spent a good time alone, away from the prying eyes of others, but Harry knew in his heart that they were not doing anything they were not ready for. He was sure that they hadn't gained carnal knowledge of each other, but didn't want to know for sure when they had.

Harry did wonder when his prank would be busted and who would figure it out first, but he knew it had to be soon. The rest of the Brothers Weasley were due back for dinner shortly, and by the following breakfast all of them would be dosed with the potion, this time without the antidote they had received on Christmas Eve and Day. Maybe the holiday would prove to offer some more entertainment before the prank's conclusion. Only time would tell.

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