Chapter 24 : Chapter 24 Late Night Planning
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The voices settled down a few minutes later, and Harry could just make out the clanging of pots on a stove, his stomach rumbling in hunger at the thought. The voices started again, Fleur’s French accent billowing through the hallway as she gave indistinguishable instructions to someone, and Harry could have sworn he heard his name mentioned. Listening patiently he heard soft footsteps coming down the hallway, and he smiled to himself as he recognised soft thud of Ginny’s walk. He could hear her chuckle softly as she rounded the couch and saw his makeshift cocoon. Barely missing his feet, Ginny sat down on the end of the couch, tucking her legs up as she gently pulled back the blanket over his face.
“It’s about time you woke up,” she greeted him quietly. “Tonks was starting to get worried.”
“Mmm,” he groaned, squinting up at her before slowly shifting onto his back. He rubbed his eyes to wake himself up properly. “Did Tonks put something in that tea she gave me?” he asked, vaguely remembering her care that morning.
Ginny chuckled to herself, knowing how paranoid he was. “Nothing stronger than some pain potion, I promise.”
“Hmm,” he yawned, accepting her answer. “I just slept like a rock….that’s all.”
Smiling at him she produced a generous glass of water, and he eagerly sat up and accepted it. “You probably needed it,” she commented. “You hardly slept at all last night.”
“And whose fault was that?” He took a long and refreshing mouthful of the water.
“You and Hermione were yapping all night.”
“We were planning how to get here,” she defended herself.
“Planning did a whole lot of good, didn’t it,” he commented. Her face began to fall, and he knew he had said the wrong thing when he remembered what had caused their careful plans to go so wrong. “Sorry, that came out wrong…but how the hell were we supposed to know you were going to do wandless magic?” he apologised, hoping he sounded encouraging.
“It wasn’t my fault,” she said lowly. “I didn’t-”
“I know,” he assured her hastily. “Any other time, seeing you do wandless magic would have been great…just not at the moment.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow at him before scoffing to herself, and clearly he was forgiven. She reached out and held his hand, turning it over in hers and studying his bruised knuckles. “Why did you have to take off like that?” she asked without looking up. “Do you have any idea how scared I was for you?”
“Yeah, I do…” he answered, smiling grimly. “But it just made sense. I knew they’d follow me, and then you’d have a decent chance of getting out of there. It worked, didn’t it?”
“And what did you intend to do then?” she continued without missing a beat. “I know you won’t tell me what happened, but you obviously didn’t just go for a stroll. What if Hermione couldn’t come back for you?”
“The Order was there, I would have been fine.”
“Will they be there next time? Will they be there every time you get yourself into trouble?”
“Ginny…give me a break here,” he began uncertainly, unsure of what to say. “This is war…there’s never going to be an easy decision…sometimes I’m going to make the wrong one.”
She looked at him blankly before looking down at the carpet, and Harry knew better than to interrupt her when in thought. Watching her carefully, he wondered if he had said the right thing, if he was preparing her for the worst or simply scaring her. She sighed softly, finally doing something and reaching down to touch his knee, her eyebrows furrowing when he flinched. Sparing an apologetic glance she pulled the end of the blanket over herself and shuffled closer to him, carefully hoisting his legs onto her lap before beginning a gentle massage. Harry couldn’t help it, sighing deeply and leaning back as the ache in his knee faded for a few minutes, and he patiently waited for her to continue speaking.
“I know you’re going to make mistakes Harry, but good or bad judgement doesn’t matter,” she explained quietly, her eyes focused on his knee. “Dumbledore made good decisions all the time, and then one bad one cost him his life. I don’t want that to happen to you.”
“It’s not his fault he trusted Snape,” Harry said lowly, needing to defend Dumbledore as he always did. “He didn’t decide to trust him…he just did.”
“Doesn’t matter, he’s still dead.”
Her words hit him sharply, a low blow. “I can’t second guessing who I trust Ginny,” he began, thinking of Professor Reed. “I won’t have many people left.”
Ginny didn’t say anything for the longest time, turning her focus back to his bruised knee as he rested his head against the back of the couch, watching her absently. The voices from elsewhere grew again, and they both glanced over the back towards the hallway as footsteps began growing near.
Turning back to him, Ginny gave him a small smile. “I know who I can trust,” she said softly.
“Thanks,” Harry replied, mimicking her smile as he sat up again. Reaching out to touch her shoulder he leaned in for a well-deserved kiss.
“’Bout time you got up mate,” Ron said boisterously, bursting into the lounge room as Harry and Ginny moved apart, cheated from their kiss. “You’ve been doing nothing all day.”
“It’s nice to see you too,” Harry commented, disappointed by Ron’s bad timing. Looking up Harry watched as his friend rounded the couch and sat down on the small coffee table, tossing a small potato back and forth in his hands. Ron looked at him strangely for a moment, quickly recovering. “A miraculous recovery?” he asked, indicating to Ron’s once broken arm.
“Nah, that was Tonks. Reckons she has to patch up broken bones all the time,” Ron answered, putting down the potato and stretching his arms out in front of him. “Does my arm look crooked now?”
“No more than usual,” Ginny sighed impatiently, her hands resuming their massage.
Ron ignored this. “Hey, have you had a good look at Tonks?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “What do those Muggles call it…she’s up the duff!”
“Knocked up,” Harry added.
“Other might simply say, she is pregnant,” Hermione scolded them as she entered the lounge room, narrowing her eyes at Ron before turning to Harry. Rounding the couch she swooped down and kissed him on the cheek, hugging him gently as she sighed to herself. “Isn’t it just wonderful? Tonk’s is having a baby.”
“Yeah, that’s great,” Harry replied unenthusiastically, setting his glass of water on the floor and lying down properly.
“Oh, I wish you could have felt it move,” she added, sitting next to Ron on the coffee table, a faraway look on her face.
“The baby, you dolt!” Ginny answered, pinching him.
“It was moving?”
“It was so amazing Harry,” Hermione gushed again. “To think that was a baby inside of her that we felt.”
“Amazing?” Ron questioned in astonishment. “It was creepy, that’s what it was! Like she had some kind of parasite in her.”
“Don’t say that, Ron, that’s horrible.”
“It was!” he appealed to Harry for support. “Like that time in First Year, when Professor Sprout had that boil on her neck, and it actually turned out to be a-”
“Sorry,” he muttered sheepishly, quickly leaning towards Harry to finish in a whisper. “It actually turned out to be an egg from a-”
“I hope I didn’t hear you comparing my baby to a parasite, Ron.”
Tonks suddenly appeared by the couch, startling Ron into an embarrassed silence. Hermione and Ginny both glared at Ron for his sensitivity, back Harry couldn’t look anywhere but at Tonks, his discomfort with her pregnancy growing even more as he looked at her stomach. No matter how hard he tried, he simply could not picture Tonks having a baby, no matter how solid the evidence before him was. It was so unlike anything he had ever encountered before, and he wasn’t quite sure what to say about it.
Smiling at him, she pulled something from her pocket an offered it to him, and he stared at them for a long moment, not quite comprehending what she had. “Where did you find them?” he asked in astonishment, finally reaching out and taking back his glasses, looking them over in disbelief.
“Student’s found them about a week after you left, brought them straight to me,” she explained. “I hung onto them just in case. Thought you might like them back.”
“Thanks,” he said slowly, carefully unfolding them and placing them on his face. His eyes stung for a sort moment, blinking slowly as his surroundings came back into focus, clear and sharp as ever, and he breathed a grateful sigh of relief. “That’s heaps better.”
“Almost look normal again,” she agreed, before adding to Ron and Hermione, “you two better get back in the kitchen. Fleur is a bit overwhelmed, trying to feed the whole lot of us. She won’t let me help, either.”
“Right,” Hermione nodded, standing up and nudging Ron. “Let’s go, we’ve got potatoes to peel.”
They disappeared quickly, Tonks taking their place on the coffee table and resting a small bowl on her lap, stirring it gently as she turned back to Harry. “Hermione and I had to make some bruise paste for you, Fred and George’s recipe I think. Took us forever to find a Dittany plant in that garden that wasn’t dead or dying.”
“You mean it took me forever to find that plant,” Ginny chuckled, pushing Harry’s legs off her lap as he sat up.
“I supervised,” Tonks conceded, dragging the coffee table closer to the couch. She stirred the paste again before dipping a finger into it. “Glasses off, and close your eyes,” she instructed, gently smoothing it beneath each one as he complied.
Harry sighed softly, the paste cool against his skin as Tonks continued, working the paste across his cheek and nose before finishing on his forehead. “That feels better already,” he commented as she dabbed a little on his jaw.
“Good,” she replied with satisfaction. “I wasn’t too sure how well the Dittany would work, so we added extra Shrivelfig to compensate. The swelling is coming down quite well.”
Heavy footsteps came down the hallway, announcing Bill’s arrival before he entered. Having not taken a proper look at him that morning Harry looked at Bill closely, pleased to see all that remained of Greyback’s attack were the pale lines that crossed his face, contorting a little each time he spoke. Fleur had obviously taken good care of him.
“How you feeling?” he asked Harry, leaning on the back of the couch. “Better than this morning?” he joked.
“Yeah, heaps better,” Harry answered patiently. He knew Bill wasn’t there to assess his health.
With a short nod of his head, Bill turned his attention to Ginny, prodding her shoulder playfully. “Go and help your sister in the kitchen.”
“Come on Bill,” she appealed in distaste, glancing to Harry for assistance. He quickly looked away, not wanting to get involved.
“Go on,” he encouraged. “She’s missed you.”
Sparing Harry a glance Ginny reluctantly got to her feet, looking over her shoulder in annoyance as she left.
Wasting no time at all Tonks ushered Harry to take his shirt off, sitting beside him to continue spreading the paste across his back. Flinching when she brushed against the cuts, Harry remained silent, aware that Bill wanted to talk to him without others around, but he wished he wouldn’t. He didn’t quite know where he would start when Bill would ask what their plans were, having depended on Ron and Hermione to be present also. In reality they really didn’t have much of a plan, at least not one that was possible.
“She’s gone,” Bill announced, hearing Ginny’s voice in the kitchen. “We can talk now.”
“I thought she’d never get the hint,” chuckled Tonks from behind him, still working at his back.
“You want to talk now?” Harry asked apprehensively, wishing again that Ron and Hermione were present.
“While we can,” answered Bill, rounding the couch and sitting down in front of Harry. “There’s not much left to say though, Ron and Hermione filled me in today. I just need to clarify one thing.”
Bill and Tonks looked at each other for a brief moment before he answered. “Ron and Hermione said that there is something in Gringotts that you want…but you don’t actually know where it is…or if it’s in there at all…is that right?”
“Yeah, that’s about it.”
They both shifted uncomfortably for a moment, sharing another brief glance. “What do you intend to do about it?” Tonks enquired.
“Well, I err…” Harry mumbled, put on the spot. Hadn’t Ron and Hermione explained? “You see, Hermione’s got this crazy idea that erm-”
“You would break into Gringotts?”
Behind him Tonks chuckled. “Harry, that’s-”
“Impossible. Completely mad, I know,” he began, rubbing his forehead wearily. “But we don’t have many other options, if it’s in there then we have to get it!”
“Harry, wait. I know it’s supposed to be mad-”
“You forgot impossible.”
“And impossible,” Bill conceded. “But I was actually going to say…”
“Say what?” he asked suspiciously, looking over his shoulder to Tonks.
She winked at him, smiling a little. “He was going to say, it should be a piece of cake.”
When they spoke again later that night, a terrible wind had swept across the ocean, leaving the small cottage terrible cold. Ron and Harry sat before the fireplace to warm themselves as the glass in the windows rattled. Patiently they awaited the arrival of Hermione and Tonks, who were to creep out of their beds without disturbing Ginny. The middle of the night was the only time that they could all discuss their plans without having to be wary of what they said in front of Ginny. Harry felt guilty for going to such lengths to exclude her from their discussion, but knew that flaunting their risky plans in front of her would only upset her further.
Her dressing gown fluttering around her ankles, Fleur entered the lounge room with a tray in hand, carefully setting it down on the table before preparing to pour the tea. She offered the first to Bill who sat beside her, then pouring some each for Harry and Ron.
“Oh, I theenk I’ve not brought enough milk,” she fussed, beginning to stand up again.
“Sit down,” Bill insisted, standing up instead and heading for the hallway. “I’ll get it.”
Fleur smiled to herself. “He only wants to check ze protective charms, again,” she said to them before muttering something that sounded French.
“Right,” Harry nodded, looking into the fire and taking a sip of the tea.
He wished Hermione and Tonks would hurry up and get to the lounge room, but knew that their quick arrival was wishful thinking. Sharing a room with Ginny, Hermione would have a great deal of trouble sneaking away without alerting her roommate. With her stubbornness Ginny would likely lay awake all night to ensure that she was not excluded from anything, and she was already suspicious enough as it were. It was another twenty minutes before any of them heard the creak of footsteps from the ceiling above, and a few minutes later Hermione and Tonks quietly entered the lounge room, tucking their dressing gowns around them.
“How did you get her to sleep?” Hermione whispered to Tonks in astonishment. “She’s been wide awake all night!”
“You don’t want to know,” was her cryptic reply, just as Bill followed them in.
“Is she asleep?” he asked, pushing a comfortable chair towards the fire and offering it to Tonks.
“Thanks Bill,” she said gratefully, sitting down with a deep sigh. “And yes, she’s asleep. It would take a Banshee to wake her up now.”
“Good,” he said, taking a seat as Fleur offered Hermione some tea. He suddenly swore to himself, standing up again. “We needed more milk, didn’t we?”
“Shhh,” his wife quieted him, making him sit back down. “I took care of zat already.”
“Right,” he muttered, sitting back down. “Sorry Dear.”
Hermione settled herself on the carpet between Harry and Ron, yawning a little as she looked at them with apprehension in her eyes. He could tell that she was nervous about what they would be planning tonight, but before he could do anything for her Ron took her hand and squeezed, smiling at her shyly. Harry looked away from them, more and more aware of the empty space beside him that Ginny normally occupied.
“Well, I’ve tried to think this out for you,” Bill began softly, tapping his knees absently. “It seems that your first problem is establishing whether or not this item is actually in Gringotts or not. Who apparently deposited it?”
Hesitating for a moment, Harry glanced to his friends before Hermione replied. “We heard that you were there the day that Bellatrix Lestrange visited. We think it was her.”
“Can you tell us what she put in there?” Harry asked.
Bill shook his head, leaning forward. “You see, this is where it gets tricky. The day that Lestrange snuck into Gringotts, I wasn’t actually there.”
“So how do you know anything?” Ron said incredulously, looking from Harry to Hermione in frustration.
“I found out the next day,” Bill continued. “The Goblins were whispering about it, and I knew that any activity on her part could be vital. She is You-Know-Who’s right hand, and the fact that she was so secretive about her visit made the Order very uncomfortable.”
“We were worried it may be another attempt to hurt you,” Tonks explained. “That maybe she was going to your vault.”
“What did you do about it?”
“Eet is so lucky zat Bill is so trusted by ze Goblins,” Fleur smiled, placing her hand on Bill’s knee.
Tonks answered. “Wizards have an annoying habit of not trusting Goblin magic to protect their belongings. Idiots like Ludo Bagman place their own curses on their vaults, not realising that it conflicts with their magic.”
“Eventually these curses go haywire, which is why I was asked to leave Egypt for Gringotts. In order to break these curses, the Goblins gave me exclusive access to all affected vaults, and the inventory of each.”
“So you can get into any vault you need to?” Hermione enquired.
“Only those affected by rogue curses,” he clarified. “But I have access to any inventory I want.”
Harry smiled to himself. “You just looked at the inventory, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but before you lot get too excited, I can’t tell you.”
“Bloody hell, Bill!” Ron cursed, standing up and crossing his arms. “Why not?”
“Any wizard employee of Gringotts is cursed, Ron,” Bill carried on patiently. “On our very first day we are cursed so that we cannot divulge any information that is not public knowledge. It stops us from accidentally giving away security secrets, and it stops us breeching privacy.”
“Is it the Tongue-Tying Curse?” Hermione asked.
“Yes,” he nodded. “It only comes into effect when we try to breech security. When I saw the records of what she deposited, I knew I somehow had to tell the Order. In the end, Alastor had to force the memory from me, it was the only way to show them.”
Disheartened already, Harry looked to Hermione before looking to Ron, who now stood over by the window. He knew they were all thinking along the same lines. They couldn’t just break into Gringotts on the off chance that Hufflepuff’s cup may be inside a vault, and it had been months since Lestrange had visited. Since Voldemort’s take over, she had had an abundance of opportunities to move it elsewhere.
“Look,” Bill began, interlocking his fingers in much the same way Dumbledore did. “If you intend on doing this, you need to look at those records. Without them you are going completely blind. You don’t know what security measures you will encounter, you don’t even know what vault this thing is in.”
“What vault?” Ron asked incredulously. “How many does she have?”
“She has access to two, that we know about,” Tonks answered this time. “There is the personal one she shares with her husband, and then there is the Black Family vault. That vault, almost anyone in the Black family has access, assuming they haven’t been disowned like Sirius and I.”
“What do they have in there?” Harry asked, quite intrigued. The idea of Voldemort keeping a Horcrux safe in the vault of a pureblood family made sense, even to him.
“Heaps,” she replied in awe. “When Lucius Malfoy was under suspicion a few years back, the Aurors would raid that vault often. I always got stuck doing the inventory of what we confiscated. That vault is crammed full of gold, and jewellery, and there’s a fair bit of armour that’s pretty old.”
“Where is the records room, in relation to both the vaults?” Hermione enquired. Already Harry could see the thoughts and ideas ticking over in her head, but the displeased frown on her face was not encouraging.
“Not in Gringotts, that’s what makes this so perfect for you,” Bill answered, a hint of excitement in his voice. “Gringotts has been completely taken over by the Ministry, the Goblins are completely gone.”
Hermione gasped in astonishment, rising to her knees. “Are you pulling my wand, Bill? That would be mad!”
“I know!” Tonks exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. “Fudge tried to take over years ago, but backed off pretty quickly. If you’re asking me, You-Know-Who has lost it if he’s protecting something in Gringotts.”
“Wait!” Harry said in frustration, beginning to feel as though he were at the wrong end of an inside joke. “What do you mean Gringotts has been taken over?”
“So it’s being run by the Ministry?” Hermione interrupted him. “The Goblins are…gone?”
“Not a Goblin in sight.”
“That’s brilliant,” Hermione muttered in awe, standing up and beginning to pace. She pushed her hair over her shoulders, and Harry could see her beginning to formulate ideas again. “Oh, that is good news.”
“Oi! Could someone please explain to the rest of us?” Ron berated them impatiently.
“Don’t you understand?”
“No,” Harry and Ron replied in unison.
“The Goblins are gone!” Hermione explained in excitement. “There’s no way that our magic could maintain the security already in place. Our magic simply isn’t good enough, I’d say only Dumbledore would have had much understanding of how to maintain Goblin magic, that’s how complex it is.”
“What are you saying? There’s no security?” Harry asked, beginning to understand.
“Yes! That’s it exactly! Soon enough the Goblin magic will deteriorate as it naturally does, but they won’t be there to keep the effects going. Aside from that, Gringotts has been protected by Goblin magic for centuries, most conventional Wizarding magic is useless once you’re underground.”
“You’re forgetting the Dragons,” Tonks commented. “Who do you think is going to feed and look after them? And as for navigating those carts, even Goblins have trouble remembering which way to go!”
Harry looked at Ron. He was smirking proudly, the both of them finally understanding. “This is the best time to break in, isn’t it,” Harry commented.
“If there were ever a time to do it, I’d give it a few more months and then go,” Tonks agreed. “Hell, you could probably introduce yourself on the way in.”
They all laughed at this, and for a blissful moment Harry couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. There was finally a sense of hope among them, they were finally beginning to do something, to take action. As it always did, his hope turned to suspicion, and he knew there was something else they needed to hear.
“Bill,” he began as they each quietened. “What are we missing?”
Bill sighed, resting back against the couch. He glanced at Fleur beside him as he smile faded completely. “There is only one problem. It’s the vault records.”
“I thought you said-”
“They’re not at Gringotts anymore,” he interrupted, almost apologetically. “They’re being held in the Treasury office in the Ministry.”
Ron swore as Harry’s heart plummeted into his stomach. Hermione stopped pacing. “Oh,” she said. “That does present a problem.”
“A very big problem,” Tonks added. “The security at Gringotts may be failing before their eyes, but the Ministry is going to be difficult.”
“Why would they move them?” Ron asked in disbelief.
“Complete control,” Harry answered him quietly, glancing at Tonks for confirmation. “If it can be completely run through the Ministry, then they’d feel even more secure.”
“It’s a false security,” Bill murmured. “Those records are better protected than the possessions themselves.”
They fell into silence again, Harry glancing to and from his friends as they each sat deep in thought. It was far from the news they wanted to hear, but they hadn’t expected much to begin with. There was a creak from the ceiling above, and they each turned their heads to look up. They waited for a moment, and another creak told them that Ginny must have awoken, perhaps wondering where Hermione had disappeared to. There was a collective groan from around the room, Bill standing up and levitating the tea tray before him.
“I thought she was sleeping,” Hermione muttered in frustration.
“She ought to be,” Tonks frowned, reluctantly getting to her feet.
“We’ll talk again soon,” Bill concluded, ushering everyone out. “For now, get back to bed before Ginny gets too suspicious.”
Disappointed, Harry didn’t move as everyone else dispersed, Tonks and Hermione still whispering to each other as they entered the hallway and began climbing the stairs. He listened carefully as they encountered a very suspicious Ginny up stairs, who had so stubbornly tried to stay awake to eavesdrop. Ron too listened carefully as Ginny was sent back to bed, before dragging himself away from the wall and towards the couch.
“Since I’m such a good mate, you can have the mattress,” he laughed, collapsing down onto the soft cushions and pulling the blanket over.
Holding back any remarks Harry eventually got to his feet and dragged over the mattress they had removed from the tent, dropping it in front of the fire and laying down. Facing away from Ron he prayed that his friend would fall asleep quickly, not wanting to talk any further. Nothing good had come from what Bill and Tonks had to say, only further complications that they didn’t need. It was spinning through his head as he struggled to get comfortable, and he couldn’t think about one thing long enough to make sense of it.
One problem had only spawned others, creating more possibilities and obstacles, and Harry couldn’t help but feel downtrodden by it all, that there was simply no way they could do it all. Gringotts had been daunting enough, now they needed to infiltrate the ministry as well? The chances of doing that successfully appeared low. What did they even know about the Ministry these days?
Changing positions again, Harry doubted that this would not be the last time discussed their problems in the dead of the night.
A/N Sorry that this took absolutely forever, I wish things would just work out so I can keep writing! Please continue being patient, thank you so much for reading. Please leave me a review, I need your encouragement so much!
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