“Minerva, we can find it again,” Remus said soothingly to her as he moved to her side of the desk. She was still staring down at the Frequency Counter in a state of shock and fury at herself.
“Not now that Voldemort knows we’re looking for them,” Minerva said quietly.
“There’s no guarantee that he does,” Remus told her rationally, “because the Horcrux wasn’t taken from us. It could have been bought for all we know.”
“Back to scouring Britain we go,” Mad Eye growled, sounding distinctly annoyed with the situation. It also didn’t help that Phineas was staring down at them smugly from the wall, unhearing of the cold comments from his fellow portraits.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bill said. “We only found one of the Horcruxes by chance anyway. So now we’ll have to actually search intentionally. There’s not much difference there.”
Mad Eye didn’t respond to him but didn’t look any happier about their predicament. “So, I hear Potter was given permission to destroy Snape’s quarters,” he said after a slight pause.
“What? And I wasn’t allowed to go with him?” Ron said, sounding utterly aghast at the idea that such an event occurred and he was not present for the occasion.
“He was not destroying Severus’s personal quarters,” Minerva snapped. “He and Remus were looking for any indication of Voldemort’s current whereabouts in his office. It’s unlikely that anything would be found but surely worth looking regardless.”
“And did you find anything?” Mad Eye demanded, turning on Harry who felt the sudden desire to retreat. His gaze was focused entirely on Harry whilst Remus stood on the other side of the room.
“No, there wasn’t much there anyway,” Harry said, staring straight into the two odd eyes fixed upon him.
“See? Why should a mere child be involved in matters clearly out of their league?” Mad Eye said vehemently. “He can’t even find some information in an office!”
Harry opened his mouth to shout something along the lines of “I’d like to see you do better!” but a slight movement caught the corner of his eye and he turned to see Remus shaking his head at him slightly. Harry bit back his retort and saw the slight flicker of a smile touch Remus’s features before it was erased.
“That is enough, Alastor!” Minerva cried as she got to her feet. Harry had been unaware that Mad Eye had still been ranting about him and he wondered briefly whether that had been Remus’s aim, to distract him. “I am certain that, had there been any information to be found in Severus’s office, then Harry and Remus would have been able to find it.”
“Of course he could,” Mad Eye said with a slight mocking tone to his voice, neglecting the addition of Remus to her sentence. “And this boy is the one upon whom the wizarding world rests? The world is in a sorry state of affairs when that is the case.”
The door slammed shut and Harry had gone, disappearing into the school. Remus shook his head at Mad Eye in disbelief before running off through the school, quickly trying to catch up to Harry before he got to the Room of Requirement; he would not be able to get in once Harry shut the door and wanted no one else to follow.
He saw Harry slip round a corner at the far end of the corridor and realised the route that he would take to the room. Remus turned and entered a passageway behind a mirror to his left, and took a faster route, fully intending to beat Harry there. He could only hope that he’d correctly anticipated Harry’s location.
“What are you doing here?” Harry snapped when he reached the Room of Requirement just after Remus, scowling when he found the man already inside. Harry entered and stared around the room; it was the vault he had come into possession of from Petunia’s key. Remus was watching him calmly from one of the sofas, his eyes occasionally wandering back to a letter which he held in his hands.
“Just making sure that you don’t do anything stupid,” Remus said lightly. “Have you seen these?” He showed Harry the letter in his hand; it was one of the ones signed by Bromadius and Rhianne. It was a transparent plan to get Harry to forget the fact that Remus had not only followed Harry to the Room of Requirement when he wanted to be alone but was sitting in a vault last touched by his parents, reading letters between the two of them.
“Yes,” Harry answered at sat down next to him. “I don’t understand though…” He pointed to the names at the bottom of the page and repeated them in confusion.
“During the war there was always the chance that our letters would be intercepted,” Remus explained, happy that Harry had not chosen to pursue the subject that was his rudeness in following him to a personal sanctuary, “so most people used pseudonyms for most letter writing.”
“Surely there are magical ways to find out who sent a letter,” Harry said, frowning slightly and Remus nodded.
“Of course,” he agreed, “and you could just write a reply and follow the owl back to see where it came from, but code names were mildly amusing and back then we took all the amusement we could get.”
Harry noticed the way that Remus’s look seemed to darken at the remembrance of his past and decided to push the topic away from the darkness of the past if he could. He partially hoped that Remus would change the conversation slightly himself as he was no manipulator of words.
“So Mum was Rhianne,” Harry said, glancing down at the letter in his hands.
Remus nodded. “And your father was Bromadius.” He laughed then and Harry smiled slightly at the sound. “I think he found the name on the Black tapestry at some point and laughed himself into hysterics over it.”
“So Sirius was Patrick,” Harry said, feeling a pang of sadness as he said so.
“Patrick McDougal,” Remus said, smiling as he looked down at the letter in his hands. It had been left on top of a small, obvious pile by the side of the sofa. It was one of the first things that he had seen when he entered the room and he wondered momentarily whether Lily and James had intended them to find it first. “And I was Thomas L’Ordinaire.”
Harry smiled and glanced at the top of the letter on the next pile. “I thought you would have been.” He paused slightly before asking, “What was Peter called?”
“We usually didn’t call him anything,” Remus said. He didn’t like speaking of Peter but he had invited this conversation upon himself. Peter had been his friend once upon a time yet they had neglected him at times and pushed him away. Sirius and James had even thought him a good Secret Keeper because they didn’t appear to be particularly good friends. Was it really any wonder that he had betrayed them all…? “When we did write to him, and that wasn’t particularly often, then we would usually just use his first name. Peter was a common name and didn’t require a pseudonym.”
“James is a common name,” Harry pointed out, “and he still used one.”
Remus nodded but didn’t respond. Harry was right, James was surely as common a name as Peter yet they hadn’t given both of them code names, just the one. The unofficial leader of their small group.
Harry realised Remus was not going to say anything else and reached out for another letter, the next one on the pile. He didn’t know just what thought process he had triggered within Remus but it had made him more morose than he had previously been.
I mean it, Patrick! If I return and my son is harmed in any way then you’ll be wishing you were dead very, very quickly. For Merlin’s sake, just ask Thomas for help!
Thanks for looking after Harry again,
“I think it was when the idea of going into hiding first came up that Lily decided she wanted a holiday,” Remus said to Harry as he read over the youth’s shoulders. “She always said that she wanted to live a little first if she was going to be imprisoned in her own home.”
“So they went on holiday and left me with Sirius,” Harry finished for him. Remus nodded with a smile.
“It took Sirius a good couple of days to let me help out,” Remus went on, “but by that time he had somehow proven that he was actually capable of looking after an infant. I was quite disappointed, I must say.”
I’m just glad that Patrick’s finally let you help out with things, Thomas! Read the next letter Remus picked up. I’m quite annoyed that he’s proving himself as a tolerable parent though I suppose I ought to be grateful since it’s my son he’s taking care of. Has there been any news of Peter recently? He hasn’t been replying to my letters…
Anyway, I’m enjoying the change of scenery and we’ll be back a week before Halloween.
Rhi and Brom
The names were shortened in that one and Remus frowned slightly. He remembered that as time had gone on their names had become shorter and shorter out of convenience for speedy letters. Only Sirius had insisted that his name never be shortened past Patrick McDougal, though it always was. Lily always had called him Pat in their correspondence, Remus remembered fondly.
The letters were all from the Potters to either himself or Sirius during their brief stay from home before they went into hiding. They were a set of engaging letters but something niggled at the back of his subconscious the more he read.
…the most amazing dinner last night. I can’t remember Bromadius ever being so romantic in all my days! I still miss all three of you though, and I hope to see you soon, especially my darling son.
Give my love to Harry,
R & B
Then onto the next one which read, We’ll be home tomorrow. We got what we needed here and I hope to see you all safe and well. If we return to a burnt down house then Merlin help you, Thomas!
One day you’ll thank me for these letters, you know,
All our love,
Remus and Harry stared at it for a moment. The initials were plain to see and Remus felt shivers pass down his spine. He reached out blindly for the next letter, this one was in an envelope.
Remus’s mind was whirling now. Lily had left letters, perfectly laid out in the first place that anyone would look in the vault. They were all from her and James. Remus could not remember her having asked for the letters to himself and Sirius had never mentioned it. She had taken them to tell a tale, to show the shortening of their names… He felt sick, his mind raced with possibilities and beside him sat her son, the last part of her left on Earth. He opened the envelope and took out the parchment from inside.
Forgive the shortness of this letter, I have little time to write and the Fidelius Charm is cast this afternoon. I fear it will be the final nail. You know how our story ends and I can only guess at who the other readers of this letter may be. I knew that leaving the key to Petunia would have been a good idea and only those who truly knew me would have been able to acquire the key. She knew precisely when to give it away, and to whom.
You hold in your hands the last letter by the hand of Lily Potter and in the envelope lies the locket you were surely hunting for. Use it well, my son. Your road is tough and, should this letter still be here, then you are probably alone in the world. I can only hope that somehow Remus and Sirius are looking after you and that they live on to help you.
It does not do to dwell in darkness and forget to live, remember that if nothing else. You can and you will live before he dies and the prophecy will only remain true if both believe it. Walk away if you must.
I write forever with love, pride and confidence in you, Harry.
Harry stared at the letter, unblinking, unbelieving. His mother could not have left this for him. She could not be RAB with his father… the concept was so unbelievable. During the rush to find the Horcruxes RAB had been entirely overlooked but it seemed that he was meant to find this. He had been meant to read it. Lily had known the prophecy before she had died, as had James. She had suspected for her son to be Voldemort’s downfall that they would have to die first. Her last message left to him, written in the afternoon before the Fidelius Charm was cast over their house and left in a vault. He felt a surge of gratitude to Petunia for carrying out her one task for his mother.
He looked to Remus who stared down at his own palms. He followed Remus’s gaze to the locket he held in his hands.
“You will keep your mouth shut, Alastor!” Minerva shouted at him and all the people and portraits in the room flinched. More portraits with access to the room quickly filed in and filled the frames around them, all wondering what the commotion was about.
There was silence as Mad Eye glared at her for a moment and then sighed in defeat. He may possibly have been slightly out of line but there was no denying that Potter was surely too young to be involved in such matters.
The silence stretched on uncomfortably until a frenzied ticking met their ears, easy to miss in the noise they had been making before.
“What the bloody hell—?”
Ticking filled the room, faster and more furious than ever. The New Order and the portraits stared around them, desperately seeking the cause of the unsolicited noise.
“I believe it may be a Frequency Counter making the noise,” Dumbledore said mildly after a couple of minutes with no luck.
Mad Eye snatched at one of the two on the table and turned it over to see the floor plan of Gringotts. Minerva took the other one immediately after and saw numbers rapidly ascending. She turned it over and looked at the seventh floor. Two darker dots were sitting in the Room of Requirement next to what was undoubtedly one of the Horcruxes.
“I don’t believe it…” Hermione muttered as she caught sight of the one in Mad Eye’s hands. Sure enough, it showed two dots on the floor ‘B14’ in a vault next to the Horcrux. She turned and ran from the room, the rest of the Order hot on her trail.
Phineas’s voice filled their ears as they raced out. “It seems you’ve finally all got what you needed for Christmas: a bloody miracle!” he yelled after them.
It was stored in the Room of Requirement, none of them wanting to leave it within Gringotts. The Horcrux would remain there until more were found and could eventually be stored there also, though that eventuality didn’t seem particularly near. It was odd but, after so much excitement, the Order returned to their daily business and most forgot the Horcrux shortly afterwards. Their worry was more closely linked with just what they were going to get various members of the Order for Christmas, rather than how to defeat Voldemort.
“Tell you what, Hermione,” Ron said as he sat with his girlfriend and best friend in the lounge of Grimmauld Place, “you can look for ways to destroy the Horcruxes and me and Harry will play chess.”
“Harry and I,” Hermione muttered but from an enquiring look sent her way she added, “Nothing.”
“So who’s up for some last minute Apparition tests?” Kingsley asked as he walked into the room.
“Kingsley, we aren’t taking our tests until after the New Year,” Ron said coolly, “I hardly think anything now could be counted as ‘last minute’.”
“Actually, you’re taking your tests in ten minutes,” Kingsley beamed at them. Harry looked quite a bit paler than he had done moments before and Ron gaped at him.
“Ten minutes?!” Ron managed finally. “But you said…”
“I know what I said before but I pulled some strings at the Ministry and you’re taking your tests today so that you won’t have to wait another two weeks,” Kingsley explained. “You’re both more than ready.”
And so, it was with great trepidation that Harry and Ron left Grimmauld Place amidst calls of ‘good luck’ with Kingsley who insisted that they didn’t need it. Harry wasn’t particularly keen on re-entering the Ministry after the last time he was there but clearly he had very little choice in the matter.
It took twenty minutes of waiting before Harry disappeared to take his test and returned with a smile on his face and a licence in his hand. Ron only managed to look sicker at the idea of Harry passing his first test and he failing two of them.
Ron got shakily to his feet and followed the short examiner through the doorway into a large chamber beyond. He had been expecting someone older in truth; this examiner couldn’t have been older than forty though he reminded Ron strongly of one of the examiners that he’d had during his OWLs.
“Good afternoon, Mr Weasley,” the examiner greeted him cheerfully. “Now the test is simple. I’ll need you to Apparate to all the points here and bring back the coloured hoop you find in each location.”
“That’s it…?” Ron asked hopefully.
“That’s it,” the examiner clarified and handed him a sheet of parchment with five different locations written on it, the last of which being the Apparition centre they were in. “You have ten minutes.”
The first was surprisingly easy to find, Ron realised as he Apparated into Diagon Alley and picked up a hoop left near Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes. He had seen it before, he realised, and when he picked it up another one took its place on the road. The next one was hidden in the Yorkshire Dales and he only had a description to go by. He disappeared with a crack and fell to the floor before he could be suffocated entirely. It took him almost five minutes to find the hoop and he almost splinched himself in his desperation to find the next two.
Eventually, Ron fell to the floor in front of the examiner clutching four hoops as if his life depended upon it.
“Nine minutes and thirty seven seconds,” the examiner told him with a slight smile as Ron got to his feet. “With only twenty three seconds to spare. Congratulations.”
Ron almost fell back to his knees with relief as he moved to hand over the hoops but they disappeared from his hands before they touched the examiner.
“Your licence,” the examiner said as he handed over a small card with a relieved-looking Ron smiling back out at him. “Don’t splinch yourself on the way home!”
He pushed the large door open and Ron walked out to Harry and Kingsley looking more relieved than he had done in a very long time. Kingsley smiled, knowing that he’d pass before he even went in and Harry grinned at him.
“Well done, kids,” Kingsley said cheerfully, though he was only twenty seven, the same age as Bill.
“You’re only ten years older than us,” Ron scowled as they walked out of the Ministry.
“And ten years can make a big difference in life, especially as you grow old, like me,” Kingsley said sombrely. Harry wondered briefly how he managed to keep such a straight face before Kingsley’s smile broke free. “So, shall we take advantage of the panic in the Wizarding world and go to Diagon Alley for a bit?”
“Sounds good to me!” Harry said cheerfully, pocketing his new Apparition licence carefully so as not to lose it.
“Yeah,” Ron said and then added, “and I need to buy Ginny’s Christmas present whilst I’m down there.” Kingsley gave him a disbelieving look. “Yes, I know Christmas Eve is tomorrow, so what?”
“I ought to tell her you left it this late…” Harry said and Ron opened his mouth to retort. Harry and Kingsley Apparated, leaving Ron talking angrily to thin air before, with a resonating crack, he followed after them.
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