Thanks so, so much to Nevillesoulmate for the wonderful chapter image.
The twins, aided by Ginny, Ron and Hermione had decorated the old mansion with a tap of their wands in no time at all. The place was covered in exploding multi coloured balloons, ever falling confetti and self igniting candles that Harry was beginning to find a bit wearing having to keep on blowing.
"Come on, Harry, are we going to try some of that Firewhisky?" encouraged Ron.
"I dunno. I'm a bit worried really, after what happened at the wedding. I mean, I promised I wouldn't get drunk again till I've killed him. Of course, if he kills me, well that's that!" said Harry, not trying to tempt fate by assuming he would win.
"Well, you don't have to get wrecked, mate, just have a little bit."
"Ok then." Harry poured some of the amber liquid into a glass and took a large gulp. " This is bloody strong, Ron!"
"It would be," pointed out Ginny. "It's from Fred and George!"
Hagrid ambled on over to the group of teenagers and clapped Harry on the back as he said, "Congratulations, 'arry, Secret Keeper! Great responsibility!"
"Ah, Hagrid, I've been wanting to see you," Harry announced. "Dumbledore told me in his will, about my mother's wand. Do you have it with you?" he asked enthusiastically.
"He's told yeh then!" Hagrid seemed surprised.
"Told me what exactly?" enquired Harry, beginning to think there was yet more to come.
"He wants ye to 'ave it then?"
"Well, yeah, you see, I'm of age now. I guess it belongs to me really."
"Dumbledore thought it could be important, thou," mumbled Hagrid concerned.
"Yes, Hagrid, he's told me that much, but, is there something else?" Harry looked straight into Hagrid's eyes trying to disarm him, hoping that if there was anything else, Hagrid would let it accidentally slip.
"Well, I've not got it with me. It's in a vault at Gringotts, high security item. After what 'appened to Dumbledore, I just thought I keep it safe," Hagrid explained.
Harry frowned surprised "High security? For Merlin's beard, Hagrid, why? Why didn't the goblins give it to me today, when I went there to see them?"
"Yeh can't 'ave it with yeh. It could get stolen!"
"Stolen? What would anybody want with my mother's wand?"
"We think You-Know-Who's been looking for it," Hagrid whispered.
But of course, she was the person who had caused the curse to rebound, wasn't she? thought Harry. "Who is we? You mean Dumbledore? He never told me that," said Harry disappointed.
"Sensitive stuff, 'arry, sensitive stuff."
"Hagrid, do you know something you're not letting on?"
"But I thou ye knew, 'arry."
Harry's tone became serious. "Hagrid, this is important, I may very well die if I don't know everything I need to. I guess it's connected with whatever it is that my mum did when, well... that night. Does Voldemort not know what that was?"
"I don't suppose anyone knows. Never 'appened before, 'arry, ye're the first one."
"Who lived, yeah." He had heard this many times. "Don't you understand, Hagrid? The sooner I get it, the sooner I'll be able to work out what spell she used! I need to find out, it's dead important!" he began to sound desperate.
"Ok, 'arry, I'll see want I can do," replied Hagrid, not at all convinced he was doing the right thing.
Generally speaking, the party went quite well. People seemed to be enjoying themselves, which was a rare sight these days. Many would have got a little too tipsy had it not been for the large buffet Molly had prepared. By the time they went to bed, they were rather exhausted.
Well into the night, Harry was woken up, yet again, to the sound of a large popping noise. Not the twins again! he thought. This was becoming too much of a habit. It was beginning to be positively irritating. "Dobby?" said Harry surprised, forcing his eyes to open.
"Happy birthday, Harry Potter, sir!" the elf squeaked.
"Thank you, Dobby, but shush," commanded Harry, taking his finger to his lips. "People are sleeping."
"Sorry to be late, Harry Potter, sir." Dobby looked as if he was about to beat himself up in a moment or two. "But Dobby had to get Harry Potter a present."
He smiled at the kindness of the tiny creature. "That's thoughtful of you," said Harry sincerely. Dobby was positively beaming as he passed over to Harry a sock knitted by himself, badly wrapped in a bright piece of parchment. "Thank you, Dobby," Harry said, at a loss for words since it was a sock. As he inspected the yarn fabric he noticed that it felt a little too heavy to be just a sock. Hang on, there is something inside, Harry realised. He tried to feel the object. It appeared to be solid, metallic in fact. "What is it, Dobby?" He didn't know why, but he just didn't want to touch it directly.
"Harry Potter will see, sir. Dobby retrieved it for him, sir. Bad Kreacher had stolen it, sir. Dobby has brought it back to his rightful owner."
Harry became slightly alarmed at the news that this object, whatever it might be, had at one point in time been in the possession of Kreacher. Knowing Kreacher, it could very well be dangerous. "What is it, Dobby? You must tell me," Harry ordered.
"It's a locket, Harry Potter."
"I need you to listen to me, Dobby, this is very important." Harry waited for the elf to nod his head conveying that he understood and was listening. "I forbid you to tell anyone about having it or about having given it to me, all right, Dobby?"
Dobby bowed low, his large bat wing like ears brushing against Harry's bedspread. "As Harry Potter wishes, sir. Dobby likes to serve Harry Potter."
"Ok, Dobby, good night now and thank you." Harry didn't want to be ungrateful but couldn't wait to get rid of the elf. A locket indeed! Not that it was likely for Kreacher to have stumbled across the actual Horcrux, but still... "Ron, Ron, wake up, mate. This could be important!" whispered Harry whilst trying to prod his friend in an attempt to wake him.
Ron's hand lazily flopped around in the general area of Harry's voice as he mumbled in a state of semi consciousness, "Harry, leave me alone, go to sleep!"
"RON, GET UP! You are not going to believe this!"
"Believe what, Harry?" Ron mumbled.
"Dobby has given me a locket, Ron, A locket!"
Harry's words finally penetrated his sleep induced haze. "Let's see it then!" Ron said, now more enthusiastically.
"I dunno. Could be dangerous. He stole it from Kreacher, do I need to say more?" replied Harry a bit wary.
"But what would Kreacher be doing with a Horcrux?"
"Ron, we don't know it's a Horcrux, now, do we?" admitted Harry.
"Let's get Hermione up. She'll know what to do," suggested Ron.
"Harry? May I ask what you're doing outside of Ginny's bedroom at this time of the night?" Lupin, who was coming back from visiting the bathroom, asked sternly.
"Professor? Remus, I mean... I, I... I left my glasses there," he replied, unable to think of a proper excuse. He just happened to realise he was not wearing them.
"And why would you have left your glasses there, Harry? Remember I've been your age too, but, for crying out loud, I hope you are not up to something you may both regret!" added Lupin, looking concerned.
"No, it's not… it's not what you think!" protested a very red faced Harry, giving away the fact that he had perfectly understood Lupin's hint.
"I hope not. Now, go back to bed."
Harry went back in the direction of his room again. He waited until the sound of footsteps had vanished completely and resumed his travels. He knocked on the door. "Hermione, Hermione, are you awake?" Nothing happened. "Hermione, Ginny? It's me, Harry. There's something I need to tell you. COME ON, LET ME IN!" he whispered loudly, after looking around to ensure that no-one else was up.
A very sleepy Hermione opened the door eventually, quickly tying up a dressing gown over her night T-shirt. "Harry, do you know what time it is?" she said yearning.
"Dobby, Dobby has given me a locket!" he said, talking really fast.
"You better come in, quick, Harry, someone could see you!"
"Ron suggested I come and fetch you," he explained.
"Ok, come in then," Hermione told him opening the door.
Ginny, who had woken up because of the loud hushed whispers, rubbed her eyes sleepily. "A locket did you say?" enquired Ginny. "Is that not what you, we," she corrected, "are still looking for?"
"Well, a locket, yes. But if this were the locket, well, it would be the best birthday present ever! It's just too good to be true. I know it's probably only a coincidence," Harry said, trying not to get his hopes too high.
"But your instincts are telling you otherwise?" suggested Hermione.
"Let's leave this Trelawney like stuff aside for a minute," said Harry, trying to get to the point. "The trouble is, I don't dare get it out of the sock in, in case it's dangerous."
"Harry, what sock? What're you on about?" asked Ginny, trying to repress a loud giggle without much success. "A sock?"
"As I said," he replied, "Dobby gave it to me, for my birthday, inside of a sock. You should know by now he is very fond of socks!" added Harry, looking towards Hermione whose cheeks had turned a pretty shade of pink, but now, it was him who was laughing loudly. Objectively, the whole thing seemed absurd.
"So, let's be clear, this, well, sock-" said Ginny, in a slightly mocking tone, "contains the said locket that neither you nor my brother have the guts to have a look at?"
"That summarises it pretty well," said Harry a little defensively.
"Come on, Ginny, let's go and have a look," said Hermione not wanting to waste any more valuable sleeping time.
"Shame you didn't have the wit to bring the invisibility cloak!" Ginny moaned to Harry.
"Hermione?" exclaimed Ron, as he came into the girls’ bedroom, giving Hermione an enquiring look as if expecting her to come up with the solution to a complex murder mystery.
"Come on, you chicken!" Ginny said to her brother. "Give us the sock, let's see what it looks like."
"Don't be reckless Ginny, remember the state Dumbledore's hand was in!" warned Harry.
"Maybe we should get Moody or someone to take a look at it," Hermione suggested.
"And what if it really turns out to be a Horcrux? We can't reveal this secret. Harry promised Dumbledore!" disagreed Ron.
Harry instinctively reached for the fake locket that they had retrieved from the cave, and which he had now placed inside the invisibility box that Ron bought him for his birthday. He looked at it, touched it very slowly, as if trying to memorise its size and the way it felt. "The locket in the memory was larger than the one we found in the cave. Also, it had Slytherin's symbol. Pass me the sock," said Harry. "It's safe with the sock, Ron. We both have touched that sock," he added in response to Ron's terrified expression. Harry, very carefully ran his fingers through the knitted material, feeling the metallic piece of jewellery. "It's larger than the one in the cave, which fits, but doesn't seem to have any engraving. It feels smooth," Harry shook his head.
"Whether Horcrux or not, we need to have it checked for dark magic," insisted Hermione.
"You're all missing something," said Ginny. "Both Kreacher and Dobby have handled it already and have come to no harm."
"But they are elves, Ginny. Maybe it's different for them," Hermione added, still very apprehensive. "I'll research how to check for dark magic."
"Hermione, you know as well as I do that no book so far has been helpful on the subject of Horcruxes," said Harry, feeling he was fighting a lost battle.
"Still, it could be something else, mate," commented Ron. "After all, Kreacher had it originally and he bears you no love."
Hermione shot a disapproving look at Ron. She was still determined to see good in all house-elves.
"It's late anyway. I'll tell you what, I'm going to put it in the invisibility box and we'll think about it tomorrow," Harry concluded. "This has been one hell of a birthday!"
It was daylight already, but it wasn't the light that woke up Hermione.
"IT'S THE POTION, THE POTION!" Ginny shouted at the top of her voice whilst still deeply asleep. "Voldemort knows we've got it!"
"Ginny, it's a dream, Ginny wake up!" Hermione commanded, now on the verge of hysteria. Ginny continued twitching and turning round very fast, screaming. She was woken up by a slap in her face which Hermione, not knowing what else to do, had thrown at her to bring her back to reality. She was now praying that Ginny's screaming hadn't woken anyone. "Ginny, Ginny, what was the dream?"
"I don't know, I think I was in the cave Harry described, where he went with Dumbledore, the green potion was there and I was drinking it. And Voldemort knew I was doing it!" Ginny’s breathing was very fast and erratic.
"Ginny, I think that was just a nightmare. It's over, it's over now," Hermione said in a soothing voice, as she gave Ginny a hug.
Hermione was not aware of Ginny having ever had prophetic dreams, like Harry did. Mind you, this had seemed pretty real to the girl. Also, Ginny had never really talked about the time when she had been possessed via the diary. Could there be a connection between her and Voldemort, like what happened to Harry? Hermione wondered but decided it was probably for the best to let her go back to sleep. Harry was right; they had all had too much excitement for one day.
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