They pulled to a stop a couple of minutes later, and everyone got out of the car again. Buffy looked around. They were in a bit of a run down residential neighbourhood. A nearby street sign told her that they were on Grimmauld Place. There was an elderly gentleman waiting for them. It took a couple of looks for Buffy to recognize Professor Dumbledore. His beard and his hair were both a lot shorter than she was used to seeing them—he looked rather like Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street—and he was dressed in a fairly conservative looking business suit. “Why am I not entirely surprised to see you here?” she asked.
“Because you are an intelligent young woman,” said Dumbledore. “Though, I must admit I wasn’t expecting to see you again so soon.”
“So, you’re the Secret Keeper?”
“That is correct Miss Summers. Listen very carefully, and remember this, you too Dawn, and Mr. Giles: the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.”
A battered door with a twelve on it appeared between the two houses they were standing in front of. The houses slid apart as number twelve seemed to inflate between them. It was a dirty looking house, with grimy windows, even more run down than its neighbours. Dumbledore gestured toward it. “Shall we go inside?”
Harry led the way up to the door. He opened it, and gestured for everyone to go ahead inside. “Welcome to my house.”
“Your house?” asked Dawn as she passed him.
Harry waited for the others to all get inside before he followed, and closed the door. “Afraid so. I just inherited it. It used to be Sirius’s house.”
Harry looked around the entry hall. There had been some changes made from last year. The curtains covering the portrait of Sirius’s mother had been replaced by a set of sturdy wooden shutters with a lock on them, and the house-elf heads that had lined the stairway wall were gone.
Ron and Ginny came running down the stairs. “Harry!” she cried. “We heard you were attacked! What happened?”
“Death Eater at the train station,” said Harry. “Buffy saved me.”
The wooden shutters started to rattle. A muffled voice shrieked from behind them. “Filthy scum mudbloods! I can hear them! More of them tramping their filth over the house of my fathers! Get out! Get out! GET OUT!”
Harry looked embarrassed. “Er, just try to ignore that,” he told Dawn. “It’s the portrait of Sirius’s mother. She hated Muggles. It’s stuck to the wall with a Permanent Sticking Charm. We haven’t been able to figure out how to get rid of it.”
Mrs. Weasley appeared through a door at the back of the hall. “Harry! Are you all right? What happened?”
“I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley,” said Harry.
“Let us all go up to the drawing room,” said Dumbledore, “where there’s room for everyone to hear the story at once, so Harry won’t have to keep repeating himself.” He was back in his colourful robes, and his beard and hair were their usual lengths again.
Everyone left the luggage they were carrying in the front hall and Harry led the way up the stairs and into the drawing room. They all found themselves a seat, and Harry told what had happened in the train station.
“And you’re sure you’re not hurt?” asked Mrs. Weasley when he was done.
“I’m fine!” said Harry. “Got lots worse bumps on my head playing Quidditch.”
“Oh!” Mrs. Weasley was instantly on her feet again, and fussing over Harry, examining the back of his head.
“No, really, I’m fine!” said Harry as her fingers parted his hair to examine his scalp. He tried to push her hands away.
“Um, I kinda don’t like mentioning this, but everyone seems pretty certain that it was a Death Eater that tried to kill Harry,” said Buffy.
“Who else would?” asked Mr. Weasley.
“I don’t know,” said Buffy, “and from the sounds of things, a Death Eater is probably your best bet, but just because someone’s out to get you, doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who are out to get you.”
“I really like the way you think,” said Moody.
“Why would anyone else want to hurt Harry?” asked Hermione.
“Lot’s of reasons,” said Buffy. “Harry’s famous, right? And famous people tend to attract the wackos, they certainly do among Muggles. Or maybe Voldemort…” Half the people in the room cringed. “…isn’t the only dark wizard out there. Someone else might be trying to make an instant reputation for themselves by killing the boy Voldemort couldn’t. It could be a fan of one of the other house’s Quidditch teams, trying to improve the chances of his team winning this year. There are lots of reasons why people kill, most of them are stupid, but people still do it.”
“Great,” said Harry. “Not only do I have Death Eaters out to get me, but now I gotta watch out for random wackos.”
“It’s still probably one of the Death Eaters,” said Buffy. “I’m just saying you shouldn’t blind yourselves to other possibilities.”
“Who knew that Harry would be arriving at the station today?” asked Giles.
“Too many people,” said Moody. “Everyone at the school for one thing.” Dumbledore started to say something but Moody waved his objection down. “I’m not saying there’s a spy there, but we don’t know who they may have told. No one was told not to talk about it. Someone may have mentioned it to a friend or something, someplace where they could be overheard. We have to improve security, not let Harry wander around, and not announce where he’s going to be when he does go out.”
“You should check out that guy at the barrier too,” said Buffy. “He might have deliberately delayed us until their hitter was in position.”
“More great,” grumbled Harry. “I’m going to be locked up inside this house again.”
“It’s only for a week, until you go back to school,” said Hermione.
“They wouldn’t try anything in Diagon Alley,” said Harry. “I should be able to go there. I’ve still got to do my school shopping.”
“Too many people know you’ll be doing it,” said Moody.
“But they all think I’m going on Wednesday,” said Harry. “That’s what we’ve been telling everyone. I can do it on Tuesday.”
Most of the adults joined into the discussion. Moody didn’t want to let Harry out at all, and Mrs. Weasley came in on his side. Tonks sided with Harry, thinking it would be safe enough to let him out with an escort, as long as they kept quiet about it, like they’d been doing earlier in the summer. Mr. Weasley was caught in the middle. He tended to side with Tonks and Harry, but didn’t want to disagree with his wife.
Hermione turned to Ron after listening to the adults argue for a while. “So, did Harry tell you he’s been made Captain of the Quidditch team?”
“He has?” asked Ron. “That’s great!”
“Yeah, so we’re going to be holding tryouts for three new Chasers, and I’m sure Ginny will get one of the spots, and McGonagall wants to have reserves for all the other places on the team too.”
“Afraid I’ll choke up again?” grumbled Ron.
“No!” said Hermione. “You were great that last game! Everyone knows it, but we need to have reserves in place and ready in case someone can’t play for some reason. Harry’s been taken out of play twice so far. First time it happened we lost the cup because we didn’t have a good Seeker ready to take his place. We were lucky we had Ginny last year.”
The security discussion had wound down without any decision being reached. Mrs. Weasley got up from her seat. “Now it’s dinner time. Buffy, Dawn, Mr. Giles, won’t you join us?”
The kitchen had been cleaned up since last year too. It wasn’t the dim cavern it had once seemed to be. It was brightly lit by many candles in holders spaced around the stone walls. The many years of accumulated soot had been scrubbed away, and instead of black and grey, the walls were now sparkling pink granite. It was a very cheerful looking room with a big table in the centre at which there were seven place settings. Mrs. Weasley waved her wand toward the cupboard, and four more settings, for Buffy, Dawn, Giles and Dumbledore flew to the table.
The meal was excellent, and Mrs. Weasley didn’t let anyone talk about Harry’s security arrangements. Dawn found herself sitting between Ron and Harry, with them talking Quidditch around her. She was starting to understand the game enough that their conversation wasn’t totally incomprehensible to her, and they were both happy to explain the bits she didn’t understand to her. Mr. Weasley started questioning Giles about Muggle technology, which Buffy found rather amusing since Giles was such a technophobe himself. She found herself talking mostly with Hermione and Ginny.
“So, that guitar case you were carrying,” said Ginny, “That’s where it is, isn’t it?”
“Yep,” said Buffy.
“Can I…try it?” asked Ginny.
“Sure,” said Buffy. “After dinner.” She looked around the table. “Um, does everyone here know?”
“Yeah,” said Ginny. “Tonks and Moody are the only others we’ve told though, outside the family. She was actually eavesdropping when Dawn told us about it. She got her hands on one of Fred and George’s Extendable Ears.”
“Extendable Ears?” asked Buffy.
“It’s kind of a magical bug,” said Hermione. “For listening in on conversations people don’t want you listening too.”
Buffy and Ginny had an audience later in the drawing room. Everyone wanted to see the Scythe. Buffy had Ginny sit in a chair, and she placed the case into her lap. “There are spells on this case that keep anyone from opening it, who isn’t supposed to open it.” She knelt before Ginny and took her hands in her own. She guided them to the catches, and released them. Still holding Ginny’s hands, Buffy lifted the lid of the case.
Ginny looked at the Scythe sitting nestled in its case, a silent “Oh!” on her lips. Buffy smiled and lifted the Scythe free. She held it out to Ginny, and Ginny took it in her hands.
“There.” Buffy released the Scythe, and stood up. “You are now one of the people who are supposed to be able to open the case.”
Ginny carefully turned the Scythe in her hands, looking at it from all angles. She suddenly spun it, almost too fast for the eye to follow, making the blade sing through the air. “This feels like…”
“Like you were born to use it,” said Buffy. “We all feel that when we hold it.”
“But it’s yours.” Ginny held the Scythe out to Buffy, to let her take it again.
“I’m only its current caretaker.” Buffy took the Scythe and returned it to its case. “Someday, you will be.”
They didn’t stay at the house very much longer. Harry invited them to stay, there was lots of room. “Thanks for the offer,” said Buffy, “But we’ve been out of the loop long enough. There are a lot of people I have to talk to, and I’m going to need phones to do it.”
They went back down to the front hall and gathered up all their stuff. Buffy smiled at Ginny. “See you again soon, when we go do our shopping. Let us know what day you settle on.”
Dawn kissed Harry goodbye. “Hope you can make the shopping trip, if not, I’ll see you when we go back to school.”
“I will definitely try to make the shopping trip,” said Harry. “Bye.”
Mr. Weasley left with Buffy, Dawn and Giles. The same car that had brought them from King’s Cross Station was taking them back to their hotel, and he was accompanying them because there was still more Muggle technology he wanted to quiz them about.
Harry stood in the door watching as they all got into the car, and waved as it drove away. He stepped back inside, and turned to look at the others.
Ron’s mouth had been hanging open ever since Dawn had kissed Harry. “Cor blimey!”
“Oh grow up, Ron!” said Hermione.
Harry gave Ron a look like he agreed with Hermione, but he had something else on his mind right now. “Where’s Kreacher?”
Kreacher was in the boiler cupboard off the kitchen where he made his bed. Ron and Hermione followed Harry down to it. He knocked on the door first, but when he didn’t get an answer he pulled it open anyway. Kreacher was lying huddled in the pile of rags he used for his bed. The quilt Hermione had given him for Christmas last year had been added to it, and was now as filthy as the rest of it. He seemed to be muttering things to himself.
“Kreacher, come out here!” said Harry.
Kreacher looked up at him. “It’s the Harry Potter. Boy who stopped the Dark Lord. But the Dark Lord wasn’t stopped. He’s back and now the Harry Potter will pay.”
“Kreacher, you know who I am,” said Harry. “You know I’m your master now.”
Kreacher shook his head. “Oh sad day. Mistress would cry so to see what has become of her noble house.”
“Kreacher look at me,” said Harry. “Say who I am.”
“You are Harry Potter. You are Kreacher’s master.”
“That’s right Kreacher,” said Harry. “Now follow me.”
“Harry, what are you doing?” asked Hermione.
“Later,” said Harry. “Kreacher, get out of that closet, and follow me!” Harry glared at Kreacher until he started to move, then he turned away, and walked out of the kitchen with only one glance back to see if Kreacher was following.
Harry led them all up through the house, to the room on the top floor that had once been Sirius’s mother’s, and more recently had been home to Buckbeak. It certainly looked like a Hippogriff had been living there. The floor was covered with straw, and the walls all had deep gouges in them from the Hippogriff’s talons.
“Kreacher, where are we?” asked Harry.
“Mistress’s room,” said Kreacher. “Oh, she would be so angry to see the state it is in.”
“That’s right,” said Harry. “Your mistress would be very angry. I want it cleaned up.”
“What?” asked Kreacher.
“You heard me Kreacher,” said Harry. “I want this room cleaned up. Clear out the straw, fix the walls, repair the floors.”
“Y-y-yes Master,” said Kreacher.
Harry turned to go. He stopped in the door and looked back. “And Kreacher, that rag you’re wearing is a disgrace. Get yourself a proper clean towel or something.”
He left the room, and headed back down the stairs.
“Alright, what are you doing?” asked Hermione.
“Giving Kreacher something to do,” said Harry.
“You’re treating him like a slave!” said Hermione.
“I’m treating him like he needs to be treated,” said Harry. “How many house-elves have you met that want to be free? One! And it took years of beatings from the Malfoys to get him into that state. Winky spent two years drunk after she got freed. She’s only sobered up now because she’s keeping busy. She has lots of work to keep her happy.
“Kreacher spent fifteen years locked up in this house with nothing to do but follow the orders of an insane painting. If we want to start getting him sane again, we’ve got to give him some constructive work to do.” Harry glanced up the way they had come from. “And if this doesn’t work, at least he’s as far away from the rest of the house as he can get, and still be inside it.”
|Chapter 19: Back to London||Contents||Chapter 21: Shopping|