My internet being temporarily down, I am having to post tonight’s chapter from my phone, so please pardon any misspellings or mistakes in this chapter. Thank you to those who have commented so far and thank you also to those who have read and not commented. I know you’re out there.
And so, Chapter Three–A Hollow Feeling
The morning after his visit to the Dursleys, Harry apparated to Godric’s Hollow. Appearing on a hill overlooking the village, he took in the scene before him.
The last time he had been to the site of his parents’ murder was the night of Christmas Eve. The quaint, country houses scattered about the rolling hills, covered in snow last winter, looked like a painted landscape amidst the green foliage of summer. Red tiled roofs broke through the canopy of leaves in places and an occasional thin line of smoke, even in the heat of summer, drifted upward in the still air. When he had visited with Hermione, both fleeing for their lives, the village was full of death and reminders of death. Now, people milled about in the streets, colorful pennants flapped in front of the various shops, and great banners stretched from house to house celebrating the fall of Voldemort.
Harry started down the hill toward the village, smiling despite himself. The transformation of Godric’s Hollow mirrored that around the country. The cold mist that clung to Britain for so long during the Dark Lord’s revival was gone, replaced by the bright sunshine and the heat of summer. Even in a place that had seen so much tragedy-the death of his parents, the loss of Albus Dumbledore’s sister in an unfortunate accident, the murder of Bathilda Bagshot-happiness was rekindled.
Harry walked down the street towards the center of the village, marveling at the number of wizards and witches that went about conducting their business. No one noticed him as he meandered through the street, everyone absorbed in his or her own pursuits, and he reveled in the anonymity. He reached the center of town where a tall, redheaded young man was staring at a statue of three people.
“I wonder how many statues they’ll build of you now,” Ron said as Harry stepped beside him. At times in their friendship, these words might have been steeped with jealousy. Now, Ron sounded amused.
“I don’t care,” Harry answered. He reached into the mokeskin purse he carried at his side and pulled out the Deluminator. Handing the silver object over to Ron, he glanced back up at the statue. “As long as the rest don’t show me in nappies.”
They both laughed and looked up at the stone figures. James and Lily Potter, infant Harry between them, looked out over their upturned heads. Harry compared the statue of his broken family with those he had seen around London and noticed, with some surprise, that not a single bird dropping marred the granite surface. He thought of the great care that must have gone into ensuring that nothing such as a passing sparrow would leave its mark. Then he remembered that the statue stood in the middle of a village full of wizards who would certainly know a spell to repel bird dung.
“Let’s go to the cemetery,” Harry said.
Ron said nothing, but walked beside Harry down the street. Despite the solemn reason for their visit, he could not help but look around, having missed the chance to visit the previous winter.
“It’s a lot like Hogsmeade,” Ron said, “only without the students.”
Harry saw Ron’s point. Several of the names they were familiar with from Hogsmeade-Flourish and Blotts, Dervish and Banges, The Three Broomsticks-had locations in Godric’s Hollow. The wizard bank, Gringotts, operated a small branch dug into the side of one of the larger hills. All about, witches and wizards strolled carrying shopping bags or hand in hand with their children. The very air around the village pulsed with magic and, more obvious, a sense of relief and joy that Harry knew resulted from the defeat of Voldemort.
They circled around the small church and entered the cemetery. The previous Christmas, the place had been dark and solemn, but now, in the summer light, Harry felt profound peace as he walked through the gates. The snow that had been on the ground was gone, replaced by startling green grass as cared for as the Dursley’s lawn. Several of the tombstones bore flowers or wreaths. Next to some, other mementos lay leaning against the marble slabs-teddy bears, flasks, and framed photographs, faded by the sun.
One headstone, in particular, caught Harry’s attention as they moved toward the grave of his parents. He remembered the location of the Dumbledore monument precisely, even in a different season and under different circumstances. He knew the entire night in Godric’s Hollow, including his and Hermione’s narrow escape from Voldemort and the breaking of his wand, would be locked in his memory forever.
“Is that . . . ?” Ron started to ask.
“Yeah,” Harry answered.
The stone marking the final resting place of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore was exactly as Harry remembered it. Nearby, the grave of Ignotus Peverell stood, its engraved lettering nearly eroded away by the centuries. The triangular mark they had first associated with Grindlewald, the curious symbol that had, in part, led them to the knowledge of the Hallows they had used to defeat Voldemort, was barely visible near the bottom of the stone.
“What’s that?” Ron asked from the Dumbldore grave, pointing to a small gray dot half-concealed in the grass.
Harry bent down and picked up the object, so small that he feared it might break. When he held it in the palm of his hand, Harry could not suppress the chuckle of sad amusement the toy-a figurine of a goat-drew out of him.
“Aberforth,” Harry thought aloud. “He’s fond of goats.”
Harry set the goat back in the grass. They lingered at the Dumbledore grave for a few minutes, discussing the lost lives that had so shaped their former headmaster’s life. Then, they moved on among the rows of white marble and granite. As Ron walked, he gave Harry a continuous commentary about the various names he recognized from spending his entire life in the wizarding world.
“Splendis Chuckput,” Ron said, pointing out one elaborately carved stone. “He was Minister of Magic. And Rodney Thiffle. He married my parents. I didn’t know he was buried here.”
Harry half-listened to Ron’s description of the various witches and wizards who shared a final resting place with his parents, but he had come here for one reason and, as he drew closer to the grave, he heard less and less of what Ron was saying. Finally, he reached the tombstone marked with the names of his parents and stopped.
Ron was still talking. ” . . . Bowman Wright, inventor of the Golden Snitch. And . . .” Ron saw the name on the stone in front of Harry and grew quiet.
Harry looked at him and grinned. “You’re starting to sound like Hermione.”
Ron flushed. “Well, this stuff’s all common knowledge if you grew up in a wizarding family. It’s not like I’ve been reading my History of Magic textbook or anything.”
For several minutes, they stood quiet, shoulder to shoulder, looking at the grave of Harry’s parents. Harry broke the silence finally, clearing his throat and speaking, not to Ron, but to James and Lily Potter.
“We did it,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. “He’s gone.”
Harry thought that he would feel awkward speaking to his dead parents in Ron’s presence, but once he started talking any thought of embarrassment vanished.
“This is Ron,” he said to the stone. “I’m sure you’ve seen him or heard about him from Sirius. He and Hermione were with me all the way and I couldn’t have done it without them.” He paused, feeling an odd stinging sensation in his eyes. “Or without you.”
The stinging sensation grew stronger and for a moment Harry thought he would bawl like a baby mandrake. “Tell . . . tell Sirius and Fred and Remus and Tonks and Mad-Eye and Professor Dumbledore . . .” He took a deep breath. ” . . . thank you.”
Harry turned and found that Ron was no longer beside him. Either out of convenient curiosity or respect for Harry’s emotional state, he had drifted off to look at more of the tombstones. He had stopped in front of one particularly large stone and was glaring at it with narrowed eyes.
“There are Malfoys buried here,” Ron said, anger evident in his voice. “And this close to your parents.”
Harry, who owed his defeat of Voldemort to Narcissa Malfoy, said nothing.
Ron bellowed about the Malfoys for a few minutes, then stopped, out of breath.
“You hungry?” he asked Harry when he calmed down.
They found a café near the square and ordered lunch. The place was nearly deserted in between breakfast and lunch and they sat at a table in a shadowed corner in the hopes of going unnoticed. However, when the young witch came to take their order, her eyes went directly to Harry’s forehead, then to Ron’s red hair.
“You . . . you’re . . . Harry Potter?” she stammered. “And you . . . you’re Ron Weasley?”
Harry smiled, and the smile widened when he saw Ron’s face had gone bright scarlet. Over the years, Ron had grown used to being in Harry’s shadow, but now that word of his role in the defeat of Voldemort had been printed in the papers, Ron had gained a measure of celebrity that nearly rivaled his best friend’s.
The food was brought promptly and, though Harry offered several times to pay, the witch insisted their meal was on the house if they agreed to sign autographs for her and the cook. By the time they finished their meal and left, their signatures, on white napkins, were framed above the cash register. Harry left enough silver sickles to cover both their meals and to leave a generous tip before he and Ron reentered the street.
“Where to?” Ron asked.
“Let’s go to the house,” Harry said.
They walked to the end of a lane that led out of the village. Just as Harry remembered, his parents’ house stood at the end of the row. The large hole in the upper floor remained, but the unruly growth of grass and ivy had been trimmed. As Ron touched the front gate, the sign rose from the grass describing the violent history of the house and the fate of it’s occupants. However, instead of graffiti cheering the fugitive Harry in his quest to defeat the Dark Lord, the words scrawled on the sign said such things as “God bless you, Harry!” and “All Hail the Chosen One!” Harry heard Ron snickering behind him.
“Better watch it, mate,” Ron said. “They’ll have you as Minister of Magic before your birthday.”
Harry gave Ron a bemused look, then looked back at the house. “Let’s go in.”
Ron raised an eyebrow as he looked at the damaged building. “You think it’s safe.”
“I don’t care,” Harry said. “I want to see where my parents lived. Where I lived.”
Ron shrugged and followed him through the gate. The lawn gave Harry a strange sense of déjà vu, as though long-forgotten memories were struggling to the surface of his mind like fish approaching the shallows of a lake. He could almost see himself, a toddler with no scar on his forehead, learning to scamper across the lawn, chasing butterflies. He could imagine his father sitting on the front step while his mother encouraged him to keep taking his wobbly steps through the short grass.
They stopped at the front door. Harry grasped the knob and hesitated, though he could not say exactly what was holding him back. He wanted to see inside the house where he had lived, where his parents had died, but part of him knew that going through the door would make their deaths more real than anything he had yet experienced. Even seeing their grave, now only names etched on stone, had not made the violent ends of his parents as real as seeing where they had drawn their last breath.
“You want to leave?” Ron asked.
“No,” Harry said, turning the knob.
To his mild surprise, he found the door unlocked. As it swung back on silent hinges, sunlight fell on the sitting room, showing an assortment of old, moth-eaten furniture. A sofa, flanked by two chintz arm chairs, sat in the center of the room. Around the walls, lamps stood on tables, all coated with a thick layer of dust. Harry saw on one table a large picture frame rested on its back between two small lamps. He could not see the picture inside through the dust.
“You could use a good maid,” Ron said, his voice low. “Mum would break out in spattergroit at all this dust.”
Harry barely heard him. He picked up the picture frame and wiped the dust from the glass.
Staring up at him were his parents seated on a sofa, the very sofa that now sat a few feet away, its red fabric lost beneath a brown layer of dirt. In between them, waving his hands as though hoping to take flight, was Harry himself, his sparse locks of dark hair sticking out in all directions.
“What’s th-” Ron started, but was interrupted by a sound above them, as though someone was walking on the second floor.
Harry and Ron both pulled their wands out and Harry motioned for the archway that led from the sitting room. The reached the hall and saw straight ahead a kitchen, dishes still in the sink and flower stems, the petals long wilted to dust, in a vase on the windowsill. To their right, the hall continued on to three doors at the opposite end, but not before passing a set of stairs.
Another sound came from upstairs and this time it sounded like human speech. They could not make out the words, but it confirmed that the first sound had not been their imagination.
Harry turned back to Ron, the freckled face hovering just over his shoulder. Ron nodded and, together, they started up the stairs.
When they reached the middle of the steps, they could hear the voice more clearly. The speaker was talking in a hoarse whisper, but the words carried through the empty house.
” . . . thought that marketplace explosion was some terrorist group,” the voice said, chuckling. “Muggles are so stupid. They’ll believe anything their government tells them.”
Another voice answered, this one higher and sharper than the first. “Just shut up and keep looking.” Harry moved closer to the source of the voices, keeping his eyes focused on the landing. Only when he put his weight down on one step and it creaked loudly did he shift his eyes.
“Wha’ was that?” the sharp voice asked. Harry reached again into the mokeskin bag and pulled out his Invisibility Cloak. Working fast to beat the approaching footsteps, he threw the cloak over himself and Ron, the two of them crouching down to hide their feet.
A dark silhouette appeared at the top of the stairs, its features hidden by the lit wand tip that shone down the stairwell. The wand tip moved back and forth as its owner searched for the source of the sound. The figure took a step down toward Harry and Ron, then another. After another step down, the wand was only inches from Harry’s face beneath the cloak.
“What is it, Plough?” The sharp voice asked from above them.
The wand tip passed directly in front of Harry’s eyes, who refused to move unless contact was made. He gripped his own wand and prepared to take advantage of the confusion he knew would come in the moment after the man felt the cloak as he scanned the stairs.
“I guess it’s nothing,” Plough said, darkening his wand. He turned and went back up the stairs.
Harry heard Ron exhale behind him. “That was close,” he whispered.
Staying beneath the cloak, Harry and Ron moved up the step, testing each as they ascended for fear of alerting the men to their presence. When the reached the landing, they saw brilliant sunlight streaming in through the gaping hole in the roof and two men walking about as though searching for something.
“What are we looking for, anyway?” Plough asked. He was a wide, wild-looking man with greasy brown hair that he had combed over a vast patch of exposed scalp. He wore black robes, patched in several places, and a perpetual sneer that made him look rather mad.
“He just told us to look for anything that we might be able to use,” the other man said. This man was smaller, with steel gray hair and a matching, wire-thin moustache. His robes were clean and looked expensive. His wide eyes scanned the wreckage of the Potter home, moving piles of debris with his boot and clearing away the dust and leaves with his wand. “He said we might see some sign, but I’ll be damned if I know what he’s talking about. I think the whole affair is rubbish, but all the other Death Eaters have rallied to him. What are we supposed to do except what he wants?”
Harry felt Ron tense behind him and realized that he had done the same. Death Eaters. The idea of Voldemort’s supporters rummaging through the house where his parents died to save him made him furious. He wanted to hear more about their plans before revealing himself, but could not hold back the tide of anger that was swelling within him.
“Ready?” Harry whispered over his shoulder.
Ron nodded and Harry threw off the Invisibility Cloak.
“Stupefy!” Harry and Ron shouted at once. Two red jets of light shot from their wands and hit the two men squarely in the chest. Ron’s struck Plough and sent him back against the front wall where he collided and slid down, unconscious. Harry’s curse hit the gray-haired man and blasted him backward through the gaping hole in the building and out of sight.
“Go take care of him,” Harry said to Ron, pointing to where the gray-haired man had just disappeared. “Don’t let him wake up and escape.”
Ron, rather than bristling at being ordered around by his friend, nodded and darted back down the stairs. Harry pointed his wand at Plough.
“Incarcero!” Harry said. Ropes flew from the end of his wand and wrapped itself around the fallen Death Eater. Plough’s wand lay a few feet away from its master and Harry picked it up, tucking it inside his jacket. Then, he made his way to the missing wall and looked down. Ron had bound the gray-haired Death Eater, entangled in a holly bush, in similar fashion to Plough. He looked up at Harry and waved. “Damn lucky this bush was here or else he might not make to Azkaban.”
“Go to the Ministry and let them know what’s going on.”
Ron nodded again, turned, and was gone.
Harry, alone now with the two stunned Death Eaters, looked around for the first time since he had come upstairs. The room where he stood was actually two rooms, the dividing wall blasted away by the force of Voldemort’s failed curse. On the side where Plough lay against the wall, border depicting unicorns and dragons ran around what was left of the room, the primary-colored figures dancing upon the paper. A few pieces of furniture, broken and charred, lay scattered about the floor. Beneath one unidentifiable pile of wood in a corner, something caught his eye, reflecting the sunlight streaming in from the missing roof. He went to the corner and knelt down, reaching under the wood with a trembling hand, and felt something soft, though caked with dirt. He pulled and the object came free.
Looking in his hand, Harry saw a teddy bear. The rounded legs were caked with years of mud from being exposed to the elements, but the rest of the toy appeared only mildly dusty from being beneath the wood for so long. He studied the pile of wood and guessed, with its narrow wooden slats and two broken end pieces, that it had once been his crib.
He looked at the bear and the stinging sensation he had felt in the cemetery returned, though now he attributed it to the dust he had roiled in freeing the toy. With his wand, he cleaned off the dirt and grime to reveal the orange fur, the stitched mouth, and the glittering glass eyes. Looking around to see if anyone was watching, he tucked the bear into his mokeskin sack and stepped through the broken wall to the adjacent room.
This room, he knew, was his parents’ bedroom. A large bed lay toppled against the far wall, the frame leaning against a mattress that had decayed to no more than a few shreds of fabric and a number of rusted springs. A dresser lay in pieces in one corner and in the other a table lay on its top, looking with its wooden legs pointing upward like an overturned turtle. Everything was covered with plaster dust from the wall that had been destroyed by Voldemort’s curse, but the white coating that had been there had long ago turned to a dull, weathered gray. Here, too, piles of leaves formed drifts in the crevasses among the ruined furniture.
As Harry explored the room, he saw a few personal items scattered about the devastation. A broken picture frame, only two corners still intact, held a discolored photograph that had been mostly burned away by the curse. In the remaining corner, he could see his father’s head, looking pleasantly surprised by whatever he was seeing in the missing part of the picture.
Returning the broken frame with its damaged photograph to the dusty floor, Harry looked around for more evidence of his parents’ life in the house. He rummaged through the splintered remains of the dresser, found a dry and brittle piece of parchment, and removed it, careful not to catch it on anything as he pulled it free.
Harry recognized the handwriting on the parchment immediately. The thin, slanting script of Albus Dumbledore seemed to give Harry another sharp poke in the chest, reminding him again of someone he had lost. The ink was faded, but still legible in the bright light streaming in through the open roof.
Dearest James and Lily,
I write to congratulate you on your successful mission to retrieve the Golden Sepulcher before Lord Voldemort could acquire it. It has been safely hidden as we discussed and should pose no further threat to our side. That said, there are other artifacts that the Dark Lord may wish to acquire should he learn of them and we must maintain constant vigilance (to borrow Alastor’s phrase) to see that he does not succeed.
I hope that your accommodations suit you and that you are enjoying your life in hiding as much as possible. Having beaten Lord Voldemort to three powerful magical items, now, you have more than earned a peaceful repose. Please give my regards to young Harry and stay safe.
Harry read the letter again. A third time. Once again, he felt anger boiling up inside him. Why had no one ever spoken to him about any of this? He had heard in the prophecy that his parents had “thrice defied the Dark Lord,” but no one had ever explained how they had done so. To Harry, every question about his parents that he found an answer to only opened up more questions.
Absorbed in his own thoughts, Harry jumped at the sound of voices from downstairs. He cast a spell to protect the brittle parchment, folded the letter carefully, and tucked it inside his pocket.
Running footsteps came up the stairs and Ron emerged into the bright daylight. Behind him, three Aurors-Dawlish and two others Harry did not recognize-came up the stairs, their wands drawn.
“There’s the other one,” Ron said, pointing to Plough.
The Aurors worked quickly. After a brief exchange, Dawlish sent the other two back to the ministry, apparating with the unconscious Death Eaters in tow.
“Well done, Harry,” Dawlish said after the other two had left. “Although I wish you had left them to us. You could have been hurt.”
The patronizing tone in the Auror’s voice rankled Harry, but he said nothing. It was he, not Dawlish, who had defeated Voldemort and he felt qualified to disable two rogue Death Eaters.
“I’m sorry,” he lied. “I thought they might get away.”
Dawlish smirked at Harry. “We’ve known about these two for a while. It was only a matter of time before we tracked them down.”
Harry doubted this, but again said nothing. After another remonstration and a reluctant word of thanks, Dawlish, too, disapparated. Harry was glad to see him go and worried that he should have such negative feelings about someone who would soon, he hoped, be helping him become an Auror.
“You hear that?” Ron asked in mock surprise when they were alone again. “We could’ve been hurt.”
Harry laughed despite his lingering bitterness. He looked around, the room again as though to regain his bearings, then pulled the frail letter from his pocket. He gave the parchment to Ron, who read it twice before looking up from the slanting script.
“Well, that explains part of the prophecy, at least,” Ron said. “A little late, though.”
Harry agreed. Finding the letter after the fulfillment of the prophecy felt like finding an extra piece after the puzzle lay complete on the table.
“What do you think these magical artifacts are? The one’s your parents got to before You-Voldemort?” Ron asked. He, like the rest of the wizarding world, struggled with the name, but had begun to use it with greater confidence in the days since the Dark Lord’s fall.
Harry stepped over and picked up his Invisibility Cloak from the floor. “This might be one of them.”
How his father had acquired one of the Deathly Hallows, powerful items supposedly bestowed by Death to three brothers centuries ago, was another question about his parents that remained unanswered. He assumed the Cloak had been passed down through his family for generations, but he could not remember anyone actually telling him this.
“What about this Golden Sepulcher?” Ron asked.
“What?” Harry, lost in reflection, snapped back to the present.
“The Golden Sepulcher,” Ron repeated. “The artifact Dumbledore mentions in the letter. Sounds a bit spooky, doesn’t it?”
To Harry, it sounded like nothing. After chasing Horcruxes, Elder Wands, and Resurrection Stones, he wanted nothing to do with magical artifacts. He shrugged and looked at the watch Ron’s parents had given him the previous summer. “We should probably be getting back to the Burrow.”
Ron also checked the time and nodded. “Yeah, Mum will be wondering if we’ve been fighting Death Eaters or something.”
They both chuckled, their laughter muted by the oppressive silence and evidence of devastation around them.
“You go on,” Harry said. “I’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
Ron’s eyes narrowed in a look of skepticism, then he shrugged. “I’ll tell Mum and Ginny that you’re on the way.” “Thanks.”
Ron disapparated with a pop.
Alone, Harry looked around the ruined upstairs of his parents’ house. The sunlight, streaming in through the gaping hole in the wall, reflected on the dust motes stirred up by the unaccustomed foot traffic in the room. In the corners, though, the shadows still clung, holding their secrets against the encroaching light. Searching the floor, he tried to imagine the scene as it had been seventeen years before. Where his mother had stood. Where she had died. Where he had survived.
Harry waved his wand and two red roses appeared from nothing. Taking them in hand, he flinched as a thorn stung deep into his finger. He kneeled down where he guessed his mother had stood in her final moments and placed the roses on the matted floor. As he stood, a single drop of blood fell from his finger, landing at the place where the two stems crossed.
Imitating Ron’s movement, Harry turned on the spot and was gone.