|SIYE Time:22:03 on 18th August 2018|
A Sirius Challenge
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Story is Complete
Summary: The war is over. Harry is looking forward to living in a magical world without Voldemort. Before he can, however, Gringotts calls him in for a meeting...
Hitcount: Story Total: 3526; Chapter Total: 896
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Thank you to those who have checked out the story so far. Hopefully, this one keeps you interested. Only one more chapter after this one.
Arthur sipped the last of his tea as he pondered his current situation. He had approximately twelve minutes until he had to leave for work, and he wondered if he would be better off letting Molly unload what was bothering her now... or later.
It was quite interesting, really, how he knew she was upset. To a casual observer, his wife probably appeared as any typical witch would, casually cleaning up the wholesome breakfast she had prepared for the family she loved so much. But Arthur had been watching Molly Prewett for over thirty years. Her mannerisms were like a dance to him, and it was obvious when it was not being performed correctly. A slight heaviness in her footsteps. A moment’s indecision in choosing what she wanted to tackle next. A little extra force in her wand movements. He suppressed a frown as he began to speak.
“Molly? What’s on your mind, love?”
His wife smiled as she turned to face him. “Just supper,” she lied. “Do you have a preference on what I should make?”
Arthur checked the timer in his head. Ten minutes. She was so transparent sometimes. “All right then. We’ll talk when I get back. I just thought it would be better for you if you didn’t stew over it all day.”
“Stew. What a wonderful idea. A nice beef stew would definitely hit the spot tonight.”
Arthur ignored her forced cheeriness and gently placed his cup on its saucer as he stood from the table. “See you this evening,” he said as he placed a kiss on her head.
Just as he was about to leave the kitchen Molly said to his back, “A car, Arthur? Isn’t it a bit much?”
This time he looked at his watch. Less than nine minutes. “I thought we’d settled this,” he said as he turned to face his wife. “Harry just needs to get some of this out of his system. I know we can get by without one, but if this is what he wants to do for his family to move on, then we let him.”
“But what will people think?”
“Frankly, I don’t think Harry cares. And if he doesn’t, I won’t raise a fuss either.”
Molly exhaled loudly as she finish cleaning the table. “You’re right, I suppose... I just–”
“You know what he really wants to give us, don’t you?”
Molly jerked her head up. “What–oh, what is that foolish child going to buy now? What did he say to you?”
Arthur set his briefcase on the floor and closed the distance to his wife. He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. “He wants to give us Fred back. But he can’t.”
Molly immersed herself in her husband’s arms and stifled a sob against his shoulder. He stroked her back gently and set his chin on top of her head as he wondered when his heart would not feel so heavy…
Eventually, she broke away from him and raised on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Let me know if you’ll be late. I’ll be sure to keep the stew hot.”
Arthur returned the kiss and nodded as he made his way to the fireplace. He peeked at his watch as he grabbed a pinch of Floo Powder.
He was late.
“Harry... I can’t accept this.”
Harry blinked in confusion at the tall redhead in front of him.
“Why not? I got one for each of us–even Charlie.”
“Well… I… That is, I–”
“I think what Percy is trying to say,” interrupted Ginny as she placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “is that he doesn’t he feel he deserves one.”
The prodigal Weasley looked at his sister with a look akin to gratefulness in his eyes, and then returned his attention to her boyfriend.
Harry scowled. “Rubbish. The past is just that… the past. This is all about moving forward–together, as a family is supposed to. And with all the help you’ve given me in getting this charity started, you deserve to feel like you belong.”
Percy appeared torn between Harry’s kind words and his conscience. Internally, his mind was racing to form something else to say.
Unfortunately, Harry took his silence as acquiescence. “Good. Now that that’s settled, I need to talk to Reg about the letter he drafted for the Wizengamot.”
And with that, he took Ginny’s hand and began making his way to Reginald Cattermole’s desk, giving Percy a smile as they passed by him. Ginny looked back at her brother with an apologetic look on her face as they turned a corner and out of sight.
Percy looked down at his hand and stared. And then he stared some more. Mud brown. Blinding orange. Dark green. Deep scarlet. It was quite possibly the ugliest shirt he had ever seen. Harry had made several questionable purchases over the past couple of weeks, but these staff uniforms were really something else.
He sighed as he turned and entered his office. He fervently hoped it wouldn’t fit. The last thing he needed was to distract the goblins during his meeting with them later that day.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her boyfriend sitting by the pond, leaning against his favorite tree. She had known immediately that something was amiss when she entered the kitchen and discovered that Ron had risen before her. And then she learned from Mrs. Weasley that he was nowhere within the Burrow and had eaten his breakfast hours before. To say that this was unusual would have been an understatement.
“Ron?” She tried to keep the worry out of her voice, but she heard a slight tremor in her query. She hoped he hadn’t heard it.
He looked at her over his shoulder and smiled, but did not speak. She sat down beside him and lay her head on his shoulder, wondering what had occupied his gaze before she had arrived.
“You sound like Harry–and I didn’t ask.”
“You were going to.”
She didn’t deny his claim and merely wrapped her arms around his waist in response. If there was one activity in which Hermione Granger excelled, it was learning. And for this situation she had learned that sometimes silence was better than asking questions, an impulse that required some effort to suppress. She was aided by the fact that she had not slept well and did not have the energy to pry at the moment. Ron broke the silence a few minutes later, much to her relief.
“How did you sleep?”
“Poorly…” she responded, “What about you? I have to confess I was surprised to find that you were up and about before me.”
Ron exhaled slowly as he gathered his thoughts. “You’ve noticed, haven’t you?”
Hermione paused and then nodded. Harry’s recent spending habits. It had all seemed quite harmless at first. A new apron for Mrs. Weasley… a new hat for Mr. Weasley… some Floo powder for the Burrow. But then it slowly began to escalate… a new broom for Ron… a new sign for her parents’ re-opened dentistry… new shutters for Shell Cottage… And more recently… well, she still could not believe that he had convinced Arthur and Molly to accept a new automobile. What had started as simple generosity was starting to take on a somewhat distasteful air.
“What do you think?” she said hesitantly.
Ron started to speak, but then shook his head. “You first. There’s a reason I haven’t said anything until now.”
Hermione looked at him, but he continued before she could say anything. “It’d be like fourth year all over again. ‘Why does Ron have to be so jealous of Harry?’”
“That’s unfair. So much has changed since then. You’ve changed since then. I mean, you’re not are you?”
“Jealous? Of course, I am–but not like before. This is different. I’m worried too. Something’s off, and I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Always the tone of surprise,” she countered. Ron smiled at the phrase that had become a running joke between them. But he turned serious again when she said, “Something is going on. The question is: what are we going to do about it?”
Ron shook his head slowly as he replied, “I’m not sure there’s anything we can do about it. I mean, it’s his money isn’t it? And it’s not like he’s just throwing it away. Think about what he’s done with the new charity.” Hermione nodded as he continued, “I’d be a right tosser if I said anything against it.”
“I see what you mean. It’s just that…”
“Go on…” Ron said when she did not continue right away.
“Even how he runs the foundation seems ‘off,’ as you put it. He’s renting the office space, like he’s not expecting it to last. Even the furnishings within the office are rented.”
“I’m a little more worried about the staff he’s hired.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s helping those who fled the country to re-establish themselves.”
“That’s not the problem. Does he really need so many people? The last time I was there people were fighting over the opportunity to fill out forms because they were all so bored. There were quills and ink everywhere.”
“Surely it wasn’t that bad.”
“It was worse.”
“They were forms that Percy made.”
Hermione smacked him lightly and said, “I’m sure it’s temporary. It’s only a matter of time before many of them reclaim their old posts in the Ministry.”
“But that brings up another set of problems, doesn’t it? Two weeks from now he may have no one there and the foundation could fall apart just as it’s barely begun!”
“Maybe we should just talk to Harry about this.”
Ron shook his head. “I told you I’m not ready to–”
“Not his spending, the foundation. Maybe we can get a better sense of where he’s going with all this and why he seems so ready to open his money pouch these days.”
Ron pondered the suggestion and then nodded his head in agreement. “I just don’t want to come off as…”
“I know,” she said as she gave him a squeeze. “If it helps, I don’t see you that way.”
Ron turned and kissed her forehead. “It helps.”
Bill frowned as he stared into his wife’s mirror. He shook his head, wondering what exactly Harry had been thinking. But, there was nothing for it… this was quite possibly the ugliest shirt he had ever seen.
Bill turned and looked at what was supposed to be his breakfast adorning the floor of their bedroom. His stomach grumbled as he stared forlornly at his bacon, tomatoes, eggs and toast, and wondered if any of it was salvageable. Eventually, he looked up and noted his wife’s horrified expression.
“Take eet off! Take eet off this instant!”
Bill smirked and slowly began peeling off the offending garment, but Fleur ignored his laughable attempt at seduction. “That’s ees not what I meant, and you know eet. No husband of mine will be seen wearing zat… zat… thing in public!”
Bill contemplated his wife as he pulled the shirt back down over his torso. “Everyone else will be wearing one.”
“And eef everyone else jumped into a patch of Devil’s Snare would you do eet too?”
Bill barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “What I meant is that everyone at the foundation wears one of these shirts. It’s like a uniform. I thought it would help me get into the spirit of things since I’m going down there today to help out a bit.”
“And ees eet working? Are you feeling more charitable?”
Bill looked back into the mirror. “Actually, it makes me feel… nauseous.”
Fleur giggled as she stepped over the lost breakfast and behind her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist. She smiled at his reflection and said, “Eet ees good to know that you have acquired at least some of my fashion sense.”
Bill placed his hands on top of his wife’s hands and turned to give her a kiss on the cheek. “If you say so.”
“I too think this foundation ees a good idea… and I want to support ‘arry… but…”
The eldest Weasley sibling took pity on his wife and did not wait for her to finish her sentence out loud. “I’ll wear my dragon-hide jacket over it. And, I’ll take it off as soon as I get home.”
Fleur sighed. “I guess zat will have to do.”
As Hermione and Ron walked through the front door of the Lily Foundation, they were immediately struck by the unusual level of noise from the foundation’s staff. There wasn’t any. The two heroes looked at each other, sharing the same thought: perhaps Ron’s prediction had come to pass earlier than they expected. Although the war had ended nearly three months ago, the young couple drew their wands as they slowly explored the office, looking for clues to its current state of abandonment. However, all they found were short stacks of parchment and mostly full inkwells on the scattered desks.
“Percy has his own office?” Hermione said aloud as they approached a door on the far side of the room.
“Apparently,” Ron said as he turned the knob. “It’s locked.”
“Are you a wizard or not?”
Ron pulled out his wand and pointed it at the door. “Alohomora!”
Hermione tried the knob again, but the door did not open.
“That’s odd. I know I did the spell correctly.”
“Of course you did… they must have used something special on it. I wonder what they’re hiding…” Hermione was still staring at the door when Ron decided they were better off exploring the rest of the office.
Just as they about to turn and go home, they heard a noise from one of the back offices whose door was also locked. Unlike the other offices, there was no sign to indicate who used it. They drew their wands and cautiously made their way through the rows of desks until they were standing outside the office from which the sound had come.
As they got closer to the unmarked office the sounds were soon distinguishable as that of two voices that would occasionally break out into fits of giggling. Hermione was about to open the door when Ron grabbed her wrist.
“What if it’s Harry and Ginny?” he whispered.
“So? What if it is?” she whispered back.
“I don’t want to go in there if they’re… you know.”
“First of all, why do you even think that this is Harry’s office? There’s no sign, unlike the others,” said Hermione as she gestured with her arm at the rest of the floor.
“Yeah, but his name isn’t on any of those either,” countered Ron. “So, this office has to be his, right?”
Hermione hesitated. While she was not used to Ron being logical, she could not find any fault in his thinking either. Harry was in charge, so it made sense that he would have an office somewhere.
“All right, say it is Harry’s office, why would you assume that they’re–”
Hermione was interrupted by more giggling, obviously from a female voice, and more… flirty than before. It was followed by more sounds, which was either two people taking humming lessons or two people snogging.
Ron soon felt himself being led out of the building by his red-faced girlfriend. “What about–”
“We’ll find a better time to chat with Harry. Just… not now.” Ron exhaled in relief and followed her home.
Ten minutes later Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott left the building. Neville’s shirt was inside out.
The wizard looked down his nose at his companion. It was difficult to hide his discomfort at dealing with these creatures, but he accomplished it nonetheless. He had a reputation to uphold, after all.
“I don’t have all day,” he began. “What have you brought me?”
Jollnar reached into the inner pocket of his coat and retrieved a folded piece of parchment. He paused before placing it in the wizard’s outstretched hand. “My fee?”
The wizard withdrew his hand, barely concealing his ire. “Of course,” he replied with an obviously false smile. “It must have slipped my mind.” He reached into his cloak causing the goblin to shrink back in fear. When the hand returned to view holding a small purse the goblin relaxed.
The exchange was completed and Jollnar hurried down a side alley, avoiding the main thoroughfare. The wizard looked around until he was sure that no one was paying him any attention, and then he strode down Diagon Alley, eager to get home and read the information he had just acquired.
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