With the help of the house elves, Harry and Ginny were able to procure caps. Ginny plaited her hair and wound it up under her cap. Harry wore his pulled down low, in an attempt to cover at least part of his face and his scar. The clothes they wore drew little attention to themselves, yet their arrival at the Leaky Cauldron was noted, and their progress down the Alley was closely followed.
Upon entering Director Ragnok’s office, Harry and Ginny were surprised at the sight of a tall red-headed man seated in front of the Director’s desk. Ginny let out a shriek, “Bill,” and launched herself at the man, who caught her up in a giant hug and swung her around, kissing her on the forehead.
Harry held himself back, not certain of his welcome. He surmised that this was Ginny’s oldest brother, Bill, who worked for Gringotts. Since, thus far, his reception by her family members had not been terribly reassuring, he wanted room to manoeuvre should hexes started flying.
“Hey there, Firefly!” Bill greeted his sister enthusiastically. “I’ve missed you.” He looked at Ragnok and received a slight nod in return. “What’s this I hear about you being soul bonded to the Boy-Who-Lived?”
Upon hearing this pronouncement, Harry wished very hard that he was a turtle, so he could disappear into his shell. He despised the moniker the Wizarding world had ascribed to him and equally despised the attention the death of his parents brought him.
Despite his unease, however, he watched with interest the interaction between brother and sister, and imagined what it would have been like if his parents hadn’t died. Perhaps he, too, would have had a sister or a brother, or perhaps even both.
Bill walked over to Harry and extended his hand. “I’m Bill Weasley, Ginny’s oldest brother. You must be Harry.”
Harry tentatively shook his hand and nodded his head.
“I hope you don’t mind, but Director Ragnok recalled me from my dig in Egypt. He thought it might be more useful to have me around to help out here with this…delicate situation.”
Harry winced and glanced at Ginny, trying to gauge her reaction. He wasn’t certain how he felt about her brother knowing about their connection, and he was more than a little disconcerted that Director Ragnok had been discussing him without his permission.
Bill noted the uncertainty in Harry’s expression, despite his usual blank demeanour. “Harry, I think it is imperative for you to know that I am bound by Gringotts’ oaths of confidentiality. Anything we discuss will stay between us, unless you expressly give permission for me to share information with others.” He looked at the two youngsters, noticing how tense they were. He waved them into the remaining chairs. “Sit down, relax, I won’t bite.”
Ginny snorted, and Harry looked slightly less uncomfortable, however, he still perched on the edge of his seat, ready to move quickly if he needed to. Despite the sincerity of Bill’s words, he still wasn’t certain what to make of him.
“Normally, Director Ragnok would not have shared the details of your situation with me, however, due to the fact that you are my sister,” Bill looked at Ginny, “and there was a potential ‘situation’, he thought it prudent to bring me in and apprise me of the basics.”
Bill paused a moment, allowing his words to sink in. “Now, why don’t the two of you tell me what has been happening. If you’ll allow me, I am here to help you, however, in order to be of the most help, I will need to know as many details as you are willing to share. Remember,” he reassured them, “everything you tell me will be held in confidence. You are clients of Gringotts, and I am their employee.”
Harry looked over at Ginny and received a slight nod in return. He scowled at her. Since Bill was her brother, he thought it would be appropriate for her to do the explaining, but apparently she would much rather have him do the talking. It just wasn’t fair.
“Erm, what exactly do you want to know?” ventured Harry.
“Anything you can tell me. What do you remember about what happened?”
Harry launched into a detailed account of all that he recalled of the events of the past few days. Bill periodically stopped him and asked for clarification, and Ginny interrupted him every once in a while to add a detail or two, but essentially it was Harry who recounted their story.
When Harry was finished, Bill sat back in his chair and regarded the two children thoughtfully. This was a bigger mess than he had originally anticipated. He had assumed that Harry and Ginny would simply live at the Burrow and attend Hogwarts. It was now clear that those options were no longer viable.
Bill drew in a deep breath and sighed. He tended to avoid conflict, unless it occurred over shots of Fire Whiskey. The solution he was about to propose was guaranteed to create an enormous amount of discord and lead to a great deal of ill-feeling, but he could not envision any other recourse.
“Well, it certainly sounds like the two of you have managed to make a right mess of things.” He held his hands up to stave off their protests. “Now, I’m not saying that you’ve done anything wrong, however,” he looked chidingly at Harry, “you might have acted in a more diplomatic way.”
Harry cringed at the implied criticism. He had no doubt that Bill was correct, however, hearing that he’d mucked things up was hard to swallow. “I suppose you’re right,” he grudgingly admitted, “but I didn’t know what else to do at the time, or even whom to turn to for advice.” His tone grew a bit defensive. “I am only eleven, and it’s not like I’ve anyone who’s served as a role model in my life.”
“Easy there, Harry. What’s done is done. Now then, we need to decide how we are going to proceed from here on out. I have an idea,” Bill glanced at his sister out of the corner of his eye, “but it may cause a bit of trouble for everyone here - oh, who am I fooling - it very well may lead to disaster.”
Ginny focused all her attention on her brother. He had been her hero ever since she was six, when he had shown her how to unlock the broom shed and supervised her first forays on a broom. She had the distinct impression that whatever he was about to suggest would precipitate momentous changes in her life.
“What I am proposing is that I take up residence with you at Gryffin’s Den and act as your mentor - your advisor. I would be available if you needed someone to talk to, I would be someone who could provide another opinion should it be required, in essence - a friend in time of need.” He fell silent, having run out of suitable words to describe the vision he was attempting to convey, waiting to see how they would react to his offer.
Ginny stared at her brother in a state of complete and total shock. She thought his idea was brilliant, really, but she knew her mum would go absolutely spare. What Bill was suggesting could potentially tear their family apart. Not that it hasn’t already been torn apart, she reminded herself glumly. Her mum’s inability to accept her bond with Harry was fast eroding their mother-daughter relationship. But this…this…this would, Merlin, this would truly destroy the integrity of the family her parents had worked so hard to build.
Could she accept her brother’s generous offer, knowing the repercussions? Could she not? She was more than aware that they needed guidance. There was too much of the world and it’s complexities that they were not cognisant of, too many pitfalls that awaited them.
As simple as it seemed, they didn’t even know whom to trust. Dumbledore’s machinations had effectively cut them off from most of the adults in her sphere of existence. How could they be certain where people’s allegiances really lay? It was fairly obvious that very few had Harry’s good in mind, else he wouldn’t have been left to suffer at the mercy of his relatives.
Harry was not quite certain what to think. Could he trust someone he had just met? All he had were the stories Ginny had shared with him about growing up with Bill, and tales of Bill’s experiences in Egypt. He eyed the tall man warily and weighed his options, which were discouragingly few.
If he didn’t take Bill up on his offer, Ginny and he would have to go it alone. He didn’t know anyone, really, in the magical world; for that matter, he didn’t know anyone in the non-magical world, either. The only other friend he had was Hagrid, and, while Hagrid seemed quite nice, and he had rescued him from his relatives, he wasn’t exactly someone Harry could turn to in a pinch. Additionally, Hagrid was a firm supporter of Dumbledore and believed the Headmaster could do no wrong, which was of no help to him.
Harry looked at his bond-mate, eyes practically boring through her head. He desperately wished he could see into her mind, ascertain in which direction her inclinations lay. Could he trust her brother with his life?
He gasped quietly with the sudden realisation it was no longer only his life he was responsible for - he now had Ginny to think of, too. And the house elves. What a novel concept. Harry exhaled slowly, as he mulled over this new reality. The more he thought about it, the more accustomed to the idea he became - to tell the truth, he actually liked the idea. It meant that he was no longer alone. He decided that that was a good thing.
Ginny could feel Harry’s gaze on her, but she didn’t look up from her contemplation of the floor. She didn’t want him to influence her. She needed to reach a decision on her own. Yes, they were bond-mates, but this was her brother. The decision she, they, would make would determine the direction her life would take over the course of the next few years, and she recognised that she must take a stance rather than simply let others decide for her.
All her life, her parents had told her what to do, what to think, and whom to follow. A chance encounter had led to her being bonded with a boy she had previously only read about. Now she was an adult - well, really only a child, but still, an adult, and she needed to begin to act that way. So much had changed over the past few days, she could scarcely breathe.
Everything felt so completely overwhelming. She felt like escaping back to the Burrow, hiding in the comfort of her room, curling up in ball on her bed, and weeping. She longed to feel her mother’s arms around her, stroking her hair, and have her murmur soothing words of comfort in her ear, telling her that everything would be fine.
But as much as she wished for that to happen, she didn’t want to go back. She couldn’t imagine being parted from Harry. He had become an integral part of her world, of her very essence. She needed him, and it was clear that he needed her. Even though they had known each other only a short while, she felt like she was better acquainted with him than her own family. They understood each other. It was at once wonderful and terrifying.
Ginny glanced up at her brother and saw the sincerity and love in his eyes. He wasn’t judging her. He didn’t want to separate her from Harry. He was offering to come live with them, to give up his aspirations and re-work his life so he could aid her. He was aware of the potential repercussions of his offer, nonetheless he had made it.
Rising from her seat, Ginny crossed the room and sat down in her brother’s lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and murmured, “Are you certain about this? Mum will probably never speak to you again. Professor Dumbledore won’t be pleased with you. The entire Ministry may be against you.”
Bill put his finger against her lips to stop the rush of her words. “Hush now. Director Ragnok and I have discussed this from all angles at great length. I know what I am offering. I know what may happen. But I just can’t leave you to flounder on your own, Firefly.” He winked at her. “You might crash into a goalpost if I did.”
Ginny punched him lightly on the arm. “Well, if you’re certain, and Harry agrees, then I’d love to have you.” She paused, gnawing her lip, then blurted out. “You’re not going to go round the bend when you find out that Harry and I are sharing a room, are you?” she whispered against his ear.
Bill pulled back and looked at her in amazement, then looked grimly at Harry. A smile broke over his countenance. “Of course not, little one. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. You are bond-mates, after all.” He smirked at the two of them.
Harry sat up straighter. If he had wanted proof that Bill was on their side, his response to Ginny’s question had just given it to him. He walked over to where Bill was sitting and offered his hand. “Thank you. Thank you for your offer. I don’t quite understand all the implications, but it seems like it will cause quite an uproar.”
Bill took his hand and shook it, then pulled the young boy into a quick hug. He could feel Harry tensing as he did so, and resolved to look into the unusualness of his reaction. He was eager to learn more about the boy who had recently become his newest brother.
“Don’t fret yourself, Harry. I’m a big boy, and I can handle whatever they throw my way, even Mum.” He grimaced. “Welcome to the family, Harry.”
When they finally emerged from Director Ragnok’s office, Bill was shaking his head in bemusement. For someone who had only just discovered the magical world, Harry had come an unbelievably long way. That he was impressed with what Harry had accomplished in such a short amount of time was an understatement.
During the meeting, they had discussed Harry’s concerns that his decisions were causing problems between the Ministry and the Goblins, and Bill was amazed at Harry’s protective attitude towards beings most Wizards regarded with contempt. His respect for the boy grew even more.
Several letters were dispatched to the Ministry, absolving the Goblins from any wrong-doing with regard to Harry’s situation. Bill, as Harry’s representative, outlined the issues for the Minister in a way that could not be dismissed. He made it clear that Harry and Ginny were soul-bonded, that they were adults in the eyes of the law, and as such were entitled to make their own decisions.
Bill subtly hinted that any interference on the part of uninvited parties would not be tolerated, and that action would be taken should the situation necessitate it. Harry (and Ginny) were to be treated with all due respect.
Given the tension that existed between Dumbledore and the Minister, Bill was certain that Cornelius Fudge would be quite gleeful at this marvellous opportunity to thwart the man he viewed as his nemesis. Bill was a bit concerned that his father’s position in the Ministry might be jeopardised, however, he decided not worry about it unless his fears came to fruition.
The four of them had also reviewed Harry’s list of potential schools, discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Director Ragnok was able to offer valuable insight into the workings of some of the schools, which proved to be extremely helpful.
During the course of the discussion, Bill was amazed at how quickly Harry’s mind worked and at the amount of insight he demonstrated, as he explained the reasoning behind his selections. He concurred with the conclusions Harry and Ginny had reached, and urged them not to make a final decision until they heard back from the other three schools.
Bill apparated the three of them to the outer boundaries of the Burrow’s wards and accompanied them up the walk towards the back door.
Harry and Ginny, approached the house, fingers interlaced, uncertain of their reception. It was quite empowering to know that, this time, they were not alone, but that knowledge didn’t completely quell their doubts and fears.
Harry wished that this visit could be postponed, but he knew that Bill was right when he had urged the two of them to sit down and discuss the situation with Ginny’s parents before the end of the day.
He turned his head and quipped to Bill. “It’s a good thing we brought you along, else I’m not certain I’d be re-emerging in one piece.”
Bill laughed. “One piece perhaps, but you’d have lost your hearing, at least temporarily.”
Harry winced. “I’ve already had a taste of that.”
Bill looked at his sister inquiringly. “Mum sent you a howler, yeah?”
Ginny laughed. “It was dreadful. Poor Harry was set to hide under the table. He thought Mum had somehow invaded his home.”
Harry growled. “It wasn’t that amusing,” he maintained, poking Ginny in the side.
All too soon, they were standing before the door. The three of them looked at each, and finally Bill huffed, reached over their heads, and rapped on the door. It felt a bit peculiar to knock on the door of his own home, but he wanted to give his parents warning of their arrival.
Fortunately for the three, it was Arthur who opened the door. His eyes widened in surprise, but he beckoned them to enter. “Why don’t you have a seat in the sitting room. I’ll fetch Molly.” He looked pointedly at his eldest son. “You might want to ward the room.”
Bill led them into the sitting room and began waving his wand around in a series of complicated patterns.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked with interest.
Bill flushed. “I’m setting up silencing charms and cushioning charms. I’m also erecting some wards so that no one other than my parents can enter. The twins can be awfully nosy and have probably devised a way to listen in on conversations” He grinned. “And if they haven’t, they will have before they finish Hogwarts. I’d stake a hundred galleons on that.”
Ginny smothered a laugh. She wouldn’t be surprised in the least, if Bill’s prediction came true. The twins were geniuses, evil geniuses, to be sure, but geniuses nonetheless.