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Chapter 4, Prophecy?

Saturday, August 28, Diagon Alley

As an employee, Fleur had the use of a Gringotts portkey, so they arrived in the Alley just outside the towering, snowy white bank. But even with this short exposure they could feel the electricity in the air – the crowds were buzzing with the rumors about the arrests the day before. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the announcement from the Ministry of Magic that was to occur in a few hours, and scheduled to be carried live over the Wizarding Wireless Network.

No one paid much attention to Fleur and her three blonde companions as they entered the bank. The French witch broke away and headed toward her own office as the others got in the short queue for one of the tellers. It being early Saturday morning, there were not many customers present.

When they reached the goblin teller, Tonks quickly flashed her Auror badge and requested confidentiality. The bored goblin glanced at it, then pressed a button under the counter and nodded at them to proceed – a localized silencing charm would ensure that they wouldn’t be overheard. At this point Harry identified himself and showed his vault key.

Given his disguise, Harry wasn’t surprise at the suspicious look that the teller shot him. But since he had the key, and was accompanied by an Auror, the goblin let it pass, and called for Griphook to take the party down to the vault.

“Hi, Griphook,” Harry greeted the new goblin. This was met with a startled expression indicating that the goblin was clearly not expecting such a familiar form of address. Assuming that his disguise prevented him being recognized, Harry continued. “I’m Harry Potter. We met four years ago when I first came to Gringotts.”

Griphook shot him another odd look and shrugged. “Welcome back to Gringotts, Mr. Potter.” On his right, Tonks also wore a look of amazement. Customers at the wizarding bank simply did not engage in idle conversation with the goblins.

As they exited one of the doors leading out of the hall, Harry turned to Hermione. “Do you like roller coasters?”

Now it was Hermione’s turn to be puzzled at Harry’s words. “No, not really.”

Harry grinned and gave her hand a squeeze. “Better hang on tight then.”

Several minutes later Hermione was quite pale as Harry helped her out of the cart, keeping a good grip on her arm as her legs wobbled a bit. “Don’t worry, Hagrid was even worse,” Harry whispered to cheer her up. And I don’t think it’s quite as bad on the way back up.”

Hermione struggled to regain her composure, not helped by the thought of having to endure that ride again. She shot Harry a stern look and declared, “Fine. On the way back I am going to sit on your lap, I am going to shut my eyes, you are going to wrap your arms around me and hold me as tightly as you can, and you are going to be whispering ‘I love you’ into my ear all the way up. Got it?” Harry grinned and nodded, then led her over to the small door in the wall that was to his vault, which Griphook had already unlocked.

Hermione’s jaw dropped at the sight of the heaping piles of gold, silver, and bronze. “Harry, there must be thousands of Galleons in here!” She now realized why Fleur had given them special goblin made bags to carry it all in.

“27,419 Galleons, 13,654 Sickles, and 2,873 Knuts,” Griphook informed them. “How much do you wish to withdraw?”

“All of it,” Harry answered, looking down doubtfully at the small bag in his hand. It didn’t take him long, though, to discover the usefulness of the bottomless, weightless goblin money container. In less than ten minutes he, Hermione, and Tonks had emptied the vault of all its coins. Seeing this, Griphook asked if he wished to close this vault, and Harry agreed.

Tonks looked around at the empty compartment with a frown of puzzlement. “Does Harry have another vault?” she asked, turning to their goblin guide. But Griphook was suddenly unable to meet Harry’s eyes.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he declared. “Why should he have more than one vault?”

“Most of the old families have a lot of other things in their vaults – jewels, antiques, artifacts, magical items, old books – that sort of stuff,” she explained to the two teens. “There’s nothing in here but coins. There must be another one, the Potter family vault.”

“I am not authorized to release any information on the contents of any of our other vaults,” Griphook stated firmly.

Tonks glared at him for his less than helpful attitude, then gave up and shrugged. “Sirius would know,” she decided. “Maybe you can’t access it until you’re of age.”

 

Hermione definitely had a better time of it on the ride back to the surface, and was in a much better mood when they re-entered the Gringotts main hall. There Tonks led them to the bank’s floo connection, explaining how to use the Auror access point to the Ministry of Magic. She went through first to check things out, then returned to announce that the way was clear. Most of the Aurors were already on duty by now. She disappeared again and the two teens took a handful each of floo powder.

“Ministry Auror Entrance!” Hermione shouted as she vanished into the green flames.

“Ministry Auror Entrance!” Harry repeated as he followed behind her. He stumbled to his knees briefly before jumping back up to his feet while Tonks steadied Hermione, and took a look around.

They were in a nondescript, tucked out of the way corner at one end of a long multi-story atrium. Along each side of the hall a row of fireplaces provided floo access for the general public. In the center stood a fountain containing five golden statues in the middle of a circular pool. Opposite their current location a set of golden gates led to a smaller hall. Most of the people passing beyond this point appeared to be Ministry employees heading toward a bank of lifts.

“This is where we split up,” Tonks informed Harry and Hermione. “Harry, get out your invisibility cloak and be ready to put it on when I tell you. Hermione, just stay here, blend in with the crowd, and listen to the Minister’s announcement. It should be pretty entertaining. You might want to pay close attention to the crowd’s reaction.”

“I want to come along with you,” Hermione protested. “We can both fit under Harry’s cloak; we’ve done it before.” Tonks shook her head.

“Too risky. You’re much more likely to bump into something or someone that way,” she pointed out. “The important thing is to get in and get out as quickly as we can.”

Hermione nodded with disappointed resignation and backed away. Tonks pulled Harry through the stream of witches and wizards toward the gate, flashed her Auror badge to the security guard on duty, and they quickly disappeared from view. Hermione then made her way to the center of the atrium, found a seat at the edge of the fountain, and paused to examine the five large statues shooting water into the air.

She scowled at the blatant implications in the positioning of the statues – the noble wizard standing proudly in the center, as though the wizarding world revolved around him. The beautiful witch, at his side but a step lower, clearly not his equal, a combination of helpmate and eye-candy. And in obviously subservient roles, a centaur, a goblin, and a house elf, awaiting their master’s instructions. By the time she regained control of her rage and indignation, running through in her mind an assortment of hexes she’d like to lay on whoever commissioned and designed this monstrosity, she realized that the Atrium had filled and the Minister was about to begin her address to the wizarding public.

-ooo-

Harry and Tonks made their way through the gates, working against the flow of wizards and witches coming up to the Atrium for the big announcement. Once they reached the lifts, they had to wait for one to empty out, but once they were in, the two of them had it all to themselves, as they were the only ones in the building going away from the Atrium instead of toward it. When the doors opened on level nine, however, only one occupant emerged, by all appearances the Unspeakable named Bode.

“I just saw Bode going the other way into the Atrium,” Tonks whispered to the boy beside her under the invisibility cloak. “So we should be okay. This way, through the black door.” The door opened automatically and they found themselves in a large circular room with a dozen identical doors. To Harry’s surprise, the wall began to rotate. When it stopped he wondered how they were going to figure out which door to use.

“Show me the Time Room,” Tonks called out. One of the doors opened and she strode towards it. “Took me quite a few tries to work that out,” she confided in a low voice to the empty space at her side.

She hurried them through the Time Room, and Harry didn’t get much chance to look at the amazing variety of time pieces, all ticking away. He thought he saw a cabinet full of hourglasses, and briefly wondered if this was where Hermione’s time turner had come from.

At the end of a long aisle was yet another door. Tonks pushed through that one as well and stopped just inside the next chamber. It was much larger than any of the others they’d come through, high ceilinged and lined with rows and rows of shelves, each one filled with small dusty glass spheres.

“We’re here,” Tonks informed him quietly. “The Hall of Prophecy.”

-ooo-

Minister Bones stepped up to the podium, and in a magically amplified voice, calmly stated that she had several announcements to make and asked everyone to hold their questions until she’d finished.

“First, I wish to inform you that Delores Umbridge, former Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, has been arrested for attempted murder of Harry Potter.” The outcry from the throng packing the Atrium was explosive, and it was half a minute before the Minister was able to continue. “Madame Umbridge directed two dementors to attack Mr. Potter near his home. We are fortunate that he escaped injury by defending himself with the use of a Patronus charm.” This time the murmuring from the crowd, while not as loud, was equally excited at such a display of magical prowess by the young teen. “She has admitted her guilt, and her sentence will be determined at a special session of the Wizengamot scheduled for this afternoon.”

“Second, on a related note,” Bones continued, “all charges against Mr. Potter in connection with this attack, for performing underaged magic, have of course been dropped, with the Ministry’s full apologies.” The murmuring continued, but took on a tone indicating general agreement with the outcome, mixed in with some grumbling about the lack of intelligence displayed by the idiots in charge.

“Third,” Bones announced, taking up a new parchment. “Based on new evidence, including pensieve memories and Veritaserum testimony, Sirius Black has been cleared of all charges relating to the attack on James and Lily Potter on October 31, 1981, as well as the deaths of Peter Pettrigrew and twelve muggles the following day. We can confirm the recent report in the Daily Prophet – Pettigrew was not killed. He was in fact the one responsible for the explosion resulting in the muggle deaths, as well as those of the Potters. Pettigrew is still alive, and is himself a Death Eater. He is now at the top of the Ministry’s Most Wanted list.”

She once again had to pause to let the angry muttering die down before concluding. “I will be recommending to the Wizengamot this afternoon that compensation be offered to Mr. Black in the amount of five thousand Galleons per year of his incarceration. Mr. Black will be available to reporters for questions at the conclusion of these announcements.”

-ooo-

“The rows are numbered, see?” Tonks whispered as she and Harry walked into the dimly lit room. “Your prophecy is in Row 97.” Harry peered at the number beneath the glowing candle at the end of one of the rows and nodded. He began counting as they worked their way up toward the higher numbers.

“Down this way,” Tonks gestured when they reached number 97. A short way down the row she stopped. “Up there,” she pointed. “See? It’s got your name on it. That means only you can touch it. Well, you or You-Know-Who.”

Harry stretched his hand out from under the invisibility cloak, and reaching up, closed his fingers around the dusty globe. He was surprised that it felt warm. He slowly lifted it off the shelf and brought it down to eye level, not certain how fragile it was. Just as Tonks had said a week ago, it had a row of initials, followed by the words ‘Dark Lord’, his name, and a question mark.

“Okay, got it,” he reported as he disappeared under the cloak once more.

“Keep it hidden until we get out of here,” Tonks instructed. “You can listen to it when you get back to France. We need to get back upstairs before the Minister’s speech ends.”

-ooo-

“And now my final announcement this morning,” Bones concluded. “As most of you have read, at the conclusion of the Tri-Wizard Tournament at Hogwarts in June, Harry Potter was kidnapped by the use of a portkey. I regret to inform you that he was used in a dark ritual to restore to life the criminal wizard calling himself Lord Voldemort.” Screams of terror rippled across the Atrium at the sound of that most feared name, and continued at the realization that the horrors of a decade and a half ago might return. These were echoed in the homes of thousands of witches and wizards across Britain who were listening on the wizarding wireless. Minister Bones waved her hands for quiet, but it was some time before she was able to continue.

“I wish to share with you some of the details of this event. Mr. Potter’s co-champion, Cedric Diggory, was murdered on the dark lord’s orders immediately upon his and Mr. Potter’s arrival at the site. The Ministry extends our deep condolences to the Diggory family on their loss.” Bones paused respectfully, then took a deep breath, about to reveal her bombshell. “During the ritual ceremony, the dark lord called to himself all of his loyal followers. With their assistance, he attempted to kill Mr. Potter. Miraculously, Mr. Potter managed to escape and return with Mr. Diggory’s body to Hogwarts, where he immediately informed Minister Fudge of what had occurred. The Minister chose not to believe him.”

There was a steady low rumble emanating from the throng of listeners at this revelation. The initial shock had died down, and begun to turn into indignation. But there was also a dawning realization that their new Minister was very different from her predecessor, and they began to hope that things might go better this time.

“I have interviewed Mr. Potter extensively, and have concluded that he and Headmaster Dumbledore have been telling the truth all along,” Bones declared, with a nod to Dumbledore who was seated nearby. “The wizarding world owes them both a debt of gratitude for continuing to persevere in spite of the doubt and ridicule they received, as well as our heartfelt apologies. And on the basis of Mr. Potter’s testimony I have ordered the arrest and detention of every Death Eater who participated in the dark lord’s ritual and attempted murder of Mr. Potter.”

A stunned silence greeted this final revelation, as her listeners began to connect this statement with the rumors that had swept the country the day before, and Bones continued in a matter-of-fact tone, as though she were announcing quidditch scores.

“Yesterday morning those orders were skillfully executed by our Auror force, with some assistance from our neighbors on the continent. Of the thirty-two suspected Death Eaters targeted, twenty-five were captured and five were killed resisting arrest. Only two were unable to be located. The names of the prisoners will be distributed at the conclusion of these remarks, and the names of the deceased will be revealed pending notification of their next of kin. I am ashamed to say that three of these suspects were Ministry employees, and several others were prominent citizens. Many of them had been charged in a similar fashion after the dark lord’s previous defeat, but were released without trial. That will not happen this time.”

The majority of her listeners reacted favorably to this declaration, and Minister Bones permitted herself an inward sigh of relief. Just a few more comments and she could wrap this up.

“In anticipation of some questions you may have I’d like to add the following. Mr. Potter will not be available to answer any questions, as he is in considerable danger at this time, and is currently residing in an undisclosed location. Mr. Black, who is acting as his guardian, may be willing to speak on his behalf. Also, many of the dark lord’s followers have claimed in the past that they were forced into doing his bidding by the use of the Imperius curse. That defense will not work this time. Our evidence conclusively shows that every one of them came willingly to join him when they were summoned. There was no opportunity between the time of his restoration and the time they joined him for this curse to be cast. And we have verified that every one of them has an active Dark Mark. Finally, all of these suspects are being confined in a secure location. In contrast with what was done to Sirius Black, they will receive trials, once they have been thoroughly questioned. These trials will by necessity not be public affairs, but each will be conducted before no fewer than eleven randomly selected Wizengamot members, and will be attended by a member of the press.”

As Minister Bones concluded her statement, Hermione felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to find Tonks, back to her normal pink-haired self. “Time to go, before the rush,” the Auror informed her in a low voice. Hermione quickly followed her over to the outgoing floo bank where Harry was waiting for her. “You two will need to use the public floo, but no one’s about to leave just yet, so you should be fine,” Tonks told them. “I’m on duty for crowd control, although it looks like the Minister was pretty convincing. Head back to Gringotts and Fleur will take you from there. If I don’t see you again before you leave, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know the two of you. Good luck.”

-ooo-

Back in France, Harry and Hermione decided to wait for Sirius to return before doing anything with the prophecy orb. Mr. and Mrs. Granger had once again come for the weekend, so the two teens took turns telling them and their hosts about their adventures of the morning.

The Grangers grinned at hearing of Hermione’s discomfort with the cart ride down to the vaults in Gringotts, having experienced her reluctance with amusement parks in the past. Both were intrigued by the idea of vaults full of treasure buried in caverns deep beneath London. Mrs. Granger was quite tickled by her daughter’s method of making the ride more bearable on the way back up.

Hermione wished again that she could have accompanied Harry down to fetch the prophecy, for the chance to have seen the Time Room if nothing else. She had the feeling she could have happily spent hours, if not days, exploring the mysteries of level nine. Then it was her turn to report on Minister Bones’s announcement. Mr. Granger wondered at the legality of arresting people and locking them away with no contact from anyone until their trial. Harry answered that from what he’d seen in Dumbledore’s memories of Death Eater trials, that was standard practice in the wizarding world. Apparently there were no wizarding barristers either, as the accused followers of Voldemort had been chained to chairs at their trials with no defense counsel or representation of any sort.

When Sirius and Monsieur Delacour finally returned from the press conference that had followed Minister Bones’s announcements, Harry and Hermione had to repeat their stories. Then, during dinner, the two older wizards filled everyone in on what had happened after the teens had left the Ministry.

Sirius had shocked everyone there when he announced that even though he’d been exonerated, he had no intention of returning to Britain and taking up his place in wizarding society, or participating in the wizarding world in any way. He declared that his number one priority was seeing to the well-being of his godson, and he was going to devote all of his energy to this task. He’d declined to answer any questions about where they were going to live.

The only thing he’d done after having his rights as head of the Black family confirmed was to reinstate Andromeda (Black) Tonks to the family, along with her daughter Nymphadora. Andromeda had been cast out when she’d married a muggleborn wizard, Ted Tonks. Sirius confided to the group around the table that his only concern now was to outlive Draco Malfoy, the son of another cousin, Narcissa (Black) Malfoy. He hoped that Tonks might eventually have a male offspring to whom he could then pass on the head of house responsibilities.

Monsieur Delacour next gave his impressions of how the political situation would play out. He suspected that most of the population’s greatest concern was being safe in their homes, and removing those suspected of being Voldemort’s supporters greatly eased that fear. These ordinary witches and wizards would support what Minister Bones had done. Her problems would come from the Wizengamot, which was composed of the elite, who were mostly purebloods, which tended to be more sympathetic to some of the dark lord’s aims. But the skillful way she had framed the issue, leaving no room for uncertainty about the guilt of the Death Eaters taken into custody, would make it difficult for them to openly oppose her.

Finally, after dinner Sirius, Harry, Hermione, and her parents gathered privately to examine the prophecy. Not surprisingly, Hermione was full of questions. How did one open it to listen to it? The Unspeakables must have heard it in order to label it. Could it be listened to without opening it? How did it get there in the first place? Did Dumbledore come to the Department of Mysteries and report hearing a prophecy, submitting a pensive memory to be stored there? Why? If he was so concerned about Voldemort learning the contents, why not just keep it to himself?

Hermione had been pacing back and forth, gesticulating wildly as she snapped out these queries in rapid fire succession, and she now came to a halt and frowned, gnawing on her lower lip in concentration. Mr. and Mrs. Granger and Harry knew her well enough to patiently sit back and ride out the flurry, but Sirius just stood there open-mouthed.

“Lily,” he breathed softly. Harry turned and cocked his head questioningly. “Lily used to do that,” Sirius explained. “Both the pacing and the hand waving. Eventually we learned to stand back and stay out of her way when she was like that.”

Hermione shot him a glare, then returned her attention to the issue at hand. “Taking the last question first, he most likely didn’t have that option,” she decided. “Nothing else makes sense. But if only Harry or Voldemort could take it from the shelf, the Unspeakables must have some other way of listening to them. What happens if you just hold it and concentrate on it?” she asked Harry. He shrugged and picked the glass ball up, focusing his thoughts on the glowing light within.

“Nothing,” he reported. Next he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the sphere. “What spell do you think I ought to try?”

“I think you ought to just chuck it against the wall and smash it to bits,” a familiar voice suggested with a laugh. Everyone spun to see their favorite pink-haired Auror enter the room. “Sorry I’m late, I just got off duty,” she added cheerily. “I didn’t miss anything yet, did I?”

Harry grinned. “Nope. So, just break it open, then?” The direct approach always appealed to him.

Hermione wasn’t so sure. “But that pretty much limits us to a single hearing, doesn’t it? I mean, I doubt if it will reassemble itself afterward.”

Sirius had picked up on Harry and Tonks’s eagerness. “Only one way to find out, right?”

“Wait.” Hermione tried to slow things down. “Do you know how the prophecy gets in the sphere in the first place?”

“Sure,” Tonks grinned. “Magic.” Hermione’s parents, who’d been standing back and merely observing so far, let loose with a burst of laughter at this, but Hermione huffed and shot Tonks an annoyed look, demanding something more specific.

“There is a device in the Department of Mysteries that detects whenever a prophecy is made anywhere in the country,” she revealed. “It gathers it into that glowing light and the spun glass orb forms around it. The date and initials are etched into the glass automatically. The Unspeakables add any other information they can figure out. Yes, they have some way to read it, but I don’t know what it is,” she added, heading off the question Hermione was about to ask. “Once they label it with the names of the individuals who are the subject of the prophecy and put it on the shelf, no one else can touch it.” She looked around and saw everyone nodding except Hermione.

“But how is that possible?” she complained. “How could there be a device that can somehow hear everything that’s being said everywhere in the country?”

Tonks shrugged. “It’s not that uncommon. “The underage magic detector works the same way, except with magical spells.” Harry scowled at this reference, having had some unpleasant experiences with this particular magical device. “Not to mention the Taboo,” Tonks added as an afterthought.

“What’s that?” Harry asked while Hermione was still struggling to come to grips with the concept.

“The Ministry can designate a word that, when anyone says it, sets off an alarm and gives the Aurors the exact location where it was said,” Tonks answered. Harry blinked in surprise.

“Well, why don’t they use that to capture Death Eaters, then?” he demanded hotly. “Put it on the Unforgivables or something.”

“They have,” Tonks shot back. “Do you think we’re stupid? But you can only do it on one word, and the one they decided on was …” she looked around and then mouthed, Morsmordre . “It’s an incantation only Death Eaters used and they only cast it when they successfully carried out a mission. The only problem was that they didn’t often hang around long after they cast it. From what I’ve been told, though, Aurors nabbed a fair number of them that way in the last war.”

Realization suddenly dawned on Harry. That was why they had suddenly been surrounded by twenty Ministry wizards shooting stunning spells at them within a few seconds of the Dark Mark being cast at the Quidditch World Cup. He turned to Hermione who had evidently realized the same thing.

“Oh,” was her only response as she finally gave up trying to make sense of it. After a moment’s more thought she added, “And these things cover the entire country?”

“Pretty much the entire world, for prophecies,” Tonks corrected. “Never know when some seer on the other side of the world will make a prophecy about something happening here. And in the case of Hogwarts, the underage magic detector is nullified by some sort of enchantment. Good thing, or it would be going off constantly. And I’m not sure about the Taboo.”

“So, somewhere in the Hall of Prophecies, probably on the most recent shelf, is one that says ‘S.B.T to H.J.P – Dark Lord and (?), with the ?eventually being changed to Peter Pettigrew’,” Hermione summed up.

“Can we get back to this prophecy?” Sirius asked impatiently. “Harry, just smash the thing and everyone listen closely.”

Harry glanced around the room, wanting to choose a spot where he wouldn’t do any damage to the furnishings. A tap on the shoulder made him turn around to see Hermione offering him a hammer she’d just conjured. Harry grinned and placed the glass sphere on the floor, raised up the hammer, and shattered it into dozens of fragments.

Instantly a pearly-white figure with hugely magnified eyes rose into the air, and a harsh, grating voice sounded.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies …and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not …and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. …The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …”

Harry blinked several times as the ghostly figure faded. Then he noticed Hermione and her mother, leaning over the table with pen and paper, scribbling furiously, mimicking the actions of Bones and Shacklebolt one week earlier. No one interrupted them as they transcribed the wordsof the seer, the other individuals in the room pondering to themselves what they’d heard. When the two Granger women finished, they examined what they’d written, checking back and forth between their scraps of paper.

“No Mum, it was ‘either’ the first time and ‘neither’ the second time,” Hermione corrected, pointing to the line in question. “Other than that, I think we have it pretty closely. We can always borrow a pensieve again to double check.”

“That was certainly an odd turn of phrase,” Mrs. Granger commented with a disapproving shake of her head. “Like it was being intentionally difficult to follow.”

“I think prophecies must be like that,” Hermione replied. “The meaning’s only clear after the fact.”

“Seems pretty obvious to me,” Harry commented morosely. “Either I kill him or he kills me.”

“But hardly anything in there is straightforward, Harry,” Hermione pointed out. “It’s not even obviously about you. Phrases like ‘those who have thrice defied him’, ‘mark him as his equal’, and ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’ can have many interpretations. Even the words ‘vanquish’ and ‘approaches’ are ambiguous.”

“’Born as the seventh month dies’ certainly refers to me, though,” Harry countered. “Me or … Neville! I bet it could have also been him,” he blurted out, recalling something Dumbledore had told him earlier that year. “That’s why his parents went into hiding, too. That’s why there was a question mark there. My name must have been added later, after Voldemort attacked me.”

Sirius nodded. “The Longbottoms were the other family that went into hiding,” he informed them. Frank was an Auror, and like James, he had faced Voldemort three times and survived. “Neville was born a few days before you.”

“But it’s only obvious in hindsight,” Hermione argued. “Even that’s ambiguous. It doesn’t say July, it says ‘seventh month’. Heck, that could have even been referring to my birthday.”

Harry, Sirius, and Tonks looked at her strangely, while her parents chuckled, seeing where she was going. “How do you figure that?” Tonks asked.

“What month of the year has the number seven in its name?” Hermione challenged.

“Well, your birthday is in September … oh, I get it,” Harry responded, nodding as her point became clear to him. “And what about the other part?”

“The moon is always considered to be waxing or waning,” Hermione continued in her ‘explanation’ voice. Growing or dying. Months were originally based on the lunar cycle. On any date after the fifteenth the month would be dying.”

“That’s quite a stretch,” Sirius pointed out.

“True, but I was just making a point,” Hermione admitted. “That prophecies are worded in such a way that multiple interpretations are possible, and it’s only after whatever it’s referring to has happened that you can look back and see what it meant. For example, what does ‘mark him as his equal mean?”

“I assume it refers to my scar,” Harry answered, as everyone else nodded.

“But no one would have guessed that beforehand,” Hermione concluded, to general agreement all around. “Now, let’s assume for the sake of discussion that it does refer to Harry, and the mark is his scar, and that Harry has some power that isn’t obvious at the moment,” she paused and shot an apologetic look at her boyfriend. “Sorry about the way that came out.”

“No, you’re right,” Harry grinned, waving her apology off. “It’s not obvious to me at all. The only secret weapon that I have that I can think of is my invisibility cloak, and somehow I doubt that I’m going to sneak up on him.”

Hermione smiled, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. “Well, we shouldn’t rule anything out.” Then she continued with her analysis, frowning in consternation. “What I really can’t fathom is that last line. ‘Neither can live while the other survives’. Given that you’re both alive right now, and have been for the past two months, how can that be possible? Taking that literally, you should have died in the graveyard before he came out of the cauldron.”

Harry shuddered at the memory, then put his arm around Hermione and hugged her against his side, knowing that any second she would realize what she’d just said.

“Oh,” she stammered, a look of horror filling her face. “I didn’t mean …”

“Don’t worry, we understood what you meant,” Harry reassured her. “That part has me stumped, too.” Looking around, he saw Sirius, Tonks and Mr. Granger nod in agreement. It certainly seemed to present a dilemma. Perhaps it was some technicality regarding the word ‘live’. But then he spotted Hermione’s mother nodding her head with a satisfied look on her face that he recognized, having seen it on Hermione whenever she solved a vexing problem.

“I think,” Mrs. Granger declared. “That you’re all overlooking the simplest interpretation, the one which requires the fewest assumptions.

“Occam’s Razor?” Hermione queried. Harry, Sirius, and Tonks gave her a blank look.

Her mother nodded. “Is there any part of that prophecy,” she suggested, “that wasn’t fulfilled on the night … when was it, October 31st? … the night your house was attacked, Harry?”

Everyone stared at her. Could it be that they were discussing a prophecy – a prophecy that the Order of the Phoenix had spent hundreds of hours guarding and worrying over, a prophecy that Voldemort was supposed to be desperate to get his hands on – a prophecy that had already come to pass fourteen years ago and was no longer active?

“… vanquish the Dark Lord …” Hermione was muttering while mentally checking the key components of the fateful phrases. “… mark him as his equal … power the Dark Lord knows not … well, he certainly didn’t expect that his killing curse would bounce off of you and hit him, did he? … neither can live while the other survives … if it refers specifically to that encounter, he was determined to kill you, so if he lived you would have ended up dead, but when you survived, he – well he certainly wasn’t among the living afterward.”

A giant smile broke out on her face, which was gradually echoed on everyone else’s, and she threw her arms around her mother and hugged her as hard as she could. “You’re right, Mum!” she screamed. “We don’t have to worry about it any more! It’s already happened!”

Hermione released her mother and turned to her boyfriend. “Oh Harry!” she cried, wrapping her arms around him even more forcefully than she had her mother, tears filling her eyes. Sirius moved forward and wrapped them both up, some moisture appearing in his eyes as well. Tonks, looking for someone to hug, settled on Mrs. Granger, and pulled Mr. Granger in to join them. At length everyone had hugged everyone else and things settled down, with Hermione and Harry each still keeping an arm wrapped around the other.

“Is that possible?” Sirius asked his cousin. “That the prophecy would still be on the shelf even after it’s been fulfilled?” Tonks thought a minute, then nodded.

“Think how many prophecies there were in that room,” she pointed out. “There were more than a hundred rows of shelves, each one holding … what do you reckon, Harry … several hundred prophecies each?”

“At least,” he agreed, with a thoughtful nod, trying to work out the math.”

“Forty or fifty thousand, then,” Hermione prompted immediately.

“Every prophecy that’s ever been made, going all the way back to the founding of the Ministry,” Tonks continued. “Probably even longer than that, given that there’re likely only a handful of prophecies made in any given year. Once they go on those shelves they stay there, unless someone like Harry comes to get them.”

“Then what’s the point of collecting them?” Hermione wondered.

Tonks shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe originally they wanted to have them available if anyone wanted to check up on one. Nobody really understands why the Unspeakables do anything they do.”

“I think this calls for a celebration,” Mr. Granger announced, noting how utterly delighted his daughter was at the way things turned out. If he and his wife hadn’t been in the room he suspected there might be some passionate snogging going on. He made a mental note to make sure the teens ended up in their own bedrooms that night. “What do you say to going out for dinner in Paris tomorrow?”

Everyone agreed that was an excellent suggestion, and they would include the Delacours as a way of thanking them for being such wonderful hosts.

 

They had a fabulous time in Paris the next day, culminating in an elegant dinner in one of the city’s renowned dining establishments. Everyone was feeling quite content when they returned to Chateau Delacour. But there, waiting for them in the entry hall was a large bird with brilliant red and gold plumage. Fawkes had arrived with a message from Dumbledore.

With a sigh of inevitability, Harry unrolled the parchment.

Harry – Now that you are aware of the contents of the prophecy, I believe that we need to discuss it. Would tomorrow morning be convenient for you?

Albus Dumbledore

Realizing that with Fawkes’s capability of transporting him there instantly there was no point in putting the headmaster off, Harry, Sirius, and Hermione agreed that the next day was as good a time as any to have it out with him. Harry quickly scrawled ‘Okay’ on the parchment and handed it back to the phoenix. Fawkes regarded Harry briefly, then gave a short trill that seemed to be saying, ‘don’t worry, things will turn out alright’. Snatching the parchment out of Harry’s hand, the fiery bird disappeared in a flash of flame.

 

August 30

If Albus Dumbledore thought he would be in control of the conversation, he was sorely mistaken. It got off to a bad start when Harry promptly refused his request to speak privately, insisting on including Sirius, Hermione, and her parents in the discussion.

For her part, Hermione had worked up a full set of questions and accusations, and the revelations of the past week had considerably reduced her reluctance to challenge authority figures. But her parents were even more confrontational. Not having been raised with the wizardingworld’s near godlike reverence for the powerful wizard, they had no qualms about challenging his decisions. They recognized his type – the leader who asserts his authority and keeps everyone around him under his control by restricting access to critical information.

Any protestation on his part that he knew what he was doing, any suggestion that there were things he knew, of which the rest of them were unaware, that justified his actions, and especially any claim that he had Harry’s best interests at heart were torn to shreds by the combined Granger assault. Once the heavy guns had softened the target, Harry finally spoke up with a dagger-like strike to the heart of the matter.

“You knew all along, Headmaster Dumbledore, what was going on; why he was interested in me, and you never told me a thing. Despite me asking you more than once, despite several chances, you only kept me in the dark.”

“And let’s have none of this nonsense about not wanting to burden him,” Sirius added. “He already knew Voldemort wanted to kill him.”

“Just how many times have you nearly been killed at Hogwarts, Harry?” Mr. Granger asked with a scowl. Harry reflexively glanced toward Hermione, and she nodded her encouragement.

Harry scratched the back of his head. “Let’s see, in first year three, no four times. First with Hermione and the troll, next in the first quidditch match, later in the Forest during that detention, and then at the end with Quirrell. Second year, erm, when we crashed the car into the Whomping Willow, in the Forest with the spiders, and in the Chamber, so that’s three for that year. Third year … gee, I guess it was only twice that year, the quidditch match where I fell off my broom and then at the end with the dementors by the lake. Must’ve been an off year, I guess.” He shot a weak grin at Hermione, who could only shake her head and roll her eyes.

The three adults in the room were glaring at Dumbledore, who was unable to look anyone in the eye. “That’s enough, Harry,” Mr. Granger said gently. “We all know what happened this year. Now, Headmaster Dumbledore,” he demanded, his voice turning hard. “Is this by any stretch of the word a normal experience for a student at your school? And don’t think I didn’t notice how many of those deadly situations my daughter was involved in too! Please don’t sit there and tell me you have any objection to Mr. Black’s decision to remove his godson from your school and take him someplace safer! I assure you my wife and I will certainly follow his lead with our daughter!

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Order of Merlin recipient, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and SurpremeMugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, rarely found himself at a loss for words, but on this occasion he did. Finally he slumped back in his chair, the customary twinkle absent from his eyes.

“No, that is not my intention, Mr. Granger,” he agreed. “Under the circumstances I suppose that course of action would be for the best. I only wished to help Harry understand the prophecy and what it means for his future.”

“It doesn’t mean anything for his future!” Mrs. Granger snapped. “It refers entirely to an event that occurred nearly fourteen years ago! It’s in the past, over and done with! Why you’ve made such a big deal of it now is beyond me.”

Dumbledore sat stunned while Hermione’s mother offered her interpretation of the prophecy, point by point. When she finished he shook his head while trying to find a hole in her reasoning, but could not.

“I must admit that this is a possible explanation,” he finally decided. “Perhaps I have been misled by other considerations.”

“Perhaps you should share with us any additional information you’re holding back,” Mr. Granger retorted sharply. “Such as the circumstances in which you received it and how this led to the deaths of Harry’s parents.”

Dumbledore nodded and related the tale of how Trelawny had gone into a trance during her job interview and a Death Eater had overheard part of her prophecy, causing Voldemort to go after Harry to eliminate the perceived threat. He continued with his feeling that now that the dark lord had been stymied by Harry yet again, he was keenly interested in learning the rest of it.

“So, let him hear it,” Sirius suggested. “Better yet, have Snape leak it to him, along with our interpretation. There’s nothing in it that can hurt us. It’s certainly not worth an Order member getting arrested or even dying for!”

“Perhaps,” Dumbledore conceded. Sensing that the atmosphere in the room was not likely to get any friendlier than it was currently, he stood to take his leave. “In any case, Harry, Miss Granger, I wish you success in the new path you have chosen. I shall continue to work to weaken Lord Voldemort,” he pledged. “The new Minister’s decisive actions have given us an excellent opportunity. But it remains my belief that Harry will have to face him eventually. Despite what you may wish, the two of you are inextricably linked.” With those cryptic words he made his exit.

“What do you suppose he meant by that?” Harry wondered as Hermione and Sirius came up to stand beside him.

“Well, obviously your scar, but …” Hermione offered.

“But I get the feeling that there’s something he’s not telling us about it,” Sirius completed the thought. “I think we might need to have someone take a look at that. Perhaps someone with more expertise in those sorts of things.”

 

September 1

“Harry?” Hermione called out as she entered Harry’s room. “What’s keeping you? Everyone else is down at breakfast.” There she found the object of her search standing there, looking out his window. Gazing out over the vineyards, the meadow, and the woods. Gazing off to the northwest, toward an unseen island where a scarlet train would soon be taking students to the far off highlands of Scotland.

Hermione sat down on the bed and tugged Harry down next to her. “I understand,” she said simply, leaning her head against his shoulder. Harry stretched his arm across her back and pulled her tight.

“I know,” he acknowledged. No more words needed to be spoken between the pair. After a few minutes of quiet contemplation Hermione stood and pulled him to his feet.

“Come downstairs,” she urged. “Mum and Dad arrived late last night. Everything’s ready to go. It’s time to start our new life.”

-xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

 

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Author Notes:

Sorry about the teaser regarding an unknown Potter vault.  I don’t plan to go anywhere with this idea.  I know that the ‘trust vault’ concept is strictly fanon, but it just seems odd to me that in the books the Potters would only have money in their vault when the Lestrange vault was loaded with all sorts of other treasures.  So I hinted at the existence of another vault which presumably Harry won’t have access to until he’s of age.

The prosecution of the Death Eaters.  No, Harry’s memories wouldn’t be enough to convict them, but they don’t have to be.  They just needed to be enough to justify their arrests.  Bones stated that they would be ‘thoroughly questioned’, which will provide plenty of evidence for conviction.  From what we saw of the Death Eater trials in the books, there is clearly no ‘right to remain silent’ or ‘right to an attorney’, and anything they say most definitely will be used against them.  The Death Eaters that got off after Voldemort’s first fall were because of substantial contributions.

I don’t see Dumbledore as weak in this story, he’s just recognizing the situation and adjusting his tactics to make the most of it.  Recall that he was already planning to distance himself from Harry this year.  Rather than further antagonize some already irate parents and guardian, he acquiesces even while planting the seed of the idea that Harry will have to come back eventually and face Voldemort.  But will he?

Both Dumbledore and Voldemort were caught off guard by how rapidly the situation changed.  No one could have predicted that Fudge would be tossed so quickly and that the new Minister would move against the ‘respectable’ Death Eaters only a week after taking office.

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