Things start to move a little too fast for Harry.
Bill Weasley had been recalled to Gringotts London a few weeks previously. The manager in the Egypt branch had "retired" just previous to the recall notice. Following the bloody history of the goblins, retirement meant death, either naturally or assisted. He and all of the other human employees had been transferred to their home branches for the duration of the Gringotts restructuring, as some of the campaigning could be fatal. Infighting among the various clans of the Goblins was normal, but humans were kept out of any possible violence to prevent further loss of some of Gringotts highly trained wizards. His wife, Fleur, had been overjoyed at his transfer, and had been trying to convince him to request a permanent post in either London or France.
Bill was in the London branch for his yearly performance review. He had been hoping to get a bit of a bonus for his work on the last crypt. It had contained several million worth of gold and silver that the goblins had not expected. As the lead curse breaker on the dig, he was directly responsible for the outcome of the project. Returning with that much extra gold above expectations was definitely noteworthy.
He had been sitting in the outer office of the London Manager's office when the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. As a curse breaker he had felt this kind of magical build up many times. It was the feeling of wards charging and a possible rupture of a containment scheme. It could lead to a bad result. The security alarm started to sound and an amplified voice echoed down the hallway.
"All non-assigned security personnel, report to conference room 221-B. Incident in progress. Defuse and detain only."
Bill leapt to his feet and ran down the corridor. He was only a few hundred meters away from the conference room. As he was a curse breaker, he was also designated a member of the security department. To break a curse or ward, one must know how to set them! Bill's hands were busy drawing several one shot protection ward runes in the air, and he tapped the silver thread stitched power boosters on his robes to activate them.
Upon arrival on the scene, he saw the armed goblins waiting for some magical backup. It was suicide to enter a room that was charged with any amount of magical energy without an idea of what to expect. With a nod to the security goblins present, he stepped forward to assess the situation. The containment wards were glowing along the frame of the door. They were deep purple and hazy with the amount of energy they were trying to disperse. Normally, these wards were meant to prevent scrying and eavesdropping spells from accessing the rooms. They did this by grounding the magic used back into their own scheme.
The spells were strong, but the wards were more than capable of handling them normally. However, the sheer amount of magic that was pouring into these wards right now was immense! Bill had only seen wards this abused a few times before; mostly during his tenure as a curse breaker. He pulled out a few pieces of slate that he carried with him on job sites. Placing two of them at the base of the door, and two at the top corners with putty, he stepped back and raised his wand. A flick of his wand engraved the runes he needed on the slate pieces. He looked to the senior goblin.
"The wards are straining to hold the power back. I can't drop them for fear of a rupture. I'm going to try to siphon off as much as I can, but I need authorization to tap Gringott's main ward scheme for grounding."
The senior goblin lifted a small flat stone from his pocket and spoke gobbledegook into it. A moment later, a goblin voice replied. The stone started to shine. The senior goblin passed it to Bill and with a smile growled,"You have authorization. This artifact is keyed to the bank's scheme. Try not to bring down the bank's main wards, hmmm?"
Bill grinned as he made the necessary passes to link the artifact to his runes. This was why he was a curse breaker! Granted, he could die at any minute, but it would be such a cool death! Bill had always known he was addicted to the rush of a possibly deadly situation. He would be what muggles would call an "Adrenaline Junky". The closer to the edge, the more alive he felt. And at this moment, with a possibly lethal amount of magic about to be channeled through him and his ward scheme, he felt ALIVE!
With a final wand movement, he placed the artifact in the palm of his wand hand, the handle of this wand snug against it. Bill concentrated on his runes stones. He could feel them stating to draw off the threads of power that was being leaked by the room's containment wards. After deep breath taken in and exhaled to center himself, he spoke his activation phrase.
The runes flashed and quickly went up through the spectrum from dull red to blazing white as they started to channel the energy. Bill could feel the torrent of magic rushing through his scheme. He wasn't trying to absorb any of it himself, as there was far too much for him to be able to handle safely. He was merely a director, manipulating the flows through the scheme, and preventing any one of the four supporting runes from being burned out by a surge. His wand was shaking, and he was sweating.
The security goblin barked out a command to the three others. They positioned themselves in preparation to breaching the door. Once they were settled, they could only wait for Bill to finish draining the wards to a safe level.
Bill's robes were streaming out from him in an invisible wind. He was handing as much power as he could to the artifact in his hand. It was like a dark well, taking anything he gave it and making room for more. Suddenly, he could feel an ebb in the power coming from the wards. As the flow dropped, Bill redirected the power to his runes on the door frame. They gradually brightened, and even an untrained wizard could see the power crackling between them with the naked eye. The security goblins eyed the power flows as they caressed the door frame and glanced back at the wizard's shaking arms. With a final grunt, and a thrust of his hands, Bill directed the last of the energy into the door like a battering ram. Using the abundant energy from his scheme, he had placed a momentary shield over the doorframe to prevent any backlash of energy or debris.
The two forward goblins rolled into the room, prepared to deal with any physical threat. Bill stepped forward, the last bit of energy from the wards crackling around his wand in a visible corona of energy.
"Don't move! Gringott's Security!"
Voldemort was perched on his throne. He had been planning how to make the revel a memorable one.
"Perhaps something to try to draw Potter out again? It would need to hit close to his heart. He's been hiding from me for so long that the punishment needs to fit his crime." Ever since the brat had disappeared, he had been unable to sense him for more than a few moments. Nothing long enough to work his way into his mind or get any solid idea of where he was, just glimpses and flashes that made no sense.
The Dark Lord stood and paced towards the table in the corner. There was always a variety of refreshments there for him to savor. Wine made from a Virgin's tears as she was tortured to death, several choice cuts of witch and wizard flesh, and a blood pudding that was to die for... or should he say... someone had died for?
The smile on Voldemort's face was snapped into a grimace as pain flashed into his mind. The blinding waves penetrated his head from his eyes to the base of his skull. A scream split the air as he fell to the ground, holding his head and pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets in an effort to stop the throbbing. Flashes of anger thrust their white hot pokers into his brain radiating pulses of crucio like waves throughout his body.
The door burst open. Peter Pettigrew and Bellatrix LeStrange had been just in the next room, waiting for their master to call for them. Wormtail was pushed to the floor as LeStrange forced her way past the small man. She dropped to the floor next to her Lord.
"Master! What is wrong? What do we do?"
Voldemort forced the waves of agony aside for long enough to speak, "Dreamless Sleep...."
Bellatrix turned to Wormtail who was staring stupidly at the scene before him. "You heard him, you spineless worm! Get a dreamless sleep potion! NOW!"
Wormtail scrabbled at the tile floor in an effort to get to his feet as fast as he could. He sprinted out of the room towards the store room.
Bellatrix leapt to her feet and tore a piece of the table cloth off. Dropping it into the wine bucket, she wetted it with ice water. A few moments later, she had it pressed to her Lord's forehead in an effort to help with the pain. She knew she was taking an awful risk. Touching her Lord without leave was an offense punishable by death, but in her crazed state of mind, she didn't think of it.
Wormtail sprinted back into the room, the bottle already open. "I have it, My Lord!"
Voldemort thrust Bellatrix away from him and snatched the bottle from Peter's hands. As he drank the potion, he stumbled to his bed a few feet away, crashing onto the covers as the potion took effect. With the last few moments of consciousness fleeting, he could sense something he had not felt for a long time. A sneer on his face and a word on his lips, he fell into a pain free slumber.
Harry sat gob smacked. He was witnessing what it was like to be on the receiving end of a Goblin security action. Moody chose that moment to act. He barked out some gobbledegook at the goblins and slowly set his wand on the table and removed his hand. While still within easy reach, he was showing that he had willingly disarmed himself to the goblin security. He turned his eye to Harry and spoke calmly.
"Best you put your wand on the table, Son. They aren't doing this for the exercise."
Harry looked at Moody and calmly stated his next words. "I don't have a wand."
Moody's eyebrows climbed up his forehead in surprise. After a split second he spoke some more gobbledegook and relaxed into his seat.
Bill strode into the meeting room, his wand still at the ready. His eyes hardened as he looked at Moody. "What the hell happened here Moody? You had better have a good explanation. I'm not sure my employers will be willing to look the other way after you destroyed yet ANOTHER of their meeting rooms."
Harry raised one eyebrow as he looked at Mad Eye and mouthed, "Another?"
Alastor grunted and waved off Harry's question. "We seemed to have a bit of accidental magic that got out of control. I'm afraid I touched a sore spot in regards to my business partner here and he got a touch angry. Whatever the repair costs, take it out of my vault."
Bill turned to the security goblin. The small warrior nodded and snapped some orders to his team before turning back to the Curse breaker."We will have an accounting of the charges sent to you Mr. Moody. In the future, to avoid these costly meetings, I suggest you find a better location for your.....negotiations." With a small nod, the Goblin team leader left the room.
Harry was looking at Bill now. He hadn't seen the man for along time, but little had changed. He cut quite the figure. He still had the earring that Mrs. Weasley hated, and his hair was pulled back into a pony tail. The silver threaded runes on his robes were still glowing slightly from the amount of power Bill had shunted through them. Harry relaxed and viewed Bill with his magical sight. The runes stood out brightly now, as did his earring. There was a thick cable stretching from something in his hand down into the floor below. The other lines were bright with the adrenaline charged power from a few moments ago.
Harry finally spoke. "Hello, Bill. Fix the door and close it would you?"
The oldest Weasley had just started to assess the third person in the room when he had spoken. His voice had changed somewhat, and his face was scarred like a war veteran, but the eyes..... They were shining out at him as they had when he had met Harry Potter many years ago. It was like a hammer blow to his stomach realizing who was in the room with him. Collecting his wits, he turned to the door that was lying canted at an odd angle near the frame. A quickly cast Reparo set the door back into the frame.
Bill walked over to an overstuffed chair and threw himself down on it, blowing his cheeks out with a released breath. He closed his eyes and sat quietly for a few minutes. The only Weasley in the room could feel the other two in the room looking at him. He brought the thoughts flying through his mind under control and opened his eyes.
"What in Merlin's name is going on?"
Harry and Moody had spent the next half hour explaining what had happened. When Harry had asked for a vow of secrecy about his return Bill had been reluctant to provide it. Moody had then reminded him about the Goblin Security Agreement he had signed when he was hired and Bill quickly provided a Wizard's Oath to Harry. In exchange, Harry had allowed him to stay while he and Moody finished their talk.
Moody sat back in his seat, the color in his face drained as Harry described the trial and his stay at Azkahban. He had no idea the boy had been held there all these years. It was a miracle he was still sane, all though that was still to be determined after his little lightshow display earlier.
Bill Weasley hadn't truly cried since before he was sent to Hogwarts for schooling. The story he had heard and the soul tearing monotone that Harry spoke in as he told it was enough. The tear tracks on his cheek a testament to how much he cared for the young man who was accepted as a Weasley by his family as much as any of them were.
Harry had stopped speaking a few minutes ago. His eyes had been closed since he had started speaking. Now, as he opened them, he realized he felt somewhat.....lighter. The finality of telling someone his story was cathartic for his mind. He hadn't realized how much it was weighing on him.
Moody wiped his hand over his face and looked at Harry. Both his natural and his magical eye focused on him at once. "The Headmaster told the Order the prophesy in full a few years ago. Needless to say, we were all shocked. But I'm really overwhelmed by what you just told us. I don't understand how we could have missed this all. Granted, Fudge covered it all up as usual, but there are always whispers. Albus would have ferreted it out."
Harry's eyes turned hard. "What's Malfoy been doing during all this time? He was the 'star witness' at my trial."
Bill cleared his throat, "He's governor of Azkahban. Dumbledore has been trying to get him removed for years. Every time he thinks he's got a majority in the Wizengamot, a 'random' Death Eater attack targets his supporters and the motion fails. Then the people who are moved into those empty positions always seem to be Lucius's buddies. Dumbledore's been hanging on to the Chief Warlock position by the skin of his teeth for months now. It won't be long and they'll have a Death Eater in that chair also."
"Malfoy was the push behind my prison stay. He was the star witness, and I'm sure he's the one who kept the whole story quiet. I'm willing to bet that he murdered anyone who was talking about me. After the first few, the rest would be so scared of 'disappearing' that they wouldn't take the chance."
Harry stood and started to pace. He could feel a lump of fear in his stomach. He didn't want to get pulled into this all again! He had spent ten years of his life being tortured simply because he was"The-Boy-Who-Lived". Now, he was a nobody. Everyone had forgotten him. He could live as normal a life as possible and turn his back on the wizards and witches who had done the same to him a decade ago. But what about Hermione? She loved the magical world. She had found a niche she could fit into and be happy. When she had showed up at the shop earlier with that student, she had been practically glowing. Harry's mind started to build him a picture of Hermione holding a baby.
He stopped and shook his head. What am I doing?! I need to get away and think.
Turning back to the two other men, Harry said, "I appreciate both your concern for me. I also hope you will give me the time I need to process everything. I have been trying to turn my life around and have a bit of normality in it. Seem like Fate has something else in mind for me."
Moody nodded his head. "I can respect that. I know what it's like to have things coming at you so fast you don't have a chance to get a breather in. Bill and I will give you some space. For now. But remember, Lad. The Fates as you call them will step in to help you along your way to fulfilling the prophesy however they need to. You can fight it every step of the way, and show up at the final act unprepared and not knowing what your lines are supposed to be. Or....you can prepare yourself by learning where you can tweak her skein and make things turn out in your favor. It's up to you."
Bill was nodding as Moody spoke. "Just so you know, Harry. I will support you in whatever you choose. I only ask one thing in return."
"What's that, Bill?"
"You send a letter to my family. Every year Mom fades a little more on your birthday. Normally, nothing can keep the twins down for more than a few minutes, but they didn't open the shop the last few years on your birthday. Ron still wakes the house with his nightmares, yelling out your name. And Ginny....."
Harry sat on the edge of his chair. His heart was in his throat. He was praying to whatever deity would listen that she was not dead.
"She cried herself to sleep for months after you disappeared. McGonaggall found your Firebolt in the dungeons during a regular patrol the next year. When Ginny found out, she broke into Minerva's office and stole it. Ever since, when a Gryffindor quidditch match is scheduled, she will get out the broom and polish it. I swear the only thing that's kept her sane was Neville."
Harry's eyes opened in surprise. "Neville?"
Bill smiled and nodded, "It was as much a surprise to us at the time as it is to you now. He was her constant companion. He would take her with him into the greenhouse. Sometimes she would study as he worked. Mostly she just sat there staring into space. Sometimes I wonder if he signed up for the Mastery classes in Herbology just so he could stay at Hogwarts for two more years. After school, she took healer classes with Madam Pomfrey, and he opened up an apothecary. They own a small successful shop next to the Twins. A few years ago, they got married. Their wedding day was the first time we really saw her smile since you disappeared."
The relief that flooded Harry's body was so strong that he felt sick to his stomach. He sighed and looked up at Bill. "Neville is a great guy. I'm happy for both of them. I'm just glad she's not dead. I've been going through some of the back issues of the Prophet and I keep seeing names I recognize. Lavender... Oliver..... Seamus......." Harry sighed. "Ok, Bill. I'll write them, but I want you to emphasize how I don't want them trying to hunt me down right now."
Moody chose this moment to speak. "Weasley, look around you. Remember how the mass destruction happened? Potter is still bringing his magic under control. Emotional scenes are exactly NOT what he needs right now. While I'm sure Molly would like to have a reason to remodel the Burrow, I don't think she was thinking of from the ground up!"
Bill paled for a moment, then nodded his head emphatically."Agreed. I'll tell them that they can only send you a letter if you send them one first. Just make sure you tell Hedwig to wait for their replies when you do write, ok? You've never had to really experience Mom when she gets all wound up!"
Harry laughed. "Deal!"