Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Harry Potter and the Aftermath

Hollow Hopes

by RyanJenkins 1 review

Blackstone's scheme (using Ryan as live bait to find the missing Americans) is interrupted when something very strange turns up in Harry's birthplace.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: G - Genres: Drama - Characters: Harry,Hermione,Kingsley,Ron - Published: 2016-09-05 - 4785 words - Complete



My Dad likes to quote a line from a Scottish poet. When I was a little kid, I thought it meant something about jumping off a sinking ship at the back end, but when I looked it up in school I found “...the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley,” and it means “things don't always work out the way you expect.” That's what happened to us.

We did give Blackstone's idea a good solid try. I “trailed my coat,” as Elliott put it (I thought of it more like imitating a minnow, swimming around with a hopeful expression and a fishhook) for day after day. I went out and about in both Muggle and Wizarding areas, trying to be conspicuously inconspicuous...that is, pretending to investigate those “excellent leads,” and look like I was trying not to make waves, but really making sure I was easy to spot if anyone (especially anyone from Texas) happened to be looking for me. When in the Muggle areas I had no problem dressing like a college student again, but I did have to put in a little extra prep time anyhow, because there were never less than three Wizards keeping me in sight at any given moment. At one time or another (they rotated) my shadows included Harry, Elliott, Abner, Bill, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Arthur, Orderic Pease, Jimmy Weston-Boyce, and even Jamie and Kingsley a time or two. Except for Harry and Hermione, I found it wise to check their clothing before we started out, in case they'd included something inappropriate, like a tailcoat or long underwear.

In the Muggle world, I covered Piccadilly Circus (which is just a big traffic circle, not an entertainment) and the Horse Guards Parade, where I didn't see either a horse or a guard. Hyde Park Corner had a promising collection of oddballs, but after listening for a few minutes to an older guy with a mop of white hair ranting about how the Aztecs invented the vacation and the Tory party was using it to enslave the working class, I moved on, shaking my head, and spotted Hermione laughing her head off. I took the public tours of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace – which were really quite fascinating, and full of the most astonishing ancient things and great beauty.

Of course I covered Wizarding London as well, spending a lot of time browsing in Diagon Alley, and not neglecting Knockturn Alley, the Leaky Cauldron, and all the other known magical locations. I was not molested or approached, and nobody saw anybody that looked like a tall Texan wizard. Then we put the expeditions on hold and started looking for concealed magical locations, because we were able to use an upgraded version of the Sniffer.

The new American Liaison team had arrived and set up shop, temporarily, in the Ministry itself, until they could either charm, disillusion and obliviate their way back into the massive U.S. Embassy on Grosvernor Street, or find and prepare proper quarters somewhere else. John Ramirez was a stocky, grey, balding Wizard with a ready smile, who would be our new General Liaison Officer; Paul Dadura was his Deputy, tall and spare, with cornrowed hair and skin somewhat darker than Kingsley's; and George Wong, the Comptroller, was young, cheerful, athletic, and very quick on the uptake. I liked them at once, and so did their British counterparts, but they got busy with their assignments and our paths didn't cross very often. Along with them, however, came Kenji Sakai and Alan Dabrowski from the Research team, and I learned another British expression: “boffin.”

A boffin is a scientist or engineer who does technical work, one of the “backroom boys” who get things done pretty much anonymously or as a member of a group. The term is a positive one, and while people might not understand what a boffin is actually doing, they are respected. Our American equivalents, like “egghead” or “geek,” tend to mean someone who's socially inept, or not quite normal, but a boffin is a perfectly normal sort who works at important and useful things which just happen to be secret, or at least over the heads of most people. Kenji and Al went right to work, setting up computers for the Ministry's Department heads, and scheduling training courses. One of the first things they did was give my machine an overhaul (“just new tires and an oil change,” joked Al) and install a package of updates to its various spells.

The Sniffer could now show a three-D picture of a structure, focus on different sections, distinguish and identify many more magical spells and objects, and best of all, range out as far as a thousand miles. Details weren't all that sharp beyond about 500 or so, but they were tinkering with a focusing charm that would give excellent results within a small area even at maximum range. In fact, the Sniffer was getting so good that Blackstone had begun worrying about privacy issues, and the new edition had built-in limits. Black magic spells or objects would show up clearly as always, in angry colors and full detail, but ordinary magic or magical objects would simply show green. Magical creatures would be identified, and Wizards and Witches would be labeled as such, but that was all. There was a set of spells which could defeat these restrictions and parse anything detected, but those spells had to be performed by wands officially authorized to do so. There was a sort of intermediate zone – creatures, objects or spells which could not be definitely identified as harmless – and our boffins were still working on that; they showed up as shades of yellow. The boffins gave Kingsley Shacklebolt's wand a full authorization, and Kingsley could pass that to other wands entirely or in part, but this worked only within areas where his Ministerial authority ruled, and if he should leave office, or die, this power would disappear.

Kingsley decided, after we all got a morning's intense instruction and had a bit of practice, to fully authorize Harry's wand, and mine. Everyone understood that these arrangements were still in the development stage, and were liable to be modified on the basis of experience as time went on. Still, it was a terrific improvement over the original, and Harry and I could hardly wait to get going with it.

We combed London again, but didn't find much that we hadn't already checked out. Then we started on the rest of the country. We had been counting on having to send me (and my bodyguard teams) to all the various locations, and the prospect of doing it all from one place, or at least cutting down the number of personal visits, was very welcome. Hogsmeade, of course, is the only all-Wizarding town in Britain, and we went over that first with the magical equivalent of a fine-tooth comb. We turned up a few suspicious objects, but nothing that indicated our quarry might be there.

“You know, Harry,” I said as we finished this survey, “I still ought to go there in person. It's one place we know Holiday knows about, and enough odd characters pass through there that he might well take a chance on it.”

“Yeah, you're right,” Harry agreed, scratching his head. “We'll send you everywhere, if needs be, but I'm still hoping this lovely little gadget will at least narrow the field somewhat.”

“You and me both.”

And, in the end, it did. We slogged through a list of places in Britain, including Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where Wizarding folk lived quietly alongside Muggles. Puddlemere, Tinworth, Upper Flagley, Mould-On-The-Wold (boy, is that a name!), Falmouth, Chudleigh – well,there's quite a few of them. Nothing turned up except an occasional odd something that caused Harry to make a note for future investigation. Malfoy Manor had quite a few “dodgy” readings, and we marked it down for a personal visit, but both of us thought it unlikely that our traveling Texan would stay in a place so obviously connected with Tom Riddle. We cleared Ottery St. Catchpole toward the end – we'd already gone through it from the Burrow, after all – and finally we turned the Sniffer on another place we felt sure old W.I.T.C. Holiday would be avoiding – Godric's Hollow, Harry's birthplace.

Maybe you always find things in the last place you look because you stop looking when you find them. When we focused on Godric's Hollow, Harry had the Sniffer going at full authorization; he wanted to see everything we could, in his ancestral home, and I didn't blame him. We easily spotted the various Wizarding residences, including the Potters' old house which had been left unrepaired as a monument, after Harry's parents died and Tom Riddles killing curse backfired and blew the roof off, and Bathilda Bagshot's house where Riddle's snake, Nagini, had almost caught Harry and Hermione last Christmas. The war-memorial in the middle of town glowed green, because to Wizarding folk it appeared as a sculpture of Harry's parents and their baby boy. After a few minutes, though, we both blinked a couple of times, looked at each other, looked back at the display, and spoke in unison:

“ THAT?”

It was a place, or a thing, that looked to be maybe fifteen or twenty feet on a side, roughly square or rectangular, under the town church. It glowed in a combination of colors I'd never seen before, and which kept shifting. There was green, and yellow, and orange, and it seemed like there were blotches of red trying to break through, and even a thin black border that blinked in and out so quickly it was hard to be sure it was really there.

The first thing we did was call in Al and Kenji. They were surprised, then fascinated. They got out their wands, pointed them at the screen and muttered some things I didn't try to catch; the picture shifted and the colors changed somewhat, but then went right back to the way they were originally.

“So what is it, then?”

“It's what we call a damfino, Harry,” said Al slowly.


“Me neither,” said Kenji. Harry barked a laugh, and Kenji went on, “but it reminds me of things we've seen underneath Gringott's. Kind of.”

I haven't mentioned checking out Gringott's, and I'd better back up and include that. The vaults underneath the Wizarding Bank in London are much larger, much deeper, and much more irregular than the ones in New York – logical, because they're much, much older. With restrictions on, the Sniffer just showed them as green; but some vaults looked odd and a few black or red bits did show up here and there, but without the usual details, probably thanks to the enormously complex and powerful security spells that pervaded the whole area.

Before Admiral Blackstone left, we'd discussed the idea that Pal Joey had simply removed the money from the official vault and put it into another vault under Gringott's, but agreed this seemed unlikely, because they were expecting Riddle to take over completely and either demand the money himself, or give them the opportunity to use it, and they'd want it easily accessible. To make sure, though, the Minister for Magic and the Secretary of Magic went down to the bank in person, together, and demanded answers. This double-barreled approach (based on some advice from Bill) had impressed even the Goblins, and when they returned, both expressed themselves as quite satisfied that wherever it was now, the money wasn't at Gringott's. So we made no attempts to penetrate further into Goblin territory with the Sniffer.

But now we'd found something the program-spell couldn't parse, and both Kenji and Al thought it was probably guarded by deep, deep layers of security spells, hexes, jinxes and who-knows-what-all, some of which could well border on Black Magic, or maybe even cross that border. And they guessed that it was probably old, very old, so old that some of the spells might well be completely forgotten today.

“Ryan,” said Harry slowly, “I think we ought to shift our priorities. Finding old Wally Holly, as Ron called him, can wait a bit I reckon. I'd really like to know what this is all about, before we do anything else.”

“I'm right with you, Harry. Actually, I've been hoping to slip over there and see Godric's Hollow at some point, just personally, but now it looks like I'm going to get a guided tour.”

“Yes. Happy to oblige. But I think we ought to make a plan – give it some careful thought – before we go barging in.”

“You're preaching to the choir.”

It took most of the next day to settle the plans. Aside from keeping up with ordinary business, we both felt the need to seek input from everyone who had been involved with our last attempt at investigating a magical place. Naturally, they all had opinions to offer. And Kingsley Shacklebolt wanted to have a say as well, once he heard about what we were doing. If we had written it down, the plan we finally evolved would have looked something like this:

OBJECTIVE: To discover the nature and contents (if any) of a room or vault concealed underneath the village church in Godric's Hollow, without alarming or harming anything or anyone who lives there – especially the Muggles.

PERSONNEL: Harry Potter, Ryan Jenkins, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Abner Proudfoot, Bill Weasley, Kenji Sakai, Orderic Pease and one other Obliviator, two members of the Invisibility Task Force. All will dress in dark clothing.

DATE AND TIME: Tuesday, June 9, 1998, 12:30 p.m., weather permitting. Rain, or wet ground from recent rain, would mean postponement because footprints would be too visible. Clouds or fog could prevent backup teams from observing. Tuesday nights the Vicar of the Church of St. Clementine, the Rev. Dr. Swain (a Muggle) visits friends in a neighboring village for an evening of bridge, usually leaving by 9:30 and not returning until the next morning, so the church would be empty, there being no caretaker (called a “verger” for some reason) and the Rev. having no wife.

APPROACH: Everyone Apparates to a deserted nearby moor with brooms. Ryan hikes into the village in Muggle (student tourist) guise, with backpack. Harry accompanies him, wearing the invisibility cloak. The others wait at altitude, being careful not to be seen.

PHASE 1: Ryan and Harry go to the church. Ryan plays tourist while Harry unlocks a door. They enter and scout the place.

PHASE 2: Ryan sets up his computer and makes the most detailed scan of the mysterious vault possible. They attempt to find an entrance. Bill and Kenji may be called in to help with the scan, or to break spells.

PHASE 3: If they can safely enter the mysterious space, it will be explored and the contents (if any) noted.

WITHDRAWAL: All are to withdraw to the rendezvous on the moor by midnight, 12:30 at the latest, and Apparate back to London. The church is to be left locked and appear undisturbed.

Eleven people seemed like overkill for this job, and Ron and Hermione weren't actually needed, but they wanted to go so badly Harry couldn't disappoint them. He got them to agree to stay with the backup team, in the air, unseen, by promising to let them come down and see for themselves, if we managed to get in safely. At least they could count on finding out what happened (or didn't happen) right away. Kingsley made only one suggestion: he wanted two Obliviators and two members of the ITF; we had thought one of each was plenty, seeing as how it was such a small village. But he pointed out that just because it is such a small village, everyone tends to look out for everyone: if someone thought the church was being broken into, they were likely to raise a general alarm, whether it was a Muggle or a Wizard.

I would have to try and use my scanner without showing light through the church windows, but we felt sure there would be someplace with window-curtains, maybe an office or even a bathroom, that would serve. We hoped that would show some sort of entrance to the vault. If it didn't, and we couldn't find one by midnight, we would withdraw and think up another scheme. If we needed backup, we could send up sparks with our wands, send a Patronus, or even shout.

Elliott Witherspoon was going to stay behind and mind things at the Ministry, because to everyone's surprise, Abner Proudfoot had visited Godric's Hollow several times. Turns out a schoolmate of his lived there. Abner was the one who knew about the Reverend Swain's love of bridge, and his weekly evenings making up a fourth with a Muggle couple and their widowed aunt. If we encountered any of the Wizarding residents, Abner, who was either known or known of in the village, would keep them occupied until the Obliviators could do their stuff. If we encountered any Muggles, I would take the lead in distracting them for the same reason.

It sure seemed like a good plan.

Fortunately, the night was clear and calm, and we all arrived safely on the moor. Abner brought us, one by one, by side-along Apparition, to a place he knew. There were no trees, but a sort of pile of boulders on flat, undulating ground. For some reason, we all shook hands with each other. It just seemed like the thing to do. Mounting brooms, we separated: the others went up higher, dividing into two groups, as planned. Harry and I flew low, coming down to a paved road where we shrunk and stowed our brooms and Harry put on his cloak.

We could smell flowers as Harry and I walked into town. I could see rhododendrons and lots of others; at one point I thought I caught the scent of lily-of-the-valley. My Mom loves those and we have lots of them at home. Then I remembered that Harry's Mom was named Lily, and felt sad, wondering if she'd planted some too. But I didn't say anything. Harry and I had agreed to keep talking to a minimum, in case someone saw me talking to myself or heard a voice coming out of nowhere. I was following Harry, who was completely invisible under his cloak. How do you follow someone who's invisible? In front – by touch.

There were no cars. Abner had told us there was a law against parking in the village during the summer months, and it was nowhere near anything anyone would call a main road. The street was narrow; Harry had called it a “lane.” On both sides were cottages, mostly with front porches, usually covered in flowering vines like clematis and wisteria. That was very much like the older houses in the Midwest that I remembered so well, but these houses were different. Smaller. Older. Although there had been a larger one, the first one we came to, which looked really old (it reminded me of buildings like Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Elizabethan times) but was almost completely covered in vines. The right side of the roof was blown out, it was dark, the yard was overgrown and the front gate was all rusted.

“Touch the gate,” came Harry's whisper. I put my hand on the top, and suddenly a wooden sign rose up out of the ground. It had glowing gold letters on it that read:

On this spot, on the night of 31 October 1981,

Lily and James Potter lost their lives.

Their son, Harry, remains the only wizard

ever to have survived the Killing Curse.

This house, invisible to Muggles, has been left

in its ruined state as a monument to the Potters

and as a reminder of the violence

that tore apart their family.

There was graffiti all over the sign, all around, but everyone had been careful not to obscure the words. Some of them said things like “good luck, Harry” or “we're all behind you,” but the most recent, written in large golden letters on top of others, just said “Thank You, Harry!” “Wow,” I breathed. Hearing about it was one thing, actually standing there looking at it was something else. After a bit, Harry squeezed my arm and we headed on in.

The lane curved to the left, and we saw street lights ahead, in what turned out to be the town square...also strangely like a Midwestern town, (or vice versa, I suddenly realized) but also smaller, and older. Just a few shops and a post office – all closed – and a pub, which was apparently closing. Harry's touch stopped us in the shadows under a tree, and as we watched, the light inside went out, and a man and a woman came out the front door. She watched as he locked the door, and they walked off together. For a moment I thought they were going to come right by us, but they turned and disappeared up an alley between the post office and one of the shops.

The far side of the square was taken up by a small church, blocky and built of stone, with a square tower instead of a steeple, and a large fenced area I could see was the graveyard. In the middle of the square was a tall but rather wide obelisk, much like other ones I had seen – “cenotaphs” they're called, and they were generally built to honor the local dead from World War I, whose names were engraved in the stone. Most of them had more names under the legend “World War II.” Remembering that I was supposed to be a tourist hiking through, I went up to the cenotaph – and as I got close, it changed. I knew about this, but it was still surprising and uncanny to see. It transformed into a sculpture of a man and a woman holding a baby. I stopped, and felt Harry brush into the pack on my back. The man in the statue was wearing glasses and looked a lot like Harry; the woman had long hair and was very pretty. Again, after a moment I felt Harry touch my arm, and we moved off.

I knew where I was going – before we started out, Hermione had told me, in detail, about their visit last Christmas. The graveyard was surrounded by a cast-iron fence, and off to the side was what she called a “kissing gate.” You pushed it open, stepped into a little enclosure, and had to close the gate again before you could leave the enclosure to the inside. Hermione had said it was a romantic invention: if a boy could trap a girl in the little enclosure, he could ask for a kiss before letting her pass through. Abner had overheard, and snorted. “Naow,” he said. “Keeps the cows out o' the graveyard, is all.”

We slipped in through the gate, and Harry steered me by touch – not to the church, but into the graveyard. I had time to consider how eerie it was to be walking through a graveyard, being touched on the elbow by a totally invisible hand. When I was a little kid, my friends and I were scared of ghosts and gave graveyards a wide berth, even in daylight; when I got older my parents taught me the adult Muggle attitude: there are no such things as ghosts, it's all just silly primitive superstition, and I pretty much ignored graveyards. Then, of course, I went to Wizard school and learned better, when I met a couple of ghosts. They're real, all right, but you don't have to be afraid – there just isn't much they can do to you except that chilled-all-through thing.

We stopped at a very old gravestone, one of those nearest to the church (which made sense). The light from the street lamps reflected off the church, and I could almost make out the engraving, but not quite: the stone was badly weathered and had blotches of lichen or moss. Nevertheless, I knew what it said: “Ignotus” and could see part of the sign of the Deathly Hallows carved beneath the name. That's a triangle, enclosing a circle, with a vertical line up the middle. The vertical line represents the Elder Wand (which was back at Hogwarts), the circle represents the Resurrection Stone (lost somewhere in the Forbidden Forest) and the triangle represents the Invisibility Cloak, which was right beside me. This was the grave of Ignotus Peverell, Harry's ancestor, who had passed the Cloak down to his descendants. Suddenly I felt a vibration beneath my feet. It was faint, but unmistakable, much like what you might expect from a large truck, passing by in the street. I heard a sharp intake of breath and knew that Harry felt it too. We stepped back and turned around to look, but there was no truck, and it stopped.

Harry then steered me away from the church, farther into the graveyard, until we reached a double headstone. This was much newer, made of a white stone (marble, I thought) and the neat engraving was easy to read in the starlight. James Potter and Lily Potter. Harry's parents. I looked at the dates, and it hit me pretty hard when I realized they had both died at the age of 21. I heard a soft rustle, and a small bouquet of flowers appeared on the ground in front of the stone. I didn't recognize them, but they were small, and looked white or cream-colored. They were pretty.

A soft tug on my elbow turned us around, and we made our way through the headstones to the church itself. There was a side door, and when I stopped in front of it I felt Harry brush past me. I was supposed to be blocking the view of anyone who happened to see us, but there wasn't anyone, as far as I could see or hear. I heard him say “alohomora” quietly, followed by a muffled clank and clunk, and the door swung inward with a groan of hinges that sounded like a fire alarm in the silence. We held our breaths, listening for any response to the noise, and then stepped quickly inside. It took several minutes to swing the door closed, very slowly, to keep the noise from those damn hinges at a minimum, but of course we couldn't leave it standing open.

The windows in the church were deep-set in the stone, and didn't let in much light from outside, but it was bright enough to move around without bumping into things, and I headed for the altar area. There might be a small robing room, or a choir room, or something like that, which would have no windows. I took two steps up to the level of the altar table, looking around on both sides, and that's when it happened. The sanctuary suddenly echoed to a sharp “crack!” from the back of the room. The echo effect changed the sound so that I didn't immediately recognize it for what it was: someone Apparating into the church. A bright something whipped past me, and the space was suddenly illuminated for a moment as if someone had taken a picture with a flash camera.

Then all the lights went out, because I did.

When I came to, I didn't know how much later, I was looking up at the carved ceiling of the church. I couldn't move my arms or legs, they seemed to be stuck to whatever I was laying on. But I could turn my head; to my right rose up a large mass that turned out to be the altar, and I realized I was laying on the floor behind it. Looking to the left, I saw the back wall of the sanctuary, with a door partly covered by a curtain, until my view was blocked by something tall and black moving into my view. A triangle poked out of the bottom of the black cloth, the pointed toe of a boot, and I realized what color it would show in a better light. I looked upwards, and saw the cowl of the Wizard's robes thrown back, revealing a rugged, lean, square-jawed face that did not surprise me in the least.

“Well, now, fancy meetin' you here, son,” he said in a voice that would have been right at home in El Paso or Fort Worth. “I thought you was just blowin' smoke in that newspaper article, but it looks like you did have some leads, after all.”
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