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

High Moon

by RyanJenkins 0 reviews

Who's the fastest wand east of the Pecos? A rescue, a baffling problem, and a surprising discovery.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: G - Genres: Drama - Characters: Bill Weasley,Harry,Hermione,Ron - Published: 2016-09-13 - 4915 words - Complete



I didn't say anything, and after a moment Holiday went on in a soft, conversational drawl, “You're gonna have to talk to me, son. Ain't no way around it. We can do it quiet, and simple-like, right here and now. Or I can stun ya again, take you out to a place I know, and go to work on ya real good. You'll talk then, I'll guarantee ya that. Hell, you'll scream. But it won't do ya any good. Not out there.” He kept his wand pointed at me, and poked me with the toe of his boot. “So what's it gonna be?”

My brain had revved up into overdrive as he talked. Did he think I was here alone? Where was Harry? If he didn't know about Harry, why hadn't Harry clobbered him with any of a dozen spells I could think of? The thing is, Holiday's manner was not in the least hurried or nervous. He wasn't keeping an eye on anything but me. He didn't talk or act like a man expecting to be interrupted any moment. But maybe that strong, man-of-few-words cowboy image was least to him...and I was reading too much into it. Had he zapped Harry, and thought that was my only companion? That would be stupid of him, don't count on that. Had Harry gone to bring help? That wasn't like Harry, but maybe... Still, if Wally Holly (the name leaped to mind and I immediately thought Whatever you do, don't say that!) really did think I was alone, I couldn't ask, or even hint, about a companion without putting him on his guard. Where was Harry? I was running through this cycle in my mind when it was broken by a pointed boot toe, this time crashing painfully hard into my ribs.

“Ahh! Okay, okay, we'll talk!” The agony was subsiding, but it had cleared the rest of the cobwebs out of my head and crystallized the obvious: regardless of what was happening, my best bet at this point was to play for time. “What do you want to know?”

“Mainly, I want to know how to git the money. You and I are huntin' the same game, ain't we?”

“ from the vault at Gringott's, yeah.”

All the money. The Goblins must-a told ya; they changed a lot o' Franklins inta gold Galleons, over the years, a whole lot more than they kept in that vault.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tell the truth as much as possible, I was thinking. I didn't know how much he knew. “Blackstone said it was over a million and a half, in Franklins.”

“Huh. A lot he knows.” Holiday sounded derisive. “It's more'n that. A lot more.”

“It could have blown up with that building on Mount Street.”

“No. Oh, no. I couldn't find the place when I went there. It was hexed. Couldn't get in. I guess you an' the Brits did, and now mebbe I'm glad I didn't. But the money's in gold. That much gold, they would-a found some of it, even after th' buildin' blew up, an' they didn't. If they had, you wouldn't be here, would you? Not in the middle of the night, anyhow. No, it warn't there. I know it warn't. Now how'd you know to come to the Holler? Answer me that.”

“I didn't. Not for sure. I mean, I didn't know for sure that the money is here, but I thought it might be.” Not a word about the computer and the Sniffer. Not a word – unless he brings it up.

“How come?”

“I made a list of possible places.” I was thinking fast, but it felt like I was thinking on ice skates. “I was figuring the most likely ones were magical places, and especially ones where Voldemort had been, because they were obviously accumulating all that money for him. Godric's Hollow was way up near the top of that list. He'd been here twice, did you know that? Once in 1981 and again last Christmas.”

“Oh, I knew about that, all right. Ran into Pal Joey when I got here; he was usin' an old safe house we'd set up, way back when, thinkin' Bangfang was the only one knew about it. Joey told me a lot o' stuff, after I encouraged him a bit. That's how I knew him and Ol' Bangfang stashed it away. They double-crossed me, puttin' that F'delius Charm on the office, and tried to freeze me out – hell, they tried to freeze ol' Voldemort out. You didn't figger on that, did ya?”

“No! You mean Fangboner tried to steal it all for himself? From Voldemort? That was stupid.” He was a lot more talkative now. I didn't know why but I was glad of it.

“Bangfang warn't near as smart as he thought he was, even as a kid. We was in school together – he always wanted to be the one comin' out on top, in the end. But this time he didn't. Not this time. He and Joey worked it together, but Joey done for 'im and went to ground.”

“Then he was stupid too. Voldemort would have found him. Voldemort was not stupid, and he was incredibly powerful.”

“That he was. Wouldn't-a tried it, myself. But Joey figured on tellin' Voldemort that he'd stopped Fangboner. 'I saved your money for you, and here it is, mister big shot Dark Lord.' Part of it, anyhow; don't know how much Joey figured on holdin' out for himself. They prob'ly did have considerable that nobody else knew about.” He lifted his wand and his eyes narrowed into slits. “That money's mine, son. Bangfang owed me, big time, and I'm gonna collect, sure as Hell's a man-trap. 'Cause Voldemort's gone, his Death Eaters are on the run, and they ain't lookin' for me, 'cause I ain't one of 'em. That Potter kid put Voldemort down, nobody saw that comin', an' ol Joey was just layin' low 'til the dust settled when I come along and found 'im settin' with his back to a door he didn't know about.” He pointed his wand straight at me. “But you ain't bein' straight with me, son. Pal Joey told me the money was here in the Holler, in a vault, but that's all he said before he...passed away. Sudden, like. Real sad. Now mebbe you did just come to check the place out, but I seen you comin' into town. You stopped at the old Potter place; only Wizards do that. But you didn't go in. Then you walked straight past me, I was in the old Bagshot house. You didn't even stop there, and those are the two places Voldemort went when he come here. There ain't nothin' in either of 'em. I know that. But so do you, because you just passed 'em by an' headed straight for the church. Now how'd you know to come here?”

I was about to say something about wanting to put flowers on Harry's parents' grave, but it sounded lame even to me. The ice under my mental skates was getting pretty thin when we were interrupted by the sound of the big church doors being unlocked, revealing a woman's voice saying (apparently to herself) “Now let's must have rolled under the pew. I hope the Vicar won't mind that I came...Oh! Who are you?”

Holiday's wand left me and pointed down the aisle. There was a scream and a flash and a door closed, and the Texan vaulted over the altar. I heard him run down the aisle and go out the door, and then suddenly Ron and Abner were there. Abner pointed his wand at me and I could move again. My arms and legs weren't coordinating too well, and when they got me upright I was dizzy for a moment, but it passed quickly. On the altar were my wand and the things from my pockets, including my computer and keyboard (both still shrunk down), and even my broom, also pocket-sized. I grabbed my wand and my broom, and Abner scooped up the rest as Ron hustled (helped) me to the side door.

Outside, the moon had risen – it was full that night – and there was plenty of light. We shook hands all around, and I said “Thanks! That was the best imitation of the Seventh Cavalry I've ever seen in my life.”

“The what?”

“Tell you later. Where is everybody?”

“Hermione's probably five hundred feet up, now. She parked her broom right outside the church door,” said Abner with a tight smile.

“I thought I recognized her voice!”

“We had to get Holiday away from you,” explained Ron, “and we reckoned that if he'd been confronted by a Wizard he could have just scragged you before fighting or running. Probably would have, couldn't risk it. But a Muggle coming in, see, he'd leave you be and go chase 'em down.”

I was busy stowing things back in my pockets. Abner handed me the keyboard and added, “Holiday stunned Harry too, but he didn't know it, because Harry woke up between a couple of pews with the cloak still over him. He made it to the side door and got it open just enough to slip out – said it took him forever – and he called us down. Orderic and his crew are busy keeping the townsfolk quiet.”

“Where's Harry?”

“He and Bill and Kenji were in the square, waiting for Holiday to come out.”

“You alright on a broom, now, mate?” Ron asked.

“Yeah, I think so. I'm good.” I wasn't anywhere near that confident, but neither was I going to sit around listening to the little birdies and miss out on the party.

“Then let's go up and see what's happened.”

“Wands out!” said Abner, “and don't bunch up. Let's be three separate targets when we come over the roof-line.” That's just what we did, but it was all over.

Walpurgis Holiday was stretched out on his face, about halfway from the church to the cenotaph. Harry – fully visible, with the full moon behind him just over the tops of the houses – was standing a few feet out from the cenotaph; he was facing Holiday and Holiday was lying with his head pointing right toward him. Bill and Kenji were emerging from the shadows on the opposite sides, and Hermione zoomed down for a landing.

I will always regret not having seen the Wand-fight at the U.K. Corral, but here's the way Bill described it, a little later: “It was Harry's plan, and it was brilliant. When he made it outside after he woke up, he sent up red sparks and of course we all came down immediately. He told us what had happened, and said at once that your rescue was first priority, catching Holiday came second. We needed to lure Holiday away from you, and having a Muggle walk in on them was already in his mind. Only he wanted to do that part himself, and it took Hermione a little time – most of a minute, I should say – to convince him that she should do it. She pointed out that Holiday was quite likely to recognize Harry, but when Harry then wanted Ron to do it, she said 'Harry, will you think a minute? This Holiday fellow is a Texan – one of those big macho types, practically drowning in test...' —testorine? I didn't quite catch the word she used.”

“Testosterone,” I said with a laugh. “It's a Muggle medicine term – the body chemical associated with masculinity.”

“Oh. Well, Harry understood, and took her point – which was that Holiday was much more likely to try and chase down a woman, because a fellow like him tends to think of women as helpless little creatures; if a man interrupted, he'd be more worried and might do anything. So she played the little scene...”

“Brilliantly!” I interrupted, and Bill grinned, nodded, and continued,

“...and since she was ready for it, was able to dodge the stunning spell Holiday shot at her easily enough. She ducked out, closed the door, grabbed her broom and headed upwards.

“Now something else Harry told us was that we absolutely needed Holiday alive. We had to catch him if we could, but Harry laid down that we would do better to let him escape than take any risk of his dying, whether accidentally or in self-defense. He is, after all, our only link to your missing people, Ryan; if he got away we might find him again, but if he got killed whatever he knows would die with him. And that was a problem, because as soon as he realized he was confronted by a group, especially a group of Wizards, he could simply Disapparate to anywhere.”

“And probably would,” I agreed. “He Apparated into the church.”

“Exactly. So Harry had a notion of how to distract him from that possibility by making him mad, and gave us our marching orders. He put Kenji and me on either side of the square, between buildings, lying prone with wands out, and then he put on his Cloak while walking out into the square. Hermione used alohomora on the front doors, went in, did her bit, came out, and zoomed up. Sure enough, after a few seconds the door opened and out came Holiday, wand out, looking round. We went into our little act.

“'Walpurgis! That you, dearie?' called Hermione from above.

'Hey, Ignatz!' said Kenji from his side, and I chimed right in from the other side with 'Theodophilus, over here!' Holiday whipped his head round, following the voices, and his face seemed to get darker.

Then Harry cast off his Cloak and said 'Hello, Chauncey!' That's when he snarled and raised his wand – or started to, to be precise, because Harry's Expelliarmus! jerked it away from him before he got it up. Kenji and I both hit him fair and square with Stunners, and down he went. Simple as that.”

Harry had Holiday's wand, of course, and Hermione tied him up in a neat bundle with some rope she Summoned. (“Not really sure where it came from, I'm afraid” she told me, “but there's always some rope in a village, and we'll replace it.”) Orderic and his crew had been pre-positioned, and anyone in the village who stirred, or lit a light, was quickly visited and rather easily convinced it was all just a dream, or simply forgot it entirely. In fact, he had sent a Patronus to the Ministry, and more Obliviators had arrived, but they didn't have much to do.

Abner and a couple of the Obliviators took Walpurgis Ignatz Theodophilus Chauncey Holiday back to the Ministry and saw him put to bed in one of the cells on the 10th level. Now positively guaranteed to be Basilisk-free, or your money back, I thought.

The rest of us slipped into the church, and went on into the robing room, or whatever it was, through the door behind the altar. It wasn't a big room, and was a bit crowded with all of us, but it had no windows. I got the computer going and fired up the Sniffer – and then turned it over to Kenji, who was well ahead of me in understanding the new version.

The vault – we had all begun using that word, after I told them what Holiday had said – showed up big and bright and as multicolored as ever. It looked like a box, and was clearly underground, apparently partly under the church itself, about halfway between the entrance and the altar. At first we couldn't see anything that looked like a door, or an access passage. Then Kenji used his wand to do some fine-tuning or supercharging or something, and two sort of ghostly-looking areas appeared, sticking out from each end of the box. They weren't very well defined, and we couldn't tell where they ended – they just seemed to go all fuzzy and disappear.

The big question was: what sort of spells, hexes and jinxes might be in use here, to keep the vault secret and secure? Here's where we ran into a roadblock – or rather, a maze. There were a lot of them, apparently. Different colors, patches of color, and sort of in-between shades, as well as what looked like several bordering outlines, in different shades – none of them black or red (or purple, thank goodness!) but clearly this was not a simple situation. My own training in this area turned out to be less useful than I thought it would: every time I thought I recognized something, someone – Bill, Kenji, or Hermione usually – would come up with an excellent reason why it might be something else. Bill's experience as a curse-breaker for Gringott's had given him a lot of background in dodgy magic from other countries (he'd spent a lot of time in Egypt, for instance). Hermione, to my surprise and Kenji's (but apparently no one else's), produced a small stack of books on magical history and antique spells, and kept finding old formulas (some of them pretty odd, too) which might have been used in Ignotus's day. I knew Kenji grew up in Minneapolis, but he turned out to have considerable knowledge of Asian magic, and he tossed out a few possibilities that surprised the other two.

Finally, Harry called a halt. “All right everyone, just hang on a bit and let's think this through again. It certainly looks like this vault dates from away back, but according to dear old Chauncey,” he grinned quickly and we grinned back, “it may have been entered, recently, by one or both of the Americans. With all these protective did they know how to do that?”

“Without, apparently, disturbing anyone or leaving any trace,” pointed out Kenji.

“Yes, and without a team of Obliviators,” observed Bill. “It was only one, or at most two of them.”

“How did they know it was there in the first place?” asked Hermione.

“Maybe the way they found out, whatever it was, included instructions for entering the place?” Even as I said it, I was thinking how thin and speculative that sounded.

“Maybe,” said Harry. “But if they could manage it, we ought to be able to...if, in fact, this is where they stashed their money.”

“That's something I've been wondering about,” put in Ron. “D'you think there might be another vault somewhere around here? I mean, I know Wally Holly said he didn't find anything, but he's not exactly the greatest wizard in history, is he?”

“Hardly,” agreed Hermione. “You're right, Ron, he might simply have missed something with really good concealment spells, or not have found it yet, I suppose. But we did look at the whole area, back in London, and this was the only vault we saw.”

“Back in London...” Kenji and I spoke simultaneously. We looked at each other and then at Harry, who was smiling and nodding.

“Would we get more detail from here? Sounds to me like it's worth having a go.”

Now Kenji and I were nodding, and I gave him an after-you-Alphonse gesture. He typed something quickly on the keyboard, and leveled his wand. The display zoomed out to take in the whole village, and again we saw the Potter home, the Bagshot house, and the obelisk in the square. We saw quite a number of other houses that indicated a Wizarding family, showing up as green patches.

Kenji looked at Harry, and cocked his head. “Somehow, Harry, I don't think these guys would have used your family's place to stash things.”

“I hope not.” Harry's face darkened. “I hate the thought of them going in there.”

“Not at all likely, I think.” Bill put his hand on Harry's shoulder. “They never understood why Volde-- I mean, Tom Riddle – came to grief in that house, but they certainly know he did. Doubt if they so much as set foot on the property.” Harry looked up at him with a brief smile, and Bill dropped his hand. “Still, let's not waste this chance of making sure, what d'you say?” Harry nodded, and we all looked at Kenji.

The display zoomed in on the Potter property, which showed up as a bright, warm, living green. Kenji used the keyboard a couple of times, and pointed his wand at the screen. After a moment, he said wonderingly, “There's not a trace of black magic here. This is where, uh, Riddle committed two murders with an unforgivable curse, right? And tried to commit a third, and did create a Horcrux?” When everyone nodded without speaking, he went on, “There ought to be some residue, some echoes of that much magic, that black and that strong. But at this range, we'd see it if there were. There's nothing. It's like it's been washed clean. The counter-spell must have been – must be – amazingly powerful.”

“Yes,” said Hermione quietly. “Dumbledore understood that. It's what kept Harry safe for sixteen years. Of course it no longer worked at the Dursleys' after Harry turned seventeen, but I shouldn't be surprised if it was quite permanent in this house.”

“It's amazing. I want to talk more about this, but later. For now, well, there is one other thing I could try. I mean, as long as we're...making sure?” Kenji looked at Harry, who nodded, and went on, “We've been working on a way to detect embedded emotions in things...” Seeing expressions of surprise and non-comprehension pass over our faces, Kenji hastily explained, “When something happens that generates a really powerful emotion, nearby objects – or even the ground, whatever is close – can sort of absorb some of that emotion, become impregnated with it I guess you could say. We've been tinkering with a way to detect and display these – well, emotional residues, or echoes, or whatever you want to call them. Now this is nowhere near finished, and very confidential at this point, OK? But I've got a version of the spell with me, and this looks like a very good opportunity to test it. Would you mind, Harry?”

“No.” Harry's forehead was creased, and he looked uncertain, but he repeated, “No, go ahead. 's all right.”

Kenji typed and used his wand. The display blanked for a couple of seconds, then came back up again, still focused closely on the Potter property. But this time, it was red instead of green, a lovely, warm, deeply saturated rose-red that was somehow...cheering? Warming? Uplifting? Good to look at, anyway.

“The colors mean completely different things here. You've got to keep that in mind. If we were detecting magic, red is a warning – but emotionally, red means only one thing: love.” Kenji spoke slowly. “This house is deeply saturated with love. I've never seen anything like this. I expected to see fear and hatred – those would be yellow and blue – but there's none of that.”

“Yeah, well, that's what Dumbledore said the spell was, didn't he?” Ron spoke quietly, but with conviction. “Love. Harry's parents loved him so much they gave up their lives tryin' to protect him. And it worked.”

“Yes, exactly,” said Hermione softly. “Harry, it's – oh, Harry.” At the tone of her voice we all looked at Harry, who was standing there, looking at the display, with tears running down his cheeks.

“Sorry,” he said after a moment, “it's just that – oh, I knew what Dumbledore said, but seeing it like this...” He shook his head, still staring at the screen, seeming to grope for a word, then plunged on, “...and, I mean, I always...thought that house was...tainted, or infected, or poisoned or something...but it's not, is it? Just love...washed clean...”

I didn't know British people did group hugs.

Later, Ron told me there was a massive one just after Harry defeated Riddle, but this one took me by surprise. Not that I hung back. Kenji started to, but I grabbed him, and we all stood there for...I don't know how long. Awhile. When we pulled back a little, Harry looked around at us all, his face wet, and focused on Kenji.

“Kenji, thank you. I don't know yet how much that new spell of yours is going to help the aurors, but it's certainly done a lot for me. Made me realize. I've spent a lot of my life thinking about what I lost, over in that house, and now....well, perhaps it's time I started giving more attention to what I've gained. Like friends. And...” his voice trailed off. He didn't say “Ginny,” but he didn't have to.

Across people's heads, Hermione's wide-open eyes met mine, and then she dissolved in tears and buried her head on Ron's shoulder. I knew just what she was thinking. Maybe this is the start of the healing process. I still had an arm around Kenji's shoulders and I squeezed good and hard for a moment.

“Here, now, Hermione! It's all good, really...” Harry began, and she interrupted him.

“Oh, Harry, don't you know by now that girls cry when they're happy?”

“Yes, I know, but for the life of me, I don't under--” He stopped because Hermione was wiping his face with a handkerchief she had produced from somewhere. Do girls all have handkerchiefs all the time? Are they issued at birth or something? It just sort of appeared like magic. Come to think of it, Hermione is a witch. But still.

I think the rest of us just used our sleeves, I know I did.

“All right, then, friends, one of the things I've gained is a job to do, and we don't have all night, you know. Some of these local folk are up before the sun.” Harry's gentle tone brought us all back to earth in the kindest way, and I thought, What a leader he is – he's a natural. We turned back toward the screen, and Kenji shifted the focus to the old Bagshot house.

That looked very different. Ugly. The green background was faded, and splotched with the colors of black magic. A sort of sparkly charteuse splotch lay over the front and rear exits, and in some of the rooms: the program identified it as a personal-protection spell, which neutralized hexes and jinxes. “What d'you want to bet Wally Holly put that there, when he was prowlin' the place?” said Ron.

Bill nodded. “Very likely, Ron. I know a couple like that, and I'll use 'em if we want to go in there.”

“I don't see anything that looks like a locking spell or a concealment hex,” I said, “do you, Kenji?”

“No, nothing like that. Of course, if it was a Fidelius charm, and they made it unplottable, it wouldn't show. Someday, maybe, we'll figure out how to detect unplottable places, but we haven't yet.”

“Can you make just one room unplottable?” Ron wanted to know. “Wouldn't it have to be the whole house?”

“Oh, certainly,” answered Bill. “You can do it to a drawer, or even a box. Bit finicky, actually, getting the spell right, but it's quite possible.”

“Maybe we should have Jamie try his smoke-spell on this place,” I suggested.

“Guess we'll have to come back, then,” agreed Harry. “But why don't you try your emotion-detector here? I'll bet there's a big blob of fear in that room where Nagini attacked us. I know I was scared as hell!”

“OK,” said Kenji, adding, “or should I say right-o?” This got a round of chuckles, but he was already bringing up the other display. It was even uglier. Fear is a really disgusting yellow color, and I never thought blue could be so nasty as the icy shade that signifies hate. The blotches were all through the building, and there was a place where the blue shaded all the way to black – Kenji thought that was where Bathilda Bagshot had died. We easily identified the room where Harry and Hermione had fought Riddle's snake-horcrux-familiar, and the fear color was brightest over by the window.

“That's where we went out,” breathed Hermione. “I was terrified.”

Kenji moved the focus through the building, and Bill was the one who saw it first. “What in Merlin's name is that?”

It was a blank space. Well, not exactly blank, it was a very faint lilac-purple. But it didn't have any of the intense emotional splotches that covered the rest of the house. As Kenji zoomed the display in and out, it appeared that this space – roughly rectagonal, and maybe 20 feet in its largest dimension – was under the house, under the first floor at any rate, where a basement would be. But there was no other sign of a basement or cellar.

“Well, well, well, what do you know?” Kenji was intent. “It looks to me like that's a hidden space, probably unplottable and Fidelius-ed, but it's saturated with an emotion strong enough to trip the emotion detector. Didn't know it would do that.”

“But...purple?” I asked.

“Looks more like lilac,” observed Bill.

“Violet, I'd say,” put in Ron

“Heliotrope, perhaps?” suggested Hermione.

“It's not a box of crayons,” said Harry dryly. “What's the emotion, Kenji”

Kenji looked around at all of us with his eyes alight and a shark-like smile on his face, and then looked back at the display. “Avarice,” he said. “Intense, pure, naked greed.”
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