Chapter 2: Back to The Burrow
Harry didn’t expect to meet so many people at The Burrow at that late hour. Mrs Weasley deplored his bad look, and stated that she would stuff him up with food during his stay here. That remark instead of making him laugh, on the contrary reminded him of an insignificant but painful anecdote still fresh in his memory. It was on this very doorway of The Burrow that Dumbledore had said about this time last year when he had escorted Harry here: “Let us not deprive Molly any longer of the chance to deplore how thin you are, Harry ”. He still heard echoing in his mind the warm and gentle voice of his former Headmaster and a twinge of pain oppressed him for a moment. He succeeded in pulling himself together in time to answer Mrs Weasley with a pale smile.
Apart from the members of Ron’s large family, (Harry noticed that Percy, the third eldest Weasley brother, was not there. He had fallen out with the rest of the family.) many people were there: Mad Eye Moody, Lupin and Tonks, all members of the Order of the Phoenix founded by Dumbledore. There were also Fleur, Bill’s fiancée, her sister Gabrielle and Hermione. Harry breathed easier at the sight of the latter. He had so many things to talk about with his friends Ron and Hermione. Fleur’s parents, Mr and Mrs Delacour, stayed at the village hotel. Harry was not surprised to see Fleur and Gabrielle here, because Bill’s and Fleur’s wedding was due in three days’ time. Gabrielle didn’t want to stay at the hotel with her parents; she wished to get better acquaintance with Ginny who would be a bridesmaid like her. Harry had met her three years ago at Hogwarts. He had almost practically fetched her from the bottom of the lake during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament in which he and Fleur were competitors, and after that Fleur had failed and abandoned the task for having been attacked by the underwater monsters. Gabrielle was only a child but now she had become a young girl with a promising beauty as captivating as her sister, a beauty that deprived you from breath, as Ron would say. At the Triwizard Tournament Fleur was a student of the seventh year of Beauxbatons, the School of sorcerers in France.
Harry was mostly afraid at the prospect of meeting Ginny again, and he longed to leave The Burrow as quickly as possible after Bill’s marriage. He was afraid he would be overwhelmed by Ginny’s charms, and that he would not be able to maintain his decisions to remain aloof from her. He was thankful to Gabrielle for being here; she kept Ginny busy and followed her everywhere. Already the familiar and vague perfume of garden flowers that exuded from Ginny had dangerously softened him on his arrival here when he hugged her (in a very formal way, though, in front of everybody!). Fortunately, he had succeeded in pulling himself together in time. In the rush of a big reunion after a long absence, he didn’t have to face with a private meeting with Ginny, and he thought he was very lucky then.
Mrs Weasley had planned a delicious and copious supper. Everybody enjoyed it in a warm family atmosphere animated by Fred and George who made publicity advertisement for their most recent inventions, still in testing stage, the Bumper Coat and the Misleading Cloak which made you appear up to five yards closer than where you were really, and according to the distance between you and your opponent, yet within the efficient range of spell casting distance. The farther you were from your opponent, the more the misleading distance was important. Harry thought that Fred and George had very ingenious ideas. He had a suggestion and decided to speak to them as soon as possible. Apart from that, the catching chases to dragons who had escaped from the breeding centre, as recounted by Charlie, an other one of Ron’s brothers, made everybody’s blood run cold. They spoke of everything, and of anything, except of Dumbledore. But it was Harry who first started talking about him. He was between Hermione and Ron, facing Mad-Eye Moody and Lupin, a werewolf who was a close friend of James, his father.
“How is the Order of the Phoenix, now that Professor Dumbledore is dead ?”, asked Harry addressing Lupin.
Everybody froze when hearing Harry pronounce Dumbledore’s name, and suddenly the whole room was deep in such a complete silence as if the time had just stopped in its course. Hermione put her hand on her mouth, Ginny from the other end of the table, between Bill and Gabrielle, looked up, staring at Harry with observatory eyes mingled with compassion, which intrigued Harry. A circular look about the whole assembly told him enough, that surely they’ve passed the word around not to speak of Dumbledore in front of him, at least, during this night, the night of reunion, when Dumbledore’s death was still too fresh in everyone’s memory, and specially in Harry’s.
“Listen !”, said Harry, “Dumbledore’s death affected me deeply, more than you can imagine, and I think you all understand me well. But I’m no longer a child, and you should understand that too. I’ve decided to take my life in hand and no more will I allow anyone to stand between me and Voldemort to protect me. And I would like to become a member of the Order of the Phoenix, if the Order is still active, of course.”
“Me too”, stated Hermione.
“Me too”, added Ron.
“We both too”, said Fred and George all together.
Ginny opened her mouth as if about to speak but thought better of it. She foresaw what would be the answers of the old people and knew that her battle was lost in advance. She remained silent and sulky for the rest of the evening, which was already very late.
“Listen, Harry”, Moody replied. “We’ve talked about you in the last meeting of the Order the other day. Well, we’ve spoken a lot about you in our last meetings, and because you are too important a person in this battle, in spite of your young age, we’ve decided to let you join the Order and we accepted also the membership of Ron and Miss Granger if ever you wished to. We’ve been a little knocked out lately, of course, by Dumbledore’s death. He was our Leader and Secret Keeper. We’ve had to change temporarily our Head Quarters to Hogwarts because of Snape. Well, it was more precisely Dumbledore who had forecast everything in case he should disappear in a sudden way. He has left a letter for you. I intended to inform you by the end of the supper, but because you’ve asked, I tell you now. I cannot give you the letter, for I don’t have it. It will be given to you at the next meeting of the Order, which is scheduled for the day after the wedding. Apart from that, the Order is still operating. For the time being, we still follow the directives Dumbledore has left before his death. As for George and Fred, they’ve come of age … er … a long time ago, Arthur and Molly do agree to let them join the Order of the Phoenix too.”
“Mum ! Dad ! You haven’t told us anything”, protested Fred and George in chorus.
At the mention of Snape, his former professor of Potions, Harry felt a surge of rage and hatred overwhelm him. Yes, it was also Snape who had started it all. He was the one who had informed Voldemort of the contents of the prophecy, who had killed Dumbledore, cold bloodedly, on the steps of the Astronomy tower. Harry didn’t know which one of the two, Voldemort or Snape, he now hated most. Still lost in his fury, Harry heard from the other end of the table, Mr Weasley’s voice replying to Fred and George:
“We wanted just to test your maturity”, then in front of Fred and George’s eyes full of protest, he added … “And also, we have been too busy with the preparations for the wedding.”
“And who did know about the arrangements made by Dumbledore in case he died suddenly ?”, Harry inquired.
“His brother Aberforth; you’ll meet him at the next meeting. What a hell of a leader, Albus Dumbledore ! We would never have a leader so perceptive and far-sighted as him, not to mention his magical power that nobody could compare with, of course. Dumbledore’s death is a very great lost for us all, not only on the ground of our strength against Voldemort, which is evident, but also on the affective level. We all have loved him.”
At the name of Voldemort pronounced by Moody, Harry felt a little better, as if a fresh draught had just crossed the room, because most people dared not pronounce his name, and that irritated him badly.
“Because you’ve been busy with the preparations for the wedding”, said Fred to his parents, “we’ll forget our grief against you, for not having told us earlier about our admission to the Order.”
“Yes, we’ll forget”, George reinforced.
“You are hugely indebted to us both, for that”, insinuated Bill, laughing and winking mischievously to Mr Weasley. Fleur then displayed a beautiful smile on her Venus face to support Bill’s statement.
“Hum !” let out Mrs Weasley from the sink where she was laying down her plate.
And with this touch of cheerful mood, the light in the room was switched off all of a sudden, and replaced by a timid flickering glimmer from small candles that progressed floating from a dark corner of the room, nearly at ground level. Then, as a single voice, everybody started singing:
“Happy birthday…’ … On the word “Harry” at the end of the sentence, Harry’s heart burst into tears. He saw the tray of the birthday cake coming towards him, and a small and familiar voice from under the tray made itself heard:
“Happy birthday, Mr Harry Potter !”
“Dobby !” Harry cried out, taking off the tray and discovered the little elf at his feet, “what are you doing here ?”
“Dobby asked Professor McGonagall whether Dobby could come to serve Mr Potter, now that Mr Potter has come of age, Dobby will follow Mr Potter everywhere Mr Potter goes, and Winky too !”
“Oh ! That’s very nice of you, thank you very much. It’s OK, we’ll talk about that later.”
With a smile from ear to ear, Dobby stepped aside rapidly, revealing another tray carried by Winky, this one much larger, and full of presents wrapped in colourful paper.
“Thank you, Winky, said Harry taking away the tray from the elf, and turning to the whole room, with watering eyes and trembling voice full of emotion, he continued: “Thank you very much, thank you all, I’ll remember this day all my life”, but he wondered within himself “Shall I survive Voldemort once again after the final battle and remember this evening ?” Then to the whole assembly he went on “I’ll think about Voldemort later. For the time being, I’ll enjoy your warm company and this unforgettable evening, thank you again, I don’t know how to express myself, but I’m very touched !”
The kitchen exploded with thunderous applause and the evening ended in a commotion of hugging and laughter and when the members of the Order hastily took leave to Disapparate home, it was already two o’clock in the morning. “I’ve come of age since more than two hours”, Harry thought.
“Children ! Up to bed !” Mrs Weasley shouted from the door where she bade “Good-Bye” to the last guests. “We’ll have a busy day tomorrow. We’ll have to go to Diagon Alley for the last minute purchases for the wedding. Harry ! Do you need a new dress robe for the occasion ? Because Ron’s one has become a little too short, you may buy yours tomorrow at the same time !”
“Yes, I think, Mrs Weasley, Harry answered, in a loud voice. He longed to be alone with Ron and Hermione.
“Dobby, Winky, I need to speak to you, please come with me” said Harry to the elves, then to his friends: “Come on !”
After having wished “good-night” in haste to everybody, as well as to Ginny, (Harry thought he was lucky for being able to leave Ginny in such a simple way) he ran up to the last floor where Ron’s room was and where Mrs Weasley had added a little bed for him, as usual. The three friends sat down on Harry’s bed to speak to the elves.
“It’s very nice of you coming to serve me. I’m very touched. For the time being, I stay here with my friend Ron, so you will help Mrs Weasley in the household work and the preparations for the wedding”.
“It’s already done, Mr Potter has no worries about that” replied Dobby promptly.
“How long have you been here ?”
“Since this morning, Sir. The Professor McGonagall had asked Dobby to come and help Mrs Weasley in the preparations for the wedding and Dobby took the opportunity to ask the professor whether Dobby and Winky could leave the school to come and serve Mr. Potter. As Professor Dumbledore is dead, and Mr Potter has come of age, Dobby thought that Dobby could come and serve Mr. Potter. And Dobby has told Winky of his intention and Winky agreed with Dobby. Winky is no longer ill. Since Professor Dumbledore’s death, Winky has woken up from her illness, and agreed to think that Mr Crouch Jr. was wrong in his choice of being one of You-Know-Who’s followers”, the elf replied at one go that deprived you from your breath if you wanted to follow him.
“It’s OK. I accept your service on the condition that you do agree that I pay you.”
“Dobby will obey every order from Mr. Potter”.
But, at the idea of being paid, Winky began crying.
“Winky didn’t expect to fall as low as being paid by the master Winky will serve … hic … hic…”
“No, Winky, you should not think that way. You should think that you make me happy by receiving a pay from me. You like making me happy, don’t you ?”
“Yes, Mr. Potter, Winky likes making you happy, because Dobby loves you very much.”
“Well, that’s settled ! I’ll pay you each twenty Galleons a month, and you’ll have a day off every week.”
“Dobby must obey Mr Potter. But twenty Galleons a month is too much. Professor Dumbledore has agreed to lower Dobby’s pay, on Dobby’s express request, to one Galleon a week, and one day off every month’, Dobby said sadly, tears dropping on his chest.
“Don’t cry, Dobby. Well, I’ll pay you ten Galleons a month, and you’ll have one day off every week. I will not accept to pay you less than that, OK ? And I want you to get yourselves properly and beautifully dressed, and I don’t want you to punish yourselves each time you think you have made a mistake. Everybody can make mistakes. There are serious mistakes and less serious ones. You will come to me and tell me about your mistakes whenever you think you have committed one, and we’ll find a solution together. OK ? “
“Yes, Mr Potter, Mr Potter is too generous”, Dobby replied.
“Winky, you should not be sad because I pay you. You should think that in receiving a pay from me, you make me happy. And I’m glad to learn that you are no longer ill. Now, it’s late, and I think that I’ll go to bed. Good night to you both.”
“Good night, Mr Potter, and thank you,” said the elves in the same and one voice.
“Woouuawh !” Ron blurted out, once the elves had left the room. “You have two elves to serve you alone ! Really, everything happens to you !”
“Yes, everything”, thought Harry. ‘Even Voldemort who wanted to kill me when I was just one year old. That didn’t happen to anybody !’ then:
“No”, replied Harry in a loud voice. “I don’t think I’ll need two elves. I’ve taken some decisions that I would like to share with you. You said in your letter, Ron, that your parents invited me to stay here so long as I wished to. That’s very nice of them. But on reflection, I think that I'll settle down at Grimmauld Place after Bill’s wedding. By the way, when is your Apparition test, Ron ?”
“It’s on the same day as yours, Dad said so, on the wedding day, at 9 o’clock in the morning. He said he’d take us to the Ministry. But if you decide to stay at Grimmauld Place, I would like to come with you, if you agree, of course. I don’t know whether Mum and Dad would accept this idea ?”
“Me too”, added Hermione, “if you agree, Harry.”
“It’s very kind of you both. I think that your parents will accept that idea, we are of age, ain’t we ?” replied Harry. “Then, I think we will need just Dobby. I’ll leave Winky here; she will help your mother. I’ll talk to your parents tomorrow my intention to settle at Grimmauld Place and I’ll speak of Winky on the same occasion. As for my other decisions, we can see later on, after the wedding.”
“My parents are Muggle”, said Hermione. “I’ll come of age in September, in two months, I’ll be eighteen years old, according to Muggle law.”
“Brilliant !”, let out Ron.
They went on discussing till late in the night, and when Hermione left the room to go to bed it was already four o’clock in the morning. Only some hours to sleep before Mrs Weasley awoke them to go to Diagon Alley. But Harry remained awake in his bed, thinking about his new life as an adult, the missions he gave himself to accomplish, and the dark future that awaited him. When he finally fell asleep, a faint glimmer of the morning sun already broke through the splits of the window.
“He was so pale, I dared not tell him yesterday”. The voice of Hermione could be heard in a whisper.
“And what if we let him sleep a little more”, Ron replied her in a low voice.
“There’s no need”, said Harry, opening his eyes, and sitting up in his bed. “I’m already awake. Is it time ?” added Harry seeing both his friends already dressed.
“Morning, Harry ! It’s ten o’clock”, replied Ron, “but you’ll still have time for your breakfast. Mother wants that you eat correctly.”
“She rather wants to stuff me up,” and they all burst into laughter.
“Morning Harry, greeted Hermione, bending down to kiss him on the cheek. “We’ll wait for you downstairs. You’d better take your breakfast properly”, then pulling on Ron’s sleeve, she walked out of the room.
Smiling to himself, Harry put his feet down on the floor, and began to dress. He’would think of Voldemort later, for the time being, he was happy to be back with his best friends.
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