Chapter Twenty-Five: The Heir of Gryffindor
Harry purposely woke up late the next morning. He didn't want to go to breakfast, not when he knew what would be on the front page of the Daily Prophet. He lay with his head under the covers for a while, imagining all sorts of terrible headlines, that got progressively worse before he got up, dressed, and waited for the first bell. When it finally came, he hurried out of Gryffindor Tower and made his way down to the dungeons for Potions.
There was a strange woman Harry had never seen before standing outside their Potions classroom when he arrived. She had dark blonde hair to her shoulders in messy curls, thick glasses, a lazy eye, and a very silly little ruffled skirt. Harry quickly joined the end of the line next to Draco and Kainda. Draco turned to talk to Harry, diving into his bag for something, but the new professor's watery voice interrupted.
"Good morning then everybody," she said. She had a very slow, soft voice, as though she was speaking to somebody very ill. "My name is Professor Feather, and I will be teaching you Potions until further notice... does anybody have any questions?"
Harry stared at her, wondering what questions there could possibly be at this point. Perhaps Professor Feather was waiting for somebody to ask where Snape was, or perhaps not, as she was opening the classroom door and letting them in. Harry instantly took a seat at the back of the class between Draco and Kainda. They all started to get books, quills, parchment and ink out of their bags, and under the noise, Draco muttered to Harry.
"You're in the paper."
"I thought I would be," said Harry with a sigh. "Have you got a copy?"
"Granger gave me hers," said Draco. Underneath the desk, he handed Harry a rolled-up edition of the Daily Prophet. "Brace yourself."
Professor Feather started to take the register, as Harry sat back in his seat and glanced at the front page under the desk. He was greeted by a large picture of the scene when Snape was taken away. His own form, hovering in the mouth of the dungeons with a look of horror on his face, was ringed in red. The headline read, "GUARDIAN ANGEL OF DEATH - Evil Snape's Bond With Boy Who Lived".
"Oh dear," Harry murmured under his breath. Kainda leant over his shoulder to read as he glanced through the article, which continued on pages 2, 3, 4, 6, 19 and 26.
He was so absorbed in his anger that he didn't even notice Draco nudging him, until he had hissed, "Potter!"
Harry glanced up. Professor Feather was looking around. "Harry Potter...?" she murmured.
"Present," he said, hiding the paper out of sight.
She blinked owlishly at him, and then continued. Finally, after Kainda had declared herself present, Professor Feather closed the register and gazed out at them as though observing something scary. "There are no more projects for you to do in this subject," she said softly. "Though there are two chapters in your NEWT text-books still for you to cover. Please read them quietly, and perform any experiments it requires of you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask... thankyou..."
Everybody sighed silently, opened up their textbooks, and started to read. Harry had already gone through one of the two chapters when making his veritaserum, and so turned his attention to the paper under the desk. He scanned through it, picking out phrases that caught his eye. "Albus Dumbledore's foolish risk... but nobody would expect that Snape would next turn on his magical charge... suspicious marks on Harry Potter's neck... refused to comment, possibly too scared of the man Dumbledore set to guard him... vampires have a natural immunity to veritaserum and so the ministry cannot interrogate him..."
"I hate Madam Ivy," Harry growled to Kainda. "She did this. Look in the picture... you see the grey sort of blur behind me? That's her. She was there. She got Snape arrested."
Kainda glanced at the picture. "The ministry are seriously screwed up," she murmured, shaking her head. "Got them all brain-washed. Mum worked for them for a while, she acted just like Umbridge. Only the Heads of Departments seem sane. Then again, look at what happened to Crouch."
Harry sighed. He closed the paper, and handed it back to Draco. "I swear Umbridge and Ivy are related some how. They're just as evil as each other. Ivy's probably Umbridge's daughter or something."
Draco shuddered. "Umbridge creating a daughter... eurgh, don't put thoughts like that in my head, Potter. I can only take so much so early in a morning."
Harry gave a little huff of amusement, and opened up his textbook, looking for one of the experiments he could do to pass the time. None of them appealed to him much at all. He knew what the outcome would be. He sighed and rested his head in his hands, gazing down at the page in front of him. Snape would consider this a pathetic waste of time. He was just starting to become really bored, when the door opened and Professor McGonagall came in.
"Is Harry Potter in this class?" she said, looking around. "Ah, yes, there you are Potter. You'll have to excuse him, Professor. He's needed in Dumbledore's office."
Professor Feather gave McGonagall a rather slow, bland look for a few moments and then said, "That's quite alright..."
"Come on, Potter," said McGonagall crisply. "Bring your bag, that's it... I believe you also have an opsittop? You will need to bring that along too."
Wondering what on earth Dumbledore wanted Sneezy for, Harry packed his things and left the dungeons after Professor McGonagall. He waited until the door had closed before asking, curiously, "What's wrong? Has something happened?"
She nodded, and started along the corridor, with Harry hurrying along behind her. "Yes, Potter. It does not directly involve you, but Ronald Weasley will need your support."
"Is he okay?" said Harry.
"Yes," she said. "A situation has just arisen that Weasley may find hard to accept."
"What situation?" asked Harry desperately. "What is it?"
"All will be explained in the Headmaster's office, Potter," said McGonagall. She yanked open a tapestry and lead him through. "Quickly now. Arthur, Molly, Fred and George have just arrived and we must not keep them waiting. Which lesson is Ronald in at the moment?"
"Care of Magical Creatures with Hermione," said Harry.
"Very well. Continue to the Headmaster's Office then, and I shall fetch Mr Weasley. The password is Jumping Jelly Beans." She turned away down the corridor, heading for the entrance hall, leaving Harry to worriedly make his way to Dumbledore's office.
He gave the password to the gargoyle, and ascended the winding staircase upwards. The door to Dumbledore's office was closed, though he could hear voices from inside. He curled his fingers around the Gryffin-shaped door-knocker, and tapped a few times. It swung upon. Mrs Weasley smiled down at him.
"Hello Harry, dear," she said fondly, bringing him inside and shutting the door. "How are you?"
"Fine," said Harry. He looked around. "What's going on?"
Fred and George were sitting behind Dumbledore's desk, talking to Dumbledore with serious looks on their faces. Mr Weasley was standing near the fireplace and polishing a pocket-watch with his sleeve.
"We just need to tell Ron something," said Mrs Weasley tensely. "And we think that you might be able to ease the blow a little. Don't worry, it's nothing... well, it's nothing terrible, but it will come as a shock to him. Have you got the optissop?"
"Opsittop," Harry corrected. He put his bag down, and opened up the zip. After a moment, he found the little pot that Sneezy slept in. He took the lid off, and scooped Sneezy out. The little opsittop was very sleepy. He grumbled as Harry poked him awake. "This is him," said Harry. "Why do you want him?"
"Low," said Sneezy, peering at Mrs Weasley blearily. He yawned widely, and readjusted his little acorn hat. "Ahhhh, my is shleepy..."
Mrs Weasley put Sneezy gently down on the desk in front of Dumbledore, who smiled at him. Sneezy smiled sleepily back, and settled himself in the headmaster's bowl of paper-clips, starting to make himself little sculptures with them. Harry sat down next to Fred and George, who grinned at him.
"Alright, Harry?" asked Fred.
"Yeah, fine," said Harry. "How's business?"
"Booming," said George. "We've got a good income now, and we're getting pretty famous. Shame you decided to steal the limelight in the Prophet today, nobody's going to see our advert."
"Then again, sales in Getting In Touch With His Feminine Side Snape T-Shirts have doubled," said Fred brightly. "Had to order some more to be printed today. So how are your NEWTs going so far? Not too hard?"
"They're... fine," said Harry. He shrugged. "Normal school work, the usual."
"Glad we didn't have to take them," said George. "Looks like murder to me. Rather stick pins in my eyes."
There was a knock on the door at that moment. "That'll be Ron," said Mrs Weasley, hurrying over and opening it up. Ron stood there, looking very confused.
"Hi Mum," he said, blankly. "Dad. Fred, George. Uh, what's going on?"
"Come in, Ron," said Dumbledore kindly. He swished his wand, and another chair appeared. "Have a seat. We have something to tell you."
Ron shuffled over and sat in his chair. He looked around at them all suspiciously. "I'm not expelled or something, am I?"
"No, no," said Dumbledore. "You are perfectly fine, Mr Weasley. Please do not worry."
"So what am I doing here?" asked Ron.
Dumbledore reached out, and picked Sneezy gently out of his paper-clip jar. He handed the little opsittop to Ron. "Here, Mr Weasley, kindly take him... I only have so many paper-clips he can bend before a stationary-related crisis breaks out."
Ron took Sneezy, and sat him in his top pocket. He then looked around at his family, Dumbledore and Harry again, definitely suspicious now. "Is anybody going to tell me why I'm here...?"
"It is difficult to know where to begin," said Dumbledore. He sighed and got up from behind his desk, wearily. "In the most basic of terms, you are in mild danger, Ron. Lord Voldemort may be planning to kill you."
Ron's facial muscles seemed to give way. "Why?" he spluttered. "What have I ever done to him? And Voldemort planning to kill me is counted as mild danger? I don't even want to know what major danger is."
"There is something we need to tell you, Ron," said Dumbledore. "Something rather serious. Molly, Arthur... do you wish to tell him, or shall I?"
Mr Weasley sat forward in his chair. "I shall help as much as I can, Dumbledore... he deserves to hear it from us. Goodness knows we've been keeping it from him long enough..." He put a hand on Ron's shoulder. "Do you remember when you asked about the family line, Ron? And I told you that we are descended from farmers. That was... a slight lie."
Ron stared at him, and said nothing. Mr Weasley continued.
"The truth is..." Mr Weasley sighed. "The Weasley family line are the true descendents of Godric Gryffindor. We are his heirs."
Ron's face gave way again. He stared at his father, and then his mother, and then Dumbledore, as though begging somebody to verify this. Dumbledore obliged. "It is true," said Dumbledore quietly.
"And You-Know-Who's trying to kill me for it," said Ron, sounding horror-struck.
Dumbledore shook his head. "There is more to it than that, Ron. Our spies have informed us that Voldemort is planning malicious things against you because of a discovery he has made very recently, in his search of the museums of the world. He has uncovered a prophecy made a very long time ago indeed, around the time when Hogwarts first began. The prophecy was made to Salazar Slytherin, or at least directed towards him... let me see..." He reached into his desk, and took out a scroll of parchment. "It was made on the death-bed of one of the most talented seers in the world at that time... and it goes as follows...
Throughout our land the death bells toll,
Days of despair without hope or goal.
Serpents of evil rise and fight,
And darkness falls obscuring the light.
Great leaders arise and blood shall be shed,
Through years of pain and tears and dread.
Hope will appear, but shall not triumph alone,
Not a king to occupy Osiris's throne.
The number of evil will never prevail,
Faced with equal number of Gryffindor's trail.
Great forces protect him but what he needs more,
Will be found behind the great Gryffindor.
The outcome of this cannot be stated,
It hides in the hearts of those truly fated.
The battle to come, the clash of the hoard,
The mind is most truly the mightiest sword..."
Silence followed this little recital. Dumbledore took the time to pull a hair off his shoulders. After a few moments, Ron said, "That was lovely, but I didn't understand a word of it."
Dumbledore smiled a little. "It means that the 666th male heir of Godric Gryffindor will aid the defeat of Salazar Slytherin's line. You, Ron, are the 666th male heir of Gryffindor... and surprisingly enough, you have aided the fight against Voldemort, Slytherin's heir, many times now."
Ron looked around at them all wildly, as though convinced they were playing some kind of joke on him. "But... I... so he's found out? And he's going to kill me, so I can't help Harry kill him?"
"We believe so," said Dumbledore seriously. "Though there is nothing to be afraid of. You are very well protected in this castle, by several different means... which is another reason for us to hold this meeting. There is another secret we need to reveal to you, Ron. And also Harry."
Harry looked around. Dumbledore was reaching out, and taking Sneezy from Ron. Sneezy gave a loud sneeze as he was lifted into the air, and then another as Dumbledore put him gently on the desk before him.
"I suppose that you have been wondering just why your opsittop sneezes," said Dumbledore. "And why I insisted to Hagrid that you be allowed to take him home with you over the summer."
"For our Care of Magical Creatures projects?" asked Harry.
"Partly," said Dumbledore. "Though there is another reason. A more important one. You see, unknown to you both, two magical guardians were present at Grimmauld Place this summer. You are all now aware of the bond between Severus Snape, and Harry. But there is another one... involving Ron. At your birth, I discovered the prophecy made about you, and realised that you would need some special form of protection Ron. I consulted with your parents, and we found a suitable person who would agree to guard you secretly. And that person is sitting here on my desk now."
Harry and Ron both stared at Dumbledore for a few moments. Their eyes then slid to Sneezy. The little opsittop was gazing up at Ron reproachfully.
"Wait..." said Ron. "You set an opsittop to guard me against the most feared wizard in the entire world."
"No," said Dumbledore, shaking his head. "I set something far more powerful than an opsittop to guard you..." He looked down at Sneezy. "Tim. It is time to reveal yourself."
And making Harry and Ron both gasp with horror, a bright white light suddenly burst outwards from Dumbledore's desk, blinding them both against what was happening. Squinting through the painful glare, Harry could make out Sneezy's flickering form on the desk, growing bigger, spreading outwards, lengthening, growing fingers and toes and arms and legs, thinning, taking on a shape, and then -
All of a sudden, the light died. Everybody screwed up their eyes. The dim light was somehow even more painful than the glow now. Slowly, they managed to blink away the floating patches, and turn their gaze to the figure now perched on the edge of Dumbledore's desk. Harry had to admit, some essences of Sneezy lingered - a circular face, slightly squashed nose, and round curious eyes. The man sitting on Dumbledore's desk even had fairly short arms and legs, with stubby fingers, and ears that stuck out a little bit.
Ron was staring through gaps in his fingers, looking horrified. "Why do I always have to pick the weird pets that aren't actually pets? It's always me, isn't it?"
Mr Weasley was moving forward, smiling. The man on the desk grinned up at him. "'lo, Arthur."
"Tim, you old fool... how have you been?" Arthur and 'Tim' embraced like brothers. "Still kicking?"
"I've been alright," said Tim, shrugging. He had a rather gappy smile. "Except I'm allergic to opsittops, I think. Got me sneezing all the time. Could be worse, I s'pose."
"Sneezy was an animagus?" said Harry, staring.
Tim looked at him and grinned. Harry could see that he had hazel eyes, exactly the same colour as Sneezy's had been. "Not far off. I'm an metamorphanimagus. S'like being an animagus, and a metamorphmagus at the same time. Muggles call us shape-shifters. Pretty rare gift."
"Tim is the only living metamorphanimagus in the entire world," said Dumbledore. He put a hand on Tim's shoulder. "And he's been following you around for seventeen years in some shape or form, Ron."
Ron clearly still didn't believe this. He shook his head. "This is worse than Scabbers. Far worse. Somebody go get Pigwidgeon, just in case he's the alter-ego of Gilderoy Lockhart or something."
Tim chuckled. He was the sort of person who would be at home on a farm, with a piece of straw in his mouth, chattering about pigs. "No, he's not. Don't worry."
"So how do you know Mr Weasley?" asked Harry.
"We've been friends since I started working at the ministry, really," said Mr Weasley with a slight smile. "Tim was working in the post office, folding aeroplanes and so forth, and I had to send a lot of messages, so we worked in fairly close quarters."
"Then when Ron was born, Tim offered to look after him," said Mrs Weasley. "Very bravely too... and he's been with you ever since then, Ron."
"I would have noticed him sneaking around after me though," said Ron. "Where was he?"
"I'll answer this, Mum," said Fred, sliding neatly in front of Ron. "Do you remember when you were five...?"
George joined his twin. "And you had that fluffy pink rabbit toy?"
Ron went purple. His face worked, and then he said, gruffly, "Yeah."
"Did you ever wonder why Mum got so upset when me and George tried to dye it green with yellow spots?" said Fred, grinning.
Tim rubbed his neck. "Aiii, that was a scary day."
"You two KNEW?!" Ron shouted, staring at his older brothers. "Why didn't you TELL me?!"
"Mum and Dad said no," said George, shrugging. "All the family know, except you and Ginny."
"So okay," said Ron. "There was... my pink rabbit, but I put that in the bin was I was about seven."
"You were eleven actually."
"Shut up Fred! Anyway. What did I have after the rabbit?"
Everybody turned to Tim, who chuckled. "I suggested that Arthur pretend to buy you an owl, and I could be that, but it wouldn't work. The other boys hadn't had owls from your parents when they went to Hogwarts, so it wouldn't be fair. They figured I had to just be something at Hogwarts in the background. You wouldn't notice me that way. So I was a house elf, up until last year, when they knew I had to be closer to you. Arthur and Molly went to see Hagrid, I changed into an opsittop, and Hagrid agreed to try and get me put with you. Charlie helped too, by releasing the opsittops into the school sometime last year. Luckily enough, I ran into you and Harry, and you picked me up."
"Hagrid knew?" said Ron, looking hurt. "Why didn't he tell me?"
Tim shrugged. "We just asked him not to. Didn't want you panicking. So now You-Know-Who's found out."
"You're not going to have to follow me around as a human, are you?" said Ron, grimacing. Harry recognised Ron's expression as the one he himself had worn when finding out that Snape was his guardian. It was the feeling of an impending end to his social life.
Tim shook his head. "Nah, not at all. I'll probably stay as Sneezy... better take some anti-allergy tablets though... I'm sort of getting used to it. S'nice to be so small. Puts the world into better perspective."
"So I've been wasting all this time trying to teach you to talk, and you already can?" said Ron, staring at him in disbelief.
Tim chuckled. "It was funny really."
"Wait," said Fred. "There was a bit of the prophecy that I don't get. Can I see the parchment again Professor?"
Dumbledore handed him the scroll. Fred unravelled it, and read out a passage. "Great forces protect him but what he needs more, will be found behind the great Gryffindor. What's all that about?"
"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore, taking the scroll back. "We believe that the 'great forces' refer to Tim. There also appears to be something else Ron must find, to make himself safer against Lord Voldemort, and it will be found behind Gryffindor. We have already checked behind every portrait and statue of Gryffindor in the entire school, and there is no evidence of anything there. We believe it is some sort of amulet, or charm, that Godric Gryffindor left behind for his 666th heir."
"What about the sword?" said Harry. "The one I found in my second year."
Dumbledore shook his head. "We considered that, Harry, but it appears to not be. The sword is used for aggressive combat, while what Ron is looking for is something to protect him. We are also puzzled about the part of the prophecy that tells us the amulet will be found behind the great Gryffindor. You discovered the sword, Harry, as you have Gryffindor blood in your veins, but there is something greater which Ron must find."
"Does it look like that one?" said Ron, pointing over their heads. Everybody turned around. Four portraits of the founders lined the wall there.
There was silence, and then Fred said, "Ron, that's a painting. Pain-ting. We're looking for an am-u-let."
"No, the one hanging between Gryffindor and Slytherin," said Ron. "The red one." Everybody stared at him. He stared back. "What?" he said. "Don't look at me like that."
"There's nothing there," said Harry slowly.
"Yes there is," said Ron. He frowned, crossed the room, and reached up. "Look." And to the surprise of everybody in the room, he lifted a chain out nowhere, which was followed by a pendant of gold, with a bright red stone set into the middle. Ron held it out. "Is this it?"
"Where the hell did you get that from?" said George, staring at Ron as though he had just given birth.
"It's just been hanging there all along," said Ron with a shrug.
"Why didn't you say something, you dingbat?!" said Fred, disbelievingly.
Ron shrugged again. "I thought everybody could see it."
"Put it on," said Tim. "Let's see if it's the real thing."
Ron carefully dipped his head, and put the chain around his neck, letting it fall against the front of his robes. A warm glow emitted from the jewel, and a sound that was like gentle wind, before it died away.
"I think that's it," said Tim quietly.
"But..." said Ron, frowning. "It wasn't behind Gryffindor. It was next to him."
Harry was looking towards the exit of the office, and slowly, realisation was coming to him. "I know what it is!" He jumped up, and opened the door. He showed them all the other side. The door-knocker in the shape of a gryffin gleamed in the candle light. Harry pointed. "Behind the great Gryffin door!"
"Ohhhh," everybody said at once, rolling their eyes.
"Well, it's obvious now, isn't it?" said Fred. "Who ever would have thought it was in here all along?"
"Maybe if Ron hadn't been so stupid," muttered George.
"Well now," said Dumbledore pleasantly, smiling at Ron. "That seems to be in order. Ron, please wear that amulet under your school robes, just in case. And with five family members in the Order of the Phoenix, as well as friends, I think - "
"Five?" said Harry. "But there are eight Weasleys in the Order, aren't there?"
Dumbledore counted on his fingers. "Arthur, Molly, Bill, Charlie, Ron and Ginny. Six, in total, five not including Ron."
"But what about Fred and George?" said Harry, glancing at the twins. They went very quiet. "Why aren't they in the Order?"
"The dangers," said Dumbledore heavily.
"But everybody else is in danger," said Ron. "Why not Fred and George?"
"Magical twins share a very close bond," explained Dumbledore. "Closer than parents and their children, closer than ordinary siblings closer than marriage, closer than a guardian bond, closer than any bond currently known. So close in fact that when one of the pair dies, as will the other. We cannot risk losing two very helpful and important people in such a way. The twins do help us, with funding and equipment, but we cannot have them fighting in battles."
Fred and George looked rather sad now. It was one of the first times Harry had seen them looking utterly serious and grim. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Fred spoke up.
"Well... it's not like we wanted to join anyway."
George nodded. "Yeah. Who wants to go around fighting dark wizards?"
"We've got our little shop."
"Yep. That's the life for us."
Fred frowned a little. "Providing funds."
"Watching the others do the dirty work," said George.
They both sighed.
"Funds are necessary," said Ron, comfortingly. "We'd be lost without you guys."
Both twins snorted at exactly the same moment. "No you wouldn't," said Fred. "You'd just have to take money from Dad's job."
There was another pause. Harry was starting to think he shouldn't have brought the subject up. Luckily, Dumbledore broke the uncomfortable silence. "Well then... Harry, Ron, you still have lessons to do today. Ron, I suggest you hide that rather magnificent looking amulet, as I do not think it is in the school dress code as of yet. Ron, tell Hagrid I will explain your absence later, and Harry, please inform Professor Snape that - " He stopped at the look on Harry's face, and corrected himself. "Professor Feather that you are sorry for the part of the lesson you missed, and will catch up through homework if necessary. Tim?"
Tim nodded, and with another blinding flash of light, he shrunk back into Sneezy. He held out his little arms to Ron, who picked him up in his palm, smiling a little. He tucked him into his top pocket. Sneezy beamed at them all. Harry managed a very weak smile. His thoughts were on Snape.
He and Ron left the office, down the moving staircase, and out into the corridors. Ron was tucking his amulet away inside his robes. "Pretty cool, eh? Me being the heir of Gryffindor and all that. I would have said it was you. I got the feeling you knew about the heir thing. Did you?"
"Yeah," said Harry. "Snape told me."
"What, Snape knew as well?" said Ron. "Does everybody in the whole world know except me?" He looked down at Sneezy with a rather fond look. "This is pretty cool you know. Having a guardian. Shame I've only got one, and you've got two."
"Well, Peter's always busy, and Snape's in Azkaban," said Harry gloomily. "It's not like I carry them around in my pocket."
Ron checked his watch. "It's nearly time for second bell. I've got to get off to Dark Arts, Ivy'll skin me if I'm late. See you at break!" He hurried off down the corridor. Harry heard Sneezy chattering away to Ron as he ran, and a feeling of further gloom settled in his stomach. He sighed, and headed off towards History of Magic alone.
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