Progress Notes: *sighs* It is with regret that I am forced to put this story on hiatus. I have recently acquired the full time job that I was lacking before, and between that and several other things, I just haven't been able to write. I'll get back to this as soon as I can, but it may be a month or two. I hope folks will be willing to come back and read when I do!
Harry watched as Ron and Hermione finished the last of their breakfasts. His own was barely touched. He'd had to explain to the innkeeper, Mrs Goldsmith, that he was going to visit the graves of his parents, that he hadn't been before, and that he really didn't find anything wrong with her cooking. She had fussed over him in a Mrs Weasley-like fashion, but he was able to politely but firmly fend her off.
When Ron finally finished his last bit of bacon, Harry stood up and made for the door. They were in the Cotswolds, in the town of Godric's Hollow – the town that, in a perfect world, would have had a lot of memories for Harry.
They had all learned long ago that even with magic, their world was far from perfect. Harry remembered nothing about his surroundings, picturesque though they might be. Thatched cottages, cobblestone roads, and rustic English countryside made Godric's Hollow a beautiful little place indeed. Still, he had to admit that some things did seem familiar, like the memory of an old dream. Or perhaps he had an overactive imagination; Harry wasn't sure.
Ron and Hermione were quiet as they followed Harry down the front steps and into the streets. They had seen the cemetery next to the old church as they had flown in the previous night, but after a three hour journey, all Harry had wanted to do was crash into bed. Besides which, he didn't exactly have the best memories of cemeteries at night, and didn't fancy trying to find his parents’ graves by wand light.
It was about a kilometre's walk from the bed and breakfast to the old church on the hill. The day was overcast, which seemed somehow appropriate to Harry, and though the birds were chirping, they did not see many people milling about as they made their way across town.
They came to the base of the hill, and Harry gazed upward a moment before going further. The hill itself was large and mound-like, surrounded by forest on two sides. It was the only formation of its kind in the area, leaving Hermione to wonder aloud if it wasn't at least partially manmade. At the top of the hill was an old stone church, complete with a large bell tower, still in use by the looks of it.
Immediately next to the church was a great black iron fence with a gate leading into the cemetery beyond it. As it was daytime, the gate was open.
As they made their way up the hill towards the gate, Ron asked, "Do you know where your mum and dad are buried, exactly?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't even know for certain they're in this cemetery; it just seemed like a logical place to start looking. All I know is that when I asked Aunt Petunia about it a few years back, all she said was 'Godric's Hollow'. I don't think she's ever been here," he said wryly.
"Well you're here," said Hermione. "And that's what matters."
They reached the open gate and walked through. The cemetery was decent-sized and archaic-looking. It included a multitude of statues and several mausoleums.
"I suggest we split up, we'll move faster that way," said Ron. "Hermione and I can take each take a side, and you can go down the centre."
Harry started picking his way through the stones. Longo. Chase. Mowbray. Alveraz. Smith. Fisher. Cooper. He found himself wishing that families were buried in alphabetical order.
"Harry," Hermione's voice cut into his train of thought from across the cemetery.
Harry inhaled sharply and looked up. "Did you find them?"
Hermione shook her head. "I don't think so, but – Harry, do you know your grandparents’ names?"
"No," said Harry, but he ran over anyway, followed closely by Ron.
Hermione was looking at a tombstone nestled in close to the wall of the old stone church.
Harry bent down to look at it. The inscription read:
Potter Francis Lisbeth 1739-1899 1750-1926 Devoted father Loving wife and mother
James, Sr Gertrude 1830-1980 1832-1979 Beloved son Dearest mother and husband and wife
"This has to be a wizarding family," Hermione said. "There's no other way to explain the dates."
"And James definitely rings a bell," said Ron.
Harry felt at once a touch of both excitement and bitter let-down. "This has to be my family," he said. "Or at least, my grandparents and great-grand parents. But my parents aren't here."
"Correct, Mr Potter," said a cultured voice from behind them.
Harry's wand was already drawn when he spun around, Ron and Hermione's were out a split-second later.
A middle-aged man stood there smiling at them, resting both hands on an ornate walking cane. He was tall, clad in a grey pin-striped suit and a feathered fedora, and seemed not at all surprised to have three teenagers levelling wands at his face.
"Who are you? Where did you come from?" Harry demanded.
The man bowed. "My name is Filch. Jackob Filch. And I come from many places."
"Are you related to the caretaker at Hogwarts?" Hermione asked.
Jackob nodded. "I am indeed. He is my cousin."
"What do you want?" Hermione pressed.
"Mostly, to make your acquaintance," said Jackob. "I've waited the better part of fifteen years to do that. I'm rather glad I didn't hold my breath.'
"Nice to meet you," said Harry, not lowering his wand a centimetre.
"Likewise," said Jackob. "Would you like to see your parents’ tomb?"
"Where is it?" Harry asked, glancing quickly across the empty cemetery.
"Well it's not here," said Jackob. "Or not in the cemetery, to be exact. Dumbledore wanted to be quite sure it wasn't defiled by supporters of the Dark Lord."
"Defiled?" Hermione gasped.
Jackob nodded. "Oh yes. There have been several attempts over the years, most of them since the Dark Lord returned to power. Certain of his followers believed such an act would gain them favour, I presume."
"I imagine it might have done," said Harry, swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth. "How do I know you're not one of them?"
Jackob smiled wryly. "You don't. I might ask you the same question. You might look like Harry Potter, but that's no guarantee of anything."
"I don't have to convince you of anything," said Harry. "You're out-numbered three to one, and you don't even have a wand drawn."
"Indeed?" said Jackob. "I was under the impression that you were being covered by two of my men as we speak."
"Bollocks," said Ron. "We'd have seen them."
Jackob favoured him with a sardonic smile. "You didn't see me," he said, "And I wasn't even wearing an Invisibility Cloak."
"Right," said Harry. "Why don't you take your invisible men and leave, before I have to hurt you?"
"Because I'm the Guardian of the Tomb," said Jackob, matter-of-factly. "I don't leave, except on special occasions. And while today is a special occasion, it is one that makes my presence here all the more necessary."
"Why is that?" Hermione asked suspiciously.
"Because the tomb itself has not been entered in fifteen years. The enchantment is such that only a relative of James or Lily can enter it."
Ron let out a small laugh. "I've heard that before. You'd think once in a while the Death Eaters would come up with new plans to sucker us in."
"I'm not a Death Eater," said Jackob.
"I don't believe you," said Harry.
Jackob sighed. "All right." He rested his walking cane against a head stone and raised his hands in the air. "My wand is in my suit jacket, if you want to take it."
"Take it out," said Harry. "Slowly."
Jackob did so. It was a dark red wood, almost the colour of blood.
"Set it down on the ground and take three paces back," Harry ordered.
Jackob did so, then said, "Come out slowly, lads. Weapons down."
There was a shimmering not three metres to Harry's left, and another on the far side of the closest mausoleum. Harry turned and pointed his wand at the closer man, as the man dropped his Invisibility Cloak to the ground.
The man was tall, two metres at least, with dark brown hair and long sideburns. He wore a long black coat over blue jeans and a plain black t-shirt, and on his feet were knee-high cowboy boots. His wand was out, but lowered, pointed at the ground.
The other man was shorter, clad in black leather, with a bald head and a blonde goatee. He did not have a wand out, but was setting a bow and a quiver of arrows on the ground in front of him.
"Hermione, Mr Filch's wand if you would," said Harry.
She stepped forward quickly and scooped it up.
"Get on the ground and put your hands on your head," Harry ordered Jackob.
He did so calmly, looking not the least bit worried.
"You," Harry spoke to the wizard in cowboy boots. "Wand on the ground, now."
The man glared at him for a moment, but did as he was told and then took three steps backwards before Harry could tell him to do so.
Harry Summoned the man’s wand.
"Stay where you are," he warned the bald man by the mausoleum.
"You," he ordered the man in front of him, "Get over there with Mr Filch. Down on your knees, hands on your head; watch him, Ron."
The man glared at Harry again, but did as he was ordered.
Harry turned to the bald man. "Accio bow and quiver," he said, causing the man's fallen weapons to fly towards Harry. "Where is your wand?" Harry demanded.
"I haven't got one," the man said. "I'm a Squib."
"Accio wand," Harry said, and when nothing happened, he nodded. "Get over there with your friends," he ordered. "Same deal: on your knees, hands on your head."
The man walked over to the others and did as he was commanded.
Harry put the quiver on his back, slung the bow over his shoulder, and rejoined the group.
Ron and Hermione looked at him quickly, and Harry could tell that they weren't sure where he was going with this, but would follow his lead.
"Now you can take us to the tomb," Harry said. "It's in the church, isn't it?" he guessed.
"Below the church, actually, but yes. We need to go through the church," said Jackob.
"Stand up; you're leading," Harry told Filch and his men. "Anything funny and you wake up in Auror custody."
Harry wasn't sure how much authority he had to go through with that threat, but then again Scrimgeour would probably love it. For that reason, among the more obvious ones, Harry hoped it didn't come to that.
They made their way round to the front of the church, which curiously did not have any signs or labels announcing its names or denomination.
Jackob stepped forward and opened the heavy wooden double doors. "Muggles can't see the church itself, just the graveyard – and only certain headstones."
They walked through the foyer to the main room. There was red carpet going down three rows, with ornately carved pews in between.
In the stained glass windows, there were depictions of famous wizarding figures from across history.
In the very front of the room was a great marble altar with three bronze candlesticks on it.
Jackob led them up to the altar and grabbed the centre candlestick, turning it clockwise in a circle. A wooden panel on the wall of the altar shifted aside to reveal a hidden passageway.
"After you," said Harry.
Jackob smiled thinly and went ahead, followed by his men.
Harry went directly after them, followed by Hermione, with Ron bringing up the rear.
They followed the corridor about ten paces in, then turned onto a long stair leading downward.
They seemed to walk for ages, and the air had become quite cool by the time they reached the bottom.
They were in what appeared to be a large sitting room, complete with several sofas and a coffee table, upon which sat several piles of what looked like maps.
Jackob walked up to a blank stretch of wall at the far end of the sitting room and said, "Tertius," in a commanding tone. The wall slid aside to reveal yet another hidden passageway.
"Up ahead are the catacombs," said Jackob. "Many witches and wizards were buried there of old. Your parents’ tomb came as a rather late edition to a network of tunnels older than Hogwarts itself." He led them quietly through the maze of tunnels until they turned a corner and there it was: an intricately carved archway with the word 'Potter' inscribed over it. Beyond the archway, only darkness.
"This is as far as we go," Jackob said. "Only Harry can pass through that arch."
"And what happens when I do?" Harry asked, not liking this at all.
"The passageway is lit, and you can proceed," said Jackob. "But the barrier will remain in place, I'm afraid. Dumbledore's wards allow for no non-relatives to enter the tomb after it was sealed."
Harry sighed heavily. "Dumbledore is dead," he said flatly. "I doubt any spells he put up will still be in place."
Jackob shook his head. "Any basic curses or charmwork that a deceased wizard has previously performed are undone with the wizard's death. But these are wards, boy. It will take more than Death to undo strong defensive magic like that."
Harry still didn't like the idea of leaving Ron and Hermione behind with this lot, even unarmed...but he also knew had to see whatever was in the chamber beyond.
"If I'm not back in half an hour, stun this lot and go the Burrow for help," he said.
"Harry are you sure you should–" Hermione started.
"Yes." Harry jerked his head sharply. Then, taking a deep breath, he walked through the archway bearing his name.