Harry had sometimes wondered whether it was worth asking his aunt if she had his birth certificate. He suspected it might show his middle name was in fact ‘Trouble’, not ‘James’.
It would certainly have been apt. Once the Battle of Hogwarts was finally over, he had hopes of being left alone to decide what he wanted to do next, but they were rapidly dashed. After the first euphoria of victory had faded and wizarding Britain began to count the costs, absolutely everyone wanted to meet the Chosen One – to offer him relieved thanks, press him for exclusive interviews, ask him to speak words of wisdom he didn’t have, or sign him up to endorse their products. The Daily Prophet was going through another phase of printing fulsome eulogies to the Boy Who Lived on their front page (and often several interior pages as well), but Harry would have preferred that it didn’t. It made him feel both angry and guilty when he thought of the dozens of other people who had not made it through the war.
At least residence at The Burrow shielded him from the worst of it. Both he and Hermione had been uncertain whether the Weasleys might prefer to grieve for Fred alone – the last thing either wanted was to intrude – but Molly had insisted, in a manner that brooked no argument, that they stay there until everything settled down. Nor would they let them remain at the back out of sight at the funeral – Ron looked pointedly at an empty space next to himself, while George simply grabbed their hands and pulled them forwards to sit with the family. For one uncomfortable moment Harry thought he would be sitting next to Ginny, but to his relief found himself between Ron and Percy. Ginny herself would have been far too distracting despite the circumstances, and it was definitely neither the time nor the place.
Harry’s gut twisted every time he thought about Fred, but on the whole he felt relieved to be at The Burrow. There was nowhere else he would have felt so much at home. The current shattered state of Hogwarts was painful to behold, and his house in Grimmauld Place was a far from welcoming prospect, although Kreacher was doing his best to redecorate in a style less reminiscent of what Hermione had dubbed ‘Dark Nouveau’. (Harry had yet to think of a tactful way to suggest to the elf that his relatives’ heads might be displayed in some less prominent location.) Most of The Burrow’s wartime security charms were still in place, and that was sufficient to keep out Rita Skeeter and other people he didn’t want to see. And best of all, the house contained the people whose company he most desired.
Ron and Hermione in particular had been there for him almost continually ever since the battle. That was why he was surprised, and rather disconcerted, to hear that they planned to leave shortly after they had all attended the funeral for Lupin and Tonks.
“Where are you going?” he asked, a little testily.
“Australia,” answered Hermione. In response to what must have been a look of astonishment on his face, she explained, “To try to find Mum and Dad. I can’t bear to leave them there not … not knowing they have a daughter.” Her lip trembled, and Harry felt a great rush of sympathy for her.
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “They need you more than anyone at the moment. Ron’s going with you, then?”
Ron nodded. “For a bit of moral support.”
“I didn’t want to go on my own,” said Hermione with a shudder. “I keep wanting to cry every time I think of them. It must be reaction setting in. All this doesn’t come naturally to me the way it does to you, Harry.”
He raised his eyebrows, remembering the many times she’d saved his life over the past year. “Rubbish,” he told her firmly. “You’ve been brilliant.” She smiled, obviously pleased. “How will you get there, anyway?”
“One of those airyplane things,” answered Ron, with a look of deep foreboding. “Hermione thinks it would be safer to act like Muggles.”
Harry grinned. Evidently Ron had not inherited his father’s love of Muggle technology, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to tease him on the subject. Instead, he turned to Hermione; he didn’t know how much tickets to Australia and hotel bills for a stay of unknown length might cost, but he was fairly certain they wouldn’t come cheap. “Have you got enough to pay for all this?”
Hermione had the worried look she usually wore when unsure of her facts. “I think so. Just about. If we’re careful …”
He shook his head. This was something he could do for them. “No. I’m paying.” He overrode their predictable protests. “Come on, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t? You took out all your building society money to help me last year, and I know you spent a lot of it on food and stuff while we were away. You need this, and you wouldn’t have had to enchant your parents in the first place if you hadn’t been coming with me. No arguments, all right?”
“Well …” Hermione and Ron exchanged questioning glances, and then slowly nodded. Both looked most uncomfortable (and Hermione rather doubtful, as if she wasn’t sure he’d have the money), but it was a pleasant surprise to see them accept help, given how stubborn they usually were on the point. Harry managed to suppress a smile. Now he thought about it, he reckoned that some time alone together – away from him, indeed away from Britain entirely – might do them a power of good. He hadn’t forgotten the kiss that had caused them to drop armfuls of Basilisk fangs in the middle of a battle.
The service for Lupin and Tonks was a sombre affair, even for a funeral. Andromeda Tonks was at the front, looking blankly at the coffins, and clutching baby Teddy to her as if the sky might collapse around them if she let him go. Harry realised with a guilty start that he’d given barely a thought to his godson since Lupin had asked him to be godfather, and he made a point of seeking out Mrs Tonks afterwards to offer what awkward condolences he could for the fact that she had lost husband, daughter and son-in-law within the space of a few short weeks. He tried to say all the usual things, but somehow the words got stuck behind a lump in his throat and refused to emerge. She seemed to understand, though, and nodded stiffly when he told her – and meant it – that he hoped she would rely on him for any help she or Teddy might need.
He hadn’t been sure who would deliver the eulogy – he’d vaguely imagined that it would be the tufty-haired man who, yet again, was officiating – but was glad to see that Kingsley Shacklebolt himself was the one who stood up to address the mourners. The new interim Minister talked with evident sincerity and fondness of Lupin and Tonks as caring friends and brave colleagues in the Order of the Phoenix, and of Tonks as a fellow Auror. One or two of his entourage seemed ill-at-ease when he spoke of how proud he was that they had married, and how important that was as a stand against bigotry, but nobody dared to argue.
It surprised him even more when Kingsley sought him out after the service.
“Good to see you again, Harry.”
“You too.” Harry grinned at him; it was nice to have the chance. “What’s it like being Minister?”
“It has its good and bad points. I waste even more time on paperwork than I did as an Auror, but I get the chance to do some good in the world too. Incidentally, I think we’ve managed to solve your goblin problem for you.”
“Oh … thanks.” Harry looked at him uncertainly; he hadn’t been aware that he had a goblin problem. He’d assumed they would be as pleased as the wizards were to be rid of Voldemort, but now he thought about it, he remembered it was a point of pride for them to remain neutral – in which case, they could hardly have been expected to take kindly to the Gringotts break-in. “Um, what did they want?”
“The usual. Terrible punishments for the wizards and witch who disrespected goblin rights. Threats of rebellion, refusal to co-operate, calling-in of loans, all that sort of thing. Hermione was asking me about it earlier.”
“What?” Harry didn’t like the sound of that. “How did you ‘solve’ the problem?”
Kingsley chuckled. “Creative thinking. They were quoting old Gringotts charters at us – well, two can play that game. There are dozens of half-forgotten laws and agreements in the archives of the Ministry that are technically still in force, if anyone cares to dig them out. And since I have a number of thoroughly appalling people left on staff that I haven’t been able to get rid of yet – you know the type, never actually Death Eaters, but approved wholeheartedly of their views on wizarding blood – I set the worst of them the tedious task of searching through the records to find something we could use.”
“And did they?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. There was an agreement with the Ministry signed back in 1750 which said that the goblins would not accept weapons or other enchanted objects for safekeeping, if by so doing it could ‘give a critical advantage to one of the sides in a wizarding war’. They’re trying to argue that a Horcrux doesn’t count – I’m afraid that’s a bit of an open secret since you mentioned it during your face-off with Voldemort – but happily the sword of Gryffindor unquestionably does, even if it wasn’t until you broke in that they got their hands on the real one. Once I pointed that out they became much more reasonable.”
“Really?” Harry was sceptical; he hadn’t forgotten Griphook’s attitudes. On the other hand, he couldn’t remember everything he’d told Voldemort; he had an uneasy feeling he might have said too much, but then again he’d been rather distracted at the time.
“Really. Most goblins are actually strongly in favour of binding agreements between themselves and us. They’ll treat them like a law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be changed, just so long as wizards do the same. The problems have tended to come when we haven’t.”
“So they just let it drop?” He couldn’t believe his luck.
“Welllll … not exactly. They eventually agreed to consider it the fortunes of war – ‘collateral damage’, as the Muggles say – provided they were compensated in full for the necessary repairs. Fortunately, that dragon didn’t actually kill anyone. It’s going to cost the Ministry a small fortune, but it’s worth every Knut to be rid of Voldemort.”
Harry felt a great sense of relief, not to mention gratitude, towards his unknown benefactor – whatever their views might be. “That’s brilliant. Thank whoever it was for me, will you?”
“Oh, I’m not sure that thanks are in order. It was a convenient way to get her out from under my