Harry felt the air leave his lungs as the grip of reality engulfed him. Fate had shown him its odd sense of humor in the past, and he seriously doubted that would change. He had never traveled to West Sussex, and he had no idea of how he planned on finding Godric’s Hollow. The uncertain expression on Hermione’s face did little to ease the tightening sensation growing in his stomach. He wasn’t sure what bothered him more: the fact he might not find Godric’s Hollow or the thought of what he might find if he did.
“I’m going to sneak downstairs and use the telephone to call a cab,” Harry said as he stretched. Ron and Hermione simply gave him a nod as they finished combing through the strange box he had found on his desk.
The telephone was downstairs on the sofa table. Luck was on his side. Harry quietly pulled the drawer with the telephone book open. As quietly as he could he dialed the number.
“Hello, cab service.”
“Yes, can you send a driver to number four Privet Drive in Little Whinging,” Harry whispered.
“Number four, Privet Drive?” the operator repeated.
“Yes,” Harry affirmed.
“What destination will you be traveling to, sir?”
“Epsom Station,” Harry said quickly as he glanced up the stairs to make certain nobody was coming.
“Right, your cab should arrive in about half an hour.”
As carefully as possible Harry placed the phone back on the receiver and tiptoed into the kitchen. At that moment, Harry would have given anything to have one of the Hogwarts house-elves there to offer him some breakfast. He hadn’t eaten anything since the train-ride and then he had only managed to eat two Chocolate Frogs. He imagined Ron and Hermione were also getting pretty hungry.
Harry began foraging around the kitchen for something he could sneak when a flat voice startled him.
“There are some pastries in the pantry.”
Harry spun around so quickly he almost fell over. Aunt Petunia was staring at him with her legs crossed in her powder puff pink bathrobe.
“Vernon will be waking up soon so I suggest you be on your way,” she continued while glaring at Harry with a cold gaze.
Harry gave a curt nod before opening the pantry and grabbing three pastries. He also grabbed three bottles of soda and tucked them under his arm.
“I assume you found that box,” Aunt Petunia said with no emotion.
Harry stared at her for a moment before responding. “Yes, I did… thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” Petunia hissed, “I’m just glad to finally be rid of it. Just as I’ll be glad to be rid of you.”
Harry cringed only slightly. He was well accustomed to the harsh bitterness of his aunt’s voice, but this was the first time he ever realized how much she hated him.
“Once I leave for the last time— you realize what that means?” Harry asked.
Petunia made an annoyed sound. “Don’t concern yourself with my family’s safety. The only danger we’ve ever been placed in was because of you.”
“Still, you’ll be a target,” Harry said slowly. “It might we wise to…”
“Wisdom,” Petunia said in a dramatic voice. “Your mother was full of wisdom and see the good it did for her.”
“I’ll be gone in less than half an hour,” Harry said shortly before leaving the kitchen and making his way carefully back up the stairs.
Harry opened the door to his bedroom for the last time and tossed Ron a pastry and soda and placed the remaining food and drink on the desk where Hermione was sitting. Ron quickly snatched up the food. “’bout time. I was ready to start eating your pillow.”
“The cab should be here in a minute. We should get downstairs and outside,” Harry said before he crammed a pastry into his mouth.
The cab arrived right on time and they took it to the train station they had traveled from the previous day. There they took another train to West Sussex. As the three loaded another cab, Hermione asked a question of the driver.
“Sir, do you know of Godric’s Hollow in West Sussex?”
The cab driver coughed then adjusted his rearview mirror to get a better look at Hermione, who was sitting in the backseat next to Ron. “Yeah, it’s down near the old village. Not much down there though.”
“Take us there,” Harry said instantly. He didn’t even bother trying to keep the anticipation out of his voice.
The cab driver coughed again and looked at Harry. “Easy there, son. What’cha wanna go down there for?”
“Private matter?” Harry said darkly before settling back into his seat.
Hermione frowned slightly and drew in a frustrated breath. “Why wouldn’t we want to go there?”
“Bit of an odd place, I suppose,” the cab driver replied as he scratched his chin. “Nobody who’s got any sense at all goes down there. All the shops are closed. There really isn’t much from a tourist aspect. People even say it’s haunted.”
“I don’t care,” Harry snapped.
He didn’t like the cab driver’s tone. What did he know about being haunted?
“Well, you’re the ones paying. I’ll take you anywhere you kids want to go, within reason.”
Ron suddenly asked, “Do you know of any houses that have blown up in the past twenty years or so in Godric’s Hollow?”
“Ron,” Hermione warned.
Ron frowned. “What? It was only a question.”
The cab driver simply shook his head and continued on towards Godric’s Hollow. The journey seemed to take an eternity but eventually the driver drove into a small town square. Hermione settled up with the driver as Ron and Harry got out of the cab.
“Well, that is about it then. That was my last bit of money,” Hermione said as she frowned at Harry.
It was very clear why this was referred to as the ‘old village.’ The only sign of life was an aging pub whose sign was dangling by one side. There were a few other buildings on the street, but it was apparent from the boarded up windows that they were not open for business.
“You kids watch out for yourselves,” the cab driver shouted out the window before driving off.
Hermione leaned around Ron to get a better look down the street then turned back towards the pub.
“I guess this is our only option,” Hermione commented.
Ron grimaced as Harry walked toward the door of the pub and pushed it open. A dank burst of air stung their faces. The interior of the pub was dim and the air was clammy with the smell of alcohol. It looked as if the establishment hadn’t received a patron in months, maybe even years.
“Hello?” Harry called out as the three approached the bar area.
“We’re not open,” a hollow voice replied.
“We’re looking for Dor Drive; can you tell us where it’s located?” Harry continued as he peered over the edge of the bar in hopes of finding the source of the voice.
“You don’t want to go down there. Bad things happen to people who wander outside the town square,” the hollow voice answered.
Hermione let out a faint cry as an odd-looking bald man appeared behind the bar. Apparently, he had been kneeling down counting bottles. He eyed the three closely then repeated, “We’re not open.”
“What kind of bad things?” Harry asked before the man could disappear again.
The old man narrowed his eyes and his thin lips curled into a smirk. “Odd things. Things that no man can explain.” He leaned over on the bar and signaled for Harry to come closer, though there was nobody else in the pub. “Some years ago there were two murders down near the old stream. One minute there was nothing, only a big abandoned field—then poof, there was a house smashed to ruins with two bodies found inside. Nobody even knew there was a house there. Suddenly this town was swarming with odd beings in cloaks and hats that were erasing people’s memories. They could trick the sanest man into not believing his own eyes.” The man finished with a nod as his finger pointed to his own eye.
Hermione grabbed Harry’s arm as the old man’s face grew wide and he mouthed the word, ‘aliens.’
“But not me. I was one of the smart ones. I kept my mouth shut and pretended like I didn’t know a thing. It took about a year, but finally those odd beings disappeared. However, things never felt quite right after that. Rumors surround our little village. Those outlandish tabloid blokes are always coming down, trying to dig up trouble, but those aliens made sure there was no trouble to be dug up.
“Down near the old stream, you say?” Harry asked.
“You didn’t hear that from me. Not much good it would do you to go down there. There ain’t nothing left. Not even the foundation remains.”
Hermione suddenly spoke up. “Sir, is there perhaps a place in town that keeps records of the people who used to live here?”
The old man shook his head and ran his fingers over his bald top. “Didn’t you hear a word I said? There ain’t no records. Everything was doctored up and left like it never happened. Nobody even knew there was anybody livin’ down there. Hell, nobody even knew there was a house!”
“What about the bodies? Are they buried around here?” Harry asked.
“No, an aging fellow-- an alien with a long beard took the bodies.” The old man looked around the room nervously then raised his hand as if he were afraid he would be overheard. “I overheard him tell another one of his kind something interesting. He said something about the two murdered people having family in Wales. That’s about all I know I’m afraid.
“Wales?” Ron asked skeptically.
“Yeah, amazing ain’t it? Who knew that Wales would be the aliens’ nerve center?” the old man nodded, as his smirk grew a bit wilder.
Hermione looked at Harry apprehensively as she bit her lower lip. It was clear that she didn’t think the old man was sane, but was there method to his madness? Harry could almost sense what Hermione was thinking. It was the same thing he was thinking. Could Dumbledore have left this man’s mind intact on purpose?
“Well, that explains everything,” Ron said with a sarcastic grin. “We’ll just be going before the aliens return.”
The three left the pub and found the streets looked even eerier than before. A stiff breeze blew dust into the air as Harry peered over his shoulder. It was if the town had eyes and it knew what he was looking for.
“Do you want to go down to the old stream that nutter was talking about?” Ron asked.
“No,” Hermione said forcibly. “This place isn’t safe. Voldemort—for Merlin’s sake, Ron-- probably assumed Harry would try to visit Godric’s Hollow. It’s amazing we haven’t run into Death Eaters or…”
“Somebody from the Ministry,” Harry completed.
Ron scowled, “Well we’re going to have to Apparate now unless you have a better idea of how to get back to the Burrow. The Ministry is going to know where we are sooner or later.”
“Honestly, why would you assume we’re going to the Burrow? We need to get to Wales. Obviously Dumbledore wanted us to find out that Harry’s family is from Wales,” Hermione said with aggravation.
“Huh?” Ron scoffed. “Where did you get that from?”
“From the barkeep in there-- Do you think it coincidence that all the other townspeople had their memories wiped clean by the Ministry, but that man was allowed to keep his?”
“They probably thought he was too loony to concern themselves. He wasn’t worth the spell,” Ron argued.
Harry sighed, “No, I agree with Hermione. Dumbledore wanted me to find that man. I’m meant to go to Wales. Still, that isn’t much to go on.”
Ron’s face scrunched in concentration as if he were attempting to think of a perfect idea before he finally shrugged. “I guess we should go down to the stream and see if there is anything left then.”
Hermione made an annoyed sound as Ron and Harry both silently agreed on their destination and started walking down the abandoned street. Hermione gave them both a look of disapproval but Harry figured she had finally realized her voice of objection was seldom heard.
The town looked like a once bustling place that had simply closed up. It was even difficult to find the road that led down to the stream. There weren’t many options to choose from but they all seemed to go to the same places around the city.
“Look,” Ron pointed to an old road sign that was partially hidden by an overgrown bush hiding a smaller street.
Hermione walked over to it and pushed the limbs aside. “Dor Drive.”
The road was narrow and a thin strip of old-fashioned houses lined the street. Like the town it appeared the houses had been deserted long ago. The houses were placed fairly closely together, but at the end of the street there was a large gaping space that didn’t fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
“That’s where it was,” Harry said flatly as the three reached the misplaced break.
“The place where you…” Ron started with a strained look.
Harry nodded as he walked on to the open grass. “Right here. This is where the room was where he killed my mum.”
Hermione slowly reached out, touched Harry’s arm, and gave it a small squeeze.
“And there,” Harry continued. “That’s where the bottom of the stairs was. That’s where my father fell.”
“How do you know that?” Ron asked looking slightly perturbed.
Harry drew in a deep breath. “I don’t know. It’s like I remember it? But how could I remember it?”
“Sometimes the mind recalls traumatic memories,” Hermione answered as Harry leaned down to touch the dirt with his fingers.
“I hear their voices when I encounter the Dementors, but being here…” Harry started as he gazed off, lost in his own memories.
Hermione knelt down next to him and offered an understanding expression. “There isn’t anything left, Harry.”
“Dumbledore said that Voldemort would have created Horcruxes during particularly significant murders,” Harry began. “Murders like he planned on committing the night he came to Godric’s Hollow.”
Hermione eyes lit up. “You think he was planning on creating a Horcrux and whatever he was planning on using or did use might still be here somewhere.”
“That’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It could be anything,” Ron argued. “It could be that rock other there or maybe even that old bottle.”
Harry frowned, remembering Dumbledore’s words. “No, Ron, you’re thinking of Portkeys. Something Voldemort would want to use as a Horcrux would be special. It would have to be something that belonged to Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. Something he would regard as a trophy.”
Hermione creased her face in thought. “You said the room that your mum fell was here?”
Harry nodded again.
“Accio Horcrux,” Ron cried. But nothing came.
“Honestly,” Hermione tutted. “Do you ever stop and think before acting like an idiot?”
“I don’t see you coming up with any clever ideas,” Ron retorted as he lowered his wand.
Hermione frowned and finally held out her wand with a look of stark fortitude on her face. She let her wand trace over the spot that Harry had identified as the place his mother had been murdered.
“Unciatim,” Hermione said firmly as she allowed her wand to scan the ground.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked.
Hermione looked up. “Searching for an object. Any object, really, that doesn’t belong with its surroundings.”
“Where did you learn to do that?” Ron asked.
Hermione raised her eyes. “Unusual Charms of Modern Times, chapter ten.”
“What is it?” Harry asked as Hermione suddenly stopped and began digging with her hands in the dirt. Harry knelt beside her and helped her push away the dry, loose soil.
“It’s a medallion of some sort,” Hermione said as she removed an object a moment later. “It’s very old. I don’t think it’s historic Wizarding money or anything. I’ve never seen one of these before.”
Harry reached out and took the coin out of Hermione’s hand. A distinguished ‘R’ engraved into to the metal glimmered in the sunlight.
“It’s something of Ravenclaw. I’m sure of it,” Harry said quickly.
Ron’s eyes grew wide. “Is it a Horcrux?”
Harry allowed the medallion to rest flat in his palm and he shook his head. “I don’t think so. I can’t feel anything. If it’s part of Voldemort, I should feel something.”
“Not necessarily, Harry. You didn’t feel anything when you handled Riddle’s diary,” Hermione argued.
Harry sighed, “This is different. I can’t explain it. I just know it isn’t a Horcrux.”
“All the same. I think a Curse Breaker like Bill should look at it before we simply dismiss it as not being a Horcrux,” Hermione continued.
Ron asked sarcastically, “And what precisely do we tell him it is? An odd form of Wizarding money? He works at Gringotts; I think he’d figure out we were lying.”
“We don’t have to tell him what precisely to look for, just to look for something. If it is a Horcrux it would be surrounded by Dark magic which is easily detectable if you’re using the right type of spells.”
Harry frowned as he remembered the fate of Dumbledore’s hand. “Whoever looks at it needs to be careful. If I’m wrong and it is a Horcrux, there’s no telling what kind of curses have been placed on it to protect it.”
Hermione reached out and took the medallion out of Harry’s hand for further examination. “I’ve never heard of Ravenclaw using coins for any purpose. The ‘R’ is the only thing that would signal it might have belonged to Ravenclaw, and the ‘R’ could stand for anything. It could stand for Riddle.”
“Whatever it stands for, I think this was meant to be Voldemort’s fifth Horcrux,” Harry said firmly as Hermione handed him back the medallion. He tucked it into his pocket and stood up, dusting off his knees.
Suddenly there was a cry from the forest line and the sound of something or someone falling. Instinctively, Harry drew his wand and Hermione and Ron mimicked his response.
“Put those away,” hissed a voice.
“Charlie?” Ron asked as he turned.
“Yes, now put those away before a Muggle sees you,” Charlie repeated as he came running towards the three.
Harry frowned. “You’re tailing us?”
“Wotcher, Harry,” Tonks greeted as she attempted to shake some leaves out of her pink hair. “Sorry if I startled you, but we were supposed to keep out-of-sight.”
Charlie shook his head. “So much for that.”
“Mum sent you, didn’t she?” Ron accused.
“Not unless Mum has aged a few years and decided to start wearing a magical eye,” Charlie retorted.
Tonks chuckled, “You didn’t think we were going to let you three go off alone?”
“Moody suspected that you might seek out Godric’s Hollow eventually but not without letting someone know where you were going,” Charlie said with a grin.
“You,” he continued eyeing Ron, “I suspect you gave Mum a right heart attack when you took off at King’s Cross.”
“She was treating me like a child,” Ron argued.
“You were acting like one,” Charlie laughed.
“Stupid wanker,” Ron grumbled.
Tonks shook her head causing her pink hair to fade purple. She winked at Harry as Charlie slapped Ron on the back of the head and told him to watch his language.
“We need to get going now that our cover is blown. Moody thought you were only going to Privet Drive. He’d have a fit if he knew you came all the way to West Sussex,” Charlie started with a smirk. “Enough adventure for you three. We don’t want to miss the festivities. Ginny looked murderous when I talked to Dad last night using the Floo Network-- Fleur is making her wear some crazy-looking crown on her head during the wedding.”
Hermione glanced at Ron. “The wedding isn’t for two weeks.”
“These things take time, and planning. Fleur has next week all booked up with dinners and parties. She’s really going to be an unusual addition, isn’t she?” Charlie replied.
Tonks raised her eyebrow in skepticism. “Better not let Bill hear you say that.”
“Well, let’s just hope Bill’s face heals up a bit more before then.”
Hermione glanced at Ron as he turned to Harry and mouthed, “What about Wales?”
“It can wait,” Harry said lightly under his breath. “It can wait…”