This is chapter four of Never Underestimate a House-Elf. For chapter one click here.
Summary: What if Harry thought of more than just steak and kidney pie, and called Kreacher to them as soon as he realized Hermione had apparated the trio away from Grimmauld Place? A very different camping trip ensues. Inspired by #WizardTeam and the Time Room
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the Harry Potter franchise.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Transreal_Clouden, as always.
One would think that confessing their mutual affection for one another would have changed the trio’s relationship somewhat, but as it so happened, that was not actually the case. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had always been incredibly close, closer with each other than any other significant other they might have had, and so adding a romantic dimension to their relationship did not alter things all that much. None of the three of them were particularly interested in having an intensely sexual relationship at this point — none of them felt ready to take that step, and they were each of them still grappling with trauma that meant that while they sought each other out for physical comfort and warmth as the days grew short and cold, sex was the last thing on their minds.
War was the first, finding the horcruxes a priority as they heard from Kreacher and Dobby how things were getting increasingly worse at Hogwarts, and Voldemort was increasingly losing his temper with his followers, though fortunately his bias was in their favor as house elves were beneath his notice. Harry knew this was because he was seeking out the thief who stole whatever precious item Gregorovitch had, though he really did try to keep Voldemort out, knowing how much it distressed Hermione that he was unable to do so, especially since they had Kreacher as a line of information.
Kreacher had been invaluable to them, as he was able to quickly pass along information that Dobby could then relay for them to the Order. Keeping in contact with the Order and with Hogwarts through Kreacher and Dobby was part of the only thing that was keeping the trio sane most days, as they were hitting a roadblock in terms of finding the next horcrux.
It was late autumn, almost December when Harry brought up again something that had been on his mind for ages.
“I’d like to go to Godric’s Hollow,” Harry said firmly one morning, just as they were finishing breakfast. Ron, who looked torn between unease and sympathy, said nothing. Hermione, however, had a considering look on her face.
“You know, I’d been thinking the same thing,” she hummed, before taking the last bite of her pancake.
“Really?” Harry and Ron both looked at her in surprise. Harry had clearly not expected her to agree so quickly.
“Well, I know we already have the basilisk fangs and venom, but those aren’t exactly safe to use, are they? It would be nice if we had a cleaner way to go about destroying these things. Like the sword.
“I’m not sure I follow….?” said Ron. “What does the sword have to do with Godric’s Hollow?”
Hermione sighed and wiped her mouth clean with a napkin, having finished her food. “Godric Gryffindor’s sword, Godric Gryffindor’s birthplace. I’m just saying, it makes sense that Dumbledore could have hid the sword there. He might have known Harry would go there, seeking more information, or at least closure about his parents,” Hermione looked at Harry sympathetically. “That is why you want to go, isn’t it? Dumbledore would have known that, and he’s a strategist, one would think he would take advantage of it.”
Harry looked away. Part of him hated that Hermione saw through him so plainly, and part of him was grateful to have people who knew him so well. And if there was another reason to go to Godric’s Hollow other than his own, was that really such a bad thing?
“OK, so maybe you’re right. But where would he hide the sword? I doubt he would desecrate graves, or break into their house,” Ron hummed.
“I’ve been thinking about that, and I realized: Bathilda Bagshot. She lives in Godric’s Hollow and was both a friend of the Dumbledores and is still alive. He absolutely could have left the sword with her,” Hermione posited, starting to clean up her dishes. Harry and Ron stood to help, their routine becoming almost automatic at this point. Sure, they could have done it all with magic, but their days had grown so long now, with so little to do and so many ideas and thoughts run over and over themselves, it was hard to not try and take up as much of the time as possible.
That is not to say that the trio spent all their time completely idle. As it turned out, the fact that Hermione had packed an entire library was useful for Harry and Ron, who, not having studied as much as Hermione at Hogwarts, suddenly found themselves more interested than ever in getting caught up on certain subjects. It was not so much that they needed to pass tests in charms and transfiguration, but that they had realized that now they were living out on their own and in the middle of the war, there were certain skills that were useful to learn, and in the days where they had little else to do there was no better time than now to learn them.
NUaHE NUaHE NUaHE
It was the beginning of December before they declared themselves ready to venture to Godric’s Hollow. To disguise themselves, they opted to use advanced transfiguration to change their appearances. Hermione, much to her chagrin, lightened her skin and all three of them restyled their hair & cast spells on their eyes, such that they could now pass for blond-haired blue-eyed siblings. Additionally, Harry and Ron both grew out beards, and, combined with the fact that neither of them had cut their hair in quite some time, they looked nothing like themselves. For the finishing touches, each of them had added wrinkles to their faces, necks, and hands so as to appear older.
Together, they first visited the graveyard of Godric’s Hollow, passing by a memorial to the Potters that Harry could hardly bear to look at. They had debated whether to go earlier or later in the day or evening and opted in the end to go just after dusk. They placed a light notice-me-not on themselves, linked so that they could still take notice of one another, but casual observers would dismiss them. They spread out, looking for the graves of James and Lily Potter.
Harry was surprised to stumble upon first not his parents’ graves, but that of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, the mother and sister of his late headmaster. Again, Harry felt at war with himself. How had Dumbledore never told him? Why had he never mentioned that their mothers shared a final resting place? He felt Ron’s hand on his shoulder and leaned into him. “Let’s keep looking, eh?” the other boy said quietly, not wanting to disrupt the charm keeping them hidden.
Hermione let out a gasp and they rushed to her. Harry wondered if she had found his parents, but instead she was looking at a gravestone that was much, much older. He could barely make out the name. Ignotus Peverell.
“Peverell, that name sounds familiar…” Ron mused.
“That mark here. Hermione pointed to a strange triangular symbol on the gravestone. “It’s also in the book of runes that Dumbledore gave me. Why would it be here?” Hermione wondered aloud.
Harry, distracted and eager to look for the graves of his parents, moved on.
When he finally found them, he did not know what to say. The headstone was made from white marble, gleaming in the dark. Here were his parents, reduced to their names, dates of birth, and the day they died. And a line of verse.
“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Harry read aloud. “What does that mean? Is that some kind of death eater idea? Why is that there?” He asked in a kind of panic.
Hermione laid a calming hand on his arm. “It’s not the same, Harry,” Hermione said gently. “It means living beyond death. A life after death.”
But all Harry could like was that they were not alive, they were gone. They were moldering remains, nothing but bones, dust under his feet at this very moment. Who had chosen that phrase? Who had decided that this was how his parents were to be remembered? Not that he remembered his parents at all. These words could not fill the void in his life. Boiling tears, wet and hot fell down his face as he stared at their names. The faces he conjured were from photographs. He wanted to leave something for them, he should have brought something, but the winter frost had already come, and every plant in the graveyard was leafless and frozen, the grass brown and covered in ice crystals. Hermione seemed to sense his intention however, as she discreetly waived her wand, and a wreath of roses appeared.
Harry laid it down gratefully, and the three of them cast disillusionment charms on themselves before pulling on the invisibility cloak and heading away.
NUaHE NUaHE NUaHE
As it turned out, they did not need to look for Bathilda, because she found them. As they were looking for her cottage, they stumbled upon what once belonged to the Potters, and was now a monument.
Hermione wondered why no one had rebuilt it, Ron, also pointed out that the cottage was rightfully Harry’s and so who even had the right to turn it into a monument? But Harry was distracted by the writing on the sign and the countless words of encouragement from all the people who had visited over the years, and recently. Those who believed in him as he continued the fight against Voldemort.
Their examination of the monument was interrupted by the arrival of an old woman — Bathilda. Hermione and Ron were not pleased, but Harry insisted that they follow her. Harry, determined to find out more from Bathilda — about Dumbledore, about his parents — continues ahead, but Ron and Hermione, uneasy, surreptitiously take out their wands once they enter the cottage, having noted the overgrown garden, and stench of decay.
Their unease only grew when Bathilda continued to answer none of their questions, even Harry’s insistent, bordering on rude, questions about the picture he had found, who was apparently the same thief who had stolen from Gregorovitch. She was even more surly with Hermione, who had tried to get them back on track, though carefully did not mention the sword explicitly.
“I think she wants me to go upstairs with her,” Harry whispered to the two of them.
Hermione, who had been noting a copy of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore that had been apparently gifted to Bathilda by Rita Skeeter, nodded and made to follow, but Bathilda shook her head so vehemently that the trio each of them privately wondered whether it might fall off.
“OK, you can go alone then,” said Ron, who had also been motioning to go upstairs, his left hand up in a capitulating gesture, his wand still hidden in his right hand and ready to strike at a moment’s notice.
Bathilda and Harry turned to go upstairs, and Hermione and Ron gave each other a knowing look.
We are following them, right?
NUaHE NUaHE NUaHE
One snake blasted through the wall and emergency apparition later the trio was safe in yet another forest.
“I’m sorry!” Hermione cried as they landed. “I really thought she might have the sword; I had no idea —”
“It’s OK, Hermione.” Harry breathed out. “We’re safe, let’s just put up the enchant — argh!” Harry collapsed to the ground, Ron just barely catching him and laying him down.
“Harry! Harry!” Hermione cried out. “What’s happened?”
“I don’t know — it looks like another one of his attacks. I’ll set up the protections, why don’t you set up the tent so we can get him in a bed?” Ron suggested.
“Good plan,” Hermione nodded. “You’re going to be OK Harry.” Hermione smoothed back the unfamiliarly blonde, but still messy as ever hair. Their transfiguration really had done a good job, but she could still tell Harry from anyone. He had broken out into a sweat, the make-up masking his scar starting to run down his face. She cast a cleansing spell to clean it off. “We’ll take care of you.”