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â€œThere you go!â€ said Ron quickly, before Hermione could carry on. â€œIf it wasnâ€™t Dumbledore, explain how Dobby knew we were in the cellar, Hermione?â€
â€œI canâ€™t â€“ but can you explain how Dumbledore sent him to us if heâ€™s lying in a tomb at Hogwarts?â€
â€œI dunno, it couldâ€™ve been his ghost!â€
â€œDumbledore wouldnâ€™t come back as a ghost,â€ said Harry. There was little about Dumbledore he was sure of now, but he knew that much. â€œHe would have gone on.â€
â€œWhat dâ€™you mean, â€˜gone onâ€™?â€ asked Ron, but before Harry could say any more, a voice behind them said, â€œâ€˜Arry?â€
Fleur had come out of the cottage, her long silver hair flying in the breeze.
â€œâ€˜Arry, Gripâ€™ook would like to speak to you. â€˜E eez in ze smallest bedroom, â€˜e says â€˜e does not want to be overâ€™eard.â€
Her dislike of the goblin sending her to deliver messages was clear; she looked irritable as she walked back around the house.
Griphook was waiting for them, as Fleur had said, in the tiniest of the cottageâ€™s three bedrooms, in which Hermione and Luna slept by night. He had drawn the red cotton curtains against the bright, cloudy sky, which gave the room a fiery glow at odds with the rest of the airy, light cottage.
â€œI have reached my decision, Harry Potter,â€ said the goblin, who was sitting cross-legged in a low chair, drumming its arms with his spindly fingers. â€œThough the goblins of Gringotts will consider it base treachery, I have decided to help you â€“â€
â€œThatâ€™s great!â€ said Harry, relief surging through him. â€œGriphook, thank you, weâ€™re really â€“â€
â€œâ€“ in return,â€ said the goblin firmly, â€œfor payment.â€
Slightly taken aback, Harry hesitated.
â€œHow much do you want? Iâ€™ve got gold.â€
â€œNot gold,â€ said Griphook. â€œI have gold.â€
His black eyes glittered; there were no whites to his eyes.
â€œI want the sword. The sword of Godric Gryffindor.â€
Harryâ€™s spirits plummeted.
â€œYou canâ€™t have that,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œThen,â€ said the goblin softly, â€œwe have a problem.â€
â€œWe can give you something else,â€ said Ron eagerly. â€œIâ€™ll bet the Lestranges have got loads of stuff, you can take your pick once we get into the vault.â€
He had said the wrong thing. Griphook flushed angrily.
â€œI am not a thief, boy! I am not trying to procure treasures to which I have no right!â€
â€œThe swordâ€™s ours â€“â€
â€œit is not,â€ said the goblin.
â€œWeâ€™re Gryffindors, and it was Godric Gryffindorâ€™s â€“â€
â€œAnd before it was Gryffindorâ€™s, whose was it?â€ demanded the goblin, sitting up straight.
â€œNo oneâ€™s,â€ said Ron. â€œIt was made for him, wasnâ€™t it?â€
â€œNo!â€ cried the goblin, bristling with anger as he pointed a long finger at Ron. â€œWizarding arrogance again! That sword was Ragnuk the Firstâ€™s, taken from him by Godric Gryffindor! It is a â€“, a masterpiece of goblinwork! It belongs with the goblâ€“. The sword is the price of my hire, take it or leave it!â€
Griphook glared at them. Harry glanced at the other â€“, then said, â€œWe need to discuss this, Griphook, if thatâ€™s all right. Could you give us a few minutes?â€
The goblin nodded, looking sour.
Downstairs in the empty sitting room, Harry walked to the fireplace, brow furrowed, trying to think what to do. Behind him, Ron said, â€œHeâ€™s having a laugh. We canâ€™t let him have that sword.â€
â€œIt is true?â€ Harry asked Hermione. â€œWas the sword stolen by Gryffindor?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ she said hopelessly. â€œWizarding history often skates over what the wizards have done to other magical races, but thereâ€™s no account that I know of that says Gryffindor stole the sword.â€
â€œItâ€™ll be one of those goblin stories,â€ said Ron, â€œabout how the wizards are always trying to get one over on them. I suppose we should think ourselves lucky he hasnâ€™t asked for one of our wands.â€
â€œGoblins have got good reason to dislike wizards, Ron.â€ said Hermione. â€œTheyâ€™ve been treated brutally in the past.â€
â€œGoblins arenâ€™t exactly fluffy little bunnies, though, are they?â€ said Ron. â€œTheyâ€™ve killed plenty of us. Theyâ€™ve fought dirty too.â€
â€œBut arguing with Griphook about whose race is most underhanded and violent isnâ€™t going to make him more likely to help us, is it?â€
There was a pause while they tried to think of a way around the problem. Harry looked out of the window at Dobbyâ€™s grave. Luna was arranging sea lavender in a jam jar beside the headstone.
â€œOkay,â€ said Ron, and Harry turned back to face him, â€œhowâ€™s this? We tell Griphook we need the sword until we get inside the â€“ and then he can have it. Thereâ€™s a fake in these, isnâ€™t there? We switch them, and give him the fake.â€
â€œRon, heâ€™d know the difference better than we would!â€ said Hermione. â€œHeâ€™s the only one who realized there had been a swap!â€
â€œYeah, but we could â€“ caper before he realizes â€“â€
He quailed beneath the look Hermione was giving him.
â€œThat,â€ she said quietly, â€œis despicable. Ask for his help, then double-cross him? And you wonder why goblins donâ€™t like wizards, Ron?â€
Ronâ€™s ears had turned red.
â€œAll right, all right! It was the only thing I could think of! Whatâ€™s your solution, then?â€
â€œWe need to offer him something else, something just as valuable.â€
â€œBrilliant, Iâ€™ll go and get one of our ancient goblin-made swords and you can gift wrap it.â€
Silence fell between them again. Harry was sure that the goblin would accept nothing but the sword, even if they had something as valuable to offer him. Yet the sword was their one, indispensable weapon against the Horcruxes.
He closed his eyes for a moment or two and listened to the rush of the sea. The idea that Gryffindor might have stolen the sword was unpleasant to him: He had always been proud to be a Gryffindor; Gryffindor had been the champion of Muggle-borns, the wizard who had clashed with the pureblood-loving Slytherinâ€¦.
â€œMaybe heâ€™s lying,â€ Harry said, opening his eyes again. â€œGriphook. Maybe Gryffindor didnâ€™t take the sword. How do we know the goblin version of historyâ€™s right?â€
â€œDoes it make a difference?â€ asked Hermione.
â€œChanges how I feel about it,â€ said Harry.
He took a deep breath.
â€œWeâ€™ll tell him he can have the sword after heâ€™s helped us get into that vault â€“ but weâ€™ll be careful to avoid telling him exactly /when/ he can have it.â€
A grin spread slowly across Ronâ€™s face. Hermione, however, looked alarmed.
â€œHarry, we canâ€™t â€“â€
â€œHe can have it,â€ Harry went on, â€œafter weâ€™ve used it on all of the Horcruxes. Iâ€™ll make sure he gets it then. Iâ€™ll keep my word.â€
â€œBut that could be years!â€ said Hermione.
â€œI know that, but /he/ neednâ€™t. I wonâ€™t be lyingâ€¦ really.â€
Harry met her eyes with a mixture of defiance and shame. He remembered the words that had been engraved over the gateway to Nurmengard: FOR THE GREATER GOOD. He pushed the idea away. What choice did they have?
â€œI donâ€™t like it,â€ said Hermione.
â€œNor do I, much,â€ Harry admitted.
â€œWell, I think itâ€™s genius,â€ said Ron, standing up again. â€œLetâ€™s go and tell him.â€
Back in the smallest bedroom, Harry made the offer, careful to phrase it so as not to give any definite time for the handover of the sword. Hermione frowned at the floor while he was speaking; he felt irritated at her, afraid that she might give the game away. However, Griphook had eyes for nobody but Harry.
â€œI have your word, Harry Potter, that you will give me the sword of Gryffindor if I help you?â€
â€œYes,â€ said Harry.
â€œThen shake,â€ said the goblin, holding out his hand.
Harry took it and shook. He wondered whether those black eyes saw any misgivings in his own. Then Griphook relinquished him, clapped his hands together, and said, â€œSo. We begin!â€
It was like planning to break into the Ministry all over again. They settled to work in the smallest bedroom, which was kept, according to Griphookâ€™s preference, in semidarkness.
â€œI have visited the Lestrangesâ€™ vault only once,â€ Griphook told them, â€œon the occasion I was told to place inside it the false sword. It is one of the most ancient chambers. The oldest Wizarding families store their treasures at the deepest level, where the vaults are largest and best protectedâ€¦.â€
They remained shut in the cupboardlike room for hours at a time. Slowly the days stretched into weeks. There was problem after problem to overcome, not least of which was that their store of Polyjuice Potion was greatly depleted.
â€œThereâ€™s really only enough left for one of us,â€ said Hermione, tilting the thick mudlike potion against the lamplight.
â€œThatâ€™ll be enough,â€ said Harry, who was examining Griphookâ€™s hand-drawn map of the deepest passageways.
The other inhabitants of Shell Cottage could hardly fail to notice that something was going on now that Harry, Ron and Hermione only emerged for mealtimes. Nobody asked questions, although Harry often felt Billâ€™s eyes on the three of them at the table, thoughtful, concerned.
The longer they spent together, the more Harry realized that he did not much like the goblin. Griphook was unexpectedly bloodthirsty, laughed at the idea of pain in lesser creatures and seemed to relish the possibility that they might have to hurt other wizards to reach the Lestrangesâ€™ vault. Harry could tell that his distaste was shared by the other two, but they did not discuss it. They needed Griphook.
The goblin ate only grudgingly with the rest of them. Even after his legs had mended, he continued to request trays of food in his room, like the still-frail Ollivander, until Bill (following an angry outburst from Fleur) went upstairs to tell him that the arrangement could not continue. Thereafter Griphook joined them at the overcrowded table, although he refused to eat the same food, insisting, instead, on lumps of raw meat, roots, and various fungi.
Harry felt responsible: It was, after all, he who had insisted that the goblin remain at Shell Cottage so that he could question him; his fault that the whole Weasley family had been driven into hiding, that Bill, Fred, George, and Mr. Weasley could no longer work.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ he told Fleur, one blustery April evening as he helped her prepare dinner. â€œI never meant you to have to deal with all of this.â€
She had just set some knives to work, chipping up steaks for Griphook and Bill, who had preferred his meat bloody ever since he had been attacked by Greyback. While the knives sliced behind her, her somewhat irritable expression softened.
â€œâ€˜Arry, you saved my sisterâ€™s life, I do not forget.â€
This was not, strictly speaking, true, but Harry decided against reminding her that Gabrielle had never been in real danger.
â€œAnyway,â€ Fleur went on, pointing her want at a pot of sauce on the stove, which began to bubble at once, â€œMr. Ollivander leaves for Murielâ€™s zis evening. Zat will make zings easier. Ze goblin,â€ she scowled a little at the mention of him, â€œcan move downstairs, and you, Ron, and Dean can take zat room.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t mind sleeping in the living room,â€ said Harry, who knew that Griphook would thing poorly of having to sleep on the sofa; keeping Griphook happy was essential to their plans. â€œDonâ€™t worry about us.â€ And when she tried to protest he went on, â€œWeâ€™ll be off your hands soon too, Ron, Hermione, and I. We wonâ€™t need to be here much longer.â€
â€œBut, what do you mean?â€ she said, frowning at him, her wand pointing at the casserole dish now suspended in midair. â€œOf course you must not leave, you are safe â€˜ere!â€
She looked rather like Mrs. Weasley as she said it, and he was glad that the back door opened at that moment. Luna and Dean entered, their hair damp from the rain outside and their arms full of driftwood.
â€œâ€¦ and tiny little ears,â€ Luna was saying, â€œa bit like hippoâ€™s, Daddy says, only purple and hairy. And if you want to call them, you have to hum; they prefer a waltz, nothing too fastâ€¦.â€
Looking uncomfortable, Dean shrugged at Harry as he passed, following Luna into the combined dining and sitting room where Ron and Hermione were laying the dinner table.
Seizing the chance to escape Fleurâ€™s questions, Harry grabbed two jugs of pumpkin juice and followed them.
â€œâ€¦ and if you ever come to our house Iâ€™ll be able to show you the horn, Daddy wrote to me about it but I havenâ€™t seen it yet, because the Death Eaters took me from the Hogwarts Express and I never got home for Christmas,â€ Luna was saying, as she and Dean relit the fire.
â€œLuna, we told you,â€ Hermione called over to her. â€œThat horn exploded. It came from an Erumpent, not a Crumple-Horned Snorkack â€“â€
â€œNo, it was definitely a Snorkack horn,â€ said Luna serenely, â€œDaddy told me. It will probably have re-formed by now, they mend themselves, you know.â€
Hermione shook her head and continued laying down forks as Bill appeared, leading Mr. Ollivander down the stairs. The wandmaker still looked exceptionally frail, and he clung to Billâ€™s arm as the latter supported him, carrying a large suitcase.
â€œIâ€™m going to miss you, Mr. Ollivander,â€ said Luna, approaching the old man.
â€œAnd I you, my dear,â€ said Ollivander, patting her on the shoulder.
â€œYou were an inexpressible comfort to me in that terrible place.â€
â€œSo, au revoir, Mr. Ollivander,â€ said Fleur, kissing him on both cheeks. â€œAnd I wonder whezzer you could oblige me by delivering a package to Billâ€™s Auntie Muriel? I never returned â€˜er tiara.â€
â€œIt will be an honor,â€ said Ollivander with a little bow, â€œthe very least I can do in return for your generous hospitality.â€
Fleur drew out a worn velvet case, which she opened to show the wandmaker. The tiara sat glittering and twinkling in the light from the low-hanging lamp.
â€œMoonstones and diamonds,â€ said Griphook, who had sidled into the room without Harry noticing. â€œMade by goblins, I think?â€
â€œAnd paid for by wizards,â€ said Bill quietly, and the goblin shot him a look that was both furtive and challenging.
A strong wind gusted against the cottage windows as Bill and Ollivander set off into the night. The rest of them squeezed in around the table; elbow to elbow and with barely enough room to move, they started to eat. The fire crackled and popped in the grate beside them. Fleur, Harry noticed, was merely playing with her food; she glanced at the window every few minutes; however, Bill returned before they had finished their first course, his long hair tangled by the wind.
â€œEverythingâ€™s fine,â€ he told Fleur. â€œOllivander settled in, Mum and Dad say hello. Ginny sends you all her love, Fred and George are driving Muriel up the wall, theyâ€™re still operating an Owl-Order business out of her back room. It cheered her up to have her tiara back, though. She said she thought weâ€™d stolen it.â€
â€œAh, she eez charmant, your aunt,â€ said Fleur crossly, waving her wand and causing the dirty plates to rise and form a stack in midair. She caught them and marched out of the room.
â€œDaddyâ€™s made a tiara,â€ piped up Luna, â€œWell, more of a crown, really.â€
Ron caught Harryâ€™s eye and grinned; Harry knew that he was remembering the ludicrous headdress they had seen on their visit to Xenophilius.
â€œYes, heâ€™s trying to re-create the lost diadem of Ravenclaw. He thinks heâ€™s identified most of the main elements now. Adding the billywig wings really made a difference â€“â€
There was a bang on the front door. Everyoneâ€™s head turned toward it. Fleur came running out of the kitchen, looking frightened; Bill jumped to his feed, his wand pointing at the door; Harry, Ron, and Hermione did the same. Silently Griphook slipped beneath the table, out of sight.
â€œWho is it?â€ Bill called.
â€œIt is I, Remus John Lupin!â€ called a voice over the howling wind. Harry experienced a thrill of fear; what had happened? â€œI am a werewolf, married to Nymphadora Tonks, and you, the Secret-Keeper of Shell Cottage, told me the address and bade me come in an emergency!â€
â€œLupin,â€ muttered Bill, and he ran to the door and wrenched it open.
Lupin fell over the threshold. He was white-faced, wrapped in a traveling cloak, his graying hair windswept. He straightened up, looked around the room, making sure of who was there, then cried aloud, â€œItâ€™s a boy! Weâ€™ve named him Ted, after Doraâ€™s father!â€
â€œWha â€“? Tonks â€“ Tonks has had the baby?â€
â€œYes, yes, sheâ€™s had the baby!â€ shouted Lupin. All around the table came cries of delight, sighs of relief: Hermione and Fleur both squealed, â€œCongratulations!â€ and Ron said, â€œBlimey, a baby!â€ as if he had never heard of such a thing before.
â€œYes â€“ yes â€“ a boy,â€ said Lupin again, who seemed dazed by his own happiness. He strode around the table and hugged Harry; the scene in the basement of Grimmauld Place might never have happened.
â€œYouâ€™ll be godfather?â€ he said as he released Harry.
â€œM-me?â€ stammered Harry.
â€œYou, yes, of course â€“ Dora quite agrees, no one better â€“â€
â€œI â€“ yeah â€“ blimey â€“â€
Harry felt overwhelmed, astonished, delighted; now Bill was hurrying to fetch wine, and Fleur was persuading Lupin to join them for a drink.
â€œI canâ€™t stay long, I must get back,â€ said Lupin, beaming around at them all: He looked years younger than Harry had ever seen him. â€œThank you, thank you, Billâ€
Bill had soon filled all of their goblets, they stood and raised them high in a toast.
â€œTo Teddy Remus Lupin,â€ said Lupin, â€œa great wizard in the making!â€
â€œâ€˜Oo does â€˜e look like?â€ Fleur inquired.
â€œI think he looks like Dora, but she thinks he is like me. Not much hair. It looked black when he was born, but I swear itâ€™s turned ginger in the hour since. Probably blond by the time I get back. Andromeda says Tonksâ€™s hair started changing color the day that she was born.â€ He drained his goblet. â€œOh, go on then, just one more,â€ he added, beaming, as Bill made to fill it again.
The wind buffeted the little cottage and the fire leapt and crackled, and Bill was soon opening another bottle of wine. Lupinâ€™s news seemed to have taken them out of themselves, removed them for a while from their state of siege: Tidings of new life were exhilarating. Only the goblin seemed untouched by the suddenly festive atmosphere, and after a while he slunk back to the bedroom he now occupied alone. Harry thought he was the only one who had noticed this, until he saw Billâ€™s eyes following the goblin up the stairs.
â€œNoâ€¦ noâ€¦ I really must get back,â€ said Lupin at last, declining yet another goblet of wine. He got to his feet and pulled his traveling cloak back around himself.
â€œGood-bye, good-bye â€“ Iâ€™ll try and bring some pictures in a few dayâ€™s time â€“ theyâ€™ll all be so glad to know that Iâ€™ve seen you â€“â€
He fastened his cloak and made his farewells, hugging the women and grasping hands with the men, then, still beaming, returned into the wild night.
â€œGodfather, Harry!â€ said Bill as they walked into the kitchen together, helping clear the table. â€œA real honor! Congratulations!â€
As Harry set down the empty goblets he was carrying, Bill pulled the door behind him closed, shutting out the still-voluble voices of the others, who were continuing to celebrate even in Lupinâ€™s absence.
â€œI wanted a private word, actually, Harry. It hasnâ€™t been easy to get an opportunity with the cottage this full of people.â€
â€œHarry, youâ€™re planning something with Griphook.â€
It was a statement, not a question, and Harry did not bother to deny it. He merely looked at Bill, waiting.
â€œI know goblins,â€ said Bill. â€œIâ€™ve worked for Gringotts ever since I left Hogwarts. As far as there can be friendship between wizards and goblins, I have goblin friends â€“ or, at least, goblins I know well, and like.â€ Again, Bill hesitated.
â€œHarry, what do you want from Griphook, and what have you promised him in return?â€
â€œI canâ€™t tell you that,â€ said Harry. â€œSorry, Bill.â€
The kitchen door opened behind them; Fleur was trying to bring through more empty goblets.
â€œWait,â€ Bill told her, â€œJust a moment.â€
She backed out and he closed the door again.
â€œThen I have to say this,â€ Bill went on. â€œIf you have struck any kind of bargain with Griphook, and most particularly if that bargain involves treasure, you must be exceptionally careful. Goblin notions of ownership, payment, and repayment are not the same as human ones.â€
Harry felt a slight squirm of discomfort, as though a small snake had stirred inside him.
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ he asked.
â€œWe are talking about a different breed of being,â€ said Bill. â€œDealings between wizards and goblins have been fraught for centuries â€“ but youâ€™ll know all that from History of Magic. There has been fault on both sides, I would never claim that wizards have been innocent. However, there is a belief among some goblins, and those at Gringotts are perhaps most prone to it, that wizards cannot be trusted in matters of gold and treasure, that they have no respect for goblin ownership.â€
â€œI respect â€“â€ Harry began, but Bill shook his head.
â€œYou donâ€™t understand, Harry, nobody could understand unless they have lived with goblins. To a goblin, the rightful and true master of any object is the maker, not the purchaser. All goblin made objects are, in goblin eyes, rightfully theirs.â€
â€œBut it was bought â€“â€
â€œâ€“ then they would consider it rented by the one who had paid the money. They have, however, great difficulty with the idea of goblin-made objects passing from wizard to wizard. You saw Griphookâ€™s face when the tiara passed under his eyes. He disapproves. I believe he thinks, as do the fiercest of his kind, that it ought to have been returned to the goblins once the original purchaser died. They consider our habit of keeping goblin-made objects, passing them from wizard to wizard without further payment, little more than theft.â€
Harry had an ominous feeling now; he wondered whether Bill guessed more than he was letting on.
â€œAll I am saying,â€ said Bill, setting his hand on the door back into the sitting room, â€œis to be very careful what you promise goblins, Harry. It would be less dangerous to break into Gringotts than to renege on a promise to a goblin.â€
â€œRight,â€ said Harry as Bill opened the door, â€œyeah. Thanks. Iâ€™ll bear that in mind.â€
As he followed Bill back to the others a wry thought came to him, born no doubt of the wine he had drunk. He seemed set on â€“â€“â€“ to become just as reckless a godfather to Teddy Lupin as Sirius Black had been to him.
The Deathly Hallows
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .