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â€œDonâ€™t say that, donâ€™t say it!â€ squealed Hermione. â€œShe must be alive, she must!â€
â€œThen sheâ€™ll be in Azkaban, I expect,â€ said Ron. â€œWhether she survives the place, thoughâ€¦Loads donâ€™tâ€¦â€
â€œShe will,â€ said Harry. He could not bear to contemplate the alternative. â€œSheâ€™s tough, Luna, much tougher than youâ€™d think. Sheâ€™s probably teaching all the inmates about Wrackspurts and Nargles.â€
â€œI hope youâ€™re right,â€ said Hermione. She passed a hand over her eyes. â€œIâ€™d feel so sorry for Xenophilius if â€“â€
â€œâ€“ if he hadnâ€™t just tried to sell us to the Death Eaters, yeah,â€ said Ron.
They put up the tent and retreated inside it, where Ron made them tea. After their narrow escape, the chilly, musty old place felt like home: safe, familiar, and friendly.
â€œOh, why did we go there?â€ groaned Hermione after a few minutesâ€™ silence. â€œHarry, you were right, it was Godricâ€™s Hollow all over again, a complete waste of time! The Deathly Hallowsâ€¦such rubbishâ€¦although actually,â€ a sudden thought seemed to have struck her, â€œhe might have made it all up, mightnâ€™t he? He probably doesnâ€™t believe in the Deathly Hallows at all, he just wanted to keep us talking until the Death Eaters arrived!â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so,â€ said Ron. â€œItâ€™s a damn sight harder making stuff up when youâ€™re under stress than youâ€™d think. I found that out when the Snatchers caught me. It was much easier pretending to be Stan, because I knew a bit about him, than inventing a whole new person. Old Lovegood was under loads of pressure, trying to make sure we stayed put. I reckon he told us the truth, or what he thinks is the truth, just to keep us talking.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t suppose it matters,â€ sighed Hermione. â€œEven if he was being honest, I never heard such a lot of nonsense in all my life.â€
â€œHang on, though,â€ said Ron. â€œThe Chamber of Secrets was supposed to be a myth, wasnâ€™t it?â€
â€œBut the Deathly Hallows canâ€™t exist, Ron!â€
â€œYou keep saying that, but one of them can,â€ said Ron. â€œHarryâ€™s Invisibility Cloak â€“â€
â€œThe Tale of the Three Brothersâ€™ is a story,â€ said Hermione firmly. â€œA story about how humans are frightened of death. If surviving was as simple as hiding under the Invisibility Cloak, weâ€™d have everything we need already!â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. We could do with an unbeatable wand,â€ said Harry, turning the blackthorn wand he so disliked over in his fingers.
â€œThereâ€™s no such thing, Harry!â€
â€œYou said there have been loads of wands â€“ the Deathstick and whatever they were called â€“â€
â€œAll right, even if you want to kid yourself the Elder Wandâ€™s real, what about the Resurrection Stone?â€ Her fingers sketched quotation marks around the name, and her tone dripped sarcasm. â€œNo magic can raise the dead, and thatâ€™s that!â€
â€œWhen my wand connected with You-Know-Whoâ€™s, it made my mum and dad appearâ€¦and Cedricâ€¦â€
â€œBut they werenâ€™t really back from the dead, were they?â€ said Hermione. â€œThose kind of â€“of pale imitations arenâ€™t the same as truly bringing someone back to life.â€
â€œBut she, the girl in the tale, didnâ€™t really come back, did she? The story says that once people are dead, they belong with the dead. But the second brother still got to see her and talk to her, didnâ€™t he? He even lived with her for a whileâ€¦â€
He saw concern and something less easily definable in Hermioneâ€™s expression. Then, as she glanced at Ron, Harry realized that it was fear: He had scared her with his talk of living with dead people.
â€œSo that Peverell bloke whoâ€™s buried in Godricâ€™s Hollow,â€ he said hastily, trying to sound robustly sane, â€œyou donâ€™t know anything about him, then?â€
â€œNo,â€ she replied, looking relieved at the change of subject. â€œI looked him up after I saw the mark on his grave; if heâ€™d been anyone famous or done anything important, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d be in one of our books. The only place Iâ€™ve managed to find the name â€˜Peverellâ€™ Is Natureâ€™s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. I borrowed it from Kreacher,â€ she explained as Ron raised his eyebrows. â€œIt lists the pure-blood families that are now extinct in the male line. Apparently the Peverells were one of the earliest families to vanish.â€
â€œExtinct in the male line?â€ repeated Ron.
â€œIt means the name died out,â€ said Hermione, â€œcenturies ago, in the case of the Peverells. They could still have descendents, though, theyâ€™d just be called something different.â€
And then it came to Harry in one shining piece, the memory that had stirred at the sound of the name â€œPeverellâ€: a filthy old man brandishing an ugly ring in the face of a Ministry official, and he cried aloud, â€œMarvolo Gaunt!â€
â€œSorryâ€ said Ron and Hermione together.
â€œMarvolo Gaunt! You-Know-Whoâ€™s grandfather! In the Pensieve! With Dumbledore! Marvolo Gaunt said he was descended from the Peverells!â€
Ron and Hermione looked bewildered.
â€œThe ring, the ring that became the Horcrux, Marvolo Gaunt said it had the Peverell coat of arms on it! I saw him waving it in the bloke from the Ministryâ€™s face, he nearly shoved it up his nose!â€
â€œThe Peverell coat of arms?â€ said Hermione sharply. â€œCould you see what it looked like?â€
â€œNot really,â€ said Harry, trying to remember. â€œThere was nothing fancy on there, as far as I could see; maybe a few scratches. I only ever saw it really close up after it had been cracked open.â€
Harry saw Hermioneâ€™s comprehension in the sudden widening of her eyes. Ron was looking from one to the other, astonished.
â€œBlimeyâ€¦You reckon it was this sign again? The sign of the Hallows?â€
â€œWhy not?â€ said Harry excitedly, â€œMarvolo Gaunt was an ignorant old git who lived like a pig, all he cared about was his ancestry. If that ring had been passed down through the centuries, he might not have known what it really was. There were no books in that house, and trust me, he wasnâ€™t the type to read fairy tales to his kids. Heâ€™d have loved to think the scratches on the stone were a coat of arms, because as far as he was concerned, having pure blood made you practically royal.â€
â€œYesâ€¦and thatâ€™s all very interesting,â€ said Hermione cautiously, â€œbut Harry, if youâ€™re thinking what I think youâ€™re think â€“â€
â€œWell, why not? Why not?â€ said Harry, abandoning caution. â€œIt was a stone, wasnâ€™t it?â€ He looked at Ron for support. â€œWhat if it was the Resurrection Stone?â€
Ronâ€™s mouth fell open.
â€œBlimey â€“ but would it still work if Dumbledore broke â€“?â€
â€œWork? Work? Ron, it never worked! Thereâ€™s no such thing as a Resurrection Stone!â€
Hermione leapt to her feet, looking exasperated and angry. â€œHarry youâ€™re trying to fit everything into the Hallows story â€“â€
â€œFit everything in?â€ he repeated. â€œHermione, it fits of its own accord! I know the sign of the Deathly Hallows was on that stone! Gaunt said he was descended from the Peverells!â€
â€œA minute ago you told us you never saw the mark on the stone properly!â€
â€œWhereâ€™d you reckon the ring is now?â€ Ron asked Harry. â€œWhat did Dumbledore do with it after he broke it open?â€
But Harryâ€™s imagination was racing ahead, far beyond Ron and Hermioneâ€™sâ€¦
Three objects, or Hallows, which, if united, will make the possessor master of Deathâ€¦Masterâ€¦Conquerorâ€¦Vanquisherâ€¦The last enemy that shall be destroyed is deathâ€¦
And he saw himself, possessor of the Hallows, facing Voldemort, whose Horcruxes were no matchâ€¦Neither can live while the other survivesâ€¦Was this the answer? Hallows versus Horcruxes? Was there a way after all, to ensure that he was the one who triumphed? If he were the master of the Deathly Hallows, would he be safe?
But he scarcely heard Hermione: He had pulled out his Invisibility Cloak and was running it through his fingers, the cloth supple as water, light as air. He had never seen anything to equal it in his nearly seven years in the Wizarding world. The Cloak was exactly what Xenophilius had described: A cloak that really and truly renders the wearer completely invisible, and endures eternally, giving constant and impenetrable concealment, no matter what spells are cast at itâ€¦
And then, with a gasp, he remembered â€“
â€œDumbledore had my Cloak the night my parents died!â€
His voice shook and he could feel the color in his face, but he did not care.
â€œMy mum told Sirius that Dumbledore borrowed the Cloak! This is why! He wanted to examine it, because he thought it was the third Hallow! Ignotus Peverell is buried in Godricâ€™s Hollowâ€¦â€ Harry was walking blindly around the tent, feeling as though great new vistas of truth were opening all around him. â€œHeâ€™s my ancestor. Iâ€™m descended from the third brother! It all makes sense!â€
â€œHe felt armed in certainty, in his belief in the Hallows, as if the mere idea of possessing them was giving him protection, and he felt joyous as he turned back to the other two.â€
â€œHarry,â€ said Hermione again, but he was busy undoing the pouch around his neck, his fingers shaking hard.
â€œRead it,â€ he told her, pushing his motherâ€™s letter into her hand. â€œRead it! Dumbledore had the Cloak, Hermione! Why else would he want it? He didnâ€™t need a Cloak, he could perform a Disillusionment Charm so powerful that he made himself completely invisible without one!â€
Something fell to the floor and rolled, glittering, under a chair: He had dislodged the Snitch when he pulled out the letter. He stooped to pick it up, and then the newly tapped spring of fabulous discoveries threw him another gift, and shock and wonder erupted inside him so that he shouted out.
â€œITâ€™S IN HERE! He left me the ring â€“ itâ€™s in the Snitch!â€
â€œYou â€“ you reckon?â€
He could not understand why Ron looked taken aback. It was so obvious, so clear to Harry. Everything fit, everythingâ€¦His Cloak was the third Hallow, and when he discovered how to open the Snitch he would have the second, and then all he needed to do was find the first Hallow, the Elder Wand, and then â€“
But it was as though a curtain fell on a lit stage: All his excitement, all his hope and happiness were extinguished at a stroke, and he stood alone in the darkness, and the glorious spell was broken.
â€œThatâ€™s what heâ€™s after.â€
The change in his voice made Ron and Hermione look even more scared.
â€œYou-Know-Whoâ€™s after the Elder Wand.â€
He turned his back on their strained, incredulous faces. He knew it was the truth. It all made sense, Voldemort was not seeking a new wand; he was seeking an old wand, a very old wand indeed. Harry walked to the entrance of the tent, forgetting about Ron and Hermione as he looked out into the night, thinkingâ€¦
Voldemort had been raised in a Muggle orphanage. Nobody could have told him The Tales of Beedle the Bard when he was a child, any more than Harry had heard them. Hardly any wizards believed in the Deathly Hallows. Was it likely that Voldemort knew about them?
Harry gazed into the darknessâ€¦If Voldemort had known about the Deathly Hallows, surely he would have sought them, done anything to possess them: three objects that made the possessor master of Death? If he had known about the Deathly Hallows, he might not have needed Horcruxes in the first place. Didnâ€™t the simple fact that he had taken a Hallow, and turned it into a Horcrux, demonstrate that he did not know this last great Wizarding secret?
Which meant that Voldemort sought the Elder Wand without realizing its full power, without understanding that it was one of threeâ€¦for the wand was the Hallow that could not be hidden, whose existence was best knownâ€¦The bloody trail of the Elder Wand is splattered across the pages of Wizarding historyâ€¦
Harry watched the cloudy sky, curves of smoke-gray and silver sliding over the face of the white moon. He felt lightheaded with amazement at his discoveries.
He turned back into the tent. It was a shock to see Ron and Hermione standing exactly where he had left them, Hermione still holding Lilyâ€™s letter, Ron at her side looking slightly anxious. Didnâ€™t they realize how far they had traveled in the last few minutes?
â€œThis is it?â€ Harry said, trying to bring them inside the glow of his own astonished certainty, â€œThis explains everything. The Deathly Hallows are real and Iâ€™ve got one â€“ maybe two â€“â€
He held up the Snitch.
â€œâ€“ and You-Know-Whoâ€™s chasing the third, but he doesnâ€™t realizeâ€¦he just thinks itâ€™s a powerful wand â€“â€
â€œHarry,â€ said Hermione, moving across to him and handing him back Lilyâ€™s letter, â€œIâ€™m sorry, but I think youâ€™ve got this wrong, all wrong.â€
â€œBut donâ€™t you see? It all fits â€“â€
â€œNot, it doesnâ€™t,â€ she said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t. Harry, youâ€™re just getting carried away. Please,â€ she said as she started to speak, â€œplease just answer me this: If the Deathly Hallows really existed, and Dumbledore knew about them, knew that the person who possessed all of them would be master of Death â€“ Harry, why wouldnâ€™t he have told you? Why?â€
He had his answer ready.
â€œBut you said it, Hermione! Youâ€™ve got to find out about them for yourself! Itâ€™s a Quest!â€
â€œBut I only said that to try and persuade you to come to the Lovegoodsâ€™!â€ cried Hermione in exasperation. â€œI didnâ€™t really believe it!â€
Harry took no notice.
â€œDumbledore usually let me find out stuff for myself. He let me try my strength, take risks. This feels like the kind of thing heâ€™d do.â€
â€œHarry, this isnâ€™t a game, this isnâ€™t practice! This is the real thing, and Dumbledore left you very clear instructions: Find and destroy the Horcruxes! That symbol doesnâ€™t mean anything, forget the Deathly Hallows, we canâ€™t afford to get sidetracked â€“â€
Harry was barely listening to her. He was turning the Snitch over and over in his hands, half expecting it to break open, to reveal the Resurrection Stone, to prove to Hermione that he was right, that the Deathly Hallows were real.
She appealed to Ron.
â€œYou donâ€™t believe in this, do you?â€
Harry looked up, Ron hesitated.
â€œI dunnoâ€¦I meanâ€¦bits of it sort of fit together,â€ said Ron awkwardly, â€œBut when you look at the whole thingâ€¦â€ He took a deep breath. â€œI think weâ€™re supposed to get rid of Horcruxes, Harry. Thatâ€™s what Dumbledore told us to do. Maybeâ€¦maybe we should forget about this Hallows business.â€
â€œThank you, Ron,â€ said Hermione. â€œIâ€™ll take first watch.â€
And she strode past Harry and sat down in the tent entrance bringing the action to a fierce full stop.
But Harry hardly slept that night. The idea of the Deathly Hallows had taken possession of him, and he could not rest while agitating thoughts whirled through his mind: the wand, the stone, and the Cloak, if he could just possess them allâ€¦
I open at the closeâ€¦But what was the close? Why couldnâ€™t he have the stone now? If only he had the stone, he could ask Dumbledore these questions in personâ€¦and Harry murmured words to the Snitch in the darkness, trying everything, even Parseltongue, but the golden ball would not openâ€¦
And the wand, the Elder Wand, where was that hidden? Where was Voldemort searching now? Harry wished his scar would burn and show him Voldemortâ€™s thoughts, because for the first time ever, he and Voldemort were united in wanting the very same thingâ€¦Hermione would not like that idea, of courseâ€¦But then, she did not believeâ€¦.Xenophilius had been right, in a wayâ€¦Limited, Narrow, Close-minded. The truth was that she was scared of the idea of the Deathly Hallows, especially of the Resurrection Stoneâ€¦and Harry pressed his mouth again to the Snitch, kissing it, nearly swallowing it, but the cold medal did not yieldâ€¦
It was nearly dawn when he remembered Luna, alone in a cell in Azkaban, surrounded by dementors, and he suddenly felt ashamed of himself. He had forgotten all about her in his feverish contemplation of the Hallows. If only they could rescue her, but dementors in those numbers would be virtually unassailable. Now he came to think about it, he had not tried casting a Patronus with the blackthorn wandâ€¦He must try that in the morningâ€¦
If only there was a way of getting a better wandâ€¦
And desire for the Elder Wand, the Deathstick, unbeatable, invincible, swallowed him once moreâ€¦
They packed up the tent next morning and moved on through a dreary shower of rain. The downpour pursued them to the coast, where they pitched the tent that night, and persisted through the whole week, through sodden landscapes that Harry found bleak and depressing. He could think only of the Deathly Hallows. It was as though a flame had been lit inside him that nothing, not Hermioneâ€™s flat disbelief nor Ronâ€™s persistent doubts, could extinguish. And yet the fiercer the longing for the Hallows burned inside him, the less joyful it made him. He blamed Ron and Hermione: Their determined indifference was as bad as the relentless rain for dampening his spirits, but neither could erode his certainty, which remained absolute. Harryâ€™s belief in and longing for the Hallows consumed him so much that he felt isolated from the other two and their obsession with the Horcruxes.
â€œObsession?â€ said Hermione in a low fierce voice, when Harry was careless enough to use the word one evening, after Hermione had told him off for his lack of interest in locating more Horcruxes. â€œWeâ€™re not the one with an obsession, Harry! Weâ€™re the ones trying to do what Dumbledore wanted us to do!â€
But he was impervious to the veiled criticism. Dumbledore had left the sign of the Hallows for Hermione to decipher, and he had also, Harry remained convinced of it, left the Resurrection Stone hidden in the golden Snitch. Neither can live while the other survivesâ€¦master of Deathâ€¦Why didnâ€™t Ron and Hermione understand?
â€œâ€˜The last enemy shall be destroyed is death,â€™â€ Harry quoted calmly.
â€œI thought it was You-Know-Who we were supposed to be fighting?â€ Hermione retorted, and Harry gave up on her.
Even the mystery of the silver doe, which the other two insisted on discussing, seemed less important to Harry now, a vaguely interesting sideshow. The only other thing that mattered to him was that his scar had begun to prickle again, although he did all he could to hide this fact from the other two. He sought solitude whenever it happened, but was disappointed by what he saw. The visions he and Voldemort were sharing had changed in quality; they had become blurred, shifting as though they were moving in and out of focus. Harry was just able to make out the indistinct features of an object that looked like a skull, and something like a mountain that was more shadow than substance. Used to images sharp as reality, Harry was disconcerted by the change. He was worried that the connection between himself and Voldemort had been damaged, a connection that he both feared and, whatever he had told Hermione, prized. Somehow Harry connected these unsatisfying, vague images with the destruction of his wand, as if it was the blackthorn wandâ€™s fault that he could no longer see into Voldemortâ€™s mind as well as before.
As the weeks crept on, Harry could not help but notice, even through his new self-absorption, that Ron seemed to be taking charge. Perhaps because he was determined to make up for having walked out on them, perhaps because Harryâ€™s descent into listlessness galvanized his dormant leadership qualities, Ron was the one now encouraging and exhorting the other two into action.
â€œThree Horcruxes left,â€ he kept saying. â€œWe need a plan of action, come on! Where havenâ€™t we looked? Letâ€™s go through it again. The orphanageâ€¦â€
Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, the Riddle House, Borgin and Burkes, Albania, every place that they knew Tom Riddle had ever lived or worked, visited or murdered, Ron and Hermione raked over them again, Harry joining in only to stop Hermione pestering him. He would have been happy to sit alone in silence, trying to read Voldemortâ€™s thoughts, to find out more about the Elder Wand, but Ron insisted on journeying to ever more unlikely places simply, Harry was aware, to keep them moving.
â€œYou never know,â€ was Ronâ€™s constant refrain. â€œUpper Flagley is a Wizarding village, he mightâ€™ve wanted to live there. Letâ€™s go and have a poke around.â€
These frequent forays into Wizarding territory brought them within occasional sight of Snatchers.
â€œSome of them are supposed to be as bad as Death Eaters,â€ said Ron. â€œThe lot that got me were a bit pathetic, but Bill recons some of them are really dangerous. They said on Potterwatch â€“â€
â€œOn what?â€ said Harry.
â€œPotterwatch, didnâ€™t I tell you thatâ€™s what it was called? The program I keep trying to get on the radio, the only one that tells the truth about whatâ€™s going on! Nearly all of the programs are following You-Know-Whoâ€™s line, all except Potterwatch, I really want you to hear it, but itâ€™s tricky tuning inâ€¦â€
Ron spent evening after evening using his wand to beat out various rhythms on top of the wireless while the dials whirled. Occasionally they would catch snatches of advice on how to treat dragonpox, and once a few bars of â€œA Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love.â€ While he taped, Ron continued to try to hit on the correct password, muttering strings of random words under his breath.
â€œTheyâ€™re normally something to do with the Order,â€ he told them. â€œBill had a real knack for guessing them. Iâ€™m bound to get one in the endâ€¦â€
But not until March did luck favor Ron at last. Harry was sitting in the tent entrance, on guard duty, staring idly at a clump of grape hyacinths that had forced their way through the chilly ground, when Ron shouted excitedly from inside the tent. â€œIâ€™ve got it, Iâ€™ve got it! Password was â€˜Albusâ€™! Get in here, Harry.â€
Roused for the first time in days from his contemplation of the Deathly Hallows, Harry hurried back inside the tent to find Ron and Hermione kneeling on the floor beside the little radio. Hermione, who had been polishing the sword of Gryffindor just for something to do, was sitting open-mouthed, staring at the tiny speaker, from which a most familiar voice was issuing.
â€œâ€¦apologize for our temporary absence from the airwaves, which was due to a number of house calls in our area by those charming Death Eaters.â€
â€œBut thatâ€™s Lee Jordan!â€ said Hermione.
â€œI know!â€ beamed Ron. â€œCool, eh?â€
â€œâ€¦now found ourselves another secure location,â€ Lee was saying, â€œand Iâ€™m pleased to tell you that two of our regular contributors have joined me here this evening. Evening, boys!â€
â€œâ€˜Riverâ€™ thatâ€™s Lee,â€ Ron explained. â€œTheyâ€™ve all got code names, but you can usually tell â€“â€
â€œShh!â€ said Hermione.
â€œBut before we hear from Royal and Romulus,â€ Lee went on, â€œletâ€™s take a moment to report those deaths that the Wizarding Wireless Network News and Daily Prophet donâ€™t think important enough to mention. It is with great regret that we inform our listeners of the murders of Ted Tonks and Dirk Cresswell.â€
Harry felt a sick, swooping in his belly. He, Ron, and Hermione gazed at one another in horror.
â€œA goblin by the name of Gornuk was also killed. It is believed that Muggle-born Dean Thomas and a second goblin, both believed to have been traveling with Tonks, Cresswell, and Gornuk, may have escaped. If Dean is listening, or if anyone has any knowledge of his whereabouts, his parents and sisters are desperate for news.â€
â€œMeanwhile, in Gaddley, a Muggle family of five has been found dead in their home. Muggle authorities are attributing their deaths to a gas leak, but members of the Order of the Phoenix inform me that it was the Killing Curse â€“ more evidence, as if it were needed, of the fact that Muggle slaughter is becoming little more than a recreational sport under the new regime.â€
â€œFinally, we regret to inform our listeners that the remains of Bathilda Bagshot have been discovered in Godricâ€™s Hollow. The evidence is that she died several months ago. The Order of the Phoenix informs us that her body showed unmistakable signs of injuries inflicted by Dark Magic.â€
â€œListeners, Iâ€™d like to invite you now to join us in a minuteâ€™s silence in memory of Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell, Bathilda Bagshot, Gornuk, and the unnamed, but no less regretted, Muggles murdered by the Death Eaters.â€
Silence fell, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione did not speak. Half of Harry yearned to hear more, half of him was afraid of what might come next. It was the first time he had felt fully connected to the outside world for a long time.
â€œThank you,â€ said Leeâ€™s voice. â€œAnd now we can return to regular contributor Royal, for an update on how the new Wizarding order is affecting the Muggle world.â€
â€œThanks, River,â€ said an unmistakable voice, deep, measured, reassuring.
â€œKingsley!â€ burst out Ron.
â€œWe know!â€ said Hermione, hushing him.
â€œMuggles remain ignorant of the source of their suffering as they continue to sustain heavy casualties,â€ said Kingsley. â€œHowever, we continue to hear truly inspirational stories of wizards and witches risking their own safety to protect Muggle friends and neighbors, often without the Mugglesâ€™ knowledge. Iâ€™d like to appeal to all our listeners to emulate their example, perhaps by casting a protective charm over any Muggle dwellings in your street. Many lives could be saved if such simple measures are taken.â€
â€œAnd what would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be â€˜Wizards firstâ€™? asked Lee.â€
â€œIâ€™d say that itâ€™s one short step from â€˜Wizards firstâ€™ to â€˜Purebloods first,â€™ and then to â€˜Death Eaters,â€™â€ replied Kingsley. â€œWeâ€™re all human, arenâ€™t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.â€
â€œExcellently put, Royal, and youâ€™ve got my vote for Minister of Magic if we ever get out of this mess,â€ said Lee. â€œAnd now, over to Romulus for our popular feature â€˜Pals of Potter.â€™â€
â€œThanks, River,â€ said another very familiar voice. Ron started to speak, but Hermione forestalled him in a whisper.
â€œWe know itâ€™s Lupin!â€
â€œRomulus, do you maintain, as you have every time youâ€™ve appeared on our program, that Harry Potter is still alive?â€
â€œI do,â€ said Lupin firmly. â€œThere is no doubt at all in my mind that his death would be proclaimed as widely as possible by the Death Eaters if it had happened, because it would strike a deadly blow at the morale of those resisting the new regime. â€˜The Boy Who Livedâ€™ remains a symbol of everything for which we are fighting: the triumph of good, the power of innocence, the need to keep resisting.â€
A mixture of gratitude and shame welled up in Harry. Had Lupin forgiven him, then, for the terrible things he had said when they had last met?
â€œAnd what would you say to Harry if you knew he was listening, Romulus?â€
â€œIâ€™d tell him weâ€™re all with him in spirit,â€ said Lupin, then hesitated slightly, â€œAnd Iâ€™d tell him to follow his instincts, which are good and nearly always right.â€
Harry looked at Hermione, whose eyes were full of tears.
â€œNearly always right,â€ she repeated.
â€œOh, didnâ€™t I tell you?â€ said Ron in surprise. â€œBill told me Lupinâ€™s living with Tonks again! And apparently sheâ€™s getting pretty big tooâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦and our usual update on those friends of Harry Potterâ€™s who are suffering for their allegiance?â€ Lee was saying.
â€œWell, as regular listeners will know, several of the more outspoken supporters of Harry Potter have now been imprisoned, including Xenophilius Lovegood, erstwhile editor of The Quibbler,â€ said Lupin.
â€œAt least heâ€™s still alive!â€ muttered Ron.
â€œWe have also heard within the last few hours that Rubeus Hagridâ€ â€“ all three of them gasped, and so nearly missed the rest of the sentence â€“ â€œwell-known gamekeeper at Hogwarts School, has narrowly escaped arrest within the grounds of Hogwarts, where he is rumored to have hosted a â€˜Support Harry Potterâ€™ party in his house. However, Hagrid was not taken into custody, and is, we believe, on the run.â€
â€œI suppose it helps, when escaping from Death Eaters, if youâ€™ve got a sixteen-foot-high half brother?â€ asked Lee.
â€œIt would tend to give you an edge,â€ agreed Lupin gravely. â€œMay I just add that while we here at Potterwatch applaud Hagridâ€™s spirit, we would urge even the most devoted of Harryâ€™s supporters against following Hagridâ€™s lead. â€˜Support Harry Potterâ€™ parties are unwise in the present climate.â€
â€œIndeed they are, Romulus,â€ said Lee, â€œso we suggest that you continue to show your devotion to the man with the lightning scar by listening to Potterwatch! And now letâ€™s move to news concerning the wizard who is proving just as elusive as Harry Potter. We like to refer to him as the Chief Death Eater, and here to give his views on some of the more insane rumors circulating about him, Iâ€™d like to introduce a new correspondent. Rodent?â€
â€œâ€˜Rodentâ€™?â€ said yet another familiar voice, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione cried out together:
â€œNo â€“ is it George?â€
â€œItâ€™s Fred, I think,â€ said Ron, leaning in closer, as whichever twin it was said, â€œIâ€™m not being â€˜Rodent,â€™ no way, I told you I wanted to be â€˜Rapierâ€™!â€
â€œOh, all right then, â€˜Rapier,â€™ could you please give us your take on the various stories weâ€™ve been hearing about the Chief Death Eater?â€
â€œYes, River, I can,â€ said Fred. â€œAs our listeners will know, unless theyâ€™ve taken refuge at the bottom of a garden pond or somewhere similar, You-Know-Whoâ€™s strategy of remaining in the shadows is creating a nice little climate of panic. Mind you, if all the alleged sightings of him are genuine, we must have a good nineteen You-Know-Whos running around the place.â€
â€œWhich suits him, of course,â€ said Kingsley. â€œThe air of mystery is creating more terror than actually showing himself.â€
â€œAgreed,â€ said Fred. â€œSo, people, letâ€™s try and calm down a bit. Things are bad enough without inventing stuff as well. For instance, this new idea that You-Know-Who can kill people with a single glance from his eyes. Thatâ€™s a basilisk, listeners. One simple test: Check whether the thing thatâ€™s glaring at you has got legs. If it has, itâ€™s safe to look into its eyes, although if it really is You-Know-Who, thatâ€™s still likely to be the last thing you ever do.â€
For the first time in weeks and weeks, Harry was laughing: He could feel the weight of tension leaving him.
â€œAnd the rumors that he keeps being sighted abroad?â€ asked Lee.
â€œWell, who wouldnâ€™t want a nice little holiday after all the hard work heâ€™s been putting in?â€ asked Fred. â€œPoint is, people, donâ€™t get lulled into a false sense of security, thinking heâ€™s out of the country. Maybe he is, maybe he isnâ€™t, but the fact remains he can move faster than Severus Snape confronted with shampoo when he wants to, so donâ€™t count on him being a long way away if youâ€™re planning to take any risks. I never thought Iâ€™d hear myself say it, but safety first!â€
â€œThank you very much for those wise words, Rapier,â€ said Lee. â€œListeners, that brings us to the end of another Potterwatch. We donâ€™t know when it will be possible to broadcast again, but you can be sure we shall be back. Keep twiddling those dials: The next password will be â€˜Mad-Eye.â€™ Keep each other safe: Keep faith. Good night.â€
The radioâ€™s dial twirled and the lights behind the tuning panel went out. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were still beaming. Hearing familiar, friendly voices was an extraordinary tonic; Harry had become so used to their isolation he had nearly forgotten that other people were resisting Voldemort. It was like waking from a long sleep.
â€œGood, eh?â€ said Ron happily.
â€œBrilliant,â€ said Harry.
â€œItâ€™s so brave of them,â€ sighed Hermione admiringly. â€œIf they were found â€¦â€
â€œWell, they keep on the move, donâ€™t they?â€ said Ron. â€œLike us.â€
â€œBut did you hear what Fred said?â€ asked Harry excitedly; now the broadcast was over, his thoughts turned around toward his all consuming obsession. â€œHeâ€™s abroad! Heâ€™s still looking for the Wand, I knew it!â€
â€œHarry â€“ â€
â€œCome on, Hermione, why are you so determined not to admit it? Vol â€“ â€
â€œ â€“ demortâ€™s after the Elder Wand!â€
â€œThe nameâ€™s Taboo!â€ Ron bellowed, leaping to his feet as a loud crack sounded outside the tent. â€œI told you, Harry, I told you, we canâ€™t say it anymore â€“ weâ€™ve got to put the protection back around us â€“ quickly â€“ itâ€™s how they find â€“ â€
But Ron stopped talking, and Harry knew why. The Sneakoscope on the table had lit up and begun to spin; they could hear voices coming nearer and nearer: rough, excited voices. Ron pulled the Deluminator out of his pocket and clicked it: Their lamps went out.
â€œCome out of there with your hands up!â€ came a rasping voice through the darkness. â€œWe know youâ€™re in there! Youâ€™ve got half a dozen wands pointing at you and we donâ€™t care who we curse!â€
The Deathly Hallows
. . . . . .