Harry was 39 when he finally realized there was something wrong with him. Neville had gone on some herbology expedition with a friend of his to Brazil. When he came back two years later, he had a beard and shaggy hair, a wild grin, and a new interest in sleeping outside with the specimens he'd brought back. But when Harry welcomed him with the others at the party, Neville stared at him in shock for a full minute before Ginny nudged him back to reality.
"Harry," he said, so solemn and serious, in a manner Harry hadn't seen since the war ended, "you haven't changed at all."
Harry laughed him off at first, and made some comment about foreign pollen and good old English fire whiskey not mixing right, and they'd returned to the gathering. Even so, Neville watched Harry the rest of the night with a worried face, and an uncomfortable feeling started growing in Harry's gut.
For weeks afterward Harry kept up appearances, going into work with the same fortitude and cheer, and trying his best to keep Ginny or his friends from noticing the tension he was feeling. It was a relief the children were all at school, because he felt certain Ginny wasn't fooled at all by his act, and he didn't want them worrying over anything beyond homework and silly teenage dramas.
It was important to act as normal as possible, to pretend that what he suspected wasn't real, and that life would continue on as it ever did. Unfortunately, his act finally ran the limit of his wife's patience, who'd been waiting for him to tell her what was wrong so she could help him figure it out.
It was a night similar to hundreds before it, Harry had just come home from his shift at the Aurors and got a start on dinner, and then Ginny came home from work at the Department of Mysteries and helped. They chatted for a bit about their day (Ginny chastising Harry for sending flirtatious notes down to her work and abusing his power, and Harry cheerfully reminding her that as Head Auror, abuse of his power was expected), then sat down together for dinner. It was quiet for a while, until Ginny set her fork down and glared up at him.
"Alright, I've had it with the dopey "'Perfect Potter' act, Harry," she said. "What's going on?"
"Nothing!" Harry gave a weak smile under his wife's frosty glare. "Why on earth would you think something is wrong, darling?"
The glare intensified. "You've been acting off since Neville's welcome home party, don't think I haven't noticed!"
"No I haven't!" Harry drew himself up, but quickly wilted when Ginny's glare softened to a sad little frown. "I-- Ginny, love--"
"Harry. I know you," she said. "Why can't you tell me?"
Harry looked away. "It's not-- I just... don't want you to worry."
"Prat," Ginny said shortly. "I'll always worry about you, especially when you start acting like an idiot."
"I know, I just... don't think this is something you can help me with and I know how much you hate not being able to do anything--"
"So you thought you'd spare me all the heartache and frustration by keeping me in the dark?"
Harry winced. "Well, when you put it that way...."
Ginny snorted. "Yeah. Prat."
Harry smiled at her softly. "Good thing you're here to tell me when I'm being one."
"Don't mention it," she said lightly, and a great deal of the tension that had been building up in Harry for the past few weeks drained away. "Now, tell me what's going on, husband mine."
Harry winced. "Right, well, now, this is a bit odd, but try and bear with me."
Ginny nodded seriously.
"Okay.... So! You know... that is, er," Harry had been trying so hard to avoid thinking about his horrible suspicions that now trying to explain them seemed impossible. "Oh! Right! Have you looked at any old photos lately?"
If Harry expected his random segue to startle Ginny, he was disappointed. If anything, his mention of photos only made her expression turn stricken and pale, which was so odd it ended up startling Harry instead.
"So you finally noticed," she said softly.
Ginny sighed. "See? How can I not worry about you when you can be so oblivious sometimes?"
"Er..." Harry thought that was rather unfair, but he was fast realizing that the problem he'd only just noticed was something his wife had already known about. "So, you... knew?"
"Of course," Ginny smiled ruefully. "How could I not notice?"
"But, you," Harry stared at her. "How... how did you know?"
Ginny scoffed. "You had to use a spell to grow fuzz on your chin, Harry." She looked at him, sad and loving and exasperated all at once. "You looked like a teenager cresting the wave of puberty-- at 27!"
"Hey!" Harry rubbed the neatly cut beard-- not stubble, thank you very much!-- along his chin.
"Oh, it's much better now," Ginny waved at him. "I mean, you still look like a teenage, but much more distinguished."
Harry slumped in his chair. "Does anyone else know?"
Ginny raised an eyebrow at him.
Harry threw his hands up. "Fine! Stupid question.... But, how many people know?"
"Basically everybody," Ginny said with a shrug. "Hermione's been collecting muggle texts on psychology for when you'd figure it out, and she's been researching all sorts of legal loopholes to allow you to adopt a new identity when you get old enough."
Harry stared at her.
"Mum and the whole family have all been looking into places you might be able to retire to when you need to... disappear. Charlie's very enthusiastic about getting you to set up a dragon preserve in Mongolia somewhere." Ginny pursed her lips when he gave no response. "Luna and Seamus have been looking into charms and more, unusual, magics to help you with, well, I'm not sure what exactly, I think maybe a disguise, but maybe building a house inside a tree. Luna's usually the one who gives me updates."
Harry sucked in a breath. "But, Neville--"
"Has been on so many trips in the last ten years that I think he didn't notice-- just like you." Ginny shrugged. "And since everyone has a closed mouth policy about the subject, no one ever got a chance to tell him until the party when he couldn't stop staring at you. He's fine though," she assured him, "he's actually been sending me tons of plant samples that he's collected over the years for my research."
"Your research?" Due to the secretive nature of her department, Harry rarely got told about Ginny's work, and never at the research level of development.
"Yeah." Ginny looked at him for a moment, that same sad and loving look in her eyes. "I've been researching ways to disguise you-- spells to let you appear older, or like a totally different person. Spells, not potions, so they'll last longer than the Ageing Potion or the Polyjuice Potion."
Ginny grinned at him. "Yep! In fact, I'm almost at a breakthrough-- my superior can't wait till I get the last incantation right, I've just got to put in a portion that'll let the spell last until it's taken off by a counter-spell."
Harry stared at her. "That's brilliant, it is, it's just...."
"You're still trying to come to terms with us all realizing before you did."
Ginny smiled sadly. "I know. I'm... sorry I didn't say anything, and don't blame everyone else, we all thought you'd be happier not knowing for as long as possible. I mean, if anyone deserves a happy, carefree life after the war, it's you."
"But, if you'd all just told me, we could've, I donno-- figured out how to reverse it or something!" Harry all but shouted, not sure if it was anger or despair that made his voice rise.
"Reverse it, Harry?" Ginny said quietly. "Sounds like you already have an idea what this is, and no one's been able to figure out how to reverse it yet. Hermione's convinced there isn't anything that can."
"Hermione's convinced? What, after just a few years of trying, she's given up already?" Harry was definitely shouting now and shaking in his seat while Ginny watched him. "And what about you? Have you given up?"
"It hasn't been just a few years, Harry. Hermione's suspected this for more than a decade-- ever since you finally told us about what really happened to you that night."
"Oh! So, it's only been ten years before you all give up, is that it?" Harry yelled harshly.
"We haven't given up!" Ginny yelled back at him, and he flinched away from her as she stood, because there were tears in her eyes now, trembling on the ends of her lashes. "We've tried! We've tried everything! Don't you remember all those checkups Luna asked you to do at St. Mungo's? She told you she was collecting data for some experiments! That was for this! For me and Hermione and Luna and Bill to all work on, to find a way to separate you from the Hollows, to make you normal again! Hermione's been researching everything she can find on the Hollows, on death magic, soul magic, everything! We've all been trying, hoping we'd find something before you ever noticed there was anything wrong, so we could tell you and save you for once instead of the other way around! But we never got anywhere, and…and...."
Ginny broke off, her voice cracking, and she sunk back into her chair with a sob. "You were so happy... you mentioned it so many times, do you remember? After James was born, y-you kept saying how- how you never thought you'd get t-to have a normal life, and h-how happy you were to just be n-normal for once. I-I..."
Harry got up and came around the table to hug her. She was shaking and crying now, something she hadn't done since her brother died and all the Weasleys mourned together.
"I'm so sorry, I c-couldn't tell you," she sobbed into his shoulder, "I j-just didn't want you to be like in the war, th-thinking you had to s-sacrifice yourself or something, you're such an i-idiot, Harry!"
"Oh, so you all kept secrets because I'm the idiot?" Harry murmured into her hair as he rubbed her back soothingly. "Not sure that's how that works, my lovely wife."
"It is too!" she sniffled. "You always have to be so heroic, and give up your own happiness if you think it'll p-protect someone! If you'd known about this years ago, would you have been as happy?" she pulled back to look at him, face sopping and eyes puffy. "Would you have stayed and sent our children to Hogwarts, and been there every year to welcome them home?"
Harry tried to say 'yes, of course' but the words lodged in his throat. Part of why he hadn't wanted to think about this when he finally noticed it was because he felt he couldn't let his family and friends know. He tried to tell himself he wouldn't leave them all so they wouldn't find out.
He glanced away.
"See?" Ginny said sadly. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her face back into his shoulder. "My idiot husband," was mumbled into his shirt, so low, Harry felt the vibration more clearly than he heard it.
They stayed like that for a long time, Ginny in the chair and Harry on the arm, holding tight to each other, neither wanting to say anything more that might break them. Finally though, the stress caught up with them enough that they decided, without even needing to speak to each other, to move into the living room and sit on the sofa. It was always the most comfortable spot for difficult conversations.
"So," Harry said into the quiet once they were comfortable, sitting side by side, with only their arms around each other. "I assume when you said 'everyone' knows, you meant the usual crowd?"
Ginny nodded. "The core group, with a few extra. Hermione and Ron, obviously, Luna and Neville, and Seamus since Luna tells him everything, Mum and Dad, Bill and Fleur, Charlie, Percy, and George, then there's McGonagall and Kingsley, and also Andromeda, and...that’s it."
"How did... they find out?" Harry asked. "I mean... I suppose it's a little obvious now, but, if they've all known for a while...."
Ginny shrugged tiredly and leaned her head along the backrest, closing her eyes. "I told you when Hermione guessed, and she got Ron and me to help with researching the Hollows to see if they'd hurt you in any way, so that's how we found out. Neville figured it out last, as you know, and McGonagall realized it when you had to go in about Albus blowing up that toilet in the Slytherin girls' bathroom. I think Kingsley has known, or at least suspected, since you were promoted, and he's been discreetly drawing attention away from you in the Ministry, and everyone else kind of found out whenever Hermione, Ron, and I needed help getting some bit of research or other. Oh! Except Luna... she just... knew apparently." Ginny had a sour look at that, because as much as she cared for Luna, she'd never quite understood her more elusive grasp of magic.
"Wow." Harry blinked. It seemed like pretty much everyone who'd learned how to keep secrets worth more than their lives had known about it, and were working to keep it secret--even from him. "Um, what about Andromeda?"
Ginny frowned. "I don't know when or how she figured it out, but she's the one who gave me the improved charm for your beard. She cornered me one day as I was out shopping and she mentioned that metamorphamagus studies might help me 'refine face altering spell research' and gave me the charm. She also loaned me a few Black family journals detailing metamorphamagus magics. It's been annoyingly helpful."
Harry snorted. "So she's not really getting too involved with anything?"
They both shared a rueful nod. Andromeda allowed Teddy to go out and play with all the plebeians of the world, but she would never deign to do so again. Though, considering how much she'd lost, Harry sometimes thought that was a pretty smart move on her part.
"So," Harry said, then stopped. There wasn't much he could say.
Ginny sighed again and leaned against him heavily. "So," she repeated. Apparently she'd run out of anything to say as well.
But what was there to say really? Harry hadn't aged a day since the Battle of Hogwarts. There were only a few things that could mean.
Later that week, everyone in the know about Harry's "condition" (with the exception of Andromeda, who owled them some mead and whiskey) met up at the Burrow to discuss whatever they'd found or were working on, as well as to apologizing to him for failing. After Hermione went so far as to burst into tears, Harry tried to break the silence with a joke about how he wasn't dying this time. It cracked a few smiles, but everyone in this group knew him, knew what he'd been through.
Dying wouldn't have been a problem to him.
"But are you really..." Ron shrugged awkwardly. "You know.... I mean, it's not something we can really test-- and don't you dare try it!" he said, giving Harry a harsh glare over Hermione's shoulder while she tried to stop her sniffling.
"Well," Harry stopped patting Molly's back and pulled out of the tight hug. "I guess we can find out in, er, a while."
This started a clamor of shouting as Molly, Ginny, his friends, and even his teachers (Flitwick, having apparently also known and working on his own little charms on the side for Harry, had nonchalantly joined McGonagall on her "brief stroll around the castle grounds" to come to the meeting) all of them insisting that he would absolutely not test anything!
"If you don't have the right to end someone else's life, Potter, then I don't see why you'd have the right to end yours," Kingsley had interrupted the commotion with a flash bang so he could be sure Harry'd hear him. "And if you want to argue that, then I'll be ordering you as Minister of Magic that you aren't allowed to."
"There, see?" George nodded sagely and thumped Harry on the back. "We can have it written in to law if we need to!"
And that was that.
"But what if I am aging, just not, er, obviously?" Harry suggested.
Hermione shook her head. "It's not just stopped on the outside, Harry. We've done tests on your blood, tissue, hair, even some bone, and everything has the same... unchanging quality to it."
Harry tried to remember if he'd ever given Luna bone samples, and then decided he'd rather not recall. But something about that sounded off....
"Hang on, what do you mean 'unchanging'?" he asked.
The others all looked at each other while Hermione shrugged helplessly. Luna spoke up from her seat.
"Just what she said, Harry."
"Er, yeah, but what does it mean?"
"Unchanging-- your samples don't change, at all." Luna closed her eyes. "I didn't much like some of the experiments I had to run, but nothing ever worked, all parts of you were unreactive to any stimuli."
"What?" Harry blinked. "What... what exactly did you do?"
But Luna looked so unhappy just thinking about it, Harry quickly turned to the room at large, hoping she'd realize he wouldn't force her to explain anything to him. Hermione and Flitwick at least figured this out, and both quickly spoke up.
"Well, the tests started with general, low level magical manipulations--"
"Mrs. Finnigan utilized multiple interacting factors to test the latent magical properties of--"
They both stopped as Harry was staring at them both rather obviously confused.
"I hope you two understand that I don't work with abstract magical theories, so you're going to have to put this in very simple terms for me," Harry told them firmly.
"It wouldn't react," Luna said softly behind them. She looked up and met Harry's eyes when he turned to her. "I tried to test what sort of magic was held in the blood first, but it came up as empty. Then I tried applying magic to it, and the hair, to give it magical properties, but it remained the way it was. Then I..." Luna looked down and Seamus sat beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"It's alright, Luna," he said. "Harry won't be mad, you know he won't be mad at you for anything." Seamus glanced up at Harry for a reassuring nod that this was true, or else. "Didn't you say it would be better for him to know?"
Luna wouldn't look up, but she did nod.
"I tried more powerful magical applications, on all samples, to see if anything would get a reading or if there was a gradation of this... effect. Blood, bone, skin, muscle, hair, all of it stayed the same, no reaction to anything." She drew in a breath. "Transfiguration, charms, curses, all failed to garner any response, and...I even tried some time magic, just to see if there was some synchronization occurring between samples, but... nothing."
"Wait," Harry said, frowning. "Are you saying that spells you cast on the, er, samples, had no effect?"
Luna and Hermione both nodded.
"But, that can't... I've been hit by curses since this... started, I've been under incantations and potions too!" Harry waved an arm at George and Ron. "And let's not forget I can be under transfigurative magics!"
"Yeah, but you've had way more near misses and glancing blows than you've been hit, right?" Ron said. "And what curses did catch you never stuck for long before you shook 'em off."
"You brought in an awful lot of witches and wizards who seemed to flop their most practiced magics when they turned it on you, Harry," Kingsley spoke up. "Rumor says it's mastery of the Elder Wand that's doing it, which has been a headache for me to suppress, you know."
"And your transfigurations, Harry, all originate from your own magic," McGonagall said primly. "Or are you forgetting your fifth year lessons on the difference between transfigurations cast on the self and those cast on others?"
"And you can't go looking at Weasley Wizard Wheezes for help outta this," George added. "All our magics are temporary and work as loosely as possible with the victim's-- I mean, subject's own magical core for the smoothest, safest pranking you can ask for!" He turned to nod at Percy and his father. "As per Ministry regulations for magically non-harmful entertainment products!"
Harry's head felt like it was spinning, but he supposed he should have expected this. Everyone else had been aware and working on this for years before he even knew about it. He was far behind on them all.
"Harry," Hermione said, catching his attention. "There's something else. We... that is, Luna, didn't only test magical effects on yo-- the samples. Non-magical stimuli were also tested."
"Okay... so, what does that mean?" Harry could guess, because there weren't a whole lot of things he could imagine for "non-magical stimuli", but he was hoping that all this experiment procedure meant that it was something else entirely, and the frightened look in Luna's eyes, and the worry and sorrow in Hermione's and Flitwick's, and-- Merlin, now everyone was staring at him like that.
"Acids didn't produce any effect, neither did bases, water, electricity, and," Hermione hesitated, "fire."
Harry stared at her, afraid to look anywhere else, and mind going blank as he tried to process what she meant by what all those things had not done to his blood and his bone and his hair.
"Luna-- We tried to burn the samples, all of them, but," Hermione shrugged helplessly. "They weren't affected at all, not even the hair."
Now it wasn't just Harry's head that was spinning, but the whole room. Shouts brought him out of a daze and he found himself on the floor, Arthur gripping a shoulder and everyone crowded around him worriedly asking if he was alright.
"Alright, alright!" Arthur said loudly. "Back it up, all of you. Harry, son, you breathing now?"
"Yeah, yeah." Harry figured he must be if he could talk, but really most of his concentration was on Ginny kneeling in front of him holding tight to his hand, fear and sorrow so deep in her eyes it was surprising she wasn't crying as Hermione had, as both Luna and Molly were now.
"Really, you all should know better than to crowd him like that!" Molly was bustling about; waving people away and swishing her wand to have a damp cloth zoom over to lie atop Harry's head. "I knew we should have all sat at the dinner table for this. Everyone should be in chairs! Keep everyone from jumping about and smothering him!" she said, promptly before bending over to help Arthur lift him up and hug him tightly to her bosom.
"Of course, we do not wish to get in the way of you smothering him yourself," Fleur teased her, getting a blush and a mumbled "Well, it's alright when I do it," from Molly as she let him go, brushing his sleeves off as if they'd gotten dirty.
"So," Harry said when he'd been settled in a couch with Ginny and Molly beside him, and everyone selecting their own seats, chairs gathered from all over the house and cluttered in a rough circle around the room. "That, fire, you-- you mean, nothing burned? At all?"
"No," Hermione said sadly. "Everything was unreactive... it was unchanged."
The room was silent as everyone waited for Harry to process. Everything else Luna and Hermione mentioned might have been fine, magical resistance or... emptiness, or whatever were fine. No reaction to natural elements was possible with certain spells but fire, well, fire was different.
Sure, there were a couple spells to allow fire not to touch a person or an object, but that's exactly how it always worked-- the magic kept fire from touching something. The way Luna and Hermione had explained it, everything had definitely been in contact with the... samples, so that meant the fire would've been as well, or they'd have mentioned it.
Fire was the element of destruction, a force that could supersede most magic, because fire wasn't just a thing, it was a process. The process of matter being broken down and releasing energy, a process that could release every magical affect that they had ever known about, by taking away whatever physical object the magic had been bound to.
Whatever magic was affecting him couldn't be sensed, so it couldn't be removed by any other magic, but if Harry's body couldn't be destroyed by fire, the magic keeping him like this couldn't be unbound by non-magical means. There was no way out.
The meeting continued very subdued after that, everyone falling into the sway of Harry's despair. Only Ginny's determined insistence that they continue got them all to start sharing the various... accommodations they'd been working on for him.
Ginny, as she'd told him, had been working on ways to help him disguise his unchanging nature, and so had Flitwick, who promised to join his research with Ginny's to see if they could solve the counter-spell removal issue. Hermione and Percy had been working with secret aid from Kingsely to ensure Harry could not be legally harassed or stalked into solitude, or worse, as the Flamels had been. Kingsely had also been working with Arthur and Molly to control the rumor mill in regards to Harry's constant youthful appearance, as well as to quash as many rumors about the Hollows or the Wand as they could. Ron and George had been experimenting like mad to create anything that might be useful to Harry that would remain off the product line.
After the disastrous results of the tests Luna had performed, she had switched to taking short trips around the world with Seamus, looking for pleasant places for Harry to live, if he ever needed to leave Britain. They also seemed to have been searching for any number of mythical and possibly made up creatures that might help, or cure Harry, or just keep him company. Unfortunately, while they'd found many interesting creatures, such things as crumple-horned snorkacks and phoenixes were elusive and hadn't yet presented themselves.
Hermione snorted softly at Luna's mix of imaginary creatures with real ones, but Luna's enthusiasm for her ethereal beasts cheered Harry up a bit, and the whole room relaxed.
Charlie had mostly been working through dragon keeper connections to make the sanctuaries a viable escape/hiding/retirement option should Harry wish it. He also apologized for not being able to do as much as everyone else, but this got Harry to draw out of his melancholy even more, just so he could insist that it wasn't necessary and any help Charlie could give was appreciated, so that was alright.
Neville also tried to apologize for not having helped from the beginning, and not being able to offer more than plants, but this only drove Harry entirely out of his woeful mood and gave him the determination to make sure everyone knew he was fine, and he was so grateful for all their help, and really the only one who could be blamed for anything was him for being idiot enough to get into such a predicament, and then not notice it for twenty years.
His declaration caused a bit of a stir as everyone tried to argue, but it was clear that Harry was half laughing again, and the group's mood lifted entirely. Which was certainly for the best, because the last pronouncements of the contributions made to Harry were the most startling, and would not have been as well received when Harry was sinking into despair.
McGonagall, with help from Bill and Fleur, was working out a way to leave her Gringotts vault to Harry upon her death.
"What?" Harry said. "You can't! That's-- why would you even?"
"Think about it for a moment, Harry," McGonagall said calmly. "You have family vaults and three children. When the time comes, you will need to broker a deal with the goblins to have the vaults pass to them prior to your death, or they won't inherit anything. If you do that though, you will be left without any economic standing in the magical world."
Bill nodded. "All wizarding banks in the world are controlled by goblins, different races of goblins, but still." He shrugged when he saw Harry staring at him in shock. "Wizard money is magically produced and controlled, the goblins are the ones who do that. It's been the system for millennia-- why do you think we keep working with them despite how many wars we have?"
"Well, I sort of thought we used muggle money before," Harry said. He looked around and found Ron, Neville, George, Seamus, and even Charlie, Ginny, and Percy all nodding along with him, looking equally confused. Aside from the older members of the group, only Hermione, Fleur, and, surprisingly, Luna seemed unsurprised by Bill's statement.
"Yeah, I thought so too," Bill admitted, "at least until I was working for them."
"I cannot believe this is not common knowledge," Fleur said crossly. "They are a lynch-pin in the entirety of wizarding society!"
McGonagall sighed tiredly. "I'm afraid I know why it's not. Blast, now I'll have to open the History position and hire an exorcist. The castle ghosts will be furious."
"Do you mean you'll replace Binns?" Ron asked. "About time!"
"But why must he be exorcised?" Hermione frowned. "That hardly seems fair, I mean, I know he doesn't teach very well, but he can just lecture at empty rooms, can't he?"
"Well, actually," said Arthur, "hiring another History professor is about the only thing that wakes old Binns up."
Molly tutted. "I remember in our school years, that was when they found out, Binns started haunting and harassing the new professor, a charlatan and an interloper Binns called him, and he'd invade all the history classes, screaming his lesson plans over poor Punnet's lectures."
McGonagall sighed again.
Bill grinned and coughed to cover it when his father sent him a disapproving eye.
"Well, in any case, we've so far only been working out whether it will be magically possible to transfer one vault to another or not," he told Harry. "The goblins don't really like to discuss how their magics for gold and protection work, but for the most part vaults are meant to be transferable to any blood and direct heirs."
"The problem, unfortunately," McGonagall chimed in, "lies in the fact that I am the last blood of my line and I am not actually related to you in any way, Harry. As well, vaults like mine are normally absorbed into the goblin owned properties, so, you can imagine why they might be a bit miffed to discuss its transference."
"Yeah, they don't like letting go of what's theirs," Harry snorted. "But your vault doesn't count as their property yet, does it?"
"Aha!" Bill said enthusiastically. "That is why we've got them to talk to us over the matter. Their magics are all property based, so ownership dictates everything, and McGonagall’s vault is still hers!"
"So discussions are continuing," McGonagall took over, leaning forward in her seat to regard Harry. "But the real issue is still that we share no blood relation, and while I believe the magic necessary to transfer my vault over to you exists, we have discerned that it is likely also difficult and expensive, two things which the goblins are not willing to invest for a vault as small as mine."
"So they'd be willing if it were bigger then?" Harry asked, trying not to say how selfish he thought that sounded. Goblins really just did not make any sense to him.
Bill shook his head. "Not necessarily the vault itself, but the worth of it is not enough to counterbalance the cost of the transfer."
"Well, then I guess you can't give me your vault, Professor," Harry said with a shrug. "Thanks for trying, but I'm sure muggle banking will be alright."
"Harry." McGonagall straightened and the look she leveled at him made Harry feel eleven years old and tardy for class. "We have already explained that without a wizarding bank you will be economically cut off from the entire wizarding world. Exchanging money with the goblins is not a sound practice for the long term, and you, Mr. Potter, have a possibly very long term to think about."
"Yes, professor," Harry said sheepishly. Ginny was laughing next to him and he was sure she'd be teasing him about getting dressed down like a school kid when he was nearly 40 for years.
"Good that you understand." McGonagall nodded. "In any case, the decision to grant you my vault is mine, and as I have no other relations, you'll have to do for it, and you'll be properly grateful for the gift."
“What we’re trying to get at here, Harry,” Bill said, catching Harry’s attention, “is that the vault isn’t worth transferring on its own. The goblins think we want the vault to go to some poor muggleborn who doesn’t have enough wealth or prospects to have a new vault granted to them. That happens sometimes, but most muggleborns either marry into an existing magical family, or find work in the wizarding world that shows they are profitable contributors to the community.”
“Or, like our Hermione, they get offered a new vault while still in school because they have already proven how profitable their involvement will be in the magical world,” Molly said happily. Hermione blushed. “That’s much rarer though, as most children can’t demonstrate their potential that early, so the goblins hear about.”
Ron grinned while his wife got more and more flustered. “Yeah, that makes sense. I’ll bet those goblins were after you from second year, and salivating over how much gold you’d earn in your life!”
“Oh, honestly!” Hermione muttered, though she did seem pleased. “We’re supposed to be talking about the vault transfer for Harry!”
“Right,” Bill said. “So, what we mean by this, is that the vault doesn’t have enough value going to someone the goblins don’t know, but, if they know it’ll go to you and why…. Well,” he shrugged, “just the idea of it would probably make them jump at the chance. It would have too much potential profit for them not to.”
"You want me to tell the goblins about... this," Harry said incredulously, gesturing at himself vaguely.
"I know you've had some... issues with the goblins' ideals, but, Harry, you need a stable link to the magical world that is aware of you and your... situation."
"Indeed," Fleur added, "the Flamels maintained several vaults in France for their whole lives. The goblins were very happy with that. They will not betray your secrets, Harry, not to anyone."
"Don't forget, the goblins also maintain their autonomy from wizarding governments," Kingsley said. "No matter how many wars we've had over the years, the goblins have never allowed that to change. So, no one will ever know the vault is only yours."
Harry looked around at everyone, they all had the same hopeful and determined expressions.
"Well, seeing as you all think this is the best thing for me to do, I can't really argue," he said shortly.
"Harry, we don't mean for this to upset you, it's just," Hermione trailed off uncertainly.
Ginny spoke up from Harry's side. "We've had a few years to adjust to this, so, we've all decided that the best thing for you is to not worry how to prepare for a life without us."
"Yeah, I can see that," Harry huffed and glanced sullenly around the room, trying not to show how worried he really was. "I'll be perfectly self-sufficient, able to hide, able to travel, and I won't even have to bum money off the kids!"
"Harry!" Ginny gave him a hurt look. Harry stared at the carpet.
"We know it won't be easy for you dear," Molly said sadly, tugging an arm around his shoulders. "But we want to try and make things, well, less hard than they have to be for you."
"Right, and I can't think of any reason you have to drop all contact later on," Arthur added.
Ron and Hermione both nodded and leaned forward. "Our family will always be there for you, Harry, you know that, don't you?" Hermione asked.
The rest of the group added what assurances they could, all eager if somewhat solemn. They were all trying to avoid saying what everyone knew, what the real problem Harry had with the whole mess was. Because, sure, Harry knew his children would always love him and be there for him, as would his friends' children, and all the "someday" grandchildren, and all the great-grandchildren. The problem was who wouldn't be there for him, not by choice, but because of something no one here could change.
Harry sighed. "I know. I do know that, and I'll always be there for them, all of them." He looked up at his wife, who was trying to smile and keep her tears from falling. "I just... I need a little longer to get used to the idea I guess."
"It's alright, Harry," Ron said. "We know, after all, it took us a while to get used to it too."
"And from now on, we'll all try to adjust, together," Ginny said firmly, taking her husband's hand in hers and holding tight.