How Wizards Do Money: Susan Bones
After everything settled, though settling wasn’t exactly the right word, most of Dumbledore’s Army went home to their families. Susan went back to an empty house. The house-elf, Vim, was still there, of course, and Susan could see the path he had worn clean, from the kitchen to his little bedroom and back again. The rest of it was untouched, much as Susan had left it when she went to Hogwarts for her final year, telling herself that by the time she graduated, she would know what to do.
Well, there she was, standing in front of a mirror ringed by dust. The last remaning survivor of the House of Bones. While her classmates went home to gifts and graduation presents, Susan stood awkwardly in a house she was not quite sure was hers, and then went down into the kitchen and made herself some toast, not sure how to make chicken or roast or vegetables or anything else besides the two slices of bread that popped up mercifully unburnt. The toaster’s surface was mottled slightly with grime. Apparently Vim hadn’t used it while she was away.
There are some people who could stand in an empty house and make a list and start the next morning with a mop in one hand and a scrub brush in the other. Susan was not that person. She slept in her slightly clammy bed, woke up, closed her eyes again, and suddenly there was a knock at her bedroom door. It was Vim, with a stack of letters.
“These came while you were away, miss,” the house-elf said respectfully but impersonally. By “while you were away” he clearly meant “since last year.” And there they were: stacks of letters addressed to Susan’s aunt Amelia and then addressed to her: notices of bills unpaid, reminders, final notices. It explained why there hadn’t been any hot water in the bath. Susan was surprised to see mail indicating they were greviously late on a mortgage; she had somehow, childishly, thought that the phrase “House of Bones” applied to this building as well.
Again, some people would have stacked and sorted all of the bills and spent the next day in their smartest coat and hat, visiting banks and solicitors to get everything straightened out. Susan shoved the letters under the bed, hiding them behind both the dust ruffle and several layers of actual dust. She stayed on top of the bed, reading books from her childhood about young wizards who solve mysteries in smugglers’ caves and at circuses. Sometimes she tiptoed downstairs quietly, nervous to disturb Vim, to make more toast and jam. She felt sleepy all the time.
When the louder knock came, this time at the front door, Susan wasn’t ready. She hadn’t bathed or brushed her hair, and she was still in her pajamas even though it was well into the afternoon. There was a dollop of jam on one leg; she wiped it off as she went down the stairs, realizing too late she had made her hand all sticky. Luckily, the goblin from the bank only wanted to shake the other one.
Susan nodded as he talked, only slowly comprehending what he was saying. They hadn’t made payments for a year. There had been nobody to pay. He had overlooked it this once, seeing how they were the noble House of Bones and how there had been a war, but now it was time. Everything was due, with interest, in 30 days, or the house would return to Gringotts.
Susan pictured the house following behind the goblin as he waddled away, the foundation rocking from side to side as the house dutifully returned to the bank. And then she closed the door, and went back upstairs, and slept.
She woke up to the sound of voices and the smell of hot bacon. Her brain was mixed up with thoughts of smugglers and goblins. She went down the stairs as quietly as she had learned to do, wondering if she should carry something to defend herself, wondering where her wand was.
“Susan!” Hannah Abbott said, turning away from the stove to quickly embrace her friend. “Vim let us in. He said you were sleeping.”
The us turned out to be Neville Longbottom, who was wiping off plates and setting them on the table.
Susan was embarrassed that her friends were seeing her like this, seeing the House of Bones in such a poor condition, but they didn’t say anything about it. Hannah and Neville had brought over bacon, eggs, the full fry-up, and they sat her down and caught her up on all the news, who was dating whom—they appeared to be dating each other—and who had found a job somewhere.
And it wasn’t that day that Susan told them everything. Instead, they chatted pleasantly and then the three of them helped clean up and then Hannah and Neville left and Susan went back upstairs. And three days later Vim delivered a note from Hannah saying that everyone was getting together in Hogsmeade and that Susan should come, and so Susan heated a kettle on the stove and took a quick sponge bath and twisted her dirty hair into a knot above her head and went.
And it wasn’t even then that Susan said anything. Nor was it the next week when Professor Sprout sent an invitation to tea, though Susan wanted to talk about it the entire time, wanted to find the words for everything that she did not know how to say. Everyone seemed to know already—gossip spread through the wizarding community as if by owl—but nobody was talking about it. All the Hufflepuffs, reaching out to her and doing what they knew how to do best: providing friendship, comfort, bacon, and tea.
It was one week before the mortgage payment was due that Susan came downstairs to another knock on the door and found just Neville, this time, on his own.
“Um…” It was clear that Neville had no idea what he was going to say, and that he decided to fall back on a speech he had prepared. “You’re a member of the Orphan’s Club now, right? Like me, and Harry?”
“Well, you know, none of us have any living family and all,” Neville said. “I mean, my parents, but.” He paused again. “And so maybe we have to stick together for a bit.”
Susan began to cry, wiping her nose on her worn-out pajamas. “I don’t know how to cook anything but toast,” she said. “And the mortgage payment’s due…”
That evening, Neville, Hannah, Harry, and Ginny all arrived at the door of the House of Bones with pen and paper (Hannah) and mops and buckets (Ginny). The five of them, with Vim’s help and annoyance, stayed up all night cleaning and sorting and searching the home. It turned out there was a will, and information about a Gringotts account, tucked away in an old roll-top desk. It stated that Susan was the sole heir to the House of Bones fortune, which, while scarcely comparable to Harry’s fortune, was enough to pay off the mortgage.
“But we should talk to my father’s solicitor first,” Hannah said.
“And Hagrid,” Harry said. Then: “What? I always talk to Hagrid before doing something important.”
“Because you could choose to live here,” Hannah continued, “or you could sell the house and invest the money, or you could rent it out, or maybe turn it into an inn!”
“Whatever happens next to the House of Bones,” Neville said, “starts with you. But, you know, you don’t have to do it alone.”
“To the Orphan’s Club,” Susan said, raising a glass, “and the mystery of the roll-top desk.”
“What?” Ginny asked.
Susan smiled. “Never mind.”
Previously: Blaise Zabini