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Warning: This story may contain content that is
not suitable for children.
Harry Potter awoke from a restless night’s sleep with a
sense of foreboding and a pounding heart, sitting straight up in
bed. Thankfully, he had not dreamed of Voldemort the previous night,
but of something almost as terrible. With a sinking feeling in the pit of
his stomach, Harry gasped and threw himself violently on his side, raking a
hand through his already dishevelled hair, one image burned in his mind…Sirius.
Had it been only three weeks since the end of term and that
fateful night at the Department of Mysteries? Sometimes it felt like yesterday,
and sometimes it felt as if it had happened in another lifetime to another
person. So many thoughts jumbled through Harry’s head that he wished he
had a Pensieve like Dumbledore’s, in order to siphon some of the more troubling
thoughts and memories out and relieve the tension that never seemed to
Unable to stop them, the thoughts began to stream through
his consciousness against his will.
Sirius’ once handsome, now haggard face,
smiling at him across the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place…
Voldemort’s cold, red eyes…
Cedric Diggory falling in a heap, dead…
Umbridge and his entire fifth year, the worst he
had ever spent at Hogwarts…
Snape and his Occlumency lessons...
Dumbledore’s silence over the last several
weeks, despite his confessed remorse about keeping things from Harry...
The Order of the Phoenix…
His friends lying hurt in the hospital…
The veil that Sirius had fallen through…
Lupin holding him back as he screamed…
Chasing Bellatrix through the Ministry of Magic…
Voldemort possessing him, trying to take control
The pain… that feeling of wanting to die, of
wanting Dumbledore to put him out of his misery…
That damned prophesy… Neither can live while the
“Boy! Wake up and get down here!” a voice screeched
from the bottom of the stairs. Aunt Petunia sounded as if she were in a
horrid mood this morning. Briefly, Harry wondered what he had done (or
rather what he had not done) this time, to cause his aunt to sound as if she
had swallowed a rather nasty dose of medicine.
“Yes, Aunt Petunia,” Harry yelled back, pulling on an old
shirt and a pair of trousers that had once belonged to Dudley out of the pile
of dirty clothes on his floor. Rubbing his eyes, he reached for his
glasses and then surveyed himself in the tall mirror on the side of his
wardrobe. What he saw neither surprised him nor caused him great
He had grown over the past year and many of his old clothes
were beginning to show the result of the strain a 15-soon-to-be-16-year-old boy
could put on his garments. Since they had once belonged to his whale of a
cousin, Dudley, it was not surprising that Harry’s appearance was, well…
scruffy. Through they were several years old, at least the growth spurt
had helped the fit somewhat. No longer baggy, they were, however, very
well used. That was one thing he and his friend Ron Weasley had in
Pulling the shoes out of his wardrobe, he was pleased to
note that the trainers were now in better shape, thanks to the charm that
Hermione had put on them before the last Hogsmeade trip. She had been
appalled at the condition that they had been in, and shocked to see Harry
trying to squeeze his now size ten feet into the size eight shoes. His toes
were even beginning to stick out of the front, where the sole was coming loose.
Thanks to several clever little charms, his shoes now fit
him perfectly and looked almost brand new. He smiled at the memory, one
of the few from last year that he considered worthy of recalling, as he pulled
them on. As she muttered the incantations, he was sure he could hear
Hermione mutter something along the line of “bloody relatives”, and some other
very uncharacteristically unladylike things related to the treatment he
received from his so-called family.
Speaking of family… Harry winced as he heard his beefy Uncle
Vernon bellow from below. “What’s taking you so long, boy? Your Aunt told
you to get down here now!”
Sighing, Harry ran a hand through his mop of messy black
hair. Knowing that a brush would make little improvement to the perpetual
mess that seemed to have a mind of its own, he shrugged his shoulders for his
own benefit and bounded noisily down the steps of number 4 Privet Drive. He’d worry about
the rest later.
“Sorry, Uncle Vernon. I was just getting dressed,” he
said, trying to keep his voice even and neutral.
“And another thing,” his Uncle said through clenched
teeth. “Kindly treat my house with a little more respect. Coming
down those steps like that is unacceptable.”
Harry knew very well that Dudley usually came stomping
down the steps every day around , but he did not think
it prudent to point this fact out. Instead he replied dully, “Yes, Uncle Vernon.”
Not knowing what to make of Harry’s lack of fight, Vernon stared hard at his
nephew. Knowing the circumstances surrounding how the boy had left last
year caused him pause, momentarily making him re-think his plans. Just as
soon as he had these thoughts, however, they were immediately wiped away with
the anticipation of his upcoming promotion. Vernon had slaved for his
company, Grunnings, for close to 20 years now. Finally the hard work was
paying off. He and Petunia had been invited to a retreat this weekend for
company members to hobnob, socialise, and “network.” He’d be damned if
the ungrateful little runt would spoil it for him, even if that Voldemorsey-whosey person was back!
“Now listen, boy,” Vernon said with a twisted
grimace, staring at Harry hard and pointing a stubby finger at his chest.
“Your aunt and I are going away for a few days.”
Harry looked up sharply at his aunt and uncle, and noticed
for the first time their neat and pristine travelling clothes and the packed
suitcases stacked near the door. A warm feeling began to spread through
his chest and the hint of a smile played on his lips. A weekend free of
Dursleys! What could be better?
Before he could wrap his mind around the possibilities, his
hopes were shattered by the smirk on his uncle and aunt’s faces. Briefly,
Harry wondered if crazy old Mrs. Figg had been enlisted to watch over
him. That wouldn’t be too bad, Harry mused. He had recently found
out that the batty old lady was actually a Squib that had been keeping tabs on
him most of his life. However, he did not relish spending the weekend
with Mr. Tibbles and the other thirty cats that
shared Mrs. Figg’s musty, cabbage-smelling house. He needn’t have worried
however, because Vernon had other plans.
“I have my doubts about leaving you here to have free run of
the house, but taking you with us is out of the question so I’m doing the next
best thing.” Here, he paused to smirk, a self-satisfied, almost gleeful
look on his beefy face. “Dudley will be around to keep
an eye on you and make sure there’s no funny business going on.”
Harry’s heart sank. Dudley in charge was worse
than 100 of Mrs. Figg’s cats. Dudley took great pleasure in
making Harry’s life as miserable as possible. As a child, Dudley and his
friends had tormented Harry, using him as a punching bag and the butt of all
their jokes. Frequently he was taunted with names such as “freak” and
“weirdo” because strange things always seemed to happen around him. Harry
had no idea at the time that he was a wizard. It wasn’t until age eleven,
when Hagrid came to give him his Hogwarts letter, that he learned the truth
about his heritage.
Uncle Vernon went on, seeming to take great pleasure in the
miserable look plastered on Harry’s face. “We’ll be back late on
Sunday. While we are gone, I expect you to remain in the house,
preferably in your room. No need for the neighbours to be subjected to
your unnaturalness. If I hear even a hint of anything out of the ordinary
while we’re away, I promise you will regret it. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Uncle Vernon,” Harry said
benignly. What did he care if the Dursleys were around or not? He
pretty much stuck to himself and his own demons, holed up in his room or
wandering the neighbourhood trying not to think about… things... and
staying out of Dudley’s way.
Suspicious with his nephew’s compliant behaviour, Harry’s
uncle narrowed his eyes and cocked an eyebrow. It was his aunt, however,
that spoke next. “You are not to make a mess of the house while we are
away. You may have your normal amount of food, but no more. Also,
there’s a list of jobs posted in the kitchen, and I expect each and every one
to be completed by the time I return. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Aunt Petunia,” Harry repeated in the same benign
“And one more thing…” Harry’s aunt continued, almost
as an afterthought. “Duddikins is having a few of his little friends to
tea this afternoon. Try to stay out of his way, will you? He
doesn’t need the likes of you ruining his little tea party.” Harry tried
desperately not to snort at the idea of Dudley having a little tea
party as if he was five, and almost missed his aunt’s instructions to leave the
food she had prepared for the occasion alone. As it was, he only nodded
in a weak affirmation that he had heard and understood.
“Come, Petunia,” Vernon bellowed, bustling her out the door. “We mustn’t dawdle any
longer. Dudley is a responsible young
man and I’m sure he can handle this ruffian. We mustn’t be late.
Want to make a good impression, eh?” Vernon shot one last glare
back at Harry as he made to shut the door. “Remember, boy. No funny
business!” With that last warning, they were gone.
[A/N: A big thanks goes out to Jamie, my checkmated
beta reader, and Jonathan (who took the time to help me correct my Americanisms
out of the goodness of his heart). Also, as always, thanks to everyone
who is reading--especially those who have left such awesome reviews. You
keep me motivated!]
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