The Sugar Quill
Author: Aeterna  Story: You Are With Me  Chapter: Part One: Silent Manners, Polite Pity
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You are With Me

You are With Me

by Aeterna

 

A/N: I feel like this story needs a bit of explanation.  I have decided to write two excerpts from HBP (there will be a sequel, entitled I am With You) from Dumbledore’s POV, first person, present tense.  In other words, I’m exploring Dumbledore’s stream of consciousness.  It’s been rather a daunting project because I am neither as wise nor as quirky as our beloved and (sob!) departed Professor, but it’s been an obscene amount of fun.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

 

A/N 2: Many, many thanks to Stella, my beta-reader, who helped me with my capitalizations (or lack thereof) and with my “will/shall” confusion.

 

A/N 3: Updated for Mrs. Black’s name, which we now know, and because my new beta-reader, Lady Narcissa has graciously informed me that I’ve been doing EM dashes wrong all this time!

 

~~*~*~~

Part One: Silent Manners, Polite Pity

~~*~*~~

 

Ah, Privet Drive, how little you’ve changed, how little I’ve missed you.  How long has it been?  Harry was barely a year old last time, and is now nearly sixteen.  So nearly fifteen years, yes.

 

Sadly, there will be no wise-eyed tabby cat waiting to turn into a dear old colleague at my arrival, nor will a robust groundskeeper arrive, riding a flying motorcycle belonging to a man who is now dead, and carrying a precious bundle in his arms.

 

No, it is that precious bundle – now turned volatile teenager – that I must now collect from this place, where I entrusted him those fifteen years ago.  And this time, I must do it alone.

 

Once I find that blasted put-outer ….  Ah, yes.

 

Click, click, click, click.

 

The street grows a little dimmer, a little dimmer, a little dimmer, and dimmer yet.  The meticulously tended plants drink in the descending darkness, welcoming respite from the harsh, electric light.  They may have known darkness like this as seedlings, surrounded by rich, blessed soil, but once they broke into the blinding world, they would never know it again until this moment.  Perhaps now they can sleep again for just a little while.

 

But this is no time to contemplate the well-being of Muggle gardens.  No, there is more important business to attend to tonight.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

 

Quick, succinct strides carry me to number four, and I turn at the garden path, observing the most rigidly structured garden on the street.  Rose bushes stand as sentinels, square and evenly spaced.  Agapanthus, held in perfectly circular patches around perfectly straight trees by perfectly shaped white wire fences, struggle to cast off their bonds (one particularly valiant plant sends a leaf through the fence – it will be cut off soon, I don’t doubt), and I ascend the steps to the highly polished door, ornamented with the brass number “4”.

 

Knock, knock, knock.

 

“Who the blazes is calling at this time of night?”

 

Who indeed.

 

A brief pause.  The owner of that loud, harsh voice stands up with some difficulty (causing the floor to creak ever so slightly) and walks toward the door, which opens to reveal a very large and very angry face, which, by the way, does not offer so much as a “hello” in greeting.

 

“Good evening.”  I suppose someone must offer salutations and niceties.  “You must be Mr. Dursley.  I daresay Harry has told you I would be coming for him.”

 

Shock.  Apparently not.

 

A noise from the staircase heralds the arrival of Harry Potter himself, who appears to have been in the process of packing, as he holds a telescope in one hand and a rather worn pair of shoes in the other.

 

“Judging by your look of stunned disbelief, Harry did not warn you that I was coming.”  Vernon Dursley continues to stare, seeming to forget every good manner his mother may or may not have taught him.  “However, let us assume that you have invited me warmly into your house.  It is unwise to linger overlong on doorsteps in these troubled times.”

 

Vernon has the sense to move over slightly, however, it is still a bit of a squeeze to traverse the threshold.

 

“It is a long time since my last visit.  I must say, your agapanthus are flourishing.”  Despite your stifling care….

 

My, but this conversation seems to be heading in the direction of nowhere rather quickly.

 

Best to speak to someone else. Ah, yes.

 

“Ah, good evening, Harry.”  He looks, at the very least, to be safe and whole, if undernourished and uncared-for.  “Excellent, excellent.”

 

“I don’t mean to be rude—  Had I no manners, I might have laughed at that.

 

“—yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often.  Best to say nothing at all, my dear man.”  But I just could not resist a subtle jab.  “Ah, and this must be Petunia.”

 

For Petunia Dursley (née Evans, though that is sometimes hard to believe) has just entered by way of what must be the door to the kitchen.  She seems just as shocked as her husband.  Just as speechless.

 

Understandable, as I tend to be a formidable figure to Muggles.  Though I’ve never quite understood why….

 

“Albus Dumbledore.  We have corresponded, of course.”  Silence.  This is rather a lot like speaking to oneself, except less interesting.  At least I offer myself some sort of response.  “And this must be your son, Dudley?”

 

An extremely large and frightened young man has just entered the room.  Yet more silence.  This has long since become tiresome.

 

“Shall we assume that you have invited me into your sitting room?”

 

No answer.  I shall take that for a yes.

 

Young Dudley hastens out of my path (though I am not sure the action is motivated so much by manners as by extreme fright) while Harry jumps the remainder of the stairs below him and takes his place standing next to the armchair I have chosen to sit in.

 

That is really an extraordinary wallpaper pattern.  I wonder if I might not be able to find such a pattern at Gladrags for my next set of dress robes….

 

“Aren’t — aren’t we leaving, sir?”  Harry speaks for the first time this evening.  It is a pleasure to hear another human voice.  I’m afraid my own has long since become tiresome.

 

“Yes, indeed we are, but there are a few matters we need to discuss first, and I would prefer not to do so in the open.  We shall trespass on your aunt and uncle’s hospitality” — or lack thereof — “only a little longer.”

 

“You will, will you?”

 

The Dursleys have clumped themselves in the middle of the room, Petunia beside her husband, young Dudley making a valiant effort to hide behind the two of them.

 

“Yes, I shall.”

 

They look so very tense.  They could certainly do with a bit of relaxation.

 

That is easily provided.

 

Locomotor Sofa.  “We may as well be comfortable.”

 

That was far more fun than it should have been.

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Harry’s eyes dart, horror-stricken, toward my shriveled hand.

 

“Sir — what happened to your —?”

 

“Later, Harry.  Please sit down.”

 

Harry does so.

 

“I would assume that you were going to offer me refreshment, but the evidence so far suggests that that would be optimistic to the point of foolishness.”

 

I believe a nice bottle of mead is in order, and perhaps another opportunity to terrorize our muggle friends?  Oh, but I am being dreadfully wicked this evening.

 

“Madam Rosmerta’s finest oak-matured mead.”  The goblets make their way toward each inhabitant of the room.  Harry takes his and drinks, good man.  Perhaps the Dursleys might avoid an extremely uncomfortable fate?  But, no, as I had predicted, they have abandoned good manners for the fear — the completely unfounded fear — that I might poison them.  This should prove to be quite amusing.

 

But now to more pressing matters.

 

“Well, Harry, a difficulty has arisen which I hope you will be able to solve for us.  By us, I mean the Order of the Phoenix.  But first of all I must tell you that Sirius’s will was discovered a week ago and that he left you everything he owned.”

 

I sense a certain attitude in the room shifting from that of anger and fear to that of vulture-like interest.  The edge of my vision catches an eager face, momentarily oblivious to the goblet that gently nudges it.  But Vernon Dursley need not touch a Knut of this young man’s inheritance.

 

Harry, in stark and sad contrast to his uncle, is merely disappointed to remember something that had just slipped out of his mind, perhaps for the first time this summer.  “Oh, right.”  His voice carries a deadness that should not belong to the voice of a man so young as himself.

 

“This is, in the main, fairly straightforward.  You add a reasonable amount of gold to your account at Gringotts, and you inherit all of Sirius’s personal possessions.  The slightly problematic part of the legacy—”

 

“His godfather’s dead?”

 

The nerve.  As if he had cared when Sirius was alive.

 

“He’s dead?  His godfather?”

 

“Yes.”  As I was saying…  “Our problem is that Sirius also left you number twelve, Grimmauld Place.”

 

“He’s been left a house?”

 

I should almost like to persuade Harry to give Grimmauld Place to Mr. Dursley, just to see his reaction upon stepping over the threshold.  But then there would be Fidelius to deal with, not to mention all of the anti-Muggle magic that no doubt surrounds the place.  Ah well.  A man can dream….

 

“You can keep using it as headquarters, I don’t care.  You can have it, I don’t really want it.”

 

That is understandable.

 

“That is generous.  We have, however, vacated the building temporarily.”

 

The situation on the sofa grows ever more hilarious.  Of course, for all intents and purposes, I take no notice of it at the moment.

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, Black family tradition decreed that the house was handed down the direct line, to the next male with the name of ‘Black.’  Sirius was the very last of the line as his younger brother, Regulus, predeceased him and both were childless.  While his will makes it perfectly plain that he wants you to have the house, it is nevertheless possible that some spell or enchantment has been set upon the place to ensure that it cannot be owned by anyone other than a pureblood.”

 

“I bet there has.”  I sense an image of Mrs. Walburga Black’s captivating portrait flashing into Harry’s thoughts.  A very apt connection.

 

“Quite.  And if such an enchantment exists, then the ownership of the house is most likely to pass to the eldest of Sirius’s living relatives, which would mean his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.”

 

Harry jumps to his feet, unceremoniously dropping the possessions that had been resting on his lap. “No,” is his defiant and admirable answer to that ridiculous proposition.

 

“Well, obviously we would prefer that she didn’t get it either.  The situation is fraught with complications.  We do not know whether the enchantments we ourselves have placed upon it, for example, making it Unplottable, will hold now that ownership has passed from Sirius’s hands.  It might be that Bellatrix will arrive on the doorstep at any moment.  Naturally we had to move out until such time as we have clarified the position.”

 

“But how are you going to find out if I’m allowed to own it?”

 

“Fortunately, there is a simple test.”

 

We shall have to see how the Dursleys react to this.

 

Will you get these ruddy things off us?

 

Speaking of whom, said family has now become quite a sight to behold.  My charmed glasses are having the time of their lives bouncing noisily (and rather sloppily, I might add) on top of each respective Dursley’s head.  It seems such a shame to ruin the glasses’ fun, but Mr. Dursley has asked (though rather impolitely) to have them removed, so I suppose…

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” A simple (but reluctantly performed) vanishing spell takes care of the matter.  “But it would have been better manners to drink it, you know.”

 

I’ll show you manners, you unnatural, disrespectful, crackpot old

 

Yes, Mr. Dursley, that will do.

 

WHAT IN THE BLAZES ARE YOU DOING INSIDE MY HEAD??

 

Nothing at all.   And if it is all the same to you, I shall be leaving.  Your mind is not at all a pleasant place.

 

“You see,” I return to Harry, “if you have indeed inherited the house, you have also inherited—”

 

Enter Kreacher.

 

The general reaction is amusing as it is predictable. The vein on Mr. Dursley’s forehead, which has been abnormally large all evening (one must wonder if that is a permanent feature on his face) grows ever larger at an alarming rate. Mrs. Dursley lets out an indelicate shriek, while the young Mr. Dursley, his eyes fit to escape the confines of their sockets, hastily draws his feet up from the ground.

 

Also predictable, but certainly not amusing is Harry’s reaction.  He regards the elf with pure and unveiled contempt.

 

“What the hell is that?”

 

Ah, Mr. Dursley seems to have regained the capacity to speak.  A pity.

 

“Kreacher.”

 

“Kreacher won’t, Kreacher won’t, Kreacher won’t!”

 

Yes, yes, so we’ve heard.

 

“Kreacher belongs to Miss Bellatrix, oh yes, Kreacher belongs to the Blacks, Kreacher wants his new mistress, Kreacher won’t go to the Potter brat, Kreacher won’t, won’t, won’t—”

 

Tiresome creature.

 

“As you can see, Harry, Kreacher is showing a certain reluctance to pass into your ownership.”  That may very well be the understatement of the century, although I’d have to look into that.

 

Harry’s eyes, narrowed in contempt, still haven’t left the old house-elf.  “I don’t care.  I don’t want him.”

 

Won’t, won’t, won’t, won’t—

 

“You would prefer him to pass into the ownership of Bellatrix Lestrange?  Bearing in mind that he has lived at the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix for the past year?”

 

The words have their desired effect.  Harry cannot, in good conscience, let this elf (on whom I would dearly wish to cast a silencing spell) go into enemy hands.

 

“Give him an order.  If he has passed into your ownership, he will have to obey.  If not, then we shall have to think of some other means of keeping him from his rightful mistress.”

 

Kreacher’s cries still rend the air, whereas no other voice in the room can be heard. Harry’s brow creases, first in thought, then in annoyance, then…

 

“Kreacher, shut up!”

 

Silence.  Blessed silence.

 

“Well, that simplifies matters.  It seems that Sirius knew what he was doing.  You are the rightful owner of number twelve, Grimmauld Place and of Kreacher.”

 

“Do I — do I have to keep him with me?”

 

Ah yes, I’d anticipated this.

 

“Not if you don’t want to.”  Relief.  “If I might make a suggestion, you could send him to Hogwarts to work in the kitchen there.  In that way, the other house-elves could keep an eye on him.”

 

My, but the Hogwarts kitchen is becoming a bit of a mad house, isn’t it?  Whatever must the respectable house-elves think of me, hiring all of these hooligans?

 

“Yeah,” Harry says, “yeah, I’ll do that.  Er — Kreacher — I want you to go to Hogwarts and work in the kitchens there with the other house-elves.”

 

Crack!

 

Farewell, Kreacher.

 

“Good.”  Another matter taken care of.  “There is also the matter of the Hippogriff, Buckbeak.  Hagrid has been looking after him since Sirius died, but Buckbeak is yours now, so if you would prefer to make different arrangements—”

 

“No, he can stay with Hagrid.  I think Buckbeak would prefer that.”

 

That he would.  He is in need of a chance to spread his wings …

 

“Hagrid will be delighted.  He was thrilled to see Buckbeak again.”

 

Speaking of wings…

 

“Incidentally, we have decided, in the interests of Buckbeak’s safety, to rechristen him ‘Witherwings’ for the time being, though I doubt that the Ministry would ever guess he is the hippogriff they once sentenced to death.  Now, Harry, is your trunk packed?”

 

Hesitation.  The expression on his face explains all.

 

“Erm…”

 

“Doubtful that I would turn up?”

 

“I’ll just go and — er — finish off.”

 

Which leaves me solely in the company of this delightful family.  I will not attempt to make conversation, as all attempts thus far have proven to be utterly futile.  A pity.  It seems that of all of the things this family needs, a good conversation is very near the top of the list.

 

This room could use a fireplace.  Indeed, I have heard tell of a certain event that took place here nearly two years ago in which a fireplace would have saved the Dursleys a great deal of trouble and trauma, but quite apart from magical traveling needs, a fireplace might add a modicum of warmth to this cold environment (and I use the words “warm” and “cold” in a figurative sense).  The temperature here is comfortable enough, as one would expect from a well-to-do family, but the atmosphere has all of the warmth of a Dementor that has caught influenza.

 

Perhaps a bit of music?  I remember a Ravenclaw student — Miss Elisa Abignente, I believe her name was — who came up with a particularly moving rendition of the school song quite a few years back. If I could only remember how it goes… ah, yes…

 

Hogwarts, Hogwarts,

Hoggy, warty Hogwarts,

Teach us something please…

 

“Professor — I’m ready now.”

 

“Good. Just one last thing then.”  I turn to the Dursleys.  “As you will no doubt be aware, Harry comes of age in a year’s time—”

 

“No.”

 

Ah, so the woman can speak.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

That was as much an apology as a query for clarification: that was a horrible thing for me to think.

 

“No, he doesn’t.  He’s a month younger than Dudley, and Dudders doesn’t turn eighteen until the year after next.”

 

Revolting nickname aside, that was a valid concern.

 

“Ah, but in the Wizarding world, we come of age at seventeen.”

 

“Preposterous.”

 

If you say so.

 

“Now, as you already know, the wizard called Lord Voldemort has returned to this country.  The Wizarding community is currently in a state of open warfare.  Harry, whom Lord Voldemort has already attempted to kill on a number of occasions, is in even greater danger now than the day when I left him upon your doorstep fifteen years ago, with a letter explaining about his parents’ murder and expressing the hope that you would care for him as though he were your own.”

 

It is now time, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, for you to learn my real opinion of you, though I doubt you will go to any great lengths to take it to heart.

 

“You did not do as I asked.  You have never treated Harry as a son.  He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands.  The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”

 

Surprise.  Incredulity.  Both parents turn to face their son, as though expecting another boy to be there.  Both are blind to the real truth of the matter, trapped in their mundane lives, forcing their offspring to follow in their pitiable footsteps.

 

“Us — mistreat Dudders?  What d’you—?”

 

Now, none of that, Mr. Dursley.

 

WILL YOU GET THE BLOODY

 

Shush.

 

“The magic I evoked fifteen years ago means that Harry has powerful protection while he can still call this house ‘home.’  However miserable he has been here, however unwelcome, however badly treated, you have at least, grudgingly, allowed him houseroom.  This magic will cease to operate the moment that Harry turns seventeen; in other words, at the moment he becomes a man.  I ask only this: that you allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his seventeenth birthday, which will ensure that the protection continues until that time.”

 

I allow myself one last, long look at the Dursley family, sitting distraught and confused in their immaculate home.  It is these people, not the poor, imprisoned, or handicapped, that I pity most.  They have all that they want, but nothing that they need.

 

“Well, Harry… time for us to be off.”  And to the Dursleys: “Until we meet again.”

 

Harry bids his family (if one might call them that) a short farewell, and follows me to the front door.

 

“We do not want to be encumbered by these just now.”  I indicate Harry’s rather bulky luggage.  “I shall send them to the Burrow to await us there.  However, I would like you to bring your Invisibility Cloak… just in case.”

 

Harry obeys, and a simple banishment spell sends Harry’s possessions on ahead of us.  Another spell opens the door to the world beyond.

 

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

~~*~*~~

 

A/N 4: Elisa Abignente was originally an OFC of mine – a muggleborn Italian aristocrat and musician.  I’ve attempted to insert her into a few different fics, none of which turned out to be anything at all.  So, she is now a cameo in Dumbledore’s memory. Perhaps I shall bring her out for the world to see one of these days, as I do like her very much.  On a completely different note, my updating on this fic will probably be a bit sporadic at best. I started this around Labor Day, if that gives you any idea. Still, I fully intend on finishing Part Two: Chill of Midnight, Warmth of Chimes before the end of my Christmas break.

//
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