Albus Dumbledore keeps a secret that may be the very downfall of the wizarding world. Will Voldemort learn of this secret which Dumbledore values more than the prophecy? Or, will someone find out...
Chapter 8: The Daily Potter
Sirius almost ran the distance from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts. With great impatience, he pounded loudly on the door. It took a while, before the caretaker, Argus Filch, opened the door. Sirius wasted no time. He immediately walked past the surprise Filch. He went straight to the headmaster’s office. Professor McGonagall found him later, shouting every known sweet to the gargoyle, guarding Dumbledore’s office entrance.
“Auror Black! Why, in Merlin’s name, are you shouting at that poor gargoyle?” the confuse transfiguration teacher asked sternly.
Sirius irately whirled around. “Because, the stupid thing won’t let me in.” He saw his former transfiguration teacher crossly frowned at him. “Professor, I need to talk to the headmaster. It’s very important,” he said urgently. He was slightly sweating and out-of-breath from his brisk walk.
Professor McGonagall confusedly looked at him for a moment. “Professor Dumbledore is not here. He went to a meeting.” A look of frustration briefly crossed Sirius’ face. “Perhaps, I can help.”
For a moment, Sirius considered his options. “Could you tell me what meeting he attended? I really need to see him.” Sirius tried to talk calmly, but he couldn’t quite stop, sounding desperate.
“I’m sorry, Auror Black. Professor Dumbledore didn’t tell me, where he was going,” Professor McGonagall answered apologetically. “You can leave him a message, if you like. I’ll give it to him, when he gets back.”
“Can’t I just wait for him in his office?” Sirius tried to smile charmingly. “I promise not to touch anything.”
“Auror Black, no one is allowed inside the headmaster’s office, without his permission.” Professor McGonagall sternly glared at him. “You can come back tomorrow morning, if you really want to talk to him.”
Sirius winced inwardly. He should have known better, than to try his charm on his transfiguration teacher. “No. Tomorrow will be too late.” For a moment, he searched his cloak pockets. He found a receipt from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. He tore it in two. Then, he transfigured one piece into a quill, and the other one into a parchment. Professor McGonagall helped him, by conjuring a small ink bottle. Sirius wrote his message carefully. “Please, professor, give this letter to the headmaster. It’s really important that he gets this tonight. It’s about my godson, Harry.”
Professor McGonagall nodded determinedly. She could clearly hear the urgency in Sirius’ voice. “I’ll make sure Professor Dumbledore receives this, Auror Black.”
“Thank you, professor.” Sirius gratefully smiled. But, as he left, he couldn’t help feeling, if Dumbledore could stop Rita Skeeter, from printing her story about Harry.
The next morning, Sirius was awakened by a tapping sound, on his bedroom window. As soon as he opened his window, an owl flew in, and dropped a rolled paper. The owl immediately flew out again. Sirius anxiously picked up the paper, and unrolled it. The Daily Prophet headline boldly screamed at him….
Harry Potter: Hero or Bully
Almost fifteen years ago today, a dark power threatened to engulf the wizarding world. A dark wizard, known to everyone as You-Know-Who, was killing muggles and wizards alike. The Ministry was powerless to stop him. Dumbledore was inutile. Everyone was in the grip of fear, until that night on the 31st of October 1981. For some unknown reason, You-Know-Who went to the Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow. He killed husband and wife, James and Lily Potter. However, he failed to kill Harry Potter. His power was no match to the power of a fifteen-month old baby. The deadly Avada Kedavra curse only left a scar on baby Harry’s forehead. However, it completely destroyed You-Know-Who.
Harry Potter was the only known wizard, who survived the Killing Curse. Hence, the wizarding world hailed him as The-Boy-Who-Lived. Harry Potter became a household name. There is not a man, woman, or child in the wizarding world who doesn’t know the name Harry Potter. Wizards admire him. Witches want to marry him. Children idolize him. In our hearts and minds, he is a hero, a savior. He can do no wrong. Oh, how we are sadly mistaken.
I ask you, my dear readers, “Is Harry Potter really a hero?” We truly don’t know anything about The-Boy-Who-Lived. Aside from Dumbledore and the minister, who were always in contact with Harry Potter, nobody else really got the chance to talk to him. This reporter certainly loves to give him an in-depth interview. So, who is to say he is really the heroic wizard we imagine him to be? This reporter does not intend to sully the good name of Harry Potter. However, I feel it is my responsibility to inform my readership of the truth.
This reporter has found out, what our hero do for fun. Yesterday morning, in a village called Little Whingam, Harry Potter was seen terrorizing muggles. Yes, terrorizing muggles. A muggle boy, by the name of Pudley Pursley, related to this reporter his harrowing experience…
At Hogwarts, Prof. McGonagall was hastily walking through the empty school corridors. She looked extremely agitated. She just read the headline story of the Daily Prophet. To her, it was not news. It was just a cheap, tasteless gossip. Once she reached the headmaster’s office, she quickly knocked on the door.
“Come in, Minerva.”
She pushed the door wide open, as soon as the key unlocked. She hastily entered. She immediately noticed the headmaster was already reading the Daily Prophet. As she approached the headmaster’s table, Dumbledore carefully folded his copy, and set it to one side of the desk. Prof. McGonagall saw a worried expression on his face, as he looked at her.
“Have you read the headline story on the Daily Prophet, headmaster?” she asked anxiously.
“Indeed I have,” Dumbledore answered gravely.
“Is it true?” She knew Harry Potter received an outstanding score in his O.W.L. transfiguration. So, it disturbed her to read such talent, being used to tease muggle. According to the news, Potter transformed the muggle boy’s lower body into a pig’s hind part.
“I don’t know.” Dumbledore sighed wearily. “I have to talk to Scrimgeour to verify this.”
“Was this what Sirius wrote to you about?” Professor McGonagall asked anxiously.
For a moment, Dumbledore looked confuse. Then, as if remembering something, he searched his cluttered desk for a folded parchment. He sighed with regret, once he read the letter. “Yes, it was.” He was so tired after his meeting; he thought the letter from Sirius could wait.
In a sitting room in Malfoy Manor, its ornate, mahogany walls echoed with a harsh sound of laughter. The Dark Lord and the Head of Malfoy House were, at the moment, reading the headline news of the Daily Prophet.
“Harry Potter, you surprise me. I didn’t think you got it in you.” Voldemort was thoroughly enjoying himself. Over the years, Potter was always described as a hero. He was brave, good-looking, intelligent, and powerful. At times, he was even compared to Merlin himself. Voldemort was sick and tired of it. This was the first bit of good news he heard in a long time. It was precious. “Malfoy, read that part again about the muggle’s shorts.”
“Yes, my lord.” Malfoy, with a smile of amusement, began reading. “Pursley revealed to this reporter that Potter pulled his shorts down, and flipped him upside down in midair. His short unmentionable was exposed for all to see. The poor, muggle boy almost died from the humiliation. Pursley threatened that if he saw Potter again, he would give him a good, sound thrashing.”
In a bedroom upstairs also in Malfoy Manor, Draco was grinning ear to ear as he read the news to his two best mates. “Potter, then, made him dance naked…” He stopped for a moment, and smiled at his mates. “Hear that Crabbe? Goyle? I bet you Potter will be in Slytherin, if he goes to Hogwarts.” His two goons merely grinned in agreement. Draco was thrilled at the thought. With Harry Potter on his side, no one would dare oppose his claim for leadership this year and the next.
In the kitchen of number twelve Grimmauld Place, five Hogwarts students couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They were huddled around Ron, who was loudly reading the newspaper. Mrs. Weasley, who was busy preparing breakfast earlier, also stopped to listen to her son. Ron was unaware of his friends’ reactions. He was too engrossed reading the headline news.
“It also says here, Harry Potter made the muggle boys vomit slugs. Hmmm... Why didn’t I think of that? I bet Malfoy will think twice, before he insults me again.” For a moment, there was a dreamy look on Ron’s face.
“Give me that!” Ginny irately pulled the Daily Prophet from Ron’s hands.
“Ginny! That’s my newspaper!” Ron grumblingly protested.
“You read like a ten-year old.” Ginny turned her back on her youngest brother, and continued to read aloud. Without even looking, she found her way back to her own chair. “The torment only stopped when Ministry Aurors arrived at the scene. Potter managed to evade arrest. This reporter likes to know if the Ministry will do something about Potter’s atrocious behavior. This reporter can only hope. And so, knowing what occurred at Little Whingam, I ask you again, my dear readers, “Is Harry Potter really a hero? Or, is he a bully?” The true answer lies with you. This is your Daily Prophet reporter...” Ginny crossly threw away the newspaper.
“First you stole my newspaper, now you threw it away.” Ron irately picked up the scattered pages of the Daily Prophet.
“You shouldn’t read that rubbish, Ron! It’ll rot your brain.” Ginny furiously turned to her friends. “That story is obviously a lie! Harry wouldn’t do that! That hag, Rita Skeeter, fabricated that story! I just know it!” The redheaded girl angrily hit the table with her tightly balled fist.
“Interesting news?” Remus innocently asked. He just walked in, and heard Ginny’s last loud complaint. For a moment, he curiously looked at the people before him. His question was met with uneasy silence. He, then, suspiciously looked at the newspaper Ron was unobtrusively trying to hide behind his back. “I’ll take that, Ron.” With a swift flick of his wand, the pages flew toward Remus, rearranged neatly, before landing in his hand. “Now, let’s see what all the fuss is about.” Remus just read the headline, and already, he was frowning heatedly. Sirius had warned him about this kind of story. But, he never thought it would look that bad.
Back again at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was busy talking to Scrimgeour. He was kneeling in front of his office fireplace, gazing intently into the flame. Ordinary witches and wizards would have stuck their heads into the fire. But, Dumbledore found an easier and more dignified way to firecall.
“Are you sure, minister?” Dumbledore asked dubiously.
“Yes, yes, I’m sure,” Scrimgeour answered impatiently. “I have the Head of Auror Division here to confirm it. Potter didn’t do any of those things reported in the Daily Prophet.” For a moment, the minister looked uncomfortable. “Well…except for that bit of transfiguration, which, I’m sure, was unintentional.”
Dumbledore secretly sighed with relief. “May I ask why I wasn’t informed of this incident beforehand?” He spoke as kindly as he possibly could. He didn’t want to give the impression, that he was accusing the minister of incompetence.
Minister Scrimgeous scowled irately. “I’m not your secretary, Dumbledore. Unlike you, I don’t have Potter in my pocket.”
Dumbledore realized his question was merely annoying the minister. So, he changed tack. “What are you going to do with Ms. Skeeter and her libelous report? Can you ask them to retract the story on Mr. Potter?” He couldn’t deny to Scrimgeour, Harry Potter didn’t bully anyone. There was no Harry Potter. The-Boy-Who-Lived died years ago. But, he was concerned with the image he built around Harry Potter. The thought of the heroic Chosen One’s triumph against Lord Voldemort gave wizarding folks hope.
“I can only issue a letter of reprimand to Ms. Skeeter and the Daily Prophet. The muggle boys and every one of the witnesses were already obliviated. Who’s to say Potter didn’t do all those reprehensible deeds. It’ll be Ms. Skeeter’s words against my Aurors.” The headmaster knew the minister could do more than just issue a letter. Scrimgeour could order the Daily Prophet to retract the story, and print a correction. It would solve the problem. But, for the moment, he was satisfied with knowing the truth. “Now, tell me, Dumbledore… What was Potter doing in Little Whinging? And, why was he unescorted?” The headmaster could detect a suspicious note in Scrimgeour’s voice.
“To tell you the truth, minister, I don’t know,” Dumbledore answered guardedly, his solemn expression giving credence to his claim.
“You don’t know?” Scrimgeour asked in annoyance. “Aren’t you the one hiding him? Surely, you plan his every trip?” The flame grew and turned bright red. Unknown to anyone, Dumbledore applied the muggle mood ring idea to his fireplace. The flame changed color, to reflect the emotions of the person, on the other end of the floo connection.
Dumbledore sighed theatrically. “Alas, minister, Harry is not my prisoner. There are no bars on his bedroom door or windows. He can do whatever he pleases…to a certain point, of course.”
“You give him too much liberty,” Scrimgeour complained irately. “Does he know You-Know-Who is searching for him?”
“He knows, minister.” Dumbledore noticed their conversation was heading toward a dangerous topic. “I will also inform him to wait for Ministry guards, before going anywhere. Good day, minister.” He immediately cut off the floo connection, before Scrimgeour could ask more questions.
Deep in thought, Dumbledore slowly walked back to his office chair, and wearily sat down. For a while, he unseeingly gazed at the beautiful day outside his window. He knew he could never stop anyone from impersonating Harry. But, every wrong deed done by those impersonators, reflected badly on Harry’s image. He had carefully crafted Harry’s persona over the years. He couldn’t let an impostor, or a two-bit reporter just tarnished it on a whim or spite. He had to do something.
He opened his table’s middle drawer, and reached for his calendar book. Looking at his schedule, he saw he didn’t have anything planned on the thirty first of July. He smiled with satisfaction, as he put away his calendar. He lightly walked over to his fireplace, and threw floo powder into the dying ember. Harry’s birthday was coming up. It was the perfect time to formally introduce The-Boy-Who-Lived to the wizarding world. He would need more acting from his Harry Potter impersonator, though. He only hoped it wouldn’t complicate his plan too much.
“Number twelve Grimmauld Place.” Dumbledore disappeared in a burst of wild, green flame.
There was a worried look on Sirius’ face, as he went down the stairs of his house at Grimmauld Place. By the end of the month, it would be Harry’s birthday. And, he just read a disturbing story about Harry, from the Daily Prophet. Knowing it was written by Rita Skeeter made it no less disturbing. He silently cursed Dumbledore. If the headmaster would only let his godson stay with him, no incident like that would have happened.
When he opened the door to his kitchen, he was surprised to see Dumbledore. He wasn’t alone. Remus, Shacklebolt, Mad Eye, Mrs. Weasley, and the six Hogwarts students were with him. From the excited expressions of Ginny, Hermione, Luna, Neville, Ron, and Susan, something was going on.
“Ah, Sirius just the wizard I want to see,” Dumbledore greeted amiably. He was sitting at the head of the table. “Please, sit down. I have news that you will be, most likely, pleased to hear.”
Sirius perplexedly sat down. He sat on a chair opposite Dumbledore. Mrs. Weasley and the girls were seated on the left side of the headmaster. Remus, Mad Eye, Shacklebolt, and the boys sat on the right side. He quizzically looked at the others, before giving the headmaster his full attention.
“What is this all about, professor?” Sirius asked coolly.
Dumbledore gave him a grandfatherly smile. His eyes twinkled with excitement. “As you know, the thirty-first of July will be Mr. Potter’s sixteenth birthday. I have discussed this idea with Mr. Potter. And, he agreed to celebrate his birthday here at your house, Sirius.”
It was hard to tell, who was more shocked, Sirius or Remus. Ron slowly waved his hand in front of Remus’ face. And, he was scolded by his mother for his effort.
“Is this some kind of a joke, professor? If it is, it’s not very funny,” Sirius snapped at Dumbledore. He was tired of the headmaster, always dangling the carrot in front of his face. Remus looked at Sirius in shock.
The headmaster was inwardly surprised at Sirius’ belligerent attitude. He was hoping this news would soften the marauder’s disposition. It seemed he would have to proceed cautiously, if he wanted his plan to succeed.
“I assure you. There is no joking involved,” Dumbledore answered lightly. “I merely think that, perhaps, it is time for Mr. Potter to meet his parents’ friends.”
Sirius gave the headmaster a measuring look. “Why do it now? I have asked you so many times in the past, but you’ve always refused. Why the sudden change of heart?”
“Sirius, isn’t this, what you’ve always wanted? Celebrate Harry’s birthday here, in your house?” Remus asked, confused.
“Yes, but I want to hear his reason.” Sirius’ face was cast in stone, as he looked at Dumbledore. He could barely contain his annoyance from showing. “Well headmaster, I’m waiting.”
Dumbledore sighed sadly. He had to explain this very carefully. “First of all, I would like to apologize to you and Remus. It is not my intention to hurt your feelings. Mr. Potter was vulnerable. And, I took the most secure option open to me at the time. It may have cut his contact with you, and other magical beings. But, Mr. Potter lives without the constant threat of Death Eaters. It is only now, that I see he has to be with magical people his own age. So, I asked him, if he would like to meet his godfather, and a few Hogwarts students. He agreed. And, what better way to meet you and the others than at his birthday?” Suddenly, the headmaster’s sad eyes turned regretful. “Can you forgive this old man’s shortsightedness?” All eyes turned to Sirius. No one spoke.
Sirius carefully considered Dumbledore’s explanation. It was the same argument from the previous years. But this time, it seemed the headmaster had relented. “Why didn’t you do anything about the story written on Harry?” Sirius asked accusingly instead. Dumbledore’s face remained neutral. “I left Professor McGonagall a note, warning you about it.”
The look of regret never left Dumbledore’s face. “I apologize, Sirius,” he replied softly. “By the time I read your letter, the Daily Prophet already distributed copies of their newspapers. I asked the help of Minister Scrimgeour, but he couldn’t do anything either.” Then, Dumbledore smiled slightly. “However, the minister himself informed me, the story, written about Mr. Potter, was all a lie.” The headmaster’s information was met with approval, and collective sighs of relief.
Sirius met Dumbledore’s eyes with disapproval. He knew the headmaster could have done something. Dumbledore could have made Skeeter retract her story, and issue an apology. But, he would discuss that with the headmaster another time. For the moment, he was satisfied with knowing the truth.
“When will Harry be here?” Sirius asked evenly.
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled with pleasure. It seemed he pacified Sirius, for now. “Mr. Potter will be here before lunch on the thirty-first of July. You have plenty of time to prepare for a surprise party.”
The girls led by Mrs. Weasley broke into a frenzy of planning. Ron mumbled “girls” loud enough to be heard by the others, which elicited laughter. Sirius, however, remained quiet and unenthusiastic.
The joke shop was still closed, when Harry walked in. And, it wouldn’t open, until nine o’clock. Harry walked behind the counter, opposite the door and show window. There was no sign of the Weasley twins. He thought, they were either picking up supplies from the basement, or still eating their breakfast. He saw a newspaper, lying on top of the counter. After a quick look at the date, he picked it up, and began reading.
Harry irately scowled, as he read the headline story of the Daily Prophet. He couldn’t understand why this newspaper printed such obvious lies about him. But, he admitted to himself, that part, about transfiguring Dudley, wasn’t a lie. Then, he remembered something. He never did get to act on his promise, to prank Rita Skeeter.
“Judging from that evil grin of yours, I think your plotting someone’s death and destruction,” George observed with amusement, as he walked behind Harry. He carefully put down the pail he was carrying, on the glass counter.
“Who? Me?” Harry asked in surprise. There was a look of complete innocence on his face.
“Oh, you’re good,” Fred said admiringly. “Almost as good as we are.” He walked over to the fake wand box, and refilled it.
“What got your knickers in a twist, anyway?” George asked quizzically.
“This Rita Skeeter…” Harry scowled again. He crossly slapped the front page with the back of his right hand. “She pisses me off.”
Fred stood near Harry, and looked at the story he was reading. “I didn’t know you’re a big fan of Harry Potter,” he said jokingly. Harry scowled at him next. “Oh, my mistake… I didn’t see that scar of yours.”
“Let me see that.” Exasperated, Harry handed the newspaper to George. For a moment, the other Weasley boy quickly read the headline. “Don’t take it personally, Harry. She’s not attacking you.”
Harry inwardly sighed. Rita Skeeter was actually attacking him. But, the twins didn’t know that. “I guess you’re right. It just that… How can a newspaper print something like that, without getting all the facts? Aren’t they afraid of getting sued?”
“Probably not.” Fred said unconcernedly. He went to the door, and flipped the Closed sign to Open. “I mean, there must be a tiny bit of truth to her story. Otherwise, a lot of her expose victims would have taken her to court.”
“Oy, enough of Skeeter.” George dumped a pail of colorful, wriggling Flobberworm Gummies, in a basket near the cash machine. “We got a business to run.”
For the next hours, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was busy. Little children and teenagers were going around the shop picking up free samples. It was one of the twins’ bright ideas. They gave free samples of their introductory products. And, once they received positive reviews, they put a reasonable price on each new joke item.
Later in the day, Neville, Ron, and Ginny walked in, and were surprised to see a big difference. In just a few short weeks, the Weasley twins had filled their joke shop, with various prank products to rival Zonko’s. There were Hogwarts’ all time favorites, like Skiving Snackboxes, Canary Creams, Basic Blaze Boxes, and others. There were new ones too, like Reusable Hangman, U-No-Poo, quills, and Fake Wands.
They were studying the latest sensation U-No-Poo, when a clerk in purple cloak approached them. He got a black, messy hair, and wearing wire-rimmed eyeglasses. “Good afternoon. How may I help you?”
Neville pleasantly smiled. He didn’t know the twins were earning enough gold to hire someone. “We’re not here to buy anything. We only want to talk to Fred and George. These are their brother, Ron, and sister, Ginny. I’m Neville Longbottom, by the way.” The clerk shook Neville’s hand, as well as, Ron’s and Ginny’s.
The clerk mischievously smiled at them. “I’ll tell them you’re here. If you’ll excuse me…” They saw the clerk tapped one of the twins on the shoulder, and pointed them out. Fred or it could be George waved at them.
“Did any of you notice the scar on that bloke’s forehead?” Neville asked casually. He saw the twin introduced the clerk to a young woman.
“N-No,” Ron answered nervously. He just realized he was standing close to a basketful of fake spiders. They were so lifelike.
“Must be Fred and George’s bright idea,” Ginny said, interestedly observing the clerk genially entertain his customer. “Remember, they got in trouble with the Ministry, for causing mischief with their Harry Potter look-alike?”
The twin was all smiles, as he walked over to them. “Neville, Ron, Ginny… What brings you to our happy place?” the twin asked good-naturedly.
“George!” Ron greeted excitedly, momentarily forgetting about the spiders. “Neville wants to invite you and Fred to his birthday party. It’s going to be tomorrow.”
“Oh?” the twin looked at Neville with a pleasant surprise. “Thanks, Neville. We love to come. And, the name’s Gred,” he said mischievously. Neville gave him their invitations, humorously smiling at the twin’s attempt to confuse them. “I’m Gred, really.”
“Don’t forget your gifts,” Ginny impishly reminded him. Neville felt nervous, when he heard this.
Fred saw Neville’s nervous smile. “Don’t worry mate. We won’t prank you on your birthday. It’s the least we can do for inviting us.” Fred beamed jokingly at Neville. Then, his face turned a little serious. “Listen, Neville. Would you also invite a friend of ours?”
“Who?” Neville asked suspiciously. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the twins. But, it was a dangerous time. He couldn’t just invite anyone into his home.
“Don’t worry mate. He is above suspicion. We, meaning George and I, trust him completely,” Fred stated convincingly.
“Who is he?” Neville asked again. But this time, he was curious. It was a rare honor to be trusted by the twins.
“He’s over there.” Fred pointed the clerk, who greeted them earlier. “His name’s Harry.”
“Harry Potter?” Ron asked incredulously. Ginny cuffed him soundly in the head. Ron glared at his sister, who glared back at him.
“No.” Fred chuckled with amusement. “Evans... His name is Harry Evans. His parents named him after The-Boy-Who-Lived.”
Neville observed Harry for a moment. He got the impression the clerk was a likeable fellow. “I’ll send his invitation by owl.”
“Thanks, Neville.” Fred smiled appreciatively. “And, thank you, again, for inviting us.” He escorted Neville and his siblings out of the shop. Unknown to Ron, Fred stuffed his cloak pocket with a fistful of spiders.