Harry and Dumbledore meet again...
CHAPTER 6: DISCUSSIONS WITH DUMBLEDORE
It was three days after Lupin's visit, and now Harry was waiting for Professor Dumbledore to come.
After hearing the doorbell right, Harry went downstairs and to the door. Standing there, in a perfectly normal-looking Muggle traveling cloak, was Albus Dumbledore. He walked inside, but as soon as the door was shut, his cloak changed suddenly into a magnificently embroidered set of wizard's robes, a sky blue inlaid with gold. The Dursleys gaped at the sudden transformation, but the old wizard chuckled. "Do not worry," he reassured the Muggle family. "It is merely a simple enchantment designed to allow a person to blend into non-Magical environments."
For a split-second, there was an almost painful moment where Harry and Dumbledore both made eye contact with each other. They both remembered how things had gone so terribly wrong, and neither of them wanted any more problems with each other in that regard.
"Anyway, Harry," Dumbledore turned to the raven-haired youth, "You wanted me to discuss something with you and your relatives. However, there is something I think I should discuss with you first."
"Is it acceptable if we discuss this in Mr. Potter's room?" Dumbledore kindly asked Aunt Petunia.
Still looking nervous, she nodded in a jerky fashion.
"This way, Professor," Harry said quietly. He led his Headmaster up to his room, which looked about as neat as it ever could be. Hedwig was also out at the moment, so it was just the two of them. Harry decided to look elsewhere than see Professor Dumbledore's reaction to his meager abode.
Before he could offer Dumbledore a seat, the Headmaster conjured a comfy chintz armchair for himself but didn't sit down just yet.
"We have some time before Professor McGonagall is due to come here as well, an opportunity which I would like to take to discuss something very serious," the old man said, his serious tone of voice matching the serious look on his face.
Harry nodded to indicate he was listening and paying attention.
Dumbledore continued, "I know someone had attempted to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange at the Ministry of Magic. I need you to tell me the truth, Harry: Who was it?"
A rush of unpleasant memories and emotions came back to Harry as he remembered what happened and what he tried to do to Lestrange after she killed Sirius.
"She killed Sirius," he said at last. "She was running away... I ran after her... I wanted to make her pay for what she did, and..."
He couldn't say any more.
"Harry," Dumbledore said. After another moment in which Harry looked away, Dumbledore said in a somewhat softer tone, "Harry, please, look at me."
Finally, Harry turned to look at Dumbledore, afraid of what he might see. He almost expected to see Dumbledore as furious with him as he was with Barty Crouch's son after Cedric Diggory's death at the disastrous end of the Triwizard Tournament. Instead, he saw Dumbledore giving him an expression which may have been even worse than anger: Disappointment. His blue eyes did not radiate with intense heat, but nor did they have that twinkle in them.
Frowning and without a the twinkle in his eyes, Dumbledore told Harry, "Even though the curse you used was illegal, I cannot deny that you were under considerable emotional duress and having just witnessed the death of the closest thing you consider to a parent. While I do not condone or approve of your actions in trying to cast an Unforgivable Curse, I can understand the reasons behind it."
After Harry looked sufficiently guilty and remorseful, Dumbledore continued, "This is serious indeed, Harry. Do you remember in your Occlumency lessons with Snape that when you are angry, it is easier to break into your mind?"
"Yes, why?" Harry asked, not quite sure what one had to do with the other.
"Various people, ranging from full-grown witches and wizards to young students, often ask why the Unforgivable Curses are illegal when someone could also be hurt or killed using a simple spell not intended do so. The Imperius, Cruciatus and Killing Curses have no purpose other than controlling, torturing and killing. Using any of the Unforgivable Curses is illegal, not just because of how it affects the victims, but because of how it affects the user as well. The more a wizard or witch uses them, it opens their mind to evil, little by little, and through repeated use, they become more sadistic and start to want to use it more. Constant use of them is like abusing contraband Muggle drugs, Harry: It's addictive and dangerous to your health. Those three curses affect both caster and victim.
"We must hope that no news of your lapse in judgment reaches the Wizarding World, because there will surely be some people who will not hesitate to use this information to discredit you, thereby helping their own agendas. Also know this, Harry: If you attempt to use the Cruciatus Curse or any of the three Unforgivable Curses, I will not be there to help you like I am now." Here, Dumbledore's eyes were at their coldest, and just looking into them for even a second made Harry feel chills throughout his body despite the summer heat.
"/However/," Dumbledore continued, "When Voldemort briefly possessed you last year, it was also because of your constant anger, and the Cruciatus Curse you cast contributed a little to that too. Between your ordeal and my mistake in withholding all this information from you last year, I will not hand out any serious consequences to you, and I know you will follow through on never using any of those curses again. Instead, I have an assignment for you: Read up on the history of the Unforgivable Curses, to help you understand exactly why they are so illegal. I will know whether you have done so or not."
"Thank you, sir," Harry responded, feeling too lucky for his own good.
Dumbledore nodded and eased in his posture, closing his eyes and sinking into his armchair. Harry took a moment to relax, sitting on his bed.
"Since Professor McGonagall has still not arrived, we can talk about any other things which might still be on your mind."
Harry nodded as he thought of something to talk about.
Deciding to break an awkward silence, the Headmaster supplied, "If it makes you feel any better, I am not angry at you for the destruction of some of the objects in my office."
"That's good to hear," Harry said quietly, looking down at the floor. "Although for what it's worth, I am sorry about that."
"Of course, I understand perfectly if you are still angry at me over what happened..."
"I don't think I'm angry at you, sir," Harry admitted. "More like I'm angry with what happened..."
"A good distinction, Harry. Sometimes, it is what we should be angry with, and not /who/."
As Harry digested that bit of wisdom, he thought about something else. "However, there are a few things which I have been thinking about, and was wondering if I could talk to you about."
"You can ask me, Harry," Dumbledore said encouragingly. "Although I don't know if I'll have all the answers..."
"Right." Collecting his thoughts, Harry asked, "Did you know about my life here at the Dursleys before I came to Hogwarts?"
"What about it, specifically?"
"That the cupboard under the stairs was my bedroom for ten years? And this room which we're sitting in right now was Dudley's second room for all of his junk?"
Dumbledore's eyes widened ever so slightly from surprise, but quickly collected himself. "I honestly did not know that, Harry... I'm sorry, but I didn't know..."
"With all due respect, sir," Harry said in a surprisingly non-confrontational way, "How could you not know when it was addressed to me with 'Cupboard Under the Stairs' on it?"
Taking in a deep breath to collect himself, Dumbledore explained, "Like Muggle science, magic isn't perfect either and cannot do everything for us, Harry. There is a special quill with a special book at Hogwarts; the book contains the names of students while the quill addresses the envelopes to those students. This special quill only records the physical location of the students at the moment while it is being written, which may or may not be where said student sleeps.
"I knew it said 'Cupboard Under the Stairs,' but I did not take that to mean that your relatives were making you live there. For all I knew, you could have been doing something that required your presence there, like cleaning it out.
"I did not get involved then because I was afraid I might make a mistake and have accused the Dursleys of abusing or neglecting you when they were not. It would not be the first time such a mistake was made."
"What do you mean, sir?" Harry asked, confused.
"Years ago, not long before your parents started coming to Hogwarts themselves, there was an incident where a young first-year student got his own Hogwarts acceptance letter, which also read 'The Cellar' as part of the address. Fearing the worst, Ministry officials assumed the worst and got involved by rushing over to this student's home. However, it turned out that he was only in his family's cellar because he was sorting through family heirlooms and other objects. Since he was also the heir to a pureblooded family which held great power and respect in the eyes of the magical community, this made it even more of an embarrassment to the Ministry of Magic. This event would later become part of the young man's feelings toward the Ministry, feeling that it gave him the right to exploit them whenever he felt like it." After a pause, Dumbledore then asked, "Can you keep a secret, Harry?"
Harry nodded, and Dumbledore revealed to him, "That wizard was none other than a young Lucius Malfoy."
Harry took this little revelation in stride. Somehow, it didn't really surprise him all that much.
"Back to the topic of living with your relatives," Dumbledore said, steering the conversation back that way, "did they ever... hurt you at all? Phsyically?"
Harry thought long and hard about it and shook his head. "No, they didn't," he said at last. "The worst they did that comes close to that was when Uncle Vernon dragged me somewhere."
"Ah. I had put certain wards on this house to alert me in case of an incident which involved physical abuse, which never happened. It would seem that they also know to differentiate between definite happenings of physical abuse and guardians simply 'dragging' their children somewhere."
"Was there any other way you could have known whether or not the Dursleys treated me the way they did?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "Not without constantly visiting them myself or sending someone to visit them personally, and if I was going to leave you in the care of your relatives' house, I could not have someone constantly checking up on you to make sure you were fine, as that would have not gone over well with the Dursleys."
"That's the other thing which has been on my mind... did you absolutely have to leave me with them in the first place? Wasn't there anyone else who could have taken me in and protected me?"
Dumbledore was about to discuss that, but there was a sudden burst of flames; Fawkes had arrived. After having directly taken a Killing Curse, Fawkes looked as handsome as ever, as though it had never happened to begin with.
"Hello, Fawkes," Dumbledore said cheerfully. The phoenix whistled a greeting back to the Headmaster, dropped a note which it was carrying in his hands, and then leaped over onto Harry's shoulder, warbling a greeting.
"'Lo, Fawkes," he said quietly, stroking his feathers.
Dumbledore looked up after quickly reading the note, and set fire to it with a single spell from his wand. "Professor McGonagall will be here any moment," he told Harry as the note dropped to the floor and burned with a special magical fire which only burned the designated object and nothing else. "Perhaps we should now go downstairs."
"Yes, sir," Harry said, getting up. After Dumbledore got up and Vanished the chintz armchair, he left his room with Dumbledore following him.
The Dursleys were waiting anxiously in the kitchen, and did their best to look unafraid. However, they couldn't help but gawk in surprise at this strange and magnificent bird which perched on Dumbledore's shoulder. Harry noticed Dudley in particular gazing at Fawkes with a sort of greedy look in his little piggy eyes.
"Don't touch that bird," Uncle Vernon hissed to his son.
"I wasn't going to," Dudley hissed back.
Dumbledore wordlessly waved his wand, summoning a plain yet comfortable wooden chair for himself which was not all that different than the original chairs which went with the kitchen table (which Harry and the Dursleys were already sitting in).
Suddenly, there was a sound at the window, and everyone present turned around to see the source of the sound. A tabby cat with unique square markings around its eyes was standing on the windowsill, looking in. Dumbledore opened it conventionally, and the cat meowed thankfully, jumped inside landed on the floor, from where it looked at the Dursleys for a moment.
Suddenly, Mr. Dursley looked nervous and frightened. "Wait a minute," he said with something like fear on his face while looking at the cat. "You - that day - years ago - outside the house - the day before - he came here..." and now he pointed at Harry, who looked confused at his uncle's ramblings.
The cat looked at him the whole time, unblinkingly, while Dumbledore watched with that twinkle in his eyes. A moment later, Professor McGonagall stood where the cat had been, which made Mr. Dursley jump in surprise and Mrs. Dursley gasp. McGonagall stood there, a look of slight distaste on her face at Harry's relatives; even without her wand out, she exuded her aura of authority and intolerance that helped keep countless Hogwarts students in line over the years.
"I can assure you, Mr. Dursley," she said evenly, "That I would have rather have done other, more productive things that day than watch your family while waiting for your nephew to show up."
Harry could only guess that they were talking about the day nearly fifteen years ago when he was left in the Dursleys' care. He could also see her face soften when she looked at him. Harry knew that McGonagall had a soft spot under her hard exterior, which he had seen proof of a few times over the years. He also now supposed that she felt horrible at not being able to help him the previous year.
After McGonagall conjured an ordinary chair for herself and sat down, Dumbledore took out a folder and got down to business. "Needless to say, Harry, I was quite disappointed when I found out about all that Ms. Umbridge had done," he said seriously.
"Somehow, Albus," McGonagall said, taking out what looked like a camera, "I don't think 'disappointed' quite covered your mood. You looked about ready to tear the castle in half, which even Peeves couldn't have done by himself."
"I wouldn't put it quite that way, Minerva," Dumbledore said evenly, eyes no longer twinkling. "I would also consider that to be an over-exaggeration. Anyway, at least a dozen other students were subjected to that awful quill of hers. Harry, may I please see your hand?"
Harry held it out for Dumbledore to see, and McGonagall looked queasy for a moment before taking a picture of it with her camera for photographic evidence, while the Dursleys looked repulsed, part of it being they didn't understand all of it. "If I had known she made you use that in detentions," McGonagall said, now looking livid as she put the camera away, "I would have definitely put a stop to that. Why didn't you come to me?"
"Because Umbridge would have passed another decree saying that anyone who complained about her would lose their job or get expelled."
Suddenly, McGonagall looked stern, as though she was angry at him for something he had done. "Next time, Potter, please come to me, no matter what. Being your head of House, it's my job to protect /you/, not the other way around."
"Yes, Professor," Harry said. "Although hopefully, there won't be a next time for this."
"Now that we have evidence," the Headmaster continued as McGonagall put her camera away, "it's time we got rid of the quill-induced scar." Fawkes stuck his head out over Harry's hand, and a couple of pearly tears feel onto his hand. Relief spread over his hand, and the scars disappeared. The Dursleys gasped.
"Phoenix tears," Dumbledore explained to them, "contain healing powers."
Dudley reached out to touch Fawkes, but the phoenix must have decided it didn't like Harry's cousin, because it screeched, took flight, and with a /splat/, a hot white phoenix dropping landed on the table. A moment later, there was a sizzling sound, and it burned right through the table.
"Fawkes!" Dumbledore exclaimed, although he sounded outraged and yet a bit amused. The phoenix landed on Harry's shoulder with a sort of "Who, me?" look on its face, and gave a whistle that sounded, to Harry at least, something like a laugh.
With a wave of Dumbledore's wand, the table was as good as new. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia half-rose from their seats with the intent of yelling at them, but they thought better, and sat back down, because in addition to Harry's professors, they didn't want to mess with a magical bird whose droppings appeared to have the same basic properties as Napalm.
"I must apologize for that," Dumbledore said. "Normally Fawkes is so well-behaved." Turning to the immortal bird, he then said, "If this keeps up, no more treats for you for the rest of the summer." Fawkes gave out a squawk of indignation, but then quickly covered it up with a sincerely sorry look on his face.
"So," Dumbledore went on, with that twinkle in his eye beginning to return, "Since Umbridge was never popular with the staff other than Mr. Filch, they want to witness her downfall as well. Apart from being a key witness when her trial date is arranged, we need you to write down these atrocities for yourself on parchment that has been bewitched so that you cannot write lies onto it," he finished, taking out a small roll of parchment, a quill (which was normal, thankfully), and a bottle of ink.
"How ironic, since she made me write 'I must not tell lies,'" Harry said, taking the wizard stationary from him. He wrote down every thing Umbridge put him in detention for, as well as her other actions against him and some of the staff members.
"I just remembered, because one time, I was saying how Malfoy got injured because he provoked Buckbeak in Hagrid's class, and she gave me detention for that too. Do you think we can clear his name too?"
"I'm sure we will be able to, Harry," Dumbledore responded. "Hagrid will like that."
"Also," Harry continued, "The only other student I know of who was subjected to that quill was Lee Jordan."
"Yes, he is included," answered the Headmaster. "We will visit him and those other students the same we have with you."
"I'm just glad something can be done about her after having to put up with her for ten months," Harry said, sounding slightly disgusted now.
"You would be surprised how much scheming went on in staff room while Umbridge and Filch weren't around, Potter," said McGonagall with a look on her face that Harry couldn't quite untangle, but he had a shrewd feeling that he knew what she was talking about.
"I heard rumors going around, especially after how Peeves was somehow able to unscrew this one chandelier in particular," Harry said, feigning ignorance of the deed.
McGonagall's face suddenly looked as tough she was trying to prevent any other emotion from showing through, but judging from the growing twinkle in Dumbledore's eye, Harry surmised that Dumbledore somehow found out about McGonagall's helping Peeves himself.
"While you are here," Aunt Petunia suddenly spoke up, "there is something I would like to discuss with you."
If Dumbledore looked at all surprised that Mrs. Dursley would want to talk to him, then he did not show it. "Certainly, Mrs. Dursley."
"Exactly how safe are we here? All I know is that my nephew will be safe as long as he stays here with me and my family for certain lengths of time each year. I vaguely remember the details in that letter you left me all those years ago. But how safe are all of us here?"
"Safe enough so that no harm comes to Mr. Potter or any of you, so long as the blood protection is renewed annually," Dumbledore explained.
"And yet that didn't stop those... things from attacking him and my son a year ago!" Petunia yelled, starting to look angry. Harry had a shrewd feeling that she wanted to say "dementors" but not want to sound too knowledgeable of the magical world which she hated.
"That was only because Mr. Potter and your son were a few blocks away from this house," Dumbledore pointed out.
"All I want to know is that this 'protection' will work," Petunia said fiercely, her tone indicating that she didn't believe it.
"There are many very well-documented cases of magical blood protection working, such as your own," Dumbledore said reassuringly. "While I would rather not test that theory by having any of Voldemort's minions attack your home, I can guarantee the protection of you and your family with complete certainty."
"There was also a couple of years ago, when that family came through our /fireplace/, of all things..."
"Which was an unfortunate misunderstanding, I understand, but I have made sure that your house is no longer connected to the Floo Network," Dumbledore said. "After all, we can't allow evil witches and wizards to come streaming through your fireplace."
Something about the way Dumbledore said that almost made Harry laugh, but he wisely kept silent.
"Of course, we wouldn't have to worry about any of this to begin with if you didn't leave him with us in the first place!" Petunia shouted, acting as though Harry wasn't even there.
"Mrs. Dursley," Dumbledore said in an attempt to placate her.
"What is it that makes you the arbitrator of who does what?" Mrs. Dursley went on, building up a head of steam. "Who made it your right to leave him with us? Wasn't there anyone else who could have taken him in?"
"You know, I was asking him the same thing before Professor McGonagall came," Harry told his aunt.
"And I can answer both questions from both of you," Dumbledore told Harry and Mrs. Dursley. Taking a deep breath with which to collect himself, he said, "I did indeed look into other possibilities for who could raise young Mr. Potter. First and foremost was his safety. There were still some of Voldemort's followers out and about, who would have had no qualms about killing young Harry - or worse. Furthermore, while many Wizarding families would have immediately taken him in, there were still perils of different kinds. Not only were a few of them supporters of Voldemort, but some of them may have also been families who wanted to explaoit Harry's fame by surviving Voldemort for their own ends. Even aside from these families with less-than-noble intentions, most families, however noble and pious they were, could have also unintentionally raised Harry by putting him on a pedestal for something he couldn't even remember, which could have resulted in him being spoiled and arrogant."
Looking and speaking directly to Mrs. Dursley now, Dumbledore said, "I realize that, for whatever reason, you did not get along with Lily in later years. Regardless of whatever you may think, Mrs. Dursley, your sister did not get herself and her husband killed just to inconvenience you with the task of having to raise their son. To my knowledge, Lily never spoke ill of you, and always spoke with reverence towards her older sister. I also had the safety of your family in mind as well, because at one point or another, I heard mutterings from supporters of Voldemort about the possibility of looking for any relatives of Lily Potter to kill as a sort of act of retribution, to make an example out of." (Here, Petunia shuddered, her mind suddenly filling with images of herself, her husband and her son dead, murdered.) "Lily also would have never wanted anything to happen to you or your own family - she told me herself. By accepting your nephew into your family, you were just as much protected as he was."
Now turning to Harry, Dumbledore spoke to him. "I did indeed take the time to see if there were any other blood relatives on either side of your family, however distant they may have been. However, every time I looked, the only suitable relatives I found were your aunt and her own family. I also considered your father's friends, but there were problems there. Like everyone else, I thought that Sirius Black was your parent's Secret-Keeper and had indeed betrayed the Potters. However, after his alleged murder of Peter Pettigrew and twelve other people, not to mention his immediate incarceration in Azkaban without a trial, I began to have my doubts. But with only my doubts and all the evidence stacked against him, there was nothing I could do in that regard.
"I also considered your parents' last remaining friend, Remus Lupin, even with his condition of lycanthropy. Unfortunately, many factors prevented this. There are laws in place which prevent werewolves from having their own children, let alone adopt any children at all. Even if, hypothetically, someone could have taken care of you during the full moon, there was no way Remus could have taken care of himself because of his unemployment and inability to support even himself. To top matters off, Remus had to go overseas to the United States to find employment, where conditions for werewolves are somewhat more favorable than they are here. Simply put, there were too many factors which would have been problems."
There was a moment in which Dumbledore looked sincerely regretful, while everyone else was digesting this explanation which almost took on the tone of a confession.
"It wasn't so much the fact I had to take care of him," Mrs. Dursley said at last, still looking a little bitter. "It was how I had no say in the matter."
"Mrs. Dursley, I just told you -"
"I know what you said," Harry's aunt snapped, earning herself a glare from Professor McGonagall which either she ignored or was completely oblivious to. "I'm talking about how you /left him on your doorstep in the middle of the night with no way to contact you/."
Harry looked at his aunt incredulously. "What do you mean, they left me on your doorstep?"
She suddenly gave off a round of bitter laughter. "You didn't know?" she asked her nephew just as incredulously. "Your Headmaster left you on our front doorstep in a basket with a blanket, as well as a letter for us, in the middle of the night/, no less. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if they deliberately left out /that little detail in whatever they may have told you."
McGonagall gave another sharp glare at Mrs. Dursley, although deep down, she privately agreed with how dubious Dumbledore's methods were, especially that particular night years ago.
"To be fair, I did make sure nothing could have harmed Harry that night, either accidentally or intentionally," Dumbledore said in his defense.
"I'm talking about how you essentially coerced into raising him without a choice!" she yelled, getting up from her seat and leaning across the table. "Did you even once consider how I must have felt? To have been left with no choice but to take him in? Even then, if something happened to him, how was I supposed to contact you? For all I knew, you could have done it just so if something happened to him, you could come back later and try to punish me for that!"
By now, she was breathing heavily, but looking as though she had wanted to say that for literally years. But to everyone's great surprise, Dumbledore didn't defend himself.
"You're right," he said quietly, although he looked more at the table's surface than at her.
That perplexed everyone present. "I am?" Mrs. Dursley said, looking quite surprised.
"I should have waited until a more reasonable hour so I could discuss it with you, face-to-face," Dumbledore said, looking rather apologetic. "I suppose that perhaps I wanted to believe you would accept him unconditionally without any problems. However, I did not know the full extent of your feelings towards your sister and the Wizarding world. I made a great error in judgment. And for that, I apologize."
Now that nearly bowelled everyone over. But Petunia Dursley in particular looked as though she never expected this to happen, ever.
Harry's aunt opened her mouth a couple of times to try and speak, but no sound came out. The third time, she cleared her throat and said, in a very quiet tone, "I accept your apology."
Harry stole a quick chance at McGonagall, and she looked shocked, but he also suspected that she was trying to hide that. He imagined that Dumbledore had never apologized like this before.
Just then, there was a faint buzzing around which could be heard. "Excuse me a moment," Dumbledore said, pulling a device out of his robes. It almost looked like a sort of giant ruby, but Harry could see a phoenix engraved onto it.
Whatever this magical device was doing, it obviously meant something to Dumbledore.
"Unfortunately, Harry, I must be going," he said. "Urgent business which I must attend to... I think you could guess which kind."
Harry nodded. "I understand, Professor Dumbledore."
"Take care, Mr. Potter," Professor McGonagall said as she Vanished her own chair. With that, she transformed into a cat, and jumped out the window and out of sight.
As Dumbledore put everything in order, he said to Harry, "We will finish discussing whatever is on your mind the next time we got the chance, I promise."
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said. Dumbledore collected his things, Vanished the chair which he had used, and left in a flash of fire with Fawkes (the last of which causing the Dursleys to jump and yelp in alarm).
After a moment in which no one spoke, Uncle Vernon finally spoke up. "Boy," he growled, "what was that all about?"
Harry sighed, wondering how he was going to explain all this. Finally, he said, "Some corrupt woman from the Ministry of Magic sent those dementors after me last summer and did several bad things to me over the course of last year."
"I want to see this woman punished for what she did to my Dudley!" Aunt Petunia yelled.
What happened to Dudley is /nothing compared to what she did to me,/ Harry thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Although I agree that the dementors are nasty...
"Oh, don't worry, I'll make sure that she gets what's coming to her," Harry said reassuringly.
"And what's this about some Dark wizard anyway?" Dudley asked obnoxiously, oblivious to the outraged looks from his parents for even saying the word "wizard" in their household. "About this Volde- what's his name?"
"Voldemort," Harry said bluntly.
"Voldemort," Harry repeated, dealing with Dudley's stupidity and memory.
"Voldemort," Harry repeated again, starting to get annoyed.
"It's Voldemort!" Harry snapped, started to get flustered by Dudley's stupidity. "Vol-de-mort!" he repeated, emphasizing each syllable.
"Oh," Dudley said quietly.
"Anyway, boy, I have work for you to do, right now," Uncle Vernon barked.
"I also have a letter to write," Harry countered calmly. "It's been three days, hasn't it?"
"But your own Headmaster was just here for himself!" Aunt Petunia exclaimed, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. "He saw that you were fine!"
"I'm just doing what I was told to do," Harry said with a shrug. "After all... better safe than sorry, right?"
It was a frequent tactic which Harry used, to play on the Dursleys' fear of magic, and by extension, the possibility of Harry calling on some powerful wizard coming to his defense. And it frequently worked, such as now.
"Very well," Aunt Petunia said nervously. "Write your letter first."
Harry smiled brightly. "Thank you, Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon!" And with that, he left the kitchen to return back up to his room. He would write the letter anyway, just to be sure, but he would also use that time to study. After all, learning how to magically defend oneself would be far more useful in the fight against Voldemort than doing chores around the Muggle household which Harry had been taking care of for far too long.
(End of Chapter 6.)
A/N: All in all, I think this just might be the best version of this chapter ever, compared to its previous versions. So far, it's also the only chapter to keep its original title.
As for why the Unforgivable Curses are so taboo... I think that maybe J.K. Rowling made them this way for a reason. Some fanfiction authors like to make arguments like "but normal spells could also be used to hurt or kill someone," and that's fine, since it's their opinion and their work. Dumbledore's explanation is my take on why they're so illegal.
Also, while I was relieved to find out that Harry wasn't in trouble in Book 6 for the attempted Cruciatus Curse from the climax of Book 5, I was mildly surprised that it wasn't even addressed. And, of course, more surprised with how Harry just kept attempting it anyway towards the end of Book 6 on a certain person who shall remain nameless here for the sake of not giving anything away. In the end, I suppose the thing with Harry's failed Cruciatus Curse can be used as a sort of device to show the hero being led closer towards the abyss by temptation but not sinking into it entirely (kind of like how, over the course of the classic Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker occasionally gets dangerously close to using the Dark Side of the Force without losing himself to it completely).
As you can see, I'm going with the Dumbledore who is good and well-intentioned, but is prone to making mistakes himself.
As for Vernon Dursley seeing McGonagall in her Animagus form near his house all those years ago... think back to the first chapter of the first book. I always wondered how Vernon Dursley would have reacted if he knew that cat was one of Harry's professors... hehehe.
While the Dursleys are, without a doubt, vile and reprehensible people, even they can occasionally be right about something or another. Sometimes in life, even someone whom you utterly despise can be occasionally right about something.
I remember McGonagall whispering to Peeves, "It unscrews the other way." Hahaha, I'm sorry, but that scene cracks me up every time I read it!
Also, I was looking up trivia about Voldemort's name some time ago when I learned how his name might have origins other than the explanation of his name coming from the French words meaning "flight from death," and so I decided to have some fun with that trivia. Valdemar is a Germanic form of the Slavic name Vladimir, which means "Great ruler" or "Ruling with fame." Valdemar is also the name of the immortality-seeking main character in the short story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," by Edgar Allan Poe. Der VÃ¶lkermord is the German word for "genocide," which Voldemort seems to want to achieve where Muggles and Muggle-borns. Vortigern was an evil ruler in Arthurian legend.