Sixth Year!PostOOtp Its Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts and he has to make some hard decisions in order to survive. But will these decisions help him or make him weaker? Martial arts, dueling, anima...
Author name: Ham
Summary: Harry is back in Privet Drive just a few days after the happenings in the Department of Mysteries. He is struggling to cope with his loss and the immense burden placed on him. He suddenly finds it very hard to go on - To find a reason to live. Will his task break his spirit? After all he is just a sixteen year old...
He knows that he must fight. Knows that he has to win at all costs. But he knows that if he even is to have a slim chance of defeating Voldemort he will need to make some hard decisions. Decisions that would hurt him and those close to him.
But will Harry be able to take the hard road back when he finally realizes that his decisions only made him weaker? That they took away his only reason to live. His only reason to fight.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
I again want to thank my Britpicker Sharon who is doing such an excellent job ?
Chapter 03 - A Few Good Friends
Harry sat up, groaning with pain, as he found himself thrown yet again by Sean.
"Roll, Harry, roll!" Sean said in frustration.
"I am trying to bloody roll!" Harry moaned as he rubbed his sore backside. Pain shot through his body as he rubbed the area and he winced. 'Oh my God!! I've broken my arse,' Harry thought in shock. 'Oh, ok, it's just very sore,' he realized gratefully as the pain reduced a bit.
"Don't try. Do it," Sean said. "I know you can do it. You just aren't trying hard enough. You were doing fine yesterday."
Harry glared at him. "Maybe that's because my entire body is aching today," he muttered angrily.
"Well, it's hurting because you aren't rolling," Sean said in an irritated tone.
Harry sighed and nodded.
"Ok, let's try again."
Harry gingerly got up and walked over and took his position.
A moment later he again found himself on his backside and he heard the familiar words. "Harry, why aren't you rolling?"
Harry groaned in pain, feeling very sorry for himself. 'Ok, now he had broken his arse!'
They practiced for another hour and Harry got a little better at the rolls, but he still got thrown badly a lot of the times. Sean then led Harry into the other room to do the wrist exercises and weights.
"Do we have to do this today?" Harry asked hesitantly. "My wrists are still very sore from yesterday."
"Yes, you have to do them today. You have to do them everyday," Sean snapped. "You are using muscles that have never been used by you before. Your body is naturally going to protest at the strain its being put to. For a few days you will hurt all over. After that you'll be ok."
"How many days are few days?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"Err... about ten to fifteen days," Sean said casually.
Harry groaned. 'What had he got himself into?' He nonetheless started the exercises by the end of which he just wanted to collapse.
Sean the taskmaster was not yet finished with him. And he made a moaning and groaning Harry do pushups.
"Five...six... seven... Come on Harry," Sean encouraged.
Harry felt as if he was going to collapse any second but he determinedly pushed on.
"Eight... nine...ten... That's the ticket," Sean droned on.
Harry grimaced as the forces of gravity urged him to collapse.
"Eleven... twelve... thirteen... Hey!!! Go all the way down. I want your chest touching the floor before you come up,"
"Shut...up...and... count," Harry gasped, as if he was dying.
"Fourteen... fifteen... sixteen... Come on you're nearly there."
Harry forced his sweating, tired and sore body to go the last mile.
"Seventeen... eighteen.... nineteen,"
'Come on, Harry, just one more and its all over,' Harry thought, hanging on to the idea like a lifeline.
"Twenty... Hey you want to try for thirty?" Sean asked.
Harry didn't answer him as he had collapsed on the floor.
"Oh, guess not," Sean said with a grin.
Sean pulled Harry up and half dragged the thoroughly exhausted boy to the showers and pushed him inside a stall.
Harry somehow managed to peel off his wet and sweaty clothes and then he stood under the hot water for what felt like hours as the water refreshed his tired and aching muscles. Finally he turned the taps off and slowly got dressed after toweling himself dry.
He was slowly walking out of the door when Roger's voice halted him.
"Harry, wait up. I just want a word with you before you leave."
Harry sluggishly followed Roger into his office and sat down in the chair, wincing as his sore bottom hit the hard, wooden seat.
"Hello, Harry, let me tell you that I have been hearing great news about the progress you have made."
Harry smiled tiredly. "Thank you, Sensei."
"But... I am concerned about something." Roger continued.
'Ah! so there's a 'but',' Harry thought nervously.
"Sean told me that your balance and speed is impressive. He was also all praise for your concentration."
"But?" Harry asked apprehensively.
Roger sighed. "But your stamina is very poor, Harry. You need to build it up. You get tired after a while and this causes you to lose your concentration. Without concentrating you cannot learn."
Harry sighed. "What do I do?"
Roger looked thoughtful. "I suggest that you start going for a short morning run. Start with a small distance and increase it over time."
Harry looked aghast. More physical exercise!!
"But... but Sensei! If I get tired with training won't I get even more tired if I start running too?" Harry stammered.
Roger smiled. "Yes, Harry, but it will build up your stamina. Maybe you will be utterly exhausted for a few days but after that it will help you immensely. Push yourself, Harry. You are very young and at this age your body can take it."
Harry nodded as he realized that Roger made sense.
"And, Harry, start eating a bit more. Your training will no doubt increase your appetite but from now onwards eat a bit more than you want to. The problem is going to be that you will be burning a lot of calories during training and running. But you need to gain weight at the same time too."
The last one was going to be a cinch Harry thought as he remembered the meal that Dobby had served him last night and for breakfast today.
"All right, Sensei. I'll try to do as you ask." Harry said with a smile.
Roger smiled back. "Good boy. Now I can see that I should excuse you as you look ready to collapse. Go home and rest."
Harry wearily got up and picked up his gym bag. He made to leave but Roger's voice stopped him.
"Harry, what you are doing is difficult. It is straining you. Right now I can see that you keep thinking of the road ahead of you and it seems so hard to you. But don't think of what you have to achieve. Every day set a few goals for yourself and try and achieve them. At the end of the day think of what you achieved and of what you were unable to. This way you will find it easier to get to where you want to be. Remember, when you are constantly looking at your goal there is only one eye left to find the way."
Harry pondered on Rogers last words all through his walk home. He had been thinking a lot about his immense task. About how much he had to learn over the summer. Martial arts, Advanced magic and Occlumency.
Harry thought dejectedly, that even with doing all of what he had planned, he still would be sadly lacking if he fought Voldemort.
How could anybody pit five years and three months of learning against fifty years? He knew that Voldemort and Dumbledore had not become such powerhouses overnight. It had taken them years and years to achieve the kind of power they now had.
He knew that the next time he met Voldemort he would die. He realized that he was not afraid of this. But he was concerned of what his death could mean. What it would mean for the future of the magical community.
He sighed. It wasn't any use worrying about it. What was going to happen would happen. And what had Dumbledore said? 'No one can expect you to do more than your best?' Well that was fine. He would do his best. Worrying about it wasn't about to do any good.
When he got back home he saw Fawkes waiting for him on his bed.
He walked over and sat down beside the magnificent bird. "Hello, Fawkes," Harry said stroking his red and gold plumage. "Did I ever tell you how beautiful you are? Hmm?"
Fawkes trilled softly and flew up on Harry's shoulder, gently settling down.
Harry laughed in delight at the warmth and love emanating from the bird.
"All right, Fawkes, Lets see what you've got for me."
He looked on the bed and there was a nondescript package lying wrapped in plain brown paper with a pale green envelope on top of it.
He ripped open the envelope to see a small schedule inside. He pulled it out and glanced at it quickly.
11:00-12 pm - Occlumency
12:00-1:00 pm - Transfiguration
1:00-2:00 pm - Charms
Offensive and Defensive Dueling
11:00-12 pm - Occlumency
12:00-1:00 pm - Transfiguration
1:00-2:00 pm - Charms
Offensive and Defensive Dueling
11:00-12 pm - Occlumency
12:00-1:00 pm - Transfiguration
1:00-2:00 pm - Charms
Offensive and Defensive Dueling
"Wow!!!" Harry exclaimed. "Dumbledore really went all out."
He wondered who would be teaching him Occlumency. Most probably Snape. He also wondered why Tonks would be picking him up for his dueling training. Would she be teaching him that subject?
He suddenly saw a vision of Tonks and remembered her repeatedly tripping over the umbrella stand in No. 12 Grimmauld place. He shuddered. Would it be a good idea to have her teaching him?
He sighed. Well she was an Auror so she couldn't be all that bad. Then again, after Umbridge a troll would seem like a competent teacher.
He was really excited at beginning his training. Finally he was starting to do something. Things were finally starting to happen.
He picked up the package next and ripped open the wrapping. A large leather-bound book tumbled out. It was old and looked worn with use. Harry glanced at the faded title engraved in gold. 'One thousand curses and counter curses.'
Harry grinned. This was turning out to be better and better.
He quickly grabbed some paper and parchment and wrote down a quick letter.
Thank you so much for the book and the schedule. I really cannot express how much I appreciate you doing all of this for my sake. I know that a lot of people are going to make a lot of effort for me and all I can say is I will learn with all my heart and try my best not to disappoint you.
Harry handed the small letter to Fawkes. "Can you give this to Prof. Dumbledore, please, Fawkes?"
Fawkes took the letter in one of his claws and singing a small note disappeared in a flash of fire.
Harry decided that while he was writing he might as well write to his friends too. He remembered the Howler threat from Ginny and realized that they must be worried at his silence.
How are you? How's the summer going so far?
My summer is going fine so far. The Dursley's just ignore me and that suits me perfectly. So played any Quidditch? How are the Cannons doing?
I am keeping myself quite busy nowadays as I plan on getting a lot done before the end of the holiday. That is the reason I won't be able to meet any of you this summer. While I miss you terribly, I realize that what I am doing is far more important.
I guess we might be meeting to buy our books together and I'll tell you more about my plans then.
Hey listen, I really, really want to apologize for dragging you off to the DoM. I put your life at risk due to my stupidity and that is inexcusable. Also I was a real prat the past year and I unfairly took it out on you and Hermione.
I hope you can find it within yourself to forgive me.
He paused a minute, gathering his thoughts, before he started his letter to Hermione.
How are you doing? What are your plans for the summer?
My summer so far has been... well, busy. I have got a few things I want to get done before the end of summer. I know you are curious but you will have to wait to find out from me in person. But you will probably be pleased to know that I will be learning quite a lot over the next few months.
Listen, Hermione, over the years you have been my truest friend. You have always supported me and helped me. If I look back I don't think Ron or I would have made it without you. I think that having you as a friend is one of the biggest achievements in my life. Where else would I find such a wise, clever, loyal and caring friend?
Me and Ron have always treated you like dirt over the years. We came to you for help when we wanted and ignored you when we felt like it. Last year I took out all my anger and frustration at you. Before we set out to go to the DoM you told me it could be a trap. I, as usual, ignored you.
I will always regret that. If I had taken that advice Sirius would be alive today. Instead I nearly led us all to our deaths. You followed me even though you thought I was wrong, just because you were my friend.
I can never forgive myself for that. I really don't deserve to be your friend, but there is still the little hope in my heart that you can forgive me and we can start over.
I hope to be a better friend to you this time around. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for all you have done for me.
Harry read his letter to Hermione again and sealed it. It had been a difficult letter to write but one that had been long overdue. He wasn't going to take his friends for granted anymore.
How are you? What are you up to this summer? How is it going with Dean? Tell him that of he doesn't treat you right I'm going to use him as a test dummy for some of the more nasty hexes that I know... And I know some really nasty hexes.
Anyway, thank you for sending me those articles. I had a good laugh after reading them. Hey, also congratulate your Dad for me, will you?
Ginny, how is the situation with Percy? Has the stupid oaf apologized yet? I can't really ask this of Ron but I know that you will tell me honestly.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for your bravery that night at the DoM. I really feel so proud that such a person like you is one of my friends.
Take care of yourself.
He paused a minute as he thought of what to write to Neville. He had always underestimated him, they all had. Yet he had come through at the end. Of all of them only he and Neville had been left standing that night. He realized that he had never thanked Neville for his loyalty and courage he had shown at the fight at the Ministry.
I'm glad to know that your summer is going well. And I hope you get a wand to your liking. What else are you doing during the holiday?
As to whether we can continue the DA, I don't know I'll have to ask Dumbledore. I doubt that it will be necessary if we get a good DADA teacher.
Neville, I am touched that you think so highly of me. Of course none of it was true. I did not give you any special attention during the DA meetings. You succeeded because you are a very talented and determined person.
I have never, ever, believed that you were any less a person than anyone else. You are a Gryffindor and you have all the qualities of a true Gryffindor. You are brave, unflinchingly loyal, and best of all, someone who will always stand up for what's right. I have always considered you my friend and I am honored that you feel the same.
I hope you have a good time for the rest of the summer.
He sealed Neville's letter and called Hedwig over. "Would you take these letters to Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville for me, girl?"
Hedwig hooted happily. She had been idle since the start of the holidays, having only delivered one letter to Dumbledore. She was eager to do some deliveries.
Harry deftly tied the letters on her feet and gently threw her in the air.
Hedwig flew out of the window and Harry watched her until she was a speck in the sky. Then he grabbed the book that Dumbledore had sent him and sitting in one of the armchairs settled down to read it.
Harry found the book to be very good. It explained in detail the curse and its results, the pronunciation, wand movement and counter curses.
The particularly difficult curses and wand movements were illustrated and explained in great detail.
He lost count of time as he read on and was so involved in the book that he didn't see the owl at first. The small, brown owl hooted, trying to get his attention.
Harry got a start and he half jumped out of his seat. He looked at the owl and sighed. He was getting really jumpy nowadays. He took the message from the bird and sent it on its way.
He opened the small note.
I'll pick you up at eleven tomorrow. Be ready to leave as there's a lot to do.
Harry's emotions were conflicted at receiving the note. He was happy to be able to go and do his shopping, but at the same time he was dreading seeing Remus. He wondered how he would behave with him knowing that he had been responsible for yet another one of his friends dying.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sitting on the Dining table in No. 12 Grimmauld place talking quietly amongst themselves.
"Thank God that Harry is finally coming here today. I was going crazy worrying about him," Hermione said happily.
"You, and all of us," Ginny agreed.
"What really worries me is that he hasn't answered any of our letters," Ron said with a frown.
"Actually, that was one part that I expected," Hermione said in a tone that screamed 'wasn't it obvious?'
"And just why did you expect that?" Ron asked irritatedly.
"Well, firstly he lost the one person who he cares about most in the world. He probably feels all alone right now..."
"Harry's not alone. He knows he has us," Ron said crossly, cutting Hermione off.
"It's not the same thing, you git! We are his friends and Sirius was the closest thing he had to a father," Ginny said whacking him across the head in annoyance. Really, Ron could be so thick sometimes!
"Owww!!!"Ron yelled, massaging the spot where Ginny had hit him.
"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted..." Hermione continued, totally ignoring Ron. Things had been a bit frosty between them since the disastrous walk they had taken together.
"He lost the one person who he cares about most in the world. He just faced You-know-who in the Ministry and nearly died, again. He knows that You-know-who is after him and will try everything in his power to kill him. And after all of that he is sent to live with his relatives who don't care if he lives or dies," Hermione said ticking the points off her fingers. "Did I miss anything?"
"Yeah," Ginny said grimacing, as she heard Hermione. "You forgot to mention that Harry, being Harry, probably blames himself for all of the mess and is feeling as guilty as hell."
"Yes, that too," Hermione sighed.
"Well, at least he'll be happy that he is leaving those Muggles so soon," Ron said trying to lighten the mood.
"Well, I don't know..." Hermione said hesitantly. "He isn't exactly going to be thrilled to come back here. After all, this house will hold bad memories for him and certainly won't make it any easier for him to get over Sirius."
Ron groaned. "I get the feeling that this is going to be a really long summer."
"Look, we have to give him his space. At this time he most probably wants to be left alone. Let's try and not push him too much. Harry is a private person and won't appreciate us pushing him to talk about what happened," Ginny said thoughtfully.
"Ginny, that isn't a good idea," Hermione said in a bossy tone. "If we leave him alone he'll brood about it and things will only get worse."
"I'm not suggesting we leave him alone, Hermione," Ginny snapped. "I'm just saying we don't pester him to talk about it as soon as he comes here. Let's give him some time and try to keep him company and cheer him up a bit. Later when he's in a little better mood we try and get him to open up."
They were interrupted by Molly Weasley walking into the room carrying three plates heaped with eggs, bacon and sausages. As the two girls glimpsed at her face they noticed that she looked most unhappy.
Ron, of course, being Ron, was happily oblivious.
"So, Mum, what time is Harry arriving?"
Molly put the plates down a little too hard and a sour look crossed her face. "Listen you three, I've got some bad news. Harry is not coming over to visit this summer."
There was absolute silence.
Then at once the questions started flying.
"Not coming? What do you mean he's not coming?" Ron yelled.
"What happened, Mrs. Weasley? Was he attacked? Is he all right?" Hermione asked anxiously.
"Did the Muggles do anything, Mum? Or was it Dumbledore's doing?" Ginny piped in.
"That's it! I'm going over to get Fred and George and we're breaking him out," Ron said pushing back his chair.
Molly shook her head, part in anger part in sadness.
"Dumbledore didn't do anything! Harry didn't want to come here."
Again there was complete silence.
Then again the questions started flying.
"Please, I only have two ears, speak one at a time," Molly said irritatedly, cutting the three of them off with a glare.
"What do you think happened, Mum?" Ginny asked unhappily.
"Is it the house, do you think?" Hermione inquired.
"Why in the world would he want to stay with those ruddy Muggles?" Ron asked bewilderedly.
Molly Weasley sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Dumbledore said that Harry has a summer project that requires him to stay there," Molly said.
"But Mum!" Ginny protested hotly. "The poor boy will starve there. You can't leave him there an entire summer all alone!"
"Apparently Dumbledore has taken care of that. Dobby will be taking care of Harry for the summer. He says he has visited Harry and they had a long talk before they reached this decision," Molly said.
She had argued with Dumbledore for ages but at last she had realized that if Harry did not want to come to Headquarters he could hardly be forced to. They had to respect his decision.
Ron, Ginny and Hermione looked at each other in exasperation. They were unable to make out what this new development meant.
"What do you think is going on? What's this project?" Ron asked finally.
"I don't know. Harry hasn't even written anything! Why wouldn't he tell us what his project is?" Hermione fretted. She was intensely curious about this supposed project and was also worried about her best friend.
Ginny's face had dropped several inches in disappointment. "Does that mean that we won't see him for the entire summer?"
"Yes, I'm afraid that's exactly what it means," Molly said, a worried look on her face. She was afraid for Harry. Over the years she had come to consider him as her own son. And she knew that now, when he was at his most vulnerable, he needed her the most. She wondered how she was going to get through the summer when all she was going to do was worry about him.
"Nutters!" Ron exploded. "He's gone nutters!" His face was a mask of shock and dismay. "I mean, why would any sane person live with those Muggles the entire summer?"
They were suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a large snowy owl.
"Hello, Hedwig," Hermione cooed, stroking the owl gently. "Have you got letters for us?"
Hedwig hooted and lifted her leg to show the three letters. Hermione deftly untied the letters. "Maybe Harry has written something," Hermione said handing Ginny and Ron their letters.
Hedwig didn't wait for an answer and flew off after accepting a piece of bacon from Ginny.
Molly watched the three of them read their letters. It was the first communication from Harry and she was anxious to find out his frame of mind.
Ron sighed and rubbed his eyes in frustration as he finished the short letter Harry had written him. He wordlessly handed it to Molly who read it quickly. She looked up to see that Hermione and Ginny had finished reading their letters too. Ginny's face was unreadable but Hermione had tears running down her face.
"Why does the stupid prat feel that he has to apologize to us? It's not like he dragged us to the Ministry," Ron burst out.
"What's the matter, Hermione, dear?" Molly asked.
Hermione gave her the letter and Molly began to read it. She finished the letter and looked up unhappily. "This is not good. He is blaming himself for Sirius' death and having him all alone in the house for the whole summer without anyone to talk to will only make it worse."
Ron grabbed the letter from Molly's hand and quickly scanned through it. "What does he mean by learning? Why is he studying in the summer?"
"Isn't it obvious, Ron?" Ginny said speaking for the first time since the letters arrived. "He knows that You-know-who is after him. He wants to be better prepared in case he is attacked again."
"What has he written to you, Ginny?" Hermione asked.
"The same, that he's sorry and that he's proud of the way I handled myself that night," Ginny said wearily. "I suppose this seals it. He isn't coming here to stay."
Hermione guessed that there was more to it but she also realized that if Ginny had wanted to share it she would have. She sensed that Ginny was really disappointed at this latest development as she had really looked forward to spending some time alone with Harry.
Ron was looking distinctly unhappy and was muttering under his breath.
"What are you mumbling about, Ron?" Ginny asked irately.
"Nothing... I just... Damn the git! I guess I'll have to write to him about it now."
"What about?" Ginny asked curiously.
"Nothing," Ron snapped.
"Mrs. Weasley, I have an idea. Harry is not coming here to stay, but maybe we can convince Prof. Dumbledore to let us give him a party for his birthday. I think that he would like that very much," Hermione said brightly.
Molly Weasley's face lit up. "Of course, Hermione, dear, that's a very good idea. I think that it will cheer him up a bit. I'll talk to Dumbledore about it."
Ginny grinned at Hermione. "Sometimes you come up with brilliant ideas, Granger."
"I try," Hermione said with a mischievous smile. "Besides I was hardly going to wait the entire summer to find out what Harry is up to."
It was late afternoon and Harry was tired of studying. The fact was that he was bored sitting in the house all alone. He wished that he had someone, anyone, to talk to.
There was Dobby of course, but Harry had realized long ago that even though he could trust Dobby with his life, he was not someone one could chat casually with. With Dobby there was nothing casual. He was either happy to the point of exploding or really, really unhappy, where he started beating himself over the head with whatever was handy.
While the latter hadn't happened anytime soon Harry knew the possibility was always there. All one had to do was mention the Malfoy's by mistake.
He also didn't want to talk about his life or Voldemort or Sirius. No he just wanted to kill some time with mindless chatter so that at least for sometime he didn't feel the vast responsibility that was always hanging over his head. He remembered reading about the French Revolution and the guillotine when he was young and the feeling was similar. He felt that the blade would fall any moment and he would lose his head.
He sighed. Well one couldn't have everything. He knew that he had already had a lot of good things happen to him this summer. He was free to do magic, wasn't bothered by his relatives, He was to learn advanced magic, was working on his Aikido training, and he had Dobby, who provided Harry with sumptuous meals and took care of all his needs.
But a certain part of Harry couldn't help feeling that all the training that he was going to get over the summer was only because it was needed to keep him alive. The freedom to do magic and get training over the summer was not a treat. It was because the most dangerous dark wizard of all time was after him, and he needed to be able to survive.
He felt like a weapon at times, a weapon that needed to be as dangerous as possible. Like a sword being slowly sharpened. He hated the feeling. He hated not being able to do anything. He wasn't even free to choose his destiny. Even that had been planned for him, planned even before he was born.
If fate and destiny existed, and he ever chanced to meet them, he would give them a swift kick up where the sun never shone.
A part of him realized that it wasn't exactly true. It wasn't as if anyone would force himself to face Voldemort if he didn't want to. And he knew that a lot of people really loved him and cared for him. But the fact remained that it wasn't an option for him to choose anything else. The damn prophecy didn't say that he would be one of the people with the power to kill Voldemort. It said that he was the only one who had the power to do so. So he couldn't very well turn around and say 'Sorry, chaps, but he's not my problem.'
Harry also knew that Voldemort was lusting after immortality and the thought scared him badly. If he died and Voldemort was able to achieve his ambition then people could be terrorized by him for hundreds of years.
'Ok, Harry, enough with the moaning and bitching. Your quota for the day is over. Now get back to reading the damn book,' Harry thought to himself.
He picked up the book and started reading again. He was interrupted a second later by the doorbell ringing. He knew that it couldn't possibly be for him so he ignored it and went back to reading.
It came as a surprise to him then, to have his aunt calling him down a minute later. "Boy, come down here. There's someone here for you."
Harry put down his book and curiously went down. Who could it be? He knew that he was meeting Remus tomorrow, so whatever it was could have waited till then. Unless... unless something had happened!
Harry's heart pounded as he raced down the last few stairs and pulled open the door, all sorts of terrible thoughts going through his head. What he saw both relieved and puzzled him. Because standing outside his door were Sean and two other boys of his age.
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. "Hello, Sean. What brings you here?" Harry asked.
"Well, me and these two here were going to go bowling," Sean said pointing at his two companions. "I thought that if we could find another person we could team up against each other. That other person turned out to be you. So, are you interested?"
Harry looked at him uncomfortably. "Uh... I don't know how to bowl. And well... I... the thing is... I don't think it would be a really good idea for me to come."
"Don't worry about that, Harry. We'll teach you how to bowl. After all, we all have to learn it at first. And you really do need to get out more often. I've lived in this area for sixteen years and yet I've never seen you before you joined up for Aikido classes," Sean said firmly.
Harry opened his mouth to protest but the no nonsense expression in Sean's eyes shut him up.
"All right, I'll just go tell my Aunt," Harry muttered.
It happened that he didn't need to tell his Aunt anything as she had, as usual, eavesdropped on his conversation.
She was rather reluctant to let him go. "Now, listen here boy, these boys are normal. They aren't your kind. I don't like the idea of you mixing with them. What if something happens to them?"
Harry looked at her coldly. "Aunt Petunia, I don't think that my being around them will change them into my kind as you call it. After all, fifteen years of being near this family certainly hasn't done anything to any of you."
"Don't be cheeky with me, boy. What if one of those Dementors attacks you again? Or some of those freaks that are after you? I don't want to have to answer any questions about your abnormality," Petunia Dursley snarled.
"Nothing's going to happen. I'm just going out for a couple of hours and I'll be back soon. If anything happens I'll take care of it," Harry snapped. But even as he said it he was having second thoughts about it. Did he really want to tempt fate with a foolish move?
Aunt Petunia would have said more but she didn't. Harry thought it was probably because of the warning the Dursleys received at the train station.
But she did give him a five minute lecture of the consequences to him if he let even one word of his 'abnormality' slip to the others.
Harry finally managed to escape from her but, by that time he was in a really bad mood.
He walked outside to find Sean and his friends waiting for him in an old beat up navy blue Peugeot. Harry got into the back and Sean turned around from the front passenger seat.
"By the way, Harry, let me introduce you to my friends. This is Jack," he said pointing to the tall black haired boy behind the wheel of the car. "And the guy you are sitting with is Alan." Alan was shorter than Sean and Jack and a little taller than Harry himself. His head was crowned with thick blond hair, the colour of straw. His face was gentle and kind looking and he had a good natured smile on his face. Harry immediately liked him.
He shook hands with both of them.
"So how do you guys know each other?" he asked as Jack started the car.
"Well, me and Jack go to Stonewall High together and we met Alan at Aikido practice," Sean replied.
"Hey, by the way I never asked. Where do you go to school?" Sean asked curiously.
"Yeah there have been rumors flying around for years that you attend St. Brutus'," Jack said glancing back. "Though I knew it couldn't have been very true. Your cousin looks a better candidate to attend it than you."
"Yeah, Harry, that cousin of yours is a real bully. I see his gang beating up small kids a lot. I have warned him about it but I guess one of these days me and Jack will have to teach him a lesson," Sean said frowning.
Harry hesitated. "Look, guys, I'll make something clear now so that there are no problems later on. There are certain things about me that I can't tell you. Certain things that I am not allowed to tell you. I can lie to you about these things but I won't. I have been lied to far too often to do the same to you."
There was silence in the car as Harry's words were processed by the three boys.
"What sort of thing could it possibly be that you can't tell us, Harry?" Alan asked quietly. "After all you are a fifteen year old. You make it sound as if you are a character in a spy thriller."
Harry laughed bitterly. "Well, you may not be too far off the mark with that. Sean, remember I told you that my parents were killed in a car crash? Well, they weren't. They were murdered when I was a year old and when the person tried to kill me too he ended up giving me this scar," Harry said pointing to his forehead.
There was another uneasy silence.
"What happened to this man, Harry?" Jack asked finally.
"Well, when he attacked me he got injured badly. He ran away and wasn't seen for thirteen years. Around two years ago he came back and since then he has been after me."
"Have you gone to the police? Why haven't you got this man arrested?"
Harry sighed. "Look, that's one of the things I can't tell you, ok? Let's just say the Police cannot stop him. But don't worry about it. It's under control."
"It just seems so unbelievable! Is that why you're learning Aikido? And is that why your Aunt doesn't let you go out?" Sean asked.
"That is the reason I'm learning Aikido. But that's not the reason my Aunt doesn't allow me to go out. She and my mother didn't get along and when I was left on their doorstep they didn't really want me. Over the years she has told everybody that my parents died in a car crash. She doesn't want anybody to learn about the real reason. She and my Uncle can't bear anybody talking about them and they hate anything not 'normal' as they call it," Harry explained. "They would like nothing better than for me to disappear from their lives."
"You're kidding me!" Jack exclaimed. "She doesn't want to be gossiped about so she spreads lies about you and forbids you to talk about it?"
"No, unfortunately I'm not kidding you. They hate me and having to put up with me. But they are not the reason that I can't tell you. Look, I know that most of this must be sounding like some huge fib to you guys, but it isn't so. Maybe someday I'll be able to explain it to you."
Alan put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "No, Harry, we believe you. I don't think your parent's death would be something you would joke about like that. And we understand that you can't tell us some things. We won't ask you anymore about your past unless you tell us."
Jack and Sean nodded from the front. "He's right, Harry. If there is a good reason, of course you shouldn't tell us."
"All right, now let's talk about something pleasant. Tell us, Harry, you got a girlfriend?" Alan asked grinning.
Harry goggled at him. "Are you kidding me? Take a look at me. What girl in her right mind would go out with me?"
"Well, Harry, you're not all that bad to look at," Jack said over his shoulder. "A little thin perhaps, but by looking at your cousin I realize that there must not be much food left after he's done eating. By the way I wanted to ask, is that a fashion statement or are you just comfortable in err... overly loose clothes?"
Harry grinned. "'That,' as you call it, is my fat cousin's castoffs. I have to go soon to buy new clothes for myself."
"Yes, please go soon, Harry. Not only is your cousin fat but he has horrible taste in clothes," Sean said with a grimace.
"So, how come you guys are driving a car? I thought that you had to be seventeen to get a license."
Alan grinned. "Well, Jack turned seventeen a week ago. Earlier we used to borrow Jack's elder brother's car, but his parents found out and put a stop to it. We all decided that we needed a car and so over the last year we all got part time jobs to save money to buy this car. Jack got his license just three days ago."
Harry grinned. "That's great! Congratulations guys."
"Thanks Harry, now we are going to see if we can try and fix this car up a bit," Jack said grinning back.
They soon reached the bowling alley and Harry found himself paired with Alan against Jack and Sean. Alan was a patient teacher and soon Harry got the hang of it and the pair of them gave Jack and Sean a run for their money.
Harry found bowling to be great fun especially the times when he managed to get a strike. His three friends went out of their way to make sure Harry had a good time.
Sean, Jack and Alan too found themselves liking Harry more and more as the evening wore on. He was a good sport and had a good sense of humor and had absolutely no airs about him.
The three friends noticed that Harry kept glancing around the room and kept one hand constantly near a long thin object in his jeans pocket. They didn't, however, ask him what the object was as they realized that it was something he probably couldn't tell them about.
They had a great time bowling and the hours literally flew by.
All too soon it was over though, and they were in the car and heading back to Privet drive. Harry found that he had enjoyed himself immensely and had found it easy to hang out with the three boys. He hadn't thought about Voldemort or the prophecy once the entire evening.
The three of them were telling Harry about themselves and their families and the talk was pleasant and casual.
Suddenly Sean exclaimed. "Oh my God, I forgot to tell you guys! Pat called yesterday. She's coming back this Thursday."
"Sean, you stupid prat! Why didn't you tell us before?" Jack exclaimed whacking him around the head.
"Pat is short for Patricia Marchbanks," Alan explained. "She is a friend of ours from Aikido classes. She had gone to Australia for a vacation. I guess you'll be meeting her soon."
"Yeah, Harry, you'll like her. She's fantastic at Aikido. She's been practicing it for eight years now," Sean said.
"Wow!" Harry exclaimed.
"Yeah, she studies in Stonewall high with us. But we only got to know her recently when we joined up to learn Aikido," Jack said as he pulled up in front of No. 4 Privet drive.
"Ok, Harry, here's your stop. We'll see you tomorrow morning in class," Sean said with a grin.
"Thanks a lot for today guys. I really had a lot of fun," Harry said earnestly, as he slowly got out of the car.
"No problems mate, keep your chin up,' Alan said cheerfully.
Harry stood outside until Jack pulled away and then slowly made his way back to the house.