A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Dumbledore is scolded ...
Monday, July 1, 1996
Albus Dumbledore, the most famous, powerful, and learned wizard of the twentieth century, sat on a small hard wooden chair in an anteroom in the British Ministry of Magic. Remus Lupin and Arthur Weasley sat with him, neither speaking with their mentor and leader.
Dumbledore sighed. "Are neither of you going to speak with me?"
"What is there to say?" Arthur asked. Then he decided to speak out anyway. "Was it really necessary for Harry to suffer at his relatives? Especially to the degree he has. . . ."
"And is!" Remus snarled.
"I hadn't realized," Dumbledore answered weakly. "I didn't expect Harry to be welcomed, but I never thought it would be as bad as it was."
"Nonsense," Remus barked. "You had Figg watching; you must have gotten reports, so even if you didn't expect it, you still knew about it! And there was no excuse NOT to know about the summer after his First year."
"Better an abused Harry than a dead Harry!" Dumbledore burst out. "I hate what has happened with him! I loathe those relatives of his! But there was no other way to protect Harry from magical attack! Harry HAD to stay with them, or he would be dead!" Dumbledore stood. "Why do you think Voldemort is only able to really attack Harry at the end of the spring term? BECAUSE THAT IS WHEN THE PROTECTION STARTS TO WEAKEN!"
Breathing hard, Dumbledore sat. After a few moments, he went on, "And the more I interfered, the weaker those protections would have been. I intervened last summer, and look at what happened -- Harry was vulnerable by Christmas!"
"And you couldn't just explain that?" Arthur demanded.
"No," Dumbledore answered. "I couldn't allow any talk, even amongst my most trusted friends! Sooner or later, some Death Eater with a shade less prejudice from the others would suggest the obvious solution, for the protection works both ways."
Arthur looked puzzled, but Remus said, "Hire Muggles to either kill Harry or kill the Dursleys."
"Exactly. The blood protection helped Harry save the Philosopher's Stone, defeat the basilisk, create a Patronus strong enough to defeat nearly a hundred dementors, and duel the risen Voldemort to a draw. It helped him keep his little group of students going last month, when they should have been beaten easily. It's not the entire explanation, of course. Harry is a remarkably powerful wizard for his age. However, without the blood protections, uninterferred with, he could be killed easily. As it is, the interference I have been forced to use has left Harry open to attacks at the end of each year. Had the Dursleys accepted Harry with love, Voldemort could not have so much as portkeyed him away."
"That may or may not be true, but you still shouldn't have decided all this on your own," Myrddin said from the doorway. "And, in any event, the scheme has become at least unraveled. Potter needs to be trained this summer. Jones and I present . . . a less eccentric visage to Muggle eyes. We shall have to talk with these Dursleys, and see if anything may be preserved of these protections. We of course hope they may."
He turned to Lupin. "Will you come with us?"
Myrddin turned to Arthur. "Would you allow your youngest son, and perhaps your daughter, to join Potter? And do you know the parents of the other students who were Potter at the Ministry? We must know what we're doing before we do it."
"Yes, to both," Arthur said, who then added with a smile, "but perhaps you should talk to my wife first."
Dumbledore and Remus smiled slightly at that.
"Boy! why are you so useless? All you've done for the last week is laze around that room and mope about before dawn! You smell, the bird smells, and the room smells! I don't know what you went through, and I really don't care! Get out of that bed, clean the room, take a shower, and then eat something before those freaks descend on us! I'll be out until Three, and I want things cleaned up by the time I get back!"
"Fine," Harry grumbled, laying on his cot.
Despite his aunt's words, Harry was not totally dysfunctional. He wasn't sleeping well, even by his low standards, and he had had something of a low-grade headache around his scar since he'd arrived at Privet Drive. He had nothing he had to study until his O.W.L. results came, at which point he would have to between five and seven courses (N.E.W.T. and vocational courses were available). He smelled a bit, because each morning about 4:00 he would wake up from dreaming about Sirius' death. He would sneak down to the basement and workout with his cousin's free weights (almost never touched by his cousin, who was spending every morning at a health club) and running the tread-mill (never touched once it had been set up the previous August). Whenever Harry tried to shower, his aunt had yelled at him, so he usually waited until she went 'visiting' in the afternoons, after he had worked out again.
In the mornings and before going to sleep, Harry did his Occlumency exercises. He hated them, they didn't seem to do much good, but he did them anyway.
He also reread his letters.
Not the one from Ron complaining about Hermione, not the one from Hermione announcing her parents were taking her on an immediate trip to Africa (where her parents were visiting a 'Doctors without Borders' clinic for two weeks), not the one from Neville telling Harry about his new wand ('It really works!'), not the two from Ginny. No, Harry reread the short notes from Luna.
He wasn't certain why, and didn't want to know.
The previous Wednesday morning, a snowy owl had been awaiting Harry when he came out of the cellar. It had a strangely-shaped package, and a note:
Thank you for asking again about my things. (Harry had sent Hedwig on to Luna's Monday morning, along with a brief note replying to Ginny's letter asking him if he'd made it without incident.) As usual, everything came back, so I'm not certain why you even needed to ask. Still, I've never received a personal owl, and I am always happy to hear from you. I seem to remember Ginny saying your relatives don't feed you much over the summer, and I remember how you were dressed on the train. Still, there are worse things in life than staying with poor relatives. (Harry really wished he could show this note to his aunt.) So, if you're hungry, here is a smoked herring. My father added the two little meat pies, on the off chance you don't like herring. Have Herbert bring a note back if you have a preference. If not, just say 'No reply, thank you'. In either case, we'll send along something to eat, starting Thursday afternoon.
Harry had swallowed his pride, and asked for the meat pies (although he and Hedwig had both picked at the herring, since they were both hungry). Each morning for the last four mornings, there was an owl with two small meat pies, and a note from Luna. Harry always had a note ready to send back.
Harry finished airing his room, and decided not to work-out again. Instead, he went to take a shower before Dudley lumbered in, since he would use up all the hot water showering before leaving with his friends until midnight. He managed to eat the left-over, cold tinned vegetable soup and shower before Dudley came in. Dudley taunted Harry a bit through the closed door before and after his shower while Harry read some of the books Dudley could never be bothered with. Harry had already finished his own Defense books and Dudley's history texts, and was currently studying French and would look through the economics later.
When Dudley left, Harry looked at his latest note from Luna for the fourth time:
You are so sweet to ask. We haven't seen any snorkacks, and are beginning to wonder if they are out of season. In either case, we will be back in Britain in two weeks or so. Daddy decided the cottage is a bit exposed, so we'll be staying in the flat above the Quibbler office. If you come to Diagon Alley any time, I'll be happy to have some ice cream with you.
Harry put the letter away. He wasn't sure what he felt for Luna. He wasn't as obsessed with her as he had been with Cho, or if he was, it wasn't the same sort of obsession. He pushed the thought aside yet again.
Harry pulled out his divination text and looked up meditation techniques to reread. Following the instructions, he closed the curtains, dug up one of the Dursleys' 'emergency' candles, and sat studying the flame. After a few moments, he tried his Occlumency exercises again.
Harry's body relaxed, although his mind remained focused. The pain around his scar slowly disappeared. In the back of his mind, all his thoughts and worries, which had been a jumble as he had poked at them trying to sort through them, sorted themselves. When Harry came out of his meditations, his head felt clearer than it had at any time since before the Third task. He had a clear idea of what he had to do in the short term, although the real future remained as foggy as the atmosphere of Trelawney's classroom.
When Petunia Dursley came back from 'tea' (cheap sherry) at a neighbor's, she was confronted by her pesky nephew. "What do you want, Boy?"
"I want you to do me a favor," Harry answered.
"You must be joking!"
"No, I'm not." Harry spread his arms wide. "Look at me! I look ridiculous! Now, I know you're not going to spend money on decent clothes for me," Petunia goggled at Harry. "but I need some decent clothes, some new glasses, and some supplies. What I need from you is your time."
"Because I can't stray too far from the house by myself! I can, however, if you come with me. I need to go shopping about five times, three times in London, once tomorrow or at least this week, and twice later."
"And who's going to pay for it?"
"I can borrow some money," Harry stated, not about to admit to have a fortune in gold. "I know you like going shopping in London. You can drop me off, and as long as I don't have to wander about waiting for you, it should be safe."
"Meaning you drop me off near Charing Cross in the morning. I'll show you where. Pick me up at a set time and place -- you won't be able to find me, so we'll have to have set everything ahead of time. Then, we go clothes shopping and I order some new glasses. Once I get some decent clothes, we can shop closer to here if you prefer."
Petunia looked at her nephew, really looked at him. She saw him as he really looked, instead of letting her eyes roll past him in a disdainful glance. She was embarrassed. "Very well." She thought some more. "There's a one day optometrist on the way. I'll see if they can take you on the way in. Can you borrow an extra hundred and fifty pounds?"
"I think so, why?" Then Harry realized why. That was her price. It was probably reasonable enough, all things considered. "Oh. All right."
Petunia nodded her agreement. "Don't mention it to Vernon or Dudley. Dudley! He'll need lunch!"
"Dudley can microwave anything you leave for him," Harry pointed out.
"That's true." She started to turn, but stopped. "Do you know what he and his friends are up to at night?"
"Just underage drinking and trying to look tough, as far as I know," Harry answered. "Dudley's almost the oldest, so they shouldn't be drinking and driving. Piers is smoking pot, but Dudley seems to be avoiding it."
"That Piers at least is smoking it, and maybe dealing? Yes, I'm sure. He was trying to get Dudley to hold some for him, which he was smart enough to refuse to do. That's also why I'm sure he's not smoking it himself."
"I see." She thought a moment about how to deal with the situation. She came up with a set of solutions to look into. "Let me call for that eye appointment. Oh, and make it a hundred pounds, plus lunch tomorrow."
Harry nodded and slipped out the back door. He wandered up the lawn to the side of the house. "Dung?" he whispered.
"How'd you know it was me?" Dung Fletcher complained. He was under a number of concealment spells.
"I can smell that tobacco you smoke," Harry answered. "I'll be leaving the house tomorrow morning, with my aunt. Optometrist, then on to Diagon Alley. My aunt will drop me off and then pick me up a few hours later. I'll have the exact time she's picking me up when I get there."
"Thanks for being reasonable," Fletcher said sincerely.
Harry thought he detected something else. "What?" he asked.
"You know, I always got along with Sirius. Your Dad, too."
Harry's throat tightened. "Yeah?"
"Yes. Sirius was always saying how much like your Dad you are. You look like him, but you're starting to act a lot more like your Mum."
"In what way?"
"Your Dad and Sirius, well, they never really grew up. Never had the chance, in part. But your Mum, she was always thoughtful and responsible. Not in a bad way, neither."
"Hang in there, lad. We'll make it."
Harry then had an idea. "Dung, are there good books on defense that I wouldn't be able to buy at Flourish and Blotts?"
"H'mm, don't know fer sure, but it's more than likely. If'n you can't, you could get them at some of the other bookshops, new or used. Especially the two in Knockturn Alley."
"Do you think I could buy something in any other bookstore, especially in Knockturn Alley, without everyone hearing about it?"
"No, no I guess you can't."
"Find me some. Think, someday I might have to throw a hex that's going to save your life. What books should I read?"
"Tough one, that is."
"I'll get you a Gringotts draft for fifty Galleons. Don't spend more than that in total. That includes a ten per cent commission for you."
"That's fair," Dung conceded. "Not great, but fair."
"Actually, I take that back," Harry said. "I'll make it a hundred and five. Five for a searching fee, the rest as stated."
"That's a bit better than fair," Dung admitted.
"See if you can find a good book on Legilimency and Occlumency, too."
"Right-o. I'll be on duty tomorrow night, from Eight to midnight."
Tuesday, July 2, 1996
"You look happy," Petunia grumbled the next morning as they made their way to the optometrist.
"You know, I think I am," Harry replied. Harry knew he was at least not unhappy. He had actually slept until a little after 5:00 for the first time since arriving back on Privet Drive, his headache (although back) was less painful than any morning since Sirius' death, and Luna had written saying she hoped he would be able to be in Diagon Alley for his birthday.
Petunia dropped Harry off in front of the Leaky Cauldron at 9:30, and would be back at 11:45. Harry hurried inside, and found a member of the Order waiting for him. "Good morning, Tom; good morning, Mister Diggle," Harry said happily.
Tom waved at Harry and Diggle stood to follow Harry outside. "Are you going to shadow me, sir, or shall we go together?" Harry asked.
"Whichever you prefer, dear boy," Diggle responded.
"Gingotts, then shopping," Harry said, gesturing for the small wizard to join him.
"That's quite a bit of money you have, real and Muggle," Diggle commented as they headed for Madam Malkin's.
"I'm tired of looking like a scarecrow," Harry commented.
Harry updated his measurements at Malkins, and had her translate his measurements into Muggle sizes. He took her recommendation for a cobbler, and ordered a pair of dragonhide boots. He made a very quick stop at the Weasleys', just to tell them he was passing through and to tell the family he really was doing better, and after a stop for owl treats and food, he made a slightly longer stop at the bookstore.
"Any place else?" Diggle asked. "Time is getting a bit short, you know."
"No, sir," Harry responded as he headed for the Leaky Cauldron, "just a question. Where are The Quibbler offices?" He didn't remember seeing it the August he'd spent so much time in the Alley.
"Just past the Gringotts Fork, two buildings down from the bank, Knockturn side, second floor," Diggle answered.
"Thank you. May I buy you a drink, for all your help?"
"No, thank you. I shall wait for you outside, in case your aunt is late. She should be here in less than five minutes."
She was already waiting. To Harry's surprise, she could see the Leaky Cauldron. She could also see the two parking places in front of it, which most people couldn't. She had just pulled into one of them. After thanking Diggle again, they were off.
Harry bought himself a full set of Muggle clothes. Underwear (boxers and briefs), socks (plus some silly ones for Dobby), three pairs of jeans, three pairs of slacks, fifteen shirts of every type, two pairs of trainers, a denim jacket, two pairs of shorts to wear during his workouts, and a decent bathrobe. He also picked up some other supplies (including a waterproof watch and a wind-up alarm) and two bags of sweets, which he swore Dudley wouldn't get his hands on because he was sending them to his friends.
Picking up his two pair of wire-frame glasses, Harry was content. Petunia was a bit amazed at the transformation in the boy. Dressed decently, he didn't look a disgrace.
A little after 8:00, Harry slipped out of the house. "Dung?" he whispered.
"I'm over here." As Harry came over, he asked, "Can you smell the tobacco tonight?"
Harry sniffed. "No."
"Good; the new spells worked. Moody had a fit when I pointed out we'd both hadn't thought o' that." He partially disillusioned, so that Harry could see a vague outline of him.
"I had them make the draft out to bearer," Harry said.
"Good thinking! Now, here's six books for you. I have a lot o' junk laid away, so I shuffled about an' found these. Galleon each. Had to buy the Occlumency book -- three Galleon eight sickles an' eleven knuts that was. Let me know what you think, and what more you'll need. Okay?"
"Sounds good. Oh, here." Harry handed Dung a package.
"What's this?" Dung was puzzled.
"While I was watching my aunt searching for some magazine, I got talking to the tobacconist about my 'uncle Dung'. I described the awful smell of his pipe tobacco, and he said it was either Latakia or perique."
"Can't usually afford perique. I usually use a half Latakia half burley mix."
"Well, now you have some of each. If you smoke that perique mix around Mrs. Weasley, don't do it while I'm near by."
Dung smiled. "Yer a right good lad, Harry." Fletcher swore again that this year, he would keep a closer eye on Harry. This time, he meant it.
Harry went to his room. Instead of reading any of his new books (or any of Dudley's old ones), he relit the candle and meditated for half an hour. The pain in his scar went away again.
Harry then prepared four small packages. Neville didn't crave chocolate like many of Harry's friends, so he sent Neville a number of fruit-flavored sweets plus some salted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and some soy nuts. Ron and Ginny were sent chocolates, while Luna got a mixture. Harry sent Hedwig off to Neville and the Weasleys, along with short notes of explanation.
Harry then laid down around 10:30, over an hour earlier than usual, and fell into a restful sleep.