Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Shadow Play

Starting Summer

by Thor_Nairda 1 review

My 'great epic' that's probably neither of those things. Anyway, it enjoyed a good following on FFNet. Harry's summer takes a turn when he melds with a three thousand year old spirit during the sum...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Horror, Humor, Romance - Characters: Harry - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2006-10-08 - Updated: 2006-10-08 - 6265 words


Chapter 1: Starting Summer

Harry Potter was having a strange summer. He had been back at Privet Drive for ten days and had been in a state not unlike being numb from the cold of a blizzard; his mind was completely blocked emotionally as he went about his chores and acted as normally as possible. But the fact remained that his godfather and only remaining family (that cared about him, anyway) was gone, and that it was, however indirectly, Harry's own fault.

Twice since he had arrived at number four Privet Drive the order had checked up on him. First it had been Moody, who apparated right into the living room and scared the Dursely's half to death, and the second time was an insurance salesperson at the door, which Harry (in some way he couldn't fully understand) knew was Tonks, despite her being a man at the time.

Vernon and Petunia were ecstatic with Dudley, as he had won some boxing championship or other, and as a result were finally getting him off his "Rabbit Food Diet", as Harry's uncle put it, and were replacing it with foods high in protein to build up his muscles. Dudley had even started going to the gym, and had even got Harry to go a couple of times, too - something that Harry hadn't found particularly fun, but it was starting to have an affect on Harry's body - the weights coupled with his manual labour for his aunt and uncle and the high protein diet had made his arms bulge a little bit and his stomach muscles slightly more defined (helping the already semi-toned muscles that he had received from Quiditch to become quite impressive, or if nothing else aesthetically pleasing). He was still short, although he had noticed a small growth spurt happening at the same time, so he was almost the average height of someone his age. He certainly wasn't as tall as Ron, but he was catching up a little now.

The only time the wall of numbness around his mind receded was at night, when he slept. Sometimes he would just replay the whole evening in the department of mysteries in his dreams, or just the moment of Sirius falling backwards the veil after being hit with the curse from Belletrix Lestrange; and sometimes he would dream of getting revenge, on Voldemort, Wormtail and all the others; to completely destroy every single death eater, one by one, and kill Voldemort in the most painful ways possible - things he had never thought of before, would never have even /considered /before, but which he now found himself actually relishing the thought of.

Ron and Hermione had written him three times already, and Harry had tried to respond but couldn't think of the words he wanted to tell them. He didn't think much of it for a long while. He knew he wouldn't be going to the Burrow this year, and that angered him at times and also made him feel relieved that he wouldn't have to smile for everybody just to reassure them. He didn't want anyone asking how he was on a regular basis, and -


- that wasn't likely to happen while Harry was at number four, Privet Drive. The voice belonged to his uncle, and Harry checked the broken alarm clock as he went out to see that it was past nine in the morning on Saturday the 20th of July. He trudged down the stairs to where his uncle had shouted from - the kitchen. Vernon was drinking his coffee when he pointed out into the garden and snarled.

"Petunia needs her roses trimmed, and I want the new shed erected by tonight!" he barked. Harry nodded, emotionlessly, and walked out into the back garden and started by doing the roses. Everyday had been like this - shouted down stairs and given his chores without another word.

He had thought of ending it all a couple of times. Yes, the boy-who-lived had considered being the Boy-Who-Topped-Himself, but had backed out. Not from a fear of dying, mind you - the reason he backed out was because if he followed through, it would rob him of any chance of revenge, and the only thing that ever surpassed his mourning was the absolute rage that he felt.

His homework was already completed by now - he figured Hermione would be proud of him, and Harry, when not busy, was just sitting around doing nothing, for the most part, or reading over his text books from the previous year, taking his mind off anything that it would go to when not active.

Dudley had some friends over several times, mainly to show off his boxing trophy and, in the case of the girls, his muscles. They involved several of the "Harry Hunting" group, including the infamous Piers Polkis, who had been present when Harry had accidentally set a boa constrictor on Dudley at the zoo, all those years ago before he had even known he was a wizard. Several girls were with them as well - some Harry had never seen before, some he had and recognised from primary school, and Harry guessed that most of them were couples. They stayed mostly in Dudley's room, only coming out to get more cola (to mix with vodka, Harry knew - he could smell it when the occasion arose that he needed to pass his cousin's room. Harry didn't know much on the subject of alcohol, but from a time when Vernon had tried to impress some Russian investors, he knew the smell of Vodka pretty well), or snacks. Harry kept himself hidden away in his own room, and read one of Dudley's old books to pass the time after he had got bored reading the magical books he had. He did wonder how long these guys could drink - he had heard of alcohol poisoning, although he had no idea how much you had to drink to get there.

He heard loud music coming from the room next to his and tried to keep it out of his mind, but it was too loud, and drilled into his head with a steady /boom, boom, boom/. He had started to get a headache when he finally decided to leave the house, and made sure that all his things were hidden under the loose floorboard under his bed before going downstairs and announcing to his uncle that he was leaving for a short walk. His uncle grunted in response before turning back to his paper - the beefy, well-moustached man didn't care what Harry did as long as it didn't require any effort on his part or embarrassed his family. Or gave Harry any real sense of enjoyment, and there was no way in the fat mans chubby head that light exercise could be considered enjoyable.

The air was warm and the sun was still shining as he made his way around the block a couple of times. He wouldn't have returned after such a short walk had it not been for the fact that he spotted an owl flying towards number four, the one way he heard about anything in the wizarding world, and ran back as fast as he could to see who it was from.

He bounded up the stairs, taking them three at a time, opened his bedroom door and shut it behind him before opening the window for the large barn owl. It circled his room, dropped a letter on his bed and departed immediately. The letter was his Hogwarts list, and he looked over it quickly before hiding it under the boards - he would read it properly later, when the Dursely's were asleep and the group next door had left.


The next day he walked towards the nearest place to buy clothes with money he had asked to be owled from Gringotts - Muggle money service only, of course, as paper notes packed neatly into parchment envelopes. He now had several hundred to spend on clothes, and intended to use it - he had been rich since his eleventh birthday, but he had never bought new Muggle clothes - why, he didn't know, but he now went on his first ever shopping spree.

Jeans, t-shirts, shirts, and footwear (these were a pair of heavy, black leather boots that reminded him of Ron's brother Bill's dragonhide boots), jumpers and hoodies. Most of his clothes were black, as he wasn't feeling particularly colourful, and as much as it was strange to admit it, black suited him rather well. He fully expected a growth spurt soon, so he bought the clothes a little longer than he should have and tucked in the sleeves and legs a little bit. On the spur of the moment, he also got a tattoo of a phoenix on his forearm as a jeer to Voldemort - it was in the exact spot where Voldemort branded his death eaters with the dark mark. The tattooist had been thrilled at having such a hard challenge ("Makes such a nice change from tattooing 'Jane' onto some guy's butt," he had said), and had told Harry that if he wanted more, he would be more than happy to accommodate the strange and artistic tattoo's he wanted. Harry thanked him and left; his arm hurting like hell - tattoos were bloody painful, he realised.

Back at number four, he locked his new clothes away in his trunk and threw the old ones away. He walked down to dinner in a new outfit and his uncle nearly exploded (which, given that this was a room that three years earlier had seen Aunt Marge do just that, would not have been too unexpected).

"Where did you get those clothes, boy?!" he asked venomously. "You've been stealing, haven't you!" Harry sighed angrily.

"Yes, I stole them, along with the bags that held them and the receipts that say I paid for them. I'm pretty good at it, huh?" Harry thrust the receipts at his uncle, who read them carefully before finding the next flaw in Harry's story.

"Where did you get all this money, then?!" Vernon cried triumphantly. Not wanting to admit to the Dursely's that he was rich, he decided on a quick lie.

"Financial support at school," he said coolly, relishing the look on his uncle's face and trying to etch it into his memory forever. "Apparently they were embarrassed with me going around looking like I was homeless, in those clothes I had to wear. They figured you were all really poor because of the way I looked, and insisted on a grant to help with my home life." Harry then triumphantly took back the receipts and headed back upstairs, leaving a very angry Vernon Dursely behind him.


A couple of hours later, an owl arrived, and Harry recognised it as Pig, Ron's owl.

Hey Harry!

Listen, I just got my Hogwarts letter and I'm going to go to Diagon Alley with Hermione and my parents next week, wanna come with us? Dumbledore says you can't come over this summer, I'm sorry, but he did say you could come with us for that day, as long as we get you back home by nine at night and he said something about added security. Let me know quickly, and we'll make arrangements to pick you up.


Harry quickly took out parchment and a quill and wrote a hasty response -


Sure I'll come. Tell me when you're going to pick me up and stuff and I'll be ready.


He gave this to Pig and let him fly out into the night. Hedwig was restless by now, and Harry also let her out so she could hunt, and packed all his things away. His aunt brought a plate of food up so he wouldn't disturb the others and Harry ate silently before turning on the radio in his broken alarm clock and listened absentmindedly to the tunes that came out of it. The racket next door had died down by now, and they seemed to be ordering pizzas for dinner.

He managed to sleep soon after, although it had happened so suddenly that he was still wearing his glasses when he woke up. He hadn't dreamt of anything he could remember, and had quite forgotten that Dudley had invited friends over for the night, so was quite surprised when he saw five extra people at the breakfast table when he went downstairs. He decided not to go in, as by good fortune he hadn't been noticed, and backed up the stairs quietly. As he reached the top and turned the corner he thought to himself, Hang on, I could have sworn there were six people last night -

It was just then that he was knocked backwards by a very petite girl who was running for the stairs. She bounced backwards as well, but where Harry had been able to keep his balance, the girl landed flat on her butt.

"Ouch..." she moaned, rubbing her backside. "Jeez, I'm sorry about that!" She stood up again and looked at Harry curiously. "Hey, I don't know you! I'm Dee, a friend of Dudley's." She stuck out her hand and Harry almost smiled at her enthusiasm.

"I'm Harry," he said. He felt awkward, as the girl smiled so brightly it seemed to Harry that she was probably on medication for something. "Anyway, I'll be leaving now." He went round her and into his room, shutting the door behind him. Dee stood there for a few moments, not quite understanding what had just happened. She then shrugged to herself and bounded down the stairs to see the others, still with a smile on her face. The older Dursely's had left the room by now, and she sat down next to Piers (who was her sisters boyfriend) and listened to the current conversation.

"But camping would be great!" Dudley was saying. "I've got a tent somewhere, and all the stuff we would need - we could go this weekend!" Dee's sister, Gina, shook her head, looking over at Dudley with a look of disdain.

"I'm not going camping with you lot, because you'll just keep peeking into the girls tent!" Dudley began to protest when Dee cut in.

"Hey, Dud, I bumped into a guy on the stairs - is he your brother or something?" Dudley went slightly pale and choked on his eggs as Piers laughed.

"No, babe," he said, putting his arm around her waist - strange, seeing that Gina was his girlfriend. "That was Harry. He's Dudley's cousin, and he lives here in the summer. The rest of the year he's at Stonewall High -"

"No, that was where he was /going /to go," Dudley cut in. "He goes to St Brutus's Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys." Piers laughed and shook his head, but Gina grinned.

"Maybe we should ask him to join us," she said, and Dudley went paler, thumping his chest in an attempt to make the food go down. Gina suppressed the laugh at the look on Dudley's face.

"Gina, he's NUTS!" Piers said, thumping Dudley on the back to help and taking a sip of coke. "Always was. Just look at where he goes to school!"

"So? It's not like you've never mugged anyone before!" she scoffed, and Piers looked thoughtful, but shook his head.

"Nah, I don't think he would anyway. He's weird, probably brain damaged or mentally unstable or something. Actually, probably both."

Neither Dee nor Gina had gone to the same primary school as Dudley and Piers, so they didn't know of what they had done to him when they were all younger. To Dee, he had looked pale, a little dishevelled, but seemed okay - not like a criminal. Criminals tended to look for opportunities to steal something (she guessed - Piers certainly did), but Harry had gotten himself out of sight as quickly as possible.

The group had planned to stay for most of the day after staying the night, and retired to Dudley's room after they had eaten. This was when Harry finally went down for his breakfast.

He read his Hogwarts letter when he got back up to his room, sitting against the door so no one could come in without him being able to put the parchment away first. The group seemed to want nothing to do with him, though, and so he felt safe to read.

Dear Mr. Potter,
Congratulations on completing your Ordinary Wizarding Levels. You received the following:

/Subject Overall grade taking into account your written and practical (where applicable) scores./

Astronomy A*
Care of Magical Creatures O
Charms E
Defence Against the Dark Arts O**
Divination D
Herbology E
History of Magic P
Potions E
Transfiguration O
*Results upgraded slightly for unavoidable interruption of examination.
**Bonus point added increasing maximum possible score (i.e. 101%)
Congratulations on receiving 12 OWLS, Mr. Potter.

There was more, but only what subjects he could take and so on. He was slightly annoyed that he couldn't take potions, but he really was too numb to care at the moment. He quickly decided on his subjects - DADA, Care of Magical Creatures, Transfiguration, Herbology and Charms, and hoped he could get the book list for them soon - he had way too much time on his hands, and reading the books beforehand would help him forget the terrible thoughts running through his head. He had almost finished reading his last years' text books.

He slipped the list back into his hiding place and thought on what to do. He tied a cord around his ankles and then awkwardly slid them up the wall, wearing socks to stop friction. He was now totally supported by his arms - and they were trembling from the strain. He lowered himself, then pushed himself back up, and again and again. He had a fierce determination to grow stronger in every way - one of the many things he had learned from Voldemort (this one a lesson that the Dark Lord had meant to teach him) was that there were two types of people - the strong and the weak. He was not going to be weak anymore. He didn't want to run anymore - no longer would he be firing curses over his shoulder to stop the people chasing him - he would rip through them with his own attacks, and that meant becoming stronger magically. Voldemort had also taught him that it was important to 'Dance' while in a duel, and this was a lesson the Dark Lord had not intended to teach. Evasion was even more important than protection, and to evade he needed /physical /strength and stamina.

Sweat drops fell to the floor from running down his face as he continued the hardest physical training he could think of. His face was red, his skin was sweating more than he thought possible, his muscles screamed for rest, but he continued. He pushed himself passed the limit, to a point where he was on the brink of physical injury, and even tried to exceed that.

The door opened and one of the other girls came in and jumped back in surprise when she saw Harry.

"Err... sorry, I was looking for the... bathroom?" Her eyes were wide at what he was doing, and she looked astonished (which she was). She probably wasn't used to seeing guys exercising like that - it was dangerous and extremely hard, but Harry had put in a lot of practise.

"End of the corridor, down on your right," he said, not looking up or slowing pace. "If you could close the door behind you...? Thanks." She retreated without comment and did shut the door, but she also stared a few more seconds, as well (unbeknownst to Harry, the stare was appreciative of the scenery). Harry didn't care. He had been stared at constantly since he was eleven, and he didn't expect it to stop until he was dead. It made him think more on the subject, like walking through a door in his mind. Every wizard and witch looked at him as if he was some sort of hero - some sort of saviour. How many injuries would it take to convince them he was only human? How many near death experiences must he go through before they realised that he was not indestructible? He almost wished that Rita Skeeter would write about his "Mental Unbalances" again so he would have some peace from the staring and the misplaced trust. What sort of person places their trust in a fifteen, going on sixteen year old boy? A very, /very /desperate person, that's who. Someone who couldn't - who /wouldn't /- understand that all that boy wanted was to live a normal life, to be overlooked, to not have the weight of the world on his shoulders and the faith of a very large portion of wizard kind on his ability to fight evil. Everyone was so excited to meet 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' when he wasn't even the top of his class at school. Hermione would make a better idol than him - she had knowledge of practically everything wizarding, and had a knack for finding out what she didn't know already. Why couldn't /she /have this - this curse? She could probably handle it, and would live up to everyone's expectations. What did Harry Potter, the 'Boy-Who-Lived' have? Luck. He had beaten the odds hundreds of times, survived by sheer dumb luck and fortunate circumstances, not by being this 'all great hero' that he was made out to be.

He finally collapsed on the floor in a heap, breathing heavily and covered in sweat, his muscles aching from the workout and relishing the precious respite they were being given, as he lay there catching his breath. He eventually stood and retrieved his glasses from the bedside table and slipped them on before crossing the small room and opening his window and let the air rush over him, wanting the relief of a cool breeze and being content with the warmish one that came instead. The summer was warm, and the weather had been, so far, brilliant - blue skies, white clouds and a brilliant sun. Heat records in the British Isles were threatening to be broken, and everyone (but Harry, who didn't care whether the weather was good or not) revelled in it.

The breeze was light and comforting, and Harry decided to keep his window open as he rested. Noises outside his room and the shutting of the door to the left of his room announced that the group staying with Dudley had retreated to the room again, and so Harry went down to the kitchen and got himself some food. His aunt and uncle were out at a furniture store to buy a new sofa (Dudley had broken the last one by sitting too hard and making the legs snap. Petunia had mentioned that muscle was heavier than fat, and that they had owned that one long enough to warrant a change, and Dudley was not even given the suggestion that the diet might still be a good idea), so Harry was spared his chores (which happened whenever Dudley's friends were around anyway). He made himself a cup of tea and found the morning paper, and was about to trudge upstairs when the hairs on the back of his neck started to stand on end. It was the feeling you got when you were walking through the woods at night, or somewhere that you might be attacked.

It was the feeling that he was not alone and he shuddered. He calmed himself but didn't show any emotion as he picked up the tea and started for the door.

"If you want to talk to me," he said quietly to the order member under the invisibility cloak, "Meet me in my room." He then walked up and waited on his bed, reading about the prime minister and his new policy on university fees (not that it affected him in any way). The door opened and then shut again, without anyone apparently coming in. The air rippled as someone took off their invisibility cloak and there stood Tonks, her heart shaped face looked puzzled and her hair (a bright, neon green) was short today. She placed a silencing charm on the room and locked the door.

"Wotcher, Harry," she said in greeting, and Harry knew immediately that it was the real Tonks - her trademark greeting was 'Wotcher', and besides - he doubted you could polyjuice a metamorph. "How did you know there was someone in the room with you?" she asked, sitting on the edge of his bed.

"Just a guess," he said, going back to the paper. "If I had been wrong, it would hardly have been embarrassing. I don't suppose you have any news?" She shook her head. Maybe it was just him, but Harry felt that Tonks seemed... detached. She had always been an enthusiastic young woman who had a knack for being clumsy, but now she just sat there, looking quite depressed. Then it hit Harry - Sirius had been family to Tonks through Sirius being her mother's cousin. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, putting the paper aside. "I forget that you were related to him." He didn't have to say who - Tonks knew.

"I was six when he was arrested," she said, looking over the floor. It was littered with Muggle books and a few papers - the one on his lap wasn't the first Harry had brought up to his room. "Between when I was born and he was arrested, I remember he came to see me every other week - the earliest I can't remember, of course, but I was very fond of him. He was more like my cousin than my mothers, the amount of time he spent with me. I remember he always had a present for me, every time he came, and he would play with me until he had to go or I had to go to sleep. I always knew there was no way he could've murdered those Muggles - he was never like that, you know? He wanted to laugh, and I think he sorta used his playtimes with me as an escape from the war. The first thing he did when he found out I was joining the order was catch up with me - he wanted to know about everything, all that had happened to me in the fifteen years he had been inside Azkaban." She sighed and stopped. Then she looked up brightly and shrugged. "You know, the fact that Sirius was my mums cousin means that we're sorta related - we're family in a non-blood type way." Harry made a short laugh as there was a loud crash next door - from Dudley's room (the silencing charm was only one way).

"Well, that's a /lot /more comforting than knowing that this lot - " he jerked his thumb towards the wall that separated his room from his cousins. "are my only family. I wish I could go to - you know where." She nodded, and sighed again.

"I know, Harry, I know. Dumbledore's working on it, though you get a protection from being here, amongst your blood relatives. That's why you're here; otherwise you could live there in the summers." Tonks took a letter out of her pocket and handed it to Harry. Puzzled, he opened it and read. The seal had already been broken, and it had been addressed to Tonks /and /Harry.

Dear Harry and NYMPHADORA.
Yes, even now I haven't lost my sense of humour, Nymph, and I don't intend to. I'm writing this letter so, if anything should happen to me, you know what is happening. In the event of my death (which, by the way, I hope was MOST spectacular), I give Number Twelve, Grimauld Place to Albus Dumbledore. In my will at Gringotts are directions for the Goblins to split the gold in my account three ways - one to Tonks, one to Harry and the last to Remus - I have written him a private letter that will be received as you receive this one. There's enough here for you to get through school and come out very comfortably afterwards, Harry, so I don't want you doing some fool thing like throwing it away - the Weasley twins have plenty of money with their joke shop. I don't want you to throw my last gift away. Tonks, I'd rather you kept yours as well - you deserve a lot, for what you've done.

The money, however, is not all there is - there are several artefacts that I own that should be kept as well. Dumbledore can tell you more about these, although a couple are not... well, we just don't know what they do, to be honest.

I'm sorry I won't be there to see you turn into a full wizard, Harry, or to see either of you get married. Tonks, I wish I could've spent more time with you - with you both, in fact. I guess it would have been a dysfunctional family, but it /would /have been a family. Don't mope over me forever, and don't do some fool thing like trying to take revenge - I know you both too well. Harry, you attract enough trouble as it is, and Tonks - you create trouble, so don't go looking for it - it'll most likely come to you, and I want you both prepared.

Harry, I've left you my complete collection of duelling books. If you're reading this, I obviously forgot a few chapters, but I hope you can make good use of them. Share them with Tonks, if you like - an Auror could always use more technique, no matter how good she is.

Don't you dare mope for long - there isn't time, and life is too short. Buck up, keep your noses clean, and I'll look in from time to time to see how you're doing.

Yours Proudly,

/Sirius 'Padfoot' Black./

PS. Do something about Kreacher. I don't care whether it's his head or his freedom - he most probably had a part in my death or is jumping for joy at it, so any form of revenge can be committed against that vile, spiteful little bag of filth. Just an idea. And look after each other - everyone in the order needs to stick together because of what's to come.

/Love, Sirius./

Harry had tears in his eyes when he put the letter down. He didn't even know that Sirius had written a will, let alone that he was in it. He didn't want to think about how much money he now had - more than double than before, that's for sure - the Black's had been a very rich family, and (even though they had disowned Sirius as their son) Sirius was wealthy - his uncle had left him with a lot of gold, he had told Harry once. Plus he had his own savings and whatever artefacts were there, too...

Tonks was watching him out of the corner of her eye, and Harry fought back the tears - he didn't want to cry in front of anybody, least of all someone who had more reason to cry than he did. Tonks gave him a hug and then she checked her watch. "My shift ends in three minutes, so I'd better get going. Take care, Harry, and owl me if you need anything, ok? See ya." She removed the spells off of the room and put her cloak back on, disappearing into thin air. The door opened and Harry shut it behind her, hearing a barely audible 'Crack' from downstairs a few moments later.

He put the letter underneath the loose floorboard and sighed. Sirius had thought of him when writing that letter, and he knew what Harry had done with the money from the Triwizard Tournament - telling him not to throw it away like that was like the writing on the wall - he completely meant it and Harry didn't intend Sirius's last wishes to go ignored. He would keep the money, and would try to keep himself from revenge - well, maybe not on Kreacher. Only, if he did anything, he would have to do it in a way that Hermione couldn't find out - her SPEW thing had gone too far with Kreacher.

He fell asleep shortly afterwards - his night having been disturbed by many dreams of Sirius and the veil. Though his dreams - they weren't nightmares - after reading the letter were bordering on pleasant. He dreamt of something, but couldn't remember when he woke up. He only slept for a few hours, and felt strange of not waking up in a cold sweat or a tingling scar. It had hurt a few times over the holidays, but he didn't bother writing to Dumbledore anymore - the fact that Voldemort was back meant that the dark lord would be having mood swings all the time, which would easily account for the annoying pains in his head.

The rest of the day passed quickly - he heard his cousins friends had gone out and went down for lunch before his aunt and uncle came home. They made Harry help them move the new sofa into the living room (actually, Harry did most of the work, they just stood there so everyone knew that they had a brand spanking new sofa that probably cost thousands).

Harry got it into position for them and decided he wanted to do something - anything - to take his mind off of the letter in his room. He wanted to go for a walk, but that wasn't really a good idea - last year he had been attacked by two Dementors when he had been out walking, and he didn't think the ministry would believe him again (although Mundungus had skipped his shift early, so Harry could do it if an order member followed him). He could think of nothing except doing some more exercise in his room - which is what he did, up until dinner. He ate in his room as Dudley had his gang over again, although they weren't staying the night (of which Harry was thankful). His aunt and uncle explained away his absence by saying he was xenophobic - he didn't like meeting new people too much, and for once Harry was glad of the Dursely's lies - he didn't want to meet any of them.

He tried to look forward to the upcoming trip to Diagon alley, but found it hard to do. Memories of his godfather kept striking at him, and he had no way to fight them off. He cried that night, and waited for the morning to come - he didn't want to sleep.

The next few days passed in a bit of a blur, and Harry soon found it was his birthday. His sixteenth birthday! I can hardly believe I made it, he thought as the 30th of July became the 31st. An owl appeared at his window and tapped lightly - the owl was a large Barn owl with its head held high in an air of importance - Harry didn't recognise it, but thought it to be a Hogwarts owl as he opened the window. As he looked at the letter, however, he discovered that it wasn't from the school at all.

It was from the ministry of magic. He broke the seal with trembling hands - what had he done now? The parchment shook in his hands as he read, and then fell in disbelief.

Dear Mr. Potter.

Congratulations on you're coming of age - wizards of sixteen years old and older are exempt from the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and may perform magic outside of school, as long as the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy act is not breached - this means that magic can only be used in areas where Muggles are unable to see it - your place of residence is acceptable. Failure to adhere to the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy act will result in your expulsion from Hogwarts, a fine and the possible destruction of your wand. Have a pleasant summer and good luck for the new school year. This is all in accordance with the Updated Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, which came into effect on the 25th of July this year.

Yours Sincerely,
Mafalda/ Hopkirk,/
Improper Use of Magic Office,
/Ministry of Magic./

He wasn't sure if he should believe it or not - he wouldn't put it passed someone like Malfoy to try and get him expelled by writing a letter like this - although, he had seen Fred and George doing magic in 12 Grimmauld place last summer - they had been sixteen at school, so they would have had to wait to try until the holidays.

Tentatively, Harry took out his wand and used a summoning charm on his old transfiguration book. It flew to him, and he waited for the owls to come in and tell him he had been expelled.

He waited a whole hour before he realised that the letter was not bogus. He almost laughed in glee as he fixed his alarm clock and the desk he worked at. He thought of what Mrs Weasley had said the year before to the Twins, though - /just because you can use magic doesn't mean you have to use it for everything/. Reluctantly, he put his wand in his hiding place in his trousers. He wanted to go downstairs and show his uncle what it was to be /truly /afraid of magic, but he resisted the temptation and settled for going practising transfiguring his broken watch into a beetle and back, and for the first time since arriving at number 4, he smiled.

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