Re-done Chapter 2! Harry begins to reach out to his various friends and potential allies to divert the prophecy Trelawney made at the end of third year.
The Harry in question shook his head over his coffee and scone and looked up at his cousin reassuringly. "Still here, Dud. But I sent out all those letters yesterday, and the last of them ought to be arriving in Wiltshire right about now. There's a lot of political maneuvering I'm doing that could screw me over if it goes wrong."
Dudley took a bite of his bran muffin and grinned at him. "Cuz, you're mad if you think it won't work out for you. Two weeks into summer and I'm fair certain you're a genius with the way you see things." He rested his elbows on the table and Harry looked him over with a smile. Good food and daily jogs had reduced a lot of the excess fat on his cousin in a scant fifteen days. Harry, on the other hand, was growing another inch taller and developing muscles not often seen on wizards.
Dudley, in turn, was eyeing his cousin with a hesitant smile, unsure how to deal with the changes in his once titchy little cousin. Harry was taller than he was, now, and nobody would say he was a delinquent since his mum had broken down the night Harry returned and went out and bought lots of proper clothing and glasses for him. In fact, sitting across from him in the busy Little Whinging cafÃ©, nobody would recognize his scrawny cousin Harry Potter at all.
"Two weeks, really?" Harry commented. "Seems longer."
Dudley shrugged expressively. It'd been the longest two weeks of his life, personally. Ickle Potter came home tall and...and /cold/. The things he'd said.... He couldn't imagine crawling into that boot cupboard under the stairs. Still, he couldn't wait to get away from Privet Drive and the strained, cheery atmosphere that lay over a thick layer of guilt.
The door flew open with a bang, and Gordon and Malcolm surged through the customers over to their table.
"Big D! Where the hell have you been this summer?"
"Sodding hell, a cafÃ©? At nine in the morning?"
"We had to track your mum down to find out where you were."
"Ay, who's this, Big D?"
Harry grinned at them, and Dudley, with an inner shrug, decided to play the game his parents were playing--We've never been mean to Potter, we love our orphaned relative.
"Mates," Dudley said expansively, with a wave of his hand, "Meet my cousin, Harry Potter. We've been catching up on things. D'you know he goes to Hogwarts School for the Gifted? Bloody brilliant, he is."
Harry laughed. "Yeah, but I'm not the one going out for boxing when the summer's out. I'm the brains and he's the muscle." He shot Dudley's friends a confident little smile and stuck his hand out. "Pleased to meet you properly for once, blokes."
Malcolm shook his head. "Little Potter? Bitty Potter? How'd you get so tall?"
Dudley grimaced, but Harry just gave an easy smile and took a sip of his coffee. "Highland air and good food do wonders for a growing boy."
Gordon spoke up. "If you go to Hogwarts...you ought to know my cousin, right? Second cousin if you figure it out proper, but we're close enough to not count the extra steps. She's our age, y'know. Millie Bulstrode."
Dudley was stunned. His mate Gordon had a freak cousin too? Wizard, he reminded himself. Can't say freak anymore, can I. He still gave a little shudder at the thought.
Harry choked on his scone. "Millie? Yeah, I know Millie. I didn't end up taking this one maths class with her that I wanted, so she and Ted Nott tutored me in it enough that I can jump to their level this next year. Millie's grand. Good for you if you're related to her."
"Err, look Potter," Gordon said uncomfortably, "I know a bit about what you'll be up to this summer, as Millie writes me often, but you're welcome to just come into town with us if you feel overwhelmed. If you're Millie's friend, that's good enough for me."
"Ta very much, Gordon. I'll take you up on it sometime." He sucked down the rest of his coffee and stood up. "Dud, I'm leaving you to these fellows. I ought to get some schoolwork done, and when the evening post gets home, I ought to be around to make sure the letter from Wiltshire doesn't explode or anything."
Dudley snickered and waved his cousin out the door with an inner sigh of relief. "See you at home, Harry!"
At the Ministry, in a small but very busy office, Mafalda Hopkirk was reading Harry Potter's letter for the third time.
Dear Madam Hopkirk,
I feel that as we may be corresponding quite often, I should take the initiative and contact you. Two summers ago, I received notice from your office that I had both broken the Statute of Secrecy and performed magic underage and out of school. Neither was the case, as my Aunt and Uncle can attest to should you wish to contact them. A house elf belonging to the family of a classmate stopped by during the evening meal and used a hover charm on the dessert within the hour.
The summer after that, we had a guest that none of us really like. She has taken it upon herself to loathe me, and I performed accidental magic while she was drunk and insulting my mother. Oddly enough, this didn't earn me any warnings from you, although I'm sure the use of magic at my home on the person of Marjorie Dursley registered with your office.
I don't want to be taken as a "special case" and have all magic use ignored; nor do I want the erratic and often misinformed notices showing up often. Perhaps you could check on the wards around my house and see if they're working properly? If house elf magic is appearing as Harry Potter magic, something ought to be done.
What an odd boy, Mafalda thought to herself as she reached for parchment and quill pen. Brilliant, without a doubt, but very odd.
Over at the Burrow, in Ottery-St.-Catchpole, a group of redheads were passing around a by-now rather battered letter and quoting from it.
"'Brilliant summer so far, my relatives are quite nice.'" Fred snickered. "What do you want to bet he made passing reference to his escaped convict godfather?"
"No bet, Forge, that's a given," George replied with a snort. "'Dudley and I have breakfast together every morning, he's none so bad.' Ahh, didn't expect that one."
"'Going to the Quiddich World Cup, looking forward to seeing some friends from school.'" Ron looked up in amazement. "Where'd he hear about the World Cup?"
Ginny scoffed. "He's not only friends with you and Hermione, Ronald. I expect one of the Quiddich mad people from another House told him about it."
She squeaked as Charlie threw her over his shoulder. "Well said, little sister, show no mercy! With that attitude, I might just recruit you to tame dragons with me."
The Weasley kids all laughed as Ginny, giggling, pounded on her brother's back. "Put me down, you great brute! Bill, what else does it say?"
The lanky eldest son hummed tonelessly and muttered under his breath. "Ah, yeah, he finishes up with saying he has a feeling this coming school year will be very different."
They all grinned at each other, not realizing just how different Harry was talking about.
Lucius Malfoy was sitting down to a late breakfast with his only son when a striking snowy owl flew into the dining room and perched imperiously on the back of a vacant chair. With a tired little hoot she stuck her leg out at a startled house elf and delivered her final two letters.
"Father," Draco said slowly, "that's Potter's owl Hedwig."
Hedwig chirped and stole one of Lucius' sausages as he opened his letter.
"Potter wrote us letters, Draco," he informed his son. "Do me a favor and give-Hedwig, is it?-a little plate of sausage so we can eat in peace."
Father and son read their letters quietly, the only sounds in the dining room those of coffee being sipped and contented hoots from Hedwig.
Finally Lucius broke the silence. "Well. It appears young Mr. Potter has learned the value of politics."
Draco looked up at his father, face serious, eyes smiling. "He says-he says he wants to start over, as we never had a good reason to not be friends in the first place."
Lucius gave his son a rare smile. "I'm pleased for you. He wrote to tell me of something much more serious, but it appears he's not so one-sided as he appeared. There was a prophecy made last spring that he heard, and he wants me to consider helping him guide it along a path of his choosing. I must say, he's quite intelligent for a boy going into his fourth year."
Draco smiled back, relieved. "Millie and Ted tutored him in Arithmancy and ancient runes because he didn't take the classes in favor of divination. They say he's actually quite canny for a Gryffindor. After all, none of his Housemates know he has friends outside Gryffindor Tower."
"Tansy!" Lucius called. A small house elf wearing a yellow percale pillowcase appeared attentively by his side. "I need my writing materials-the good set, mind you."
The little elf popped off to get the good set of calligraphy pens and handmade parchment unique to Malfoy Manor.
"Father?" Draco inquired.
"Ah, yes," he said easily. "We're inviting Mr. Potter to join us in the Top Box at the World Cup, and to camp with us as well. It should provide us with time to get to know him, and to talk business."
Draco laughed. "I know you, Father. That's not all you have up your sleeve."
Lucius chuckled. "No indeed, Draco. You're quite right. I heard from Fudge that Ludo Bagman invited the Weasley family to the Top Box as well. It should be interesting, seeing the youngest Weasley boy's reaction to who Mr. Potter is sitting with."
Draco snickered. He had a suspicious feeling that the owl Hedwig was laughing into her mutilated sausages as well.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was a clever man. He was a very powerful man, and a very good one. But never before had he felt like such an old man than he did as he read Harry Potter's letter to him.
You once told me that it is the choices we make that define us far more than our abilities. I am taking your words to heart, and making some choices. I request that you give me guidance when I need it, and advice when I seek it.
My choices have given me food, new clothing, and a warm bed. I feel better than I have in years. I am afraid you will not like my other choices much, but please understand. It was my mum's love that saved me. My heart is something I can share with people, no matter who they are.
Harry James Potter
"Oh, Harry," Dumbledore said softly as he dipped his scarlet quill into an inkwell to start a response. "You have grown up so well."
Harry and Dudley were both animatedly telling the elder Dursleys about their day over breaded pork chops and broccoli when four owls sped in through the open kitchen window. Nobody yelled, spilled food, or fainted, although Aunt Petunia looked a bit sick at the thought of owls perched on her kitchen counter.
Harry's aunt said faintly, "Harry, they won't leave until you take their letters. Will you please go take care of it?"
Harry grinned and leaped up from the table.
"Right then, you lot," he said to the owls. His uncle coughed nervously into his moustache. "Who's from the Ministry?"
A speedy looking brown owl shook its right leg and attached letter at him.
"Excellent. Have a little bit of pork chop. And from the Weasley family? Oh, hallo, Errol. Up you come. You need a bit of food in you. Take a rest before you go back home."
Behind him, all three Dursleys were trying not to stare.
"That's you sorted. And you, well. Aren't you a handsome looking owl? I expect you're from the Malfoy family?" The large banded owl hooted regally at him. "Ah, two letters from two Malfoys. Excellent. And from the Headmaster?" The last owl, one he recognized from the school owlery, bobbed its tufty head at him. "Thanks very much. Water and pork chops all around. Window's that way, my friends, but wait until you're rested."
Uncle Vernon shook his head bemusedly and Aunt Petunia gave him one of those looks of guilt and affection that she seemed so fond of gifting him with lately. "So then, what've you got, Harry?" his uncle asked gruffly.
"Er" -Harry checked the contents of each rapidly -"Ha. The Malfoys have invited me to join them in the Top Box at the World Cup. Brilliant. As have the Weasleys...not so brilliant. Umm, Madam Hopkirk from the Ministry will swing by tomorrow while we're out in London getting my school things and she'll do a bit of repair on the magic detection wards. Oh! And Professor Dumbledore is giving me his support in whatever I do." He noticed the Dursleys twitch slightly at that pronouncement.
"Quidditch is that game you play, right Harry?" Aunt Petunia asked, gamely ignoring Harry's news from Dumbledore. "That sport on brooms?"
He nodded. "Pretty dangerous sport, but incredibly fun. I think the only thing that compares in terms of aggression and adrenaline in non-magic sports is professional rugby. And you break less bones in rugby."
Uncle Vernon looked at him with eyes wide. "The bloody hell are they thinking, letting school kids play something like that?"
Harry laughed. "The ones that really get hurt are the keepers-they guard the goals-and the seekers-who look for the tiny ball that end the game. I'm a seeker. In all fairness, they hardly ever let first year students play, so they've often at least a year of coaching under their belts before trying for a house team."
"Why do I get the feeling that didn't happen with you, Harry?" Dudley said around a mouthful of broccoli.
Harry snickered into his apple cider. "Youngest House seeker in a century, Dud. It's a good thing we have magic. I once spent a night in the hospital regrowing all the bones in my arm."
"My cousin's insane," Dudley declared. "Mum, does insanity run in the Evans line or the Potter line?"
Aunt Petunia looked askance at her nephew, then smiled wryly. "The Evans line, of course, Dudley. Why on earth do you think you and your cousin get along so well? Insanity is hereditary."
Harry looked at her and smiled. Finally, we're making progress, he thought. "Aunt Petunia, my name's Harry Potter. I'm your nephew, apparently. Pleased to meet you."
She smiled back hesitantly. "Pleasure's all mine, Harry."
Uncle Vernon coughed to diffuse the emotional atmosphere. "So, tell me about these Malfoys, Harry. You want to go with them to the World Cup, then? They good people?"
As the man and boys of Four Privet Drive got into an intense conversation regarding certain wizard families and large sporting events, Petunia Dursley cleared the table for peach cobbler. The food was good, as was the company. Petunia dropped kisses on the heads of all her "men" and joined into the discussion tentatively, not missing the small smile her only nephew had for her.