They were all supposed to be listening to a Christmas broadcast by Mrs Weasley's favourite singer, Celestina Warbeck, whose voice was warbling out of the large wooden wireless. Fleur, who seemed to find Celestina very dull, was talking so loudly in the corner, that a scowling Mrs Weasley kept pointing her wand at the volume control, so that Celestina grew louder and louder.
Under cover of a particularly jazzy number called 'A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love', Fred and George started a game of Exploding Snap with Ginny. Ron kept shooting Bill and Fleur covert looks, as though hoping to pick up tips on flirting. Meanwhile Remus Lupin, who was thinner and more ragged-looking than ever (he had, after all, spent the last few months working as an undercover agent in a Were-Wolf cove), was sitting beside the fire, staring into its depths as though he could not hear Celestina's voice.
'Oh, come and stir my cauldron,
And if you do it right
I'll boil you up some hot, strong love
To keep you warm tonight.'
"We danced to this when we were eighteen!" said Mrs Weasley, wiping her eyes on her knitting. "Do you remember, Arthur?"
The man in question jolted upright in his armchair and hurriedly wiped the drool from his face, eyes darting to his wife - probably to see whether she had seen that he had nodded off. Harry let out a quiet snort and Mr Weasley nodded wholeheartedly - head bobbing up and down.
Harry loosened the collar of his school uniform shirt (it was the only thing that more or less fit him after his sudden growth spurt in Autumn). Mrs Weasley had really overdone it with the warming charms this year - it was simply too hot! Then again he seemed to be the only one uncomfortable with the heat. Everyone apart from him was wearing a thick sweater and drinking scalding tea or hot chocolate.
'Oh, my poor heart, where has it gone?
It's left me for a spell...
Harry snorted in disgust as Mrs Weasley started to sing along. Wheras the woman's voice was usually welcoming and warm - now she sounded like a mandrake getting pulled out of it's pot.
Noticing that everyone's gazes were elsewhere, Harry stood up slowly, and slipped out of the front door, wincing slightly when it creaked.
It was snowing outside. The silver snow flakes that glided down to the ground created the illusion that the earth was covered in diamonds. The white, diamond-like blanket of snow that covered everything in sight elicited a feeling a profound sense of melancholy within Harry but simultaneously had a calming effect on him.
The screeches that Mrs Weasley was still producing within the burrow now seemed quite far away, and Harry found suddenly that the corners of his mouth had tilted upwards. He pressed a hand against his cheek and noted suddenly that the core temperature of his body seemed to have decreased - perhaps that was why he didn't feel cold - even when only wearing a thin oxford shirt.
Harry stepped forward - from under the shelter of the roof - and found himself instantly attacked by the snowflakes he had been just admiring a few minutes ago. He chuckled merrily as the wind and snow cooperated and pelted him with shard like snowflakes.
He took a few more steps forward, noticing briefly that he didn't have any proper shoes on. His house shoes (both embroidered with the Gryffindor House crest, of course), were caked with snow, which was already melting. The icy water was already seeping into his bones but he paid no notice to it... Oddly - it was a welcome feeling.
He'd always loved winter - even though Petunia had, for some reason, decided that throwing a child out of the house without a jacket and shoes was a good punishment. Harry had loved walking around Surrey - hours after hours - just enjoying the winter sun on his face.
Harry glanced back over his shoulder - he'd closed the door, but the window next to it provided a good view into the living room. Mrs Weasley was still sitting next to the radio and had put a hand on her chest. She had thrown her head back and her mouth was open - she was 'singing'. Even from outside, Harry could hear her loud screeches.
Remus Lupin was no longer in deep thought, instead he kept shooting her annoyed glances as he tried to read the prophet.
Forcing himself to look away, Harry slowly creeped along the house and into the overgrown back garden. Memories assaulted him as he crept to the pond - memories of Ron and him throwing gnomes over the hedge, of a band of red-headed children (and one black-haired one) bathing in the frog infested pond, of quidditch games...
Crouching down, Harry looked at the frozen pond. He wondered if any of the Weasley children had ice-skates. Tapping the surface of the frozen pond with a finger, it cracked and the two halves floated apart, revealing unfrozen water underneath. Harry sighed - so much for the ice-skating idea.
Harry was about to withdraw his hand when he noticed something odd. Suddenly he felt his heartbeat increase in frequency due to the shock. Holding his hand up to his face, he was shocked to see a blueish tingle spreading from the tip of his fingers, where he had touched the ice, to the rest of the parts of his hand which had come in contact with the water.
His eyes widened as intricate, runic-like shapes suddenly started appearing on his hand. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, Harry let himself fall back onto his behind. He pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them. Touching his blue fingers to the pulse point of his normal coloured left hand, Harry was shocked to find that his fingers seemed colder than ice - like he'd been held in a huge freezer for over twenty-four hours.
Harry knew he should be panicking more than he was, but as he took another deep breath, Harry rubbed his fingers against each other, creating friction and thus heat. Almost instantly, the blueness started to retreat.
Nevertheless the turmoil within Harry hadn't calmed. Instead, it had only strengthened like a tornado which was constantly gaining speed and momentum.
What the hell had just happened? Was it the pond? Did the pond have some sort of chemicals in it? Don't be daft, Potter, He snarled at himself, The Weasleys don't even know what a chemical is.
No. This was a problem within himself. His hand had turned bloody blue as a reaction to the cold. This wasn't a normal reaction - even for wizards. A freak among freaks. Harry slammed a fist against the snow, letting out a wince as his hand struck a stone underneath.
Did he have creature blood in his family?
The thought made him shudder. Being a creature - or even part creature didn't disgust him... it was the thought of what the Ministry would do when they found out. The current party with the larger amount of seats in the Wizengamot, were the whigs. They were mainly composed of light families, or Houses that supported the Light's ideals. However, when it came to legislations, the Minster had more power than members of the wizengamot.
He had the right of veto - and the Minister was firmly against magical creatures... especially half-breeds.
They didn't understand, and because of that they banned it.
Harry turned his thoughts to the newly elected Rufus Scrimgeour. The new Prime-Minister was almost the exactly the opposite of what Minister Fudge had been. He was proud, experienced as an auror, and a tad too arrogant. He was also the epitome Gryffindor, courageous, intelligent and loyal... Harry sincerely hoped, that as a Prime-Minister he would be accepting of Magical Creatures.
Harry suddenly reeled. He was going to far - he didn't even know if he was a magical creature. He probably just had some sort of magical illness.
Sufficiently calming himself, Harry stood up and brushed the snow off his dress trousers. They were already wet and he winced as the material stuck to his thighs.
Suddenly, the music that had been coming from within the house (well... if one could call that music) ceased to play. Evidently Celestina Warbeck - the singer Mrs Weasley had been attempting to impersonate, had finished her Christmas broadcast. Slowly, he started making his way to the house.
The moment he was about to walk in front of the house, Harry curled in on himself, making himself slouch and shuffle to make himself look as unassuming and not tall, as possible. He had in fact grown a great deal in the summer. It had been a sudden growth spurt that had made him taller than most students in his grade. His lean, thin body contributed to that and made him look even taler.
He'd always tried to look unassuming and powerless - it would play to his advantage later on. For that reason Harry had been making himself look small and shy.
He slowly opened the door and was greeted by the sight of Mrs Weasley furiously cooking dinner with Ginny and Fleur. Both women kept shooting the latter one dirty looks and Ginny kept muttering 'Phelgm' under her breath.
The living room was pretty much empty with the exception of Lupin who was sitting in his corner, looking as pensive as ever. He raised his eyes as Harry walked in and frowned briefly. He seemed to sniff the air and Harry tensed. Could Lupin smell the change in him?
"Harry!" He said softly and beckoned him to come closer. Harry clenched his jaw and gracelessly sat down. It was sometimes hard to play the graceless, idiot... but he always reminded himself that no; he needed to do this so that people underestimated him.
"Are you okay Harry? You look like you've seen a ghost?" He paused as he took Harry in - and his wet clothes. He sighed, "Harry, take a coat next time."
Harry shrugged in a defeated way.
"Yeah sure." Lupin looked at him suspiciously but nodded.
He had managed to escape the clutches of Mrs Weasley. At some point during their conversation, Lupin had mumbled something about having to get something in his room. Harry had at that moment run upstairs to the attic room which he shared with Ron, and had taken a wad of pounds he had accumulated over the years.
Harry had then slipped out of the back entrance of the Burrow. It was almost ridiculously easy how he had escaped their clutched.
The young man was now walking leisurely down the streets of Ottery St Catchpole - a small town, not far from the Burrow. It was nice to walk down a muggle street without having to look over his shoulder to see whether Dudley and his gang were there or not. It was also the perfect opportunity to stretch his legs, so to speak, and let the defenceless mask drop.
It was a Saturday, and surprisingly quite a few shops were open - usually in towns this small, they closed the shops for the weekend. He wandered down, aimlessly. He had bought some blueberries in the local supermarket and was now popping them into his mouth - one after the other.
It was while he was searching for the next perfect blueberry, that he crashed into a slightly taller and older man. Harry stumbled back a few paces, stepped on a patch of ice, slipped, lost his balance and crashed to the ground. Grunting, Harry slowly sat up, and gently brushed the blueberries off, that had landed upon him.
Just as he was about to stand, an elegant, gloved hand appeared in front of him. Gingerly, Harry took it. He was instantly pulled up to his feet as if he weighed nothing and grunted again as the world spun for a few seconds. When his gaze finally sharpened and focused, he narrowed his eyes.
The man standing in front of him was the very picture of elegance, with a spice of arrogance. His stance was straight and he held himself with dignity and pride. He was dressed in expensive and tasteful clothes that accentuated his calculating, emerald eyes and jet black hair (which had been brushed back to the nape of his neck).
His features were patrician, which were only accentuated by the hollow cheeks and the sharp, aristocratic cheekbones. In his hand he held a cane and was vaguely reminiscent of Lucius Malfoy. He looked very out of place in a town like this.
There was something about the man that Harry found slightly familiar, like he'd seen him some time long ago, very far away.
"My apologies," Harry murmured as he looked down at the blueberries forlornly. Shame... He really liked blueberries.
His eyes glanced up to the man and found that said man had narrowed his eyes at him and was giving him a peculiar look. He chuckled silently and waved a hand.
"It was hardly your fault. I wasn't looking where I was going."
His voice was soft but commanded attention, and once more, Harry had that feeling that he had heard it somewhere before.
"Loki Odinson," The man said and offered a hand to Harry who accepted it gracefully, trying to make up for his fall earlier on. "Harry..." He swallowed, the name Potter was too well known - and this village was after all partly inhabited by magicals. "...Black," He finished. After all - Sirius had named him his sole heir.
Loki - what an unusual name! - raised an eyebrow as they shook hands. "Pleasure."
"Mr Black," Said Loki, seemingly tasting the name on his tongue, "Where do you hail from?"
The corner of Harry's lip turned up in a mock-smile. "I'm afraid my provenance isn't quite illustrious." He said vaguely - he was quite sure this man wasn't a Death-Eater, but one could never be too sure.
Loki cocked his head at the vague answer, obviously curious. "Hm... I knew a Black once. He was a good friend of mine." He stated. Harry bit the inside of his cheek nervously. What if Loki knew - no - it couldn't be possible. There were thousands, millions of Blacks in the world.
Outwardly, Harry only showed cold amusement, "Well... I am most certainly not the only Black around."
Loki smirked, "Too right. Too right." He trailed off, then glanced back to Harry, eyes narrowing once more as if he recognised Harry's face from somewhere, "Nevertheless, do you happen to know a Sirius Black?"
Harry froze, unsure what to say or do. Usually, he enjoyed dancing around people, mocking them... but now he felt frozen. Was this simply a coincidence? How probable was it that he crashed into a man who knew Sirius? Harry reckoned that number was close to zero percent.
"Ah, yes." he found himself saying, "He was my godfather."
It was the other man's turn to freeze. A shadow came over his face and his eyes zeroed on Harry's own taking Harry's face in hungrily, as if afraid that he'd never see him again.
"Harry?" He whispered suddenly, in a very vulnerable voice. "My dear boy... I endanger you by simply being here. I must leave."
But before Harry had a chance to say or do anything, Loki disappeared.