Harry Potter was not having the best summer. He spent every summer holiday with his relatives on Privet Drive, the Dursleys, who had raised him since his parent's death when he was a baby. The Dursleys were Muggles (non-magical) and did not like Harry, nor did they appreciate his wizarding talents. Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry had been extremely stressful and tiring. Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard who had killed Harry's parents 14 years earlier, had regained strength and attempted to kill Harry. Voldemort failed to kill Harry, but during his attempt, he murdered one of Harry's classmates, Cedric Diggory, instead.
The Harry Potter that returned to Privet Drive at the end of the school year was much changed from the Harry Potter who had left the previous autumn. He felt older, stronger, and more unwilling to put up with the Dursleys unfair treatment of him. Harry knew that Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts, had a good reason for asking Harry to remain at Privet Drive for the summer. One of Harry's best friends, Ron Weasley, had invited Harry to stay with his family at the Burrow for the summer, but Dumbledore had told Mrs. Weasley that it was not a good idea. So, Harry returned to the Dursleys, but made it clear from the outset that he would not be subjected to the same kind of abuse as he had in previous years.
Amazingly, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon stayed out of Harry's way as much as possible. Even Dudley, his extremely spoiled cousin, did not try and upset Harry. The house that summer was relatively quiet, and it gave Harry a good deal of time to think. Mostly, Harry thought about Lord Voldemort and the events of the past year. He thought about his parents, and his godfather, Sirius Black, who had been wrongly imprisoned for 12 years in the horrible prison of Azkaban. Sirius managed to escape from Azkaban, and now was staying with Professor Lupin, a former Hogwarts teacher, until plans could be made to organize an attack on Voldemort.
One particularly hot evening, about two weeks into the holiday, Harry awoke to a pecking on his arm. Rolling over and pulling on his glasses, Harry saw a tiny owl standing next to him in bed. He recognized the owl as Pigwidgeon and smiling, untied the letter from his leg, knowing that it must have come from his friend Ron.
How's life in Muggle-Land? I just wanted you to know that I have been trying to find out if you can come and stay with us this summer. Mum says that Dumbledore has his reasons for making you stay with the Dursleys. She won't promise anything else yet. I was thinking though – if you can't visit the Burrow, wouldn't it be fun if I visited Privet Drive?
At this, Harry let out a snort of laughter. The thought of Ron spending a weekend, or even a night, here in the house with the Dursleys was the most hilarious thing he had heard all summer.
I am not sure what I will do this summer except that it will be dead boring if it continues like it has so far. Dad asked me if I wanted to come with him to the Ministry a few days a week and see how things are organized there. He said I could help out in the office like a sort of intern, except that I would actually get paid (not much, but who's complaining?) Then Mum and Dad had a huge row over how I would spend my summer. Mum is worried about You-Know-Who and told Dad that she doesn't want me to waste my childhood and that I should spend the summer at home, practicing Quidditch. Normally, that would be alright, because I want to try out for the team next year, but I also want to earn some money. Anyway, they agreed that I can go to the Ministry with Dad twice a week and then spend the rest of the time "enjoying my childhood." I will let you know about the rest of the summer.
P.S. Hermione says that she and her parents are going to Eastern Europe on holiday. They are going to Hungary, Slovakia, and some other places. Oh yeah – Bulgaria. I told her that I really don't think it's a good idea, what do you think?
Harry sighed as he folded the letter and watched Pigwidgeon fly excitedly around the room. Ron said his summer was boring, but to Harry it sounded like a dream vacation. He let himself fall back on the bed with a thump and found himself getting a little big angry. What about his childhood? No one seemed to mind that the first eleven years of his life, of his childhood, had been spent without love in this awful house with the disgusting Dursleys. And now he was old enough to make a lot of decisions on his own and he didn't see why he should have to stay here if he didn't want to. Harry knew that Professor Dumbledore had reasons for keeping Harry at Privet Drive, but Harry very well couldn't understand them if no one would tell him the truth, could he?
Harry slept badly that night and when he woke up the next morning, he grabbed a quill and parchment from his desk (the Dursleys used to frown upon Harry keeping his magical items out in the open, but he started doing it this summer and no one even mentioned it).
Hi. I hope that you are well. Say hello to Professor Lupin for me. Here's the thing, if you have time, maybe you could come visit me at the Dursleys. I am not allowed to leave (although no one will tell me why) but I don't see why I couldn't have a visitor. It's been quiet here so far and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I have some questions for you.
Harry folded the parchment and attached it to the leg of Hedwig, his own snowy owl, who hooted affectionately before she flew away.
Harry spent the next two days brooding. Aunt Petunia thought about asking him to paint the front door, then thought better of it. Although Harry wasn't supposed to use magic during the summer holidays, sometimes he could not help certain things from happening around him. Ever since Harry had blown up Aunt Marge during one awful summer holiday, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had thought twice before making Harry upset.
Harry wandered into the finely manicured garden and sat down on the ground against the low stone wall. He had told Sirius that he had some questions. Would he ever have the nerve to ask him? He wondered why these questions had not occurred to him before. He felt that he needed quite a few answers in order to take on whatever challenges might face him in the coming years. After all, Lord Voldemort had tried to kill Harry almost every year since he had arrived at Hogwarts. In reality, Harry did not even know why Voldemort was after him. He had always blindly assumed that Voldemort wanted to kill him because of what had happened the day that his parents died. He now began to wonder if there weren't a different reason.
After a few minutes, he heard a rustling noise, and then, a loud bark. Jumping to his feet, Harry looked over the wall into the street and saw a large, black dog.
"Sirius!" exclaimed Harry, forgetting that most of the world was still unaware that his godfather was not a cold-blooded killer. Truthfully, Harry was a bit surprised that Sirius had reacted to his letter. Harry had been afraid that the tone of the letter was a bit too accusatory and thought that Sirius might have taken offense.
"Over here!" said Harry, motioning to the dog to jump over the wall into the yard. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were shopping and Uncle Vernon was still at work. Sirius followed Harry into the house through the back door and up the stairs that led to Harry's small, cramped room. Once safely inside, Harry watched (amazed as always) as the dog transformed with a pop into a tall, slender, handsome man with thick, dark hair.
"Hello Harry" said his godfather, taking a seat on Harry's small, lumpy bed.
"Sirius, I…I'm sorry about the letter." Said Harry, sitting next to him and feeling a bit embarrassed. Sirius was supposed to be working with Professor Lupin and Dumbledore to plan ways to attack Voldemort when he surfaced again and Harry figured that any time not spent planning was probably time wasted.
"It's okay, Harry" replied Sirius calmly, not seeming at all annoyed. "I'm sorry that I couldn't fulfill my invitation for you to come live with me, given the circumstances, but I reckon that doesn't mean I can't perform some of my godfatherly duties. I was planning to take a break to visit you anyway, and now seems as good of a time as any. So, this is where you've spent the last 15 years…" Sirius looked around the bare room, taking it in very quickly. "I can see why you are never eager to return."
"This room isn't so bad." Replied Harry. "You should have seen the closet! This is a palace." He laughed nervously, trying to sound lighthearted.
"What's troubling you Harry?"
Harry looked down at his hands and then took a big breath and looked up at Sirius, his heart pounding in his chest and the speech he had rehearsed against the garden wall mixing itself up in his head. Finally, he raised his green eyes to stare into Sirius' brown ones and said,
"Look, there seems to be a lot I don't know and I can't very well be expected to just sit here all summer pruning Aunt Petunia's rosebushes while Voldemort is gaining power. Every encounter with him, I learn some new little piece of information that comes as a surprise. I've got enough surprises in my life! I don't need anymore. I don't know what you and Dumbledore want to protect me from, but the way I figure it, the best thing to do is to tell me everything that you know so that I can be prepared! I'm not a child anymore!
Harry stopped suddenly, his face red, and stared at Sirius expectantly. Sirius was looking at him with an expression that Harry couldn't read and Harry was afraid that he had said too much.
"Harry, the events of the past fifty years are too complex, too intricate, to even begin to tell, as one would tell a story. Why don't you ask me some specific questions to begin with, and I will promise to answer them as truthfully as possible. Alright?"
Harry nodded his head slowly, amazed that this all seemed to be very easy.
"Right, well, er, here's the thing. Why was Voldemort after my parents? What did he want from them? I think that must be important."
Sirius stood up slowly. He ran his fingers through his hair, strode over to the tiny window (the bars that Fred and George Weasley had removed three years earlier had not been replaced) and stared out of it for a moment. He seemed to be fighting something inside of himself. Finally he turned back to face Harry and fiddling with the quill that was lying on Harry's dresser, began to speak, very quietly.
"Harry, I should have known that would be the first question on your mind. I was hoping that you would ask about your father's favorite color, or how your parents happened to fall in love. Something simple. I'm not sure if I should answer your question. I know the answer, Lupin knows, and Dumbledore knows, but most people do not. If I tell you why, if I decide to tell you this story, you have to promise me that you will be able to hear it rationally. It is a large amount of information for a 15 year-old boy to know. Do you think that you are prepared?"
Harry did not know how to answer. All he knew was that he must learn the truth. How bad could it be? It was in the past, regardless, and it could only serve to help him in the future. Four years at Hogwarts had taught Harry that no information, no matter how seemingly useless, was truly wasteful. He nodded slowly at Sirius.
"Very well, then." Said Sirius with a sigh, remaining by the window. "You might as well get comfortable."
"Your parents, Harry, met and fell in love while at Hogwarts. Lily was in Gryffindor and very smart. Although we did not include her in our Animagi practice and other mischief-making activities, she was often around, helping one of us with our homework, or showing support for James on the Quidditch field. We were all a little bit in love with her, but we knew from the beginning that James was the one that she truly fancied, and we were all smart enough to know that we couldn't compete with his charms.
The Potters were a fairly prominent wizarding family. Your grandfather was fairly high up in the ministry and good friends with Albus Dumbledore. When James came to Hogwarts, your grandfather asked Dumbledore to look out for him and as a result, Dumbledore and your father became close.
By sixth year, James and Lily were sneaking off to empty classrooms for stolen kisses on a regular basis. The wizarding community is relatively small, and although love charms and potions are discouraged at Hogwarts, love affairs like that with your parents are not. It is actually hoped that Hogwarts will be a meeting place for wizards and witches so that our numbers will not dwindle. While Lily and James were sneaking around, acting as teenagers do and should, Voldemort was continuing his rise to power. Everyone lived in fear and Hogwarts was one of the safest places in the country. Defense Against the Dark Arts was the most popular course, and the Ministry was recruiting Hogwarts students and training them after classes to defeat all sorts of dark magic. James, Remus, Peter and I, of course, signed up for the training, and, as usual, James excelled.
Harry…" here Sirius stopped and looked at Harry gravely. "Harry, let me ask you a question. Have you ever observed that you are able to perform certain magical tasks without trying very hard?"
Harry looked puzzled. "Well, sure, of course I have. I thought everyone could. I mean, things like Aunt Marge blowing up…" Harry stopped and grinned slightly as he remembered the sight of Aunt Marge floating near the ceiling.
"Most wizards, Harry, do not have that talent. Young wizards exhibit some magical ability early on – that much is normal. When I was five years old I would levitate in the kitchen to reach cake on the counter. It was enough to indicate to my parents (to their relief) that I was not a squib, but not much else happened after that until I received my first wand at age 11."
"But…I was really upset when I blew up Aunt Marge. When I was younger I could levitate to the roof of the school when Dudley and his friends were after me, but I just assumed that I could do those things because I was in danger, or being threatened." Answered Harry, getting a strange feeling in his stomach, as though Sirius was about to reveal something that he really did not want to know.
Sirius walked across the room and sat down on the bed next to Harry. "It's not quite normal. I mean, it's not bad, but it is above and beyond what most young witches and wizards are capable of doing. Your father was the same way, and when we began our special Dark Arts training, his talents became apparent."
"What kind of talents?" asked Harry, intrigued.
"Well, your father, like you, could levitate himself without even trying. I suspect that this skill is part of what made the two of you so talented on the Quidditch field. Also, by the time a wizard or witch reaches full maturity, they are usually able to invoke spells without a lot of power in their voices. Remember when you drove away the Dementors from us at the lake? You had to shout very loudly in order to create a useful Patronus. Remus, or Dumbledore, can mutter "Expecto Patronum" and drive away the Dementors just as quickly. That comes with a great deal of practice. The power in spells is not in their words, but in the wizard's ability to feel the spell and its actions. Only the most powerful wizards, however, can invoke a spell completely using the power of the mind.
This skill was one that was taught to us during our training. It was very difficult for all of us. One of the more powerful charms was one called Accio Supersto which is a variant of the common Accio spell. When invoked, it will cause the most useful item to come to a person's rescue. If you are drowning in the ocean, Accio Supersto will bring a boat, or if you are falling from the sky, Accio Supersto will bring a broomstick, any one, in order to help you. It is a very complicated spell, because unlike regular Accio, which brings something that belongs to you, Accio Supersto actually brings you something that you may not know about.
We practiced in the Quidditch fields using boggarts as our enemies and most of us were exhausted by the end of the day and unable to bring about anything useful. Your father was late to practice and after a brief recap by Dumbledore, approached the boggart, which took the shape of a fierce dragon. James invoked Accio Supersto and instantly, through the sky, we all saw a glittering sword fly through the air. James caught it and levitated upwards to the dragon's face and stabbed it in the eye before it could even think. Well, you can imagine that all of us were quite stunned, Dumbledore included. Even James was shocked and no one really knew what to say to him. We all retired back to the castle and Dumbledore took James to his office."
"Oh!" exclaimed Harry, "That's what happened to me in the Chamber of Secrets! I didn't levitate, but the sword came to me with the sorting hat. I thought that Fawkes had brought them!"
"Yes, Harry, Dumbledore told me what happened a few weeks ago. You must have invoked Accio Supersto without even trying, which is very admirable indeed. When James returned to the Gryffindor common room he was very pale and very quiet. He immediately retired to his room and would not answer me when I tried to talk to him. There are some things that people find difficult to share, even with their best friends.
The next morning, James' strange behavior continued. The strangest of all was the way he treated Lily. He would not make eye contact with her and shunned any attempts on her part to find out what was wrong. Lily was extremely upset and I promised her that I would try to find out what was wrong. One morning after a night in the Shrieking Shack with Remus and Peter, I pulled James aside and demanded to know what was bothering him. I told him that Lily had cried on my shoulder more than once about his behavior and that he had better have a good excuse for treating her that way. After a moment of silence, James told me what was wrong."
Sirius paused again. Harry was sitting on the bed with his back against the wall, and his knees drawn up under his chin. He was listening intently, hanging onto Sirius' every word, happy for even this small glimpse into the lives of his parents.
"Harry, what I am about to tell you may be difficult for you to understand, but, well, I suppose you are ready to hear it. Before I continue though, I want to tell you a little bit of Hogwarts history that is not found in the official record."
Harry smiled, "Won't Hermione be jealous!"
At that moment, a sound of a garage door opening and closing disrupted both of them. They both jumped. Harry grinned at Sirius, "Fancy meeting Aunt Petunia?"
Sirius shook his head, "I don't think that is such a good idea right now. Go to bed early tonight. I'll transform and wait under the bed." Sirius was still unable to apparate freely. The Ministry kept tabs on everyone who apparated and Sirius was still technically a wanted man. Harry nodded in agreement and headed downstairs.