Disclaimer: The usual, none of the characters are mine. JKR is the creator, blah, blah, blah. Anything you may recognize from other fics is either coincidental, meaning it's from a fic I haven't read, accidental, meaning it's from a fic that I have read, but forgot it came from someone else's work, in which case I apologize, or is something that I thought up, but someone else used in a similar way before I had the chance to post this, if that makes sense. Does anybody even read these things?
(Preliminary A/N: Well, here it is. After over a year of reading HP fanfictions, I finally decided to write one. I've tried to eliminate some of the dumber clichés, or at least approach them from an original and/or more realistic angle. I know that the arrival date of the real fifth book is approaching fast. I also know that there is no way I can finish this fic before the real HP5 comes out. I want to give you my word, however, that if you like this fic, I will finish it, no matter how long it takes. Thank you, and enjoy.)
Chapter 1: Return
King's Cross Station was soon behind Harry Potter. He may have looked like any other boy, being picked up at the station by his uncle, but Harry was very different. Harry was a wizard, returning to a place he hated to go, 4 Privet Drive, where magic was not only forbidden, but also hated. There was no sense denying Harry's hatred of the summer holidays, so he didn't even bother his thoughts with what he would have to deal with for the next few months. Instead, his mind was going over what had just happened at the station. Hermione, one of his best friends, had kissed him. It was only on the cheek, but he couldn't stop thinking about it, as she had never kissed him before.
'Hermione kissed me. Hermione kissed me. Why can't I stop thinking about it?' Harry thought to himself, realizing he had a strange feeling in his stomach that was just as unexplainable as the thoughts in his head.
Harry snapped out of his reverie when he realized that Uncle Vernon, one of his only living relatives, had started talking to him. "Boy, you will be turning fifteen this summer and I have decided that you need a job. I will not have a shiftless bum living in my house. I spoke with a friend of mine who is the foreman of the fertilizer plant in the next town, and he agreed to put you to work for the summer. Don't think you'll be getting the money though; I've taken care of you for fourteen years without compensation, and now I will be expecting rent."
Harry wasn't surprised at the demands of his uncle, "How much do you expect me to pay?"
"Forty-five pounds a week is all I require, but if I see any funny stuff, I'll charge you another five each time. I was just going to take the whole check, but thought it would be better to make you buy your own clothing from now on. Dudley's castaways are far too good for a freak like you."
"Fine, but how do you expect me to get there? I know the place you're talking about and it is awfully far away," replied an indignant Harry.
"Don't be smart with me, boy! You will walk the twelve miles every morning and arrive at work at seven. If I hear about you being late, there'll be hell to pay. You will get a one hour lunch break, and you will leave work at four in the afternoon."
"What!?! Are you serious? I'll have to wake up at 3:00 AM to get there on time!" yelled Harry.
"Of course I am serious, and don't forget what will happen if you're late," replied Uncle Vernon.
"Fine, I'll cooperate, but I have a few conditions."
"I don't think you're in a position to be bargaining with me, boy. What could you possibly do if I refuse?"
"I could report you to the Ministry of Magic for violation of the Underage Wizard Child Labor Restriction Act of 1877. 'No wizarding minor under the age of seventeen may hold a job unless he does so of his own free will, having testified under the influence of Veritaserum.' Violating it could get you a five to seven year sentence in Azkaban Prison, and I don't think that any muggle has ever managed to survive there for more than eighteen months or so. The guards aren't quite human, and they don't like muggles very much."
Uncle Vernon's mouth hung open and the blood had drained from his face. The prospect of having to go to any wizarding institution was purely horrifying for him. After a few moments of silence, he sputtered, "A-Alright boy, what are your terms?"
Harry grinned as he began to list his demands, "First, I would like to keep all of my school things in my room with me."
"Second, since I will be paying rent, I will not be doing chores for you anymore…"
"Now you wait one second, boy!" interrupted Uncle Vernon.
"I wasn't finished. For a fifteen-pound deduction from my rent, I will do six hours worth of yard work on Sunday. After six hours, I will stop," finished Harry.
Harry continued, "Also, apart from those six hours on Sunday, I will do as I please when not at work. This includes my homework for school."
"You may do your homework, but only in your bedroom. I don't want you flaunting your abnormality, boy."
Harry became a bit angered by the last comment, but continued, "Great. Finally, I get to do whatever I want with the rest of my wages."
"Of course, but I would suggest that you get that mangy hair of yours cut, and like I said, you will be buying your own clothes. Dudley's are way too good to give to a freak."
Biting back his rage at Vernon's last comment, Harry told him his last demand. "This is the last one, and it is not really a demand, it's just something I need to tell you. A spell has been placed over the house to make it impossible for post owls to come. The spell will be lifted for one hour on my birthday so I can get my supply list for this year and any gifts my friends send me. My mail will be delivered to the living room, and you and the whole family have to be there when I open my gifts and letters. I know what you're thinking, and I'm not happy about it either. If it were up to me, I'd just receive the mail in my room and open it by myself the way I do every year, but it's not up to me."
"Fine, boy, but I don't like it. Is that clear?"
"Crystal. And just because I can't receive mail doesn't mean that I can't send it in case of emergency, so Hedwig's cage will stay unlocked this summer."
"Alright boy, is there anything else?"
"No, Uncle, " Harry replied. He then went back to staring out the window and was soon lost in his thoughts again. He was thinking about what must have been one of the longest conversations he and Vernon had ever had. He had just greatly improved his living condition, and was quite pleased about it, but he wondered how his uncle could be so gullible as to believe that Harry was so knowledgeable on wizarding law. As far as Harry knew, laws didn't even exist in the wizarding world that referred to child labor.
Harry had been truthful, however, when he said that no mail would be coming for him over the summer, and as he and his uncle drove, he began to think back to the conversation he had had with Professor Dumbledore the previous day.
Harry slowly made his way up the moving staircase to Dumbledore's office. He already knew what he was going to say, but he didn't know if he was making the right choice. He arrived at the top and knocked on the door.
Dumbledore opened the door and greeted Harry warmly, "Hello Harry, what did you want to see me about?"
Harry took a deep breath before making one of the hardest requests of his life. "Sir, this summer, I would like to cut off all contact with the wizarding world. I have thought this over very carefully, and I feel that it would be the best thing for me. I need time alone, sir. A lot has happened to change my life recently, and I have a strange feeling that even more things are going to change soon, and I'm not just talking about Voldemort. This summer, I just want a lot of time to myself so I can come to terms with all that has happened and prepare for what is coming. I need to sort out a lot of things in my life."
When Harry was finished, he noticed a bit of sadness in Dumbledore's usually bright eyes. "Harry, I know that what happened to you was terrible, but you can't run away from your problems."
"Wait, sir," interjected Harry, "I'm not trying to run away from my problems. I'm trying to put them into perspective, that's all. Until a few days ago, I didn't really, truly understand why defeating Voldemort made me so famous, but now I do. Last week, I saw what he represents, what he really is."
"And what is that?" prodded Dumbledore.
"Evil, sir. He is evil. He is not an evil man, or even a man who does evil things; he is evil, pure and simple. I could literally feel evil coming from him in that graveyard, and I need to figure out how to cope with that."
"Harry, when you say you want to cut off contact with the wizarding world, do you mean Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger as well?"
"Yes sir, I do. But I will need your help to do it."
"What do you need, Harry?" asked the Headmaster.
"Well, they will try to send me owls no matter what. Even if I tell them not to mail me anything, they will still try. So I was wondering if there was some sort of repelling charm that would keep the owls from coming."
"Yes Harry, there is, but I will only put it up for you under one condition."
"And what is that?"
"My condition is that the ward be taken down for one hour on you birthday so that you may get you supply list and anything that you friends would like to send you. For this to work, your entire family must be present with you when the mail is delivered, and while you open it."
"That'll be fine, sir. Thank you. You've been a big help."
"You're welcome, Harry. But I still think that this decision is a mistake, although I understand why you made it. I hope that you do not come to regret this choice."
"I won't, sir, and thank you again," Harry said, before walking out of the office.
"Boy, we're here," said Vernon. "Get your things to your bedroom and then get some food and bring it up there. You start work tomorrow morning, and I don't want to see you again until you come back tomorrow evening."
Harry did as his uncle said. Not that it mattered: he had actually planned to do that anyway. He needed to write to Ron and Hermione to explain about the charm and mail restrictions, and to Sirius and professor Dumbledore to tell them that he had gotten home all right and to put up the ward at noon the next day. He decided to start with Professor Dumbledore.
I have arrived at the Dursley's without any problems. Vernon will not be causing any difficulties about having to be present when I receive my mail on my birthday. My uncle has spoken to one of his friends and obtained me a job this summer. I'll be doing manual labor forty hours a week, which really isn't such a bad thing because it will give me time to think everything through without bothering any one else with my problems. Sir, I know you think I am making a mistake, but I need to deal with this on my own.
P.S I will write if my scar hurts.
'Yes', Harry thought. 'That'll do just fine. Now for Sirius' letter.'
I made it back to my uncle's house just fine. If everything goes according to plan, this will be my last letter until term starts at Hogwarts. I'm sorry I have to do this, but I need time to think and to get over what happened.
My uncle has gotten me a job for the summer so I can pay the rent he is going to charge me. It will give me time to think, but not too much, and it will get me out of the house for most of the day.
Stay safe, and thanks for understanding, I hope.
'Two more to go,' he thought. 'I guess I'll do Ron's next, then Hermione's.'
I got back to Privet Drive okay. My uncle got me a job this summer at a fertilizer plant, so I expect to be pretty busy hauling dung all summer. I hope that everything is all right at the Burrow and that you all got home okay.
Unfortunately, Ron, I will not be able to send or receive any mail this summer. A ward has been placed over the house that doesn't allow owls in if they are carrying post. It's not so bad, though. I will use the time to think a lot of things through and sort out my problems. The ward will only be taken down for one hour on my birthday so that I can receive my Hogwarts letter and anything you guys want to send (hint, hint). Don't worry about me. I'll be just fine.
Give my love to the rest of your family.
PS- If the twins find out what I'm doing this summer, I will know who told them, and he'll be hexed so badly that his own mother won't recognize him.
Harry hoped Ron wouldn't see through the small lies he told him in his letter. He thought Ron would probably just believe everything that was said without question. Hermione would be different. She would easily spot any inconsistency in his letter, so he had to write it very carefully. 'It's not easy trying to fool the smartest witch in your year,' Harry thought. And there it was again, that funny feeling in his stomach. He had never felt anything like it before, except in the car, when he had been thinking about how Hermione had kissed him. 'Why do I get this feeling when I think about Hermione?' Harry asked himself. 'And why can't I stop thinking about her?'
And then it hit him, a realization so shocking and unexpected by Harry that Voldemort could have apparated right next to him and he wouldn't have noticed. He had a crush on Hermione! He had a crush on one of his best friends.
'Oh, great Merlin! Why did I have to figure it out just now? Couldn't it have waited until after I sent her the letter?' Harry thought miserably. This new realization would make it much harder to write her letter. It would also complicate their friendship. Harry would have a very hard time acting normally around Hermione now that he knew he felt that way about her. And if she found out…their friendship was as good as over, not just his and Hermione's but his and Ron's as well. Harry knew that Ron liked Hermione, too, and there was no way that Ron would stay friends with him if he found out how Harry felt.
'All right, Harry,' he thought to himself, 'you can do this. Just write what you were going to before you knew you liked her.' Harry took a deep breath, and then began writing Hermione's letter.
I want you to know that I made it back to the Dursley's' and I hope that you got home all right too. Everything is fine here, but Uncle Vernon says he'll be charging me a weekly rent this summer, so he asked a friend of his to get me a job. It's twelve miles away, and I'll have to walk there every morning, and once I get there I'll be moving sacks of manure for eight hours a day. This really isn't so bad, and it'll probably help me, as I've noticed that I'm sorely lacking as far a muscles go. I guess I'll be pretty busy this summer.
I don't know what you decided about going to visit Krum, but I wish that you would just stay closer to home. You're a lot safer in Britain, and I don't want any of my friends to get hurt. With my crazy work schedule, I don't need any more worries.
I also have some bad news. Over the summer, I will be unable to correspond with you or Ron, or anybody else for that matter. A ward has been placed over the Dursleys' house that will repel owls carrying mail. It should be up by the time you get this letter. It will be taken down for one hour on my birthday so I can receive my school list, and anything that anyone might want to send. This isn't such a bad thing. I need time to think, and to come to terms with what happened. I have a lot of stuff going on in my life that I need to sort out. This may sound stupid, but I've finally figured out why defeating Voldemort made me so famous, and now I need time to rethink my life now that Voldemort is back.
Say hello to your parents for me.
With love, and friendship,
'Yes,' Harry thought, 'that'll be fine.' He gathered up all the letters, addressed them, and then gave them to Hedwig.
"Okay, Hedwig," he said, stroking her back, "deliver Hermione's letter first, then Ron's. After that, go to Hogwarts and leave Professor Dumbledore his letter, and Sirius' as well. He'll know what to do with it. Be careful, girl, and come back safe."
Hedwig gave him a soft, reassuring "hoot" and flew out the window. Harry looked at his clock; it was nearly midnight. 'Wow, it took a lot longer to write those letters than I thought it would,' Harry reflected as he rubbed his aching hand.
His mind steered itself toward thoughts of Hermione. He suddenly had a lot more to think about this summer.
As the clock struck midnight, Harry went to his bed and tried to fall asleep, hoping for happy dreams about Hogwarts, Hermione, or his parents, and not nightmares about Voldemort, which he had frequently had since The Dark Lord's resurrection the week before. But the boy who lived would have a completely different kind of dream that night.
(A/N: There you have it: the first chapter of my first fic. The first six chapters are already written, they just need to be typed and edited. The second chapter should be out in about two to three weeks. I'm sorry it couldn't be sooner, but I'm quite busy and I'm already spending more time on this story than I should. One again, thanks for reading, and please review; I would greatly appreciate constructive criticism. Also, if anyone knows how to get the italics to work, please tell me.)