The Dementors' Kiss
(Authors Note: This is Version 2.0 of The Dementors' Kiss, and will probably be the final revision. I first finished it back in February, began posting it at Gryffindor Tower in March, and have been carrying out minor edits since then. For this re-release, I have gone through the entire story, added the missing Quidditch Match, changed a few passages that didn't read right and generally tidied it up a bit. I hope you enjoy the result.)
Chapter One: A Belated Birthday
Harry Potter sat at the window of the smallest bedroom of number four, Privet Drive. Harry had lived in the house for most of the last fifteen years, and he always found it a struggle to remember a single time he'd enjoyed it.
The only thing he liked about Privet Drive was when he left it, left it far behind and returned to school. Harry was counting the days until he could return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and as the ancient clock on his bedside table ticked onto midnight, Harry picked up a pen from his bedside table and crossed the number thirteen from the chart beside his bed.
Harry sighed. The fourteenth of August, and he hadn't heard from Ron, or Hermione, or any of his other friends at the school in a long, long time. The last message that Hedwig had brought him was a letter from Ron saying that Hermione had arrived at the Burrow from Bulgaria, where she'd spent several weeks staying with Viktor Krum. Ron's note had been short, but Harry could tell how excited his friend had been, mainly from the ink blotches scattered liberally across the parchment.
Harry had replied immediately, half hoping that Hedwig would return in time for his birthday, but he'd been disappointed. Unlike last year, when Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and even Sirius had managed to send him something, Harry had gone without on his birthday. He felt exceedingly lonely, Hedwig's empty cage only serving as a further reminder of how much he was missing, trapped here and isolated from the Wizarding world.
Harry leaned forward against the windowsill, resting his chin on one hand as the other automatically scraped back through his hair, his palm rubbing across the scar on his forehead. Right there was the reason why he had to stay at Privet Drive, rather than at the Burrow, where Ron's family lived. His scar was the legacy of an attempt on Harry's life when he was only a year old. Harry sighed, shaking his head as though trying to dispel any thought of his run-ins with Voldemort.
But Harry was lost, again, as he had been so many times that summer. Without an anchor to hold him, he plunged deep into despair. . .
. . .as Voldemort used the Avada Kedavra curse on his parents. . .
. . .as he plunged deeper and deeper into the Chamber of Secrets, his heart stopping at the sight of Ginny Weasley, lying as though dead at the feet of Tom Riddle. . .
. . .as the Dementors closed in on him, ready to perform their fatal kiss. . .
. . .as Cedric Diggory lay dead at his feet, his life taken needlessly, his only mistake being at Harry's side. . .
Harry blinked, tears welling in his eyes as they always did when he thought of Cedric. It was a hurt so fresh, a loss so needless, that Harry still hadn't been able to find the words. Even Ron and Hermione didn't know how he felt about Cedric's death, how looking at Cedric's parents, or at Cho Chang reduced Harry to a mindless statue. He had been unable to attend Cedric's funeral because he couldn't leave the Dursleys, and Harry had felt a shameful relief that he wouldn't have to go through the torture all again.
Slowly, Harry's thoughts returned to the present, and he became aware of a quiet, insistent tapping at his window. He looked down, and gasped in delight as he saw Hedwig bobbing uncertainly in front of the window, accompanied by a brown owl Harry didn't recognise at first. He eased the window open, wary of the creaky hinges his uncle Vernon had kept un-oiled in case Harry was tempted to leave the house at night and upset the neighbours with his 'un-naturalness'.
The two owls swept over the windowsill and into the room, circling gracefully before setting down on Hedwig's perch. Harry boggled at the number of envelopes and parcels that the two owls had between them, and slowly it dawned on him that the owls had been all over the place, keeping one another company as they sought out Harry's friends and relatives.
Harry quickly filled Hedwig's water dish from the bathroom, and relieved the owls of their burden. Slowly, he sat down on his bed, unable to believe his eyes at the sheer number of people who wanted to talk to him. He sorted through the letters and parcels. He recognised Ron's handwriting, and Hagrid's. Sirius' handwriting was on one of the parcels, as was Hermione's. A letter bearing the Hogwarts seal would be information on his fifth year, while a number of the parcels and cards were from senders with unknown handwriting.
One of the parcels moved slightly, and Harry eyed it suspiciously, trying to remember where he'd left his wand. He looked at the handwriting, and frowned as he realised that the letters spelling out his name and address sloped alternately left and right. Then he grinned, as he realised that Fred and George Weasley were left and right handed. If a parcel moved, Harry mused, then it probably contained the latest Weasleys Wizard Wheeze. He resolved to open this parcel very carefully. It hopped a full six inches towards the head of his bed.
Very, very carefully indeed.
Soon, Harry's bed was scattered with torn wrapping paper. Sirius had sent him a powerful TrueSight Glass, which worked like a telescope, but with the added bonus of being able to see through solid objects. "It can be fitted with a charm to stop you seeing people where you shouldn't, but we think we can trust you," the accompanying note said. "You might try and keep it away from the Weasley twins, however." The note was signed Padfoot and Mooney, and Harry grinned as he realised that his father's oldest friends were reunited.
Hermione's present was a small red gem on a chain. The note explained that it would keep the wearer as warm as if they were safe in their common room, "ideal for those winter Quidditch training sessions," she signed off. A P.S. said that she was at Ron's for the rest of the holiday, and that Ron would be writing as well.
Ron's card was, as usual, covered with pictures of the Chudley Cannons Quidditch team. Harry suspected that Ron's loyalty to the Cannons had grown even fiercer when Victor Krum was rumoured to be signing for their local rivals. A slip of parchment, again scrawled in a hurry, invited Harry to stay at the Burrow for the last two weeks of the holiday, and to send the reply via Hermes.
"P.S. Harry," the parchment said. "I used Hermes to send you this. Get him back sharpish, eh? Perce hates it when we nick his stuff. Don't let the Muggles get you down, mate"
Harry looked over at the brown owl that was, by now, fast asleep next to Hedwig, and frowned slightly. Hermes must have been missing for two weeks now, and he was surprised to have heard nothing else from the Weasleys.
The last unopened envelope was addressed in an unfamiliar hand. So far, Harry had opened cards from Ron, Hagrid, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, Neville Longbottom, and Colin Creevey. This last had included a picture of Colin and Harry, together with a group of other Gryffindors, and it sat proudly on the top of Harry's presents. He resolved to make sure Colin got something equally good back for his birthday.
The envelope slid open to reveal a thick sheaf of parchment, several sheets, all in different handwriting. Harry grinned as he realised that several members of the Weasley family had taken the trouble to each write to him individually.
The first was from Molly and Arthur Weasley, and was quite short. They wished him a happy birthday, and said that he should send Hermes back when he was able. Harry suspected that Ron and Hermione had sent the owls on to his friends. The Weasley parents also added their formal invitation to Harry to come and stay at the Burrow.
Bill and Charlie Weasley had each sent Harry upbeat letters full of funny stories and interesting tales about their respective jobs. One story in particular, involving a pyramid, a zombie, and three witches on broomsticks, made Harry laugh so much that tears streamed down his cheeks in the effort to remain quiet.
Percy Weasley wished Harry well, and added that he'd be supervising a Ministry of Magic open day at Hogwarts some time after Christmas.
Fred and George Weasley also wished Harry well, and also had a few jokes for Harry. A p.s. asked him for feedback on his present, as it was something of a prototype, and they wanted to know how the test run went. Harry looked over the top of the letter at the parcel, which was by bumping against the headboard of his bed. Shaking his head in bemusement, he turned to the last piece of parchment, knowing it could only have come from one person.
Ginny Weasley had had a crush on Harry since she'd first met him. Harry was always worried about doing anything to encourage her, and had tried to avoid her somewhat, especially as over the previous school year he'd rather had his eye on Cho Chang. For that reason, he began to read Ginny's letter with a certain amount of trepidation.
As he made his way through the letter, he found himself smiling again. Ginny wasn't into jokes like her brothers, but her chatty way of writing brought him up to date on life at the Burrow. She said that Ron and Hermione were spending a lot of time together, and that this was often followed by them spending a lot of time apart. Hermione was talking to Victor Krum by the Floo network most nights once everyone had gone to bed, and more than once Ginny had gone downstairs in the early hours to find her staring intently at Krum's head in the middle of a roaring fire.
She went on to say that Ron was gradually getting better about Hermione and Victor, especially as she obviously didn't want to talk about it with him. Ron seemed to be getting back to his old self, she finished, and was really looking forward to seeing Harry again.
"So am I," Ginny added, a line that was written shakily and surrounded by green inkblots. Harry smiled, a little tightly. He resolved to bring Ginny out of her shell around him. If she couldn't even write a letter to him without getting all nervous, how would she cope with another two weeks living with him?
For that matter, couldn't he do something similar for the other students at Hogwarts? Could he help show them that it was possible to live their own lives, to be themselves regardless of Dark wizards or whatever other complications they might face.
Harry felt a though a light bulb had gone off in his head. Reaching under his bed, he eased out the album of wizard pictures given to him by Hagrid a few years before. Adding Colin's picture to his collection of those taken at Hogwarts, he flicked back toward the front of the album and smiled at the picture of his parent's wedding day. There was Remus Lupin, standing beside Peter Pettigrew, who looked more and more sinister every time Harry looked at the picture. Sirius stood on the other side of his parents, one hand coming up behind his father's head, two of his fingers then seemingly sticking out of the top of James Potter's mess of black hair.
Harry smiled happily at the picture, even Wormtail's presence not being able to spoil the warm glow he always received from looking at the moving image. Looking at his parents, he knew that it was what they would have done in a similar position, what they probably had done before being forced into hiding. Harry had always thought of his fame and standing in the Wizarding world as something of a nuisance. What if he could use it to his advantage for once? Help strike a blow against Voldemort just by being alive?
Something to think about, to be sure.
He sighed contentedly as he set the album to one side. His presents sat at the foot of his bed, and his cards stood proudly on his mantelpiece. He lay back against the pillow, first shifting Fred and George's suspicious, fidgeting present into his Hogwarts trunk, and closing the lid firmly. Slowly, he felt himself drift off to sleep.
Harry sat eagerly in the chair nearest the fireplace of number four Privet Drive. There was less than a minute to go before the Weasleys were set to arrive, and he was being watched suspiciously by Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.
"One drop of damage to our fireplace. . ." Uncle Vernon hissed, his mind obviously on the Weasley family's previous dramatic arrival in Privet Drive.
"Mr Weasley fixed it all, didn't he?" Harry asked.
"Oh, yes, he used his. . . abnormality. It doesn't change the fact that they were in our house."
Harry sighed, and looked at the fireplace, wondering how the Weasleys would manage to get past the solid -and now reinforced- gas fire that stood there.
The doorbell rang, and Aunt Petunia bustled out to answer it. Uncle Vernon stayed sitting bolt upright in his chair, his ferocious glare alternating between Harry and the fireplace.
"Er. . . This is Charles Weasley, Vernon," Aunt Petunia said, walking uncertainly into the living room.
"Mr Dursley," Charlie said, stepping into the living room. The second eldest of the seven Weasley children was dressed in casual Muggle clothing, and Aunt Petunia was clearly uncertain of what to make of him. Handsome and, comparatively, normal-looking, Charlie was no-one's idea of a wizard, and Harry could tell that Uncle Vernon wasn't prepared for the polite young man standing before him.
"Mr Dursley," Charlie said, offering his hand. Uncle Vernon shook it carefully, as though expecting Charlie to turn into a bunch of flowers on contact. "I've heard a great deal about you, of course. And your lady wife, I presume?" he added, turning and offering his hand to Aunt Petunia. She too shook hands carefully, clearly on edge at the charm offensive.
"And, er, what is it you do, Mr Weasley?" she managed.
"Oh, call me Charlie, please. I'm a veterinarian, Mrs. Dursley. I've always been an animal lover, and it just seemed to be the natural thing to do when I left school." He smiled easily, and turned to Harry.
"Good to see you again, Harry," he said. "Are you ready to go?"
Harry nodded, not quite sure what to make of Charlie in his new guise. Veterinarian? It was true that Charlie looked after dragons, but surely. . .
Then Harry realised. Charlie wasn't going to repeat the blatant displays of wizardry that others of his family had when they'd visited Privet Drive. A flying car, an exploding fireplace, and Dudley's gigantic tongue had all clearly left their mark on the Dursleys. As for the time Dudley had had a run in with Hagrid. . . Harry grinned at the memories.
"We'd best be off. I've got us a taxi, Harry. I'll give you a hand with your stuff."
Charlie shook hands with the Dursleys again, and hefted Harry's trunk easily into the air. Harry picked up Hedwig's cage, the owl soundly asleep at this time of day. He waved slightly at the Dursleys, who eyed him suspiciously, and then followed Charlie out the door.
"So, glad to be out of there, Harry?" Charlie asked, as they walked down the driveway. Harry paused, and turned to look back at the house. A curtain twitched, Aunt Petunia's innate nosiness apparently having gotten the better of her. He turned back, and nodded.
"Good. We'll meet up with the others soon enough. Dad wanted to have a look around a Muggle town. He doesn't get much of a chance these days, with work being so busy and all."
"Who else came along?" Harry asked, wondering how many Weasleys had descended on Little Whinging.
"Oh, Dad, Mum, Ron, Fred, George, Ginny and Hermione, I think. . . Some used the Floo network, me and Dad Apparated."
"Did anyone stay at the Burrow?" Harry asked, thinking of how much havoc the Weasleys could cause, especially Fred and George.
"Well, Percy stayed. He has work to do. I think Bill's coming to stay for a few days as well. It'll be great to have everyone under one roof again.
Harry agreed, and the two walked to where a car sat idling at the end of Privet Drive. "It's not really a taxi," Charlie said, hefting Harry's trunk into the car boot. "Melissa is a friend of mine from work. She lives near here, and she wanted to hear all about your encounter with the Horntail last year, if that's okay with you, Harry."
Melissa turned out to be an extremely attractive woman in her early twenties, whose bright smile made Harry's heart jump into his throat. He'd been on the verge of saying no, that he didn't want to talk about the Triwizard Tournament at all, but suddenly he decided that he really, really wanted to tell Melissa all about the first task.
The trio traveled smoothly through Little Whinging, Harry directing the journey as Melissa drove. Harry's battle against the Horntail flowed easily, with little embellishment. Harry found that the truth was quite fantastic enough, and Melissa made for a good audience, gasping and wincing in all the right places, especially when Harry described how one of the Horntail's spikes had ripped across his shoulder.
Eventually, Melissa pulled up outside a small tearoom where Harry occasionally went to get away from the Dursleys. Harry and Charlie got out of the car, and thanked Melissa for the lift. Charlie hauled the trunk from the boot of the car, and, with Hedwig's cage resting on top, they each took a handle and waved as Melissa drove off.
"She's a good friend," Charlie said, as they walked toward the door of the teashop.
"Right," Harry said, not sure what to say.
"I wasn't sure if you'd want to talk about the task," Charlie added, stopping just outside the door. "Melissa has a knack of making it easy to talk."
Harry coloured slightly, and nodded.
"Listen, Harry, Mum wanted me to see that you were okay. Not just from the Tournament, and You-Know-Who, but spending the summer with your aunt and uncle. It can't have been easy, from what Ron's told us."
Harry paused, then looked up at Charlie's honest, open face. He knew Charlie the least out of all the Weasleys, having seen the least of him. Maybe they'd felt he'd be more comfortable discussing things with someone he wasn't so close to. Harry's mind churned as he thought about all that had happened to him since the previous summer. He was fifteen now, and slowly maturing. With the usual physical changes – Harry was a lot broader about the shoulders now, and nowhere near as short as he had been when he'd started at Hogwarts – he had felt a new maturity growing within him.
"I'm… okay," he said, surprised to hear the words even as he spoke them. "I'm going back to Hogwarts, with all my friends. It's the safest place around, so I'm not worried about anyone coming after me there. What happened last year, well, I can deal with it. It was terrible, but if I let Voldemort break me, then he's already beaten me.
"I suppose it's, I mean, I… I don't want to seem arrogant, but… Well, people look up to me, you know? It's like, so long as I'm not beaten, I can show people that we can win. Does that make sense?"
"It does, Harry," came a new voice from behind him. Harry turned, and smiled to see Arthur Weasley standing in the teashop doorway, a steaming mug of cocoa in one hand.
"And besides, if I ever need any help, I have a real family to turn to," Harry added, as Molly Weasley joined her husband in the doorway, her eyes twinkling as she hugged Harry.
"Too right you do, mate. Too right you do," Charlie said, as he and Arthur dragged Harry's trunk into the teashop, where Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys greeted Harry's arrival with a cheer.