I now have a Beta, the wonderful Iviolinist, so I am gradually replacing the early chapters with improved versions. Harry and Company still belong, lock, stock and barrel to the superb JKR. Long may she reign!
Chapter 1 : Reflections
There seemed no escape. No matter where he went he couldn't get away. Just a few minutes break! He felt his strength dwindling. He'd sought shelter for hours and now his stamina was failing fast.
"Boy! Get in here! You're needed!"
At last Harry was able to stand up straight from his hours of backbreaking labour in Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's back garden. I don't know about Aunt Petunia winning a prize from the local horticultural society; I reckon that prize should go to me not her! thought Harry as he cleared up the tools he had been using and carefully put them away in the shed before going indoors. Harry was taking extreme care with everything from tools to bags of potting compost as he knew his uncle was on tenterhooks these days and likely to blow up at Harry for the slightest perceived misdemeanour. There were not many punishments he could inflict on him as Uncle Vernon was now too frightened of what Harry's "Welcome-home-for-the-summer-committee" would do to him if he so much as laid a single finger on Harry, but that didn't stop Vernon from ranting and raving at the top of his lungs. In fact Harry had heard his uncle's raised voice so much this summer he had begun to wonder if he hadn't had a Sonorus charm cast on him!
Harry stepped gingerly onto the patio and approached the kitchen door; Aunt Petunia scrutinised his appearance to ensure he would not be dropping mud on her sparkling kitchen floor before allowing him to step into the house. Thinking that he would enjoy coming out again after dark to do the watering (there was no hosepipe ban this year) Harry made his way indoors carefully removing his Wellington boots and slipping on an oldvery battered pair of trainers.
Bent double while tying his lacesHarry saw a pair of very large shoes come into his field of vision. Realising in a split second that those shoes definitely did not belong to Aunt Petunia nor were they Uncle Vernon's,and Dudley only wore trainers with Velcro fastening as his fat stomach made it almost impossible for him to even see his feet let alone tie lacesSo then to whom did they belong?
Harry let his gaze travel up from the shoes past the tweed box-pleated skirt and tailored matching jacket taking in the stance of hands on hips, wearing an expression that looked as though something nasty, smelly and very definitely unwanted was on the floor before her was….
"Aunt Marge!" said Harry standing and tripping backwards at the same time landing painfully on his backside on the paved patio.
"Hurry up and get yourself cleaned up. Aunt Marge needs you to run an errand for her," declared Aunt Petunia. Harry could only hear her voice as she was entirely hidden by the enormous frame of Uncle Vernon's sister. Harry almost wanted to smile as he heard the thin reedy voice seemingly come from the enormous rotund body in front of him! They'd make a good ventriloquist act! thought Harry.
Remembering back to the summer before his third year at Hogwarts and the last time Harry had laid eyes on Aunt Marge when he had inadvertently blown her up to monstrous proportions, Harry wondered just how effective the Memory Charm was that had been cast on her. Deciding to play it cool (after all he didn't want another warning from the Improper Use of Magic Office) Harry asked her as inoffensively as he could, "How are you,Aunt Marge? Keeping well I hope."
Marge scowled at this unaccustomed behaviour from Harry.
"It seems to be learning some manners at last I see, Petunia," said Marge, rudely ignoring Harry's enquiry as to her state of health. "I take it that school of his, St.Brutus's I think you said it was called, has been complying with your request not to spare the rod! It's as I told you,Petunia, see what a damn good thrashing can do to even the most disobedient and self-willed pup! You have to show them who's boss. Put your foot down and make no bones about it."
All the time Marge had been speaking, she had not taken her eyes off Harry. He could feel his anger rising in his chest, but was determined to control it. He was stronger than she and no matter what Marge said she would not provoke him into doing something that could escalate into another potential disaster. Harry had enough this last year not to want to go down that path again. He could and would control his emotions.
Still feeling hot and thirsty from his gardening, Harry reached to open the dishwasher to get a glass and have a drink of water from the tap behind him when Marge swiped his hand away.
"There's no time for that nowboy! I have an errand for you to run and you'll have to hurry before the shop shuts," she said.
"But it's already gone eight and it'sSunday! All the shops shut at four on Sunday!" replied Harry.
"Don't you answer back to me, boy,or you'll get another dose of what's good for you!" Marge raised her walking stick above her head ready to bring it down on Harry's back.
"Now, now, Marge" blustered Vernon rushing into the kitchen and grasping the raised stick, "the boy hasn't refused to do as you've asked, he's just pointed out a possible problem!" Vernon almost sounded panicky.
"Stupid boy! Of course I thought about that!" spluttered Marge indignantly. "I remember that old cat woman, Mrs. Figg's isn't it, telling me that she knows of a little shop that's open at all sorts of hours that should have what I want. Come to think of it, you can call in on her to see if she wants anything before you go. Get upstairs and clean yourself up before you leave the house. You look a positive disgrace! Don't want the neighbours to see you looking like the down-and-out that you are!"
Harry was about to argue, but thought better of it when he saw the look that Uncle Vernon was giving him. Instead, he simply shrugged his shoulders and went upstairs to the bathroom.
He just couldn't believe his luck!
Stuck at Privet Drive for probably the whole summer with little or no chance of visiting the Burrow, not being allowed to Owl anyone just in case the messages were intercepted by Death Eaters and to cap it all, Aunt Marge had come to visit. Could things get much worse?
Yes, thought Harry, they could and unfortunately he could imagine very much worse. At least everyone was alive and well, at least as far as Harry knew they were, as he hadn't heard anything to the contrary.
It was also true, however, that since his return from Hogwarts he had been woken nearly every night by pains in his scar and,try as he might, he just couldn't clear his mind of all thought when he went to bed. Snape had continued to refuse to help Harry with learning Occlumency, but Harry was secretly glad of this.
Whilst acknowledging the very real need for him to block any possible connection with Voldemort, Harry still felt that Snape's lessons had weakened him rather than strengthened his ability to keep Voldemort at bay. Hadn't Harry been able to successfully block the Imperius Curse naturally and without any lessons? Hadn't he been able to block Snape's early attempts to gain access to Harry's memories of his encounter with Cho? After weeks of lessons Harry had seemed to be less able to block Snape than he had at the beginning.
Suddenly an excellent idea occurred to Harry and the timing couldn't be better.
Aunt Marge had specifically asked that Harry call in on Mrs. Figg. Harry realised this would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on what was going on in the war against Voldemort and give him a chance to check up on his friends. At the same time, Harry decided, he would ask for some books about Occlumency so that he could read up on the subject during the holidays. Extra study would also help him keep out of Marge's way.
So it was with a sudden spring in his step that Harry ascended the stairs and entered the bathroom.
Harry stood in front of the sink and looked at his reflection in the mirror; this was something he had been carefully avoiding since returning from Hogwarts. Every time he saw a mirror he was reminded of Sirius.
"If only…..!" his thoughts always began.
So many "if only's."
If only…… I had remembered about the package Sirius had given me sooner!
If only…… I had seen the mirror and used it to speak to Sirius after going into Snape's Pensieve I wouldn't still have so many unanswered questions about my mum and dad.
If only… … I had used the mirror instead of breaking into Umbridge's office then Fred and George might have stayed at Hogwarts and sat their NEWTs!
If only…… I had used the mirror to speak to Sirius instead of using the Floo Network, then Kreacher wouldn't have been able to lie to me and I would have known Sirius was safe. There would have been no need to go charging off to the Ministry of Magic and…..
…..I wouldn't have gotten Sirius killed and my friends so badly hurt!
Harry gave himself a mental slap around the face. Pull yourself together,Potter! Thinking like this is not going to bring him back! You need to keep your wits around you, learn all you can and make sure you do everything in your power to stop anything like that happening ever again!
He quickly washed and,after pulling on a clean t-shirt, he went downstairs to find out exactly what Aunt Marge wanted him to get.
"Dog biscuits! You want me to go trailing the streets at this time of night for dog biscuits!"
"How dare you speak to your aunt like that!" spluttered Aunt Marge indignantly. "She and Vernon gave you house-room, boy! I'd think you'd show a bit more gratitude for all that they give you, not kick up a fuss when asked to run one little errand for a house-guest! They feed and clothe you and what do they get in return? Refusal to do one little task when asked!"
One little task! Yeah, thought Harry, I'd like to see you dragging your great overweight body round the streets of Little Whinging on a hot sticky summer night, after doing a full day's work in the garden with only an apple and a glass of water to keep you going!
"Petunia, you have the patience of a saint, my dear, but you know you really aren't doing yourself, Vernon or Dudley any favours by continuing to put up with this boy's behaviour each summer. Why don't you just tell that school of his to keep him over the holidays? Perhaps he could earn some money working for the school to repay some of his indebtedness?"
Harry thought of his vault in Gringotts and smiled.
"Oh,so you think that idea is funny, do you? Afraid of a little hard work? Just like your good-for-nothing father!" Marge continued, but Harry was determined her words would not get any reaction from him.
Keep your cool, Harry! Don't let the old bat get to you! he thought to himself.
"Never amounted to anything! Never contributed anything to society!"
Stay calm! She's not worth it!
Aunt Marge's rant seemed to go on for hours, but instead of losing his temper Harry, for once, managed to stay calm and simply said, "Time really is getting on, Aunt Marge, and we don't want Ripper to do without his favourite treats now do we?"
At Harry's words Aunt Marge stopped her flow of venom and looked at him with her mouth hanging open. She seemed to have been struck dumb. Just as though a silencing charm had been cast on her! Did I do that? thought Harry. No, I couldn't have, my wand's in my trunk upstairs!
Aunt Petunia stood up and thrust two £1 coins into Harry's hand with the reminder to check with Mrs. Figg first before she almost bodily pushed Harry out of the door.
Harry's route to Mrs. Figg's took him past the park where Dudley and his gang hung out most evenings. The setting sun appeared to be sitting on the rooftops of the houses on the far side, huge and blood-red casting long shadows over the lush green grass.
In the still night air Harry could pick out the notes of "Greensleeves" as the tinkling tune was played from an ice-cream van driving slowly through the streets of Little Whinging calling the residents to "Stop me and buy one." Images sprung to mind of Aunt Petunia buying Dudley a "Double 99 with chocolate sauce and nuts" while Harry got nothing but a clip round the ear for being cheeky enough to ask for something.
Harry remembered back to one occasion when a complete stranger, seeing Harry's treatment from Aunt Petunia, had objected so strongly that she had been forced to give in and buy him a 30p plain cone – no chocolate and no nuts. Harry remembered enjoying the taste of that forbidden food so much, but then the memory of Uncle Vernon's reaction when they got home came to mind.
That was one occasion when Harry had failed to duck and Vernon had caught him round the back of the head with the book he had been reading. Harry had fallen to the floor seeing stars. He'd dragged himself to his cupboard and lain on his bed, tears streaming down his face. The pain had lasted for two whole days and his teacher had called Aunt Petunia in to see her to ask what was wrong with him. Petunia explained that Harry's clumsiness had caused him to fall and he'd hit his head, but she'd reluctantly agreed to take Harry to see the doctor who diagnosed concussion. His aunt and uncle's reaction to all this was so extreme that no matter what happened after that Harry kept it all to himself and he never saw a doctor again no matter how hurt he had been.
Harry found that these memories had meant that he had walked almost mechanically to the house of Mrs Figg. It was almost exactly a year ago that Harry had learned that Mrs. Figg, who Harry used to think was just a batty old cat-loving lady who babysat him as a child, was in fact a Squib posted by Dumbledore to keep a watchful eye on the growing up Harry. Another "If only" crept to Harry's mind. If only I had known she was there and a member of the Order of the Phoenix then I wouldn't have felt so alone and isolated!
Harry brightened at the prospect of being able to get some news of how the others were doing and to pass on some greetings to Ron, Hermione and … he smiled as he thought of her…. to Ginny! More and more often as Harry lay in bed at night (one of the few times he had peace to just lie still and think) he thought of the smiling face of Ginny Weasley.
Ron's words in the Forbidden Forest came back to him as he walked. "Ginny was best, she got Malfoy - Bat Bogey Hex - it was superb!" Oh how he wished he'd been there to see that!
Harry realised that Ron's little sister had surprised him on more than one occasion over the last year and he had to smile as he recalled being on the sharp end of her tongue back in Grimmauld Place. She had been right when she told him he was an idiot for forgetting about her experience of being possessed by Voldemort.
The last time Harry had seen Ginny was on the train home and this led him to wonder if she was really thinking of going out with Dean Thomas or had she simply said that to wind up Ron? Mind you Dean Thomas is better than that Michael Corner! Ron was right about him… Ginny's far too good for him. Butthen he remembered that Ron had gone on to say to Ginny, "Just choose someone – better – next time," and then he looked straight at … ME!
The more Harry thought about Ginny, the more Ron's words about him breaking up with Cho came back to him. "… you want someone a bit more cheerful." Well, thought Harry, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone more cheerful than Ginny! Could he see Ginny going out with him? She seemed to have well and truly gotten over her crush and this last year Harry had a chance to get to know her a lot better. But would she want to go out with him? Ginny could have the pick of the boys in the school…. Why should she go out with me? thought Harry despondently.
He knew Ginny had a terrible crush on him back in her first year but Hermione had told him that she had "given up" on him; that was apparently the reason why she could talk in front of him now, but hadn't Hermione gone on to say that she "still likes you," but was just liking enough?
His mind was going round and round, thinking about Ginny, thinking of her beautiful smiling face. Despite leaving Privet Drive in a sour mood, being mad at Aunt Petunia and Aunt Marge, Harry now found himself smiling like an idiot just at the thought of Ginny Weasley. God, if Ron could see me now! he thought as he walked along clinking the two pound coins together as he walked to Mrs. Figg's Smiling like an idiot just 'cosI'm thinking about his sister! He went on to think of Ron and Hermione's reactions if he were to tell them he fancied Ginny just as he turned the corner into Wisteria Walk.
The sun had set now and the sky looked beautiful with red and fuchsia streaks blazing across it cut in half by the almost pure white streak left behind by a jet. Probably just more holidaymakers going off for their two weeks in the sun in complete ignorance of the fact that, as far as the wizarding world was concerned, a war was going on.
How Harry envied them their ignorance!
It was hard to reconcile the war with the normalcy he could witness around him. Even Mrs. Figg's house was very ordinary looking. A three-bedroom semi-detached house built in the 1930's and typical of its time, not having been modernised with the addition of double glazing, a garage and conservatory like so many of its neighbours.
It was true that the house looked like it belonged to a very ordinary and elderly spinster lady whose main interest was going to church on Sunday and looking after her innumerable cats.
It was also true, however, that this appearance was very carefully cultivated, for the lady whose home it had been for the past 16 years was anything but ordinary. Arabella Figg was a member of a secret underground movement against the most feared and one of the most powerful wizards in the world.
Arabella Figg was born to parents who were both magical, but unfortunately Arabella was born without an ounce of magic in her. To many Squibs this would be a cause of much hand-wringing and agonizing in the order of, "Why me?" But oh no, Arabella Figg was made of much stronger stuff than that!
Her brother was none other than Albus Dumbledore himself and, to Arabella, it made sense that the magical ability in her family went to the one with the ability and brains to use and apply it, so she developed within herself other skills with which to aid her brothers.
Arabella's very ordinariness within the Muggle world had enabled her to stay close to her charge: one Harry James Potter and to be a part of the band of witches and wizards known as the Order of the Phoenix. The Dursleys of course had no idea that Mrs. Figg was a Squib or had any connection to the magical world and therefore had no hesitation in asking Harry to call there first.
Harry was still thinking of Ginny as he crossed the road and opened the gate to enter Mrs. Figg's front garden. He was not surprised to see her look through the net curtains at her front window to see who was knocking at her door before opening it. He was surprised when the door was opened and he was grabbed and dragged into the house!
"Harry! What the hell are you doing wandering the streets at this time of night?" came the unmistakable voice of Bill Weasley.
"This time of night?" queried Harry in return. "It's only a quarter past nine for goodness sake! And anyway I wouldn't be out at all if my aunt Marge had remembered to pack her dog's favourite treats. She and Aunt Petunia have sent me to go to the shop Mrs. Figg uses to get some before it gets too late and she wanted me to call in to see if Mrs. Figg wanted anything while I'm there. So don't go blaming me for being out!"
Harry was surprised that he had become angry so quickly. Ever since coming home from school for the summer Harry had been trying to keep that temper of his under control. If he hadn't lost his temper so much last year and done what he wanted to do instead of thinking things through first, so many things might have been so different. He took a deep breath, steadying himselfand said as calmly as he could, "Good evening, Mrs. Figg. Would you like anything from the shop before it closes tonight?"
Mrs. Figg was so taken aback by Harry's sudden change in attitude that she muttered a quiet, "No, thank you," in surprise as Harry turned on his heel and was back out the door before Bill had time to pose his next question.
"Well, what do you make of that?"
Arabella's only reply was to raise a surprised eyebrow.
He was pleased with the way he had been able to control his temper when he had been so close to losing it. Ginny would be proud of me, he thought to himself.
Again his thoughts had gone straight back to Ginny and he realised suddenly how much her opinion did matter to him. Perhaps it was seeing Bill Weasley with his long red hair that brought Ginny to mind. It was only then that Harry started to wonder why Bill Weasley was at Mrs. Figg's, but as Harry continued to walk to the shop he supposed that it shouldn't be too odd that members of the Order called in to Mrs. Figg's. After all Mundungus Fletcher had been based there when it had been his turn to keep an eye on Harry last summer –or rather he should have been keeping an eye on Harry and not off buying a load of dodgy cauldrons. Harry couldn't help but smile as he thought of Mundungus. Every time he saw him he couldn't help but think of a certain famous character that he'd seen on TV in his aunt's house beforeHogwarts.
Yes, thought Harry, Dung certainly does remind me of Delboy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses, and he smiled to himself as he thought of Delboy sitting astride a beaten up broomstick smoking a pipe and flogging thin-bottomed cauldrons to unsuspecting witches in Diagon Alley. It was while he had this happy and incongruous picture in his mind that he pushed open the door of "All 'Ours" the little newsagents-cum-supermarket at the far corner of Wisteria Walk as it joined Church Road.
It was a typical single-fronted shop with the owners living in a small flat upstairs, the kind of shop where you could buy everything from a postage stamp to a packet of nappies and food of all descriptions, but at a price.
When Harry found the section selling pet food he wasn't surprised that they didn't stock exactly the brand of dog biscuits he'd been asked to get. Harry supposed he had better go home with something rather than nothing at all. He selected the only size they had in the only variety they had. He thought of the reaction he would get when he got home, "What do you call this? Ripper won't eat that rubbish! Might have known HE'd come back with the wrong item, Petunia. A complete and utter wastrel just like his good-for-nothing father!"
Mind you Harry thought, it would probably be just as bad if I went home empty-handed. "Couldn't you use your common-sense, boy? Ripper isn't some pampered pooch, it's food he needs not some fancy brand name! Why didn't you buy what they had in stock?" With Marge it was always a case of heads you lose – tails I win as far as she was concerned.
Harry made up his mind. No matter what she says to me this time I won't let her get to me. He walked passed the shelves of dusty tins and sweets reduced in price as they had passed their "best by" date to the long counter that filled most of the back wall of the shop. Placing the dog biscuits beside the till on the counter, Harry reached into the front pocket of his baggy and torn jeans (he couldn't use the two back pockets as Dudley had worn great holes in them, but he had been too fat to use the front pockets) and pulled out the two pound coins handing them automatically to the cashier without even glancing up at him. The till registered the sale and Harry held out his hand expecting to feel coins fall into it; what he didn't expect was for one of the coins to be a silver Sickle.