Disclaimer: The Magical World of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, Fantasy Goddess Extraordinaire, to whom much worship and adoration is offered. I have made no profit off this fic except quality time with my co-author (see below) and whatever reviews/feedbacks my adored readers see fit to offer. This is your world, great lady, we're just playing in it!
Author's Note: This is a full-length sixth-year fic that I've been working on like mad all summer. The muse went out of control due to a combination of seeing the Prisoner of Azkaban on film and traveling to London for the first time. I've worked very hard to keep everyone in character and stick with Ms. Rowling's canon. Hope you like it! Reviews/Feedback/Constructive Criticism/Flames all received with squeals of excitement.
Credit Where Credit Is Due: Along with The Great Ms. Rowling, I must extend much credit and wuv to another esteemed person who has been such a fabulous help and inspiration on this tale. In fact, I can only count myself as CO-author to this story, due to this person's contribution of several major scenes (and aiding my exhausted hands by typing a good chunk of this story up!) Make her welcome in our fandom, readers, this is her first time, and for me, it marks the first time I've written a story with so much assistance from a member of my family! The result, you see, is below:
Harry Potter and the Battle of Wills
Authors: Jocelyn and Mum
Dedicated: To Mum (see above.) I love writing with you!
Summary: Harry mourns his godfather as the war finally begins in earnest, bringing tragedy and new struggles for all those on the side of Good. If they hope to win, old quarrels must be set aside, new alliances must be forged, and Harry Potter must find the courage to face down dark wizards, his own emotions, and a destiny he did not choose.
Warnings: No slash, no major romance other than what the books have hinted at, violence (no worse than the books), sporadic character deaths (hey, it's war!)
Chapter One: The Beginning of a Very Bad Day
A fine, misty rain drifted down over the rooftops and gardens of Little Whinging, covering everything with tiny drops like delicate beads of glass. The low clouds hanging heavy overhead completely blocked the sun, putting a coolness in the air quite unusual for the month of July. Although the rain could hardly be called a downpour (it was really more like a thick fog), the residents of Privet Drive were doing their best to stay indoors, watching television and cooking dinner.
Here and there, a few cars passed by, off on various errands or returning home so the occupants could leap out with armloads of parcels and hustle into their houses to avoid getting wet. Even in the lightest rain, most people in Little Whinging were highly averse to the visual effect of dampness.
Everyone, that is, except the boy seated on the back terrace of Number Four, Privet Drive. Covered with little rain-beads, his black hair clung wetly to his scalp and forehead above his wire-rimmed glasses, and his damp, too-large clothes clung to his skinny body. Completely motionless on the lowest step of the back terrace, he resembled nothing so much as a bizarre lawn ornament, with his bright green eyes staring at nothing.
Harry Potter was aware that the news was playing inside on the television, but he didn't bother to go into the house. And this time, it wasn't because his aunt and uncle had forbidden it. The Dursleys had in fact been almost tolerant of Harry in the week since they had picked him up from King's Cross station at the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts. Instead of bellowing, "Boy! Come here and do such-and-such," Uncle Vernon now muttered, "Got some chores for you. See to it they're done by dinner." And then Harry was usually left alone.
There was little doubt that the reticence of Harry's Muggle relatives had to do with the greeting party assembled by the Order of the Phoenix to chat with them when they'd arrived at King's Cross. A close encounter with Mad-Eye Moody was enough to give even the average wizard pause, and so naturally, Uncle Vernon had found himself a bit intimidated. Now the Dursleys lived with no greater fear that one or more of the bizarrely-dressed, mildly-threatening characters they had met at the station would turn up on Privet Drive and destroy their beloved "normal" existence if their nephew made any complaints about his treatment.
But all in all, there was little reason for the Dursleys to be worried: since coming back to Privet Drive, Harry Potter had scarcely uttered a word.
After a good deal of instruction from Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley had finally figured out how to use the telephone properly, and so Harry got either a telephone call or an owl from one or the other of them (and sometimes both) every day. Harry preferred the owls; all he needed to do was write that nothing new was happening and yes, he was staying on the Dursleys' property, no, they weren't mistreating him, yes, he was looking forward to getting O.W.L. exam results, no, he didn't need them to owl or call every day.
But that didn't stop them doing it.
When the phone calls came from Ron, Harry was usually able to get out of talking much; he just let Ron tell him all about his summer at the Burrow, practicing Quidditch with Ginny and whichever of his brothers happened to be home, helping the twins with the store, and making ready to run for Headquarters at a moment's notice. Harry only had to make the appropriate noises in between Ron's sentences and give a few one-word answers to convince Ron he was all right.
Hermione, on the other hand, wasn't so easy to fool, and endlessly nagged Harry about how he was doing. Somehow in the past few weeks since year's end, she seemed to have developed a little understanding about his usual reaction to prying, and avoided mentioning outright what she wanted him to talk about. But while she was very skilled at detecting subtleties in others, when it came to it, Hermione wasn't very good at using them herself. And it was painfully clear to Harry that the one subject she wanted most to hear about was the one subject he wanted least to talk about.
It had barely been three weeks since Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, had died in the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries, falling through a stone archway that led…well…nowhere. Worse still, his death had been caused by Harry's precipitous rush to the Ministry that led him straight into a trap set by Voldemort and his followers. Harry had gone there to save Sirius, and in the end, that was the reason his godfather had died.
No, he did not want to talk to Hermione or anyone else about it. So he spent every minute trying to occupy himself, be it with the Dursleys' chores or summer homework.
On the second Monday of summer holidays, Harry had finished all his chores by one o'clock in the afternoon, and spent the afternoon revising his N.E.W.T Potions essay. The previous Friday, O.W.L. results had arrived: Harry had received seven, and acceptance into the N.E.W.T courses that would keep him on the track to becoming an Auror, even Potions. He had scored far better than he'd expected in Potions, receiving an "O" in the theory and an "E" in the practical, and by some miracle (perhaps a little nudging from Professor McGonagall or Professor Dumbledore) he'd been admitted to N.E.W.T. Potions.
It should have made him happy, or at least a little smug, to have made it into Snape's N.E.W.T class. But it didn't. He should have felt excited, or at least a little encouraged, by the fact that he still had a chance of becoming an Auror. But it didn't. In a strange way, since returning to Privet Drive, Harry had achieved what he had told Professor Dumbledore he wanted on the night Sirius died: he could no longer see to feel. Anything.
Even when the Daily Prophet had come yesterday with more news of Minister Fudge's frantic efforts to recruit more Aurors to guard Azkaban prison after the dementors had abandoned it, he had felt nothing. No fear, no anger, not even vindication at Fudge's feeble attempts to explain last year's events (particularly why he had not listened to Harry and Professor Dumbledore's warnings that Voldemort had returned.)
What was left inside of Harry was a silent apathy, leaning toward glum. But gray nothingness (kind of like the foggy rain falling on him now) was still better than the agony of grief and rage that had burned at his insides during the first days that had dawned in this horrible new World Without Sirius.
After finally deciding his Potions essay was as perfect as he could make it, Harry had gone outside. Maybe he could send it to Hermione for some corrections; it might set her mind at ease—or worry her that he was further ahead on his schoolwork than she was.
He'd been sitting on the front steps at first, until Aunt Petunia had come out and told him, "If you're just going to sit about all day, kindly do it in the back garden so the neighbors don't have to see you."
So Harry sat in the rain from three in the afternoon until seven in the evening, silent and unmoving, and trying (and failing) not to think of Sirius.
Hearing Aunt Petunia's call for dinner at seven, he got up and went inside, to her scandalized exclamation of, "You're sopping wet! Get upstairs and change into some dry clothes before you ruin the carpet or get sick! What were you thinking?!"
So Harry trudged upstairs and put on some dry blue jeans and one of his jumpers from Mrs. Weasley (he was a little cold, he had to admit) then came back down to help set the table. He did all of this in his usual silence.
As they sat down to dinner, Uncle Vernon watched Harry picking idly at his roast beef and remarked, "Is skinny stylish among your lot, or've you lost your taste for normal food?"
Harry blinked and looked up, startled that his uncle had actually noticed his lack of appetite, then he just shrugged and pushed a fork full of meat into his mouth. Aunt Petunia bristled, "Young man, don't think for an instant that your lot's threats will allow you to get away with cheeky behavior!"
Harry swallowed his food, kept his eyes on his plate, and muttered, "Sorry." His aunt, uncle, and cousin frowned at him, but he wasn't surprised. His voice had sounded strange even to his own ears; he used it so seldom anymore. It just…wasn't worth the effort.
Uncle Vernon cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to have a word with you," he said sternly. Harry felt a brief urge to groan. "Your aunt and I have decided that whatever little state you're obviously in, we don't intend to let you continue this week like last week." Harry scowled at his plate and said nothing. He would have thought they'd be thrilled by his silence. Uncle Vernon went on, "Whatever you've been sulking about, it's no excuse for this lack of respect. So your manners are going to shape up or no matter what threats your lot makes, I'll be taking away the privilege of letting you practice your tricks under this roof. Understood?"
Harry sighed, forcing himself to look up. "Yes, Uncle Vernon." He held their gazes until they seemed satisfied, then looked down and half-heartedly continued eating.
Dudley rolled his eyes at Harry. "What's eating you, anyway? It's summer holidays, and you're acting like somebody died!"
A lump of roast beef turned to ash in Harry's mouth. It was several minutes before he could swallow, but once he did, he looked coldly at his cousin. "Somebody did. May I be excused?" Without waiting for Aunt Petunia's reply, he picked up his plate and carried it into the kitchen.
Curled up on the floor of his room next to his bed, Harry sat over Sirius's two-way mirror. He had shattered it when it hadn't worked at Hogwarts, but repaired it with his wand the very day he got back to Privet Drive. And every night since then, he looked into it and called for Sirius.
Silence. One heartbeat. Then another.
Harry should have gotten angry like he had at Hogwarts. He should have been disappointed, or sad, or at least his heart should have sped up while waiting. But it didn't. There was only his face staring back at him in the mirror, a little drawn from rapidly-lost weight, and little color except for the green of his eyes. His eyes looked empty and hopeless, which made sense, for that was exactly how Harry felt.
The prophecy that Voldemort had lured Harry to the Ministry to obtain—and failed, but with Sirius's life as the price—told that only Harry had the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. And that one of them must die at the hand of the other. So Harry would either be murdered by Voldemort…or Harry would have to be the one to kill him. And Harry couldn't even muster up the will to care anymore.
He heard the telephone ring downstairs. It was probably Ron; he usually called after dinner. Harry didn't have the energy to get up and find out, but a moment later, there was a rap on the door. "Telephone."
"Coming," Harry said, and went downstairs to the kitchen.
"Harry? How are you, mate?"
"All right, Ron. You?"
"I'm at Headquarters. Hermione's here too—with her parents! Everyone's really worried that the Orde—I mean, the Aurors' families'll be the first targets of You-Know-Who, so they're all being moved into hiding."
"Your family's there too, then?" Harry asked, feeling a little whisper of relief at the news.
"Yeah, except Percy, but he's been sent to a safe house. He sent Mum a letter telling her he's safe outside work."
"Don't really know if that's good or not," Ron went on, "I mean, he did stop Dad in the Ministry hallway on Friday to make sure we were all leaving the Burrow. I guess that's something, but with the start of the war and all, we didn't really get the chance to hear much from him."
Harry made a neutral noise. He'd taken to doing that in lieu of talking. Hermione and Remus Lupin always pressed him to speak, but it usually worked on Ron.
It did, and Ron went on, "On the other hand, he and Mum were playing tennis all spring with that bloody jumper, but he hasn't sent it back again. Could be he just didn't have time and left it at his flat, but…never know, I suppose."
"Mm-hmm," Harry replied. This time, Ron seemed to be waiting for a longer answer. "Erm…how's your mum?"
Ron sighed loudly into the receiver. "She's a wreck. She wrote Percy at work, begging him to come here with us, but he wrote back that it wasn't a good idea. At least he's answering now, I guess."
"Er…listen, Harry, you know, Hermione says she thinks you—what?" Harry heard another voice on the other end. No, several voices. All talking at once. Then Ron's voice came back, and he sounded breathless. "Harry, the Or—everyone's back, and Remus has to talk to you right now."
There was a shuffle, then Lupin's anxious voice came on. "Harry?"
"I'm here," Harry said, sensing that whatever the news, it wasn't good.
"Harry, Voldemort is attacking Azkaban, trying to spring his Death Eaters. Professor Dumbledore is on his way there now, but he said to tell you to be ready: it's begun."
"I understand," said Harry, feeling emotions he'd thought were gone creeping back into him, with alarm at the forefront.
"He wants you to stay in your home, and tell your relatives to do the same. We're going to increase your guard, but you're safest within the wards."
"All right—" Harry glanced automatically at the Dursleys in the living room and froze: Dudley was in the foyer, with Aunt Petunia nagging him to take his galoshes. "Oh no. Dudley's about to leave."
"Your cousin? Harry, stop him, he'll be in grave danger!"
"Don't hang up the phone; I may need you," Harry said gravely. "I doubt they'll take my word alone."
"I'll wait. Hurry!"
Harry set the phone down and ran into the hall. "Dudley! Aunt Petunia, wait!" His aunt and cousin hesitated in the doorway. "You can't go out!"
Dudley folded his arms. "You can't tell me what to do, Potter!"
"No, it's not that," Harry said desperately, hearing Uncle Vernon coming to see what was happening. "Aunt Petunia, something's happened!"
"What the devil are you on about, boy?" Uncle Vernon demanded, appearing behind him.
Harry struggled to explain, but kept his eyes on Aunt Petunia. She at least would understand what he was talking about, even if she disliked it. "Voldemort is attacking the wizard prison. All the dementors left, and there's not enough guards to keep his followers locked up. He's getting them out now."
To his relief, Aunt Petunia went pale and grabbed Dudley's shoulders. "You're saying that next, he'll come…here?"
Harry nodded. "Professor Dumbledore thinks so."
"What are you talking about?" Dudley whined. "I'm going to be late!"
"No, Bopkins, you can't go. I'm so sorry," Aunt Petunia's grip on her son tightened.
"What?! You're listening to him?!" Dudley bellowed.
"Dudley's right, Petunia, since when does this ungrateful freak tell us what to do—"
"—Have you forgotten what happened last summer?!" Aunt Petunia suddenly shouted at her husband. Harry didn't know who was more surprised: Uncle Vernon, Dudley, or himself. All three of them gaped. Then Aunt Petunia's head whipped back to face Harry. "How do you know we're all safe here?"
"Wards," Harry explained. "Magic protections. Around the house. And the charm—you know which," he said carefully. Aunt Petunia nodded gravely. "As long as we stay inside, Voldemort's lot can't get to us."
"And those dementy-things, from last year? They can't get in either?" Uncle Vernon asked.
"I…I don't think so," Harry said slowly. Would the wards and spells stop dementors?
"You think?!" Uncle Vernon shouted, just as Dudley yelled, "He's barking! I'm going to Gordon's!"
"No!" Aunt Petunia shrieked, grabbing for Dudley as he opened the door. "Dudders, wait, it's not safe! Why don't we call Gordon and invite him over here tonight?"
Uncle Vernon was still demanding more explanations when the telltale CRACK of an apparating wizard echoed down the street. Dudley and Aunt Petunia froze on the front walk. Harry whipped out his wand. "What was that?" hissed Uncle Vernon.
"Don't know," Harry muttered. "A wizard's here."
"One of Lord Whatsits?"
"Ssh!" Harry hissed. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were still motionless on the terrace.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
"I don't like this," Uncle Vernon growled but his voice was quavering.
"That makes two of us," Harry replied, his heart now doing back flips in his chest.
Windows and doors were opening all along the street. "What the blazes is that noise?!" the next door neighbor yelled.
"I—aah—" Harry's mind raced.
"Bank robbers!" Uncle Vernon suddenly shouted, waving his arms at the neighbors frantically. "Fugitive armed bank robbers are headed into the area! Police just reported it! Lock your doors!"
With shouts and curses, doors and windows slammed shut up and down Privet Drive. "Dudley, Aunt Petunia, please come back in," Harry said nervously. "It's not sa—"
Time seemed to slow down. A flash of green light erupted from behind a hedge down the street, acing straight toward them. Harry yelled, "Look out!" as Dudley and Aunt Petunia screamed simultaneously and Uncle Vernon tried to shove past him to reach them. Harry aimed his wand and shouted, "Protego!" even though he knew it wouldn't block a Killing Curse.
The deadly green light flew across the street through the air over the edge of the Dursley's green lawn—and dissipated against an invisible barrier.
"Get in! Quick!" Harry cried, leaping off the steps and bodily shoving his cousin and aunt back at the door. Then a chorus of yells through the street made him spin around, wand in front of him, in time to see a dozen black-robed, masked wizards charging toward the house from every direction.
To Be Continued…
Next Time: All Professor Dumbledore's protections for Harry and his relatives are put to the test in Chapter Two: Disaster on Privet Drive.
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