o –––––– o –––––– o

Chapter 9: A Week in France

o –––––– o –––––– o

The blurring colors and flashing lights lasted longer than with any other portkey Harry had used before. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, the sensation ceased and Harry fell flat on his back with a loud thud.

"Ugh," he groaned. He weakly ran his hands over what he felt to be a smooth wooden floor in an attempt to find something to pull himself up. The attempt proved futile, he was still too weak; he gave up and gazed up at a high plaster ceiling. "Madame Coine!" he croaked.

"Oi! I am vairy sorry, 'Arry!" She tried to pull Harry up, but her efforts only resulted in Harry weakly backpedaling before his feet gave out beneath him and he crashed back down and fell against a beige loveseat.

He still felt very weak from the transformation and from the way Madame Coine was looking at him; it seemed she had realized that Harry wouldn't be walking anywhere anytime soon. She pulled out her wand and cast Mobilicorpus on him.

As he lifted off the ground and spun around, he found he was in a large parlor that was well furnished with walls lined with oak bookshelves, antique sofas, and a large window through which he saw an open lawn and a row of tall trees. He floated down a short hall, up a stairwell, and through a door into a box-filled room where he could see lines of roof trusses across the ceiling. They were in the attic.

He stopped moving when he was just barely into the room, and Harry craned his neck as Madame Coine walked around him to open the entry flaps of a large gray tent. He tried to raise his head further to peek inside, but the Mobilicorpus spell held him still. Madame Coine didn't dawdle while Harry strained and twisted back behind him to lead him through the tent's entry.

For all that Harry rolled his eyes, he couldn't see much about the room beyond the fact that it had white walls and contained a few wooden chairs and a leather couch. Then they were through a door and into a narrow white hall. Madame Coine floated Harry through the second door on the left, into a plain room, and lowered him onto a soft bed before ending the spell.

The medi-witch walked around the bed so that she was standing over him. "Professor Dumbly-door 'as said zat you will need some sleep after ze change. I 'ave some things to do now, but I will be back for supper. I will leave your zings on ze dresser. Is zair anything zat I can get for you so zat you are not so bored when you wake up?"

"Er… A book would be fine. If you've got Hogwarts, a History, I'd like that, but if you don't I suppose Your Magic and You, which should be in there will do." The first request was purely spiteful and a twinge of guilt stirred in Harry's gut. It wasn't likely that Madame Coine had any more choice in this than he did.

Madame Coine pursed her lips thoughtfully for a moment. "I will see about zis 'ogwarts book." She moved out of sight to the foot of the bed, and Harry heard her rummaging in her satchel. "I will leave ze Magic book on ze nightstand, 'ere. I will see you later, 'Arry." Harry turned his head to watch her place the familiar book on a glass and brass nightstand and walk out of the room.

Harry rolled his head back and weakly wiggled beneath the covers with his clothes still on. He blinked slowly, sighed, and smacked his mouth. He really was tired; his eyelids fell and it wasn't long until he fell asleep.

o –––––– o –––––– o

Harry felt much stronger when he woke several hours later. Harry was surprised at how normal the room looked. The wizarding tent that he had shared with the Weasley males was much more cramped, but this room could have belonged in any house. The room's furnishings included two beds, nightstands, desks, and wardrobes. There was a large mirror to the left of his head; probably the one Dumbledore had mentioned earlier. A pair of books sat on his nightstand, and the one on top was boldly labeled, Hogwarts, a History.

He hadn't expected Madame Coine to get it, and he cringed as he took it up and began reading. It was dreadfully dull, and Harry soon found it difficult to concentrate on the stuffy pages. His thoughts began to wander and soon turned to Dumbledore. By the clock on his nightstand, he would be contacting Harry soon. What would he think of seeing Harry reading this particular book? It was this thought alone that kept Harry from putting the book down.

It was only a few minutes later when a chime startled Harry from his reading. It had come from the mirror. A moment of silence followed before Harry heard Dumbledore's voice. "Hello, Harry, are you there?"

"I'm here, Headmaster!" Harry tensed on the bed.

"Ah, excellent! I am coming through, please keep clear of the mirror, Harry." Harry watched as the mirror suddenly began to ripple, it looked like a vertical pond that had a rock thrown in it. It lasted only a second before Dumbledore passed through and tapped the mirror with his wand, stilling it and sealing it shut.

Harry pointedly kept his eyes on the book, and firmed his grip on it when he heard the Headmaster cough. "Harry, you know that I am aware of your feelings. There is no need to be childish, please put the book down so we can begin our lesson."

Harry put down the book and scowled. "I've already read the chapter on Occlumency in that other book, Your Magic and You. It didn't say much about making that shield you were talking about."

Dumbledore took a seat on the bed facing Harry. "I wouldn't expect it to. Each wizard forms his own shield in his own way. I have placed a number of wards on this tent to isolate your magic. Your connection with Voldemort should not be active while you stay here, regardless of what you feel. It is very important that you stay in the tent, Harry. At least until you've perfected your shield, and possibly longer."

"What? I have to stay trapped like a rat in here all summer?" It was unfair having to leave his friends, but this was just too much.

"Sirius and Nymphadora will be arriving in a week or so, at least then you will have some company. Is there anything I could bring you to make this easier?" He actually sounded like he meant it.

"Yeah, I could really use my wand."

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes, "Your wand is needed yet for the rest of your funeral rites. I told you that you could not have it, Harry. Perhaps once you have adjusted to these circumstances, we can find your father's wand for you."

Harry scowled but remained silent. Arguing wasn't going to get him anywhere with the old man.

"Now on to the lesson; as I said, each wizard and witch who practices this form of magic has his or her own way of creating his or her own personal shield. Usually it involves concentrating on your magic and then envisioning some form of shield that surrounds you. Some wizards use an incantation to facilitate the magic. In my case, I gather my magic and project a flexible shield of blue energy. Another man I know creates a shield of fire. Each and every shield is different and consequently has different strengths and weaknesses. The best way to learn this technique is to simply test different variations until we find one that works. Do you have any questions before we begin?"

"No, sir."

Dumbledore sighed, "Well, then, try to clear your mind and concentrate on your magic."

What! This wasn't what he had been trying before. "You're supposed to concentrate on your magic? All this time I've been trying to keep my mind totally blank when doing these stupid exercises in the book."

"Harry, all magical manipulation requires some attention to magic, why would this be any different?"

"Right then," Harry mumbled. "I'll try, will you be doing something to test for a shield then?"

"Indeed I will," Dumbledore smiled at him.

Harry spent the next hour trying to repeat the mind-clearing exercises from the book with this new concentrating on magic approach. They tried several different shields including the flames and blue energy, but went on to try shields of emotions, other elements, and physical sensations. They stopped when Madame Coine walked in on them trying a pain shield. That hurt, and Harry was more than willing to defer the lesson in favor of the dinner that Madame Coine had brought with her.

Dumbledore stayed for dinner and left after setting up another lesson the following evening and admonishing Harry to keep practicing and to stay in the tent.

o –––––– o –––––– o

The next morning found Harry restless. He scrambled out of bed and found the weakness from yesterday's transformation was gone. He spotted his clothes on top of the right dresser, there were two of them opposite Harry's bed—and dressed himself with a pair of shorts and a shirt.

He packed the rest of the clothes away and turned to look at the mirror. He hadn't thought of it yesterday, but the idea of having Dumbledore casually walking into his bedroom wasn't appealing. He would definitely be asking to have it moved. Other then that, there wasn't anything else that needed changing in the room and he walked out the side door to explore the rest of his prison.

He vaguely remembered the hallway from yesterday and found a bathroom immediately across from his bedroom. A little farther down the hall there was another door, on the right, and it lead to another room that was obviously set up for a girl.

Between his bedroom and the girly one, on the opposite wall, was an open archway that lead to an outdoor garden and jacuzzi. Harry took a quick cursory look of the patio and surrounding lawn. There was a tree just inside the door and the room was walled with waist-high flowerbeds and enchanted walls. The enchanted ceiling showed a sunny day outside. The walls looked almost like he could walk into them, they were beautiful scenes of an animated countryside, with leaf-shaking breezes and rolling hills of grass. If he were to sit down and stay there, Harry knew it was a view he could enjoy.

Harry stepped back into the hall and continued to the end where he found two more doors. One on the archway side revealed an empty closet, and the other revealed another stretch of the hallway that ended with the tent flaps. Midway down the hall there were two large open-doorways. Through the left one he found a comfortable looking parlor with a leather couch, tea table, and fireplace. The right doorway led into a kitchen with a table, chairs, cupboards, sink, oven, wizarding wireless, and a grandfather clock. In the far corner of the room was a door that led to a pantry.

He fetched some bread and cheese and noticed a calendar on the wall. Harry had quite forgotten what day it was in all the excitement of the past few and counted forward from the day he got back from Hogwarts. His best guess was that it was the 10th. It hardly seemed possible that only a week had passed since Uncle Vernon had picked him up at Kings Cross.

Harry wandered out of the kitchen with a glass of water in one hand and his bread and cheese in the other. He looked at the entry and wished he could go out; he felt trapped and isolated, he didn't even know when Madame Coine would be coming back. For all practical purposes, Harry was alone.

The whole day was dreadfully boring. Harry spent most of his time beneath the plum tree in the outdoor room reading. Every few minutes found Harry looking towards the open door to the hallway, hoping someone would come. The sun was setting in the enchanted walls before Madame Coine showed up.

" 'Arry! I am vairy sorry I for leaving you alone today. I was vairy busy at ze school and one zing was leading to anuzzer and I was zere ze whole day. It is looking as eef I will be gone every day. I will try to be 'ere as much as I can, but so far as anyone else knows, I 'ave no reason to spend much time here. 'Ou are dead and not here, and I 'ave other responseebilities zat I must see to. Zose are all excuses, I know. I will try to see you at least one time a day, it is ze best zat I can do. We will be 'aving French Lessons once ze uzzers arrive."

That sounded almost rehearsed and Harry tilted his head as he regarded her quizzically. He had been lonely today and was disappointed that it looked like today was the start of a monotonous routine. It wasn't something Harry thought he could change by arguing. He grimaced sourly and went along with her changing the subject. "Err, why do I have to learn French? Aren't there charms we can cast so I won't have to?"

"Oi, zere are charms zat make you speak French and zere are charms to make you 'ear French and I will be teaching you both of zem. When you are under ze charms you will 'ear any language as if eet was English, and when you speak English ze words will be French. Zere are many bad sides, you will be sounding like ze dictionary and you cannot say anyzing in any language but French with ze speaking charm and you will hear only English with ze 'earing charm. So you see, Zere are many good reasons for you to learn ze language. It is a skill zat will be vairy useful and if you come back 'ere, it will make you look tress sophisticate."

Harry sighed after hearing that litany. It was just what he needed, more lessons for things he didn't really want to learn in the first place. This crazy plan of Dumbledore's was turning into more and more of a headache as time went on. "I guess you're right. Before we eat, do you think you can move that mirror out of my room? I don't fancy having Dumbledore walk in on me there when I'm not expecting him. There is a nice spot by the sofa."

Dumbledore walked in on them just after they finished their evening meal. "Dobby has already been asking about you, Harry. He would be quite disappointed to see you doing house-elf work, as he calls it."

Harry heard the Headmaster's smile efore he looked up and saw it. "I don't need him for every meal, sir. You said to use discretion when calling him; I will be fine so long as there is something in the pantry." No, Harry wasn't about to burden Dobby with more work when Harry didn't need his help.

"He does miss you, Harry, and there is precious little to keep the house-elves occupied through the summer. I am sure he would enjoy your company if you would have him."

"If notheeng else 'e can clean ze 'ouse." Madame Coine added with a wink.

"Couldn't that be inviting trouble, Madame Coine?" Harry scowled before pausing thoughtfully, "err… do you have any house-elves?"

"Non, I do not, but zere are 'ouse-elfs in ze Château across ze lake. Zere are also groundskeepers who maintain ze estate. Zat is why you must be in ze tent all day, 'Arry, and also why I cannot 'ave Dobby's 'elp."

"I am aware this week in particular will prove to be a challenge to your patience, Harry. If there is anything that either of us can bring you to make this time easier, please do not hesitate to ask." Dumbledore added.

"Right," Harry sighed. "Well if you think I've adjusted to my circumstances, I suppose you could let me use my father's wand. Maybe I could review a few spells to keep me from rotting." Harry looked down as he finished. A sudden idea had occurred to him, the beginnings of a scheme to make his time a bit more exciting, and he did not want Dumbledore to see it.

The Headmaster gave Harry a long considering look as the youth raised his head. Harry tried to concentrate his thoughts on the vanishing spell and Dumbledore lifted his chin to look down his nose at Harry. "I did indeed bring the wand with me… and I suppose you may use it after I bind it accordingly. I did tell you that all of your magic must be contained within the tent, and that most definitely includes this wand."

Madame Coine stood up with her empty plate. " 'Arry and I will clean up 'ere in ze kitchen while you do ze binding, Dumbly-door. Come 'Arry, you can 'elp me feenish wiz ze dishes."

Harry stepped quickly to Madame Coine's aid and Dumbledore disappeared into the hall. It didn't take them long to clean the dishes by hand, and they found Dumbledore waiting for them in the parlor when they stepped out of the kitchen.

"Harry, I am very serious about you keeping your magic inside the tent, and I will warn you now that failure to do so may result in grave consequences. It will not work outside this tent, but if you try to break the binding the wand will likely be destroyed. I trust we both want to avoid that."

"Yes, Headmaster. I promise, I'll only cast spells with it inside the tent." Harry said. It was best not to try to look too innocent when you wanted to pull something over on anyone, and he'd have to not-try his best to do so with Dumbledore.

Dumbledore regarded him suspiciously for a minute before playing the wand in Harry's hand. "Thank you for the wonderful dinner, Madame. Harry and I have an Occlumency lesson to see to. If you would please excuse us?"

After Madame Coine left, Dumbledore turned to Harry with a smile and gestured at the couch. "We may as well get comfortable, Harry."

Harry nodded and sat. "Will my shield get stronger with more practice?" Last night Dumbledore had been able to break through with ease no matter what Harry had tried.

"You will find that once you have settled on a technique to construct a shield, refining it and possibly building upon it are only matters of time and practice." Dumbledore gave Harry a reassuring look and folded his hands in his lap. "Now then, shall we begin?"

They spent another hour practicing. It had become a routine: Harry would clear his mind, try to imagine and construct the best shield he could, and Dumbledore would shatter it with discouraging ease.

Harry was staring sullenly at the ground, fresh from another failure, when Dumbledore announced his departure. "I think that is enough for tonight. Perhaps you could spend some time tomorrow pondering other techniques to construct your shield. I will return tomorrow evening."

Harry didn't reply and Dumbledore sighed and shook his head before leaving through the mirror.

Harry spent the rest of the evening listening to the Wizarding Wireless in the kitchen while he thought through his plan for tomorrow. He couldn't understand anything that the French wizards were saying, but he eventually found a music station that played songs with a good beat. He listened to the methodic beat for several minutes while absently twirling his father's wand. Eventually he stopped and smiled; satisfied, he turned the Wizarding Wireless off and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a good day.

o –––––– o –––––– o

Harry put his plan into action the next morning. There was no way that he was just going to rot in this tent all summer long, and this looked like a great chance to have a bit of fun. His brief glance through the window two days prior had shown a pleasant yard that he wanted to explore. It looked nice, and he was sure that he could go out safely if he was careful with the Invisibility Cloak and cast a few Concealment charms.

There were all sorts of good reasons to 'risk' it, he rationalized. What if the tent was attacked? He would need some place to run. Maybe he could learn something, or find something important. At the very least it could be exciting… and it would annoy Dumbledore if he ever found out. That last motive both emboldened Harry and caused a guilty twinge. In his heart he knew his scheme was wrong, but his rebellious resolve wouldn't let him be deterred.

After a quick breakfast he picked up his father's wand and cast a Silencing charm on his shoes and another to make them erase his tracks. He left the wand on his nightstand and donned the Invisibility Cloak before he walked out of the tent and into Madame Coine's cramped attic.

The door was unlocked and Harry cautiously peeked out and tiptoed down the stairs. The house looked much different when he wasn't staring at the ceiling. He walked down the hall and, after a few turns, happened upon a stairwell that led to the ground floor. He exited the house from a sliding glass door in the kitchen and walked out onto a small brick patio.

He looked ahead at the line of trees that he remembered seeing from the window when he arrived. Harry walked out onto the lawn and looked up to examine the scope of the house. It was a mansion compared to the orderly houses he was used to seeing on Privet Drive. The painted white walls ran twenty meters in either direction. There were two full stories, with a slanting roof and a deck outside the master bedroom. Windows lined both stories, and the west side of the bottom floor had full length ones that looked into a lavish living room.

A gravel path packed a ring of large flowerbeds up against the house. After a few moments spent inspecting, Harry returned to it and made a quick circuit around the structure. It was odd to walk soundlessly on gravel; the lack of any crunching sound made it feel like he was walking on air.

There was a large garden and greenhouse off the eastern side of the house. Harry recognized several of the plants from Herbology and from yard work at Privet Drive. The south side, the front, of the house sported a grand front door with a brick entry and a cobblestone path that lead south into a thick wood. The woods crept up to within fifty meters of west side of the house, and continued off into the distance.

Harry made it back to the patio he started from and crossed the lawn to the line of trees he'd seen before. As he approached them he noticed plump yellow fruit hanging among their heart-shaped leaves - apricots.

The trees had blocked Harry's view before, and a large stone castle came into view as he walked up the slight rise to their base. He stopped beneath the eaves of one of the trees and took in the view. Far to Harry's right there was a wide road that snaked northward around a moderate lake and up the side of a large knoll to the gates of the walled castle. Even from a distance, the castle looked immense and very old.

Harry stayed by the trees, examining the castle and the surrounding area. The slopes of the knoll were home to rows of grapes and a large meadow stretched between the knoll and lake. The western line of trees continued around the knoll, and wide open country extended east beyond the road.

The ground sloped sharply down beyond the trees to the lake's pebble beach. There must be some sort of magic in the lake: the water was far too clear, a crystalline blue that allowed Harry to see the leafy bottom as if it were a Muggle swimming pool. He wet his hands in the lake and washed them. They came back odorless and felt clean.

By this time the sun was directly overhead, it was almost lunch time. The Headmaster's chiding from last night came back to Harry, and he rushed back to the house and into his tent to be there in case Dobby took it upon himself to see that Harry was fed.

The hours ticked away inside the tent. Harry's worry had been for naught; he spent the afternoon alone in the tent going over Occlumency exercises and waiting for someone to come. The sun was setting in the outdoor room when Harry finally heard Madame Coine calling his name. Harry was anxious to hear whether anyone questioned his wandering. Nobody said anything though, and Harry went to bed idly thinking about getting a closer look at that castle across the lake.

o –––––– o –––––– o

Midmorning found Harry walking across the lawn to the apricot trees on silenced feet. Your Magic and You nestled under his shoulder for use in the likely instance that he got bored. Harry didn't expect there would be much to see from this side of the fence and truly thought that he would be as bored out here as he would be in the tent. But here he was relatively free in an unknown place rather than in Dumbledore's cupboard in who-knows-where.

Harry skidded to a halt at the base of the apricot trees. He could see someone sitting in the meadow across the lake. A blanket was spread on the crest of a grassy mound with an adult woman sitting upon it. Harry dropped to the ground, remembering only when he was down that he had his cloak. He took a few calming breaths and peeked over the rise at the woman. She possessed a full and elegant figure with long blonde hair; she didn't look like she would more than a meter and a half tall when standing. He started at her sudden shout.

"Gabrielle, Marie, ne volez pas si près des arbres! Vous allez vous faire mal!"

Harry let out a relieved breath as he saw her gesturing away from him. He followed her westward gaze and spotted two young girls flying just over the tree-line to their caretaker. They couldn't be more than eleven. One had shoulder-length ebony hair and the other's pale blonde reached down her back.

Harry watched wistfully for half an hour as the girls flew over the meadow trying all sorts of inexperienced maneuvers. The girls flew more alone than together in wide circles with moderate climbs and baby dives. They shouted to each other in French from time to time and looked to be having lots of fun. Harry's hands ached to hold his own broom and fly with them.

Eventually they wearied of their aerial game of tag and flew down. With a heavy sigh, Harry stood as well and picked up his book. He was just turning to head back to the house when he heard it.

Running footsteps accompanied a menacing growl. Harry started to run for the house but he wasn't fast enough. Something grabbed the trailing edge of his Invisibility Cloak and yanked it off him. He kept running and took a quick peek over his shoulder to see an angry looking dog tossing his cloak aside as it bounded after him.

Harry tried to run faster, the house was getting closer, but he knew he wasn't going to make it. He needed to get away. If only he had his broom, he could fly. Unbidden, an image of his falcon form flashed in his mind. A voice spoke urgently inside his head. "Concentrate Harry! Feel your magic! Be the Falcon!"

The dog was leaping to catch him and Harry frantically tried to do as the voice directed. A wrenching sensation ripped through him and suddenly he was different. The dog sailed over him and fell on its face, rolling head over heels.

Harry tried to stand up and lost his balance. The world looked different. He felt like he was only a foot tall now; the grass was up to his chest! He felt different, too; he had to lean back to stay upright and his hands… they were gone. He looked over himself and tried to shout. He squawked. He was covered with dark blue and brown feathers. Realization came to him as the dog gathered itself to leap at Harry again. He flapped his wings and took off, remembering at the last moment to grab the Invisibility Cloak in his talons.

The dog's leap carried it through the robe, and Harry was out of its reach. Harry flew unsteadily toward Madame Coine's house and found an open window on the second floor. The dog meanwhile started barking up a storm and in the distance Harry heard one of the girls yell, "Pret!"

He flew unsteadily through the window and crashed into a bookshelf on the other side of the room. Harry flopped on the floor and tried to focus on being himself… and nothing happened. He concentrated as hard as he could on what he usually looked like and tried to feel his magic. Still there were no results.

A sense of doom came over him, and he half flew and half walked through the hallways to the attic stairs. It took him the better part of an hour to open the door, but he finally managed it by gripping it with his talons and throwing himself around in a circle. He pulled his father's cloak inside the attic and shut the door before flying through the tent flaps.

o –––––– o –––––– o

Harry dropped the Invisibility Cloak the moment he entered the tent. Once again he tried to reverse the transformation. And failed. He tried again and again, and with each time he felt the need to be himself diminish. At first he had been filled with the fear of being found out. Dumbledore would be angry that Harry had left his sanctuary.

His fears and concerns slowly faded, reason and thought being replaced solely by instinct. Soon Harry had stopped trying to change back to a human. There was no reason to do so, and soon he forgot that he had changed himself into a falcon. He was comfortable in his nest and would stay here until he left to go hunting. There were no enemies here and the tree in the outdoor room was a fine perch.

The sun slowly set in the outdoor room when a shuffling noise rose from the door, followed by measured footsteps. The falcon watched as an old man walked down the hall without looking into his garden.

"Harry? ..." The footsteps approached again and the old man glanced briefly around the room before backing out again.

"Harry!" The voice was louder.

The falcon continued to look at the door. Harry… yes, he was Harry. Maybe he should go to the old man. He was calling his name; there was no reason not to.

The falcon hoped from his perch and flew down the hall in pursuit of the anxious old man. With a hard beat of his wings, the falcon propelled himself through the air so that he could alight on the old man's shoulder.

The old man started at the touch and threw the falcon off his shoulder and onto the floor where he landed headfirst. A hand came down and lifted him so he could see into the old man's shocked blue eyes.


The falcon screeched. Yes, he was Harry! The old man's chin-hair stirred as he exhaled sharply. "What in the world have you done, young man?"

The falcon blinked.

The old man shook his head and stepped away before producing a short stick. He pointed it at the falcon and a flash of blue-white light exploded from it and hit the bird.

A dim wrenching sensation wracked the falcon once again, sharply and quickly fading and taking with it his awareness until everything turned black.

o –––––– o –––––– o

Harry slowly blinked his eyes and groaned. Dumbledore was here, towering above him, and looking very unhappy.

"What do you think you were doing, Harry? Trying the Animagus transformation without any research or guidance is beyond dangerous. Even though you were lucky enough to complete the physical part alone, I could tell you had lost your humanity. The animal had taken over, and if I had not found you, you would have lived out the rest of your days as a falcon in the forests of France."

Harry closed his eyes and let out a slow breath. Shame filled him, and he said nothing. There wasn't anything to say.

Dumbledore waited a moment before continuing in careful soft tones that belied his angry eyes. "Well then, perhaps you would care to tell me how your father's Invisibility Cloak was ripped? It appears an animal with large teeth came upon it and tried to tear it apart."

"Ugh." Just when he thought things couldn't get worse—he had ruined his father's cloak. He hadn't noticed it getting ripped up by the dog.

"Yes, it appears to me that despite my strict recommendation to remain in here, you decided to take it upon yourself to venture out and take matters into your own hands. Is there anything else that I should know?" Harry was surprised there wasn't any frost on Dumbledore's beard.

"Er…" Harry tried to focus. He had gone outside with his book and cloak. There were two girls flying on brooms… he didn't think they could have seen him… the dog came and he picked up his book and ran… the book! He'd lost the book. "Yeah, I lost Your Magic and You when I transformed. There was a dog after me, it came out of nowhere, and I heard a voice in my head. It told me to focus on the falcon. I did it, I focused and then I turned into one. I flew into the house, but I couldn't change back."

Dumbledore's beard twitched during the telling. "You heard a voice? Did you recognize it, Harry? It wasn't Voldemort, was it?"

"No, not him. I… it was someone else, a woman. She has a beautiful voice. I think I've heard it somewhere before, but I can't remember where."

The Headmaster covered his eyes with a hand and exhaled audibly in relief. "So long as it wasn't Voldemort, we should be alright. Please try to remember who it was, Harry. It is rare to have a foreign voice speaking in your mind, and it is beyond rare for it to be friendly."

Harry gulped and shot a helpless look at the Headmaster. "I'll try, I promise."

Dumbledore nodded in acceptance. "Very well then; we can still hold your Occlumency lesson as usual."

It was a particularly draining session and Harry thought the Headmaster's mental probes were a bit more vicious than they had been during the last lesson. They certainly were more frequent.

An hour and a half of brutal training passed before Madame Coine entered the tent carrying a familiar book. It was Your Magic and You, and it was ripped.

"You will never guess where I 'ave found zis, Dumbly-dorr. Claire brought eet to me zis afternoon, zair dog 'ad found it on ze lawn." She finished with an accusing look at Harry. " 'Arry, do you know 'ow zis came to be? It is yours, non?"

"Err.." Harry began.

"We have settled that matter, Aileene. Thank you for retrieving the book; will you be able to repair it?"

The angry woman opened her mouth and closed it before growling, "Yes, I can feex it. What will be 'appening to Harry now? I zink more wards are needed, oui?"

Harry buried his face in his hands. How much grief was he going to take for this?

"Indeed, I will place them when I leave… and I will be taking James' wand with me." Dumbledore had mentioned that during their lesson.

"It's so boring in here. I need something to do. I'll go nutters if I have to stay here alone all summer," Harry protested.

"Sirius and Tonks will be here in four days, surely you can stand being isolated that much longer. You do have your lessons to see to, and I am still hopeful that you will realize how important they are," Dumbledore reprimanded.

Harry pouted. "Yeah, yeah I know, and I'll be a good boy till Sirius and Tonks get here."

"And afterwairds too, I 'ope!" Madame Coine declared with a pointed look.

Harry grunted in response.

"Well, I am afraid I must be leaving you now. I will be back tomorrow evening, Harry. Be good." Dumbledore left with no more ceremony.

Madame Coine sniffed disapprovingly and stalked out with a tart, "I weell see you soon, too," before she left as well.

Harry laid down on the couch and sighed. He had a feeling these next four days were going to be long and boring. Maybe it was time to take Professor Dumbledore up on his recommendation and summon Dobby. It would be nice to have a properly cooked meal again.

o –––––– o –––––– o

The next four days passed without incident, and as Harry expected they were exceedingly dull. He spent most of each day in the outdoor room reading his books, soaking in the jacuzzi, and munching on snacks.

Dobby had been a welcome distraction from the monotony, and Harry had summoned him for every meal since the falcon incident. His cheerful repartee had yet to fail in improving Harry's dismal mood.

When Harry woke on the morning of the sixteenth he reflected that this week hadn't been that bad. This prison wasn't nearly as bad as Privet Drive. There were plenty of things for him to be thankful for: he ate well, he didn't have an endless list of chores, and this was certainly a much more comfortable cell than Dudley's second bedroom at number four. Best of all though, Sirius would be coming today, and Harry couldn't help but smile at the thought.

o –––––– o –––––– o

AN: Next Chapter: Scenes from Summer

This chapter was beta'd by Lisa. Please make sure to thank her in your reviews. Without their efforts my work wouldn't be as great as it is.

I'm sorry it took so long to complete the edit and get going again. Chapter 10 is just about done and will be going to my betas by this weekend, so the wait for the next update shouldn't be nearly as long as the wait this time. I am very thankful to my betas, they are very good, and it is only because I posted without having anyone read over my work that this ugly edit became necessary. I hope you all agree that this story is much improved from what it was before, and I look forward to reading your reviews.

I've drawn a few maps of the places that Harry has and will be visiting in the story. Currently I have posted a map of the inside of the tent as well as a partial & incomplete map of the estate that houses Madame Coine's house. They're both in the files section of my yahoo group if you care to look at them, there is a link to the group in my profile.

French Translation courtesy of Chloé:

Gabrielle, Marie, ne volez pas si près des arbres! Vous allez vous faire mal: Gabrielle, Marie, Don't fly so close to the trees! You could hurt yourselves!

It has been two months since I last updated and more than that since I posted responses to reviews. I will be posting review responses again not next week but the beginning of the following one.


The Mongrel