Title: "The Refiner's Fire" Chapter 1/40
Author name: Abraxan
Sub Category: Romance
Keywords: Harry, Sirius, Dursleys, OC, Remus, Dumbledore
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, OoTP
Summary: In the summer before his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter learns to come to terms with the death of Sirius. As he heals and grows emotionally, he learns how to enjoy life again. But there's a war on, and Voldemort's primary objective is to kill Harry Potter, by any means necessary. As a result, Harry and his friends have a very adventurous sixth year at Hogwarts. Canon-based with some OC. SHIPS (for those who are worried about them): H/OC at first, then very strong H/G, R/H and R/T
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author notes: Many thanks to my brilliant Brit-picker, Kelpie, and my beta readers Blakevich, Starfox, Shawn and Pilar! You may notice references to things in the Harry Potter films (which I love!), such as the dimple in Harry's chin which is actually in Dan Radcliffe's chin (Dan has dimples in his cheeks too – I may work those in at some point in the story). Spells you haven't heard of, I made up, with the use of an English-Latin dictionary online. The name of a battle in France that occurs much later in the story is completely made up, as is the location, again with the help of an English-French dictionary online. The names of some of my original characters have interesting derivations. If you have any knowledge of foreign languages, you might get a kick out of them (and I'll explain their meanings in my Author Note's in the chapters in which they initially appear). I hope you enjoy my story.
Chapter 1 – Of Art and Finances
As shadows lengthened that hot summer evening, a teenaged boy slumped against a wall near the play park. He drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs, hugging himself in misery. It had been a very long couple of weeks since Harry Potter had returned to Number Four, Privet Drive from his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were being their usual nasty selves, and Dudley was bullying Harry in ever more devious ways. Harry had the regular contact with Order of the Phoenix members they'd promised, which did help him with his relatives to some extent, but he was still having trouble coping with his grief, guilt and fear. He kept these problems to himself, always insisting "I'm fine!" when anyone asked, but he was far from being fine. All he wanted was quiet time alone. He needed to come to accept both Sirius's death and the implications of the prophecy he'd heard from Dumbledore about him and Voldemort. Harry's shock and sense of denial about both things had just begun to wear off, leaving him aching, empty and scared inside, but he dared not show his feelings around his family. He'd managed to hide his grief from them until earlier that evening, after a chicken dinner, when a stray thought wandered into his head: "Buckbeak would enjoy these bones." The thought of Buckbeak brought the loss of Sirius crashing through the fragile protective barriers Harry had tried to build around his emotions, and he gulped back a sob.
"What's the matter with you?" Dudley demanded.
Harry shook his head and swallowed hard, fighting back tears, furious at himself for losing control. "Nothing."
"Mum! Dad! Look! He's CRYING!" his horrible cousin chortled with glee.
"What is wrong with you?" Aunt Petunia snapped.
"I said NOTHING! I'm FINE!" Harry shouted as he rose to leave the room.
"SIT DOWN!" roared Uncle Vernon. "What is the meaning of this? What have you done this time?"
Harry was devastated. What had he done this time? Just managed to lead the only parent-figure he had left to his death, just as he had done with Cedric. It was his fault his parents were dead. His fault, in each and every case. His fault. . . .
He lifted his head and returned his uncle's glare. He wouldn't let them get to him. Stiff upper lip and all that. "I said it's nothing. Just leave me alone. May I please be excused?"
"No, not until we get to the bottom of this," his uncle growled. "If we leave you alone in this state, there's no telling what abnormal mischief you might do!"
A deadly silence settled over the table, broken occasionally by Dudley's snorts of laughter at Harry's dilemma. Harry fought for self-control, anger taking the place of his overwhelming grief for at least a moment.
"I'm FINE. May I PLEASE be excused now?" He ground his teeth, praying he wouldn't do accidental magic in his rage.
"What's the matter, did you fail all your exams? Did your little friends dump you?" Dudley asked in a snide voice.
"No, and no."
"I don't know why anybody would be your friend anyway. You're just a creepy, useless orphan boy without two pennies to rub together! Who would choose to be around YOU?" his cousin sneered.
"I do have friends, people who care about me. . ." Harry snapped defensively.
His statement made his uncle blanch, then swallow hard, reached a trembling hand toward his son. "Dudders, leave Harry alone, there's a good boy."
"You don't want him writing to his godfather. . ." Vernon said with a nervous glance at his nephew. The sudden pallor on Harry's face made the man look at him more closely. "How is that godfather of yours, anyway? You haven't been writing to him complaining about your life here, have you?"
Harry's emotions were too near the surface and a tear escaped. "I can't. He's dead."
Aunt Petunia straightened suddenly, her eyes like daggers. "Dead? And you continued to act as if he was a danger to us?"
"Oh, so that mass murderer's dead, eh?" Uncle Vernon cried, rubbing his hands with glee. "Now what will you try to threaten us with, huh? Humph."
"Well, I say good riddance! The world's better off without that awful man," Aunt Petunia sniffed disdainfully. "If he'd ever turned up here to visit you. . .well, it's just a good thing that never happened. What would the neighbours think!"
Dudley leaned close to Harry and sneered, "Not so tough now, are you?"
Harry stormed out of the house, ending up in the quiet park. Now he rested his head on his knees, weary to the bone, heart aching, tears sliding down his cheeks.
"It's all my fault. If only. . .if I'd just. . ." he sputtered. He pounded his fists on his knees, full of pent up rage and self-reproach. He stifled the howl that kept trying to escape his control. "Oh, Sirius, I am so sorry!" Harry lifted his head and looked up at the darkening sky. "I'd do anything to bring you back – anything. What can I do? I'm lost." He finally lost it and sobs racked his body. "Sirius, I need you! Help me. . .please, somebody help me. . . ."
A muffled "woof" and a clatter of claws on pavement caught Harry's attention. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief. A great black dog was racing toward him, its tongue lolling happily out of the side of its mouth.
Harry stared, rubbed his disbelieving eyes again. "Sirius?"
The dog barked and started licking Harry's face as he nearly knocked Harry down in his joy.
"Sirius? Sirius!" Harry laughed, hugging the dog as it bowled him over. "Sirius! How'd you get here? What happened? Where've you been?"
"I was about to ask him the same question," gasped a woman's voice. "I've been chasing him for ages. How do you know him?" she asked Harry as he continued to hug the dog. "Sirius, you bad boy, I'm going to have to get a higher fence if you keep getting out!"
Harry's heart fell. "His. . .his name is Sirius?"
"Yes – I thought you knew him. You called him by name."
Harry looked at the dog again, staring deeply into its eyes, clutching the fur around its neck, afraid to let go. "Sirius?" The dog just panted and grinned at him. Harry slumped, let go of the dog and glanced up warily at the woman. "I thought he was. . .I used to know. . ."
The woman saw his tear-stained face and knelt beside him. "What's wrong, lad?" Her face was filled with sympathetic concern.
"Nothing." Harry scrubbed madly his face, trying to wipe away the tracks of his tears.
"That doesn't look like 'nothing' to me," she said kindly.
Harry looked up at her as she placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He swallowed, then answered. "Your dog. . .my godfather. . . had a dog. . . just like him. That's all."
"Yes. He's dead. They're both dead," Harry said flatly.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." The woman seemed at a loss for words, just squeezed Harry's shoulder gently before sitting down facing him, the dog lying happily on its back between them as Harry scratched its belly.
"Mum! Mum, where are you? Have you found him yet?" Two girls, a five year old and a teenager, ran around the corner and stopped when they saw the scene before them. The five year old stared at Harry, pointed at him, then said, "Mummy, is that a tramp?"
"Hush, Patricia. Don't be rude," her mother said. "This young man helped me catch Sirius."
"But, Mummy, look at his clothes!" the child insisted.
"Maybe he's an American rap singer," the teenager suggested to her sister, trying to be helpful. "They wear baggy clothes like that."
Harry's cheeks flamed red with embarrassment. Dudley's clothes fit him about as well as a tent would, except it would be a short tent – Harry's arms and legs hug well below sleeves and trouser legs since he was now head and shoulders taller than Dudley. He got up to leave.
"Mister?" Patricia said, "are you a rap singer? Are you famous?"
Harry didn't know quite how to answer that. He hesitated, miserable, but not wanting to be rude.
"Girls, that's really quite enough," the mother said sharply. "I'm so sorry. . ." she told Harry.
"Don't worry about it," he answered. He leaned down to look the little girl in the eyes. "Yes, Patricia, I'm the famous Harry Potter," he teased gently, with a slight smile, "but I'm not a rap star. I'm just Harry."
"Then what are you famous for? And why are you dressed like that? It looks like your trousers are going to fall off!"
Harry sighed. His infamous temper was rising again. He tried to clamp down on his anger, to respond kindly, but the truth just fell out of his mouth. "I'm an orphan and have to wear my cousin's hand-me-downs and he's part elephant," he snapped. "And if it weren't for my belt, which also was my cousin's and would wrap around me twice with lots left over if I hadn't cut it off, these stupid trousers probably would fall off!" He wanted to leave, but was surrounded by the woman and her girls and the dog.
"Patricia! Apologize this instant!" the mother insisted. "I'm ashamed of you!"
"I'm sorry, Harry Potter," Patricia said hesitantly, apparently unnerved by Harry's anger.
"Harry," the mother said, "I'm sorry. She's only five and she just. . .she just speaks her mind without thinking. She didn't mean to be rude."
"It's okay, I've heard lots worse," Harry replied with a shrug. He sighed, then knelt in front of the little girl. "I honestly can't help how I have to dress, and it makes me angry. You can understand that, right? I am sorry I snapped at you, Patricia."
"It's OK," she said in a small voice.
Harry stuck out his hand to Patricia. "Friends, then?"
Patrcia's face lit up in a smile as she held his hand and shook it. "Friends!"
Harry grinned and straightened up, glancing shyly at the mother and older girl. "Friends, as well?"
The woman smiled warmly at him. "Absolutely. I'm Margaret Asher, and these are my daughters, Cassandra and Patricia. Do you live around here? We just moved here recently. Maybe you go to Casey's school? Beacon Hill?
"No," Harry said uneasily, "I mean, yes, I live near here, but no, I don't go to Beacon Hill."
"Mother," Casey said, seeing Harry's discomfort, "You're giving him the third degree."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Old reporter's habit, interviewing people as soon as I meet them. My apologies," Margaret said quickly.
"Reporter?" Harry asked, unnerved.
"Retired – for a while, anyway. I stopped working when Patricia was born. Once she's going to school full-time, I'll find another job," she said with a smile.
Somewhat relieved – at least the danger of her writing about him wasn't imminent – Harry said, "Oh, I see. Well, it's nice to meet you. Welcome to the neighbourhood. How did you happen to name your dog 'Sirius'?"
Patricia piped up, "After the Dog Star, silly!" Her cheeks showed deep dimples as she giggled. "Did you know there was a Dog Star, Harry?"
"Why, yes, I did." He smiled down at her, but stopped himself before saying anything about Astronomy class.
Margaret stood up, dusted off her shorts, and snapped a leash on Sirius's collar. "Harry, are you interested in a summer job by any chance? My husband is looking for someone to help out in his shop. You look like a strong young man."
Harry went pink. He hadn't thought about himself looking like a "strong young man" but he had been growing quite a lot recently. "What kind of work is it? I haven't had any real job experience yet."
"Construction. He lays marble, granite and ceramic tiles and does worktops as well, and needs an assistant to help with the labour. He pays well. When does your next school term start? And when could you start?"
"Term starts on September first," Harry answered with a delighted grin, "and I could start tomorrow." The thought of having a legitimate reason to be out of the Dursleys' house all day was delicious.
"Here's my husband's card. Go to his office in the morning and let him tell you what he needs, and you two can go on from there. OK?"
Harry took the card and glanced at it, then smiled and said, "Thanks!"
Casey looked at the gangly boy with his messy black hair, his odd round glasses and his horrible, way-too-wide and way-too-short clothes. He looked awful, but there was an interesting light in his emerald green eyes, dignity in his manner despite his circumstances, and great charm in that crooked smile. It could be an interesting holiday.
"So you're not sixteen yet?" Douglas Asher asked the next morning. "You'll have to get permission from your parents to work, then."
"Erm," Harry began uncomfortably, "my parents are dead. I live with my aunt and uncle. I don't know what they'll say. I'll be sixteen in a few weeks, though."
Douglas liked this young man as soon as he met him. And he'd heard from his wife all the information she'd learned from him. An orphan whose relatives dressed him in hand-me-downs that didn't fit him at all. There had to be a lot more to that story. That kind of wardrobe would devastate most teenagers, but Harry seemed to accept the lifestyle imposed on him with unusual grace. He might resent his relatives and the wardrobe they made him wear, but he seemed to still have plenty of self-respect.
"Tell you what. I'll talk to your uncle myself. It's the right thing to do."
"If you want to. . ." Harry replied uncertainly.
"Suppose I just call him so you can start today?"
He gave Doug the number for Uncle Vernon's office at the drill plant, then tried not to fidget while the man called him. He really wanted this job. It would be just like Uncle Vernon to not give his permission. Harry crossed his fingers and hoped for the best.
"Vernon Dursley, here."
"Hello, Mr. Dursley. This is Douglas Asher. I'm a neighbour of yours. We live on Wisteria Walk. My wife met your nephew last evening and told him I was looking for an assistant with my tile business. I've just met young Harry and would like to offer him a job for the holidays, but since he's not yet sixteen, I wanted to get your permission so he can work for me. I'll be happy to meet in person if that will help. Harry seems like a fine young man."
Vernon spluttered and fumed and grumbled before he growled into the phone, "Fine young man! Fine young man! What has he been telling you?"
"Not much, except that he'd like to earn some money this summer."
"Oh. Money, is it?" Vernon replied, with a far more ingratiating tone. "How much are you going to pay him?"
Doug thought a minute. The change in Vernon's voice gave him the feeling Vernon didn't have Harry's best interests at heart. "I'm going to give him a trial run for a couple of days, and then he and I will decide if this job is right for him. I'll pay him the minimum wage for the two days. We'll decide from there if he's worth more than that." He winked at Harry as he said this.
"Well. . .it's your choice. I won't be held responsible for anything he breaks, understand?" Vernon blustered.
"Uh. . .yes, that's fine. I'll take it out of his salary if he breaks something."
"Just as long as you understand," Vernon insisted.
"No problem. Thanks. Bye." He stared at the phone for a moment after hanging up. "Harry, I'm taking a chance on you. Your uncle doesn't seem to have much faith in you. Do I need to be worried?"
Harry's shoulders sagged. "What did he tell you?"
"That he's not responsible for anything you break. He also didn't seem to think you're a 'fine young man.' So maybe I should ask you a few more questions?"
Harry braced himself for whatever was coming. "OK."
"Where do you go to school?"
Harry stiffened. "I go to school out of the country."
"Really? Which school? Which country?"
Harry sighed. "My uncle tells people I go to St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. I actually go to school in Scotland, a small private school. My parents arranged it when I was born."
"And your uncle is bothered by your going to this private school for some reason?"
"My uncle is bothered by the fact that I exist."
"How long have you lived with them?"
"Since I was a year old – when my parents died."
Doug sat silent for a minute, studying the tall, skinny young man in front of him. This boy stood on his own two feet, didn't ask for pity, accepted his lot in life and still kept his dignity. Doug was impressed. "I believe in letting people prove themselves. I think you have potential. Let's find out if that's true, shall we?" He smiled and stretched out his hand.
Harry shook Doug's hand and grinned. "I won't let you down, sir. What would you like me to do first?"
One week later, Harry's sore muscles were beginning to adjust to his work. He carried heavy loads of building materials wherever they were needed, and was learning how to lay tiles. Harry was fascinated by the beautiful marble and granite tiles and worktops they were installing in this elegant home. He was sitting in the shade on his lunch break, playing with shards of trimmed tiles, making various patterns with the colours and shapes he found among the discarded scraps.
Harry's activity aroused Doug's curiosity, and he walked over to see what the boy was doing. "I didn't know you were an artist," Doug said with a smile.
"Me, an artist?" Harry said, looking up at Doug in astonishment. "I can't draw at all."
"You may not be able to draw, but you have an eye for colour and patterns. What you've done there would be a beautiful mosaic."
Harry looked at his creation again. "Really? What's a mosaic?"
Doug squatted next to Harry, his hand tracing the pattern in the air above the tiles. "The curve of this line here, and the others that flow into it, the way the colours go together, your choices of where to put the granite versus the marble and ceramic tile – very nice, Harry, really. And a mosaic is what you've made here, only you grout it onto a surface – like we've been doing inside on the floors and walls. Mosaics are sturdy enough to be used out of doors, as tables, for instance, or walls, or in the bottom of swimming pools, that kind of thing. Mosaics have been an art form for centuries. You're really good at this. I'm impressed."
Harry grinned. "Wow! I was just playing. I think the tiles are beautiful. I hate to think of these pieces being thrown away."
"Tell you what, lad. You can have all the trimmings and chips, whatever you want, and leftover tiles after the job if that will help. I'll give you some grout and a board to mount your mosaic on and find an appropriate table base for it. This would make a beautiful table top. If we can sell it, you can just pay me for the table base, and keep the rest."
"Are you serious? Would people buy things like this?"
"If you can make it before we finish this job, we'll show it to the owners. They might like it as a garden table, since it matches the tiles in the house. It will tie the outside of the house to the inside quite nicely." Doug clapped Harry on the shoulder as he got up. "Good job, Harry!"
Harry laughed and said "Thanks!" then went back to arranging the tiles in ways that pleased him.
Harry's table was a huge success. Doug showed it to his clients and proposed a handsome price to which they readily agreed. As Doug handed Harry his share of the payment, Harry's eyes widened.
"Wow! They paid this much for it? I can't believe that!" he breathed. "I was just playing! I'm no artist!"
"Harry," Doug replied, "the best artists usually consider their work to be fun. You are an artist in mosaic tile. Keep up the good work! Oh, and by the way," he added in a low voice, "I'd open a bank account if I were you. You're going to be making good money here, and you don't want your uncle to dig it out from under your mattress, do you?" He chuckled.
"You're right. I'll open an account today!" Harry said. "And I'm going to buy some new clothes, too," he added with a grin.
"Tell you what. You've been working really hard, and you do need to get to the bank and the shops. I'll give you the rest of the day off to get your errands done. See you bright and early Monday, okay?"
"Thanks!" Harry answered with a grin, shoving the wad of notes into his pocket.
Harry stopped at Mrs. Figg's house before he started his errands.
"Harry, dear, how nice to see you!" she said as she opened the door.
"Hello, Mrs. Figg. I was wondering if you would do me a favour?"
"Of course, Harry, whatever I can do. Come on in. Would you like some tea?"
"No, but thank you. Actually, I'd just like to use your fireplace to contact Remus Lupin."
"Certainly. The floo powder is in the blue canister with the white kittens on it, over on that shelf."
"Thanks!" Harry got a handful of Floo powder and tossed it into the cold fireplace. Green flames erupted, and he knelt down and stuck his head in them as he called "Number 12 Grimmauld Place, London." A few dizzying moments later, Harry was looking into the kitchen at Order Headquarters. "Remus! Are you there?" he called.
A moment later, Remus came striding into the room, his lined face filled with concern.
"Harry! Is everything all right?" he asked with concern.
"Yes, it's great! I need your help, though," Harry replied with a grin.
Relieved, Remus smiled. "What can I do for you?"
"Can you come to Mrs. Figg's, so you can go to the bank with me and help me open an account? A muggle bank, not Gringott's. I think I'll probably need an adult's name on it as well as mine, since I'm only fifteen. Mr. Asher paid me in cash and I don't want to carry this much money around, so I'd like to go to the bank right away. I don't want to take up too much of your time, I know you're busy, but. . ."
"Ah, so you've earned some money at that job of yours, eh?" Remus said with a chuckle. "Hang on, I'll be right there." Harry pulled his head out of the fire, then suddenly Remus appeared in it, spinning in the green flames, then stepped out into Mrs. Figg's parlour.
"Thanks, Remus, I really appreciate it," Harry said. "That mosaic table I made sold for a lot of money, and Mr. Asher gave me most of it!" His excitement shone all over his face. "I don't want Uncle Vernon to take my money away. I want to buy some clothes that fit me, and have money to spend on . . .erm. . .other things. . ." he hesitated.
"Things like. . .dates with that pretty blonde you've been talking about?" Remus said knowingly.
"Maybe. . ." the boy said as he turned pink. "She does seem to like me a bit."
Remus laughed and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Let's go get your account opened."
"Thanks, Mrs. Figg," Harry called as they left. "Bye!"
"Bye, Arabella. Thanks for taking care of Harry," Remus said warmly.
"Nice to see both of you. Goodbye!" she answered as she shooed cats away from the door and let Harry and Remus out.
As they walked toward the local bank, Remus said, "I've been wanting to talk to you about something, Harry. This seems as good a time as any."
Concerned at the serious tone in the man's voice, Harry replied, "What's wrong?"
"Oh, no, nothing's wrong, honestly," Remus reassured him, patting him on the shoulder companionably. "It's just that. . .well. . .I was wondering. . . ."
Harry stopped and looked Remus in the eye. "What is it?"
Obviously nervous, Remus clasped his hands together, then wrung them a bit before shaking them out and putting them in his pockets. "Harry, I . . . I was wondering if . . .erm. . .you'd like . . ."
"Me to be your guardian now that Sirius is gone," Remus finished in an uncomfortable rush. "I mean, you may need someone to sign forms at Hogwarts, or like now, to help you open a bank account, things like that. I'd like to do that for you if you'd be willing to let me. . ." he finished hesitantly.
"If I'd let you? That's BRILLIANT!" Harry grabbed Remus in a tremendous hug. "Thank you, Remus!"
Remus breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, wonderful," he said as he returned Harry's hug. "I've been worried about how you'd take the suggestion. I know I can't replace Sirius, and certainly not your parents, but I'll do the best I can to look after you."
"Does this mean I can come and live with you?" the boy asked eagerly.
"I'm afraid not." Remus's face saddened as Harry's shoulders drooped in disappointment. "I don't have the blood bond with you that your aunt does, and the magic Professor Dumbledore put in place to protect you depends on that blood relationship. There's no stronger safeguard for you than that."
Harry looked frustrated, but then grinned, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "The Dursleys were just giving me a hard time about Sirius not being around to threaten them anymore. It will be nice to be able to say I have a wizard guardian again."
"Going to use the werewolf to threaten your relatives, are you?" Remus said with a sly smile.
"Oh, that would be good fun, wouldn't it?" Harry chuckled. He sobered suddenly. "By the way, I have a strong suspicion my uncle is going to want a large chunk of the money I make – maybe call it 'rent' or something equally ridiculous. I'm rarely there, only sleep there, really, and they hardly feed me. They quite obviously don't spend any money on clothing me, and I still do most of the work around there, so I see no reason I should owe him rent. How should I handle that?"
"That's a really good question, Harry. I do think his trying to get your money is a strong possibility."
"Yes, Mr. Asher actually warned me to watch out for that. He promised not to tell Uncle Vernon how much I actually make."
"That's decent of him. He sounds like a nice fellow."
"He is. What should I do about Uncle Vernon, then?"
"Hmm. I think I'd approach it this way. . ." Remus began.
At the local bank, Harry and Remus waited patiently for the manager to speak to them about opening an account. The manager sat in his glass cubicle, glaring out at them from time to time, quite obviously studying Harry's ridiculous clothes and messy hair, and Remus's genteel but shabby attire. Finally, he pushed his paperwork aside and invited them into his office.
"Hello, sir," Harry began politely, offering to shake hands with the manager. "I'm Harry Potter and this is my guardian, Remus Lupin. I'd like to open a bank account."
The bank manager looked at Harry's hand as if it were filthy. "I know who you are," he snarled.
Harry's face hardened into the stoic look he hid behind when faced with Dursleyish behaviour. "I beg your pardon?"
"Where'd you come up with money? Rob a bank? Steal it from your aunt and uncle? I've heard about you and where you go to school. Your aunt and uncle bank here, you know." The man eyed Harry with great suspicion, sneering at Harry's hugely outsized clothes. "And my son is best friends with your cousin, Dudley. I know all about you. And I've never heard of any 'guardian.' What kind of scam are you trying to pull?"
Harry's face fell. Of all the people to be the manager of the bank. He was doomed.
Remus stepped forward. "Excuse me, sir, but Harry has done nothing wrong. He has earned some money and wishes to put it in a bank account. You run a bank near his home. You are about to lose his business," he said sternly.
"Good riddance," the bank manager said. "Give these juvenile delinquents an inch and they'll take a mile. Take your business elsewhere."
"Gladly," Harry snarled, and he and Remus turned and left the bank. Outside, Harry's cheeks were white, he was so enraged. "See what I have to deal with here?" he asked, deep hurt in his voice.
"I'm so sorry, Harry, honestly. That man needs an attitude adjustment. Maybe during the full moon. . ." he teased, trying to get a smile out of Harry. It worked.
"That would be brilliant!" he laughed.
"There must be other banks around here," Remus suggested, looking hopefully at the boy.
"I don't know where they are. This is the only one I know of," Harry said slowly, his shoulders drooping as if the weight of the world was on them.
"I have an idea," Remus said. "Why don't we ask your boss? Maybe he uses a different one."
As they walked to the tile shop, Harry asked, "Can a person have more than one godfather?"
"I believe so, Harry. Why?"
"How does someone become a godfather?"
Remus thought a while before answering. "Godparents are chosen by the child's parents and are part of the christening service, if the child is christened. The godparents are supposed to feel the same about religion and other values as the parents, and reinforce those teachings, and to spend time with the child and help in his upbringing. Sometimes they're named as the guardians in case anything happens to the parents. That's the way it was with Sirius and your parents, Harry. I was at your christening too – you were so well-behaved. We were all so proud of you," he added with a tender smile at the memory, then glancing at the tall young man beside him. "Why do you ask?"
"Can I choose my own godfather, since my parents are gone?"
"I don't see why not," Remus replied.
"What would have to be done to make it legal?"
"I imagine just having a form filed with the Ministry of Magic saying you'd asked for this person to be your godfather would suffice. I can talk with Professor Dumbledore about it if you like, find out what needs to be done."
Harry stopped and turned to look his friend in the eye. He studied that careworn face, the kind, haunted eyes. "Remus?"
"Would you be my godfather as well as my guardian?"
Remus smiled warmly at Harry, tears pricking his eyes. "Harry. . .I would be tremendously honoured to be your godfather. Thank you for asking."
"Thank you!" the boy replied, giving Remus a delighted hug. Harry stood back and said in surprise, "Look! I'm nearly as tall as you are!"
"Yes, you are! You're really growing up, Harry. I have a lot of godfathering to catch up on, I guess." He ruffled Harry's always-messy hair and they laughed together, each one happy to have someone to call "family."
A little while later, they walked into the tile shop office. "Back already, Harry?" Doug asked in surprise.
"Hello, Mr. Asher," Harry replied. "This is Remus Lupin. He's my godfather," he added proudly.
Doug was shocked. "Your god. . .I thought you said. . ."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to confuse you. My godfather Sirius is dead. Remus is my parents' other best friend. I've just asked him to be my godfather. He offered to be my guardian, and I asked him to be my godfather as well." Harry's face was shining with pleasure.
"Oh, Harry, that's wonderful!" Doug answered. "Mr. Lupin, how very nice to meet you! And congratulations on your new godson. He's an exceptional young man. Oh please, do sit down! I seem to have forgotten my manners. Would you like tea?"
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Asher," Remus began.
"Doug, please," he said.
"Doug, then. And I'm Remus. We don't want to take up much of your time. We were hoping you could help us with something."
Harry began. "I was wondering if you could recommend a bank for me."
"What about the one just past Magnolia Crescent?" Doug suggested.
"Erm. . .that's where my aunt and uncle bank. The manager there. . .erm. . .didn't want my business," Harry replied, looking embarrassed, with resentment in his voice.
"What? What happened?" Doug was stunned. How could a bank possibly refuse this boy's business?
Harry and Remus looked at each other, then Harry told his boss what had happened.
"I'm appalled! Come on, Harry, we're going to sort this out right now," the man said as he grabbed his keys and mobile and headed for the door. "Sarah," he called to his office assistant, "I'm going to the bank with Harry and his godfather. I'll be back soon."
"OK, Doug, bye!" she called back to him.
"Erm. . .Mr. Asher? I honestly don't want my money in that bank. Is there another one not too far away?" Harry said as they all slid into his truck.
"Yes, I have my business account on the other side of town. We'll get you set up there. I can deposit your pay automatically into your account that way, and you can have a bank card so you can withdraw money from cash machines or use it as a credit card if you want."
"That would be great!" Harry said, beaming.
"First, though, we're going to the other bank and deal with that manager," Doug said sternly.
Harry was nervous. He'd never seen his boss angry. Mr. Asher was usually very easygoing. Even when things went badly wrong in the shop or on a job, he rarely got ruffled, much less angry. But he was obviously angry now. "I don't want to cause any trouble. . ." Harry began.
"You didn't cause any trouble, lad, don't worry about it," Doug assured him.
At the bank, Doug stormed over to the manager's cubicle, Harry and Remus in tow. "Mr. Polkiss, may I have a word?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Asher, so lovely to see . . ." the manager began, but blanched as he saw the rage on Doug's face and Harry and Remus behind him. He gulped.
"You refused to do business with an employee of mine," Doug began. "You then insulted him. You have just lost not only his business, but mine. I want all my money out of this bank right now, in cash."
Mr. Polkiss blanched. "C-c-cash? But sir, it's not our policy to pay out such large amounts in cash."
"Pay me. Now."
"Mr. Asher, I'm sure we can come to some accommodation for the young man, since you vouch for him, and. . ."
Doug leaned toward the cowering bank manager. "Did I not make myself perfectly clear? Cash. Now."
Polkiss choked back a croaking "Yes, sir," and got on his computer to make the arrangements. Doug got on his mobile. "Hi, sweetheart. I'm closing the account we have at the Magnolia Crescent branch bank right this minute. I'll explain later. Don't write any cheques on that account, and make a list of those that are outstanding, okay? I'll have another one set up by the end of the day. Yes, that's right. OK. I'll see you later. Bye."
Eventually, Doug had his money, and he, Harry and Remus left the bank. "OK, let's go to my bank."
Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Erm. . .Mr. Asher?"
"Uh. . .could we go to a shop so I can buy better clothes before we go to the bank? Maybe it would help if I didn't look like such a . . . ." Harry was at a loss for words, his cheeks hot with mortification. He could see Mr. Asher was still pretty upset, and didn't want to waste his time on errands, but if a similar scene happened with his boss as witness, Harry thought he'd just want to fall through the cracks in the floor. There was only so much humiliation a person could take in one day, after all.
"If that's what you want to do, that's what we'll do," Doug agreed. "But Harry. . .your character shines through no matter what you're wearing. I had no reservations about asking you to work for me when you first came to me, and you were dressed just like that. I know a good man when I meet him. And I haven't regretted hiring you for a second," he finished with a comforting smile.
Harry felt warmed by Doug's confidence. "Thanks. But dressing better will probably be a help."
Once they reached a department store, Harry seemed confused by the variety of things on display.
"What's wrong?" Doug asked in concern.
"Erm. . .I didn't know. . .it would be so big. I don't know where to look. . .what sizes to get. . ." Harry said with a nervous stammer. And he needed so many things – trousers or jeans, shirts, underwear, socks, trainers. . .and some food! Well, hopefully there'd be enough money for him to buy some food, and maybe have some left over for emergencies. He'd planned on putting half his money in the bank, and spending the other half on necessities, but now that he was in the store, he was just overwhelmed.
"You've never been to this shop, then?" Doug said with a smile.
"Erm. . .I've never been shopping," Harry replied, still seeming stunned by the variety around him. He turned to Doug and added quickly, "Except for my school things, of course, but we shop in a different place for those."
"We can go there if you'd like."
Uh-oh, he couldn't explain away Diagon Alley. Time to get off that subject! "Oh, no, I don't want to put you to that trouble. It's in London, anyway. This is fine. If you could just. . .show me where to look?"
"Sure! Come on, then." The three of them went into the young men's department and started looking at T-shirts, sleeveless T-shirts, shorts and jeans. Doug and Remus held up various sizes of shirts against Harry, trying to decide which would fit him best, but the enormous size of the shirt he was wearing made it impossible to see how big Harry himself actually was. "Here are three sizes of the same shirt and the same jeans, Harry," Doug said. "Take these into the fitting room and try them on – and come out and give us a look at them so we'll know what sizes to look for, okay?"
Harry grinned and carried his stack of clothing into the dressing room. A little while later, he came out in a sleeveless T-shirt and jeans. The shirt was baggy on him, with big gaps at the extra-large neck and arm holes that showed how very thin he was. When he bent over to tighten the laces on his outsized trainers, every bone in his spine showed, and his scapula looked like knife blades. Doug was appalled. When Harry returned to the dressing room, Doug turned to Remus and murmured, "Has he always been this thin?"
"At school, he's as well-fed-looking as any other boy his age, although until now he's been much smaller than the boys in his year. His relatives don't feed him very well, and there's not much I can do about it with circumstances the way they are," Remus replied. "The school feeds the children very well."
"If it's alright with you, then, Remus, I'd like to start giving Harry lunch at work," Doug said. "Maybe we can fatten him up with one good meal a day. I'd noticed he's only bringing one piece of toast for his lunch. He works too hard to get by on that little food."
"I think he's growing too fast to get by on that little, as well. Harry's a proud boy, though. He'll be uncomfortable about your generosity unless it's handled delicately," Remus warned.
"I know just what to do. My wife is taking a cookery class, actually, and is making far too much food for us. It's become quite a hobby for her. I'll just ask her to do lunches for Harry and me. We can tell him he's a guinea pig for her cooking, just as I am," Doug said with a chuckle. "Do you think that will work?"
"That sounds wonderful. You're very kind. Thank you so much," Remus replied with great sincerity.
A short time later, Harry, Remus and Doug were at the cash desk with his purchases.
"Harry," Doug said, "Let's ask her to remove the labels from one outfit so you can wear them."
"Will they do that? That would be great!" he replied with a grin. The whole shopping experience had been a bit nerve-wracking for the boy. He'd been terribly embarrassed to have to ask about sizes on underwear and socks, and to explain to Doug he'd kept Dudley's extra-wide trainers on his own narrow feet by filling them with old socks. Doug thought that idea was pretty ingenious, but Harry was embarrassed to have to expose so much of his awful lifestyle to his boss and his godfather.
Soon, resplendent in a new T-shirt and jeans that actually fit him, with shiny white trainers on his feet, Harry felt like a new man. He bounced in his trainers, a huge grin on his face. "I never knew they were so springy!" He laughed with the glee of a small child with new shoes.
Doug and Remus exchanged a look that spoke worlds about their feelings about this young man and the life he'd been forced to lead. "Come on, then, Mr. Fashion Plate, let's get going to the bank!" Doug said, clapping a hand on Harry's shoulder.
The new bank gave them no problems, and everything was soon set up. Doug would deposit Harry's money directly into his account, and Harry had his own bank card and cheques to use as he needed. A bit of instruction in how to use the bank card and cheques later, they were headed back to Doug's office.
"Mr. Asher, I simply can't thank you enough," Harry said as he shook Doug's hand.
"It was my pleasure, lad," Doug replied. "Remus, it was good to meet you. Please let us know next time you're in town, and we'll have you over for dinner."
Remus flushed with plea. "Thank you, Doug. That would be wonderful!" He and Harry waved goodbye and left the office, heading toward Privet Drive.
"Um, Remus?" Harry said as they walked. "This is a lot of shopping bags. Even a few will cause me all kinds of trouble, and Dudley may take them away from me – or Uncle Vernon might. Could you make them small enough to fit in my pockets? I'll just carry one or two in my hands. Will I get in trouble with the Ministry for enlarging the bags again once I'm in my room?"
"Dumbledore has been considering obtaining a dispensation for you to do magic despite your age, because of the danger you're in. I'll talk to him about going ahead with that as soon as possible. But even without it, you shouldn't get in trouble with that little bit of magic. If the Ministry does say anything, I'll back you up." He glanced around to see if there were any muggles nearby. "Here, duck into this corner a moment." He performed a preservative and anti-crushing charm on the food Harry had bought, and then a shrinking charm on Harry's bank book, bank card and all but two bags, bags which had just a couple of pairs of socks, some underwear, a T-shirt and one pair of shorts in them. Harry hoped that, by having a sampling of what he'd bought in the bags that showed, his family wouldn't pay as much attention when he came downstairs in new clothes. "There you go. You know how to enlarge them, right?"
"Yes, Professor," Harry answered in his best schoolboy voice, and then laughed. "Thanks!" He hesitated a moment, then knelt down, loosening his shoe laces and putting the shrunk bags in his trainers. He grimaced at Lupin. "Good thing you put a preservative charm on the food!"
"Why are you putting them in your shoes?"
"I just realized, if they're in my pockets, he might find them. He will probably make me turn out my pockets looking for my money." Harry finished tying his laces and stood again.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come in with you?" Remus asked, his face filled with concern.
"No, I'd rather handle it myself," Harry replied with more confidence than he felt. "Thanks so much for everything. I really enjoyed spending the day with you."
"I enjoyed it too. We'll do this again soon, all right?"
"I'd like that! Bye!"
"Bye, Harry. And good luck. You deserve it." Remus watched the boy square his shoulders, bracing himself for the coming confrontation, then enter the house. Remus sighed as he turned to leave. Vernon was already yelling at the boy.
"Well?" Uncle Vernon demanded. "Did that man pay you?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry replied, clutching his shopping bags a little tighter.
"Let me see your cheque."
"I've already put it in the bank," Harry said, bracing for the explosion he knew was coming. He didn't have to wait long.
"You WHAT? Turn out your pockets!" Vernon bellowed. "We'll see if you have any money or not!"
"I don't have any money left," Harry snapped as he turned out his pockets. "There, see? I opened a bank account. And I bought some clothes that FIT me," Harry snapped, shaking the shopping bags in his fist.
"You can't open an account without an adult signing for you," Uncle Vernon snarled, a serious warning in his voice as he began to redden.
"My guardian signed for me," Harry answered.
Uncle Vernon glared at Harry suspiciously. "What guardian?"
"Remus Lupin, my wizard guardian," Harry replied defiantly.
"If you have a guardian, you can go live with him!" Vernon shouted.
"No, I can't, and you know it! Aunt Petunia has an agreement with Professor Dumbledore, and I have to stay here. Believe me, if I could live with Remus, I would!" Harry retorted.
Vernon was grumbling, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. "If you're making money, you will start paying rent!" he growled.
"If I were making enough money to pay rent, I'd move out and get a proper place where I could do what I want and eat what I want and do my schoolwork when I want. I'm already doing all the gardening and most of the cleaning and cooking here – I think you owe me pay, rather than my owing you rent!"
Uncle Vernon turned a fabulous shade of purple. "Go to your room! There will be no supper for you tonight!"
"Fine!" Harry snapped as he turned on his heel and took the stairs two at a time. He slammed the door with great satisfaction, enlarged the bags from his shoes, and pulled out the food staples he'd bought with some of his pay. He put the food under the loose board under his bed, keeping out a meat pie, some crisps, an apple and two Mars bars for his supper. No more hungry evenings when Uncle Vernon punished him with no supper. Life was getting better all the time!