What a Strange and Mysterious Thing It Is
Disclaimer: All characters and references to Harry Potter mythology are the sole property of the amazing J.K. Rowling. I write for fun only, besides lawyers make me nervous.
Summary: Following the death of Sirius, truths emerge from everywhere. Harry must learn to cope with them and perhaps find what he has been seeking. This story, in keeping with the style of Ms. Rowling, is in Harry's point of view. It is mostly about Harry and Professor McGonagall, but there is a lot of AD/MM as well. It is rated PG-13 for some violence in later chapters. Please read and review! Enjoy!
Chapter One: The Past That Haunts
A dark cloud had descended upon a quiet street in Surrey. However, this cloud contained no raindrops nor lightning that men could see, but it pervaded the life of number four Privet Drive nonetheless. The residence was extraordinary only in its ordinariness. The occupants were as straight-laced as they come. Yet, the cloud of despair made itself known to the only unique individual in the house.
Harry Potter had known loss all his life. His parents had died when he was but one year old. They had been wizards, as strange as that may be. It was a gift that had been passed onto Harry as well. The only connection Harry had with them were two physical reminders. The first was a scar shaped like a bolt of lightning hidden beneath a mop of untidy black hair; a souvenir from the wizard who had murdered his mother and father. The second was his aunt. Aunt Petunia, his mother's sister, was Harry's only surviving blood relative. On the few occasions Aunt Petunia had looked at him directly, Harry had never seen love behind her eyes. He only saw the reflection of a jealously despised sister and the son hated simply for being left behind.
The day Harry turned eleven years of age he discovered the truth about who he really was. A truth that his Aunt and her husband, Vernon Dursley, had tried desperately to conceal from him. So, Harry had spent the last five years attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It seemed at last that Harry was where he belonged. Hogwarts was a place where he could thrive and have no shame in being happy. But, it was not to last.
In Harry's fourth year at school he had been forced into yet another confrontation with the wizard who had orphaned him, Lord Voldemort. Another student had been with him and paid dearly for nothing more than standing at Harry's side. Cedric Diggory had not really been a friend of Harry's, so to speak, but he was a pure and kind individual. The memory of Cedric's blank, staring face and haunted him over the next two years. Though Harry had not thought himself directly responsible for Cedric's death, he could not shake the thought that Cedric would be alive if had Harry not been who he was.
Harry's last year had been torturous. People had doubted and blamed him. The Ministry of Magic felt threatened by him. All that was nothing compared to the feelings Harry would have to endure due to yet another loss in his life. Harry had lead six of his friends to the Department of Mysteries. It lay deep in the underbelly of the Ministry. Perceiving to be trying to save his godfather, Sirius, Harry had in fact been deceived. Sirius had been alerted of the deception and arrived at the Ministry in order to protect his godson. It seemed a cruel twist of fate that Harry's attempt to save his godfather indirectly led to his death. Harry had watched Sirius fall through the mysterious veil with a mix of laughter and shock lingering on his face.
Now, a month later, Harry was in the depths of despair. It seemed that death and loss followed him everywhere. It's not fair, Harry thought. The Order members that had stood up to Vernon Dursley at King's Cross had kept their word. Every three days someone would contact him. Harry appreciated the gesture, but longed to be left alone. All he wanted to do was mourn in the only way he knew how; to sink deeper into his loneliness.
Spiraling downward out of his contemplations, Harry became vaguely aware that the doorbell had rung below, but was too miserable to care. It was not until he heard his uncle's ridiculously loud ranting that he took any interest.
"HOW DARE YOU PEOPLE SHOW UP HERE UNINVITED?" Vernon Dursley yelled. Another person was speaking, but unlike his uncle, they had kept their voice calm and controlled. "IS IT NOT ENOUGH THAT YOU DUMPED HIM ON OUR DOORSTEP WITHOUT THIS CONSTANT INVASION INTO OUR LIVES?"
Harry could no longer resist the temptation. He slowly crept from his bedroom to see who had Uncle Vernon so irate. Initially he would have speculated that it would be Professor Dumbledore, or perhaps even Remus Lupin. Though he never could have guessed who the new arrival really was. As Harry peered cautiously over the banister to the entryway below, his eyes caught a glimpse of his aunt and uncle standing on either side of a formidable woman clad in a tartan overcoat.
"Professor McGonagall?" Harry heard himself ask before he could keep his voice in check.
"Mr. Potter," she acknowledged with a nod. "I was wondering if I might have a word with you?"
Harry shook his head in the affirmative and beckoned her to join him upstairs. The professor did not hesitate to do so, yet managed to throw a scathing glare in the direction of the Dursleys before she reached the first step. Perhaps deciding that the sooner Harry and Professor McGonagall had their talk, the sooner this strange woman would leave their house, Uncle Vernon did not reproach either wizard. When the two reached Harry's bedroom, he held the door open for McGonagall to enter. She did not speak for a moment or two and Harry could tell she was scanning the room to analyze the state of his living conditions.
"How are you, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall inquired at last. Harry just shrugged his shoulders. He was not in the mood to divulge anything more than absolutely necessary. Sensing Harry's reluctance, the Transfiguration professor continued. "Harry, I have come to remove you from this...place," she said with a wave of her hand and look of disgust on her face.
Harry suddenly felt a surge of anger and bitterness swell inside him. "Oh, are you sure that's okay?" Harry asked sarcastically. "Are you sure Dumbledore wouldn't rather I stayed here to rot for my protection?" Professor McGonagall put her face in her hands and sighed heavily. Clearly the conversation had already degenerated to a point she had hoped to avoid, but Harry did not care. He was angry. McGonagall was currently a convenient target. "Well?" Harry blurted impatiently. "I mean love and happiness aren't important right? So why don't I just stay?"
"Harry," McGonagall interrupted as Harry noticed the use of his given name, "I know you are angry and hurting. I can imagine if I had to live your life I would be bitter too. But surely you must understand that Professor Dumbledore was trying to do what was best for you?"
"DOES THIS LOOK LIKE IT'S THE BEST THING FOR ME?" Harry seethed. Inwardly he berated himself for losing control like Uncle Vernon had done. Harry threw his hands into the air with frustration. Shaking his head, Harry sank onto his bed. "I'm sorry, Professor. I should not have yelled like that."
"We all make mistakes, Harry. Even headmasters of wizarding schools," Professor McGonagall explained. "I just hope you can come to accept this and trust Professor Dumbledore once again."
"I understand what you are trying to tell me. But after having to suffer in this house and...and losing Sirius..." A lump rose in Harry's throat making it difficult to finish. "Truth be told, Professor, I don't know if I can believe in him anymore," Harry whimpered piteously. Harry realized how truly fascinating his shoelaces were. He could not bear to look McGonagall in the eyes. Unfortunately, the professor was not known for making things that easy. She placed a hand underneath his chin and forced him to meet her gaze.
"I hope that you will not doubt him forever, but that is not a sin. Just know that he believes in you," Professor McGonagall said soothingly. She paused allowing the young man to take in her words. "Now, I believe we should begin to pack your things." For the next twenty minutes the two packed in silence. McGonagall was extremely efficient at it. She would fold his clothes and even roll his socks with a simple flick of her wand before placing them neatly into Harry's trunk. Harry's strategy was a little more pell-mell. He could tell that Professor McGonagall disapproved of his cramming, but was grateful that she had restrained from commenting on it.
"Oh!" McGonagall cried suddenly. "I almost forgot." Harry peered at her questioningly. The professor reached inside her overcoat and pulled out a letter, but unbeknownst to either of them a second letter fell to the floor. "Your OWL results, Mr. Potter," Professor McGonagall continued. "I think you'll be pleased."
Harry took the letter from her hands. It bore the familiar Hogwarts crest and emerald print. Harry carefully opened the envelope and examined its contents. He was not surprised to find out that he had only received Acceptable on his Astronmy OWL, or his History of Magic exam garnered a dismal Poor grade. Both OWL's had suuffered due to circumstances beyond Harry's control. However, as he had suspected in June, he had indeed received an Outstanding grade for his Defense Against the Dark Arts tests. However, his jaw dropped as he read the rest of the scores. Harry earned Exceeds Expectations in Transfiguration and Charms. What really surprised him was the fact that he had collected Outstandings in Care of Magical Creatures and... "Potions?" Harry gasped. McGonagall chuckled lightly and nodded.
"Apparently you score better without Professor Snape standing over your shoulder," Professor McGonagall mused.
"Or, vanishing my potions for me?" Harry added without thinking. He glanced quickly at his teacher waiting for a response, but none came. She looked utterly appalled, but apparently chose not to say anything at this point in time.
"We had better get going," McGonagall stated at last. Harry suddenly realized that he had not asked where he would actually be spending the rest of the summer.
"Um, Professor?" Harry prompted. "Where exactly are we going?"
"Oh, I am sorry, Potter. You will be spending the rest of your holidays at the Burrow," Professor McGonagall disclosed. "I daresay Mr. Weasley shall be happy with that arrangement. Harry was unsure as to how he felt. The idea of spending the next four weeks at the Burrow was appealing, yet he knew Ron would want to talk about Sirius. But Harry decided that being with his friends far outweighed any reluctance he would have regarding what they wanted to discuss. In addition, Harry knew that Ron would respect his need for privacy should that need arise.
His mind made up, Harry made to follow the Professor out of his room, but he heard a rustle of parchment under his feet. He looked down to see another letter there. It was discolored by the effects of time and bore handwriting that Harry did not recognize. Harry stooped to retrieve it and physically jumped as he read to whom it was addressed. The envelope simply read:
My dear, Petunia
Harry was shocked. Where had this letter come from? Then it dawned on him. "Professor McGonagall?" he queried tentatively. "Did you drop this?"
McGonagall's face fell slightly. "Yes," she replied.
"Why do you have it?" Harry asked, his curiosity perhaps getting the better of him.
"Because someone asked me to give that to your aunt a long time ago," Professor McGonagall explained. "But for some reason I could not convince myself to actually deliver it."
"Why not?" Harry asked again. He was completely confused. Why would McGonagall have been given a letter to his aunt that she would have carried around for years. A flash of insight flooded his brain. "It's from my mother."
"It is," McGonagall answered. "You see, Harry, I had come to see your mother as a kind of daughter to me. She had asked me to give this letter to Petunia in case anything should happen to her. However, when she died and you were brought here, I could not let go of the letter because then I would have had to admit to myself that she was really gone. For me hanging onto this letter was like keeping part of your mother alive."
"You need to let it go," Harry said sagely handing the letter back to McGonagall. "My mother must have wanted Aunt Petunia to have it for a reason. I also think that holding onto it is probably more of reminder that she's dead than any lingering hope she's alive even in spirit."
"You're right, Harry," she gulped. Harry could see McGonagall physically compose herself. "Shall we?" Harry followed his teacher out the door and down the stairs. The Dursleys seemed to be giving them a wide berth, as the house was quiet. Yet Harry knew McGonagall would not leave until she had spoken to one of his relatives. Being the responsible one she was, she would need to explain where Harry was going. Though Harry was certain they would hardly give it a second thought.
Professor McGonagall led Harry into the kitchen. At last they found Petunia sitting at the table tensely clutching a cup of tea. "Ah, there you are," McGonagall said trying her best to sound pleasant. "I just wanted to let you know that Harry shall be spending the rest of his holidays at a friend's home."
"Good," Petunia said bluntly. McGonagall must have been aware of the Dursley's attitude toward Harry, but this obvious display of indifference clearly had taken her off guard. She eyed Petunia for a moment. Petunia shifted uneasily in her chair. "Do I need to show you where the door is?" Harry's aunt voiced at last.
"Does the fact that this boy is your sister's son mean nothing to you?" McGonagall asked somewhat heatedly.
Petunia flew out of her seat as her teacup shattered on the floor. She was nose to nose with the professor either out of ignorance or hatred, for this was not a move any other mere mortal would have attempted with the formidable Minerva McGonagall. "My sister? My sister?" she shrieked. Petunia was in a rage unlike any Harry had ever seen from her. She had always been the calm one. It was not uncommon for Uncle Vernon to lose his cool, but his aunt had always been more sedate. Harry could only recall one other time he had seen her this angry. It too had involved his mother; when Hagrid had come to tell him he was a wizard.
"Your sister...," Professor McGonagall began to explain, but was interrupted.
"...was a FREAK!" Petunia yelled trembling with fury. "SHE DESERVED WHAT SHE GOT!" Petunia took a deep breath as if to continue her tirade, but-
Aunt Petunia placed her hand over the rising red welt on her cheek. Professor McGonagall's own hand was still raised ready to strike again if need be. It was Harry's professor's turn to shake with anger. All Harry could will himself to do was look from one woman to the other with an expression like a deer in headlights. "Lily was one of the kindest, most loving individuals I have ever known," McGonagall began finally. "Despite whatever faults you conceived her to have, know this: she never stopped loving you. Even when you had cast her aside she loved you. When you quit acknowledging her existence, she loved you. When she and James were marked for death, she loved you." Professor McGonagall sighed heartily and momentarily stared at the floor. She reached into her coat pocket and produced Harry's mother's letter. "Here," she said extending the letter to Petunia. "It is time you had this." As soon as Petunia took it Professor McGonagall turned to Harry. "Come," she ordered. "We are not going to waste any more time here."