Greetings, fellow travellers! I am so pleased to be back!
As promised, I have another fic... I hope you all enjoy it. Please let me know how you feel by hitting that little box in the corner and leaving your comments – reviews feed my muse. Well, that and the big jar of wasabi peas I keep on my desk.
As for the other – I'm not JKR, never have been, never will be, and thank goodness, because I've heard she's pregnant again. However, I do think she's an amazingly talented author, and she has an imagination that I envy. A lot. I also envy the fact that she's rich and beautiful... but that's besides the point. I own nothing – just an odd sense of humor, and a love of playing in this little world she's created. Anything you recognize is hers, anything you don't is probably hers, as well, but might be mine.
Welcome back – I've missed you all.
Chapter One: Aunt Petunia's Secret
"Aunt Petunia?" Harry's eyes were wide and his voice raised in disbelief. "You're joking?"
"Harry, your Aunt Petunia..." Dumbledore seemed to be having difficulty finding the appropriate words. Harry wasn't about to give him the time to do so. He had too many questions, and was having far too much difficulty believing what he was hearing.
"You're telling me she's a Squib? But for that, my grandparents would have had to have been...."
"Your grandparents were not wizards, and your Aunt Petunia is not a Squib, Harry." Dumbledore's voice was calm and steady. "You've wondered why I insisted that you return to her home each year..."
"You told me it was because of my mother... it had to be a blood relative..." Harry was confused. He'd never questioned Dumbledore on this. Not really. He'd certainly questioned it in his own mind, but he would never dream of questioning the wisdom of Dumbledore's counsel directly. That was just stupid. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard alive, and Harry had every faith in him. Well, generally.
"Yes, but it would have been of no use whatsoever if that blood relative were a Muggle, Harry."
"My grandparents were Muggles..." Harry tried to remember what he knew about his mother's, and Aunt Petunia's, parents. Not much. It was strange... he'd never even thought to question anyone about his grandparents. Perhaps because he'd been taught from a very early age to not question anything to do with Aunt Petunia's family.
"No, Harry. David and Rebecca Evans were most definitely not Muggles."
Harry was still. What on earth was Dumbledore saying? "If they weren't wizards, and they weren't Muggles, what were they?"
"Harry," Dumbledore sighed deeply. He had known that this day would come, when he had to explain Harry's family to him. Petunia Dursley certainly hadn't... nor would she. "Your grandparents were friends of our cause. They knew full well the effects of the dark side of magic. Both were raised in wizard homes and both lost their parents to those who practice the Dark Arts. Both of your grandparents were Squibs, Harry; non-magical children of wizarding families, and many times I have thanked the Light that they were. They provided sanctuary for many, and were always helpful, in their quiet way, while living in the Muggle world."
"Like Mrs Figg?" Harry whispered, remembering the slightly batty babysitter who the Dursley's had left him with regularly, her many cats and her cabbage-scented living room. The detested babysitter who had turned out to be a Squib, and who had stood next to him after fighting off the Dementors that had attacked Little Whinging.
"Like Mrs Figg," Dumbledore confirmed with a nod. "There are many Squibs in our world, Harry, people born of our world, raised in our world, yet unable to practice magic. You didn't think every child from a Wizarding family came to Hogwarts, did you?"
"Of course not...." Harry remembered Stan Shunpike, not that much older than him, but working the Knight Bus. Certainly he would have been of an age to have been at Hogwarts when Harry first arrived, yet he hadn't been.
"Only the most talented, the most promising, are selected for a Hogwarts education, Harry. Certainly there are other schools, but most are for those of the Wizarding world who will eventually become the Stan Shunpike's and Madam Rosmerta's. There are schools, as well, for the Squibs. They are taught how to function, and be happy, in a world that does not cater to them. Much like the special schools in the Muggle world for those with special needs. It was at one such school that your grandparents met. When they produced three daughters...."
"Three? No... there was only my mother and Aunt Petunia."
"No, Harry... but we shall get to that." Dumbledore sighed again.
"But if my Aunt Petunia isn't a Squib, and she's not a Muggle, what is she?" Harry was confused. Nothing Dumbledore was saying made sense to him.
"Your Aunt is what is referred to as an Abiciludum, sometimes called a Lud."
"A Lud? I've never heard of that."
"I'm not surprised, Harry. They are very rare, and I'm certain you would never have heard the term used in the Dursley household." He said this without inflection, but with a raised eyebrow that made Harry smile. The mere thought of hearing any of the Dursley's use magical terminology, other than the occasional "disappear!" shouted at Harry, was amusing, to say the least.
"What does it mean?"
"It means, Harry, one with the gift of magical power, who has turned their back on the wizarding world, and not taken training to control or utilize their gift."
"You're telling me that Aunt Petunia... she's a... Aunt Petunia?" Harry was nearly speechless. How could his magic-hating aunt, the one who had sat back and allowed others to speak ill of her own sister, who had treated her own nephew as an unpaid and unwelcome servant in her home... how could she possibly have been born into this world, this world that Harry knew instinctively, had known from the moment Hagrid explained it to him on his eleventh birthday, was his true home?
"Petunia Evans came to Hogwarts two years before your mother, Harry, and left after three weeks."
"Because, Harry, she and her twin sister were separated at the sorting, into different houses. They had never been separated, Petunia was very protective of Daisy... and when Daisy passed from this world, Petunia blamed herself... and the house she had been sorted into. And me."
"Daisy? Aunt Petunia had a twin?"
"Yes. Daisy... died... two weeks into her first term here."
"How?" Harry's sharp ears, and eyes, had caught the hesitation in Dumbledore's voice, and correctly guessed that this was a detail that Dumbledore didn't much care to share.
Dumbledore looked steadily at him, watching closely as he responded. "The forbidden forest. She had gone there on a dare, apparently. Someone in Petunia's house had been mocking the Gryffindor bravery."
"And Aunt Petunia?"
"She spent a week with Madame Pomfrey in the hospital wing, trying to come to terms with her loss. Then she packed her bags... and left."
"And my mother?" Harry responded weakly.
"Your mother arrived at Hogwarts two years later, determined to prove what Daisy had failed to, that Gryffindor House members were brave, and true, and loyal, and determined. Our Miss Granger reminds me of her a great deal."
Harry nodded, "So the reason that I have to return to the Dursley's again this year is because Aunt Petunia, whether she knows it or not, is a... has magic of her own, and you're hoping she'll use it to protect me?"
"Do you not believe that she would?" Dumbledore asked evasively, his old eyes twinkling.
"No, professor, I don't," Harry said quietly. "I think, in this case, you might be wrong."
"That, Harry, is certainly possible. It wouldn't be the first time, I assure you. However, your Aunt Petunia's status as a Lud is not the only reason. I have, of course, explained to you in past why you must spend some time each year with a blood relative, your mother's blood protects you. But that, too, is not all."
"What else is there?"
"Harry, those of us who have had to work through difficulty are invariably stronger for it. I believe there is a Muggle saying that sums it up quite well: That which does not kill us makes us stronger. You, Harry, will face things in life that wizards many times your age would never dream of having to face, or be prepared for. I made a promise, a vow, if you like. I promised that you would be ready to face, and defeat, the worst threat of our time. Not just to do it, but to survive it. That is key, Harry. You must survive. It doesn't matter if you merely defeat Lord Voldemort. You must defeat him, destroy him, and survive. If you do not, our world will crumble, and quite likely the world of the Muggles, as well. Your survival is key."
"Professor," Harry swallowed, fighting back the well of emotion threatening to overflow. He clenched his teeth to avoid shouting, and kept his voice low and calm. "Forgive me, but haven't I gotten quite strong enough? I've faced Voldemort five times! In all honesty, there isn't a wizard alive who has done that, much less done it and survived. With all due respect, sir, who do you think you are to decide whether I am strong enough or not?"
"You must have every last ounce of strength you can lay hands on, Harry Potter. You have faced Voldemort, yes. But you have not yet defeated him. He may well prove impossible to kill, Harry, much less kill without allowing yourself to be taken with him. As to who I am," Dumbledore said with a resigned sigh, "I am the Headmaster who was unlucky enough to be the one who the fates decided to have in place at Hogwarts during your time of training here, and, of course, to some, I may be the only wizard alive who has any concept of what you face. I, myself, defeated a terrible Dark Lord in my time. Grindelwald was not an easy adversary, Harry. I do not know if that was in preparation for this, but I do know that I am the only one who has any concept of the weapons you will need. I do not question my duty, Harry, I merely answer to it. If there is anything that I can do to sway things in your favor, in our favor, then I shall do it. Do not think that I do not feel for you. If there were any way to achieve the ends that must be achieved, and spare you your month at the residence of Mr and Mrs Vernon Dursley, not to mention their rather unpleasant offspring, I would. Unfortunately, this is the path presented to us. We must follow it."
"I am seventeen this year, Professor."
"Yes." Dumbledore agreed, the twinkle in his eye showing he knew what Harry was about to say.
"As of July thirty first, my birthday, I will no longer be considered an 'underage wizard'." Harry spat out the words. He had done more "underage wizarding" than most, and the term annoyed him. The fact that he was banned from using magic outside school until he came of age, to him, seemed ridiculous, considering the past six years of his life. The Ministry didn't seem too concerned about his performing magic outside of school when it involved the Dark Lord or his minions, but drop a pudding in a Muggle household during summer holidays, and within fifteen minutes you were getting warnings of expulsion should it happen again.
"No, you are correct. Which is why I intend to have you out of the Dursley household well before your birthday, Harry. I am under no misapprehension of what might be the fate of one Dudley Dursley should I leave you there any longer than that."
This last was said with a rather lopsided smile, as though Dumbledore himself had considered what fate would hold for Harry's cousin Dudley.
"I will go back, because you ask it of me. I'll stay for the month. But no longer." Harry stood.
"I'm sorry, Harry. This is simply the way that it must be."
"I understand, Professor. I may not like it, but I do understand."
"I rather thought you would, Mr Potter." Dumbledore smiled again as he watched Harry retreat to the door of his office. The skinny boy who had shown up here armed with nothing but a new wand, a new owl, and very ill-fitting clothes five years ago had certainly changed.
"Professor..." Harry hesitated at the door, turning to look at the Headmaster.
"My mother was a Gryffindor."
"Yes. She was. That is where she met James. You are very much their son, Harry." Dumbledore smiled, remembering James Potter. Harry was more like him than anyone really knew. Dumbledore had seen glimpses of the man he would become, and although his eventual fate was hidden from the aging wizard, Dumbledore saw many of James' qualities in Harry, tempered with Lily's overwhelming need to fix, to help, to share. The Headmaster was not quite sure yet whether this was a good thing, but it certainly seemed to have worked itself out up until now.
"And my Aunt Daisy... she was in Gryffindor, as well," Harry's voice brought Dumbledore back to the present.
"Yes, she was." Dumbledore was still, his eyes resting on Harry's face, watching carefully.
"Then if my Aunt Petunia was sorted into a different house, which house was it?"
Dumbledore smiled without humor, almost sadly, as he responded.
Harry nodded, and without another word, he turned and left Dumbledore's office.
"But sometimes," Dumbledore spoke to himself after watching the door close behind the boy, "Sometimes I wonder if our Sorting Hat isn't as human as the rest of us when it comes to making mistakes."
Harry strode through the stone hallways, heading towards Gryffindor tower. Ron and Hermione were waiting, and he needed to collect his things for his return to the Dursley's. Sixth year was over, and all he could do now was try to get through the month until he could leave his aunt's home for good, preferably without doing anything to get himself tossed out of Hogwarts... or into Azkaban.
Approaching the painting that hid the doorway into the Gryffindor tower, he snapped, "Quidditch!" and the fat lady, who had been tempted to snap back until she took a look at his face, slid aside to allow him in.
"Hermione! He's back!" Ron stood from the couch in the corner of the common room closest to the stairs to the girl's dormitories. "Well? Did you speak to Dumbledore?"
"Yes," Harry replied shortly, pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace which, for the first time all year, was cold. There would be few fires in the school today. It was approaching forty degrees celsius, uncommonly hot, and tomorrow all students would be leaving for the summer break.
"Well?" Ron urged. "What did he say?"
"He said 'no'." Harry replied.
"What? He can't have! He just can't have!"
"I assure you, Ron, he can. And he did," Harry replied shortly.
"I'm sure he had his reasons, Harry," Hermione said from the foot of the stairs. He hadn't even noticed her there. "Dumbledore...."
"Yes, Hermione, he has his reasons. It doesn't mean I have to like them, does it?" Harry sat down suddenly, his head in his hands. A moment later, he felt a hand on his back and Hermione's slight weight depress the couch next to him, and a bounce as Ron's significantly larger weight was thrown down on his other side.
"Why on earth...." Hermione started.
"He told me. He needs me to be with my aunt, at least for a month. It needs to be that way. She's a Lud." He stared straight ahead, into the cold fireplace, seemingly without seeing a thing.
Hermione's hand stilled on his back, and Ron gasped, "You're not serious!"
"Oh, Harry..." Hermione whispered. "That makes everything make so much more sense!"
"Does it? Not to me." Harry shook his head. "I could care less what she is. She's horrible. The things she lets Uncle Vernon and his family say about my parents... and all the while making out it's because they had magic... when she's just the same as they were. Worse."
"But Harry, that's why! She's obviously in stasis..."
"What?" Harry and Ron both said at once, looking at Hermione, totally unsure of exactly what she was talking about.
"Stasis! Honestly, don't either of you read at all?" Hermione stood and began pacing in front of them. "When Luds, or Abiciludum, deny their true selves, they can get away with it for a while... sometimes years, but most end up going through... well, I guess the best way to describe it is a kind of nervous breakdown. They deny everything that they know to be true, and insist on living life within very firm, strict boundaries... oh, why didn't I see this before now?"
Harry shook his head, wonderingly. He couldn't think of a handful of times this past year that Hermione hadn't had her nose in a book, and here she was questioning why she hadn't figured this out?
"And your cousin!" Hermione stopped suddenly, turning and staring, shocked, at Harry.
"Dudley? What's this got to do with him?"
"That's why she dotes on him so, Harry! He's all she's got to prove that she's leading a 'normal' life! She wants to act as though the magical world doesn't exist, and she's simply a suburban homemaker with a child to raise. Raising Dudley has become her lifeline to what she considers normal, and the harder it is to hold onto, the more she pampers and dotes on him, and denies you! It's classic psychology! The more difficult you are to ignore, to put down, to diminish, the harder she tries to do just that."
"You're trying to tell me that she really does love me, but can't admit it because it would somehow make her world... what..." Harry searched for an appropriate word.
"Invalid," claimed Hermione. "Not what she believes, and needs, it to be."
"Barking," stated Ron, staring hard at their bushy-haired friend. "You, Hermione, are absolutely barking mad. How long have we known Harry? His aunt and uncle detest him."
"I would bet they don't, not really, Ron. At least not his aunt."
"Then you would lose, Hermione. Big," Ron scoffed. "You weren't there the night that Fred and George and I rescued him before second year. They had him locked up with bars on the windows of his room. His uncle came in before we could get him out of there, and I'm telling you, the look on his face, that was hatred."
"Well, whatever it was, I have to go back. At least for a month." Harry stated after a moment of silence. "After that, maybe I'll stay at the Leaky Cauldron for a while..."
"Not bloody likely, mate!" Ron snorted. "The minute my mum knows you're able to come, you'll be at the Burrow."
"Ron, I can't always rely on your parents to..."
"Damn right you can," Ron interrupted him. "Mum's already talking about putting your name on the family clock. Besides... you've gotten a Weasley sweater every year since we met, and you actually wear them. That ought to count for something."