Chapter 1: Daydreams
The sun's long rays filtered in through the windows as Harry pulled himself up again, a grimace on his face. Just two weeks had passed since he had stepped off the train, but in that time Harry had occupied himself by exercising on Dudley's gym equipment, becoming quite fond of the chin-up which he was doing now.
The summer had been bland and ethereal for Harry, whose face slackened slightly whenever he thought about the burden he was carrying and the things that already happened because of it. Harry had always been different, but now he knew why.
Strange things had always happened when Harry got upset or afraid and he had no idea why until it was revealed to him one day that he was part of a world he hadn't known existed.
Harry's face was screwed up in concentration as he willed his stressed and sweaty body to lift one more time, pushing himself to do better than he had last time. Dropping off the bar, Harry's arms fell to his side almost seeming exasperated. The room was cold and clean, but his body burned in exhaustion, the shirt he was wearing clinging to him.
Gulping down some water, he wiped his face with a towel and sat down in a chair, thinking about a variety of things, some bothersome, others not. One of the things which he had noted immediately upon his arrival was the marked difference in the Dursleys.
They had been keeping away from Harry even more than usual, though it seemed that it was out of fear, not out of spite. Uncle Vernon had tried to keep Harry out of the house as much as possible; his face swelling with rage and frustration when Harry explained that he couldn't leave the house. Uncle Vernon's expression went haywire whenever Harry was around, a mixture of fear and revulsion that none of the other Dursleys had.
Dudley and Petunia had been far more reserved in their opinions of Harry, avoiding him wherever possible. Harry had been amazed when Dudley put up no fight seeing Harry on his gym equipment and had a sneaky suspicion that he heard Dudley mutter something like "I don't use it anyway" as he sulked away with a look of defeat on his normally hard face.
All of these mixed emotions whenever Harry was around were causing him a fair bit of anxiety. It seemed to him that the only people who really knew or cared about him were hundreds of miles away, even if he did read their letters frequently.
Harry had been sending and receiving letters from the Order, Ron and Hermione nearly everyday, though no one could say much in them beyond the mundane everyday sorts of things you might talk about over lemonade at the fence. He had been frustrated by it, but knew both why they couldn't tell him much and why he had to stay at the Dursley's at the beginning of every summer. He had felt nearly as frustrated as he had been last year, all bottled up in the house. At least last year he had been able to go for walks.
Harry reasoned that his solitude was somehow appropriate, for he was different from everyone else. Even among wizards he was a marked man, called to be either murderer or victim. He felt that his place at Number 4 was some sort of justice to the place in life he had. Besides, he thought darkly, a sinister and hollow defeat crossing his face, this prophecy just causes other people trouble and pain. The towel fell from his hands to the floor, and he drifted slowly to memories of his Godfather.
Harry shook the thoughts from his head and stood up, rushing into his room. The room seemed oddly dark to Harry, cluttered with all manner of things. His bed sheets were unkempt and made it look as if a dog had been using the bed all afternoon. His homework was strewn half-completed on his desk, the quill resting in his ink container, his books stacked precariously next to it.
The room seemed to swell with tension when he entered, the air stagnant and uncomfortable. It was both a sanctuary and a hell for him, a place where he could be alone, and that was just what comforted him… and bothered him.
Harry's eyes fell on some of the letters that he had gotten so far this year, and he looked over them trying to take his mind off of things. He hadn't received anything from Dumbledore yet, and it was beginning to get on his nerves. The absence of the letters drew Harry's thoughts back to the conversation they had only a few weeks ago, a look of displeasure that could easily be described as Petunia-like donning his face.
The headmaster had told him everything, not that it mattered anymore. Dumbledore's words were a worthless nuisance to Harry now, the prophecy an invisible wall, and when Harry had needed Dumbledore most, he had seemed weary and tired… weak. Dumbledore wasn't allowed to be weak.
Harry felt a surge of anger and despair that was quite more than what he thought he felt, causing a voice to pipe up in the back of his head, a voice that sounded all too much like Hermione, reminding him that Dumbledore was human too. The voice chided Harry for putting such high expectations on one man, and Harry unwillingly recalled some of the unfair expectations placed on him.
The brooding was creating a storm of emotions and thoughts in Harry's head, and he tenuously wished he had a Pensieve of his own so he could siphon off the thoughts to a place where he could deal with them outside of his detached body and mind.
Glancing at the letters again Harry noted that all of them delicately stepped around mentioning Sirius by name. "Are you feeling alright" or "keep your chin up" or "hope you're feeling well" were the ways they all tried to tell him without telling him what they were worried about.
They didn't know. None of them could. Harry looked over Ron's sloppy scrawl and got a sudden feeling of disgust. Ron didn't feel the pain Harry did and had never experienced this kind of loss, so why did he try to understand? He had parents that loved him, and siblings that at the very least tolerated him.
Harry dashed those thoughts quickly. Ron was his friend; that is why he was trying to understand. He was just trying the best he knew how to be Harry's friend, and right now Harry realized, he could use them.
Harry could see how his friends would confront him when he next saw them, the scene playing out in his head. He would enter the room they were in confidently, determined to avoid any needless conversation, but they would press him anyways.
"You feeling alright?" Ron would ask in a bumbling sort of manner, like his words were scripted. Harry would nod, leaving Ron satisfied, but he could just see Hermione looking at him with a piercing and knowing stare which he couldn't keep his rouse up under.
"Of course he's not alright," Hermione would say. "He's had to live with those horrible relatives of his, and right after Sirius…" She would try and gauge his reaction before proceeding, but Harry wouldn't give her anything to work from. A blank solitude would be his projection and his protection from uncomfortable conversations about a topic Harry wasn't even ready to fully accept.
"Mum says dinner's ready," a voice said from the door, jerking Harry from his daydreaming, and when he turned to look he caught Dudley's back end walking towards the stairs. Dudley had been acting very strange to Harry ever since he got back, glancing around whenever they were alone as if searching for a ghost. He was fidgety and seemed to be openly afraid of Harry in a way he had never been before, like Harry was an escaped convict who was holding him hostage.
Changing his sweaty shirt quickly, Harry got up to leave and walked down the stairs, pausing at the landing to collect himself.
Continuing into the kitchen where Uncle Vernon was watching the evening news on a small television set, Harry drew the attention of the Dursleys, their faces displaying some mild shock, as if he were supposed to be living somewhere else this time of year. The room went shockingly silent when he walked in, like it did every time he entered a room in this house, and Harry took his seat at the dinner table. Uncle Vernon scowled at Harry, turning back to the news.
Aunt Petunia quickly returned to her dinner, an unmistakable whisper of guilt in her eyes, and Harry was sure they had been talking about him before he entered. Dudley had nearly finished what Harry supposed was his first helping, and seemed intent on leaving the table before Harry got the chance to leave.
"What's for dinner?" Harry asked in what he hoped was a respectfully indifferent tone as he sat down in front of his plate. The Dursleys had not openly despised him this summer beyond expressions of distaste here and there, and Harry was trying to do his part to be tolerable so that he might not be at the butt of all the arguments in the house.
"Meatloaf," Uncle Vernon answered curtly, giving Harry a quick and narrow glance before turning back to his television set. Aunt Petunia snatched the butter and they ate in silence which was broken only by the newscaster relating the scores of that day's football games.
Harry ate slowly, poking at his food a bit, a look of intense disinterest on his face. He wasn't particularly hungry because he had been constantly supplied with various food stuffs by Mrs. Weasley, but he knew that he had to wash the dishes and could not be the first person to leave the table.
"What's the matter boy, food not good enough for you?" Uncle Vernon glared at Harry and his nearly untouched plate.
"No, I just already had something to eat." Uncle Vernon gave Harry a look that clearly said he did not believe him, but didn't press the issue any further. Harry was just beginning to wonder if he would sit there all night waiting to wash the dishes when a small tapping noise came from the kitchen window.
The entire room stared for a moment as an owl with a letter attached to its leg pecked at the glass, asking to come in. The Dursley's were frozen but Harry got up almost automatically and let the bird inside, at which point Uncle Vernon erupted.
"What the blazes is that thing doing delivering here! Keep your infernal owls to yourself! I don't want those things flying about where anyone could see them!" Harry nodded in agreement absentmindedly as he stared at the seal on the letter which he had removed from the owl. The letter was from the Ministry of Magic.
Harry sat back down at the table and began to open the letter as the Dursley's stared at him in a queer sort of hypnosis. Pulling the letter out he noted that it was on letter paper and not on legal paper as his previous warning letters from the Ministry had been.
"Well? What's it say? I'd like to know why we've been sent a letter right in the middle of dinner!" Uncle Vernon glared with a glint in his eye that very clearly showed he thought that nothing in the letter could possibly warrant a disturbance of meal time.
Harry unfolded the letter and started reading:
To Mr. Harry James Potter,
Your presence is requested for the reading of the will of your late godfather Sirius Black. You have been named a benefactor of the will, which will be read and executed by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore under the supervision of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
The date has been set for August the Tenth at eleven in the morning. Our sincerest condolences on your loss, and we wish you an otherwise enjoyable summer holiday.
Head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic
Harry's mouth had gone sour by the end, his stomach in no mood to even entertain food any longer. They had something wrong, they must. It was a fleeting thought, for Harry was quite sure at this point that Sirius was gone, however the letter brought to the forefront something Harry had been hoping to avoid.
Uncle Vernon, who had been demanding an explanation this entire time, grabbed the paper from Harry and began reading it. Normally Harry would have objected but he was in too much shock to respond accordingly.
"I… don't… what do you think Petunia?" He gave Harry a fearful sort of glance as he handed the letter to her. Harry was deep in thought about Sirius. This had been the first time since his talk with Luna at the end of last term that he had been confronted with the death of his godfather so blatantly. Talking to Luna had been an odd sort of relief to Harry, almost comforting in a way.
Sirius had always been able to comfort Harry and give him advice when need be, and Harry vaguely wondered what it must have been like when Sirius and his parents would talk to each other before Harry got his scar.
Harry could just see his parents talking in their dining room with Sirius, the house they lived in cozy and comfortably cluttered. He could see them sitting down to a meal talking with each other about the happenings of that day.
"What was it you needed?" Sirius would say, picking up his fork and stabbing a bite of casserole. The table would be set for three, little Harry sitting in a baby chair next to Lily begging for more food to squish between his fingers.
"We want you to take care of Winston for us," Harry's mother would say, indicating to the brightly colored cat that was circling their feet. Sirius' eyes shift from side to side.
"Going on holiday?" he would ask them in a pointed manner.
"Something like that," Harry's father would say in a flat sort of way. "We just want you to look after him for us. If anything were to happen to our cat…" James would look downtrodden at the thought.
"You can count on me," Sirius would reassure them with a smile, and the cat would rub up against Sirius' leg in what appeared to be appreciation.
"Are you there boy?" Uncle Vernon cut Harry out of his daydreaming abruptly, and Harry noticed that both Petunia and Dudley were looking at him almost expectantly.
"Sorry… I was just thinking about something…" Harry stood slowly and grabbed his letter off the table where Petunia had put it down. "I'm going to turn in for the night."
Harry didn't even give them a chance to respond as he set his plate on the counter and rushed up the stairs into his room where he found Hedwig waiting at his closed window.
Authors Note: I've been working out this story for about five months now. I have the entire plot decided on. This is indeed, as you have realized by now, a sixth year fic. Since I have the entire thing planned, it will be unaffected by the actual book, however, it is highly unlikely that I will have this story done by July 16th. Sorry.
In fact, I haven't entirely finished my final revision of chapter 2. Tell me if you want me to continue, as this is my first and only stab at Harry Potter fan fiction. I'll let you guess at the couples for now, but I will reveal them eventuall for your sanity, as the story has a somewhat convoluted relationship progression, (you should see my page and a halfof relationship notes... it looks like pacman meets a butterfly ballot).
This story is structured very much around cannon style and progression, and I refuse to write in this story something that sounds patently unplausible. In fact, I used the things that JK has revealed about book six in chats and interviews to construct the story line, and I can tell you that there is not a single thing she has said so far which I contradict in this story line, (I'm still sketchy on my 7th year... only to about January on that one).
I hope you find this fic interesting, even after book six is out.