AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is pre-OotP. There are lots of Original Characters, plenty of angst and a bit of character death eventually. This is the first fanfic I ever wrote, years ago when GoF was first released. I felt that it needed a lot of work, so I'm redoing it a chapter at a time. Unlike many of my other fics, this is not slash, so hetaphobes (is that even a word?) beware. You heard me right. Is HET. No like? No read. Simple, isn't it?
I imagine it will be somewhat longer than it was originally, and I may change plot points here and there as I go along, but for the most part it will remain the same. I've grown as a writer since I wrote this, and I'm revising it to reflect that change. I hope you enjoy.
Harry Potter and the Mysterious Elven Student
Dark Mark Again
All was calm at number four, Privet Drive. Vernon and Petunia Dursley were asleep in the master bedroom. In the largest child's bedroom, their massive son Dudley was snoring loudly, while their nephew, Harry Potter, tossed and turned in the smallest bedroom.
He was in a graveyard with a boy from school named Cedric Diggory, who competed against in the Tri-wizard Tournament last year. Harry heard a cold, high-pitched voice say, 'Kill the spare.' Harry closed his eyes against the searing pain in his scar, falling to his knees and retching even as the green light of the Killing Curse filled his vision. He heard the thud of Cedric's dead body hitting the ground. Harry opened his eyes to find Cedric on his back, his dead eyes staring blankly at the dark sky.
Harry woke with a start, covered in sweat. He felt his scar even as he began sobbing with guilt and remorse over the events that had taken place just two months ago at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 'Cedric died because of me,' he grieved. 'Why didn't I just take the Cup instead of trying to be noble? Why did I have to be so stupid? Oh gods, Cedric, please forgive me!'
Harry cried for a good long while, and just when his sobs began to abate, he heard a loud rapping on the window. Looking up, he saw his beautiful snowy owl looking back at him with her large amber colored eyes. He ran to the window and opened it, allowing four owls to fly into the room, Hedwig in the lead.
"Hedwig!" he cried happily. "I'm so glad to see you!"
Hedwig gave a soft hoot in reply, dropping her parcel on the bed before wearily going back to her cage.
The large barn owls dropped the parcels on the bed, fluffing up their feathers importantly before flying back out of the open window. The last owl, a tiny, loud, overexcited thing, dropped it's parcel next to the rest and proceeded to make as much noise as possible in his excitement, zooming around the room like a little gray rocket.
"Quiet, Pig!" Harry snapped, snatching the owl from the air. "Do you want to get me into trouble?" He walked over to the window and threw Pig out into the night, watching as the little fluff ball flew away. Pausing to listen intently, Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the telltale snoring from down the hall. Listening to Uncle Vernon ranting about 'that wretched owl' was not on the top of Harry's Things-I-Want-For-My-Birthday list.
Moving to the bed, Harry decided to start with the small, brown parcel Hedwig had brought for him. Tearing open the paper, Harry found a pair of gloves and a short note, which he read.
I hope this note finds you well. I was rather surprised this morning when Hedwig showed up, pecking incessantly until I'd wrapped your gift. She's really a cleaver bird, your Hedwig. I hope you like the gloves. I thought they might come in handy when your play Quidditch. Write to me soon, kido.
Harry felt comforted by Sirius' letter, knowing in his heart that Sirius would always be there for him. He put the gloves and letter aside before turning his attentions to Pig's delivery, which was rather lumpy and covered in blue paper adorned with flashing yellow stars. Inside, Harry found a card, a letter, one of Mrs. Weasley's hand knitted jumpers and a catalogue from Harry's favorite store, Quality Quidditch Supplies. He read the letter first.
How's your summer so far? Mine's okay, but Percy is driving me nuts! Mum sends you the jumper and her love and she says she hopes you're doing all right. I thought you'd like to see what all they've got out now, so I sent you the catalogue. Honestly, I had no idea what to buy you. Sorry 'bout that, mate. Has You-Know-Who been bothering you at all? Is your scar okay? Don't forget to write if something happens. The Dark Mark appeared again in the paper this week, but he still hasn't killed anyone. Yet. Fudge is still denying that its You-Know-Who (the idiot) and he's been petitioning for Dumbledore's removal from Hogwarts. Says Dumbledore's trying to spread panic by telling lies about You-Know-Who around school. Anyways, I'll shut up now before I ruin your birthday.
P.S. Dad got Dumbledore to agree with letting you come stay at The Burrow for the rest of the holiday. We'll be there to pick you up on Sunday. Dad's got cars all set up for us, so don't worry about it. He still hasn't forgotten that thing with your relatives. See you then!
Harry was smiling as he set Ron's letter and gifts aside. He'd have to remember to write back and accept the invitation. Turning back to the two remaining parcels, Harry decided the neat one in brown paper must be from Hermione. Sure enough, when he ripped off the paper he found an old, large worn looking tomb titled The Worst Dark Curses and How to Counter Them. He chuckled lightly as he opened the enclosed letter.
How are you? Don't laugh at my gift, now. I thought that with You-Know-Who back on the prowl, you could never have too much knowledge. You will promise to memorize some of the counter curses, won't you? It would make me feel so much better about you being at the Dursleys'. I hope your summer is going well, all things considered.
I've got all of my homework done, so I can't wait to get the supplies list! I think I might pick up a few extra books, just for supplemental reading, you know? I bet this year's course books are going to be fascinating! Isn't it exciting, Harry? We'll be taking our O.W.L.s in less than a year! I'll just die if I don't pass everything! We'd all better study very hard this year. I'll make up some study schedules for you and Ron so you can keep up! I'll see you at King's Cross, Harry! Don't do anything you wouldn't do without Ron and me there!
P.S. I'll be waiting for your owl promising to memorize some of those counter curses.
Harry smiled fondly at the thought of his bushy haired friend immersing herself in her schoolbooks as usual. 'Oh sure, Hermione,' he thought, somewhat bitterly. 'That's easy for you to say. You don't have a maniac invading your life at every available moment.' He decided he was being unfair, so he moved on to his last gift, which he assumed was from Hagrid. Inside he found two letters, a stack of rock cakes and a very, very long scarf that was such a bright shade of orange Harry's eyes began watering. Harry laughed out loud, holding the scarf up and picturing trying to get into the thing. Shaking his head, he turned his attention to Hagrid's letter.
I thought you might need some fattening up, so I sent along some rock cakes with my present. I hope you like them. I made the scarf myself, so I can't wait to see you wearing it. I'll see you on September first. Happy birthday, Harry!
Harry's mind conjured a picture of him buried in the over long scarf, Ron staring with his mouth agape in the background. Harry had to bury his face in his pillow to stifle his laughter. Once he'd composed himself, he opened the last letter, which was his usual supplies list from Hogwarts.
Dear Mr. Potter,
The new school year will begin on September first. Please be at Kings Cross Station at 11:00 a.m. on that date to catch the Hogwarts Express as usual. You will find the new supplies list enclosed.
Professor M. McGonagall
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding when he saw the 'Deputy' under McGonagall's title. It could only mean that Dumbledore hadn't been sacked. Yet.
The next morning when Harry went down to breakfast, he found the Dursleys already eating. "Good morning, all!" he said cheerfully, plunking himself down in a chair.
Dudley squeaked, waddling out of the room quickly, even as Uncle Vernon grunted his greeting. Aunt Petunia didn't bother turning from the stove to acknowledge Harry's presence.
"So," Harry said. "I got a letter from my friend Ron. He says he's coming to pick me up on Sunday to spend the rest of the summer hols at his house."
Uncle Vernon started choking on his toast and Aunt Petunia turned from the stove looking frightened, a hand clutching her neck. "No!" Uncle Vernon sputtered once he'd cleared his throat. "I forbid it! Those freaks are not coming here to blow up my living room again!"
"They're coming in a car this time," Harry interrupted smoothly. "Besides, you can't forbid me from going. My godfather has already said I could go."
"Your godfather?" Uncle Vernon asked fearfully.
"Yeah, you know," Harry replied with a smirk. "The murdering escaped psychopath?"
"I didn't know you were still writing to him," Uncle Vernon muttered resentfully.
"Of course I am. He's really overprotective of me. I wouldn't want him to get the idea that something bad had happened to me under your roof." Harry felt triumph blossom inside him as he watched Uncle Vernon cave under the fear of Sirius, who the Dursleys believed to be a dangerous criminal. Harry had, of course, neglected to mention that Sirius had been framed. What the Dursleys didn't know would hurt Harry, so he left it alone.
"Fine!" Uncle Vernon grated. "But they had better not be late this time! What time did he say they were coming?"
"Three o'clock," Harry replied casually.
The next few days were the worst in recent memory. Uncle Vernon took to yelling at Harry whenever the boy appeared in a room, even if he didn't even speak. Aunt Petunia kept craning her neck out of windows, as though expecting to see Sirius coming up the street bent on killing all of them. Only Dudley behaved normally, waddling out of the room whenever Harry appeared.
When Sunday arrived at last, Harry was packed and ready to go by noon, having finished all of his summer homework over the last few days. He wanted to spend the month at Ron's in complete relaxation. He was very excited about getting to spend a whole month at The Burrow!
He spent most of the day in his room petting Hedwig and starting to memorize some of the counter curses Hermione had sent him, checking his watch every few minutes. When finally it was ten minutes to three, Harry lugged his heavy trunk downstairs, sitting on the last step to wait.
At precisely 2:55, two Ministry cars pulled up in front of the Dursleys' house. It appeared that the whole family had come to claim him. Harry went to the door, smirking when Ron was on the other side, craning his neck in an attempt at seeing the Muggles. "All right there, Ron?" Harry asked.
Ron's eyes snapped back to Harry, a slight blush appearing on his face at being caught. "All right, Harry," he said. "You?"
Ron's mum, a plump, kind faced woman dressed in a worn but acceptable Muggle dress, came up to stand behind her son.
"Hello, Mrs. Weasley," Harry greeted.
"Hello, Harry," she replied, looking over Harry's shoulder. Harry followed her gaze and found his aunt standing behind him.
"You have a lovely home, Mrs. Dursley," Mrs. Weasley said cordially.
Aunt Petunia squeaked fearfully in reply, promptly disappearing in the kitchen.
"Shall we go then?" Harry asked, ignoring his aunt.
Mrs. Weasley was frowning unhappily as her twin sons, Fred and George, joined the small group.
"That's the best idea you've had all day, Harry old chap!" George said cheerfully.
"George and I'll just get your trunk then!" Fred put in.
Mrs. Weasley came out of her daze, looking rather sever suddenly. "Oh no you don't!" she cried, grabbing Fred and George by their collars as they stepped forward. "I won't have you baiting Harry's cousin again!"
"We weren't baiting him," Fred ground out.
"Besides," George added. "It's not our fault if he didn't learn his lesson."
"I said no!" Mrs. Weasley turned around to address her husband. "Arthur, go in and get Harry's trunk." She turned back to the four teens. "You boys go get into the car."
The boys just kept looking at her innocently.
"I said now," she snapped. Harry and Ron obeyed.
"Oh, but Mum," said George.
"Don't you trust us?" asked Fred.
"No I do not," Mrs. Weasley replied. "I live with you. I know better. Now do as you're told."
Harry was smiling as he climbed into the rear car with Ron's little sister Ginny, who promptly turned scarlet. "Hi, Harry," she said quietly.
"Hiya, Ginny. Have a good summer?" Harry replied.
Ginny turned so red her face matched her hair and she turned away to look out the window. Harry shrugged, turning to face the twins, who had just arrived.
"Who came with you?" he asked.
"Bill and Charlie," Fred replied.
"That was nice of them," Harry said, a smile lighting his face. Harry and the Weasleys talked about inconsequential things during the trip to The Burrow. Harry looked forward when George turned suddenly green and fell silent.
Turning to see what it was, Harry felt shocked to discover that the Dark Mark was hovering ominously over The Burrow. Harry's heart skipped a beat as he observed the giant green skull with its snake tongue, floating there innocently, barely registering Ginny's shocked scream next to him.
Ron turned the same shade of green as George, sliding down the seat silently.
What does this mean? Harry wondered, a bit of panic making itself known in his heart. Was someone in there? Oh gods, what if Percy was home?
The cars pulled up to the house and Mr. Weasley was at Harry's window a moment later. "I want everyone to stay put while I go have a look inside," he said.
"No, Dad!" Ron exclaimed, sitting up again. "What if they're still in there? What if they do something to you?'
"The Dark Mark wouldn't be there if they hadn't left already," Mr. Weasley replied. "I have to find out what they've done." With that said, he took out his wand and slowly proceeded into the house.
"Ron, I'm so sorry," Harry said miserably. "I shouldn't have come. This is all my fault." He ran his hand through his hair in agitation, thinking that his life was such a mess.
"Don't be a git, Harry," Ron muttered, patting Harry on the back. "The Mark has been appearing over homes all over the country."
Mr. Weasley appeared before Harry could make a reply. Harry watched as Mr. Weasley went to the lead car and proceeded to have a rather lengthy discussion with someone. Harry was about to get out and demand to know what was going on when Mr. Weasley finished his conversation and returned to Harry's window. "We're going to the Leaky Cauldron," he said. "Fudge has been contacted, so we should be safe there."
"What did you find, Mr. Weasley?" Harry asked, trying to keep the dread from his voice.
Mr. Weasley sighed, running a hand over his bald spot. "I've never lied to you before, Harry, and I'm not going to start now." He held a small bit of parchment out to Harry. "I found a note addressed to you."
Harry took the note gingerly.
You won't escape me again, Potter! Lord Voldemort will have his revenge!
"Voldemort was here!" Harry exclaimed, ignoring the hissing the name produced. "No! Take me back to the Dursleys! I can't be putting you all in danger like this! I'm already responsible-"
"Enough, Harry!" Mr. Weasley interrupted. "You are not going back to the Dursleys, you didn't cause this and you did not cause Cedric Diggory's murder."
Harry looked down at his lap, feeling ashamed and useless, his heart sinking rapidly in his chest. How could he have been so stupid as to believe everything would be all right? He should have known he'd be putting Ron's family in danger. Why did Voldemort want to kill him so badly? Harry felt a lump rising in his throat and fought to keep his emotions in check.
"You all right, Harry?" Ron asked gently, as though afraid that Harry was going to have a breakdown.
Harry swallowed passed the tightness in his throat. "I'm fine, Ron," he muttered. "Don't worry so much."
Ron looked down at his lap, choosing not to reply.
The ride to the Leaky Cauldron was a sad and quiet affair, everyone in the car absorbed in his or her own thoughts. Harry couldn't stop thinking about how he could have prevented the Weasleys from becoming a part of this mess.
By the time they arrived at the small pub, it was nearly five o'clock. The cars pulled up in front of the abandoned looking building, and Mr. Weasley was once again at Harry's window. "Now listen up, the four you," he said. "Don't tell anyone inside about the Mark; there's not need to create a panic. We'll have dinner while we wait for Minister Fudge to get here. I have to warn you, Harry, that he may bring a dementor with him."
Harry sighed. "Great, another highlight for an already unforgettable day," he muttered sarcastically.
Mr. Weasley gave him a sympathetic smile. "You boys go straight inside and wait for me. Don't talk to anyone you don't know. I'll get your luggage." Harry, Ron, Ginny, Fred and George got out of the car as told and went into the pub to wait quietly.
"So nice to see you again, Mr. Potter," said Tom, the barkeep, upon seeing Harry.
"Hullo, Tom," Harry replied automatically, his heart not in it at all. He and Ron chose the longest table they could find, sitting down to wait for the rest of the family to join them. When everyone was seated, Mr. Weasley got the food and served some beef stew to everyone. Harry didn't feel much like eating, but he felt even less like arguing so he forced down the stew. After the meal, Mr. Weasley spoke to Tom at some length and they were all promptly shown to private room where they could wait on the Minister.
"I didn't think we should talk out in the open when Fudge arrives," Mr. Weasley said by way of explanation. At that moment, Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, walked into the room looking very grim and thankfully dementor free. Right behind him, to Harry's great surprise and relief, was none other than Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.
Harry made to walk over to his headmaster, but Dumbledore said, "If everyone would please be seated, perhaps we might sort out the details of this mess."
"I didn't know you were coming, Professor Dumbledore," Harry said.
Dumbledore gave Harry a very said and weary look, his usual cheerfulness gone for the time being. "The Ministry contacted me as soon as they got the report," he said gently.
"Tell us exactly what happened," Fudge said, trying to sound important.
Mr. Weasley explained everything as Fudge and Dumbledore listened quietly. After they'd fallen silent, Harry said, "This is my fault, Professor, I never should have-"
"No, Harry," Dumbledore interrupted. "If there is blame to be placed, it is upon my shoulders alone. I never should have given consent for you stay at the Weasleys this summer, knowing that Voldemort was back in his body." He was silent for a moment, his eyes downcast, before looking at Harry again, a fire blazing angrily in those blue eyes. "Show me this note he left for you."
Harry handed the note to Dumbledore, who held it so that both he and Fudge could read it at the same time.
"You're all to stay here at the Cauldron," Fudge said after exchanging a brief glance with Dumbledore. "Do not, under any circumstances, go out into Muggle London. The wards here will protect you until it is time to return to Hogwarts. In the mean time, the Ministry will work on relocating the Weasley family as soon as possible." It appeared that Fudge had finally accepted Voldemort's return. He turned back to Dumbledore. "Albus, my I have a word with you outside?"
"Of course, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied pleasantly. "Children, I will see you at Hogwarts." With that, Dumbledore and Fudge left the room. Tom promptly led them to the rooms they'd be staying in for the remainder of August. Ron and Harry bunked together, Fred and George next door, Bill and Charlie across the hall, and Ginny at the end of the hall. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would be on the lower floor, next door to the room they'd reserved for Percy when he returned from work. All together, the Weasley clan took up all of the vacant rooms at the Cauldron.
Ron, who didn't have monsters out to kill him for no apparent reason, had not trouble falling asleep. Harry, however, stayed up late into the night, worrying about the Death Eaters and about all the things that had happened that day. Deciding he wouldn't be falling asleep anytime soon, he got out of bed with a sigh, moving to the mirror. "What am I supposed to do now?" he asked his reflection, which was looking rather pale and frightened.
"Why don't you try sleeping, dear?" the mirror replied.
Harry blinked. That was actually good advice. He yawned as he crawled back into bed. Once he finally found sleep, it was marred by the nightmare in which Cedric died, except this time the Dark Mark made an appearance as well. In the morning, his mind was made up as though he'd sat up all night thinking about it. He wasn't going to let Voldemort scare him. He had to stop being sorry and start taking action. If there ever was a time for bravery, it was now.