As it turned out, Mrs Figg didn't want him to do much at all. A squib she may be, but she still had access to Diagon Alley. This meant she also had access to magical cleaners, self-cleaning appliances, self-watering plants and a vast array of other contraptions that Harry wished he'd known about when he was nine and cleaning her cat-food bowls.
"I'd still rather like it if you mowed the lawn and weeded the flower beds, Harry dear." she said apologetically. "Just to keep up appearances, you know."
Harry had been more than prepared to do these relatively small tasks seeing as how they would keep him effectively away from the Dursleys for most of the day, if he played his cards right. Yes, his father's notebook still called to him and yes, he sort of wished he could monitor Dudley given his recent unsettling behaviour, but he didn't see any particular point in complaining about the fact. Besides, all he had to do was yank off his sweatshirt and do some basic garden work, something he'd been used to doing all his life. If anything it was a nice break from sitting reading all the time.
After all, no matter how interesting the reading material might be, Harry Potter was not a bookworm by nature.
It was nearly noon when Harry finished everything. The sun had been beating down on him as he'd cut the grass but there had been enough of a breeze to ensure that this wasn't much of a problem. There was, however, a slight compensation as he was weeding the flower beds. He had found a number of basic magical, if slightly mundane looking, plants. There were, for example, fanged geraniums planted around the spot where Mrs Figg hid her spare house key. A fact which certainly explained a few minor injuries Harry had received at the age of seven, shortly after she'd planted them.
Once all the garden work was complete, Harry entered Mrs Figg's kitchen to find his neighbour puttering around the cooker and looking extremely busy. "That's all done Mrs Figg." he told her. "Anything else I can do for you?"
She looked up sharply. "Pardon? Oh. Oh heavens no, dear. Here, you take a seat. You just a take a seat right now. You look positively exhausted." she fussed.
Harry was slightly surprised by this. He was a little too hot after being out in the sun all morning and he freely admit that he had probably looked better in his life, garden work did that to a person after all, but 'positively exhausted'? That seemed a little extreme. Nonetheless, Harry took a seat at the kitchen table.
Mrs Figg thrust a glass of ice cold lemonade at him. "Here you go. You drink that up. I've some biscuits cooking just now if you want them later." she said in a very quick voice. "And the television's just through there if you want to watch it. In fact you've got the run of the whole house if you want it. Do you want a sandwich? I could make you a sandwich. What would you like on it? Cheese? Ham? Cheese and ham? Tuna? Or perhaps egg salad, I could make egg salad-"
"Er… Mrs Figg?" Harry questioned, bewildered at this behaviour.
"Or peanut butter! I know a lot of the kids around here are eating that American stuff. I mean I personally don't actually have any peanut butter but I could get you some if you like."
"Cucumber? It's always been a little plain for my tastes, but maybe-"
"Or maybe you don't want a sandwich. Soup? Pasta? I could make you a-"
"Arabella Figg!" Harry snapped, doing his best impression of Professor McGonagall. If that didn't shut a person up he didn't know what would.
Fortunately, it did. Mrs Figg clamped her mouth shut with a short yelp. Harry took a good look at her. She was a little paler than he remembered her. Her eyes were a bit too wide and she was glancing around a bit too much. She had all the tell-tale signs of a trouble maker. A fact which at least ruled her out as a Death Eater spy, as they didn't tend to send the nervous types to try and do him in. Harry tried to think of other situations that could make a woman like Mrs Figg feel the compulsion to make him a sandwich but he couldn't think of anything. He decided to take the more direct approach.
"Wrong? N-nothing. Not a thing. You don't want that sandwich then?"
Harry pulled out the glare. Mrs Figg quickly dropped the act.
"Oh all right." she muttered bitterly. "I mean you were going to find out sooner or later, I might as well tell you."
"Find out what?" he asked carefully.
Immediately Harry began running through the list of horrific things that could've happened. He hadn't heard from the Weasleys since the Ministry had blocked his post. He hadn't heard from Hermione either. Nor the Order. He hadn't from any of them in days. There could've been an attack. They could've been killed. Voldemort could be holding them captive. The Death Eaters could've gained control of the Ministry. New security measures could've been put in place so that all the previous members of the DA had been sent to Azkaban except for him because he was the Boy-Who-Lived and the Ministry didn't want to be seen to be treating him badly. His friends, his allies, his adopted family… they could all be rotting away in their cells, bitterly cursing his name and vehemently swearing revenge because he, their leader, had abandoned them and left them to die in prison while their very souls were crushed under the weight of-
"You're a folk hero." Mrs Figg said solemnly.
Harry's doomed train of thought came to a screeching halt. "I beg your pardon?"
Mrs Figg sighed and rummaged around in one of her pale green kitchen cabinets. She pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet and passed it to him. The headline read, "Harry Potter: The greatest hero of our times?"
Harry nearly choked.
"What the f… what is this?" he asked dumbly. "Who came up with this? Were they drunk? What is this?"
Mrs Figg shook her head slowly. "I'm so sorry Harry." she said gravely. "I didn't mean to. I wasn't paying attention… this is all my fault."
Harry frowned, confused. He looked back down at the paper in hands and read the short article on the front, which was placed next to a picture of him shortly after Sir… after he'd met Voldemort at the Ministry. The fact that someone thought to snap a picture after having just been called into work for a dire emergency, to the tune of "Almost-Omnipotent Dark Lord On The Premises" boggled Harry's mind a bit. Then he thought about what Colin Creevey would've done under the circumstances, and suddenly it seemed less bizarre.
Basically all that was on the front page was some rubbish about how 'certain corners' had attempted to discredit him over the previous year and how he'd stayed firm in his belief that the Dark Lord had returned. Granted, they used a lot more purple prose and the phrase "Tragic Hero" far too much, but that was the general point they were trying to communicate.
"Eh… Mrs Figg? How is this your fault?" he asked dubiously. "I mean unless you were the one to teach Rita Skeeter to use the word 'harrowing' I don't really see how you could be held accountable for this rubbish."
"Page eight." she instructed.
Harry flicked through the paper to land on a picture of his seven-year-old self peering curiously around a display of baked beans in a supermarket.
He frowned, trying to remember that day. There had been someone there who'd looked very odd to Harry. He'd been wearing a purple poncho. When Aunt Petunia had sent him off to fetch breakfast cereal, he'd surreptitiously gone after the stranger hoping to get a better look, but he hadn't managed it. Apparently they'd snapped a picture of him though. And apparently that picture was now adorning the pages of the Daily Prophet with the caption 'Harry Potter; before the weight of the world rested on his shoulders'. How is it, Harry wondered, that they always manage to make my life sound more depressing than even I can? It was bizarre.
The story was fairly dull, or it was to Harry at any rate since he was pretty much aware of his life story by that point. The article detailed his 'epic journey' from the attack on his parents' house (which according to the news story was a tragedy which still shook the Wizarding World to this very day), to his time in the cupboard (in that particular paragraph he'd been compared to a caged bird, a wronged prisoner, a forgotten hero and, for some unknown reason, a tulip), right the way up to the Triwizard Tournament (during which time he was clearly being persecuted by the Ministry… apparently). Had he been feeling slightly less bored by the whole thing, he would've found it funny. However at that particular moment, boredom did seem to be the dominant emotion, despite his best efforts to move it into the funny category.
"Mrs Figg, I'm sorry but I'm still not entirely clear… I mean… how could this possibly… this isn't your fault." he finished weakly.
Mrs Figg looked as though she sincerely disagreed with this statement. "But… but the cupboard. They didn't know. She got me talking…" she trailed off, looking utterly miserable. "As soon as I saw it I had to make it up to you. I mean you had to do the garden, if you didn't the Dursleys, well they might get suspicious, and with that awful woman staying there and-"
"Mrs Figg." Harry said firmly. "This is not your fault. All right? If they don't have anything to write about me, they make things up. It's fine." he assured her. "And I don't want a sandwich." he added, just to be on the safe side.
It took a bit of doing, but in less than ten minutes Harry had completely convinced her that there was nothing to feel sorry about. She had still been saying things about 'making it up to him' but Harry managed to curb that impulse for the most part. Although he was still getting biscuits "Whether he liked it or not". While almost all of his memories of Mrs Figg's house were called into question upon hearing that she was a squib who knew Dumbledore, Harry recollections of her cooking stayed intact. This meant that he was coming down firmly on the side of "not", but he chose not to lament that point.
All in all, he was extremely grateful for the small mercies granted on him as a result of that pathetic article. He was going to be able to spend the day away from Aunt Marge and the oddly-ominous Dudley, sitting on a relatively comfortable couch reading his father's journal. Mrs Figg also had a Floo connection in her fireplace, which she said Harry was welcome to use. When he woke up that morning, he couldn't have asked for more.
"And you're sure you don't want anything else?" Mrs Figg asked him.
"I'm positive. The lemonade is enough. Really. Thank you."
"Oh. All right. If you insist. I really am sorry about-"
"Right. Well I'll be upstairs if you need me. Mr Tibbles has just had kittens with Snowball and the little dears need my attention."
"Er, right." Harry said, not entirely understanding that sentence. "I'll call if I need anything." he told her, remembering Mrs Figg's strict rule about not going up the stairs without her explicit permission.
Mrs Figg nodded and disappeared up the stairs. To be honest, Harry was glad to see the back of her. No matter how much more tolerable she was after her revelation, she still wasn't exactly thrilling company. Then again, he would've said the same of Fred and George at that particular moment, mostly because it was nearly one o'clock in the afternoon and he still hadn't read the results of the "battle plans" laid out by his mother, Sirius, Remus and The-Rat-Who-Was-Apparently-Not-Evil-Once-Upon-A-Time-But-Still-Made-Harry-Want-To-Kick-Things.
Harry snatched up the journal from a side table in the hallway, Harry moved into the flower-patterned living room. A large grey cat was lying at one end of the couch, where the sun was shining. It didn't even raise his head as Harry entered the room. Taking a seat on the more shaded end of the couch, Harry placed his lemonade on the end table, settled in and opened the notebook eagerly.
Evans wrote to me. Unsurprisingly, I'm thrilled by this fact. Slightly more surprising is the fact that, after little-to-no sleep last night, a long exhausting day today, and absolutely nothing to eat all day, I'm too bloody tired to show my thrillededness. Hang on. Thrillededness? That can't possibly be a word. Thrillifiedness? Thrillerised… whatever. I'm thrilled. Really. But I had very little sleep last night, a very tiring day today, hardly any food throughout, and I'm not going to be able to get to sleep for another hour. At least another hour. Possibly closer to two, as I won't be able to sleep until phase one of the Plan Annihilate McLaggen is put into effect.
Phase one is the psychotic teddy bear, by the way. I am grudgingly inclined to agree with Evans when she refers to it as evil incarnate, though I'm not entirely sure who or what a Karen Black movie is. My cabin was in charge of what we should programme it to do, and they settled on ankle biting, pouncing in people's facing and singing "I Know A Song That'll Get On Your Nerves" in a loud and painfully high pitched voice. I think it will also dance a short Haka to announce its presence. Albert came up with the song. He clearly has a sadistic and depraved side to him that no one knew about. It was also generally agreed that we should let it loose in the middle of the night, so as to cause the most disruption. The one small downside of this plan is that I had to physically force each and every member of my cabin to go to bed and go to sleep so that they wouldn't look suspicious when they fall asleep in mid-air tomorrow. Everyone therefore agreed that I have to stay awake to tell them exactly what happened. I'm not entirely sure how it'll look when I fall asleep in mid-air tomorrow, but never mind.
I'm also thinking of unleashing that potion of Evans's on McLaggen tomorrow. Just to add insult to injury, you know?
God I'm tired. I could just sleep right now. But I won't. Nope. I'm staying awake. Awake is how I am and awake is how I'm staying. That's the only reason I'm writing, you know. To keep myself awake. Mum sent coffee, but I don't want to drink all of it in one go. Besides, there's something oddly horrific about drinking coffee on an empty stomach. I don't know why I didn't eat today.
No, wait, hang on. Yes I do. Because breakfast was interrupted by the tangerine-coloured McLaggen who tried to convince everyone that I broke into his cabin and turned everyone in there orange. This led to me being dragged into Uncle Seth's office to discuss the matter, where I had to play dumb for about fifteen minutes before finally saying "Oh, wait, some of the kids in my cabin were messing around the other night and booby trapped the place. But gosh, wait, that would mean that McLaggen would've had to come into our cabin. Heavens, it can't be!" It was pathetic. Even if they'd still been serving breakfast after that, I would've been too disgusted with myself to even contemplate eating. Oh and can I just mention that being dragged in front of Uncle Seth is a lot less intimidating than being dragged in front of McGonagall? And that McGonagall has actually desensitised me to the more innocuous forms of punishment doled out by the fluffier "Authority figures" in the world? I doubt that was her intention when she started screaming at me in first year and assigning me month long detentions, but it's how things turned out anyway. I wonder how she'd react if I told her that? Hmm. Something to consider doing on the last day of seventh year. Assuming that I haven't been injured in Quidditch and can still run, that is.
Then we went to lunch and I had to spend the entire time pretending I wasn't hungry and daring my guys to running Suicides. My guys being my cabin in this instance rather than my fellow Marauders or the actual Gryffindor team. Suicides, for those of you who were not forced to attend practise with that Sociopathic Drill Sergeant who claimed to be my Quidditch Captain in second and third year, are an aerobic exercise. Well, aerobic-exercise-slash-torture-method-inflicted-on-we-poor-Gryffindors-after-every-bloody-practise-for-two-sodding-years. Suicides consist of gathering together a group of incredibly stupid people and forcing them to sprint, or occasionally swim, one hundred metres. These people then drop to the ground and do one hundred push-ups. They then sprint another hundred metres, drop, and do one hundred sit-ups. This is repeated about half a dozen times until someone (usually me, it has to be said) drops to the ground wheezing and begging for mercy. If the slave-driver in question was feeling particularly vicious, the rest of the team would then continue doing suicides until there was only one man or woman left standing. No matter how much I improved, the one man left standing was never ever me. And I did get better at running suicides after third year. I mean I still don't claim to be a picture of health and endurance or anything, but I can do the damned things. This, er, tradition only really became annoying in September when Jess (that would be the drill sergeant in question) decided that September and October were still warm enough months for us to do this swimming in the lake rather than sprinting. And she was, technically, right. I mean no one drowned or froze to death or anything. The down side was that everyone really, really wanted to drown and freeze to death, because it would've been easier than swimming in that ice water.
Anyway, I challenged my guys to them. They did pretty well considering. The first time I was asked to run suicides, I spent about three weeks completely unable to breathe properly and swearing under my breath every time I had to pick my bag up or walk quickly.
Ping was the first to drop after five runs. But he didn't drop when he had nothing left in him; he dropped when he couldn't be bothered anymore, and I respect that fact. Iggy was the next to drop, after doing six runs. I suspect he simply realised he wasn't going to be able to keep up with me, Sofia and Albert much longer and so he decided not to bother. I respect that too. This brings me to Sofia and Albert. While I was running the suicides (in a comparatively leisurely fashion, it has to be said), most of my attention was on those two. Sofia's attempts at push-ups were laughable, but then so were Albert's attempts at sit-ups. That's neither here nor there however, since both of them still did them without a word of complaint. They also kept going until after fourteen runs, neither being exactly thrilled with the thought of losing. I don't think I was officially included in their little competition.
I don't think I've ever been as impressed in my entire life as I was to see Albert actually drop down into the dirt, completely worn-out and gasping for breath, drag himself up again and keep running. It is, without a doubt, the most personality I've seen from the kid and it is also enough to convince me that he has a fairly prominent personality in there somewhere. Sofia also dropped in the middle of her fifth round of push-ups, but she vehemently denies this occurring. It was on the fifteenth run that they started talking. I think Albert was the first to speak, but I couldn't tell for certain as I was doing sit-ups at the time. They came to the conclusion that they were both going to stop at the exact same second. It took them another run and a hundred more push-ups to agree to the terms and conditions of this, but they did it all the same. Both hit the deck within milliseconds of each other.
I would've been happy for them, and possibly proud of them, but I was somewhat distracted by dragging them to the Medi-hut to make sure I hadn't accidentally killed either of them.
As a result of running suicides, I was dehydrated and achy for the rest of the day. Sofia and Albert were probably worse, but at least they had muscle relaxant stuff from the nurse and a special dehydrating agent. Still, both of them looked like death warmed up for most of the day, so I spent the afternoon working with Ping and Iggy while Sofia and Albert pretended to be annoyed with me. I say "pretended to be annoyed with me" because I caught both of them groaning in agony at several points throughout the afternoon and then covering it up.
Then came dinner. Dinner is, usually, an opportunity to feed yourself up and make yourself feel better. However, I received my post at dinnertime. I was so eager to see what the hell was in that gigantic envelope that I only got about two mouthfuls of food down me. And yes, I'm aware that it's my own fault I'm starving.
So here I am, sitting with absolutely nothing to do and waiting for someone in McLaggen's cabin to scream like a girl.
Merlin I want to sleep.
Hagrid wrote to me as well you know. He was very vague and slightly ominous. I'm too tired to really think about it. Recounting rubbish that's occurred throughout the day is one thing but thinking is another entirely. Still, I wonder what he was on about.
Oh Dear Lord, I'm so tired.
And dad wrote back too. He's obviously missing an outlet for his sarcasm without me there. Sirius is always polite around my parents. Don't know why exactly. He's never polite around anyone else.
I. Am. Knackered.
I can't do it. I need to sleep. McLaggen and the teddy bear can take care of themselves. I need to sleep. I can't do it.
With that, the journal entry abruptly stopped.
Harry frowned in concentration. He considered himself fairly familiar with exhaustion. Indeed, given his day-to-day schedule throughout the year, his propensity to get involved in slightly illegal and generally tiring extra-curricular activities, and his recent insomnia, Harry was nothing short of an expert on exhaustion.
Somehow it seemed strange to him that his father would be quite so weary after doing comparatively little. Harry would concede that "suicides" sounded wearing, that the rest of his father's day sounded horrific and that he probably hadn't had that much sleep the previous night. But surely if his father was half as good a trouble maker as he claimed to be, he could pull an all-nighter without dropping like a rock. It just seemed strange. Particularly if he had coffee.
Harry took a sip of his lemonade, noticing with slight surprise that the ice cubes that had been in the glass was now completely melted and, judging by the condensation on the glass, had migrated outside. It must be warmer out there than he had initially thought if the ice melted so quickly. As if agreeing with this assessment, the cat that had been lounging in the sun hopped down off the couch and moved into the kitchen, presumably to find a nice shady corner to lie in. Harry watched it go without any real interest.
What did catch his interest was the clock in the kitchen. And not just because it was distinctly unnerving. It was one of those black and white clocks that were shaped like a cat, where the eyes moved from side to side in time with the swinging tail pendulum. Although that was more than disturbing enough on its own. No, what caught Harry's attention was the fact that the clock showed a time of nearly three o'clock in the afternoon.
Harry stared at it in surprise. Apparently he was a very slow reader in extreme heat.
While he fully intended to read a few more entries before dragging himself back to Privet Drive, it occurred to him that he should, perhaps, do one or two of the things he had intended to do that morning before he continued reading. Looking around, he spotted a small stationary set on a sideboard.
It was pink, flowery and scented, but it was paper all the same.
Pulling himself off the couch, Harry made his way over to the sideboard and was pleased to see a pen lying nearby. He was less pleased to see bright pink envelopes, a dozen cat figurines and what seemed to be a funerary urn, decorated with kittens frolicking. He didn't know if it was his shifting view of the world over the years or what, but Harry was quickly coming to the conclusion that people who lived like muggles were often a great deal weirder than people who lived like wizards.
Shaking his head to clear it of any thoughts as to the contents of that jar, Harry picked up the pen and began writing his letter.
Yeah, I'm getting my stuff again. Got a very large delivery last night as a matter of fact. Since my battleaxe of a muggle "Aunt" is staying with on Privet Drive, that situation is a tad more dramatic than it sounds. Fortunately she woke up this morning thinking it was all just a weird dream. "Some nonsense about birds or some such" was her exact phrasing.
I'm sitting at Mrs Figg's as I write this (you'd never have guessed from the paper, would you?). She's got a floo connection, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm allowed to be using it. Better not chance it, I suppose. Or she might chuck me out, meaning I'd be forced to go back and face the Dragon. And I'm not talking the nice, pleasant kind of dragon. This isn't Norbert or a friendly Hungarian Horntail. This is Aunt Marge. Her body odour alone makes her more terrifying.
Also, I got some interesting news from Luna this morning. She sent me a copy of her dad's paper. I recommend page fifty-four. Quality entertainment, that. Unlike my guest appearance on the front of a certain more popular paper we could mention but won't.
One more thing I wanted to ask you: Do you know which team Sofia Ivanova plays for these days? All I can find out is that she's a famous Bulgarian Quidditch Player. None of my, albeit limited, sources seem to be able to tell me more than that. Can you find out for me?
Oh and tell the Order not to come visiting, would you? Just in case Hedwig doesn't manage to go see them. Like I said, my Aunt is staying over and I really can't be bothered getting dragged in front of the Ministry on account of that old bat.
Writing back, sharp-ish,
P.S. No matter how upset Hermione may get, I can promise Hedwig is much more annoyed at being locked up. Believe me.
It was only when he finished that Harry actually thought about how strange it was to be writing to Ron and asking him to call off the Order rather than writing to the Order themselves. He shrugged and told himself that it was merely a back-up plan. He carefully tore away the sheet of paper, folded it up and slid it into the back of his jeans.
He fell gratefully onto the couch once more, flipped open the notebook and continued reading.
Duane McLaggen is an idiot. A nuisance, but an idiot.
I'm writing this first thing in the morning, during basic flight manoeuvres (hey, I'm bored). If you're curious as to why I didn't write yesterday, it's because I was asleep. For twenty seven hours straight, to be precise. I'm told that if I'd eaten all of my dinner, I would have been asleep for about three weeks, but fortunately that isn't an issue. Ms Ivanova surmised the situation beautifully upon my awakening with the phrase "Our darling Duane dosed your dinner."
Not with the Draught of the Living Dead, like a sane person, but with some prissy, overly complex sleeping potion which is depending upon dosage. Draught of the Living Dead - two drops and it's off to the Land of Nod for an indefinite stay. This stuff - every millilitre inflicts a certain period of slumber and therefore the entire plan was dependant upon me eating everything on my plate. Also, Draught of the Living Dead has two ingredients, if memory serves. TWO. This stuff probably took him the better part of an evening to brew up, all to get me out of the way. Completely pointless.
That said, the first thing I did when I woke up, after being made fully aware of the situation, was distribute Evans' little "Litmus tests" around the cabin. Just to prevent it happening again, you understand.
I am led to believe that the ultimate plan was to knock me out, wreak havoc on my guys, and then enjoy three Me-free weeks. Shockingly enough, this didn't work. For a few reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it was a stupid idea. Secondly, I didn't eat all my dinner. Thirdly, those booby traps that turned them orange are STILL THERE (they're lime green now and suffered mild hallucinations for a few hours after the fact. I hear Justin Case thought he was the Easter Bunny). And fourthly, my guys are not idiots. Within moments of the alarms going off, shoes, books, lanterns and other objects were being hurled at the heads of McLaggen's cabin. Sofia had also sent Ping in to wake me up. When this didn't work, all of them tried to wake me up. When this also didn't work, they physically dragged me to the medical hut.
Granted, I'm a little sore from the dragging, but that's hardly the point.
I'm told that McLaggen and his minions were sent back to their cabin to 'await trial' as it were. Keeping in mind that they were suffering slight hallucinations at the time, they walked back in to find the Evil Teddy Bear waiting for them. Words cannot express how sorry I am to have missed this event, though Iggy assures me he took pictures.
Meanwhile, back at the Medi-Hut, my guys were spilling some sob story to Uncle Seth about how terribly we've been picked on by the mean old McLaggen. Uncle Seth, proving himself yet again to an example of the perils of inbreeding, bought this story. Unfortunately he also showed slight intelligence by realising that McLaggen probably couldn't have made a sleeping potion from Sloppy Joes and was therefore having stuff sent in. I hate it when idiots in authority suddenly decide to get smart for no reason. It puts a serious crimp in things.
Basically, he's putting a halt on any incoming post that contains anything more than two pieces of paper. Git. He announced this fact to the entire camp, saying that he is quite shocked at this behaviour and that nothing like it had ever happened at the Little Champions International Quidditch Training Camp. This confirms my suspicions that nobody interesting has ever attended this hell-hole before now.
For most of yesterday my cabin was refusing to participate in basic flight manoeuvres without me there. I'd like to pretend this was an act of loyalty on their part, but logic tells me it was self-preservation. After all, they are somewhat responsible for the blockade on sweets from home (I, personally, am more responsible and McLaggen is even more responsible since he was dumb enough to get caught). Also, after McLaggen let Ping nearly smash his skull open, they were probably a tad nervous going out there without me as a back up. Just as a personal feeling on the matter, at that age I wouldn't have gone out flying with no one but Arvid the overly-groomed Swedish guy and Amy the South-African nutcase to protect me from a gory death.
Just to reiterate, my guys are not idiots.
However, since they weren't flying, they had to amuse themselves somehow. They did this by running Suicides, without supervision. They also did it on a team basis: Sofia and Iggy versus Albert and Ping. Shockingly enough, they dehydrated pretty quickly. They then ran to the Medi-hut, got fixed up, and went off to do it all over again.
Fair enough, perhaps they're slight idiots. But their intentions were good! And both Ping and Iggy are getting much fitter.
All in all, I had a very good day. I'm exceedingly well-rested, McLaggen is being "carefully watched" by Uncle Seth, my guys are getting healthy, Sofia is participating, Albert is showing personality, and I might not have to pretend to drug up Iggy. The only down side was that when Amy spotted me, she burst into tears and started hugging me in the middle of the lunch hall. Apparently she was 'worried'. Still, pretty good day all things considered.
Harry paused at the end of the entry and wondered just how long his father's happiness would last. He quickly ran over the explosive elements in his day: Six infuriated children, one infuriated McLaggen, one infatuated Amy, Sofia Ivanova's mother to deal with, Albert Larson's fear of flying to deal with and, most importantly, the fact that his father had just jinxed any chance he had of a calm week the very second he said that he'd had a "pretty good day".
Sighing at the man's idiocy, Harry glanced up at the devil-clock. It was nearly half past three. Harry should probably head back to the Dursleys at around four o'clock. This was an unfortunate fact, as Harry had actually been quite enjoying his day up until that point. Nothing at all had gone disastrously wrong, which was nice.
Feeling quite pleased with himself, Harry went back to reading the journal.
Okay. There's a small possibility I spoke too soon on that whole "Good day" concept. And speaking of concepts gone awry, that bloody teddy bear is a nightmare. On paper, it was sheer brilliance, but in reality it is a complete and utter nightmare.
You see my friends, grateful to them as I am, forgot to plan for one small thing. Yes, I can programme it to do anything I want. Yes I can make it dance the Macarena if I so choose. Yes, I can even make it dance a Haka to announce its presence and sing an annoying song. I cannot, however, turn the bastarding thing OFF. It's still running around, still biting ankles and still driving everyone berserk. It spent most of yesterday hibernating in McLaggen's cabin (which was declared off-limits lest the hallucinations be contagious). The second the front door was opened, the evil little git sprang up and started doing Grizzly impressions. My Great-Aunt Idonea used to have this pet Krup named Nigel that she got from a friend of hers who was replacing him with a Jack Russell terrier. Nigel was constantly hyperactive, disobedient and bloodthirsty; often destroying my Aunt's front garden to such an extent that she had to call Professor Sprout to fix it since it was beyond her capabilities. Nigel frequently ran away and went muggle hunting, with stories of a small dog terrorising the neighbourhood being a regular sight in my Aunt's area.
I would rather have Nigel here than have to spend another frigging day with that demonic little bastard. Actually, I would rather have Nigel here after three weeks of being fed espresso and pure sugar, than have that godforsaken teddy bear here. Do you know why?
Because Nigel, adorable as he was, could be stunned. He could be restrained. He could be fed sleeping potions or calming draughts, he could be soothed; he could be lured away with bits of steak. He could be dealt with. This thing can't be stunned, since technically it isn't conscious in the first place, it doesn't eat or drink, and any restraining spells -from conjured ropes to paralysis- seem to decide of their own volition that they will not be binding a teddy bear. So they fly off past, or occasionally through, the bear and bind the first person they come in contact with. I can only assume this is some form of safety measure put in place to prevent McLaggen and his minions from dealing with the thing quickly, but that's hardly the point.
It has been wreaking havoc for hours now. In fact as I am actively writing this I can hear Amy's cabin screaming from the other side of the camp. For the first time since I arrived, I actually feel sorry for the lunatic.
In other news, I tried Sirius's approach with Albert. You know: get him into a screaming match, call him a coward, get him to deny it and then demand to know why he won't fly. While this approach would doubtless work very, very well with young Mr. Larson in a few years time, once he's hit puberty and is therefore a tad more hostile, as a kid it didn't pan out so well. It panned out rather badly, to tell you the truth. In point of fact, in all my years upon this Earth few endeavours have panned out so appallingly badly since that time I tried to use reverse psychology on Peeves.
We got into a screaming match, certainly. I forget what it was about. It isn't really that important. When the moment seemed right, I decided to spring the "coward" part or aforementioned plan. Rather than deny it or, I don't know, stab me with a dessert fork like a decent human being, young Mr. Larson decided to just give me a look like a kicked puppy and run away.
Well not really run away. I mean we're in the middle of a desert and he can't do magic, where would he run to? But he ran away from me, which is the important part.
So I screamed a few obscenities for a while and smashed my head off a nearby cabin. Then Sofia, demon-child that she is, sprung up behind me and proclaimed "Nice going there chief. Ever considered a job as an Agony Aunt?" My response may or may not have resulted in my mother smacking me one. Fortunately, I'll never know. What I do know is that Sofia kicked me in the shins.
Even though Albert came back (eventually), he is currently sitting at the other end of the cabin pointedly not looking at me and generally behaving as though I don't exist. Sofia is rather annoyed. She is reading a book and scowling at everything, including me while occasionally muttering things in Bulgarian. While I don't claim to know precisely what "sadnik" means, I sort of doubt it's flattering. Ping and Iggy, bless em, tried to talk to Sofia and Albert. This didn't go so well for them. They then tried to talk to me. While I was, to my knowledge, perfectly polite, I think they realised that conversational was one of the last words used to describe me.
So, here I am. McLaggen is seething away in his cabin, probably plotting my downfall (and doing so from the bathroom at this point), fifty percent of my cabin currently loathes me, I have no friends, family members or vague acquaintances I can talk to, I'm trapped in the middle of a damned desert on the wrong side of the world, and in the distance I can hear some South African chick screaming about a teddy bear.
Sod it, I'm going to bed.
Harry could admit to feeling sympathetic. After all, he knew what it was like to watch his relationship with his friends and acquaintances go to hell, despite his best intentions. He also knew what it was like to feel too proud to go and beg forgiveness for something which he did with the best of intentions, though Harry strongly suspected that was precisely what his father was going to have to do if he wanted to get either Sofia Ivanova or Albert Larson to talk to him again in the near future.
Or rather his father's near future in the context of the Quidditch Journal. Yeah, that's what he meant.
It occurred to Harry that perhaps he'd better continue reading before he considered contacting Miss Ivanova. Perhaps his father's relationship with the girl had deteriorated even further, until she vehemently hated him. Perhaps the reason Miss Ivanova hadn't spoken to Harry at the World Cup was that she still carried a flame of dislike for James Potter, much like Snape did.
Better to be sure that he wouldn't be upsetting her by reminding her of his father before writing to her, than to find out when an angry Bulgarian Quidditch Star sent him bubotuber pus via express delivery. He could still ask Ron which team she played for though. After all, where was the harm in that?
Turning the page with one hand, Harry picked up his lemonade with the other, draining the entire glass. As he put it back down, something peculiar caught his eye out the window - A police car was turning onto Privet Drive.
Strange, though this was, it wasn't an entirely unheard of phenomenon. Harry had even heard of the police turning up at the Dursleys front door one half-term break to warn Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia that if Dudley was caught vandalising cars again then he would be charged for it. Naturally, neither Vernon nor Petunia had told Harry this. It was just one of those things he heard people chatting idly about on the streets, spoken about in the faintly disapproving but ultimately gleeful tones that marked most middle-class suburban gossip. Though why any police cars would be going onto Privet Drive just now, when Dudley had been decidedly well-behaved thanks to Aunt Marge's presence and when no disturbances had occurred to Harry's knowledge, was quite the oddity.
Though he had no doubt he'd hear Aunt Petunia discussing it in some detail over dinner. Harry could just imagine her pressed up against the glass, craning her long neck to see where the car would stop… shaking his head at the bizarre and insatiable urge the people of Privet Drive had to gossip, Harry went back to his notebook.
There's a certain irony to be had when one considers that this entry is my thirteenth. As I'm sure you know, the number thirteen has both immensely good and terribly bad connotations, leading to an almost never-ending debate as to whether the number itself is inherently good or bad. I've always found this debate moronic. How can a number be anything in itself, when it only used to quantify other things? Thirteen N.E.W.T.s, for instance would be nothing short of brilliant. Thirteen armed lunatics attacking you in the dead of night, however, would be quite undesirable.
This is the reasoning that led to my belief that no number is inherently good or evil, and that people who claim to have a 'lucky number' are merely deluding themselves and attaching obscure meaning to nothing.
I have since been re-educated.
The number thirteen is a sign of purest evil. It is the number of the devil, of Voldemort, of McGonagall on a bad day. It is the number of levels of hell, no matter who says otherwise, it is the street number of Snape's childhood home, it is the number of years one must live before properly reaching the hell that is puberty. There is nothing good about the number, and anyone who says otherwise is an agent of Satan. And just to prove it, this is my thirteenth entry. What more evidence do you need? Honestly?
You see, the unfortunate fact is, I'm an idiot.
After the disaster that was my "confrontation" with Albert, I decided to abandon any thoughts of giving those potions that mum sent me to Iggy. I figured I should try the more direct approach. This was my first mistake. You see I am far more adept at lying, cheating, intimidating and generally being an annoying bastard, so I tend to use these methods to get what I want. This has almost always worked for me in the past and I should've known better than to screw with it now. But, as previously mentioned, I'm an idiot.
So I sat him down when we were alone in the cabin. I explained to him that I didn't think he was unhealthy, that I didn't think he was asthmatic, that I didn't think he had hay-fever, that I didn't think he bruised unnaturally easily, that I didn't think he fractured unnaturally easily, and that basically every single health problem he told me he had was, in my opinion, rubbish. I told him that he had been forced to go somewhere against his will, do something he didn't want to and have a lot of pressure placed on him at a very young age that he shouldn't ever have to deal with. I told him that if this happened in other areas of his life as well, not just Quidditch, then it would be perfectly understandable for him to create reasons that meant he could no longer do these things. I explained that he may not even be aware of consciously concocting these reasons and that no one was accusing him of lying or letting his imagination run away with him or anything so condescending. I pointed out that he ran suicides without any real trouble, and that he hadn't experienced any serious problems in the time he's been here and that he is, more or less, perfectly capable of doing anything we set him out to do. I asked that he consider this possibility and that if he thought it he thought it had any merit, and then he could come back to me. If he wanted help in getting rid of some of the pressure his family put on him then I would be perfectly ready, willing and able to help him with it. Just, please, would he consider the possibility?
He called me an insensitive ass, had an asthma attack and locked himself in the bathroom.
Again, I'm an idiot.
And whilst I would really love to say that Iggy is occupying most of my waking thoughts at the present moment, I really can't make such a claim.
You see, another one of my troupe is top priority at the moment as her problem is a bit more tangible than Iggy. Well, I suppose being locked in a bathroom is a fairly tangible problem, but that isn't really his problem that's just a symptom of his problem and I can't help him with his ACTUAL problem until he asks me to. So Sofia's problem is top priority, partly because it is tangible and partly because (surprise, surprise) it's my fault.
My intentions were good, for all that it matters.
If you recall I was spending some time agonising over writing a letter to a certain Aunt Boyka a while back. I'm rather terrible at asking for favours and even worse at begging for help. So when I was forced to write a pleading letter to a woman named Boyka who lives in Scotland and has a Quidditch Prodigy as a niece, I was a tad unclear on how to go about it. My solution to this was to simply ask her to contact me with regards to her niece's future in Quidditch. (Because even if the little witch isn't talking to me, she's damn well going to have a future in Quidditch if I have any say in the matter. And believe me, I intend to see to it that I have a say in the matter.)
I expected Aunt Boyka to write back, to prove she's amenable to the discussion, etc, etc. I did not expect to be interrupted during basic flight manoeuvres with an emergency note from Uncle Seth telling me that Aunt Boyka would be meeting me at nine o'clock this evening to discuss Sofia. Or, well, I assume it's Aunt Boyka since she's the one I wrote to. Uncle Seth's oh-so-enlightening note just said "There is someone coming to meet you at five o'clock to discuss Sofia Hristina Ivanova, you can use my cabin for privacy if you want" followed by some nauseating note about how forming bonds between ourselves and young people is the foundation for all blah blah blah.
I informed Sofia of this fact and she became very annoyed. To be honest, I debated not telling her at all, since I knew she'd get annoyed. But it's her family, her talent, and her future so it seemed appropriate that she should at least be present during the discussion. She eventually got over it after attempting to beat me to death with her book (she's re-reading that Animagi one, which is just typical). You know, it really worries me that I continue to like this girl, as she is quite clearly psychotic and quite clearly wants me dead. Ah well, story of my life I suppose.
So as a summary of my situation: I am sitting in a cafeteria on my own, being served "Sloppy Joes" again. Albert hates me. Iggy hates. Sofia hates me. Ping is mildly confused by the whole situation since no one will tell him why they hate me. And some Bulgarian woman from Scotland (ponder that a moment) is coming to meet me at nine o'clock tonight. Oh, and McLaggen wants me dead. He tried and failed to curse me this afternoon and wound up unconscious in a dustbin. This last part isn't really important at all, but it's still annoying.
In other news, I'm thinking of having myself sterilised to save any unfortunate future child the pain and torment of having me as a father.
Having just finished an entry, Harry glanced up as Mrs Figg came down the stairs, carrying a cat like a baby. She had gone up the stairs in a skirt and a fuzzy blue cardigan, with carpet slippers on her feet. She came down in a mechanic's old boiler suit and work-boots, with protective gloves on. Harry wondered vaguely for a moment just what Mr Tibbles' little dears got up to if they required that kind of protective gear. He chose not to dwell on the thought as she disappeared into the kitchen.
Shrugging, he went back to reading, with little concern about the outside world.
I don't believe it. I don't BLOODY well BELIEVE it.
It wasn't Aunt Boyka. The woman who sent the letter? The woman who was going to meet me? It wasn't Aunt Boyka. It was Sofia's mother. I assume she got the letter before Aunt Boyka or she just wrote the response or, I don't know, maybe she just scared Aunt Boyka into submission. I don't know and I don't care.
What I DO happen to care about is the fact that the very second Sofia laid eyes on her she turned a whiter shade of pale and bolted. I don't mean "bolted" like Albert bolted, and I don't mean "bolted" like Iggy bolted earlier. I mean she ran right outside and into the pitch-black desert. All the while her INSANE mother was screaming after her in Bulgarian. And, of course, since everyone else was at a campfire-sodding-night at the other end of the compound, they couldn't bloody stop her.
Obviously I went to go after her and was sidetracked by McLaggen disarming me as I ran. There's a chance I cursed him, I don't really remember, but since he didn't cause any more trouble after that I'm assuming that either I did or someone else did.
Seeing that Sofia was gone and being naturally aggravated at this turn of events, I went back into Uncle Seth's office with the full intention of killing her mother. It's at THIS point that Aunt Boyka shows up and starts having a slight bloody problem. They got into it and I had to separate them. Not out of any real urge to separate them, just because Aunt Boyka was losing.
The two of them must've caused quite a commotion because it was then Uncle Seth decided to show up along with half the camp. Including my suddenly cooperative little gang. Once Uncle Seth, the blockheaded halfwit, was informed of the situation he said he'd send out a search party. This search party of his? Consisted of Amy the South-African nutcase and Arvid the overly-groomed Swedish guy. Shockingly enough they didn't find her.
Meantime, I'm trying to get this idiot to contact the Australian Ministry or something. Get someone official in there and find her before she freezes to death (it gets cold at night out in the desert, apparently. Not in the compound thanks to the sodding campfire nights, but out there is does). But he's having none of it. He says that any official Ministry involvement might reflect badly on the Camp and attract unwanted media attention to the matter.
I would've punched him right there if Albert hadn't got there first.
So we were sent back to our cabin and told to wait. Sofia's mum and that Boyka woman were sedated, and me and my guys were dragged, literally dragged, back to our cabin. I, James Potter, was locked in my room by a Swedish guy who uses thirty different hair styling products a day. I'll never live it down.
And before you even ask, I'm only writing in this thing for two reasons: Firstly, to fill in time until Arvid's locking charms start to wear off the back window as I estimate the weakest spell was cast there. And also to keep written evidence, which will hopefully be given to every Wizarding newspaper on the planet, when they discover that the inbred prat in charge of this place would voluntarily leave a seven-year-old girl to die of exposure because of his goddamned PR.
In case the previous paragraph didn't make it clear, I'm going to drag that little nutcase back here if it kills-
"Harry dear, you didn't eat your biscuits." Mrs Figg announced disapprovingly.
Harry's head snapped up, surprised to find Mrs Figg standing in front of him wielding a baking sheet covered with chocolate cookies. "Huh?" he asked dazedly.
"Your biscuits Harry. You didn't eat them." Mrs Figg repeated.
Biscuits? She was worried about biscuits? There was a girl lost out in the desert for pity's sake! "Yeah, er, sorry Mrs Figg." he said contritely. "They didn't burn or anything did they?" he asked, trying to pretend he cared. She had made them for him, after all.
"No, no, not at all. They were on a timer." Mrs Figg assured him, moving back into the kitchen. "But they're all cold now. And you'd best be getting back home so you can't eat them now." she added.
Harry glanced up at the disturbing wall clock. It was ten past four. Mrs Figg was right, he should be getting back… well not home, but to the Dursleys at any rate. Annoyed greatly by this fact, Harry snapped the notebook shut and hopped to his feet. "I'm sorry Mrs Figg." he said, going into the kitchen after her and nabbing his sweatshirt as he went. "I just forgot about the biscuits. Really, I'm sorry they went to waste."
He entered the room to find Mrs Figg rummaging around a drawer. "Don't be silly." she told him, finally emerging triumphantly with a small cardboard box. "They won't be going to waste."
She yanked a small clear plastic bag from the box and began bundling biscuits inside. Harry was mildly grateful for this consideration on her part as it meant that he wouldn't be forced to go downstairs and see Aunt Marge next time he felt hungry. Only mildly though, as he remembered Mrs Figg's cooking. "Thanks Mrs Figg. That's good of you." he told her, pulling his sweatshirt on over his head.
"The least I could do." she said modestly.
Less than five minutes later Harry was pounding his way along the pavements of Little Whinging, with a bag of a dozen biscuits in one hand and a piece of flowery stationary, his wand and a twenty pound note tucked into his back pocket. His father's notebook was stuffed in the waistband of his jeans and covered by his sweatshirt, mostly to avoid any awkward moments with Dudley which would no doubt lead to further inquiry from Aunt Marge.
He wanted to get back to number four as quickly as possible. He wanted to get in, get upstairs, give that damned note to Hedwig and get back to reading. It was imperative that Harry get back to reading, as he suddenly found his mind full of dire scenarios, most of which involved some terrible fate befalling Sofia Ivanova. He found this strange since he knew for a fact that she was going to go on to play in the Quidditch World Cup, but at the same time he knew more than anyone that just because someone survived a distressing incident didn't necessarily mean they got through it unscathed.
His curiosity was piqued somewhat when he saw the police car he'd seen earlier parked outside the Dursleys house however his urge to know what happened to Sofia was much greater.
He shot into the house like a rocket, heading straight for the stairs without so much as a glance around him. "I'm back from Mrs Figg's, I'll be upstairs, and I don't want any dinner!" he called, feeling that this conveyed any and all information that would need to be communicated.
"Hold it!" an unfamiliar voice snapped.
Harry screeched to a halt on the fourth step.
"Harry Potter?" the voice asked.
Harry, who was suddenly very much aware of the wand in his back pocket, turned around slowly, reaching his free hand behind him to have easy access to the wand.
"Yes, officer, that's him." Aunt Marge said maliciously.
Aunt Marge's comfortable attitude with this person didn't lessen Harry's nervousness. After all, throw a Death Eater into a police uniform and set him after Harry, Aunt Marge would be yelling encouragement throughout without ever knowing that she had been encouraging a Wizard.
Keeping this fact in mind, Harry moved slowly and cautiously down the stairs and into the living room. Two police officers, one a tall and lanky male, the other a petite blonde woman, were standing by the window waiting for him. Aunt Marge and Aunt Petunia were sitting on the couch, but he paid them very little attention. "Yes?" he demanded.
"Hello Harry, my name's Peggy." the woman said with a smile.
Harry raised his eyebrow. "Hi Peggy, pleased to meet you. What the hell do you want?"
Peggy and her partner exchanged a look. "Harry? Could I have a look at your biscuits please?" Peggy asked.
Harry was too confused by this statement to respond for a moment. "Pardon?" he asked.
Aunt Marge got to her feet, looking both irritated and excited. "Look, what are you waiting for? I already told you everything. He spends all day in his room, he eats far too much, he was behaving strangely last night and I got strange dreams, and now he comes back here and tries to go straight upstairs with those… those… hash brown things!" she said, gesturing at Harry plastic bag.
Harry was slightly confused at having his chocolate biscuits referred to as potato products, but he chose not to comment. He could already tell that this was unlikely to end well for him.
"AND he goes to St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys!" Aunt Marge added, with an accusing glare at Harry.
Deciding to look at Aunt Petunia at last, Harry turned his attention to the couch. His Aunt was staring resolutely out the window, apparently pretending to be deaf. Oh wonderful.
Peggy and her partner didn't look entirely convinced yet, so Aunt Marge played her trump card. "And he's got scruffy hair!" she announced, as though this changed everything.
Sighing, Peggy's partner came over to Harry. "I'm sorry son," he said in a tone that Harry supposed was intended to be soothing but really just came across as condescending. "But at your Aunt's insistence and in light of some… well, circumstances, around this area, we're going to be forced to take you in for questioning." he said sternly.