Summary: Harry is struggling to come to terms with the loss of the closest parental figure in his life, and the latest of his years has left him lonely and untrusting. But when Albus Dumbledore offers him moral support, the two start out on an emotional journey, during which Harry begins to regain his faith in others, and together they begin to rebuild the fragile bond they once shared. But circumstances around them shift, and, in the battle to defeat Voldemort, their relationship is put to the ultimate test. Can they withstand it?
Warnings: Violence, mild child abuse, mild language, sensitive topic/issue/theme
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter; that privelege belongs to JK Rowling. Unfortunately.
Author's Notes: Here it is guys, the first chapter of the beta'd version! Enjoy! Please r/r!
Emeralds and Green Light
Chapter One: Blood, Parchment and Tears
This chapter is for Jocasta, who read it first
To be mad at someone – that is easy. To be mad at someone for the right reason, at the right time, and at the right degree – that is not easy.
That cursed poltergeist.
The route from the headmaster's office to Gryffindor Tower was not a particularly long one, but journeys, as a rule, tended to take longer whenever Peeves was around. It was only after changing direction twice — due to the various Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes Peeves had let loose in a fit of end-of-term spirits, one of which was a Portable Avalanche — that Albus Dumbledore finally reached his destination. After issuing a soft apology to the newly awoken Fat Lady, the headmaster climbed through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Albus took the stairs up to the dormitories, silently opened the door belonging to the Fifth-Year boys, and stepped inside. There, he was met with the sight of the room's five slumbering inhabitants and the sounds of their due snoring.
He checked that he was still invisible before carefully drawing nearer to one of the four-posters. At once, his heart sank.
This ... He had been afraid of this.
At first glance, Harry Potter appeared as untroubled as the rest of his door-mates, but a closer inspection indeed proved otherwise. The boy was twitching about fitfully, his brows knitted and his forehead covered in a thin layer of sweat. Every now and then, he would mumble softly — too softly to rouse the other boys in the dormitory, but loudly enough that his distress was discernible. When Albus lit his wand discreetly and held it aloft, he saw the dark shadows that had come to form underneath Harry's eyes. Over on the bedside table, there stood a lone goblet of Dreamless Sleep Potion, its contents emptied.
The covers had been twisted and were now half-hanging off the mattress; Albus reached out and eased them out from under Harry before smoothing them into their proper place. Feeling the movement, Harry unwittingly let out a small sob into his pillow; when he turned his head, Albus saw tear streaks on his face. Without thinking, the old headmaster gently reached and began softly stroking Harry's back, as a parent would do to soothe an uneasy child. The sleeping Harry didn't appear to have any objections, and Albus doubled in his efforts, wincing at feeling how thin the boy had become.
In his sleep, Harry sighed. As he did so, he moved his head, and when Albus caught sight of the words cut into his young skin, he felt bile rising in his throat.
I must not tell lies.
As though he had read Albus' mind, Harry groaned and let out another sob. The headmaster drew nearer, letting his arms encircle Harry's form, pulling him closer. Subconsciously, Harry turned his head, burying it in Albus' shoulder.
For a long time, the two remained in such manner. It was only when light began to creep into the dormitory and the other boys started to stir that Albus realised just how painful his knees' constant contact with the wooden floor was and pulled apart.
Later that morning, when Harry awoke, his mind was on — and dreading — the summer ahead: therefore, he didn't think about the faint smell of lemon sweets that had been left on his pyjamas overnight, or the single silver hair that Ron found on his pillow, or the strange dream that reminded him of being hugged as a child, even though he had no memory of any such incident.
If he did, he may have been able to explain to himself the slightly happier feeling that followed him to the Hogwarts Express.
The journey from King's Cross to Privet Drive was uneventful, but the moment the door of number four was closed, Vernon Dursley exploded with anger about the confrontation with the Order. Immediately, Harry and Dudley both ran for cover, leaving a horrified Aunt Petunia to deal with the situation. As he dragged his trunk upstairs, Harry tried to block out the sounds of their arguing from his ears — not to mention the dull pain that was arising in his forehead.
Once he was safely enclosed in his bedroom, he shut the door firmly, muffling the rowing from downstairs. He set Hedwig's cage upon his desk and let her out of it; Hedwig, as though she had sensed her owner's misery of the last few days, gave him a soft nip on the finger in comfort before flying out of his opened window. Afterwards, Harry began to slowly unpack his possessions. Every now and then, he paused to listen to the voices downstairs. He couldn't make out the words, but he had an idea what his aunt and uncle were fighting about.
After a while, however, Harry heard the slam of the front door, followed by footsteps stomping down the garden path. Harry sighed; he decided to abandon the rest of his possessions, but not before digging out a couple of Defence books. If he was indeed a weapon, he might as well prepare himself for the part. As he flicked through his OWL-level stuff, he wondered if he should pick up some extra NEWT textbooks, or some even more advanced ones, when he went to Diagon Alley — which he wouldn't be doing anyhow, until he received his OWL results.
It was getting dark when he was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. Before Harry could even answer, the door opened and his cousin's head was poking through the gap.
"Dudley?" Harry pushed his schoolbooks to one side, eyeing his visitor warily. "What do you want?"
Dudley was trembling as he shuffled into Harry's room. To his surprise, Harry noticed that he had in fact lost a considerable amount of weight since the last summer. He was still huge, but definitely not as huge as he used to be.
It took a moment for Harry to notice that his cousin looked white and scared. Dudley glanced around the room, his eyes lingering on the scattered objects Harry had left lying around. His voice uncharacteristically quiet, he mumbled, "'M glad you're back."
At first, Harry thought he'd heard wrong.
"Well," he said at last, clearing his throat, "that's ... erm ... that's something I never thought I'd hear coming from you." What's next, he wondered, Malfoy owling me, begging to be my best friend?
Dudley anxiously shifted on the spot.
"I don't like being on my own," he whispered. "Not — not with Mum and Dad rowing like that."
Harry looked at his cousin thoughtfully. "They've been doing it a lot, then?"
Dudley nodded. "At least once a week. They have a big row, and then Dad goes out drinking, and then they row again. It's horrible."
"What do they argue about?"
"Everything. Work. Chores." If possible, Dudley became even more ashen-faced. "M-m-m — "
"Magic," Harry supplied for him.
Dudley nodded again.
Harry had an alien feeling — a very small stab of pity for Dudley. He'd heard from various people what it was like when parents split up, and it hadn't sounded exactly appealing. So, in spite of his shaky relationship with his cousin, Harry struggled to find some words of comfort for him. "Look, Dudley," he began, sounding more feeble than he would have liked, "it's … probably just a phase. I'm sure it'll be over soon."
Though Dudley didn't look like he believed Harry, he nonetheless appeared better for the assurances. As he turned back towards the door, he gave Harry what could almost have passed as a smile, then shuffled back out the room as quickly as he had come in.
Dudley had been right about one thing. Vernon Dursley was in a bitter temper that summer, and he took it out on whomever was around. Harry, for the most part, stayed well out of his way, and apart from one incident with a bicycle pump, he got through the opening of the holiday unscathed — physically, anyway. Inside, Harry was furiously sour about the events that had taken place at the end of the school year. He was mad at himself, at Dumbledore, at Snape, at his family — he was mad at everyone, actually; and so he kept silent, fearful of everything spilling out at the wrong moment and in front of the wrong person.
On the first night of the holiday, Harry discovered that he'd left his Dreamless Sleep Potion back at Hogwarts. Just before going to bed, he scribbled a note to whomever was still at school and sent it off with Hedwig — rather reluctantly, as Hedwig was the only friendly presence he had at Privet Drive. Yet he felt that he had no choice. Sleeping without the potion made him uneasy — he hadn't done so since Sirius had died — and accustomed as he was to being plagued with nightmares, it wasn't something he fancied all the same.
Thus, for as long as he could, Harry tried to stay awake. He did whatever he could to keep his mind off of sleep, from reading to counting Hippogriffs. But the day had been a long one, and Harry was far more tired than he cared to admit. Despite his varied attempts to keep his eyes open, as the hours passed on, he felt his lids getting heavier and heavier, and soon, he realised that they were closing, whether he liked it or not ...
He knew this place.
He was inside a tunnel, walking along its dim path. Above him, roots hung from the ceiling, and the uneven ground was littered with pieces of rubble and clods of earth. Every time Harry turned a corner, he thought he saw a black tail whip out of sight — and he could hear the telling sounds of panting and padded footsteps. His quarry wasn't that far ahead, then. He could catch up.
But Harry had a stitch in his side: every time he sped up, the dog he was following did, too.
"Sirius?" he called out into the darkness, his voice echoing. "Sirius, wait — slow down!"
Harry turned round the last corner; there stood Sirius himself, standing in front of an old archway covered with a tattered, black veil. The veil was fluttering a little, and Harry could see light the other side. His attention, however, did not rest upon the unusual structure, but on the man standing before it. Why was Sirius looking at the veil like that, Harry wondered?
Then Harry understood.
Harry lunged at his godfather, but Sirius had already walked through; "No!" Harry cried out again, "Sirius, come back!"
He leaned against the wall, trying to regain his breath. From the other side of the flapping fabric, Sirius' voice sounded. "Come on, Harry … it's no big deal … catch me … just walk through …"
Slowly, Harry walked forward, as though he were in a trance. Yet even as he was stepping inside, the world around him turned into a confounding blur ... For what seemed like an eternity, Harry no longer knew place or sense ...
Until suddenly, just like that, the world became solid again, and he was in somewhere new.
Harry looked at his surroundings. Then he realised just where he was.
His first instinct was to turn and run back through the veil — but the archway had vanished, leaving only a solid wall in its place. His heart hammering, Harry turned to face Sirius, who stood in front of Harry, grinning as though he had played the ultimate trick ... And before Harry could even open his mouth to confront him, or even ask him what was going on, Sirius' features changed smoothly into those of someone else ...
"Come now, Harry," smirked Dolores Umbridge, "surely you aren't planning on leaving so soon? I have such an exiting evening planned for you; you don't want to miss it, surely?"
Harry swallowed. Obediently, he sat down at the desk that had mysteriously appeared before him and took the black quill into his right hand.
"That's it, Harry," said Umbridge approvingly. "Now, you may begin writing."
Automatically, Harry wrote on the parchment. The words 'I must not tell lies' etched themselves not onto the paper, but into the flesh of his hand.
"Now they'll never heal!" Harry shouted at Umbridge, even as his blood trickled onto the parchment's surface. "They were just faint scars, and now they're back to cuts!"
Umbridge merely smirked wider. "Tut, tut, Harry. Where are your manners? You wouldn't shout like that at Lord Voldemort, would you?"
"What?" Harry exclaimed. "But — you're not him — you're not Voldemort — "
"Am I not, Potter?"
Instantly, Harry dropped his quill. Harry didn't know when it had happened, but Umbridge was gone now; instead, the true bane of his existence was now in her place.
Voldemort, having caught sight of Harry's bleeding hand, gave a sardonic, cruel laugh. All of a sudden, Harry let out an agonised cry, his hands rushing to clutch at the scar on his forehead. "Get out!" he yelled. "Leave me alone!"
But Voldemort only pointed his wand at him ... Harry, regardless of his pain, felt his arms go slack ... until his right hand reached up again, this time of its own accord, to pick up the fallen quill ...
And Harry, in spite of himself, in spite of his internal protests, began to write.
'I must not tell lies', he scratched out onto the blood-spattered parchment. 'I must not tell lies'. 'I am an insolent brat who deserves to be starved until Christmas'. 'I killed Sirius Black'. 'I am a murderer'.
"N-no — " Harry managed to get out, not that it did him any good ... Voldemort was far too strong. Voldemort was laughing at him, his voice high and loud and cold ...
And Harry ... Merlin help him, but he couldn't stop writing ... He could feel his own blood trickling down his forehead, into his eyes, down in neck; the pain of it was unbearable ... and still the words came, cut into his skin ... And it was always the same word, over and over again ...
Harry jerked awake, gasping for breath.
There were figures surrounding him, he soon came to realise, all of them talking. As he reached for his glasses, he gasped again. Blood was smeared on his sheets.
As he stared, his half-awake mind trying to comprehend where it had come from, a pair of hands grabbed him roughly by the front of his pyjamas.
"Vernon, leave him!" cried Aunt Petunia.
Harry struggled to break out of his uncle's grasp before he suffocated. "What in thunder do you think you're doing, boy?" growled the purple face in front of him.
Frantically, Harry shook his head and tried to speak. "I — wasn't — doing — anything — "
"You were screaming," Dudley's voice trembled.
"Dudley, get back to bed, now!" snarled his father. Dudley quickly obeyed, casting Harry a last glance before scuttling out.
Harry took a moment to catch his breath. "I — " he began, but broke off as his uncle shook him hard.
"What do you think you're doing, waking us up at all hours, you disrespectful little — "
"Vernon, put him down, just leave it!" Petunia pleaded futilely, but Vernon did not listen; instead, he took Harry by the shoulder and threw him backwards. Instinctively, Harry closed his eyes, flinging out his arms to stop himself falling on his face. With a last bellow — "One more sound from you, boy, and you're history!" — Uncle Vernon stormed from Harry's bedroom, his wife following hurriedly.
The next morning, Harry came down for breakfast so tired that he was barely aware of his surroundings. If he had been, he wouldn't have come to the kitchen at all. His appetite hadn't been the same since Sirius' death — it seemed to have vanished without trace.
Vernon was apparently still in bed with a serious hangover, explaining why he had reacted so badly to Harry's disturbance last night. Dudley had already eaten and left the house, no doubt to meet up with his gang to terrorise the younger inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Glad for the lack of company, Harry took his seat and grabbed a slice of dry toast. As he nibbled at it, Aunt Petunia sat in huffy silence.
Breakfast hadn't lasted long when Petunia stood up, staring out the open kitchen window. Harry glanced up in time for her shriek as a large tawny owl soared straight into the room, carrying an envelope and a small package.
The owl landed with a clatter next to the kitchen sink. Harry reached out to take the letter, but Aunt Petunia brushed his arm out of the way.
"Hey — " he began, but broke off when he saw that the envelope was indeed addressed to Mrs Petunia Dursley ('The Kitchen, Number Four Privet Drive'). Aunt Petunia held the missive with trembling fingers; Harry, remembering the Howler she'd received last summer, didn't bother telling her that this one was benign.
"Who's that from?" he demanded. Petunia ignored him and, realising this envelope wasn't going to blow up in her face, she slit it open, glaring at Harry as she did so.
Enclosed was a letter — as well as a second envelope. Petunia glanced at the envelope warily before unfolding the letter. Her eyes narrowed as she read down the page. At one point, they seemed to soften slightly, but at the end of it, Harry was sure that it had been a trick of the light — now, she looked furious.
"How dare …" she hissed, stuffing the letter back into the envelope as though it was the most offensive thing she had ever seen. She proceeded to glare at the envelope hatefully, but as the seconds ticked by, her anger seemed to fade a little.
She took a couple of deep breaths before looking at the second letter crumpled in her hand. "That's for you," she addressed Harry in a clipped tone, and Harry dropped his knife just in time to catch the letter flung at his face.
A furtive glance told him that his aunt had gone back to ignoring him. She was now washing the dishes rather vigorously; Harry suspected the crockery they'd use later would be somewhat chipped. Mollified, Harry looked at his envelope. It was the usual parchment, but he only vaguely recognised the writing on it — certainly, it wasn't that of Ron, Hermione or Hagrid. The package the owl had brought lay forgotten on the bench, and feeling that now was a good time as any to leave, he slipped off his chair, grabbed the package and raced up the stairs to his room.
Once he'd sat down on the bed, he inserted a thumb through the small gap and ripped the envelope open. The writing was a narrow, italic script. Harry stared blankly at it for a minute before registering where he'd seen that writing. The second he did, he pulled the letter open properly in a rush.
I know that I'm probably the last person with whom you would want to speak with, and so I will try and keep this short (forgive me if I do not succeed). But there are some things that I need to say to you.
The first of them is this: although I know that I cannot ever understand what you are going through, please know that I am trying. I realise you must be hurting; furthermore, I also know how angry you must be with me. For this, I am sorry a hundred times over. I know that a mere worded apology, no matter how sincere, does not suffice; but oh, my dear boy, how I wish it did. Every day do I endeavour to make up for all the wrong I have caused you.
With this letter, I have enclosed a Muggle device, one highly recommended by Arthur Weasley. This apparatus is enchanted to work within the bounds of Hogwarts — also, I feel inclined to let you know that I am in current possession of its twin. If you want something or have any problems, you need only contact me at the number listed at the bottom of this letter. I believe you may also use this device as a way of easily keeping in contact with your friends, as well.
There is another item in this package, Harry. This you must keep on your person AT ALL TIMES. It will immediately inform us if you are in danger or need some sort of assistance.
I was unable to inform you sooner, but I am arranging for one of us to come and stay with you during your time at Privet Drive. I am hoping that you can expect an arrival within the next few days, but I am afraid that I cannot promise anything. Thus, I encourage you to keep in touch with the Muggle device. If you have any preferences on whom you would like to come, let me know. There was no shortage of volunteers, but in view of recent events, every available person is currently tied up with Order work. The Ministry is also insisting on an inquiry about the episode last week, which most involved are expected to be on hand for. Don't worry, Harry — I have insisted that you and your friends be kept out of it, and for once, the Ministry has agreed.
We will have you out of Privet Drive soon, Harry. This time, I do promise.
Sometime, we will need to speak in person. We have a lot of things that need to be discussed, none of which are fit for letter-writing. For now, I just want you to know that I have not forgotten you. You are currently the Order's number one priority, and I am personally seeing to other living arrangements for you for the rest of the summer. As yet, I don't know what those might be. I shall explain the situation in greater detail when I next see you.
There is so much more I want to say, but I cannot express it into words. I hope that the next time we meet, I will be able to.
I will see you soon, Harry.
/Note about reviewing: Please, for the love of Merlin, do not review simply to tell me to update! I get it all the time and am sick of it. If you review, please say what it is you did or didn't like, and bulk out your review as much as possible. Make it worth the review alert, please! As always I love guesses where the story is headed and what I'm going to do next, and helpful suggestions are always welcomed. Don't flame.