Disclaimer: If fanfiction is written by the author of the original book, it can't be classed as fanfiction! So why do we all have disclaimers? Godric knows …
SEARCH FOR THE BROKEN SOUL
A ray of sunlight crept through the window of an upstairs bedroom at Number Four, Privet Drive, illuminating the form of a boy with black hair and rumpled, baggy clothes. Harry Potter was bent over a copy of The Daily Prophet, frowning at the photograph on the front page. A lean, rangy man stared back at him, lips stretched in a hideous grin. His hair was long and straggling, and he had unusually pointy yellow teeth. Bold lettering across the top of the page proclaimed, "FENRIR GREYBACK STRIKES AGAIN." Harry read the story slowly, feeling increasingly sick.
In the early hours of this morning, two brothers, aged three and ten respectively, were found lying unconscious in Windelton Woods. Hans and Sidney Trimping, of Dorset, both show unmistakable signs of having been savaged and bitten by a werewolf. The Prophet is sorry to report that Hans has died of his injuries, while Sidney is in critical condition at St. Mungo's Hospital, London.
The identity of the animal in question is unknown; however, Ministry Inspectors have voiced suspicions that the attack may have been the work of the notorious Fenrir Greyback, who…
Harry stopped reading and threw down the paper onto his desk. It hit several empty inkbottles, which flew onto the floor and smashed. Harry hardly gave them a glance. This article was nothing new; Harry had been getting The Daily Prophet for weeks, and had read many similar stories. According to the Prophet, Greyback had a large record of attacks on infants, stretching back over forty years. The reporters had called him the 'fleetest, most cunning beast of this era." Too swift to outrun, too clever to catch, Greyback had evaded capture for all this time. And he was still at it, thought Harry grimly as he noted a second, smaller photograph, from which the elder brother screamed silently from his hospital bed.
A sharp tap on the window distracted Harry from his dark thoughts. Looking up, he saw a snowy owl perched precariously on the windowsill, two scrolls of parchment tied to her leg and a sorry-looking mouse dangling from her beak.
"Hedwig!" Harry got up hastily up from his chair and opened the window. Hedwig awkwardly half-flew, half-scrambled in, and Harry felt her warm, comforting weight settle on his arm. Stroking her head feathers, Harry removed the letters, and carried his owl over to her cage. She blinked her amber eyes at him and hooted softly, before gulping the mouse down in one mouthful.
Harry threw himself onto his bed and unfurled the first roll of parchment. The sight of Ron's untidy scribble lifted his spirits.
How's it going, Harry? The Muggles still being gits? Yeah, I know you said they weren't being too bad but we can tell when you're fibbing to make us feel better. Look, just tell them I'll set Errol on them or something. Or that Dad will come over and blow up some other part of the house.
Anyway, thought I'd let you know we're not at the Burrow anymore. Dad moved us all out when he saw some people watching the house. He reckons one of them was Travers - you know, that Death Eater with the face like a dead fish? So we're at the place where we stayed last summer -
They were at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place? Harry's insides gave a small jerk, but he pushed the thought of Sirius out of his mind and kept reading.
– it's much cleaner now. I think you're going to be brought here after your birthday. Hermione's here too, I swear she's trying to learn everything we'll miss in seventh year this summer. She's a nutter, she really is.
See you next week, unless you blow up your aunt again, then you really will be expelled! No, seriously, don't let them annoy you, because I don't think I can stand a whole summer with just Hermione, at least until she finishes memorising all three thousand, five hundred and sixty-four pages of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7.
Harry laughed as he folded up the parchment, though felt a slight twinge of guilt - it was, after all, his fault that he, Ron and Hermione weren't going back to Hogwarts. Though, he thought with a smile, he doubted if Ron really was as unhappy about being alone with Hermione as he claimed. The next letter was from her.
Have you had a good summer so far? I know you're not thrilled to be at Privet Drive again, but at least you're safe, right? Don't let your aunt and uncle get to you - this time next week you'll never have to see them again anyway. I can't wait till you get here; Ron's been badgering me constantly when I'm working. He doesn't realise how important it is that we learn as much advanced magic as possible, and we're really going to need it this year. You had better be studying too, Harry. I think we need to learn some more obscure spells - ones that, if we're lucky, the Death Eaters don't know. I might go to Hogwarts and have a look in the Restricted Section, I'm sure Professor McGonagall would let me.
Don't let what happened to Professor Dumbledore get you down. I don't know if you wanted me to bring that up but I really don't think you should dwell on it too much, you'll only make yourself more miserable.
Anyway, I'll see you next week. Happy Birthday in advance! Ron's dad is going to collect you; I think he wants another look at your uncle's stereo system.
As he laid down the letter, Harry sighed. No, he hadn't wanted her to bring that up. Memories of the night Dumbledore had died still haunted his dreams, flashes of green light and images of his old Headmaster's face, pallid and weak, repeatedly forcing their way into his sleep, until he woke up drenched in sweat and panting. And cursing Severus Snape under his breath. In his heart Harry swore to himself, that if he ever saw that man again, he would kill him first and ask questions later.
The loud creaking of the Dursley's bedsprings and the sound of his uncle muttering something brought him back to the present time and to his senses. Hermione was right - he mustn't let Dumbledore's death crack him up. And so Harry shook his head to clear it, shoved the letters under the loose floorboard in his room where he kept all his secret possessions, then went downstairs without bothering to comb his hair.
A week later, it was his birthday. Once this would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but today Harry eagerly scoured the skies for owls bringing him cards from his friends. He hoped very much that this would be the last day he was stuck in Privet Drive; the thought of leaving to stay with Ron and Hermione had been what had allowed him to put up with Dudley's jeers and punches and the open hostility of his aunt and uncle over the summer.
Then, with a sudden leap of his heart, Harry spied a group of birds gliding towards him over the rooftops, and quickly he wrenched open the window. He jumped back as several owls swooped down at once, appearing suddenly and silently from the night. One, two, three owls glided smoothly through the open gap; the fourth, a bedraggled grey, slammed straight into the other window. Harry hastily leant out and grabbed it before it could drop to the ground. He checked the unconscious Errol anxiously to see if he was still alive, then, satisfied, relieved him of the huge package tied to his leg.
With the parcel was a hastily-scribbled note from Ron, wishing Harry a happy birthday and informing him that he was to be collected from Privet Drive at eleven o' clock the following morning. (Harry's spirits rose even higher.) Underneath the brown paper there were two parcels - one, obviously from Mrs Weasley, containing a large, sticky, treacle birthday cake, and a second present from Ron, which was struggling slightly in its wrappings. Harry eagerly ripped off the paper and out darted a real Golden Snitch, though he could tell it was a cheap one; after a few minutes of darting inquisitively around the room its little wings struggled to keep it in the air and it flopped onto Harry's bed, quivering with exhaustion. Harry watched it, grinning, then turned to the rest of his presents.
Hermione had sent him a large, leather-bound book entitled Unique Defensive Magic: Little known Counter-Jinxes and Blocking Spells, which he skimmed through enthusiastically. She was right; it was a good idea to learn unusual spells that the Death Eaters - and, if he were extremely lucky, Voldemort - would not know.
The third card was from Lupin, though there was no gift attached. This did not surprise or disappoint Harry, but he did wonder, with a twinge of anger, if the laws Dolores Umbridge had passed against werewolves still prevented his old teacher from finding employment.
Not entirely to Harry surprise, the card Hagrid sent snarled and snapped at his fingers when he opened it; he stuck it hastily on the windowsill, where it rocked and quivered, making ominous growling noises. With the card was a large parcel of lumpy biscuits, so hard he couldn't break one even after banging it repeatedly on the edge of his desk.
As he laid down his gifts, feeling happier than he had in a long time, Harry was suddenly gladder than ever that - however far from them he might be - he had friends.
None of the Dursleys acknowledged his presence at breakfast. Harry was hardly expecting enthusiastic birthday greetings, but still - he had come of age. They could at least look at him. Come of age … the sudden inspiration hit Harry like a gleam of sunlight. Of course - now he would never have to worry about Mafalda Hopkirk and her Decrees for the Improper Use of Underage Magic ever again! The thought filled him with a mischievous glee, and Harry suddenly knew exactly what he was going to do. He slid his wand out of his jeans pocket and pointed it under the table at his pathetically small grapefruit quarter, transfiguring it into a huge, sugary doughnut - not that he really wanted one, but they were Dudley's favourite. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, who were still avoiding looking at him, noticed nothing, but Dudley, who could sniff out food a mile away, turned his head so fast he appeared to crick his neck.
"Mum!" Dudley said loudly, glaring at his cousin with piggy eyes as Harry grinned back at him.
Aunt Petunia turned affectionate eyes on her porky son. "Yes, Popkins?"
"You gave Harry - I don't have – give me that!" Dudley said, making a grab for the doughnut on Harry's plate. Harry flicked his wand and it leapt away from Dudley's grasping fingers; Harry picked it out of midair and bit noisily into it as Dudley gave a yell of fright. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were staring at Harry with identical expressions of bewilderment and horror on their faces.
Harry, who had been licking his lips to incense Dudley further, whilst directing his wand under the table at his cousin's grapefruit and shrinking it to the size of a thimble, looked up innocently. "Yes, Uncle Vernon?" he said politely, making his uncle's grapefruit disappear entirely with a muttered Vanishing charm.
"Where did you get that - that doughnut?" his uncle demanded, attempting to grab it from Harry, who widened his eyes in feigned innocence.
"Why, it was on my plate - I thought it was my birthday breakfast," he grinned, stuffing the rest of it whole into his mouth before Uncle Vernon could grab it from him.
Uncle Vernon's face was now dangerously red, but the upcoming outburst never came. For at that moment, Dudley noticed his tiny grapefruit and amidst his wails Harry slipped hastily out of his seat and out of range of Uncle Vernon's fist. He didn't forget to charm wings onto his aunt's grapefruit as he went so she screamed and ducked as it fluttered about the kitchen.
"YOU - YOU -!" Uncle Vernon hollered, struggling for words in his rage and swinging wildly at the flying fruit with one huge fist. "YOU STOP YOUR TRICKS OR I'LL - WE'LL -"
Harry grinned, and nonchalantly raised his wand again. "You'll what?" he asked politely, twirling it in his fingers. Then he remembered Ron's letter and started to laugh.
"THAT'S IT!" shouted Uncle Vernon. He suddenly became quiet, and deathly calm. "Get out of this house," he breathed, nostrils flared and eyes narrowed to slits. "Get out before I -"
Harry straightened his face. "If you chuck me out before Ron's dad gets here I'll tell Ron to set Errol on you," he said threateningly. Uncle Vernon's face turned a deeper shade of purple just as Aunt Petunia smashed the flying grapefruit with a frying pan. It fell wetly to the floor, wings quivering, as all three Dursleys turned fearful faces towards Harry.
"Errol?" said Uncle Vernon with a definite note of terror in his voice. "Who's Errol?"
"He belongs to the Weasleys'," said Harry, truthfully. "Gigantic bird. Magical. Biggest of its kind. You don't want to mess with Errol, let me tell you..."
Harry choked down his laughter at the looks of utter panic on his uncle's face, and after a short pause, Dudley stumbled rapidly from the room, followed by both his parents. For a little while, Harry had immense fun getting back at Dudley and his aunt and uncle for all the slights and punches he had endured at their hands. Soon all three of them immediately fled from any room he set foot in, as Harry began to hex small objects to fly, tap-dance and whistle whenever they were near.
Harry's fun was, however, short-lived. Within ten minutes there was a rapping at the window; a screech owl was trying to get in. It was holding a large purple envelope in its beak, and Harry's stomach plummeted. He wrenched open the window and the owl soared in, dropping the envelope into Harry's outstretched hands.
He ripped it open and skimmed it quickly, with a mounting feeling of horror and panic. Fragments of familiar sentences jumped out at him: "practising of innumerable spells" ... "presence of three Muggles" ... "expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" ... "Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand" ...
"But I'm of age," said Harry out loud, staring at the letter. "I'm qualified - it's not -" he broke off, suddenly panicked. He had to get out of here; his expulsion from Hogwarts didn't matter now, but he needed his wand. He could never surrender it, but where could he go? There was nowhere to go -
Then, in the split second in which Harry simply stood, the letter in his hands and the kitchen a confused blur of whiteness all around him, he heard the unmistakeable sound of several loud pops from the living room and yells of fright from the Dursleys; in horror, he realised the Ministry representatives must have arrived already. How could he keep his wand now? Not without fighting his way out, and that would get him into even more trouble...stuffing the letter into his pocket, he headed blindly for the back door, forgetting that all his worldly possessions were upstairs.
Then a familiar hoarse voice, floating into the kitchen from the lounge, jolted Harry to his senses. He stopped, hand on the doorknob.
"Where is Harry, Mr Dursley?"
Harry went weak with relief, then hurtled into the living room.
If he hadn't still been sure that Ministry representatives would be here any moment, Harry would have laughed out loud. Aunt Petunia and Dudley had both backed up against the wall in terror, looking as though they were trying to push themselves right through it, and Uncle Vernon was standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by six witches and wizards - Members of the Order of the Phoenix. Uncle Vernon's face was beet red and turning purple faster than Harry knew to be safe, but he barely registered the familiar signs of an impending explosion.
"Remus!" he said weakly. "Mr Weasley - Tonks - I'm so glad you're all here -"
"What were you thinking of, boy?" barked Mad-Eye Moody, furiously. "You're not even of age!"
"What?" said Harry. "Yeah I am, that's why I don't get why they sent me this." He lifted up the purple envelope.
"You weren't born till mid-afternoon," said Lupin. "You're still very much sixteen. But we need to get out of here, fast - Harry, grab your stuff, go!"
He gave Harry an urgent push in the direction of the door, and Harry stumbled out of the room, mind whirling. He hurtled up the stairs and into his room, where he pulled out his wand - more magic wouldn't hurt, not now - and started directing everything he owned into his trunk. Hedwig's cage flew out of the door, followed by his Firebolt; Tonks and Mr Weasley had appeared behind him, helping. Luckily, Harry had packed nearly everything already, and in less than a minute he was rushing down the stairs three at a time, his trunk bumping behind him.
"WILL SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHAT THE HELL YOU FREAKS ARE DOING IN MY HOUSE?"
Harry re-entered the living room just as Uncle Vernon seemed to have found the courage to speak out. Harry felt a surge of anger. Weirdos, were they?
"You -" he began, but Moody cut him off.
"Get going, idiot! Lupin, take him!"
Lupin clutched Harry's forearm so tightly it was painful, and turned on the spot. Harry was dragged away from the living room, at last, never to see the Dursleys again. And he wasn't sorry at all.
Though by now familiar, the sensation of Apparating was still so unpleasant that Harry wondered if he really wanted to take his Apparition test. The feeling of being squeezed through a very small tube was not one he was keen to repeat. He landed in the dank London street, gasping. Lupin smiled as though he knew what Harry was thinking. He looked much more relaxed now that they were out of Privet Drive, though still wary. Releasing his grip of Harry's arm, Lupin ushered him along the dank London street towards number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Harry heard several small pops behind and glancing round saw that the rest of the company had joined him. Mr Weasley's ears were pink, Moody looked contemptuous and Tonks slightly windswept. Such was the effect of the Dursleys, thought Harry with an inward grin, glad to see that he was not alone in his dislike.
Harry was feeling slightly light-headed after the scare he had just had and the close escape – not only that, but the realisation that he was, after sixteen long years, free from the Dursleys at last, was wonderful. It was as though a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and he couldn't quite believe it yet. Moody gave Harry a rough shove in between his shoulders to tell him to move faster. His magical eye was spinning wildly in its socket and he still looked thunderously angry.
They reached Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Moody rapped on the door of the old house three times, and it flew open almost immediately.
"Harry!" Mrs Weasley dragged him into the house. "Harry, how could you do this to us?" she cried accusingly, after she had hugged Harry so hard he had all the air squeezed out of him. "Spells flying everywhere! And you not even of age yet! Lucky we had Hestia watching the house, or goodness knows what could have happened - Arthur, did anyone see?"
"The Ministry representatives arrived about three seconds after Remus Apparated Harry away," said Moody grimly. "But they won't be remembering much, once they wake up anyway - Arthur, Tonks and I saw to that."
Harry began to feel incredibly guilty for causing so much havoc, when all he had to have done was wait quietly for a few more hours. But Mrs Weasley evidently sensed his embarrassment, and melted. "Well, you weren't to know, dear," she said in a gentler tone. "We never did tell you exactly when you were born. Well, go on upstairs with Ron and Hermione while I get you something to eat, you're as thin as a rake -"
She was interrupted by a shriek.
"Harry! Oh, you're all right!"
Hermione came flying down the stairs, and Harry had the wind knocked out if him as she pulled him into a bear-hug, exclaiming and calling Ron and Ginny. Harry grinned as he saw the familiar freckle-faced, red haired figure of Ron bound down the stairs, and felt his heart give a funny leap when his sister appeared at the top, beaming at him. Harry hugged Ginny when she reached him, but let go fairly quickly. He'd already had this conversation with her, and wasn't going to back down now. There was no way he could carry on having a relationship with her until the war was ended and they could live a normal life. But it was good to be with them again, so good that he couldn't stop smiling despite what had just happened.
"Ginny, come and help me with dinner," said Mrs Weasley. "We'll make you a birthday feast, Harry, dear - even though you're still not of age, not till three o' clock! So no magic," she added threateningly, though with a small smile.
Ginny and the Order members disappeared into the kitchen, and Harry, Ron and Hermione clambered upstairs, hauling his truck behind them. Harry couldn't stop grinning. Four weeks was, after all, a long time to have been away from his best friends, and as he collapsed onto his bed with Ron and Hermione, he felt that, for now, nothing could spoil his gladness.
"Nice work with your aunt and uncle, Harry," said Ron, grinning.
Harry snorted. "Yeah, nice work - that's the second time I've come close to getting my wand destroyed." He pulled it out and turned it over in his fingers thoughtfully. He could barely imagine losing his wand; it felt as much a part of him now as his right hand.
"You had us really scared!" said Hermione, biting her lip. "You've got to be careful, Harry."
"I know, I know," sighed Harry. "I didn't realise I wasn't seventeen, okay?"
"Ah, forget it, she's not really mad," said Ron, settling back lazily onto Harry's pillows. "She's too happy to see you to be mad. So am I, actually - it's been hell stuck here with just Hermione for company, she won't stop working. You'd think, in the holidays, you'd want to forget books for a bit, but no … "
Harry laughed as Hermione hit Ron over the head with a cushion. Then, as Ron sat up, massaging his head, she turned to him seriously. She seemed pretty calm, though the worry in her eyes spoke a different story.
"Anyway, Harry - how are you?" she said. She surveyed him anxiously, and Harry understood the meaning behind those simple words. She was asking how he was coping with Dumbledore's death, and he turned away, the grin fading from his face.
"Fine," he said. "I'm fine. No, really - look, so Dumbledore's gone, I've just got to get over it, right? It just might take a bit of time. So - so what's been going on here then?" he said, quickly changing the subject. "You said you were having loads of fun?"
Ron grinned. "Yeah, we have. Mostly because of Fred and George. Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes is - well, it's amazing, it's taken off so well. Fred and George've bought places in Devon and Hogsmeade as well as Diagon Alley, and they're looking to expand abroad, maybe get premises in France, Germany... I can't believe they've been so successful. They're richer than Percy is, with his salary as Junior Assistant to Scrimgeour … " and he trailed off, looking moody. Hermione put her arm comfortingly round his shoulders. Ron looked slightly awkward, glancing at Hermione's hand on his sleeve, but he soon relaxed and continued. "They've come here a couple of times for lunch, they've been playing pranks on everyone, it's been great."
Hermione frowned slightly disapprovingly, sliding her arm off Ron's neck. "Well, it was funny when they played tricks on Tonks, and you, but I think they should have more respect for Professor Moody and Professor Lupin, I mean, they were their teachers…" she tailed off as Ron rolled his eyes.
"Honestly, Hermione, that was why it was funny! No-one would've believed even Fred and George would dare to turn a teacher's hair blue -"
"They turned Lupin's hair blue?" said Harry, laughing.
"Nah, that was Moody. They put this electric-blue Popping Paintbomb in his bowler hat, the stuff wouldn't come off for days," said Ron with a snort of laughter. "What they did to Lupin was worse, they put crushed Canary Creams and Bunny Biscuits - they're a new thing - in his sandwiches. It doesn't wear off when they're combined, he was covered in feathers and rabbit fur for an hour before Mum forced the counter-charm out of Fred by threatening him with her broomstick." Ron sighed reminiscently.
Halfway through a disapproving shake of her head, Hermione turned abruptly to more important matters.
"Harry," she said seriously, and he and Ron looked up at her from the bed. "You know, we've been thinking about - about the Horcruxes." She said the last word in a whisper as though if she said it any louder Voldemort would come bursting through the window right that moment.
Harry sighed. "So've I," he said reluctantly, feeling the lump of the fake locket he carried around everywhere in his jeans pocket and pulling it out.
All three of them stared at the golden locket as it lay on the bedcovers, tarnished and dull. Then, as Hermione opened her mouth, evidently about to launch into a heavy discussion about R.A.B., Horcruxes and Snape, Harry impulsively grabbed the fake Horcrux and stuffed it straight back into his pocket up. He stood up as both Ron and Hermione looked up at him, surprised.
"Harry, what -"
"Let not talk about it now," he said firmly. "I've just got away from the Dursleys for ever, I'm seeing you for the first time in weeks, I want to have fun - at least for today."
Gratitude swelled in his chest as Ron and Hermione nodded in understanding.
So they spent the time before dinner laughing and talking about things that only best friends would find funny, and playing with the Snitch that Ron had given Harry for his birthday. Harry joked and fooled around, and savoured every moment of the normal, silly messing around he could get, for he knew that soon there would be little time for such trivial pleasures.