Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: Hey everyone! All right, this is gonna be quite a change from what I usually write in some ways I think. It's an idea that kinda popped into my head, no doubt influenced by other stories. I've seen a couple similar to this, but I did do my best not to directly copy anyone. If I did borrow someone's idea, (which I think tends to happen a lot, as so many people are so enamored by others stories that they can not help but use elements from them) then let me know and I'll give credit where it is due. Now, it's going to be a Harry-centric fic, starting sixth year and through to seventh. Not a lot happens in the sixth year. This will most likely will have some sort of pairing, though I not yet sure who will be the lucky girl. Also, this is non-HBP compliant, simply cause I like having Albus alive :-) So there. Now, to find out what else will happen, read on!
The Little Child to Lead Him
"I don't see why I have to go when I never have before," Harry grumbled sullenly at the elderly man sitting in front of him.
"Even though you defeated Voldemort, and most of the known death eaters have been captured, there are still those that would use you to aid them in goals less…savory…shall we say?" Albus smiled calmly at the young man in front of him. "As you are sixteen years old, and nearing the legal age, the protection your mother's sacrifice affords you wears thin more quickly. Hence the reason it is necessary for you to spend the Christmas holidays with your relatives."
"And there's no way I can avoid this?" Harry tried one last time.
"I'm sorry my dear boy, but I'm afraid not," he replied kindly. "Easter holidays as well."
"Can I go now?"
"Of course," Albus nodded as Harry stood and quickly left the room.
"Oy Harry, what'd the Headmaster want?" Ron yelled as Harry entered the common room. Lifting his head up to find where he was, Harry stomped over and threw himself into an empty chair.
"He wanted to tell me that I have to spend the holidays with the Dursleys," Harry all but growled as he let his head fall back against the chair.
"Oh Harry, I'm sorry," Hermione gave him a sympathetic smile. "But you know, you'll have plenty of time to study for finals there. With the NEWTS next year, we need to start reviewing the past years coursework now if we want to be truly prepared!"
"He's not going to have time to study, he's going to be too busy pranking that fat arse of a cousin, right Harry?" Ron grinned.
"Well I have to use those tricks from the twins somehow, don't I?" Harry cracked a smile and began laughing with Ron, pushing the unpleasant news to the back of his mind…at least for the time being.
"Come, boy!" Vernon's voice carried across the platform.
"Right then," Harry barely glanced at his uncle, instead looking at his friends. "Have a good Christmas guys."
"You too Harry," Hermione embraced him quickly, kissing his cheek before releasing him and letting Ron move forward to shake his hand.
"See ya mate," Ron waved as Harry turned around and began pulling his trunk to where his uncle was standing impatiently.
"Hello Uncle Vernon," Harry greeted politely through clenched teeth. He would be civil if it killed him, which it just might. "Thank you for picking me up."
"Get in the car," was the only reply he gave. "And keep that bloody bird quiet."
The car ride back home was a quiet, tense affair, worse than usual. Harry didn't want to be going home any more than his relatives wanted him there. Yet here he was, being forced to spend three weeks with them. And to make things worse, it was Christmas, a time he usually loved. Some time later, they finally pulled into the driveway of number four Privet Drive, and Harry slowly unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed out, going to the boot of the car to get his things.
"Now listen here freak," Vernon sputtered as Harry pulled his trunk towards the front door. "When we go in, you're to take that rubbish straight to Dudley's second room and then fix dinner. And above all, keep perfectly silent when you're upstairs."
"Fine, I've no problems cooking meals as long as I get to eat too, and aren't stuck with all chores," Harry shot back immediately, letting his wand slip into his hand as he twirled it slowly. He may be stuck there, but he was not going to let them push him around. Not to mention he could always use magic. Defeating the dark lord will allow you special privileges, after all.
"Fine," Vernon grumbled his consent, eyeing the piece of wood all the while.
"And why do I have to be silent? Being quiet is one thing, but expecting complete silence is ridiculous," Harry demanded to know.
"Your aunt is pregnant, two months along, and it's a rough pregnancy, what with her not being as young as she was," Vernon answered after a moment's scrutiny, as if trying to determine Harry's motives for asking. Harry fought to keep from blanching at that statement, because in order for her to be pregnant, it meant that she and Vernon had…well, he just didn't want to think about it.
And with that said, Vernon opened the door, only to be accosted immediately by a whining Dudley who was demanding food. As Harry pushed past them and headed up the stairs, he could hear his uncle explaining that dinner would be ready as soon as 'the freak' cooked it. Harry grimaced as he listened to Dudley start whining about him having to come home for the break. Tuning them out, he dragged his trunk up the last few steps, down the hall, and into his room, which was Dudley's second bedroom as far as his relatives were concerned. Shutting the door behind him, he turned to survey the small room with a sigh, and no small degree of resentment towards the headmaster. He understood Dumbledore's reasoning, and he accepted it, but it didn't mean he had to like it. He shoved the trunk against the wall, wincing as it made a loud thump. He waited with baited breath for a few moments for his uncle to come bellowing up the steps, but nothing happened.
"Probably still trying to shut Dinky-duddy-dums up," Harry gave a derisive snort.
"So you're home for Christmas, are you?"
Harry whipped around to see his aunt standing in the doorway. She looked pale, but otherwise all right, and was tucking a heavy dressing gown tightly about her thin frame.
"Yes Aunt Petunia," Harry stated the obvious, trying to keep a polite tone. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"Don't even pretend to care," she sneered at him as she leaned heavily against the doorframe. Harry, Gryffindor instincts kicking in, rushed over to wrap his arm around her waist, slowly walking her back to her bed, even with her protesting that she wasn't an invalid.
"I do care," Harry stated after she seemed to be settled. "I know we don't get along and that you could care less about me. Frankly, I feel the same way. But honestly? You're my mum's sister, and I feel obligated in some ways to help you. After all, even if you didn't really want to and you didn't do that great of a job at it, you did take me in and raise me."
She glared at him, but there wasn't any real menace in it. "Just like your father, Gryffindor to the bone. And yes, I know some about your school, no need to look so surprised. Your mother's incessant letters home to our parents that were read aloud at supper, were filled with details about it."
Harry didn't say anything; he didn't know how to respond to that. Luckily for him, his aunt closed her eyes, so Harry took that as his cue to leave, and headed downstairs to start making dinner, passing his Uncle who was on his way upstairs, no doubt to check on Petunia.
"Clean up those dishes," Vernon ordered the next morning as he prepared to go off to work.
"Yes Uncle Vernon."
"And make sure to keep an ear out for the bell. Anything she wants, you better get her, understand boy?"
"Yes Uncle Vernon."
"And take up a tray to her in a while."
"Yes Uncle Vernon," Harry rolled his eyes as he started washing up his plate.
"And have dinner on the table when I get home," he gave one last order before leaving the room.
"Yes Uncle Vernon, of course Uncle Vernon, anything you want Uncle Vernon," Harry muttered sarcastically under his breath, making faces as he washed up the dishes.
Finished with that ten minutes later, he fixed a tray for his aunt and quietly brought it up to her. Passing Dudley's room, he fought the urge to kick the door, and consequently, rudely wake him up. The only reason he didn't was because Dudley would sleep till the early afternoon, and then go out with friends for a few hours, come home for dinner, then go out again, staying out late into the morning. Being out so much meant that he didn't bother Harry, so Harry decided that, for the time being, he'd refrain from bothering Dudley.
Knocking lightly on the door, Harry waited for his aunt's call to come in before entering.
"Good morning Aunt Petunia," Harry greeted politely, setting the tray on the small bedside table.
Her reply was to promptly pale at the sight of the food, and then lean over and vomit into the trashcan.
"Get that away from me, and bring me some ginger tea and some saltines," she snapped as she wiped her mouth.
"Yes Aunt Petunia," Harry nodded, and feeling rather generous, vanished the vomit with his wand before going back down to the kitchen.
"Thank you," she said through pursed lips as she took the mug and sipped at it, sighing as it went down soothingly.
"Are you okay?"
"Just morning sickness," she answered, and seeing the blank look on his face, explained further. "Pregnant women tend to get it during the first three months or so of pregnancy. It can last the entire nine months, and isn't limited to just the morning either. Miserable, really. Your mother was lucky she didn't have hardly any of it when she was carrying you."
"Really?" Harry looked surprised. Aunt Petunia had never offered up information about his mother before; at least not willingly.
"Oh yes, and I absolutely hated her for it too," she sneered slightly, biting into a saltine. "I had a fair case of it with Dudley, and was horribly envious that she was her usual perky self. And now of course, with this child, and my age being what it is, the morning sickness is quite terrible. This whole pregnancy is a pain…literally."
"I'm sorry," Harry gave her a sympathetic glance, not quite sure how to respond to that.
"What for?" She looked at him with some degree of curiosity. "It's not as if it's your fault I'm pregnant."
"Well no, but I can still be sorry you're sick, can't I?" Harry couldn't resist snapping back.
"Hmm, I suppose," she conceded, lifting a hand to rub her forehead. "Go away."
Harry did as she asked, and went to his room to do some homework. He also had some potions work he could probably work on, but he knew he'd put it off till the last minute since it was his least favourite subject. Even as he pulled out his charms and transfiguration texts, he could mentally hear Hermione berating him for putting it off. Laughing quietly to himself, he sat cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the bed, and propped open the charms book against his knees. He stayed like that for quite some time before a pounding on the door gave him cause to move.
"What do you want?"
"Where's my food?" Dudley gave him what he supposed was a menacing look. They were the same height, at just under six feet, though Dudley had a hundred fifty pounds more of weight on him. His boxing had helped him muscle up though, so while he was heavy, it was more of a firm sort of weight than blubbery fat like Vernon's. He still completely dwarfed Harry's thin, wiry-muscled frame though.
"Leftovers are in the fridge, where you can bloody well get it yourself," Harry crossed his arms over his chest, his wand once again in view in his hand, casually being twirled around.
"You're not allowed to do that-that…freakishness…out of school," Dudley stared at the wand, fear in his eyes.
"Oh really?" Harry raised an eyebrow. "Well you know, it seems I can use it out of school. Just one of the perks of killing a dark wizard and all that."
That was all the incentive Dudley needed to push back from the door and quickly move for the stairs. Harry chuckled as he thundered down the steps, and turned around to go back to his homework, but his stomach grumbling made him change his course of action, and instead follow his cousin downstairs to the kitchen to get some lunch.
For Harry, the next week passed much the same as the first day had. He'd ignore Uncle Vernon in the mornings as he fixed and ate breakfast, and then spend a few minutes in Aunt Petunia's room, delivering her the usual tea and saltines. He also found himself cleaning the trashcan on a fairly regular basis, even though he didn't see how she could keep vomiting when she had hardly anything in her in the mornings to begin with. He actually found the whole pregnancy thing kind of interesting, in a way. He even ordered 'What to Expect When You're Expecting a Magical Child' from the bookstore in Diagon Alley…under a false name, of course. He knew it didn't really apply to Aunt Petunia, but he figured a lot of the basic concepts would be the same. His dorm mates would no doubt tease him if they knew, but he wanted a family someday, and figured why not a learn a little more about what his future wife would go through someday?
He found a good deal of the information in it to be quite interesting. Though of course, some of it was rather more descriptive than he cared to know, such as the actual birthing process. But earlier chapters that covered the trimesters of pregnancy, and the growth and development of the fetus were pretty neat. One thing he thought was kind of interesting that magical children often could do magic from inside the womb, to an extent. Nothing much, but little things, like emitting colourful lights that could be seen around the stomach, or causing small nearby objects to levitate a few centimeters. The fetus, especially in the second and third trimesters, could also project feelings of comfort, and affect the body chemistry to keep the mother perfectly cool or warm.
Christmas morning arrived with a flurry of owls pecking at his window. Family (the Weasleys), friends, schoolmates, and grateful members of the wizarding community had sent gifts. He soon had to simply leave the window open so he didn't have to keep getting off his bed to open it, the owls were that numerous. He separated the gifts into two piles; from people he knew, and people he didn't. The gifts from people he didn't know were put into a magically enlarged bag, and sent to an orphanage in Hogsmede with a brief note to the Headmistress of the orphanage, explaining the situation, and wishing all the children a happy holiday. That done, he turned his attention to the gifts from friends.
Hermione had sent him another broom servicing kit; one especially geared towards Firebolts. From the Weasleys, he received the usual sweater and sweets, as well as a Canon's poster and chocolate frogs from Ron, and a practice snitch from Ginny. Neville had sent him a magical miniature rose in a small pot, guaranteed to have different coloured blossoms year round. Harry looked closer at the plant to see that indeed, small yellow buds were almost ready to bloom. Another surprise gift was a necklace from Luna, quite unordinary in the fact it was a simple silver chain, but quite odd in the fact it had a bottlecap with some odd runes as a pendant. According to Luna's note, they'd protect him from mischievous Lugwumples, whatever those might be. He put it into his trunk with a laugh, along with his other gifts, though he ate a few frogs, and set the rose on the corner of the dresser.
"Happy Christmas," Harry greeted as he entered the kitchen to heat up brunch. He had cooked an egg dish, as well as some sweet rolls, the night before. It was just approaching noon according to the kitchen clock. He had been up for hours, dealing with all those owls while his relatives slept in.
"Humph," was the reply he got from his Uncle, though his Aunt gave him a half smile and a nod. Dudley was in the living room tearing open his gifts.
"Come with me," Petunia ordered Harry once they had finished breakfast. Vernon looked as if he wanted to stay for a moment, but Petunia waved him off, and he went to join Dudley.
"Aunt Petunia?" Harry asked as he followed her from the kitchen. She was looking better this morning, and though she hadn't touched the egg dish, she had eaten a sweet roll. Though Harry was slightly disgusted that she had topped it with pickle relish before doing so, even though he had read pregnant women often had strange cravings.
"Just come on," she sighed exasperatedly, slowly making her way down into the little-used basement. It was really nothing more than a storage space, and rather filthy. Harry stood behind her on the steps as she pointed towards the far corner. "Back there, you'll find two trunks. I suppose now's as good a time as any to get rid of them, so they're yours. Do with them as you will."
"I don't understand," Harry looked between the corner and his aunt, wondering just what exactly she was doing.
"They belonged to your mother. One I know holds school belongings. She had left it at our parent's house while she and that husband of hers shopped for a house. She never got around to picking it up, so when they died, it came to me. The other…well, I suppose is best described as your baby chest. No doubt she was planning on giving it to you someday."
"Thank you Aunt Petunia," Harry barely managed to get out, so shocked was he.
"Well it's not as if I have any need for them. They're just taking up space," she brushed off his thanks. "Besides, they are yours. Now enough sentimental nonsense; I'm going to join Vernon and Dudley, so don't bother us."
Harry didn't bother answering as he was still trying to grasp the concept that he had been given two precious gifts from his aunt; trunks that held items of his mother's. More ties to a woman he hardly knew. Still fixated on the trunks, he walked down the last few steps and carefully made his way over to the trunks. They were both dusty with age, one large and one smaller. Pulling his wand out, he quickly rid them of the dust, and then levitated them, bringing them around front of him as he quickly made his way upstairs to his room. Setting them down on the floor, he decided to open the large trunk that held his mother's school things first.
He had to admit it was somewhat disappointing to find that it held textbooks mainly. There were a few perfect-grade papers, her Hogwarts letters, and the letter informing her of her prefect status, as well as the head girl letter. One thing of interest he found was her yearbook; and he spent some time looking at pictures of his parents, Sirius, and Remus. Once done, he put the yearbook into his trunk, and turning back to his mother's trunk, closed it back up. Pushing it aside, he turned his attention to the smaller trunk that his aunt said held baby items. Opening it, he found himself laughing at the items on top; a toddler broom, as well as a small snitch-shaped rattle. Picking them up, he could almost hear his mum yelling at his dad, saying that he was entirely too young to be riding a broom. Putting those aside, he moved onto the next items which were several pieces of clothing; almost frighteningly tiny shirts, pants, shoes, and his favourite, a tiny green wizard's robe with his name embroidered on the front with a small family crest. He also found such items as a birth certificate, a hospital bracelet from St. Mungo's, and a card with his tiny baby footprint inked onto it.
He continued to pull out other items like a tiny jar holding a lock of hair, a baby blanket knitted for him by his grandmother, and a small bib. Also putting those aside, he fought back tears as he came to the last items in the trunk. First there was a small stuffed dog that looked almost uncannily like Padfoot, and was obviously well loved. Second was a small gold baby bracelet with the inscription 'Baby Prongs' on the inside, followed by a tiny wolf paw. Harry knew it must have been from Remus, just like the dog was from Sirius. And lastly, a green photo album with the writing 'Harry's Baby Book' on the front. Taking it out, he got off his knees, climbed onto the bed, and crossing his legs, opened the album.
His eyes were immediately drinking in each and every detail of the photos, all with little captions underneath them. The first page held several pictures, showing his mum in various stages of pregnancy; two months, four months, six, seven, eight, and finally, nine months along. The second page showed his mum, looking exhausted but happy, with a rather slimy looking Harry lying on her stomach. The next pictures made him smile, as they showed a cleaner Harry being held by his dad, and then by Sirius and Remus. The next picture showed a picture of his dad holding him, standing next to another man also holding a newborn, both looking almost ridiculously happy. Looking at the caption, he was surprised to see that it was Neville and his father. The pictures continued to imprint themselves in his memory; first nursing, first smile, first bottle feeding, first bath, first sign of magic. Just dozens of 'firsts' moments that all parents can't help but photograph. And Harry was quite glad for what might be deemed as obsessive photographing on his parents behalf. Now, with the invisibility cloak and photo album from Hagrid, he had other ties to his parents. Thinking of the first album from Hagrid made him walk over to his trunk and pull out the first pictures of his parents he had ever gotten, and look through those yet again. He never tired of looking at them.
He looked up at the clock he had fixed and placed on the bedside table, and was surprised to see he had spent the entire afternoon, as well as the evening, looking through the trunks and photo albums. Seeing as it was almost twenty two o'clock, he was feeling quite hungry, and putting aside the album from Hagrid, got to his feet and quietly walked downstairs. He was surprised to see a light on in the kitchen, and looking around the doorframe, sighed in relief upon seeing his aunt. They had formed a hesitant truce of sorts over the past several days, that while still awkward, was slowly becoming somewhat more amiable.
"Well are you just going to stand there all night, or are you going to come in and get some food?" Petunia's voice brought him out of his thoughts. "I can hear your stomach growling from here."
"Sorry," he grinned sheepishly as he padded into the kitchen and grabbed a sweet roll from the fridge, and poured a glass of milk before sitting down. "Can't sleep?"
"Hungry," she answered, gesturing to the bowl of oatmeal that appeared to have ketchup on it.
"Does that really taste good?" Harry looked dubious.
"No, it tastes absolutely disgusting," she took another bite. "But I had the oddest craving for it, so while it's nasty, it's also quite satisfying. I think it's a rite of passage for all pregnant women to have the most abominable cravings possible."
"I can imagine," Harry grinned, picturing all kinds of nasty food combinations. They lapsed into a somewhat awkward silence, as they still weren't truly all that comfortable with each other. Harry finished up his sweet roll and milk, and put the dishes in the sink. "Night Aunt Petunia."
"Good night," she responded quietly around a spoonful of oatmeal. "I suppose I'll see you when you're back for Easter?"
Harry nodded, and fought a chuckle at the sight of his usually prim and proper aunt sitting in a dressing gown, hair frizzy, no make-up, while eating oatmeal doused in ketchup. Turning around he headed back upstairs to go to sleep. As he climbed into bed, he couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, this break hadn't been completely horrible after all.
A/N: Review please? If you're so inclined of course. This was more of a prologue than anything else; a way of setting of the story for the good stuff. Next chapter will cover the Easter break, and then the start of summer. It'll be up in a week- none earlier. I'm back at college and settling in, and classes start Monday, so I'll be busy. So, again, let me know what you think!