Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world are the intellectual property of the wonderful Mrs. J.K. Rowling, and she has my eternal thanks, both for all the joy she has provided me and the permission she's given her fans to play with her toys.
Credit: I used the Harry Potter Lexicon (hp-lexicon.info) for the pronunciations in this chapter.
Chapter Six - The Pamphlet and Presents
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Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic, stared at the piece of parchment in front of him with no expression whatsoever. While the set of his face gave nothing away, the slowly darkening shade of his skin was a warning to anyone who knew the old Auror well. He gave it its fair read, then began slashing comments and outright insults onto the page with his quill, muttering darkly the whole way. Azkaban had become a problem, that was undeniable. And while there had been many excellent suggestions, some of which were being implemented at this very moment, the utter fools who'd written variations on this exact idea before him were numerous, and edging on driving Rufus to drink. This was the fifth of its kind he'd received this week, and he was not optimistic enough to think it would be the last, either. The bloody fools wanted him to try to entice the Dementors back! This particular moron was suggesting he allow all prisoners to be given the Kiss, thus rewarding the monsters for service.
"Yes," He snarled softly. "Let's start punishing vandalism and petty theft with losing your soul, that's an excellent idea that will go over extremely well, I'm sure." After slicing his name into the bottom of the page he folded it up and hurled it away from him, the rather crumpled aeroplane winging its way back to where it had come from. Scrimgeour was seriously considering the bottle in his bottom drawer, which was there only for office celebrations, when a soft, unfamiliar hoot brought his attention back to the world around him.
A beautiful, snowy white owl had just entered his office. Rufus extended his arm to receive the missive, but rather than flying straight toward him, the lovely bird winged over to where Lazarus was perched and fluttered her wings, landing next to Scrimgeour's own, dignified familiar. Lazarus hooted happily and ruffled the new owl's feathers, and in a moment both avians were winging circles around his office, hooting to one another and weaving patterns through the air. Scrimgeour watched all this for a few moments, bemused, then cleared his throat as they both landed once more on the edge of his desk.
"Did your girlfriend have a letter for me, Laz? Or did she just drop by for a little early morning nuzzle?" Lazarus looked offended, and the new bird hooted sheepishly, hopping over to him and dropping a bundle of parchment. Scrimgeour picked it up, then glanced again at the owls, both of whom seemed to be waiting. "Alright, alright. But be back in an hour." With a burst of black and white feathers, the messengers took off and Rufus gave an amused shake of his head before setting his mind to what lay in front of him.
Six Spells You Need to Know
by Harry Potter
Brought to you in association with the Ministry of Magic
Rufus blinked, then immediately focused all of his concentration on the proposed pamphlet, a smile first forming on his craggy features, then widening more and more as he read.
As you know, we are living in Dark times. The Ministry and I are doing our best to protect you from Voldemort and his minions, and we realize that this not only includes the actions of Aurors and officials, but also giving you every tool we can to protect yourself. Some of you may have friends or relatives who were members of my Defence Alliance last year, or who heard about it. Contained within the following pages are a few of the more important spells we went over, as well as a couple of new ones.
Thanks to the Minister's right-mindedness, the complete ban on underage magic outside of Hogwarts has been amended. Students are now allowed to practice certain necessary spells, in order to be as prepared as they possibly can in the unlikely eventuality of a Death Eater attack. Minister Scrimgeour, in his wisdom, agrees fully with me that it's much more important making sure young wizards and witches have all the tools for survival than sticking to outmoded rules, especially ones as unevenly applied as the Ban on Underage Magic is.
Do not, however, take this as carte blanche to begin casting whatever spell crosses your mind. Doing so will surely get you expelled and your wand snapped. The exception applies only to the necessary Defensive magics that all citizens of Wizarding Britain will need in an attack. If you begin hexing siblings or break the Statute of Secrecy and are punished accordingly, don't come crying to either of us that it isn't fair. This isn't a game, it is deadly serious business. You have been warned.
For non-magical parents of magical children: Each of these spells are safe to practice in the home. I suggest a basement as the best possibility for practice, but any room in the house will do, with the following caveats. First: Make sure there are no breakable or irreplaceable objects in the room. Second: Make sure your child is provided with an adequate target to practice on, a sizable chunk of stone or hardwood is best for this. Third: Do not practice magic in rooms with large, easily viewable windows, as the flashes of light will most likely attract unwanted attention from your neighbors. Finally: Do not allow your children to practice magic unsupervised, and always have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit handy. While these spells backfiring dangerously are quite unlikely, with magic anything is possible, and you should always be prepared.
Now that that's all out of the way, let's get to the magic!
Rufus chuckled softly, murmuring to himself as he turned. "The boy's got a natural talent for this. Serious enough to get their attention, just the right note of comedy and fun..." He glanced again at the word 'caveat,' and concluded Harry had probably had some help working on this. Most likely from his muggle-born friend, Hermione Granger. The reports he'd received, before putting a firm stop to them, had referred to the girl as "the brains of Potter's posse." Review of her records had shown excellent scores in school and good ratings from all her teachers other than Severus Snape. He also remembered some mention of a relationship between the two from a couple of years ago, and idly wondered if that were still going. "Notice you put your name first, my young friend." Scrimgeour snorted softly, but not unfondly. "We'll see about that in the editing, won't we?"
1. The Disarming Spell
Rufus blinked at what came next, and then broke out into a grin, remembering his Hogwarts days. One thing in his textbooks had always annoyed him to no end: the static illustrations of wand movement, usually with a dotted line. Many times he'd expressed this irritation to other students and to teachers as well, the best answer he'd ever gotten was that the teachers didn't want students trying new spells on their own, but that had always fallen short to him, because if that was the case, why illustrate at all? It seemed Harry Potter had been as bothered by this flaw as he had. For in the center of the page, spellotaped in place, was a full color wizarding photo. First it showed a close up of a hand moving a wand slowly in the proper pattern, then a true casting of the spell, followed by wider shot of a bushy-haired girl using the spell to disarm Potter himself. The girl smiled triumphantly, then the picture repeated.
Harry's Tips: This is a simple enough spell, usually taught to Second Years. For that reason, its often underrated, criminally so, in my opinion. I've personally used it to great effect on everything from other students to Dark Wizards to Voldemort himself. Remember, no wizard, even the most powerful, is much of a threat without his wand. Disarming a Death Eater may just buy you the necessary few seconds to escape with your life intact.
Eagerly, Scrimgeour turned the page.
2. The Full Body-Bind
Invocation: Petrificus Totalus
Pronounciation: (pe-TRI-fi-cus to-TAH-lus)
This time it was a red haired wizard who could only be Arthur Weasley's youngest son, using the spell to great effect on Harry and doing a little dance of victory as the other boy toppled over. Scrimgeour found himself impressed by the fact that it was others, and not Harry, demonstrating the spells. It gave the reader reassurance that you didn't need to be Harry Potter to use the magic effectively.
Harry's Tips: Another often underrated spell. A lot of people tend to take a "fight fire with fire" mindset when it comes to battling Death Eaters. I argue against this for my readers for two reasons. First, I hope that most of you aren't familiar with Dark and painful curses, and if you aren't, they won't come to your mind as quickly as less directly harmful(but still quite useful!) spells will. Second, never forget that you're fighting to escape and live, not to win. It may seem like a satisfying idea, trying to inflict back some of the pain the Death Eaters have done to so many innocents, but it's not worth getting caught up in revenge and being attacked from behind. Remember that Death Eaters rarely work alone.
3. The Shield Charm
Now it was another young woman with red hair, undoubtedly the Weasley daughter, successfully repelling Harry's attack.
Harry's Tips: This one can be tough to master, but it's worth the effort. It won't repel every attack, and it can only take a certain amount of damage before it dissolves, but any amount of defence is not to be sniffed at. More than any other spell in this pamphlet, Protego may be the one that makes the difference between life and death for you and your loved ones. Practice it until it's instinctive, and then practice it some more.
Scrimgeour nodded approvingly and turned the page again. Here was what he'd been most expecting, and for this one, it was Harry demonstrating the spell. Not, Scrimgeour thought, because his friends weren't capable, but because it had become rather a signature charm for the young man.
4. The Patronus Charm
Invocation: Expecto Patronum
Pronounciation: (ex-PEK-toh pa-TROH-num)
Harry's Tips: This is a hard spell to master for many. Not because the magic itself is difficult, but because of the mental requirement associated with the spell. To successfully summon a Patronus, you must bring to mind a truly happy memory. Not the sort of every day happiness you get from seeing a friend or a tasty chocolate frog, but the happiest memory you have. Since the spell is used to ward off Dementors, it may be particularly hard at that moment to come up with that memory, which is why this spell requires much practice. However, even if you never manage to successfully summon a Patronus, do not give up! Just the practice in bringing up that happy memory on command could prove the difference between life and death if you find yourself under attack by Dementors, giving you an instant of clear thought free of their overpowering darkness when you can think of some way to escape.
Quickly Rufus glanced over the last two spells, the Stunning Spell with a note on Reenervate, and a page describing how to make the most visible and eye-catching form of wand sparks, including a loud shrieking noise along with them. He was very satisfied, then noticed there was more writing on the back of the last page.
We hope that you will find these spells useful, and that you will practice them frequently and in a safe manner. However, please keep something very important in mind every time you go to practice one of the spells from my pamphlet. I did not intend this as a primer on how to battle Death Eaters, just to give you a chance to escape them. No one but an Auror is suited for that kind of combat, and if you come under attack by the minions of Voldemort, RUN! Gather your loved ones and run as fast and as far as you can, only stopping to inform the Ministry of the attack once you're safely away.
Voldemort is a monster who has already killed enough, do not feed his dark hungers by letting yourself become overconfident. If you want to fight Voldemort, go into Auror training if you're suited to it, argue against the prejudice and intolerance that gives him more ignorant minions if you're not, and most importantly either way, do what I do. Live.
Rufus turned the pamphlet back over, leafed through it a few more times, then finally nodded. There were a few things he wanted to correct, most notably the way Harry more or less made him out into a quiet partner on this, but overall, it was better than he'd hoped for. He made a few notes on it with his quill, then set it in his outbox. That done, he scratched down a brief reply to young Mr. Potter himself, which he had just finished when the owls returned from their mid-morning flight, both seeming quite happy. Scrimgeour attached the note to Potter's owl, gave her a treat, and sent her off again. He didn't miss the way Lazarus watched the smaller, female owl go, then gave a happy little flick of his tail before returning his attention to his master.
"You dog." Scrimgeour joked. The hoot Lazarus gave in reply couldn't be interpereted as anything but self-satisfied.
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I find your pamphlet most suitable, most suitable indeed. There are a few edits before the printing, but I expect the first run for it will be done by the end of the month. Speaking of which, I hope you have not forgotten the other terms of our alliance, I most certainly have not. Pursuant to these, I hope you will agree to come to the Ministry at noon on Monday, 5th August, for our first joint conference. I will, in respect to your personal dislikes, be inviting the Quibbler to send a reporter as well as the gaggle we can expect from the Prophet and similar rags.
In regards to your own needs, I am keeping an ear to the ground concerning new Werewolf legislation, there has been none as of yet, and I hope you will understand my waiting until after our alliance becomes public before I begin to speak out on the topic. Also, I have been in contact with Clover Darkscale and have pressed her into service, you may expect to meet her at start of term, she is certainly anxious to meet you. Finally, as to our other negotiation, all is prepared.
As Harry read the letter, he absentmindedly twisted the silver ring where it hung around his neck, turning it over and over on its piece of twine. The ring had been kept as a symbol of their agreement, and in return Harry had sent Rufus a shard of Sirius' mirror. They each had something precious to the other, the way such things were supposed to be. He felt nervous about the upcoming press conference, and knew as the date drew closer it was very likely his feelings would grow to outright stark terror. But all was well, or as well as it could be. He folded the paper up into a ball, tossed it high into the air, and with a quick Incendio, destroyed it.
Hedwig winged away into the distance and he laid back on the grass of the Weasley's back lot, using one arm to half-shield his eyes as Ginny and Ron played catch on their brooms and Hermione sat off to his right, studying a thick book on the Werewolf legislations through the ages, as a favor to Harry. Occasionally she let out a disapproving noise, once or twice she muttered a soft, unpleasant word Harry was fairly sure he wasn't supposed to hear, so he assumed she was taking it all in fairly well.
"What was that, Harry?" Hermione asked him after a moment, her voice concerned. Harry blinked and turned his head to look at her.
"Oh, it was a letter from the Minister, Hermione. Nothing to worry about, he just said he liked our pamphlet and a few other things."
Hermione looked unconvinced. "Then why did you burn it?"
Harry sighed. "Because, with everything that's changing, I'm fairly certain that if Dumbledore doesn't have members of the Order spying on me already, he will do soon. I don't want anything involving details of my meetings with Scrimgeour where someone can get their hands on it."
"Harry, I still don't think going against Dumbledore is a good idea." After pressure from his friends, Harry had been compelled to tell them more about his meeting with Scrimgeour, and as a logical outcome, his clash with the Headmaster. Neither one of them had liked the idea, at all, it had come close to an outright fight with Ron until Harry had managed to get the reason for the fight out, and that had only brought Ron to something like grudging acceptance. Hermione was much more the type to try gentle but persistent persuasion, of course. "I know you don't think Snape teaching Defence is a good idea..." She paused, sighed. "I don't either, really. But weren't you saying we all needed to come together?"
Harry sat up, frowning, but not at Hermione. She shrank back anyway, and he reached out to take her hand, trying to soften it. "I did, and we do. But that doesn't mean we should all do exactly what Dumbledore thinks. That's totalitarianism, Hermione," He grinned suddenly. "You taught me that word, remember? And our enemies operate that way. If Dumbledore thinks we should do the same, then he's already halfway over on the other side. If nothing else, I hope he's thinking now, thinking hard, and realizing it."
"Oi! What are you two talking about over there?" Ron interjected. Harry turned, seeing that both Weasleys had landed and were giving them both mildly annoyed looks. Honestly, he thought. Ron, you need to get your head out of your arse and just ask her out, being jealous all the time, especially of me, is stupid, even for you. Ginny on the other hand, would have to work things out on her own, he supposed.
"Dumbledore, of course." Hermione responded tiredly. "What else would Harry feel he had to reassure me about?"
"Speak of the wizard and he shall know." Ron quoted, glancing up. They all followed his eyes to the approaching school owl. It dropped a scroll in Harry's lap and winged away. "What's that then?"
"I don't know." Harry replied, feeling a bit of fear as he began to unroll it. "Let's see."
In the midst of the unpleasantness of our last encounter, I am afraid that I forgot to inform you of one other important piece of news. With your Godfather dead, my friends and I felt it necessary to relocate. In the midst of moving, we located Sirius Black's last will and testament. It is a sad honor, but an honor nonetheless, to inform you that you have been named sole heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black.
Below you will find a brief list of properties and valuables associated with your inheritance. While all are legally yours, you will have control only of the properties until reaching the age of majority. All other valuables, including real currency, are to be placed in trust until your seventeenth birthday. I hope that you will not allow your newfound status as heir to a second noble line of wizards to inflate your ego to an even larger size than it has lately swelled to.
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Supreme Mugwump International Confederation of Wizards
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot
What followed was a list of several houses, manors, and what sounded like a castle, including Grimmauld Place. Harry blinked, realizing it had been written in Sirius' own hand. Beneath that list were several other items, most notably something called the "Black Blade," at which Harry couldn't help but picture a twisted and sinister version of the Sword of Gryffindor, the "Rod of Rule" which prompted an equally unpleasant mental picture, and finally, the "Black Signet." As his eyes scanned over these words, he suddenly felt cool metal in his hand. Harry gasped, nearly dropping it, then slowly brought his hand up to his face and opened it.
It was a beautiful thing. The tails of two shooting stars, one gold, the other silver, twisted together to form the band, then met again and swirled around the Black Crest, which Harry recognized from having seen it dozens of times at Grimmauld Place. The tails of the stars seemed in constant movement, flowing without either becoming thicker or thinner, and slowly circling around the crest. Ginny gasped in appreciation, Hermione looked at it, fascinated, and Ron snorted in disgust.
"What would he want to give you that thing for?" Ron asked.
"I don't know Ron, it's quite a gift, isn't it? That's the Black Signet ring, it has to be." Hermione answered, drawing Harry's attention away from the shining band.
"What's that mean?" He asked, curiously.
"Well, it's just like that one around your neck," Hermione noted, pointing at Scrimgeour's ring. "The person who owns it is the head of the family, their word is law, they can make family alliances, call in debts, and they're the only ones who can sell family property."
"So Harry's head of the House of Scrimgeour now too?" Ginny asked curiously.
"No," Hermione replied. "Even though Harry has it right now, it still belongs to the Minister, until he formally passes it on or dies. Right now it's the token of an alliance, in fact, it's the strongest token Scrimgeour can give. Breaking the terms of their alliance while Harry has that could have terrible repercussions. The family would be dishonored for generations, the Minister would lose his place as head of the family... It's even possible the ancestral homes might not let him in anymore."
Harry was a little shaken, looking back and forth between the two signets. He'd had no idea what the ring actually meant until Hermione explained it. Suddenly, he felt a whole new layer of respect toward the Minister. He still knew better than to completely trust the man, but the respect was definitely there. His gaze returned to the Black Signet, and he once again found himself following the curves of the metal with his eyes.
Ron spoke up, breaking his fascination. "That still doesn't explain why Sirius gave it to Harry. I know he loved Harry and all, but I'd think that would make him not want to give him all that. The Black name has been bad for centuries, nobody good ever came out of that House." It took a moment, then. "Except Sirius, of course!"
"And Tonks." Harry added, absent-mindedly. "Her Mum is a Black." Ron nodded, but didn't look like he was willing to give up his point.
Surprisingly, it was Ginny who answered the question. "Maybe he wanted that changed." She ventured. "Maybe he didn't want his family to be something to be ashamed of anymore, and he knew Harry could accomplish that."
Hermione nodded eagerly. "You're probably right, Ginny. The last few generations of Blacks have all been Dark Wizards and servants of Dark Wizards... But if you go back further than that, there were some heroes in the line too. They were still Slytherins of course, and were known for being cunning and powerful rather than honest and brave, but they were more often in the service of the Light than the Dark."
"Good Slytherins." Ron snorted. "Might as well say cheery thestrals, or smart giants."
"Oh stop it, Ron." Ginny snapped, irritably. "They're not all like Malfoy you know. Some Slytherins aren't that bad. I mean.." She paused, realizing all her friends were looking at her. "I mean, they're still underhanded and sarcastic, but not cruel or hateful."
"What've you been doing, hanging out with Slytherins?" Ron demanded, reddening dangerously around the ears. "Bad enough you've dated six different boys this year, I'm not going to have my little sister consorting with the enemy!"
"I have classes with Slytherins, you dolt!" Ginny answered, her own face starting to flush. Cautiously, Hermione and Harry began edging back from the brewing fight. "And I've dated two boys, Ron, not six. And maybe if we didn't all keep automatically treating Slytherins like enemies, they wouldn't be so ready to act like it!""
"But Slytherins hate Gryffindors!" Ron exclaimed, obviously expecting this to be the end of the argument.
"No, Ron. Slytherins hate stupid people. And your example to the contrary, they aren't always the same thing." With that, Ginny stormed off. Ron was fuming and making sputtering noises. Finally, he rounded on his two best friends and snapped. "You see what I mean, don't you?"
They were both quiet a moment, then Harry answered, thoughtfully. "I don't know, Ron... Sure, Malfoy's a complete arse, and Crabbe and Goyle are brutes... Pansy Parkinson's no prize either, but you can blame most of those three on trying to impress Malfoy, if you think about it."
"No argument from me on that." Hermione put in. "And Millicent Bulstrode is a troll. But what about Blaise Zabini?"
Harry nodded. "I can't ever remember him bothering us, or anyone we know. Mostly he just seems to stick to himself and try to do his schoolwork. And except for a few of the real arseholes, like Montague and Warrington, I don't think any of the other Slytherins have ever really bothered us, except around Quidditch time... And we all get a little crazy then." He chuckled as he saw Hermione's disapproving look of agreement.
Ron, meanwhile, was staring at the both of them as if they'd gone mad, or fundamentally betrayed him, or both. Harry just shook his head and shifted the topic away before this could turn into an argument. Instead, he returned to his contemplation of the ring. "I reckon Ginny might have been right, you know.." He said thoughtfully, and seeing Ron open his mouth angrily, quickly added, "About Sirius. Sure, his parents were no prize, and his brother was a Death Eater, but before that... There's a portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black in the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts. He's a little stuck up, and authoritarian enough to make Filch jealous, plus of course he's got the blood-prejudice you'd expect, but he never really seemed like the evil sort. And if you look at the Family Tapestry, half the names are burned off for going against the pureblood supremacy ideas. Why is it that those half are in the wrong and the half who remained ignorant are in the right?"
Hermione nodded, and Ron still looked unconvinced. Impulsively, Harry slipped the ring around the middle finger of his right hand. He realized quickly he was going to have to wear it around his neck as well, it was too big by half. But then, it wasn't. It didn't noticeably shrink or change, it just, suddenly, fit him as perfectly as if it had been made to do so. Hermione made the sort of happy noise Harry had learned to associate with finding the answer, and he glanced over at her.
"You're accepted, Harry!" She cheered. "You're really the Head of House Black now." She took his hand and examined the ring, nodding proudly. Ron, on the other hand, looked openly furious.
"What, so you're going to play at being a pureblood now?" He scoffed. "Going to change your mind and start hanging out with Malfoy? Going to start trying to press the Ministry? Oh, right, you're doing that already." He shook his head and turned away, storming off toward the Burrow.
"Ron!" Harry called, darting after him. "Stop it! You're being a git! You know better, I'm not like that." He caught up, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. Ron twisted away and shot him a look bordering on pure hate.
"Sure, that's what you say, and that's what I always thought. But you've changed, Harry. You used to try to be a regular person, and now what?"
Harry felt something cold in the pit of his stomach, and just for an instant, that urge to apologize he'd kept feeling lately started to creep into him. However, it was burned away quickly by a growing anger. Everyone kept telling him what he was supposed to do, who he was supposed to be, how he was supposed to bloody think! He had gotten used to it from Dumbledore, understood it from the elder Weasleys, but he expected better from his friends. "I'll tell you what, Ron!" He snapped. "It doesn't bloody work! It just makes people more suspicious, or worse, it makes people think they can push me around. I'm sick of it, and I'd hoped for better from you. You're supposed to be my friend, you know."
"Yeah and you're supposed to be mine!"
"And what's that supposed to-"
"Stop it! Both of you!" Hermione cried, pushing in between them, one hand on Harry's chest, the other on Ron's. "I can't believe you're acting like this again! Haven't you learned anything? We're friends, we're supposed to stick together! Why are you two idiots always so ready to give up on each other?!" Both boys opened their mouths, but the expression of barely suppressed fury on their friend's face kept them silent.
"Harry!" She snapped, turning toward him. "You know how Ron is, he doesn't like changes, he doesn't like new things! You need to give him space when you start moving around like this. He's supposed to be your friend and accept what you do, yes, but you're supposed to understand him as well." She whipped her head around.
"And you, Ronald Weasley." She said in a tone far too close to Mrs. Weasley's most dangerous one for comfort, "You know damned-" She spat the word for effect, achieving fully what she wanted to. Hermione didn't talk like that, so when she did, she immediately had your complete attention. "-well that Harry's not going to suddenly turn into Malfoy. He's under pressures you and I can't possibly hope to understand. We are supposed to be his best friends, and to help him when everyone's against him. But then, you've already forgotten that once, haven't you?"
Ron stared at Hermione, then looked accusingly at Harry, then stared at Hermione again. His mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Finally, he seemed to seize some kind of control of himself. He didn't storm off, but walked away with a measured pace. Harry went to follow once more, but Hermione prevented him from it.
"He's trying Harry. Right now he's keeping himself from yelling, so you have to try too. Just... Give him some time, alright?"
Harry sighed, then nodded reluctantly. He hated it when he fought with Ron, but he knew in his heart Hermione was right. You couldn't just force Ron to understand things immediately, he needed to work it out for himself. Trying to push him only ever made things worse. "I'm just getting so tired of this, Hermione. It seems like in the past few days everyone I know has gotten angry at me, except you and Tonks."
Hermione shook her head, turning away from him. "You shouldn't be putting me on that list, Harry. You know I don't approve of what you're doing. I think going up against Dumbledore is stupid and wrongheaded..." She closed her eyes for a moment, letting her shoulders sink. "But you and Ron were the first real friends I ever had. And I'm not going to give up on you, ever. Either one of you." She sighed and tried to adjust her bushy mane back to something that resembled order. "Just promise me one thing Harry... Promise me that you're really going to keep doing what you said, thinking about things instead of just reacting. If you're really thinking and not just doing all this because you don't like Snape and you're angry at Dumbledore over Sirius... Then I'm going to be very cross with you." She looked over her shoulder at him and smiled, it was a tired, long-suffering expression, but full of genuine affection.
Harry, at a loss for words, just nodded. Together, they walked into the Burrow. Ron had already gone to his room, Ginny was sitting at a corner of the table doing some of her summer homework, studiously ignoring everyone and everything around her, and Mrs. Weasley looked as if she wanted to ask what had happened, but was afraid to. Hermione went over to help Ginny and Harry sat down to think. He was sure he wasn't just being motivated by old dislikes and new ones... But he needed to start planning ahead for what was coming. Every part of him knew it was only going to get harder from here.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Harry's 16th birthday was a relatively quiet affair, though for him that was still more than enough. He still had trouble adjusting to parties, especially parties for him. Of course, things weren't helped by the tense atmosphere between Harry, and Ron and his parents, who were still more or less giving him the silent treatment, though Mrs. Weasley had begun to relent somewhat. Other than the entire clan of Weasleys(sans the twins, who were far too busy with their new joke shop and Charlie, who was in Romania), the only other guests were Hermione, Remus Lupin, and Fleur Delacour. Harry had been hoping Tonks would drop by, but she'd begged off, giving the necessity of two jobs as her reason. Harry was disappointed, but understanding.
There were presents of course, which was another thing Harry still hadn't entirely got used to, but had at least learned to enjoy more than parties. From Mrs. Weasley one of the infamous jumpers that her own children all seemed to loathe so terribly, and Harry loved with a passion. From Mr. Weasley a small but rather thick book entitled "Demystifying the Ministry: Rules and Regulations of the Wizengamot Explained for the Average Wizard," on the flyleaf was a rather terse note:
I do not approve of you hunting kelpies, but if you're determined to try, I'm bloody well not sending you off without a bridle. I gave my first son who went into the Ministry this same book. He's since then got ideas above his station and decided that his family will only hold him back. I am trusting you not to break my Molly's heart by giving in to that same brand of foolishness.
Harry read the note three times before he dared look up. It was obvious Mr. Weasley still felt no better about Harry's decisions concerning Dumbledore and Scrimgeour... But in expressing that fact, the man had once again done all but straight-out call Harry his son. Finally, Harry looked up at Mr. Weasley and, meeting the man's eyes directly, gave him a firm nod. Mr. Weasley returned the gesture, then began talking to Bill about something.
From Remus Harry received a dragonhide wand holster of the sort that could be strapped to a limb or hung at the belt, with the comment that he was sick of hearing Moody complain about Harry's tendency of keeping his wand insecurely, or worse, in his pocket. Ron's gift was not terribly unsurprising, a Chudley Cannons calendar. Harry wasn't certain to interpret it as a completely thoughtless gift, or the start at a peace offering, and the grunt he got in reply to his thanks gave very little indication of which. Ginny's gift was an emerald green scarf that Harry suspected she, taking a cue from her mother, had knit herself. Harry thanked her effusively for the gift and received a blush and a bright, hopeful smile in return.
Hermione, who fully approved of the fact that Harry seemed to be adopting a cause, even if it wasn't S.P.E.W. had, also unsurprisingly, given Harry another book, though really it was large enough to warrant the name 'tome.' Harry looked curiously at the title: "Through Amber Eyes." He paged through it briefly, blinking as the realization of just what he was holding came to him. The first few chapters were a description of lycanthropy, varying theories as to its origin, and a listing of all the laws(complete with annotations and commentary) that had been passed regarding werewolves through the ages. That, however, was really only the foreword. The majority of the book consisted of over 50 different accounts, drawn from diaries, testimonies and interviews with werewolves, describing fully what their lives were like; living with the curse, being rejected by society, and, in quite a few cases, actually being hunted. Harry thanked her, carefully setting the book aside to be fully read later. Remus had caught the title and gave both of them a curious look, though apparently decided not to ask.
Charlie had sent Harry, of all things, a dragonhide jacket. Ron looked jealous, Mrs. Weasley looked murderous, and Harry absolutely loved it, though he knew better than to try it on right away and cause an explosion. Not that the explosion came much later.
Bill and Fleur had made him a joint present of another book, though this, at least, was a book on spells. "Enchantments and Charms for the Maturing Wizard." Mrs. Weasley took one look at the book and turned on her eldest, immediately beginning to give him the full effect of her disapproval. Bill took it without a flinch, obviously a veteran at this. Fleur looked at Harry from where she hid behind her fiancee from her future mother-in-law and winked in a way that brought a strong reminder of Tonks. This disturbed Harry more than a little bit, and cautiously he opened the book to look at the index.
The first section contained spells and simple potions pertaining mostly to hygiene. It included tips on preparing bubotuber paste to deal with blemishes, cleansing charms designed specifically for body odor, bad breath, and greasy hair, and a simple spell to help mask a squeaky voice change. The second section had a long list of meditation techniques and breathing exercises designed to help deal with irrational anger and mood swings that might negatively impact the ability to cast magic. Harry found himself beginning to wonder if Bill and Fleur were trying to make a point. He shot Fleur a look, Bill still too busy with being quietly berated by his mother, and Fleur merely continued to smile at him.
Harry looked back down and flipped the page to view the third section of the index, which was entitled "Invocations des Ardours." Feeling a sense of impending doom, Harry mouthed the words uncertainly before he began to move his eyes down the list for that section. He got as far as the "Endurance Enchantment" and the "Contraception Charm" before snapping the book shut and quickly hiding it under his other presents.
Fleur was giggling now, and it seemed Mrs. Weasely had reached the height of her furor. "And if you think for a second that I don't know you slipped Fred and George that same smut when they were his age, you're wrong! Harry is too young to be worrying about that sort of thing, how dare you start putting those kind of thoughts into his-"
"I dunno Mum," Bill replied calmly. "I seem to remember worrying about that sort of thing quite a lot when I was Harry's age, if those thoughts aren't already in his head we should probably take him to St. Mungo's for a checkout... As to him being too young for the book..." Molly was obviously waiting for the other shoe to drop, her face a massing thunderhead of black clouds to rival any storm since the creation of the world. "Well... Look at it this way."
Bill smiled the charming, handsome smile that had probably been what won him Fleur Delacour. "We teach first years Defence Against the Dark Arts, fully hoping they won't have any necessiity to use any of it for years afterward. Some, like that lot of fatheads we just got out of the Ministry say we shouldn't, because giving young wizards and witches access to that kind of magic will only cause them to want to use it and get into a lot of trouble. But most people with any real sense, yourself included, think it's better for them to have the knowledge of the spells in case the time when they're suddenly needed comes unexpectedly, rather than them being forced to scramble around, trying to make do, and getting in all sorts of jams."
There was a long moment of silence after that. Everyone was staring at Bill Weasley with expressions that ranged from shock, to awe, to outright admiration on Ron's part. Mrs. Weasley was working her mouth slowly, her eyes wide and hard and bright as she went over her eldest son's words again and again in her mind. She seemed desperate to find some way to refute this logic, but Harry guessed Bill had fully expected this exact argument when he had bought the book, and had quite likely spent weeks phrasing the perfect rebuttal to his mother.
Finally, Mrs. Weasley stomped her foot and whipped around, snarling. "Well don't you even think about giving Ron something like that for his next birthday!"
"No worries Mum." Bill laughed. "I'm sure Ron won't be needing that book for years yet. Decades quite possibly." Ron purpled, Hermione blushed, and Ginny made no attempt to hide her laughter, although most of the adults in the room tried at least, to varying degrees of success.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The atmosphere hadn't been terribly festive to begin with, and was only brought down further as a chance comment by Bill got him, Mr. Weasley, and Remus all talking about the rash of disappearances and murders that had been making the headlines of the Prophet ever since the rag had finally admitted Voldemort's return. Harry, meanwhile, picked absently at a bit of cake, trying not to pay too much attention. It wasn't that he didn't care, not at all. But part of keeping a level mind for thinking things through was accepting that he simply could not do everything, and he was currently in no position to combat the Death Eater wave of terror in any way other than by trying to give the people hope. Since he already had plans in place for that, thinking over it all too much was only going to accomplish driving him slowly mad.
He couldn't, however, miss the sudden burst of curiosity and worry from everyone at the mention of Ollivander being taken. His memories of the man, strange, but brilliant, and friendly in his own creepy way, swirled through Harry's head, and he carefully put them aside, attempting to file the information away in case he'd need it later. It didn't work, instead the knowledge of Ollivander being in Voldemort's hands continued to swirl through his mind. At first it produced only worry for the man, as well as the usual feeling of shame that Harry couldn't manage to protect people...
And then, something in his head clicked. He whipped his head up and stared off into the distance. It was so obvious, he couldn't understand how everyone was missing it. They were all concerned that Voldemort was going to try to force Ollivander to make better wands for the Death Eaters he currently had, but that wasn't it, that wasn't it at all. "They're going to raid Azkaban..." Harry murmured softly, to no one in particular, just needing to voice the conclusion.
"What?" Remus asked, whipping his head around to stare at the young wizard. Harry's words had been soft enough, and everyone else's conversation engaging enough, that he'd been the only one to hear. "What do you mean, Harry?"
Harry blinked, not having been entirely conscious that he'd even said it out loud. "That's what they want Ollivander for, they're going to raid Azkaban." he repeated.
"Now, Harry..." Mr. Weasley began. "You're jumping to conclusions. Just because they're trying to get better wands doesn't mean they specifically want them for-"
"Let 'Arry speak." Fleur said, her voice was as soft and beautiful as ever, but held a surprising tone of command. "'E knows 'is enemy." The mere fact that the half-veela, who most of the people there, Weasley and guest alike, saw as little more than an annoyance, if a pretty one, was expressing an opinion about something other than Bill, silenced the room as effectively as the seriousness of her tone.
Harry felt the old embarassment start trying to rise up at being the center of attention, and quickly stomped it down. That seemed to be getting easier with practice. "All the Death Eaters who are still free have their own wands..." He started, shrugging. "Maybe a better wand of a certain material might help them a bit with more complex transfigurations or charms... But Death Eaters don't worry much about that sort of thing. Any wand will work well enough for the Killing Curse and Cruciatis. And they don't seem to be having too much trouble with Imperius going wrong that I've heard about... So why would Voldemort," There was the usual collective flinch, though, surprisingly, Fleur was not a part of it. Perhaps she was just not as afraid of the Dark Lord, being French, or perhaps there was more steel in that deceptively delicate female form than he'd been giving her credit for. "Go to the trouble?"
"Well, Harry..." Mr. Weasley began again, "You know everything he does is at least partially just to cause terror."
"I'd think killing Ollivander and leaving the Dark Mark overhead would accomplish that just as well." Harry discounted the theory off-handedly. "On the other hand though, most of Voldemort's" He made a face as they flinched again. "Most of his best and brightest," this was drawled sarcastically. "Are currently locked up, thanks mostly to half the people sitting in this room. You can't really expect him to leave them there forever, not when he's gearing up for a major offensive. Besides, another mass break-out would cause a panic and make people lose even more faith in the Ministry. Either way, once he gets Malfoy, Dolohov, and the rest of that lot out, they're going to need wands, and they're the sort who won't want to use second-hand wands that have been," He tried to imitate Lucius' voice, and came close to Draco's at least. "Soiled by the hands of mudbloods."
Ron shot him a look for that and opened his mouth, then let out a grunt as Hermione elbowed him sharply. The members of the Order sitting at the table, however, had gone very quiet. Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley, Bill and Remus were all exchanging looks. Finally, it was Remus who spoke. "I think someone had better talk to Albus about this. He's probably thought of it already himself," Harry quite diplomatically controlled the urge to snort. "But he should know we're worried about it, at least." Remus smiled at Harry, a surprisingly proud light in his eyes. "I think you're right on this one, Harry. You're beginning to grow into it, aren't you?" Harry returned the smile, feeling a warmth in his chest that had been absent the last few days.
"Harry should tell the Minister, as well." Hermione said softly. She got disapproving looks from the majority of the Weasleys for this assertion(Bill, Harry noted, was not among that number), but she seemed much better at handling disapproval than her friend. Instead of quailing or shrinking away, she merely looked blandly back at them. "Well, he should. The Minister is his ally, and allies aren't supposed to keep secrets from one another."
There was a moment of quiet as the members of the Order in the room once again exchanged looks, however this time there was a decidedly ashamed note in it. The silence stretched on, the three students waiting for one of the adults to speak, until finally Mrs. Weasley did. "Be that as it may, Harry's not going to be contacting the Minister." Her voice was quiet, almost apologetic.
"Excuse me?" Harry asked, rather proud of himself for keeping his tone to mere polite curiosity.
"Headmaster's orders, Harry." This was Mr. Weasley, and he couldn't quite bring himself to meet Harry's cool green gaze. "He's concerned about communications being used to trace you to the Burrow. You're not to contact anyone outside the house. He didn't give specifics, but I think the Minister is most likely included on that list."
"He's at the head of the list, you mean." He was raging, screaming inside, but he still managed to keep his voice perfectly calm, though from the way everyone flinched away from him slightly, his anger was being conveyed by his eyes. Bill and Fleur were looking decidedly uncomfortable, and Lupin's expression was something approaching outrage.
"Bill, Molly, this is ridiculous! You know-" Remus began.
"It's alright, Remus." Harry interrupted, softly. "As everyone keeps telling me, the Headmaster knows best. If he really believes my telling the Minister that it's likely there will be a break-out at Azkaban soon will somehow endanger the Weasleys, then that's the last thing I want to do." His veins were full of burning ice, his pulse was pounding so hard he couldn't help but wonder if everyone could see it throbbing at his neck. With all the grace he could muster, Harry pushed up from his chair and gathered his presents. No one said anything. "If you'll all excuse me, I'm feeling a bit ill. Thank you for coming, Remus, thank you all for the presents and the party." Without another word, he smoothly strode from the room.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"This is ridiculous." Remus Lupin said again, quietly. The elder Weasleys were still not meeting anyone's eyes but eachother's, occasionally, apparently for support.
"Albus said he was conc-"
"That's bollocks, Mum!" Bill snapped. "Dumbledore didn't for an instant expect Harry to buy that load of tripe. If you need to convince yourself of it to do what you're told, that's one thing, but don't expect the rest of us to buy into it."
"You watch how you speak to your mother, William." Arthur threatened, but the tone of command he was reaching for seemed to be eluding him. Instead of conviction, his tone was laced mostly with exhaustion. Bill shook his head and stood, in an instant his fiancee was at his side.
"We're going out, this is madness, and neither one of us is going to have a part in it." He turned to go, and Fleur followed him, though the beautiful young woman paused as they reached the door and turned to address the three remaining adults in the room.
"'Eef your Dumbleydore needs to lie and confine 'is allies to 'ensure 'is pow'air, per'aps 'e does not deserve 'eet." Molly looked furious at that, and stood up to defend her old patron, but before she could get a word out her eldest and his betrothed had already left. Still flushed, she searched the room for another deserving target, and found only her husband, Remus Lupin, and the three other children, who were sitting quietly together, not daring to say a word.
"You three have already got enough of a show for one night I believe. Off to bed with you!"
"Mum..." Ron said in his rarely used serious tone, standing up and squaring himself.
"Not... Now... Ronald." Molly hissed dangerously. Ron still looked mutinous for a moment, but Hermione took him by one shoulder and Ginny by the other, and together they managed to drag the youngest of the Weasley boys off before the situation could manage to get any worse for the family.
"You know this is wrong, Molly. We're supposed to be the ones in the right, this isn't how we're supposed to act." Lupin said, gravely. "Arthur, surely you see that?"
"Albus Dumbledore knows what he's doing." Arthur Weasley responded tiredly, in an old rote that had grown very familiar. "He got us through this last time, he'll do it again."
Remus stood, preparing to answer that fallacy flat out for once. Albus Dumbledore had not won the last War against Voldemort. Albus Dumbledore had failed to protect those who believed in him, had stood by and let one of Remus' best friends betray the others, until in the end, only dear, sweet Lily Evans had been left to stand against the Dark Lord. It had been the Marauders, the Marauders and Lily Evans nee Potter, as well as a one year old, who had gotten them through the last time. He was opening his mouth to say just that when a sharp -THUMP!- from the direction of Harry's room caught his attention. He jerked his head around as he heard another, and then two more in rapid succession.
"Remus?" Molly asked, suddenly concerned. "What's wrong?"
"Do you have any ice, Molly?"
"Well, yes, in the kitchen, but why?" She asked, looking confused.
"Because Harry's probably going to need it. If you'll excuse me, I'll handle this."
"If Harry's hurt..." Molly said, switching instantly into mothering mode in a way that made it hard to stay angry at her.
Remus stopped her with a gentle touch. "Right now that young man is very angry at the two of you, and rightfully so in my opinion. I'd ask you not to make this worse on him by pushing the admirable self-control he's demonstrated this evening." With that, Remus walked past her to get the ice.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Well." Harry said, sitting on the edge of his bed and examining the scraped and bloody mess that was left of the knuckles of his right hand. "That was stupid." He laughed softly and shook his head.
"Bet it felt good, though." Remus said quietly from the doorway. He entered the room that was currently Harry's own, shutting the door behind him and sitting next to the young wizard.
"Well... Yeah." Harry sighed, shaking his hand in an attempt to stop his fingers from twitching with the pain. Having been Cruciated by a master, this was certainly tolerable, but that didn't mean it was pleasant.
"Let me see." Remus said, in a completely businesslike tone. He took Harry's hand, turning it from side to side and nodding. "Yeah, you broke one." He drew his wand and muttered "Episkey," lightly tapping the middle knuckle. There was an odd hot and cold feeling, and the pain decreased immediately. Remus held up his other hand, in which was a damp cloth wrapped around what Harry could only hope was a bundle of ice. He put it on Harry's swollen knuckles, and there was a twinge, then the blessed coolness that fulfilled Harry's hope.
"Thanks, Remus. How'd you know?" He asked curiously, taking the ice and holding it in place with a sigh of relief. Remus gave him a patient look with those softly golden eyes. "Oh... Right."
Remus nodded. "I heard the noise, and you forget sometimes I grew up with your father and Sirius. The sound of knuckles breaking on a wall is as familiar, and almost as comforting in a way, as the sound of the Hogwarts Express whistle." He laughed softly. "I swear, in that last year when James was doing everything he could to get on Lily's good side and trying so hard not to fight with Severus, he must have broken his hand at least eight times in the course of a month."
"What about Sirius?" Harry asked, shifting back against the pillows and listening attentively. It was so rare he got to hear about those days, the last real thing he'd learned about the Marauders from their Hogwarts years had been from Snape's Pensieve.
"With Sirius it was usually his brother." Remus answered, resting against a post of the bed. "I think all the love he couldn't give to his parents wound up being directed at Regulus, and the word 'furious' doesn't even begin to describe the way he felt when he fully realized Regulus had every intention of going down the path Mr. and Mrs. Black had set out for him. He spent two years, whenever he wasn't chasing girls or tormenting Severus, doing everything he could think of to try to turn his little brother around." Remus closed his eyes and sighed. "Just now it was him you reminded me of most, you know."
"Really?" Harry asked, there was a slight hitch in his voice, but he didn't mind. If there was anyone he felt comfortable mourning his lost Godfather around, it was Remus Lupin.
"Yes. When your father was struggling to control himself it was to get a girl, and even though he didn't resort to spells or insults, you could still see the hatred for Severus simmering in his eyes, and the hope Severus would give him a real excuse to let it out." Harry shifted uncomfortably. The Potter, Black and Snape feud had been weighing heavily on his mind lately. He still wasn't ready to tackle it head on, but he knew he was going to have to. It scared him a bit. For now, he closed his own eyes and tried to lose himself in Remus' memories.
"Sirius though... You could see the anger there, and how hard he was working to hold on to it. But more than that, you could see the reason he was holding onto it. He was fighting tooth and claw not to hurt someone he dearly loved, even though they were being monumentally stupid. In all the years I knew Sirius Black, that was the only time I would ever have described him as being patient, in his own way."
"He never really talked about Regulus much, just mentioned him once in conjunction with his parents." Harry mentioned thoughtfully, still trying to picture the Sirius he'd seen in Snape's memories trying so desperately to redeem a beloved brother.
"That's because he blamed himself, probably right until the end. First for not keeping Regulus from joining the Death Eaters when he was only 16, then for not managing to protect him when he got in too deep and tried to defect." Lupin sighed and shook his head, then glanced down at Harry's hand. At first, Harry assumed he was just checking the wound, but instead Lupin's gaze fixed on his ring and a smile crossed the older wizard's face. "So, he really did it then."
Harry looked down at the ring and, with a brief smile, nodded. "Yeah, that's right. Harry Potter is now Head of House Black. You knew about this? Why'd he do it then?"
"Actually, technically speaking, the moment you put that ring on you became Harry Black-Potter." Remus corrected. "As to why? Well... There's the reason he gave aloud." Remus grinned. "He loved the idea of making a half-blood champion of muggle rights the Head of the House. The underneath reason though, is a bit more complex."
Harry tilted his head, grinning as well at his Godfather's last joke. "We reckoned, that is, Ginny, Hermione and I, that he wanted me to redeem the name..."
Remus looked a bit curious. "Ron doesn't agree?"
Harry sighed in annoyance. "Ron is agreeing with his parents. He thinks I've got ideas above my station, and as soon as I put the ring on he flew off the handle at me."
Remus shook his head. "I'm not terribly surprised, nor should you be. House Black has long represented pureblood supremacy, as well as the call for muggles to be made servants like house elves..." He paused, as if hesitant to voice the rest, then shrugged. "Not to mention, the Weasleys are not the richest of lines, and your Ron seems even more aware of that than the rest of his family. Do you know exactly how much money came to you with the Black Estates?"
Harry blinked, realizing he'd never even considered the money. "No... Do you know?"
Lupin chuckled. "Sirius estimated it at somewhat in excess of several millions of Galleons. Not that you can touch it yet anyway. Added to what remains of the Potter fortune in your main vault, on your next birthday you stand to inherit the sort of sum that could quite possibly make even the Malfoys jealous."
"But I don't want it!" Harry protested. "I never wanted to be rich. Comfortable maybe, but not rich."
Remus gave him a serious look, then. "The money isn't going to be yours, Harry."
"But you just said-"
"I know what I said, but you didn't know how to listen. James and Sirius both explained it to me at one point or another. House money is in the control of the Head, but it isn't theirs, it belongs to the House as a whole. It's meant to be used to maintain the estates, advance the Name, and provide for the descendants. So just keep that in mind. Whether you want to give it all away or spend it on fancy broomsticks and building your friends their own castles... You have the legal right to do so, but not the moral one."
Harry was quiet, not wanting to think about such things. Thanks to Remus, he was starting to realize a lot more had come with the Signet that Sirius had left him than just a hyphenate to his name. "You were saying there was 'an underneath reason' why Sirius did this to me?"
Remus chuckled softly, not failing to notice the way Harry's view of the position was rapidly changing from gift to burden. "You've got half of it right, I think." The tired-looking wizard stood and moved over to Harry's desk as he spoke. "The Blacks have gained an unpleasant reputation in the last few centuries, and you would do Sirius proud to change it." He picked up a quill, dipped it in the ink, and scrawled something on a sheet of parchment. "But more, I think Sirius wants you to change what the Black name stands for." Remus returned with a book, the note he'd scrawled, and the quill along with a fresh sheet of parchment. He tapped the note lightly as he continued.
Write fast, Arthur is outside listening, and he's probably going to come interrupt us in a moment. I'll see your message arrives where it's meant to.
Harry took one look at the note, shot a glance at Remus, and began to write quickly. His usually untidy script was even moreso thanks to haste and an unsteady backing, but he wasn't going to be marked for penmanship on this one. "The Black name has been, in some people's minds irretrievably, associated with pureblood supremacy since almost the beginning. But more recently it's become a name of Death Eaters, of Dark Wizards, and of muggle killers. The thing that always galled Sirius most about this was the fact that a great majority of his most beloved and respected relatives have been cast out of the family in the past few generations for going against these ugly tenants, whereas murderers and criminals have been proudly kept on the tapestry simply because they managed to point their darker tendencies at muggles and muggleborns."
"But how on Earth am I supposed to change all that?" Harry asked, writing the last line and signing his name. He quickly folded the brief letter up and handed it to Remus, who tucked it in his robe, as well as the note. Harry tucked the quill inside the textbook Remus had given him to write on and set it next to him on the bed.
"By being yourself, Harry. By standing up for what you believe in. By doing what is right..." Remus paused thoughtfully. "Perhaps the first place to start would be researching all those burned off names and contacting their owners." He grinned, ferally. "There's also a name or two on there I'm sure you wouldn't mind burning off yourself."
Harry nodded forcefully, two instantly coming to mind. He opened his mouth to say just that when the door of the room sprang open. Mr. Weasley popped in, looking back and forth between Harry, who was holding ice on his knuckles with a book laying next to him, and Remus who was standing a few feet away and leaning against a bed post. Both turned to look at the man(who, Harry suddenly realized, was the Head of House Weasley), with curiousity.
"Something the matter, Arthur?"
Mr. Weasley was still looking mildly suspicious, but since there was no proof of anything to be suspicious about, he merely replied. "It's about time for Harry to be getting some rest, don't you think, Remus?"
Remus blinked, made a show of checking his watch and nodded. "You're right, of course, Arthur. I should be getting some rest as well. Last night was one of the easier ones I've had, but it wouldn't do to exhaust myself." He turned to Harry and nodded. "Think about what we discussed, Harry. I know you'll make Sirius proud." He patted the younger wizard's shoulder and shambled out of the room.
Mr. Weasley watched him go, then looked uncertainly at his young house-guest. "I... Harry, you have to understan-"
"Dumbledore knows best." Harry said quietly, not meeting the other man's eyes. "Yes, I know, everyone says that a lot around here. Goodnight, Mr. Weasley."
Mr. Weasley sighed, but didn't seem to have any better arguments to make. "Goodnight, Harry." He extinguished the light in the room and turned, closing the door quietly behind him. Harry sat in the dark for a moment, then kicked his trainers off, shucked out of his school shirt(he really needed to get to Madam Malkin's, he decided) and flopped down on the pillows. He had to restrain himself from shouting in mild pain and surprise.
Harry pulled his wand out of the holster he was already wearing strapped to his forearm, then slowly, carefully, reached under his pillow and touched what he'd felt under his head, braced for sudden portkey transport. When none came, he felt around it with his fingers, then brought it out for examination. It was a box, about a foot long and six inches wide and maybe half again as tall, wrapped in what felt like twine and plain brown paper. He shook it, and heard the sounds of parchment moving around, as well as the sound and feel of something heavier thudding against the sides.
"Lumos" he whispered softly, then shined the light from the tip of his wand on the package. This didn't tell him much, it merely had his name written in a heavy, messy scrawl on the top. He was still somewhat cautious, but curiousity was quickly winning out, so he untied the package, removed the paper, and opened the heavy cardboard box. Within was a sheet of folded parchment, another, unevenly shaped object wrapped in bright pink tissue paper, and an envelope. The bright pink was a clue, as was the familiar smell that wafted through the air once the package was open. He blinked at that realization, I know what Tonks smells like. Odd. Bet she'd get a kick out of teasing me for it though. Another thought followed quickly on the heels of that. How does she keep getting in my room, anyway? He decided to start with the parchment, which was obviously a letter.
Happy Birthday Harry!
Yes, that's right, I've been here again. Don't you go bragging to Ron and all your Gryffindor pals about the sexy older woman who keeps sneaking round to your bedroom, or I might just stop. Now that the warning's out of the way, let me start properly with an apology.
I'm so very sorry I had to miss your birthday, Harry. Both bosses have been keeping me even busier than usual lately, and I think the older one might be doing so just because he's picked up somewhere we've been chumming around a bit. See what comes of hacking off the powerful? Now you don't get the pleasure of my scenti- scintal- scintull- wonderfully pleasant company. Still, I don't hold it against you. I would've liked to have been there today, but since I couldn't, I knew I just had to get your presents to you. What with no twins and with that boring old jerk Remus Lupin around, I bet you could use some cheering up.
And who, my dear Harry, but your favorite Auror could you count on to do that better?
There were two things I knew I definitely wanted to get you for your big sixteen, and since I just couldn't bring myself to decide, I went with both! There's another little note that goes with each, but I wanted to warn you not to open the envelope if you've still got a belly full of cake and pudding, it would be a tragedy, it would. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you're smiling. If you're not by now, I guarantee you will be once you open the envelope.
I doubt there will be much chance to see eachother next month, since I hear you're being kept under pretty tight restrictions, but, believe it or not, I can almost guarantee we'll be having plenty of chances to spend a little time and get in a little trouble once you're back in school. Curious? Waiting with baited breath to read why? Too bad, cos I'm not telling!
Until then, take care of yourself, alright mate? I worry about you more than a bit. Just remember, there may be a whole bucketload of shite being dumped down across Britain right now, but that's minor stuff meant for the Ministry and the others to be dealing with. We'll tell you when we need Harry Potter, I promise. For now, you just try to have fun where you can get it and relax as much as possible.
Harry blinked and then laughed as he reached the bottom of the page. Rather than a "sincerely" or even a "love," Tonks had given herself a rather large space under her writing and left a stunningly bright red kiss mark there, obviously having put on enough lipstick for six normal women to get a properly comedic effect out of it. Underneath that, in an extremely feminine and curled hand that didn't at all match the rest of the letter, she'd signed it "Dora."
Harry folded the letter up and contemplated it for a moment. If Ron or Hermione noticed the way it had been signed they'd probably get entirely the wrong idea. However, he didn't want to get rid of it either, this was the sort of thing that would be good to have around the next time he started feeling like everyone had forsaken him(and a time like that seemed to be looming in the near future). Quietly, he went over to his trunk, opened it, and tucked the letter away in the bottom, between the pages of an old Defence textbook. That safely done, he returned to the bed to look at his presents, feeling a bit nervous. With Tonks, there was no knowing what to expect.
Though he felt he'd safely digested enough to handle a blast-ended skrewt if necessary, he decided to start on the oddly shaped bundle. Carefully he unwrapped the tissue paper and moved the wandlight over the object within to examine it. It was a pair of goggles. Not the ugly, clunky sort he'd worn through years of Herbology, but the sort of smooth, aerodynamic looking dragon-hide and domed glass affairs that offered full peripheral vision that he'd seen some professional Quidditch players wearing, and lusted after. The one time he'd really considered buying a pair, he'd been staggered by the price, as well as discouraged by the knowledge he'd be essentially blind in them since they wouldn't fit on over glasses.
Harry smiled at Tonks' effort, though it was somewhat tempered by the embarassment of knowing how much these must have set her back. He noticed a rolled up bit of parchment in one of the lenses and took it out to read.
I thought of these when Hermione was telling me about you having to spell your glasses to keep them from fogging up during rainy Quidditch matches(how do you keep the blasted things on in high winds to begin with?). So when I went to Kwality Kwidditch Supplies, I was positively shocked that they wouldn't make them to eyeglass prescriptions. Gits have no idea what their market is, do they?
Your prescription wasn't that hard to get hold of, though. So I managed to pop the lenses out of this pair, brought them to one of the specialty sporting shops in the muggle side of London, and asked if they could mill me some for my friend's dad's old kit. They were a little put-off by the idea, but the customer is always right, especially when she's cute and flirty. The man offered to make them so they'd be light-reactive, but once he explained to me how it worked I decided it'd be a bad idea(I'm getting to why, just keep reading.) They did, however, have a coating to keep them from fogging up and help keep water from beading and streaking too much, as well as one to cut down on glare. I was also fascinated that they've got these completely unbreakable lenses, and wizards think they can do anything!
Once I had the right ones I brought the whole job back to Kwality Kwidditch to get things put back in right, and it was almost done.
Now, you're asking how is that only almost done? And why were the light-reactive lenses a bad idea? I'll tell you why. These aren't meant just for playing Quidditch in, Harry. Mad Eye goes on about your wand-safety habits, but it seems like I'm the only one in the world who's ever realized one summoning spell could leave you effectively blind. Not to mention just tripping at the wrong time and breaking or losing your specs. Now, you'll look a bit of an arse if you start wearing them all the time, but keep them on you, or close at hand, and if you see a spot of trouble coming up, put them on. If some smart(ha ha) Death Eater has the same idea I did, he's in for a bit of a shock.
Now, the almost done bit. There were a whole range of spells that can be put on glasses if you know where to take them(mostly Knockturn Alley and a few other neighborhoods I won't tell you the names of, you don't need to know). I flirted with the idea of giving you Mad Eye goggles, or night vision, or the Dweomer Gaze(It'd be pretty seeing magic, wouldn't it?), but I figured that would all just get confusing and be a bunch of crap you wouldn't need but once. And as far as the sort of lenses that darken in bright light went, two words - spell flash. So instead I settled for a simple but effective anti-summoning jinx. Now, Voldemort or.. some other powerful wizard... could probably still manage to push past it and get them off you if he really tried, but any of the run of the mill bastards you'll be fighting might as well wave their dick in their hands as their wand as far as getting Harry Potter's goggles is concerned.
Besides, they'll make you look a bit like a superhero from the muggle comics, won't they? Very dashing Harry, very dashing indeed.
Harry finished reading the note, and was grinning. He needed to get past looking too much at the surface Tonks and remember that in her own right she was quite nearly as brilliant as Hermione and had the Auror training on top of it. Unable to resist, he pulled his glasses off, set them aside, and slipped the goggles on over his head. They fit like a dream. He turned his head from side to side, looking at objects at different distances, and nodded appreciatively, they were perfect. It was a little dizzying, since for the first time he could actually see more than just a blur from the corner of his eye, but he figured he'd get used to it eventually.
He kept the goggles on, not wanting to stop playing with his new present just yet, and cautiously opened the envelope. Inside there were four photographs, each with a note at the bottom written in Tonks' now familiar hand.
The first picture was of Aunt Petunia and had been taken outside the house at Number 4, Privet Drive. The bony woman was pacing from one end of her garden to the other, throwing her arms around her in frustration, and from the way her mouth was moving, the flush on her face, and the tears running from her eyes, she was in hysterics. The reason why was obvious. Her beloved garden was like a war-zone. Every plant that had not been completely torn to shreds had been uprooted, the perfect rows had been dug across in zig-zags, and deep holes had been dug at random intervals, it looked like an entire herd of rabbits had spent a month having their way with it.
Oh dear. Someone seems to have tried to put out food for the knarl. Did you know there was one in your yard? Well, there is now. Quite a shame. Quite a shame indeed.
Harry grinned and spent a moment longer enjoying his aunt's discomfiture before putting the picture aside and moving on to the next. This one was of his dear Uncle Vernon. Or more precisely, of Vernon and his beloved company car. Vernon's state was, if it was possible, even worse than Petunia's. His face was bright purple and even though there was no sound, Harry could tell the man was screaming fit to shake the heavens. The car, on the other hand, was parked at the side of what appeared to be quite a busy highway, belching a column of black smoke, thicker around than Vernon himself, from under the hood. Harry looked at Tonks' note and had to bite his hand to restrain the sort of maniacal cackle that would have worried his hosts.
Dursley struck me as the sort who would be overly fond of his car. For such big and heavy objects they're awful delicate, aren't they? I remember this one time a friend of mine put oil in the coolant tank of one of the Ministry cars, it looked rather a lot like this. I imagine putting transmission fluid in the oil tank and coolant in the transmission tank would only have made things worse, don't you think?
Harry's restrained laughter was quickly cut off by sheer disgust as he moved to the next to last photo, this, unlike the others, was a simple muggle photograph, not of the moving, wizarding variety. It was Dudley, but more of Dudley than Harry had ever wanted to see. His cousin, fully(well, more than fully) grown, was done up in a nappy, a bonnet, and cloth baby shoes. In one hand he held an over-sized rattle, in the other a bottle. This was mildly funny, of course, but the awfulness of the image far outweighed the humor. He read the note quickly, wanting to get it over with so he could burn the blasted thing.
This is quite possibly the most embarassing transformation I've ever made. You owe me one, Harry.
So it wasn't Dudley then. Harry was puzzled as to why Tonks would think he'd want such a picture though, did she think his sense of humor was that completely odd? He shrugged and flipped to the last photo, his eyes widening after a moment. The setting was familiar, the park in Little Whinging. The players were familiar as well. A dozen boys of various sizes and shapes, each one well known to Harry by the amount of times they'd beaten on him as he'd grown up. It was Dudley's gang.
They were all laughing, a few of them were even on the ground or propped up against something, unable to stay standing due to the hilarity. They were also passing something around. Dudley approached, his mouth moved, and the laughter only got worse. He reddened, snatched whatever was being passed around, and held it up to look at. It was, of course, the photo. Harry watched as Dudley went dark purple, then bone white, then beet red, all in the course of a few seconds, then turn and run, tears streaming down his face. The boys were now pointing at Dudley, and their laughter had only redoubled as he ran.
Teenage boys are such a heartless lot, aren't they? This is the sort of thing a young lad never lives down, I think.
Harry enjoyed the image as it repeated, then realized there was another note on a sheet of parchment behind it. Eagerly, he read.
Well, that's what the Dursleys' month has been like. Seems our favorite family is going through a bad patch, doesn't it? I do hope things even out for them, of course, but you know what they say... When it rains, it pours.
Happy Birthday Harry
Harry was shaking his head, still grinning and repressing a laugh. He went over the photos a few more times, then tucked them away in other pages of the same book that held Tonks' birthday letter. He had enjoyed the photos heartily, but more, he was relieved by the knowledge that Tonks had found a way to exercise her need for vengeance on the Dursleys in a fashion that wouldn't get her in trouble or get her sacked. Once he had the evidence secreted away, he decided it really was time for bed. Remembering Tonks' advice, instead of removing his goggles he pulled them down and let them hang from his neck. It felt right somehow, wearing something from Tonks, something from Sirius, and something from Scrimgeour.
His mood much better than it had been only twenty minutes prior, Harry Potter nestled himself in bed and quickly fell asleep. His dreams were disorganized, though not unpleasant, featuring things like Dudley being put through what he'd made Harry suffer as a child, Harry growing up as a Weasley, and attending the Auror Academy. None of this was anything out of the ordinary, and all was far preferable to nightmares of loss and visions of Voldemort. The only thing that was unusual was a strangely familiar scent, threaded through all his nighttime wanderings.
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Author's Notes: Well, this was turning into the chapter that wouldn't end. Since I wanted to get something published today, as I probably won't be doing much writing tomorrow, I actually clipped out about a third of what I had written. On the one hand, that means this chapter is a lot shorter than it was going to be. On the other hand, it means you'll get the next one either tomorrow or the day after.
Yes, I listed a bunch of presents, but some of them will be important later on. Have fun guessing and yelling at me about which. Yes, I gave Harry the Head of the House of Black. This will no doubt cause some discord, but it's going to be useful, and I'm neither going to overdo it or give him an avalanche of stuff he doesn't really need and will never use.
The characters are getting kind of odd on me. I'm very much hitting Stephen King's zone where they're writing themselves, not always how I want them to.
Ron: I'm not a big Ron fan, in fact I expected some definite Ron bashing to slip out at some point during the course of this story. Young Mr. Weasley, however, seems to have decided he wants to be a protagonist, and won't hear any argument to the contrary.
Fleur: A lot of you were a little disappointed in my Harry/Fleur interaction in the last chapter. I'm not writing to cater to you guys, but Fleur seems to have taken it to heart. She's showing some of that depth J.K.R. only ever really hinted at, but she has no plans to become a harpy or an amazon
Ginny: This is bothering me a little bit. I like Ginny, but all I'm getting from her is a bit of picking at Ron and drooling over Harry. I'll see if I can't persuade her to straighten out her act a bit.
Click the review button and tell me what you thought of this one, and if it felt like it left off oddly, remember that that's because it was coming close on being 20,000 words and still only felt about halfway done.