Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his whole universe belongs to J. K. Rowling and her assorted associates. I'm just having a good time playing with it all, and I, unlike the owner, don't make a penny from it.
A/N: This writing excercise follows canon until Order of the Phoenix page 60. Well, I've stuck in a few bits and pieces that JKR obviously overlooked, but what happened in canon before that point, happened before this story as well.
This chapter is inspired by Corwalch's 'How It Might Have Gone', only Harry has already made his choice when he arrives at Grimmauld Place, and the story will eventually go on from there.
The Scottish Connection
"Ron and Hermione will explain everything, dear, I've really got to dash," Mrs Weasley whispered distractedly. "There -" they had reached the second landing, "- you're the door on the right, I'll call you when it's over."
And she hurried off downstairs again.
(Quoted from 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', British hardback issue, page 60.)
Harry watched her scurrying downstairs, absolutely speechless. 'Bitch!' he thought. 'Let's just imprison poor, dumb Harry and keep him from knowing anything, and then later we'll do something incredibly convoluted, illogical and stupid to take him somewhere else, where we'll continue keeping him out of the loop, shall we?' he seethed. 'After all, he's just the one Voldemort wants dead more than anyone, so why tell him anything, right?'. He smirked.. 'Well, up yours!'
With that last, satisfying thought, Harry decided to pay some attention to his surroundings. From his vantage point, the whole house seemed rundown, dank and dreary.. Much like he'd imagined the home of a dark wizard, or maybe some kind of unsavoury coven, dedicated to unspeakable acts of perversion. He definitely hadn't imagined the fabled Order of the Phoenix in this kind of environment.
Moving closer to the door, Mrs. Weasley had indicated, he heard voices coming from the room behind it:
"Isn't Harry supposed to come here tonight? Damn, he's going to be bloody furious!"
"Language, Ron! I keep telling you to mind how you're talking.
But yeah, he should be here any minute now."
"I'm so not looking forward to him yelling at us, you know..."
"You know perfectly well, Professor Dumbledore didn't want us telling him anything."
"I know, I know, and that's okay with me, but Hedwig's all but bitten my finger to the bone, and Harry's going to blow a gasket when he sees us. I'm just not looking forward to that..."
"Yeah, I'm not either, but it'll pass and he'll come around eventually. It's what he always does after all..."
Yep, unmistakably Ron and Hermione, and certainly a conversation that told him a lot about loyalties and attitude, and confirmed that his plans were both justified and needed.
Then it dawned on him, that he was apparently supposed to share the room with Ron, since he was already in it. 'No bloody way I'm sleeping in the same room as the Chainsaw Massacre for the next week!' he thought. 'I won't get a decent night's sleep, and he'll rat me out to Dumbles the first time he catches me with the phone or Dobby. I've got to find another room. Besides, it'll be a lot more convincing if I'm off sulking on my own.'
With that thought firmly in mind, Harry set out down the corridor, knocking at every door he came across. There were no answers, but all rooms looked occupied when he peered in, until he came to the last door, which opened into a diminutive, dingy room with a small single bed in it, much like 'his' room at Privet Drive, except this bed looked slightly better.
Not knowing what could be lurking in the shadows in there, he quietly called for Dobby, who popped in almost immediately.
"The great and noble Master Harry Potter sir is being calling for Dobby! What can Dobby be doing for Master Harry Potter sir?" the excitable little Elf squealed.
"Hush, Dobby. We don't want anyone to know you're here," Harry chastised him. "Can you fix up this room quickly? Just enough to make sure I'm not attacked in my sleep by whatever lurks in there."
Dobby's ears drooped. "Dobby is being sorry, Master Harry Potter sir. Dobby will be being very quiet, and Dobby will be having room ready in five minutes."
With that, something akin to a miniature tornado tore through the room, leaving nothing even remotely suspect in its wake.
Four minutes and fifty-two seconds later, the room was still dark and dreary, but now it was a spotless dark.
"Thank you, Dobby. Great work as always," Harry praised the beaming little fellow. "Now remember, you are not to come to me unless I call for you! It's vitally important that Dumbledore doesn't know you're helping us out. I'll call you once or twice a day, so you can see I'm alright, and deliver if you've got something for me from my friends, OK?"
"Dobby will be remembering," Dobby said solemnly. "Dobby will be visiting Mr. Iain sir and Master Harry Potter sir's Young Miss every day, and only be coming to Master Harry Potter sir when Master Harry Potter sir is being calling for Dobby."
"That's great, Dobby, you're definitely earning your pay," Harry smiled. "The first time you see them, could you tell them that I'm forced to keep my phone turned off, so they can't call me?" And after a quick think added: "And could you tell Mr. Perks as well?"
"Dobby will be doing."
"Oh, one last thing... Could you go to the Leaky Cauldron and get me four bottles of Firewhiskey, a turkey sandwich, and a couple of Butterbeers?"
"Dobby can be making Master Harry Potter sir's food!" Dobby exclaimed, rather emphatically.
"I know, Dobby, but where would you make it? And from what? I don't have a house yet – at least not officially – and even if I did, there wouldn't be anything there to make a sandwich out of," Harry pointed out reasonably. "Don't worry though. I'll have a place soon enough, and then you can cook for me to your heart's content, but until I'm out of here, we'll have to do it this way, my friend."
Somewhat mollified, Dobby popped away, and while he was gone, Harry got out of his whale-sized clothes, and put on a ratty, equally over-large t-shirt to sleep in, and then flopped down onto his bed with a 4th year Arithmancy textbook, waiting for the explosion that was certain to happen, once Molly Weasley found out that he was not with her precious son.
In the kitchen, the meeting was drawing to a close. Order members were starting to get up and leave, Mrs. Weasley was bustling around, getting dinner ready, and Sirius was gearing up for the inevitable fight against the overbearing woman, about what he saw as Harry's obvious right to know what was going on.
Whether knowingly or not, Mrs. Weasley deftly dodged Sirius' first attempt by heading up to fetch the youngsters for dinner, thinking they'd had enough time to get their hellos in by now, and greatly heartened that she hadn't heard the expected eruptions of an angry Harry. Perhaps he really was starting to grow up, and acknowledge that Dumbledore knew what was best for everyone.
Arriving at the second floor landing, the first thing she heard from Ron's and Harry's shared room was Ron yelling 'OW! GET OFF ME!'. Barging in, she saw her youngest son suffering under repeated strafing runs from an enraged snowy owl; a frozen Hermione staring wideeyed at the spectacular, although rather one-sided, battle; and worst of all - no Harry!
"What is happening in here?" she screeched. "Where's Harry?"
"Harry's bloody owl is trying to maim me, that's what's happening," Ron whined, "and what do you mean, 'where's Harry'? Wasn't he supposed to come here tonight?"
"Harry came an hour ago. I took him up here myself, and told him he was to stay in here."
"We haven't seen him, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said. "Nobody has been at the door either." Suddenly she paled... "Do you...Do you think he could be that furious with us?" she asked fearfully. "He couldn't be mad enough to just leave again, could he?"
"What do you mean, dear? Why would Harry be mad at you? You two are his best friends."
"You know Professor Dumbledore made us swear we wouldn't tell him anything, and Harry hates being kept in the dark," Hermione sniffled. "He's been at that awful place for a month, and our letters have been useless. I thought he would just barge in and yell at us, but he's probably so furious, he doesn't even want to talk to us now."
"There now, dear. It can't be that bad. The Headmaster has had Order members watching him, and they haven't reported anything out of the ordinary going on."
"Fat lot of good that did, having that drunk guarding Harry," Ron scoffed. "He had to fight Dementors all by himself four days ago, and I guess whoever is watching him isn't inside the house, so how would they know how they treat Harry?"
"Ronald!" Mrs. Weasley scolded. "The Headmaster knows better than you, what's good for Harry. He's been with his family, that's what he needs."
"Didn't you listen to us when we broke him out after first year, Mum? We pulled bars off his window! Those people are horrible to him."
"The Headmaster knows best, Ronald. Now come on down to the kitchen, then we'll find Harry."
Bursting into the kitchen, slightly out of breath, Mrs. Weasley wasted no time asking if anybody had seen Harry.
That question prompted an immediate reaction from Sirius:
"What do you mean, 'has anybody seen Harry'? You took him to his room yourself, didn't you? Surely 'Sonorus One and Two' haven't been so preoccupied with shouting at each other as to miss him leaving again?" Sirius laced his last question with a healthy dose of sarcasm, as their constant, and excessively loud, arguing had been a nuisance for quite some time now, and everybody were rather fed up with it. Hermione and Ron both went scarlet at the accusation.
"I took him to the landing and told him where his room was. I was in a bit of a hurry to get back down here for the meeting, so don't you go and lay it on me, Sirius Black!"
"You didn't take him all the way? Great! Now we can search the whole house to find him," Sirius groaned.
"Why would I need to take him all the way into the room?" a red-faced Mrs. Weasley asked. "He's 15 years old. He should be able to step through a doorway on his own," she sniffed.
"Have you paid any attention to anything at all?" Sirius snapped, wanting nothing better than to curse the woman. They didn't get along at the best of times, and much less when times were not the best. Like now. "The whole point of the exercise was to get him in there, so he could vent right away. If he's the slightest bit like James, he'll be seething right now, what with Albus keeping him isolated with the scum of the Earth, and those two..." he shot Hermione and Ron a contemptuous look "...abandoning him completely. My guess is, he put two and two together, that he was supposed to share a room with someone who's been more or less ignoring him all summer, and most likely he didn't like that, so he found somewhere else to bunk."
"We haven't ignored him," Hermione started to protest. "The Headmaster said not to write anything important to him, because the owls could be tracked down, and we..."
"And you're supposed to be the brightest witch of your generation?" Sirius interrupted. "Then Merlin help us all when your generation takes over. Even I know about Muggle mail. You know, stuff a letter into an envelope, put a stamp on it, and drop it in a mailbox. There's one less than sixty yards from here, and I'm sure there's one in your neighbourhood too." Nobody had to ask about Sirius' mood right now.
Hermione went scarlet again, and while she opened and closed her mouth, nothing came out of it.
"I'm worried about him," Tonks suddenly said.
She ducked her head slightly, when everybody turned and looked at her.
"I didn't think about it when we picked him up, but he said very little, and his expression never changed," she elaborated.
"That's not good," Sirius said. "When James went cold, bad things tended to happen."
"He's not James, Sirius," Mrs. Weasley scolded.
"I know that better than anyone," Sirius snapped, "but he does have a lot of traits in common with him, and I knew James better than anybody.
Did any of you others notice anything off about him?"
"Just what Tonks said," Hestia answered. "He seemed standoffish, but it's not like I know the lad, so I thought he was always like that."
"Stuff it, Molly! I'm old enough to say what I want to in my own house.
Now, we've got a Harry to find. I suggest we look through the empty rooms on the third and fourth floor. Split up, people."
After a fruitless search, everybody met up outside Ron's room.
"OK, no Harry anywhere. That leaves only the guest servant's room down there," Sirius said. "From what I've heard about his usual accomodations, it might even make him feel at home."
They all turned and started towards the end of the corridor.
While all this happened, Harry had gleefully pondered Dobby's message from Iain, that magic couldn't be detected in a Fidelius-protected location; polished off his sandwich; poured a quarter bottle of Firewhiskey into an empty Butterbeer bottle, which he then hid in his trunk; put the opened bottle on the small table next to the bed; downed a potion from his trunk; and settled down with his textbook.
Flashback, 3 days earlier:
Harry flipped his phone open. "Yes?"
"Harry, it's me!"
"Hi Sunshine! What's new?"
"I had a thought this morning..."
"Ooohh.. Be very careful with that. You could hurt yourself, you know."
"Git! I was wondering.. How much guilt do you want your minders and your excuses for friends to wallow in?"
"As much as possible, why?"
"Because I found a very interesting potion in one of Dad's naughty books yesterday."
"Potion? Naughty? Erm... Why don't I like the sound of that?"
"Probably because you equate 'potion' with 'Snape', and 'Snape' and 'naughty' really don't mix well.
...Eeww! Hold on while I go and scrub my brain. Blegh!
No, seriously.. It's called the 'Alco-away potion'. It's a potion to neutralize ingested alcohol. Imagine Molly Weasley and Dumbledore when they see you drinking Firewhiskey straight from the bottle, without even flinching. They'll think you've been drinking non-stop all the time you've been in that wretched place. Then tell them that thinking about Cedric was all you could do with your time, and that drinking enough whiskey allows you to actually sleep at night. And be sure to show no emotion at all about it."
"Hehe.. That's brilliant! But how am I going to get the recipe and the ingredients? I'm basically locked up here, and it's not like I can pop around Tesco to buy Eye of Newt or Salamander spleens."
"I'll brew them for you, Wise Guy. Then I'll give them to Dobby to pop over with, along with a fresh batch of nutrient potions."
"I knew I liked you for a reason – besides that fantastic arse of yours, I mean."
"Shush now, Sunshine... Hmm, pity you can't see me sticking my tongue out. It kinda ruins the effect...
Heh, I just had an idea to improve your scheme.. Whiskey allows me to sleep, but I always woke up with a mean headache, until I discovered that if I drink enough, I'll still have a nice buzz in the morning, so I just have to nip a dram or two to avoid the hangover."
"That's a good one, if you can pull it off. You'll have to deliver it quite casually, like it's a common thing for you to wake up and have a couple of pulls from the bottle before you even hit the loo.
I'll start brewing right now. It's not that complicated, so Dobby can bring them over tonight. I'll brew enough for a week.
Oh, and Dad says both he and Uncle Albert will be at the hearing."
"You're the best, Sunshine. Tell them I said 'thanks'.
I'll be in touch."
When he heard the commotion outside the door, Harry carefully schooled his face into an expressionless mask, then reached over and grabbed the opened bottle. Actually, the timing wasn't that important, but he still watched the doorknob closely, so when the door was thrown open, he was in the process of knocking back a seriously large dram.
Harry finished swallowing, took another pull, then lowered the bottle and glared towards the doorway.
"Ever heard of knocking?" his voice flat and monotone.
"Harry James Potter!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked. "What on earth are you doing?"
"I'm reading. Should be obvious."
"Don't take that tone with me, young man. What are you drinking?"
"Firewhiskey. Should be obvious too."
"Hand it over at once! You have no business drinking alcohol!"
"No! It helps me sleep. If you want whiskey, you'll have to buy your own." Harry was fighting hard to keep his mask in place.
"Now you listen to me, young man. As long as you're not of age, I absolutely forbid you that stuff!" Mrs. Weasley made a grab for the bottle.
Harry's hand shot out and caught her wrist, and he met her eyes.
"Are you my mother?"
"You know I'm not."
"Are you my guardian?"
"No I'm not, Harry, but that makes no difference. You're not old enough to drink," she blustered.
"Since you're not in any position of authority, and have no business 'forbidding' me anything, I'll ask you to leave my possessions where they are. That includes my whiskey. I need it if I'm to have a half decent sleep.
Now please leave my room." Harry's eyes were as dull, dark, and lifeless as his voice, yet held a significant threat.
Thoroughly shocked, she backed out of the room.
Sirius moved forward.
"What are you doing in this shoebox, Harry? We've set you up to share a much bigger room with Ron down the other end."
"I'm sharing with the Thunderstorm at Hogwarts," Harry retorted. "I'd like to get some sleep in my holidays at least. Besides, this is already far better than Privet Drive."
"What? This is better than what you have at home?" Sirius was appalled.
"I don't have a home. But yeah, it's better than what I've been locked up in for the last month, and it's infinitely better than the cupboard I grew up in." Harry's voice was so completely devoid of emotion, it actually scared those in the room.
"But... Why are you holed up down here? There's nothing to do here" Sirius half stated, half asked.
"It's a good place to collect my thoughts," Harry answered, taking another deep pull from the bottle. "I haven't had anything to do for a month but drink and think about Cedric, Wormtail, and Voldemort, and I need to get some different thinking done now." He held out the whiskey. "Here, have a shot."
"Err, no thanks, Pup," Sirius answered. "What kind of thinking are you doing, Harry?" he prodded. "I'd be happy to offer advice, if you think it'll help."
"I'm trying to figure out how to go about finding some friends, since it turned out that those I thought I had weren't worth crap, except for Hedwig and Ogden's Finest."
Several gasps were heard, and in the back of the group, Ron turned red, Ginny paled, and Hermione looked ready to cry.
Mrs. Weasley, having heard the exchange, all but sprinted through the corridor, heading for the fireplace to floo Albus Dumbledore.
"Why do you say that, Harry?" Sirius asked, rather alarmed. Even he hadn't thought, Harry would feel as betrayed as he obviously did.
For the first time, Harry showed something akin to emotions: He snorted! "Because every single one of those I considered friends, are too bloody busy licking the arse of the bastard who imprisoned me at Privet Drive, to even act like they care the slightest about me." Harry breathed deeply to calm himself down again, then took another drink. "Keeping me locked up with those degenerate animals, in isolation and in the dark, just after seeing a friend die, and being forced to help Voldemoron come back," his expressionless, dulled eyes pinned them one by one. "With that kind of friends, who needs the Death Eaters?" Harry snorted at the collective shudder.
"Please leave my room. I'd like to get some reading done before I try to sleep."
"But, Harry," Hermione cautiously ventured. "We actually came to get you for dinner..."
"Yeah? So I'm so dangerous now, you need almost a dozen people to escort me down a flight of stairs?" The sarcasm could be cut with a knife.
"No thanks. I've heard that starvation victims shouldn't be given full meals too soon. It's not healthy for them, or some such theory..." Harry was back with that maddeningly emotionless voice, and his eyes were back on the book.
"Why are you treating us this way, Harry?" Hermione pleaded. "We're your friends!" The tears pooling in her eyes were threatening to spill over now.
"No you're not! You're my minders at best. Friends wouldn't do what you've done this last month. Friends would care – you don't!" Harry didn't look up from the page, he was reading.
"At least now I know why none of you are in Hufflepuff."
Hermione's hand flew to her mouth, but failed to conceal a sob, as she turned and fled the room.
"How can you be such an arsehole, Potter?" Ginny demanded. "We've only done what the Headmaster said to do."
"...Proof positive that you don't care shit about me," Harry interrupted coldly.
"You absolute bastard!" she exploded. "Everything isn't about you and your big head!"
"I'm aware of that. It's patently obvious that everything in this cult of yours revolves around Saint Dumbledore."
A round of gasps and a few outraged splutters greeted this statement.
"I, however, am not a member of your little coven, and the Old Goat has no authority over me out of school. My friends would've realized this, but you all chose to shove your heads up his arse, proving where your loyalties lay."
"You know perfectly well where our loyalties lay, Potter," Ron snarled. "Now look what you did to Hermione..."
"I did nothing to Granger. Evidently little Miss Know-It-All didn't like the truth when she looked at it, Weasley," Harry interrupted again. "I know I wouldn't if I'd done what she has." Another dram went down.
"You blithering idiot!" Ginny hissed. "She likes you, you moron. She's been in a state for the last week, trying to gather up enough courage to ask you out, and then you go and do this to her, just because you're drunk. You've got a lot of making up to do now."
"Why would I want to make anything up to her?" Harry lifted his gaze from the book, genuinely puzzled.
"Are you really delusional enough to think that she'd go out with you now, after what you just said to her?" Ginny sneered. "You'll be lucky if she'll even let you apologize."
"What makes anyone think I'd go out with Granger anyway?" Harry asked. "Even if she'd actually been my friend, the answer would still have been 'no'. I have nothing to apologize for, and no urge to date her. Never had, really.
...And no, I'm not even close to being drunk."
Sirius' jaw dropped. He'd actually been looking forward to seeing Harry and Hermione getting together.
"B-But..." he stuttered. "I... I thought you liked her, Pup?"
"I liked her as a friend, when I thought she was one," was the court answer. "She was my sister, and since I'm not a pureblood, that rules out she and I dating. Well that and my lack of desire to date her."
"She is your friend, Harry. Please think this through, and don't blame your friends for what Dumbledore has done.
I think you and Hermione would be good for each other," Sirius ventured.
"..And I'd like to be allowed to decide that for myself, thank you very much!" Harry snapped. "I've spent enough time thinking about this. I don't blame anyone for anything but their own actions – or lack of, and I don't have any friends but Hedwig, and I sure as Hell don't blame her for anything."
Ginny was torn between groaning and cheering. Groaning because she was sure, she'd have to spend all night consoling Hermione, who'd just seen her dreams go down in flames; and cheering because it left the way to Harry open for her. It never occurred to her that his statements left her on the outside as well, alongside Hermione, Ron, and the Order as a whole.
"Quit being so bloody childish, Potter! Dumbledore only wants you to be safe, and so do we," Ron rallied. "Some way to thank us for that, you arsehole."
"And exactly how is isolating me with those aminals to the point where I considered AK'ing myself something to thank anyone for, Weasley?" Harry was back in monotone. "The only reason I'm not dead yet is this." He lifted the bottle. Looking at it, he seemed to remember what it was, and took a deep swallow.
"Now, I believe I've already asked you people to leave twice. Are you going to leave now, or do I get to make you?" he asked, twirling his wand – which seemed to have appeared out of nowhere – between his fingers.
Startled, people began to leave the room, until only Sirius, Ginny, and Ron were left.
"Get the Hell out! I could've used the company for the last month, but you ignored and isolated me on the Old Goat's orders. Now I want to be alone, and so you won't leave. Are you all under orders from that pathetic has-been to make sure, I only get what I don't want?"
Ron started sneering, but thought better of it and left when Harry lifted his wand. That and his dead eyes told him, he meant business.
Ginny made a derisive snort, and flipped her hair back over her shoulder, but left before Harry could hex her.
Sirius opened his mouth to try to change Harry's mind once more, but before he'd made a sound, Harry silenced him, jumped off the bed, and pulled a note from his trunk. He shoved it into Sirius' hand and hissed: "Read it. Quickly!" before moving to the door to peek down the corridor.
Perplexed, Sirius looked at the note, its outside reading 'read and burn'. With the look of someone who'd just had an epiphany, he opened it.
Padfoot, I know you can't do anything about anything these days, but I have to include you in the 'Saint Dumbledore's Walking Arseholes Club' for now.
I'm not mad at you, but Dumble's crew have to believe I am, so make sure you're suitably depressed when I've been an arse to you.
All will be explained after my hearing.
PS. I've got people working on getting you a trial. It's tough going, as we have to work around Dumble and Fudge, but I believe you'll be a free man before Christmas.
Breaking into a huge smile, he turned to Harry, who quickly made his way to him.
"Depressed, remember?" he mubled, canceled the muting charm, and then continued very loudly: "Get the fuck out of my room, Black, you useless waste of good magic!"
With that, he unceremoniously pushed the older man out of the room, and slammed the door shut rather emphatically. Internally he did a victory dance, praising Iain's Occlumency lessons. They really made acting – not to mention lying through his teeth – a whole lot easier.
With a convincing look of anguish on his face, Sirius took in the gobsmacked expressions of the people further down the corridor. 'No doubt they heard that,' he thought. 'Damn, this is going to be some prank! I'm glad he warned me beforehand, though. That one would've really hurt!'
"He hates me," he whispered into the silence. "He hates us all, but me more than anyone, except perhaps Albus." He looked up at Remus. "We've lost him, Moony. Albus has driven him away from us. How are we going to fix this? How are we going to get him back?"
A lost look was all he got in return.
Dinner that night was a very subdued affair. Most were still struck dumb from what had happened upstairs; Hermione was notably absent; and Molly Weasley was happily informing everybody, that Dumbledore would come by tomorrow morning and sort Harry out, to which Sirius was heard muttering, that it was a very bad idea that wouldn't result in anything but more trouble for everybody, not to mention an even angrier Harry.
Once dinner was over, Ginny went upstairs to the room she shared with Hermione, to find her crying in her bed.
"What's wrong, Hermione?" she asked - with a somewhat fake concern, since she knew perfectly well what was wrong.
"H-Harry ha-hates me," Hermione wailed. "I-I really thought I'd go back to Ho-Hogwarts as his g-girlfriend, and n-now he doesn't even think I'm a f-friend anymore," she hiccuped.
"Yeah," Ginny agreed. "But of course, he hates all of us right now. He called us 'Weasley' and 'Granger' after you left. He even called Sirius 'Black' when he threw him out, shouting that he was a useless waste of magic."
Hermione paled. "No!" she gasped. "I knew he'd be mad at us, but I never thought he'd actually hate us. What did Sirius do?"
"He just looked like someone killed his puppy," Ginny answered, somewhat exasperated. "What do you think, Hermione? He's been so looking forward to finally having Harry staying with him, and he just told him to basically go somewhere and die!" Ginny rolled her eyes at the distraught witch. "He's devastated of course." She began pacing the room. "Mum floo'd the Headmaster. She says he'll be here in the morning to 'sort Harry out'. I'm not sure that's a very good idea, considering he's at the top of Harry's hate-list right now."
"But... But... Harry's always looked up to the Headmaster," Hermione objected. "I'm sure he'll be able to make him see reason."
"Wake up, Hermione!" Ginny snapped. "You heard Harry calling him a bastard before you left, and he continued after you were gone. And with the Tournament, and a Death Eater masquerading as his old friend without him finding out, Dumbledore is not on Harry's list of favourite people these days." She looked thoughtful for a moment.
"...Should be good entertainment, though," she mused, "provided we stay out of the line of fire."
"Ginny!" Hermione was scandalized. "How can you say something like that?"
"Oh, come on, Hermione. This place was depressing enough even before Harry came around and hated everybody. We might as well take all the breaks we can get."
Ginny just giggled, happy to have lightened the mood somewhat.
Unfortunately it wasn't to last.
"Ginny?" Hermione asked in a small voice. "Do you...Do you think I'll ever get to ask him out?" She didn't look very hopeful though.
"Honestly? No... He really hates everybody right now, and he hates you and Ron even more than anybody else – save Dumbledore and maybe Sirius - for keeping him in the dark." Ginny didn't try to sugarcoat it. After all, if she could get Hermione to drop the idea completely and permanently, the road would be open for herself to make an approach. "Sirius said he thought he liked you, but he said he liked you as a friend when he tought you were one – that you used to be his sister, and he wouldn't date you since he's not a pureblood. I'm sorry, Hermione."
The cries of anguish that answered her explanation told Ginny all she needed to know about, just how long the night was going to be.
Harry woke up bright and early the next morning, amazed at what not being in Little Whinging could do for the quality of his sleep. He mentally played back the night before, and found no glaring mistakes. This far the plan looked in good shape overall.
After taking care of his morning business, doing his exercises, and grabbing a shower, he gulped down a nutrient- and an alco-away potion, got dressed, grabbed the almost empty bottle of whiskey, took a pull – to make sure his breath smelled right - and headed downstairs to what would surely just be the first awkward moment of the day.
Sure enough... When Harry entered the kitchen, the noise level went from 'quiet buzz' to 'deafening silence' in record time. Well, at least until Mrs. Weasley spotted the bottle in Harry's hand.
"Harry Potter!" the Banshee screeched. "I told you yesterday that you're not old enough to drink..."
"...And I told you yesterday to keep your nose out of my business," Harry countered flatly. "Except for Hedwig, Ogden's Finest has been the only one to neither threaten, starve, or abandon me this summer, so I'll just stick with that."
A strangled whimper was heard from Sirius, and a gasp from Mr. Weasley. Before the Banshee could get her steam back up, Harry seated himself, grabbed two dry pieces of toast, and started chewing, much to Mrs. Weasley's consternation. She immediately forgot about the whiskey, and went into a rant about 'growing boys' and 'eating enough' as she filled his plate with eggs, bacon, and sausages. Harry just moved his toast to another plate.
"What is this about, Harry?" an annoyed Mrs. Weasley asked, just as a visitor came through the floo.
"According to research, starvation victims shouldn't be given large meals," Harry's voice was as emotionless as ever. "Apparently it's a health hazard when you suddenly fill an unused stomach.. Causes indigestion or some such thing. Thanks for the thought, though..." With that, he poured himself half a cup of tea, which he then reinforced with an equal measure of Firewhiskey.
"Good morning, everyone," a most unwelcome voice greeted behind him. "Ah, Harry..."
"Mr. Potter," Harry stated in monotone.
"Pardon?" Surprise laced the Headmaster's voice.
"You may call me Mr. Potter, Mr. Dumbledore. My friends may call me Harry, and since the only friend I currently have is incapable of human speech, noone can call me that at the moment."
During this, Dumbledore had moved to take a seat across the table from Harry.
"What was that about starvation victims, Har.. Mr. Potter?" he enquired.
"You know perfectly well what I meant, Mr. Dumbledore, but I'm sure that wasn't the conversation you came here to have."
"Very well, Mr. Potter. I've had a report that you were confrontational and childish, and I can see now, that I was wrong not to believe it."
"Oh, so that's what Mrs. Weasley calls it? I assume everybody feel I should be blissfully happy about being isolated with those degenerate animals, you dumped me with?" For the first time, Harry met the Headmaster's gaze.
Dumbledore was momentarily shocked with what he saw – or didn't see - in Harry's dull and expressionless eyes, but quickly gathered himself and launched a Legilimency scan. Less than a second later he winced at the searing pain in his head, as Harry grabbed hold of his probe and violently shredded it.
"Besides it being highly offensive and incredibly rude, you are aware that the use of Legilimency without consent is illegal, aren't you, Mr. Dumbledore?" Harry's voice was cold and dangerous. "Consider yourself lucky, my defenses aren't fully developed yet. Had they been, you would've been a drooling vegetable now." Several breaths were sucked in rather noisily around the kitchen, as Harry rose from his seat. "Now that we've cleared that, I don't believe I have anything else I want to discuss with you. Good day, Mr. Dumbledore."
Harry grabbed his bottle and left without a backwards glance, as Sirius, Remus, and Mr. Weasley all started in on the Headmaster, and Mrs. Weasley just stood there, astonished.
Hidden away in the darkest part of the kitchen, two teenaged girls stared at each other in wide-eyed shock. After a moment, Hermione's lower lip began to quiver.
"What have we done?" she whispered. "What have we done to him?"
"Cor Blimey! You guys really screwed up," Ginny ventured. Hermione just nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks.
The next four days were all spent in the same manner: Harry would practice Occlumency in the mornings, after he'd sent Dobby off with whatever written messages and documents he had that day. After the mind training, he'd do the physical exercises, that would hopefully combine with the nutrient potions he was taking, and negate at least some of the damage done by years of malnutrition at Privet Drive.
In the afternoons, when everybody else battled the House in their attempts to clean it, he would raid the Library, reading everything he could find on Mind Magics, Wizarding Law, and customs of the Wizarding World, while carefully ignoring Hermione's piteous looks, Ginny's alternately puzzled and hopeful expressions, and Ron's angry glares. He didn't speak to anyone, and he didn't react to anyone speaking to him.
What really threw everybody though, was that he would instantly leave any room as soon as Sirius or Mrs. Weasley showed up, no matter what he was doing, best illustrated at lunchtime on his second day in the house, when Sirius came into the kitchen when Harry was making himself some lunch. Harry promptly left, abandoning his half constructed sandwich, not to be seen in the kitchen again that day.
His nights were spent plotting and planning via the phone. His original problem with limited time to talk had been solved when Dobby popped in with a reserve battery from Iain, and took the original one with him for recharging. He'd felt incredibly stupid, not having had that thought himself.
As a result of the plotting, he'd had to inform Sirius that he was about to lose his guardianship. Iain and Albert agreed that Dumbledore would try to pull something at the hearing, and when Harry would reject his counsel, he'd more than likely pull the 'I'm your guardian' card. Since Iain had already discovered that he wasn't, it would inevitably come out that Sirius actually held the job, and with that being unacceptable to the Ministry, Harry would ask for the title to be transferred to Albert Perks, who, as a solicitor and an elected member of the Wizengamot, was more than suitable for the task.
Sirius had been somewhat disappointed, but he understood why it was necessary, and he'd been pleased with the assurance that he'd still be Harry's godfather.
Yeah, the phone had been a definite plus this summer.
Flashback, a few days after arriving at Privet Drive:
"Boy! Get down here!" Vernon Dursley hollered, obviously not happy about having his Saturday afternoon relaxation interrupted.
Coming down the stairs, Harry saw a tall man standing just inside the door, dressed in an expensive muggle suit, and carrying a briefcase.
"Fergus MacRae," he introduced himself in a thick, Scottish brogue. "I'm the solicitor contracted for you by your Godfather, as per your agreement," he continued, presenting a business card with a completely different name on it.
Seeing the name on the card, Harry's face lit up.
"Oh, yes," he said. "I'd all but forgotten about it. Please come this way, sir."
Harry started up the stairs again.
Imagining the guest's reaction to Harry's room, Petunia was quick to offer the use of the dining room.
"..After all there is better space for papers and such on the dining table," she simpered.
Harry valiantly tried to hide his smirk, but it turned into complete shock when Fergus/Iain thanked her, then asked for her and Vernon to join them.
"Thank you, ma'am. It'll be most convenient. Could I ask that you and your husband join us for the first part of this transaction, please?"
"Y-Yes, of course," Petunia answered, somewhat flustered. "What is it about?"
"All will be revealed soon enough, Mrs. Dursley. If you would just join us, we'll get the ball rolling, and I dare say, it'll be worth your while."
Iain first made it clear that despite being a wizard, he was a solicitor in the Muggle world as well as the magical one. He then went on to explain – much to Vernon's displeasure - that Dumbledore had people watching the house 24/7, and that Harry was being kept in the dark at Privet Drive because it suited an old man's manipulations. Next he told them that several people were working to get Harry away from Dumbledore's control, and once they succeeded, he'd be able to leave their home, never to come back again, and they could then get on with their lives, and they could even pretend he'd never existed, if that was what they wanted.
He then stressed that, if anyone asked, 'Fergus MacRae' was the Dursleys' solicitor and investment counsellor. Since he was polyjuiced (Harry's eyebrows shot upwards at this, and both Dursleys were astonished after being told what Polyjuice did), nobody would recognize him, but Harry being in contact with a solicitor would have all Dumbledore's minions arriving in seconds, obliviating people left, right and centre.
"Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, this concludes the main part of this meeting. I only have a couple of minor personal matters to clear with Harry, so if you could give us a few minutes, I'll be off so I'm somewhere else when my transformation wears off."
When Vernon and Petunia had left the room, Iain reached into his briefcase and pulled out a mobile phone.
"This way we can keep in touch if something unexpected happens, or if you just need to talk," he explained. "There are a few numbers already coded in. There's mine of course, and that of my partner, Albert Perks, and then there's one for a certain young lady who said to tell you that if she doesn't hear from you today, she'll hurt you badly next time you meet," he finished with a grin, as Harry's face split in a huge smile.
"Next on the agenda is for you to learn Occlumency. I take it, you've never heard of it," Iain chuckled at Harry's puzzled expression.
"Too right, I haven't," Harry answered. "What is it, and why do I need to learn it?"
"It's the art of obscuring your thoughts, or 'clouding your mind' as the name means. Dumbledore is a master Legilimens – that means he can freely read your surface thoughts, and through eye contact, he can scan your memories, if your mind is unprotected. If your mind is protected, he'll have to use a wand to break in, and then it'll be a battle of wills and power for him to get anything. Albert's daughter – Sally-Anne, she's a Hufflepuff in your year – believes that Snape uses the technique too."
Harry looked more and more incensed as Iain spoke.
"Take it easy, Harry. We can't teach you to completely close your mind in a summer, but there are other possibilities that we can use. You see, the use of Legilimency without consent is actually illegal, and – according to Ancient Law – anything the victim retaliates with is perfectly legal, as long as it doesn't require a wand." Iain mirrored Harry's feral look. "..So what we're going to do, is to get you started with Occlumency today," he passed Harry an ancient looking book, "and then I'll be back sometime next week, to teach you how to detect a mind probe. Once you're able to detect it, it's quite easy to learn how to shred it. Having a probe destroyed causes quite a bit of pain, and once you really get the hang of the technique, you can leave the attacker a drooling idiot. The damage is irreversible, and it's perfectly legal."
Harry's smile had quite a nasty quality to it now. "Great! I think I'm actually going to enjoy reading this summer."
"Now, the last matter isn't quite that easy, Harry. We will need to exchange some documents at one point or another, and I'm positive that Dumbledore's people are screening your owls, so we need another, non interceptable way of doing it. We've thought about using my Elf for deliveries, but it'll only work as long as you're not under hiding-charms of any kind, and I suspect you'll be Fidelius-protected once Dumbledore moves you. If he does..." Iain looked thoughtful for a moment. "If you had an Elf yourself, it would eliminate that problem, since your own Elf would always be able to find you..."
"Give me a couple of days to work something out," Harry interrupted. "I'm on friendly terms with a free Elf, and I'm pretty sure he'll take the job."
"That'll be great, Harry. Call me when you've talked to him – and remember to key him in at Gringott's while you're at it. I've got to go now, or I'll risk transforming in front of your minders.
...And Harry, remember to call her today, or I'll never hear the end of it. And neither will you..."
"I will. Thanks!"
Late in the afternoon, the day before the hearing, Harry was lounging in a chair in the Library with a book and his ever present bottle of Firewhiskey, when he found himself cornered by Hermione, Ginny, and Ron, with Fred and George standing a little back from them.
"Alright, Potter," Ron snarled. "We want to know, what crawled up your arse and died since we left Hogwarts." Harry ignored him, as he had since the night he arrived.
"Why are you acting this way, Harry?" Ginny asked. "What have we ever done to you?" This time Harry actually reacted, but Ginny really wished he hadn't.. He just snorted and looked up at her, his eyes bursting with complete indifference.
"Talk to us, Harry," Hermione pleaded. "We don't deserve this. We're your friends, and all we've done is to try to make sure..."
"No you're not, Granger," Harry interrupted in his most emotionless voice. "You're the Headbastard's toadying little sycophants, and all you've done is help that malicious old goat make my summer absolute hell. Friends wouldn't do that, so I consider it proven, you're no friends of mine. Now piss off and leave me in peace." Harry closed his book, and got out of the chair.
"I need a word with you two," he pointed at the Twins. "I ran into Katie at King's Cross, unfortunately after I spoke to you. If I'd spoken to her before you, I wouldn't have given you what I did," he growled. "You do know, she's spending her summer revising and retaking her OWLs, don't you? All thanks to you two terrorizing her for months!"
"That's not fair!" Fred objected. "Alright, we've played a few pranks on her, but that doesn't make her poor showing our fault."
"A few pranks? That's what you think it is?" Harry looked for the world like he was working up a serious head of steam. "First of all, George, you lousy coward! You broke up with her – on Valentine's Day of all days – and you didn't even have the guts to tell her. You left her a bloody note! A note that she didn't find until after she'd seen you trying to suck Alicia's tonsils out through her teeth." He flashed a disgusted look. "She cried her eyes out over that for a few days." He took a deep breath, looking for the world as if he was trying to calm himself. Ater all, they didn't need to know that half of it was playacting. "Then you both decide to use her as a test subject for your stuff. A few pranks my arse! You hurt and humiliated her at least twice a day for three months! Her OWLs were abysmal because she spent all that time being paranoid thanks to you two pissants, worrying what you'd do to her next. She never got a chance to prepare herself for exams, because you arseholes had her gibbering in terror!" Harry roared.
"Here's the new deal: No testing on anyone who hasn't volunteered. If you don't get enough volunteers – pay better. And Leave. Katie. Alone! She never did anything to deserve what you did to her, and if you touch her again, I'll make you regret it!"
"Oohh, ickle Harrykins is threatening us," Fred grinned.
"Yeah, we're scared to death," George continued.
"You should be," Harry hissed. "I duelled Voldemoron and his minions, and I'm still around..."
Fred and George looked at each other and gulped, all mockery gone.
"Mess with me, and I'll make you wish for Voldemort!" Harry told them flatly, as he turned to leave. "He'll be much kinder than I will."
Ron looked at his brothers with wide eyes, and Ginny moved to console a distraught Hermione, whose sobbing was now the only sound in the room. Things had just gone from really bad to much worse.
Later that evening, after dinner had been eaten (and after Harry had devoured a nice chicken dish - courtesy of Mhairi Perks, delivered by Dobby) there was a knock on Harry's door, and someone – Tonks if his guess was right – asked him to come down to meet someone.
A few minutes later, Harry, clutching his customary bottle, entered the kitchen, his face set in the also customary, expressionless mien. The first sight to greet him was that of a very excited Hermione, fawning over a shiny new Prefect's badge, and sitting close to her were the rest of the resident students, all looking at what he supposed were their Hogwarts letters and booklists. A further sweep around the room revealed only the usual Order members, until his gaze reached the corner farthest from him, where Severus Snape was sat. Harry stiffened, swallowed a dram, turned around... and left the room, never saying a word.
"Potter, get back in here!" Snape bellowed.
"Drop dead, you slimy arsehole!"
The teens' eyes all went wide, and the Twins had to work hard to stiffle their laughs.
Since Snape was rendered momentarily speechless, Mrs. Weasley decided to add fuel to the fire.
"Watch your language, young man! Show your Professor the respect you owe him, and get back in here. Professor Snape has something for you."
"My language is none of your business, Madam, and I don't owe that stinking scumbag any respect at all. He can't possibly be a Professor, seeing as he's absolutely incapable of teaching, and even if he was, this is the Holidays, so right now he's just another smelly bastard with a Dark Mark." Harry took another drink, as if to underline his statement. "The only thing I've learnt from him in four years is, that if your protection is placed highly enough in the system, you can literally get away with murder."
A number of people eyed Snape, none too kindly, and a few growls were heard from the Marauders.
"Regardless of anything his Master says, I'm not going to subject myself to the presence of Dumbledore's greasy Death Eater pet anymore, so I'll just go upstairs again before my evening gets any more depressing than it already is.
With that, Harry ascended the stairs, and everybody in the kitchen turned to look at an apoplectic Snape.
Well back in his room, Harry grabbed his phone and made a call.
"Mhairi Perks speaking."
"Hi Mhairi, it's Harry. Thanks for dinner. You've got to teach me how to make that."
"We'll see, Harry. I don't think you called just for that. Do you want me to get Albert or Sally?"
"No, you'll do just fine, Mhairi. I just wanted to confirm that everything is set for tomorrow. Dumbledore just sent his greasy pet to hand deliver Hogwarts letters to everybody here, and since it's a bit early for that, I assume he's trying some kind of manipulation again. Granger is Prefect, but I left the greasy one hanging, so I didn't get my letter. I think a fair bet is, I'll get the other one, though."
"That would make sense. You are close enough to Longbottom academically, and you're much more of a leader - not to mention much better known - so he'll have no trouble defending his choice. And of course it would get Granger closer to you, so he'd still have a source of at least some information. Five Galleons say, you'll be assigned patrols with her only.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I don't really know yet. For some reason we never planned for this, but I guess I've got at least two roads open. Either take it and use Granger to plant whatever misinformation we might need planted, or send it back with a simple 'no thanks', to sow some confusion. I guess I'll talk to Iain and Albert about it tomorrow night."
"Heh.. You could do that, but I'm pretty sure that a certain young lady has other plans for you tomorrow."
"Oh, yeah... Right.. The day after, then.
Is everything ready for the hearing?"
"It's ready, Harry. Don't worry about it.
Albert will be in very early. He heard something today about Fudge being up to no good, but he'll be there to head it off, and I'll be running interference and errands. Iain is ready to pop to Little Whinging at a moment's notice, and the girls will be here to meet Sirius, and to get him polished up and sent on to Iain and Eliza's place, if we get the chance to break him free tomorrow. Just make sure you've got your phone open in the morning, if something comes up, and you'll be fine."
"Right, I can do that.
Thanks for doing this, Mhairi, and thank the Gang from me, will you?
I'll go give Sirius a heads up."
"You do that Harry. We'll see you tomorrow."
A quick disillusionment charm – the first charm he had read up on after arriving, having experienced its usefulness first hand – along with his cloak, and Harry was good to sneak around to Sirius' room with a message, basically ordering him to pack and shrink his most prized belongings, and to be ready to get out of the house with very little notice.
After returning to his room, he busied himself with packing is trunk, leaving behind the rags from the Dursleys. That done, Dobby was instructed to pick up the trunk as soon as Iain popped to Little Whinging.
Once all was taken care of, he drained what was left in the last bottle of whiskey, ironically as a sleeping aid this time, and dropped onto the bed.