Posted: 9 November, 2009
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story that is recognisable from the Harry Potter books, movies, etc. Everything else however (eg. story plot, original characters, etc.) stems from my own imagination and belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended and I am not profiting financially from this story in any way.
Author's Notes: This story stemmed for a self-challenge: I wanted to see if I could write a romance fic. I've never written much in the romance genre before, so I was and still am worried that it will just come off sounding awkward and contrived, but… well I gave it a go, and this is it. Good, decent, crap? Let me know what you think.
Oh, and the title? I figured since I was giving this romance thing a go, borrowing the title from some love poetry was not out of order. It's a poem by Judith Pordon which I quite like, even if it has no particular relevance to the story but for the romance thing. Please forgive my lack of creativity and originality.
Chapter 1 - Initiative
Wednesday, July 31, 1996
From the moment he left Kings Cross with his family, a haze of grief had descended upon Harry once more. This time, it was not one of anger at the fates, nor desperation to see his godfather again. No, this time it was a cold and brittle numbness. There was a hollow ache inside him now, whenever he thought of Sirius, and the world felt dull and grey.
The only relief Harry felt from his state of apathy was when he would find himself suddenly sobbing into his pillow, face pressed in tightly so that nobody could hear. Sometimes, when he could cry no more, his tears continued still. Slow and silent, they traced down an expression unmoved.
It was more than a month later when Harry finally began to emerge from his depression. He had spent the thirty-first of July (his birthday), ignoring the gifts received by owl, and instead dwelling in the knowledge that there was one person he would never receive a gift from again.
As evening fell however, and he stared out his window at the night sky thinking on the better times with Sirius, he spotted his reflection in the glass and gave a start. He was smiling. True, it was a small smile, all tentative and fragile edges. But, it was a smile nonetheless.
His emotions began doing a rollercoaster. Guilt at smiling, happiness that he could, anger that he was happy… For a teenager who had spent so many weeks now feeling little more than nothingness and grief, the sudden flood of returning emotions was overwhelming.
Through his turmoil, he had staggered over to his bed and collapsed there, sitting on the edge and burying his face into the palms of his hands. Taking deep breaths to get a hold of himself he looked about, as if for the first time that summer, and was less than pleased by what he saw.
His room was a mess. Everything lay where it had been left when he arrived. And, with the exceptions of his trunk (which was opened and closed when retrieving clothing from within, whenever Aunt Petunia forced him to shower and change), his bed (where he had spent most of his time laying listlessly), and the bright presents on his dresser (which were newly arrived) everything had a fine layer of dust over it. Had he really been such a zombie for the past weeks?
The answer was of course obvious. Yes, he had. And he felt guilty again. Not this time for smiling, but rather for wasting so much time. If the events at end of term should have taught him anything, it was that he was unprepared. And with the prophecy stating that everyone was depending on him, unprepared was something he couldn't afford to be. He needed to pull himself together.
Determination filling him, he stood abruptly. Resolve etched into his features, he pondered what to do first. The answer came to him in a most unpleasant manner. The combination of his new self awareness, and recent abrupt movements, brought to his notice the fact that both the room and he himself smelled absolutely foul. He tried to think back to his last shower he'd taken. It was a while ago, so he suspected his aunt had simply grown tired of bothering with him.
Wrinkling his nose he grabbed some clothes from his trunk. Then, after pushing open his window and leaving his door wide so that air could circulate, he headed for the bathroom. There, he spent a good forty minutes scrubbing his self clean, washing his hair, and brushing his teeth. Dressed in clean clothes, he then marched downstairs to the living room where his family was eating dinner.
The squeaks of surprise and strange expressions ranging from shock to nervousness were rather amusing. The first was easily explainable, since this was the first time he had emerged willingly from his room since arriving. The nervousness though took him a moment to explain. Then he remembered the rather dramatic send-off the Order members had given him at Kings Cross, and the intimidating warnings they had issued with regard to his treatment. He stifled a smile at the memory.
"Hello," he greeted neutrally.
His long unused voice came out scratchy and hoarse. He stepped out to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water at the sink. Returning to the living room, he took a sip and cleared his throat before trying again.
"Hello," he said, more clearly this time. "I was hoping to get some dinner."
Dudley stared at him nervously, Vernon looked suspicious and Petunia pursed her lips.
"There's a tray on the bench in the kitchen. I was going to bring it up to you after, like I have been all summer," his aunt informed him stiffly. "Not, that you have shown any appreciation for that. You've barely been touching any of the food I bring you."
Harry stared at her in for a moment. Was that concern he could hear in her voice? No, surely not. Dismissing the thought as ridiculous, he nodded and left for the kitchen. There, he fetched his tray from the counter and headed upstairs. Entering his room he took a deep breath. It was a bit dusty still, but the stale scent that had permeated the air earlier had blessedly faded.
Sitting at his desk, he took a bite of his dinner – a generous serving of roast chicken and vegetables. The moment the food touched his tongue he realised he was ravenous. Very quickly the entire meal was gone, along with the glass of water. He popped back downstairs requesting more, and after giving him an assessing look Aunt Petunia filled his tray back up.
Back in his room, slowly working his way through his second meal, Harry took the opportunity to finally open the gifts that had arrived just after midnight that morning.
From Ron he had received a box of Honeydukes chocolates, and from Hermione, a heavy book entitled Everything You Need To Know About The NEWTs. Hagrid had sent him a card, and a tin of toffees. Mrs Weasley had, unsurprisingly, also sent food; a jar of chocolate chip biscuits. The twins – according to their card – had sent a selection of items from their joke shop with stern instructions to have fun and cause chaos.
Next up, there were gifts from Ginny, Neville and Luna. A book on defence; a seedpod for a plant that, when mature and prompted to grown around a doorframe, could paralyse home invaders; and an empty box which apparently contained a Snormiggler (an invisible creature which ate sadness), were received from each of the three respectively. Additionally, several of the other DA members had sent him cards or short letters wishing him a happy day.
Finished with the presents, he next moved on to the small mountain of letters he had received but never read. He opened one with bright green lettering first. It turned out to be from Dumbledore.
I fear I write with unpleasant news. Due to the state of the world at present, I believe it would be best that you remain safely at Privet Drive for the remainder of your holidays.
Please do not, however, think that I have been deaf to your discontent at being 'locked up' at the Dursley home. In exchange for your prolonged stay, I have been able to adjust the wards to extend much further than simply the house. Most of your local neighbourhood, including the park is now secure, so feel free to wander.
Also, should you but request it, I would be more than willing to speak to Mrs Weasley to arrange for your friends to visit you sometimes. Perhaps even often. I am sure they would be amenable.
As I had promised, I will no longer be keeping secrets from you. Along that vein, I will freely say that you have one Order member guarding you at all times. Also, they have been asked to answer any questions you pose about the war effort freely and honestly, since I cannot in good conscience risk writing all such information in a letter.
Lastly, I give you my deepest sympathies once again for the loss of your godfather. I am sure you care not to hear this just now, but when you are ready his affairs must be seen to. I believe that you are the primary beneficiary of his will.
If you would prefer, I can attend the reading in your stead and inform you of the details at a later date. Please let me know your preference.
Your most humble servant,
Setting the letter aside slowly, he considered the contents. He was a little annoyed that he had to stay here all break, but understood Dumbledore's reasoning. Additionally, the extension of the ward lines and the offers of visitors were wonderful compensation (though honestly, he wasn't in any state to enjoy taking advantage the latter at this time). He was very grateful too that the headmaster was keeping to his promise of no secrets as best as he could.
Then there was the subject of the will reading. He didn't want Sirius's money, but perhaps there might be other trinkets and mementos of his godfather's that he might like to have. Tears prickling his eyes, he turned to the rest of the correspondences.
There were several letters from Ron and Hermione, both of whom were staying at the Burrow. These letters grew increasingly worried as time had passed without response. Another one, from Ginny, expressed that he had better start replying to his best friends soon, because if he didn't put an end to their annoying worrying he was risking a Bat-Bogey Hex.
A rather surprising invitation from Neville was unearthed from the pile next. It asked whether he would care to spend some time at the Longbottom home during the holidays. And finally, there was an oddly disjointed letter from Luna who was in Sweden with her father. They had yet to locate the Crumple Horned Snorkack, but remained hopeful. He smiled at this last letter, before fetching ink and parchment from his trunk to write some hopefully reassuring responses.
Sorry, for not writing sooner. I've been in a bit of a state. Don't worry though, I'm feeling better now – or at least a well as can be expected.
Thanks for the chocolates, I'm sure I'll enjoy them. Also, can you say thank you to you mum from me for the biscuits.
Did you see what Hermione got me? A hugely thick book about NEWTs. Can you believe she's worrying about them already? But that's Hermione for you.
I assure you that I'm not in trouble, so please stop worrying. I'm sorry for not replying but I've not felt up to it till now.
Thank you for the book. It looks very useful, though I expect by the time I manage to read it all, NEWTs will have come and gone. I'm joking! Seriously though, it looks very… detailed.
If I don't write to you after this, please don't start worrying again. I have it on good authority that a certain someone will be Bat-Bogey Hexing me if you do.
I've replied, I've replied! That means there's no need to resort to painful and unpleasant curses.
I received your gift. It looks very interesting, and I'm sure I'll get plenty of use from it. Thank you.
I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner. With everything that happened, and losing Sirius, I've not been up to doing much of anything.
Thank you for the invitation to stay at your house over the holidays. If Dumbledore hadn't decided I should stay here behind the wards all summer I would definitely agreed. As it is though, I won't even be spending time at Ron's house this break.
Thanks as well for the gift. You'll have to give me some pointers about how to grow this plant when I see you next. It sounds rather interesting.
Thank you for the birthday present. I couldn't actually see it (unsurprisingly since you said it's invisible), but since receiving it this morning I have been feeling a lot better. I think it might have actually worked.
I'm sorry you haven't found your Crumple Horned Snorkack yet, and hope you do soon.
P.S. In response to your questions, my favourite socks are dark blue, and no I have never felt the need to brew an earwax soup. Now, why exactly did you need to know that?
Fred and George,
I've received your gift, but to be frank am a bit afraid to open it just yet. Think I'll wait till I'm back at Hogwarts. At least then Madam Pomfrey will be on hand to reverse any pranks you might have set on the box.
I'll try my best to put the contents to use. I'm sure Ron and I could have some fun with it, so long as Hermione doesn't find out. She's a bit scary when she gets mad.
Thanks for the toffees. I've not had a chance to try any yet but I'm sure they'll be great.
I hope you and Grawp are doing well.
Sealing each of the letters in an individual envelope, he gave Hedwig instructions and then sent her on her way. The owl gave an approving hoot and took off, seeming glad that he was doing better and also appreciative of something to do.
Forking the last of the peas off his plate, Harry then pushed his chair back and got to his feet. He had something else important to do tonight. Heading downstairs he passed the living room, ignoring the glances from the Dursley who were now watching television, and headed for the front door. Stepping outside, he shut it behind him and looked about.
"Hello?" he called quietly, wandering down towards the sidewal. "I'd like to speak to my Order guard."
A tug on his sleeve from an invisible hand led him around the side of the house where they wouldn't be seen or overheard. Then, with a swishing of material, an invisibility cloak was pushed aside to reveal a redheaded man with a fang earring and long hair, worn in a ponytail.
"Hi Bill," he greeted the man, who looked as cool as ever.
"Hello Harry. How've you been?"
Judging by the concerned look in the man's eye, he suspected his efforts to keep his grief private had failed. He wondered if the entire Order knew that he'd been a wreck all holidays, and shifted uncomfortably.
"Good," he said but received a sceptical look in return, and so admitted, "Well, not good. But I'm feeling a lot better now."
"You look it." The redhead nodded, scanning him assessing. "But I hope for your sake you put some weight on before my mother sees you next. She'll see you're too skinny."
Harry winced. He knew he he'd not been eating well but hadn't realised it was physically obvious. He could already imagine the suffocating fussing Mrs Weasley would subject him too if she saw him looking 'underfed'. He loved her and all, but Ron's mum was a bit much sometimes.
"Yeah," he hastily agreed. "I'll have to do something about that."
"Good. Now, what did you want to speak to me about? Your guards are under orders from Dumbledore himself that we tell you everything you want to know." Bill gave him a curious look. "Impressive that. How did you manage it?"
Harry's expression darkened. "Let's just say that if he had told me what and where you were all guarding last year, things at the end of term might have gone differently."
Wisely, Bill simply nodded. The younger man bit his lip and took a deep breath. He was here to get something done, not to sink back into depression.
"I need you to take a message to Dumbledore for me."
"Too important to risk with owl mail?" Bill asked and he nodded. "What do you need me to tell him then?"
"Can you tell him I want training?"
"Training?" the Weasley son asked, raising an eyebrow. "What for? And what in specifically?"
"I don't know," he answered only the second question, brow furrowing. "Duelling, defence… anything that might be helpful."
"Helpful with…?" Bill fished, but Harry shook his head.
"He'll know what I mean. Just, tell him it's important. And that I want to start within a week. And if he can't help me…" His expression darkened at the though that Dumbledore might continue to hold him back, but then cleared as he assured himself things had changed. "Well, I'll find training from someone else, regardless of the risk. But I don't think that'll be a problem."
"Right…" the elder man trailed off.
Before more could be said between them, a popping sound was heard out on the street. Stepping defensively in front of Harry, who threw him an annoyed glance at the action, Bill raised his wand and cast as spell. The sound of an owl hooting a pattern – three times, then twice, then three times again – sounded out. There was a pause before another series of hoots – again, three times, twice, then three times – sounded out from where the Apparition noise had originated. Bill relaxed.
"It's Diggle. He's on guard duty starting now, which mean's I'm off."
"Right," said Harry, dragging his attention way from the seemingly empty street, and thinking to ask, "Hey, before you go, how'd the both of you manage to have invisibility cloaks anyway? I thought they were really rare."
"Oh, they are. But the Order has managed to get hold of a few. Moody probably owns more than the whole Order combined but he's a bit paranoid about lending more than one or two out at a time."
The redhead held a hand out, and the brunette reciprocated.
"I've got to go, but I'll get your message to Dumbledore right away," he said, shaking the teen's hand. "Nice seeing you again."
"Yeah, you too," Harry nodded, then something occurred to him. "Oh, and could you also tell Dumbledore for me that I'd like to take him up on the offer to look after S-sirius," his voice wavered, but he continued, "Sirius's affairs."
"Sure." Bill nodded.
His hand was released. Then Bill then re-donned his invisibility cloak and, with a 'pop', Disapparated away.
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