Title: Congenital Magnetism
Author: Ascyltus
Completed: Yes
Summary: At the end of his fifth year, Harry displays his effortless knack for landing himself in problematic situations. Luckily, Harry begins to develop some unusual abilities that he has inherited by virtue of being one-quarter Veela. Only Draco Malfoy seems to be immune to Harry's newly found powers.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Chapter 1: Voldemort's Curse

At the end of Harry Potter's fifth year at Hogwarts, on a cloudless day in June, the wizarding world found it necessary to revise their saintly image of Harry. He would always prove himself to be saintly insofar as he was good-hearted, but events forced everyone to see Harry as he was, not as they imagined him. For a long time to come, Harry's thoughts would return to this splendid day in June and the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, for here had been his transgression against conventional mores; here, his lurid scene.

The first week of June, exam week, had arrived. It was close to sunrise, and Harry was still slumbering away. An extra hour or so of sleep would be grand, considering how grueling exam week could be, but someone rudely dragged him out of sleep. Ron was shaking Harry until he finally had him awake.

"Harry, get your Quidditch uniform on. I was just down by the pitch, and Roger Davies and a few of the others on the Ravenclaw team are keen for a bit of practice."

Harry smiled at Ron's enthusiasm. "What time is it? Isn't it a little early?"

Ron was laughing now. "All right, so it's five o'clock, but we won't have many more chances to play before summer vac begins. Come on, Harry." Ron was pushing Harry out of bed now. "It'll be fun."

Fun? Afterwards, when Harry reviewed the events of that day in June, he would come to consider Ron's prediction ironic at best. How much fun could Harry have in watching his honored place in the wizarding world shaken by scandal? Hogwarts, after all, had its social conventions just the same as the Muggle world. Harry was expected to start dating girls, although his fiasco with Cho Chang during the past year was hardly an auspicious beginning. But this might have been only an initial bump in the road were it not for the time bomb of erotic awareness that lay at the very heart of Harry's nature. The sensuality that had been sneaking up on Harry unawares had begun to make itself known in spades.

All year long, Harry had stolen glances at Kyle Urquhart, a tall sixth-year Slytherin boy who was all muscles and confident grins. Harry knew the Slytherin Quidditch team was trying to recruit Urquhart, perhaps even ask him to captain their team next year, and Harry let his eyes linger over those broad shoulders. Appallingly, Harry sometimes even found himself checking out his longtime rival—and all-around evil git—Draco Malfoy. Ever since Voldemort's return at the end of his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry had developed the habit of obsessively tracking Draco's movements, mindful of the possibility that Draco or his father, Lucius, was becoming involved in Death Eater activity. Harry couldn't help but note that Draco had himself developed an iron-hard athletic body, and this presented the possibility of extremely awkward situations.

Then Harry's disquieting misadventure exploded in front of the whole world. He might have lost the sympathy of many had it not been for a secret advantage his mother's family had bequeathed to Harry, something that would become manifest after his sixteenth birthday. This ancestral characteristic, passed down to Harry from the Evans family bloodline, would offer testament to the wizarding world that we are all of us—even the most straight-laced among us—subject to the weaknesses of the flesh to one extent or another. Regarding the male students at Hogwarts, the power of Harry's inherited brilliance would make itself known in a rather straightforward fashion. The effect of Harry's inborn talents on the female students would be best summed up by Hermione Granger's candid assessment: "Harry, those goddamn little colorful glitter things keep shooting off your body, and it's driving me nutters."

And so to Harry's fledgling voyage into the carnal unknown. The sun had not yet broken the horizon, and Harry was hurriedly awakened by his best mate, Ron, for one last Quidditch practice before they left Hogwarts for summer vac. The events of that day unfolded with the inevitability of a divinely preordained plan; Harry would later conclude that the gods had a perverse sense of humor.

"So we're going to have a go with Davies and some of the Ravenclaw players," Ron was saying. "It'll just be some flying practice, and maybe we'll try to score a few goals. Then we can come back for breakfast. I think the Ravenclaw players are going to stay on the pitch after that because Davies said they want to have a practice with some of the Slytherin players after we leave." A look of distaste crossed Ron's face. "We don't need to stick around to see that lot."

The feel of the wind beating against his face had Harry fully awake the instant he was up in the air, but beyond that, he had a strange premonition of adventure. Perhaps half an hour passed, and Roger Davies signaled for the practice to stop. Everyone landed back on the ground.

"A few of the Slytherin players are supposed to show up any time now to have a go with my players," Davies said to Harry and Ron, "but you're welcome to stay and watch."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Malfoy will be with them, no doubt."

"Actually, no. Malfoy wanted to sleep in. Just a couple of their Chasers are showing up. Oh, and Kyle Urquhart. They finally managed to recruit him for the Slytherin team. They've been trying to talk him into it all year, and he's agreed to start in September. Of course, Montague won't be here. He's still laid up in the hospital wing."

"Urquhart?" Harry asked, his curiosity getting the better of him. "I've heard a few people say that he might be Slytherin captain next year. All, right. Maybe I'll stay, just to see what kind of player I'll be up against."

Ron shrugged. "I'll pass. See you at breakfast then." Harry watched as Ron made his way back to the castle.

Harry's thoughts turned back to Kyle Urquhart. He was a year older than Harry and would be starting his seventh year in September. An image of the boy appeared, though he hardly seemed like a boy anymore. He was tall, considerably taller than Harry, with brown hair, dark eyes, very broad shoulders and muscles big enough to strain the cloth of his Quidditch uniform. During the past year, Harry had often watched him out of the corner of his eye, taking care that Urquhart didn't notice. Some dawning carnal awareness had focused Harry's vision on the student that the Slytherin Quidditch team had been trying to recruit. As Harry formed a picture in his mind, he saw Urquhart with his sleeves rolled up, revealing hairy forearms. Harry had wondered if Urquhart had corresponding chest hair, and sure enough, a patch of hair poked out just above the top button of his shirt.

Harry was lost in his thoughts when he felt two big hands fall down heavily on his shoulders and heard someone who simply had to be reading his thoughts growl, "So. Little Harry wants to watch." Harry fairly jumped out of his skin as he turned around to see Kyle Urquhart with an irreverent smile on his face.

Harry's attempts to compose himself were only partially successful, and he stumbled over a reply. "Yeah, well… I'm just interested in watching different Quidditch strategies… I mean, er, techniques."

Urquhart had a low, wicked laugh that bespoke someone who considered nothing sacred. "From what I could tell, over the past year you've been interested in watching me."

But Harry had thought Urquhart didn't know that. Shit. Had he really seen Harry watching him? Urquhart had been dating some pretty Ravenclaw girl with red hair all year long, right? So even if he saw Harry steal a glance, why wouldn't he just ignore it? But Urquhart hadn't ignored it.

"Stick around until after we're done practicing, and you tell me what you think," Urquhart said, smiling. He gave Harry a brutal slap on the back that propelled the smaller boy forward a foot. Urquhart winked at Harry, still smiling, and then mounted his broom and flew off to begin practice with Davies and the other Ravenclaw and Slytherin players.

From what Harry saw, Urquhart would be a formidable opponent in any game, although at least he played a different position than Harry. Urquhart would be a Chaser, not a Seeker, during the coming season, so Harry only had to worry about beating Draco to the Snitch. Harry watched as the practice ended and the players headed back to the castle.

Before Harry could join them, Urquhart stopped him. "So what did you think?"

"We could talk on the way back, couldn't we?" Harry suggested.

"No, I want your honest opinion, and I don't want the others around to hear. Let them go without us," Urquhart said, pointing to Roger Davies and the other players, who were walking back toward the castle. "Come on with me, back to the locker room. We've got the place to ourselves."

Harry allowed himself to be led back to the locker room and, once there, Urquhart grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him up against the wall. Incongruously, Urquhart had a gentle, delighted smile on his face.

"Come on, Harry. I've seen you watching me this year when you thought I wasn't noticing."

Harry was unable to do much else other than gaze up at Urquhart and offer an honest reply. "Maybe a couple times, I guess," Harry said.

Then Urquhart had one hand under Harry's shirt, twisting his nipple, and another hand squeezing Harry's bum, and something that had been percolating in Harry's brain over the last year kicked in.

Meanwhile, Roger Davies and the other players had been making their leisurely way back to the castle when Davies came to an abrupt stop. "Wait. We only have the uniforms we were using today."

One of the other players looked at Davies and asked, "So what?"

"I forgot to get next year's uniforms. They're still in a package in the locker room. We have to at least bring them back to the castle and lock them up in a safe place. We can't just leave them in the locker room all summer long."

"How about the uniforms for Slytherin? Are they back there too?" one of the Slytherin players asked.

"Yeah, the uniforms for Ravenclaw and Slytherin," Davies said. "I was responsible for getting the uniforms for Ravenclaw. Urquhart is responsible for getting the uniforms for Slytherin since he's going to captain the team next year, but he probably doesn't even know that. The Gryffindor and Hufflepuff teams already locked up their uniforms in their common rooms last week. I've got to go back."

Another Ravenclaw player said, "We don't have anything else to do right now. We'll go back with you."

So the group of players turned around and walked back toward the pitch. Approaching the locker room, the first thing Davies and the others heard was Harry's vocal moaning. Then the moaning stopped short. What came next from Harry was a startled cry.

"What was that? !"

Now they heard Urquhart's low, menacing laugh as he asked, "What was what?"

"You changed the angle. Do that again." After a few seconds pause, all and sundry were treated to the wild, ecstatic cries of pleasure that now issued forth from Harry.

"Hey, Harry. I take it this angle really does it for you, eh?" Urquhart's voice was strained grunting at this point.

The other players, who were now just outside the locker room, looked at each other in astonishment while Davies silently mouthed the words "what the fuck?" Drawn by an irresistible mix of curiosity and growing wonder, the group of Quidditch players crept around the barrier that separated them from the main area of the locker room to be greeted by the sight of Urquhart shagging Harry into next week. The last thing they heard was Harry, overcome by rapture, moaning Urquhart's given name. This was shortly before Harry Potter and Kyle Urquhart realized that they had company.

* º * º *

When Harry walked into the Great Hall for dinner, he trailed behind a group of students, hoping to use them for cover, while he sneaked a furtive glance at the Ravenclaw and Slytherin tables. No one had seen him yet. He eased himself into his own seat at the Gryffindor table, his body tense as the spring on a mousetrap. From the Gryffindor table, he kept a discreet but steady eye on the Ravenclaw and Slytherin tables. He could detect nothing unusual in the demeanor of the female students; none of them showed any unusual compulsion to glance at the Gryffindor table. But Roger Davies and a few of the other boys on the Ravenclaw and Slytherin Quidditch teams slid their eyes in Harry's direction through the entire dinner, with knowing grins plastered all over their faces. A sense of inescapable doom descended upon Harry.

* º * º *

That evening, Harry pushed all thoughts of his unexpectedly public rendezvous with Urquhart out of his mind and focused on getting to sleep early in preparation for yet more exams the following day. There were plenty of other students who outshone him academically, most notably his friend, Hermione, and his perennial thorn-in-the-side, Draco Malfoy, but maybe if he could get a good sound sleep…

But a good night's rest was not in the cards. Harry lay in his bed in Gryffindor tower, the sheets damp with sweat. "The Dream" was back again, courtesy of a certain Dark Lord. The same frigging recurring dream that kept coming back and back, and just would not quit. The dream had plagued Harry off and on from his first year at Hogwarts, but always bedeviled him with particular frequency and intensity during the first week of June.

It was only too obvious why Voldemort would choose this time of year to make Harry miserable. The first week of June was when Hogwarts students were cramming for exam week. It made perfect sense. Harry simply knew the evil bastard was making his life—and his sleep schedule—as difficult as possible just when students needed to be immersed in preparation for exams. Voldemort was so predictably vile. But this time, the recurring dream had a horrendous new twist: Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley made their debut. And so the dream began as it always did…

Harry is in a vast ballroom with marble floors; Doric columns and richly ornamented arches grace the periphery of the huge room. Against one wall is a jukebox with multi-colored lights flashing, but no music playing yet. And there stands Voldemort with his wand pointed at Harry, ready to hurl some sadistic spell at him, no doubt.

Voldemort sneers at Harry and begins to taunt him. "Think I won't throw a Cruciatus Curse at you just for fun? Think again."

Voldemort keeps his wand trained on Harry, and then a serpentine shape covered with pink feathers strikes the Dark Lord. Voldemort falls to the ground cursing and muttering.

"How can a feather boa have that much force?" Voldemort cries in pain. "It feels like there's a heavy metal chain inside."

Aunt Petunia, she of the pink feather boa, strides onto the middle of the dance floor, and her physical appearance is shocking. She looks as though she's spent the last two years at a beauty spa. Her body is sheathed in a tight gown that reveals a perfectly toned body, and her face is firm and unlined. Aunt Petunia is in her late 30s, but she looks like a movie star in her prime.

The last time Harry saw Aunt Petunia was during Christmas hols, and she did look like she was embarking on some sort of beauty/exercise routine.

Now, Voldemort hoists himself back on his feet. "Saucy wench! This is my show! You dare to upstage the Dark Lord?"

Aunt Petunia whacks him with her chain-reinforced feather boa, and it sends Voldemort flying toward the wall and crashing unceremoniously into the jukebox. A host of Death Eaters dressed in a very festive manner now enters the ballroom. All of them, particularly the men, are utterly captivated by Aunt Petunia.

"My fans!" she exclaims.

Some of the men in the throng of Death Eaters shout inane compliments like "Goddess!" or "She is the very image of Venus!" Aunt Petunia proceeds to sign autographs, and then sweeps out of the ballroom as many among the Death Eaters pull out cameras and take photographs.

Voldemort, pulling himself together, reclaims the center of the ballroom and is about to address his Death Eater minions when Dudley Dursley bounds into the ballroom and gives Voldemort a swift kick in the stomach, sending him crashing into the jukebox for a second time.

Harry is flabbergasted at this point. Fat, sloppy Dudley is neither fat nor sloppy. He has the body of a Greek god. He's almost 16 years old, the same age as Harry, but he's absolutely buff—muscles and then some. Harry is thinking back to Christmas hols, the last time he saw Dudley. Well, Dudley might have been trying to lose a little weight, but this was crazy. If it were possible to find any escape from this dream, Harry would have, but no such luck.

The Death Eaters now begin to applaud, and some of the men are slapping Dudley on the back and shaking his hand, going out of their way to show their affection and admiration. Voldemort has had quite enough by this stage and launches himself toward Harry, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him off to the side. He glares at Harry, furious.

"Will you get your stupid Muggle relations the hell out of here!" Voldemort's face contorts in utmost anguish. "THEY ARE EMBARRASSING ME IN FRONT OF MY FRIENDS!"

Harry frees himself from Voldemort, walks over to Dudley and asks him to leave. Dudley complies reluctantly, but still manages to pose for everything he's worth on his way out as the Death Eaters take photographs.

Voldemort, now livid, reaches for his wand, but not before Harry has a chance to point his own wand at the Dark Lord and cast a spell. Voldemort freezes, then puts a coin in the jukebox, choosing a polka selection, and begins singing and dancing in time with the music.

"And a one and a two and a… oobedee oop de oop de oobie… Aaaaah! Damn that Potter brat!" Voldemort screams, freeing himself from Harry's spell with some difficulty and stopping the music with a quickly muttered counterspell. "If only I weren't subject to his magical powers! If only…"

Dudley's voice breaks in: "Bucha are, Voldie. Ya are."

Voldemort whips his head around as he realizes that Dudley is still lingering by the door. "Get out!"

Finally rid of Dudley and Aunt Petunia, Voldemort gathers his wits and launches his final curse. "All right, Potter. We'll see who has the last laugh." With a flourish, he produces a nasty looking parchment. "That's right, Potter. This isn't a spell. It's a curse—an instructional curse, to be exact. I get to give you your instructions, you little twit."

He aims his wand at Harry while reading from the parchment. "All right, Boy Who Lived to Be a Self-Righteous Prig. Your instructions are to comport yourself in a thoroughly uptight manner. You will see the world through the warped lens of social convention and ridiculous preconceptions, and make yourself miserable in the process. In brief, you will throw away happiness with both hands."

He rolls up and pockets the parchment. "And now that I've freed myself from that last spell of yours, I get to pick any music I damn well please!" And with that, Voldemort feeds another coin into the jukebox. Conga music begins. Voldemort becomes the head of a giant conga line of dancing Death Eaters, and the conga line rhythmically snakes out of the auditorium, leaving poor Harry utterly alone.

Then the dream snapped to the railway station, the way Harry knew it would, the way it always did. Why couldn't the dream just end there and let Harry chalk it up to Voldemort's sick sense of humor. Why did the dream always continue… to the railway station… the part of the dream without Voldemort… the really bad part? The all-too-familiar scene played itself over again as Harry slept on.

Harry's worn suitcase, the one he always took with him when he left the Dursleys' at the beginning of the school year, is there on the railway station platform. Standing next to the suitcase is the little boy that Harry knows to be himself when he was in first year at Hogwarts.

Harry even remembered when this really happened. He remembered every detail of the incident with perfect clarity. At the end of first year, he had already boarded the Hogwarts Express going back to London when Hermione reminded him that he'd forgotten his suitcase. He had hurried back to the platform to get it before the train left. He remembered standing there on the platform a few seconds, next to his suitcase, thinking about how much he hated the idea of going back to the Dursleys'. But he wasn't crying; he was only thinking. And yet, in his dream…

The little boy that has to be Harry is crying, sobbing uncontrollably—absolutely heartbroken—but his face is hidden under his hood.

And that's how the dream always ended. It was frustrating too that he could never see the face under the hood. Harry wished he could at least see the messy black hair that he knew was underneath the hood. At least then he would feel some kind of satisfaction, seeing his eleven-year-old self, crying, going back to his miserable life at the Dursleys'.

Whenever Harry woke up from this dream, he felt awful. What was so mysterious was that he always woke up with the nagging feeling that he had done something terribly wrong to cause this. But that was crazy. It was the Dursleys who had made him suffer. He hadn't created his own misery. Harry truly hated this recurring dream because it always left him with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and guilt and bitter regret, and it really bugged the hell out of him.

When the morning sun slanted down on him, drawing him out of sleep, Harry found the dream as disturbing as it had always been. Voldemort. He could imagine the bastard laughing his ass off, thinking the scenario very amusing. Harry didn't find Voldemort's invasion of his mind the least bit humorous. But he couldn't dwell on this one stupid Voldemort-generated dream. There was too much happening in real life that demanded attention. This was, after all, the first week of June. Exam week at Hogwarts. Harry was at least thankful that he didn't have to endure Potions class partnered with Draco Malfoy. Professor Snape seemed to take sadistic delight in partnering the two of them, knowing full well that Draco's expertise in Potions was far superior to Harry's. Did Malfoy have to pull his macho routine every time they were in Potions class?

"All right, Potter," Draco would say, sidling up right next to Harry, just to make it more obvious that Draco was taller, "potions is my forte. Follow my lead and you might learn something." Frigging Draco Malfoy and his alpha male soul.

Later that morning, Harry sat alone on a small bluff at the edge of Hogwarts Lake, which he had always thought of as his secret refuge. He had spent the previous night, when he should have been getting much needed sleep for exams, tortured by the idiotic dream that Voldemort was always sending his way. Harry just wanted a private spot to be alone with his thoughts, and who shows up at the shore of Hogwarts Lake?

Draco Malfoy sauntered across the grassy area that lay between him and where Harry was sitting. Draco's form had filled out over the past year. He had grown taller, taller than Harry, and he wasn't as slender as he had been in years past. Draco was still wiry, but much more athletic than before, with arm muscles that stretched the fabric of the simple shirt he wore that day, having discarded his robes in the castle before setting out for Hogwarts Lake. Harry's build, in contrast, was still as wraith-like as ever.

Harry watched Draco approach; the cloudless blue sky silhouetted Draco's muscular form as he walked through the tall grass toward Harry. During the past year, Harry had become obsessed with watching Draco. His hair was that blond color you could spot from across a field… and those eyes. They were gray, right? No, there were times—lots of times, because Harry did lots of watching—that Draco's eyes looked silver instead of their usual gray color. Harry would sneak a glance when Draco and other people weren't looking, and sometimes those damned silver eyes became hypnotizing pieces of precious metal that Harry couldn't tear himself away from. Sometimes, staring at those pools of silver made him yearn for Draco to notice him.

Wait, was he crazy? Of course he could look away. Harry could think about… let's see… Potions class… detention with Snape… detention with McGonagall… anything except Draco bloody Malfoy! Why did Malfoy always have to look so… ? Draco had almost reached the bluff where Harry was sitting when a terrifying possibility struck Harry.

Urquhart. Have they told Malfoy about yesterday in the Quidditch locker room with Urquhart?

Harry silently begged the gods to give him more time to prepare for whatever scathing comments Malfoy might hurl at him when he found out about Harry's little tryst with the new Slytherin team captain.

"Well, Potter! One look at you would let anyone know you didn't get much sleep last night."

Harry stared at Draco, realizing at once that something was off. Draco was smiling. Draco Malfoy never smiled at Harry; he sneered. Harry had the gut feeling that Draco's Slytherin housemates had told him about the scene with Kyle Urquhart. Harry could only guess that Draco found it amusing. But for whatever reason, Draco was smiling now, a gentle smile that reached his eyes. First. Time. Ever.

Harry's expression was guarded. "I can thank your master, your Dark Lord, for my lack of sleep. He uses his link to my mind to send me stupid dreams—I mean really stupid dreams."

Draco lifted his chin in a show of arrogance. "He's my father's master, Potter. I don't have a master." Then, instead of sneering, Draco surprised Harry with another winning smile. "Actually, I don't think I could put up with a master of any sort. I like being in charge too much. But why don't you tell me what sort of nonsense the Dark Lord is sending you in your sleep?"

Harry couldn't resist the urge to vent his frustration. He related every detail of the dream to Draco and finished, triumphantly, by declaring that he knew—just knew—that Voldemort did this with particular relish during the first week of June because that was exam week.

Draco Malfoy had always been adept at masking his real feelings, and this is was one occasion when this skill came in handy. He listened with genuine amusement to Harry's story about Voldemort, Aunt Petunia, Dudley and jukebox music in the ballroom, laughing to himself and thinking that this seemed like an authentic example of Voldemort's twisted humor. But then he heard Harry telling him the story about the train station, and Draco became an unreadable cipher. The mask came down over Draco's face, his thoughts inscrutable as Harry finished his story. Draco got up from where he'd been sitting, but Harry felt like he was on a roll and kept talking.

"You know, I even looked at the notes and diaries I've kept at Hogwarts over the past few years, and Voldemort has always sent me his nasty little dream on the exact same evening every year, June 4th. So of course I wake up on June 5th dead tired. Perfect timing for exams, don't you think? The same rotten dream on exactly the same day every year for five years running. I wouldn't be surprised if Voldemort knows my exam schedule."

Draco's expression betrayed no emotion whatsoever; he just turned around and started walking back toward the castle.

Harry called out after him, "So now I have to try to catch up with studying for exams. It really would be nice to have a few good hours of sleep before I do it. Not that you have anything special to get done today."

Draco turned around. His clear grey eyes bored into the other boy. Harry was sure that at certain moments, such as this, the color of Draco's eyes morphed into silver. Harry began to shift nervously, although he wasn't sure why.

"Actually, Potter, today is my birthday."

* º * º *

Little more than a month had passed since the end of term. The weather at the end of July was perfect, a glorious British summer with a soft breeze wafting through Little Whinging, but there was no hope that the grand summer day would lift Harry's spirits. He was lying on his bed, staring morosely at the ceiling of his small bedroom at the Dursleys'. There was no doubt in Harry's mind that every last detail of his rendezvous with Urquhart would become common knowledge throughout Hogwarts by the time the new term began in September, and there would be no avoiding the fallout. But surely it wouldn't be hoping for too much to expect Roger Davies and the players who had happened upon Harry's fateful locker room scene to keep their collective mouths shut over summer vac. Harry needed time to prepare Ron and Hermione for the news; he wanted to tell them in his own words, in his own way.

Dashing his hopes, news of his tryst with Kyle Urquhart had traveled with the speed of a first-year Hufflepuff student taking leave after an intimate social hour with Voldemort and his pet snake, Nagini. Lying next to him on the bed was the letter Ron had just sent, the letter Harry had read several times now, desperately racking his brains for some way to turn a bad situation around. Harry picked up Ron's letter and read it yet another time:

· · · · · · Harry,

· · · · · · We have to talk. I've just heard from Terry Boot. You know that he hangs around
· · · · · · a lot with the guys from the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and the players from
· · · · · · the Ravenclaw and Slytherin teams all swear up and down that they saw this wild scene
· · · · · · when they walked in on you and Kyle Urquhart in the Quidditch locker room.
· · · · · · What they're saying is that Urquhart was using you for sex, and you were really
· · · · · · having yourself a grand time. Harry, you know I'll stand up for you no matter what,
· · · · · · but right now things don't look so good. You've got to tell me what's going on.

· · · · · · Your friend always,

· · · · · · Ron

Harry couldn't have captured the situation better. Things didn't look so good at the moment, considering the circumstances. Kyle Urquhart had been dating some pretty Ravenclaw girl for the past year or so. Even goddamn Draco Malfoy was having an on-again, off-again affair with some decorous girl from Ravenclaw house. What was it with these Ravenclaw girls, anyway? Thinking about the girls in Ravenclaw only put Harry in a fouler mood. The only girl he had ever dated was Cho Chang from Ravenclaw, and the silly fiasco with Cho didn't give Harry any credentials with the opposite sex. Starting the school year at Hogwarts had always been a joyous liberation from life with the Dursleys. This time, however, Harry regarded the start of term with genuine anxiety. Would old friends turn against him? Would he be a target for abuse?

"Harry!" Aunt Petunia was shouting to him from downstairs. It seemed strange at first, but Harry was growing accustomed to Aunt Petunia's new habit of calling him by his given name. "Come downstairs. I want to have a chat with you."

"In a minute!" Harry shouted back.

Actually, everything about Aunt Petunia seemed strange and different from the moment Harry got back from Hogwarts in the last week of June. Her physical appearance, for starters, was most peculiar. She had never been overweight or underweight, Harry remembered, just about the right weight for her height. But she had always covered up her body with stiff, uptight-looking clothes that might have been what Margaret Thatcher would wear to a meeting of the Industrial Development Board. No longer.

On Harry's return from Hogwarts, the first thing he saw when he entered the Dursley house was Aunt Petunia draped in some sort of high-fashion Dior-type cocktail dress which accentuated Aunt Petunia's very toned-looking body. It seemed that she and Uncle Vernon were entertaining some business guests, and Petunia shooed Harry upstairs at once. She had started some sort of exercise/beauty regimen during Christmas hols, hadn't she? And her face! What was wrong with her face? The fine lines around her eyes and mouth were gone. Had she had a bit of cosmetic surgery? Bizarre. In any case, Uncle Vernon had no complaints whatsoever about his wife's new look, happily showing her off to every one of his friends and business associates. The most profound change in Aunt Petunia became apparent when Harry talked to her alone later that evening. Her attitude was the real source of the transformation. When Harry reminded her of her altered appearance, she blithely stated that it was high time she stood in the spotlight, if only to show the world that the Dursleys were putting their best foot forward.

Then, walking back to his bedroom after seeing Aunt Petunia on the day of his arrival, a sudden insight hit him like the gods throwing a cream pie in his face. His dream! The stupid recurring dream that Voldemort was always sending him. Harry had always assumed it was Voldemort who put together the contents of the dream. Yet that now seemed impossible, at least in the case of Aunt Petunia's transformation into an elegant fashion plate. For all his magical abilities, Voldemort had never shown evidence of any predictive powers. If Voldemort had been gifted with the ability to look into the future, he would have never attempted to kill Harry when the boy was a year old, since it resulted in Voldemort's own catastrophic near-death. So how could Voldemort have predicted Aunt Petunia's newly developing elegance, something that was on display first in Harry's dream and now in real life. Voldemort couldn't have predicted it. With a growing sense of discomfort, Harry was forced to acknowledge the possibility that at least part of his dream had a source other than Voldemort. An even odder possibility presented itself: the images Harry was viewing while he was asleep might be not so much a dream as disjointed visions of real life.

"Harry!" Aunt Petunia's shout jolted Harry out of his reverie.

"Be right there!"

Walking into the downstairs parlor, Harry saw Petunia dressed in a snug-fitting summer frock, sitting on a chaise lounge pretty as can be, with a low table in front of her.

"Harry, come see," Aunt Petunia commanded. "Dudley has just sent us photographs of himself from his holiday in Italy."

Photographs of Dudley vacationing in Italy. What could possibly be more insipid? Well at least Harry hadn't had to cross paths with Dudley, not from the moment Harry got back from Hogwarts. Dudley had already left for a vacation in Italy before Harry arrived. Harry supposed that he could bear a few minutes of looking at photographs of fat, sloppy Dudley striking stupid poses in Italy.

Harry sat down next to Aunt Petunia. The photographs were already arranged on the table in front of them, and Harry's eyes nearly popped out of his head. Who was this sixteen-year-old boy in the photos and what had he done with the real Dudley Dursley? Dudley was a knockout. He had lost all the excess weight, and in its place was muscle—nothing overly bulky, just very lean muscle. Harry willed himself not to get a hard on, although this took some determined effort.

"Harry, why are you slouching in your seat and rearranging your pants? How many times have I told you to sit up straight?"

Harry, pants rearranged, obliged and sat up straighter.

"Duddles does look remarkably fit, doesn't he," Petunia mused, admiring the photographs. "You know, the local girls in Italy are showering him with attention. He has a date every evening. I don't know if you remember, Harry, but Dudley was trying to lose some weight back around Christmas. Well, he tried all during spring, but without much success. Poor Duddles was so discontent about it that we decided to give him a summer holiday in Italy, thinking that perhaps a change of scene would do him good. He's been sending us photos since he arrived in Italy, but during the first few weeks of June, he looked much the same as he always had. It was during the last week of June, right around his sixteenth birthday, when this dramatic change took place in his appearance. Within a few weeks after that, he was as thin and fit as you see him now."

"I'm surprised he was able to do it, but seeing is believing," was all Harry could manage to say.

"I've even taken some trouble to improve my own image."

"Er, I was wondering about that," Harry said, taking advantage of the chance to satisfy his curiosity about why Petunia had turned so uncharacteristically fashionable of late. "I mean all your posh new clothes and everything."

Petunia gave Harry a sidelong glance, and then presented him with information he certainly wouldn't have guessed on his own. "You never really knew my worthless sister, of course"—Petunia paused a moment, then amended her statement—"I mean, your mother." She cleared her throat. "I've never mentioned this, Harry, but your mother held a powerful attraction for men. When we were teenagers, I thought it was related to that…" Petunia squirmed in her seat, "… you know, that nasty business that you and those freakish people at your school…"

"Magic," Harry added helpfully.

"Yessss." Aunt Petunia gritted her teeth. "Well, this past year while you were at school, I came to realize that the magnetism my sister exerted on the opposite sex had nothing to do with, er… the disagreeable nonsense you're involved with at that school of yours. That captivating charm was really…" Petunia waved her hand in the air with an elegant gesture, "… it was an essence we had both inherited from our parents… and our grandparents. I was mistaken all these years to think that I shouldn't allow that allure to come to the surface, that I shouldn't let myself shine. I deserve to let my natural elegance stand out just as much as my good-for-nothing sister ever did. Actually, I deserve it more since she was always such an objectionable weirdo."

"Which brings me to your own thoroughly shabby appearance," Aunt Petunia continued, artfully changing the subject. "I mean your clothes are hopeless, and those goofy-looking spectacles… you're just such a… such a mess. It's embarrassing."

Harry found Petunia's line of criticism irritating. "Well, it's not as though you or Uncle Vernon ever bought me so much as an article of clothing. I never wore anything except Dudley's hand-me-downs."

"That isn't a valid excuse any more. I know quite well that your parents left you a sizable amount of money. You keep it at some bank in London, don't you? Some bank that caters to…" Petunia couldn't bring herself to mention the subject of magic. "You know, those strange people you cavort with at that school for weirdos."

"It's called Gringotts Bank," Harry said through clenched teeth.

"Well then take a bit of money out and make some use of it. I simply must insist that you make yourself more presentable. I'm going to London today while Uncle Vernon is at a convention. I want you to come with me. You can do your banking while I eat lunch. Then we'll go shopping for clothes. You have to buy some clothes of your own, and you certainly have the money to do it. I can advise you, and the sales personnel at the clothing stores are also quite knowledgeable. Come on then." Aunt Petunia was standing up now. "Into the car. I know the route very well."

Harry just sighed and followed his aunt.

"And as long as we're in London"—Petunia was glancing at Harry over her shoulder—"you may as well buy a set of contact lenses. They're extremely easy to wear nowadays. Those spectacles of yours are just too ridiculous."

It was late in the evening when Harry and Aunt Petunia returned from London. Petunia tossed all of Harry's packages next to the kitchen table.

"All right, let me have a good look at you." Harry was already wearing some of his new clothes as well as the contact lenses. "Stand up straight!" Aunt Petunia appraised Harry critically, but seemed satisfied. "There, what did I tell you? Entirely more presentable. Now tomorrow, you'll have to cook for yourself. Your uncle will be arriving back from the convention early in the morning, but only to pick me up. We're going to be out of town with some of your uncle's business associates all day, and we'll be staying out of town overnight. But I don't think you really have anything important to do tomorrow."

No, July 31st had never been any big deal at the Dursleys'. "Nothing much to do. It's just my birthday," Harry replied quietly.

"Oh, you've always been so obsessed with being the center of attention." Aunt Petunia rolled her eyes. "All right, I give up." She went over to the cupboard and opened a small box she had gotten that morning at the bakery. She removed a single chocolate cupcake, got a maraschino cherry from the refrigerator, stuck the cherry on the cupcake and set the cupcake on the kitchen table.

"Happy birthday and good night." With that, she left the kitchen and went upstairs.

* º * º *

When Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon returned the day after Harry's birthday, Vernon just avoided Harry entirely, as he had been doing since Harry had gotten back from Hogwarts in June. Petunia passed Harry on her way inside, then froze in her tracks, turned around and stood stock still, staring at Harry. Her expression was both shrewd and nervous.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked.

Harry couldn't imagine what Petunia was on about now. "Nothing's wrong with me."

Petunia looked both fascinated and horrified. "Why do you look like that? You didn't look like that before we went out of town yesterday. In fact, you've never looked like that until now." A pause. "You look… strange. Well, you've always been strange, but nothing like this. It's as if your body is sending off… sparkles of light… or little pieces of glitter… or something." Aunt Petunia shook her head before glancing warily back at Harry. "Unearthly," she muttered, and then scooted back into the kitchen.

Harry decided that for the remainder of his stay at the Dursleys', he'd spend as much of his time as possible in his bedroom. Flopping down on his bed, Harry noticed that a new owl had arrived, this one from Hermione. Her letter was very similar to the one he'd received from Ron, although Hermione's tone was a little more shocked. She remarked about how surprised she was that Harry would be so "careless and indiscreet." But she closed her letter by promising to support Harry.

After much indecision, Harry sent off replies to both Ron and Hermione, assuring them that the episode with Urquhart was just an experiment. He also told them he was sure that Urquhart had no intention of carrying things any further. Harry knew Ron and Hermione would accept this, but he had no idea if anyone else at Hogwarts would be so understanding. There was every possibility that the coming year would be torturous. Things might even get so bad that he could be forced to leave Hogwarts… and it was the only real home he had ever known. There was just no telling. For the first time ever, Harry dreaded going back to Hogwarts.

Harry walked over to the small mirror on the wall and examined his reflection. What on earth was Aunt Petunia talking about? He looked the same as he always had.