Warm breath fogged the chilled window of the silent compartment as the occupant rested his head against the cool glass, green eyes watching the landscape rolling by. Despite his tranquil appearance, Harry Potter was far from calm. Thoughts chased each other around his head endlessly, as they had been since the fiasco in the Department of Mysteries. Usually, his thoughts centered on the prophecy. He was still slightly in shock, and also a little bit angry. Why had Dumbledore waited until now to tell him? Why had it taken the death of the one person he truly considered family for Dumbledore to open up?
And there it was again, the main focus of his thoughts today; Sirius Black. He twitched slightly as he remembered his godfather falling through the dark veil. The image seemed burned into his eyelids, haunting him at the most inopportune moments. His depression had dulled a bit as time passed, though his burning hatred for Bellatrix Lestrange… Harry scowled slightly at the passing fields at the thought of her and turned away to study the walls. It almost scared him, the depth of his hatred for the woman, but he knew when they met again, he would make her suffer.
He shook himself out of the dark path his thoughts were following. Usually he had a better grip on himself than that, but today he was having trouble, and he knew why. Sirius' will had been discovered, and he was the recipient of everything Sirius owned, unfortunately including Grimmauld Place. While he was perfectly willing to let the order continue using it for meetings, Dumbledore had insisted that he visit before returning to his relatives, so they could watch the wards' reactions to him. "Just a precaution, my boy. We wouldn't want to find out the hard way, now would we?" had been Dumbledore's infuriatingly cheerful response to all of Harry's protests. He wasn't sure which he hated more; Grimmauld Place or the Dursley's. Actually, no, the Dursleys were still the clear winners, but returning to his godfather's hated childhood home held no appeal for him either.
Harry jerked upright as the compartment door crashed open and one Ronald Weasley tripped over the threshold and sent candy flying everywhere due to the uneven movement of the train.
"Aww no!" Ron moaned, as he attempted to catch a few chocolate frogs that had escaped their plastic prisons. "I spent the rest of my money on those!"
"Well, maybe if you bought a reasonable amount, instead of every single frog you can hold, you wouldn't have this problem," sniffed Hermione's voice from outside the compartment. Carefully, she minced around Ron, trying not to step on the still active frogs or the ginger teen's searching fingers. She huffed as she collapsed on the seat across from Harry. "I'm sorry we took so long to get here Harry, but someone," she threw an exasperated look at Ron, "took his sweet time at the trolley."
"Mrphugulmph," came Ron's expected protest around the twitching chocolate limb sticking out of his mouth. He swallowed and then continued thickly, "It's not my fault if they have so many choices. You want a chocolate frog, Harry?"
"No thanks," Harry muttered, turning back to the window. "I'm not really in the mood for candy." Hermione and Ron exchanged a short glance, which they seemed to do often when they thought he wouldn't notice.
"I know it's hard Harry, but you should really try and eat something," Hermione suggested cautiously, "You haven't been eating properly for days, and… well… you know what your relatives are like." Harry snorted at this. Really, his relatives put so much pride in being normal, yet their mistreatment of him was so obvious that even usually oblivious teenagers picked up on it. At least after Sirius showed up he managed to make it through the summers intact. He swallowed nervously at this, but forcibly calmed himself down. They had no way of knowing Sirius had died, and as long as he didn't let anything slip…
Shivering almost imperceptibly, Harry turned back to find his two friends regarding him almost fearfully, as if the reminder of his relatives was enough for him to snap and curse them into oblivion. "I remember very well what they're like, Hermione," he snapped impatiently. They had been acting like this since the ministry, and he was getting seriously tired of it. As if tip-toeing around him was going to make everything all better again! "I have food in my trunk for later if I need it, and you know Ron's mum will send some as well. She's always going on about how thin I am," he added, trying to lighten the worried look on her face.
Hermione sighed, but gave up, since she had yet to convince him to eat much even back at Hogwarts. "I just want you to take care of yourself, Harry. Make sure you owl us if something happens or you need help!" she pressed anxiously. Harry nodded impassively as he turned back to the window, though he bristled inside at her mothering. As if she would do anything if he ever told her the full extent of the Dursley's crimes. As if Dumbledore would let her do anything, even if she tried. After all, he could hardly make it clearer for the old man exactly how he was treated there, and where was he now? Going straight back to his personal hell. Brooding again, ignored his friends' banter as he watched the landscape fly by, wishing that he could join Hedwig and leave the ground, with all of its accompanying pain and heartache, behind.
Harry bid his friends goodbye half-heartedly, accepted a smothering hug from a hurried Mrs. Weasley, and dragged his trunk away from the seething, overwhelming crowd that always seemed to inhabit the platform. Hopping onto his trunk to add to his admittedly short height, he scanned the crowd until he caught sight of a small group of familiar faces, apparently searching for him in a similar manner. He snorted slightly at this, and started dragging his trunk in their direction. Honestly, if Voldemort had tried to kill him as he stepped off the train, Harry would have been dead before they'd even realized he'd arrived.
"Wotcher, Harry!" he heard an excitable voice call from in front of him, and lifted his head to see at a young witch with florescent pink and purple hair braided in a complicated hairdo on top of her head. Combined with gold eyes and dark skin she had apparently chosen for today's look, it was a decidedly… interesting effect.
"Hello Tonks," he responded wearily, not that she noticed. She grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the waiting Order members, chattering obliviously the entire time. Harry took advantage of her distraction to examine the other two wizards who had appeared. Kingsley Shacklebolt appeared the same as ever, and gave him a slow nod and a small smile. Remus Lupin, on the other hand, looked like he had been dragged through a bush by the seat of his trousers and had forgotten to change clothes before coming to the station. Harry winced slightly in sympathy for the older wizard. To lose such a good friend, the only other true Marauder left, had to be a blow to the man's already suffering health. He forced a smile for the other man's sake and addressed him quietly. "Hello Professor. Everything alright?" He cursed himself slightly for the inane question. Of course it wasn't all right! He himself could attest to that.
"Everything's fine Harry." Remus replied before turning and walking stiffly towards an unoccupied area of the platform. "Dumbledore had a few things to take care of at Hogwarts, so he'll be meeting us at Grimmauld Place in about an hour. He suggested you take the time to explore, see if there's anything you want to take with you," he finished, his voice terse. Harry trailed after him, slightly hurt and confused by the man's tone and actions. Surely Remus wasn't upset with him? Yes, he had been reckless in going to the Ministry, but he would never have thought that Remus, of all people, would blame him for the death of his godfather. Pushing his thoughts back quickly, he turned uncertainly to Kingsley.
"So how are we getting there this time? I don't see any brooms with you this time," Harry joked. Kingsley smirked slightly at this.
"Yes, well, this time we didn't let Alastor do the planning," he drawled, amusement colouring his deep voice. "Merlin only knows what he would have come up with. No, we'll be apparating to just outside the wards. Have you ever apparated before?" Harry shook his head curiously, and Kingsley smiled reassuringly at him. "Nothing to worry about, but it is a bit disconcerting the first few times. Just take a deep breath beforehand and…"
"We're wasting time, Kingsley," Remus interrupted, still scanning the crowds instead of looking at them. "We should have had him there five minutes ago."
"Yes, of course," Kingsley soothed, a slight frown on his face as he watched the ragged werewolf. "Hold on to my arm Harry, as tightly as you can manage." Harry stepped forward and gripped the man's left arm tightly in his own. He watched as Tonks and Remus took up positions on either side of him, and a moment later three sharp cracks split the air, unnoticed in the bustling noise of the crowd.
Harry sneezed violently as dust from the thick carpet covering the stairs wafted up towards his face with every step he took. He paused for a second, the sneeze making his still uncertain stomach clench slightly. He made a face and decided to be grateful he hadn't lost what little breakfast he had managed to eat all over Kingsley's robes. Disconcerting, indeed. He continued up the stairs, the quiet murmuring of the three Order members gathered in the kitchen fading as he climbed.
Frowning slightly as he walked, he glanced around the dark, gloomy hallway, barely lit enough to show him the way. The gloom threw sinister shadows, mostly thanks to the house elf heads still adorning the walls. He sneered slightly in disgust at the whole house, painfully recalling his godfather's own feelings for the place. Despite the Weasley matron's valiant efforts, the house seemed to have a mind of its own, and things kept appearing no matter what they did to it. Harry rolled his eyes slightly as he crept around the curtains covering the portrait of Sirius' mother. Somehow, he got the feeling Kreacher had been behind much of this, including the dust he was attempting to avoid breathing. His footsteps slowed as his thoughts turned to the vile little elf. If Harry owned Grimmauld Place, then surely he owned the family elf, didn't he? And if he owned the betrayer of his godfather, well then…
His increasingly vicious thoughts came to an abrupt halt as he came to the door of the room Sirius had been sleeping in. He knew that Sirius had another room from his teenage years as well, but remembered the man muttering something about "crazy old hags" and several interesting- sounding hexes, so he figured he would steer clear for a while. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and pushed the heavy wooden door open so he could walk into the room.
The old lamps automatically lit up as he entered, illuminating a room just as dank and gloomy as the rest of the house. The room showed signs of Sirius attempting to lighten the mood, like the bright red curtains surrounding the bed, and the red and gold wallpaper, but the suffocating atmosphere of the house seemed to be dulling the bright colours, making them look more mocking than cheerful. He swept his gaze over a dark wardrobe, containing a few dusty robes, a battered trunk, which upon inspection held nothing but a few prank products and Sirius' old school things, and the old musty bed in the corner. Finally, his gaze landed on the large wooden desk in the corner and he wandered over, though he knew Sirius wasn't really one to sit quietly and work. He smiled sadly as his suspicions proved correct when the top appeared empty and the top drawers contained a few crumpled pieces of parchment and some broken quills.
Feeling oddly disappointed, Harry turned away, only to bark his shin painfully on a slightly open drawer at the very bottom of the desk. He frowned in confusion at the large drawer, and then glanced down at his shin. How had he not noticed such an obvious obstacle? Turning back to the desk, he frowned as he lost track of the drawer again. He was certain it had been right… there.
As soon as he recalled exactly where the drawer had been located, it suddenly seemed to become visible again, and innocently ignored his suspicious glare. Harry smacked himself on the forehead suddenly as his brain caught up with the rest of him. A Notice-Me-Not charm or something similar then, he mused as he eyed the drawer speculatively. And if Sirius had gone to such lengths to hide it, then it really must have been important, as Sirius rarely seemed to take things that seriously. Harry cautiously pulled open the drawer, knowing Sirius' defences would likely involve highly humiliating and slightly painful pranks. Therefore, he was slightly surprised when nothing happened, and he peered carefully into the deep drawer. All it contained was a small box, the size of a box of matches, and a thick letter.
Placing both on the empty desk surface, he realized the small box was actually a travelling trunk, one of the expensive ones. He remembered seeing one in Hogsmeade, and swearing to buy one the next chance he got, since they had a certain spot on the side that could be activated without magic to enlarge or shrink the trunk. He just knew that would come in handy at the Dursleys. Ignoring the trunk for the moment, he turned to the letter on the desk and froze, a slight shiver running up his spine as he finally saw the name written on it. Harry Potter.
Sirius had been writing to him before he died, then. He reached out a shaking hand, but before he could open the letter and read his godfather's last words to him, a loud call from the ground floor startled him. Harry glanced between the door and the letter uncertainly. He knew that there was no reason to hide it, and it would probably be kinder of him to share with Remus, but he really didn't feel like sharing at the moment, not with the way Remus was acting. This was the last thing his godfather would ever give him. Glancing quickly around the room, he darted to the wardrobe and grabbed a black silk cloak, quickly stuffing the trunk and the letter into one of the inner pockets, before rushing out of the room and down the stairs.
He slowed his steps as the front door came into view, revealing his guard and one Albus Dumbledore in bright magenta robes, his long white hair and beard braided with lime green ribbons. Blinking and shaking his head slightly to clear his vision, Harry descended the remaining steps and stood a few feet away from the headmaster.
"Afternoon, sir," he mumbled, glancing around at the others so he wouldn't have to look at the headmaster. He was pretty sure that if he and Dumbledore were left alone together anytime soon, he wasn't going to be able to contain the burning resentment he could feel boiling in his gut.
"Ah, good afternoon, Harry!" Dumbledore exclaimed, with a bright smile and twinkling blue eyes aimed in his direction. Harry didn't bother to hide his frown at this. Really, the man was acting like they had all met at the Leaky Cauldron for a drink, not to confirm a dead man's will. His disapproval did nothing to dim the Headmaster's mood. "I do apologize for the delay, but the house elves were quite distraught. Peeves, of course, playing his usual last minute games. He really does miss the students over the summer, poor thing." Dumbledore continued, apparently not noticing the odd looks he was receiving from the rest of the group. "But that is not why we are here. Did you happen to find anything of interest, Harry?" he inquired, his suddenly sharp eyes alighting on the cloak Harry was holding. Harry forced himself not to stiffen, and glanced at his feet instead.
"Not really, sir," he said in the direction of his shoelaces. "I just wanted to have something of his, you know, anything really. A reminder…" He trailed off sadly and completely squashed the almost non-existent voice that felt guilty for the lie. He padded softly over to his trunk and placed the cloak inside, before turning back to the others. "So, the wards?" he questioned, eager to get away from the house and somewhere private so he could read the letter.
"Yes, of course, the wards." Dumbledore smiled at him kindly, and Harry looked away with a scowl. "Well, the fact that they let you in at all is very promising, but we really should be sure. If you truly own this house, then its bound servants will be required to obey you. In this case…"
"Kreacher," Harry growled, clenching his fist as anger swept through him. He forcibly relaxed at Dumbledore's stern look, but it did not change his opinion. "If you expect me to call him here, after what he did to Sirius, and not do anything to him, then you have…!"
"Harry," Dumbledore interrupted him sternly, "I know what Kreacher did was very wrong, but in his own way, Sirius is just as responsible for his own death. Had he not treated Kreacher in such a fashion, Kreacher would not have felt the need to leave. Simply call him here, and if he answers, order him to work with the other elves at Hogwarts. They can keep an eye on him for us." Harry stared at him in disbelief, almost shocked out of his anger. Had Dumbledore just blamed Sirius for his own death? Yeah, Sirius hadn't been the nicest to Kreacher, but the little monster had hardly been sunshine and rainbows either. He quivered with the desire to punch the Headmaster, one good pop right on the nose. Really, he'd been feeling so violent lately.
"Kreacher!" he snarled at the empty air, looking away from the Headmaster hurriedly to avoid a catastrophe. A quiet pop rang through the air, and the squat, ugly house elf appeared in the middle of the group, mouth open, no doubt to begin a screaming protest of his new position. Harry cut him off before a single syllable escaped. "Don't you dare say a word, or even move without permission, you foul little…" Kreacher's mouth snapped shut automatically, and he stood stiffly, glaring at Harry with his large, watery eyes. Harry glanced up at the Headmaster. "Well obviously, it works, or he'd be screaming his fool head off." He pointed out irritably, before addressing the wretched creature before him. "Kreacher, go to Hogwarts and work with the elves there. Do whatever they tell you, and do not ever leave without my permission. Get out of my sight." He snapped, turning away so he wouldn't have to see the look he was sure the elf was shooting at him. He knew it would be just the right one to break his already shaky control.
Turning back at the slight pop, Harry caught sight of Dumbledore's disapproving face, but cut him off before he could start. "Please Professor, I've had a really long day, and I just want to get out of here," he pleaded. He knew he was exaggerating a bit, but the atmosphere was starting to suffocate him. Dumbledore sighed before gesturing at the door.
"Of course, my dear boy. Besides, we wouldn't want to keep your relatives waiting any longer, would we?" Harry snorted inwardly at this, but moved towards his trunk and the front door. "Remus, Nymphadora, I believe Kingsley can take it from here," Dumbledore continued, "I'm sure you both have work to finish up."
"See you, Harry!" Tonks called out cheerfully as she skipped down the dark hallway to the kitchen and the floo. Remus gave him a sharp nod before stalking after Tonks, the deep shadows under his eyes giving him a slightly sinister look. Harry watched him sadly before turning back to Dumbledore.
"Will I be coming back this summer?" he questioned, unsure if he was hopeful or not. Sure, he hated the place, but nowhere was as bad as the Dursleys.
"We shall see, Harry, we shall see," Dumbledore hummed, "It may not be safe to move you as we have done previous years. I will let you know as soon as possible." Ignoring Harry's incredulous look, he swept of after his departing Order members, leaving Harry and Kingsley to stare at each other in the dark hallway.
"Well then," Kingsley broke the silence suddenly, a slight smile on his face. "Think your stomach can take another spin?" He jerked his head at the door, eyeing Harry in amusement. Harry grimaced before he chuckled slightly and followed Kingsley outside so they could apparate to his relative's house.
A sharp crack split the air, disturbing the silence of the early evening in Privet Drive. A few muggles sitting near open windows glanced around curiously, before shrugging and returning to their activities. Had they investigated further, they would have seen a short teen and a tall, oddly-dressed man in front of the one of the houses, the number four its only distinguishing mark from its identical neighbours. At the moment though, Harry hardly cared about discovery; he was too busy trying not to hyperventilate.
There's no reason to panic. They have no way of knowing about Sirius. Everything's going to be fine. For some reason, his body wasn't listening to his mind's logic and refused to calm down as he dragged his feet up to the front door. Evidently, Kingsley noticed his reluctance, and tried to reassure him as he prepared to leave.
"Don't worry, Harry," he rumbled quietly, "Dumbledore explained the situation to them earlier. I'm sure they will be as considerate as they know how to be." Kingsley shot the house a mildly doubtful look, as if unsure about the truth of his own words. Harry stiffened at this and turned back to face the older man.
"What do you mean, Dumbledore explained the situation? What was there to explain?" he blurted quickly. Please, please tell me he didn't…
"He wrote them a letter, I believe," Kingsley explained, oblivious to Harry's inner screaming, "Told them what happened to Sirius, and that they should help you get through this as best they can." Before Harry could even register his horror, loud thuds were heard from inside the house and the door was jerked open forcefully. There stood his uncle, even larger and more red-faced than Harry remembered him being, though the latter could be contributed to the large bottle of whiskey clenched in one pudgy hand.
"What are you doing standing on the porch, boy? What if the neighbours notice," his uncle hissed, the words slurring slightly. Harry heard Kingsley draw in his breath, probably to say something that would throw his uncle into a rage, and shot the man a warning glance.
"Sorry uncle," he mumbled, before turning to Kingsley. "It's nothing new. I can handle it," he quietly reassured the man. Kingsley watched Vernon Dursley warily as Harry dragged his trunk up to the door.
"Don't forget to write the Order. We want to make sure you're doing alright," he managed to get out, before Vernon grabbed both the trunk and Harry, shutting the door in the wizards face. A muffled crack slipped past the wood a few seconds later, and Harry's insides chilled as he watched his Uncle shove his trunk under the stairs and lock the cupboard with a heavy padlock. He took an involuntary step backwards as his uncle turned to face him, face already creased with anger and a sick sort of glee.
"Oh no, you don't!" Vernon lunged forward, pinning him to the wall and causing his head to slam against it sharply. "We've got years of punishment you skipped out on, you little freak! Don't think I've forgotten those freak friends of yours, or what you did to Dudley," he snarled as he dragged a barely conscious Harry up the stairs. "You haven't got a godfather to hide behind now, boy!"
Harry landed painfully on his back on the floor of the smallest bedroom, and as his uncle snapped the door shut and approached unsteadily, he had one though in his hazy mind.
Dumbledore is going to pay for this.
AN: Okay, not the most interesting first chapter, but it gets more exciting soon, I swear! This will be an animagus fic, where Harry gets stuck. Yes, not the most original, but have you noticed almost nobody ever finishes those? Therefore, I Solemnly Swear to Finish This Story. As long as people decide to read it, of course.