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Of Dreams and the Dark Mark.
'Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy's protection as long as he is in his relation's care. . .'
~ Lord Voldemort, on Harry's protection
Harry knew where he was immediately. The Forbidden Forest, outside his
school, Hogwarts. This was a dream; it had to be, for he was at his Aunt and
Uncle's house during the Summer, and he knew why he was dreaming of this place.
It was night-time in this dream place, and the thick foliage prevented any light that would pass through. Harry reached into his pocket - his wand was there .
"Lumos." he muttered, and the end of the wand lit up, allowing him to see a clearing ahead of him. No-one would see the lighted wand; Harry was not, after all, here, but only his dream self.
But even dream-selves need to see.
Sensing the presence in the clearing, Harry stepped towards it, his heart rate quickening.
And there, in the centre, was his goal. The sight of the Dark Lord made him hesitate, but he continued on.
Voldemort stood dressed in black robes, his snake-like face nearly obscured. by the hood, which drooped low, covering his eyes.
On either side, his followers, the Death Eaters, forming a tight circle.
They too, had their faces hidden by dark robes and hoods, and stood slightly bowed in the company of their Lord. One Death Eater stood behind Voldemort, his hood down so his rat-like face could be seen.
Peter Pettigrew, shaking madly, stayed behind his master, who calmly said, "The boy was found long ago, Wormtail. I do not see what you point is."
"We... we have f-found a way in, my Lord," he quivered, "Although he w-was, as you say, found long ago, we now know how to enter. His Key has been found."
Harry knew they were talking about him- it was a shock to know they had known where he was. He'd assumed that he had a Secret Keeper, to protect the information of where he lived; but now it seemed Dumbledore had used a different spell to protect him - a spell which involved a Key . . .
He switched his mind back to Voldemort, and was glad he had. "The Key must be joined with the Lock as soon as possible."
"Y-yes, my Lord. We shall have the boy within two days."
The Death Eaters around Voldemort started to laugh.
Voldemort and his followers had been in the Forbidden Forest (But that's in the school grounds, Harry thought with a jolt, And no-one can get past the wards of the school. . .), and they had found a key- no, the Key to someone; that someone was him. . . and they would join it with a Lock. . . and then. . .
Then they would have him.
The pain in his head had subsided now, as he found when he leapt to his feet.
"Sirius," Harry muttered to himself, grabbing a quill and parchment from his bedside cabinet. He paused for a second to plan a message.
Dear Snuffles,(he finally decided)
I'm afraid this isn't a letter to see how you are. Just this night, I had a dream of Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the Forbidden Forest. I know, they shouldn't be able to get in, but I dreamt they were there - whether they really were, I don't know.
Harry paused, and sped up the pace to get to the point.
Anyway, (he wrote) they said that a Key had been found, which would be put with a lock; and that this meant they would have me within two days.
Well, I'm not sticking around here. I'll take the Knight Bus to Diagon Alley, as I'll be a lot safer there.
This wasn't just a nightmare; my scar was hurting when I woke up.
The problem is, I don't know about the Muggles I'm living with. I don't like them, but I don't want Voldemort to kill them either.
I'm sure you or Dumbledore will know what to do. Can you send this to him after you're done with it?
He woke up Hedwig, his snowy owl, by tapping lightly on her cage. "Sorry,
Hed'," he whispered, "but it's an emergency. Take this to Sirius as
fast as possible. I'll be at the Leaky Cauldron if there's a reply. Okay?"
Hedwig was not accustomed to being woken up in the middle of the night (mainly delivering messages in daytime had made her almost diurnal) but she complied, and pecked his ear in an affectionate way.
As soon as Hedwig was out the window and out of sight, Harry collected his trunk carrying his school books and equipment (he had finally convinced the Dursleys to let him keep them out of the cupboard, with the casual remark that his Godfather probably wouldn't like it), and grabbed his wand and Firebolt; one of the best racing brooms on the market.
He stopped for a moment to decide - did he really want to leave the Dursleys with no defence? But shook himself out of it. Against Voldemort or the Death Eaters, the Dursleys would have just as good a defence from a drinking straw; and Dumbledore would relocate the Dursleys somehow as soon as Sirius sent him the letter.
He listened for his Aunt and Uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley, and for his cousin Dudley. They were all asleep, no doubt about it. He could hear Dudley's gigantic snores from in the garden, never mind a few rooms away, and Vernon and Petunia were never up at - he checked his watch - three am.
He gave a slight smile. In just less than a day he would be fifteen and he was already on Voldemort's 'most wanted' list. He fingered his green, lightning bolt shaped scar restlessly, his other hand clutching his Firebolt.
The pain had completely gone now, like it was never there. . .
He snapped to attention, scolding himself for letting his mind wander. Be careful! He reminded himself, Voldemort could break into your house and kill you, and the last thing you'd ever accomplish would be touching your scar! With that thought he took his large trunk in his hands, and balanced the Firebolt on top of it. He knew it was stupid, taking his broomstick when there was a mass-murderer hunting him, but it somehow felt like a friend.
He made it downstairs and into the street, sticking his wand out into the road.
A sudden bang nearly knocked him over, but he was ready for it this time;
"Hello Stan." Harry smiled as the teenage bus conductor stuck his head out of the Knight Bus' door. Harry saw he still hadn't lost his acne.
Stan Shunpike's eyes opened wide as he saw Harry. "Cor, Nev- 'Arry! I didn't expect to see you again!" He rushed down from the bus and helped Harry put his trunk and Firebolt in.
"Hang on!" Harry remembered, "I've got something else. Back in a sec."
He made his way to his bedroom, and collected Hedwig's cage.
Slipping downstairs he closed the door behind him, and entered the bus.
Ernie Prang was still the driver, Harry noticed, and now Stan was talking excitedly to him. He turned around as Harry entered.
"'Ere 'e is!" he said proudly, as though Harry was his prize-winning racehorse, "I told you it was 'Arry, didn't I Ern?"
Ernie nodded his approval to Harry.
"Forgot my cage." Harry said, holding the object up. "What were the prices again? I just want to go to Diagon Alley."
He insisted on paying the eleven sickles for the fare (Ernie and Stan were disappointed that he wouldn't accept a free ride), and settled down for the night in one of the large brass beds.
~ ~ ~
It was five o'clock in the morning before they reached Diagon Alley, as the
Knight Bus was exceedingly busy.
After a farewell to Stan and Ernie, and eventually giving in to the next trip being free. Harry knew his way around Diagon Alley well; during his third year at Hogwarts, he had spent nearly his whole holiday there.
He found his way to the inn and pub, the Leaky Cauldron easily enough - dragging his chest, his Firebolt and Hedwig's cage to it was quite another matter - and reserved a room for the next two days with some of the gold Galleons and silver Sickles in his chest.
It was only when he came back downstairs after unpacking his things (and finishing his Potions homework), that he had a rather nice surprise.
A snowy owl and a large black dog were sitting by stairs to the first floor, the owl perched on one of the wall lights.
"Hedwig!" Harry gasped, and glanced at the dog. Sirius' Animagus form was unmistakable.
Tom, owner of the inn glanced over at Harry. "Is that your dog, sir? I recognised the owl, so I thought I'd best not throw the dog out.. Looks a bit intimidating anyway, tell the truth."
"Oh, yeah. He is mine, thanks." Harry held out his arm and let Hedwig flutter onto it.
"You can take him to your room but mind he doesn't make a mess." Tom allowed, turning his attention back to pouring a drink for an old witch, who sat half asleep at one of the tables.
Sirius followed Harry to his room, Hedwig still perched on his shoulder.
As soon as Harry had closed the door and locked it, 'Snuffles' returned to his true form.
He had been eating well, Harry noticed. No longer was he the starving, dirty man Harry had known, but clean-shaven, looking more like the man from the wedding pictures.
Sirius Black took a letter from his robes. "I made a copy of it," he explained, "and sent the original to Dumbledore like you said." He sat next to his Godson on the bed. "I was staying at Lupins', so it reached me quickly. I'm glad you managed to get out as quickly as possible after that dream."
Harry frowned. "What do you mean, 'managed to'? Has Professor Dumbledore got the letter?"
"I don't know about Dumbledore yet. Lupin sent an owl to him as soon as we'd read the letter." He sighed and rubbed his head. "I'm guessing you haven't seen the news?"
Harry looked at him blankly. "It doesn't usually arrive here until seven or so. But if it's so important I'm sure I'll hear about it from Tom."
Hedwig gave a low hoot, and Sirius shook his head. "I think you'd better hear about it now." he said, reaching into his robes and pulling out another piece of paper.
Harry took it from him - it was a clipping from the Daily Prophet, the Wizarding newspaper - and started to read.
THE BOY WHO LIVED; AGAIN!
At ten to four this morning, Death Eaters attacked the home of Harry Potter, the boy who caused He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's downfall.
Thankfully, (the reason is not known why) Mr. Potter had was not in the house at the time.
The Minister Of Magic comments "We do not know how the Death Eaters found Harry; we believed he was well protected." When questioned whether this was evidence of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's rising, the Minister declined to comment.
Although Harry Potter is said to have escaped unharmed - one early-rising Muggle, who later had his memory modified, stated he saw him leave the residence an hour earlier - Harry Potter's Aunt, Uncle and cousin were not as lucky.
Although Aurors appeared in time to save Mrs Petunia Dursley (38) and Dudley Dursley (17), Harry's uncle Vernon Dursley (41), was killed by Death Eaters as he tried in vain to protect his family.
The remaining Dursleys (Muggles) were taken to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies, in case of traumatisation.
An Order of Purity member, Mrs Arabella Figg, (72) who lived at thirty-three Privet Drive was first on scene, and it is due to her intervention that Muggle civilians were not killed.
Below was a picture of number four, Privet Drive in flames. As magical
pictures do, it was moving - the flames were not so much licking the house as
roaring round it, and nearly half had been consumed by it.
Although there was no sound to the small picture, Harry could imagine the screams of his 'family' as the Death Eaters came.
He slowly folded the cutting and handed it back to Sirius, who was watching him carefully.
"He's dead." Harry said, knowing the full impact of this could sink in at any second. "He was Hell to live with, and I wouldn't have minded getting revenge - but dead? By Death Eaters?" He looked at the Animagus for confirmation, and was shocked to see that he got it.
"It was Avada Kedavra. Arabella told me." He sighed again. "Your Aunt and cousin are alright though. Just some major bruising and a few cuts. I think your Uncle delayed them enough for the Aurors to get there." He put the clipping away. "Are you alright?"
"Yes." lied Harry. He paused. "I wish I was there." he said softly. "I could have done something. I could have saved Uncle Vernon. Or at least killed whichever one did it."
Sirius put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Don't be stupid. If you'd been there, you'd've been the first the die. At least you got out in time, and you're safe. I suppose Voldemort felt like going ahead immediately rather than waiting a day or so."
Harry stared at the wall. Suddenly, he looked at his Godfather. "Did they get any of the Death Eaters?" he asked.
"I don't know. You saw how recent this was - the Daily Prophet must have working all this morning to get it out in today's paper; they only just managed to get this information. They'll probably have more knowledge about it once they've done some research, so I'll be getting the paper tomorrow. Are you sure you're okay?"
Harry put his head in his hands. "I don't know. I think I'll be alright - it's not as though we were best friends or anything."
Sirius gave a small, sad smile. "Yeah. Guess not. Anyway, we need to talk about what's going to happen now. Dumbledore will be checking up on exactly how the Death Eaters found you, if I know him, so he won't be here for a while yet. I don't even know whether he's got the letter." He stood up and patted Hedwig absentmindedly. "You obviously can't go back to your house - it's nearly completely destroyed, and the Ministry's checking all the wards, and other simple protections. There were a lot of them put on your home.
"I'm not sure about you going to Hogwarts either. Your dream had Voldemort inside the Forest. That may not be a part of school, but it's within the grounds, which means that until new, stronger spells and wards are put up, you can't go back, and that will take a couple of months.
"Also, Lupin and I aren't happy with you staying here. All it would take is one Death Eater to come up at night and you'd be finished. There's only a few anti-burglar charms on this place, nothing powerful."
"What about Ron? His dad works at the Ministry." Harry volunteered.
Sirius shook his head. "No offence to him, but I don't think a few wizards are going to be much use if Voldemort decides to pay a social call himself. Bill and Charlie wouldn't be there, Ron and Percy probably wouldn't be much use -"
"Fred and George have left home and started their own joke shop, eagerly wishing they weren't going to be at school this year.." Harry added.
Sirius looked surprised. "How'd you know that?"
"It's only been their life-long ambition." he replied, rolling his eyes.
Sirius smiled. "Well, anyway, they're not there, and Mrs Weasley wouldn't be much use. Plus, her husband would only be limited protection.
"Hermione's family are Muggles - not an ounce of safety there; so I think it would be a lot safer if you stayed with me and Lupin."
Harry nearly choked. "Stay with you!"
"Certainly. Until school starts, or the wards at Hogwarts are increased, whatever's sooner. Lupin and I agree that you'd get more protection there. Although, if you don't want to, I understand - " he added.
"What!?" Harry interrupted, "Of course I want to stay with you and Professor Lupin. When can I move in?" he rushed.
Sirius let out a real grin this time. "Great! I'll send an owl to Lupin." He glanced at the window. "But talking of owls. . ."
Harry looked in the direction of his gaze. Out side the window, perched on a street light, two owls waited looking in.
They couldn't see Sirius' face, so he moved out of sight and changed into a large black dog.
Harry opened the window, and the Tawny owl, and Hawk owl flew in and perched on the bed, looking nervously at the great canine.
Harry untied the letter from the first owl - it bore the Hogwarts seal, so it was obviously his list of supplies for the next year.
The Hogwarts owl flew silently out.
Just as he was about to take the letter and package off another owl (who Harry recognised as Percy's owl, Hermes), a fluttering caused him to look up.
An ink black raven swooped low into the room and fixed a beady eye on Harry. "Ow!" Harry clapped a hand to his scar, as a jolt of pain shot through it, and was gone as quickly as it came.
Sirius turned his shaggy head towards Harry, and then to the raven, growling.
The bird was larger than most other ravens, Harry guessed - ravens were a usual sight down Privet Drive, in Surrey, so he couldn't make an accurate statement regarding it - but there was something about it that didn't belong - not least the fact that its beak was silver coloured. Just looking at it gave Harry an uneasy feeling.
It was looking through him, not at.
Sirius growled again, and paced towards it. Hermes looked ready to fly away in fright.
The raven held out a leg. Harry realised, with shock, that it was carrying a letter. The dog paused and looked at Harry as if questioning him.
Taking a chance, Harry undid the letter from the bird's leg (Hermes didn't look too happy about being forgotten) and read aloud;
This is Sterling, an Aldor Raven. Quite a rare species - they have magical powers, unlike other raven types.
I have given her to you for your safety. I know Snuffles will be with you by now, but Sterling can protect you just as well. She's a lot more powerful than she looks. Keep her close, all the time.
A list of what Harry would need for the next year of Hogwarts followed.
Sirius - or Snuffles - relaxed, and Harry breathed a sigh.
"That's that then, Snuffles. It's another guardian." Harry said, stroking Sterling's feathers. It still gave him a feeling of uneasiness, but he trusted Dumbledore's judgment..
Sirius gave a reassuring bark.
"Yeah, I know." Harry sighed, and went to take Ron's message from Hermes.
Sterling preened herself.
Harry! (the letter read)
PLEASE, answer this! We know you're safe (Mum got the kitchen clock redone whilst we were at school with you on, and since it didn't say you were dead or in danger, we're guessing you're okay.) but we have NO IDEA where you are!! You have to answer this as soon as you get it, okay?
In case you didn't know, you're home's been attacked. We don't know what's happened - we only know because Dad was called out early this morning. Nearly everyone in the Ministry's been pulled off regular jobs to check all the wards, how the Death Eater's got in, whether Voldemort was really was behind it, and all. Mum's going mad with worry.
I hope no-one's hurt,
Write back NOW!
Harry re-read the letter. It was written in a hurry: the ink was smudged badly and Ron sounded like he'd nearly forgotten how to use full-stops.
Harry scribbled a reply, telling that his Uncle had been killed, where he was, and asking whether Dumbledore had gone to the house. When he had finished, he sent it on Hermes.
Sirius changed back once Hermes had gone and moved closer to Sterling who gave him a disdainful look.
"She's not like any normal bird," Sirius confirmed, "She's certainly magical. I don't know how, though." He looked closer at Sterling. "She's got something on her head." he told his Godson. "A gem or something - a little silver one."
The raven gave a small caw as Harry leaned in to look closer. A small silver jewel, the size of a pea was placed in the bird's forehead, which glittered lightly.
"Do you know what it is?" Harry asked Sirius, who shook his head and petted the bird lightly. "It might be some kind of a magical amplifier. There are some objects that can be worn, or put inside you, that makes your magic stronger. They're pretty rare though, and aren't used much. Most wizards see them as dishonourable - you might be better than your opponent in a duel, but because he's got an Amplifier, he wins. Most regard it as cheating. I wouldn't be surprised if Voldemort had one. It's about the only way he 'd be able to win anything, the slime bag."
Harry laughed, but didn't voice his doubts about the jewel.
He suddenly realised that it wasn't the bird that was making him uneasy - it was the jewel. And hadn't he been looking at the bird's head when the pain ran through his scar?
He chased the thoughts from his mind. If Dumbledore thought he would be safer with it, then it couldn't possibly be dangerous to him.
~ ~ ~
At twelve o'clock they went downstairs. Sirius was parading as the dog
Snuffles and Sterling had insisted on coming, sitting on Harry's shoulder. Harry
guessed this was what Dumbledore told her to do.
"Snuffles," he said suddenly, "I have a bone to pick with you." The dog looked at him questioningly. Harry raised an eyebrow, "Why didn't you tell me Mrs Figg was a witch? And what's the Order of Purity? You're going to tell me that as soon as you turn back, alright?"
Harry could have sworn Sirius' dog-face turned into a grin.
~ ~ ~
Harry's first stop in Diagon Alley was to Gladrags Wizard-wear (he found it
had a larger range than Madame Malkins). From there it was Eeylops Owl Emporium
for Hedwig's food, and then to Flourish and Blotts for his books; Harry was not
sure whether he was happy or sad that Defence Against The Dark Arts was still on
the subject list, due to his unfortunate relations with three quarters of the
previous staff (as they had a new one every year); i.e., mostly they tried to
kill him or erase his memory (something he wasn't too pleased about).
Thankfully, wizards were used to pet birds so Sterling didn't gain too many funny looks - although a few of the more superstitious people dropped their shopping when they saw Sirius, whose form looked like the Grim, a warning of impending death.
It was only when he went to Quality Quidditch Supplies ('Snuffles' couldn't come in) for new elbow pads that he found himself in love.
There, the owner of the store, Eric Vander, was placing in the window, a Firebolt.
It's handle was not ash, like Harry's broom, but a beautiful mahogany. It was graceful, beautifully streamlined - Harry may not have been a broom expert, but he knew that this broom was the closest to perfection he had ever seen.
A sign was placed beside it, but Harry preferred to get his answers straight from the source.
"Mr Vander," he queried, moving towards the proprietor as he tried to control his racing heartbeat, "What is that broom?"
The man looked in the direction of Harry's gaze. "That's the Lightning Bolt. The Firebolt was just a prototype of it.
"It goes a lot faster - from a still start to two hundred and eighty miles an hour in six seconds. Will you be buying one, Mr Potter? Just eight hundred Galleons, and you'll never lose a game."
Harry was sorely tempted - he knew he had enough money - but he went with his common sense, which told him he still had two years left at Hogwarts after this year. "No thanks." he said, "It's a possibility," he added to be polite, "but I'd like to think about it a little more."
Eric smiled. "Think quickly. There are only two thousand and two made, and there'll never be any more. Plus, each of them comes with it's own name, as well as number."
Harry frowned at the idea of calling a broomstick Jane or Maurice, but Eric saw his puzzlement and explained. "They have descriptive names; nick-names of a sort. The one I just put in the window is number seven hundred and seventy nine, Wild Storm - don't ask who thinks these names up." He looked at Harry. "There's only one more here, just out back - four hundred and sixteen, Rapid Fury. You'd better decide whether you want one as fast as possible." He excused himself to deal with a customer, who was eagerly looking at the Lightning Bolt every few seconds; Harry recognised him as Oliver Wood, the previous Quidditch captain of Harry's House (Gryffindor), although he had left Hogwarts two years before.
The conversation between Oliver and Eric was short - Oliver, it seemed had only entered to check out the Lightning Bolt's price, nothing more. After Harry had bought his pads, he hurried over to Oliver, who had stopped to look at some broom polishes. "Recognise me?" Harry grinned, and laughed as Oliver gaped. "Harry? You're not a midget anymore!"
This shut Harry up. "Hey!"
"I said you're NOT, didn't I?" Oliver argued. "So, who's the new captain? Oh, yeah, there wasn't any Quidditch last year, with the Triwiz-" He cut himself off. "Oh, God Harry, I'm sorry: I don't know why I said that -"
"It's alright." Harry said, "Just please don't mention it." He changed the subject, "How's the job going?"
"Great!" Oliver replied, perking up. "I'm not a reserve anymore - the keeper of Puddlemere United retired last year, so I got his place. Have you seen that Lightning Bolt, Harry? They say it's even better than the Firebolt - there was a review in 'Which Broom?', but it's expensive. Nearly a thousand Galleons, Quality Quidditch Supplies was lucky to get hold of two. . ."
Their conversation continued in this vein for some time, and then switched to the subject of Hogwarts (Oliver proudly announcing his younger sister would be starting this year), until Eric told them that if they weren't at least going to make a pretence of looking at the stock, could they please leave.
Harry and Oliver complied, Sirius meeting up with Harry outside the shop.
"Hold on," Harry noticed, causing Sirius to stop, "I'm out of money. We'll have to stop by Gringotts." Sirius agreed (Harry realised how funny it was to see a dog nodding it's head), and went to the bank.
No sooner had they entered, than someone leapt upon Harry, flinging their arms around him.
"Oh, Harry!" sobbed the unknown assailant, "I thought you were dead, I thought you were taken, I thought you were beaten to a bloody pulp and tortured to an inch of your life, I-"
Harry rolled his eyes. Hermione did tend to go on. "Herm, I'm fine." he said, detaching her from himself. "Look! I even have my head."
Sirius gave a small bark, and Sterling pecked Hermione's hand. She pulled her hands away and stared at the bird. "Harry, have you got a raven?"
"However did you get that idea, Hermione?" Harry laughed.
The witch frowned. "Why didn't you write to me? I was just at home, and my Daily Prophet arrived. And on the front page they said - they said. . ."
Harry smiled ruefully. "It's all right, I know. Snuffles is guarding me for a while, as is Sterling." he said, touching the bird that sat upon his shoulder.
Realising they were getting a few funny looks from the goblins that ran the bank, and other wizards, Harry and Hermione collected some money and left together. Sterling seemed to have taken an immediate liking to the bushy-haired girl.
"My mum and dad are looking 'round the shops," Hermione explained. "When I thought you were - you know, I needed to be around wizards." She shrugged miserably, "It just seemed so wrong that no one knew who you were, so I wanted to be with people who knew what you did."
Harry nodded slightly. "What does everyone think?"
"Well, the Muggles think there was an arson attack on your house, but you had gone out for a midnight stroll or something. You can't hide a house suddenly bursting into flames from Muggles, unless you're forewarned.
"Everyone in Diagon Alley knows you're alive; after all, they've seen you. I'm guessing they're not saying anything, because of your uncle."
Harry gave a visible wince. "I wondered why no-one said anything. What about Ron?"
"Well, I only got the Daily Prophet this morning. I haven't had time to write, but I'm guessing he thinks you're dead, unless his dad's found out you're not." Hermione gave a sigh.
"I wrote to him to tell him I was okay actually, so that shouldn't be a problem. Herm', do you know what the Order of Purity is?"
Snuffles looked up suddenly at Harry in surprise. Harry looked back. "I'm not going to wait forever. I just want to see whether she knows."
"She has a name. And yes, I know a little." Hermione smiled. "I suppose you want to know because of that part in the news?"
"Yeah, actually. If you feel like telling me what they are any time, let me know will you?"
"There's no need to be uppity." Hermione paused a moment, and Sterling watched her intently. Sirius seemed happy just to let her go on.
"The Order of Purity works alongside the Order of the Phoenix."