A/N: Hey everyone! I'm really sorry for the long delay! First my new apartment didn't have Internet connection, and then school got in the way. But I promise to be better about updating from now on; thanks to anyone still following this story!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but original plot.
When Harry walked into the Great Hall the next day, an immediate hush fell over the students. He looked down and quickly walked over to the Gryffindor table, sitting down between Ron and Hermione. Ignoring everyone else, he grabbed some breakfast and focused on his plate until everyone stopped staring and went back to their conversations.
"Is Sirius gone?" asked Hermione.
He nodded. "Yeah, he left using Dumbledore's Floo ten minutes ago," he replied, trying not to let the disappointment seep through his voice.
"I'm sure you'll see him soon," said Hermione gently, giving him an understanding smile. "I don't think he's too keen on you returning to the Dursleys anytime soon."
"That doesn't mean Dumbledore isn't keen on it," he said bitterly. "As long as Sirius is on the run, he doesn't have any legal right to take me from them."
"Maybe not," said Ron, swallowing thickly. "But he got Dumbledore to let him stay with you and tell you about…well, you know. Maybe he'll convince him to get you out of Privet Drive early."
"Maybe," he said, shrugging noncommittally. He saw Ron and Hermione exchange worried looks, so he quickly changed the subject. "Did the Prophet come yet?"
"Not yet," said Ron, going back to his eggs. "But it should soon enough."
At Ron's word, the Great Hall filled with owls, and Harry stilled as an owl landed in front of Hermione. He saw himself and Cedric in the middle of the Quidditch pitch surrounded by teachers and put his fork down, suddenly no longer hungry. Hermione unrolled the paper, and reread the article, and when she was done, she nodded at them, indicating that Rita had used their edits and the article was what it should have been.
Harry glanced around. The room had gone silent again, and he saw that almost everyone was either reading the paper or was looking over friends' shoulders to read the article. Harry stood up and rushed out of the hall. He'd finish his breakfast outside. He ignored Ron and Hermione when they called after him, but he knew they'd follow eventually.
Five minutes later, he sat under a beech tree by the lake, and not long after he sat down, Ron and Hermione joined him.
"From what I heard, people believe you. The Minister won't be able to live this down," said Hermione abruptly. "Just be careful. You might get mail from people you don't know like I did earlier this year."
Harry nodded. They spent the rest of the day relaxing under by the lake. Fred, George, and Ginny joined them later, and after the twins transfigured a rock into a large hard surface, they played a few games of Exploding Snap. Harry got a letter from Sirius saying that he was safe and that he would work to get him away from the Dursleys as fast as he could. Harry couldn't help but smile at that.
Two weeks later, Harry found himself lounging in the sitting room of number 4. He had been trying to watch the news since he had gotten back, but no funny disappearances or deaths were reported. It seemed Voldemort was lying low.
In the mean time, the public was outraged with Fudge after Rita's article; however, he remained adamant that Harry had lost his mind. The Daily Prophet was having a field day with Fudge's antics, and if the situation weren't so serious, Harry would have laughed. A week after Fudge's denial, the public starting yelling for his resignation, which Harry adamantly supported.
But while he was stuck in Privet Drive, he continued to debate whether or not to tell the Dursleys about Voldemort's return. He still had Rita's article, and he figured it would be easier to give them that and answer questions rather than try to explain what happened. While there was no love lost between himself and the Dursleys, he still didn't want them to get hurt. He would never like them, and they would never like him, but that didn't mean they deserved to die or be tortured because a lunatic was after him.
Dumbledore had explained before he left Hogwarts that while he called Privet Drive home, Voldemort couldn't touch him there. The charm protecting the place would only wear off when he turned seventeen or if he renounced Privet Drive as his home. But did that mean he shouldn't tell the Dursleys? Did it make him no better than Fudge by keeping this a secret?
Harry jumped up and ran into the kitchen as Aunt Petunia screamed. When he ran through the door, he couldn't help but chuckle when he saw Uncle Vernon swiping his newspaper at an owl that was flying around the kitchen. It dropped its letter at Harry's feet and swooped out the window.
"Boy, I will not have those damned birds flying in and out of my house!" raged Uncle Vernon, face red and spit flying from his mouth.
Harry raised an eyebrow at him. "I can't stop them from coming, you know," he replied lightly. "My friends' owls know to come to my window, so this clearly isn't from my friends."
"Well then, who's it from?" snapped Aunt Petunia.
Harry didn't answer her and opened the letter.
Dear Mr. Potter,
It is come to my attention that you are adamant about sticking to your story, and as such, I believe it is necessary for us to meet and discuss these developments. I will be at your place of residence at 1 o'clock, Sunday, July 9.
Cornelius Oswald Fudge
Minister of Magic
Harry paled. "Give me a piece of paper and a pen," he said quickly. They didn't move. "Now! This is urgent!"
Aunt Petunia gave him what he wanted and he split the paper into two pieces. He addressed one to Sirius and the other to Dumbledore, and he wrote the same message on both.
I just got a letter from the Minister, saying that he wants to meet with me on Sunday at 1 o'clock to "discuss" my story. What do I do and what does he really want?
"Hedwig!" he called urgently. His owl surged into the kitchen a few moments later and he rushed over to her. "Take these to Dumbledore and Sirius, but go to Dumbledore first. It's really important, so fly as fast you can. They need to get these by Sunday morning."
She hooted and nipped his finger, before quickly flying out the window.
"Boy —!" started Uncle Vernon, but Harry cut him off.
"The Minister of Magic is coming here on Sunday at one," said Harry, throwing the letter at his uncle.
He rushed out of the room, only to come back in a few minutes later with his interview in hand. Dudley had entered the kitchen, probably sensing that Harry was about to get in a world of trouble.
"I should probably tell you about what happened this year," said Harry, pacing.
"Boy, I don't care about what you learn in that freak school of yours!" growled Uncle Vernon. "If the Minister is coming here, that means you're probably in trouble, and if he takes you off our hands, so much the better!"
Harry shook his head. "You don't understand," said Harry, still lost in thought. What did the Minister want with him? "I didn't have a normal year. No one did." He stopped pacing and looked at Aunt Petunia. If anyone would understand the implications, she would. "Voldemort's back."
Her eyes widened and she immediately paled. "Back?" she whispered.
Harry nodded. "Two weeks ago. He killed one of my classmates, Cedric, and nearly killed me. I escaped at the last minute," he said, raising his voice as he saw Uncle Vernon was about to interrupt.
"Here," he said, giving her the paper. "Our esteemed Minister didn't want to believe the truth, so I gave an interview. The world needed to know what was going on. A majority of the Wizarding world is on my side and they believe me, and the public is against Fudge, so now he's trying to clean up the mess he's made."
Not one of the moved, and he sighed. He sat down at the table. "Read it. You need to know because it'll probably affect you eventually. Voldemort can't touch you while I call this place home, but that ends when I turn seventeen."
He was rambling and he knew it. But he couldn't think clearly with thoughts of the Minister's visit still circulating in his head. Surely the Minister didn't think that Harry would go back on his interview? After the scene in the hospital wing, he should know better. But then, what did he want?
"What are you rambling about, boy?" snapped Uncle Vernon impatiently.
He sighed. "When Voldemort killed my parents, he forced my mother to die for me," he explained. "He gave her the chance to run, but she laid down her life in hopes of saving me. Clearly, it worked. By dying for me, she placed a charm on me, one that lives in me until this day; it's in my blood. And since you and I share blood, Aunt Petunia, that charm can be extended to this house."
He looked at her now. "Dumbledore used Mum's sacrifice to place protective wards on this place. While I call this place home, Voldemort can't touch me here. He can't touch you or anyone else in this house. He can't even enter the street. The charm can only be ended one of two ways: I either renounce this place as my home, or I turn seventeen. In my world, we reach the age of majority at seventeen, because that is our final year at school.
"Once the charm is broke, all of us are vulnerable. But until then, you are safe, even while I'm at school. I only need to come back here for part of the summer for the charm to renew. But when the charm ends, it will affect you, so you need to read that article. You need to know what happened two weeks ago."
And so the three of them read. When they were finished, they looked at him wide-eyed.
"What's the Triwizard Tournament?" asked Dudley bluntly.
"A tournament between the top three European Wizarding schools. It was cancelled ages ago because of the high death rates, but they brought it back last year. They placed new rules to go with it, like needing to be of age to compete, and they put up a bunch of precautions. Clearly, it didn't work," added Harry bitterly.
"Then why did you compete?" asked Aunt Petunia.
"Because Barty Crouch Jr. entered my name on Voldemort's orders," he said without emotion.
"Why?" asked his uncle. Harry could tell he was still angry, but slowly calming down.
"To kill me," he said bluntly. "I would've thought that was obvious from the article."
"Yes, but why?" he snapped. "You're barely fifteen. You're not that important, boy."
"To get revenge," said Harry slowly. "He couldn't kill me as baby, and now he won't stop trying."
The continued to stare at him, now pale.
"How did he use your blood?" asked Dudley.
"In a potion," said Harry. "That's in the article too."
"But why?" asked Aunt Petunia.
"Because he wants Mum's protection," said Harry, sighing. "Before, he couldn't touch me, and I mean that literally. First year, he tried to strangle me, and his hands started to blister from just touching my skin." Their eyes grew wide again. "He has the protection now, and he can touch me, but he still can't get onto Privet Drive. The sacrifice was meant for me, and so it can't help him completely. He doesn't know that yet, but I'm sure he'll find out eventually. Voldemort's a lunatic, but he's still smart."
"And he'll keep coming after you until you're dead?" said Uncle Vernon, glaring suddenly.
"Or until I beat him, yeah," he said.
"Well, you can get out of this house, boy!" yelled Uncle Vernon, standing up suddenly.
The three of them jumped.
"What?" said Harry blankly.
"You heard me! Get out!" he raged. "I've had it! Owls using this place as a rest stop, the exploding pudding, the flying car, and now you're telling me a lunatic is after you? No, that's the last straw. You won't endanger my wife or my son. OUT!"
"Weren't you listening? You'll be in even more danger if I leave!" yelled Harry. "He can't touch you for two more years, but if I leave now, the charm is broken and you're done for. He'll torture you and kill you like he did my parents! You don't know what it is to be tortured, but once it happens, I assure you, you won't forget it."
"Vernon, sit down," snapped Aunt Petunia. They looked at her in shock. "The boy will stay. We'll figure out what to do in two years."
"You'll probably be protected," said Harry, relaxing. "Voldemort uses people to get to others. It's how he wins his fights. Dumbledore wouldn't let Muggles get in the middle of a war you have no business being a part of."
"War?" exclaimed Dudley.
Harry nodded. "My world is at war again: Voldemort and his Death Eaters — what his supporters call themselves — and Dumbledore's side. Mum and Dad fought in it, until they had to go into hiding. So did my godfather, and tons of others."
"And now your Minister is coming here," said Uncle Vernon.
Harry nodded. "I don't know for what, that's why I wrote to Dumbledore and Sirius. Whatever you do, don't mention Sirius to the Minister. I don't need Sirius getting caught by the Ministry. You mention him, and I'll leave. Voldemort can do what he wants with you; I won't come to save you," he warned, seeing the glint in his uncle's eyes. "You won't be able to win against him. He's cruel and evil, and he makes Muggle serial killers look like gentle animals."
Harry was bluffing, but they didn't need to know that. He watched as the three of them paled.
"And that's the thanks we get for the last fourteen years?" snapped Uncle Vernon.
"You treated me like rubbish and you know it," Harry replied calmly. "I don't want you tortured or killed on my behalf, but I have no family loyalty to you. That lies with Sirius. You take away the last bit of family I have left, Uncle Vernon, and I'll take away yours from you."
With that, Harry stood up and went back to his room.
The next few days were tense in the Dursley household, so he spent most of his time outside. By Saturday, he had received responses from both Dumbledore and Sirius, telling him not to worry and that Dumbledore would be there to make sure Fudge behaved.
Hedwig was exhausted from her journey and not too happy with him, so he let her do what she liked. After a few hours of sleep, however, she seemed to have forgiven him.
By the time Sunday rolled around, Harry was nervous. Once again, his uncle was dressed in his best suit, clearly trying to impress the Minister, but Harry knew that wouldn't matter. Aunt Petunia had scrubbed the house clean, including Harry's bedroom, and Harry was relieved that she hadn't found the loose floorboard under his bed. Dudley became more and more nervous as one o'clock drew nearer and eventually went to sit by his father, hoping that he'd be able to shield him from any attacks that came toward him. He refused to open his mouth or stand up point blank, and as nervous as Harry was, he couldn't help but be amused by it all.
The doorbell rang at half past noon, and he prayed to Merlin that it was Dumbledore. However, his hopes were dashed when he opened the door. On the doorstep stood Fudge with his usual bowler hat and a shot, plump witch wearing a fuzzy pink cardigan. He noted she looked a bit like a toad, and when she smiled widely at him, he immediately disliked her.
"Good afternoon, Minister," said Harrys stiffly, allowing them to pass through the door. "You're early, I see."
"Yes, well," he said, slightly flustered. "I finished my work early."
Harry refrained from snorting; he probably wanted to get away from being bombarded with Howlers yelling for his resignation.
Harry nodded instead. "The kitchen is this way. Would you like some tea?"
They nodded, and after he served them, they sat down and stared at each other. His relatives soon joined them, and after introductions were made, they sat in silence.
"Not to be rude, but may I ask who you are?" said Harry, looking at the pink witch.
She introduced herself with a high-pitched voice as Dolores Umbridge; Harry's dislike for her grew.
"I was under the impression that the Minister was coming by himself, Madam, so you'll excuse me for my surprise," said Harry lightly, but his eyes were cold. There was something about her that seemed wrong.
They both blustered at his words, and Harry inwardly smirked. "So," he continued, "what did you want to discuss, Minister?"
"Well, Harry, these stories simply cannot continue," said the Minister, and Harry could tell he was working to remain as jovial as he had been in previous years.
"I don't know what stories you're referring to, sir," said Harry calmly.
"The story about You-Know-Who's return," said Umbridge with a saccharine smile.
"I didn't realize that Cedric's death and my ordeal was a story," said Harry. "Because I am sure it happened, meaning it's not a story but a fact."
"Really, Mr. Potter, there's no reason to keep telling lies," said Umbridge. Harry officially hated her.
"Tell me, Madam Umbridge, why would I tell such a lie? A lie that would put the entire Wizarding world in danger?" said Harry, trying to remain calm.
Just then the doorbell rang. Harry sighed with relief and went to answer it.
"Ah, Harry," said Dumbledore as Harry let him in. "How are you, dear boy?"
"Frustrated. Fudge is here, sir, and brought a woman named Dolores Umbridge with him," said Harry, annoyance seeping through his voice.
"I should have known they would arrive early," said Dumbledore, sighing. "And I suppose it is good that I convinced Padfoot to stay behind."
"He's safe, then?" asked Harry, worried.
"Perfectly so. I will be taking you to him and the Weasleys after we are finished here," said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry's grin.
"Brilliant! Thank you, sir!" exclaimed Harry, and with that, he lead Dumbledore to the kitchen, ignoring the man's chuckles behind him.
"We have another guest," he said, as he entered the kitchen. "Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, Dudley, this is Professor Dumbledore. He's my Headmaster."
"Pleasure," said Dumbledore, nodding kindly at them. His eyes dimmed as he turned to the other two at the table. "Cornelius, Dolores. I am surprised to see you here."
"I could say the same about you, Dumbledore!" blustered Fudge, and Harry simply sat back to enjoy the show after he gave Dumbledore his tea. "You have no business here!"
"Thank you, Harry," he said. "And I am here to escort Harry to the Weasleys for the rest of the summer."
"Molly and Arthur could not come to get him themselves?" spat Fudge.
"I'm afraid not," said Dumbledore lightly. "Bill and Charlie are both home for the summer, and they are helping the two settle in. Besides, as Harry is my pupil and his relatives cannot drive all the way to Ottery St. Catchpole, I've decided to escort him myself."
"And you would do the same for all of your students?" said Fudge, smiling smugly at him.
"Of course, I would. They only need ask," said Dumbledore, raising his eyebrow. "In fact, I escorted Miss Granger to the Weasleys earlier this week. Her parents are Muggles as well, you see."
Fudge sat back glaring a Dumbledore, not knowing how to respond.
"Now is there anything you wanted from Harry? I really must get him to the Weasleys. Molly is expecting him, you see," continued Dumbledore as if nothing had happened.
"I want both of you to stop spreading lies!" yelled Fudge. "He is not back! He can't be!"
"Why not?" said Harry coldly.
"Because — because — he just can't! You can't come back from the dead!" spluttered Fudge.
"He never died," said Harry quietly. "He lost his power. Voldemort wasn't human enough to die. He said so himself; he said he went to great lengths to ensure his immortality."
"And what lengths were those?" snapped Fudge.
"That is something I am researching, Cornelius, and I will happily tell you when I find the answer," said Dumbledore. "But keep in mind, Voldemort used to be Tom Riddle. I taught him, and I know him. I assure you he would do anything to ensure he could not die."
Harry sighed before Fudge could respond. "I just don't understand why you won't believe me, Minister. Why in Merlin's name would I make this up?"
"To get attention, of course," said Umbridge abruptly.
Harry laughed. "Are you mad? I get enough attention as it is! I can't walk down the street without someone staring at my scar! Maybe some people like that kind of attention, but I'm not one of them. Besides, I'm a rather decent Quidditch player. If I wanted attention, I could get it that way, and at least that way it would be on my terms.
"Look, Minister, you can still save your career. But raging around trying to make the so-called Boy Who Lived look like a liar isn't the way to do it," said Harry. "I'm not sure why you came here, sir. I think you knew I wouldn't go back on my word, and I'm sure you knew I have support. So what is it that you really want?"
Harry stared him down. Fudge grew flustered, and turned to Dumbledore, only to be met with the same stare. Fudge sighed.
"Your support, Harry," he finally said. Harry's jaw dropped open. "I want your support to help me save my place in office. You have the kind of support from the public a minister can only dream of, so I want you to stand behind me."
A/N: So what do you think? Fudge has a lot of nerve doesn't he? Tell me what you thought about Harry telling the Dursleys. Too much, too little?
Next chapter: Harry's response and leaving Privet Drive.