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And The Wizard's Apprentice
Photographs and Memories
The car ride home to Privet Drive had never felt slower. Still shocked from the confrontation by Mr. Weasley, Lupin, Tonks, and Mad-Eye at King's Cross, the Dursleys sat in a glowering silence. Harry stared unseeingly out the window from the backseat of the Dursleys' car. Time seemed to stand still, the car was not really moving--the streets and houses were just flying by him instead. Now that he was away from all the distractions of Hogwarts, away from all of his friends, he was unable to shake thoughts of Sirius from his head. Sirius transforming into a great black dog... Sirius shaking out his hair and giving a bark of laughter... Sirius singing Christmas carols... and always, Sirius falling backwards with a slightly puzzled expression on his face... falling backwards through a veil that rippled silently as though blown with a light breeze... Harry had still not worked out the mystery of the arch and its veil, but he did know one thing. He would never allow someone to die because of his mistake--because of his ignorance and impatience-- ever again. No one else was going to die because he, Harry, was too stubborn to listen to reason. If he had just listened to Hermione-- if only he had not been so stupid as to believe Voldemort could just waltz into the Ministry of Magic and stay for hours, waiting for Harry to arrive... If only he had remembered the mirror. But no, he was not going to think like that. He was not going to wallow in self pity any longer. Snape was right--he was weak. Harry still hated Snape for holding a grudge and not allowing Harry to continue Occlumency, especially since it was apparent Snape knew the risks of Voldemort penetrating Harry's brain. Now Harry hated him even more for being right--Harry did wear his feelings on his sleeve and it had gotten Sirius killed. He vowed to himself that next time he would be prepared, and then he would see who had the last laugh. His scar throbbed painfully. Harry sighed and leaned his forehead against the car window. The glass felt cool, soothing his burning scar. It was a mark of how intimidated the Dursleys were that no one scolded him for smudging the window. Mentally, he began listing preparations he would need to take, so that when he faced Voldemort again, he would be ready. It had begun.
Harry did not have to wait long for news from the wizarding world. The next night as he lay in bed staring at the darkness above, deep in his own thoughts, he was startled fully awake by a loud tap-tap on his window. Instinctively, Harry reached under his pillow for his wand, which he now kept there at night. Relaxing, Harry realised it was not a Death Eater as he had been thinking about, but a large, colourfully plumed bird.
"Fawkes!" Harry exclaimed, jumping to his knees in the bed and throwing the window open. Fawkes soared gracefully around the room once before dropping a small package onto Harry's knees. Then, with a single note of song that warmed Harry's heart, Fawkes disappeared with a flash of fire, leaving only a single feather. Picking up the feather, Harry laid it carefully on his desk before turning to the package. It was covered in plain brown paper that Harry ripped off and tossed to the floor.
Underneath the wrapping was a-- "Chocolate Frog?" Harry mused to himself. He opened up the box and pulled out the collectible card inside. Harry had barely time to register surprise at the coincidence of it being Dumbledore on the card when the likeness spoke to him.
"Harry," Dumbledore's voice spoke gently to him.
"Professor?" Harry gasped in amazement.
Dumbledore's picture smiled at him before continuing. "I know that you are and will be anxious to hear wizarding news. You will, however, have to stay at your aunt and uncle's for at least a month. You are aware of the reason for this. I know it will be difficult for you but you are not to leave the house without your aunt or uncle present. This is for your own protection," he continued, seeing the arrested look on Harry's face. "The ministry may be seeing things our way but I don't want to give them an excuse to have any power over you. I am hoping," he said with a chuckle, "that certain events at King's Cross may lighten your stay here somewhat. Also, remember that owl post is still being watched, especially yours. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Harry mumbled.
Dumbledore smiled understandingly. "Things are not always as bad as they seem, Harry. A month will be over before you know it." With one last smile at him, Dumbledore's picture left the card, leaving him looking at a blank space. Harry sighed and placed the card next to Fawkes' feather on his desk. He chewed the chocolate frog slowly, thinking about what Dumbledore said.
The weeks after talking to Dumbledore went by without incident. Harry spent the time poring over all over his Defense Against the Dark Arts books, memorising all the curses, counter curses, and jinxes that he could find, reading late into the night and only stopping when his eyes grew so tired that the words blurred before him. When he couldn't read any longer, Harry would use a ragged, bitten pencil of Dudley's to practise wand movements.
Harry usually preferred to stay up in his room, either sitting at his desk reading, or sprawled on his bed, thinking pensively. Every now and then, he would venture downstairs, whether just for a change of scenery, or simply because he could not spend another minute cooped up in his room. On these occasions, he would wander aimlessly around the house gazing unseeingly at his surroundings. If another Dursley happened to be in that particular room, he or she would jump up and leave muttering under their breath about needing to go do... something. Harry didn't mind, he actually preferred their silence to the screaming insults they used to hurl his way.
Likewise, mealtimes at the Dursleys' were also a definite improvement over the previous summers. For once, he was allowed as much as he wanted to eat. In fact, and the few times he'd mused to himself how he would "love some treacle tart," or "really missed the steak and kidney pie at school," Aunt Petunia would decide to run to the grocery, and that very meal would appear at dinner that night. Harry had no doubts that these changes had everything to do with the "talk" at King's Cross-- and nothing at all to do with any change of heart from the Dursleys. However, because of this, and the lack of any real exercise, Harry was finally-- for once in his life-- putting on weight. Someone would be hard pressed to even call him skinny anymore.
Undisputedly, the most pronounced change since returning to the Dursleys was Dudley Dursley himself. He hardly ever went out with his old friends--Piers Polkiss and that lot--instead, he usually stayed home watching TV or rode his bike around the neighborhood alone. If Dudley did happen go out with friends, he returned early and not once did Harry even overhear him bragging about beating up some kid. When Dudley got a brand new sports for his sixteenth birthday, he only halfheartedly bragged about it to Harry. Most of the time, Dudley avoided Harry altogether, or gave Harry long stares he could not interpret. Harry supposed that this change was due to whatever the Dementors had forced Dudley to feel, but he was too consumed in his own haunted memories to give it much thought.
Harry sent the obligatory notes to Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Professor Lupin, reassuring them that he was fine and that the Dursleys were not mistreating him--at least it gave Hedwig something to do. They sent him letters back, usually different variations of the same thing:
We're fine, keeping busy like last summer-- you know.
Can't say much, but we miss you and will tell you everything soon...
He was surprised when he received a letter from Ginny his first week back, and although it didn't differ much from what the others wrote-- just a sincere sounding note asking how he was dealing with things--he hesitated to write her back, unsure of what to say. However, her voice echoed in his head, "bit stupid of you seeing as you don't know anyone but me who's been possessed by You-Know-Who..." Thinking of this, and the guilt she must have felt after Voldemort used her... opening the Chamber of Secrets... and all those students who were petrified... He found himself confiding to her like no one else since Sirius. All the shame and anger he had felt over the last few weeks--even some fear--he poured into his letters to her, careful to skirt around condemning details in case they were intercepted. Ginny reciprocated the same way, telling of her own experiences during her first year in her many return letters. Harry suspected she had been holding a lot of it inside herself over the last few years, and he felt a strange sense of understanding grow between them.
Like last summer, he paid an owl to receive the Daily Prophet every morning. However, also like last summer, it was strangely devoid of news of Voldemort. Sure, there were the general articles blaming the Ministry for not believing the signs of Voldemort's return and ways to protect houses and families against Death Eater raids. However, nowhere was there a mention of Voldemort's current activities. No Dark Marks, no strange deaths... even his scar had scarcely twitched since Harry arrived at Privet Drive. Harry wanted to take this as a good sign, but he was eerily discomforted.
The evening before the first month of summer vacation would be over, Harry sat on the floor of his room packing his things into his trunk, hoping desperately that it would not be in vain, that he would be leaving the next day. He heard a familiar tap-tap at the window and looked up, expecting to see Fawkes. He was disappointed, however, to see a plain brown barn owl peering at him from round yellow eyes. Harry opened the latch on the window and it flew in, dropping a fat envelope bearing the school's crest on Harry's bed before landing on the desk. Hedwig flew out of her cage to give the brown owl room so it could take a drink of her water. The brown owl hooted appreciatively and rested a few moments before hurrying on its way. Harry recognised the envelope as the usual one from Hogwarts, but it was much thicker than normal. He opened the envelope, removed four pieces of parchment, and felt his heart in his throat as he realised it was his O.W.L results. His green eyes zipped over the first piece of parchment, taking it all in.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Your O.W.L. results are as follows:
Care of Magical Creatures--Excellent
Defense Against the Dark Arts--Outstanding
History of Magic--Terrible
Hope your summer is going well.
Professor Griselda Marchbanks
High O.W.L. Examiner
Harry's breath caught in his throat--an "O" in Defense Against the Dark Arts. The first real smile since Sirius died spread across his face. He was right-- he had aced the Defense Against the Dark Arts exam! Hermione had told him that O.W.L.s counted as long as you got an "A"--acceptable--score or above. That meant that he had one... two... six O.W.L.s! That equaled the Weasley twins' combined results. Well... of course they didn't try though. He scanned over the results again. A "T" in History of Magic, well, no surprise there. He didn't even complete an entire question on the exam. The rest were as good as or better than he expected. At least he was free of Divination now... though he would have enjoyed more lessons from Firenze. Snape was going to be furious when he found out Harry passed in Potions. Wait... Snape... oh no! Professor McGonagall said that Snape only allowed students who earned an Outstanding or above on their O.W.L.s to take his N.E.W.T class. Without Potions, he'd never get into the Auror program! All the happiness in his chest died away as fast as it had come. If he was being honest with himself, he knew that he did not deserve an Outstanding in Snape's class... but he had hoped maybe.... He sighed and looked at the other pieces of parchment. The second letter was written in Professor McGonagall's neat handwriting:
Dear Mr. Potter,
As your head of house it is my task to remind you to pick at least six classes for your upcoming sixth year at Hogwarts. Please check off the classes you wish to attend at the bottom of this parchment and return it to me promptly. It is also my duty to inform you that due to lack of participation, the N.E.W.T. level Potions class is open to all students with a passing score.
Harry grinned as he read the letter-- "lack of participation," indeed. He couldn't imagine a less popular class than Snape's Potions-- well, except for that Umbridge cow's Defense Against the Dark Arts. It must have been an all time low, though, to make Snape lower his acceptance requirement. Another tap-tap on the window made him jump; he glanced over to the window and spotted a feathered gray tennis ball bobbing up and down outside the window.
"Hullo, Pig," Harry said cheerfully to Ron's owl, letting the tiny owl in, already anticipating what the letter would say. He opened the sealed parchment and was pleased to find out that Ron had gotten O.W.L.s in seven of his classes although they were mostly just "A's". Hermione, of course, had received twelve Outstanding O.W.L.s--the highest score one could get at Hogwarts. It seemed that Ron planned on keeping all the regular classes but dropping Astronomy, Divination, and History of Magic. Harry jotted off a quick note to Ron about his own O.W.L. scores, and that he would sign up for the same classes, before sending it off with Pig.
Harry turned back to his own parchment and hurriedly checked off Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, and after a moment's hesitation-- Potions. He hated the idea of being stuck in Snape's class for another year but he had no choice if he wanted to be an Auror. Harry sent his requested classes off with Hedwig to be returned to Professor McGonagall, and then turned back to the next piece of parchment in his hand. The third letter contained the booklist for the next year, depending on which classes each student was going to take. The only thing different about this was a small note at the bottom advising students to bring dress robes. Harry groaned. Not another ball! The last one was bad enough, however, at least this time he wouldn't have to lead the stupid dance. Maybe that meant he wouldn't have to go at all. He finally picked up the fourth and shortest letter and recognised Dumbledore's narrow, loopy handwriting at once.
Enclosed you will find a Muggle key. It is actually a Portkey and will activate precisely at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon to take you to where Ron and Hermione are staying. Please leave it in your pocket so there will be no mistake~ Prof. Dumbledore
Harry looked into the envelope a second time and pulled out a Muggle house key. He stuck it hastily into his jeans pocket as Aunt Petunia called him to come downstairs.
Dinner that night was a silent affair as usual, punctuated only by the clinking of silverware on dishes. The three Dursleys sat around the table determinedly not meeting Harry's eyes. Aunt Petunia was as bony as ever, her hair pulled into a tight bun, her bright green dress spotless. Uncle Vernon's face ranged from a sickly yellow to a dark purple, depending on if he accidentally looked at Harry or not. Uncle Vernon was not taking the confrontation from King's Cross well at all. He seemed to think it a breach on his manliness and was continuously conflicted between either standing up for his family or being forced to deal with wizards. Dudley just sat shoveling food in his mouth. He still had the same thick muscular body from last summer; apparently, he had not given up the school's wrestling team. No doubt, he had eventually realized that if he got enough exercise, he could eat a lot more without gaining weight back.
Eventually, Harry was forced to break the silence to inform them that he would be departing the next afternoon. He waited until he had eaten his fill, stood up to return upstairs, and then said nonchalantly, "I'm leaving tomorrow at three p.m. to go to my friend Ron's house."
Uncle Vernon turned an unpleasant shade of puce and muttered darkly, "I suppose you'll be wanting us to drive you somewhere, will you?"
"No," Harry said shortly. "It won't be necessary."
"There won't be any of--of your kind showing up here or anything?"
"No," Harry replied dully. He paused, considering if he should say more. "I'll be taking a Portkey. That's when a wizard or witch charms a Muggle object to--"
"STOP! THAT'LL BE ENOUGH FROM YOU BOY!" Uncle Vernon bellowed, obviously feeling safe since Harry was leaving tomorrow- he probably thought that Harry wouldn't have time to write Lupin or Mr. Weasley and complain about how he was being. "We had far too much of this rubbishy talk from you last summer boy--about all those Dementoids and that-that Lord Volde-thingy!" he paused, as if contemplating whether to continue. "I suppose he's still out to get you then?"
Harry's fists clenched in his pocket, anger coursing through him at the fact that he must deal with Uncle Vernon's stupidity-- his blind, narrow-minded ignorance--along with everything else. He didn't trust himself to speak so he just nodded mutely, feeling his scar start to throb against his forehead.
"Well I can't say that I blame him as much trouble as you cause. Though it's been a nice change, you keeping yourself up in that room--"
"YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!" Harry roared back without warning, feeling his patience snap. He couldn't believe that not only was he expected to defeat Voldemort, oh no--he had to put up with this utter bullshit from his uncle as well. If Uncle Vernon had to face a tenth of what he, Harry, had been through, he would go stark raving mad.
Then, remembering his promise to keep emotions under check, he forced himself to continue with feigned calmness through clenched teeth. "If it weren't for me you wouldn't even be alive. Do you actually think the darkest wizard of our time will care that you're a Muggle--that you drive an expensive car or own a nice house? He won't care. If he regains power no one will be safe--AND I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP HIM!"
Harry's resolve had snapped, his voice had reached a shrieking pitch and his scar seared white-hot against his forehead. He heard glass exploding all around him and realised that Aunt Petunia's china lay shattered over the entire kitchen. He stopped speaking suddenly and stared at the three petrified faces gaping horrifically at him.
"Right then, well, I'm going to bed," he finished lamely, turned, and walked back up to his room, his footsteps crunching loudly over the shards of china.
He lay on his bed for almost an hour with one arm slung over his eyes, blocking out all light and willing his scar to quit throbbing. He HAD to get control over himself. He could not afford to lose his temper like this if he expected to beat Voldemort. Harry practiced what Snape had told him about Occlumency--trying to void himself of all emotion. After a while, surprisingly, his breathing actually slowed and his scar no longer ached. All he allowed himself to think about was the wind he could hear stirring the tree outside his window.
Once he felt calm again, he slid down onto the floor to finish packing things in his trunk. He cleaned out his bedside table, pressing Fawkes' feather and Dumbledore's card carefully in between the pages of his Transfiguration book. He grabbed a pile of parchment stuffed in the table's middle drawer and realised, with some shock, that it was all of his letters from Ginny. He couldn't believe there were so many... He flipped through them and started to chuck them in the dustbin but something stopped him. Instead, he tucked them gently underneath his clothes at the bottom of his trunk. As he was pulling his hand back, he felt a sharp nick on his thumb. Harry jerked his hand away and saw that a drop of bright red blood was already welling up on the knuckle. He sucked at the wound and peered over the side of the trunk to see what the offending item was. His face paled and the air left his lungs as he realised it was a shard of glass from a mirror. Sirius' mirror. Harry sat transfixed, kneeling there on the floor, staring at the silvery fragment when a timid knock came on his door.
Shocked, because no one had ever bothered knocking on his door before, Harry stood up to open it. Before him in the doorway stood Aunt Petunia holding an old cardboard shoebox and looking incredibly nervous.
"May--may I come in?" she squeaked, with none of her usual briskness.
"Er, yeah... of course," Harry stumbled on his words, feeling very unsure of himself, being in unknown territory.
Aunt Petunia shoved the box at him and said very quickly, "These- these were my sister's belongings--your mother's, of course--they saved some of her things from the house when... when..." Her voice trailed off, unsure.
"When Voldemort attacked my parents?" Harry asked quietly.
Aunt Petunia nodded wordlessly. "I thought you would want to have it since... well, He's back now... and-- and it is your birthday tomorrow, after all. Besides, what would people say if someone ran across it?" she finished in her more normal tone of voice, turning to leave.
"Aunt Petunia..." Harry said timidly, unsure of what he really wanted to say. She actually knew when his birthday was? However, "Er--thanks," was all he managed. She nodded briskly and left the room.
Harry plopped down on the bed and flipped off the lid. Inside the box were tons of old photos, newspaper clippings, and notes, apparently from his dad. He pulled out the clippings first--they were all from the Daily Prophet--and was shocked to see the one lying on top of everything else. It displayed a picture of a house, one half of it completely blown away. He could see smoke billowing up around it, and grim looking witches and wizards milling about the front. Was that-- was that Professor Lupin and Dumbledore? He squinted at the little black and white figures but they walked off to the side and he could no longer make them out. Across the headline read in bold letters,
"THE BOY WHO LIVED"
And in slightly smaller letters underneath,
"Potters Attacked. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Considered Dead."
But, how did Aunt Petunia get this? Surely, she did not subscribe to the Daily Prophet? Dumbledore must have given her this article when he left Harry on the doorstep of Number 4 Privet Drive all those years ago. He decided he would read the article at length later and looked at the next one in his hand. A black and white photo of his dad grinned cheekily up at him; next to the photo read
"James Potter-- England's Best Auror or Just Dumb Luck?"
Harry gasped at the caption. So his dad was not only an Auror but also one of the best? He scanned the first line quickly-
James Potter, 21, of Godric's Hollow is quickly becoming one of England's most well known Aurors. Having just finished his Auror training he is already responsible for capturing five Death Eaters within the last six months. He looks to be one of the nations up and coming Aurors, perhaps with talent rivaling that of Alastor Moody himself. However, his quick rise to the top has called many astute witches and wizards to wonder exactly how he's doing it all.
"Personally, I think he's gettin' his friends to dress up as Death Eaters, then lettin' 'em go after everyone knows about the capture. That's what I would do at least," says one Mogdon Menteur of Kent.
Harry snorted and looked to the last newspaper clipping in the box. It was a small article about his parents' wedding. Harry froze, recognising the photo from the album Hagrid gave him in his first year at Hogwarts. It was the same picture of his parents on their wedding day, surrounded by Sirius, Lupin, and Wormtail. He dropped it quickly as if it burned his fingers, that familiar feeling of ice in his stomach as he looked at a much younger, happier Sirius. He turned instead to the photos in the box. They were all of his parents, some with people he recognised--the Marauders and members of the original Order of the Phoenix-- and some with people he had never seen before. There were photos of him as a baby with his parents and others of his parents when they were younger. Most of the pictures depicting a young Lily or James were obviously taken at Hogwarts; he even found one of James flying during a Quidditch match. A few were of his mum and dad with adults who had to be his grandparents or some other close relatives and then another Muggle snapshot of his mum and... Aunt Petunia? They were much younger in this photo of course--definitely before his mum would have ever gone to Hogwarts. The two girls were looking up at the camera from what appeared to be an attempt to make cookies but instead had successfully showered the kitchen with flour. Aunt Petunia would never let flour cover her kitchen now, Harry thought in amazement. Funny how much more alike they looked then. Aunt Petunia's hair was more of a strawberry blonde colour, much closer a shade to his mom's rich auburn. Both bright green and pale blue eyes were shining, and Aunt Petunia was not so thin, her cheeks were full and she was grinning at the camera.
Harry sat the photos down and looked back into the box. Lying there, almost at the bottom, were his parents' wedding rings and his mother's engagement ring. With trembling hands, he pulled out the larger, thicker gold band and slipped it onto his own ring finger. He studied it for a minute--it was still a little large for his hand-- and with a sigh slipped it off into the box. He noticed there were still letters and a journal at the very bottom of the box but his heart felt very heavy and he could not bear to look at anything else tonight. Harry glanced at his bedside clock and was shocked to see that it was already one o'clock in the morning. Hedwig had still not returned from Hogwarts and he supposed she had decided to stay the night there.
Crawling sleepily into bed he placed his glasses on the bedside table and lay looking up at the ceiling--his brain full to bursting with all the new information he had soaked up tonight. Aunt Petunia gave him a birthday present? His dad was an Auror? And obviously, Aunt Petunia and his mum had gotten along at some point... when did that end? As soon as the family found out that Lily was a witch? These questions and more swirled thickly around his head as he fell into an uneasy sleep. Pictures of his parents, Sirius, and his grandparents were all talking to him, telling him-- something... he could not quite make it out. Their faces came in and out of focus, swirling madly, and in the middle of everything was the journal from the bottom of the box, which was glowing bright green. Harry's dreams faded out as he fell into a deeper sleep, and in the morning, he did not remember them at all.