Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters are owned by J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., Warner Brothers, and others.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Jner for her work in beta-ing this for me. Any mistakes remaining are mine alone, though.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
First of all I believe I owe you an apology for the way that I behaved in your office at the end of last term, after you brought me back from the Ministry of Magic. I hope that I didn’t break anything that was unfixable or irreplaceable in my anger, but please allow me to make reparations for any damage that would otherwise be difficult to rectify.
Harry thought a little, and decided that his apology probably needed to be a little more wide-ranging.
Please also accept my apologies for my attitude and behaviour during the last school year. I realise now that my lack of self-control made life very difficult for a large number of people, staff and students alike, and I understand that my actions were not acceptable. Despite the provocation that I was subjected to, I should have acted in a more adult fashion, and considered the feelings of those around me and the consequences that my actions would have on them.
I would particularly like to express my apologies to Professor McGonagall should the opportunity arise, for the extent to which my behaviour created problems for Gryffindor House and placed her in a difficult situation. I would also like to express my thanks to her for the support she showed me – particularly during my careers interview.
Here, Harry hoped that Dumbledore would actually show his letter to Professor McGonagall, rather than requiring him to apologise in person, but he knew that he might need to do that eventually anyhow. He had a lot more apologising to do though, and that was just in this one letter. By the time he finished writing to all his intended correspondents he had the feeling that his penitence would partly evident in the form of writer’s cramp. ‘Still,’ he thought darkly, ‘better than using a bloodquill.’
Also, I believe that I need to take responsibility for leading a group of students into unnecessary danger. My inability to control my emotions led to a situation where I jeopardised the lives of several Hogwarts students, which is obviously not in the best interests of the school. I admit that I did not take my Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape seriously enough to be able to prevent Lord Voldemort from planting a vision in my mind, and failed to make any progress in the subject at all.
Harry was dreading taking further Occlumency lessons with Snape, but it looked as though this might be the only option if he was to prevent Voldemort being able to implant false visions in his mind again. This was something that he would have to discuss with Dumbledore in person though, to explain why he felt he hadn’t learned anything in his Occlumency lessons with Snape, and see if there was another solution. This wasn’t the moment to be looking for excuses to justify his behaviour though, so he simply added a short sentence that he hoped would lead to a wider discussion of the possibilities.
If at all possible I would like to discuss this with you in person.
Having dealt with the unauthorised excursion to the Ministry of Magic and the question of his Occlumency lessons, Harry turned to other questions he had for the Headmaster.
Whilst I realise that remaining at the Dursleys for a time is vital to the protections that surround Privet Drive, I would like to be able to explore ways that I could have contact with my friends over the summer holidays, perhaps allowing them to visit, or for me to make day trips away from Little Whinging. Part of the anger that I felt in the past year was due to the isolation that I felt, effectively being locked away with nobody to talk to, especially about the events surrounding Voldemort’s return. If it were possible to relax these restrictions, then I would be prepared to base myself here for the whole summer, rather than spending any lengthy period at the Burrow as I had initially hoped.
Harry realised that this was basically a trade-off, but it was one that he was prepared to offer. If he could get away from Privet Drive for occasional days, then it would make his stay there significantly more pleasant. It might also convince the Dursleys to remain on their best behaviour if they were reminded every so often of the wizarding world, particularly those who would stand up for him.
This links into another subject that I need some help with: the prophecy. First of all, is there any reason that I should withhold the contents of the prophecy from my friends? I think it would help if I were able to share the burden that I believe the prophecy places on me. You suggested before that you believe the prophecy means that I am fated to either kill Lord Voldemort, or be killed by him – are there any other possible interpretations of this? Is that necessarily what the word ‘vanquish’ means in this case? And how accurate have previous prophecies been? Are they immutable?
Harry had to sneak downstairs into the living room to borrow Aunt Petunia’s dictionary to check that the last word was the one he was looking for, and it was close enough. He also thought about asking how the prophecy squared with Professor Trelawney’s prediction that he would live to a ripe old age, have twelve children and be made Minister for Magic, but he thought such a flippant comment would hardly help matters at this point.
If we come to the conclusion that the prophecy must be realised, then I may need to direct my studies in a different direction than I had planned. I suggested to Professor McGonagall in my careers interview that I would like to enter Auror training after I leave Hogwarts. However in the more immediate future, I think it will be more important to develop skills that will help me survive further confrontations with Voldemort, and that give me the best opportunity to emerge as the victor. Any suggestions you have on this score would be most welcome, although we may need to wait for the results of my OWLs before a decision about the appropriate NEWT studies can be made. I have plenty of free time whilst I am here at the Dursleys.
Harry hoped that Dumbledore would take the last comment as a hint that he could actually start doing something during the holidays, rather than waiting for the new school year to start, though of course that would be dependent on what he would actually be permitted to do.
Now that Harry had got his apologies and his questions about the prophecy off his mind, there was one more subject that he needed to tackle with Dumbledore, and it was the one that was hardest for him.
Finally, I need to talk to you about Sirius. I still can’t believe that he is dead, but since he simply hasn’t returned from the veil through which he fell, I can only assume that he is. After our brief encounter two summers ago, when I discovered the truth about my parents secret keeper, and when I had briefly entertained hopes of moving out of the Dursleys’ and living with my godfather, it feels as though he has been snatched away for the second time.
I accept that I am partly responsible for Sirius being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I think that I have gotten out of my system the overwhelming sense of both guilt and loss that I felt after returning from the Ministry of Magic. The only real consolation I have is that I know Sirius would have wanted to go out the way that he did, fighting to protect those that he cared about.
I hope that Professor Lupin is bearing up okay. The loss of the last of his true friends will no doubt have been difficult for him too. He seemed a little pale and unwell when he met me at Kings Cross, and I hope that he is coping okay.
Harry thought that he had been very mature in his approach to his letter, but although he had offered some suggestions, he didn’t know whether Dumbledore would consider it sufficiently safe to allow him to visit The Burrow for the odd afternoon, or perhaps to spend a day or two with Hermione. He just hoped that he wasn’t going to be left entirely to his own devices for the summer as he had been the previous year, when he’d been kept entirely in the dark about any efforts to combat Voldemort.
With a final read through the letter, Harry deemed it sufficiently apologetic and sincere and signed the bottom. This was the fifth draft of the letter and he’d been writing for several hours now. It was well past midnight.
“Here Hedwig,” he whispered to his owl. “I know we’ve just come back from Hogwarts, but can you take this to Professor Dumbledore for me please?”
Hedwig gave Harry a quizzical look, but allowed him to secure the letter, and took off through the open window.
With the most pressing letter out of the way, Harry started on a number of others that he knew he needed to write, but that could wait until Hedwig returned from her delivery to Dumbledore.
Letters to Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Neville and Luna flowed from Harry’s quill a little more easily than the previous letter had, but they all followed a similar tone, apologising for his attitude the previous year, and for placing them in danger by taking them to the Ministry of Magic. Harry added a specific apology to Hermione for not taking her seriously enough, and not listening to her when it was clear now that she had been right all along.
He added that he hoped that he would be able to see some or all of them at some point during the holidays, if he could get Dumbledore to agree, and that he was coping better now with Sirius’s death. Harry thanked them all for standing by him, when he had been so difficult, and wished them all a good holiday, with the hope that they would maintain a regular correspondence, to keep him in the loop.
Sleep came to Harry quite quickly after that, and although he wasn’t subjected to any visions from Voldemort, it was still a troubled sleep.
Harry found himself back in the Department of Mysteries in the room with the archway and the veil, set out like a Roman gladiatorial arena with the archway poised on a dais in the centre of the room.
Rather than being filled with spectators baying for blood, as Harry remembered from primary school lessons, the terraces were empty. The Death Eaters that had ambushed the six students occupied the advantage of higher ground for the most part, although a few, such as Lucius Malfoy, were engaged in combat at closer quarters with the various members of the Order of the Phoenix.
Dumbledore’s sudden entrance into the room panicked the Death Eaters, and the tide of battle turned in favour of the rescuing forces, but then Harry caught sight of Sirius, backed up against the archway, duelling with his cousin Bellatrix. Even as his godfather mocked the evil and slightly insane hag, Harry watched a jet of light hit him squarely in the chest, and the amusement in Sirius’s eyes barely faded as he fell slowly backwards through the ragged veil.
Harry must have dreamed the same sequence nine or ten times, each time trying desperately to reach Sirius to check up on him, but each time unable to move from where he stood.
Waking suddenly, drenched in sweat, Harry noted that the room was still dark – it couldn’t have been more than a few hours since he had fallen asleep. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to go back to sleep, given the nightmares, but figured that he didn’t really have an awful lot of choice if he wanted to be in any fit state come morning.
As a compromise, Harry lay back on his bed, thinking about the things that he needed to do. The most important thing for Harry right now was to find a way to work on his Occlumency. At least that would mean he could take peace of mind from knowing that anything he saw in his dreams was not the manufacture of Voldemort’s twisted mind.
Harry realised, though, that the scope for actually practising his Occlumency would probably be pretty limited, given that he could hardly expect (and certainly didn’t want) Professor Snape sacrificing his summer holidays to teach him.
’Well,’ he thought to himself, ’at least I can try and clear my mind, like Snape was always insisting upon. Maybe now he’s not breathing down my neck as I try it will be a bit easier.’
Harry lay there, focusing on the ceiling above him to try and clear any thoughts from his mind. This proved more difficult than he had thought, since even though he stopped thinking about Sirius and the events of the previous year, the ceiling wasn’t a blank, featureless expanse, and minute imperfections in the paintwork or tiny features of the ceiling kept attracting his attention. Instead of clearing his mind, Harry found himself thinking about how many cracks there were in the ceiling, and why there appeared to be odd patches where the light from the streetlamps outside reflected in strange patterns.
* * *
It must have helped clear his mind to some degree though, since after less than half an hour, Harry drifted off to sleep. This time it was a sleep that was filled with pleasant but unremarkable dreams, and when he woke in the morning, to sunlight streaming through the open window, he felt very much refreshed, for the first time since before the Tri-wizard tournament over a year previously.
Hedwig had returned at some point in the night, with a letter that Harry assumed was a response from Professor Dumbledore. This was a little bit of a surprise, as Harry hadn’t expected his Headmaster to write back quite so quickly, and he hoped that it didn’t herald bad news.
Even more surprising was that Hedwig hadn’t woken Harry to deliver the letter, but had simply dropped it on the desk and gone to sleep in her cage. Harry knew that Hedwig was an intelligent owl, but she seemed to know by instinct that he would have more deliveries for her to make when he awoke, and had decided that she’d take the opportunity to have a nap of her own, rather than be sent out again straightaway.
Then again, Harry thought, perhaps it wasn’t instinct. After all, he had left the letter to Ron and the others clearly visible on the desk. Maybe it was just common sense!
Harry quietly opened his trunk and got some owl treats for Hedwig as a reward, leaving them within her easy reach should she awake, and turned to the letter that had arrived. As he had thought, the writing was Professor Dumbledore’s.
Harry opened the letter with a small degree of trepidation. He hoped that Dumbledore wasn’t angry with him, after all, he had apologised for all the trouble he’d caused. Still, the fact that Dumbledore had responded so quickly reassured Harry that at least he was prepared to communicate. The previous year Dumbledore had felt that he had to ignore Harry to protect him. It wouldn’t have done any good for Voldemort to be aware that Harry shared his confidences with Dumbledore, or it might have been used against them.
It almost had, at one point – something in Harry’s mind had manipulated his thoughts to make him strike out at Dumbledore, but he had been prevented from doing anything drastic by the actions of a Port Key, taking him to Grimmauld Place.
Thank you for your most unexpected letter. It’s been many years since I received a letter directly from a student that took such a mature approach, and identified the student’s own failings as resultant in consequences of such a serious nature.
However, while I applaud your sense of responsibility in accepting that your actions were inappropriate, I must remind you that the responsibility for students at Hogwarts rests with the Headmaster and the Staff of the school, not solely with the individual students. Therefore, I know that I and other members of my staff share responsibility for those consequences with you.
As I said when we were last in my office, you had every reason to be angry with me, even if, at the time, you didn’t understand why. That said, I accept your apologies unreservedly, and hope you can accept mine.
Rather than go into great detail here about the other topics that you raised in your letter, I have arranged to visit Mrs Figg’s house this afternoon at three o’clock. I hope you will be able to meet me there, and we will discuss the options that we have available to us.
Harry read the letter with mixed emotions. Part way through he thought he was in trouble, but soon realised that Dumbledore was taking part of the responsibility himself. Harry wasn’t totally sure how he felt about that, but decided that it was something that he could discuss with the Headmaster when they met.
Looking at the clock, Harry was astonished to realise that it was almost noon. His Aunt and Uncle had never allowed him to sleep in as late as this before, so Harry assumed that it must be part of their commitment to leaving him alone.
Realising that this also meant that Uncle Vernon would be at work, rather than downstairs ready to find fault with him, Harry found himself in a strangely good mood. In fact, by the time that he had got into the shower, he was whistling a tune to himself.
Striding down the stairs, into the hall, Harry caught sight of Aunt Petunia watching television, and wished her a “Good Morning”. Aunt Petunia looked startled – she couldn’t have seen Harry in such a cheerful mood as this since, well… ever.
Harry made himself a sandwich and returned to his room to stay out of the Dursleys’ way, as promised. He’d seen no sign of Dudley, so he could only assume that the baby elephant was out terrifying the neighbourhood cats or beating up ten-year-olds. Although Dudley’s weight had come down somewhat due to all the training he was doing for his boxing, he didn’t look any smaller. The fact that he was scared of Harry was one of the most comical things that Harry could imagine, but then Harry figured that it was adequate repayment for the years that he had spent as his cousin’s punchbag.
‘Hmpf,’ Harry thought with irony, ‘If he ever made any money out of boxing I should sue him for a share of the earnings, since it was me he practiced on, growing up.’
Hedwig had woken up and was looking round for Harry as he entered the room. He ruffled her feathers slightly and allowed her to nibble at his fingers, before tying his remaining letters to her leg.
“Ron and Ginny first please, Hedwig, then Hermione,” Harry asked.
Harry had included his phone number in Hermione’s letter since he knew that she didn’t have an owl to use if she had wanted to respond, and he intended Hedwig to go on, rather than stopping to wait for Hermione’s reply.
“Then to Neville and Luna. I don’t know if Luna had left on her trip to Sweden yet, so if you can’t find her, don’t spend too long searching,” he added.
Hedwig looked at him with an affronted expression, suggesting that even if Luna had gone abroad, she would still be able to deliver the letter.
“Well, okay girl,” Harry accepted, “whatever you feel best”.
Hedwig gave a pleased hoot and hopped across to the open window, then spread her wings and was gone into the distance.
Three o’clock came round fairly quickly, and Harry made his way downstairs to go to Mrs. Figg’s. Aunt Petunia stopped him in the hallway to ask where he was going, but Harry gave her a cover story that Mrs Figg had asked for some help with her decorating, and she didn’t comment any further.
The June sun illuminated the street brightly as Harry made his way across the road to Mrs Figg’s house. The flowerbeds and gardens of Privet Drive once again displayed the effects of the prolonged dry spell, as they had done the previous summer, though Harry did note that one or two of the gardens, including the Dursleys’ remained a lush green colour.
The hosepipe ban was obviously being flouted in one or two corners of Little Whinging, which made Harry snort in amusement, when he considered how proud Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were of their magnificent garden.
Another way in which the Dursleys were so hypocritical, he mused. Always going on about how the Government should do this or that, then blatantly ignoring instructions when they did. Harry could almost hear Uncle Vernon ranting about how Mr Wilson, three doors down, had no respect for authority.
These thoughts occupied Harry as he made his way down Privet Drive, finding himself at Mrs Figg’s house sooner than he had anticipated. He knocked on the door at Mrs Figg’s and the door swung inward to reveal Professor Dumbledore, who greeted Harry pleasantly.
“Ah, good afternoon Harry. Please come in. Arabella has graciously allowed me the use of her property whilst she is away on holiday in Eastbourne,” Dumbledore explained easily, as he guided Harry into the living room.
The first things that crossed Harry’s mind were that, for once, none of Mrs Figg’s cats were around, and the house didn’t have its all-pervading reek of boiled cabbage.
‘Well, that’s an improvement,’ he thought to himself. ‘At least I won’t have to put up with the usual atmosphere here.’
“Please,” Dumbledore said, “take a seat, Harry.”
Harry settled himself down into a basic but comfortable chair and spoke.
“Thank you for meeting me, Professor. I’ve got an awful lot of questions, and I don’t know where to start.”
Dumbledore considered Harry carefully. “Perhaps then it would help if I began with a question of my own?” he suggested.
Harry nodded in anticipation, but was slightly surprised at the question that Dumbledore had for him.
“Harry, why is it that you dislike returning to your family during the summer?”
Harry was slightly dumbstruck by the question. “Surely you know how they treat me, Professor?”
“While I realise that Vernon and Petunia don’t treat you as though you were their son, or pay as much attention to you as they do to your cousin, I assume that at least they look after you and take care of your needs,” Dumbledore replied. “What reasons would they have not to look after you? I must say that although I had reports from Molly Weasley and from Hagrid about your relatives’ behaviour, they seemed to be rather fanciful.”
Dumbledore looked a little confused at the impression Harry was giving him of life with the Dursleys. He was now also concerned at the thought that the Dursleys had been badly mistreating Harry over the years.
“When you first came to Hogwarts, five years ago, I thought that you were somewhat enthusiastic, but took that to be because you had been raised well away from the wizarding world. It was all new to you.
“Are you telling me that Vernon and Petunia have treated you that badly?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry wasn’t really comfortable talking to Dumbledore about this, but managed to nod in the affirmative.
“Can you tell me?” the Headmaster asked.
“It’s difficult,” Harry started. “I don’t really know when or how they decided to…” Harry broke off, finding it difficult to explain.
“Perhaps we could try another approach,” Dumbledore suggested. “If I brought a Pensieve with my on my next visit, could you place some memories of how your relatives treated you, particularly in comparison with Dudley?” he requested.
“You’re going to come back again?” Harry asked, surprised.
At Dumbledore’s nod, Harry agreed that he could provide some appropriate memories.
“Yes, I think I’m going to need to take a closer interest in your welfare from now, Harry,” Dumbledore stated. “Even if we talked for several more hours, I don’t think that we could cover all the topics that I need to discuss with you, many of which you raised in your most thoughtful letter.
“But for now, I think we need to prioritise your Occlumency lessons. That was the main reason that I wished to talk to you this afternoon. I would like you to resume lessons with Professor Snape –“
Harry interrupted his Headmaster immediately. “-But Professor, I can’t carry on taking lessons like that from Sn-, Professor Snape, sir. It was humiliating. He gave me no chance to defend myself or anything! That was one of the most important things that I wanted to talk to you about!”
Harry felt his face go red in embarrassment at his little outburst. He’d resolved to be polite to the Headmaster this afternoon after the volatility of their previous meeting and here he was questioning the first decision that Dumbledore made.
Fortunately he didn’t seem to be upset by the interruption, or the tone of Harry’s voice, though he did appear concerned about something.
“Defend yourself, Harry?” Dumbledore looked at him questioningly. “Why would you need to defend yourself during an Occlumency lesson?”
Harry was stumped for a moment, but then realised that Snape must not have discussed the content of the Occlumency lessons with the Headmaster at all. He proceeded to describe the lessons with Snape in some detail.
Dumbledore looked somewhat bemused by Snape’s teaching methods, although he refrained from making any comments until Harry had finished his explanation.
“As far as I am aware,” Dumbledore noted, with a thoughtful frown, “I’ve never met anyone who, taking their very first lessons in Occlumency, has been able to completely clear their mind. I will need to speak to him about this, but you are correct: given what you have just told me, it would not be in your best interest to continue receiving instruction from Professor Snape.”
He considered this for a moment, then drew a book from within his robes.
“I had intended to give you this as a precursor to continuing your Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape,” he said, passing the book to Harry. The book was titled Calm and Control: Beginning Occlumency, and Harry placed it on the floor in front of him. “Since he is also busy with his work for the Order, he would not, anyway, have been able to meet with you very regularly, and studying this would hopefully have filled some of the gaps. Perhaps, after all, an alternative solution would have been more helpful.
“I suggest now, that you make yourself familiar with the content, since I will now have to find you another tutor in the subject.”
Harry felt a sense of relief wash over him with these words. He could have done with a book like this last year, before he had even started the lessons with Snape. More importantly, he wouldn’t have the greasy-haired Potions master sifting through his memories again and he would still be receiving instruction from someone.
“Thank you very much, sir,” Harry responded.
“Well, now that we’ve discussed your Occlumency lessons, Harry, we might as well continue on the subject of your education,” Dumbledore suggested. “Whilst we could talk about the prophecy and its potential meaning, I feel that, whatever happens, it is likely that at some point Lord Voldemort will once again be seeking to get hold of you.”
Harry snorted with annoyance.
“Yes, well, we need to ensure that you are as prepared for such an eventuality as you can be, given that likelihood. Whilst I am looking into a tutor for your Occlumency lessons, I shall consider what other skills it would be useful for you to learn. If there’s any subject in particular that you feel you would especially benefit from extra tuition in, please let me know”
Dumbledore looked thoughtful at this. Then stood and made his way towards the fire.
“Yes, Harry. You’ve given me a great deal to think about. Please meet me again here on Friday, after breakfast, and we can discuss some of the other things you had in mind. I may have someone for you to meet by then.” He stopped and took a pinch of Floo powder, turning to Harry. “Oh, and see what you can learn from that book. I should be able to talk you through some of the principles if you have any questions,” he added.
Harry thanked Dumbledore once more, as the Headmaster tossed his Floo powder onto the fire with a burst of light, stating his destination.