Harry Potter was annoyed. He hated living with the Dursleys. He was going to be sixteen this summer; surely that was old enough to rent a room in Diagon Alley for the summer, until school started up again? He sighed and flopped over onto his back. His anger had diminished somewhat, now that Dumbledore had finally explained WHY he must return to the Dursleys’ every summer. He was still of the opinion that he would be just as safe in Diagon Alley, with other wizarding folk. Or at the Burrow. Then he remembered Sirius.
Sirius, who had given his life to save Harry's. No. No, he thought, I may never want to visit the Burrow again. If someone else lost their life on account of him, it may very well send him over the edge.
Still, that didn't make him hate staying with his aunt and uncle any less. It had only been a week since he left Hogwarts and he was already bored out of his mind. He wasn't truly expecting any owls this summer. He knew that Owl Post was no longer secure. Hedwig herself had been intercepted during the school year, even if it was by that horrible old hag. He sighed, and concluded that this may turn out to be the longest summer of his life. Then the doorbell rang.
Harry was alone in the house today. Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley had gone to visit Aunt Marge. Aunt Marge refused to stay in the Dursley house when Harry was there, which was just fine with Harry. He hated her even more than he hated the Dursleys, if that was possible.
Fortunately, he could see the front door from his window. There was an attractive young lady at the door, with very straight, dark purple hair. As Harry peered out the window trying to get a better look, she looked up and waved. Though her features had been slightly rearranged, he believed he recognized Tonks. She waved up at him. He grinned and waved back, then unlocked the door to his room and headed downstairs.
Harry hesitated at the front door. He knew Tonks was a Metamorphmagus. He knew the ability was a rare one, but knew she probably wasn't the ONLY one. He needed to make certain it was her. He repeated the code phrase Moody had given him before he had left the train station a week earlier. When Tonks repeated the proper answer, he opened the door.
"Hi, Harry! May I come in?"
"Hullo Tonks! It's good to see you." He swung the door open wider to allow her entrance.
"Brought you a few messages. Moody thinks our owls may be intercepted, so we have to hand carry them for now." Tonks slid a backpack off of her arm and handed it to him. "There you go. It's all for you. Got any tea?"
"I don't have any made, but help yourself to the kitchen. The Dursleys are….”
"Visiting Aunt Marge. Yes, we know. That's why I'm here." She wandered off in the direction of the kitchen while Harry opened the pack she had given him.
It had been enchanted to be smaller on the outside than it was inside. Mrs. Weasley had stuffed it almost full of Harry's favorite treats. Also enclosed were five letters and several wrapped packages. Harry carried the pack up to his bedroom and emptied it onto his bed, then returned the pack to Tonks. They visited briefly while they drank their tea. All too soon, it was time for her to leave.
"Well, Harry, I wish I could stay, but I have a few more errands to run."
"Tonks…has anyone said anything about whether or not I'll have to stay here all summer?"
"We're working on it, Harry. I can't say anything more than that for now. Chin up though, alright?"
"Alright, Tonks. Be careful."
Tonks left and Harry immediately returned to his room to read the letters she had brought. There was one from Ron, one from Hermione, one from Mrs. Weasley, one from Remus Lupin, and one from Ginny. He opened Ron's letter first.
We're back at the Burrow this summer. Hermione is with her parents. I'm awful worried about her. I don't think it's safe for her there, but Dumbledore felt it was best and she hasn't visited with them since Christmas. Hope you can both come for a visit later this summer. Mum and Dad are working on Dumbledore.
Thought you might need some entertainment. The magazines are from me. I'll write again next week.
Ron, as usual, had sent Harry several Quidditch magazines. Harry put them aside to read the next letter. It was from Hermione.
Tonks is here asking if I have anything to send you. I wasn't expecting anyone so soon so I hadn't gotten a chance to start any letters yet, so I'm sorry this will be short.
Mum and Dad have decided to take another holiday abroad this summer, and I'll be going with them. I'll write as often as I can and send it regular mail. I hope you won't have to stay with the Dursleys very long this year. I'm certain that Dumbledore has a plan in mind, I'm just not certain what it is.
Take care, Harry, and be very careful. Don't take any unnecessary risks. I'll write again soon.
PS I hope you like the book.
Trust Hermione to send him a book. He unwrapped a small, rectangular package. Surprisingly, Hermione had sent him a book of riddles rather than an academic subject as she usually did. Harry set it aside, too. The next letter warmed his heart and caused it to ache a bit too.
We've grown so accustomed to having you with us over the summer. It won't seem as if the entire family is together until you can be with us. Arthur and I are discussing the matter with Dumbledore. I believe we will be able to make arrangements for you soon. Please be safe and keep your strength up.
Harry opened one of the packages Molly had sent him; it was full of some of his favorite treats. He sorted through the items and found she had included a small birthday cake, already sliced into pieces. He bit into one of the slices, blessing Mrs. Weasley as he chewed gratefully. It wasn't quite as good as being there, but almost.
Next was a letter from Remus.
We never had a chance to sit down and talk before you left for the Dursleys’ last week.
He loved you more than you'll ever know, Harry. James was family to us both, the same way you are family to Ron and Hermione. You are our family as well. I know that I can never replace him, but I would be honored if you would consider me as an adopted godfather, and I will understand if you can't.
We'll talk soon.
Harry was both oddly touched and resistant to the idea of Remus as an adopted godfather. It almost felt as if it would be a betrayal of Sirius to do so, but at the same time he felt it was what Sirius would have wanted. He would have to give the matter some thought.
The last letter contained writing that was unfamiliar to him. The sender was Ginny Weasley. Surprised, Harry opened the letter with some caution. Ginny had only ever sent two other missives to him during the time he had known her. Both of them sang.
This one did not.
Things just aren't the same without you here this summer. It's too quiet. Even Ron is quiet. He misses you and Hermione very much, I believe.
I'll bet you're glad this letter isn't singing to you, aren't you? Ha! I started to enchant it to sing something from the Weird Sisters, but then I thought that might cause you some trouble with the Dursleys, so I refrained.
Anyway, the cylindrical package in the pack is from me. It's something I need your help with.
Harry put the letter down and pulled the package she had described out of the pile to open it. It contained a blank piece of parchment.
You've just opened it, haven't you? And now you wonder what I’m about. Well, it's a surprise and it's one I would rather show you than tell you about. Tonight at 11 PM, I would like for you to place your hand on the parchment and say "Initiate". You'll see what happens from there.
Harry inspected the parchment more closely. It didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary. He wondered if it was a Portkey? But if it was, why would Ginny have sent it rather than Remus or Mrs. Weasley? Intrigued, Harry set the parchment on his desk and looked at the clock. It was 4 pm. In seven hours, maybe he wouldn't be here anymore.
Harry jerked himself awake. He had fallen asleep sitting up in the bed, reading one of the magazines Ron had sent him. It was so quiet when he was in the house by himself. There hadn't been anything to stop him from nodding off. Harry wondered what had wakened him, then realized he could hear a faint chiming sound. He checked his watch. It was 11:01. The chiming was coming from the direction of his desk. When he looked over, he saw a very faint glow.
It was the parchment Ginny had sent him. He walked over to it. It still appeared to be an ordinary piece of parchment, other than the very faint, golden glow that emanated from it. If the desk lamp had been turned on, Harry doubted he would have noticed it. It was, however, also chiming. Harry noticed that the parchment shook ever so slightly when it chimed. This wasn't like any Portkey he had ever seen.
Harry knew from Ron that Ginny could be just as mischievous as the twins, if not more so. He wondered briefly if his hand would start glowing and chiming, or turn colors if he touched the parchment as she had instructed. Then he realized if he didn't touch it, he would never find out. So he did.
"Initiate!" Harry spoke clearly into the silence around him.
At first, it seemed nothing had happened. It most definitely wasn't a Portkey; he hadn't felt the familiar pull and he was still at the Dursleys’. Harry removed his hand from the parchment and inspected it. Nothing different there either. Just when he wondered if this was Ginny's idea of a practical joke, writing began to appear on the parchment.
Harry? Are you there?
Harry took a step back. The last time he had seen anything like this was Tom Riddle's diary. But he had returned that to Professor Dumbledore after Lucius Malfoy had thrown it to Dobby in anger. He was certain he had seen it locked away in Dumbledore's office. There was no way Ginny could have procured a piece of parchment from it.
Harry? Don't be frightened. It's just me, Ginny. Pick up a quill and write something!
Harry searched his desk for his quill and ink well, then stared at the parchment before him, at a complete loss for words.
Harry, come on! It won't bite!
Ginny? How do I know it's you? He wrote finally.
Who else would it be?
No, you're going to have to do better than that.
Ok, now at least I know it's someone in the Order. This could be Fred and George for all I know, and it probably is. Or Ron.
Oh, Harry, honestly. Fine. The first time I ever saw you was on the platform at 9 and 3/4. I wished you good luck.
What about the second time?
The second time was at the Burrow. You arrived in a flying car, and when I came downstairs and asked Mum for my jumper, I received the biggest shock of my life. You said hello, and I just turned and ran back upstairs.
Well, I don't know...still, I guess Fred and George wouldn't have remembered those exact details. Hello, Ginny.
Hi Harry! How do you like my surprise?
It's wonderful! Where did you get it?
Fred and George made it. It's one of their new Wizard Wheezes. No one else knows about it yet. This is the prototype. They're letting me test it because I'm the one that gave them the idea for it. I thought if anyone could get some use out of it, you could.
This doesn't seem like the type of thing Fred and George usually invent.
They started working on it after I complained that Snape gave me a detention for passing notes in class. I think told them they needed to invent a way to pass notes in class without getting caught. I'm not certain if the more practical uses for it ever occurred to them. The silly gits don't yet realize they may revolutionize the way the wizarding world communicates.
Can you talk to anyone with it?
Right now you have to have a set of parchments that are enchanted to work together. They're still developing the charms. They think it is possible to charm them so that you can hold a conversation with more than one parchment at a time, or contact anyone that has a parchment by speaking their name when you Initiate.
I know. I can't wait to see Mum's face when she discovers they've invented something useful. So, how are you Harry?
As well as can be expected. The Dursleys are gone until tomorrow. Mrs. Figg is staying with me until they get back.
That's something then. Well, I don't want to keep you. Do you want to talk to Ron? I think he's asleep, but I could wake him.
Harry thought about this for a bit.
No, don't wake him. Maybe tomorrow? How does this work, anyway? Do I have to wait for you to contact me?
Oh, no, it's easy. To begin a conversation, just touch the parchment like you did tonight and say Initiate. The parchment you are trying to contact makes a chiming sound and sort of shiver – you probably noticed. It glows a little too, but not enough to see in the daytime.
It's kind of like a pager then. My Uncle Vernon has one of those.
Yes, so do Hermione's parents. I think she described it to Fred and George. They designed it so you can turn off any of those if you want (say, in the middle of Potions class). Anyway, start writing your message. If I'm nearby, I'll answer. It has a built in Reducto charm too so I can carry it around easily. Even if I don't answer, I can still see your message later if I tell it to Remember. When you're done with a conversation, just place your hand on the parchment again and say "Terminate".
You said that already. I take it you're pleased, then?
Harry didn't reply immediately. He was at a loss for words once more.
Harry? Are you still there?
Ginny, why me? You could have sent this to Hermione. She would have been fascinated, and she's probably a better person to help you test it than me.
I know I could have, Harry. But I thought you needed it more since you're stuck at the Dursleys’ for the time being. And I don't have to keep this one. I can give it to Ron so you can talk to him anytime you want. I just wanted to be first, since it was my idea. I wanted to share it with you.
Thank you. And I think you should keep the parchment. Ron's not one much for writing (at least you can't tell it by his letters). And it will be nice to be able to talk to someone who…
Yeah. I had better get some sleep. It's been nice talking to you, Ginny. Good night.
Good night, Harry. Sleep well.
Harry placed his hand on the parchment and said "Terminate". The glow subsided, and Harry returned to his bed and fell asleep. Somehow the house didn't seem quite so empty now.