Harry Potter was not your usual fifteen, nearly sixteen-year-old boy. He was short for his age, and the misshapen outsized cast-offs he was forced to wear during the summer months accentuated this. He was also an underage wizard, fresh from a traumatic year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland. Looking back on it, Harry could safely say that it had been his worst year at Hogwarts ever, possibly even the worst year in his entire life. Before the year started, he had been attacked by the soul-sucking guards of the wizard prison known as Azkaban; he had had to use magic to defend himself, and if it hadn't been for the intervention of his headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, he would have been expelled from school. And as far as Harry could see it had all gone downhill from there: his best friend, Ron Weasley, had been appointed fifth-year Prefect of their House over Harry; and the Defence Against the Darks professor - who had been assigned by the Ministry to spy on Dumbledore and Harry himself - had waged a vicious campaign intending to discredit them.
Here Harry paused in his reflections, without realising it, he rubbed the back of his hand where the words 'I must not tell lies' - a souvenir of Dolores Umbridge's torturous detentions - were still faintly visible.
But what hurt more than anything, more than the detentions, more than his lifetime ban from playing Quidditch - which for some reason Ginny seemed to think would now be revoked, was the punishment for the terrible mistakes he had made a few weeks ago. For over a year now, his archenemy, Tom Marvolo Riddle - known to the wizarding world as Lord Voldemort - had been using Legilimency to probe Harry's mind and insert memories or visions. Some of these visions had been true, but some had been elaborate fabrications, such as the one that had lured Harry and five of his friends - including Ron, Ginny and his other best friend, Hermione Granger - to the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry. All six of them had survived, although Ron and Hermione were still recovering from their injuries. Unfortunately, one member of the rescue party of Order members that had arrived to save them had not: Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, the very man Voldemort had tricked Harry into thinking he had to rescue.
Thinking back, Harry cursed himself for being foolish and resolved to work harder at mastering Occulmency next year. He also decided that he had stop feeling sorry for himself, and actually do something about his situation. After all, if Professor Trelawney's prophecy was accurate - and he feared it was - it was up to him to defeat Voldemort. If Harry's horrible experience at the Ministry had proven anything, it was that while he might possess 'a power the Dark Lord knew not', he didn't know what it was either.
With that in mind, he had spent most of the last three weeks studying his old schoolbooks, and he was amazed at the amount of things that he didn't really know that well. That didn't bode well for his OWL results, which were due any day now. He had also spent a fair amount of time perusing the local paper and wandering the village. The Order's warning to treat him properly had had an unusual effect on his uncle. He had agreed to treat Harry properly providing that he 'pay his way' which - as Harry was reluctant to tap his account at Gringotts for fear that his uncle would try and steal the money in it - meant there was only one solution: he had to find a summer job.
His initial enquiries over the past couple of weeks hadn't been terribly successful. Most of the shop owners seemed to think that he didn't 'have the right look' and his aunt and uncle's claims he attended St Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys hadn't helped either. However, today Harry felt drawn to a short side street he'd never been down before. He turned down it, stopping outside a small, antiques shop that in Harry's opinion wouldn't have looked out of place in the all-wizarding village, Hogsmeade. He turned the door handle, and walked in. There was a step down onto the shop floor that he hadn't seen, so he staggered a little and only just managed to right himself before a small squat man came out from the back room and smiled at him. "Hello, what can I do for you, Mr…?"
"Potter," Harry replied. "Harry Potter. I was wondering if you were looking for someone to help out over the summer holidays?"
The little man smiled. "Or rather you were hoping I might be willing to take you on." Harry nodded. "As a rule I do not take on summer help, Mr Potter. As I find the young people of this town to be at best unreliable, and at worst, criminal. And if my memory serves your reputation certainly suggests that you are closer to the latter." Harry began to protest, but he held up his hand for silence. "However, we Jamesons know that reputations, rumours and impressions can be deceptive, and have learned to go by our instincts. And my instincts tell me that you can be trusted, Mr Potter. So I am going to say yes. Everyone who comes to this shop does so seeking something, and you may work here until you figure out what it is that you are seeking."
"Thank you, sir."
"Call me Jack."
"Only if you call me Harry."
"Very well then… Harry," agreed Jameson. "I will be paying you in cash as I see no reason to involve the government if it is avoidable. Politicians and their lap-dogs are the two things that I detest the most, and try my best to avoid them at all costs."
Harry nodded, he agreed with that sentiment all right, the Minister of Magic - Cornelius Fudge - and his toadies Dolores Umbridge and Percy Weasley had been the cause of a lot of his suffering over the past year. "When can I start?"
"Would eight o'clock tomorrow morning be acceptable?"
"Then I will see you then. Goodbye Harry."
Harry was up promptly at seven the next morning, and he dressed in the best clothes he could find from his meagre collection of Muggle attire. After a quick breakfast, he walked into the village.
The bell over the door dinged as he entered the antique shop, he was surprised to see a young red-haired woman at the counter instead of Mr Jameson. She looked about the same age and height as Tonks usually was, but her sleeveless top showed off a figure that the young Metamorphmagus lacked. However, before he could say anything, the old man came out of a door at the back of the shop. He smiled slightly when he saw Harry. "Welcome back, Harry. Are you ready for a day's work?"
"I'm ready, Jack."
The old man nodded. "I would like to introduce you to my son's eldest daughter, Jenna. She helps out in the shop from time to time, and she will be able to show you around. Jenna, I have some business to attend to at the British Museum today, so I'm going to have to leave you two in charge if that's okay?"
"Certainly Grandfather," Jenna replied before Harry had a chance to say anything. "It's not the first time I've done it."
"No, it is not," Jameson conceded. "I should be back before closing time."
"Have a good day, Grandfather," Jenna told him. "We'll be fine."
"Bye Jack," said Harry, and Jameson noticed them exchange a quick glance.
The old man smiled. As he had expected the two young people were bonding nicely. Which if I'm right about young Mr Potter, will be absolutely essential. He has friends to be sure, but he will need her unique perspective on what is to come.
With that thought in mind, he quickly exited the shop.
Once her grandfather was out of the shop, Jenna turned quickly to Harry. "Well, what do you want to do first?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess I should have a look around and see what's here."
"Sound's good." Jenna agreed. With that in mind she steered him over to the left side of the shop. "The furniture's not worth bothering about," she told him. "Only Grandfather cares about that side of things. My favourites are the books and the old jewellery."
Harry smiled, he had a feeling that Hermione would like this girl a lot. They spent the next few hours pouring over the contents of the shop. Most of the books were fairly ordinary, but there were a few books on ancient mythology that seemed a little too detailed to Harry. He couldn't be sure though, his History teacher, Professor Binns, had never been very interested in anything other than political history and goblin rebellions. There were a handful of customers, but Jenna dealt with them with no difficultly at all, and by lunchtime the shop had emptied out.
At Jenna's suggestion, they closed up the shop and went down the road to a small café, where they had a tasty lunch of toasted cheese and bacon sandwiches and lemonade, which Harry – reluctantly but necessarily – allowed his new acquaintance to pay for.
When he returned to Privet Drive at about six o'clock, Harry did so with a slight smile on his face. It had been nice to actually be a normal boy for once, without having to worry about Death Eaters, Voldemort, the prophecy, or even his relatives the Dursleys. Harry was pretty sure it wasn't going to last, but he intended to enjoy it while it did.
Just before closing on Friday, Jameson paid Harry his first week's wages. "We're aren't open at the weekends. So I won't need you back until Monday. Have some fun."
Harry nodded. He had plans for this money. "Are you doing anything tomorrow, Jen?" he asked Jenna as they got their coats from the back room.
"Not really, why?" she asked, pausing to open the front door.
"Well, now that I've got some money, I thought I'd go shopping and get some decent clothes, and maybe go and see a film. You interested?"
"Sounds good," Jenna agreed. "When do you want to meet?"
"How about we meet here at ten?"
"Okay, are you sure you don't want me to pick you up?"
Harry shook his head. "Trust me, you don't want to meet my ‘family' if you can help it."
Jenna nodded, understanding completely. Harry had told her a little about his life with the Dursleys, and he'd pointed out Dudley and his gang once from a distance. "Ten o'clock it is then."
At the end of the street, they parted company, Jenna headed towards the centre of town and the small flat she shared with two old friends from university, and Harry headed in the opposite direction towards Privet Drive.
That evening he sent off an "I'm fine" note to the Order, and reluctantly handed over about half of his official salary to Uncle Vernon, as they had agreed. Despite this, he retired to bed in a fairly cheery frame of mind.
Harry was looking forward to his day out so much that he didn't get much sleep that night and he actually spent most of the night reading through some of his old textbooks and writing a letter to Ginny, Ron and Hermione who were all staying at Grimmauld Place. By seven o'clock, he was ready to get going, and then snuck out of his bedroom to use the shower. Once he'd finished, he dressed in some of his older clothes – as he planned to get some new ones there didn't seem much point in wearing any of his better clothes – then he headed downstairs for some breakfast.
Thanks to his early start it was only ten-past nine when he arrived at the shop, and he had to wait for about half-an-hour before Jenna turned up in her battered old black Aston Martin sports car.
"Nice," Harry commented as he slipped into passenger seat.
"Thanks, it's not the best car around, but I love it," Jenna told him. "Where to first?"
"Do you know any good clothes shops?" Harry asked. "I'm getting a little tired of wearing my cousin's old cast-offs and parts of my school uniform. I don't want to blow all my money in one go though."
Jenna pondered this for a few minutes, and then put the car into gear. "I think I know just the place." She pulled out from the pavement and headed down the road towards London.
Jenna was right, and within two hours Harry had located two full sets of clothes – jeans, t-shirts, shirts, and jumpers all black. They ducked into a public toilet so Harry could change and then Jenna suggested they get some lunch. Harry had always wanted to try some fast food so — despite Jenna's protests that it couldn't really qualify as food — they located a McDonalds, and Harry bought himself a cheeseburger meal. After some deliberation and a lot of muttering (Harry thought he heard something about American garbage) Jenna opted for a veggie burger meal, which she had with a cup of tea.
After they were finished, Jenna suggested they check out a film at the cinema. Having never been Harry was quite keen on this, so after clearing their table they returned to the car and drove to the nearest cinema. It took them a while to decide which film to go to: Jenna had suggested they go and see a film about two convicts and their hostages who end up in a bar full of vampires while on the run. Harry didn't much fancy that one, he thought that the film about a young girl who strikes out at her horrible parents and evil headmistress with her magical powers, would be a better film to watch (the fact that the actress who played the headmistress reminded him a little of Uncle Vernon's sister Marge had nothing to do with it of course); but in the end they compromised on an adventure film about an American spy who has to steal a top-secret list from the CIA in order to clear his name.
After the film finished, Jenna drove them both back to Little Whinging and they parted company outside the shop. As she drove off, Harry gathered up his bags and headed back to Privet Drive. When he got in, the two elder Dursleys were in the middle of dinner and Dudley was nowhere to be found. Probably out beating up a little kid with his friends, Harry thought, then helped himself to some of the food and sat down. Once he'd finished eating, he returned his plate to the kitchen and went back to his room. After a couple of hours studying, he switched off his desk lamp and went to bed.
The next two and a half weeks followed the same pattern, Harry and Jenna worked in the antique shop during the week, sometimes assisted by her grandfather, broken only on the third week of Harry's incarceration by the arrival of his OWL results. Overall Harry was quite pleased with them: he had failed Astronomy, Divination and History of Magic, and received only ‘Average' for Herbology, however he managed ‘Exceeds Expectations' in Charms and Transfiguration, and ‘Outstandings' in Potions, DADA and Care of Magical Creatures.
Harry grinned wryly at the ‘O' in the Potions column, he was in two minds about that grade. One the one hand, having Advanced Potions was what he needed to eventually become an Auror, but on the other it also meant he was stuck in Potions with two of his least favourite people – Draco Malfoy and Professor Severus Snape – for another two years.
Chuckling slightly to himself, he opened his next letter, which was in written with the green ink favoured by Professor McGonagall.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr Potter,
Please note that new school year will begin on September the first. The Hogwarts Express will leave from King's Cross Station, platform nine and three-quarters, at eleven o'clock.
According to my records, you received the necessary OWL results to continue with Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Potions and Transfiguration. Assuming you still wish to follow the career path you mentioned at your Career Advice meeting in April, you will be required to take five subjects at NEWT level, I therefore need to know which of Herbology or Care of Magical Creatures you wish to continue.
Furthermore, you will be pleased to know that all decrees enacted by the former High Inquisitor have been revoked, including your Quidditch ban. I am therefore pleased to inform you that you have been reinstated as Seeker for the Gryffindor team and I am also making you Captain of the team. If you would see me after class on the first day we can discuss your responsibilities. I have enclosed your badge and await your owl by no later than the 31st of July.
Harry pocketed McGonagall's letter. Glancing at the front of the other two letters, Harry recognised Hermione's precise script and a sloppy, cursive hand that strongly resembled Ron's but he was fairly sure belonged to Ginny. Knowing that Hermione's letter was probably going to be about the exams and wanting to delay the inevitable, he picked up Ginny's letter first:
I hope the Muggles are still treating you all right. If they aren't let us know and Dad and Mad-Eye will sort them out. Your summer job sounds fun, and a lot safer than mine, I managed to persuade Mum to let me help the twins at their shop, which is doing great, they're even thinking about expanding and Mad-Eye's got them working on some surprises for Voldemort's people too.
We'll keep trying to persuade Dumbledore to let you come to headquarters but he won't budge. I guess we'll see you on September the first.
PS: I made prefect, Mum was delighted. She's going to get me a new broom when she goes to Diagon Alley to get our books and stuff. I want try out for Chaser, since I'm sure you're back on the team now Umbridge is gone.
Harry grinned. If Ginny was anywhere near as good a Chaser as she was a Seeker (and if he remembered correctly she'd said she was better) she shouldn't have any problems getting one of the two vacant Chaser spots. He decided to hold the trials as soon as possible, he had two new Chasers to find, and he really needed to replace the Beaters that had filled in for the twins the year before too as they had been abysmal.
Setting down Ginny's letter, he picked up Hermione and opened it. The contents were fairly predictable:
I just got my OWLs results back, I got ‘Outstanding' in Arithmancy, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Defence Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Herbology, Study of Ancient Runes. I only got an ‘Exceeds Expectations' for the Astronomy though, which I don't think was very fair, they should've adjusted the marks because we didn't get to finish. Anyway, I'd love to see you before terms starts, but I know you're safer where you are, so I expect I won't see you until September the first. Don't forget to practise your Occlumency and let the Order know if the Dursley's start giving you any problems.
Harry folded the letters back into their envelopes and went back to sleep. In the morning, he was greeted by two more owls, one of which he managed to identify as the one belonging to Neville's grandmother and the other from Luna.
Neville's letter contained a thank you for helping him the year before with Defence Against the Dark Arts (Neville had received an ‘O' in DADA, one of only two that he got), and asking him if the DA would be continuing next year. Luna's note said much the same thing as Neville's, and mentioned that her search for the Crumple-Horned Snorkack in Sweden had so far been fruitless, but that she was hopeful of their eventual success.
Chuckling slightly to himself, Harry quickly dressed in some of his new clothes. After eating breakfast, and picking up the book he'd bought Jenna the day before, he headed into work.
Harry's birthday was one of the best so far. He received rather more than his usual number of presents, as in addition to the usual presents from Ron, Hermione, Mr Weasley and Hagrid; he also received gifts from Ginny, Neville and Luna, most of the DA, as well as Mad-Eye Moody, the Aurors Tonks and Shacklebolt, and Professors Lupin and McGonagall. Harry was a little surprised at the last, but it made sense when he opened it: it was a book by Darren O'Hare, a famous Irish Keeper and Irish International Captain. The only thing that marred it - which Harry stoutly refused to let get to him - was that there was no present from his godfather.
When he arrived at work, Jameson gave him a gift-wrapped package and told him that he needn't work today, but that as a treat he could have a look through the ‘special archive' in the back, which Mr Jameson refused to sell at any cost.
Harry thanked the old man and headed into the back, where Jenna was already waiting. They spent the next couple of hours working their way through the small, but eclectic collection of odds-and-ends that Jameson had collected for his own personal pleasure over the years.
Just as he was thinking of taking a break for lunch, Harry unearthed a small, golden trinket. Harry placed it on his hand and examined it: it was egg-shaped at its centre with a number of small flat pieces of metal attached to it by small struts.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of Harry's neck began to prickle. Momentarily caught by surprise, Harry sat motionless as the device hovered up from his hand, and then began to rotate around on itself along three small splits.
After a moment, the struts contracted into the main body and began to shoot off small bolts of electricity, mainly towards him. Harry screamed in pain, but not for long, as within a few seconds, his world went black.
To be continued...
A/N: Sorry about the cliffie, but there is a reason for it. I hope you like this new fic, the plot's been bothering me for some time. I will update The Next Generation soon but I'm going to write a couple of chapters of this first. As always it will be Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, anything else you'll just have to wait and see. Updates will, as always, be available through my Yahoo! Group Shamrocks Study (if you can't find it, e-mail me and I'll set you up.) See you soon, Shamrock!