"It's so hot, you could cook a Hippogriff out here," said Harry Potter, wiping the sweat from his brow. He looked round, seeing the sizzling grass in front of Number Four, Privet Drive.
"Yeah, you could," said Ron. Harry spun round once again. When did Ron get here? "In fact, there's Luna Lovegood, cooking one right now," he added, presumably pointing at the blonde witch. He licked his lips. "Mmm... I reckon that looks pretty good, actually..."
Harry was making a habit of spinning round, and there didn't seem to be an end in sight. Ron wasn't kidding; Luna Lovegood was indeed standing on the Dursley's front lawn, in front of a grill, and Harry could see feathers floating about her. She wore an apron which had the words "SNORKACKS ARE PEOPLE TOO" emblazoned on its front.
Who said they weren't? Harry found himself thinking. He shook his head. What? Where in hell did that come from?
Harry had a feeling that the heat was getting to be a bit much. He couldn't be thinking properly. Oh, look. There's Ginny.
And, indeed, it was. Ron looked rather disappointed, but Luna, the grill, and even the mouth-watering Hippogriff had vanished into thin air. Their space had apparently been rented out to Ginny and a folding chair, both catching some rays, or whatever a girl does in a bathing suit on hot summer days. Yes, the chair was tanning too. Of course it was, silly. Chairs are people too.
"Ginny?" said Harry, confused. "When did you get here?
"What are you talking about, Harry?" she said. "I've been here all the time."
Ron, however, had recovered from the disappointment of the disappearing hippogriff supper, and walked in front of the sunbathers.
"Uh, Ginny, aren't you a bit under-dressed?" said Ron, trying to cover his sister.
"She's fine, Ron," said Hermione exasperatedly. "Will you stop harassing her?"
"What?" said Ron, clearly not noticing the fact that Hermione had not been present four seconds before. "I said one thing!"
"Harry, does this make my bottom look big?" asked Ginny curiously, turning round on the chair to face away from Harry (or to face her bottom towards him, depending on how you look at it - and Harry certainly was).
"Er, no, your bottom looks just fine..." Harry said oddly.
A crack announced the Apparation of Sirius Black, who was standing right in front of Harry. "I heard that someone was mistreating an innocent Hippogriff. Where's the fiend?"
"SIRIUS!" cried Harry. "You're alive!"
Sirius turned around. Is it a bit cooler than it was a moment ago? thought Harry, shivering. There was a look on his godfather's face that could have made anyone shiver. Dementors included.
Ron was gone. Hermione was never really there to begin with, it seemed. Ginny was nowhere to be seen -- as well as her bottom, much to Harry's chagrin.
Sirius' eyes were now darker than Snape's had ever been. His pupils dilated visibly, as the light was drained from the sun. His mouth opened a bit, and his head quirked, as if not sure of what Harry had said.
It was cold now. Very cold. Even as Harry thought about it, he noticed that he could no longer feel the cold. That doesn't make sense -- but then nothing made sense, as Harry's very self dilated just as Sirius' pupils had. There seemed to be a hole in his very being.
Sirius spoke. "Of course I'm not alive," he said icily. "How could I be? It was you who killed me."
Cold. Frozen. Stiff.
Harry couldn't have moved, even if there was anywhere to go. The hole had burrowed its way through Harry's person, and had just now reached his lungs; he could no longer breathe.
Now the snake that was eating away at him snapped back and forth quickly, attacking his very core; his heart. Harry could feel the world darkening; yes, feel, not see. The dark encompassed everything. The last thing to go was the bright green of his eyes. But he couldn't see that, of course....
"WHAT TO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, BOY?"
Those eyes now snapped open. He blinked a few times, regaining consciousness.
Where am I? That answer came quickly. Old sheets...too small mattress...the sweet sound of Uncle Vernon screaming at the top of his voice....
Harry smirked grimly. Number Four, Privet Drive. Nothing ever changed at Number Four. Nope. Not a thing.
"I'm sleeping, that's what I think I'm doing!" he hollered back.
"Oh, really? I think not!"
"Well, not anymore," said Harry obviously. "But that's 'cause you woke me!"
Eleven? Harry never slept late. It was a rather difficult thing to do, you see, when you routinely woke up screaming from blood-curdling nightmares. This was the first time he had slept to eleven all summer.
"Get down here! You have chores to do, Potter! You'd better bloody get up, or I'll...I'll...I'll set Dudley on you!"
This was, of course, the worst Uncle Vernon could do, considering the veiled threats made to him at the end of the last year by the members of the Order. But, alas, Harry still had to get up.
"Coming," he called, and began to dress.
When Harry emerged from the stairway a few minutes later, he saw the kitchen as it normally was. As always. Nothing was different. Aunt Petunia pointed silently at the stove, where a package of bacon sat next to a frying pan. Harry dutifully went over and began to unwrap it.
Uncle Vernon sat in his usual chair, drinking his coffee and reading the paper. His bushy moustache twitched as he sniffed the pleasant aroma the bacon emitted. Harry knew that his uncle liked bacon more than most other foods combined, and that he had missed it, due to Dudley's diet.
Dudley sat in his usual chair, waiting impatiently for the bacon as always. Harry saw him stare at the pan, no doubt wishing for nothing more than for the hot, delicious bits to be squeezing their way down his gullet; as always.
Once the bacon was cooked, Harry sat down in his usual chair, and was just about to think another thought of how Privet Drive never changed in the slightest, when a most unusual sound sounded.
The doorbell rang.
It shouldn't be such an unusual thing for the doorbell to ring in such an... er... ordinary household, but it was. In the past years, people had seemed -- slowly, but surely -- to abandon the Dursleys. None of the neighbours chatted with Petunia anymore. None of Dudley's friends ever seemed to want to be seen by his parents (one can imagine why). No one had ever really visited Vernon (save Aunt Marge), so that wasn't really much of a change.
But it didn't really matter that it was an unusual occasion that the doorbell rang. The fact was, it had. So, logically, someone should probably get the door.
"I'll get it," said Harry, pushing back his chair.
"No," snapped Aunt Petunia. "You mind the bacon. I'll get it."
"But the bacon's already --" Harry began, but the kitchen door slammed shut with a, well, slam.
* * *
Foolish boy. Like I'm about to let him get the bloody door. I can only imagine (which, as you can imagine, she was doing), 'Hullo, my name's Harry Potter. I'm a wizard. What's your name?'Like I'm letting that... thing... greet a visitor....
Perhaps Petunia was making a big deal over nothing. After all, Harry had answered the door many times over the years, and most everyone who knew the Dursley's (at least those who knew them enough to know where they lived), knew that Harry was her nephew, and that he lived with them. It wasn't exactly a secret.
But something told her to get the door. She didn't know what.
The doorbell rang once again.
"Coming!" she said in a cheerful voice. She hated it when people rang the doorbell more than once; couldn't they realise that she was on her way to the door? It's not as though she could just disappear from one place one second, and appear in another the next.
Her hand turned the doorknob, she pulled open the door, and her heart stopped.
"Hello," said the visitor nicely.
Petunia's eyes were wide, her jaw slack. She had to be asleep. It couldn't possibly be... she was dead.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Petunia managed to croak out.
"What?" she asked, slightly taken aback. "I'm here to see Harry."
Of course you are. Why else would you bother me? Oh, right; you wouldn't! You're DEAD!
"Get out of my house," said Petunia, swallowing the lump in her throat. "Never come back here again. It's not my fault. You leave me alone." Petunia made as if to close the door, but the visitor took a step inside.
"Do I have the wrong house? Harry Potter lives here, doesn't he?"
"You bloody well know he lives here," Petunia told her dead sister. "It's your fault he got dumped on my doorstep, too. I said go away. I don't believe in ghosts."
"Ghosts? What do ghosts have to do with anything? And why wouldn't you believe in ghosts?"
"Leave -- me -- alone!"
The door slammed shut. The visitor was forced back outside to avoid being hit. Petunia walked away, shivering slightly. It was cold.
As cold as those green eyes.
* * *
"Who was it?" asked Vernon from behind his paper.
"No one," said Petunia quickly. "Just...salesman. Prattling on about some bloody new Hoover."
Harry looked at his aunt suspiciously. New Hoover? Aunt Petunia loved Hoovers. She bought a new one every year, whenever they were released, so that her house could have the most up-to-date clean of any in Little Whinging. She was not the type to call a Hoover salesman 'bloody.'
"For goodness sake, the witch is dead!" exclaimed Petunia, causing all three males in the room to stare at her. "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
"Petunia," said Vernon, looking at her a bit worriedly. "Are you feeling okay? Do you need a lie down?"
"I'm fine Vernon. I'm not bonkers!" She shivered, and Harry was quite sure she didn't believe herself. However....
"Who was really at the door, Aunt Petunia?" asked Harry, standing up from his chair. Dudley practically pounced on his bacon.
"I told you -- a bloody salesman," said Petunia not at all convincingly.
"Right," said Harry, walking to the hall door. "Salesman."
Entering the hall, thoughts banged from side to side in Harry's head. Witch? Aunt Petunia said 'witch?' She's never willingly said that. And who was she talking about? The only dead witch she would know is...
Harry reached for the doorknob, turning it to the right with a brief click. When he pulled the door back, contrary to what he had, in some twisted way, expected, he was not face to face with his mother. He was, however, face to face with --
"Ginny?" asked Harry, as though not sure that the girl in front of him really was the sunbather from his nightmare.
"Harry! Thank Merlin. Was that your aunt?" she asked. "She's...a bit paranoid, I think."
"What're you doing here?" said Harry, who hadn't had much contact from the wizarding world since school had let out. He did write every few days, to keep the Order happy, but he rarely was told anything of importance, as seemed to be tradition. He most certainly had not been told to expect the youngest Weasley on his doorstep.
"Aren't you going to invite me inside?" she asked, as though he was not being a proper gentleman in the least. He chuckled, glad to be once again in the company of someone magical.
"Sure," he said, stepping back and granting her entrance. Shutting the door behind, the two made their way to the kitchen. It took only a few seconds, of course, as the kitchen was only a few seconds walk away.
"Who the hell are you?" spluttered Uncle Vernon, in the middle of a sip of coffee.
"What do you want," asked Aunt Petunia miserably. "I did everything you asked!" If Harry didn't know better, he'd of thought that his aunt was crying. But he did know better, so he must have been mistaken.
"What are you talking about, Aunt Petunia?" said Harry. "This is Ginny--Ginny Weasley."
"No, no, no. That's your bloody mother. No, I didn't mean that! What do you want?" Aunt Petunia buried her head in her hands, (which was a remarkable feat, considering her long neck), and Harry was quite sure now that he saw tears.
"I'm not his mother!" exclaimed Ginny. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Trying to drive me batty," said Aunt Petunia to her left elbow. "It's not going to work... oh, yes it is. I must be batty. My dead sister's in my kitchen, my nephew thinks she's one of his little friends, and I'm talking to my elbow!"
"No, seriously, Aunt Petunia," said Harry. He had the strange urge to comfort his aunt. "This isn't my mum. My mum's dead. This couldn't be her. You're not..." Harry was going to say not batty, but he wasn't sure about that, really. She did think that Lily Potter had showed up in her kitchen after all...
"Calm down, Petunia!" cried Vernon. Vernon hates it when his wife cries, because he never really knows what to do. "Stop blubbering! Please?"
I think it was the 'please' that did it. Eventually, Aunt Petunia managed to calm down. She slowly raised her head from her arms, and saw the worried looks of Harry, Vernon, and Ginny. Dudley however, had taken the opportunity to filch his father's remaining bacon.
"You say that's some Weasley," said Aunt Petunia. "Then what in hell is she doing in my kitchen? And why does she have her...."
"Yeah," interrupted Harry, grinning. "You never said. What are you doing here?"
"Checking on you, of course," she said, still looking at Petunia as though she was a bit dotty.
"What?" said Harry, no longer smiling. "Why would you have to check on me? Did you think I was going to do something stupid, or hurt myself?"
Ginny looked back at him quickly. "No, no, of course not. I just...."
"Well, why else would you come?" said Harry irritably.
"Harry, maybe we should talk about this somewhere else?"
"Yes, please," said Uncle Vernon, looking at his empty plate conspicuously. "Do spare us of your petty arguments. We're not interested."
"Fine," said Harry, and he and Ginny began to walk for the hall door.
"Not so fast," said Petunia, acting not at all herself. She hurriedly stood up once again, and practically shoved the two out of the kitchen (without actually touching Ginny, however). She followed them.
"You had better explain this Pott -- Harry," Petunia said. "If this is your friend, then why in heaven's name does she have my bloody sister's eyes?"
"What?" said both Harry and Ginny confusedly.
"What do you mean, what?" said Harry's aunt. "Those eyes," she pointed at Harry's face, and turned to Ginny's. Her hand stopped before it made it round to point at the younger girl's face, Petunia's mouth dropped in shock.
"You -- you don't...," she said, disbelievingly. She peered closer to Ginny. "I know I saw her eyes," she said. "Just how I remembered them. Cold, freakish. Green. Are you playing games with me, girl?" She grasped Ginny on the shoulders with her pincher-like hands, and began to shake her roughly, as if she were a Magic Eight Ball, and Petunia had gotten an answer she didn't like.
"Hey!" exclaimed Ginny painfully.
"Stop that!" said Harry, trying to pull her off. He was reminded of the previous summer, when his aunt had shaken Dudley after the Dementor attack, as if trying to make sure he still had a soul. He had thought she was acting odd then.
After struggling for a few moments, Harry managed to get his aunt to release his friend. She was breathing heavily, as if she had taken a ten-mile hike, and her head bobbed up and down on her long neck.
"I'm not crazy!" she said again. "She had green eyes! What kind of a trick is this? It's not funny."
"There's no trick, Aunt Petunia," said Harry standing in front of Ginny. "You must have just been confused."
"I was not confused," snapped Petunia. "I saw what I saw."
"Excuse me," said Ginny softly, rubbing her shoulder. "But has it occurred that maybe I did have green eyes?"
Harry looked round. "What? How could you have green eyes?"
"Well, I know it's not likely, but...what if your Mum...what if she was here?"
Petunia had gone silent, staring at Ginny, her head tilted. Harry however, was utterly confused.
"My Mum's dead, Ginny, she doesn't drop by all that often," he said sarcastically.
"No, I mean..." Ginny paused, not knowing how to continue. "You see, I just got this owl from Luna," she began. "She said that her dad had seen her mum for a second -- not like a ghost, mind you. But in Luna. As if she had come to... check on things," she finished quietly.
"Ginny, no offence, but I doubt a story from Loony Lovegood about her dead mum is really gonna help right now."
"I'm serious," said Ginny. "I know some of the stuff Luna says is a bit out there, but for some reason this sounded real."
"But," said Petunia suddenly, making both Harry and Ginny remember she was there. "Why would she... Lily, that is... why would she go into you of all people. You don't mean anything to her."
Harry spun round again. "You believe this? Mrs 'I'm-perfectly-ordinary-thank-you-very-much'?"
"Don't talk to me like that!"
Harry looked back and forth between the two, and saw a look of belief on both faces. He couldn't understand how either of them could believe it, but some part of him began to as well.
"Alright," Harry relented.
Ginny smiled at him quickly, before her face became serious once more. "Your aunt's right though, Harry," she said. "Why would your mother look through me? I really don't mean anything to anyone, really. I'm not related."
"What d'you mean you don't mean anything to anyone?" asked Harry sharply. "'Course you mean something. Your...you," he finished lamely.
"Yes, I'm me, Harry, but that doesn't exactly help much now does it?"
"Oh, God no," said Petunia all of a sudden, covering her eyes.
"What?" said Harry worriedly. "Are you alright?"
"'Course I'm all right. It's you two who've bloody gone and messed things up."
"What?" said Harry once more.
The picture had so abruptly appeared in Petunia's head that she was quite sure that it had been planted there by...intruders. She hadn't seen it in her mind for years, and all of a sudden it was back. Well, technically, that wasn't true; she had reached back and recalled it once, a year ago, but that was it.
She remembered it as though it were yesterday.
* * *
"How are we supposed to stop them?" asked Lily worriedly. "I mean, if they show up at our doorstep, what do we do? I may be good with a Patronus, but what about Pet? And our parents? I could never help all of them."
"There's no reason they would attack here," said James awkwardly. "Dumbledore just told me to warn you. Sirius is telling Remus and Peter."
"Well, thank you for telling me," said Lily, regaining a bit more of her usual demeanour. James remained seated in one of the living room armchairs, while Lily sat at the big desk, homework spread everywhere. "Are you planning on staying all day? Shouldn't you be telling all the others? To warn them? I mean, if the Ministry's being quiet about it, they aren't about to find out, are they?"
"Dumbledore has people working on it. He just wanted us to tell our friends, since we're still in school; doesn't want us doing anything dangerous."
Lily shook her head. "Then why involve you at all? He could have just told you and been done with it." She narrowed her eyes. "Tell your friends? Since when do you consider me a friend?"
"I've always considered you a friend," said James awkwardly. He didn't usually act awkward around anyone, least of all her. He just didn't seem to be himself today.
"Well, you'd better be off, to tell all your other friends," she said, standing up, and clearly expecting him to do the same.
"I told you Sirius was doing it," he said, still seated.
Lily blinked. "You mean you only came here?" she asked. "Why would Dumbledore--"
"I volunteered," he said, not looking at her. He finally stood up. Surely now he's going to leave?
"Why?" Lily wanted to know, before he had a chance to.
"You know why," he said. "You're you."
"Yes, I'm me, James, but that doesn't exactly help much now does it?"
Petunia Evans, watching from the window that connected the kitchen with the front room, backed away from her snooping post. She knew what would happen. She didn't want to see Lily with a boy any longer. Perfect Lily. Head Girl Lily. Lily had everything. No boy had ever came to see Petunia...even if it was to tell her about Dementors on the loose.
* * *
"What?" said Harry. "What do you mean we messed things up?"
"You've gone and ignored each other. Just like them."
"What?" said Ginny. "We haven't ignored each other." Which, of course, was true; ignoring Harry Potter was not something Ginny had ever even attempted.
Harry however, wasn't quite as sure of this. He had ignored Ginny. For years, actually. After the Chamber incident, he couldn't really remember her very much until the previous year. She seemed to have faded away.
"Whatever," snapped Petunia. "But you haven't acted like you were supposed to." The words just seemed to come out of Petunia's mouth. She didn't really seem to be thinking much about speaking at all.
"What d'you mean?" said Harry.
A look of utter distaste was on Petunia's face as she spoke: "You two were supposed to help each other," she said. "But you've barely talked to each other. You need to help each other. Or Voldemort can't be beaten."
Both Harry and Ginny stared at Petunia as she spoke. Voldemort? Harry knew that his aunt knew who the Dark Lord was, but he thought that was where her knowledge ended. How would she know how Voldemort was to be beaten? She didn't know about the... prophecy. Why did she seem to know that Voldemort's defeat rested with Harry?
Petunia put up her hands. "Help each other. That's all I'm saying." And without another word, she left, leaving Harry and Ginny alone, to stare after her.
"What was that about?" asked Harry.
"D'you think...," Ginny said curiously. "Do you think that maybe your mum... she might have..."
"Told Aunt Petunia to say those things?" finished Harry. "I don't know why she would. If she could, that is. Which I'm still not sure about."
"But what does You-Know-Who's defeat have to do with us? Maybe you should owl Dumbledore."
Dumbledore. The name made Harry think back to the end of last term. The prophecy. All that had gone on after Sirius had been killed.
...and the Dark Lord will mark him as an equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...
Power? What power?
"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries," interruptedDumbledore's voice in Harry's thoughts, "that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force at once more wonderful and powerful than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature..."
"Er, Ginny," said Harry, realisation dawning in his mind, "I reckon I need to tell you about something...."