Progress Notes: 01/10/07
Chapter 3 is in Beta: Revision 2.
Chapter 4 is about 20-25%.
12/20/06 - I appologize for the last update being over 2 years ago. The loss of my daughter, my divorce, moving, and changing jobs managed to kill any desire to write that I had at the time, all but forgetting about it being here on PS.Net. Strangely enough, I have taken up the mantle once more to finish this story, thanks to a review notification email I recieved recently.
A/N: S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedures) I own Nuh-zink!
Chapter 1: At First Sight
Harry looked dejectedly at the front door of Number 4, Privet Drive, slipping a photograph into his trouser pocket. The train ride home from Hogwarts to King's Cross station was a blur of partying, cheers, and butterbeer. The fifth years had finished their O.W.L.'s, the sixth years had one more year of Snape to deal with, and the seventh years were free to roam the world as they chose. Harry had one more year left, and with it, one more summer with the Dursleys'. Nothing could kill his good mood faster than thoughts of facing his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon. He hadn't even stepped foot into the house and he could already hear the bellows inquiring as to where the "no-good freak" was hiding.
Harry blinked back the anxiety and took a deep breath before opening the front door, dragging his trunk through the entry behind him. His aunt Petunia paced in the sitting room and kept glancing from the floor to the top of the stairs, until she saw Harry closing the door.
"Vernon, he's home!"
Harry stopped in the doorway, dropping the handle to his trunk. He could only stare at the violent bruises on Petunia's arms and her swollen eye.
Vernon Dursley charged out of Harry's doorway at the top of the stairs and stopped at the banister, shaking the railing with the impact of his plump hands. His knuckles turned white from the death grip he had on the wooden railing.
"Where is it, boy?!" Vernon's face turned a nasty shade of radish red as he stomped down the stairs in a rush. Harry could smell the vapors of strong liquor on his breath from where he stood. Vernon was roaring drunk. "Where is it?!"
Harry backed away from Vernon, pushing his trunk behind him with his legs. "I haven't got a clue as to what you are referring to. I don't have anything of yours. I just came home."
"Don't stand there and lie to me, you misbegotten abomination! I know you have my money, now hand it over!"
Vernon was on a rampage. He stood face to face with Harry, his hand raised. Harry could only stand in shock as Vernon let fly with a slap hard enough to knock him over his trunk backwards, tipping the trunk and knocking it open. Vernon kicked the trunk sideways into the middle of the sitting room floor, strewing Harry's clothes, books, and meager possessions everywhere. Harry jerked his head over in time to see his leather-bound photo album slide out of the trunk and hit Petunia in the foot, his wand rolling to a stop beside it. She bent over to pick them up. Harry paid little attention to the furious man standing over him as he shouted.
"Stay away from those! Those are mine!"
He was already regretting stashing his wand in the trunk but knew it was best if he didn't want Vernon to snap it in half before him. Vernon's eyes darted from the trunk to the piles of clothes and books, stopping on the expensive dress robes Harry had purchased for the end-of-year ball, and the new Quidditch pads that Professor McGonagall had given him at Christmas for making captain of the Gryffindor house Quidditch team.
"So you did take it! I always knew you were a liar and thief. How else could you buy all that expensive stuff?!" Vernon hauled Harry off the floor and slapped him again, hard enough to send his glasses into the wall and shatter them. "I want my thousand pounds back, YOU THIEF! I know you're not old enough to do…your funny business, so fork it over!" The crimson hand imprints on Harry's face were starting to turn purple.
Harry was beginning to fear for his life, and so he paid no notice as Petunia Dursley opened the cover of his photograph album, and then jerked her hand away as if she'd been bitten. The first photo in the album was of Lily and James Potter, with baby Harry, all waving at the camera.
Harry's vision blurred with red and his ears rang as Vernon held him by the collar of his shirt and backhanded him in the face repeatedly, yelling at the top of his lungs in unintelligible bellows laced with spittle and curses. Petunia picked up the photo album hesitantly again and stared at the pages, flipping through them carefully, gazing intently at the moving pictures with fear and apprehension. She paid little attention to Vernon's ministration to Harry.
As Vernon's large hand connected with the side of Harry's face again, his head lolled to the side. Harry's eyes started to roll in disorientation and his line of vision fell across the laundry. He could barely see the washer just beside his cupboard under the stairs. Harry's eyes were slow to focus through the tears and the pain of his uncle shaking him, but he was still coherent enough to make out the shape of Dudley pulling a large bundle of money with a shiny silver clip holding it together from a pair of slacks.
"It's your fault the managers fired me from Grunnings yesterday, you misbegotten demon-spawn! No wonder that criminal godfather of yours is dead. You probably killed…"
Harry swallowed the blood that was trickling into his mouth from his bleeding nose and lips. He didn't hear anything Vernon had said. "Dudley has it in his hand."
"Don't you blame this on my son," Vernon blasted, inches from Harry's face. The veins on Vernon's forehead pulsed with drunken rage as he threw Harry down with excessive force. His face and hands broke through the glass top of the wood-framed coffee table. Slivers of wood and glass chips sprayed everywhere. The pain of the glass and wood biting into Harry's skin overwhelmed him; he was unconscious before his face hit the floor.
Petunia dropped the album as the sound of the glass shattering startled her. It was open to the last page, a grayed, curled photo of another family with two daughters waving. One of the girls was wearing a pink dress and one was wearing red. It was an old, false-colored photo of Lily, Petunia, and their parents.
"What do you mean they fired you yesterday? Why was it because of him, Daddy?" Dudley looked completely confused.
Vernon grasped the back of Harry's shirt to haul him upright from the pool of glass and blood. When he stopped and looked at Dudley, the clip full of money hung limp in Dudley's pudgy fingers.
"I never thought my own son would do this to me. How dare you steal money from me? Haven't I given you everything you wanted? You whine and moan every year for another present on your birthday and Christmas, and I spend my hard-earned wages to make you happy and you do THIS! Maybe I should beat some sense into you too!"
"But I didn't steal it, daddy, honest. I was trying to find my locker key in the laundry and just found it in your work trousers."
Vernon advanced on Dudley with one hand out grabbing for the wad of bills and the other lifted to strike his son. Vernon was within mere inches from gripping the front of Dudley's shirt when the sound of wood splintering stopped everything. Vernon's eyes rolled back into his head as he uttered an odd squeak of protest before he collapsed sideways into the wall. Petunia dropped the broken coffee table leg from her hands and pried the money from a violently shaking Dudley. Dudley was stuttering enough to prevent him from saying anything.
"Don't touch my son, you…you…" Petunia spat as she folded up the money and stuck it into her trouser pocket, glaring at Vernon's limp form.
Petunia's face clearly exhibited the distaste she had felt for Vernon's actions as she turned away from the mountainous heap unconscious on the floor. She spared a second glance at Harry before going for the phone in the kitchen.
"Dudley, get Harry out of that mess and be careful not to get blood everywhere…" Petunia looked back as she picked up the telephone, "…where it isn't already."
"But Mum, why do I have to? He deserved it. Daddy said it was his fault." Dudley was still shaking, and the stain of his trousers had belied how very afraid he really was.
"Shut up, Dudley, and DO IT!" Petunia dialed the emergency number for the ambulance.
"You're positive there's no chance?"
"Unfortunately, there isn't any doubt."
Harry shook off the last dregs of his drug-induced sleep and realized that he couldn't open his eyes to see who was talking, or if it was really talking that he had heard. Gingerly, he felt the wrappings over his face with bandaged hands, finding the gauze wrappings and padding holding his eyes closed. His breathing increased rapidly when he remembered his uncle practically throwing him face first into the plate glass top of the coffee table.
"What's going on? Where am I? Who's there?"
"Harry, my name is Dr. Weavers. I'm an ophthalmologist."
"A what?" Harry tilted his head, unable to comprehend.
"I'm a surgeon that specializes with eyes and how they work." Harry felt a soft hand touch his forearm. "Your Aunt Petunia is here also."
Harry's breath caught in his throat when the doctor mentioned his eyes. He hadn't registered that she had said his aunt was also present. "What's wrong with my eyes?" Harry was beginning to panic. He reached out his hands to the side and brushed over his glasses sitting on one of the bedside tables. The glass was missing completely from one eye, and tiny shards stuck in the other.
"Your eyesight was…damaged…from the injuries you sustained during the quarrel with your uncle. We've taken X-rays and I've managed to remove all the glass. Your eyes will heal ok, and there will be minimal scarring, if any at all. There are some other…issues though."
Harry started to have an anxiety attack as he replayed the glass breaking in his mind, how his eyesight turned blurry, and then tinted red before going dark. "I'm…I'm blind, aren't I?"
"Yes, Harry." The doctor confirmed his suspicions.
"That…that…" Harry couldn't find the right words with which to curse his uncle. "He took away my sight." His mouth set in a line of grim realization before he started sobbing quietly. The last thing he could remember seeing before the encounter with his uncle was a picture of Ginny Weasley in her dress robes taken at the end of year ball held for the sixth- and seventh-year students and their guests. He had stood on the porch grinning madly at it before he heard his uncle's angry shouts from within the house.
"Harry, I'll leave you alone with your aunt for a few moments, if that's all right with you." The doctor took her hand away and quietly left the room.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I never realized how bad things were getting with Vernon, with us really. I guess that this was the final straw." Petunia chewed over her words with caution, reaching for Harry's bandaged fingers. "When Vernon knocked over your trunk, your album fell out and I…"
"How dare you touch it? You had no right to," Harry seethed between quiet sobs.
"Be quiet and let me explain. In the back of your album was one of those moving pictures your kind take. I'm not sure if you would have known who the family was or not. It was of Lily and I, and our parents, taken when we were little girls. I know how I've always displayed my distaste for…your uniqueness, but it wasn't always like that. Seeing Vernon out of control the way he was, and then the picture of how happy my sister and I were together in that picture…I've had a lot to think about the past two days. I've realized how wrong Vernon's mistreatment of you was, and I'm sorry. Just try not to make a habit of causing disturbances like that." Petunia's fingers curled around Harry's hand in a gesture of comfort before he withdrew from her touch with distaste at her less-than-neighborly approach to an apology.
"It takes more than a moment of clarity and remorse to make up for all the bloody crap I've lived with in that house," Harry replied in defiance. "If I had the choice, I'd never go back there again and have to put up with more of his…"
"You won't have to worry about Vernon anymore. It appears that your condition when the ambulance arrived ensured it. Besides, I do not intend to put up with his abuse in my house anymore. When the ambulance delivered you to the hospital, the constables delivered him to jail. Scotland Yard has requested that charges be brought against him on your behalf."
Harry sat in silence as the meaning of what Petunia Dursley had told him finally absorbed into his thoughts. Vernon was going to prison for a long, long time.
Petunia also informed Harry that she had called a special school -- Redhill College for Furthering Education, which is run by the Royal National Institute of the Blind -- for him to attend to help him deal with his infliction to prevent him from causing any hindrances in the household. Dudley would share his chores, but he was still in charge. She felt that it was partially her responsibility to find him a school to attend for his disability since he wouldn't be able to return to Hogwarts in September. Petunia had tried hard not to stutter when she said Hogwarts, but Harry caught it and argued against her.
"If I can face Voldemort, the darkest wizard ever known, every year since I was 11 and live, and survive his attack as an infant, then I can bloody well deal with going blind at the hands of a raving lunatic and still attend Hogwarts!" Harry snapped his mouth shut with an air of finality when he noticed that his yelling had attracted the attention of nurses passing by his room and most of the patients in the waiting room down the hall.
Harry tapped his way around the house with the cane the hospital had given him, trying to find the kitchen. Dudley hadn't stopped laughing once since Harry knocked over the floor lamp the first time, and he laughed harder every time Harry ran into something or knocked something else over. He'd put up with it as long as he could, so Harry finally lashed out with the cane and ended up hitting Dudley in the ribs with the tip quite hard. His aunt Petunia snapped at Harry to stop trying to provoke another fight and had Dudley help Harry into the kitchen when the doorbell rang. He received a not-so-gentle shove in one direction from Dudley and stopped to listen to his cousin's heavy footsteps running into the other room, then the door opening. He shook his head in minor defeat and took another step in the direction Dudley had started him, only to meet with the doorjamb face first and start another round of Dudley's amused howls.
"Good afternoon, young man. My name is Skyler Kirch. I'm from the Redhill College for Furthering Education. Is there a Ms. Petunia Dursley and Mr. Harry Potter available?" The person at the door patiently waited for a reply.
"Mum, the blind guy is here!"
Harry stood frozen in place, the enormity of his impairment dawning on him. He was blind. Permanently, as far as he knew. His guess was that Dumbledore either didn't know, or wasn't willing to do anything to help him; and if the Weasleys found out, he could only imagine the babying and cajoling they would do to get him to give up and let others continue his fight against Voldemort. They would see him as helpless and weak, and he couldn't stomach being treated like that anymore than when Dumbledore used him as a pawn. The prophecies were made, and he knew the stakes. His uncle had just increased the price of victory and the difficulty of obtaining it. Ginny…he couldn't even think of how she would feel.
Harry's attention refocused as his cane wavered in front of him on his path to the kitchen table. Petunia's shoes shuffled lightly on the stairs as she came down to greet the man from the school and invited him into the parlor. She retrieved Harry before he had finished his water and escorted him into the parlor, seating him on the smaller couch beside her.
"Greetings Professor Kirch, I'm Petunia Dursley, and this is my nephew, Harry. I'd like to thank you for taking the time to come out here. It wasn't clear to me if the Admissions office had made Harry's…concerns clear or not."
"Yes quite, actually. The school itself has a few concerns also that they would like to address. Since no one there is quite familiar with the private school he attends, the only coursework that I can really cover is a baseline assessment combined with our standard core curriculum, which generally takes eight weeks or more, depending on the student. Our biggest concern, though, is that Harry may not fully accept his condition or be ready for teaching. His emotional state will have an effect on his ability to learn, and he did receive the injury quite recently. It's my understanding Harry only left the hospital four days ago, correct?"
Harry didn't like where the conversation was directed and stood up. "Don't tell me what I can or can't do. Too many people have done it for too long. I can do this. I intend to return to Hogwarts in September, with or without your help; so don't sit there and talk about me being mental as if I'm not here listening. I'm blind. I can't do anything about it, and Dumbledore hasn't done anything yet, so there's no use for me to cry about it anymore, is there? I'm dealing with it. So can everyone else." Harry held his cane in front of him defensively and tried to make his way out of the parlor before Petunia guided him by the shoulders to the stairwell.
Petunia missed the resulting nod of satisfaction from Professor Kirch when Harry had mentioned Hogwarts and Dumbledore.
"Well then, Mr. Potter," the professor said, following them towards the stairs, "I suggest we get to work then. I see no reason why we can't start today. Might I suggest we work in an environment where you feel most comfortable?"
Petunia stopped Harry and the professor outside his door. "Harry, Dudley and I cleaned up your school trunk and put your clothes and books away. There were a few…things…we were unsure about and decided not to touch them. We left them in your trunk for you. And your bird has been acting up."
Harry nodded in understanding about his wand, broom, and album as he opened the door to an upset Hedwig. Her screeches were loud, impatient, and upset. Harry abruptly bumped into her cage as he felt along the wall for it. Hedwig nipped at his fingers as he opened the door for her. Hedwig continued to hoot angrily at him as he walked to his trunk to find the package of owl treats he kept within it. He gave her an owl treat to appease her, but with no resolution. After a fourth, Hedwig gave him an annoyed screech and greedily went after the owl treats.
"She's a lot like my owl when I was younger." The professor's admission stunned Harry. "Come now, Mr. Potter. I'm a wizard too. You have no need to hide your wand around me. My stepson is a Muggle. He's also blind. That's why I work at Redhill."
Harry dug through his trunk for his wand and stood up brandishing it, aiming where he thought the professor was standing. "You'll tell everyone won't you? They can't see me like this! Voldemort will know I'm vulnerable, and there's no telling what Dumbledore will say."
"I assure you, Harry, there's no need to worry about me telling anyone. The school has non-disclosure rules that bind wizards. Please don't bring up You-Know-Who. It gives me the willies to think that he's back."
Harry let out the breath he had been holding. "Well then, where do I start?"
Kirch brought in a chair that Petunia had left in the hallway for him and sat down opposite Harry on the edge of his bed. He gave Harry a large plastic card with a set of bumps on it and explained about the Braille alphabet, punctuation, and numeric representation and the intricacies involved with reading it. He was only slightly off the mark when he asked Harry if he was confused. Harry was absolutely lost. Kirch pulled two cloth pouches from his briefcase and gave them to Harry. He explained that each tile had a Braille letter on it, and some had a combination to represent numbers. The second pouch had contractions and letter combinations.
Harry reached into the first collection of tiles and his aunt's favorite board game came to his mind with a sarcastic thought. He tried repeatedly to match the tiles he drew to the card in his other hand, but couldn't quite feel the bumps. He dropped the last tile into the pouch and smacked the card down onto his bed in frustration, complaining that he couldn't tell one tile from the next and all the bumps on the card felt the same to him.
Kirch just sat quietly and listened until Harry finished his ranting. He took Harry's hands and turned them both palm up.
"You played Quidditch, didn't you? I've heard you are one the best Seekers Hogwarts has ever seen. Your fingers are callused from the broom a little, too. I have a solution to that."
Kirch took a small fingernail file and ran it over all of Harry's fingertips until Harry jerked his hands away. It felt like his fingers were rubbed raw. The professor told him the file contained a simple charm that would wear off in a few hours. It made his sense of touch more precise, so that the tiles were easily discernable.
Harry reached into the pouch again and fingered a tile. Against his fingertips, it felt ten times larger. The Braille card also felt different under his touch. He pulled tile after tile and slowly matched each to the card, missing one or two because Kirch had forgot to tell him how to find the top of the tile and he had them upside down.
After going through the first pouch of tiles, they tried on the second one with the contractions. Harry started to get lost very quickly. Kirch gave him a second card with the contractions listed with their spelled-out counterpart. Harry's head was starting to hurt with the amount of information he was trying to take in.
Kirch left Harry that evening with the two sets of tiles, the cards, and the file to practice. He spent the next several hours going through the alphabet card until he could no longer keep his head upright.
Petunia and Dudley had left him alone except to bring him dinner and watch his determined practice in silence for a few minutes. Only weeks before his return, she had been berating him in conversation with Vernon and spat at his name, and now she felt his…strangeness was almost bearable. Her attitude towards Harry had merely lost the ever-present edge of Vernon's constant vocal abuse and anger, but it was still callous and indifferent. Dudley wasn't actually making an effort to help and she had even taken to chastising him over some of his behavior on rare occasions.
Harry's unwavering practice with the Braille tiles continued the rest of the week. Professor Kirch brought him some children's books by Dr. Seuss. By the end of the month, Harry understood how to use the contractions together in place of spelling out words, and he could read the books passably. He was very slow and deliberate, but he could read them.
Harry's birthday came on a Thursday and Kirch found him sitting up in his room looking depressed. He held a small collection of envelopes in his hand, and Hedwig was rubbing her head against his chest from her perch on his leg. Harry could hear the professor approach his door by listening to the heel-toe shuffle of shoes on the carpeting in the hallway. As the door opened to admit the professor, Harry turned to greet him.
"I've been learning and dealing with this for the past month," Harry said, the sadness evident in his voice, "but no matter what, I'll never be able to read these again."
Harry extended his hand out in the general direction of Professor Kirch, offering the birthday letters from Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasley family. He didn't even know that there was an extra letter from the staff at Hogwarts for his 17th birthday.
"Well, Harry, I think we should fix it so you can."
Harry stopped him before he could finish. "How do you suppose we do that? Can you give me my eyes back? Do you want me to tell them I'm blind? Why don't I just go out and place an advertisement in the Daily Prophet? ‘The boy who lived goes blind, needs seeing-eye dog to fight You-Know-Who.' That would be peachy."
Professor Kirch could see that Harry had finally come to terms with his blindness, and the depression it caused in him. He also knew how dangerous it was for someone to trap themselves with the depression and turn away from any offerings of help.
"Harry, I have your solution right here."
Kirch replaced the envelopes in Harry's hand with a small block of carved ceramic tile roughly the size of a business card and a half-centimeter thick.
Harry felt the tile surfaces and noticed the letters S, R, P, F, and H along one edge on the top of the ceramic. There was also a jumble of dots on the side adjacent to it, and a strange pattern of lines on the underside.
"It's called a Pocket Reader. Think of it as a Muggle cassette tape player. Place it on a piece of parchment with writing on it, then press on the letters for the desired effect: Stop, Reverse, Play, Forward, and Halt to pause it. Only the person that turns it on will hear the playback. It took me a great many years to perfect it for my son. A couple of loony wizards in the Ministry's Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office helped me create it."
Harry opened the top letter that Kirch had given him back, placed the piece of ceramic on the letter, and pressed on the Braille for the letter P. Professor McGonagall's voice played back in his ears.
The staff here at Hogwarts would like to congratulate you for your 17th birthday and inform you that under the laws set forth by the British Ministry of Magic, you are now of age to perform magic outside the confines of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Included with this letter is a copy of the official documentation on file with the Ministry, hereby declaring you of legal age to perform magic unsupervised. Well done, Harry. You have impressed us all with your dedication and courage, and I have no doubt that you truly...
Harry stopped the reader.
"Professor Kirch, why did I hear Professor McGonagall's voice in that letter? I understand that it was from Hogwarts, but normally all of the letters I receive from school are from Dumbledore."
Kirch muffled a laugh as he told him how the reader would sound like the person that wrote the text and to be careful not to let it run while sitting in a textbook for school, as it might bore him to death with a history lesson. He also let on that the tile acts as a map by turning it over. The small circle in the center represented Harry, or whoever was holding it, and all the other little circles that moved around were other people.
"I added that feature since my stepson hated having to rely on using a cane to tap his way around and still run into furniture and other people. Owls show up uniquely, and most furniture and objects will only be drawn as an outline, but you can face them and hold your finger over the bumps on the end and it will spell out the object for you."
A sly grin formed on Harry's lips. "It's a Marauder's Map for the blind. I can imagine the expression on the twins' face."
"I'm not sure what a ‘Marauder's Map' is, but go ahead and try it out. One other note of importance, the range is only 15 meters."
Harry stood up and faced one wall, feeling the engraved lines redraw themselves as he turned, the outlines of his room rotating around the circle in the center. Harry stopped turning when his thumb brushed over a broken line in the drawing. He held his index finger over the set of bumps on the edge of the reader and nodded his head in appreciation as they faded away, spelling out ‘door.'
"No more cane, no more bruised shins, heck, not even the chance of someone sneaking up to me. I like this thing."
A creak in the stairs caught Harry's attention and he cocked his head sideways. There weren't any details drawn on the reader, divulging that it wouldn't draw past solid barriers. Harry opened the door to his room, his thumb grazing over the map as the lines expanded outwards.
"I never realized the stairs creaked before."
Professor Kirch had told Harry that, in time, his perception of his other senses would improve to compensate for his loss, as was common with sudden blindness, and he was now starting to notice. He counted the steps as he came down from his room, his thumb held on the moving lines of the drawing; the sensation of the engraved lines moving under his touch was unusual and a little disorienting.
Harry stopped at the bottom of the stairs and turned to face them as Professor Kirch asked him what was wrong.
"The stair that creaked, it was the last one at the bottom." Harry pointed down at his feet. "I heard it. It was my Aunt Petunia coming down the stairs. Her shoes make sort of a sliding sound when they hit the carpet, like they're flats instead of the low heels she wears." Harry's recitation slowed, as he understood how his memory was improving. He had never been able to recall details that clearly. "And I think I can hear Dudley walking up the drive right now."
"Harry, I am wearing flats." His aunt had come back into the sitting room from the kitchen with lunch for them all. Hearing the description of how her shoes sounded on the Berber carpeting had almost rendered her speechless. Instead, it made her feel uneasy.
Petunia set the tray of food down on the coffee table and looked up in time to see Dudley approach the front door. She was doing her best to overcome her prejudices about Harry's magic, but his uncanny hearing was starting to make her very uncomfortable, and she wasn't the best at hiding her nervousness.
Harry laid back on his bed that evening, listening the reader play back Ron's birthday letter to him. He learned that Fudge was being expelled from his office due to a vote of no confidence from the Wizengamot after he tried to deny another Death Eater attack had taken place at the Ministry in the middle of the day. Harry also enjoyed the retelling of how the Wizengamot had chosen to select the new Minister from the Ministry's department heads and Arthur Weasley's subsequent refusal to take the job…three times. Amelia Bones from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and one of the Wizengamot council members, had been chosen for the new Minister.
Harry was surprised to catch himself laughing as Ron's letter informed him of how Percy had finally been accepted back into the Weasley fold after "Repenting his evil ways!" as Ron so eloquently put it. He couldn't help but laugh at the way Ron described the whole situation with Percy. It was enough that he almost missed the side notes about Ginny yapping nonstop (it seemed to Ron) about her newest crush on some sixth-year Ravenclaw boy. Harry pressed the halt button on the reader and restarted it repeatedly at the beginning of the paragraph about Ginny. It really hadn't sounded like Ron even believed the words he had put to parchment by the way it was phrased, and Harry was thankful for it. He didn't pay much attention to the letters from Hermione or the twins. The reader had finished playing back the last of his letters the better part of an hour before Harry's mind quit wandering and he dropped his letters on the floor beside his bed.
The more he thought about the picture that had been crumpled in his pocket during the run-in with Vernon, the more he realized how blind he was to begin with not to see the girl in front of his eyes. It was impossible for him to see her face now, and it made him sour to think that no matter how much help he asked for, how much he was given, it wouldn't help him to see the dark chocolate brown of her eyes that he loved to get lost in when she wasn't paying attention.
Harry took off his shoe and threw it towards the wall. The light switch clicked with a lucky hit from the heel. ‘Ironic,' he thought as he buried his head under his pillow, ‘I don't need the lights anymore, but I still turn them on.'
Petunia stopped at Harry's door when she heard a thump from his shoe against the wall. As she opened the door, she found Harry sprawled on his bed, asleep. She flipped off the light switch with a disapproving frown and shut the door behind her.
The next morning, Harry had camped out on the couch in the sitting room, listening to the television talk show that was on. His aunt Petunia had grudgingly taken a job with a local grocer's store after discovering how poorly the family finances were doing. She made her state of agitation known and spent most of the night crying when she found out how Vernon had ruined them, but had taken up the search for employment with determination the morning after. Dudley had even taken a summer job after having been told quite bluntly by Petunia that she didn't make enough to support his careless spending habits anymore. Petunia's disposition towards Harry had also improved slightly due to her job. For once, he was home by himself, not locked up in his room or shuffled off to Mrs. Figg's house, and he was incredibly bored.
The doorbell rang and Harry made his way around the couch to the front landing and opened it, a little surprised to hear Professor Kirch greet him.
"Good afternoon, Harry. I know I had told you that we didn't have any more tutoring sessions to cover, but I thought I would stop by to tell you that the scores for your coursework were returned to me this morning. For covering more than eight weeks worth of lessons in less than six weeks time, you've done astonishingly well. As of this wonderful Friday morning, August 22, your assessment and basic instruction is complete. The college has determined that you have proven yourself able to adapt and learn regarding your experience at a highly accelerated rate, and they wish for me to continue your lessons at Hogwarts. I would like you to understand, though, that this will encompass notifying your headmaster for permission. I thought I'd also present you with something to help you along a little more. It's a Quick Quotes Quill so that you don't have to worry about your writing going all over the place for those people you'd rather not have knowing."
The professor took Harry's hand and placed a small rectangular box in his grasp along with a sealed envelope. He opened the box and felt the magic quill stir under his touch, impatient to start its work at dictation. The envelope must hold the letter from Redhill for his completion of the assessment and basic tutoring sessions, he mused.
"All right. I know Dumbledore will find out eventually, if he hasn't already. I might as well have you ask him sooner. But I want him to understand that none of the other professors are to know unless there is no other option, like Madam Pomfrey."
Kirch nodded his assent with Harry's directions and made a few notes on a pad he kept in his pocket as he turned to leave.
"All right Harry, I'll inform Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey. I have a few last words of advice for you, too. You may want to get yourself a pair of dark glasses to wear instead of your normal lenses. Some people will find talking to you rather discomforting if they notice that your eyes won't focus on them. There are some small scar lines around your eyes, though they are very difficult to distinguish unless you are looking for them. Perhaps you might want to purchase some new clothes, too. The ones you have on look a little short and baggy."
Harry hadn't realized that. Thoughts of his broken glasses sitting on his dresser had never even entered his mind. Ever since the fateful day, he had been walking around the house without his glasses on. He was reminded on a daily basis, however, that Dudley's hand-me-downs made him feel like he wore a small tent for a shirt. That morning he had woken up and managed to put his head through one of the sleeves.
"I'll keep that in mind, Professor Kirch. Might I ask something of you, sir? Before…well, I remember someone once telling me my eyes were a clear emerald color, ‘like fresh pickled toad' I believe it was said. Could you tell me, perhaps, what do they look like now?"
"I'll be honest with you Harry, fresh pickled toad is the funniest description I've ever heard for someone's eye color. The color is a more clouded green now, like rough jade. I can imagine how striking they used to be, but they are still impressive in their own right.
"If you should ever need anything from me, your aunt has my number at the college, and I'm certain that your owl could reach me wherever I am. Farewell, Mr. Potter, and good luck with the rest of your holiday. I shall see you upon your return to Hogwarts and we'll go from there. I should have an adequate curriculum for you by the first week of September."
Professor Kirch made his departure and left Harry in the sitting room, deep in his own thoughts on what he had learned over the past month and a half and how to deal with the oncoming maelstroms named Weasley and Hogwarts. He would have to face them in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.
Harry stood up from the couch to check the mantle clock with his Pocket Reader and realized that his aunt and cousin would be home in a few hours. Then an idea came to mind. He made his way upstairs to his room with the Quick Quotes Quill firmly in hand and dug a sheet of parchment from his school trunk. Hedwig fluttered from her perch atop her cage to the table at Harry's bedside, waiting expectantly for the letter that Harry was composing in his mind.
Harry set the quill to the parchment and carefully thought out the words for the quill to dictate, listening to the nib scratch into the page.
-To the Accounts Manager, Gringotts Bank:
I would like to request a complete tally of the funds available in my account as of today. If a sufficient amount is available, I would also like to make a withdrawal in the sum of 500 pounds. For reasons of sensitivity, please send the information I've requested using Braille.
Signed, Harry J. Potter-
Harry double-checked the Quick Quotes Quill by playing back the letter with his reader and folded the parchment after he was satisfied. He held the letter out for Hedwig to take and instructed her to take it to Gringotts, with time being of importance. Hedwig grasped the letter in her talons and nudged Harry's arm gently before taking to the air and disappearing out Harry's partially opened windows.
Harry was sitting in boredom on the edge of his bed, whistling to himself, when he decided to entertain himself a little. Professor Kirch's warnings about listening to schoolbooks came to the forefront of his thoughts. He rifled through his stash of books in his trunk, and withdrew a copy of Quidditch through the Ages and started listening to the monologue of the book. The longer he listened to the playback of the book, the worse he felt. He finally tossed the book off his bed with a half-hearted effort, realizing that it really didn't matter anymore, since he couldn't even watch a Quidditch game. His mood went from depressed to downright foul until he remembered how he occasionally caught Ginny curled up in one of the common room chairs reading. He had sat there and watched her blush at some times and frown in disappointment at others, but when he came too near, it was as if she knew she was being watched and would hide the book instantly. The most he had ever managed to glimpse of what was holding was the title ‘Blackthorne.'
Harry had seen similar reactions at times when his aunt was reading that book, but she became extremely irate and closed the door to her room so that she wouldn't be disturbed. If he could find that book anywhere, he thought, it would be in his aunt's bookshelf. He made his way to his aunt's room, and through the judicious use of the reader, scanned the titles printed on the bindings until he found it.
"Historical Romance Novel?! You have to be kidding me. I might as well start in on Hogwarts: A History," Harry complained to no one in particular, but he took the book with him back to his room anyway and laid back on his bed, starting the playback of the book.
Hedwig returned a few hours later and dropped a thick envelope on him as she glided to land on the edge of his small bedside table. Harry hurriedly opened up the envelope and stopped the Reader.
As he tipped the contents out onto the bed, the downstairs clock chimed four. His aunt Petunia would be home shortly, and Dudley soon after. Harry put his hands on the contents that tumbled out and felt a large bundle of money and a few sheets of parchment folded together.
The first page felt blank to Harry until he brushed his fingers over it a second time, realized that he could feel the ink, and set his Pocket Reader on it. It was a quick note saying how most unusual a request he had made but that the following pages were as he requested. Harry was nervous with anticipation and read through the remaining two pages multiple times. He shook his head in disbelief then tried it again. He hadn't imagined the results after all.
-To Mr. Harry J. Potter:
The information regarding all your accounts with Gringotts Bank has been provided as you wish, with the current tallies for the month of August.-
Harry couldn't believe that there were multiple accounts for him. He had only ever touched his Hogwarts trust account, but there were still the Potter family storage vault, the family money vault, and his father's separate investment accounts. The interest returned from those accounts was split back into the family money vault, and his trust account. The portion that went to his trust account was in the thousands of Galleons for just August.
Harry's head swam with dizziness as he realized that he actually had more money than he knew what to do with; he just didn't know exactly how much. There were no amounts listed beside any of the accounts except his trust. The rest were labeled as ‘sealed until 17 upon presentation of vault key,' except the interest amount deposited in his trust account. There was also a small line at the bottom for the withdrawal of 500 pounds from his account -- 100 Galleons.
Harry's attention refocused as the front door opened and his aunt Petunia walked in, calling for him. He replied that he was upstairs in his room, and an idea came to him about just what to do with some of the gold in his vault. He quickly folded the Gringotts information, dropped it into his trunk, and grabbed another sheet of parchment and the Quick Quotes Quill, scribbling out another note to Gringotts.
Harry found the owl treats, and gave one to Hedwig along with the note, and sent her on her way before heading downstairs to talk with Petunia.
"I know we don't have much, Aunt Petunia, that's why I'm willing to pay for my own stuff. My mum and dad left me with some money for school, and I have more than I need anyways. I can't wear Dudley's clothes anymore and…and I thought you and Dudley could use some also. I remember that everyone's clothes were becoming a little worn the last time you had me do the laundry."
"How much, Harry?" Petunia asked, feeling slightly embarrassed and jealous of Harry for telling her.
"Five hundred pounds. I swear it's my own money. I can have Gringotts Bank prove it. I thought it would be enough to get at least one new set of clothing and my glasses repaired." Harry was a little worried that Petunia might think he had stolen the money the way that Vernon had, but he could hear the uplifting tone in her voice when she said thank you, and his worries faded away.
"Very well, I suppose so."
Petunia was grateful for the trip but withheld from buying anything expensive, leaving most of the money for Harry to spend on replacing his clothes, and having mirrored sunglass lenses fitted into his spectacle frames. She even managed to restrain Dudley from breaking or buying anything he could latch on to with his grubby hands.
"Harry, I want you to do something for me…" Petunia spoke up as she opened the door to Number 4, Privet Drive.
"Mummy, a stupid little bird just flew into the front of the house and killed itself! It looks like a giant dust ball," Dudley interrupted her
Dudley ran around to the side of the house to pick up the stick he kept stashed for bullying kids with and poked at the bundle of feathers repeatedly with a maniacal grin until it started a horrendous screeching.
"It's Errol," Harry muttered to himself as he turned around and walked back to the drive. He knelt down and held out his hand for the owl. Errol hopped towards him and deposited a letter into his hands before squawking again and flying off.
"Aunt Petunia, could you read this for me please?" Harry held out the letter and waited patiently as his aunt scanned the finely penned words.
"It says that your headmaster Dumbledore has agreed to let the Weasley girl and her brother Ron come retrieve you from your most horrible relatives and whisk you away to the safety of Molly's kitchen tomorrow. It also says that Professor…K…K…K…Kirch will be unable to continue your education at Hogwarts, so Professor McGonagall will take over with his syllabus. That man that came here to tutor you was…"
"Yes," Harry interrupted Petunia before she could finish the question, snickering until the he remembered the word ‘tomorrow' came out, stopping him cold. He didn't know if he could pull this off, especially with Ginny coming. Trial by fire was not his favorite method to test anything, but there was nothing to do but wait and welcome the tempest of Weasleys. A small part of his conscience had wished that he wouldn't be going until at least the weekend before term so that he would have more time to settle into his act of being the same person he was before.
"Thank you, Aunt Petunia," Harry said, taking back the letter and making himself a mental reminder to double check it later with his Pocket Reader. Then he decided to ask for Petunia's approval of his staying with the Weasleys the rest of the summer holiday. He had forgotten that there was only one week left in August. Petunia was taken aback by Harry's unusual request for permission to go, but she agreed nonetheless as she stepped into the house.
"Harry, when your term in school is over, and the whole ordeal with Whatever-His-Name-Is is over, don't come back here."
Harry stopped in the doorway at the blunt request of his aunt. It sounded almost polite coming from her, not like an order.
"All right. I won't." Harry stepped inside and put away his purchases for the day as Dudley pushed him to get past.
Hedwig had returned sometime while everyone was away, and whistled in her sleep on her perch as Harry went to work at getting his trunk packed. With Dudley's forced help, all the old hand-me-down clothing was thrown out. It was going to be a big day tomorrow morning, and Harry had the oddest feeling as if he had to make a stunning impression upon one redheaded young woman.
"Nothing special," Harry kept repeating to himself as he laid out his new trousers, shirt, and coat for the morning. Everything was packed and he was impatiently waiting to go, even though it was still evening and Ron and Ginny wouldn't be there for another twelve hours or so. He made one last check with his aunt about his glasses being ok, and headed back to his room to try to get some sleep.