Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter depicted in this story are the legal property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, and AOL Time Warner, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
No profit is being made off this story. It is for entertainment purposes only.
Harry Potter woke from a restless night's sleep with a sense of foreboding and a pounding heart. He sat straight up in bed fighting the tears that threatened to come.
Although he had not dreamed of Voldemort that night, he had dreamed of something just as terrible. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he threw himself violently on his stomach and buried his head in his pillow. Closing his eyes, he tried unsuccessfully to block out the pain.
Had it been only three weeks since the end of term and that fateful night at the Department of Mysteries? Sometimes it felt like yesterday, and sometimes it felt as if it had happened in another lifetime to another person. So many thoughts jumbled through his head that he wished he had a Pensieve like Dumbledore's. He'd give anything to siphon out some of the more troubling thoughts and memories. If he didn't find some way to relieve the tension, he knew he'd lose his mind.
Unfortunately, his mind would not cooperate. Unable to stop them, the thoughts began to stream through his consciousness against his will. They came randomly, without rhyme or reason, each with its own set of memories and pain.
Sirius' once handsome, now haggard face, smiling at him across the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place. Falling backwards through the veil… Lupin holding him back as he screamed….
Voldemort's cold, red eyes… possessing him, trying to take control of him. The pain… that feeling of wanting to die, of wanting Dumbledore to put him out of his misery…
His parents… his mother's scream and a cold, high-pitched laugh.
Cedric Diggory falling in a heap, dead…
Neither can live while the other survives...
"Boy! Wake up and get down here!" a voice screeched from the bottom of the stairs. Aunt Petunia sounded as if she were in a horrid mood this morning. Briefly, Harry wondered what he had done (or rather what he had not done) this time, to cause his aunt to sound so angry.
"Coming, Aunt Petunia," Harry yelled back. Rubbing his eyes, he reached for his glasses. As he pulled himself out of bed, he caught sight of himself in the mirror attached to the back of the wardrobe door. What he saw neither surprised him nor caused him great satisfaction.
He had grown over the past year and even his old pajamas were beginning to show the strain a 15-soon-to-be-16-year-old boy could put on his garments. Since they had once belonged to his whale of a cousin, Dudley, it was not surprising that Harry's appearance was scruffy-looking. At least the growth spurt had helped the fit somewhat. No longer baggy, they were very well used. He chuckled humorously to himself as he stared. That was one of the many things he and Ron had in common. Used clothes.
Searching through a pile of dirty clothes on his floor, he pulled out an old shirt and a pair of trousers that had also once belonged to Dudley. If he didn't have so many more important things on his mind, he'd feel very self-conscious about his appearance. As it was, he didn't expect anyone he knew to see him today. What did it matter what he looked like?
The only thing he was thoroughly satisfied with was his shoes. His trainers were the only decent thing he owned, next to his school robes. He had Hermione to thank for that. His best friend had put a charm on them before the last Hogsmeade trip of the year. She had been appalled at the condition that they had been in, and shocked to see Harry trying to squeeze his now size ten feet into the size eight shoes. They were beginning to pinch as he walked and his toes were even starting to stick out of the front where the sole was coming loose.
Thanks to several clever little charms, his shoes now fit him perfectly and looked almost brand new. He smiled at the memory - one of the few from last year that he considered worthy of recalling - as he pulled them on. He was sure he heard Hermione mutter something along the line of "bloody relatives" and some other very uncharacteristic things related to the treatment he received from his so-called family while fixing them. Some of the ice that surrounded his heart melted at the thought of how much his friends cared for him.
Speaking of family… Harry winced as he heard his beefy Uncle Vernon bellow from below. "What's taking you so long, boy? Your Aunt told you to get down here now!"
Sighing, Harry ran a hand through his mop of messy black hair. Knowing that a brush would make little improvement to the perpetual mess that seemed to have a mind of its own, he didn't bother with it and left the isolation of his room. Bounding noisily down the steps of number 4 Privet Drive, he knew he could worry about the rest later.
Vernon Dursley was waiting for him at the bottom of the steps, a menacing look on his purplish face. "Could you have taken any longer?" he bellowed disapprovingly.
"Sorry, Uncle Vernon. I was just getting dressed," he said, trying to keep his voice even and neutral.
"And another thing," his Uncle said through clenched teeth. "Kindly treat my house with a little more respect. Coming down those steps like that is unacceptable. You'd do well to remember that in future, boy!"
Harry knew very well that Dudley usually came stomping down the steps every day around noon, but he did not think it prudent to point this fact out. Instead he replied dully, "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
Not knowing what to make of Harry's lack of fight, Vernon stared hard at his nephew. Knowing the circumstances surrounding the boy and all his troubles caused him pause, momentarily making him re-think his plans. Just as soon as he had these thoughts, however, they were immediately wiped away with the anticipation of his upcoming trip.
Vernon had slaved over his company, Grunnings, for close to 20 years now. Finally the hard work was paying off. He and Petunia were off to a retreat this weekend for company members to hobnob, socialise, and "network." He'd be damned if the ungrateful little runt would spoil it for him, even if that Voldemorsey-whosey person was back!
"Now listen, boy," Vernon said with a twisted grimace, staring at Harry hard and pointing a stubby finger at his chest. "Your aunt and I are going away for a few days."
Harry looked up sharply at his aunt and uncle, and noticed for the first time their neat and pristine travelling clothes and the packed suitcases stacked near the door. A warm feeling began to spread through his chest and the hint of a smile played on his lips. A weekend free of Dursleys! What could be better?
Before he could wrap his mind around the possibilities, his hopes were shattered by the smirk on his uncle and aunt's faces. Briefly, Harry wondered if crazy old Mrs. Figg had been enlisted to watch over him. That wouldn't be too bad, Harry mused. He had recently found out that the batty old lady was actually a Squib. He did not relish spending the weekend with Mr. Paws and the other cats that shared Mrs. Figg's musty, cabbage-smelling house, though.
He needn't have worried however, because Vernon had other plans. "I have my doubts about leaving you here to have free run of the house, but taking you with us is out of the question so I'm doing the next best thing." Here, he paused to smirk, a self-satisfied, almost gleeful look on his beefy face. "Dudley will be around to keep an eye on you and make sure there's no funny business going on."
Harry's heart sank. Dudley in charge was worse than a hundred of Mrs. Figg's cats. Dudley took great pleasure in making Harry's life as miserable as possible. As a child, his cousin had tormented Harry, using him as a punching bag and the butt of all his jokes. Frequently, Dudley and his friends taunted Harry with names such as "freak" and "weirdo" because strange things always seemed to happen around him. This was bad.
Uncle Vernon went on, seeming to take great pleasure in the miserable look plastered on Harry's face. "We'll be back late on Sunday. While we are gone, I expect you to remain in the house, preferably in your room. No need for the neighbours to be subjected to your unnaturalness. If I hear even a hint of anything out of the ordinary while we're away, I promise you will regret it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry said benignly. What did he care if the Dursleys were around or not? He pretty much stuck to himself and his own demons, holed up in his room or wandering the neighbourhood trying not to think about… things, and staying out of Dudley's way.
Suspicious with his nephew's compliant behaviour, Harry's uncle narrowed his eyes and cocked an eyebrow. It was his aunt, however, that spoke next. "You are not to make a mess of the house while we are away. There's a list of jobs posted in the kitchen, and I expect each and every one to be completed by the time I return. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," Harry repeated in the same, irritatingly benign voice.
His aunt narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously, like she was trying to figure out his game. "And one more thing… Duddikins is having a few of his little friends over this afternoon. Try to stay out of his way. He doesn't need the likes of you ruining his little get together." Almost as an afterthought, she said sternly, "And don't even think of eating any of the food I've prepared. I've left your meals in containers in the refrigerator."
Harry tried desperately not to panic at the idea of a house full of Dudley's friends. His aunt was talking about the group of troublemakers as if they were five and having a little tea party. Harry knew what kind of parties Dudley and his gang had, and he swore to make himself scarce this weekend. He'd be damned if he'd make himself the target of his git cousin. Not with everything else.
"Come, Petunia," Vernon bellowed, bustling her out the door. "We mustn't dawdle any longer. Dudley is a responsible young man and I'm sure he can handle this ruffian. We mustn't be late. Want to make a good impression, eh?" Vernon shot one last glare back at Harry as he made to shut the door. "Remember, boy. No funny business!" With that last warning, they were gone.