Disclaimer: The setting and characters all belong to JK Rowling, of course. I’m just having fun with them.
A/N: First of all, thanks to my beta, DancingInMagic, for all of your hard work and support. I appreciate your help very much. And secondly, thanks to those of you who have been kind enough to review what I’ve written so far. It means a lot to me.
Harry and Dobby walked down the steps and got halfway down the path to the sidewalk when Harry stopped cold. Dobby looked up at him questioningly.
“Uh, Dobby—er—can you make yourself invisible for the walk to the Dursleys? Er—I mean, most Muggles aren’t used to seeing house-elves, and we’re going to have to walk past quite a few of them along the way. You know, secrecy and all that....”
“Can’t you just say he’s a new pet of some sort?” asked a playful female voice from the bushes.
“A pet? Oh, c’mon, Tonks! I wouldn’t insult Dobby like that! He’s a friend. He’s no one’s pet.” Harry couldn’t believe his ears.
“Don’t be offended, either of you. I was just joking, but I guess it was in poor taste, eh? Here, let me put a Disillusionment Charm on him like Moody did to you last year. I’ll take it off outside your house,” she offered cheerfully.
“Dobby is thanking Miss, but Dobby is able to do it for himself.” He squinted his eyes in concentration and disappeared.
“Wow, Dobby!” said Harry. “That was fantastic!”
“Wotcher, Dobby! I never knew house-elves could do that!” came Tonks’ disembodied voice.
“Well, see you later, Tonks!” said Harry. “C’mon, Dobby!” Harry set off down the block, hoping his little friend was following close behind him.
As they neared the corner and saw Dudley’s gang waiting for him, he spoke softly but sternly to the invisible figure beside him. “No matter what they do or say, Dobby, you must promise not to interfere or to reveal yourself. Promise me, Dobby.”
“Very well, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby promises. "But sir, if they....”
“No, Dobby! I mean it. I don’t want you getting into any trouble because of me.” Harry glared to his left. “Besides, they’re just a bunch of dolts. And Dudley’s scared enough of me to keep them more or less under control.”
Harry approached the little group warily. He’d be damned if he was going to let a few Muggle thugs get to him after having faced Death Eaters yet again and lived through it to tell the tale. Not to mention Voldemort himself. But it didn’t follow that stupidity was in order either. Such confrontations were best avoided whenever possible. Especially now when he might have to call on Tonks to perform a few Memory Charms after what Dobby would almost certainly do in retaliation. Not to mention Tonks herself.
Harry sighed deeply as he approached Dudley’s gang. “You guys missed out on a great tea.”
The whole group burst into laughter. “Yeah, sure, Harry!” Dudley said. “I’m sure it was a barrel of laughs. How’s dear old Mr. Tibbles, by the way?” His cronies burst into fresh shouts of laughter, and Harry just grinned and shook his head as he walked right on past them toward Number Four. They let him go with no further comment, which made Harry wonder whether his Aunt Petunia might have spoken to Dudley about him. He shrugged and entered the house, being sure to take his own sweet time about shutting the door to give Dobby a chance to slip in behind him.
“Aunt Petunia?” Harry called.
“In the lounge, Harry!” she called back.
Harry stuck his head into the room. “Are you alone?”
“Good, because I need to talk to you some more. Some things have happened that you need to know about,” he began as he entered the room and sat down near her. At the look of alarm that suddenly crossed her horsy features, Harry mentally kicked himself. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put it that way—it’s nothing bad, I swear! It’s all good news, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m afraid there’s a detail or two you may not quite like....”
“Well, what’s happened? Out with it, boy! Your Uncle Vernon will be home soon.”
Harry started and looked at the clock over the mantelpiece. He hadn’t realised how long he’d stayed at Mrs. Figg’s.
“Sorry,” he said. “Well, anyway, when I got to Mrs. Figg’s, Professor Dumbledore was there. He’s made arrangements for me to get some extra training over the summer, lent me a book on Occlumency, and—now here’s the hardest part, but, um, he’s left a guest with me for the first week or so of my training to ward my sleep.”
“A guest?” she asked, starting to look alarmed. “What kind of guest?”
“A house-elf—the same one that came to see me just before second year. You know, the night of the dinner with the Masons?” Harry winced in expectation of the explosion.
None came. “The pudding? And the owl dropping the letter on Mrs. Mason’s head?” she asked warily.
“Yes, that night.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s right here with me, but I asked him to turn himself invisible for the walk home and until I could speak with you about him. Dobby, show yourself, please.”
There was a relieved sigh, and Dobby appeared standing at Harry’s feet, rubbing his temples.
“Dobby!” Harry said in alarm. “Does it hurt you to be invisible?”
“Sir is kind to ask, but Dobby is perfectly well,” the elf said weakly.
“Perfectly well, my foot! It hurts you! Why didn’t you tell me it would hurt you? I never would have asked you to do it!” Harry was concerned for his self-sacrificing little friend, who looked all too unsteady on his feet, and resolved to use his father’s Invisibility Cloak to cover Dobby and his school things on the way to and from Hogwarts. Suddenly, he got an ominously heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Dobby,” he asked, eyes narrowed. “These special wards you’re to put up around my bed at night—do they affect you in the same way?”
“Not in the same way, no, sir,” Dobby replied.
“Give me a straight answer, my friend. Is it going to hurt you to do this?”
Harry scowled at him, and the elf cringed. “We’ll see about that, Dobby,” he said, resolving to study Occlumency as hard as he could after a good night’s sleep.
He turned back to his aunt. “Aunt Petunia, this is my friend Dobby. He’s saved my skin a few times, for which I’m truly grateful. I hope you don’t mind his visit. I’ll be studying hard so I can make it a short one and return him to Hogwarts as soon as possible.” He looked sternly at Dobby during the last sentence, but the little elf was looking so pleased about the first part of Harry’s introduction that it appeared the scolding hadn’t even registered.
Aunt Petunia nodded at Dobby. “Although what your uncle will say I don’t want to begin to imagine.”
“Yes, well, I’ll try to keep Dobby out of Uncle Vernon’s way.”
She just nodded again.
“And as for the training part, I’ll be Flooing up to school on Mondays and Thursdays for special lessons,” Harry continued. His aunt looked in alarm at the electric fire and her immaculate living room. “No, no, Aunt Petunia,” he rushed to reassure her. “I’ll be Flooing from Mrs. Figg’s house each time.”
Aunt Petunia breathed an audible sigh of relief, then sat up straight in alarm as a car pulled into the driveway. She and Harry looked at each other, eyes wide.
“Dobby, upstairs to my room, quickly!” But Dobby was unconscious on the floor and couldn’t respond. Harry scooped him up and ran for the stairs just as he heard his uncle set the car alarm.
“Petunia, I’m home!!” he boomed as he opened the door, then stopped dead as he saw Harry frozen halfway up the stairs with an unconscious house-elf in his arms.
Uncle Vernon’s face went purple. He stomped into the hallway and slammed the door so hard the side windows rattled. “Boy!” he raged. “What is that—?”
“Vernon!” Aunt Petunia called sharply. “Please come in here for a minute. Harry, take Dobby upstairs and come right back down. There are some things your uncle needs to hear. Dudley!” she called out of the window. “Please come in for a minute, dear!”
Harry ran up to his room and laid Dobby gently on his bed, propping him up on the pillow. He took out his wand and pointed it at his friend. “Ennervate!” he said.
Dobby’s eyelids fluttered open. He opened his mouth to speak, but Harry hushed him. “Stay here and rest quietly, Dobby. That’s an order. I mean it.” He grabbed a chocolate frog from his desk drawer and handed it to Dobby. “Eat this and rest. I’ll be back up soon.” He whirled around and left the room, making sure to close the door as gently as possible so as to avoid making Dobby think Harry was angry at him. Then he practically flew down the stairs to the lounge.
Aunt Petunia nodded at him and pointed to an armchair. Harry sat. Uncle Vernon, whose face had changed colour to more of an angry red in the interim, started to go purple again. He opened his mouth to speak, but Aunt Petunia held up a hand to quiet him. Harry stared.
“Now,” she began, “as we are all aware, this Voldemort person has been back for a year now and, as we were so painfully made aware almost as long ago, the Dementors are no longer under Ministry control. Is this correct, Harry?”
“Well, actually, the Dementors were sicced on me last summer in an attempt to silence me. But they didn’t abandon Azkaban until only a short time ago,” he replied.
“What?! Those Demensis things are all on the loose out there?” Uncle Vernon bellowed.
“Vernon, the neighbours,” she snapped.
“Yes, sir, they are,” Harry said.
Dudley turned a bit green and began to shake.
“Now, however, the real problem is Voldemort himself. I’ve had an owl from Professor Dumbledore about this situation, although he was quite vague about the particulars....”
“What?” Uncle Vernon spluttered. “You’ve had another owl from that old....” But he stopped short at the look on Harry’s face. Or perhaps it was because Harry had unconsciously drawn his wand at the hint of an insult to Dumbledore.
“Yes,” Aunt Petunia said. “He said that some very distressing events had occurred and that I was to contact him through Mrs. Figg if I thought Harry needed help.”
“So that’s how you knew...” Harry began, half smiling.
“Yes, Harry, and if you hadn’t asked to go see her today, I was going to go myself. If you really think I haven’t noticed you’ve not slept a wink in days....” She paused. “Of course you really think that. But I’ve never really wished you harm. That’s why we took you in in the first place.”
Harry just looked at her, his mouth half open, scarcely daring to believe a word he was hearing.
“Now, before we discuss anything else, is Dobby all right?” she asked, real concern in her eyes.
“I think so, Aunt Petunia. I was able to revive him, but I told him to stay put and rest. I think this assignment is going to be really hard on him, and I need his help right now. He should be able to rest well tonight before getting started on the wards tomorrow night, as I’ve been given a draught of Dreamless Sleep Potion so I can sleep myself out tonight and start studying tomorrow.”
“Excellent,” his aunt replied. “It seems to me you’ve enough to worry about—the weight of the world on your shoulders and all that. You need to be able to sleep.”
Dudley and Uncle Vernon just stared from one to the other, trying to take it all in. Harry could almost see the cogs turning—or at least trying to turn—in their minds. He schooled his features, however, unsure of how long this weird alliance with his aunt could last and unwilling to risk laughter just yet.
“Harry will be taking some special lessons twice a week this summer, the better to protect himself from this Voldemort, who, as I understand it, has a peculiar connection to him through Harry’s scar and seems to be trying to read a particular memory?”
“So here it is, Vernon, Dudley.” She looked at each in turn. “You are both to leave Harry alone. No nasty comments about what he is and positively nothing negative about our small houseguest. Have I been rightly understood?” Both nodded mutely, mouths gaping in shock. “Good. Now let’s all sit down to the table, before Harry has to take his Sleeping Draught. Harry, do you think Dobby would like to join us?”
It was Harry’s turn to gape stupidly at her. She just raised her eyebrows at him. “Uh, no, thanks, Aunt Petunia. I think it’d be best if I just took him up a plate for tonight so he can rest a bit more. Maybe tomorrow....” Harry couldn’t wait to write to Hermione about this turn of events, although he knew Dobby was likely to go hysterical at the mere idea of sitting down to the table with them all. The only time Harry had ever seen a house-elf ingest anything at all was during his visits to the kitchen when Winky had been drinking so heavily and the other elves had been ashamed of her behaviour.
This was really turning out to be quite an interesting summer so far.