Progress Notes: I'm abandoning this story. My apologies to anyone who was enjoying it, but between my beta not getting back to me, and then having to wait 6 or 7 months for a new beta, and then not particularly clicking with that beta, and Deathly Hallows being as bad as it was, I've just sort of lost interest. There is a part of me that wants to finish this story, especially since DH was, in my opinion, dreadful, but every time I try to work on this project it seems like "work" and not at all like "fun". For those who are interested, there are a couple of extra "un-betaed" chapters up on fanfiction.net (I think it gets up to chapter 11 or 12). Thanks for the reviews and support.
Harry stood in front of number four, Privet Drive, at a complete loss as to what to do. He knew what he wanted to do, but hunting down Horcruxes had about as much to do with the Dursleys as it did with getting his teeth pulled. The only reason he was coming back there at all was because Dumbledore had made him promise that he would. Memories of the headmaster came flooding back to Harry, and he had to suppress the tears that were fighting desperately to free themselves from his eyes. He wouldn’t let the Dursleys see him like this, especially since he was arriving weeks early and completely unannounced. Harry had a feeling that this was going to be a surprise that his Uncle Vernon would be none too happy about.
After taking a few deep breaths, he rang the doorbell. A moment passed, then he heard someone approach the door. The curtain to the side of the door drew back slightly and he could see his Aunt Petunia’s eyes start to bulge out of their sockets, making her look like a horse that had just been told it was a chicken. The door opened and his aunt practically yanked him inside the house before quickly closing the door so that the neighbors wouldn’t see.
“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at school?” she demanded.
“School ended early this year.”
“Don’t get smart with me – you were expelled weren’t you? Even the freaks at that school don’t want you around.”
“I wasn’t expelled and believe me, I’m no happier about this than you are.”
“Watch your tongue, boy. Upstairs with you. We’ll sort this out when Vernon gets home.”
Harry muttered under his breath, “Brilliant.”
Harry trudged up the stairs to his bedroom, carrying his trunk and a cage that contained his snowy white owl, Hedwig. He put Hedwig’s cage on top of his dresser, put the trunk down on the floor and crawled into bed. He spent the rest of the day staring up at the ceiling trying to gather his thoughts. He would think of Dumbledore which would immediately make him think of Snape which would lead him to Voldemort, then to Horcruxes...Ginny...Sirius...Cedric. His mind was spinning out of control and he couldn’t focus on anything. He tried to sleep, but after an hour of tossing and turning he gave it up as a bad job. He tried to read “Hogwarts: a History”, as Hermione had recommended so many times, but wound up reading the same sentence over and over. Exasperated, Harry threw the book across the room and it hit the wall with a thud, which caused Hedwig to flap around in her cage.
“Sorry girl – it’s been a long week.” Hedwig hooted sympathetically.
The shrill voice of his aunt came up from the kitchen, “What are you doing up there?”
“Building an addition to the house...” Harry yelled back. “I was going to surprise you.”
Within a second, Petunia was marching up the stairs, muttering to herself. The only word Harry managed to make out was “ungrateful.” “Oh here we go,” he thought as his eyes rolled towards the heavens. “Why can’t she just leave me alone?” Harry’s bedroom door flew open, revealing a rather flustered Petunia Dursley, wearing an apron and wielding a feather duster.
“Sixteen years we have kept you under our roof!” she exclaimed, punctuating every syllable by shaking her feather duster at Harry. “We have fed you, clothed you, given you a bed, and driven to London twice a year to let you go to that freakish school of yours, and this is my thanks!” The way she was waving the duster around, Harry couldn’t help but think that his aunt would be quite a formidable foe with a wand. This thought brought a wry smile to Harry’s lips which only upset Petunia even further.
“You think this is funny? You think it’s funny that I have been saddled with you for the past sixteen years, wondering every day whether or not some maniac freak is going to destroy my house, my family, all because of something your parents did to him seventeen years ago?”
Harry tried to interject. “What my parents did? What are you- are you talking about Voldemort?” he asked, completely gobsmacked, but Petunia was on a roll and was not about to be interrupted.
“You think its funny, getting expelled from that freak school of yours? Even that old fool Dumbledore can’t stand the sight of you any-”
“He was not a fool! Albus Dumbledore was the greatest wizard who ever lived, and if you say one more word about him-”
“What do you mean ‘was’?” Harry, though angered, was silenced immediately by the look of dread on his Aunt’s face.
“He’s...” Harry tried to swallow the lump developing in his throat, to no avail. He had to take a deep breath to keep himself from breaking down. “Dumbledore is dead... that’s why I’m home early. He was... murdered. That’s why they closed the school.”
At those words, Petunia turned the color of an old gym sock and swayed unsteadily. Harry, his anger forgotten, immediately jumped from his bed to steady her and help her sit down. Petunia sat on the edge of Harry’s bed, her hands covering her mouth, rocking back and forth. “Oh my god... oh my god...”
Harry had no idea what to do. His aunt looked like she was going catatonic. He had not expected this reaction at all. His first instinct was to try to comfort her, despite how she had treated him all these years, yet she was quite close to completely losing it, and he was afraid that if he touched her, she would go off the deep end. He tentatively put his hand towards her, touching her shoulder. When no negative reaction came, he awkwardly began to pat her back.
“Aunt Petunia, it’s okay...it’s going to be okay...”
“Lily said Dumbledore was the only one powerful enough to keep him at bay. That’s what she told me! How can you tell me it’s going to be okay? Dumbledore was the only one keeping Dudley from finding out what he really is!”
Harry was dumbfounded. “Wait, are you saying that Dudley is a wiz-“
“Don’t say that word!” Petunia screamed, her face turning a dark shade of magenta.
“My god,” Harry thought, “she’s gone mental.”
“Spoiling my baby rotten so that he wouldn’t get angry, wouldn’t get upset! What is he going to do in the real world when he realizes that people aren’t just going to hand everything to him? If Vernon ever found out about Dudley he’d leave us in an instant. And what would I do then? Oh, that Dumbledore said he would make sure that he never found out about his powers, that as long as I promised to give you a place to stay he would keep Diddykins’ secret, that no one would ever know. What am I supposed to do now that he’s dead? How can I protect Dudley now?”
Harry was dumbfounded. The idea that his mum had actually talked to his aunt about Voldemort was absurd, yet it was also, apparently, fact. Never mind that Dudley was a wizard. In a matter of seconds his entire world had been turned upside down as his two lives, Muggle and magical, collided. He didn’t answer for a moment, wondering exactly how much he should tell her. Finally he came to the conclusion that if his mother had spoken with Petunia about Voldemort, she may have told her other things as well. Things that could be useful.
“Look, I don’t know what my mum told you, but there was a prophecy about Voldemort... and about me.... I’m the only one who can stop him for good... at least according to the prophecy.” Harry wasn’t sure that it was the best idea to let her in on the prophecy, but he hadn’t told her what it actually said, and besides, if Voldemort ever caught up with the Dursleys, Harry was pretty sure that he would be too arrogant to consider that a bunch of filthy Muggles might know anything of importance.
Petunia looked up at her nephew, her expression registering both shock and pity.
“I don’t expect to live through it... but for whatever reason I’m the one who has been chosen to do this. That’s why Voldemort killed my parents. That’s why he tried to kill me. That’s why Dumbledore has been protecting me. It’s my fate, and although I’m not happy about it, I have no choice but to accept it. If I try to walk away from it, he’ll track me down and kill me anyway. So if my mum told you anything... anything at all that might help me to stop this madman, I need to know.”
Petunia was silent for a moment, and then spoke.
“Dumbledore gave me some of Lily’s things. Personal effects mostly. Letters, a diary, things like that. I was supposed to give them to you on your seventeenth birthday, but I think maybe you should have them now.”
Petunia got up and silently left Harry’s bedroom, returning a moment later with a shoebox.
“I don’t know if anything in here will help you, Harry, but I pray that it does. I pray for all of us that it does. I’m sorry for the way I treated you. I was so scared of you being here, of Dudley finding out that he was... different. I didn’t want my family to meet the same end as my sister’s. I didn’t want Vernon to leave me. I hope you can forgive me, and I’m sorry that this has fallen upon your shoulders when you never asked for it. When Vernon gets home, leave him to me. I’ll make sure he stays out of your way.”
Harry looked at his aunt; seeing her in a completely new light was refreshing and sad at the same time. “I’m sorry too,” was all he could manage.
When Petunia left the room, Harry opened the shoebox to find a few letters, a photograph, and a diary. The photograph was a picture of his parents in what must have been their living room at Godric’s Hollow, beaming brightly, Lily holding baby Harry in her arms, James’ arm around his mother’s shoulders. “Harry: 2 weeks old” was written in ink on the bottom of the photo. Harry had never seen a picture of himself with his parents before. The tears began to well up in his eyes and his body began to shake. He couldn’t contain the overwhelming sadness inside him anymore, and he