A cool wind rustled through a normal town in Surrey on a waning summer evening. It was welcome relief from the scorching heat that had previously dampened the activities of the town's inhabitants. A certain black-haired boy breathed in the refreshing breeze as he sat by the window in his bedroom on number four, Privet Drive. Then he let out his breath with an exaggerated sigh.
Harry Potter was in a somber mood since his return from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Four weeks prior, he had witnessed his godfather falling helplessly through the veil of death in the Department of Mysteries. The loss was especially painful because Harry had felt that he had the power to save Sirius, but he hadn't. Instead of listening to his friends' warnings or diligently blocking his mind from Voldemort, he had rushed headlong into danger, risking lives and losing one of the only links to his long-dead parents.
Harry flopped onto his bed and stared at the ceiling of his room, wishing that he had someone to talk to. Ever since his conversation with Dumbledore at the end of the school year, in which he had very nearly punched his mentor, he felt that it would be wise to be more open with the people he loved. It was Dumbledore's reticence to tell him the truth about the prophecy that had caused Harry to become so angry. The problem was that he was stuck with three people who wished he didn't exist.
The Dursleys were as rotten to him as ever, despite the threats Vernon had received from Mad-Eye Moody just three weeks ago. However, it seemed to Harry that his uncle was more aloof around him, pretending that he didn't exist even more than usual. For Harry, this was perfectly acceptable.
The Weasleys were the closest thing he had to family, and since Sirius' death, he had even contemplated asking them to adopt him. He was sure that they would jump at the chance, especially after Mrs. Weasley's reaction at the end of the third task a little over a year ago. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it wouldn't work. The Weasleys were already a big enough target for Voldemort without his adding to it.
More important, he knew that Dumbledore would never approve because of the protection he received from his mother's sacrifice. Dumbledore had finally explained the reason he had to come to Privet Drive. His Aunt Petunia was a blood relative, and it was that blood, which carried with it some magical protection he didn't fully understand, that protected him from Voldemort.
However much he felt that he should be more open, he still hated the idea of his friends being threatened by Voldemort, simply because they were his friends. Cedric died just because he was with Harry in that cemetery in Little Hangleton. Sirius died because he was trying to protect him in the Department of Mysteries, and Harry knew that it wouldn't stop there, because Voldemort wanted him dead and had used his friendships to get to him before.
After letting out another sigh, he turned to look out of the window again and noticed a speck of white moving towards the house. He sat up to see properly; the speck grew into his owl, Hedwig. She flew into his room and landed gracefully on the top of her cage, her legs conspicuously free of any envelopes or parchment.
Harry gazed mournfully at his owl, and she replied by slowly blinking her eyes at him, as if to apologize that she wasn't able to speak to him and ease the burdens he was facing. Even though Harry lived in a house with three other people, Hedwig was the only one he ever talked to. Even then, it was limited to asking if she needed any more water or if she had brought back any mail for him.
Although Harry had felt alone before, it was nothing compared to the oppressive weight of isolation that now hung over his soul like a thick fog. The despair he'd felt following Sirius' death continued to penetrate his mind and heart, extinguishing every happy thought before it had opportunity to surface. Instead of clinging to the small rays of hope that his friends gave him in their letters, he wallowed in the misery of knowing that he could never be close to them while Voldemort was alive. Adding even more pain to the situation was the prophecy that constrained Harry to either become a murderer or be killed at the hands of the Dark Lord.
Seeing his owl gave Harry an idea. He may have resolved to be more open to his friends, but that didn't mean he had to gain any more of them or put his remaining friends at risk. Thinking back to the events in the Department of Mysteries, Harry realized that Ginny, Neville, and Luna had risked their lives for him, and while he was grateful for their loyalty, he just couldn't let them get into any more danger because of who he was. He couldn't bear the thought of leading more people to their deaths when he had the power to stop it.
Steeling his resolve, he grabbed his quill and a piece of parchment. After dipping the quill into his inkbottle, he began to write:
I wanted to write this letter to you because of what happened in the Department of Mysteries last month. Being there with me at a time when I needed my friends the most helped me in ways I can't express. You are a real friend.
However, I cannot bear the thought of your being hurt or killed just because of our friendship. So I am asking you to please try to keep your distance from me this year. Voldemort used my love for Sirius against me, and Sirius died because of it. I don't want to give Voldemort more opportunity to hurt my friends.
He wrote out two more identical letters and addressed them to Neville and Luna. With a heavy heart, he called Hedwig down from her cage and attached the letters to her leg. "Take these to Ginny, Luna, and Neville, all right?"
Hedwig nipped at his finger affectionately and gazed at him for a moment before taking off through the window. Harry stared after her for a while before he resumed his position on the bed, looking at the ceiling. He thought about getting to work on his homework as a distraction from his misery but decided that by the time he got everything out of his trunk, he would be too tired to focus properly on the assigned essays. Instead, he returned his thoughts to the only chance of freedom from his hated relatives he had had—Sirius—and his emotions sank back into a state of depression.
Harry drifted off to sleep with his thoughts wandering from Sirius to the Weasleys, wishing that he didn't have to spend one more minute on Privet Drive.
The next day, Harry awoke to the sounds of birds chirping through his open window. Grasping about drowsily for his glasses, he sat up and tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Through the haze of fog in his brain, he remembered that he had set a goal to finish his homework before his birthday. It struck him as a decidedly Hermione thing to do. "I guess she's rubbing off on me," he said out loud.
He went downstairs to get started on breakfast so the Dursleys would have little excuse for him to stay with them longer than necessary. When he landed at the bottom of the stairs, Aunt Petunia was already waiting for him.
"It's about time you got up," she shot at him with a withering stare. "Busy yourself with breakfast, then you can get to work on the list of chores I left in the living room. We won't be back until after dinner, so you had best get them finished before then." With that, she stepped sharply out of the kitchen.
Just brilliant, he thought to himself. So much for getting his homework done early. With a sigh, he went about making eggs and bacon, just as he had almost every day he spent on Privet Drive.
After the Dursleys left to spoil their son for his birthday, Harry decided that he would get at least one assignment done before he did anything else, so he finished off his Herbology essay, entitled "Fifteen Plants and Herbs Useful in the Creation of Medical Potions and Salves." Then he went outside to mow the grass, weed the flowerbeds, and paint the back door. Most nearly sixteen-year-olds would complain loudly at the amount of work he had to do, but Harry wasn't like most nearly sixteen-year-olds. He was under constant threat of death and had nobody to talk to about it, because everyone he loved was either dead or in mortal peril by associating with him. Being busily distracted by the chores he was assigned made the horrible feelings inside him diminish somewhat.
Sometime after lunch, he was just about through piling the weeds and grass clippings together, when Hedwig landed on the nearby dustbin. Harry stretched his aching muscles, wiped the sweat from his brow, and took the letter tied to Hedwig's leg. He glanced at the front and noticed his name in an unfamiliar, looping cursive. Curious, but dirty, he stuffed the letter into his trouser pocket and finished his task.
Once he was clean and in the cool of his bedroom, Harry took out the letter and opened it. His furrowed brow quickly changed to surprise as he realized who it was from and what it said.
Nice try, but you aren't going to shake your friends off that easily. I have half a mind to come over there right now and hit you over the head with a Beater's bat. The only reason this isn't a Howler is because I didn't want to get my mum involved. Rest assured that if you don't get your act together, the next owl from me will be Weasley red!
How you justify asking me to turn off our friendship like snuffing out a candle is beyond me. What makes you think I would be willing to risk my life for you then, but not now? Voldemort be damned. You need friends, and I want to be one of them.
Do you realize how hard it is for me to sit back and watch you suffer? The very least I can do is be there with you, like Ron and Hermione. I noticed that you didn't send one of these letters to them. You can't cast me off like some bit of refuse, so don't even try it. I realize the risks of being around you more than most people, since it was me who almost got you killed three years ago, or have you forgotten about that again?
If you didn't want my friendship, then you should have thought about that earlier, as it's entirely too late to change your mind now.
Your friend whether you like or not,
He stared at the letter in his hand for some time, wondering where the stuttering, elbow-in-the-butter-dish Ginny had gone. Last year, she'd seemed to come out of her shell, and the change had been remarkable. Now, he realized that the old Ginny was gone for good and the new Ginny was feisty, stubborn, and anything but shy. On further reflection, he decided that these things were very good attributes for a friend to have.
Deciding it was better to not get the youngest Weasley worked into a tirade, he resignedly began writing his fourth letter of the summer:
I realize now that you are not to be trifled with, so I won't even try to convince you of the mortal danger that you'll be in because of me. Instead, please accept my apologies. My life is a bit more complicated than even you know, and I don't want to be a burden on you or your family any more than I have to. As for Ron and Hermione, I just guessed that they wouldn't leave me alone regardless. Perhaps I underestimated you again, and I am truly sorry for misjudging you.
My friends are valuable to me; it's just that I'm trying to adjust to the fact that everyone who's loved me has either died or been under threat of death because of it. I would rather be miserable from loneliness and know that my friends are safe than have to live with the knowledge that I could have prevented their deaths. I won't push you away, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong for keeping other people at a distance. Their safety is more important than their friendship.
As he finished folding and addressing the letter, a blur of feathers shot through his window, bounced off the closed door, and crashed onto his bed. Pigwidgeon was still as reckless as ever and lay on his back in a heap, his legs sticking straight up into the air. Harry took the letter from one of the upturned legs and put him in Hedwig's cage so he could recuperate from his eventful landing.
Ron's letter was typically short and to the point.
Dumbledore is still keen about you staying where you are. Dad is trying to get you here as soon as possible, but I don't know how soon that will be. Nothing happening here, and nothing new about You-Know-Who. It's almost too quiet, you know?
Don't get too down; we'll get you out of there soon.
After last summer, Harry had doubts about leaving Privet Drive anytime soon. One thing that made things slightly more tolerable was that Dumbledore had kept his promise and was sending news about the wizarding world through Remus Lupin. His old Defense teacher was stopping by at least twice a week to fill him in on the Order's activities and how things were doing in the world he was forced to leave for two months out of the year. Lupin had even Apparated into the house occasionally, just to keep the Dursleys on their toes. The first time he did it, Harry asked what was stopping anyone from Apparating in the house, and Lupin had explained that Dumbledore keyed the wards to allow certain people with guardian duties to pass through.
During his last visit, Lupin had expressed concern about Voldemort's failure to act against the Order or, for that matter, the Ministry, now that they'd finally acknowledged his return. Harry had a feeling that it had something to do with the fact that the central core of his Death Eaters was currently in the wizard prison, Azkaban. Realizing that Voldemort would most likely attack the prison in an effort to swell the ranks of his followers, the Ministry made an uncharacteristically wise move by doubling the amount of Aurors stationed there and removing the Dementors. Unfortunately, no one seemed to know exactly where the former guards had disappeared to.
After placing Ron's letter on his desk, Harry went downstairs and outside to take his daily walk around the neighborhood. He liked to use these walks to clear his mind and make a new attempt at finding something positive to think about. So far, he had not been successful. Every time he got an image of something happy in his head, it always seemed to have something to do with Sirius or his faraway friends, and it caused him to sink back into misery.
So today, he tried a new tactic. Instead of searching for a happy thought, he would focus on a person who was important to him and try to remember something about them that was good. So far, he had pictured Hagrid's unfailing loyalty, Mrs. Weasley's immeasurable kindness, and the respectful way Professor Lupin had treated his students. But the farther he went with this train of thought, the harder it was to not feel the crush of loneliness constricting him. He was isolated from everything he cared about, and there was no end in sight.
Harry turned into the play park, which was currently devoid of any children. He barely recognized that the warm sunshine cascaded through the gently blowing leaves in the maple trees above him. He didn't smell the dusty air as it whipped around his messy, black hair. In fact, he was so distracted that he also failed to notice two pairs of eyes watching him keenly as he sat down on a bench at the edge of the play area.
"Hello, Harry," a voice sounded from behind him.
He whirled around to come face to face with Professor Dumbledore.
"Professor?" he asked lamely. "What are you doing here?"
Sitting down next to him on the bench Harry was occupying, Dumbledore said without preamble, "I've come to offer you a proposal." He motioned to an elderly man on his left whom Harry hadn't realized was there. "This is my brother Aberforth."
The man looked remarkably like his brother, save the missing half-moon spectacles and long purple robes. Instead, he was dressed in a brown Muggle suit and black felt bowler hat. If Harry hadn't known better, he would have mistaken him for a businessman or lawyer. One thing that remained the same was the distinctive twinkle in his eyes that spoke of a hidden infectious merriment. Harry thought there was something familiar about him but chalked it up to his being Dumbledore's brother.
Aberforth extended his hand and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter."
Taking the man's hand in his own, Harry said, "Please call me Harry, Mr...." He searched for something to call him, but Mr. Dumbledore sounded ridiculous, and he didn't know him well enough to call him by his first name.
"And you can call me Aberforth." He had a small beard which still showed some of its natural red coloring.
Harry nodded and then turned back to his Headmaster for an explanation.
"Ah, you are wondering what the proposal is, then?"
"Yeah, and I was also wondering why you never mentioned you had a brother before." Harry tried to keep the edge out of his voice. Dumbledore was still not his favorite person to be around, but he wanted to remain civil with him.
"Well, Aberforth doesn't like to mingle with the rest of the wizarding world." Dumbledore glanced up at his younger brother and received a nod in answer to an unspoken question. "Which is actually why we've come today. He lives as a Muggle in London, where he runs a bookshop."
Harry's eyebrows rose in surprise at this new information. It was a shock to find out about and meet Dumbledore's brother, but to realize that he also spent little time as a wizard, when he had such a powerful brother, was baffling to Harry.
"Actually," interrupted Aberforth, "I only work there part of the time, but I've need of some help there and wondered if you could be of service."
"What kind of service?" Harry asked immediately. He was doubly excited at the prospect of doing something during the holidays away from the Dursleys and having a diversion to keep his mind off his godfather's death.
"Well, nothing too taxing. We're reorganizing the entire layout of the store and need help moving the books around."
Harry considered this for a moment and then said, "When do I start?"
The elder brother and current Headmaster of Hogwarts stood up nimbly and answered, "How about tonight?"
They arrived at the bookshop with a specially made Portkey that would transport Harry between Little Whinging and London during the week or so that he would be working in the shop. Harry's nose was immediately assaulted by the smell of dust and mildew, and his first thought was that had Hermione been there, she would have been in heaven. The shop was on a quiet street that looked vaguely familiar. It was an old building but was well kept and had a wide variety of worn books. The front door was locked and shuttered, no doubt with a "Closed" sign hanging on the inside of the glass. Harry guessed that the shop specialized in rare books, because the inventory was in various states of dilapidation.
He followed the two brothers to the back of the shop, passing various sections marked "Shakespeare," "English Literature," and "Medieval History." Exiting the rows of books, Harry was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face.
"Hello, Katie!" he said. Katie Bell was to be a seventh year in September and one of the three returning members of last year's house Quidditch team.
She looked up from the register where she was marking in a ledger. "Harry! What a pleasant surprise." She placed her pen down and grabbed him in a hug. Harry patted her awkwardly on the back, wondering where the sudden affection had come from.
She pulled back from the hug, and a confused look crossed her face. "Whatever are you doing here?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm helping Dumbledore's brother reorganize the bookshop," he said nonchalantly.
She rolled her eyes and said in a low voice, "He's a bit off, you know; the books don't need to be reorganized. But since he's Dumbledore's brother...." The older men slipped into the back room of the shop, taking no notice of their conversation.
"Yeah," responded Harry, suddenly nervous. "So do you work here all the time, or are you just helping out, too?"
"Oh, I've been working here for the past couple of summers to make extra money. It beats most other jobs, anyway." She was giving Harry a curious look, but he waved it off, and they continued to make small talk while they waited for Aberforth to return.
Katie was twirling a bit of her light brown hair with a finger, casting more speculative looks at Harry. He was getting more uncomfortable with the situation, when Aberforth emerged from the back office.
"We'll work for a couple of hours tonight, then a full eight tomorrow," Aberforth told them. Then turning to Harry, he said, "My brother has already left but said that he would inform your aunt and uncle as to your whereabouts and that they should expect you by dinnertime."
"Oh, all right," replied Harry. "What would you like me to do?"
The older man thought for a moment and then said, "Let's empty the naval history section first. Grab a cart from the back, and meet me over there."
Harry nodded as Aberforth moved off to one of the corners and went to retrieve the cart from the storeroom. When he rolled the cart to naval history, Harry found Aberforth sitting in the middle of a large pile of books that were precariously arranged in a circle six feet high. Aberforth was in the middle of the circle sitting in the lotus position, legs crossed, feet upturned, arms resting on his knees, and he was emitting a faint humming sound. The only thing that allowed Harry to see the old man was a series of window-like gaps that appeared in the wall of books.
Clearing his throat a little, Harry was able to get Aberforth's attention. "I've brought the cart."
"Ah, very good." Then without opening his eyes to look at Harry, he motioned with his hand at the circle of books. "Just take these books to the back, and stack them against the wall."
Thinking this was quite odd but not knowing the man well enough to question him, Harry did as he was told and began moving books from the circle to the cart. After an hour, the circle was reduced to about half its former size, and Harry felt that he was making good progress. Since he had to pass by the front desk on his way to the back room, he saw Katie on each trip. She continued to stare at him as he passed, a smile plastered to her lips the whole time. As far as Harry could tell, she hadn't so much as glanced at the ledger she'd been working in.
As he was piling books onto the cart for his last load, Harry noted that Aberforth had yet to move from his position on the floor. Shaking his head slightly at the man's strange behavior, Harry took the last cartful to the storeroom and stacked the books neatly against the wall. When he returned, Aberforth was nowhere to be seen.
"Now that's odd," he murmured to himself.
"What's odd?" Aberforth's voice came from right behind Harry, and he whirled around in shock.
"N-Nothing.... It's just that, well..." Harry stammered, unable to work out quite how to tell Aberforth that he was mental. The old man kept looking at Harry, patiently waiting for him to continue.
Seeing that he would have to say something, Harry said, "What was it you were doing in the circle of books?"
"Meditation is the best thing to do in a shop full of books, is it not?" was the strange response.
"Um...sure?" answered Harry uncertainly.
"I often find myself faced with questions that have no obvious answers. Thinking about them in different environments is conducive to clearing one's mind." Aberforth periodically raised himself slightly onto his toes while he said this.
Still not quite sure how to take Dumbledore's odd brother, Harry decided to quickly end the conversation and get home. "If you say so."
Then as if he didn't hear Harry's reply, Aberforth produced the rusty twirling baton that was Harry's Portkey and thrust it at him. "This will activate tomorrow morning at half past eight, so make sure you are ready by then."
With nothing else on his mind but getting back to Privet Drive, Harry grabbed the baton and was jerked forward towards Little Whinging.
The Portkey landed Harry back in the play park next to the bench where Dumbledore had introduced his brother. Thinking back to his experience in the shop, Harry thought how strange it was for Professor Dumbledore to have a brother and not tell anyone for so long. But then he remembered back in his fourth year Dumbledore's mentioning something about a brother and goats but couldn't recall exactly what he had said.
Walking back to number four, Harry ran into two little children playing in a yard on the corner of Wisteria Walk and Privet Drive. They caught his attention because the little girl had bright red hair pulled back into a ponytail. She was playing with a boy who was about the same age, and they were now busy fighting over one of the toys that littered the lawn in front of the house.
"I was playing with it first!" screamed the girl, tugging earnestly on the toy.
"It's my toy!" the blond boy retorted. His smug look and sharp features reminded Harry strongly of Draco Malfoy. "I didn't give you fermission!"
Harry chuckled a bit at them and was about to move on, when the little girl abruptly let go of her side of the toy and the boy went sprawling across the lawn in a heap. The girl walked calmly over to the boy, who had dropped the toy in surprise. She picked it up and promptly stuck out her tongue at him.
The front door burst open, and a woman came onto the porch, staring at Harry with a look of apoplectic fury on her face. "Get out of here, you good-for-nothing criminal!" she yelled at Harry.
He flinched and quickly resumed his walk back to number four. He shook his head at the thought of Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy ever playing together. It amused him so much that he couldn't help letting out a little laugh, and he brought his hand up to his mouth in a failed attempt to keep it inside.
Later that evening, Harry had returned to moping indoors and was currently lying in bed on his side, facing his closed window. He didn't make any sign of recognition when the Dursleys returned home. The weight of loneliness and despair that had left him while away from Privet Drive was back in full force, and he reconciled himself to his lot in life by not moving a muscle to stop it. Hedwig had delivered another letter, presumably from Ginny, and there had been two more letters on his bed when he got back from his walk. In his current depression, however, he had no desire to read them.
An abrupt knocking sound on his door snapped him out of his trance. He straightened up in his bed, before the door opened of its own accord and Remus Lupin walked in. Harry could hear the spluttering noises coming from the hallway that could only be his Uncle Vernon. It was probably very upsetting for him to have a fully-grown wizard walking around in his perfectly normal house.
"Harry. I'm glad to see that you are safe." Lupin sat down on the edge of Harry's bed and looked him in the eyes. "I came to check on you and to make sure that everything was going all right."
Harry made a noncommittal noise in his throat and dropped his gaze to the floor.
Lupin sighed and reached out a hand to Harry's shoulder. Squeezing it lightly, he said, "I miss him, too, Harry. Probably more than you could know. He was my only family, you know, but he was also much more…." His hand shook a little bit on Harry's shoulder. "He was my last link to my own childhood, and his passing has taken part of me with him." Then he looked Harry in the eye and said, "He would want us to get on with our lives and to not dwell on the sadness."
Harry shook his head to let him know that he had heard what he said, but inside he knew that nothing had changed.
Dropping his hand from his shoulder, Lupin stood and paced to the window. "What I came to tell you was that you won't be able to send any more owls. We've learned that Privet Drive is being watched and all mail is being intercepted."
Harry finally stopped looking at the floor and gazed up at his former professor. "You mean I won't have any contact with my friends? It's bad enough I have to be stuck in this wretched place at all, but now you come here and tell me that I can't even have the one thing that has been keeping me going for the past three weeks?" Harry's voice rose slightly with each word.
"Listen, Harry, I've got something that I believe might help." Lupin pulled out two medium-sized books from his robes and handed them over to Harry. "They're enchanted to replicate whatever is written in one of them to the other one in the set. James and Sirius used them in class to send notes and such."
Harry blanched a little at the mention of his father and godfather, as he turned the pages over in his hands. "They're blank," he sounded out without any feeling.
"I erased them before I came over. Most of it had faded out and was unreadable. Besides, the spell wasn't designed to last this long. I refreshed the charm, so it should last through the rest of your schooling." He tapped one of them with his hand and looked up at Harry. "Just tell me who to give this other one to, and you'll have someone to talk with until we can get you somewhere a little more pleasant."
Harry thought hard about who he wanted to send the book to. It was obvious that it would be one of the Weasleys, and he even considered just sending it to the whole family as sort of a communal messaging mechanism. On reflection, however, he decided that he wanted this to be a little more private and that it would provide him with the perfect opportunity to make up for a past mistake.
Looking back to Lupin with the first real smile he had shown in weeks, he said, "Take it to Ginny Weasley."
Professor Lupin stood up from the bed and looked in Harry's eyes with a smile of his own. "I'll get it to her as soon as possible." He paused before opening the door and said with an upraised brow, "Is there anything else you wanted to share with me?"
Harry racked his brain to see if there was anything he left out. "I can't think of anything."
"You didn't go anywhere today?"
"Oh! You mean the bookshop," Harry said, remembering. "How did you know about that?"
"It's my job to know what's going on in your life, Harry." Lupin's eyes were still full of sadness, but they also held in them a sense of pride and determination.
Harry decided that since he didn't get any information from his Headmaster, he would try to pump Remus for it. "Do you happen to know why I'm moving books for Dumbledore's brother?"
Lupin's eyes twinkled a little at the mention of Aberforth. "Strange bloke, to be sure, but he's someone who can be trusted. Aberforth is a wizard, like his brother, but he never went to Hogwarts, so he doesn't practice magic like you and I do."
"You mean he practices magic without a wand?" Harry asked, flabbergasted.
Lupin gave a hearty chuckle. "I'll let you ask him that." Then he took out his wand and said, "Goodbye, Harry. I'll check on you tomorrow night."
"See you then."
With a loud crack, he was gone.
Two of the letters he had received, before Lupin had arrived and told him that owl post was cut off, were replies from Neville and Luna regarding his "being my friend is dangerous" letters. Neville's was typically shy but annoyingly more assertive than Harry would have guessed. He told Harry that if he thought that much of his friendship, then he would gladly leave him alone. By the end of the two-parchment missive, Neville had delivered an ultimatum to Harry: "Either treat me like a friend, or never speak to me again."
Luna, on the other hand, insisted that he must have been under the influence of a "Bargle-Headed Wadilark" and dismissed his letter entirely. She also said that she looked forward to meeting him again at school and that the D.A. had been a wonderful extracurricular activity. The only piece of news she offered was that she and her father were no closer to finding the elusive Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
Ginny's owl must have been the last delivered because it told Harry that she wasn't really supposed to be sending it and that they would need to have a talk when they saw each other again. Harry smiled as he thought about the duplicating journals that Lupin had given him and wondered if he had delivered Ginny's yet. He took his out and decided to write an entry into it so that Ginny would know that he was ready to talk.
After grabbing a bottle of black ink and a quill, he wrote the greeting "Ginny," but was shocked to see the word turn blue on the page. Harry double-checked the bottle to make sure it wasn't manufactured by Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes and continued writing. It was still blue. Deciding to experiment a little, he grabbed an unopened bottle of orange ink that Ron had given him and let a drop fall on the page. As soon as it hit the page, the ink turned blue and was absorbed. Not wanting to waste too much time with this little mystery, Harry decided to finish the message and get to sleep.
By now, you have seen Professor Lupin, and he has given you this book. In case he didn't explain it to you, here is how it works: I have a book exactly like yours with me. When either of us writes in one of them, the other book shows what has been written. With these journals, we can still keep in touch despite the restriction on post owls to Privet Drive. I considered sending it to your entire family to let everyone write in it, but I figured that it would be best to keep things simple.
It was difficult to choose just one Weasley to send this to, but I chose you because Ron isn't that great of a writer to begin with. And for some reason, I feel more comfortable with the idea of talking with you than your mother. Besides, I was hoping to get to know you a little better this year and wanted to make up for all the times Ron, Hermione, and I left you out of our activities.
Today, I had an interesting visit from Professor Dumbledore. He introduced me to his brother, Aberforth, who offered me a job working in his bookshop. Work started tonight, and I worked for two hours moving books from the store to a room in the back. Katie Bell was there and said she'd been working there for the past couple of summers. What was most odd was Dumbledore's brother. Ron would say that he's mental; I think he's just like our Headmaster.
The only other thing happening is that I'm bored out of my skull, so at least I'll have work to keep me busy.
Write to me when you get a chance.
He closed the book and set it down on his desk, still wondering at how the ink had changed color. Hedwig had her head tucked under her wing, and Harry could tell that she was grateful to be back with him. Just this afternoon, Harry's life seemed to be closing in around him, and he was slowly suffocating inside because of it. Now there was a small glimmer of hope in the journal he had sent to Ginny.
With a slightly less heavy heart, Harry sat on his bed and stared out the window into the night, as the stress of the day melted away from him. He thought about his parents and Sirius' sacrifice to keep him alive. He thought about the friends who cared about him and wanted him to be safe. With a small sigh, he stretched his weary muscles into relaxation before pulling off his shoes and drifting to sleep.
A/N: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the incredibly important work that went into this chapter (and I hope the rest of the story). To John, whose no-nonsense approach to writing has inspired me to press on. To Michele, whose remarkable ability to cut through the crap in my story still leaves me in awe. To Diana, who is not as ruthless as she thinks and is a great pre-beta. Finally to Lucy, whose patience and diligence go above and beyond the call of duty. This story would be nothing without these fine people.