Chapter One - Harry's dream and the first four weeks of summer holiday.
A/N: This is very much a work in progress. I'm wary of the summary and rating at this point. Despite my best laid plans, I've changed the outline and first three chapters of this so much in the past several months that it bears very little similarity to the humorous fic I began at the end of last summer in response to the "Wet Weasley" challenge at Checkmated.com. Not a Wet Weasley in here, I'm afraid.
Calls From Friends
Harry Potter twisted on his bed, throwing his head roughly against his pillow, not quite awake, and not quite asleep in the early morning hours of 30 July. He'd just stirred from a dream that hadn't been a pleasant one, but neither was it one of his dreadful nightmares about Voldemort's erratic dispositions.
Harry had just awoken from a dream that he was at the Burrow, which normally would have been a particularly nice dream for him, especially since it was the summer holidays and he longed to be far away from the wretched Dursley family and Privet drive. He hadn't been there since the summer before his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the Burrow was normally a fine place for Harry; his best mate Ron lived there and he often felt he could consider it his home now. He loved being there - playing Quidditch, eating the grand feasts that Molly Weasley set before her large family, and enjoying the company of his good friends.
Normally, dreaming that he was at the Burrow would have been wonderful. This dream was not about one of Molly's meals or playing Quidditch with his friends, however. It was also not the nightmarish hallways of the Ministry of Magic that had recently filled his dreams. This dream didn't seem to be a small, personal dream. It seemed larger somehow.
Harry rubbed his eyes and tried to grasp as much of the dream as he could before the last remnants of sleep claimed it.
Light blazed from every window inside the lopsided house. Outside, were small fires all around, near the fenced in chicken's coop, in the meadow behind the house, around the small pond, stretching out over the hills, and beyond his range of vision. Gathered around the fires were humans and other magical creatures, which included house-elves and a few centaurs, which looked out of place away from the Forbidden Forest near Hogwarts. Hagrid was there with his brother Grawp, who was quite well behaved. Harry felt a wave of affection for the strange giant who waved and smiled at him.
There was no moon; the only light came from the fires. Harry felt as if he could reach out his fingers and touch the tension in the air. Everyone he spoke with was waiting for something to happen. Harry felt it also, but somehow he was able to force the fear away and replace it with some sort of hopeful expectation. He knew what was coming and was ready for it and he wasn't alone.
There was someone standing beside him, walking with him, but he couldn't turn to see who it was. This person also knew what was coming and was ready for it. Harry and his companion walked from fire to fire, talking to people, and reassuring them.
The people and creatures that sat around the fires spoke in terrified whispers, glancing up to the black skies and forests behind them. As he and his companion approached, the people stopped talking and looked up at them with respect and fear. Harry wanted to see the person beside him, but couldn't. No matter how he tried, his head would not turn, nor would his eyes catch who it was.
As they continued their trek toward the lopsided house, he began to notice how strangers reacted when he spoke to them. As usual, their eyes first swept to his forehead, stealing a glance at the famous scar. They nodded or smiled, listening attentively to what he had to say. None of this bothered Harry; he was used to it. What had bothered him was what was in their eyes. In their eyes was not the usual star-struck reaction to his fame. It seemed close to it, but it wasn't the same. It was as if they were looking to him for answers, and that bothered him a great deal.
Each word of reassurance that he uttered felt like a lie that wound around his heart and squeezed. Collectively the words became a great coil in his chest that restricted and set his chest and stomach to great pounding thumps. His face and neck were hot with the effort of believing the platitudes he served to these people who seemed to look upon his words so favorably.
Why are they all looking at me like that? Are they all nutters? I'm only 16-years old. I'm a liar! Can't they all see that?
As Harry and his companion approached a large fire close to the Burrow, he noticed real gladness for the first time on the faces of people surrounding the fire. The Weasley clan seemed genuinely happy to see him. As he approached them the tightness in his chest loosened and the heat in his face cooled. It was then that he heard the unearthly scream from the overhead and felt a great fire growing on his neck and back.
Harry woke from the dream in a terrible sweat, but not nearly as overwrought as he generally felt when he woke from a nightmare. The dream heat he felt on his neck and back disappeared the instant he woke up, but he still felt unsettled by the dream. It wasn't like his dreams of Voldemort or his dreams of the past. The dream seemed different somehow. This time he was in control of the events.
Harry shook off the dream and wiped his brow with a corner of his sheet as he reached for his glasses and noted the time. It was five o'clock; too early to get up, really, but too late to go back to sleep. He made the quick decision that it would be a good time to steal a few moments outside without his Aunt muttering to him or shouting out chores that needed doing. He dressed quickly, snapped up a pen, some paper and his fifth-year Potions textbook (Harry hoped to retain some of his fifth-year knowledge by osmosis and used his textbooks from school as portable desks frequently). Quietly, he slipped down the stairs, and into the kitchen to make himself some toast.
The tidy garden behind the house at Number Four Privet Drive was a pleasant place in the early hours of the morning; the air was moist and soft, and smelled of earth and flowers. Warmth met Harry's face as the morning sun soaked up the dew. He bent over the paper to write down his dream.
He'd been trying to keep track of his dreams during the summer, although most of them had been garden-variety nightmares of Sirius' death or meeting Voldemort in the graveyard at Little Hangleton. Harry knew that those were not that important, but he wrote them down anyway, hoping that somehow it might help. This one, however, seemed important because of its quality and depth.
Why couldn't he see the other person? Whoever it was, they were not an enemy. It was someone that the Weasley's knew and trusted. It was someone he knew and trusted.
He didn't think it was Ron or Hermione. He didn't remember seeing them in the dream. He felt that Ron was with the other Weasleys, but didn't specifically remember seeing him. He wasn't sure why, but he knew that Hermione was with Ron at the house, and had not been walking with him. Harry was determined to write every detail of the dream.
Harry snorted out a bit of laughter thinking that perhaps Trelawney's Divination classes had somehow got into his head without his permission. He certainly wasn't writing this down to turn over to Trelawny for a school assignment, and he didn't want to consider how the old bat would interpret his real dreams no matter how many real prophecies she'd come up with, including the one about himself and Voldemort. Writing down the dreams of the Ministry of Magic battle, the graveyard, Cedric's death, his detentions with Umbridge, Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort, Sirius, and all that he'd seen, was something that was purely for himself. Somehow, writing these things down helped make it all seem just a bit more real to him.
When he had first arrived at Privet Drive for the holiday, his entire life seemed surreal to him as he unpacked his meager belongings. Everything he owned reminded him of what he'd lost and what lay ahead of him. He thought constantly of what happened at the Department of Mysteries. At times, he was filled with righteous anger at Bellatrix Lestrange and at others. He let the grief wash over him as he pictured Sirius fall through the veil. Guilt for leading Sirius away from the safety of Grimmauld Place ate away at him and left great gaping holes in his stomach. This allowed other shameful memories to fall out when he guiltily reminded himself of the friends he left behind on Platform 9 and ¾ and how shabbily he'd treated everyone during the last term.
At first, he thought he'd just wanted to be alone. He had refused to speak to his Uncle and Dudley, which was fine with them, but his Aunt had been a different story. Two days after he unpacked his trunk, his Aunt Petunia had actually wanted him to talk to her about the Wizarding World. Initially Harry had angrily rebuffed her. She was the most responsible for his pain, he'd thought. Yet, one day she'd come to him with fear in her eyes, wanting to know what was going on. When Harry had looked into her eyes, he couldn't say no. He felt slightly better when he talked. Even to her.
Harry had told Aunt Petunia that Voldemort was back, Death Eaters were once again active, the Dementors had left Azkaban, and that he'd had a shitty year at school, thank you very much. Aunt Petunia winced as Harry pushed his boundaries with her, but carried on, asking about Sirius, Remus, and Peter.
Harry had ignored her question about Remus and Peter, but in a halting voice told her that Sirius was dead. His emotions twisted and he'd nearly cried in front of her. Uncomfortable with Harry's display, Aunt Petunia had given a great sigh and looked at her hands, which were twisting in her lap. "So he's gone, is he?"
Aunt Petunia's mouth had thinned a tiny bit and she'd sighed. Harry had nodded and looked at his shoes.
"Well, I gave my word to Dumbledore and I intend to keep it. I have no choice in the matter. You will let me know when we are in any danger because of you, won't you, Harry? I won't have my family in danger because of you."
Harry had nodded again, surprised at her use of his given name, but not giving it much thought after she'd managed to poke him with her last pinprick, which had caused Harry to sink into his normal silence.
It was the last that passed between them about the Wizarding World. Aunt Petunia refused to answer any of his questions or speak to him about his mother or her knowledge of the Wizarding World.
After a day or so, Harry and his Aunt had slipped back into their comfortable adversarial roles. Harry wasn't sure if he felt relieved by this or not.
As promised, Harry was required to send owls to various members of the Order ensuring them of his well-being. He also got calls and owls from them inquiring about his health (which got to be quite annoying after the first week) and updating him about the situation in the Wizarding World. Not much seemed to be going on, however.
All of that made Harry very nervous.
The sun was nearly through collecting the dew at Privet Drive when Harry finished writing out his dream and pushed the paper and pen aside. He rested the book on his knee and brought his head down, wrapping his arms around his long legs and bony knees. There was only one day left until he turned sixteen. After that, he had but one year to go until he never had to come back to Privet Drive or to the hated Dursley family again. He wasn't certain what he wanted to do with his life, or if he was destined to have a life at all, but he knew that if he did, it didn't include Privet Drive. It did include the world where he belonged, and it most definitely included his friends. The friends that, without fail, dragged him away from danger, who helped him, and who cared about him.
Harry grinned. The friends who could now ring him up during the long holiday thanks to Mad Eye Moody and the well-placed threats of those who cared about him.
At first, Vernon Dursley had placed a timer next to the telephone and had allowed Harry a meager three minutes for each call. When Harry had expressed displeasure with that, a great row had erupted and Harry had stalked off looking for Hedwig. Several minutes later, Uncle Vernon had returned, his face pasty and hands wringing. He'd relented, stating that Harry could use the telephone during the daytime while he was at work. Dire warnings regarding evening or nighttime calls from 'freaky friends' had shot out in Vernon's typical booms. Yet under it all, Harry had detected an atypical shake in his Uncle's voice. Harry knew false bravado when he heard it now. Harry had rolled his eyes and retreated to his room. Daytime was fine with Harry.
At the onset, Ron's calls had required Harry to hold the phone a meter from his ear to listen comfortably. After a few minutes, Ron tired of shouting, and, much to Harry's relief spoke in normal tones. Soon, they were holding long strategy sessions about the upcoming Quidditch season. Harry was uncertain that his lifetime ban from the game would be lifted completely. If Dumbledore felt the same way about Quidditch as he had about being a Prefect, Harry reckoned that he might be doing nothing but studies and learning to fight off Voldemort. However, Ron wouldn't hear of it and held long, excited monologues about different methods that they could bring the team up to snuff without the players who left school the previous year. The only time conversations with Ron veered away from Quidditch was when they strayed to the subject of females.
Ron seemed to talk about Hermione most often. He wondered what she was doing, was anxious for her to join him at Grimmauld Place, and frequently asked what Harry talked about with her on the telephone. Just as frequently, Harry wondered why Ron was so curious about his conversations with Hermione.
Ron also made a point to bring up his sister in nearly every conversation with Harry. How she was, what she was doing, and that she really wasn't seeing Dean Thomas as she'd stated on the train ride home. In their last conversation, Harry had got quite annoyed, and had finally told Ron that he wasn't helping matters. Ron had instantly stopped talking about Ginny and switched back to Quidditch, only to sneak in several comments regarding what a great Chaser Ginny was going to make on the Gryffindor team. When Ron asked Harry if he would help her train for being the team Seeker when they left school in two years, Harry gave up, saying that he would, laughing at his own annoyance.
Conversations with Ron generally left Harry relatively happy and hopeful, and bounding up the stairs to pull out his Quidditch books, reading up on different strategies and looking forward to flying again.
Calls from Hermione required a pillow, for Harry nearly always fell asleep midway through the call. Hermione seemed to be spending most of her summer researching Transfiguration spells. So far, Harry was unable to figure out why and had no real desire to ask. She also nagged him about his summer studies with good grace, worried over the OWL scores, which were late due to the damage and chaos at the Ministry, and made him laugh with annoyance and familiarity. Together they talked about Hagrid and his half-brother. Harry told her about some of his more common dreams (so she could happily fret over him). They laughed about Umbridge and the centaurs, making small clopping noises with their tongues, and talked about the classes they would be taking in the next year in school. When they hung up, he was generally left with a stitch in his brain about his marks, and found himself sitting in his room at his desk, working out an essay and wondering how a particular lesson could be applied to magical law enforcement.
Surprisingly, he had received a call from Luna the day before his dream, which was strange and marked by long stretches of silence. But, somehow, her call had seemed fun. Luna knew about the odd side of Wizarding World. Naturally, Luna never considered it odd at all. During the conversation, Harry had found himself considering if what she said might be true, since so much of what he'd seen over the past five years had seemed so odd to his Muggle eyes at first.
She had told Harry about their two-week trip to search for the Crumple Horned Snorcrack, which had produced nothing, it seems; but they had gone on to the Himalayas and had been in contact with a larger tribe of Abominable Snowmen. She'd teased Harry when he expressed surprise over their existence. He had no idea that they were real creatures.
Luna inquired after Ron before she remembered that she was at the Burrow using the telephone in Arthur's shed.
The Weasley family had been at the Burrow picking up supplies, when Ginny walked to Luna's house to invite her for lunch, and together they'd called him. A few minutes later, Harry was laughing hysterically with Ginny over Luna's obvious crush, as Luna skipped off to find Ron. Ginny had obvious sympathies for Luna feelings, but seemed to know something about her brother and Luna that she determinedly hid from Harry, no matter how much he pressed her to tell him. When Harry asked Ron about fancying Luna, his response was predictably negative, so he remained tantalized by Ginny's secret.
Mad Eye Moody had thoughtfully provided the Longbottoms with Harry's number, and Neville had called Harry a few days after he'd arrived at Privet drive. The two held a long and animated conversation. Surprisingly, Neville and his Gran had both a Muggle television and a telephone. Harry had been shocked to find that Neville was in tune with the Muggle world and said his Gran was also. Harry and Neville had decided that one of them should somehow take a subscription to a Muggle press when they returned to school so that they could keep up with the news. Somehow keeping an eye to the Muggle world seemed important to both of them, although they couldn't say why.
His biggest surprises during the month were the calls from Ginny. They weren't frequent, but her timing was usually exquisite.
He was beginning to recognize his place in the downward spiral into grief, self-pity, and anger; he knew that if he allowed one more step beyond his own veil, he would be lost inside himself for some time. It didn't matter what he was thinking about the most. Sirius. Voldemort. The Prophecy. His parents. Dumbledore. Dudley. His cupboard under the stairs. One more thought and he would be curled in a ball, mourning his life. He tried to stop it from happening, but it was like trying to stop a Dementor attack with little more than a tiny bit of chocolate.
Lately, however, when he first felt the fingers of despair lacing around the outer edges of his eyes, he'd begun to count on the ring of the telephone and hearing his Aunt screech, "POTTER!"
On the other side of the line would be Ginny.
Her first call had been awkward. Harry had no idea how to interact with Ginny even though he got to know her a bit over the last year. He had felt the silences keenly and desperately wanted to hang up the phone, but was too polite to do so. Ginny had plunged on, not giving him the chance to hang up on her. She simply refused to allow his awkwardness end the fragile beginnings of their friendship.
Harry had made the appropriate noises and listened as she filled him in on her father's latest Muggle obsession and her mum's latest culinary delights, or overprotective missteps, which were usually a target for Ginny's quick cheek.
Once, in a conspirator's voice, Ginny had told him about catching Bill and Fleur stealing a quick snog in the garden one evening. She had seemed to think it was quite funny, although she had been quite put off by her mother's reaction, which included some indelicate statements regarding grandchildren.
Their other discussions ranged from the horrid smell that dead flobberworms left behind, to wondering if Draco Malfoy played "for the other team," which included some conjecture on their part about Crabbe and Goyle and much sniggering on both ends of the telephone. They talked Quidditch strategy, Seeker and Chaser, both professional and on a school level. They discussed teachers and classes.
She told him about Fred and George's latest inventions, including a small toy duck, which, when wound and set into motion, made everyone in the room queue up and quack at great volume. The first test of the invention was set in motion in the hallway on an unsuspecting Mundungus Fletcher and Nymphadora Tonks, who thought it great fun. Unfortunately, Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall chose that moment to walk through the door. They did not seem to find the duck as funny. Ginny had sworn breathlessly through great hiccups of laughter that Professor McGonagall smirked just a tiny bit when she looked at Snape.
In hushed tones, Ginny had let him know about Percy's continued estrangement from the family and how they were all coping with it. Despite widespread acceptance of Fudge's turnaround, Percy had not tried to mend ties with his family. He avoided his father at work and made no attempt to contact anyone else.
Ginny was worried for Percy since there was no logical reason that he should continue to remain away from them. Percy was nothing if not logical and for this reason alone, his continued silence made no sense to Ginny.
Even though the last subject did not make Harry happy, he was glad that she told him. It made him feel included. Ron always avoided the subject of Percy. Harry reckoned that Ron was being careful not to talk about anything that might upset him.
Sometimes she talked to him about the odd comings and goings of the Order members, which seemed to be looking for another place to headquarter itself. Ginny didn't avoid subjects that others felt might upset him, but neither did she talk about them exclusively.
The only thing they did not talk about was Voldemort. His spectre hung between them, and they both knew it. This was the subject that Harry did not bring up with her, or she with him. Although they often referred to the battle at the Ministry of Magic and occasionally spoke of Sirius, they did not talk about what occurred when Harry left them behind to go after Bellatrix Lestrange. This time, Harry was determined not to forget that Ginny once experienced something nearly as horrific as he had over the years, and spoke with her as an equal. Nevertheless, they did not speak directly of Ginny's first year at Hogwarts.
Harry didn't feel as if they were avoiding the subject with each other. Voldemort was at the heart of his past and his destiny. It was something that he wanted no one to touch. It was something that was wholly his, locked away, deep inside. Ginny seemed to respect that. He hoped that he was doing the same for her.
As the awkward silence between Ginny and Harry disappeared into family and laughter, Harry found himself grateful for her calls and began to look forward to them. He didn't think Ron was putting her up to the calls, nor did he think that her crush was back. The opposite seemed to be true. Ron and Hermione's calls came with the greatest frequency and always lifted his spirits, but Ginny's less frequent calls always seemed to come when he was reaching a low point and needed them the most.
Harry wondered if he should share the latest dream with someone - Maybe Ginny this time. Hermione was good with the normal nightmares and dreams; she knew the right things to say to Harry now, reassuring him, encouraging him to talk when he felt like it. He worried that if Hermione heard about an unusual dream, she would fall back into her old pattern of bothering him to contact Dumbledore.
Harry dismissed the idea of sharing the dream with anyone and stood. Brushing off the seat of his jeans, Harry went back inside to the quiet house and poured himself a bowl of cereal. His copy of The Daily Prophet would arrive soon; he would scan it in his room while waiting for his Uncle to leave for work, and Dudley to go to do what ever it was he did for the day.
Dudley was terrified of Harry after last year's episode with the Dementors and gave Harry a wide berth. Dudley generally left the house around ten in the morning and rarely came home before ten or eleven o'clock at night. He claimed that he was doing odd jobs for money, but Harry reckoned he knew better. Dudley and his mates were bullying younger kids for "protection money". For a price, Dudley and his gang would protect you from Dudley and his gang. Dudley thought it was a right smart deal. Harry thought it stunk, but didn't want to create any problems this summer.
All Harry wanted to do was get away from Privet Drive to his place in the magical world.
Next Up: The Muggle and the Wolf
Thanks to my über-beta, Tari at Phoenix Song. This was written as an Owl Hollow FanFic, so thanks to the fab four there on the pre-beta and listening to me whine month after month. I know I offend with my distressing lack of smuttiness. *hangs head in shame* Carry on.