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Word Count: 359,304
Warnings: Strong Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse
Genres: Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Tonks, Cho, Draco, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing
First Published: 11/29/2005
Last Chapter: 12/17/2006
Last Updated: 07/21/2009
Sirius has died, and as Harry struggles with his guilt, new neighbors move in across the street. But this foreign family from the Middle East has a very beautiful daughter, and she’s taken a liking to Harry. But just as Harry must hide his own true identity, so too are the secrets that run deep within the Darbinyan family… secrets of death, secrets of life, secrets that will unwittingly guide Harry to rebirth, and the ultimate discovery of how Voldemort must be defeated.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4 - Tears in the Sunset
Harry Potter and The Burden of Becoming
Chapter 4 - Tears in the Sunset
Blurred dreams of love and music gave way to the rumblings of traffic passing by on Privet Drive. Harry woke to find himself in bed, the sun already high in the sky. He was trying to remember how exactly he made it home last night, when he heard a car door slam outside, and then another. Slowly, he lurched out of bed, his head a bit achy, and walked over to the window, just catching the Dursleys drive away; they were on their way to church. He scratched his chest preparing to return to bed, when he saw her in the window directly across from his. Already dressed, with her hair again back in a ponytail, she was waving at him madly. She pointed, as if to say don’t go, and disappeared from her window. Quickly, Harry tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes, as he heard her front door slam. He stumbled to his dresser, grabbed a comb and tried hopelessly to run it through his hair.
“Ouch!” he cried. He was combing too quickly and caught his ear. Then, he remembered the new piercing. “Oh, yeah,” he muttered to himself, then paused and stood back by the bed to see how his earring looked in the mirror. The door to his own house opened and slammed shut. His eyes finally focused, and, seeing the vision before him, a sudden shudder of panic raced through his body, as if he’d plunged into the icy depths of the lake. “Oh, no!” he thought; her steps echoed throughout the house as she raced up the stairs. There’s no time! She burst through his door and threw both arms around him. It was a deep kiss. He saw a lightning-bolt hanging from her ear, and he could feel himself being pushed backwards. Suddenly, there was a loud screech at the window.
“Hedwig?” Harry turned, but in the window was a brown tawny owl Harry had never seen before. There was an official looking parchment attached to its leg addressed to him. He took the parchment that had a red wax seal across it with a large H stamped in the middle; Gabriella had her arms around his waist looking over his shoulder.
“You’re very popular with the birds.” He could tell she was trying to keep her voice calm. “What is it?” Harry knew what it was, the results of his O.W.L.S.; he wanted to tear them open on the spot, but he knew he couldn’t.
“Er, nothing, I can read it later,” he answered nervously, as he slid the letter into the top drawer of his dresser. “Where were we?” he asked, turning around to kiss her again, but her eyes had seen it. They were wide, the pupils so large they made her eyes blacker, if that were possible.
“Your… your hair.” She was staring past him to his neck. He’d noticed it in the mirror, but what could he do? When he was younger, his Aunt would always try to cut his hair, only to have it re-grow to its original length again by the next morning. He’d never cut it and it had never grown… until today. Overnight it had grown a good three to four inches longer. She put her hand up, almost frightful to touch it, and then brought herself closer as if to see if it were real.
“How… how is it possible?” He tried to stay composed, as if nothing really had happened.
“Do you like it?”
“I… well, yes, but…” There was a familiar hoot in the window.
This time it was Hedwig, back from her errand to Fred and George. She had a modestly sized package and seemed put off that there was another owl in Harry’s room. The package she was carrying contained something moving inside it. Harry took it from the owl’s leg, gave the two birds a treat, and sent the tawny flying on its way, while Hedwig returned to her cage to rest.
“That’s more than just a letter, it’s a parcel! How many people send packages with owls? She doesn’t seem big enough to carry a package that large.” Gabriella watched the first owl fly away, but then turned on Harry waiting for answers, lots of answers. The package in his hand kept squirming.
“They’re nothing, really,” he said unconvincingly, as he tried to put the new package in another drawer of his dresser, but it wouldn’t fit. It was emblazoned with three W’s and he was sure Fred and George had sent something special with their reply.
“Who are you kidding, Harry. What’s going on?” He was cornered, and he didn’t like it. “That ‘H’, it looked official. What does H stand for? Hogwarts?” She’d remembered the book and was putting it together; it was like watching a black-haired Hermione in action. “Is that your… your school?” He didn’t like being pressed like this in his own bedroom, and the pounding in his head from the activities of the night before became more pronounced. “That mirror, last night; did you kick it, or did it just shatter?” He had no idea what to say, as the air in the room began to grow thin, and he attempted to catch his breath. “And Malcolm, Emma told me he ran from you screaming while you stood there with boiling hot drinks,” she said calmly, stepping towards him as he stepped back. “And now… now your hair.” Her voice was almost analytical, and that made Harry angrier. Trapped in his own room, he exploded in the only way he knew how.
“Shut up!” he yelled. Gabriella stopped her advance. “It’s none of your business! You… you wanted to date a criminal? Well… well criminals don’t say crap when they don’t want to, especially to nosey busybodies sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong! And… and if you don’t like it… bugger off! Go on! GET OUT!” He was advancing on her now.
He thought about what she’d done to Malcolm in the park; she could have thrown him out the window if she wanted, he knew that. He half hoped she would, or at least grab the parchment from his hands and tear it open. She’d know then. He wouldn’t have to keep this stupid secret. But instead, her face wilted, and with it so too did Harry’s heart. She turned and ran out of his room just as quickly as she had arrived. With each door slamming shut as she sped home, another piece of Harry’s spirit drifted away.
“Perfectly perfect, Potter,” he scolded himself.
Sitting back on his bed, his shoulders slumped over the package from Fred and George; he let out a sigh, and slowly opened it. A small black furry creature and a silk sack landed in his lap. The creature had a collar around its neck and resembled a sightless mole with no legs. The collar had a tiny yellow tag with the words “PULL ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.” He set the creature on his pillow and read the note.
First of all, the explosion in London was just an old department store, but nobody’s sure who’s responsible. It’s terrible, but only Muggles were killed. Secondly, please find two enclosed items. The first is your annual dividend as our first and only investor; the shop’s been doing gangbusters, and we can’t wait to show you our new ideas. We thought you might need some Muggle money so we had Bill work the exchange rate. The second is a gift to celebrate the results of your O.W.L.S. It’s a molamar, and there aren’t too many of them around England. Let’s just say Percy would turn puce if he knew you had one. They don’t eat or drink anything, just keep it somewhere warm and dark, and it’ll do fine. If you ever find you need to get away in a hurry, a real hurry, pull the cord and hang on. It only works once though, so use it wisely.
See you soon!
Fred & George
“Use it wisely,” he read again--the same words left on a note attached to his father’s invisibility cloak he received one Christmas. Harry thought back to when the first owl arrived from Hogwarts that same year; it seemed so long ago. What if he’d never received that letter? What if he never made mirrors shatter, or people blow up like giant balloons? Would it be so bad to be a Muggle? Gabriella would still be here right now. He looked down at his bed; instead he had a molamar on his pillow.
He opened the silk pouch, and found it filled with gold Sovereigns. By the looks of it, there was close to a thousand pounds there. He closed the bag and placed it under the floorboard in is room, then picked the small animal up off his pillow and pulled open the drawer of his dresser. Gently, he placed it under his socks, and he reached for the parchment. He glanced out the window, but her curtains were drawn shut. Still, his pulse couldn’t help but quicken when he broke the wax seal; this was it, his real future.
He unrolled the parchment. The marks were, well, unbelievable. He’d failed Divination and History of Magic, of course, but had received Exceeds Expectations in Charms and Astronomy. He scored Outstandings in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures, and… Potions! He re-read the scores multiple times, at the bottom of the parchment in small print read “Scores have been adjusted, providing students credit for the school’s poor oversight.”
“Umbridge,” Harry whispered. This meant he could be an Auror if he wanted to; he could devote his life to destroying the evil in this world. He jumped up and yelled as loud as he could. For a moment, his mind left the Muggle world, and envisioned his future bringing down Voldemort and his followers. He waved his hand in the air as if holding a wand. “Today you’re going to die… Tom,” he whispered. There was the slightest pang in his forehead. The phone rang, and Harry ran downstairs to answer it; it was Emma.
“Good morning, Harry!” she said brightly. “I hope you’re feeling okay this morning.”
“I’ve been better,” replied Harry.
“Well, listen; Duncan’s got some news that should cheer you up. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” said Harry, and a moment later Duncan was on the phone.
“Hey mate! Well, I’ve talked to the boss at Sunshine Sports, and you can start training today, four pounds an hour. It’s not much, but like I said last night, havin’ it’s better than not. What do you say? Stop by about three and I’ll spend a couple hours showing you the ropes.”
“Sounds great!” Harry replied, not even considering the money he now had upstairs. “I’ll see you at three,” he said, and hung up the receiver, not really caring why his head was aching so. It seemed the Wizarding world would have to wait for Potter the Auror; today, he had a different job--a job in the Muggle world selling sporting goods. He would prove to himself he could make it on his own.
He went upstairs, showered, dressed, and tried to do something with the new look. How was he going to explain his hair to Duncan? But after two hours training, Duncan hadn’t mentioned a thing. Harry had just finished learning why footballs were very different from basketballs, when, for the first time that day, Duncan asked a question that had nothing to do with work.
“So, how’s Gabriella?” Something in his voice told Harry he knew what had happened, and something in Harry’s expression told Duncan the answer. Before Harry could answer, Duncan continued, “Listen, mate, women are a strange breed. She’ll get over it; just stay cool, and you two will work it out, you’ll see.” The words helped a little, and Harry was glad to have a friend he could talk with, even if he didn’t say much.
For the next few days, Harry spent his afternoons in the shop, mostly organizing the shelves, and helping customers with questions. The Dursleys were actually happy that Harry was working at a Muggle job. First, it kept him out of the house, and second he was so tired when he came home he usually just went to bed after dinner. In fact, it was at the dinner table that they brought it up in hopes that Dudley might consider getting a job. Dudley said he’d think about it, and then asked for seconds. As far as Harry’s longer hair, it only caused Aunt Petunia to look at him with fierce disapproval, to which he simply shrugged his shoulders and asked for seconds. Only Dudley was successful. What she didn’t see hidden behind his locks was an earring that matched his scar.
Aside from constantly harping on Harry to do more garden work, the Dursleys were growing less bothersome. Still, his evenings were far from enjoyable; each night he'd come to his room, look out his window only to see her curtains drawn, and then collapse on his bed. He’d sleep for a couple hours then leave to walk the streets. He was, in fact, miserable.
On this particular evening, he found himself in the park again, hanging from an old tire swing. It was going to be another fiery-red sunset, but Harry didn’t much notice. Duncan had asked if he wanted to join him and Emma for a bite to eat, but Harry passed; honestly, he hadn't felt much like eating for days. He kicked off the ground with his foot, as if launching on his Firebolt, only to swing back down to earth. He kept re-writing the scene that played out in his room with Gabriella, and yet, no matter how he tried to come up with better words to say, or actions to take, it always ended with her finding out he was a wizard.
But then, how could she not know, even now? Is that why she’d been avoiding him? That somehow she knew he was something strange, something different, a danger? It tore at him to think that she might believe him really dangerous; that she might be frightened he would hurt her. She was smart, yes, but putting Harry in wizard’s clothing was a far stretch for any Muggle imagination. He walked over to the same tree where the two of them had confronted Malcolm. It started here; it would end here. He would just put her out of his mind; it was just a bit of Occlumency. He sat. He tried to make his mind go blank, but felt somewhere inside, small pieces of his soul had disappeared. He imagined her eyes twinkling back at him, his body shuddered, and he put his face in his hands. People had scorned him before, feared him, despised him, and he was able to let it go. “Let it go,” he thought, but tears began to well up inside him. “She hates me,” he said aloud.
“No she doesn’t,” whispered a familiar voice. He sat frozen, his face still buried in his hands. “She could never hate you.” Two hands took his and pulled them gently away from his face. A tear fell from his cheek as he looked up into her eyes, two black stones on which the rain had been falling. She knelt next to him with her hand against his face.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, “I never should have….” She held her hand to his mouth.
“No. I’m sorry,” she said, “I was behaving like a four year old. You were right, I was a nosey busybody.” Harry winced at the words. “No, I barged in on you without permission, and then started grilling you like I was my father or something. I was horrible.” Harry shook his head. “I don’t care where you go to school; I don’t care what others say about you. If I ever poke my nose in where it doesn’t belong, tell me off. I just…” she paused, “I just need you to know that you’ve captured my heart.” Her eyes fell to the ground, and then she looked back at him, holding her hand over his chest. “I only hope that there’s some of your heart left for me,” a tear let loose down her face. It caught the setting sun, golden-red, like a tiny fireball falling from the heavens, then, a silvery glint reflected into his eye; on her ear hung a tiny lighting-bolt.
He stood up, grasping her hand and taking her with him; he looked at the sunset, and turned to her. “One day, I want you to show me how your sun plunges into the sea,” he said, holding her close, “because you have more than my heart… I love you,” he whispered, and then bending close, he kissed her. Harry felt a surge of warmth pass through his body, and his neck began to tingle. That night and the many that preceded Duncan’s birthday, Harry didn’t return to number four, Privet Drive, until well after everyone else had gone to bed.
On the day of Duncan’s birthday, Harry was in the shop putting out a new display of golf balls. An older man in a bright pink polo shirt, checkered pants, and a green hat greeted him with a great smile and a small bow. His eyebrows were very long and white, and he wore a purple paisley scarf around his neck.
“Can I help you, sir?” Harry asked. The old man let out the slightest laugh and shook his head.
“No, I think you’ve already done plenty, more than anyone should ask of a child. Still, there are others who hope you’ll do more. Enjoy your youth my son.” He gave another small bow with a nod of his head, and left the store.
“Couldn’t find what he was lookin’ for?” Duncan shouted from a few rows over.
“I think he was just checking prices,” Harry called back, as he watched the wizard walk down the street past the storefront windows. Well, he looked like a wizard, anyway.
As the sun began to set, Harry and Gabriella strolled arm-in-arm to Duncan’s home from Privet Drive. The way Duncan told the story, he was to go with his parents on vacation to France for two weeks, but had asked if he could stay at home, to earn some more money. They agreed, and he now had the whole house to himself. Their gift, for his seventeenth birthday, was that he could host his party at the house, as long as they returned to find it in the same shape they left it. By the time Harry and Gabriella arrived, the place was packed, and Harry seriously doubted Duncan would be able to keep his promise. A few of the people in the house Harry knew from his days at school in Little Whinging. Quite a few remembered him too, and most wanted to ask about Brutus’s school for criminals. To his dismay, far from being shunned for this like he had been in the past, he found himself quite the infamous celebrity.
“What did you do to get in there, anyway?” one kid asked.
“Are you kidding?” another responded. “Last year he nearly killed his cousin! Wish you had Harry, he and his pals are just thugs. After it happened, Dudley wouldn’t come out of the house for two weeks, and Harry wasn’t even around!”
Harry said nothing; the chatter seemed to make Gabriella raise her eyebrows, but she simply smiled and held his arm closer. They made their way to the guest of honor who was busy mixing the night’s punch.
“Harry! Gabriella!” called out Duncan, as he shoved one of his pals on the shoulder. “Move over you!” They came closer. “Punch with a punch!” he said with a sly grin, and pouring a bottle of clear liquid into the bowl. “You inspired me Harry! White Lightning!” Harry took a mental note to limit himself to one cup tonight. “Emma’s upstairs still. Why she takes so long to get ready is beyond me. Harry could you put those on?” He directed Harry to some CDs on the counter.
Snaking through the crowd with Gabriella they found the sound system. He looked through the selection and found “The Steel Chords--Into the Darkness.” He popped it into the player, and before long many of the guests were dancing. Harry was in a sea of happiness, and he seemed to draw life from it. He’d always hated the Muggle world. At first, he had thought of Hermione’s parents as the exception, then Gabriella and her family, then Emma and Duncan; the circle was growing wider every day. Harry looked up and saw Emma climbing down the staircase, a large cake in her hand lit with candles. He silenced the music, and everyone began to sing Happy Birthday, and as the cheers ebbed away, Duncan raised his voice. “To the best mates in the world!” he bellowed as he raised his glass, his eyes turned toward Harry.
“Here, here!” Harry yelled, holding his cup high in the air, and all drank.
It was late before the last guests left. The music had stopped, and Duncan surveyed the damage. “Well… jist a few paper cupses to pick up,” he slurred, staggering to reach one, and knocking over a lamp instead. He was in pretty bad shape.
“Come on, baby,” Emma said, grabbing him around the waist, “let’s get you upstairs. Harry, could you give me a hand?”
“Sure.” He grabbed Duncan from the other side, as Gabriella started picking up the rubbish. Although Harry, having forgotten his mental note, was a little unsteady himself, they got the blonde upstairs and into bed. He started babbling gibberish.
“I’ll bet Europe’s not so bad when yeh don’t have yer kid around to bother yeh. ‘Scuse me, but did anybody see Todd? Yeh know what, Harry, I think yeh could use another pair of trainers, what are yeh… size ten? Thank God, Emma’s come teh save me.”
“Oh, dear,” said Emma, concerned more about Duncan’s pallid color than his babbling. “I better get something just in case.” Quickly, she left to go downstairs.
“Yer a real mate, mate,” Duncan muttered into his pillow. “Yeh ever need anythin’, hear me, anythin’, yeh just call on ol’ Duncan, eh?” He turned to look at Harry. “Hear me?”
“You bet Duncan,” said Harry with a smile as he pulled the sheet up over his friend.
“And don’t ever let her go, eh? She’s got your number she has, keep her close, Harry! You two together are magic mate, pure magic. Ask Em! She’s special too. Eh, Em? Well, Em knows. We’re bound by thorns, did yeh know that Harry? Keep her close…. Where’s Em?”
“Right here, Dunc,” she said as she walked past Harry, carrying a large plastic bucket and then setting it at Duncan’s bedside. “He usually doesn’t, but better safe than sorry.” Harry walked on downstairs; amazingly, Gabriella already had most of the rooms clean. The kitchen had two large rubbish bins filled with paper cups and plates. He wished he had remembered his mental note; his head was starting to pound a little. Gabriella tossed another plastic cup away, and washed her hands.
“I told Emma I’d finish, but she says she’ll take care of it in the morning. Duncan doesn’t need to work, thankfully, how about you?”
Harry was rubbing his temples, trying to take in what Duncan had said. “Huh? Er, no, no. I’m off.”
“Excellent; I think I have a few ideas on how we might spend it.” She grinned, and her eyes were twinkling again. “Emma’s been really helpful tonight.”
After saying their goodbyes, the two started off down the sidewalk. The night was warm, and most the homes had their windows open. They were approaching her house, when they heard the sound of shouting; it was her parents again. Harry hadn’t noticed them fighting for quite some time. “Gabriella, it’s nothing bad I hope.”
“No, nothing bad,” she sighed, but Harry doubted her sincerity.
“Come on, you can tell me.”
“No… No I can’t,” she said sharply, but then kissed him gently goodnight. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?” He nodded, and watched her cross the street. When she entered, the shouting stopped. A few seconds later she had drawn her curtains open, a match flashed, and the glow of candlelight filled her room.
As for the Dursley home, it was dark. The other day, Harry had paid Dudley four pounds to make him a spare key; he slid it in the lock and slipped upstairs. The first thing he did when he entered his room was to go to the window; across the street, Gabriella sat, writing again. His vision, somewhat hazy, Harry could swear she was writing with a quill. He grinned; she’d thought his was such a brilliant idea after all. He could hear a siren in the distance, and as he looked up at the sky, searching for a moon that was not there, and for no reason in particular his mind turned to Remus Lupin. He would not be a werewolf tonight. “Two weeks to rest,” Harry whispered.
Harry wondered what sort of lifelong torture such a fate would mean. When Harry first returned to Privet Drive, he was feeling sorry for himself for being isolated and alone. How was Remus doing now that his dearest friend had once again been taken from him? Harry cursed himself for being so juvenile; he’d forgotten about those that were truly lonely. He’d forgotten Remus who was hated by his own wizard kind; he’d forgotten Hagrid, despised by many as a half-giant, who’d been like a father to Harry, or maybe a big brother… a really big, big brother. For a moment, Harry drunkenly smiled to himself, but then immediately frowned; what were they all doing now? Surely Voldemort’s Death Eaters, or the Dementors now serving him, were on the move?
The siren stopped, and the ruffle of wings was carried on the warm summer breeze. An owl appeared at Harry’s window with a parchment; it had been quite some time since he’d received any unasked for post. His head was still spinning as he took the note, gave the owl a treat, and sent it on her way. Hedwig chirped. “Just a minute girl, I may have something for you to do.” He opened the note, it was from Hermione.
Sorry it's been so long since our last letter. Holiday was wonderful. I'm staying with the Weasleys until school starts. Mr. Weasley seems to always be at the Ministry now, and lately Mrs. Weasley’s been gone an awful lot. So, I offered to help out. It's pretty quiet around here with only Ron and Ginny. Fred and George pop in and out every so often, wanting us to try some new scheme or another. I'm not too sure what Mrs. Weasley thinks, but their dad is beaming, but of course there's still the occasional meeting.
We can't wait to get you here; Fred and George have offered to help out. Be ready for an exceptional birthday present! Dumbledore was here this morning and suggested you'd rather stay with the Dursleys this year. Ron looked at him as if he were mad! But Dumbledore simply smiled and said "Things change." Hah, as if! I hope they’re not treating you too awfully. Anyway look for us on your birthday!
“OUR last letter?” Harry repeated to himself out loud. “So you two were off with the Order, weren’t you?” Instantly, his temper ebbed to the surface. “We must protect poor Harry, mustn’t we?” He threw the letter on the floor, and grabbed some parchment. He’d tell them all off for keeping him out of things again, for thinking he was too incapable of… and then the blood drained from his head to his feet. “My birthday?” he squeaked. “No, not next week, I need more time!” Quickly he scrunched the parchment he was scribbling on and tossed it aside. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his head, and with some effort began to write.
Dumbledore’s right! Things do change; the Dursleys have been smashing. I think I’ll need the rest of the summer to get to know them better. Don’t come to get me, I’ll see you and Ron on the train.
“There,” he whispered to himself; it wasn’t great, but it’d do. He tied the parchment to Hedwig’s leg and sent her to the window. “Get it to them tonight; you need to stop their plans!” She flew off, disappearing into the night sky. Harry looked down to see Gabriella, holding her candle and looking straight back at him. She was smiling as she held the flame up to her lips, a golden twinkle flashed across her eyes, and the room went dark.