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Chapter 1: Just Me Then!
A/N: Britspeak: Trainer = sneaker. Stabilizer = bicycle training wheel. Bluebottle = blow-fly. Blinker = blinder. Blinkered = narrow-minded
A rather ordinary-looking youth with untidy black hair was walking sulkily along Magnolia Crescent in the worst of the afternoon heat. Occasionally his trainers scuffed grumpily on the paving cracks but otherwise his stride was even and determined as one who knew precisely where his route would take him. But there are other ways of being lost. This particular boy's disturbing thoughts strayed as wildly as the stairs of the school of magic that he attended.
Many days had now passed since the end of the Hogwarts' year when Harry Potter had witnessed the violent death of Cedric Diggory at Voldemort's cruel re-embodiment but that experience continued to trouble him. The ordeal and its aftermath had affected him very deeply. Few believed his story and that had fueled within him a smouldering frustration. Now isolated and oppressed in Little Whinging, his anguish was multiplied by the lack of guidance and support he craved. Even his friends seemed to have forsaken him and on top of everything, his scar was causing him more pain - searing pain. He felt very, very, vulnerable.
"Oy! Watchit Mister!"
A tiny girl, fearlessly owning the pavement, swerved her stabilizer by his heel on some life quest. Harry eased his fingers back from his wand as he watched the little legs pedal their furious way round the next bend. A large bluebottle chased past his ear after her, buzzing excitedly through the hot air.
What was it that foul wizard had boasted amidst the cold, dark tombs and gravestones? "I shall demonstrate my supremacy by killing Harry Potter ... there will be no doubt which of us is the stronger."
Harry knew Voldemort would never stop trying to kill him so how could Harry, still not quite fifteen years old, be able to defend himself against such powerful magic? Somehow he had to prepare for the inevitable as best he could without help.
"Just me then!" he exclaimed angrily to the uncaring street.
The wings of a startled pigeon noisily thrashed the stifling air. Harry's withering scowl followed the bird upwards then forlornly searched the relentless blue for any sign of snowy white - but even Hedwig seemed to have deserted him. No messages or information had been received from anyone, and the few Daily Prophets that he had so irritably discarded lacked the expected Ministry announcements concerning the Dark Lord. Did no one realize that there was an evil wizard out there plotting to murder him! Was anybody even bothered?
Harry reluctantly accepted that he would have to work it out alone and that he needed to make a new effort. He considered every idea that might give him an edge. He knew that he could not train or practice during the holidays because of the Ministry's underage trace. He cursed that restriction and every obstacle that seemed to be placed in his way. What next?
He groaned as he recognized the figure striding towards him at an angle across the road. The narrow, bony face of his Aunt Petunia looked white and pinched even in the sultry summer heat. She was lugging a bulging shopping bag and did not seem happy about it.
"What are you doing here!" she shrilled while still twenty paces away. "I needed you to fetch some cheese dip for the soiree - and don't look like that!"
"Like you're hard done to..." As she closed in on Harry, she paused - but only for a second. "You slipped out didn't you? Just to avoid going to the shops! And here's me working my fingers down to the bone--"
"How could I have? I've been out over an hour. And anyway, why would I go out to avoid having to go out? I'd have been glad to get out of the house just to..."
Harry tailed off resignedly. It was too hot to argue.
"Just to... what?"
"So how come you knew then?" she said triumphantly as if that proved something. "Here - I've got something for you. I've enough to worry about." She rummaged amongst her shopping and pulled out a packet of chocolate digestives. Harry stared in disbelief. She then tucked the biscuits under her arm and thrust the shopping bag with the remainder of the shopping towards Harry.
"Don't hang about! Get that lot home! Now!"
Harry sighed and accepted the extra burden but he was relieved to see his aunt stride off towards a neighbouring house even though he knew she'd be gossiping, sipping tea and dunking his favourite biscuits. At least she'd be gone for an hour or more and he wouldn't have to walk along with her and be nagged all the way home. His thoughts rapidly sprang back to more serious matters than cheese dip. Despite all the harrassments and obstacles, he had to somehow make himself ready for any kind of dark threat.
Certainly he was not ready when Dementors attacked him later that summer - though when he did eventually unleash his Patronus and scattered the repugnant creatures he became more and more determined that he would not be unprepared in the future. He needed time he realised - time to learn and train, free of petty restrictions and stupid rules; free of schoolwork; free of interference. If only he had a whole year to himself, able to practice any magic he wished, free of nosy intrusions and wagging fingers.
In the days following the attack, he brooded more and more deeply within himself. His hopes had been raised temporarily when Lupin arrived with a group of wizards to rescue him from the suffocating confinement of the Dursleys' home but it was soon obvious they were holding back - keeping something from him. They offered no useful help or advice and although at his hearing, Dumbledore did successfully defended his use of underage magic, the headmaster then turned his back on Harry. He was alone.
Fine! Have it your way. I'll work it out myself. You keep your secrets and I'll keep mine!
By the start of the school year he had worked out a plan. Power comes from knowledge and training and that takes time. I must spend much more time studying and practising defensive magic.
On the first day back at school in the Great Hall, Harry was vaguely aware of the mutterings and black looks that flew his way from every quarter but he was way past caring anymore. He had already resigned himself to expect criticism and paid little attention. He did however, notice that the new Defence teacher was Dolores Umbridge - a sneering, simpering Ministry woman he had seen at his trial. The arrogance and bigotry she had displayed at his hearing had disgusted him. Her attitude was a biased and blinkered denial of common sense. Here, her speech was so fuddled and tedious he lost interest in the first half minute. He commented sullenly to Hermione about her but he was just making conversation. All that mattered was that he prepare himself for Voldemort's next attack - whether it was this year, next year, or ten years hence.
His resignation to his own self-reliance caused him to ignore his friends more and more too. They seemed just as far away now as they had during the summer. He tried not to flinch as a stab of pain pierced his scar. He stared miserably at his untasted meal and braced himself.
"What's wrong, Harry?" asked Hermione. She and Ron were staring at him over the evening meal. He knew they had been talking about him.
"Nothing. I'm fine." responded Harry, dully, poking at the food on his plate with a fork. Would his plan be successful? Could he sustain the effort for an entire year? He started to go over his plan again in his mind.
"We're your friends, Harry. Why won't you--" There was desperation in Hermione's voice but Harry would not look at her. It was just too painful to let them into the hell where he now lived. He shook his head but this made the pain in his forehead seem worse.
"I said I'm fine!" he exploded, thrusting his plate away and reaching under the table for his bag. Why won't they just leave me alone like they did all summer when I needed them?
Abandoning the evening meal, Harry left his friends, looped his carry bag over his shoulder and slipped away. There was a disused meeting room in a remote corridor that would do fine for practice. It had long since been bricked up but last year Fred Weasley had shown him how to get in through the flue which was shared with an adjacent room's fireplace. He was sure he could find it again but first he had to arrange provisions and books and when and how to use the room. There was one person he could always rely on.
He walked cautiously downstairs to look for Dobby. Harry found him carrying a sack, waiting at the corner of the corridor leading to the kitchen.
"Dobby, do you know what a Time-Turner is?" asked Harry.
"Of course, sir. It turns back time, sir."
"Do you know where I can get one - without anyone knowing about it I mean?"
"Dobby knows exactly where there is one, sir!" Dobby said happily. "Dobby has been shown it in the Room of Forgotten Things, sir! Doesn't Harry Potter remember?"
"The what? I never heard of it."
"The Room of Forgotten Things, sir! It is known by us as the Come and Go Room, sir, or else as the Room of Requirement! It can be whatever is needed sir. Very few know of it, except us, sir."
"Dobby, I tell you I never heard of it," snapped Harry impatiently. "Can you show me - it's important."
"Harry Potter wishes to take Dobby?"
"No, Dobby. How can I take you? I've no idea where it is."
"But Harry Potter, sir!"
"Please Dobby, will you lead the way?"
"Does Harry Potter wish to go now, sir?"
"Yes, and Dobby, not a word of this to anyone."
"Of course not, Sir."
Dobby led Harry up to the seventh floor corridor and showed him a blank wall where, he said, a door would appear if a person was in real need. Harry looked around. He took careful note of the position of the featureless wall opposite a tapestry that had been turned around the wrong way. That would be easy to remember to help locate the wall.
Harry pestered Dobby to show him exactly how the Room of Requirement worked and became more and more intrigued. He was amazed at the room's power and the possibilities that were being revealed to him. He had no idea such a room could exist. He dismissed his plan to use the old meeting room for practice; this magical room was far better - it could be anything he needed and according to Dobby, nobody knew of it.
"How big can it be, Dobby?"
"As big as sir needs," grinned the elf, happily, then added, "But Harry Potter has to really need it, sir, not just wish it."
"And it can provide anything that one requires?"
"Not food nor precious things sir. That is not possible sir."
"But what exactly are the forgotten things you mentioned?"
Dobby showed Harry how to reveal the room as the Room of Forgotten Things. Harry looked with dismay at the acres of dusty shelving and abandoned items in a huge hall that extended out of sight in the distance like a vast cathedral piled high with junk. The elf led him confidently through the aisles of discarded items; he took him as far as the eye could see and twice as far again and then he stopped abruptly. A little further ahead, Harry glimpsed someone else, obscured by shadow. He looked down with annoyance at Dobby.
"I thought you said nobody knows about this place, Dobby?" said Harry, cautiously. He wasn't happy about sharing this room.
Dobby was surprised. He looked into the distance searching for anyone that might be there. He seemed confused for a while.
"Dobby understands, sir. Dobby now recognizes him, sir. He will not trouble us."
"You know him?"
"Oh yes, sir. Dobby knows the gentleman, sir." They walked around the next row of shelving.
"But what's he doing here, Dobby? I want this just for me."
"This room, sir? It will be sir, Dobby promises, sir. Only Harry Potter will be here sir." Dobby turned.
"It's in here, sir." Dobby stood before an old crate upon which was placed a small wooden box with rusted iron bands.
"May Dobby put down this sack, sir? So Dobby might open the box? It is getting very heavy."
"Oh - sorry, Dobby, yes. I'm sorry I've put you to all this trouble."
"Harry Potter apologizes to Dobby! Oh sir! Harry Potter is so gracious, sir - to think of such as Dobby - almost as an... equal, sir! But a sack is no trouble at all to a house-elf, sir. Thank you, sir."
"But you just said..." Harry gave up trying to understand the elf and watched him open up the box to reveal an ugly collection of mostly common metal jewellery, copper, brass, iron, some of it broken. "I can see why someone would want to forget about this lot."
"Harry Potter should pick up the shiny one with the hourglass very, very carefully, sir." advised Dobby.
"This? Yes I recognize it now. It's the same as the one Hermione had." Harry picked up the Time-Turner and inspected it closely then murmured to himself, "Maybe it is that one."
"Does it work?"
"Work, sir? Yes of course, sir."
"You've tried it?"
"It is not for a house-elf to meddle with time, sir."
"Then how do you know?"
"A wizard told me sir. A very great wizard, sir. One to be trusted. He gave me his word, sir. Does Harry Potter wish to test it on Dobby, sir?"
"No. It's up to me to risk it. I'll just go back one hour then wait. I'll need to have a word with you later though so please hang about - it's very important. Better stand well over there behind me just in case though."
"Yes, sir. Harry Potter is very good to think of Dobby, sir. Dobby will go over there then Dobby will hang about immediately when Harry Potter has gone."
Harry placed the chain of the Time-Turner around his neck and turned it backwards one turn.
"Nothing's happened, Dobby. Does it need to be switched on first? I don't think it's working properly. Probably why the damn thing was thrown in here."
He took it off and tapped it lightly on the box lid then suddenly became aware of the silence.
Harry turned around, "Dobby, I said to... Where are you?"
Harry sighed; if the Time-Turner had worked correctly and he had moved back one hour then he and Dobby hadn't even got here yet. Harry headed off to the kitchen to find him. He tickled the pear in the painting to reveal the kitchen door but then Harry paused to consider how he should manage this. He puzzled about it for some time before entering. He found Dobby preparing vegetables from a large tub. Dobby's eyes lit up when he saw Harry. He abandoned his task, rubbed his dirty hands on an even dirtier apron, and ran to meet him.
"Harry Potter sir! So good of you to visit Dobby, sir! It's been so long!"
"Dobby, I need your help."
"Dobby is always pleased to be of help to Harry Potter, sir."
"Do you know what this is?" He showed him the Time-Turner.
"It's a Time-Turner. It enables the wearer to move through time."
"Does Harry Potter wish for Dobby to move through time, sir?"
"No. I'm going to show you where there is another one. Nobody else must know but you. Understand?"
"Yes, Dobby is glad to assist, sir."
Harry took him back to the Room of Forgotten Things. It took him a little longer to find the old crate. He did eventually but when he opened the old box he was shocked that he could not find the Time-Turner within it. He scrabbled through all the old jewellery then scratched his head and murmured to himself, "I don't understand. It was here when I came before - I mean later - so it must have been here before then - which is now..." He gave up trying to figure it out and decided he would have to put the one he had in the box for now then somehow retrieve it later.
"Will you remember where this is, Dobby?" asked Harry, as he carefully closed the lid and concealed the device within the box.
"Dobby will sir. Might Dobby ask, is it broken, sir?"
"No, why... Ah! It works perfectly Dobby. I give you my word. Will you remember that?"
"Dobby will remember Harry Potter's word, sir, of course, sir."
"Good. Now I want you to go back to the kitchen and get a sack exactly like this one here." Harry pointed to the sack which was stood against the crate. It was full and bulged lumpily - almost bursting with its contents which were constrained only by the thick green string tied around its neck.
"Then I want you to fill it with as many different sorts of food that you can think of."
"Food sir? What sort of food? Is this for Harry Potter, sir?"
"Yes, every sort of thing you can think of. One of each. One apple, One potato, One sausage. As many as you can get in one sack, got it?"
"Dobby understands, sir. May Dobby ask why, sir?"
"Very good, sir."
"Then I want you to take the sack and go to the corner of the corridor leading to the kitchen and wait for me there. When I ask you if you know where I can find a Time-Turner I want you to tell me and show me this box, OK?"
"But Harry Potter already knows, sir."
"Yes, but I want you to pretend that I don't. As if my memory has been Obliviated, OK?"
"Dobby might be able to get help to restore Harry Potter's memory, sir."
"No. I don't want you to."
"As Harry Potter wishes, sir."
"Oh! one more thing. I nearly forgot. The sack will be heavy so your arms will get tired. I want you to put it down and leave it right here." Harry kicked lightly sideways at the sack to affirm its place.
"Dobby's arms will not get tired with just a sack, sir. Dobby knows how to move one little sack, sir. Dobby can move a hundred sacks if he wishes!" Dobby seemed affronted as if the idea of elf-magic getting tired was ridiculous.
"Oh! In that case I want you to pretend. Can you do that? Ask me if you can put down the sack because your arms are tired and so you can open this box. OK?"
"Dobby could open the box for Harry Potter now if Harry Potter wishes it. Then Dobby need not put down the sack."
Harry sighed. He looked down at the house-elf. The elf looked up at Harry, his ridiculously floppy ears waggling and his huge, bulging eyes smiling and over-eager. It was hard to stay annoyed at the innocent little elf. It would be dreadful if Dobby knew the horrors and pain of Harry's world and good to think that Dobby was excluded from those realities now that he was free and that he'd always be safe in his kitchen.
"No, Dobby, I want you to put down the sack. I want you to say your arms are tired and ask if you can put down the sack. Got it?"
"Dobby will do as Harry Potter wishes of course, sir."
"Finally, once you see me disappear then you can go back to your duties. Even if I tell you to hang about - just ignore that and go. OK?"
"Dobby doesn't understand, sir. If the great Harry Potter tells Dobby to hang about, sir then Dobby will feel obliged to hang about."
"Dobby, do you know what 'hang about' means?"
"No sir, Dobby does not know."
"OK, it means you can go, OK?"
"Dobby thanks Harry Potter, sir."
"OK, you can go now, Dobby."
"Harry Potter wishes Dobby to hang about?"
"No - I mean, yes... I think."
"But Harry Potter has not yet disappeared, sir." protested the elf.
"No, that's later when you come back again to show me where the box is. Right now you can go and get a sack exactly like mine here, fill it up, and wait for me on the corner, OK?"
"What if Dobby cannot find a sack quite like that one, sir?"
"You will, Dobby, don't worry. I have complete confidence in you."
"Dobby thanks Harry Potter, sir but Dobby is sure the great Hogwarts' kitchens have only white string and black string, sir - if that is alright, sir?"
"Are you sure, Dobby?" asked Harry with a puzzled look on his face.
"Dobby is certain sir."
Harry's face suddenly lightened and he began to untie the sack. "Here, you can have my string, Dobby."
"Harry Potter is giving Dobby his own string?" The house-elf's eyes filled with tears. "Harry Potter is too kind, sir. Dobby will treasure this string, sir."
"No, Dobby. I'd like you to tie your sack with it, understood?"
"Of course, sir."
Harry waited for the elf to leave the room then he picked up the open sack carefully and walked with it further along into a dark shadow behind a pillar. He placed the sack down behind the pillar and sat down on it thinking hard while he waited.
He was almost dozing off when he suddenly had the startling thought that he no longer had the Time-Turner and if the earlier Harry took it then he would never get it again. He dashed back to the box, took it out and hurried back to the pillar just as he heard footsteps returning. Harry squeezed back fully behind the pillar so he could not be seen. He listened intently but he could not hear anything. He knew he ought to be hearing voices but there was only silence. After a few seconds he had a horrifying realization: there was now no Time-Turner in the box for Dobby to reveal to him in the first place! He had to tell them. He hesitated then peered cautiously around the pillar but there was no one there.
He was just wondering what to do when he heard footsteps again so he decided he had better just show himself and explain. He walked out from the pillar then stopped to think. Perhaps he ought not to reveal himself to his earlier self; Hermione had warned him about that over a year ago. He slipped back behind the pillar but he was almost sure he had been seen. He sat back down on the sack and wondered what on earth he would do when they found the Time-Turner missing. He could faintly hear them talking. Any moment now he expected to hear raised voices when they found the device was gone and Harry had no idea what he would do about it.
After a little while he heard them leaving. Harry jumped to his feet and came out from behind the pillar. All he could see was Dobby walking back to the exit.
"Dobby?" he called.
Dobby stopped and turned. He waved some green string enthusiastically when he saw Harry. "Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is just hanging about, sir as instructed, sir. Dobby is hanging about back to the kitchen, sir - to get a sack for Harry Potter, sir."
"Dobby... Did you just show me the Time-Turner?" Harry fumbled in his pocket. He could feel the Time-Turner there.
"Yes, sir. Might Dobby say, sir, that it worked wonderfully, sir, just as Harry Potter gave his word that it would," then he added hastily "- not that there was ever any doubt, sir. Oh that was an awful thing to say..." He managed to kick himself hard on the back of his other leg without Harry noticing. That would have to do for now.
"Thank you, Dobby," said Harry.
"Might Dobby continue to hang about now, sir?"
"What? No... Yes... yes, of course."
"Very good, sir." Dobby turned and walked away towards the exit door. Harry stared after him for quite a while. For some reason, the elf was thrashing himself with the string as he walked away. Harry shook his head. He had somehow made a complete mess of everything but he didn't know how. He took out the Time-Turner and looked at it. Of course! All he had to do was go back twenty minutes and put it in the box! Then he remembered he needed it; so far he had only used it to test it. It would have to wait. He could not worry about that now. He had the Time-Turner and his sack of provisions which were all he wanted; perhaps he could fix things later.
Once he was sure Dobby had left he picked up the sack, walked all the way back out out of the room and stood in the corridor thinking hard again of what he really needed. After a while he walked back and forth three times with that thought in mind then re-entered the room. The Forgotten Things were all gone; instead he was in a small room with a table and chair and a bed. On the table was a little book and some green string. Harry put down the sack, sat down, and began to read the book very, very carefully. Finally, he put the chain of the Time-Turner back around his neck, tied the neck of the sack with the green string, picked it up against his chest and lifted the chain over it so it enwrapped both him and the sack. He pulled out his wand, went and laid down on the bed on his back with the sack in his arms laying on his chest and pointed his wand at the Time-Turner. Softly he chanted the charm spell he had learned from the book and the Time-Turner began to spin slowly backwards 8,760 times. After a while he fell asleep.
He dreamt of Voldemort but it was just his head on Dudley Dursley's body; a larger, expanded Voldemort head - larger than life. They were in Harry's old school playground. The Voldemort Dursley pushed Harry about to show him who's boss and Harry was too weak and helpless to stop the humiliation. All the other kids were Death Eaters standing around laughing at him and Voldemort pushed Harry again. He staggered but managed to hold his feet. No matter where he went, Voldemort followed him for no other reason than to push him about. Why wouldn't he just leave him alone? The Death Eaters all laughed as if they could hear his thoughts. Voldemort grew even bigger and pushed him again. The further he was pushed the larger that Voldemort grew until he was so large he pushed Harry over. But even then he would not stop pushing Harry - even now he was down. He would never stop. He kept pressing him down harder and harder, pinning him flat on the ground and no matter how much Harry tried he could not get back up.
When he awoke he struggled in a panic with the weight of the sack for a while then pushed it off him onto the floor. He was pouring with sweat but relieved to realize it had been just a normal nightmare and his scar was not hurting at all. Of course! If he had truly moved back one year then Voldemort was not yet re-embodied! He looked down; the Time-Turner had stopped spinning. He removed it, slipped it into his pocket and looked at his watch. He could see that he had slept for over two hours but he realised he had no way of checking the date here so he went out of the room.
Harry went out and headed to the Gryffindor Tower. The Fat Lady would not accept his password no matter how much he insisted.
"Just this once?"
"No password, no entrance," she said haughtily.
Eventually he realised the Gryffindor password he needed was last year's password but he could not remember what it had been that long ago. He had a sudden thought and wrote down the latest password on a piece of paper and put it in his carry bag. Then he took it out again and thought a bit more. He wrote something more on the paper then put it back in the carry bag.
After a while he thought of a way to determine the date. He went back to the Room of Requirement, picked up his sack and went back outside again. He stood thinking. He thought very long and carefully. Then he thought very long and carefully again to make sure he had not overlooked anything. After a long, long time he re-entered the room and stared with amazement at what he saw.
I got this idea when I recently rewatched the Order of the Phoenix DVD and wanted to wipe the smile off Umbridge's face good and proper. Mischief Managed.
I think most of you will have understood the Time-Turner sequence but for those who found it confusing:
It is a famous time-paradox where something appears to create itself. Someone gives a man a lucky dollar. Years later he goes back in a time machine and gives himself the lucky dollar. Where did the dollar originally come from? Here's another: A chicken goes back in time and lays an egg which hatches and grows up to be the chicken that goes back in time to lay the egg. So...
1. Dobby shows Harry the Time-Turner in box in RoR
2. Harry gets Time-Turner. Goes back 1 hour to before Dobby knows about Time-Turner.
3. Harry visits Dobby in kitchen; takes Dobby to box in RoR to show him.
4. Harry puts Time-Turner in box but after Dobby leaves he takes it out again.
5. The Time-Turner is now returned to the box (in Chapter 4.)
6. 1 hour has passed so we're back to 1.
This whole story is four chapters long and about 30,000 words. I tried to put a bit more effort into making it more readable but perhaps it's necessarily a bit uneven because of the subject matter. The first part of this chapter is dark because it focuses on Harry's feelings and motivations for what he does so there's a lot of narrative and little dialogue. The second part of this chapter is lighter with lots of dialogue. I could have made that a separate chapter but the story seems to split nicely between four logical chapter themes: motivation, start training, main training, payback.
Comments and reviews are welcome and very encouraging. Thank you. :)