Chapter 1 : Dementors in Little Whinging
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Spoilers for Half-Blood Prince and (most probably) Deathly Hallows. Set after HBP. I have ignored most of DH, not because I don’t like it (I do!) but because I don’t want most of that stuff to happen in this particular story.
By all means, if you find a typo please let me know, I am a stickler for good English.
A Stitch in Time
Harry sat on his bed, replaying the scene in his mind over and over.
A green flash, Albus Dumbledore lifted off his feet, seeming to hang in the air momentarily before tumbling, out of view, to the ground beneath the tallest tower. And afterwards, the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had, surrounded by students and staff as he lay unmoving on the floor, looking just as serene as he did in life. If Harry had not known better, had not witnessed what Snape had done, he would have thought that the great man had simply decided to add to his list of eccentricities (“Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”) by deciding to take a nap on the cold damp grass.
He cast a glance around the Gryffindor bedroom, desperately looking for something to take his mind off recent events. His gaze fell on a stack of books perched on top of his trunk; there was a note stuck to the top one written in a hand that Harry found very familiar. As well he should, considering that the same elegant script found its way into Harry’s essays more often than not:
I found this in the Room of Requirement. Since you gave your new copy back to Slughorn I thought you’d probably need it back, even if it has been defaced.
Tactfully, she had neglected to mention the name of the book’s previous owner.
Rage welled up inside Harry as an image of his Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher flashed into his mind, and he flung Libatius Borage’s “Advanced Potion-Making” at the wall. It connected with a dull thud and fell to the floor, several pages now crumpled. “Go to hell, Snape!”
He threw himself back down onto the bed. Hermione’s note seemed to indicate that she thought lessons would be continuing; Harry didn’t see how the school could remain open. Glancing back at the book, Harry noted it had opened to one of the more eye-catching pages. Borage had obviously not bothered about the book’s ease of reading, as long as he included the correct way to stir a potion. The Prince, however – Snape, Harry reminded himself. This was Snape’s book. Snape had not only corrected the author, as he had on many of the pages, but had also added various coloured doodles in the margins and some scribbled notes around them. Walking over and picking up the book, Harry read: Page 394. Amortentia. Most of the instructions were largely illegible thanks to the annotations, not helped by the fact that Harry had always had difficulties with reading Snape’s spiky scrawl. He had eventually realised that the only letters he was likely to be required to recognise were “P”, “D” and “T”…
Harry turned the book sideways to read the notes in the margin.
Incant. “Lumos Viridia” (n.v.) : gr. →Av. Ked.
+ Wingardium Lev. Levicorpus, Liberacorpus
Incant. “Lumos Rufia” (n.v.) : red → Stup.
(Wand action giveaway - too dissimilar. Needs work)
Now that he knew who was recommending, even inventing, these spells, Harry had not the slightest inclination to try them out. Just as he was contemplating the best spell to destroy the offending textbook – Incendio was the current favourite – Hermione burst into the room.
“Harry, we have to go and see Professor McGonagall right away. There’s a Ministry official who wants to see us.” She stopped to draw breath and wait for Harry’s response.
Receiving none, she continued. “Oh, err, you found your book then? I hope you don’t mind, I just couldn’t let it stay in the Room, there might be something useful in it.”
Harry jumped to his feet.
“Useful?! The man who wrote all that stuff in there is a murderer and a Death Eater, what do you think he’s put in there? ‘Ten Easy Steps for Defeating Voldemort’?”
Hermione sighed and put a hand on her hip.
“Well I don’t know, do I?” She looked indignant. “It’s better to have too much information than not enough, isn’t it? Besides, I wasn’t sent here to have an argument, I’m supposed to be fetching you. I don’t think we need to bring anything.”
They walked in silence to Dumbledore’s office; the gargoyle was already standing to the side, and they went in.
“Ah, Mr Potter and Miss Granger have arrived.”
Professor McGonagall was sitting behind Dumbledore’s desk. “This is Mr Wellburne, he’s with the Ministry.” She indicated a tall, thin man with a bowler hat and a velvet cloak, who tipped his hat to McGonagall and Hermione.
Harry suddenly became aware of a loud sniffling noise off to his left; he turned around to see Hagrid sat on two chairs, blowing his nose on what could conceivably have once been a small tablecloth.
Hagrid looked up as another sob escaped. “‘Ello Harry.”
Herbert Wellburne cleared his throat.
“Ahem. I expect you’d all like to know why I asked you here.”
Harry and Hermione took their seats.
“I assume this has something to do with Albus Dumbledore?” McGonagall looked over the top of her glasses, and Harry thought he could see tears in her eyes. Hagrid started crying a bit louder.
Wellburne pretended not to notice and refocused his attention on the piece of paper in his hands.
“I have here the last will and testament of Albus Dumbledore. He requested that all of you be present for this.”
Harry and Hermione exchanged slightly bemused looks. ‘Surely Dumbledore hasn’t left me anything after I smashed up his office?’ Harry wondered.
Wellburne droned on.
“I quote: “I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, leave to Professor Minerva McGonagall the position of Head of Hogwarts school, along with the contents of my office, excluding everything I am about to bequeath to others. She might like to note that her inheritance includes my stockpile of confectionary; I recommend she keeps a close eye on the Liquorice Snaps!
To Mr Harry Potter, whose parents I had the good fortune to be close to those many years, I leave all the bottles of Firewhisky I have managed to accrue. I believe that a good number are now particularly rare vintages.””
Herbert Wellburne paused for a moment and peered at Harry. “I trust you won’t actually imbibe any of them until you are of age?”
Harry agreed almost too quickly. “Of course not, sir.”
He did not want to add ‘under-age drinking’ to the list of things the Ministry had attempted to collar him for.
Apparently satisfied, the man from the Ministry continued.
““To Miss Hermione Granger, one of the most gifted pupils to have passed through the gates of Hogwarts, who has repeatedly shown that it is how we live and not how we are born that determines what kind of person we are, and who has demonstrated an immense, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I leave the Standard Books of Spells grades one through seven, which got me through my exams some hundred-and-thirty-odd years ago.””
Harry looked across at Hermione; if she had been looking confused earlier then it was nothing compared to her current facial expression. He knew what she was thinking: Why had Dumbledore left her a set of books of which he knew she must already own at least 6, and which were nothing out of the ordinary, being compulsory reading for every pupil at Hogwarts? Surely a wizard who had lived as long as Dumbledore must have some tomes by more exciting authors than Miranda Goshawk?
Evidently Mr Wellburne had detected nothing amiss in their reactions, and continued.
““And finally, last but by no means least, I leave to Rubeus Hagrid, my good friend and Keeper of Keys and Grounds, the phoenix Fawkes, by way of a thank you for his many years of tireless work in keeping Hogwarts running smoothly.”” Hagrid reddened slightly beneath his beard. ““I know he will take to this fantastic creature as enthusiastically as he has embraced many other exotic species.””
Hagrid was now a deep shade of beetroot, and Harry was unable to tell whether this was because of Dumbledore’s praise or the thinly veiled comment on Hagrid’s fascination with all creatures large and fanged.
Wellburne was just saying “Well, that’s everything. If nobody has any questions-” when the fireplace roared into life and Alastor Moody tumbled out of the flames. Ignoring the looks of surprise, he sprang to his feet.
“Harry, very urgent news! You mustn’t return to Privet Drive for the holidays.”
The Dursleys were turning into Privet Drive in their car when Petunia first noticed an odd feeling. She glanced at her husband, but he seemed to have noticed nothing. She twisted the rear view mirror to see Dudley, and what she saw made her emit a little scream. Her son was white as a sheet and looking like he was about to be sick.
“Diddy! What is it, darling?”
Dudley raised a hand and pointed to the garden several doors down from number four. Petunia squinted, but could see nothing.
The car pulled into their driveway and Vernon got out. Petunia helped a now gibbering Dudley out of the back seat, and Vernon noticed a man standing on the other side of the road. He had long blonde hair and was wearing a cloak. Vernon’s first thought was ‘That damn boy’s told more of those freaks where we live!’
His next thought was that he was sure those other four hooded figures hadn’t been there a second ago. He felt Dudley pulling on his sleeve.
“Dad, we have to leave! I don’t want to be here, I want to be anywhere but here!”
“Now Dudley, we don’t even know why they’re here yet.” he was saying, as the blonde man began to walk towards them. Vernon Dursley was determined not to let himself be intimidated in his own driveway.
The stranger seemed to be in no hurry, but the four other cloaked figures had immediately leapt into action and fanned out around the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon puffed out his chest and stepped forward.
“Now look here, you lot can’t keep coming here-” He was cut off.
“Mr Dursley, I presume. Lucius Malfoy.”
He did not hold out his hand, and Vernon got the impression that he would be better off not shaking it if he had.
Suddenly Dudley stepped forwards, looking less pale than before. “You brought that, that THING,” he pointed again to the apparently empty spot a few houses away, “that means you’re on HIS side. Voldemort’s.” Dudley had dredged the name up from his distant memory.
Lucius drew his wand in a flash. “You DARE speak the Dark Lord’s name, you filthy Muggle?!” He pulled back his wand. “Cru-”
In that split second, Dudley swung an enormous fist towards Lucius’ jaw with surprising speed.
“Dudders, no!” Aunt Petunia jumped forwards and grabbed hold of her son’s collar. As Vernon lurched towards his wife and seized hold of her wrist to pull her back, Lucius, more used to wizard duels than fist fights, barely pulled his head back in time so that Dudley’s clenched fist passed within a hair’s breadth of his pale nose; he wore a look of shock on his face from the idea that anyone would be stupid enough even to attempt to physically attack him.
Dudley’s whole body twisted in the air owing to the fact that he had failed to reduce his angular momentum using the Death Eater’s face. He could feel his mother’s grip on his collar tighten as he pitched forwards, pulling both of his parents with him.
Strangely, his overriding thought as he was midway through his pirouette to the ground was how he had been right earlier: he did desperately want to be anywhere but here.
Suddenly he felt like his whole body was being squashed. Mum and Dad must have landed on top of me. The youngest of the Dursleys felt himself smash into the ground, not the paved driveway of Number 4, Privet Drive, but the smooth concrete surface of platform 9, King’s Cross Station.
Harry stood there for a second, then asked Moody the obvious. “Why not?”
The Auror’s blue eye was flitting all over the place, and McGonagall seemed to suddenly remember that they still had a ministerial visitor.
“Thank you, Mr Wellburne.” He took the hint, gathered up his cloak which had been laid aside on a chair, and scuttled into the fireplace. “The Ministry of Magic.” There was a whooshing noise and a flash, and there were once again just five people gathered around Dumbledore’s desk.
Mad-Eye’s mad eye slowed down, which Harry was grateful for; it had been making him dizzy. “There was some Death Eater activity in Little Whinging a few hours ago. Nothing to worry about,” he added, noticing Harry’s sudden look of horror, “Your uncle, aunt and cousin are all fine. Well, the same as usual, at any rate…”
A flood of relief washed through Harry’s mind. He didn’t like the Dursleys, but he would have felt guilty if they had been injured or worse just because he had been living in their house.
Moody went on. “Anyway, I’ve been sent to bring you back with me, seeing as how the safety of your home has been compromised. We can hardly send you off on the Hogwarts Express and expect you to do battle against half a dozen Death Eaters on your way to the front door, can we?” By ‘we’, Harry assumed Moody meant the Order of the Phoenix, as the Ministry’s track record suggested that yes, actually, they would be perfectly happy to let him do just that.
At this point, Professor McGonagall decided to make herself heard.
“Mr Moody, the train left Hogsmeade station several hours ago. I believe Mr Potter and Miss Granger were intending to stay at Hogwarts a little longer. Potter, at least, hasn’t had much time to pack lately, nor for anything else for that matter.” The look on her face was akin to a bulldog chewing a wasp. “Perhaps it would be safer for them to remain here for the minute, particularly if there are Death Eaters in the streets.”
“Nonsense! They’ll be just as safe at the Headquarters.”
McGonagall was opening her mouth when Harry though he’d better interject.
“It’s alright Professor, I want to go to Grimmauld Place.”
She pursed her lips for a second, then relented. “Oh, very well. But you make sure they’re safe, Moody, or you’ll have me to answer to.” She got up to close a window, and Moody grimaced at her back.
“Come on then Harry, let’s get you packed. And Miss Granger here, if she’s coming.”
Hermione nodded immediately.
“Minerva.” Moody nodded curtly and ushered the two of them out of the office, leaving just McGonagall with Hagrid, who had ceased sobbing and was now hiccupping so violently that the portraits on the wall behind him were rattling.
The squeezing feeling had lifted, and Dudley groaned and lifted his head up. He could now see his mum lying on the floor beside him, and his dad sprawled on the platform beyond her. Fortunately the platform was all but deserted, and Dudley struggled to his feet. Petunia too had sat up, but Vernon was still lying on his back, mouth gaping.
Vernon searched for words. “Wh-what was, where are we?” he stuttered.
Petunia was ahead of her husband again. “We’re at King’s Cross, Vernon.”
To Dudley’s surprise, his mother seemed to have recovered from whatever had just happened rather quickly.
All of a sudden, the platform became much less deserted. A dozen children with trolleys strolled out of the wall near them, chattering away and not even noticing the three shell-shocked Muggles standing there. The Hogwarts pupils were soon followed by someone a lot more familiar to the Dursleys, as Arthur Weasley seemingly condensed out of the brickwork. At first Uncle Vernon evidently remembered his last encounter with the head of the Weasley family and turned an unpleasant shade of puce. After a moment, however, he seemed grateful to see him, or indeed anyone who would believe their tale about sinister men in cloaks brandishing sticks of wood.
Fortunately when Arthur caught sight of him he obviously didn’t consider puce Muggles to be any less fascinating or more unusual than ordinary coloured ones.
“Ah! Mr Dursley! Here to collect Harry, are you? I’m afraid he might be taking a later train, Ron said he wasn’t on this one. Erm, Mr Dursley? Is there some kind of a problem?” Dudley thought that Mr Weasley had probably deduced this from the slack-jawed expression that now adorned his father’s face.
“Cloaks… jabbing wands…Dudley, pale… don’t know what…” he trailed off.
Petunia rested a hand on his arm. “It’s all fine now, Vernon, we’re miles away. Our darling Dudley saved us!” She turned her attention to Mr Weasley, who was looking more bemused by the second. “His people, they were after us. You-Know-Who.” She thought it best not to unnecessarily fluster anyone who could potentially help them at this point by mentioning the name Voldemort.
This was apparently a wasted exercise, as Mr Weasley leapt a foot in the air.
“Death Eaters!? In broad daylight? My dear woman, how on Earth did you get away?”
Petunia’s cheeks darkened a fraction as she snuck a glance at Dudley out of the corner of her eye. Pretending not to hear the question, she hesitantly asked “You can help us, can’t you?” She looked like she found asking for help from a wizard left a nasty taste in her mouth.
“Of course, of course! I’ll send word to the Order, let them know to expect us. There’s no safer place. I believe you know about Harry’s house in Grimmauld Place?”
Petunia and Vernon nodded slowly in perfect synchronicity.
“Excellent. We won’t have to worry about the Charm then.” Mr Weasley continued muttering to himself for a few moments, then drew his wand and gave it an elaborate wave. A large silver weasel sprinted out of the end and rocketed away down the platform, which was still devoid of Muggles.
“Not very imposing, but it does the job, eh?” Arthur smiled. “Now, let’s get you out of here, the car’s outside, and once we’re back at the Burrow I’ll arrange a Portkey to the Headquarters, OK?” All three of the Dursleys, in no fit state to argue with a man who thought plugs were fascinating and could conjure small rodents from thin air, followed him apprehensively out of the station.