Chapter 4 : Privet Drive Lights
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Terry stayed for two days. We went to a film with the parents the first night and dancing the next. The other presents he had spoken of has been an autographed Chuddley Cannons poster (my favorite) and a lumpy sack of chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes from Luna. Included were a card and a pair of something she called spectrespecs. The card didn't offer much information, just an apology for being too busy to come. I wore the strange glasses all over the house.
I never did address the touching and kissing before Terry left and he did not cease to do these things.
Friday, I found myself alone in the house for the night. Jake was at work, Morgan staying at a friend's, and my parents were out celebrating their anniversary (upon mine and Momo's insistence that they enjoy themselves in a social environment without their children).
I was very bored in an empty house. There was nothing to watch on the television. I had cleaned my room, reorganized the closet and trunk, and gone over my homework. Twice. The kitchen was spotless. I wasn't hungry.
Finally in the late afternoon, after a nap, I decided to read. I still had several books unread on my shelf and though I loved to read, summers were normally too busy to bother with them. That's what school was for.
Sitting on the living room sofa, I was so absorbed in the book that I hadn't realized it getting dark out. My heart pounded. The hero and heroine crept closer to the secret of the trail of bodies and the mystery of the haunted house they investigated. When the street light went dark outside the window, I yelped and fell off my seat.
I hissed at the sting of landing on my rear so hard, especially since it was numb from sitting so long. Casting an annoyed glance out the front window, I put a marker in the book and went out to investigate. The lights in the house were still on, so it wasn't a power outage. The other street lights were still on.
Except for the one in front of the house directly across the street.
I was sure it was on earlier. It seemed normal enough that a light would go out, but two? And only two? What's more, the house across the street was where Harry lived. I knew he hadn't left for the summer yet because the Dursley's still walked around the neighborhood with pinched, sour looks on their faces.
My heart sped up when a loud crack sounded in the distance. Across the street, I saw a flurry of movement in Harry's room. A figure in billowing robes drew my attention not far off. Panicking, I dashed across the street to the Dursley's front door and began knocking and ringing the door bell. The figure seemed in no particular rush and that worried me even more.
"WHO IN THE BLOODY BLAZES IS HERE THIS LATE?!" thundered the voice of Vernon Dursley. I hadn't thought about the possibility that he would be the one answering the door.
When it swung open, angry beady little eyes glared down at me from a reddening face, closing in on a purplish color. The man's bushy moustache hid most of his mouth and his dressing gown was a horrid puce color. But that wasn't important. Any other night, I would be down right terrified to have to confront Mr. Dursley like this, but at the moment something else scared me even more.
"I need to see Harry!" I told him flatly. The Dursley's most likely did not know that two witches and their magical parents lived in their neighborhood nor would they think it normal that a normal looking girl would come to their door looking for their outcast nephew.
Several things happened at the same time and among them there were Mr. Dursley's gaze switching to a point above my head, Harry appearing on the steps behind Mr. Dursley, and myself feeling an odd mixture of relief and fear upon seeing Harry and sensing the presence behind me. Mr. Dursley's eyes flickered to me and widened with shock and dislike, letting me know that my hair was a stark white to match the uneasiness that filled me with the burning urge to run.
There was a moment of silence before a soft voice behind me said, "I apologize, Harry. I didn't realize you would have company tonight. It does make this rather more interesting, though."
I whipped around to find myself face-to-beard with the Hogwarts Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore. "P-professor," I stuttered, feeling rather foolish now at having been afraid. I felt my face getting red. "I- I didn't know it was you- I th-thought-"
"Ah," he said knowingly, blue eyes twinkling even in the dark. "I understand. You were running for help. Good for you- but we must be going inside. It does not do well to linger over doorways in these uncertain times. I'm sure Harry has told Mr. Dursley to expect us." He glanced up at the dumbfounded look on Vernon's face. "Perhaps not." Regardless, the silver haired man ushered me in ahead of him and closed the door sharply behind him.
I wasn't sure what to do, but I let myself be urged inside and then stood off to the side to watch what was going on. Harry still stood on the steps (strangely holding a telescope and a pair of trainers in each hand), also watching and looking a little guilty, I thought. For not warning his uncle?
"Your agapanthus are looking wonderful since my last visit," Dumbledore said in a very conversational tone. Mr. Dursely said nothing, his narrowed eyes directly centered on the man before him. "Harry, my boy. Come, come."
Harry stayed on the safety of the stairs, glancing warily at his uncle.
"Not to be rude," Vernon started, but Dumbledore shook his head, silencing him.
"Best to not speak then, I suppose," he said. "And this is Petunia, I presume? Of course we've had written correspondence." There was another silence and I was sure that this was the most bizarre interaction I had ever bore witness to when I glanced to see Mrs. Dursley in the open kitchen doorway wearing rubber gloves of all things. Apparently having expected some sort of introductions from Mr. Dursley -and receiving none- he said, "Albus Dumbledore. A pleasure to meet you."
What I found shocking was that he really did seem to be pleased to meet them. In tone, anyway, but then Professor Dumbledore always was unrealistically pleasant. Unless he was angry. He turned to look at me then, which jarred me immensely. It made me realize that this was real.
"Do not be rude, Miss Stone. Introduce yourself." It was more of a firm command than anything else, just short of being an order.
I swallowed hard and I knew my hair must be changing all sorts of colors to announce my nervousness. "Piper Stone," I mumbled.
Dumbledore smiled and turned away again. "And this must be your son!" I noticed Dudley then, peering around a corner looking quite frightened. "Now that we are all introduced, let us assume to be invited to your sitting room?"
Without awaiting reply, Dumbledore swept towards Dudley (who scrambled to move out of the way) and into the next room. Harry jumped the last few stairs and followed. Still not knowing what to do, I followed suit. Dumbledore had settled into a chair by a lit fire place, looking around the dim room as though he found it fascinating. With his robes flowing gracefully to the floor and his beard resting on his knees, I decided he looked like a strange random object carelessly tossed onto a shelf of a carefully placed collection of mundane things.
Harry shifted uneasily, shoving the trainers underneath his arm as he approached Dumbledore. "Sir... Shouldn't we be... leaving?" He seemed anxious. I didn't blame him. I wanted to go home and hide in my room until school started.
"Indeed we should, Harry, but there are matters to be discussed before we leave and I would prefer to do so in a safe place. We shall stay only a little longer." It was all very logical to him- arrive in the midst of night and stick around, unwanted, to discuss things.
"Will you now?" Vernon demanded, standing just inside the room with his wife and son hiding behind him.
"I will," he answered simply. He was completely at ease under the large man's obvious dislike of him.
I didn't need to be here. I had nothing to do with this. "I should be going home now- I panicked. I'm sorry. It was a-"
"You will stay, Miss Stone," Dumbledore said, an edge in his soft voice that made me pause in my inching for the door. I wasn't so stupid as to ignore the Headmaster so I stayed where I stood. That's when his wand appeared from seemingly nowhere. With a flick, the Dursleys were falling onto the sofa that moved in behind them and then back to where it had come from.
"Sir, your hand-" Harry said, drawing my attention to the blackened flesh on the Headmaster's bony hand.
"It will wait, Harry. Both of you, please sit down," he said calmly.
Harry looked at me and offered the remaining arm chair in the room. I sat on the edge of the cushion, hands fidgeting in my lap. Harry sat on the arm next to me and we gave Dumbledore our undivided attention.
After remarking about foolish optimism towards the Durselys, he conjured an old, dusty bottle and six glasses which hovered in mid air and poured themselves before also serving themselves. Harry and I caught the glasses as they came towards us. The other three glasses nudged against the Dursley's heads as they tried hard to ignore them. This was actually really amusing, but not enough to calm me down.
"Drink, Miss Stone," Dumbledore said then. "Like chocolate following a dementor, Madam Rosmerta's mead soothes the nerves." Nodding, I obligingly took a huge gulp. It was delightfully strange. "Sip it, hmm?" Blushing, I nodded again. "To business then."
He spoke about Sirius Black -I remembered him from The Quibbler. He was a singer.- and his death and his will. It was something about a house and headquarters and the like and Harry jumped to his feet at the mention of one Lestrange woman. From Luna, I knew that it was the woman who had killed Sirius and that he had been very important to Harry, though I avoided asking about it the other day.
Somewhere in the middle of these proceedings, Vernon Dursley demanded the cups -now bouncing and spilling everywhere- be removed. Dumbledore obliged with a remark about proper manners. After a few minutes, I had quite forgotten my nervousness and was watching the people around me like it was a television show, sipping the mead all the while. I still had no idea why I had to stay, but my body was getting warm and fuzzy.
I have never seen a House Elf outside of the school kitchen, so when one appeared in a perfectly Muggle living room -a test, apparently- I was a little shocked. The poor thing seemed more out of place than Dumbledore in that room and no one seemed very pleased to see him. He even had a cruel name- Kreacher. As if he were nothing more than a disposable creature. Harry ordered him to Hogwarts and despite Kreacher's reluctance -to put it lightly- he disappeared with a crack.
The conversation shifted again to Harry's coming of age and what that meant for certain protective enchantments on the house and the Dursley's safety. Dumbledore didn't seem in the least concerned with it as he gave them quite the verbal dressing down for the poor way they treated their nephew. Out of fear -and I would like to think shame as well- they shrank further and further into the sofa with each word.
Serves them right, I thought angrily, soon fighting a bout of giggles when the Headmaster referred to the "appalling damage inflicted" on Dudley.
There didn't seem to be much else to discuss after that and I had quite forgotten that Dumbledore had insisted on my staying for these proceedings. Then Dumbledore turned to me. This was still startling- I had all but melted into the background of this scene and now felt rudely jerked into the story.
"Now Miss Stone, there are things for us to discuss as well. I would not divulge any of this if you had not been out of your house on this night, but I feel it will help you understand what I have to do. In time..." He shifted in the chair, looking all the more comfortable now as he gazed at me, smiling under his bushy beard. "I see you've calmed down. Good. I'm sure Harry at least wondered how you could have gotten to his front door so quickly after I arrived on the street." Harry almost smirked and gave a small shake of his head. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, looking amused, but continued. "This is because the Stone house is hidden. I know where it is, but I am not it's original Keeper."
Hidden. Keeper. The Fidelius Charm. I had read all about it for an extra credit essay I'd written for Professor Flitwick. Only the Secret Keeper could reveal it's location. Even if you were told where it was, you couldn't tell anyone else even under the influence of Veritaserum. When the primary Secret Keeper dies, the secondary Keepers (anyone the secret has been divulged to) all become the primary.
I had told Harry where I lived and he had looked like he had never seen my house before... The Fidelius Charm isn't something to take lightly, you know.
"Told you," Harry muttered under his breath.
"But..." I found that my mouth was unwilling to cooperate with my brain for a few moments. I cleared my throat. "Why- why- why would my house need such protection? My parents... Are Muggleborn and... They don't even use magic anymore!" I cried, my voice rising.
Dumbledore shook his head and took a sip of his mead. "Your parents, in fact, are very much like Harry's. Your mother is Halfblood and your father is Pureblood," he added. Then his voice turned grave. "Much like the Potter's, it was to hide them from Voldemort, also."
This information only made me feel guilty. Obviously the Fidelius Charm and my parent's Secret Keeper had worked a lot better for them than it had the Potter's. My arms sank between my knees, the glass cupped in my laced fingers. The stem just brushed the carpet. What could my parents possibly have to do with Voldemort to the point of needing protection from him?
I let my hair cover my face from view, not sure what I was supposed to do with this information nor why I was being told. "Why would they keep the truth from us?" I finally asked quietly. I didn't look up. I stared into the bottom of the glass as if it were a pensive of memories, waiting to unravel the truth.
"I cannot reveal their personal reasons, but I do know they wished to cut the Wizarding World from their lives as much as was possible," Dumbledore said softly. "I would prefer not to speculate. I do believe it is time to leave. We have discussed all that was needed."
I looked up, not ready yet. "But-! I told Harry yesterday and he saw!" Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted. "What happened to our Secret Keeper? Who was it?"
The old headmaster folded his long, thin fingers and regarded me for a moment. "The man who was your Keeper recently passed away, I'm afraid," he told me. "However, it is not my place to tell you who he was. The gravity of your being out of the house on this night of all nights, though... You have no idea how much you look like your mother. We must keep you safe." He was silent a moment. I wasn't sure what he was supposed to mean by that. "It is time to go now."
I still had questions, I just couldn't make my mouth work. It was clear by the look in the Headmaster's eyes, though, that he was not about to answer them. With a wave of his wand, the three remaining glasses disappeared. Harry nodded and ran up the stairs. The Dursleys remained pressed firmly into the back of the sofa as if expecting to be swallowed into a safe and magic-free world. A few moments later, Harry came back with a clunking sound behind him- his trunk in one hand and his owl in the other.
"Smashing!" Dumbledore said brightly, motioning for the door. "It has been a pleasure." With a graceful bow, he ushered us out the door and into the night. Another wave of his wand and Harry's things disappeared. "We have one quick stop and then Harry, I do need your help with a small matter."
"Of course, sir," he replied.
I was just about to muster a goodbye when Dumbledore placed his good hand on my shoulder and his burned one on Harry's. Without warning, Privet Drive disappeared and I was being dragged through a suffocating tube. Just when I thought my lungs might burst or my body tear apart, I could suddenly breathe again. Taking deep breaths, I looked around to find myself standing in an empty field. There was a popping noise and I turned to look at what it was, but nothing was there. No one was there. I was alone.
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