Chapter 1 : Summer Job
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Part One of "The Apprentice Piece"
The Apprentice Piece was first published on Portkey in February 2005 and is the first of five self-contained but linked stories set during Harry’s Sixth Year at Hogwarts. Minor edits and shorter chapters have been combined.
The five consecutive parts are entitled: The Apprentice Piece, The Crucible, The Dragon, The Sword of Light and The Accord.
Harry has returned to Privet Drive after finishing his Fifth Year at Hogwarts. He is resigned to staying with the Dursleys for the entire summer.
On a dull Monday morning in late July, Harry Potter found himself leaning against a wall watching the slow rush-hour traffic move occasionally along the high road. It was just after 7:30 and Harry hadn’t quite woken up yet.
Harry heard a beep from a car horn and looked up as a plain white transit van drew up to the kerb and stopped. Harry stepped over to the van and opened the door.
Harry climbed in and slammed the door closed.
"Morning, Harry. Local job today," said the driver as they pulled away.
"Morning, George," replied Harry as he gave an involuntary yawn. George just smiled.
This was the start of the second week that Harry would be helping George Hellar as his assistant. Harry’s Uncle, Vernon Dursley had arranged for Harry to have this part time job, although Harry didn’t think he would see any earnings for himself.
George was a carpenter and joiner, and Harry guessed he was approaching retirement age. So far they had been to several houses to fit new windows and doors or do minor repairs.
Although Harry was happy to get away from the Dursleys for a few hours a day, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of doing carpentry at first. He didn’t think he would be of much use, never having handled tools nor done any woodwork.
Harry, though, had immediately taken a liking to George who would patiently explain the job, the tools they would use and talk about the various timber species that would be suitable. Harry would be directed to fetch, carry and clean up as needed but at least once each working day he would be directed to do something actually for the job.
The first day had been the worst.
All he had to do was cut off a measured length of timber. The ends were to be square and it would be used as a packing piece at the back of a frame. George made the first one in about twenty seconds, including measuring.
Simple Harry had thought.
He was wrong. No matter what he tried he could not make a straight cut with the hand saw. He was soon mortified to discover he was surrounded by an odd assortment of cut wood. He eventually finished by using a rasp to square off his best effort.
After what seemed to be an age Harry returned to present the finished article to George, dreading what he would say about the quality of his effort as well as the amount of wood he had wasted.
George however carefully examined the piece with a wry smile. He wedged it into a gap between the frame and the brickwork and directed Harry to pick up the electric drill. Following George’s specific instructions Harry then fixed the window frame with four long screws.
It was rather satisfying to get something right.
"Okay, now let’s see about the other side. We’ll need two more packing pieces."
Harry’s heart sank as he followed George around the house back to the cutting horse.
George selected a piece of wood from the ground. Harry grimaced as George examined it, the end of which was particularly bad. Not only was the cut not straight at all but it had split at the end. Splinters were jutting out at an alarming angle.
George picked up the handsaw and cut the end off the wood.
Harry marvelled. He didn’t need the set-square to see it was a perfect cut. Not only that, George had cut through the wood like it was made of butter. Harry had struggled to keep the saw from jamming every time he used it.
George smiled and handed the handsaw to Harry who shook his head slightly but none-the-less took the saw. George moved around and placed his hand over Harry’s around the saw.
"No, place your index finder along the handle. Gives more control. Good. Hold the timber with your other hand. It mustn’t move. Make your thumb knuckle like this as a guide and draw the blade against it. The teeth are too low to cut you. Place the saw at the cut position and draw the saw back."
Harry pulled the saw backwards and the cut started.
"Now move the saw forward in a slow gentle action. Don’t fight the wood."
Harry felt the saw move as George cut through the wood.
"Now stop almost at the end. Finish with short cuts and support the end so it does not splinter. Okay?"
George let go of the saw handle.
"Okay, now measure the length we need and draw a square line around it as a mark."
Harry did so and prepared to make the second cut. He waited for George to take the saw again but he didn’t. He only made a small adjustment to Harry’s grip on the saw again and also adjusted the position of his other hand.
"Go ahead," George directed quietly.
Harry drew back the saw trying to remember the feel of the saw when George had been cutting. The saw actually started cutting in the right place for once.
Here goes then, Harry thought as he pushed the saw forward in an even cutting motion. The end of the wood splintered slightly even though George was holding it.
"Well done," George said simply. "Cut the other one while I fix this one. Then we’ll need to clear up."
When Harry said goodnight to George when he was being dropped off back at Privet Drive that evening, he felt rather proud of his achievements.
He actually laughed out loud to himself when he thought of both Ron and Hermione’s reactions if he boasted he had cut a piece of wood on his own!
The next day the traffic was a little better as Harry stood in his usual place along the high street waiting for George to pick him up in his van. There was a familiar beep of the horn as the van drew up and stopped.
This morning, however, the passenger side door opened before Harry got to the van. A young man jumped out. He had close cropped light coloured hair and was wearing a wide grin.
"You must be Harry. My name is John Read," he said shaking Harry’s hand. He held the door open and Harry climbed in and slid himself along the front bench seat.
John jumped in pushing Harry along further and slammed the door shut.
"Morning, Harry," said George as usual.
"Morning, George," replied Harry as they sped off.
George, as usual, was quiet while he drove. John, on the other hand chatted constantly, making observations and jokes. John was probably in his late twenties and wore a designer polo shirt with fancy sunglasses in his top pocket. Harry would have bet that his tatty jeans were also a designer label.
John explained, eventually, that he was assisting today because they were to install a large timer screen in a large house that was being refurbished. Harry started to say he knew as he had helped load the van with the screen components yesterday, but John carried on explaining that screen has been prefabricated at the workshop but has been disassembled for transporting.
John was constantly making quips that reminded Harry strongly of Ron.
They arrived at the site and Harry followed the other two up the stairs to where the screen would be installed. Harry had never been to a building site before and looked around with great interest, although he felt rather self-conscious wearing is brand new safety helmet and borrowed safety boots.
Unfortunately they found the opening that would receive the large screen was not ready yet. John did not appear care very much but George was clearly annoyed that his plans for the week had been disrupted.
Harry noted how much George was respected on site. No-one used coarse language around him. Harry listened as George patiently explained to the Architect why his joinery details of the remaining screens to be made wouldn’t work and tactfully suggested the correct way to proceed.
As they couldn’t fit the screen they’d brought that day, they spent the morning hanging doors and fitting locks. Harry just fetched and carried, and he knew that the materials were far too expensive for him to risk messing up.
John chatted constantly most of the time.
Read was very curious about Harry. Harry was obviously evasive when he answered Read’s questions. Read had noticed that he was not like the usual troublemakers George usually took on.
Later George returned from a meeting held upstairs saying they would pack up and come back in a few days time. Before they left he went to the foreman to get their record sheet signed. The foreman was reluctant to sign and George was not very forceful.
George left the sheet with the foreman while he packed up but Harry noticed Read go into the office to have a word. He emerged looking uncharacteristically serious with the record sheet, which he handed to Harry. Harry noted it was signed and the hours have been adjusted to the entire day.
John Read clearly didn’t like George being taken advantage of.
The three of them spent lunch in the park. George was engrossed in a letter as John quizzed Harry some more about his school. Harry had been avoiding these questions all morning.
"You go to a private boarding school? That’s not exactly a normal background for an apprentice carpenter, is it? Normally George takes on yobs, like me. Trouble makers, you know?"
They both laughed.
"Well, to hear his Uncle talk …" began George not looking up from his letter.
"Anyway, Harry’s not an apprentice,” said George. “He’s just helping us out, that’s all. Oh, Harry, I’ve just remembered. You forgot your wages from last week. Here."
"Er, thanks. Are you sure? I thought my Uncle …" Harry began but trailed off as he took the small brown envelope. Uncle Vernon had told him George would be sending his pay direct to him.
Besides, Harry was sure he had wasted twice as much in wood alone last week, something he had confessed to John earlier. John had laughed and assured Harry that he had wasted far more when he started.
"Thanks," Harry said again quietly, realising that George intended him to have at least part of his earnings.
"First pay packet, eh?" John mused. "Can’t remember what I spent mine on."
"I seem to recall it was alcohol related," George said dryly.
John laughed and nodded enthusiastically.
"Hey, what time is it? There’s a reserves game on this afternoon. Coming Harry?"
George shot him a warning look.
"Hey, I promise not to let him spend his money. Or get drunk. Or …"
This continued for some time until they eventually bid George goodbye.
The reserves match was held at a football stadium a short walk away. John explained that the quality of the play would be pretty poor since they were only reserves and the club was in a lower division. When they arrived the gates were open and they entered for free.
They joined a small but loyal group of supporters and Harry had a good time cheering and groaning with the rest.
Harry didn’t mind at all that it was a truly terrible match. He even retrieved the ball when it had been kicked high into the empty stand.
Although neither side really deserved to win, the match ended 1 – 0. It had been an own goal and John had been practically in tears laughing at it.
The small band of supporters made their way outside, making commiserating remarks to each other. Harry and John made their way to the station where John made Harry take the money for his fare. They bid each other goodbye and as Harry entered the station, John went straight into the adjacent pub.
An Unexpected Guest
At about four o’clock Harry got off the local train at Little Whinging and ambled along the platform to the exit thinking about whether or not to tell Aunt Petunia about his wages. As usual at that time during the school holidays it was very quiet and he was glad to avoid the crush of returning commuters later on.
He held is ticket ready to show it as he exited but no-one was there. He put the ticket back in his pocket, thinking Mr Weasley might like it, and walked through the ticket office and past the taxi rank that had no taxis.
He looked around before crossing the road and saw two youths with bikes that he recognised from Dudley’s gang. Their attention was drawn to a young woman sitting on a bench looking through her bag. They must have made some remark because she looked up to them looking distressed. Harry recognised her at once and turned to go over to her.
"Clear off, you two!" Harry said aggressively as soon as he got close. “Now!”
They turned quickly, looking alarmed. Harry for once was pleased that his false reputation was intact. They withdrew hastily, only risking a couple of shouted insults when they were far enough away.
"Hello, Pansy. Are you okay?" he asked smiling down at her.
Pansy Parkinson just stared at him, clearly very surprised to see him.
"Those idiots were friends of my cousin,” he explained. “Everyone around here thinks I go to a Secure School for Incurably Criminal Boys. You look a little flustered."
"I think I got off at the wrong station. Now I’ve lost my ticket and the Muggle in the ticket office said I didn’t have enough money for another. Millicent was supposed to come with me. Mum gave me a Muggle fifty note for emergencies."
There was a quiet desperation in her voice.
"Fifty Pounds? That should be plenty of money."
"I bought a tin of drink earlier and the Muggle gave me change," she said, holding out just three coins. "I think I was short changed. And when I eventually got the stupid thing open it spilled."
Harry nodded sympathetically as she held up the twisted can. Somehow she had opened the wrong end.
"Some day you’re having. Come on, let’s check the train times and the ticket price. Then we’ll get you a drink."
"Okay, the good news is we’ve got enough money for your train ticket. The bad news is there will be more than a two hour wait for the next one that stops here. We will have some change over but I think you should keep that for emergencies."
She nodded silently.
"If you’re up for a short walk we can get you something to drink and eat at the Dursley’s."
"You really do live with Muggles?" she asked, standing up to follow him.
They walked back to Privet Drive and Harry enjoyed himself abusing the Dursleys and their habits as they went.
As Harry led Pansy into the kitchen his worst fear was realised. Uncle Vernon was home early.
"Er, Pansy could I introduce my Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon? This is Pansy Parkinson. She is from a school in the village close to my school. We met at the train station and I invited her for some tea as she has a long wait until her train."
"BOY!" Uncle Vernon yelled. "How dare you bring another … another …"
He just couldn’t bring himself to say the words.
Pansy cut across him.
"I hope you’re not suggesting I’m one of those freaks that attend that mad-house," she said imperiously.
Uncle Vernon looked quite shocked as Pansy continued, "You may not be aware but sometimes they let them out of school to wander around the village."
She sat down uninvited and continued.
"On several occasions I have had to send Potter packing. They do respond to simple instructions but it can be hard work sometimes. This one seems particularly dense sometimes. You must be incredibly patient."
"Please stay for tea."
Harry marvelled at Pansy. She was clearly in her element. Both Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia revelled in her effortless insults at Harry. They simply loved her and Harry thought she was enjoying herself too as he was ordered about.
In no time at all they were being dropped off at the station by Uncle Vernon who had insisted taking her in his car. He wasn’t intending to take Harry as well but Pansy just ordered him into the car.
Waving a cheery goodbye, Uncle Vernon drove off. Pansy turned to Harry who was now grinning at her.
"I can’t believe it! He actually just drove off and left you here!"
Harry laughed and shrugged.
Pansy’s face was still serious as she said, "That was horrible. They are awful people, Harry. I almost punched him when he showed off your cupboard."
She looked genuinely upset.
"Well, thanks for acting like you were having a good time," he said smiling.
"Come on or you’ll miss your train," and he steered her through the ticket office and onto the platform. It was still early but the station was now busy with people returning from work.
"Send me an owl so I know you got home safe, okay? Here’s a list of your connections. Your ticket is good for the entire journey. And, Pansy?"
"Yes?" she asked absently, not looking up from the list, clearly thinking of her journey ahead.
"Thanks for using my first name."
He closed the door to the train and waited until it had gone before turning and walking home. As he passed a waste basket he dropped his empty wage packet inside.
The next day John insisted that George had to pack up early. Today George had been invited to the graduation party of another apprentice named Helen Smith.
George was especially proud as she has just completed her part-time degree. She was currently working for a large contracting firm and has just been promoted to become an assistant site manager. John had quietly told Harry that at first Helen had been more trouble than any of George’s previous trainees, including John himself, when George had first taken her on.
Before he left, however, George wanted to leave Harry with some instructions.
"Harry, come and look at this. This is a technical drawing of a piece I want you to make this afternoon. I have asked John to take you back to the machine shop so he can show you how to use the equipment. Together you can do some practice pieces but you are to do the final piece completely on your own."
"That looks like an apprentice piece," said John looking at the drawing.
Harry looked down at the drawing and was immediately worried. It had very specific dimensions all over it and it had a rather complicated profile.
"That’s exactly what it is,” said George. “You can use off-cuts to practise with but I’ve put aside some timber that you are to use for the final piece. Unfortunately I don’t have that much of it so you’ll only have one chance to get it right. It’s been in the kiln drying out and it’s ready now.”
George looked seriously at Harry before continuing.
"Harry, promise me you won’t let anyone help you with the final piece. You are to be the only one who will work the timber and no-one else is to even touch it until you have given it at least one coat of the varnish that I’ve prepared. It’s all laid out in the shop."
John looked down at Harry and seeing his worried look said, "No problem. We’ll have this done in no time."
"Promise me you’ll let Harry do the piece on his own,” said George. “No help for the final piece."
"Why? He’s never going to do a proper apprenticeship, is he?"
"Harry may not be a proper apprentice but he deserves a chance."
"He won’t be able to use all the equipment. The piece will be wrong …"
"The piece has nothing to do with it,” insisted George. “No-one helped you when you did your final pieces did they? Of course not. When you presented them you knew they were the best you could do. They weren’t perfect, but they were good and you were proud to have made them. Don’t try and tell me you weren’t, because you were. I’m asking you not to take that away from Harry."
George’s words clearly affected John and eventually he just nodded.
George turned to Harry.
"Harry, I just want you to take something away with you. I want you to look at the piece knowing that even though it was something new and different you managed to create something on your own. It will be a reminder that whatever you choose to do, trying your best will always produce results."
Harry nodded, although feeling more than a little apprehensive.
"Wood is a natural material,” continued George gently. “You never know what you’ll find when you work it. Something unexpected is bound to come up. It will go wrong, especially since you haven’t used the gear that much. Just do your best and don’t be too critical of yourself."
John took Harry back to George’s machine shop. As they drank tea, John walked him around the workshop explaining the various items of equipment and describing how they worked and what safety equipment was needed.
He selected several off-cut pieces of timber from the store at the back of the workshop and they set to work. John was clearly very skilled in using both machine and hand tools. First off, John made a piece almost entirely on his own, showing Harry how to use the equipment.
Then they made a second with John setting up the machines and Harry going most of the working.
Finally they made a third piece where Harry did almost all the work under John’s constant supervision.
"You learn quickly!" said John, "must be the brilliant teaching, of course," he added with a wink.
Harry smiled as he held the final practise piece. Maybe he could do this after all.
The hardest part for Harry had been setting up the many machines in the workshop, but this had only taken them so far. To his and John’s surprise, the hand worked final stages had actually gone well.
Harry realised that in making this apprentice piece, he was actually using all the skills that George had so patiently been teaching him.
"Okay, I’m going to call George to ask why he’s not drunk yet,” announced John. “You go and get the proper wood for the final piece."
Harry went over to the small kiln at the back of the workshop that John had pointed out. He unbolted the catch and opened the still warm door. Inside was one straight branch about 18 inches long and about an inch in diameter. Harry reached in and drew it out.
He stared at it. It still had bark on part of it.
This was nothing like the practise pieces which had all started with wrought timber that had planed smooth sides.
"Harry? There’s no answer from George. I’m going over to his place to see he’s okay. It’s just up the road. Will you be okay on your own for a bit?"
"Sure, okay," said Harry, still looking at the branch in his hands.
He sighed and thought back to George’s words earlier. He supposed he had better make a start then.
About half an hour later Harry had prepared the branch and was just setting up the first lathe when he heard a small pop from behind him. He whirled around and was surprised to see Kingsley Shacklebolt standing there looking serious.
"What’s happened?" asked Harry.
"Have you finished? We need to get away," Kingsley said seriously.
"Er, no. I’ve just started."
"What are you doing, anyway?" said Kingsley and he reached out to pick up the prepared branch.
"NO!" shouted Harry, grabbing the timber away just in time. "I’m sorry, it’s just that George, Mr Hellar, made me promise not to let anyone else touch it. I’ll put it away if we have to go."
"Sorry, Harry. Dumbledore says you are to finish the piece and then come. Let me check this place is secure and then I’ll fill you in. You carry on."
"Er, okay," said Harry, now feeling more than a little confused. "Oh by the way, John Read went to check on George, he’ll be back soon."
Harry thought he heard, "No he won’t," from Shacklebolt as he walked out the door.
A few minutes later Kingsley returned with two cups of tea. Harry knew he had used magic because the fine china looked out of place in the workshop. Kingsley seemed to realise this because he put the cups down on the bench and waved his wand. Two chipped enamel mugs appeared. He handed one to Harry.
"I’ve sealed the doors and windows. George Hellar was attacked in his home tonight. He is fine but he’ll have a headache in the morning. We intercepted Read as he arrived. He’ll have his memory modified. We don’t know who did it but they used stunning curses. We knew there would be a risk but both Dumbledore and Hellar thought it would be worth it.
"You know George? Is he a wizard?"
"No, Dumbledore knows George. He’s a widower now but his wife was a witch. She was very good friends with Arrabella Figg. She’s mad at you, by the way."
"She heard you brought a certain young lady back for tea and was offended you didn’t bring her round to see her."
Shacklebolt was grinning as he said this.
"She wasn’t a certain young lady, she was someone from school,” said Harry. “And if I had thought of her it still would have been a difficult to choose the Mad Cat Lady with Hundred Year Old cake over the Dursleys.”
“Please don’t tell her I said that," he pleaded as an afterthought.
Shacklebolt laughed and held up his hands.
"So are you going to be long? I’ve no idea what you’re making, by the way."
"Well, it’s not going too well so far. That’s the drawing I’m working from over there."
"Hmm. Looks a bit like a wand, apart from the shape. I’d help but I’ve no idea what this stuff does."
Kingsley indicated the machinery as he spoke.
"It’s okay, I’ll manage. It could be a long night though. Are you sure George is going to be alright?"
At just after 3 am the piece was finally finished. After a final check of the finished dimensions against the drawing, Harry wiped the timber free of dust and applied the special varnish that George had prepared.
It dried very quickly.
"Do you think I should add another coat? It has dried already," asked Harry.
"Well the drawing says four coats and it is okay to touch or levitated after the first coat."
"Levitated? Show me?" said Harry and Shacklebolt handed him the drawing. "It’s changed. These instructions weren’t here before!"
Shacklebolt levitated the piece and Harry applied three more coats. These took longer to dry than before but eventually Harry held the finished article in his hands.
"Be careful not to perform any magic, Harry," said Shacklebolt as he took the piece. "Mr Ollivander would be proud, I’m sure."
"It doesn’t have a core. It can’t really be a wand, can it?"
"I don’t know but Dumbledore thought it was important."
"Yes, so did George but not for a magical reason. He said it was for pride, like it would symbolise an achievement."
"Okay are we done? You won’t be coming back and your stuff will have gone from the Dursley’s by now."
"But George …"
"Will understand. You can write to him later. Do we have to switch this stuff off?"
"Yes, I’ll do that," said Harry and he went around the workshop turning off the breakers as John had shown him.
"Here, take the drawing. I have a Portkey, Harry. It will operate when you touch it. I’ll Apparate."
"Hang on, I’ll turn the lights off. Are all the Muggle locks in place?"
"No, I used magic."
"Well let’s lock up properly and then use the Portkey outside."
"Lily? You’re Lily’s son?"
Harry goes to the Ministry and meets Professor McGonagall. When leaving, an Unspeakable named Fides introduces himself. Back at Hogwarts, Harry has lunch with Dobby. After a brief hunting trip with Hagrid and Dumbledore, Harry meets the Hogwarts Express from London.
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