'As I'm not a mediwizard, I really couldn't say,' said Mr Ollivander calmly. 'I would suggest speaking with Madam Pomfrey about this on your return to Hogwarts. Might I ask what you did with the pieces of holly after you broke them off?'
'A Ministry wizard burnt one of them,' said Harry. 'I've got the other two in a bottle of water. They've started putting out roots ...'
'Then you should try potting them,' said Mr Ollivander gravely. 'I can have your wand ready on the morning the Hogwarts Express leaves King's Cross.'
'But that's almost a week from now!' said Harry. 'What will I do for a wand till then?'
With Voldemort back, the notion of being unarmed for even an hour was frightening to him.
'Ah, well, as to that ...'
Mr Ollivander vanished into the depths of the shop, reappearing in short order with a pair of boxes. He opened one of them and took out a wand that was slimmer and slightly darker than Harry's.
'Willow and phoenix feather, give it a wave ...'
Harry swept the wand through the air, sending green and golden sparks bouncing around the room.
'This one's all right,' he said. 'Not as powerful as my wand, but faster and -- easier to handle.'
Mr Ollivander nodded at him approvingly.
'That was Lily's wand,' he said. 'Dumbledore left it with me for safekeeping.'
Harry gazed at the wand, thunderstruck. Apart from his father's Invisibility Cloak, he owned nothing that had belonged to his parents -- until now. His eyes were drawn irresistibly to the other box.
'Yes, that's James' wand,' said Mr Ollivander. 'Mahogany and dragon heartstring. You can try it if you like ...'
Harry opened the second box himself. If not for its deep, reddish-brown colour, he might have mistaken the wand it contained for his own. It took three tries, however, before he was able to get any sparks out of it.
'This one is -- different,' said Harry. 'I'd have a job working spells with it.'
'As I expected,' said Mr Ollivander. 'Really a more suitable wand for someone whose strength lies in Transfiguration. If you can't use it yourself, perhaps you know of another person who can.'
Mr Ollivander gave Harry a pale, piercing look. Harry stared back at him, wondering if the old wand-maker could possibly mean what Harry thought he meant.
Harry and the Weasleys ate lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. In the middle of the meal, a strange witch and wizard came to their table. These turned out to be Watchett's parents. They thanked Harry earnestly for helping to catch their son's murderer and apologised to the Weasleys for the ordeal of Percy's imprisonment. This made Harry feel unspeakably guilty -- but not nearly so unspeakably guilty as Percy, to judge by the look on his face.
As soon as the Watchetts had gone, Percy pushed his food away, saying he wasn't hungry any more and was going back to The Burrow. Mrs Weasley went with him; the rest of them finished their lunch in subdued silence. As an attempt at cheering Percy up, the expedition was a notable failure.
The Watchetts' visit, however, served as a reminder to Harry that the situation with Riversedge was far from satisfactorily resolved. That night, as Mr Weasley sat in the living room reading the Evening Prophet, Harry sidled over to have a word with him.
'Riversedge broke into the museum to steal something for Voldemort, didn't he?' said Harry.
Mr Weasley winced at the sound of the name but said in a steady voice, 'Yes, Harry, I believe he did.'
'Do you have any idea what he was after?'
'Not the foggiest,' sighed Mr Weasley. 'No objects of any great magical power are kept in the British Museum, and in any case, most of the stolen property was recovered from Riversedge's flat. None of the things still missing have particular monetary value or historical significance, either. It's possible the thieves were forced to leave without getting what they came for after the attack on Azkaban failed to draw off the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol ... although there were certainly enough robberies when You-Know-Who was previously in power, more than a few involving items he had no obvious reason for stealing.'
Mr Weasley gazed moodily into the fire.
'Or maybe they weren't after anything ... maybe the Christmas Eve attacks were only intended to spread panic and loss of confidence in the Ministry ...'
'So Fudge would be thrown out of office?' said Harry. 'I reckon it was Lucius Malfoy that Riversedge really wanted to replace him with,' he added darkly. 'If Mr Malfoy was ever made Minister, he'd send us all to Azkaban!'
'Oh, there's little worry of that happening,' said Mr Weasley reassuringly. 'It would take extraordinary circumstances for Lucius to become Minister for Magic, he isn't a career Ministry member. If Fudge was voted out, a Department Head would get the tip, most likely either Magical Law Enforcement or Magical Catastrophes. There, too, I suspect Riversedge's real goal was to disrupt the Ministry and unsettle the public, not put a specific person in or out of power. The more muddled and ineffectual the magical community sees their leaders as being, the more inclined they'll be to believe that Etin's Last Prediction is coming true --'
'Sorry, believe what?' said Harry.
'Etin's Last Prediction,' Mr Weasley repeated. He eyed at Harry curiously. 'You've not heard of it?'
'No,' said Harry.
'Not surprising, I suppose,' said Mr Weasley. 'I don't imagine it's been much spoken of since You-Know-Who's fall. Etin, you see, was a ninth century Scottish Seer. On his deathbed, he made a prediction: that in the last years of the millennium, a Dark Lord would rise to power. When the first millennium ended and no Dark Lord did, people thought it must not have been a real prediction, and the story was all but forgotten ... until You-Know-Who came along. His followers claim he is the Dark Lord that Etin foresaw, in the last years of this millennium. They're keen to convince as many people as possible ... it's well known that the authentic predictions of a genuine Seer always come true ... if You-Know-Who's taking power actually was predicted by Etin, then fighting against him is pointless. So even if the prediction isn't a real one, if he can make enough wizards believe in it, it will come true anyway ...'
'You don't think it is real, do you?' said Harry uneasily.
Mr Weasley shuddered. 'I very much hope not.'
Harry would have been a great deal happier if Mr Weasley had just said no. To add to his worries, after the encounter with Watchett's parents, Percy took a serious turn for the worse. He stopped coming downstairs for meals, refusing to leave his room even when Fred and George set off one of their new, extra-smelly Dungbombs under his bed.
'He didn't even shout at us,' said George, looking anxious.
'This is Fudge's fault,' said Fred angrily, 'his and Lucius Malfoy's. Leaving Percy in Azkaban for two months -- he may never recover!'
'He'll get better,' said Harry. 'Hagrid was in Azkaban for two months and you'd never know it to look at him.'
'Hagrid,' said George, 'is a lot tougher than Percy.'
On the second from last day of the holidays, Mrs Weasley announced at breakfast (to loud groans from her offspring) that they would be cleaning the house from top to bottom, as Dumbledore was coming to dinner that night.
'And he said to tell you he's bringing Snuffles,' she said to Harry.
Harry would have set about cleaning with a will, knowing he'd soon be seeing his godfather, but Mrs Weasley wouldn't hear of it.
'You're a guest in this house, and you've been ill,' she said firmly.
Harry felt rather Dudleyish sitting around the kitchen while the others worked, eating the small tarts Mrs Weasley baked him 'to make sure the pastry's all right'.
That evening, Dumbledore emerged from the fireplace accompanied by a giant black dog, which hurried over to Harry, sniffing him and whining anxiously. Harry patted the dog's head.
'How lovely to see you again, Albus,' said Mrs Weasley. 'Would you care for a drink before dinner?'
Mrs Weasley ushered Dumbledore into the living room.
'You lot set the table,' she called from the threshold to Ron, Fred, George and Ginny. 'Harry, you take Snuffles out for a walk -- keep him from getting underfoot.'
'Hang on, I've got to get something,' Harry said to Sirius.
He dashed up to Ron's room and grabbed the box with his father's wand. When he returned to the kitchen, Sirius was sitting by the door. Seeing Harry, he gave an impatient bark; Harry let him out into the yard. Sirius trotted over to a small, lop-sided shed, opened the door with a paw and slipped inside.
Harry stepped after Sirius -- and stared around him in shock. The tiny shed contained a vast, dimly lit room full of odd bits of Muggle rubbish: cases of pens and pencils, tubes of toothpaste and suntan cream, stacks of tins (many of them without labels), a hairdryer, a yoghurt-maker, a car-tool kit, a rusted, ancient-looking shotgun (unloaded, Harry devoutly hoped), electric torches, clocks with plugs, plastic dustbins ... there was even an old blue police box standing in one corner. Whilst Harry was gazing about, Sirius nosed the door shut and changed back into a man.
'Dumbledore told me what happened to you on Christmas Eve,' he said grimly. 'Walking alone in the snow for three hours -- Harry, you promised me you'd go to Arabella if there was trouble.'
'I thought you meant magical trouble, not rowing,' said Harry guiltily.
'What on earth had you quarrelled over that would make you stay out on a night like that?' said Sirius.
Harry had to think for a second. 'Oh -- I gave Dudley a Chocolate Frog and they thought it was hexed. You know what they're like about magic,' he added at Sirius' disbelieving stare.
'You nearly froze to death over a Chocolate Frog,' said Sirius dully. The haunted look of Azkaban was back in his eyes.
Harry hung his head. 'Sorry,' he muttered. 'It was stupid ... I'll go to Mrs Figg's next time ...'
He could hardly explain to Sirius that the reason he'd stayed out so long was that he'd been off breaking Percy out of Azkaban, and even so, it really had been extremely stupid of him to fall asleep outdoors in the middle of winter.
Sirius was still looking devastated. Thinking to raise his spirits, Harry held out the box he'd brought.
'I've got you a Christmas present,' he said. 'I went to Ollivanders and he gave me this. Said it was meant for someone good at Transfiguration.'
Sirius opened the box. His eyes widened.
'This is James' wand,' he said hoarsely.
'Yes,' Harry. 'Mr Ollivander'd been keeping it for Dumbledore.'
With a dazed expression, Sirius took the wand out of the box. He used it to turn a string of fairy lights into fireflies, then placed it carefully inside his robes.
'Harry,' he said in a choked voice, 'don't worry about your aunt and uncle. It will be all right, I promise you.' He gripped Harry's shoulder tightly. 'Now I think it's time we were going in to dinner ...'
Mrs Weasley had cooked a feast of roast goose with cranberry sauce. Harry fed pieces of it to Sirius under the table. Normally it would have been a bit unnerving to eat in such close quarters with the Headmaster of Hogwarts, but Dumbledore entertained them all with the story of how his brothers, Aberforth and Aberfan, had Transfigured the family pig into a sled one Christmas, only to have it revert to its usual form when they and Dumbledore were halfway down Pismoule Hill.
After dinner, Harry and the young Weasleys were shooed upstairs so the adults could talk privately. For several days, Ron had been attempting to charm the cannonball on his Chudley Cannons bedspread to actually fly around the bed. He resumed this endeavour with as little success as previously.
'I'd've thought those Shuffling Charms Flitwick taught us would do the trick,' he said irritably. 'Fred and George got the letters on their jumpers to change back and forth but they won't tell me how they did it. Harry,' he said suddenly, 'why don't you go ask them? They might tell you.'
Harry started down the staircase to Fred and George's room, but on the fourth floor landing he heard something that stopped him in his tracks. Dumbledore's voice was coming out of the airing cupboard, clear as if the Headmaster was crouched inside it.
'You do realise what this means, Sirius ...'
Harry opened the door of the cupboard and peered in. It was empty, but --
'Yes,' said Sirius flatly, 'but I've made my decision. I'm not leaving Harry with those Muggles another hour. When the protection fades, we'll simply have to hope for the best.'
It was as though his godfather was standing beside him. Harry was so astounded that it took him a moment to register what Sirius had just said.
'I, er, really don't believe you have anything to worry about on that account,' said a third voice, Mr Weasley's. 'The protections on The Burrow are at least the equal of what Harry had with his aunt and uncle. The Dark Lord's never managed to get past them, and we've certainly given him cause to try. If you think it's necessary, I can perform an Adoption Charm. We'd welcome Harry into the family in a second ...'
'That's not what Sirius meant,' said Dumbledore sombrely. 'The Weasleys are one of the oldest wizarding families in Britain; your family holdings are nearly as well defended as Hogwarts. We have no concerns regarding Harry's safety so long as he is with you. But his relations -- without the magical protection Harry's shared blood affords them, they will not survive the year.'
'Can't other protections be put on them?' said Mrs Weasley.
Dumbledore gave a deep sigh. 'None strong enough to keep Voldemort away, or any other reasonably skilled Dark wizard for that matter. Lily Potter, a Gringotts Vault Warder, spent almost a year laying the groundwork for the spell I invoked to protect her sister's family. The Ministry, I'm afraid, will not take the threat to them seriously, nor would they expend much effort guarding Muggles if they did. Voldemort will soon learn of it when the spell fades -- Arabella tells me that the protection has been tested on a number of occasions, both before and after last summer's attack. Sirius and I discussed removing Harry from his aunt and uncle's care at that time ... but to do so would have condemned them to certain death.'
'Better them than Harry,' said Sirius. 'His parents trusted his safety to me. If he'd died that night, I'd have killed those Muggles myself. They've had their second chance.'
There was a long, uncomfortable silence.
At last Dumbledore said heavily, 'As you are Harry's godfather, I shall abide by your decision.'
'It seems to me the spell is fading anyway,' said Sirius, sounding slightly defensive. 'Riversedge managed to get through it to try and murder Harry --'
'Riversedge had no intention of murdering Harry,' said Dumbledore, 'and that, I am convinced, is how he was able to get through the protection.'
'What do you mean by that?' said Sirius curtly.
'With everything else going on that day, I very much doubt the Ministry would have dispatched a pair of Hit Witches to Harry's house on the strength of an anonymous owl -- had Lucius Malfoy not insisted upon it. He told them Harry's Patronus was a reindeer ... made a great fuss over the fact that one of the prisoners claimed to have seen me in Azkaban ... I have made my feelings about Dementors quite clear to Cornelius Fudge in the past. Funnily enough, it was Lucius who sent that letter to the Ministry in the first place: Fawkes had a word with the owl that delivered it. I imagine it was a most unpleasant shock for him when he learnt the circumstances of Harry's discovery. Being found dead in an alley is an excellent alibi. Harry was considered more a witness than a suspect ... carefully guarded until he was well enough to be given a Truth Potion. The best Confundus Charm in the world might linger for two days ... it would not linger three.'
'The Death Eaters attacked Azkaban to frame you,' said Mr Weasley, his voice hollow. 'Riversedge Confunded Harry so he'd confess. I -- had wondered why You-Know-Who didn't simply tell the Dementors to ... deal with Percy themselves.'
'Unless I'm much mistaken,' said Dumbledore calmly. 'If Riversedge truly believed his actions would bring no harm to Harry or his family, the protection would have done little to impede him. Voldemort could have persuaded Riversedge that as an underage wizard, Harry would not be held responsible for his part in the supposed breakout by the Ministry -- reinforcing it with a Confundus Charm of his own, if necessary. A serious weakness in the protection which Arabella shall have to be on guard against in future ...'
'No, she won't,' said Sirius.
There was another very awkward pause.
'Er -- Mr Black,' said Mr Weasley, rather quickly, 'before you go -- I wanted to speak with you about my son, Percy. You know he recently spent two months in Azkaban?'
Sirius made an affirmative noise.
'He's in a terrible state, and he seems to be getting worse, not better,' Mr Weasley continued. 'Molly and I don't know what to do. I thought, having been in Azkaban yourself ...'
'Yes ...' said Sirius, sounding suddenly as drained and careworn as Percy looked. 'In Azkaban, you live with nothing but your worst memories. You lose sight of the fact that there's a future -- that whatever you've done wrong, you have a second chance to make right. Harry is my second chance. Surely you can understand why I've made the choice I did ...' Sirius trailed off. In a brisker tone, he said, 'Your son just needs reminding of that. I'll go up and have a word with him.'
Harry heard the scraping of a chair. Realising Sirius would shortly be coming up the staircase, he pulled himself out of his state of shock and went sprinting back to Ron's room.
'What took you?' said Ron. 'Did Fred and George give you the spell?'
'I didn't ask them for it,' said Harry. 'Your airing cupboard -- I heard voices --'
'Ah, you found our listening post,' said Ron. 'Bill put a Sonorus Charm on it ages ago, you can hear everything that's being said in the living room. What were Mum and Dad talking to Dumbledore about?'
'Nothing,' said Harry. 'Nothing important. I'm going to sleep, I'm really tired.'
Rest, however, was the furthest thing from Harry's mind as he lay with his face buried in his pillow. When he'd first grasped that Sirius and Dumbledore were contemplating letting him stay at The Burrow, Harry had felt nearly ill with excitement. Never again to have to endure Uncle Vernon's bullying, or Aunt Petunia's spite, or their endless revolting fawning and simpering over Dudley ... he could come to live with people who actually liked him. It would be Harry's fondest wish come true.
But the price of his wish was the Dursleys' lives ...
Surely Dumbledore was being overcautious, Harry told himself. Sirius seemed to think it quite likely that the Dursleys would survive. Even if Voldemort found out the protection was gone, he'd have no reason to attack Privet Drive if Harry wasn't there.
Yet even as Harry thought this, he realised it wasn't true. Voldemort didn't need a reason to kill -- look how he'd murdered Cedric. Dumbledore was right, the Dursleys wouldn't live out the year. Sirius realised it too, he simply didn't care. He reckoned the Dursleys had had their second chance. He couldn't know that Harry would have gone out into the snow regardless of what they did, in order to rescue Percy.
There was nothing else for it -- Harry would somehow have to talk Sirius into allowing him to remain at number four. Life with the Dursleys wasn't so terrible now that they knew Harry had a godfather looking out for him. Harry certainly didn't want them to die. Of course he didn't ...
But old and painful memories kept floating up from the depths of his mind: the many nights he'd gone to bed hungry after Aunt Petunia had snatched his plate away because Dudley wanted more, even though half the time Dudley was sick of it later ... being laughed at in primary school for his baggy clothes -- the few times anyone had seemed willing to be his friend in spite of it, Dudley and his gang had scared them off ... all the toys he'd so desperately wished to play with, that Dudley beat him up if he went anywhere near and then broke within a fortnight ... the occasions on which Uncle Vernon had locked him in his cupboard for accidentally working magic ...
Harry hadn't understood what was happening, but his aunt and uncle had done, and they never told him. For two-thirds of his life they let Harry believe no one cared if he lived or died. They only spoke of his parents to insult them, after his mother spent a whole year arranging their protection. They treated Harry like a large and particularly disgusting specimen of Flesh-Eating Slug, when all the time it was his presence in their house that kept them safe. Now he knew why they hadn't packed him off to a Muggle orphanage ...
As Harry drifted off to sleep, a treacherous voice in his head was asking: did the Dursleys truly deserve a second chance, considering what they'd done with their first one?
When Harry came down to breakfast next morning, Sirius, a dog once more, was curled up on the living room rug. He followed Harry to the table to share his bacon and sausages. After they finished eating, Mrs Weasley sent Ron, Fred, George and Ginny out to de-gnome the garden.
'You're still looking a tad peaky, dear,' she told Harry. 'Why don't you go upstairs and have a rest?'
Sirius bounded up the staircase after Harry, transforming into his godfather the instant the door to Ron's bedroom was shut.
He gave Harry a brilliant smile. 'Dumbledore and I've been talking ... we understand you haven't been happy at your aunt and uncle's for some time. I thought it might be better for you to stay with Ron and his family instead ...'
'I know,' said Harry flatly. 'I overheard you ... and I can't leave the Dursleys. I don't want them dying because of me.'
He had to force the words out of his mouth. More than anything, Harry wished he could abide by his godfather's decision, as Dumbledore had done. But in the grey light of dawn he had made his choice, between doing what was easy and doing what was right, and he wasn't backing down from it now.
For a brief moment Sirius appeared chagrined, but he swiftly rallied.
'The Dursleys aren't going to die,' he said airily. 'Honestly, Dumbledore can be such a mother hen. A simple Unplottable Charm on the street and they'll be safe as -- safe as --'
Under Harry's level gaze, the cheer drained suddenly from his godfather's face.
'James could always tell when I was lying to him, too,' he said in a broken voice.
Sirius wheeled around and began pacing the tiny room.
'Dumbledore warned them last summer ... he distinctly told them if they didn't take better care of you, he'd find someone who would, and they'd have to take their chances without the magical protection ...'
'Staying out in the cold was my fault, not the Dursleys',' said Harry. 'I won't do it again, I promise.'
'And they let you!' said Sirius angrily. 'With nothing but a jumper! They didn't go looking for you or even report you missing! If Lucius Malfoy hadn't sent that owl to the Ministry ...'
Sirius turned back to Harry. For a long time he stood quite still, studying Harry's face.
'All right,' he said finally. 'You can stop with your aunt and uncle over the summer, for just long enough to keep the protection going. But I'm not leaving you there alone. I'll be staying with you.'
Although Harry put on a brave face until Sirius had left, he spent his last day at The Burrow in deep gloom, mourning the chance he'd lost to escape the Dursleys for ever.
On the bright side, whatever Sirius had said to Percy had obviously done some good. Percy came down to lunch on his own initiative, pale and drawn but with a purposeful glint in his eye. After eating his shepherd's pie, he announced that he was going to the Ministry to see his father.
They returned together that evening, Mr Weasley looking both nervous and hopeful. The last meal of the holidays took place in an atmosphere of mounting relief at Percy's apparent recovery. Though still feeling a bit sorry for himself, Harry was glad that for the Weasleys at least, things were looking up.
Next morning, Harry and the Weasleys stopped by Ollivanders to pick up Harry's wand before meeting Hermione in King's Cross station. On the same day the Weasleys' cousin Andrew had brought Percy back to The Burrow, Ron had received a frantic owl from Hermione asking what was going on and why hadn't he answered her two earlier letters. (They later discovered that Magical Law Enforcement had been intercepting the Weasleys' post.)
Harry and Ron had written back directly. Hermione had been horrified to learn that Harry might really have been attacked (the Daily Prophet merely said he was taken into custody after anonymous threats were received by the Ministry) and her first order of business on platform nine and three-quarters was to scold him roundly for running away from the Dursleys' house on Christmas Eve.
Once they were settled inside the Hogwarts Express, Harry told her the rest of the story, or as much of the rest of the story as he'd told anyone: his visit to Ollivanders (though not what actually caused the damage to his wand), Mr Weasleys' tale of Etin the Seer and the opportunity Harry had turned down to leave the Dursleys, which even Ron hadn't heard about.
Hermione was particularly dismayed by Voldemort's plans for Etin's Last Prediction.
'People will believe it, you know how superstitious wizards are,' she said, 'and You-Know-Who probably made the whole thing up himself. I've never read of any ninth century Seer called Etin.'
'How would you have done? You dropped Divination third year,' said Ron. 'And you,' he said to Harry, 'I can't believe you're going back to those Muggles when you could live with us instead!'
'Don't make me feel worse,' said Harry. 'Of course I'd rather stay at The Burrow, but I don't want the Dursleys murdered!'
'You're as bad as Percy,' grumbled Ron. 'He says he wants to be a Hit Wizard! Says he can't change the past but he can stop other people being killed because of Dark wizards like Riversedge. Honestly, he'll get himself killed, and after everything you went through to prove he was innocent. I mean, Percy's clever and all, but I don't reckon he could keep his head in a real fight.'
Harry happened to know for a fact that Percy couldn't keep his head in a real fight. He also knew why Percy was determined to become a Hit Wizard anyway, but naturally he couldn't explain any of this to Ron.
'Oooh, Harry, where did you get that?'
Hermione had caught sight of the sprigs of holly, now in a bigger bottle with an Unbreakable Charm on it, and giving off a visible glow.
'I -- found them in an alley,' said Harry. 'They've started putting out roots. I'm going to ask Professor Sprout to help me pot them ...'
— the end —
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts from the Harry Potter series copyright J K Rowling.
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