Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chapter 5: Birthday Surprises

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  ________________________________________________________________________________

Days passed by the teenagers at Grimmauld Place. There were more deaths and disappearances reported by the daily prophet. The house buzzed with activities of the order. Percy had finally joined the order. He proved to be quite useful as he provided the order certain inside news about the ministry. Harry, Ron and Hemoine kept up with their research. They were almost done going through all the books in the library and Harry had given up the hope of finding anything in them. Ginny was shuffling between revising for the O.W.Ls and researching with the trio. There was still no news about Charlie.

The trio had agreed that Regulus had someone with him when he had gone to the cave to retrieve the locket. It was quite impossible for a single person to retrieve it as there was no way that one person could have drank the potion, retrieve the locket and fought the inferi and still come out of the cave alive. Yet they could not think of anyone who could have accompanied him and fit in the boat along with Regulus. So, they had hit another dead end and could not find another way around it.

Harry woke up early on his birthday. Dudley was still asleep on the next bed. So he crept out of the room, careful not to make any noise and wake Dudley up. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” Hermoine greeted him with a smile and a hug as they met up on the stairs. “Thanks Hermoine.”
“Are you excited about today?”
“Yeah. A bit nervous too though.”
“Oh, don’t worry Harry. You will do just fine. After all, you did apparate yourself along with Dumbledore successfully last term and you’ve studied after that too.”
“I know. But I’d feel better if Ron took the test with me instead of taking it while I was away at Privet drive.” A chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ greeted Harry as he entered the kitchen. Mr. & Mrs. Weasley, Percy, Bill, Lupin and Kingsley were already at the table. Harry smiled and thanked everyone. Mrs. Weasley served him his breakfast that consisted of all of Harry’s favorite things. “Here you go Harry. Head up to shower after breakfast. You’ll be going to the ministry with Arthur and Kingsley a bit early than we had decided earlier.” Seeing the questioning look on Harry’s face, Mr. Weasley said, “Percy informed us that the minister called the press the moment he found out your test date and time. He has been trying to get to you ever since he stepped in as the minister and after failing to convince you to support him. So he just called the press assuming that you will avoid them and the press will take it that you are there to see him. We will go to the ministry early so that we can avoid the reporters who will be expecting you much later. You can wait in my office till it’s time for your test.” Before Harry could reply, Ron entered the kitchen and wished Harry.

Harry arrived at the ministry with Mr. Weasley and Kingsley well before time. They even reached Arthur’s office without anybody realizing that Harry was there. Harry waited patiently for his test. When it was time, Arthur accompanied him to level six: Department of Magical Transportation. Harry was pleasantly surprised to see Neville Longbottom along with his grandmother. “Hey Neville, How are you? Are you taking your test today?”
“Yes. Happy Birthday Harry.”
“Thanks and a belated Happy Birthday to you too.” Mr. Weasley, who was talking to Mrs. Longbottom, turned to Harry and said, “Harry, there’s an apparition point just at the end of this corridor. After you get your license, you can directly head back. I’ll get back to my office now, if it’s okay with you.”
“Sure Mr. Weasley.” After Arthur left, Harry continued to chat with Neville about the summer so far until Harry was called for his test. Neville wished him good luck.

The test was quite easy. Wilkie Twycross, their instructor was conducting the test himself. He asked Harry to apparate to different points within the room and asked him a few questions. Harry thanked Hermoine in his mind while answering the question because she had practically forced him to read the Apparition Manual. After some ten minutes, satisfied with the results, Twycross handed Harry his license with a smile. “Congratulations Mr. Potter. You have done well. I hope that this license will make things bit easier for you. After all, we all know that you have a lot to do.” Harry smiled but did not reply, as he was sure that Twycross was simply trying to confirm the ‘Chosen One’ theory.

A surprise was waiting for him outside in the corridor. As Harry stepped out of the examination room, he found himself facing Rufus Scrimgeour, the minister of magic. He was hardly aware of the reporters standing behind the minister. Harry tried to step past the minister and scowled when Scrimgeour took him by his shoulder and said, “Come on Harry, lets go to my office where we can talk in private.” Harry took a step away from him and said, “I don’t think so minister. You have called the press here today so that people know that we are working together, right? So let’s talk right here, in front of all this reporters.” Scrimgeour was taken aback. He had obviously expected Harry to be eager to avoid the reporters. However, he managed to regain his composure and asked, “Okay then. I just wanted to know if you have thought about my proposal.”
“What proposal?” Harry asked in turn, acting perfectly innocent. When Scrimgeour simply continued to look at him, he said, “Oh! you mean the proposal where you wanted me as your poster boy?”
“Not a poster boy Harry. You must have misunderstood me, Harry. I just wanted you to co-operate with the ministry and the ministry would in turn help you in whatever you need to do.”
“Have you released Stan Shunpike yet, minister?”
“That’s not the point Harry,” Scrimgeour was clearly starting to loose his patience.
“That’s exactly the point minister. How can you expect any sane person to co-operate with you when all you do is lock up innocent people in Azkaban while death eaters are at large? What were you doing while there was another mass breakout from Azkaban this summer and actual criminals escaped? What are you doing to stop the murders and kidnappings?”
“I am not answerable to you Harry.”
“No you are not answerable only to me. But you are answerable to the whole wizarding community.”
“Enough of your childish nonsense. Now, will you tell me what Dumbledore was up to?”
“No. The last time Dumbledore told the ministry about his ideas and whereabouts, the ministry called him a liar. I do not trust you one bit and I do not agree with your methods. So don’t expect me to act all ‘grateful and happy to help you’ unless you actually start doing something for real for the wizarding community,” with that Harry pushed his way through the horde of reporters. As he was leaving, he heard Mrs. Longbottom telling the reporters, “Harry Potter has more guts than the whole ministry put together. I have more faith in him and the Order of the Phoenix than the ministry. My grandson…” Harry practically ran to the apparition point and apparated back to the headquarters.

When he got back to Grimmauld Place, he was still feeling angry. So, since he expected everyone to be in the kitchen, having lunch, he quietly went to the library. However, he was surprised to find Ginny sitting there and studying. He tried to walk back out before she became aware of him, but… “Nice try Harry, but I already know that you are here,” Ginny said turning to face him. “So what’s up? Why are you sneaking around? Did you fail in the apparition test?” Harry had no choice but to walk back in. “No. I got my license. I just did not want to disturb your revision. After all, your exams are just around the corner.”
“So why aren’t you in the kitchen celebrating and having your lunch?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“We already had our lunch.”
“Oh! I guess I’ll go and have mine now.” Harry headed to the kitchen. But Ginny followed him. “What’s wrong Harry? I know you are angry about something.”
“Oh there you are Harry. I was starting to worry. Did everything go well? Come on in and have your lunch.” Mrs. Weasley called from the kitchen door. Harry entered the kitchen followed by Ginny. As he sat down to eat, Lupin entered the kitchen, followed by the twins. Lupin asked him, “Are you okay Harry? Arthur just informed me that Srimgeour had managed o corner you with his gang of reporters.” Harry launched into telling the whole thing. “I guess he thought that I won’t be willing to talk in front of the reporters. So I just turned it around on him.”
“Atta boy, Harry,” said George.
“You never cease to impress us,” added Fred.
“We are so proud of you,” continued George.
“Yeah, we couldn’t have done better,” said Fred.
“Enough. Fred. George. Let the boy have his meal in peace. Harry dear, you have had a tough time. Go and lie-in for a while after lunch.” Harry had his lunch and proceeded to Ron’s room where he found Ron and Hermoine waiting for him. He told them all that had happened at the ministry and then he and Ron cursed the minister and the ministry a lot. Then the trio proceeded to plan their moves in finding the Horcruxes.

It was late in the evening and way past the teatime, when Mrs. Weasley called them down. Till then they had not come up with anything. Harry was greeted by another round of ‘Happy Birthday’ as he entered the kitchen with Ron and Hermoine. The kitchen had been decorated beautifully. A banner hung from the wall that said “HAPPY 17th BIRTHDAY HARRY” the kitchen table was laden with food. It seemed that Mrs.Weasley had outdone herself. Harry found himself shaking hands and thanking several order members, including Professor McGonagall. Even Dudley came up to wish him. Harry felt a bit guilty. Dudley was a month elder than him and he had completely forgotten his birthday. Harry decided that he would have to make up for it by buying him something nice as soon as possible. Mrs. Weasley gave him her famous ‘motherly’ bear hug. For once, Harry found himself hugging her back. Finally when she let him go all he managed to say was, “Thank you Mrs. Weasley for… for everything.”
“You’re welcome dear. Now, cake first or presents first?”
“Cake first please! I am hungry.” said Ron and everyone in the room chuckled.

Harry cut his cake and then they had a delicious dinner. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Once Arthur had come up to Harry to apologize for leaving Harry alone at the ministry and Harry had assure him that it was perfectly alright and that he actually profited from the meeting. Finally, Harry got to opening his presents. Ron had given him a pack of assorted sweets. Mr. & Mrs. Weasley had given him a golden watch (just like the one they had given Ron). The twins had given him a big box of their latest inventions. Bill and Fleur had given him a nice set of dress robes. Hermoine, Tonks and Lupin had given him quite a few books on dark arts. There was a huge rock cake from Hagrid (delivered by a Hogwarts owl). Finally, there was a single big package left. He could not understand who it was from. Everyone he knew had already given him his present. The package was covered in brown paper and there was no note attached. It was quite heavy. “That is from Professor Dumbledore. He left it for you in his will. This seemed to be the perfect occasion to me to hand it over to you.” Professor McGonagall said with a sad smile on her face. The room fell silent. Harry felt a lump in his throat. He excused himself and went back to his room carrying the package. Ron, Hermoine and Ginny tried to follow him up but Lupin stopped them, “Don’t! Give him some time alone. He needs it.”

Harry sat on his bed, staring at the package. He was glad that his friends had not followed him up as his eyes were brimming with tears. He just could not get himself to open the package. It would make Dumbledore’s death so real and final. On one hand, he was curious about what Dumbledore might have left for him. He was sure that whatever the package contained, it was something that would help him in his task. On the other hand, he would rather have Dumbledore himself to guide him through, like always. He tried to guess the contents by feeling the packet, but he could not think of anything that big and heavy that could help him.

It could have been five minutes later or five hours later, Harry could not tell which, that the door of his room opened slowly and Hermoine peeked in. She stepped in tentatively, as if expecting Harry to shout at her to leave him alone. But Harry did not even look up from the packet that still lay unopened on his bed. Hermoine came up to him and sat on the edge of his bed. Ron and Ginny followed in. They all sat there quietly for sometime, each daring the other to speak first. Finally, Hermoine spoke up, “Aren’t you going to open that and see what it is, Harry?” There was no reply. Harry simply pushed the package a bit towards her. Hermoine understood him and started to open the package carefully. When it was completely unwrapped, there was a collective “Oooohh” from Hermoine and Ginny. Harry looked up to see Dumbledore’s pensieve sitting were the package lay few minutes earlier. There was also a of bunch small crystal bottles containing silvery white substances and instructions about how to use the pensieve.  Ron and Ginny leaned in to get a better look at the pensieve while Hermoine started reading the instructions. Harry could clearly remember his ‘special’ lessons with Dumbledore last term. He remembered every single word that Dumbledore had told him in his office on those occasions. He had gone over them all in his mind thousands of times since Dumbledore’s death… It seemed another lifetime to Harry, yet only couple of months had passed since the event. If only… “Harry, do you think these are the same memories that Dumbledore had showed you last term?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Would you mind if we see them?”
“What’s wrong Harry?”
“Nothing. Yeah you can see them.”
“Can we see them now?”
“It’ll take time, Hermoine. You can’t see them all tonight.”
“But we can start tonight, can’t we?”
“Okay. You go on. I don’t think I can do it now.”
“Then we’ll do it some other time then mate.”
“It’s okay Ron. You go ahead. I have seen them anyway.” Ron and Hermoine stared at each other for a brief moment and then decided to take the first trip right then. As Hermoine emptied the first bottle into the pensieve, Harry reminded them about Bob Odgen’s identity and the reason behind his visit to Little Hangleton. Then he watched them enter the pensieve. When Ginny entered at last, Harry closed his eyes and lay back on his bed.

It was quite sometime before Hermoine, Ron and Ginny came out of the pensieve. Hermoine was scowling, “I can’t believe that Voldemort preaches the pure-blood nonsense when he had a muggle father and a squib for a mother. Merope could not perform magic even life threatening situation. What a sham!” Hermoine would have continued for hours but Ginny interrupted her, “Listen guys, by any chance, are you people looking for the locket that Merope was wearing? I mean the one that R.A.B replaced?”
“Yeah why? Have you seen it somewhere?”
“YES! Not just me, you all have seen it too…” Harry sat up, “What? Where? When?”
“Don’t you remember? When we first came here, we had to help in cleaning this place up…”
“Yeah. How can we forget those glorious days?” Ron said sarcastically.
“Shut up, Ron. Anyway, the day we were cleaning the drawing room, we found a musical box that put us all in a trance…”
“And a locket that none of us could open. Yes!” Hermoine completed the sentence for Ginny and she beamed. “Yes, exactly! I am very sure that it is the same one because I remember thinking of Salazar Slytherin when I saw the design on the locket. Seems like I was right then.”
“But then Sirius threw them all, remember?” Ron reminded them.
“Oh no! I thought that we finally made some progress. But we are back to square one. It could be anywhere, including the muggle dumpsters…!”
“Dupster?” Ron looked lost.
“Not Dupster, Ron. Dumpsters. It’s the place where muggles throw their trash.”
“Oh.” The youngsters fell silent. “Well at least, we know that the locket was here. That means we were right about R.A.B’s identity. At least, we know a bit more than before.” Hermoine said a bit optimistically in order to raise everybody’s spirits. Still, no one said anything. So, she continued, “I think we have time for another memory tonight.”

Harry woke up quite late next morning. They all had stayed up quite late last night. On Hermoine’s insistence, they had all seen the second memory. Ginny had bid them goodnight and left after watching the second memory as she was due to return to Hogwarts today for her O.W.Ls which were due in two days time. However, the trio had stayed up talking and discussing things.

By the time, Harry got down to the kitchen; everybody was almost through their breakfast. “Ah, there you are Potter. I was starting to wonder if you were planning to sleep through the day. I need to talk to you before I get back to Hogwarts.” Harry was surprised to see Professor McGonagall having breakfast with rest of the Weasley clan. “Okay.”
“Everything okay Potter?”
“Yes Professor.”
“It doesn’t seem so.”
“I am just surprised to see you here so early.”
“Oh well, I did not get a chance to talk to you yesterday. So I dropped by now so that I could take care of two things at the same time… talk to you and accompany Miss Weasley back to Hogwarts.” Harry simply nodded and sat down beside Ginny and Mrs. Weasley served him his breakfast immediately. Ginny nudged him and said in a low voice, so that only Harry could hear her, “Harry, promise me that you will not let Ron and Hermoine see the rest of the memories before I return.” Harry turned to look at her. “Please, Harry.”
“I can’t promise you that, Ginny. You know how Hermoine is. If she wants to do something, I cannot stop her from doing it. However, I can promise you that if they seethe memories without waiting for you, then after you return, I will accompany you. Okay?” Ginny agreed reluctantly.

After he had his breakfast, McGonagall summoned him to the drawing room. She asked him to take a seat and came straight to the point, “Mr. Potter, Remus had informed me about your cousin’s case. I must tell you that this has never happened in Hogwarts before. I have searched and looked at all the rules before talking to the board of governors. A decision has been made regarding your cousin.” Harry waited for her to continue. She sat down on the chair next to Harry’s and continued, “I am sorry Harry, your cousin cannot attend Hogwarts at this age. However, do not be disappointed because I have found out another way for him to learn magic. He can study and learn magic at home and then appear for his O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts from Hogwarts when he is ready.”
“That means Dudley can study at home and can go to Hogwarts for his exams?” McGonagall nodded. “But how can he learn all those stuff on his own? And since he is not registered as a wizard, won’t he be in trouble for performing magic?”
“We can get him registered now and there are different sets of rules for performing magic for the people who study at home. And, Remus has kindly agreed to teach Dudley all his subjects. Though he cannot commit himself completely right now, he said that he is willing to help Dudleyas much a he can. After this war is over, he’ll take the total responsibility of teaching Dudley.”
“Oh you mean there are other people who learn magic at home and appear for their exams through some school?”
“Yes. Is there anything else that you want to know?” Harry shook his head. McGonagall said, “One more thing Harry. I know that Dumbledore left you his pensieve. A pensieve is not only very expensive but also quite rare. And this particular one is even more special because of the person it originally belonged to. So I suggest you take good care of it and use it well.” Harry nodded and followed McGonagall out of the room. They found Mrs. Weasley crying just outside the room, “…news of him and now you are leaving too. I know I’m just being silly, but can’t help being worried about you.”
“Mum, I know. But do not worry. I will be gone only for a week. And I am going only to Hogwarts mum.”
“You always manage to get into some trouble. Please dear, stay safe.” Professor McGonagall took over from Ginny and said, “Don’t worry Molly. There will be so few students right now that it will be easy for us to keep an eye on all of them. Besides, there will be aurors from the ministry guarding them all. In fact, there will be more faculty and aurors than students.”

“I am just being silly. But with what happened to Charlie, I just can’t help feeling worried and a bit scared.” Mrs. Weasley kissed her daughter goodbye. Ginny flooed to Hogwarts with McGonagall.

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