A Strange Summer
"Family is a hell of a thing!"
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
"Right, now before tomorrow night there's a few things I need to get straight with you, girl."
Harriet Potter set down her fork and sighed. She knew what was coming, because her uncle, Vernon Dursley, had talked about nothing else for an entire week. He was going to talk to her about the stupid dinner party they were having tomorrow night.
Uncle Vernon had invited over a rich builder and his wife, and he was hoping he would be able to convince the builder to take out a large order of drills from his company, Grunnings.
Harriet didn't know why Uncle Vernon thought he had to reiterate the plan. She had known since the first day Uncle Vernon announced the party that she was going to be spending the whole time in her room sitting quietly and pretending she didn't exist.
"Don't you give me that look, girl, there's been an important change we need to discuss."
Harriet blinked and looked up at Uncle Vernon. "What's that?" she asked. Her curiosity overwhelmed her disgruntled feelings.
"Unfortunately, it turns out that Mrs Mason has a soft spot for girls," Uncle Vernon growled. He sounded resentful he even had to say such a horrid thing.
Harriet felt her eyes go wide. Was Uncle Vernon about to say what she thought he was going to say?
"For girls?" Aunt Petunia asked. She clearly thought this was the most unbelievable thing she had ever heard as she put a hand on Dudley's shoulder.
Harriet raised her eyebrows. What was so ridiculous about that? Wasn't Aunt Petunia herself a girl?
"This morning, Mr Mason let it slip on the phone when I was telling them about Dudley that he and Mrs Mason always wanted a daughter…" Uncle Vernon explained though he trailed off, as if preparing himself to say something he found deeply unpleasant before he turned and glared at Harriet as though it was she who had put such thoughts in the Mason's heads. "So, instead of staying in your room, unfortunately you're going to have to attend."
Aunt Petunia gasped. "Vernon! Do, do you really think that's wise? How are you going to explain her to the Masons if you've never mentioned her before?"
"We'll just have to say she's a distant relative who's staying with us for the summer, that's all," Uncle Vernon explained. "I'm not taking any chances in losing this deal. If having the girl there, even to just sit silently and not say a single word unless asked a question directly by Mister or Mrs Mason, will help make the sale then it's what must be done. I've already expressed an interest to the realtor about that holiday home in Majorca," Uncle Vernon growled still glaring at Harriet.
Harriet scowled a little to herself. She knew she should be used to such remarks from her Aunt and Uncle, but that didn't stop them stinging. They always talked about her like she wasn't in the room even when she was, never wanting to call her by name, or assuming she was going to do something horrible at every turn. Harriet did know how to behave herself in public, whatever the Dursleys said.
Not that any of the truths about Harriet had ever mattered to the Dursleys. Well, one truth did, and unfortunately it was the one truth that dictated everything the Dursleys did regarding Harriet. That one truth was that Harriet Potter was not a normal girl.
Harriet Potter was a witch.
Not the nasty, green, and warty kind that cooked little children for supper. But Harriet could do magic (quite well for her age she thought) and she could fly a broomstick. In fact she was one of the best in her school at flying a broomstick and had even made her house Quidditch team in only her first year. She was the youngest student to do so in a century. What's more, she played Seeker which was arguably the most difficult and important position on any Quidditch team. She also got decent grades from all of her professors, including Professor Snape who seemed resolute in pretending that Harriet did not exist even though he had saved her life during her first Quidditch match the previous fall.
Such things were perfectly normal at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It was the finest school of magic in the world according to most people, and was run by the greatest wizard of the age, Albus Dumbledore. Harriet had actually met Professor Dumbledore three times during her first year at Hogwarts. Every time he managed to give Harriet very good advice, and he had even saved Harriet's life when she had once again come face to face with the most feared Dark Wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort.
The first time Harriet had "met" Lord Voldemort she was only a year old. Voldemort had apparently come to kill her; and her parents had died trying to stop Voldemort. In doing so, Harriet's mother had put a magical protection on Harriet so powerful that when Voldemort finally turned his wand on Harriet, instead of killing her, the curse had rebounded upon Voldemort, stripping him of his powers and even his own body.
Harriet still didn't know why Voldemort had tried to kill her when she was only a baby. Professor Dumbledore had refused to tell her when she asked him after the second encounter. He had said he would tell her when she was older, however, and Harriet would just have to wait.
After his first attempt on her life, Voldemort had fled into hiding until last year when he had successfully infiltrated Hogwarts by sharing a body with Professor Quirrell. He was trying to use Quirrell to steal a powerful magical object called the Philosopher's Stone that gave long life. Voldemort had hoped to use the Stone to return to his body and power. He'd very nearly succeeded until Harriet, with help from her best-friends got to him and Quirrell in time. Harriet had very nearly died again in the attempt, but her mother's protection had lingered and Voldemort had once again been forced to flee into hiding, killing Quirrell in the process.
Most people would have found such feats to be something to greatly admire. Unfortunately, the Dursleys, who were not magical at all, thought that having Harriet in the family was a matter of the deepest shame. It was for that reason that the Dursleys had spent the entirety of Harriet's life trying to make her as miserable as possible, thinking it would "squash the magic out of her." To their dismay they had utterly failed, and not only had Harriet kept her magic; she was now a whole year closer to being a fully qualified witch.
Not that it did much good for Harriet here on Privet Drive. As an under-aged witch Harriet wasn't allowed to do magic outside of Hogwarts. This was a fact she had conveniently neglected to mention to the Dursleys. She knew they feared she would turn them all into toads or worse if they were too mean to her now.
Her usual target was Dudley, who in his last encounter with a wizard had come away with a pig's tail that the Dursleys had to pay a private doctor to remove. Harriet had lots of fun tormenting Dudley by muttering nonsense words and pretending they were magical spells. Harriet would laugh as she watched Dudley waddle away in terror, although the trouble she got in with Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon after blunted much of the fun.
Unfortunately Uncle Vernon at least seemed to not have the same fear of Harriet and her "abnormality," as the Dursleys called it. Immediately upon returning from picking Harriet up at King's Cross Station for the summer, Uncle Vernon had locked Harriet's owl, Hedwig, in her cage. While Uncle Vernon had done so to prevent Harriet from sending letters to any of her friends, it also had the effect of making Harriet even more miserable seeing Hedwig locked up all the time. Harriet worked hard to make sure the Dursleys didn't know that, as she didn't want to give them any more incentive to be meaner to Hedwig than they already were.
Uncle Vernon had also locked Harriet's school trunk with all of her school books, as well as her Nimbus 2000 racing broom, in the cupboard under the stairs that had once been her bedroom. In short, any real connection Harriet had to the wizarding world was locked away. More than a few times Harriet had contemplated trying to free both her trunk and Hedwig's cage with magic. However, Harriet couldn't willingly do magic without her wand, which was also locked in her trunk. And again as she couldn't do magic outside of school, freeing her school stuff with magic just to get in trouble was silly.
However, this new possibility of attending the party to win points for the Dursleys with the Masons was a much unexpected opportunity. Maybe, just maybe, if she played her part well enough she would be allowed to actually let Hedwig out, even if just to stretch her wings, or maybe even get into her trunk again to get her school books and do the homework she had been desperately wanting to get done to keep from falling behind in her grades when she returned to Hogwarts in the fall.
There were only two things Harriet had to remind her that the last year had really happened, that she was in fact a witch and she had really gone to Hogwarts. The first was Hedwig (who was a good sign since Harriet didn't know anyone else who had a pet owl), and the other was two books that Harriet only had because she had been lucky enough to have them in her jacket pockets when she returned to Privet Drive: The Bungalow Mystery, and The Mystery at Lilac Inn, the third and fourth in the series of Nancy Drew books.
Harriet had been given the books by one of her best-friends at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger. Hermione had given Harriet the books as a get-well present while Harriet had been in the hospital wing just before the end of term following her encounter with Lord Voldemort. Hermione had in fact given a whole long series of the books, but the rest were locked away in her trunk with everything else. Harriet still felt a little bit of pride whenever she looked at them, as Hermione had told Harriet that she reminded Hermione a lot of the main character. Harriet didn't feel it herself, but she was certainly flattered.
In short, if Harriet could get on the Dursley's good side enough to finally get the chance to get a little more freedom this summer, whether to her books to read more or to do her homework, or at least let Hedwig out and send a letter, it would make her the happiest she had been all summer. However, Harriet knew that the very first letters she would send would be asking all of her friends why they had not sent her any letters this summer either. Having Hedwig locked up meant Harriet couldn't send any letters of her own, but that certainly didn't stop her from receiving them.
And yet, she hadn't received word from any of them all summer long. She supposed some of them might have just been busy, maybe taking vacations with their own families, and she knew Hermione at least didn't have an owl. Hermione did have Harriet's address though, so she could have sent a non-magical letter if she'd wanted. And Ronnie had promised to invite Harriet to stay with her and her family that summer, and the summer was already half over.
However, Harriet had a good feeling about tomorrow night. It was her birthday tomorrow, her friends couldn't ignore that. Could they?
"So, tomorrow," Uncle Vernon continued snapping Harriet out of her thoughts, "we're going into town. You and Petunia will go find a passable outfit for you to wear to a dinner party, which will be returned the moment the party is over so don't you dare spill anything on it, while Dudley and I will pick up our dinner jackets. Is that understood?"
Harriet nodded, not wanting to say anything that might jeopardize her chances of getting in the Dursleys' good graces. Not only was she going to get to attend the dinner, but now the Dursleys were going to buy her new clothes. Maybe she wouldn't get to keep them, but they had never bought her brand new clothes before.
The only new clothes Harriet had ever worn in her life had been her Hogwarts uniforms. On top of that she might finally get to send a letter or get access to her school books. And finally, just maybe, for her birthday she might get some word from her friends. With all of this in mind, Harriet was quite sure that tonight she was going to fall asleep with a smile on her face for the first time all summer.
* * * *
It was five minutes to the Mason's arrival. Harriet couldn't believe her luck. She was waiting to meet the Masons wearing her brand new outfit that Aunt Petunia had even let Harriet pick out herself. It was a white cardigan with a grey camisole style top underneath, a grey pleated skirt, and white knee-high socks with white Mary-Jane style heels. She'd picked it because she thought it looked fashionable enough for the party without revealing the other reason she had liked it, which was how much it reminded her of her uniform from Hogwarts.
Aunt Petunia had even taken Harriet to get her hair done. The stylist had given her hair a nice trim cutting it down to shoulder length, and then giving it some layers before giving her two mini ponytails on the sides of her head. Aunt Petunia had then bought her a matching scarf to fold and tie in her hair as a wide hairband to "cover that horrible scar."
As she'd looked at herself in the mirror afterwards, even though she knew every bit of it had been done to impress the Masons, Harriet couldn't help but feel like a princess. Brand new clothes and her hair done by a real stylist, Harriet felt better than she had felt the entire summer. It was the closest thing to a real birthday present the Dursleys had ever given her.
Right on time, there came the sound of a car pulling into the drive. The Dursleys all took their proscribed places dictated by Uncle Vernon. They had rehearsed the meal over and over and over again that day after they had returned from their shopping. Uncle Vernon and Dudley would greet the Masons at the door when they arrived. Harriet and Aunt Petunia meanwhile would be waiting in the lounge. Harriet was still under express orders not to say anything to the Masons unless they spoke to her first.
At eight-fifteen they would start dinner. Harriet was to sit next to Mrs Mason during the meal and not say anything unless spoken to first. After dinner was over, Harriet and Dudley were to retire to their rooms while Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon took the Masons back to the lounge for coffee and to finally bring up the subject of drills.
The doorbell rang and Dudley opened the door.
"May I take your coats, Mr and Mrs Mason?" Harriet heard Dudley ask.
"It's a pleasure to have you in our home," Uncle Vernon said boisterously. "I trust traffic was fine on the way?"
"Oh quite fine, thank you Vernon," said another man who could only be Mr Mason.
"Oh yes, Vernon. My goodness you have a marvellous home. So tidy! Now, where is this niece of yours? I've been dying to meet her ever since you told James about her yesterday."
"Ah, yes," Uncle Vernon said, and even in the lounge Harriet could hear Uncle Vernon straining to hide his disapproval at anyone being excited to see Harriet for any reason. "She's in the lounge with Petunia, right this way."
Uncle Vernon, Dudley and the Masons entered the lounge. The Masons seemed like the kind of people the Dursleys would like. They looked older, late middle-age, and wore very tidy, neat clothing.
Harriet did her best to put on her most winning smile as their guests walked in. However, upon seeing Harriet, Mrs Mason let out a gasp and swiftly walked over to her. Harriet was so surprised she froze as Mrs Mason squeezed both of Harriet's cheeks.
"Oh goodness, aren't you just precious!? Such beautiful green eyes and what a sweet smile!" Mrs Mason declared. Harriet managed to catch the Dursleys' utterly bemused expressions and somehow felt herself become even more emboldened.
"Oh, why thank you so much Mrs Mason," Harriet said doing her best to sound as sweet and innocent as possible, "it's ever so nice to meet you both, Uncle Vernon has told us all about you both, too."
Harriet turned to Mr Mason, "So your name is James, Mr Mason? So was my father's," she said.
Mrs Mason put a hand on her heart with a simpering smile and Mr Mason chuckled. "Oh is that so, dear? Well what a small world it is," Mr Mason said shaking her hand.
The Dursleys were now looking livid behind the Masons' backs, but quickly switched their expressions back to jovial welcome as the Masons finally turned back to face them.
"Oh and you must be Petunia? I must say I love what you have done with your home," Mrs Mason said and graciously shook Aunt Petunia's hand.
Aunt Petunia laughed in an overly enthusiastic way. "Oh thank you so much Mrs Mason, it's nothing really," Aunt Petunia fluttered waving a dismissive hand.
"Oh goodness, Petunia dear, we don't need to be so formal, it's just James and Lilith, I insist," Mrs Mason said.
What happened next was an odd moment. The Mason had almost the same names as Harriet's own parents, and the realization struck Harriet, Aunt Petunia, and Uncle Vernon at the very same time. Dudley of course looked to be utterly oblivious. Harriet was about to open her mouth to say something about it when Uncle Vernon blustered loudly over her.
"Well, let's all have a seat, shall we?"
"Yes, indeed," Aunt Petunia said with relief at the changing subject. "Now, Vernon tells me you're a wonderful golfer, Mr Mason?"
The rest of the evening passed amicably enough. Much to her own surprise, Harriet actually found she was having a fairly good time. Mr and Mrs Mason treated her like she was just an ordinary part of the family, and a slightly malicious part of Harriet was more than pleased to see how much this was secretly upsetting the Dursleys. The more the Masons smiled, the more Harriet saw the pound signs swelling in Uncle Vernon's eyes and so she kept it up.
Finally, it came time for dessert. Aunt Petunia asked Harriet to go bring it in, which Harriet obediently agreed to do. She had just entered the kitchen when Harriet's whole world and hopes came crashing down at once. The pudding that Aunt Petunia had worked so hard to make that afternoon, that had been sitting safely on top of the fridge, was instead floating in mid-air right over the middle of the floor. Harriet just stared for a few moments trying to make sense of what she was seeing. How was it floating like that? It could only have been magic, but how? Who could be doing it?
Not wanting to waste another second in looking around for the culprit, Harriet ran for the pudding. She'd never run in heels before and nearly tripped just as she had stretched out her hands and managed to catch the rim, but it was too late. The pudding suddenly dropped straight down and Harriet didn't have near enough of a grip on it. The pudding hit the floor with an ear-splitting crash. Only a second later Harriet jumped again at an equally ear-splitting crack that seemed to have come from the top of the refrigerator.
Harriet finally opened her eyes, blinking. She could barely see. Her glasses, as well as her brand new clothes, were covered in the pudding. It had managed to spray over much of the kitchen as well.
The Dursleys and Mr and Mrs Mason burst into the room. Harriet turned to face them and began to splutter. "I-I-I don't know, I just got hold of it and-and—"
Uncle Vernon looked livid. Harriet felt tears in her eyes. Everything had been going so well. Now her new clothes were ruined, and she had ruined the dinner party. The Dursleys were never going to let her let Hedwig out now.
"What the devil have you done?!" Uncle Vernon snarled.
Aunt Petunia looked horrified. "My pudding… and your clothes… brand new… all that money and work…"
"Now, now, Vernon, Petunia, it's unfortunate but it was an accident," Mr Mason said looking disapproving at the Dursleys' reactions.
Mrs Mason crossed to Harriet and took a dishrag from the sink, using it to help wipe some of the pudding from Harriet's face. "There, there dear, these things happen," Mrs Mason said soothingly.
Harriet nodded. She fought back sniffles and the temptation to ask the Masons if they would adopt her. Instead, in her shame, Harriet asked to stay out and clean up the kitchen herself. She didn't want to be seen by any of them again. However, if Harriet thought her troubles that night were over, she was sorely mistaken.
No sooner had the Dursleys and the Masons sat back down in the lounge for coffee and ice-cream than an owl flew through one of the open windows and dropped a letter on Mrs Mason's head. Mrs Mason emitted a hair-raising shriek and fled from the house. Mr Mason paused only to yell at the Dursleys about how Mrs Mason had a dreadful fear of birds, and that if that was their idea of a joke then it had been in poor taste. Mr Mason turned to Harriet, who had come running out of the kitchen when she heard the shriek, to tell her how regrettable it was that she had such people as relatives and stormed from the house himself, slamming the front door behind him.
Harriet watched with trembling hands as Uncle Vernon picked up the letter, tore it open, and read. Then, Uncle Vernon slowly turned on Harriet, his expression somehow torn between eternal glee, and unending rage. "Read it, girl…" Uncle Vernon snarled and handed her the letter.
Harriet reached out, her hand still trembling as she took the letter and read.
Dear Ms Potter,
We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
As you know, underage wizards and witches are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non-magical community (Muggles) is a serious offense under Section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy.
Enjoy your holidays!
IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Harriet slowly looked back up at Uncle Vernon.
"I don't recall you mentioning that little technicality," Uncle Vernon said his voice borderline manic. "Well we'll see about that now won't we? You'll never have to worry about forgetting things like that again, girl… because you're never going back to that school!"
Uncle Vernon grabbed Harriet's arm and hauled her from the kitchen. Harriet didn't resist. She was still too overwhelmed from everything that had happened that night. Uncle Vernon hauled her up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom, where he forced her inside.
"You're to stay locked in here until the end of the summer. And don't even think about trying to escape, girl, because you'll have to use magic to do it, and if you do, you'll be expelled anyway!"
Uncle Vernon laughed maniacally and slammed her door shut, locking it. Harriet's whole world was reeling. In just under ten minutes she had gone from possibly getting more freedom than she had ever had at Privet Drive to being a prisoner in her room for a whole month. She was never going to be able to go back to Hogwarts now. She couldn't write anyone to tell them about it because Hedwig was still locked in her cage.
Hedwig hooted softly, as if she could somehow read Harriet's mind and knew what she was thinking. Harriet wiped her cheek as the tears finally started to flow. On top of everything else, her brand new outfit, the only new normal clothes she had ever had was ruined now too as she peeled it off and changed into her pyjamas.
It happened as Harriet turned from her wardrobe to go back to her bed. There were two little pinpricks of light right outside her window, looking just like a pair of eyes. At first, Harriet thought they were just streetlights when she realized that the streetlights weren't green. She squinted and just about the moment she became sure that they were in fact eyes, they were gone. Harriet ran to the window and threw it open and looked around outside. There was nothing to be seen that could have been the cause. For a moment she had hoped that it had been an owl bringing her some news from her friends. But no, she was alone.
Harriet gave another little sob as she closed the window. She turned off her light and slowly climbed into bed. She curled up tightly, hugging her legs up to her chest and sobbing harder and harder. No friends, no freedom, nothing. Harriet cried facing the wall until she finally cried herself to sleep.
However, unbeknownst to Harriet, the moment her back had been turned, the green eyes had returned in her window to watch her intently. After she finally fell asleep, the window opened slowly and silently. Hedwig ruffled her feathers and gave a nervous hoot as a small, dark figure sat on the window sill and set something down on the desk beneath the window. The figure turned its large, tennis-ball sized eyes on Harriet's sleeping form and gave a quiet but high-pitched sigh before it turned and left, closing the window behind it.
* * * *
Harriet was awoken the following morning by a loud, screeching, grinding noise. She sat bolt upright and looked to see a man on a ladder attaching bars to the outside of Harriet's window. Harriet felt her heart sink even faster at the finality of her entrapment. However, as Harriet looked, she realized there was something else on the desk in front of her window that definitely had not been there the night before. It was a bundled up stack of envelopes. Harriet got out of bed and crossed to the window ignoring the workman who was still installing the bars.
Harriet picked up the stack of envelopes and gasped in shock. They were letters from all of her friends. There were three to four letters each from Hagrid, Dora, Marcus, Kieran, Scott, and Hermione. There were even individual ones from Dean, Seamus, Neville, Lavender and Parvati that Harriet assumed were birthday letters. The bulk, however, twelve of them in fact, were from Ronnie. Harriet heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs and thinking fast she pulled open the drawer to her desk and stuck the letters inside, shutting it quickly.
There was the sound of a key in the lock and Uncle Vernon opened the door. "Alright girl, here's your first bathroom break of the day. Do your business then come right back here, you got me?"
Harriet nodded and walked past him down the hall to the bathroom. She showered and combed her hair doing her best to take her time. Any time out of her room now was a great blessing.
When Harriet stepped back out into the hallway she saw that Uncle Vernon was already halfway through installing a cat-flap on the door to her room. Harriet walked past him without a word and sat on her bed. When he finished, Uncle Vernon got up and rubbed his hands together victoriously.
"There, you'll get your food through here," Uncle Vernon said gesturing to the flap. Harriet didn't respond just kept staring blankly at the flap.
"You'll get two bathroom breaks a day, once in the morning and once at night. Enjoy your stay," Uncle Vernon taunted, gave another maniacal laugh and shut the door behind him locking it again.
The workman had finished with the window it seemed, and now Harriet was quite alone except for Hedwig. Harriet quickly crossed the room again to her desk and pulled out the stack of letters.
As Harriet looked at them, she couldn't help but start to wonder. There was something very fishy about this. Shouldn't the letters have been delivered individually? Why did they come all at once? Maybe one of the letters held the answer.
As quietly as she could, Harriet opened the first letter from Hagrid. She felt her smile grow more and more as she read Hagrid's letters, until she got to the final letter where Hagrid became concerned that Harriet wasn't writing him back. Dora's were the same way, as were Marcus', as were Hermione's, then Scott's, then Kieran's, and then especially Ronnie's. Each and every one of Ronnie's letters had asked her to come and visit.
Harriet shook her head. She was now torn between two emotions, sadness at having made her friends really think she'd been ignoring them all summer and curiosity at how the letters had all shown up at once. And of course, with Hedwig still locked in her cage Harriet had absolutely no way of letting her friends know what had been happening. More sadness hit her as the rest of the realization set in. She was never going to see them again, and it was all going to end with her friends thinking Harriet had given up on them all, after all that had happened last year.
Harriet flopped down on her bed and curled up. There weren't any tears this time. She was too angry now. Everything this summer had gone from bad to worse. She hated not knowing what to do. Things were so much easier at Hogwarts when she had her wand and her friends. Sure, they didn't do everything, it was she after all who stopped Quirrell and Voldemort, but everything seemed easier with them around, like she could do anything with them at her side.
Harriet tried to imagine what her friends would do were they all here. Ronnie and Marcus would probably be trying to break the door down (or possibly burn it down in Marcus' case), Harriet thought with a soft laugh. Kieran and Dora would probably be trying something clever like taking the hinges off the door. Hermione and Scott meanwhile would probably come up with some dazzlingly brilliant plan finding something the rest of them had completely overlooked.
Harriet lazily lifted her head as she heard the sound of feet coming down the hall. By the sound of it they belonged to Uncle Vernon, and sure enough it was his gruff voice that called out after knocking annoyingly loudly on Harriet's door.
"You in there! Girl! Petunia, Dudley and I are going out. We're keeping you locked in; we will be back in the afternoon."
Harriet didn't respond and Uncle Vernon didn't seem to care for an answer. She heard him ambling back down the hallway to the stairs. Harriet sighed and rolled onto her back, staring at the ceiling. What was she going to do? She supposed Stonewall wouldn't be so bad, if Dudley wasn't there. No, there had to be some way out of this.
Harriet heard the sound of the Dursleys leaving. Somehow just having them out of the house made her head feel more clear. She looked at the lock on the door. She remembered in one of the books Hermione had given her that Nancy talked about picking locks. She also remembered cartoons she'd watched when she was younger of characters picking them with things like hairpins. Harriet sat up. She had some leftover hair pins from the night before; she could give it a try. But what would it really accomplish? Where would she go if she could escape?
Harriet flopped back on her bed. Thinking about it over and over again wasn't going to help anything. Harriet looked back at her desk and immediately screamed. Something small and grey-skinned, with bat-like ears and large tennis-ball sized green eyes was squeezing its way uncomfortably through the bars over her window.
"No, please Miss!" The little creature exclaimed holding up its little hands as it finally managed to squeeze his way through and flopped down on her desk, "Do not scream, Harriet Potter! Dobby means no harm Miss, Dobby is trying to help Harriet Potter!"
"D-Dobby?" Harriet asked panting heavily from her shock, a hand on her heart.
"That's right, Miss. Dobby, Dobby the house-elf,' the little creature said, standing up and brushing himself off.
Harriet felt her courage and senses returning. She recognized the green eyes as the same green eyes she had seen outside her window the night before. As she looked at the so called house-elf more she realized he wasn't wearing clothes. He was wearing a pillow case with holes cut in it for his arms and head.
The creature called Dobby hopped off of her desk and bowed deeply to her. "It is ever such an honour to meet you finally, Harriet Potter. Dobby has wanted so long to meet you."
"To meet me?" Harriet asked keeping her back to the wall, eyeing both her door and the window before reminding herself she could escape out of neither of them.
"Oh yes, Harriet Potter, oh yes. You are well known, Miss, even amongst the likes of us lowly house-elves such as Dobby," the elf explained.
As Harriet looked at him, she couldn't help but realize he was looking up at her with near reverence. "Oh, well, um, th-thanks?" Harriet said uncertainly, though she finally did move to the edge of her bed.
Dobby continued to merely stare at her in a worshipful way, and Harriet looked around uncomfortably. "Ummmm, I hope you don't think it rude of me to ask, but why are you here?"
Dobby's expression fell. "Oh Harriet Potter, how to explain? Dobby is here to help Harriet Potter, to keep her safe."
"Safe?" Harriet asked her nervousness rising again.
"Oh yes, Harriet Potter," Dobby said wringing his hands and looking unaccountably afraid. "Dobby isn't sure where to begin, so much to explain…"
Somehow as she watched him, Harriet found she wasn't afraid of the little elf. There certainly seemed to be nothing dangerous about him. Indeed, right now, he looked even more afraid than Harriet felt.
"Well, ummm, please sit down if you'd like?" Harriet said, gesturing to the desk chair next to him.
"S-sit down?!" Dobby exclaimed loudly making Harriet feel very glad that the Dursleys had left. "Never! Never, never, ever!"
"I'm sorry!" Harriet exclaimed and without knowing what she was doing she got off the bed and put a hand on the little elf's shoulder. "I didn't mean to offend you, I just—"
"No, no, Harriet Potter, you do not offend Dobby, oh no! It is just no witch or wizard has ever asked Dobby to sit down before, like an equal…" Dobby said his look returning to growing adoration.
Harriet let out a subtle laugh. "You can't have met many good witches and wizards then have you?" Harriet asked.
Dobby slowly shook his head when to Harriet's horror Dobby leapt up on the chair and started banging his forehead hard on the top of the desk. "BAD DOBBY! BAD DOBBY!" he shrieked with each knock of his head.
"Oh Dobby, don't!" Harriet exclaimed and pulled the elf away from the desk.
Dobby stumbled around, clearly dizzy, his eyes. "D-Dobby had to punish himself, Miss, Dobby almost spoke ill of his family!" Dobby explained still slightly cross-eyed.
"Yes, Harriet Potter. The wizard family that Dobby serves. Like Dobby said, Miss, Dobby is a house-elf. Dobby will serve the family forever."
"Did they send you to me?" Harriet asked.
"Oh no Miss, oh no! Dobby will have to punish himself most severely for coming to see you, Miss, shutting his ears in the oven at the very least!"
Harriet furrowed her brow. "But, wouldn't that make them suspicious, shutting your ears in the oven for no reason?"
"Dobby doubts it, Miss. Dobby is always making a mistake of some kind or another and needing to punish himself, Miss. They lets Dobby get on with punishing himself. They often remind Dobby to do extra punishments, just to make sure he didn't forget any," Dobby said morosely.
Harriet gasped in disgust. "Well why don't you run away then? Or quit? Why do you have to stay there forever?"
"A house-elf must be set free, Miss! It is part of the deep magic of a house-elf's enslavement. But the family will never set Dobby free, so Dobby will have to serve them until he dies, Miss…"
Harriet shook her head in disbelief. "You poor thing," Harriet said and she actually stroked Dobby's head. "Almost makes the Dursleys sound sweet and kind… isn't there anyone who could help? Could I?"
At once Dobby burst into loud, wailing sobs. "Oh Harriet Potter, you ask if you can help Dobby? Your greatness Dobby has long known Miss, but your goodness, your kindness, Dobby never, ever knew!"
Harriet felt herself blushing. "Heh, I don't know what you've heard about my 'greatness.' I'm just a decent student, okay at best…"
"Harriet Potter is so humble, Miss, so humble! Harriet Potter does not speak of her triumph over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Miss! And Dobby heard that Harriet Potter triumphed over him yet again in June, Miss!"
Harriet felt her blush grow. "I, well, I guess I did…" Harriet said sheepishly.
"Oh Miss, Harriet Potter is so valiant and bold! She is a beacon of hope to us all, and has faced so many dangers already! But Dobby has come to warn Harriet Potter, to protect her, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven…" Dobby turned to look up at Harriet again with such intensity it actually made Harriet lean back a little.
"Er, protect me from what?" She asked nervously.
"From a plot Harriet Potter. A terrible plot to make awful things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy! That is why Dobby smashed the pudding last night. Harriet Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!"
Harriet blinked. "What? I-I have to go back, I—wait a minute?! You smashed the pudding?!" Harriet asked. Her feelings of pity towards Dobby were rapidly replaced with anger. "It's your fault I'm stuck in here for another month?!"
Dobby seemed to shrink. "Harriet Potter must not be angry with Dobby, Dobby did it for the best, Miss. Dobby has to keep Harriet Potter safe above all else."
"But why? What plans? Who's doing it, Dobby?" Harriet asked. "I have friends at Hogwarts, Dobby, good friends, even… even if they think I don't care about them anymore…" Harriet said, sitting back on the floor.
Dobby's ears drooped even further and suddenly Harriet felt a light click in her brain. "Wait a minute, it was you! You left their letters on my desk last night, you… were you taking their letters?!" Harriet demanded angrily.
Dobby broke down into wailing sobs. "Dobby is sorry, Harriet Potter, Dobby is so very sorry! Dobby thought that if Harriet Potter thought she didn't have any friends she would not want to go back to Hogwarts. But then Dobby saw how sad Harriet Potter was last night and he… he… he couldn't keep them, Miss. So Dobby gave them to you," Dobby said shrinking back even more.
Harriet's anger was reaching the breaking point. So none of it had been her fault? Someone was actively trying to keep her from getting to Hogwarts. And here was the culprit right in front of her. He had stopped all the letters from her friends, he had gotten her in trouble with the Ministry of Magic, and he had cost her the chance to go back to Hogwarts, the one place she felt at home.
Harriet took two deep breaths to calm down from the impulse to throttle the little elf and demand answers instead. "Alright then what is this plan? What terrible things are going to happen at Hogwarts, Dobby?"
Dobby opened his mouth to answer when he suddenly made a sharp choking noise and actually ran headlong into Harriet's wall.
"Alright! I get it, you can't say!" Harriet said as Dobby began to walk in dizzy little circles back towards her. "But why are you warning just me? Why aren't you warning anyone else? Like Professor Dumbledore? You do know who he is, don't you?" Harriet asked.
Dobby bowed his head looking just as reverent as he had when he looked at Harriet. "Albus Dumbledore is the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen, Miss. Even Dobby knows it, Miss. But Dobby's family has forbidden him to tell anyone at Hogwarts, Harriet Potter, so Dobby had to choose Miss, to let it all happen, or to protect the one person who is the most in danger! The one who means the most to us who have been and are the most downtrodden! But if Harriet Potter returns to Hogwarts she will be in so much danger! This is a peril you must not face, Miss!"
Harriet blinked. She wasn't sure what Dobby was driving at, but whatever it was, it wasn't good.
"Oh Harriet Potter, for months Dobby has known about this threat. Dobby has thought and thought about what to do, Miss! Dobby must save you, Harriet Potter, whatever it takes!"
"But why me specifically?" Harriet demanded crossing her arms. "There are lots of other good people there who need—wait…" a sudden horrible thought came to Harriet's mind. "This doesn't have anything to do with Voldemort does it?"
Predictably, Dobby reeled at the name, covering his ears and groaning. "Oh say not the name Miss, say not the—"
"I don't care!" Harriet declared her temper flaring again. "I'm not afraid to say his name and frankly I think it's stupid to be. It's just a name. Now, does this have anything to do with him?"
Dobby looked at once mollified and if possible even more reverent of Harriet than ever. "H-Harriet Potter is not afraid to say You-Know-Who's name…? Harriet Potter is so brav—"
"Answer the question, Dobby!" Harriet demanded again.
"N-not—not You-Know-Who, miss…" Dobby replied finally. His eyes were at their widest yet, and Harriet couldn't fight off the suspicion that Dobby was trying to say something without saying it. Which, given his habit of causing bodily injury to himself whenever he was about to let something slip, Harriet didn't blame him.
"Not You-Know-Who? But who could it be then? Unless, that wasn't a double negative, was it?" she asked.
Dobby didn't reply, just kept looking at her wide eyed, almost as though he was trying to telepathically put the answer in her head.
Harriet sighed and leaned back against her bed. Harriet was starting to feel overwhelmed again. She had no idea what to do. Something horrible was going to happen at Hogwarts. Dobby was trying (and Harriet had to admit it looked like he'd succeeded) to stop her from going to Hogwarts because of it. It seemed that if Dobby knew this much about it, but Dobby couldn't say anything about it, or speak ill of his "family," Harriet had to admit it seemed that whoever's family he worked for was behind it.
"Dobby… Dobby has to leave, Harriet Potter."
"What?" Harriet asked coming out of her thoughts.
"Dobby's family needs him, Miss, he must go. Dobby will bring food tonight Miss."
And without another word Dobby disappeared with a loud crack that left Harriet's ears ringing and sent Hedwig into shrieks of fright, flapping her wings angrily in her cage.
Harriet got up to calm Hedwig and was just able to get her fingers between the bars enough to stroke Hedwig's head. Hedwig hooted softly and gave Harriet's finger a gentle nibble with her beak.
"I'm sorry Hedwig, I really am… we're just… stuck…"
* * * *
Two days later, it seemed both Dobby and the Dursleys were as good as their word. Harriet was still locked in her room, fed mere scraps of meals by Aunt Petunia, and only allowed to leave her room twice a day at morning and night. Dobby on the other hand did bring her food that first night, which she greatly appreciated. He returned the next night as well.
Admittedly, Harriet still felt resentment towards the little elf, but she was too hungry to ever turn down the meals, especially since they were so delicious. Apparently, despite his servitude, Dobby was a fantastic cook. Today's lunch had been nothing more than cold broth with some vegetables in it, and in spite of herself, Harriet found she was very much looking forward to whatever Dobby had planned to bring her tonight.
Even better, he had also brought her some owl-treats for Hedwig. Despite her resentment, Harriet had to admit that it did keep her spirits up, especially the rebellious part of her that wanted to imagine the look on the Dursleys' faces if they knew the kinds of meals Harriet was getting every night in secret, despite their apparent attempts to starve her.
Unfortunately, Dobby was still quite resolute in not giving Harriet any more information. He merely opened up her window at midnight every night to set the food on her desk (Harriet didn't know how he managed to climb all the way to the second floor of the house on his own carrying all that food) and then at some point during the night he came back and took any evidence that the food had ever been there. Harriet had tried to stay awake long enough to catch him at it last night but she was unsuccessful.
Might as well get used to it, Harriet thought to herself as she lay on her bed that afternoon. It was in this moment that a certain dark humour came over her as she looked at the two Nancy Drew books on the desk. Nancy had been in similar situations in both of the books she had, trapped in a room against her will with no obvious means of escape. I guess Hermione was right, I am a lot like her, she thought.
Harriet looked down at her wrists. At least I'm not tied up though, she thought to herself. She sighed looking around the little bedroom.
"Though I might as well be…" she muttered softly under her breath.
She remembered her encounter with Quirrell and Voldemort. Quirrell had cast a jinx on her that had wrapped her almost literally head to foot in rope. Harriet couldn't get out of it then, and neither could Nancy in the books, though in the books all Nancy ever got was her wrists and ankles tied.
Also unlike Nancy, Harriet didn't have someone coming to rescue her in just the nick of time. Who would? All of her friends thought she was ignoring them, and even then, did any of them have the right to take her from the Dursleys? The Dursleys would never let her leave. Especially not with anyone that would let her return to Hogwarts.
Harriet heard the sound of Aunt Petunia coming down the hall to pick up the dishes Harriet had set out in the hallway through the cat-flap. Harriet sighed still trying to think of a plan, but felt more dispirited than ever. Her arms and stomach still hurt from the sit-ups and push-ups she'd done earlier that morning, not wanting to get totally out of shape for the Quidditch season.
Again, Harriet didn't know why she was really bothering, but somehow there was still that little part of her mind that just wouldn't let her give up hope. Not completely. She couldn't totally give up. There was a month left, a lot could happen in a month. Harriet lazily reached over and grabbed up the fourth Nancy Drew book. The more she was in the room, locked away like this, somehow the easier Harriet found it to get lost in the books. Absent-mindedly Harriet flipped to the eighteenth chapter and started reading again.
Harriet's imagination wandered as she reread the chapter. Nancy had been caught by the villains, two men Harriet couldn't help but imagine looking a lot like Malfoy and either Crabbe or Goyle, and two women that Harriet immediately substituted with her other arch-enemies at Hogwarts, Pansy Parkinson and Pixie Fanfarró. They were hauling her into a miniature submarine, gloating over her as she tried to free her hands, muffled by a gag, only able to glare at them and ponder her fate.
Harriet sighed tossing the book back on the desk and rolling over and facing the wall again, frustrated. On the one hand, the books were the one way she felt connected to both her friends from Hogwarts and her predicament did feel more and more like Nancy's in the books. On the other, reading about it drove the reality of her situation even deeper into her mind.
Was her situation really that different though? She could talk, but she had no one to really talk to. She could walk around, but the room was very small, and seemed to be getting smaller with each passing day. Every now and then she would just lie on her bed and stare at the ceiling until the room started to spin. In frustration, Harriet sighed, rolled over and tried to sleep.
Twelve hours later, however, Harriet had failed miserably. It was two-o-clock in the morning. Dobby had already come and gone for the first time and the Dursleys were sound asleep. Harriet could hear Uncle Vernon snoring loudly through the thin walls on the one side of her room, and Dudley snoring loudly on the other.
Harriet just couldn't sleep; curiosity and sheer boredom had finally got the better of her. She was sneaking playfully around her room, wearing her outfit from the party despite the stains, pretending to be snooping for clues in a supposedly haunted house. Despite herself, Harriet felt she was actually having fun. It occurred to her that in all her life, she'd never actually played like this. She'd never had friends to play with during holidays and they were always too busy at Hogwarts, so it simply had never crossed her mind before. She was careful to be quiet, only walking on her rug and avoiding the area by the loose floor board under her bed that always squeaked loudly when stepped on.
Harriet actually giggled as she pretended to toss herself down on her bed as the "bad guys" caught her. She glared up at pretend villains and pretended to struggle. She kicked out her feet at them before flopping back down on the bed breathing heavily. Somehow it still just didn't quite feel right.
She felt the scarf hairband and pulled it off, looking at it. It might help the illusion a little bit. Harriet untied the knot and had just put it to her lips when a rapping sound came at her window. Harriet jumped and squeaked in surprise before she clamped her hand over her mouth, listening hard to Uncle Vernon who snorted, but resumed snoring almost immediately.
Was it Dobby? Harriet got up and looked out the window, where instead of a bat-eared, tennis-ball eyed house-elf, she found herself face to face with a pretty, red-haired, freckle faced girl who was beaming at Harriet with glee. Harriet recognized the girl. She had seen her only a month ago on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters with her large family of equally red-haired and freckled witches and wizards; the younger sister of Harriet's best-friend.
"Gi-Ginny? Ginny Weasley?!"