Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Power of Knowledge - Chapter 2

The Power of Knowledge
Chapter 2
The plan Harry Potter came up with after a quarter of an hour’s worth of contemplation was simple. It was made up of four steps. A nice, even number.
Step one was to hide behind Number 2′s hedges until the two members from the Accidental Magic Reversal Department come to right things and therefore provide a distraction, or, if he was too late to catch the Ministry officials, he could wait until everyone was asleep. The waiting for the latter to occur could take hours, and Harry did not fancy working against the summer breeze so that his Invisibility Cloak would not accidentally reveal any of his limbs. He sincerely hoped that Aunt Marge was still as balloon shaped as she should be.
For step two, Harry needed to get through the high hedges somehow and then walk over the flower bed (just to spite his Aunt Petunia), go around the greenhouse and then make a beeline towards the back door. Once in the kitchen, Harry would have to sneak as quietly as he could across the house until he reached his bedroom.
Step three was the hardest of them all: to gather all of his things from the various nooks and crannies he had hidden them. More specifically, he had to ply the loose floorboard under his bed so that he can retrieve the pillowcase that contained his summer school work, his quills and ink bottles. Of course, he could not forget his birthday presents from his friends and the biographical books that seemed to be about his life.
That last one was the most important of them all.
And finally step four, in which Harry needed to execute as carefully as possible or else any of his previous efforts to breach his personal prison willingly would be in vain. That is, he needed to exit the house without notifying his relatives that he had ever been in. It would be easy enough to do, as long as Harry kept his cool and remained as quiet as possible.
The plan was simple. It was so simple, in fact, that apart from the slim possibility that his invisible self could be wedged between the wall and Dudley whilst on the staircase, nothing could go wrong. Harry was confident with that fact.
Of course, that was why things went wrong so quickly. Damn his self-confidence.
After Harry had pushed off the brick wall he was leaning on and turned the corner, he was faced with the long, straight path of the alley. (That was before things went wrong.) He stood at the mouth of the narrow pathway between Privet Drive and the next street over to the west, the backs of the similar looking, square houses facing each other. So far so good. (Nothing going wrong yet, either.)
Harry couldn’t help the smile as he swore he heard an encouraging hoot from Hedwig all the way back in Magnolia Crescent. (Hedwig had reached him as he was stowing away his trunk behind some bins at the end of the street.)
It wasn’t until he was nearing Number 2′s hedges and was preparing to get his Invisibility Cloak from underneath his shirt that things began to go wrong. Two loud cracks that sounded very much like thunder resounded, and Harry instinctively looked up at the mid-morning sky to see if it would rain any time soon.
“Oi, you there!” someone shouted to Harry, the only other person visible apart from the man’s companion.
When did they get here? Harry wondered. The two strangers were clearly not from anywhere around Privet Drive; not only had Harry not seen them before, but they were also dressed in the most peculiar manner. They looked like they had just stepped out of a cheesy 70s sitcom.
Harry watched as the man’s companion, clearly a woman from the way she had her hands on her hips, slapped the man on the head before hissing what Harry could only assume was an admonition. He heard a few snippets of the conversation as the man walked closer, the woman following close at his heels.
“…Not supposed to draw attention! We need to… get out, then find the nasty bugger who… That’s our orders, Quincy.”
“Merlin’s beard, Gertrude,” the man, Quincy, replied. “If anyone’s drawing any attention, it’s you channelling my mother right in front of a Muggle!”
At the mention of Quincy thinking Harry was a Muggle, the young wizard’s eyebrows rose to meet his hairline. They must be from the Accidental Magic Reversal Department, sent to fix Aunt Marge. A devious smirk played on Harry’s lips as he thought that, perhaps, he could play this card. And he could win all the chips if he played his cards right.
“Can I help you?” Harry asked politely, interrupting the couple’s banter.
“Yes,” smiled Quincy, shooting a warning glance at the frowning Gertrude. “Yes you can. My friend and I are a bit lost, you see. We were supposed to find this Mug – ow!” The man winced as he was elbowed on the ribs. “I mean, a man – my friend and I were suppose to find a man and help him with something. You see, his sister was -”
“That’s too much information!” snarled Gertrude.
Quincy left his sentence incomplete and quickly recovered by asking Harry, the young lad he had mistaken for a Muggle, where Number 4 Privet Drive was located. “We’re in a bit of a hurry, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all,” said Harry. “You’re not far from Privet Drive, actually. If you just go back where you came from…” Harry pointed towards the end of the alley, opposite end of where he entered, “…and then turn left, the first street that you come across on the left would be what you’re looking for. As for the actual house, it would be the one with the immaculate front lawn and the hydrangea bushes.”
“Cheers, kid,” thanked Quincy. “That’s a lot of help.”
Harry wondered idly whether or not the two realized that the houses were numbered, for all of the houses on Privet Drive had immaculate front lawns, and at least half had hydrangea bushes.
“Yes, thanks,” said Gertrude dryly. She eyed Harry through slightly narrowed eyes – Harry had to resist the urge to make sure his hair was covering his scar, his trademark in the Wizarding world – before saying, “Don’t you have to play sucker with your friends or something?”
“I think you mean soccer, ma’am,” corrected Harry smoothly. “And you must not be from around here because in England, it’s called football.”
Gertrude colored prettily, but whatever beauty she possessed did not make up for her haughty personality. Not that Harry could blame her; most wizards and witches grew up thinking that Muggles were inferior, or that they were an interesting breed of human and were more often misunderstood.
Harry resumed his walk slowly so when the two Ministry officials turned the corner, he was only reaching the Dursley’s house. Aware of his time limit, Harry upped his speed to a run and, with a well-timed jump, found himself hiding behind the tree Ripper had chased him up once upon a time. He then draped his Invisibility Cloak over his entire body once he was sure no nosy neighbors were spying on him. His figure promptly disappeared, the only proof that he was there was the barely seen footprints on the flower beds.
Harry made it to the stairs without much trouble. Aunt Petunia was far too busy crying over the unresponsive Dudley (apparently seeing his aunt at her state shocked the reactions out of him), while Uncle Vernon paced and cursed and paced some more in the living room, Aunt Marge cursing along with him.
“I swear when I get my hands on that boy, Vernon…!” she was saying.
“You wish,” Harry muttered as he climbed the stairs. He managed to reach his bedroom before the doorbell rang, signalling the arrival of the two AMRD members, Quincy and Gertrude. Harry had no wish to eavesdrop on the following shouting match – he could hear well enough without trying to listen in – so he busied himself by collecting his things.
It wasn’t until the pillowcase from under the loose floorboard was filled to the brim with various odds and ends that Harry realized he needed a bigger container.
“Or,” he said, eyes landing on his bed. “I could just use the duvet.”
It was a difficult task sneaking past the arguing adults in the hall, especially when his Invisibility Cloak barely covered the half-filled duvet he was hauling over his shoulder. Harry was sure Dudley saw the sole of his shoe at one point, but it didn’t matter much since his whale of a cousin was still in his frozen state.
As Harry found his way back to Hedwig and his trunk, he felt guilty for leaving Quincy at the mercy of his relatives. He felt guilty leaving Gertrude there as well, although not as much as Quincy. Quincy was nice, Harry thought as he tucked his Cloak away. Wouldn’t want to cross his path again, but he was nice. Yeah.
“Hey there, girl,” Harry greeted Hedwig as she swooped down from the air and prepared to land on his shoulder. He would’ve reached out his arm to make for a makeshift landing spot, but he was quite busy impersonating Santa Clause.
When it appeared that Hedwig had no plans on landing on his shoulder, it was too late for Harry to anticipate the owl’s decision and dodge out of the way. He yelled in pain as Hedwig landed on his head, her claws scratching at his scalp and pulling at his already messed up hair.
“Aah, gerroff me! Hedwig!”
But Hedwig was not listening, intent as she was to pull him by his hair to wherever she wanted him to be. Harry tried to reason with her, telling her that if she let go, he will follow her willingly. He bribed her with owl treats and longer hunting hours (not that he could control when she comes and goes).
Still, Hedwig did not lessen her grip.
“Ruddy bird,” muttered a very, very disgruntled Harry. He had just pulled off what he would consider the best heist ever. The very least Hedwig could do was give him the appropriate reward. A hoot of congratulations? A soft nip at the ear? A spectacular aerial display?
All right, the last one was expecting too much… maybe.
A sheepish smile forced itself on Harry’s face, only to be replaced by a mixture of shock and fury when he saw what had gotten Hedwig in such a tizzy: a figure was looming over the bins, seemingly searching for something. A homeless man, most likely, but Harry could not take the chance of a Muggle finding his school trunk and seeing the things inside. He only had a padlock to secure it after all.
Note to self, Harry thought, find a better way to lock your trunk.
“Hey, you!” shouted Harry, making shooing gestures with his head, now blessedly free from Hedwig’s grasp. The man froze, and Harry reached out a hand to touch the small space of shoulder than was not covered with filthy, matted hair. The black wires hung to the man’s elbows, not that Harry could see where his elbows were. His clothes were looser than Harry’s, and that was saying something.
“Please step away from the bins, sir,” asked Harry in a controlled voice. He did not want to come off as unreasonable or territorial. It wasn’t like he owned the bins, just the trunk that was hidden behind them.
The man slowly turned around, like he was dreading to see the person who had caught him. The first thing Harry noticed about the man was that he looked like a corpse: the waxy skin was stretched to its limits over the bones of the man’s face, and his eyes were wide and fearful. Dread exuded from every inch of him.
“H-Harry?” the man rasped.
Confusion swept the thirteen year old wizard. He was just about to ask if he knew the man when, all of a sudden, he recalled a passage from Prisoner of Azkaban. It was near the end, after Ron was dragged into the Whomping Willow by an enormous dog.
Ron was staring over Harry’s shoulder. Harry wheeled around. With a snap, the man in the shadows closed the door behind them.
A mass of filthy, matted hair hung to his elbows. If eyes hadn’t been shining out of the deep, dark sockets, he might have been a corpse. The waxy skin was stretched so tightly over the bones of his face, it looked like a skull. His yellow teeth were bared in a grin. It was Sirius Black.
Harry’s breath hitched. It couldn’t be. He wasn’t supposed to meet him face to face until near the end of his Third Year at least! It was barely the end of summer, he hadn’t begun his Third Year yet never mind being close enough to finishing it!
“Sirius,” Harry choked, losing grip on the duvet. It clattered unceremoniously on the ground. “Sirius Black.”
That was all the man needed to snap into action. If it weren’t for the speed Harry’s youthful body provided, he would’ve lost his godfather – bugger, it’s strange using that word, Harry thought — as he ran away. For a man who spent the past twelve years locked up in a Wizarding prison guarded by soul sucking monsters, Black sure ran fast.
“Wait!” cried Harry. “Mr. Black, wait!”
When Black showed no signs of slowing down, Harry growled and channelled his frustration into running faster. He was swiftly eating up the distance between them, and just when Harry planned to put on a burst of speed to reach out and tackle Black, the man turned left into the alley connecting Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. Naturally, Harry followed.
“What the…?” heaved Harry, coming to an abrupt stop. From where he was, he could see Wisteria Walk. That would be because there was no Sirius Black to block the view. Where could he have disappeared to?
Gasping, Harry leaned against the brick wall to catch his breath. The alley was empty, all right, but he saw that a large black dog was lying flat a few feet away. Its tail was thumping wildly on the ground, yet Harry would tell that it was neither happy nor excited. It was a strange behavior for a dog.
Unless it wasn’t a dog. Not really, anyway.
Just before Black stepped out from his hiding place inside the Shrieking Shack, Book Ron had said to Book Harry: ‘He’s the dog… he’s an Animagus.’ Harry understood that an Animagus was a witch or wizard with the ability to transform into an animal at will, much like Professor McGonagall who can turn into a cat. And Black, too. If Harry could recall correctly, his godfather’s Animagus form as a large black dog that was often mistaken for the Grim.
Harry stared at the dog, debating over whether or not to confront Black about his nifty trick. On the plus side, Black would be forced to transform back into his human form. On the down side, Harry would be questioned as to how he knew of that particular secret. He maybe could claim babyhood memories, but that would be unnecessary lying. Plus, he was unsure whether or not his parents would let such a large and dangerous looking dog near their one year old baby.
In the end, Harry decided not to reveal to Black that he knew his Animagus form. He’d rather the events of this year be as close as possible as to its book counterpart before changing anything drastically. Harry might not be well educated in the effects of knowing the outcomes of a possible future, but he had enough common sense to not try and meddle with things intentionally.
If he followed Book Harry’s reactions throughout Prisoner of Azkaban, then things would turn out the same. And as far as Harry was concerned, there was nothing he could complain about in the book so far. He was sure that by the time he finishes Goblet of Fire, Pettigrew would be captured and he would be living with Sirius. After all, things can’t get more complicated than that.
Well, apart from Voldemort. But he has no body and was not much of a danger to anyone.
Harry barely spared the Dark Lord a thought as he trudged back to Hedwig and his things.

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