Albus Dumbledore Severus Snape
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 10/14/2004
Updated: 11/05/2004
Words: 419,861
Chapters: 24
Hits: 157,499

Harry Potter and the Veil of Mystery


Story Summary:
Suddenly with a higher profile after being proved right about Voldemort's return, Harry's use of Voldemort's name around Hogwarts gains popularity. It also attracts Voldemort's attention in the form of a series of attacks, and Harry soon finds that he is shouldering a burden even greater than the prophecy--the likelihood that Sirius's fate could come to his friends, who will stop at nothing to protect him.

Chapter 04

Chapter Summary:
Concerned that Dudley may now be a target of Death Eaters, Petunia summons Dumbledore to 4 Privet Drive.
Author's Note:
I'd like to thank my sister-in-law Sharon and my brother Luis (who writes a very good blog at http://www.blogd.com) for their comments and support, as well as my FA betas Dreamcatcher and Favrielle. I really appreciate the time you took to do this. And my thanks and love to my wife, who was very supportive of my doing this, and was very tolerant of my self-imposed isolation as I wrote.

Chapter 4

The Dursleys' Guest

The next day seemed like it might be more usual, but Harry realized that somehow the Dursleys were more comfortable, or at least less uncomfortable, with him. The way they reacted to him downstairs in the morning reflected that he was still not being treated like a member of the family would be, but not badly either. It was a pleasant development; Harry hoped it would last.

Dudley was on the phone with one of his friends for forty-five minutes at about noon. Just after he hung up, the phone rang again. Harry was in the living room and heard Dudley answer.

"Hello? Yeah, he is. Who is this?" Dudley called to Harry, "It's Hermione. One of your friends?" Harry walked toward the phone and nodded.

Dudley didn't give him the phone immediately. Into the phone, he said, "Yeah, okay, he's coming to the phone. This is his cousin, Dudley. Listen, we were talking last night, and I wanted to ask you something. How many times do you reckon Harry's almost been killed?"

Harry rolled his eyes. Petunia, just walking into the kitchen, was less amused. "Dudley!" she said sharply.

Dudley's eyebrows went up, and he covered the phone with his hand. "She's counting," he said.

"Well, it's not a number we have at the top of our heads, or anything," Harry pointed out.

"Mmm hmmm..." Dudley was saying into the phone. "...yeah, I was there for that one...Voldemort, Barty Crouch..." Dudley was repeating them to let Harry know what Hermione was saying. She was obviously going in reverse chronological order. "A dragon?" Dudley said, his eyes wide. Harry said, "I didn't count the dragon. I don't think my life was really in danger."

"He says he didn't count the dragon," Dudley said to Hermione. He listened for a minute. Covering the phone again, he said to Harry, "She says you were plenty worried about being mauled, and with good reason, so she counts it."

Suddenly Dudley burst out with, "A hundred dementors??" He looked at Harry in disbelief.

Harry shrugged. "You do what you have to do to stay alive," he said. Petunia looked on disapprovingly, but said nothing. Dudley's jaw dropped. Harry thought, if I didn't have his respect before, I do now. He doesn't know what Voldemort's like, but a hundred dementors, that he can understand.

Dudley continued listening and commenting. "Basilisk, spider, uh huh, he mentioned those... Voldemort again... that guy's pretty persistent, isn't he... uh huh... squirrel?... oh, Quirrell... yeah, that would be pretty strange...mmm hmmm... troll..."

Harry snapped his fingers. "I forgot about the troll."

Dudley relayed this to Hermione. He listened for a minute, then chuckled. "He could only think of eight...well, give him a break, it must be hard for him to keep it all straight... okay, thanks, I'll give him to you."

Dudley covered the phone. "She counts ten, including the dragon and the troll. She's upset with you for forgetting the troll. 'How could he forget that, he and Ron saved my life!'" he said, quoting Hermione and smiling, greatly amused. He handed the phone to Harry, and walked away shaking his head. Petunia watched him go with concern in her eyes. Harry saw him sit down in the living room in a place from which he could hear Harry's half of the phone call. He's getting pretty interested in this, Harry thought.

Harry put the phone to his mouth. "Hi, Hermione."

"Hi, Harry. How could you forget the troll?"

"Well, c'mon," he said defensively, "like Dudley said, it's a lot to keep straight."

"I know, I'm just teasing you. Why is he suddenly asking about what you've done at Hogwarts? I thought they didn't want you talking about that."

"Well, it's a long story. On my way home yesterday, Malfoy and his pals were waiting for me on Privet Drive."

"No!" she said, shocked. "I knew he was upset at you, but I never thought he'd do that. I assume he wanted Crabbe and Goyle to rough you up?"

"That was the idea," he confirmed. "Either get beaten up, or use magic and take my chances with the Ministry. I would've used magic, of course, but before it got to that, Dudley happened by. Malfoy started right in on him, you know how he is about Muggles. Well, big mistake. Malfoy wouldn't back off, and Dudley made short work of Crabbe and Goyle. Less than two minutes, they're both on the ground, not getting up. He made them look like a couple of weak ten-year-olds."

"Pretty much what they were," Dudley muttered from the other room.

"So, now Malfoy's in the same boat he wanted me in," Harry continued. "Dudley gave him a chance to apologize and run away, but you know Malfoy. I had to block a few spells, and when Malfoy realized there was no getting away from Dudley, he Disapparated."

"Disapparated?" Hermione asked, shocked again. "But he can't, he's not old enough! He's going to be in such trouble!"

"Tell me about it. Now we're going to see just how much good his family connections are, with his father in custody. He should be expelled, but first offense, he'll probably get probation and a warning."

"He deserves worse," Hermione said fervently. "What's really bad is, he probably won't get punished at all for coming to your street to assault you. It does seem like there's no justice sometimes."

"I'm not holding my breath," Harry agreed. "Anyway, I'll tell you all the details the next time I see you."

"Which I hope will be soon, which is why I'm calling," she said. "I want you guys to visit me, over here at my place. You and Ron and Ginny. We could have dinner, talk, watch a movie, stay up late. It would be fun. What do you think?"

"Yeah, that sounds great!" Harry said. "I'd love to see your place and do all that." He paused. "But what about transportation? How would I get there? Or Ron and Ginny, for that matter?"

"Mr. Weasley has hooked up our fireplace to the Floo network," she said. "The Weasleys could come straight from the Burrow, and you could come from Mrs. Figg's house, if she's around and agrees. That could work."

"Yes, it could," Harry agreed. "Have you asked the Weasleys about it yet?"

"No, I was waiting for you, to see if you wanted to first," she said. "I'll ask them as soon as I get off the phone with you. I was thinking of tomorrow night. How would that be?"

"That would be great. Listen, this just occurred to me, but... what would you think about inviting Neville, if it wouldn't be too many people? I mean, we don't have to, but I just thought it might be a nice thing to do," Harry suggested.

"Yes, that would be good," she agreed. "It's nice of you to think of that. It's not like he has tons of friends, at least that I know of. I'll ask Ron and Ginny what they think, and if it's okay with them, then I will."

"Sounds good. I assume they don't have phones, so you'll communicate with them through their fireplaces? Owls would take too long, I guess."

In the background, Harry heard Dudley mutter, "Communicate through the fireplace?"

Hermione said, "Yes, there's not enough time for owls," she agreed. "I'm thinking of around four or five in the afternoon."

"My schedule is pretty free," Harry joked. "So, get back to me after you've arranged it, and tell me the details. It sounds great."

"I'm glad, Harry. I thought I'd rent Star Wars for the movie. You'll have seen it, of course, but the others won't have. A Muggle science fiction movie should be really interesting for them."

"I'd think so, but I haven't seen it, either," Harry said.

"You haven't seen Star Wars?" she asked, in great surprise. "How did you manage that?"

"Well, if you think about it for a minute..." he prompted her.

"You mean they wouldn't let you watch it because it was too similar to magic? That's amazing!"

"Amazing but true," Harry said. "So, that'll be good, too. I guess I should go, and let you make the arrangements.

"Okay, I'll probably call you later. Bye."

Harry said goodbye and hung up. It felt good to be able to talk to someone else on the phone and make arrangements to socialize, pleasures he had never enjoyed at the Dursleys' before. He wasn't going to go so far as to ask the Dursleys to open up the fireplace and allow it to be connected to the Floo network; he thought that would be pushing it.

"Hey, Harry," Dudley said from the living room. "She wasn't really upset at you, was she?"

"Nah," Harry said casually. "She was just having a bit of fun with me, like you were. She called to invite me and some other friends over to her place for the evening, tomorrow night. I'm really looking forward to it."

"Big old magic convention, eh? Will the toads in the neighborhood be safe?" Dudley joked.

"Pretty safe, since we're not allowed to do magic during vacation," said an amused Harry, wondering what Dudley imagined wizards did when they got together.

"Where does she live?" Petunia asked.

"You know, I'm not sure," Harry answered. "I guess I'll find out when she calls back to confirm everything."

"Good to see you're not getting bogged down in trivial details," Petunia observed. Harry was surprised; he didn't know quite how to take that. If she was being sarcastic, it was not something he'd seen her do much, if at all. He didn't know how to answer, so he didn't, and went upstairs.

It was about three in the afternoon when Hedwig flew in through Harry's bedroom window. He took the letter off her leg and petted her; she nuzzled his hand for a second and flew up to her perch.

Harry looked at the letter. It was sealed, and simply said "To Petunia Dursley, via Harry Potter." Harry would have loved to know what was in it, but knew better than to open it, or even ask Petunia. He took it downstairs, found Petunia in the kitchen, and gave it to her.

"Thank you, Harry," she said politely, and opened the letter. Harry wandered into the living room. He didn't want to press her, but he wanted to be nearby in case she wanted to ask or tell him anything.

She didn't for a short time, but ten minutes later she came into the living room and sat down on the sofa next to Dudley, opposite Harry.

"He says he wants to come by fireplace. Is that the same thing as that man tried to do two years ago?

Harry told them it was, and explained about the Floo network and that it was such a basic mode of transportation for wizards that Mr. Weasley simply hadn't stopped to consider that a fireplace might be boarded up. "All you have to do is make sure that the fireplace is open," Harry summed up.

"Seems like kind of a weird way to travel," Dudley observed.

"Tell me what about their world isn't weird," Petunia muttered.

"Yeah, I thought so at first, too," said Harry, responding to Dudley's comment. "Walking into a fire isn't something you'd think of doing. But you get used to it, and it's really convenient. It doesn't matter how far away someone is."

"Is it worldwide? Think of all the money you could save on airfare," Dudley pointed out.

Harry looked thoughtful. "That's a good point. I don't know; I've never asked. I've never had to go outside England."

"Then why do you have to take that train every year?" Dudley asked. "Why don't you just go like this?"

Harry almost started his answer with the word 'Hogwarts,' but that word had been forbidden by the Dursleys for so long that it was a habit to avoid it. "Another good point. My school is isolated, I think for security reasons. The train, roads, and flying are the only ways to get there. The school has fireplaces, but only for communication, not for transportation."

"For a minute, I thought you were going to say, 'only for fires,' but I should have known better," Petunia said dryly.

"Yes, that would be too obvious," Harry agreed, going along with the joke. At least she's not recoiling in horror from all this, he thought. "They are used for fires, too, though. There's one in the common room of our House at school. People like to sit around it and study in the winter."

"He's coming at 7:30," said Petunia. "Dinner will be at 6:30, so we'll be ready when he gets here."

"Who's coming, anyway?" Dudley asked.

"Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of my school," said Harry.

"Why's he coming?"

Harry looked at Petunia, silently saying, it's not for me to tell him, this is your business. Petunia nodded in acknowledgment, then said to Dudley, "He's coming to discuss security arrangements."

"Security? For Harry?"

"No, Dudley," said his mother. "For you."

"For me??" Dudley sounded outraged. "I don't need that! I can take care of myself!"

"No, you can't, Dudley!" his mother exclaimed, frustrated. "You tell him, Harry."

Harry looked at Dudley with a serious expression. "I can understand that this is annoying, Dudley, because you're more than capable of defending yourself against other non-magical people." Harry thought that sugar-coating this with a little flattery would help the message go down, and besides, it was true. "You're not used to the idea of needing protection. It sounds insulting. Believe me, I know. But it's a totally different situation with wizards. You'd simply have no way to defend yourself. It has nothing to do with how strong or brave or capable you are. It wouldn't even matter if you had a gun in your hand. A wizard could whisk it away, just like that. I know that stinks, but it's just a fact."

Dudley gave Harry an angry look, but Harry knew Dudley was angry at the situation, not him personally. In a sulky way, Dudley said, "I wish I could do magic, then I could defend myself."

"Dudley!!" Petunia nearly screamed. "Don't you ever say that! Don't even think it! Didn't you hear what goes on in that world? You don't think it's a bad thing that Harry's almost been killed however many times? A lot of wizards get killed when this Voldemort is around, and they can defend themselves, but not against him! You don't know what death is, Dudley! You've never seen it! But I bet Harry has!"

Dudley looked at Harry questioningly.

Somberly, Harry nodded. "A little over a year ago, in a school competition, another student and I got caught in a trap, which one of Voldemort's helpers set for me so Voldemort could return to full strength. The other student getting caught was an accident, just by chance. They needed me, but not him. A Voldemort helper raised his wand, and bam, the other student was dead, just like that. Right in front of my eyes. And he was good with a wand, too. At least as good as me, maybe better. Didn't do him any good."

Dudley was silent for a minute. Then he asked, "This was Cedric?"

Harry nodded, remembering that Dudley had overheard him saying Cedric's name in nightmares a year ago. "Now, I choose to be part of the magical world. I feel like I belong there, I feel at home, even though I know I'm at high risk all the time. But I can really understand why your mother doesn't like it, why she wants you nowhere near it. Most of the time, it's fairly peaceful. When Voldemort is around, as he is now, it's very dangerous, especially for anyone with a connection to me. But she got stuck with me. She just doesn't want you to have to suffer for it. Cedric died for no other reason than that he happened to be around me at the wrong time."

Dudley thought for a minute; Harry could see Petunia watching Dudley and hoping he would understand the danger. "But you're in all this danger, but you don't need anyone protecting you, right?" Dudley asked.

Harry shook his head. "No, I do, actually. I'm safe at school and I'm safe in this house. Anyplace else, someone is following me all the time. Professor Dumbledore started making sure I was protected twenty-four hours a day after Voldemort came back last year. I'm not thrilled with it, but I understand the need for it. But you see, Dudley, I can take care of myself against someone my own age, like Malfoy, or an adult wizard who isn't that good. But Voldemort's henchmen are highly trained, skilled, and will use very deadly spells with no hesitation. I probably couldn't defeat one of them, never mind two or three. That's why I need protection."

Dudley pondered this. "Yeah, but you're like Public Enemy No. 1 to these people, but they're barely aware of me. I'm not going to need someone following me."

"No, you're not," Harry agreed. He doubted that the Order could spare the manpower to have Dudley followed anyway. "I think that Aunt Petunia just wants to hear how much risk Professor Dumbledore thinks there is in this situation, and to know about what precautions might be a good idea." He looked at Petunia.

"Yes, that's about right," she said. She turned to Dudley. "Dudley, please, help me with this. Whatever we end up doing, it probably won't work without your cooperation. Please keep an open mind about whatever we decide. Will you do that for me?"

"Okay," Dudley said, "but I don't want to just hear about it after you're done talking to him. I want to be there, I want to be able to ask him questions. It's my life we're talking about. If I can do that, I'll keep an open mind."

Seeing Petunia's indecisive expression, Harry assumed that she hadn't planned on including Dudley in this meeting. "I think Professor Dumbledore would want Dudley in the meeting anyway," Harry said. "Probably it's best if we're all there."

"Very well," Petunia said. She got up and left the room.

They ate at 6:30 as Petunia planned; she was nothing if not punctual. As she finished the dinner dishes, 7:30 was approaching. Harry could tell that their attitude was different from when they had waited for the arrival of Mr. Weasley two years ago; for one thing, the Dursleys were wearing their normal weekend clothes, not their Sunday best they'd worn hoping to intimidate Mr. Weasley. Not that Dumbledore would be intimidated no matter what they wore, Harry thought. He couldn't imagine what could intimidate Dumbledore. There had to be nothing that could, since he had seen with his own eyes that even Voldemort could not; in fact, it was the other way around.

The three Dursleys and Harry stood in the living room at 7:28. Harry looked at the open fireplace and wondered why Dumbledore had made this particular request when he could have easily Apparated.

Vernon looked at Harry suspiciously. "Is he going to be on time?" Harry knew that Vernon placed a high value on punctuality.

"Let's put it this way," Harry said. "If your watch says 7:30 and he's not here, it probably means your watch is wrong." Harry silently hoped he was right.

Vernon grunted. "It's got exactly the right time, I called the number to check before dinner." Why am I not surprised, Harry thought. He wants to be able to call Dumbledore on being late, even if it's by only a minute or two.

"In fact, it's coming up on 7:30 now," Vernon announced. He counted down the seconds remaining. "Three... two... one..."

There was a sudden, small explosion, or burst of flame, in the fireplace, and out of the fire walked Albus Dumbledore, wearing his usual wizard robes and hat. He surveyed those gathered to meet him.

Vernon stepped forward with a twinge of anxiety. "A pleasure to meet you, Professor Dumbledore. I'm Vernon Dursley. My wife, Petunia," he said, gesturing to Petunia, who also seemed to fighting down anxiety while putting on a polite face. "My son, Dudley," he continued. Dudley was gaping at Dumbledore; Dumbledore's whole appearance, especially the robes and beard, was very odd indeed to Dudley's eyes. "And of course you know Harry," Vernon concluded.

"Very well indeed," Dumbledore said, with a wink for Harry. "I'm very pleased to finally meet you all," he said, shaking hands with each Dursley in turn, to Vernon's surprise. "It is most unfortunate that it must be under such circumstances as this."

It would never have happened under any other circumstances, Harry thought; only desperation drove Petunia to seek his help. He wondered if Dumbledore understood this and that his comment had been deliberately ironic.

"Yes, it is," agreed Vernon. "Please, sit down." Dumbledore sat in the recliner Vernon gestured him towards, the one that was usually Vernon's exclusively. The Dursleys sat on the sofa; Harry, in another chair.

"If I may," Dumbledore began, "I would like to first apologize for the fact that you are in this situation. It is the sincere wish of the magical community that Muggles be undisturbed and unmolested by magic. Some of our most serious laws enforce this desire. It is only at times like this, when the dark forces of magic have a strong unifying force, that it becomes difficult to enforce our laws as we would like. I deeply regret that you should have to be present at such a time."

"And that you are responsible for our harboring the boy who these dark forces, who don't care much about collateral damage, would like nothing better than to kill?" asked Petunia. It seemed to Harry that she had never quite forgiven Dumbledore for leaving him on her doorstep. "Surely you foresaw that we could be dragged into these events."

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I deeply regret that, too. Let me be absolutely honest with you. Harry would have been in danger, and those around him in danger, no matter where or with whom he was placed, even in the wizarding world. He and those around him would, in fact, have been in even greater danger in the wizarding world; he would have been more exposed to access by dark wizards. Since someone was going to be in danger in any case, I sought to minimize the danger to Harry and others. As I explained to you in the letter I left with Harry, placing him with you was the way to do that. I also assumed that, as his closest living relatives, you would share an interest in his welfare."

Harry wondered how they would respond to that. All indications to him over the years had been that they had little or no interest in his welfare, but he was sure they would never admit that to Dumbledore, and probably not to themselves.

"I, we, would not have taken him if we did not have an interest in his welfare," said Petunia, assuming a dignified expression, as though that dignity had been called into question. "Our interest in his welfare extended to the opinion that he should not attend Hogwarts. He would have been perfectly safe growing up as a... Muggle, as you say. But you would not leave that to our judgment; you sent that violent giant to practically drag him from us."

Dumbledore gave a small smile. "Hagrid is the gentlest of people, actually. You must have caught him on a bad day. But to respond to your comment, in fact, Harry would not have been safe had he never attended Hogwarts. He would have been highly vulnerable."

Harry couldn't help chiming in. "Why is that, Professor? It does seem like I would have been safer. Would being the Boy Who Lived still have led me to trouble even living with Muggles?"

Seeing their confused faces, Dumbledore quickly explained the sobriquet to the Dursleys, then answered Harry's question. "Yes, Voldemort would have sought you to complete his rebirth anyway, and he would have had a much easier time getting ahold of you if you lived in the Muggle world. Also, consider what happened to you when he started becoming stronger. Your scar hurt, you had visions. You would not have known what to make of that. You or others would have feared for your mental health." He turned to Petunia. "Alas, for reasons you could not then know and would not have wanted to hear, Harry's best interests were far better served by going to Hogwarts."

"Even if he's almost been killed ten times?" asked Dudley.

Dumbledore looked at Dudley in mild surprise. "Is it that many? I didn't realize."

Harry said, "Hermione told him that when he asked her. She counts the dragon, but I don't."

Dumbledore considered. "Dragons can kill, but many precautions were taken, so you each have a point. But we digress. To answer Dudley's question, yes, even given what has happened, Hogwarts is still safer. Harry's escapades are partly due to the efforts of dark wizards to undo him, but partly because he is an unusually brave and adventurous person. If you put in front of Harry a box that says 'Do not open, extreme danger,' Harry will think, 'I wonder what is so important inside that box,' and find a way inside." He smiled at Harry, who found it hard to argue. "So, Harry's character has something to do with it."

He turned back to the Dursleys. "In any case, I did what I thought best for all concerned. It would not be unreasonable for you to blame me for any danger that your family has faced or will face. Though I did what I thought best, I still must accept responsibility for my actions. That is one of the reasons I am here now."

In the kitchen, the phone rang. Harry immediately stood up. "I'll get it," he said, figuring himself the least important person in the conversation.

"Whoever it is, take a message," Vernon said as Harry walked to the kitchen.

It was Hermione. "Hi, Harry, I've made the arrangements, and I'm calling to tell you about them."

"Um, Hermione, I need to call you back. Professor Dumbledore is here and he's talking to the Dursleys."

"You're kidding!" said Hermione in astonishment. "How did that come about?"

"Another story for the next time we meet. I'll call you back, okay?"

"Okay, Harry, talk to you later."

Harry said goodbye and hung up. He walked back into the room. The conversation had gotten back around to Dudley and what danger he faced.

"Yes, I believe Harry's assessment of the situation is correct," Dumbledore was saying. "The chances of anyone putting Dudley in danger are very small. But as Mrs. Dursley says, they are there, and so the situation must be taken seriously."

"Well, what do you suggest?" asked Petunia.

"The best solution, I feel, is what could be referred to as a magic detector. It would be embedded in a piece of jewelry so as to be inconspicuous. It would glow and send a harmless vibration when in the presence of magic or any magical person. It would also, at the same time, activate alarms at the Ministry of Magic. Protective teams would be on the spot in seconds. This sort of device has been used very successfully in the past with Muggles who have needed protection. In fact, all British Prime Ministers and monarchs have worn such devices for decades."

Vernon and Petunia stared in astonishment. "You must be joking," Vernon gaped. "You mean... they know about your lot?"

"It would be difficult to conceal our existence from Muggles without their help," Dumbledore explained. "This is a service we provide in return. In the case of the Prime Minister and the monarch, the device senses not only magic, but just anyone with the intent to kill. It is one of the reasons a Prime Minister or monarch has not been assassinated since this practice was begun."

"I thought it was because we don't allow handguns," Vernon said.

"That has something to do with it as well," Dumbledore allowed, "but any sufficiently determined person can acquire any weapon they wish. They are made in such quantities in America and Russia, among other places, as to make keeping them totally out impossible."

Vernon grunted. "You're quite well informed about our world."

Dumbledore tilted his head in acknowledgment of the compliment. "I read the Times, the Guardian, and the Sun," he said, the last drawing raised eyebrows from Vernon and Petunia, who were obviously surprised that Dumbledore would read a popular tabloid. "I feel it important to know about Muggle news and culture. Outrageous though it may be at times, the Sun is an excellent reflector of popular culture."

"More's the pity," Vernon said in reluctant agreement.

Dudley broke in. "I'm not wearing any jewelry," he announced. "I never have, and I'm not going to start now. You have to think of something else."

Vernon turned to Dudley. "I understand how you feel, Dud, but men do wear jewelry sometimes. My wedding band, for example," he said, holding up his hand.

"I did bring something I felt might be appropriate," said Dumbledore, reaching into his robes. "If the design is not to your liking, another can be arranged. It is to be worn around the neck." He handed it over to Dudley.

Dudley looked at it. It was a representation of a fist, a particularly masculine and threatening-looking one, gripping a lightning bolt. It was not large; just a half-inch wide, and an inch from tip to tip of the lightning bolt. The slim chain went through a small hole at the upper tip of the lightning bolt.

Harry saw Vernon and Petunia recoil as soon as they saw it, which did not surprise him. Not their kind of thing, to put it mildly, he thought.

Dudley, however, was entranced. "Cool!" he said, eyes wide as he looked at it from all angles. It was glowing.

Vernon looked uncomfortably at Dumbledore. "I was, erm, hoping it would be something more neutral, like my wedding band," he said. "I really don't care for that."

Dumbledore nodded. "Indeed, which makes it all the better. It is far less important that you admire it than that Dudley and his peers do. If they do not, he may be tempted to put it aside. If he and his friends think it is 'cool,' he will be more inclined to wear it, which is what is desired, is it not?"

Vernon and Petunia looked for a moment as though this was a higher price than they'd intended to pay, but both finally nodded their acquiescence.

"Why is it glowing?" Dudley asked. "You said it would only glow if there were... oh, is it because of you and him?" Dudley gestured towards Harry.

"It is because of Harry, yes," Dumbledore said. "It can be adjusted so as to not be activated in the presence of specific wizards or their magic. I have already adjusted it to not recognize me. I shall do the same for Harry." He extended his hand to Dudley, who handed over the necklace.

Dumbledore handed it to Harry. "Please hold it so that the lightning bolt is entirely surrounded by your hand, Harry," he asked. Harry did so. Dumbledore produced his wand and swished it gently over Harry's hand. A silvery glow surrounded Harry's hand and then faded, seeming to absorb itself into his hand. At Dumbledore's prompting, he gave it back to Dumbledore, who again handed it to Dudley. It was no longer glowing.

"It is now adjusted, and will not glow in Harry's presence, nor mine," Dumbledore said. "Now I must ask you a question, Dudley. For this to work as it is designed to, it must be worn twenty-four hours a day. Is there any reason you cannot do so?"

Dudley thought for a moment. "Yes, I will," he said.

Dumbledore looked at Dudley seriously. "I'm sorry, Dudley, to be so rude as to say this, but this is very important, too important to lie about, as you have just done."

Dudley's eyes went wide. Vernon said, "Now, see here," just as Petunia said, "How dare you!"

Harry interrupted. "Professor Dumbledore, you should know," he explained to the Dursleys, "has the ability to tell when a person is lying. It's a very rare magical skill, but he has it."

Vernon harrumphed. "And I suppose you found that out the hard way."

"Actually, Harry has never lied to me," Dumbledore said. "He has, perhaps, failed to tell me things he should have; of course, it could be said that I have done the same. But he has never lied."

Vernon clearly still didn't believe it. "All right, then, you won't mind if I test you out on this?" he challenged Dumbledore, who placidly shook his head.

"Very well," said Vernon. "I am forty-four years old. My favorite food is beef Wellington. Petunia and I were married on a Saturday. My company had over 5 million pounds in sales last year. Last night I watched the telly until midnight. Right now, my head itches." He glared at Dumbledore. "Now which, if any, of those statements were untrue?"

Without hesitation, Dumbledore answered, "The first, second, fourth, and sixth. The ones regarding your wedding and the television were true."

Vernon visibly deflated. Petunia questioned Vernon with her eyes; he nodded. "He's exactly right," he said, so that Dudley would know as well. Turning to Dudley, he asked, "Were you lying, Dudley?

Dudley looked down. "Only a bit," he said defensively. "I planned to take it off when I boxed."

"I cannot see why you would, Dudley," said Dumbledore. "As I understand the rules of boxing, punching the neck is not permitted, so it would not be dangerous. In addition, it might prove intimidating or distracting to your opponents. Wearing it could only be to your advantage."

Dudley appeared not to have thought of it that way. Looking at the necklace again, he nodded. "OK, I'll wear it all the time. I'm not lying this time."

Dumbledore smiled. "Yes, I can see that," he assured Dudley.

"So, how will this work?" asked Petunia. "What is its range?"

"It will detect any magical person or activity within a range of one hundred meters," said Dumbledore. "If it detects magic, the best thing for you to do is hide," he told Dudley. "Anyone who comes looking for you will not expect you to be protected, and so will think you to be totally unprepared. Hiding will also make life easier for your protectors, who should materialize within seconds, with advanced magic detectors which can pinpoint the source of the magic and take action. These people are called Aurors; their job is to track down and capture dark wizards. Their function is somewhat analogous to Britain's MI5, or America's F.B.I. It is the profession, in case you did not know, to which Harry aspires after he graduates from Hogwarts."

Vernon rolled his eyes. "Right, because there hasn't been enough danger in your life up 'till now," he said sarcastically.

"No, it's because these people have been hounding me for five years," Harry said firmly. "I don't want to just sit back and be protected. I want to do something about it." He gave the Dursleys a challenging look. Petunia looked away, but Harry thought he saw some respect and understanding in Dudley and Vernon's eyes, especially Dudley's. He knew Dudley could identify with that right now.

"And you will," Dumbledore assured Harry. "I believe I have never mentioned this to you, but I am confident you will make an excellent Auror. You have the raw talent and strong character necessary, and with time and training, your skills will reach the necessary level."

Harry didn't know what to say. "Thank you," was all he could think of. He could think of no greater compliment.

Dumbledore nodded. "As I was saying, two Aurors will stay with Dudley and make sure he is protected, while another two will attempt to track the source of the magic. The two remaining with him will move him to a secure location until the immediate danger has passed."

"How will they move him?" asked Vernon.

"They will Apparate. Disapparation and Apparation are terms we use to describe a wizard's ability to disappear and reappear at a different place. This is how they will move him."

"Professor," Harry broke in, "I didn't know that you could move other people by Disapparating and Apparating. I thought people could only do it by themselves."

"Normally, that is true," Dumbledore explained. "But it is possible to escort others by doing so. It requires substantial magical power, and only Aurors or other specifically licensed individuals are permitted to do so."

"Getting back to the matter at hand, wearing this magic detector will make Dudley completely safe from attack from dark wizards?" Petunia asked.

Dumbledore nodded. "I hesitate to endorse the word 'completely'; the vagaries of life are such that we can never completely know the future. I will say that he will be extremely safe, as safe as we can make him without giving him an around-the-clock security presence, such as Harry has."

Vernon had not heard the conversation earlier in which Harry had told Dudley and Petunia about this, and looked astonished. "He has a security detail? Like the bloody Prime Minister?"

"Harry, unfortunately, has more threats on his life than the Prime Minister does," Dumbledore said.

"Then why didn't this detail break up the fight yesterday? All this mess could have been avoided," Vernon pointed out.

"Yeah, I was wondering about that myself," agreed Dudley. "I never even saw anybody else."

"Harry's security is very discreet. I am told that they occasionally catch him looking around to see if he can spot them," Dumbledore said, glancing at Harry with bemusement, "but he never can. Wizards have various ways of making themselves invisible, but they will still be detected by the device Dudley will wear, even though invisible. As for why they did not intercede, it was largely because of the presence of Mr. Malfoy and his father's connections to the Death Eaters." At the Dursleys' horrified looks, Dumbledore in an aside explained the nickname and what it meant. "It was feared that if Harry's guards interceded, Mr. Malfoy would relate the incident to his father or his father's associates, and Voldemort would know that Harry was being guarded. It is to our tactical advantage to keep this information secret for as long as possible, so we have a greater chance of capturing anyone who makes an attempt on Harry. In yesterday's situation, there was no true threat to Harry or Dudley, or at least no threat that they themselves could not handle," he said, smiling at Dudley, who looked pleased at the compliment. "If there had been a true danger, Harry's guards would have intervened."

The answer seemed to satisfy Vernon. "I see," he said. "Well, it seems there is not much more to be done, then." Wanting to end the conversation on a more positive note, he added, "But you say, don't you, that the chances of anyone even trying are..."

"Remote, yes, quite so," Dumbledore agreed. "If you find yourselves worrying, do keep that in mind."

"I'll try, but I'm sure I'll worry anyway," said Petunia.

"Before I take my leave, there is something else I would like to mention, another preventative measure." Vernon gestured for him to continue.

"As Harry may have told you, wizards travel from place to place by fireplace, by means of what we call the Floo network. Although Aurors can transport others by Apparation, in an emergency situation, it would be very helpful to be able to use your fireplace should the need arise. So, I would suggest that you keep your fireplace open and connected to the Floo network."

Harry raised his eyebrows; this was asking a lot of Vernon and Petunia, and a look at their faces showed that they thought so, too. Vernon raised a practical objection.

"Wouldn't that mean that any wizard who pleased could waltz right into our fireplace? Wouldn't that be quite dangerous?"

"No, not at all," Dumbledore said. "There are, naturally, security measures built into the Floo network. Merchants and other public establishments have what we call open fireplaces, but residences' fireplaces can only be used by people who have been given authorization. In your case, authorization could be limited to emergency Auror assistance, Harry, and whichever other individuals you see fit to authorize. No one else could come through."

Vernon and Petunia still looked dubious, but were at least thinking it over. Harry suspected that their desire for security and possible emergency assistance was being balanced against the desire not to have any such connection to the magical world.

"There are other reasons why connecting to the Floo network would be desirable," Dumbledore continued. "As you have said, interested as you are in Harry's welfare, you will be glad to know that access to the Floo network through this fireplace would increase his safety. As things stand now, to go anyplace else in the magical world, he must leave this house and use standard transportation to wherever he wants to go, during which time he is potentially exposed to threat, in spite of our efforts to protect him. Such efforts are not infallible, as we saw last summer, when due to human error he was left temporarily unprotected just when the dementors attacked. By using this fireplace, he would be exposed to less risk."

Harry would have been very surprised if this argument had swayed the Dursleys, who he assumed were of the opinion that whatever risk he faced was his own fault, and responsible for their current situation. Their faces suggested that they were waiting for more persuasive arguments. Harry was amused, though, at the phrasing of Dumbledore's first sentence; it sounded like he was saying that if they cared about Harry the least little bit, they would do this. Perhaps he could shame them into it, if nothing else.

"Secondly," Dumbledore went on, "and the likelihood of this is remote, but it could be a useful means of escape for Dudley and yourselves should this house fall under attack by dark wizards. Aurors could Apparate here and take on the wizards, covering your escape. Again," he said as he saw that Vernon and Petunia appeared startled at the very possibility, "this will almost certainly not happen; it is merely a safety precaution. There are only positives to doing this, no negatives."

Vernon and Petunia looked at each other, communicating without words. Petunia said, "There are a few more questions we'd like to ask you about this, but it has nothing to do with Harry or Dudley, and we'd like to ask you privately. So, you two, please go upstairs." Harry and Dudley got up.

"If you don't mind, I would like to have a brief word with the two young men after we are finished here. Perhaps I can join them upstairs a bit later," Dumbledore said. Vernon nodded, and Harry and Dudley headed upstairs.

Harry and Dudley walked up the stairs. "Wonder what that's all about," said Dudley.

"Don't know," Harry answered. "Can't think of what else they would need to ask him."

As they neared their rooms, Dudley said, "Hey, why don't you show me some of your birthday presents."

Another first, Harry thought. He wondered if hearing about Harry's dangerous experiences made the magical world look more exciting to Dudley than it used to. At least it seemed to have removed whatever revulsion he had to it.

"Sure, come on in," Harry said, entering the room. They entered the room. Hedwig hooted; Harry wondered whether it was because of Dudley.

"My presents, let's see..." Harry knew there were at least two presents he couldn't show Dudley. One was the Extendable Ears; it wouldn't do for Dudley to know that he could listen in on anyone in the house. The other was the pumpkin cake; should Dudley turn antagonistic, he could report Harry to Petunia for having food in his room. He started thinking of things in his trunk that he could say were birthday presents. He decided to start with Hermione's because Dudley knew Hermione a little, having talked to her briefly.

They sat down on Harry's bed. "Well, this one is from Hermione," he said, showing Dudley the large black book. "She's one of the types who always get the best scores in the class, so she always gets me practical stuff. But this is really good, it's got lots of really advanced information."

Dudley flipped through the book, looking at the illustrations, not the text. He closed it again and took note of the title. "...strategies for teaching? Are you planning to be a teacher? I thought he said you wanted to be an Auror!"

Harry quickly explained about the D.A. and why he had been asked to lead the class, and how it led to being named a teacher this year. At Dudley's amazed expression, Harry added, "But it's partly because all the people who are good are busy fighting Voldemort, and partly because there's supposed to be this jinx on the position, so nobody wants to take it. Bad things have happened to the last five teachers."

Dudley looked at Harry as though evaluating his mental health. "So, you're taking a jinxed job. I guess it's like Dad said, you can't get enough of that danger."

"Not really," Harry said. "It's more like, Professor Dumbledore is the kind of person it's hard to say no to."

Dudley looked thoughtful and nodded. "So, what else did you get?"

"Well, I got this from Ron, you know, the tall, red-haired one. He and Hermione are my two closest friends, the three of us are always doing stuff together. He got me this, it's the blue thing on the outside." He now had to explain how the Omnioculars worked, then the Omni-view, and finally, Quidditch.

Dudley was able to watch the Quidditch, but even with Harry's basic explanation, it looked to him like a bunch of people flying around on brooms hitting and throwing balls, which he told Harry. Not that that wasn't interesting anyway, he said, never having seen people on brooms before.

"It's almost like a whole different world you guys have, isn't it?" Dudley observed.

"In a way, yes," Harry said. "The details are really different. But when you get right down to it, the people are really the same. Just like the Muggle world, we have good and bad people, greedy and generous, rich and poor, arrogant and humble. People are people, with magical ability or not."

"Well put, Harry, I could not have said it better myself," said Professor Dumbledore, who entered the room as Harry finished his sentence. Harry and Dudley stood up.

"I have finished discussing it with your aunt and uncle," Dumbledore said, addressing Harry, "and they have agreed to open the fireplace to you and for use in emergencies. I know you may be tempted to press them for permission to have Ron and Hermione authorized as well, but I advise you to be patient. Even allowing this much was a difficult decision for them." Harry could well believe that. "I have brought with me a quantity of Floo powder to get you started. I believe you will find more easily enough in Diagon Alley." He handed Harry a small pouch.

"Dudley, just a reminder, make sure the device is always next to your skin. If it is, say, outside a t-shirt or more layers, you might not feel it should it start vibrating. I assume you are clear on what you should do in the unlikely event it should do so?"

Dudley nodded. "Get to a safe place, wait for the Aurors."

"Good," Dumbledore said. "I also strongly recommend that you follow any instructions they might give you, for your own safety." Dudley nodded again.

"Now, there is one other thing. Yesterday during your confrontation with Mr. Malfoy, it so happened that the responsibility of watching you was mine." Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise; he wasn't aware that Dumbledore ever did that. "I witnessed the whole incident, and followed you home to make sure you encountered no more difficulty. I further overheard your discussion regarding the Weasley twins and their shop." He looked at Harry significantly.

Harry tried not to look guilty. "The Snackbox..."

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, the Snackbox. The Weasley twins have clearly hit upon a winner with that, though they will have to start changing the symptoms as teachers get wise to them. Now, Dudley, you may not be aware, but we generally try hard to prevent items imbued with magic from reaching the Muggle world. Experience has shown us that there are too many unintended consequences."

Turning to Harry, he continued, "Harry, I am fairly sure you are aware of that, but I can understand your desire to be helpful to your cousin in this situation. Also, I am only aware of this because I was guarding you, and any information I gain by doing so I should not use, lest you feel like slipping away to ensure privacy. You see, the only reason I am mentioning this is that the Snackboxes would activate Dudley's magic-detection device, causing a great deal of trouble and embarrassment. So, before I came here tonight, I stopped by the Weasleys' new shop, which seems to be doing quite well. I asked them to set aside a Snackbox, and I adjusted it so that it will no longer activate Dudley's device. I told them that someone would be in to pick it up, and to hold it until then."

Dudley's jaw had dropped open as soon as it dawned on him that Dumbledore was not going to lower the boom on them, and it remained open.

Dumbledore turned back to Dudley. "I have two other things to say about this. First, and Harry would have told you this anyway, but when you take them, be very careful to use the antidote as soon as possible. Unchecked nosebleed or vomiting can lead to serious physical harm, and since the symptoms are caused by magic, a Muggle physician would not know what to do.

"Secondly, I would request that you not ask Harry for any magic-imbued items in the future. I know that Harry would wish to give you what you ask for, but as I mentioned before..."

"Unintended consequences, yeah," said Dudley. "It's too bad, but okay, I understand."

Dumbledore smiled. "At the Ministry of Magic, there are very thick files full of examples of what problems happen when magical items fall into unwary Muggle hands. Harry could also get in trouble. Granted, he has spent much of the past five years in some kind of trouble, but I think you know what I mean." He winked at Harry.

Harry was embarrassed and grateful. "I'll bet you've never had to give this kind of talk to a professor before."

"You might be surprised, Harry. You might be very surprised indeed. If the worst problem I ever had to deal with from a new professor were a boyish prank, my career would have been a lot simpler.

"Alas, I must be off. I will take my leave of your aunt and uncle and exit via the fireplace. Dudley, it was a pleasure meeting you." He shook Dudley's hand again. Harry, I will be seeing you on Monday. The location for the Occlumency lesson has been changed; it will now be held at the Burrow. I will explain the reason for the change then."

He paused, and spoke again to Harry. "One other thing, Harry. Perhaps you were just being modest, but I do not wish you to have an incorrect impression. I did not ask you to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor 'because all the people who are good are busy fighting Voldemort,' as you put it. I did it because I believe that you are an excellent choice, and you will do an excellent job." He nodded to Harry and Dudley. "A very good evening to you both," he said, and left the room.

Harry and Dudley just stared at each other for a minute, unable to say anything. Finally Harry said, "I've known him for five years, and I don't think he'll ever stop surprising me."

Dudley looked wistful. "I wish my school's headmaster was like that."

Harry soon went downstairs and called Hermione back. He found out that the get-together had evolved into a sleepover, which made him happy, though he wondered if they wouldn't just end up staying up all night instead. Neville had been invited and was happy to come, but his grandmother would not allow him to sleep over; he would have to go home by midnight.

For his part, Harry decided that it was a much better idea to tell Vernon and Petunia that he would be sleeping over at Hermione's than asking them. He figured they wouldn't care much in any case, and he soon discovered that he was right. He was very pleased that he would be able to travel by Floo. He didn't especially care for the experience, except that it was better than the alternatives.

The next afternoon, Harry went downstairs a few minutes before 4:00. Vernon and Petunia were outside, which Harry assumed was by design. They may have been willing to let him use the fireplace for travel on safety grounds, but they still didn't want to watch anything magical being done.

Dudley came downstairs. Harry assumed he did want to watch, and had not been with his parents outside because they would not have let him come into the house at just before 4:00.

"So," Harry said, "did you get a lecture about how you should never, ever, ever use this for any reason whatsoever except for the most dire possible emergency, and then only if told?"

"Yeah, but it was a lot longer, and more emphatic than that," Dudley answered casually. "Something to do with having my privileges revoked for the rest of my life, and them sending me off to your school to be practiced on."

"That would be bad," Harry laughed. "I can see it now," and he launched into an imitation of Snape's voice, "...and now we will see whether Mr. Potter has made his Knockout Potion too strong again. Drink it down, Mr. Dursley." They both laughed heartily.

Harry looked at his watch. "Well, gotta go."

Dudley said, "Okay... watch out for, you know... vampires, and giant porcupines, and trees that eat people, and land sharks, and quicksand that looks like lawns..."

Harry nodded, deadpan. "Ah, the usual, you mean..." Smiling, he asked, "So, how long were you, thinking that up?"

"Couple minutes. Not too long."

Harry made a 'not too bad' facial expression. He waved. "Bye."

He took a pinch of Floo powder, threw it into the fire, and walked in, shouting "The Granger home!"

Author notes: In Chapter 5: During a sleepover at Hermione's home, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Neville finally talk about the events at the Department of Mysteries. The next day, Dumbledore starts teaching Harry Occlumency, and comments on the methods Snape used to teach Harry Occlumency the previous year.

Thanks to RickyElRey, The Breeze, and Amelia for your kind comments. The chapters have gone up within a day of my submitting them, so if that continues, I'll be submitting one a day or so. As for the chapters' length, they start getting even longer after Chapter 8, I think (there are 24 chapters in all). And, Favrielle, thanks for the comment, and sorry for getting your name wrong. I guess I can't remember more than one alias. ;-)