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31 May 2008 @ 10:24 pm
HP fic: Quantum Leap (1/6)  


QUANTUM LEAP

It’s hard to see the writing on the wall when your back is up against it.
(Sean Og O’Halpin)

Harry lay on his back with his arms tucked behind his head, the picture of slovenly indulgence. Ever since his second year at Hogwarts, his duties in the Dursleys’ household had become less and less onerous. From scrubbing each individual kitchen tile with a toothbrush until it achieved a diamond-like glow, he had been relegated to mowing the back yard. The hot afternoon was one of a chain of sweltering summer days, which had dried out the grass to the point that it was so withered as to save Harry the trouble of cutting it.

The heat was attacking more than just the grass: the tarmac of Privet Drive was reduced to bubbling pools of tar and the pavement stones were cracking under the stress. It was most unseasonable weather for England in July, a month more usually noted for its incessant drizzle.

Uncle Vernon had taken to going around in his shirtsleeves, the awfulness of which was only bested by Dudley’s string vest. His budding career as a heavyweight boxer had defined his muscles, but lard still ringed them in a manner unfit for public consumption.

Predictably, Uncle Vernon was no fan of hot weather. He was often heard to declaim that, “We never got indecent temperatures like this in my day!” Aunt Petunia had nothing to say on the decorum of the weather; but Harry had, on more than one occasion, seen her bite her lips as she checked the barometer.

A newspaper lay open across Harry’s chest, fluttering with the movement of his breathing. No breeze was present to chase the pages around the dying grass. The air was still and heavy, as it had been for many weeks. Walking from one room to the next was enough to break a sweat.

Harry mulled over the unusual weather, trying not to pant in the heat so as to preclude swallowing his own perspiration. A month and a half of living in a sauna had put him off salt for life. However, his daily perusal of the Muggle Times was enough to help him attain some perspective. He greatly preferred drinking his weight in water every day to prevent dehydration than to live through forty-five tornadoes, like the people of Dover; or to experience an earthquake, such as the scale six on the Isle of Wight; or to endure the torrential rain that had driven inhabitants of even three-storey buildings from their flooded homes in Chester.

There was a more than slight possibility that Voldemort was behind these unlikely disasters. Harry thought the earthquake was going a little far – Britain wasn’t remotely near a continental bridge, unless his fourth-form geography teacher had told the most vicious lies. People were bound to get suspicious...

His inadvertent sigh dislodged a corner of the paper, which allowed him to see the end of a headline: –fear global warming to blame.

On the other hand, perhaps Voldemort was brighter than Harry gave him credit for.

If Voldemort did in fact stick to a plan of weather manipulation to rid England of the Muggle parasites, there was no way for any authority to pin it on him. The Muggles were hoist by their own petard in that respect. It didn’t quench Harry’s thirst for revenge, however: there were far nicer ways to die than by baking to death.

He supposed he’d better make a start with the lawnmower, given that he was being paid for it and everything. (Uncle Vernon had taken him aside the day before and hissed from under his moustache: “I’ll give you ten pence if you cut the grass tomorrow. Don’t tell your aunt – we overspent on the last phone bill.” He’d first attempted to bully Harry into it, but Harry – two inches taller than him now, and with his wand in his back pocket – laughed in his face.) His t-shirt stuck to his arms and between his shoulder-blades, but Harry had learned the perils of shirtless gardening the hard way. As he walked to the shed, his flip-flops kicked up little eddies of dust from the disintegrating verdure.

He passed by the living room window to the sound of a cacophony of voices. Harry tried not to listen as he wrenched open the shed’s door. This task was made more difficult by the fact that Uncle Vernon had had glaziers remove the glass from the back and upstairs windows a fortnight before. Glaziers all over Surrey were making a fortune through such requests, and had invested for the future by storing the removed glass ‘free of charge (until retrieval).’

Aunt Petunia was dryly sobbing. Uncle Vernon bellowed something about ‘abysmal performance.’ The date on the newspaper was the twenty-fourth of July. Harry did some quick mental arithmetic and nodded. It was always about this time of year when Smeltings sent out their annual report cards.

Harry ducked into the shed, which was darker than outside and about two degrees cooler. It made up for this by being seventy Pascals stuffier. Harry pulled on some gardening gloves and immediately began sweating more profusely. He got his fingers around the handle of the lawnmower – the metal burned even through the reinforced fabric – and trundled the antique machine out into the sunlight, where bits of the plastic casing began to melt.

On the point of turning on the engine, Harry happened to glance at the fuel gauge. It was empty – useless. He reluctantly pushed the mower back into the shed. He had no choice, for it would turn into a half-mangled, half-broiled lump if he left it out in the searing heat.

By the end of his fruitless exertion he could smell himself, rather more eau de toil than eau de toilette. Unfortunately, water restrictions limited him to one two-minute shower a day, and the washing machine was put to use only once a month. Harry was already out of clothes, his wardrobe not being extensive to start with. He was going to have to shower clothed yet again. He never knew he’d miss bathing naked quite so much.

“Uncle Vernon,” he called, stepping over the window sill into the kitchen, “I need some money for petrol.”

There was no reply bar the yelling from the next room. Harry shrugged and stood in front of the fan for a while.

When the heat wave initially hit, most people failed to take it seriously. Only Aunt Petunia, an obsessively comprehensive housekeeper, had five freestanding fans squirreled away in her attic. When Dudley and Harry were sent to retrieve them, they were still wrapped in white paper decorated with silver bells. If it were anyone else Harry would have assumed they were superfluous presents – but this was Aunt Petunia, the woman with fourteen toasters. He wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d put all five fans down on her wedding list.

In the weeks that followed, while the sun made concerted attempts to bring the desert to Mohammed, a roaring trade in cooling devices began. It was far too hot to drive any great distance, as people ended up welded to the car seats, so the black market was confined to Surrey and the borders of neighbouring counties. Hand-held fans crossed hands for hundreds of pounds, antique jewellery or slave labour. People with large fridges and freezers were feted and held soirees for a chosen few, who got to stand in front of the open machines for a minutes at a time.

Aunt Petunia had already sold three of her fans for an undivulged sum. She spent all of her time in the living room, dressed in a French negligee Harry tried not to look at, and didn’t seem to care if the rest of the house simulated Equatorial climates.

She was currently involved in bargaining away the kitchen fan, but fortunately for Dudley, who slept with his head in the fridge, and the rest of the family, demand had slackened of late. Fans brought the temperature down to merely very hot, but they recycled the same stale air over and over. Removing windows brought a greater, if equally temporary, relief to the inhabitants of Surrey – a proceeding that vexed Aunt Petunia greatly.

From the sound of her voice, Harry doubted that this was the matter at hand. Aunt Petunia was a sharp bargainer, who became shrill when things didn’t go her way. She was sobbing at the moment, which effulgence of emotion she reserved for only one thing in her life: her son.

His curiosity overcoming his stunted caution, Harry grabbed the rare opportunity of appropriating a can of Coke from the fridge and sauntered into the living room. The sight that greeted him there would have made his jaw drop, if the Coke can wasn’t already wedged under it to cool his neck.

Aunt Petunia was procumbent upon the floor, her nightie rucked up to alarming heights. Uncle Vernon, jowls a-quiver, was slapping a piece of paper as if it were Harry’s face. The most curious thing of all, however, was Dudley. He was standing in the centre of the room, his arms crossed as far as they would go across his straining midriff. There was a look on his face Harry hadn’t seen in a long time – since before Harry’s nascent magic allowed him to escape the machinations of Dudley’s gang.

It was triumph.

Uncle Vernon took a deep breath to stoke his ranting fire. Harry, seeing his opportunity, jumped in with, “So, the lawnmower? Needs some juice.”

“Juice is just what I need,” said Dudley. “Give me that.” He attempted to wrest the can from under Harry’s chin.

“Get your own, lazy-arse,” said Harry, “or –”

“I know you can’t use your poxy magic on me yet – unless – there’re no Dementors around here, are there?” Dudley spun wildly, giving the appearance of a planet in orbit.

Harry cracked the tab on the can and licked the opening. “I was going to say, ‘or I’ll bite you,’” he said, “but your version works too. Anyway, my germs are on it now.”

“Yuck. That better not have been the last can.”

“It was, but there’s plenty of Diet left.” Harry smiled innocently.

Forestalling Dudley’s lecture on the inherent deception of marketing ‘diet’ drinks with equal sugar levels as ordinary sodas, Uncle Vernon said, “Son, I have – nothing left to say to you.”

“Great,” said Dudley. “I’ve been waiting for this moment to come for, what? A whole hour?”

“I can’t believe this,” wailed Aunt Petunia, clawing the carpet in agony. “The shame of it! My own son! Expelled!”

Harry turned to his cousin. “They expelled you?”

“Yup.” And there was the triumphant expression again.

Harry thought this over as he took a long sip of soda. Smeltings had put up with Dudley’s bullying, his poor academic record, his gangland warfare, and the strain his obesity had put on their healthcare system, for five whole years. Only now, when they were finally getting some use out of him in the sporting arena, did they decide to expel him. It made no sense to Harry. He was forced to ask: “What for?”

“‘Behaviour unbecoming in a Smeltings’ man,’” intoned Uncle Vernon. He sounded as if he were reciting a dirge.

“Were they a little more specific than that?”

“We blew up the Vice-Principal’s office,” explained Dudley.

“While he was in it?” said Harry, aghast.

“Oh, no. He was at a swim meet in Cumberland at the time.”

“So that was the ‘behaviour unbecoming’?”

“No, I think that might have been the graffiti we sprayed in the gym. Piers is quite artistic, in certain areas.” Dudley tapped his chin. “Or maybe it was the defacement of the founding fathers’ portraits, the tutus on the antique statuary or the flashing during the Queen’s visit. You know, I’m just not sure.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day,” spat Uncle Vernon. “My son. A ringleader.”

“You came up with all of this?” Harry was genuinely surprised. Such ingenuity was out of character for a Dursley.

Dudley just smiled.

“What shall we do?” shrieked Aunt Petunia. “Where will he go? Smeltings will have told all the best places by now – there’s not a school in England that will accept him after this –”

“There’s always Stonewall Comp,” said Harry, not without a little amusement.

The Stonewall High of Harry’s past, where he was to have been introduced to a toilet bowl head-first, was a long-disappeared relic. In its place was Stonewall Comprehensive, where students were encouraged to talk about their feelings and learn at their own pace. As a consequence of such enlightened thinking, it was obliged to take all comers. It was populated in the main by the worst thugs and delinquents in the catchment area, all of whom had been dumped there by despairing teachers in other schools.

“I think he’d fit right in,” added Harry. He turned a face reeking with earnest compassion on his uncle. “Anyway, the lawnmower?”

“Petrol, was it?” As if in a daze, Uncle Vernon reached into his pocket and took out a ball of notes. “Here. Take Dudley. Your aunt and I need to have a serious discussion.”

Harry crumpled the money in his fist before Dudley could take note of the denominations. By mutual and unspoken consent, he and Dudley repaired to the kitchen to stand in front of the rotating fan prior to leaving.

“How much’d he give you?” Dudley’s fat face was almost languid, but Harry saw the beady look in his eye. Heat made Dudley slow; plus, he’d been relaxing in the fridge all summer while Harry attempted to mow what was left of the lawn. If push came to shove, Harry was pretty sure he could outrun Dudley, Saharan temperatures notwithstanding.

Harry hunched his shoulder away from Dudley and smoothed out the notes. There were two twenties; Uncle Vernon must have been seriously distracted. “Here.” Harry held out one to Dudley. It hung limply from his fingertips.

“You’ll get the petrol with yours.”

“Yes,” said Harry, rolling his eyes. It was quite a long trek to the nearest petrol station, but he fully intended on borrowing Dudley’s bike and Petunia’s sunhat. If he was lucky, he’d have change left over to buy sunscreen. And deodorant.

Dudley was rolling the twenty between his fingers, leaving it even limper with sweat. He appeared to come to a decision. “I’ll get a box of ice lollies,” he said, “and you can have one.”

Harry gaped at this unprecedented liberality.

“Just one, mind,” Dudley hastened to add; clearly something in Harry’s face suggested the notion that six-packs of ice-cream could be split more fairly than in a ten-ninety ratio. “After all, you did save my life.”

“I did?” said Harry. “Oh, I did. Yes. Accidentally.”

“Thanks for that,” said Dudley. After a difficult pause, he added, “Maybe two lollies?”

“Don’t over-burden yourself with generosity,” said Harry. “You might pull a muscle in your brain. I’m going to borrow your bike, okay?”

“Sure.” Dudley waved this off, as well he should; Aunt Petunia’s black market connections had ensured the construction of an ice-cream stand right outside Number Four. As Harry reluctantly tore himself from the fan, Dudley yelled after him, “Take Mum’s hat, too.”

+++

Meanwhile, in Spinner’s End

Narcissa Malfoy Apparated on to a riverbank a few co-ordinates shy of where she’d intended, and stepped on a fox. The fox took exception to this and bit her ankle, so the first thing Bellatrix Lestrange heard upon Apparating to the same riverbank was the sound of her sister’s screaming. Unused to hearing such a noise without being the direct cause of it, Bellatrix hurled off a Killing Curse in the approximate direction of Narcissa’s squeals.

The fox dropped down dead, and Narcissa trod on its head. With an unpleasantly squishy crack, its skull broke under her foot.

“Oh, oh!” cried Narcissa. “You killed it! Why did you kill it?”

Bellatrix stared at Narcissa. “Correct me if I’m mistaken, but don’t you own several genuine fox-fur robes? That requires them to have been killed first, you know.”

“Yes,” and Narcissa was pouting, “but I don’t do it myself. How perfectly savage. Besides,” she added, “you could have killed me. That curse went right past my leg!”

“Good grief.” Bellatrix rolled her eyes. “Have you so soon forgotten our Lord’s teaching? Killing Curses will rarely take effect unless they catch the victim in the head or chest. At most I would have given you a necrotising gangrene, and you can certainly manage with only one leg.”

Narcissa scowled, which for the first time lent some strength to her babyish features. “Of course I listened. I also heard a part about care and caution, not to mention refraining from killing unless absolutely necessary. I don’t imagine that fox posed a significant threat to your well-being. I think,” she said with relish, “I’m going to add this to your tally.”

It was Bellatrix’s turn to scowl, an expression which momentarily lifted her from femme tres fatale to pantomime dame. “See if I care!”

“You will when the Dark Lord returns,” taunted Narcissa, “to see five new tallies in three days. I don’t think he’ll be pleased.”

“You waste time,” sniffed Bellatrix. “Pray lead me to your destination, so I may return to serving my Lord in more useful ways.”

Narcissa merely lifted an eyebrow to this. She turned on her heel and tripped lightly across the bridge. In the blessed silence she could feel her heart beating an erratic rhythm at every pulse point. Sparring with Bellatrix had distracted her from her purpose, as it always did; but now Bellatrix was following in sullen silence, leaving Narcissa alone with her thoughts.

“Are you sure you won’t go back?” said Bellatrix in a wheedling tone. Narcissa almost welcomed the interruption.

Almost. “Haven’t we discussed this already?” she snapped. “Oh, wait – we have! Forty times! Don’t you think you’d have talked me out of it by now, if you were going to?”

“Forty-first time’s the charm,” panted Bellatrix. Stouter and less active than her younger sister, and weakened by years of incarceration, Bellatrix was finding the steep climb up the riverbank tough going.

Narcissa waited for her at the top of the bank. A chilly mist sprayed droplets in her hair, where they glittered as if trapped in a spiderweb. She felt the first moistness coalesce on her nose as the mist gathered around them.

“Oh, oh, disgusting,” she said. “Dementor sperm.” With exaggerated revulsion she wiped off her face with her sleeve, taking care not to smear her lipstick, and Vanished the droplets from her hair.

“You should not speak ill of our Lord’s creatures,” reproved Bellatrix, but not as sternly as she might have done. She had a cat’s dislike of water, and this water was trying to be up close and personal in a way she thought unwarrantedly forward.

“I’m not speaking ill of them,” said Narcissa. “I just wish they wouldn’t reproduce on me. These robes are new, I’ll have you know.” She shook her silver silk sleeve in Bellatrix’s face for emphasis.

“Our Lord’s followers should dress only in black.”

“Yes, and?”

“That’s not black.”

“Black drains my face, as you are well aware.” Narcissa wielded her wand. “Expecto Patronum! Remember the time Mother tried to get us in the family robes for that portrait? Shield form, please. I looked like a vampire.”

“I thought it was Uncle Wilhelm who looked like a vampire?”

“No, Uncle Wilhelm was a vampire. But he rouged, so he didn’t look it. I, on the other hand –” Narcissa shook her head over this ancient woe “- did.”

“I don’t think this charm is –” Bellatrix began, looking at the glowing shield that had grown from Narcissa’s elephant Patronus.

“You can come under it, if you like.”

Bellatrix wrung out her hair and made no further objections.

They made their way down the dingy street, glowing silver from the Patronus’ shield. Bellatrix’s wand hand quivered as she fought the urge to blast the filthy Muggles to oblivion. Narcissa knew the tic well; it had last been responsible for a blown-up street and fifty additions the tally.

The Black family motto was officially Toujours pur, but any fool could see that made for a lot of nutcases and fruitcakes. While paying lip-service to that motto by marrying their cousins, Blacks of latter days had invented their own adage: stick by family, family first. That was the reason why Narcissa was exposing herself in this horrible shanty town in the first place.

Voldemort’s decision to have Draco murder Dumbledore was his way of punishing Lucius for his many failures, including the latest and greatest. Lucius was perfectly willing to sacrifice his own son’s safety in favour of his own, just as he had been perfectly willing to carry out Voldemort’s other orders to the letter, but had been prevented by circumstance. The circumstance in question was his own over-inflated ego and sad lack of cunning. The Malfoys were another family in which inbreeding was rife.

Although closely related to the Blacks (Lucius was Narcissa’s second cousin, once removed), the Malfoys did not share their single-minded devotion to family. This went some way to explaining why there was rarely more than one Malfoy child per generation. The other explanation – that ‘they’re a bunch of poofy fairies’ – was not one on which Narcissa liked to dwell, although it had been tendered by her own grandmother on the eve of Narcissa’s wedding.

Narcissa’s duty to her son was greater than the duty she owed to her husband; which was greater again than what she owed to her sister. And there was no greater duty than ensuring that her son had a future. What Lucius and Bell didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, and if they believed she was here to help her son in his appointed task then it was all to the purpose.

At last Narcissa recognised Snape’s house. His description had been fleeting – ‘The one that looks like God picked it up after an earthquake in Rio de Janiro and drop-kicked it to England’ – but it was the only establishment with a light in the window.

“We’re here,” she said.

“What a dump,” observed Bellatrix.

“Yes, well, less of that to Snape.” Narcissa regarded the insalubrious hovel with disapprobation, but she wasn’t here to give Snape’s DIY skills marks out of ten. She raised her hand to knock, saw the dirt that had collected in the splintered wood, and said, “You do it.”

“Why?”

“Knock or I’ll put ten new marks on your tally!”

“No need to be nasty about it,” muttered Bellatrix. She gave three smart raps on the door. The dirt smeared across her knuckles seemed to bother her not at all; although, given the state of her two-inch fingernails, Narcissa wasn’t surprised.

After a long wait and some muffled cursing, the door was wrenched open. Wormtail peered out, blinking in the bright light of the Patronus.

“Who’s there?” he quavered. “Am I dead? Are you God?”

“You’ve been reading too many Reincarnation manuals,” snarled Bellatrix. She and Wormtail were not on the best of terms, each being jealous of the other’s apparently favoured position with the Dark Lord.

“Those are my orders,” said Wormtail. “The Dark Lord said, and I quote, ‘Go do some research on life after death and stay out of my way.’ And all the books say there’s supposed to be white light and you’re supposed to walk into it and there’s supposed to be an angel who guides you –” He stopped short at the sight of Narcissa, radiant in the light of a streetlamp. “I am dead.”

“No, you’re not,” said Bellatrix, “although it’s only a matter of time. Make yourself useful and go fetch Snape.”

“No need.” Snape’s oily voice preceded him into the vestibule. “Ah, Narcissa, Bellatrix. Welcome to my humble abode. Forgive the delay; Wormtail just exploded my kitchen for the third time this week, and I had to set it to rights.”

“I was making baked beans,” Wormtail simpered at Narcissa.

Snape raised his eyebrows. “That explains the orange things on the ceiling.” He turned and smiled at Narcissa, showing off cracked and yellowed teeth. “Perhaps we might adjourn to a more comfortable apartment?”

“I could help you – with the clean-up, I mean,” offered Narcissa. “I’m a whiz in the kitchen.”

“I thought you had house-elves.” Bellatrix frowned.

“I could come,” said Wormtail. “I could make you some baked beans.”

“No!” said Snape and Narcissa, at the same time. Narcissa softened her denial with, “Be a dear and show Bell your research. I’m sure she’ll be happy to make the Dark Lord a full report of your progress.”

“Certainly,” said Wormtail. Bellatrix’s eyes lit up. She wasn’t the only one with a tally.

As soon as Wormtail led Bellatrix away, Narcissa grabbed Snape by the elbow and yanked him down into the kitchen, guessing her way by the smell of burning.

“We haven’t got much time, so I’ll make this quick,” she said, pointing her wand at the door and layering it with a Silencing Charm.

“Your passion overpowers me,” drawled Snape. “Come, have your way with me right here on the singed kitchen table.”

“Enough of that nonsense,” said Narcissa. “Lucius overheard you, you know, the last time. It’s a good thing he doesn’t know what VPL is or you’d be a dead man.” She smoothed down the front of her robes in a vain attempt to stop her hands from trembling.

“Out with it,” said Snape, in a tone that wouldn’t have sounded a mite gentler except to the trained expert. Narcissa, who’d known Snape for twenty years, was one such.

“Draco’s been sent to kill Dumbledore,” said Narcissa baldly. “I’m not allowed to tell you. I’m not allowed to tell anyone, I’m just supposed to stand by and let it happen – but I won’t. I tell you, I won’t!”

“I never thought you would.” Snape, whose arms were crossed, sent a spell at the outside door under his elbow. Narcissa, overwrought with the force of her emotions, didn’t notice. “I’m glad to be proved right. You’re one of the few people I’d call a friend, and I wouldn’t like to think you could happily let your son walk to his death.”

“So it’s true,” breathed Narcissa. “It is just a trap, to kill Draco and punish Lucius?”

“You know the Dark Lord,” said Snape. “Do you think he would arrange it any other way? – that he would have his most feared enemy vanquished by a callow boy?”

“You’ve got to help him.” Narcissa’s voice was ragged with fear. “Please, please help him. I’ll do anything. I’ll swear any vow, only save my son. Kill Dumbledore for him.”

“Now, now,” said a new and, to Narcissa, not wholly unfamiliar voice. “I don’t think we need to go do such drastic lengths – do you, Severus?”

“I take it that’s a rhetorical question,” said Snape, but Narcissa didn’t heed him. His voice faded into so much white noise as she looked into the smiling face of one Albus Dumbledore.

+++

Harry woke up sweating, yet it was not entirely due to the sticky night air. He’d been having a nightmare, one that involved tall dark men falling through curtains in a flash of blinding light. The light was sometimes red and sometimes green, but it always blasted the insides of Harry’s eyelids when he blinked himself awake.

Of late he’d made his bed on the floor, using a thin blanket and a pillow. The threadbare carpet trapped less heat than the mattress that lay directly under the window frame. He’d begun the summer wearing pyjamas as normal, but had gradually pared down his night attire to airy cotton boxers. He would have forgone any clothing at all had not his natural modesty, and frequent need for nocturnal bathroom visits, prevented him.

He decided it was as good a time as any to fetch another glass of ice. Even refrigerated water failed to stay cool for very long once exposed to the outside air. Ice was a reasonable, if less convenient, alternative. Harry wiped off the excess sweat with the sheet from his bed and stood up, only for his head to collide with Hedwig as she soared into the room.

Harry fell back on to his bed in a flurry of feathers. Hedwig, much affronted, dropped the letters she was carrying on his nose.

“Ow, papercut!” Harry rubbed his nose and glared at her. Insomuch as she could, Hedwig looked smug.

There were three letters in total. Harry recognised Hermione and Ron’s handwriting on two. The third was addressed merely to ‘Harry Potter, esq’ in florid purple ink. Harry ripped open his friends’ correspondence and hastily perused the opening paragraphs. Both Hermione and Ron complained vociferously of the cold, wet fog that enveloped the Burrow and surrounding environs. Harry shivered with reflexive delight at the thought of the cold. His birthday, with its attendant visit to the Burrow, couldn’t come soon enough.

If they had urgent news to impart they probably wouldn’t have eulogised on the weather first, so Harry felt safe in leaving the rest of the letters for the moment. He creaked down the stairs to the kitchen, where the fan was still whirring valiantly. Harry stepped over the recumbent form of his cousin. Little crystals of frost were gathering in Dudley’s hair where it lay in the freezer compartment; the rest of his body glistened with sweat.

Harry reached into the deep freeze in the pantry, relishing the sub-zero tingle as he scooped up a handful of ice. He was about to dump it into a glass when Hedwig landed on his shoulder with soft whump. She dropped the third letter on top of his glacial booty.

Grimacing, Harry picked up the letter with his other hand and broke the seal with his teeth. Watermarks from the ice had already soaked through, leaving the parchment dotted with lavender bruises.

“I get it,” said Harry. “Urgent message in the dead of night. I promise to read it right away, so you can go to sleep.”

Hedwig hooted her assent and flew out the kitchen window. Harry spread the letter open on the counter with his elbow.

“Dear Harry,” it ran. “I have taken the liberty of commandeering your postal service, as I recently had need to visit your friends Mr Weasley and Miss Granger. It will be necessary for me to pay a call to your uncle’s home in the coming days, on a matter of some urgency. But do not be alarmed, my dear boy. It is mainly good news that I come to impart. Yours, A. Dumbledore.”

“Interesting,” Harry mused. He popped an ice cube into his mouth and began to suck, only to choke at the pop and swish of several people Apparating into his kitchen. Almost immediately the sounds were followed by bumps and exclamations of pain, as said people tripped over Dudley.

“What in the world –” Snape flicked his robes away from the still-snoring sleeper, abject disgust pinching his features. “Let us leave at once, Dumbledore, you’ve Apparated us into a zoo.”

“I should think that vastly unlikely.” Dumbledore stepped around Snape. The rising sun glinted off his spectacles. “Although I cannot be certain while his head is hidden by a cabbage, I would strongly guess that the creature you refer to is Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s cousin.”

“Much,” said Snape, sneering down at Dudley, “becomes clear.”

“Hello, Headmaster,” said Harry. He pointedly excluded Snape from his greeting – a snub Snape apparently didn’t register, rapt as he was with horrified fascination.

“Salutations, Harry. I trust I find you well on this fine night.”

“Not bad,” said Harry. He fished some ice from his already-melting stash and ran it over his forehead.

“I think it best we begin – wait.” Dumbledore held up a finger. “We appear to have misplaced one of our number.”

“I’m here,” said a third voice. Harry groaned. That cut-glass accent could only belong to one of his hated enemies (differing, as it did, from Snape’s contemptuous drawl and Voldemort’s noseless hiss). “I fell over the dog.”

“How clumsy of you,” murmured Snape.

Draco clambered to his feet, using the table for leverage, as Dumbledore looked on benevolently; Harry wrathfully; and Snape studied his fingernails. On seeing that Dudley was not, in fact, a dog, Draco gave a great start and banged his hip against the breakfast bar.

“Good grief,” he said, “it’s a walrus! We’ve accidentally Apparated to a zoo.”

“Severus, I give you the floor,” said Dumbledore.

“It’s not a walrus,” said Snape. “It’s related to Potter.”

“Ah.” Draco curled his lip.

Harry, scowling, took proper notice of him for the first time. While Snape and Dumbledore were dressed as usual, in narrow black robes for the former and flowing sapphire with gold dragon embroidery for the latter, Draco was Draco as Harry had never seen him before. He was wearing a voluminous white shirt that spun out moonlight. It was tied with strings at the throat. This unlikely garment was tucked into tight-fitting blue trousers. The outfit was completed by knee-high leather boots with silver spurs and finishings.

Clearly, he’d been on his way to a fancy-dress party, dressed as an idiot.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry to Dumbledore. “Obviously you were on your way to Azkaban and Apparated to the wrong place.”

Draco and Snape raised their eyebrows at each other. “That wasn’t very witty,” said Draco. “Zero out of ten.”

“If everyone could restrain themselves from denigrating my Apparation skills for just a moment,” said Dumbledore, “I would like to explain the situation to Harry.”

“You’re wasting your time,” said Draco. “It’s all in one ear, out the other with that boy. You’d be better off telling the walrus.” He kicked Dudley’s shins, not very gently, and Dudley woke up.

“Ow,” he groaned. “I think I got frostbite of the ear again.”

“Some hazards are to be expected, when one sleeps in a fridge,” said Snape.

“What on earth is a fridge?” demanded Draco.

Snape paused. “It is ... a Muggle device, for cooling food and beverages.”

“Oh,” said Draco. “Like a house elf, you mean?”

“Muggles don’t keep slaves!” shouted Harry.

“How very plebeian of them,” said Draco, leaning back as if Harry’s breath smelled.

“Silence!” thundered Dumbledore. He waved his wand, and Harry felt his mouth freeze in position – he’d opened it wide to begin yelling in earnest. Draco’s was caught in a knowing smirk; even through the facial paralysis he seemed to be laughing at Harry.

“That’s better.” Dumbledore smiled. Beads of sweat were popping out on his forehead. He pulled a lilac-scented handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his face with it. “My word, but it’s very close in here. Perhaps we should open a window.”

Harry tried to speak, failed, and pointed instead. Dumbledore turned to survey the night and the small army of midges, frogs and crickets that had advanced through the glass-less window.

“How very odd,” said Dumbledore. “You don’t often see Eleutherodactylinae Barycholos here in Surrey.”

Harry shrugged. The fan was faltering in its appointed task, and Harry could feel heat building across his skin. He shovelled up the last ice-cube from the gloopy mess in the glass and crushed it into his chest. Draco’s eyes blazed open at this, then shut very tightly.

“Now that we’re all ready to listen,” said Dumbledore, “it may be best to begin at the beginning.” He surveyed the ceiling for a moment, where a number of heat-struck spiders dangled from their webs. “Or perhaps not. Suffice it to say: for the safety of the students, I have shut up Hogwarts Castle.”

Harry tried to scream his protest, forgetting again that his tongue was spelled motionless.

“Hogwarts, the institution, I will not suffer to fall under Voldemort’s sway. As such, I have made arrangements for those who cannot be taught at home to be farmed out to Muggle schools. I made sure to choose those with ties to Hogwarts, through siblings or cousins. Stonewall Comprehensive is one such. You will be enrolled in the fifth form come September first.”

Dumbledore smiled at Harry. At the news, even Harry’s brain fell silent.

“To ensure that no one falls behind in their magical studies during this time, every group of students will have a Hogwarts teacher to guide them. I have established an L-space portal in the living quarters of the students so that they may access Hogwarts’ library, while giving the teachers a safe means of travelling between their charges. Your tutor is Professor Snape, here, and young Draco will be living with you. If you have any questions, you should address them to your new house-mates – I must be off. I have four hundred other students to settle in the next month.”

Snape was making fierce gestures at Dumbledore, which he at last deigned to notice. “Have I forgotten something? Oh, yes, of course.” Dumbledore retrieved yet another letter from inside his robes. “For your aunt and uncle. Explanations ... and a little monetary recompense.” Dumbledore winked and Disapparated.

Harry tried to say something very rude indeed, but his mouth was still magically uncooperative. Snape – face still bland despite the fury flashing in his eyes – whipped out his wand and voicelessly cast the counter-spell.

The four men in the sweltering kitchen stared at each other in cyclical horror. After a few minutes of this, Harry dashed to the calendar and grabbed Dudley’s fat fist to check his high-tech watch.

“What are you doing?” asked Draco.

“Checking that it’s not April Fool’s Day,” said Harry. “It’s not, actually. And it’s also five-thirty pm in Mozambique.”

“I wish I was in Mozambique,” sighed Draco.

“I’m sure they have plenty of slaves there,” said Harry.

“Slavery was outlawed in 1878,” objected Dudley. “By the way, am I dreaming this?”

“If only,” said Snape. “It truly is unreasonably hot.” And indeed, Snape’s waxy cheeks were lit up with two flares of pink. Draco didn’t look much better.

“That explains your clothes – or lack of them.” Draco tilted his chin the direction of Harry’s boxers and, for the first time, Harry felt a little self-conscious. “It pains me to say this, but for once I think Potter’s sartorial contribution is the right one.”

“I can’t take much more tonight,” said Snape. “Direct us to our quarters and leave us be.”

“Your what?”

“Our rooms, Potter,” said Snape, “the place where we are to abide, the chambers fitted up for our use. How much simpler can I make this?”

“You don’t have any,” said Harry. The full force of Snape and Draco’s glares would have cowed a lesser man. “Get off it! Dumbledore only told me about this whole thing five minutes ago. Besides, it’s a ridiculous idea. Me and, and him -” he waved dismissively at Draco “- just, no. And I don’t think you’re very happy to be living with me, sir. I’m sure Dumbledore will think better of it in the morning.”

“Well, that gives him approximately two minutes,” said Draco, nodding at the pinkening sky.

“You’ve known Dumbledore for five years.” Snape suddenly sounded infinitely weary. “I’ve known him for thirty. Believe me when I say, heaven and earth will not move that man.”

Harry made a face. Draco felt it indigent upon him to observe, “He means the old coot won’t change his mind.”

“You – don’t talk like that about Dumbledore in front of me!” Harry felt himself turning red. He really didn’t need the additional sweat that arguing made him extrude. “He’s ten times the human being you are, you – you dung-weasel.”

“Yes, the requests for his canonisation are flooding in,” said Draco. Harry hated the way he managed to sound so bored when he, Harry, was furious. “Please. Dumbledore isn’t as snow-white as you think, Grumpy.”

“Hush,” said Snape. Amazingly, Draco did. Snape turned to Harry. “Regardless of your feelings on the subject – and of mine,” he said, “will you accede to the Headmaster’s request at least for the night? I mean, the day.”

“I suppose,” said Harry, very reluctantly. “I don’t know where you’ll sleep, though.”

Dudley had remained quiet throughout these proceedings, engrossed in searching the fridge for a solitary non-Diet Coke. His quest foiled, he now piped up.

“There’s always the basement,” he said.

+++

Harry left Draco and Snape in the basement a scant ten minutes after guiding them there. It had been a long, tiresome day, despite being only six hours long. He didn’t think he could stand any more interior decorating advice from Draco – “How about some Grecian pillars? You can never go wrong with Grecian pillars” – without giving in to his not-so-sublimated urge to paste Draco across the nearest wall.

Harry fell asleep again as gaudy streaks of gold claimed the sky, only to be subjected to the same nightmare from which he’d previously awoken. He wasn’t in the Department of Mysteries this time. He and Sirius were having a picnic in a park with improbably emerald grass, surrounded by the chirping laughter of children. But between one cress sandwich and the next, the sky was rent by purple lightning. A curtain enveloped the world. Sirius was sucked into its folds. Laughter turned to wailing; Harry shouted his godfather’s name, and woke himself up.

He lay on the floor with his breath coming in harsh rattles. As he gradually calmed down, he thought to check the time on his clock-radio. It was eleven am, three hours past Aunt Petunia’s habitual hour of rising. Harry was surprised not to have been awoken earlier by screams of discovery coming from the basement.

Harry went to pull on the still damp t-shirt of the day before, and was suddenly reminded of the disapproving way Draco had looked at his boxers. Although he could ill afford the change, Harry took a dry and clean – if sadly wrinkled – t-shirt from the drawer and donned it instead. He exchanged his boxers for surfer shorts that reached his calves (Dudley had gone through a phase), the heat not permitting him to wear both at once. His feet in flip-flops to stop the soles being scorched by the ground outside, and he was ready, and more sincerely regretful of his lack of deodorant than he would have supposed possible yesterday.

Dudley was still slumbering in the kitchen, so Harry poured some cornflakes into a bowl with milk and drank it standing. It was too near to the midday zenith to attempt mowing the lawn, so Harry reluctantly went to check on his visitors.

In the living room Aunt Petunia was holding court, having sent her husband off to work in swimming trunks several hours earlier. She was grandly serving iced tea to none other than Professor Snape.

“- I’m afraid I’ve had several higher offers,” Aunt Petunia was saying. “You will have to at least match them to gain a foothold in the bidding.”

“Tea,” said Snape, not appearing to heed her in the slightest. “In a heatwave, the English offer tea! All the ice in the world will not cool this little hand, oh no.”

“Morning,” said Harry, loudly enough to alert the two orators to his presence.

“That’s my nephew, Harry. Likes to loiter,” said Aunt Petunia. “Harry, meet Mr Snape. He’s come to bid on the kitchen fan.”

“A plague! A plague on both their ice-houses!” cried Snape, staring wildly. Aunt Petunia chuckled.

“He drives a hard bargain, all right,” she said.

“I’m going to ... the basement,” said Harry, after racking his brains for a good reason and finding none. But Aunt Petunia’s mind was on greater matters.

“See if there’s any iced tea there,” was all she said. “Mr Snape’s already drunk three pints of it.”

Harry stared at his professor as he walked to the basement door. Snape was still dressed in his robes, although they were in considerable disarray and loose around the collar. Visible sweat patches stuck out under his arms, quite a feat in black cloth. His face was bright red, his hair plastered to his skull.

“Probably sick,” Harry muttered to himself, not caring as hard as he could.

Miracles had been wrought in the basement overnight, although they were not the sort to feature in Better Homes and Gardens. An ornate stone doorway leading to blank breezeblocks suggested the successful establishment of an L-space portal. Oil lamps flickered from the walls, bathing the room with a sickly glow.

The heat was intense. It looked like Draco’s aspirations for a temple-like abode had been halted, for there was nothing ornate in the room except two camp-beds laden with velvet cushions, quilted blankets and silk sheets. In the middle of one lay Draco, shirt undone, sleeves rolled up, and barefoot to the knee.

“Well, if it isn’t my favourite Potter,” said Draco, his voice thick and hazy. “Wait. That was supposed to come out more sarcastic than it did.”

“I figured.” Harry ventured further into the room, trying not to breathe too deeply. The burning oil made the air cloying as well as arid. “What did you do with all the junk that was here?”

“You’re looking at it.” Draco thumped the bed. The exertion seemed to weary him excessively, for his hand rolled uselessly off the pillows. “Snape went ... he went, and it’s so very hot in here ... I think we have the fever.”

“No, it’s just hot,” said Harry. “There hasn’t been a temperature under forty since the first of May, including during the night. You need to get Snape to cast some Cooling Charms down here. If you stay, that is.”

“Oh, we’re staying.” Draco laughed: a clamouring, humourless hack. “No doubt about that, no siree.”

“You’d better come upstairs,” said Harry, “where there’s a fan. Two hundred people have died of heatstroke in the last few months.”

“I didn’t know you cared.”

“I don’t,” said Harry, “but Dumbledore would probably be upset. A little bit, anyway. C’mon, get up.”

“You’re so masterful,” said Draco, making no effort to move. “There’s one tiny flaw to that plan, however, and it is: I can’t get up. Too weak. Dying of thirst. Et cetera, et cetera.”

“I’ll get Snape,” sighed Harry. He propped open the door at the top of the basement stairs and spent some futile minutes attempting to waft cooler air through it. Then he went to rescue Snape.

Who was sprawled on the sofa, being fanned by Aunt Petunia. The peacock feathers distributed as much dust as refreshment, especially with Aunt Petunia’s level of enthusiasm for the task.

“What happened?” asked Harry.

“He fainted,” said Aunt Petunia. “Very cunning business ploy – I must remember to use it myself some time.”

“I think he’s gone heat-mad,” said Harry. “You – you’d better undress him. I’ll get the ice.”

As Harry once more plunged his hands into the sweet, sweet relief that was the deep freeze, Dudley spluttered into wakefulness. He trotted into the living room and, a few seconds later, ran back into the kitchen.

“There’s a naked man in there!” he half-screamed.

“Naked?” Harry dropped the ice in dismay. “What’d she take all his clothes off for?”

Dudley’s eyes narrowed. “You know about this? I could have been scarred for life!”

“Calm down,” said Harry. “It’s just Prof – Snape, from last night, remember? He and Malfoy only went and slept in the hundred-degree basement all night. They’re both going heat-mad.”

“Didn’t you tell them not to do that?” asked Dudley. Harry didn’t care for the implication of neglect in his question.

“I forgot, all right! Besides, it’s not as if they’re the two nicest people on the planet or anything. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“I thought all you magic freaks stuck together,” said Dudley.

“You wouldn’t believe how much that’s not the case,” said Harry. “Do me a favour? Take some ice down to Malfoy?”

“Okay.” Dudley bumped Harry aside with his bulk and thrust his hands into the freezer. “Ah-h, lovely.”

Harry returned to the living room with a wok full of ice, thankful to discover that Snape still had on his underpants. From the grey, frayed appearance of said underpants, Harry was of two minds as to whether they were the same ones his father had exposed several decades before.

Aunt Petunia was nowhere to be seen. Harry dithered, his conscience warring with some painfully poignant memories. In the end his conscience won, but mainly because Snape grabbed his hand and pulled him down so they were nose-to-nose.

“Lily,” he whispered hoarsely. “Where’s Lily? Got to save her. Got to save Lily, save them all.”

“Er,” said Harry. Instantly Snape’s eyes grew less dim.

“As eloquent as ever, I see,” he snapped. “Tell me you’ve brought some ice.”

“Here.” Harry handed over the wok, immensely grateful to be spared the task of touching Snape’s pale, weedy body.

“Where’d that woman put my clothes? My wand’s in the robe pocket.” Snape began rubbing himself down with ice, his arms trembling with effort. “Bring them to me. No, don’t touch my wand! What are you, an idiot?”

As Snape’s insults went, it lacked panache, so Harry waited a minute for a more cutting rejoinder before saying, “No.”

“Glad to hear your certainty in the matter.” Snape stuck his wand in his mouth and cast a garbled spell. Ice began forming a web across his skin and turned his hair into so many icicles. He next pointed the wand at his robes, which crackled with frost.

“Did you check on Draco? No, of course you didn’t.” Snape struggled to get his arms into his solid robes, gave up, and spelled them on.

“He’s weak. Thinks he has a fever,” said Harry. “I sent Dudley to give him some ice.”

Snape stood up in a swish of thawing linen, betraying no surprise or hint of apology. Harry was angered by his lack of response, but as this was a baseline reaction to having Snape in his vicinity, he didn’t pay it much mind.

“Transfigure his stupid shirt into some shorts and flip-flops,” he said to Snape’s retreating back. “And get rid of the stupid oil lamps.”

“And some advice for you: find a synonym for stupid,” said Snape, without turning around.

+++

Dinner that evening was an interesting affair. It used, of recent times, to consist of dishes that could be served cold – sandwiches, quiche, and a lot of ice-cream. In honour of their house-guests, however, Aunt Petunia had laid out a spread fit for company – and they were all suffering. The boiling tomato soup, roast lamb and baked Alaska would have been enough to melt an ice-cap had there been one handy.

Snape and Draco, under the protection of interwoven Cooling Charms, picked at their meal. The indefinite upkeep of one charm would have tested any magic-user’s endurance; the effort of two was starting to show on Snape’s face. Harry caught himself idly considering Owling Hermione, in case she could come up with a theoretical solution. The cumulative effect of sun damage was clearly taking its toll. In the cooler climes of Scotland he would never have thought something so charitable regarding the two Slytherins.

Otherwise, the atmosphere in the kitchen was polite but strained. Harry had been privy to his aunt and uncle’s conversation upon Vernon’s arrival home. The ‘monetary recompense’ had obviously been substantial; at any rate, Uncle Vernon’s indignant bellows were abruptly cut short when Aunt Petunia waved the letter in his face. All Harry had to contend with was the minor fact of having his schoolboy nemesis and most hated teacher under one small roof.

He had never realised it before, but hatred took a lot of energy, and heat sapped more of it. The former drain ousted the latter by a magnitude of ten. Even the sniping Harry would have expected was rarely in evidence, probably because Draco and Snape were too exhausted to make the effort.

Snape had taken Harry’s advice and Transfigured Draco’s clothes into a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. The t-shirt was still white, with laces at the neck, and the flip-flops were black and silver, but Harry felt he’d carried the point. Snape was still in robes, trusting the strength of his Cooling Charm. He was slowly turning pink, so Harry decided to keep an eye on him. It was not a purely altruistic move: he didn’t want to have to see Snape undressed again if he could help it.

“So you lot are wizards, eh?” grunted Uncle Vernon. He’d made no pretence at liking his visitors; but to be fair, neither had they.

“No,” said Draco, “we’re circus performers who have tragically lost our way.” He turned to Snape. “Must we?”

“Yes,” said Snape, in the tones of one who’d answered this question many times before, and knew he would again.

“I think the other thing would have been easier,” muttered Draco. He prodded his baked Alaska, plainly with every expectation that it would prod back.

“As you are sixteen,” said Snape, “and foolish, I am sure you do.”

“How do you like your pudding?” Aunt Petunia asked them.

“Is that what this was?” said Draco. Snape coughed, covering most of the question.

“It is, without doubt, a culinary feat,” said Snape. Aunt Petunia simpered.

“I understand your son is to attend Stonewall Comprehensive in the autumn,” continued Snape. Uncle Vernon glared at his wife.

“That’s not settled –”

“But, darling –”

Their verbal skirmish was lost on Harry. How did Snape know that? And, more importantly, why did he care?

“Draco, d’you fancy an ice-cream?” asked Dudley.

“More than you,” said Draco, and they both laughed. Harry stared. Dudley lumbered into the pantry and Draco hummed to himself, meticulously avoiding Harry’s gaze.

“- I find it incumbent upon me to enrol my charges there, temporarily. For security reasons.”

“Not much security at Stonewall,” rumbled Uncle Vernon. “Unless you count keeping all the neighbourhood thugs locked up in one place for eight hours a day.”

Aunt Petunia tittered dutifully. Slowly, Snape raised one eyebrow. “Indeed,” he said. “In any case, if you’re collecting one of those forms Muggles love so much, I wonder if you would bring two extra on my account.”

“That’s no trouble,” said Uncle Vernon. “Rum thing to do, though. Foisting all these deviants on honest, hard-working people like ourselves. Bit late to try and make them normal by this stage, ain’t it?”

Harry felt his scalp prickle as he built up a fountainhead of rage. In deference to the heat, it was a small one.

“I really couldn’t say,” murmured Snape.

“So.” Draco surveyed the table and the ravages of his baked Alaska. “We’ll all be going to school together: you, me, and Big D. Won’t it be peachy?”

“What?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Keep up. They’re discussing your parole terms for the next year.”

“I’ll be at Hogwarts for the next –”

And then the knowledge, which had been kept back by a dam of too-early awakenings, unwanted guests and general befuddledness, crashed in upon Harry like a tidal wave. He gibbered, clutching the sides of his chair for support. There was to be no Hogwarts for a whole year. He was stuck here, with Draco and the Dursleys and Snape, with no escape – no Hermione and Ron – no Quidditch – no Hagrid –

He took a huge gulp of lukewarm water and felt his throat contract as he almost retched it back up. “Dumbledore,” he snarled, “you bastard.”

“Now, if that were the only thing I’d ever heard you say,” said Draco, “we could have been the best of friends. Except for the part where you’re a total prat.”

“Nah,” said Dudley, meditatively, “Harry’s always been more of a geek, I thought.” He handed Draco an ice-cream.

“A man after my own heart.” Draco unwrapped the ice-cream and licked it delicately. Harry wanted to smash it into his face. He wanted to strangle Draco with his own tongue.

But – unpredictably – this was not Draco’s fault. He was as much a victim of circumstance as Harry. This was all Dumbledore’s doing.

Harry recalled Dumbledore’s speech from the night before. He’d talked about safety, and four hundred children, and ... ‘those who cannot be taught at home.’

Harry instantly brightened. The Weasleys were sure to be taught at home, and Hermione along with them. It was a mere oversight that Harry had not been included in their party. He would write to Dumbledore straight after dinner, pointing out the facts, and requesting a transfer.

Thus engaged, he failed for some time to notice that Dudley was trying to get his attention. Dudley had to resort to waving his offering in Harry’s face before Harry blinked himself back to the present.

“I told you,” said Draco. “Slow-witted. Probably dropped on his head as a child.”

“Well, yes – but it was only the one time!” protested Dudley.

“What is it?” snapped Harry.

“The ice-cream I got you,” said Dudley. “Do you want it or not?”

part ii
 
 
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(Anonymous) on June 8th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Rio de JanEiro. Where there are more than slums. Anyway.
(Anonymous) on June 10th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
(Just cause even though s/hewhocannotbenamed above me won't get notified if I reply to them, I was still vaguely pissed off by their comment, I'm posting a reply here.)

Rwanda's main exports are coffee and tea, but that's not what it's famous for. Many citizens of Olympia probably have little to no interest in sports. But one can't help making mental associations with places and things and it takes a good author to highlight these and exploit them in her writing. It's not as if the association was explicit or crude e.g. Germany = Hitler or Austria = peadophiles.
Anyway.


I'm really excited to read the rest of this, yo. I love your characterisation of Harry and even though we can see inside his head (obviously), I love the sparsity and impact of his dialogue - you really do write him stunningly well.

“No, I think that might have been the graffiti we sprayed in the gym. Piers is quite artistic, in certain areas.” Dudley tapped his chin. “Or maybe it was the defacement of the founding fathers’ portraits, the tutus on the antique statuary or the flashing during the Queen’s visit. You know, I’m just not sure.”
I do find it hard to see Dudders as eloquent as that, but his budding relationship with Draco (okay, even I won't hope for that) and his ice-lolly offerings are priceless. Also top marks for the fox and Narcissa, Petunia/Snape and Stonewall Comp. I can tell already Stonewall Comp has depths of cracked-out-ness yet to be plumbed.

“And some advice for you: find a synonym for stupid,” said Snape, without turning around.
Love.

Oh, and Dementor sperm. Wow.