A/N: Phew! It's done! Another 5,000+ word chapter, and it only took me...four and a half months? Yeah, I know this updating schedule has been completely ridiculous. I just have to send a big THANK YOU to all of you out there who have stuck with me anyway. One way or another, this story will get written. The trick is just finding the time to work on it with my busy schedule :)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this next installment! And have a very Happy Mother's Day!

"That should do it," Snape said at last, leaning back in his chair as he screwed the lid back on the bruise balm.

Harry's hand instinctively went to his face, his fingers gently running across his cheek. "Thank you, sir," he said quietly.

Snape jerked his head in acknowledgement before getting to his feet. "You are ready to go now, Potter. I'm sure the Weasleys are waiting in … eager anticipation."

The man's face twisted into a sour expression as he spoke those final words, and Harry suddenly found himself wondering what the potions master actually thought of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. As a rule, the professor didn't seem to like very many people. But he wouldn't just send Harry off with people he didn't approve of or trust, right?

Or would he?

Catching sight of the uncertainty on the boy's face, Snape crossed his arms. "Do you still have the coin I gave you before the holidays, Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, sir," Harry withdrew the coin from his pocket and held it up.

"Good," Snape nodded in approval. "Do not lose that. Keep it on you at all times. And make sure to actually use it if you find yourself in trouble."

Harry nodded. "Right. If I hear that voice again."

"Or," Snape emphasized harshly. "If you find yourself injured or in a dangerous situation where there is no one around to help you."

Harry's eyes widened a bit at the tone in the man's voice. "Sir?"

"For instance," Snape continued, "if you were to take a tumble down the stairs and fracture your wrist …Or-"

"Okay. I get it," Harry interrupted quietly, his face heating up in embarrassment.

"No, Potter, I really don't think that you do," Snape countered. "But we will be sure to discuss it in great detail at your next detention."

Harry swallowed the protest on his lips. He knew his chances of winning an argument with the professor were less than zero. And so he simply waited a moment before finally letting out a sigh and answering, "Yes, sir."

"Have you gentlemen concluded your business?"

Snape and Harry both turned at the sound of the headmaster's voice. And sure enough, Albus Dumbledore was standing in the kitchen entrance, a small smile on his lips and that customary twinkle in his eyes.

Snape rolled his eyes as he turned back to the young boy. "Put that away," he nodded towards the coin resting on Harry's outstretched palm.

Harry obeyed, slipping the coin back into his pocket where it rested, as usual, against his mother's picture.

"How do you feel?" the potions master demanded then. "Any pain? Soreness?"

"I'm fine, sir," Harry answered, his face turning even redder.

"Hmm…" Snape muttered, eying the boy's wrist. "You are to tell Mr. and Mrs. Weasley immediately if anything changes, understood?"

"Yes, sir," Harry nodded.

Snape jerked his head in approval and gestured towards the hallway. "Well, then, I believe it is time that you were on your way."

Harry resisted the urge to sigh as he turned and followed the headmaster back into the living room. He felt incredibly nervous as he looked at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, waiting patiently by the fireplace.

"Are you ready to go, dear?" Mrs. Weasley asked, smiling. "We really should be getting back now. It's time to feed the chickens."

"You have chickens?" Harry responded, feeling a small bit of relief. If nothing else, he may just make a few more feathered friends this weekend.

"Oh, yes," Mr. Weasley put in. "Plenty of chickens. And Errol, of course. Though he's out on a delivery trip at the moment."

"Your owl?" Harry questioned, moving to stand closer to the fireplace and thinking about the family's elderly mail-carrier.

"That's right," Mrs. Weasley answered. "Now, have you ever traveled by floo before, dear?"

Harry shook his head. "No, ma'am."

"Then it's probably best if you stick close to one of us for your first trip," Mr. Weasley said, reaching into a small pot on the mantel and withdrawing a fistful of fine, glittery powder. "You and Molly can go first. And I'll be right behind you."

Harry nodded, allowing himself to be ushered into the fireplace alongside Mrs. Weasley.

"Enjoy your weekend, Harry," the headmaster stated.

"Thank you, sir," Harry answered quietly. And then turning to Snape, he gave a quick nod. "Goodbye, sir."

"Mr. Potter," the potions master returned the nod.

"Are you ready?" Mr. Weasley asked then, preparing to toss the floo powder into the fireplace as his wife pulled Harry closer to her side.

And suddenly, Harry's eyes widened as he recalled an image of Snape throwing that same powder into the fireplace the previous evening. He remembered how the tall green flames had burst into existence out of nowhere. And now he imagined them climbing up his body, completely engulfing him and burning him to a crisp.

Harry could feel the panic setting in. He immediately sought out the gaze of the potion's professor, who looked completely at ease and unalarmed by the situation. And that alone brought the boy a small sense of relief, though it wasn't quite enough to ease the tightness in his chest.

"Well, dear?" Mrs. Weasley prompted kindly, giving Harry's shoulder a squeeze.

Not wanting to appear weak in front of all the adults, Harry forced himself to nod, not quite able to find his voice.

And before the young boy had the opportunity to change his mind, Mr. Weasley released the floo powder and called out, "The Burrow!"

And Harry and Mrs. Weasley were gone.

Snape immediately raised his wand and summoned a potion from his stores. It flew across the room and into his waiting hand. "Arthur," he said then, handing it off to Mr. Weasley. "I believe Potter may need a swallow of this as soon as you arrive home."

Mr. Weasley raised an eyebrow as he looked down at the potion bottle. "A calming draught?"

"Yes, Mr. Potter looked as though he were on the verge of a panic attack at the thought of traveling by floo. You should go administer the potion immediately."

Arthur nodded, having already received briefing on Harry's panic attacks earlier. "Right, then," the man said, holding the bottle tightly with one hand and reaching for the floo powder with the other. "I best be off then."

And within moments, a burst of green flames whisked Arthur Weasley away, leaving Snape and Dumbledore alone in the potions master's living room.

But just as Snape opened his mouth to suggest that the headmaster show himself out as well, the older man spoke first.

"You didn't tell me about the coin, Severus."

Snape turned towards the headmaster, studying the older man's expression carefully. He did not appear to be upset. That was a good sign.

"What of it?" Snape asked, moving towards his armchair and lowering himself onto the seat.

"You did not tell me," Albus repeated.

"I did not think it worth mentioning," Snape replied, picking up the book he had been reading last night and flipping it open to the bookmarked page.

"No? Well, I had wondered why the ministry did not detect Harry's inflation charm," Dumbledore mused. "This new piece of information would seem to resolve that mystery. How long has the child had it?"

"Not long. Since just before the winter holidays. Are you planning to turn me into the ministry, Albus?" Snape asked, his voice demonstrating a complete lack of concern that the headmaster would even consider doing such a thing.

Dumbledore smiled slightly. "I think we both know the answer to that."

Snape inclined his head slightly before purposely returning his attention to his book.

"Does Harry know?"

Severus let out an amused scoff. "You mean, did I tell the child that he is in possession of an object which completely masks the trace? That he could essentially do magic anytime and anywhere he likes without any chance of being detected? Do you take me for a fool? Who knows what kind of trouble that boy would get into if he knew?"

Dumbledore chuckled for a moment before turning more serious. "You're right, Severus. As usual."

Severus made a soft grumbling sound as he turned the page of his book but otherwise remained silent.

"Well, now that Harry is sure to be settling in nicely at the Burrow, I suppose I should be getting back to my office." Dumbledore continued. "Will you be up to teaching today, Severus? Because if you need some time—"

"Why would I need time?" Severus jerked his head up, a fresh scowl settling on his face.

"Now, Severus. I know the discoveries you've made about Harry's life with his aunt and uncle have been difficult for you—"

"I will be teaching today, Albus." Severus interrupted, suddenly snapping his book closed and rising to his feet. "So, if you'll excuse me, there isn't much time left to prepare for the first lesson. It is sure to be a busy day."

"Indeed," Albus responded, piercing the potions master with a penetrating gaze over his spectacles. "I'll leave you to it then, Severus, and show myself to the door."

"You are welcome to use the floo," Severus gestured to the fireplace.

"Oh, no," the headmaster shook his head. "I think a nice long walk up through the castle is exactly what I need at the moment."

Severus jerked his head in understanding and watched as the headmaster made his way to the exit.

And a moment later, the potions master was alone in his silent quarters.

The moment Harry stumbled out of the fireplace, he began gasping and coughing for air. He suspected that the only reason he hadn't fallen flat on his face was that Mrs. Weasley was still holding him tight to her side. He attempted several times to take a deep breath in the next few seconds, but with no success. He just continued to cough, his throat dry and scratchy after the journey through the floo.

"Are you alright, dear?" Mrs. Weasley asked, quickly summoning a glass of water as she patted Harry's back. "Deep breaths now. That's it."

Another moment later, the fireplace roared to life and Mr. Weasley hurried through, the calming draught clutched securely in hand. "Here, Harry. Swallow this," the man said, uncorking the bottle and bringing it to Harry's lips. "This will help."

Harry let out another cough before allowing the potion to be poured down his throat. He recognized the taste right away and, in little more than an instant, he felt relief. And he was finally able to draw some air into his lungs.

"Goodness," Mrs. Weasley breathed, as the child finally began to relax and take deep breaths.

"Feeling better, Harry?" Arthur asked then, as he began rubbing comforting circles into the boy's back.

Harry nodded as his face suddenly heated up in embarrassment and shame. He hadn't been in the Weasleys' home for more than twenty seconds and already he was demonstrating why he would be nothing but a burden to any family who may consider taking him in. He half-expected Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to turn around right then and there to take him back to Hogwarts.

"Drink some water, Harry dear," Mrs. Weasley insisted, holding out the glass she had summoned moments ago.

"Yes, ma'am," Harry answered, grasping the glass tightly and gulping the water down quickly.

"Where did you get the calming draught, Arthur?" Molly asked, as she began guiding Harry into the kitchen.

"Severus," Mr. Weasley answered. "He thought Harry may need it after the trip through the floo. He was right."

Harry felt a sudden burst of warmth in his chest. But before he had much time to dwell on the reason for it, he caught sight of his surroundings. And his mouth fell open in awe.

It was a cluttered space, and well lived-in. Just feet away, a broom was sweeping itself across the kitchen floor, causing the wooden dining chairs to jump out of the way as it passed. And in the sink, the leftover breakfast dishes were lazily washing themselves and then settling down next to the sink to dry.

Harry's eyes moved around to scan all of the pictures and knickknacks adorning the walls and shelves. His eyes settled on a large clock at the other end of the room that had several more hands on it than a normal clock would. Upon closer inspection, Harry realized that each hand had the name of one of the members of the Weasley family engraved on it. And instead of numbers, the hands were pointing to different words inscribed around the clock face. The majority of the Weasley children's hands were pointing at the words "At school." Both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's hands were settled on "Time to feed the chickens."

For a moment, Harry briefly imagined a new hand being added to the clock. One with his name engraved on it. But he quickly dismissed the thought. He knew the Weasleys wouldn't want to keep him permanently. He needed to remind himself not to get too comfortable. And with that thought, he drew his arms around himself protectively.

"Are you hungry at all, dear?" Mrs. Weasley asked then, bringing Harry out of his thoughts. "I know Severus said you already had breakfast, but I'm more than happy to fix you something if you're feeling a bit peckish."

"No, ma'am. I'm fine," Harry answered quickly. "Thank you."

"Well, then," Mrs. Weasley smiled. "How about I give you a quick tour of the house while Arthur goes to feed the chickens?"

"I'll help with the chickens," Harry said automatically. Then, worried that the Weasleys wouldn't like him speaking out like that, he quickly ducked his head as he added, "I mean, if that's okay."

"I think that's a fine idea," Arthur answered with a quick glance to his wife. "Come on then, Harry. We'll be back in a few minutes, Molly."

Harry let out a breath as he raised his head again, a small smile finding its way onto his face.

"He'll need a coat, Arthur. It's cold out there!" Molly exclaimed, swishing her wand through the air.

"It's okay, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said hastily, not wanting the Weasleys to realize already how much trouble he would be if they were to take him in. Maybe if he just let them know that he didn't expect them to provide any clothes for him…they wouldn't regret their decision to invite him into their home quite so soon. "The cold doesn't bother me. I've been outside in the winter without a coat loads of times."

The Weasleys exchanged a look just as a thick winter coat flew into Mrs. Weasley's hands.

"Well, all the same, dear, I would prefer if you wore a coat out in this weather. You'd catch your death of cold, otherwise," Mrs. Weasley responded, holding the coat out to the boy. "This belonged to Charlie when he was younger. We can adjust for size if necessary. But it should do the trick."

Harry's eyes widened as he took the soft woolen coat in his hands. "Oh, I couldn't take this, Mrs. Weasley."

"Well, it certainly is of no use to Charlie anymore," Mr. Weasley put in. "Go ahead and put it on, Harry. You'll never win an argument against Molly. And we have chickens to feed."

At those words, Harry gave just one more quick glance to Mrs. Weasley before carefully pulling on the soft winter coat.

"Comfortable?" Mr. Weasley asked, aiming a sizing charm at the coat so that it shrank a bit to fit Harry's small frame.

Harry just nodded, eyes still wide as he hugged the warm material close.

"Alright, let's go, then," Mr. Weasley said, opening the front door and leading Harry outside.

As soon as the pair had stepped into the chilly morning air, Mr. Weasley cast a warming charm on the both of them for an extra layer of protection. A light dusting of snow covered the ground, and Harry followed Mr. Weasley for several paces before turning around to get his first look at the outside of the Burrow.

"Wow," Harry breathed, craning his neck to look up at the impressive structure of haphazardly stacked rooms and floors. It was the sort of building that Harry suspected could only exist in the wizarding world. Because he was quite certain that a good strong wind would be enough to topple the whole home over without a bit of magic there to hold it together.

"Coming, Harry?" Mr. Weasley called, already halfway across the yard.

"Yes, sir," Harry responded, hurrying to catch up with Mr. Weasley. And then he smiled widely at the clucking noises that reached his ears as several of the chickens roaming freely around the yard made their way over to greet them near the shed.

"Aren't they cold, sir?" Harry asked in concern, reaching out to stroke the feathers of one of the chickens who had wandered up to him curiously.

"They all have warming charms placed on them," Mr. Weasley explained. "In fact, I don't believe any of our chickens have ever felt a chill in their lives."

Harry smiled. "What are their names?"

"Well, the one you're stroking now is Adeline. Though she doesn't normally come up to anybody unless she can see that they have food. She must really like you."

Harry's smile grew wider. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Adeline," he said then, earning himself a small clucking sound from the bird by way of greeting.

"I'll be back in just a moment with the chicken feed," Mr. Weasley stated, opening the shed door and disappearing inside.

The man was gone for no more than a minute. But when he returned, a bucket of chicken feed in hand, his eyes widened at what he saw.

The child was sitting cross-legged on the ground, completely surrounded on all sides by the Weasley family chickens. They were all clucking and pushing in on the boy, nudging at his arms and competing for attention. And Harry just smiled and laughed, doing his best to stroke the feathers of each of the birds in turn.

Mr. Weasley shook his head in amazement. "Making friends, Harry?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes, sir," Harry answered, beaming up at Mr. Weasley. "Your chickens are really nice."

The man chuckled. "They've certainly taken a liking to you. Would you like to feed them?"

"Yes, sir!" Harry replied eagerly.

"Hold out your hand," the man instructed then.

Harry quickly obeyed. And no sooner had Mr. Weasley poured a handful of chicken feed into the child's outstretched palm than the chickens nearest the boy pressed even closer against him and quickly devoured their first bites of breakfast out of his hand.

Harry laughed. "Poor things. You're hungry this morning, aren't you?"

"Believe me. They are well-fed," Mr. Weasley put in, as the chickens clucked in agreement with Harry's statement. "Here. Hold out your hand again."

And once again Harry obeyed without hesitation, grinning from ear to ear.

Later that afternoon, Harry watched in fascination as Mrs. Weasley's wand directed several ingredients to zoom across the room and land on the counter in front of her.

"What are you making, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry asked, glancing over the potatoes and vegetables.

"Stew," Mrs. Weasley answered. "Does that sound good for dinner?"

Harry nodded and beamed, suddenly grateful for the opportunity to be useful. "I can help if you need me. I used to cook stew for my aunt and uncle all the time."

Mrs. Weasley frowned, not seeming the least bit impressed at this news. "That won't be necessary, dear. I can simply use magic to assist with the peeling and slicing-"

"Oh, but I can do that!" Harry insisted, knowing that if there was any chance at all of the Weasleys letting him stay, he would need to start earning his keep. "Just ask Professor Snape! I peel and cut and dice potions ingredients for him all the time!"

"Really?" Mrs. Weasley asked, sounding both surprised and amused at that piece of information.

Harry nodded. "Yes, ma'am. He taught me how to use a knife perfectly. Please let me help."

Mrs. Weasley was momentarily lost for words at the near desperation in the child's voice. "Well, alright," she finally responded. "Why don't you start with the potatoes and I'll work on the carrots? They'll need to be peeled and then cut."

"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said, smiling as he rolled up his sleeves and reached for the potato peeler.

And together, the pair worked in a comfortable silence as they prepared dinner. And for the moment, Harry felt completely relaxed and at ease in the Weasley kitchen.

Harry sighed in contentment as he shifted into a more comfortable position on the bed in what had once been Bill and Charlie's bedroom. The envelope of pictures Snape had given him was at his side, and Harry was currently staring down at one of the numerous photos of his mother he had spread out across the mattress.

"Today went really well, Mum," the boy whispered. "The Weasleys have been really, really nice to me. I got to feed the chickens this morning. And then Mr. Weasley showed me his workshop. It's full of old toasters and T.V. sets and all kinds of muggle stuff!"

Though the picture of Lily remained completely still, Harry imagined that his mother's smile grew wider at his words. And so he continued to tell the old photograph all about his wonderful day.

"And Mrs. Weasley let me help her in the kitchen. We made a delicious stew and then fresh-baked bread. And after dinner, we sat around the fireplace with the radio playing in the background. And Mr. Weasley read out loud from a mystery book while Mrs. Weasley began knitting a new sweater."

Harry frowned then. And a tiny bit of his good mood evaporated. "I know it won't last," he stated quietly. "It's only a matter of time before they figure out what Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon always knew…That I'm a fr-"

Harry stopped himself, one hand flying up to cover his mouth. And then his eyes darted quickly around the room, half-expecting the potions master to swoop down on him from out of the shadows. The man would be livid if he heard Harry talking like that.

"I'm sorry," the boy whispered frantically into the room. He sat still then, only breathing a long sigh of relief when Snape failed to make an appearance after a full minute of waiting. And finally the young Gryffindor shook his head at how silly he was being.

"I'm alone. No one can hear me," Harry reassured himself. "But…maybe it would be best if I wrote my thoughts down instead of saying them out loud," he suggested then, his attention back on his mother's picture. "Just in case."

Taking Lily's permanent smile as agreement with that plan, the boy raised himself off the bed and walked over to his open trunk. The journal Dumbledore had gifted him and the Riddle diary were lying side by side on top of the mountain of stuff crammed inside the trunk. Harry reached for the brand-new red journal and flipped it open to the first page. And then he turned his attention back to the trunk in search of quill and ink.

"Where is that ink?" the boy muttered, shifting his belongings and feeling along the bottom of the trunk. "Don't tell me I left it in the dormitory."

Harry groaned a minute later when it became apparent after searching every inch of his trunk that, yes, he had left his ink in the dormitory at Hogwarts. He bit his lip and considered his options.

He could just forget the whole thing. Just wait until he got back to Hogwarts on Monday to write everything down that was swirling around in his head. But by then, he very well may just forget everything he had wanted to say in the first place.

Or…he could ask Mr. and Mrs. Weasley if they had any spare ink. The boy had to fight the instinct to reject that idea outright. He was trying his best to stay out of the way and not be a burden. Asking for things that he really ought to have had already was probably not the best way to accomplish that goal.

And yet, somehow Harry couldn't shake the feeling that Snape would be glaring at him with raised eyebrows and arms crossed if he could hear the boy's internal struggle just then. "You are being absolutely ridiculous, Potter," he'd say. "Just ask for the blasted ink!"

Spurred on by this imaginary command, Harry stood up and walked over to the bedroom door. He didn't think it was too late in the evening yet. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were probably still downstairs where he had left them little more than an hour ago.

Harry slowly made his way down the stairs, pausing for just a moment on each landing to listen for any movement or sounds. He was nearly at the bottom of the staircase when he finally heard voices. It sounded as though Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting at the dining room table. The boy froze, not wanting to intrude.

"-just don't see how we're going to manage if they don't start paying you a bit more at work, Arthur," Mrs. Weasley was saying.

"Well, I told you what my boss said, Molly. There isn't much we can-"

"You'll have to talk to him again," Mrs. Weasley interrupted.

"I don't think-"

"Ginny is going to need new shoes," Mrs. Weasley cut in once more. "She said in her last letter that she's growing out of the ones she has. And no doubt the boys will soon follow suit."

"A resizing charm should work for a little while," Mr. Weasley pointed out.

"Yes. A little while. Perhaps a month or two. And then what?"

Mr. Weasley sighed. "We'll figure something out. We always do."

Mrs. Weasley let out a sigh of her own. "I know. But I can't help worrying in the meantime."

"I know," Mr. Weasley responded. "Me too."

"Harry will probably need new shoes, too," Mrs. Weasley mused. "And clothes. And Merlin knows what else…"

Harry's heart was suddenly racing at the mention of his name. And he couldn't help the sick feeling that was quickly washing over him. He had been right all along. He just knew that he would be nothing more than a burden to the Weasley family.

Just like he had been nothing more than a burden to the Dursleys.

Harry suddenly shifted his weight slightly, causing the stair he was standing on to creak loudly. Terrified, the boy froze in place, holding his breath and hoping that the Weasleys hadn't heard him.

But those hopes were dashed just a minute later when the scraping sound of a chair on the floor reached his ears. And then just a moment later, Mr. Weasley came into view at the foot of the stairs.

"Harry?" the man asked. "Is everything alright?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to bother you," Harry answered in a rush. "I can just go back-"

"Nonsense," Mr. Weasley interrupted with a wave of his hand. "Was there something you needed?"

"Uh…" Harry hesitated, unable to stop himself from thinking that after what he had just overheard, he didn't really want to have to ask the Weasleys for anything.

"Yes?" the man prompted, clearly sensing that there was something on the boy's mind.

Harry nervously crossed his arms and shifted from foot to foot. "Well, sir… I was just wondering if maybe you had some…spare ink?"

"Ink?" Mr. Weasley asked, surprised.

Harry quickly nodded. "Yes, sir. To write in my journal. I seem to have left mine at Hogwarts by mistake."

"I see," Mr. Weasley answered with a smile. "Yes, I think we can manage to find you some somewhere. Come on." And the man gestured for Harry to follow him into the dining room.

"Hello, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said when the child came into view. "I was just about to come check up on you. Are you settling into your room alright?"

"Yes, ma'am," Harry answered. "Thank you."

Mrs. Weasley smiled then. "It's getting late. You should start thinking about getting ready for bed soon. Would you like me to make you a cup of hot cocoa?"

"No, thank you," the boy answered. "I'm still really full from dinner."

"Ah, here we are," Mr. Weasley said then, finally locating some spare ink in the kitchen drawer he had been rifling through.

"Thank you, sir," Harry said quickly, taking the offered ink from Mr. Weasley's outstretched hand and glancing down at the small container. "I'll try not to use too much of it."

"Don't be silly, Harry. Use as much as you need," the man responded.

"But don't stay up too late writing," Mrs. Weasley put in, standing up to pull Harry into a loose hug.

"Yes, ma'am," Harry answered, trying to process how odd this situation was. He was fairly certain that Aunt Petunia had never given him a hug good night.

"Now, is there anything else you need?" Mrs. Weasley pulled the child away from her to get a good look at him from head to toe.

Harry shook his head. "No, ma'am. I'm alright."

The woman smiled softly but continued to look the boy over with a critical eye. "Well then," she finally stated, "we'll see you in the morning. Good night, Harry."

"Good night," the boy responded.

As soon as the bedroom door was closed behind him once more, Harry let out a long sigh. He just felt so…confused.

He had clearly just heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley talking about how they couldn't afford to keep him. And yet, they still appeared to want him there. At least for now… Maybe they were just being polite.

Yes, that was definitely it, Harry decided. They were nice enough to let him stay at their home for one weekend, but as soon as he went back to Hogwarts on Monday, they would probably tell Dumbledore that it just wasn't going to work out.

Feeling the disappointment creep in, Harry walked over to where he had left his journal, open to the first page. He grabbed it up and placed it down on the surface of the small desk in the corner of the room. Then he sat down and uncapped the ink.

"What am I supposed to write?" Harry asked himself then, staring down at the blank page before him. "Where do I start?"

Without giving it much more thought, Harry dipped his quill in the ink and wrote the first thing that came to his mind.

My name is Harry Potter.

Harry made a face then. This was his own personal journal that nobody else would ever see. There was really no need to introduce himself. It was really too bad that quills didn't come with erasers.

But no sooner had that thought crossed his mind than the ink suddenly began to fade away, disappearing into the page. Shocked, Harry quickly picked up the ink bottle Mr. Weasley had just given him, examining it closely. It seemed to be normal ink.

And then suddenly, new words began to appear in loopy handwriting across the page, and Harry's eyes scanned them quickly.

Hello Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle.

Startled, Harry nearly toppled the ink over with his elbow in his haste to lift up the journal and check the cover.

Sure enough, he was looking at the smooth black cover of T.M. Riddle's diary. Standing up quickly, Harry rushed over to his trunk. And there, sitting on the top of the pile, was the red journal from Dumbledore. That was strange. He could have sworn that he had taken the red journal out of his trunk earlier instead of the black.

Heart racing, Harry slowly returned to the desk and sank down onto the seat. There were new words written there now.

How is it that you came by my diary?

The words faded away just as soon as Harry had the chance to read them. And then he slowly picked up his quill, scribbling a slightly shaky response.

It was abandoned in a bathroom at Hogwarts. Were you a student there? I think I saw your name on a plaque in the trophy room.

Harry only had to wait a few moments for a response.

Yes. I was a Hogwarts student many years ago.

Harry suddenly found himself wondering if he was speaking to a ghost, but decided not to ask just yet. And so he scribbled something else instead.

What did you get the award for?

There was a brief pause after the question was absorbed into the page before the answer appeared.

I discovered the person who opened the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry let out a short gasp. And then he suddenly frowned. Was this a joke? Did somebody plant the diary in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom as a prank, knowing he would find it? Suspecting that this was the work of Malfoy or one of the other Slytherins, but deciding he would play along for just a little while longer, Harry wrote out the obvious follow up question.

Who was it?

The wait for a response was longer this time. But when the words finally came up, Harry suddenly grew very wary.

Let me show you.

And before the boy even had a chance to think of how to respond to that sentence, he felt himself being jolted forward and sucked right into the pages of the diary.

A/N: Please let me know what you think! And out of curiosity, do you guys like the longer chapters? Or do you prefer ones that are 2K-3K words? As always, any thoughts are welcome!

Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2021