Disclaimer – I solemnly swear that JKR owns everything Harry Potter. Whether or not I am up to no good with her characters is for you to decide.
Author's Note:This story, United We Stand …, follows Harry, Hermione and co.'s fifth year of magical education. Please note that United We Stand … is the fifth book in the Cupboard Series. The full series so far consists of:
Book 1: The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Book 2: Hermione's Book Nook
Book 3: Potter Haven
Book 4: The Fourth School.
I caution you that without having read the four previous stories, some of this story may be hard to follow. Enjoy.
United We Stand …
"Are you sure you want you do this?"
Harry Potter looked sidewards at the girl whose fingers were interlocked with his own as the two of them walked down the middle of the street.
Hermione was his rock, his anchor and the fact that she had a look of concern and uncertainty on her face made him second-guess their purpose there. Knowing the fact that the two of them, a witch and a wizard, were in the middle of this muggle neighbourhood, where, if the nice, normal everyday people behind the neat, cardboard cut-out homes knew what they were would send them into a panic, made him question his decision.
The fact that those very same people would never know, or be able to tell, was actually some comfort. For, even though Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were magical, they could pass for 'normal' in the non-magical world.
They knew how to dress. They knew how to blend in. They even knew to keep their magical wands in the disillusioned holsters strapped to their arms unless it was an emergency.
The reason that the two of them knew how to blend in so well was because neither had known that they were magical until their eleventh birthday. That was when their whole world changed in the guise of a green-inked envelope inviting them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as students.
That was the start of the most amazing four years of their lives so far.
They'd walked through brick walls into hidden alleys filled with magical shops that sold everything from wands to cauldrons to pet toads. They'd discovered a whole new currency at the great marble bank run by goblins. They'd lived in a magic school hidden inside an ancient castle. Harry had become a Quidditch sports star, a game played on brooms with six goal posts and four balls.
And then there were the people and creatures that they'd met during those four years.
The first magical person that Harry'd met was the half-giant, Hagrid – a more gentle person he'd never met, even if he did have a fixation with large dangerous animals. Currently, Hagrid was living in a dragon preserve in Romania.
The first person that Hermione'd met happened to be their current Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, who had the ability to turn herself into a tabby cat with the barest thought.
Of course, they'd made plenty of friends their own age, too. Their best friend, Neville, had grown up in the magical world and would be as lost out in the non-magical world as Harry and Hermione had been when they'd first entered the magical world. But put him in a greenhouse filled with magical plants that wanted to eat you and he'd be right at home.
Beside the greenhouses back at the manor where their new school used to be housed was an enormous domed area filled with magical creatures. The pride of the school were the pair of diricawl, otherwise known in the non-magical world as 'dodos'. Then there were the garden gnomes, real life creatures that looked like potatoes; the burrowing nifflers who loved anything that glitters; and all the rest.
Even after all this time, both Harry and Hermione still found so much to be amazed about.
All of that was, obviously, a long, long way from where they currently were, which, incidentally, was on the very street that Harry had grown up on.
This street, Privet Drive by name, in the village of Little Whinging in the district of Surrey, held no good memories for Harry. After his parents had been murdered on that fateful Halloween when he was only fifteen months old, he'd been dumped on the doorstep of his mother's sister and her husband in the middle of the night.
That was the start of ten long years for Harry, years filled with an unending supply of chores, everything from gardening to cleaning to cooking, all from the age that he could reach or hold the needed utensils. Those years had been incredibly dark, literally so at night, when he'd been locked inside the cupboard under the stairs. That cupboard had been his bedroom until his Hogwarts letter had come.
After that, he'd been moved into his cousin Dudley's second bedroom, a room full of broken junk where locks had been added to the outside of the door to keep him in unless there were chores to be done.
"Harry?" Hermione prompted, reminding him that she'd asked a question some time ago.
It was then that Harry looked up to see number four, his old home.
The last time that he'd seen it had been at night nearly three years ago. Then, he'd been flying away from it on his broom, all his most prized possessions inside the knapsack on his back and his owl, Hedwig, leading the way.
That had led to the start of the most action-packed years of his life.
He'd discovered his heritage; financed a bookshop cum coffee shop business; battled a sixty-foot basilisk in the depths of the school, along with the shade of the darkest wizard in living memory; blasted his Headmaster into a wall in King's Cross Station; gone on the run from the law for an entire year; been hit with the killing curse again (and survived, obviously); started a new school; and was a barely a few weeks away from officially being an animagus.
And now he was back.
Not because he wanted to be but because he felt that he owed it to himself and to his mother. He knew that if something happened and he hadn't done all that he could, he'd never forgive himself. The fact that he was also doing it for his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and his bullying cousin, Dudley, was something that he was currently ignoring.
Two weeks ago, that same dark wizard that he'd already banished three times now – once as a fifteen month old, and twice at Hogwarts – had returned. Exactly how he'd managed that feat was anyone's guess, although it had included the death and decapitation of the Minister of Magic.
And in the first act of terror that Lord Voldemort had orchestrated, he'd sent the Minister's head back with a warning and a threat. A threat that named Harry as one of the ones that he would be targeting. Along with every friend and family member that he had.
The fact that the Dursleys were the only living family that Harry had left had brought him here today. They were at risk of being tortured or killed and they didn't even know it, let alone have any defence against the magic that dark witches and wizards could bring against them.
"Harry?" Hermione asked for the second time.
He looked at her then, opened his mouth, cleared his throat and finally answered her.
"It's the right thing to do."
Neither of them pointed out that that wasn't exactly an answer to the question that she'd asked.
Hermione nodded and Harry gave the smallest of smiles knowing that Hermione understood him so well.
It was a short, silent walk then that took them from where they were to the front of number four, up the garden path and to standing in front of the door.
Harry paused, momentarily unsure what to do. This had been his home for more than a decade, well, perhaps home was too strong a word, but it was where he'd lived for most of his life.
Then, before he could change his mind, he raised his fist and knocked firmly on the door.
The sound of bustling on the other side of the door immediately preceded the door being opened and the appearance of a horse-faced woman with a neck like a giraffe smiling down at them, a smile that almost instantly morphed into an expression of pure horror mixed with loathing.
"Hello, Aunt Petunia," Harry quickly said into the silence.
This was obviously the wrong thing to say.
"YOU!" she shrieked, causing the two teens to wince.
Unfortunately, her outburst caused a lumbering walrus to huff into view.
"Hello, Uncle Vernon," Harry said.
"YOU!" Vernon bellowed, repeating his wife's accusation, before his beady eyes darted over their shoulders to peer up and down the street and dropping his voice to a menacing hiss.
"You've got some nerve coming here, boy! Especially after the state that you left the house in the last time you were here. Do you know how much that cost to get fixed?"
"Um, yeah, I … I wanted to apologise about that," Harry said, running a nervous hand along the back of his neck.
"Mister and Mrs Dursley, may we come in?" Hermione asked.
Vernon's eyes snapped to her before raking up and down her body.
"I take it she's a freak like you?" he accused.
"Hermione is a witch, if that's what you mean," Harry answered, the warning clear in his voice.
His Aunt Petunia, though, didn't seemed phased by it in the slightest.
"We'll not have people like you inside our house," she sniffed.
"Have it your way, then," Harry replied, "but there's some things that you need to know and I'm not leaving until I've told you."
"Are you certain that this is a conversation that you want held on your porch for all your neighbours to see and hear?" Hermione asked.
Once again, Uncle Vernon's eyes darted past them to the houses across the street and to either side of them.
"Right, get in, but make it quick," he ordered. "We'll not have you here any longer than necessary."
Grudgingly, the two Dursleys stepped back, allowing Harry and Hermione entry into their home. As soon as the doorway was clear, Harry closed the door and then led Hermione towards the living room where his aunt and uncle had promptly disappeared into.
As he passed the door to the cupboard under the stairs, Harry resolutely stared forward, determined not to acknowledge its existence in the slightest.
The house was as immaculate as Harry remembered. There was no hint of dust anywhere and everything – pictures, knickknacks, and doilies – were in their remembered places. In fact, the only indication that any time had passed at all since Harry had been there were the new pictures of a slightly older Dudley dotting the walls and mantle.
Harry led Hermione to the couch that had been left for them – the two armchairs being appropriated by his aunt and uncle. Even then, Harry only sat on the very edge, as though ready to spring up at a moment's notice. Tea was neither offered, nor expected.
"Well, say your piece and get out," Vernon snapped.
"We wouldn't be here if you weren't in danger," Harry began.
"Danger? What danger?" Petunia asked.
"Danger from freaks like you?" Vernon scoffed. "We live perfectly normal lives, thank you very much! If there's any danger, then it's you being here that'll bring it."
In some way, Harry knew that his uncle was right. But in others, he was dead wrong. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him.
"Where's Dudley? He really needs to be here to hear this, too."
"Dudley's out," Petunia stated.
"And he doesn't need to be corrupted by you," Vernon added.
Knowing his cousin like he did, Harry suspected that he knew where he was. Leaving that issue for later, Harry decided to speak to the one who should at least have a modicum of an idea of the wizarding world.
"Lord Voldemort, the wizard who killed my mum and dad, is back," Harry told his aunt.
Seeing the colour drain from her face told Harry that she understood.
"Back? What do you mean 'back'?" Vernon asked, looking between the teens and his wife. "I thought you did away with him before you landed on our doorstep."
"It's true, Mister Dursley," Hermione said. "His followers did something a couple of weeks ago that brought him back."
Before they'd come, Harry and Hermione had decided not to mention the other two times that Harry had already faced Lord Voldemort.
"He killed our Minister of Magic and gave the wizarding world a message," Harry continued. "A message that affects you."
"What message?" Petunia whispered.
"Basically, he named names, the ones who he was specifically targeting, the ones he wants to torture and kill. He also said that he was also going to go after any friends or family of those people, too," Harry stated darkly.
"I knew it! I knew it!" Vernon growled. "I knew we should have drowned you when you first turned up all those years ago."
In a flash, Hermione's wand was in her hand and she was up, advancing on the rotund man who immediately changed his tune and was now cowering before her, his eyes beginning to cross as he stared at the end of the wand.
"You take that back!" Hermione said fiercely. "Harry is one of the bravest and selfless people that I know. And he is so filled with good that he came here today not only to warn you, but to offer you protection. After seeing you, I think he's wasting his time and should just cut his losses. But that's not Harry. He'll always do the right thing, especially for his mother's sister and her family."
She glanced back, then.
"Come on, Harry, just give them the portkeys and let's get out of here."
"Hermione," Harry said gently, reaching across to touch the back of his girlfriend's arm.
With a small nod, she retreated, her wand disappearing back into its holster.
"What … what did she mean by 'protection'?" Petunia asked, glancing worriedly at Hermione.
In reply, Harry took out two long, thin boxes from his pocket. After checking them, he handed the appropriate one to his aunt and the other to his uncle. Giving Harry a confused look, Petunia opened the box and gasped.
Inside, on the black cloth lining, lay a gold-plated watch. The golden links of its band glittered in the light, as did the exquisite face and hands.
"Vernon!" Petunia whispered.
"I see it, Pet," Vernon replied, staring disbelievingly at the man's equivalent of his wife's watch in the box before him.
"I don't understand," Petunia said, looking up at her nephew.
"They're real watches that could be bought at any respectable jewellers," Harry began, making sure to emphasise the 'normalness' of the watches that they were holding.
"Why would you give these to us?" Vernon asked gruffly. "Must have cost a fortune."
Harry shrugged. "They did. But I knew that they were something that you'd always wear, and that's precisely what you need to do if they're going to protect you."
"How could a watch protect us?" Vernon asked suspiciously.
"Magic," Hermione replied simply, making Vernon drop the watch.
Leaning forward, Harry picked the watch back up and placed it on the coffee table between them.
"I've had one single enchantment added to them," Harry explained. "They will act as something called a portkey. Basically, it means that if it is ever activated, it will take you from wherever you are to somewhere safe, even from the other side of the country."
Petunia's head seemed to be on a pivot, constantly switching her gaze between the watch and her nephew, someone her look said that she'd never seen before.
"If we're in danger, this will take us away to safety?" Petunia asked slowly.
"Yes," Harry replied.
"Did … did she have something like this?" Petunia asked.
"She did," Harry replied, knowing that they were now talking about one of those taboo subjects that he'd never been allowed to ask about as a child: his mother.
"The difference was," Hermione picked up, "that Voldemort knew a way to stop it from working. But since you are all … normal, he won't think to try to stop you because he won't be expecting you to have this."
Petunia nodded in understanding.
"What … what makes it, er, work?" Vernon asked, staring at the expensive watch in front of him.
"I've made it word activated," Harry replied. "Unless you say the right word, it'll never activate and will just be an ordinary watch."
"What word?" Vernon asked suspiciously.
Reaching into his pocket again, Harry pulled out a piece of paper and handed it over.
"If you say that word – don't say it now – the watch'll take you to safety."
"Exactly where is this place you keep talking about?" Vernon asked, passing the paper across to his wife.
"Potter Island," Harry said. "There's a school there and the best defences that can be made."
"And us," Hermione added. "We'll be there, too."
"Is it a school for … you lot?" Vernon asked gruffly. "You know, like the other one."
"Mostly, yes. Although we also learn some of the same sorts of subjects that Dudley would learn at Smeltings," Harry replied.
"What about Dudley?" Petunia asked. "Are you going to give him something to keep him safe, too?"
"Yes, I've got a watch here for him, too," Harry said, patting his pocket. "It'll work with the same word."
"Well, if your lot are coming, then you better go give it to him," Vernon said gruffly.
With a nod, Harry stood, Hermione a heartbeat behind him.
"Stay safe, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia," Harry said.
And, without another word being said, the two teens made their way outside.
They'd hardly reached the walk before Hermione whirled on Harry.
"Those ungrateful sods! You're trying to protect them and they didn't even say 'thank you'," she groused.
Harry gave her a lopsided grin.
"They kinda did, in their own way," he said.
"How do you figure that?" Hermione asked, staring back at the house.
"They kept the watches even though they know that they're magic and told me to give Dudley his," Harry shrugged.
Hermione stared at him, her mouth opening and closing noiselessly.
"So, how are you going to find your cousin?" she finally asked.
"Oh, that's easy," Harry replied. "He'll be at the park."
/ ( 0 v 0 ) \
"Which one's your cousin?" Hermione asked.
She and Harry were currently standing on the very edge of the small Little Whinging park. Most of what was there was in a bad state of disrepair. One of the swings was broken and the other looked to be on its last legs. The slide was mostly bare grey metal and the seesaw was badly bent, causing both ends to lean towards the ground.
But it was the group of kids that had Harry and Hermoine's attention.
There were eight altogether, six large boys that looked to be about their age, and two smaller ones that the bullies had surrounded in a semicircle. Peering between the two ring-leaders, both massive tubs of fat, Harry saw a boy who looked to be about ten or eleven trying to shield a smaller girl who could only be his sister.
"The giant tub of lard who looks like a pig in a wig in the middle. That's Dudders," Harry replied.
Hermione didn't have time to reply before the gang's voices' drifted to them, cutting off their conversation.
"You don't really think that you can stop us, do you, Marky-boy?" one of the bullies asked in a sing-song-type voice.
"Yeah, come on, Evans. Do the smart thing and hand it over," the voice Harry identified as Dudley's ordered.
Harry and Hermione shared a look before, together, they strode forward.
Exactly what they were going to do, Harry wasn't sure, especially without magic to back them up. What he did know, though, was that he hated bullies and he especially hated the feeling that just seeing this group brought up in him. Every time and every way that Dudley's gang had chased him and beat him up when they were growing up raced through his mind. And there was no way that he was going to allow them to do that to some little kids.
/ ( 0 v 0 ) \
A/N – While playing football (soccer) the other day, I was involved in a really heavy tackle. The result is a small fracture in my elbow and my arm in a cast for some unknown length of time. This means that I am down to typing one-handed using my non-dominant hand. Expect massive delays between updates for the foreseeable future, although I do promise to continue to do my best to get them to you as often as I can.