Disclaimer:  I'm just a poor undergraduate student.  I have $6.22 on me.  Don't sue!  ^_^'

Authors Notes:

Hey there!  I know I've been saying that I'd post something soon on ff.net, and here it is!  Hopefully I've done a decent job of this.  I enjoy receiving critiques and compliments *preens* but any flames will be used to embarrass the neighbors.

Please let me know of all the grammatical errors that are in this.  I don't have a beta, and for some reason I'm terrible at checking my own work . . .

Enjoy.  That's an order.

Chapter 1:

Harry looked up and took a step back in order to gain a better view of the leaves.  Their sheer numbers were astounding, no matter where he looked.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky.  The neighbors were out enjoying the uncommon weather, out on picnics and cookouts and just being happy.  Uncle Vernon was at work.  So of course Harry was doing lawn work on Aunt Petunia's orders.  She was watching soap operas in the kitchen.  He had trimmed the hedges, weeded the garden, and mowed the lawn just that morning.  Now he had to clean the leaves from the gutter.

He sighed.  "Well, at least I saved the raking for last."

Harry leaned the ladder he had gotten earlier from the shed against the side of the perfectly ordinary house of the Dursley family, at Number 4 Privet Drive in Surrey, and proceeded to pull muddy leaves from the gutter.  Every sign that this would be a long afternoon was evident.  And he worked.

Harry finished with the leaf mucking in a record two hours.  However, Dudley returned with his friend, Piers Polkiss, from the video arcade just in time to catch Harry exit the shed with a rake.  He had just put away the ladder and was getting ready to finish the lawn.

Dudley and Piers glanced at each other and grinned evilly.  Harry's hopes for a peaceful encounter with the delinquents were shattered at that moment because Dudley waddled over to say, "Hey, Freak.  You've been slacking off, just look at the mess you've left."  He gestured at the still unraked lawn with his pudgy hand.  "I bet you're not going to get anything to eat for a week if you keep this up!"  Giving each other high fives, Dudley and Piers worked their way to the front door, then entered.

Harry sighed.  He knew he had to get to work or face Aunt Petunia's wrath and some unwanted and unhealthy fasting.  Working methodically, Harry raked the lawn at a frantic pace, stopping only to bag the debris.  Given the sheer size of the lawn, this was no easy task for a single person to do.  Finally, Harry tied the last bag, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and returned the rake to the shed.  Upon locking the shed, he turned to go inside the house.

Aunt Petunia stood on the front porch glaring.

"What do you think you're doing?"  She screeched, eying him in annoyance.

Harry pondered his choices.  He could stay meek and silent, and let her dish out any punishment she desired.  Or he could answer her question.  Given his Griffindor background, it was not a difficult decision.  However, there was no reason for him to behave rashly.  Politeness was the key.  "I've finished the lawn work, Aunt Petunia."

Aunt Petunia looked miffed at Harry's gall to actually respond to her question, though if truth be told she would have looked miffed if he hadn't answered.  She glared at the boy, then studied the results of his day.  Apparently his work passed muster, and she let him into the spotless house.  Harry had just cleaned it the day before.

"Clean yourself up!  And don't you dare dirty the carpet!"  Of course, his doing the chores correctly was no reason to ease up on him.

Harry took off his shoes, then trudged up the stairs.  He was happy to come inside; it had seemed to become progressively hotter outside as the day wore by.  It felt good to cool down in a shady environment.  His permission to clean off just made things better.

"Hurry up, boy!"

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Later that evening, Harry could be found doing his homework in his room.  He had already closed his bedroom door in the hopes that his relatives wouldn't hear his quill scratching against his parchment.  The Dursleys were already in bed, sleeping the night away.

Harry was not an ordinary fourteen year old.  In fact, he was as abnormal as it was possible to be.  Harry was a wizard, much to the shame of the Dursley family.  They were terrified that someday someone would discover Harry's abnormality.

Harry's quill was frolicking over the parchment in a cheerful manner.  He had already finished sixteen of the required twenty-four inches for his History of Magic essay.  He paused as a thought occurred to him.

'How's Binns supposed to read this?'  He mused while he rested his hand.  Professor Binns was a ghost, and ghosts could not pick up solid objects.  But the homework was given in scroll form, all rolled up.  So how did the professor open the scrolls to grade them?  This thought came to Harry from time to time, and he had yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.  He shrugged it off and continued with the essay.  After all, the night was still young.

Two hours later, Harry fanned the ink to finish drying it, then rolled the completed essay into a tight roll, sealed it, and placed it under the loose floorboard along with his textbook, ink, and quill.  He kept his wand and invisibility cloak there, as well.

Harry was quite fond of his wand.  It was very precious to him, the focal point of his magic for spell casting.  Made of holly with a phoenix feather core, and eleven inches long, it was an attractive specimen of its kind.  It only had one fault, one that Harry tried at all costs to ignore.

There was an extremely powerful dark wizard running loose in the magical world.  Most witches and wizards feared even to utter his name, though most thought him dead.  Voldemort's wand contained a feather from the same phoenix as Harry's.  So, in essence, the two wands were brothers.  'But that's not my wand's fault!'

Harry glanced at the cage in the corner of his room.  He had let his owl, Hedwig, out for the evening once the Dursleys had gone to bed.  Since he would have more chores to do the next day, and Hedwig didn't seem to be coming back any time soon, Harry turned off his flashlight and went to bed.  He'd leave the window open for her.

As Harry started to doze off, he wondered about his friends.  Would his best friend Ron Weasley ever get his owl properly trained?  Harry hoped so, though it seemed highly unlikely at this late date.  He had given a thousand galleons to the Weasley twins.  Would they remember to buy Ron some new dress robes?  He also hoped that by becoming the twins' chief financier, he wouldn't become the target of any more pranks courtesy of Weasley Wizard Wheezes.

Harry's other best friend, Hermione Granger, was another topic for consideration.  He knew she hadn't been able to go to Bulgaria as she had hoped.  When Victor Krum, Bulgarian seeker extraordinaire, had chosen to be just friends, any vacation plans were put on indefinite hold.  Such a pity, especially since Hermione had really wanted to go.

Now Harry's thought turned to his godfather.  Sirius Black was an escaped convict, only he wasn't guilty of the crimes he was sentenced for.  In fact, he was innocent of all the crimes he had been accused of.  However, he was guilty of one thing the Ministry of Magic didn't know about; Sirius was an illegal animagus.  He could become a large black dog at will.

Sirius was a great man.  He was loyal to a fault, especially when it came to the well being of his godson.  During the previous school year, Sirius had kept an eye on Harry by posing as a lovable stray, living on rats for the most part.  'Now that's love!'  Harry found it nice to have someone who wanted to take care of him, someone who wouldn't look down his or her nose in disgust.  Not like the Dursleys.

Harry sighed.  Another day had ended, and it was time to sleep.  In only a couple more weeks, he'd turn fifteen.  July 31 was a special day for that, and also because that was the day he got his letter from Hogwarts along with his train ticket.  Now he had to put up with the Dursleys just a little longer.  Harry fell asleep.

The one staring at him left.

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The sun streamed its way into the bedroom.  Unlike yesterday, there were a few clouds in the sky, but not nearly enough to detract from the day.  Another perfect day.

Almost.

"Get up.  Get up now!"  Aunt Petunia barked.  For such a weak woman, she sure pulled off the drill sergeant voice quite well.  "I can't hear you.  Get out here now!"

"Yes, Aunt Petunia."

"Don't you take that tone with me!"

Harry had put on his glasses, and as he opened the door to his bedroom he replied, "Of course not, Aunt Petunia."

Harry was working on being extra docile that summer.  The Dursleys had yet to forgive him for what happened the previous summer.  When the Weasleys had come by floo powder to take Harry to the Quidditch World Cup, they had inadvertently left the Dursleys living room, and the Dursleys themselves, covered in soot from the fireplace.  The Ton Tongue Toffee incident hadn't improved matters, either.

On the plus side, Dudley was finally losing weight since he had developed the habit of checking food for safety before actually eating it.

Harry came downstairs and went to the kitchen.  He received a major shock that morning because Dudley was there eating breakfast.  Now, Dudley eating was the norm.  However, his getting up before ten during the summer was all but unheard of.  Harry stood in the doorway to take in this bit of information.

"Get out of the way, boy."  Uncle Vernon didn't seem to understand the seriousness of the situation.  Harry sat at his chair, his mouth still hanging partway open.  Vernon got to his seat and started to read the newspaper.  Apparently, this was supposed to be just another day.

Aunt Petunia finished cutting up the grapefruit, and gave each person at the table a quarter, as well as a bowl of granola.  The nurse at Dudley's school had expanded the list of acceptable foods a touch since Dudley had started to lose weight.  Harry noted wryly that his own portion was, as always, far smaller than the others.

The sound of mail being pushed into the door slot came into the kitchen.  "Boy. . ."  Harry had darted out of his seat before his uncle could get the sentence out.  He sped his way down the hall, picked up the envelopes, and returned in record time.  "Damn boy's getting slow."  Vernon grumbled.

Harry abandoned the remains of his breakfast and climbed the stairs to his room.

Hedwig had returned sometime during breakfast, along with a tawny brown owl, both with letters.  Harry turned to Hedwig first.  She stuck out her leg and calmly let him take off the letter, then fluttered to her cage for some well-earned sleep.

The letter was from Hermione.  It read:

Dear Harry,

I hope your summer is going better than mine.  Just last week I was doing my essay for Potions while doing receptionist work at my parents' clinic.  I was called up to assist a patient, and a child took my textbook!  If that's not bad enough, he markered all over it, tore up the pages, and generally ruined the text.  My parents have a busy schedule at the moment since people want their children's teeth checked during the holiday.  They won't be able to take me to Diagon Alley until a week and a half before we have to go to Hogwarts.  I can't finish my homework!

Harry shook his head, recognizing the fact that Hermione would consider the most important item on her summer agenda.  Though, given what she had said, she had an honest reason to be upset.  The Hogwarts Potions Master, Professor Snape, hated the members of Griffindor House, and proved it at the end of the school year by assigning them a nasty four-foot essay on Dark Potions and their potential antidotes.  And Snape would never accept late work.

Harry continued reading.

Ron and I have been maintaining correspondence since the end of the school year.  Did you know that Fred and George have managed to gather quite a sum of money?  I do hope they didn't do anything illegal to get it.  I would just hate to see any member of the Weasley family in trouble with the law.

Since I'm not going to Bulgaria, I'm spending the summer with my parents here in England.  So I was wondering if you could send me your potions textbook once you've finished the homework?  It would be greatly appreciated, as my sources are rather limited.

I hope the muggles are treating you well.

Love,

Hermione

Harry stared thoughtfully at the letter in his hands.  He had completed the potions assignment during the second week of the holiday.  He wanted to get it done while the information was still fresh in his head.  This way, he wouldn't have it hanging over his head throughout the summer.

He tore off a piece of parchment from his personal stash.

Hermione

Here's my book.  Treat it well.

I miss you and Ron.

Harry

Harry had never been much of a letter writer.  He preferred to talk to people face to face.  So his return letter would have to be abrupt.  This meant that they'd have more to talk about on the Hogwarts Express.

He turned to face his owl and managed to wake her.  Hedwig yawned, then glared a bit, but stretched out her leg so Harry could tie the book and letter on securely.  Once they were both assured that everything was stable, she flew out of the still open window.  She probably wouldn't be back for another four or five days.

A soft hoot reminded Harry of the presence of the second owl, which had been glaring impatiently for quite some time.  Harry removed the letter, seeing the Hogwarts seal on the envelope.  The owl ruffled his feathers importantly, the sped his way out the window.

Harry started to read the contents of the envelope, then almost dropped the letter in shock.

Mr. Harry Potter

The Deatheaters know your location, and will attack tonight.  Inform your relatives and leave immediately.  Take the Knight Bus to the Hogshead in Hogsmead. Be inconspicuous.   Someone you recognize will escort you to Hogwarts.

Leave now.

Minerva McGonnagal

Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts

Harry rushed out of his room down the stairs into the living room, yelling for the Dursleys to meet him.  Uncle Vernon barged into the room huffing away, intent upon making his nephew pay for making such an unseemly racket.

"Boy!  What do you think you're doing?"

Harry interrupted before his uncle could start to rant.  "You need to leave now.  Don't pack anything, just—"

"How dare you order me around, you ungrateful brat?  I—"

"What do you want?" snarled Aunt Petunia, who had just arrived.

"The brat—"

"Shut up!  A bunch of evil wizards a coming, so you need to leave.  Now."  Harry butted in, all the while eying his relatives in a daunting manner.

This statement left Harry's aunt and uncle staring at their only nephew slack jawed.  However, as Harry turned to find Dudley and warn him Vernon started yelling.

"How dare you tell your kind where we live?  I won't stand for your abomination in my house!"

As Vernon took a breath to restart his tirade, Aunt Petunia started screeching at the top of her lungs.  "Of course your friends are evil, they're freaks!  You ungrateful brat—"

Harry left the living room in search of his cousin.  He didn't have to look far, as Dudley was listening to the conversation from the kitchen.  Dudley shook in terror as Harry stared at him.  When Vernon started booming out obscenities at him, Harry came out of his trance and said, "Well?  What are you waiting for?  Get a move on.  It's not safe here!"

Dudley eyed his cousin, then nodded and bounded up the stairs to his room to gather his things.  Harry sighed in relief, then tensed at the idea of convincing his aunt and uncle in time.  They were still yelling at him.

"Shut the hell up!"  Harry stalked back towards his now silent relatives.  In a calmer tone, he stated, "The evil wizards enjoy killing muggles such as yourselves.  They are really after me, but you'd be considered fair game.  Leave.  Go visit Aunt Marge.  Go somewhere.  I'll be going somewhere else, but I'll get a message to you when it's safe."

Harry stepped over to the cupboard under the stairs and opened its door.  After dragging out his trunk.  He dashed up the stairs, and looked in on Dudley.  The obese boy was trying to stuff his television into his backpack, and was failing.  "Just pack clothes, your toothbrush and toothpaste, and some food.  Those things will only get you killed."

Dudley gazed at him with glassy eyes, and for once did as Harry said without a hint of retaliatory intentions.  Satisfied, Harry went to his room.  There he gathered the rest of his things from the loose floorboard and picked up Hedwig's cage.

He ignored his relatives, who were finally doing as they were told, and took out his wand while tossing his things into it.  Rushing through the house, gathering what they believed were necessary, the Dursleys prepared to leave.

Harry dragged his now completely full trunk out the door, still holding the cage.  He glanced back once and said in a loud voice, "Hurry up.  You're out of time."  Then he left his home of thirteen and a half years.

Harry drug his trunk three blocks, gaining occasional stares from onlookers, until the fourteen year old had found an acceptable alleyway.  There he waited until anyone still watching would get bored.  Thankfully, it was still reasonably early in the morning, so most had other things on their minds.

Once he was certain no one was observing his actions, Harry raised his wand and called the Knight Bus.  It took exactly twenty-three seconds to arrive, and Harry let out a sigh of relief.  Stan Turnpike was still the usher.

"By golly, it's 'Arry Potter!"

"I need a lift in a hurry." Replied Harry as he and Stan hefted the heavy trunk into the bus.  Harry gave his directions once he was settled in and the bus had left the alley.

The one staring at him nodded, then vanished.