Dust motes danced through the air as the bright sun peeked from behind dark curtains. The air was still, stale. Remnants of sleep eked through his body. His toes cracked, his back popped; he'd just slept twelve hours, but he wanted twelve more.
There are things worth dying for, he thought. Sleep was one of them. The alarm clock blared beside him... he'd beaten the clock again.
His fist smashed into it. The blaring was an offense to sensible hearing.
Harry Potter put on his glasses and went to take a shower, all thoughts of sleep left in the comfort of his bed.
Steam was thick in the air, suffocating. Harry stood in front of the vanity and cleared the fog from the glass of the mirror.
The water ran cold before he decided to get out. A fugue permeated his body, making things like being normal or waking up a foreign idea. He couldn't shake the fuzz.
His mind wandered back to his dreams last night.
Fleeting, powerful, magical. He was the One.
The one controlling his own destiny. The face that stared back at him now was nothing but a mockery. Tired eyes, bloodshot behind round, plain rimmed glasses. Above all, the face that looked back at him was judging.
Harry reached forward and popped the door of the hidden vanity mirror, and it opened without a fuss. This was his bathroom now, so there were some of his personal effects left inside. He'd moved in, for once, since he'd been given free reign of the house. He pulled out eye drops, and leaned his head back to administer them. The cool liquid soothed his sore eyes and dulled the ache behind his teeth. The medicine cabinet closed with a snap.
"Pull yourself together man. We've got shit to do."
Number Four was quiet this morning. It had been quiet every day for the past month since he'd been home. The Dursleys decided to take a vacation without telling him, their only note a chore list left pinned to the fridge.
Harry eyed the list,then dismissed it without a second thought as he opened the fridge and broke out the orange juice. It was his favorite brand. Or rather it was Dudley's. The thought of drinking something that fat twat liked made the tangy, slightly bitter drink go down smoothly as he prepared some toast to settle his stomach.
He put the empty juice container back into the ice chest, and planned his day. He'd received a letter the other day from Hermione. It seemed she and Ron had holed up somewhere safe, somewhere they couldn't tell him about—somewhere secret. The small book Hermione had sent clearly displayed the passage of time since they'd last spoken.
"Remus is coming to get you very soon, Harry. We'll finally be able to explain everything once you get here! I'm sorry, but I can't say more until then. It's not my secret to tell."
A secret. A secret which implied something grand. Something great. It couldn't be Grimmauld Place. Sirius was dead, and the right to his ancestral home contested, even if no one but the Order remembered its existence.
The wind picked up outside. Aunt Petunia's Morning Glories danced beyond the windowpane. Maybe a bit of gardening was in order.
After all, it was on the chore list.
Outside, Harry's hands dug into the rich earth. The loamy smell of nettles and dirt clouded his nose. It was still early in the suburbs, which was caught in the stupor of weekend. Not a single car moved on the street, and not a single dog stirred from their kennel.
The blues of the flowers were vibrant in the early morning sunlight. A hint of dew on the delicate, fluted throats of the Morning Glories. Harry could swear that as he tended them, the blooms moved closer to his fingers, the vines twining about his thumb-
Maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him. Magic where there was no magic. Something he took for granted.
The hustle and bustle of school and the magical world in general was but a fever dream to him at this point. There were many thoughts he should be having, but he was too busy with his gardening to think them. Why should he? It wasn't his problem.
A flash of anger. Quick and bright. He tasted bile in the back of his throat, and his hands clutched harder at the ground. It wasn't his problem. A breeze tickled the back of his neck and just as quickly as his anger came, it was gone and he was back to gardening.
His plants looked lively today. Petunia only thought they were hers, but he'd tended them since he'd bought the seeds from the apothecary. While not a magical species themselves, the seeds of Morning Glories had many other magical uses, as an additive first and foremost. Professor Sprout said that they were used in various potions of the mind, that they could help a wizard learn more about himself.
He had learned a lot about himself in the past few weeks.
Harry scooped the smile pile of seeds from the ground in front of him, pocketing them. The sun was up even higher now, peaking in from behind the treetops of the the Dursley's back garden.
He was thirsty, he decided. A drink was in order, and maybe a snack.
Potions was never Harry's forte. He would admit it to anyone who asked. Unlike some people, he wouldn't compare the process to cooking at all. There was a difference between grinding seeds into a fine powder and frying an egg. And while he was a decent cook, a potion master he was not.
But he could learn.
When he didn't have someone breathing down his neck, he could make a decent distillate. The clear liquid simmered in his pewter cauldron as he spread the finely ground seed powder across the top and let that seep into the liquid. He turned the heat up and watched as the liquid frothed and bubbled and visibly reduced. Stirring to fully incorporate the powder.
What was liquid before turned into a fine paste. The seeds were broken down, rendered into their constituent chemical parts. The heat turned off, he spooned the paste from the cauldron into a fine cloth and pushed any remaining moisture from it. He kept that in a small vial off to the side.
His actions were rote, practiced, and automatic. There was no flair, only the end result. The paste, he had spread wafer thin over the copper sheet in front of him, allowing it to cool and harden. It would be ready for consumption in a few hours.
Task completed, Harry allowed himself to sit in a tattered chair in the corner of his room. A blanket over the ripped arms of the chair and you would never know that it was anything else.
In front of him sat a fine china pot and a steaming cup. The afternoon sunlight streaked through the open blinds of his window. Memories of iron bars baring the way long since forgotten.
Cool air filtered in, rustling some of the loose papers in his room - homework assignments completed and other such debris. The scowling face of Cornelius Fudge glared at him from under Hedwig's cage, some of her droppings sitting square on his forehead.
From his shirt pocket, Harry pulled out a thin manila packet and plucked a wafer from its interior. The bitter taste on this tongue made his face pucker, but a quick swish of tea took care of that.
With a sigh, he pulled a book from the side carrier on the old chair and leaned back - he had some Charms reading to catch up on.
Hours later, the sun had just begun its descent below the horizon. Harry stood outside now, having long abandoned his reading when the morning glory had taken effect.
It was gradual. Something that creeped.
But his awareness grew from himself to everything. Even in the waning light of the sun he could see clearly the details of the neighborhood.
As the day birds danced through the trees and settled for the night, as small animals sought burrows underground from the chill of the evening, Harry Potter came alive. There was a smile on his face, one that if observed by someone that knew him, would seem misplaced. The incandescent sphere off in the distance flared bright, a nova to his eyes, spiraling ever upwards as its fight with the horizon consumed it and darkness took its place.
Harry was never a toothsome child. He smiled when he was happy, but the grin that cut his face was ear to ear and sharp with teeth. There was a manic beauty that he otherwise lacked. A deep inhale and the sharp tang of cooling asphalt hit his nose. There was moisture in the air - it would be raining by morning. He held off on walking to the park under the dim light of the street lamps, opting instead to go to the back garden where a nice green snake lived in Aunt Petunia's roses.
It was an excellent conversationalist.
Like clock work when he made it around back, his little friend was there waiting, bisected by a beam of moonlight.
In the far off distance an owl made a sound as it jumped from tree to tree beginning its nightly routine. A crack of displaced air went off down the street and the patter of shoe tread on concrete made itself known - their steps stopped at the gate for Number Four, there was a group of five.
One of them moved through the gate and knocked at the front door.
Three tight rapts of the door knocker. There was no answer, and not even a hint of sound came from inside the house. The gruff looking man in the front pulled a wand, his face going from grim to grimmer.
With the scars decorating his face the grimace that usually adorned his face morphed into a scowl. He made eyes with two of the members of the group and gave a silent command to split up. They parted ways, their actions practiced.
A whispered spell and the lock on the door gave way to the grizzled wizard as the remaining two followed them into the house.
Their first impression was that it was empty. There wasn't a sound to indicate anyone was home, but it looked like there was someone there. A brown haired wizard fingered the chore list on the fridge with a frown - Remus had heard stories, but he had never received confirmation about what Harry's life was like with the Dursleys.
There was a snap elsewhere in the house and an ornate clock on the wall chimed the time. Nine chimes later the vacuum of silence that filled the room made everything seem even louder.
Everyone drew wands however when the youngest of the group tripped over a decorative vase in the corner of the room.
"Tonks!" the older wizard snarled.
"I'm telling you, it came from nowhere! Sorry, boss."
Moody's posture didn't change, nor did he acknowledge the young witches words. "Anyone remember where the twins said the boy's room was?"
"Up the stairs, first door on the left," Remus said already moving up the steps.
It was a tight fit with the three of them in the hallway. In the dim light of Tonks' wand they could make out the locks and the cat flap on the door - Remus's eyes hardened, a tick forming at his jaw.
Moody's charm snapped all the locks open at once. Remus opened the door.
There were papers everywhere. Books, clothes. Definitely lived in, but no sign of Harry or struggle. Remus turned to the others. "He knew we were coming - Ms. Granger said she told him. It's not like him to just wander off."
"If it's wandering he's doing, I'm going to have words with the boy. With things the way they are, he'd be out of his mind to leave this house," Moody said.
"He's a kid, Alastor," Tonks said. "He'd go stark raving mad if he never went outside."
There was a flash of light then and a silvery animal came up and whispered something to Moody.
"Kingsley says he's in the back garden. We should go."
The quick stomp of Moody's wooden leg and fluttering pages of open books were the only indication of the group's haste. Remus lead the charge, using urgency to curb his inner panic. "What could he possibly be doing out there? At this hour?" Maybe he was worrying for nothing. He dearly hoped so.
The group breached the back door.
Remus shifted focus, his eyes taking in everything.
Moonlight streamed through the trees but otherwise there was no other source of light. Harry Potter sat in the center of the garden, a garden snake wrapped around his shoulders, eyes closed.
Moody limped over to Kingsley with a gruff, "Report." But Remus didn't spare it an ear, fully focused on the boy's appearance.
His face was flush but that could've been the shadows, lips moving as if he was murmuring to himself. A soft whispering hiss filling the air around all of them. Melodic and rhythmic. When it stopped abruptly, everyone startled. To Remus with his werewolf enhanced hearing there was a distinct lack of sound everywhere. No crickets, no road noise, no wind through the trees, yet he still felt a chill on his skin.
The green snake that adorned Harry's shoulders took its time leaving, moving silently down his arm and out to the yard at large. No one moved. No one dared breath. They were waiting for a reaction, anything to let them know what was going on.
Being high was a novel experience. There was a category of people that enjoyed talking about such things. Harry could see why - it lent itself to a unique experience - if one had never been high, then how does one understand the ramblings of a person who has? His mind felt open, awake. There was a flame of desire in his body now to just be.
His body felt like a hindrance. A meat bag prison keeping him trapped. Harry didn't want to die, but he lamented how his body held him back.
His eyes had fallen shut. Hector was quiet; the lulling hiss escaping Harry's mouth had put the young snake into a trance. Harry pushed at the boundaries of his own mind, hoping to break free. With a tearing feeling, his consciousness drifted upwards - like climbing through a dark tunnel. At the end of it there was light.
Harry hit the brightness at a metaphorical run. The light, it took his breath away. There was so much of it, everything illuminated. He saw his own body, and around it a corona. Around each living thing, there was a corona.
He saw where his and Hector's intersected, and he saw the young snake as it drifted back and forth.
It was a different spectrum, a different level of being. It took his breath away. He realized how quickly his own chest rose and fell. Like he'd just ran a long distance sprint - but with none of the tiredness.
He didn't know how long this state lasted. Time passed strangely, offering no frame of reference. The light was not normal sunlight. There were no shadows. Everything was light-washed, contrasting imperceptibly.
The wizards apparating in at the end of the drive were like signal flares on a cloudy night for Harry, bright spheres of concentrated light - he watched their approach. At first two, then five stood around him. They were familiar so he felt no rush in greeting them. He would talk to them in his own time.
Now, he chose to savor the few last minutes of joy. The only thing he could equate the feeling to was when Madam Pomfrey had given him a calming draught on the night of Sirius's death. But where before he was detached, ambivalent, here he was connected, vibrant, alive.
One of the lights knelt in front of his sitting body. No sound, only his heartbeat rushing in his ears. If they spoke he wouldn't be able to hear them, so with resignation he decided that he shouldn't make them wait any longer. They were here for a reason.
"Harry. You need to answer me now." Remus' panicked voice was the first thing he heard as his consciousness settled back into his body. He stank of fear and tiredness and regret.
Harry's nostrils flared for a moment, his lungs taking their first full deep breath in nearly an hour. He shuddered a bit as the oxygen hit his blood stream. That was concerning, but not overly so. He'd think about it later.
"Hello, Remus. Sorry to keep you lot waiting. I was traveling."
"Traveling, Harry? Traveling where?" Watching the man's face shift from concern, fear, to incredulity was amusing to Harry. He wanted to keep it up, but quickly the man's emotions focused and all that was left was anger. "Harry, so help me god, if you've been drinking, Molly's going to wring both our necks."
"No, nothing like that. I've just been meditating. It's very relaxing. Dumbledore told me to learn how to clear my mind, and sitting here in the garden's the best way I've found. I do it each night before bed."
"You knew we were coming." Another voice from off to the side this time - Remus stood from his crouched position in front of Harry. A pixie haired woman stood off to a familiar scarred face. Moody then. His outline was unmistakable even in poor lighting.
Harry cocked his head. "How have you been, Tonks?"
He found his own feet, standing up and taking in everyone else. Kingsley, Emmeline Vance, Tonks, Moody, and Remus.
"Didn't know I was gonna have this big of a welcoming party. Tea anyone? I've got a fresh pot upstairs. You can have some while I pack."
Harry wasn't in the mood for conversation. He just said what he thought he was supposed to say, his mind preoccupied. He was going to leave the Dursleys for the summer. To go where? He didn't know yet. What wonders would his sixth year hold? He had so many things to prepare for. Like NEWTs, if he even made it that far. He had to get class books.
Stepping into his bedroom, he paid no mind to the mess and started piling things into his trunk. Tonks came in behind him - it looked like the group had chosen her to be the spokesperson - and said, "Let me."
With a shrug he sat in his chair, picked up his tea cup and idly swirled it.
A swish and a flick from Tonks and all of his stuff folded it self neatly - mostly - and placed itself into his trunk. "My mother taught me this. Best thing, really. Makes cleaning up a breeze."
Harry nodded his head, still eyeing his swirling tea.
"Look k-," She hesitated. "Look Harry. Are you really okay? You know you can come to us if you need anything, right?"
His mind was elsewhere, he imagined he saw something in the dregs of his cup, but couldn't quite place it. He wasn't Trelawney after all. His ears rang - as he looked around his room all of his things were gone, packed away neatly in his trunk - he watched as it disappeared through the door, the young witch leading the way.
Maybe his lack of response was rude. He knew that Tonks was talking to him - he knew of the concern. It wasn't that he was deaf, he was just uninterested in what she had to say.
He'd spent nearly his entire summer break with no human interaction. Harry was used to his own thoughts, he knew himself better now than he ever did - the alone time had been good for him in more ways than one.
He knew that he was going to have to get his mind around being with the others soon, wherever they were taking him. With a sigh, he stood and made his way down the stairs.
The others stood huddled around the front door, Tonks whispering to Remus, he couldn't make out what she said, but the look on Remus face told the story. No doubt Tonks assumed he was depressed - before the evening was up he knew he would have to prepare for a heartfelt conversation with Remus, among others.
They all noticed him then. Moody was the first to speak. "Ready boy? We've got a strict schedule to keep and I have no time to waste. You follow the lead of the lass there and everything will be fine." He pivoted on his good leg. "Remus, take point. I'm going to make sure we're not followed."
Harry turned to Tonks then, "So, how are we getting there? Knight Bus? Broomstick? Dragon?" There was a hint of a smile on his face now - he was well versed in Moody's travel tactics having experienced them last year.
"We'll, we're going to go a bit by broom, so I left yours out," Harry noticed his firebolt in the corner at this point. How thoughtful of her. "And then we're going to do some group apparition and we'll be there shortly, it's not too far so hopefully you won't get too sick- Remus said you've never apparated before... "
"The twins seem to enjoy it, so it can't be that bad. Well, right-o, lead the way."
Out of sight of everyone Harry pulled another wafer from his shirt pocket, if he was going to have to suffer the monotony of travel then he was going to enjoy it.
He found an out of the way spot, and threw it in his mouth, chewing it to get it down quickly. Harry didn't have time to let it dissolve. He could hear Remus footsteps as the older man circled back, he hastily tucked it securely back in his shirt pocket.
He smiled at Remus, the very image of innocence.
Remus narrowed his eyes at him, but otherwise didn't comment. Instead he turned to Tonks and asked, "Everyone ready?"
"Oh sure, I was just giving Harry a bit of the travel plan. We're ready now. She tapped Harry's trunk with her wand and it shrunk - she tossed it to the boy and he put it in his pocket without a word.
Harry, bolstered by his next high, bounded down the stairs and rushed out the house. His movements were one smooth action as he mounted his broom and brought himself to level with Kingsley and Emmeline with very little effort.
Remus and Tonks struggled to match his pace, he watched Tonks as she stumbled onto her broom and brought herself shakily into the air. Remus was much more composed as he took point at the head of the group.
The rest formed a diamond pattern around Harry, he could see each of them with their wands out. They expected complications.
He could feel his heartbeat in his ears. Harry was excited. Remus voice sounded directly in his ear like the man was right beside him, but he'd not changed his position at the head of the group.
"Alright, Moody isn't flying, he said he's going to apparate behind us and cover our trail. Stay close, and no joy riding." With that he turned, darting off into the distance.
Harry brought his own broom around, shooting after him.
His excitement had waned, when hours later, they were still flying. Harry basked in the cool air against his skin, and the roar of the wind in his ears. His senses were spread out as far as he could manage and still keep control of his broom. It was exhilarating being high in the air, his feet skimmed the tops of the clouds as Remus took them higher.
London shined brightly in the distance.
The meandering pace, in Harry's opinion, was due for a change, and it seemed Remus agreed as he gestured for them to move faster. Harry compiled as he watched him lean into his broom, Harry mirrored the mans movements easily keeping pace. He'd flown much faster before - he fought to reign himself in and to totally out pace Remus.
Their speed melded the bright lights and echoing sounds sirens into a muted tapestry of urban misery. Harry took it all in with a blink.
It was beautiful, speed and distance adding bias. The dispersion of lights spread like a fungus through the city center and out into the smaller areas, growing weaker as they moved further away.
The organic nature in which it spread gave Harry the distraction he needed, and soon a sharp whistle from Remus brought him back into focus - just in time too, as he nearly crashed into Remus, who had stopped completely.
He swerved to avoid the man, braking hard, and circling back.
"Alright there Harry?" Remus asked as Harry drew close enough to speak without the aid of magic.
"Just caught in the view," Harry said.
His eyes dismissed the man in front of him to look back at the fading lights of the city. The corona of light domed out like the edge of the sun.
"We're going to land here." Remus gestured at a empty playground lit by a lone street light below.
"Then we're going to apparate the rest of the way. I'll be taking you along since I'm the most experienced out of all of us when it comes to side-along."
Harry watched the man's eyes widen as he remembered something important. " Oh, and one more thing."
Remus flew closer to Harry and handed him a slip of parchment. "Our location."
If disappointment was a taste, Harry's mouth was full of it right now. His heart rate had settled, and he'd neared the edge of his high. He should be more enthused he knew, because at least where he was going was familiar.
A flash of worry wormed its way into his mind. 'They'd be targets from now on.' he thought as his eyes bored through the piece of parchment in front of him. However he didn't let that diminish the smile on his face. It would be good to see his friends again.
There was no use worrying, they were their own people, and it was their decision to make. He could only honor their commitment by not second guessing it.
Despite his acceptance, the parchment in his hands bursting into flames in his hands told a different story. The others had already disappeared beyond the cloudline, Remus looked back once, but he missed the flaming parchment. Because he said nothing when Harry landed next to him on the ground.
The man placed a firm hand on Harry's shoulder, and with a crack of displaced air they were gone.
The Burrow can be found in Ottery St. Catchpole.