Back to the Order
It was a miserable day in Little Whinging, Surrey. A particularly black cloud seemed to be hanging over Number 4, Privet Drive, much to the dismay of its resident gardener, Mrs. Petunia Dursley, whose prize begonias were dying from lack of sunlight. But to another resident of Number 4, the miserable rain was nothing to his own depression. Harry Potter had been in a perpetually dark and somber mood all summer. Even the Dursleys, who hated their nephew, noticed that he was eating less and locking himself up in his room more and more. Uncle Vernon had begun making regular trips to Harry's room, to make sure that Harry wasn't up to "anything funny."
Uncle Vernon was very much opposed to anything Harry might be doing in his bedroom. That's because Harry was a wizard—and Uncle Vernon wouldn't stand for any sort of magical funny business going on in his house. But Harry couldn't do magic outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry without risking expulsion, and Uncle Vernon knew that very well. In fact, Harry had no interest in doing magic lately. He didn't really want anything to do with the magical world anymore, not since his godfather died last month.
Harry blamed himself. If only he'd known that Lord Voldemort was playing a trick on his mind, he wouldn't have broken out of school to save Sirius. He risked his life and his friends lives when he went to the Ministry of Magic, and Sirius had only left the safety of his home to save Harry. Sirius had been dueling with his cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Voldemort's most loyal followers, when she hit him with a spell that knocked him off-balance and made him fall through a mysterious archway. Harry wanted to leap through the arch to save Sirius, but Remus Lupin, Harry's former teacher and an old friend of James Potter and Sirius, had held him back.
Harry had been numb all summer. He was all alone. No parents, no godfather. He was stuck here on Privet Drive with the Dursleys. He didn't want to write to his friends. He didn't know what to write. He didn't want to read their letters, either. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger had written nearly three times a week, but all their letters remained unread under the loose floorboard under Harry's bed. If he was going to talk to anyone about what happened in June, it wasn't going to be on paper.
Owls had delivered birthday packages a few days ago, but Harry didn't touch those, either. There would be no sixteenth birthday present from his godfather.
Harry spent his days flipping through old photo albums. His parents and Sirius, as well as Lupin and a fourth school chum, Peter Pettigrew, waved up to him from happy, magically animated photographs of picnics, birthdays, and his parents' wedding. Harry had to smile at one of the pictures. While a young James and Lily Potter were waving to their son, Sirius and Lupin were sneaking up behind them with what looked like very sticky, gooey cake in their hands. In the background, the traitor Peter Pettigrew was talking to a pretty young woman who had a dark-haired little girl slung on her hip. Harry scowled at the image of the man known to his friends as Wormtail. He betrayed the Potters to Voldemort, allowing his master to kill the couple. It was Peter who faked his own murder and framed Sirius for it—the reason why Sirius had been in Azkaban, the wizard's prison, for twelve years. And it was Peter who was responsible for Voldemort's resurrection last year.
Harry paused at a picture of his parents with him when he was a baby. Wait—that couldn't be Harry. The baby was wearing a pink sweater, and his parents looked very young, perhaps even still of Hogwarts' age. And the baby didn't have Harry's messy black hair, which stuck up everywhere just like his father's, nor did she have, like Harry did, Lily Potter's vivid green eyes. The baby's hair was sleek and black, and her large eyes were very dark, as pretty as onyx. Harry flipped through the album. There were no more pictures of that baby. He supposed she was a Potter relative, which meant she was now dead. As far as Harry knew, the Dursleys were his only living relatives.
Suddenly, something started tapping at Harry's window. A small owl was fluttering furiously, a large letter attached to its foot. Harry opened the window quickly. "Hey, Pig," he said affectionately. He pulled the letter of the owl's foot. Pig was his friend Ron's owl—a gift from Sirius. Harry's own owl, Hedwig, hooted softly as Pig helped himself to some water from her cage. Harry tossed the letter onto his bed without opening it. He would let Pig rest, but he wouldn't be sending the little owl back with anything.
Harry suddenly heard Uncle Vernon's thundering footsteps in the hall outside his room. Uncle Vernon, a beefy, purple-faced man with very little neck, let himself in without knocking. His eyes traveled quickly to the two owls, but he held himself back from making an angry outburst. He thrust a letter towards Harry. "This was just delivered," he said stiffly. "Those people"—Uncle Vernon always meant wizards when he said "those people"—"Have sent this. Say they'll be here day after next at six." He left with one last angry glance at the owls.
Harry reached for Ron's latest letter, the only one he would open all summer. It was a brief, but urgent, note:
We're all really worried that you haven't written back
at all. Dumbledore says he knows you're not being mis-
treated by those Muggles, but all the same he's arranged
for you to come stay with us. Someone will pick you up
on the fifth of August at six. See you then!
Harry threw the letter back on the bed. Pig flew over to him and stuck out his leg, waiting for Harry to attach a reply. Sighing, Harry scrawled a response on the back of Ron's letter.
See you on the fifth, then.
Pig hooted happily. He flew off into the cloudy sky as Harry began packing up his trunk.
On the fifth of August, Uncle Vernon and Harry's massive cousin Dudley squeezed themselves into their best suits, which seemed to shrink each time they were worn. Aunt Petunia wore a dress that somehow made her face look even more horse-like than it already did. The Dursleys hated magic and "those people," but they never missed a chance to show off. At 5:53, Uncle Vernon started grumbling about the time Harry was supposed to be picked up by Ron's dad, who'd been late and crashed through the Dursleys' boarded-up fireplace with three of his sons in tow. At 5:59, there wasn't even the faintest sign of a car on Privet Drive. Uncle Vernon screwed up his face at Harry and said sourly, "Your kind isn't much for punctuality, eh?"
But just as he said that, the clock chimed six o'clock, and there was a knock at the door. Uncle Vernon opened the door, probably expecting another Mr. Weasley—shabby, dressed in a cloak, and armed with a wand. Harry was expecting a large group of wizards—last year, he'd been taken to London by many members of the Order. With Voldemort back, he had to be protected.
But there were only two women at the door, and they weren't shabbily dressed in odd cloaks, and Harry couldn't see their wands anywhere. They were dressed very much like Muggles. Harry recognized the first woman as Nymphadora Tonks, an Auror and a member of the Order of the Phoenix. The Dursleys had seen her last month when they picked up Harry from King's Cross Station. Her pink hair had made quite an impression on Aunt Petunia, who was now eying Tonks' bright blue locks with a look of utter distaste. Tonks' Muggle rock-concert clothes were also not received well by the Dursleys, but she didn't seem to care. The second woman, who Harry had never seen before, made a better impression on the Dursleys. She was dressed in a black skirt and a light sweater, and black boots that looked suspiciously like dragon hide. Her black hair was very long (even when pulled up into a ponytail, as it was now). She looked around at Harry and the Dursleys with dark eyes that radiated warmth and familiarity.
She stuck out her hand, grasping Uncle Vernon's firmly. He looked at her distastefully, but she didn't seem to notice. "Mr. Dursley," she said fondly in a soft lilt. "Nice to make your acquaintance. I'm Tabitha McNoira, and this is Nymphadora Tonks." Aunt Petunia screwed up her face at the name. "Albus Dumbledore sent us to collect Harry."
Tabitha McNoira smiled at Harry. "Ah," she said softly. Harry shivered at the coldness in her voice. "I finally get to meet the famous Harry Potter." He suddenly felt cold under her stare. She seemed happier to greet the Dursleys than to greet him.
Tonks grinned. "All ready, Harry?" Harry nodded. "All right, then, best get your trunk. Is it in your room?"
"I'll go get it," he mumbled.
"No, no, let me," Tonks said. "You and Tabs just wait out in the car for me."
"Bye," Harry muttered to the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon nodded curtly as Tabitha issued them a warm smile and a bright, "Good-bye!"
"Quite an unpleasant lot," she remarked stiffly as they walked towards the empty street. She pulled a small toy car from her purse and set in the street. With a furtive glance and a flick of her wrist (Harry was surprised to see a long, thin wand suddenly in her hand), the car became life-sized.
"Er, whose car is this?" Harry asked.
"Oh, it's mine. Great little thing. Fits in my purse when I'm not driving it, and it's easy to drive in other countries." She flicked her wand again, and the steering wheel switched sides. "Only problem is, I have to switch that back every time I drive. American-made."
Tonks appeared at the front door with Harry's trunk. "Thanks a lot, see you next summer, I'm sure!" she was saying to the Dursleys. Harry could only imagine their horror at the possibility of ever seeing Nymphadora Tonks again. She shook her head as she loaded the trunk and Hedwig's cage into the car. "I don't know how you do it, Harry. Those Muggles seem a right old impossible lot! My dad's Muggle-born, you know, but he's a harmless old slob. And Tabitha's grandmum's a Muggle and her granddad's a Squib, and they're the nicest old folks you'd ever meet. How you got stuck with those people as family …" She shook her head and Harry stifled a laugh.
As they drove to London in Tabitha's enchanted car, she and Tonks talked nearly nonstop, at an incredible pace, and sometimes at the same time as each other (and about two different subjects), but they seemed to know exactly what the other was saying. Harry supposed that they were old friends, the way they were catching up. Tabitha definitely liked Tonks much more than she liked Harry. He didn't pay them much attention. He spent much of the ride half-asleep, staring out the window. Before he knew it, they were at Grimmauld Place, London. Harry was only half-surprised that the Order's headquarters were still at 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius' childhood home. Though Sirius was dead, he must have left the house to Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts' headmaster and the head of the Order. They would have ensured that the house would not be passed to Sirius' next living relative, as his family was full of Dark wizards. The handful of good wizards in his family—including Sirius, his cousin Andromeda (Tonks' mother), and Sirius' Uncle Alphard—had been burned off the family tree.
With Harry's trunk floating in midair in front of her, Tonks walked towards the gap between Numbers Eleven and Thirteen Grimmauld Place. "Remember how to get in, Harry?" she said anxiously. Harry nodded and concentrated. The Order of the Phoenix is located at 12 Grimmauld Place. Suddenly, a large house shoved its way through the gap, pushing the houses on either side over to make room. Tonks tapped her wand against the door once.
Remus Lupin, looking much paler and more gray-haired than he had last month, opened the door. He smiled warmly at Tonks before clasping his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry," he said hoarsely. His mournful eyes bore into Harry's.
Tabitha shut the door as she entered. She spotted Lupin and gasped, dropping her trunk. As she wrapped him into a long, tight embrace, she said anxiously, "Remus, you're so pale! Are you ill? The full moon isn't for another two weeks!" Lupin was a werewolf. He always seemed ill the week of the full moon. "Something's troubling you. Where's D—?"
Lupin cut her off. "I've got to fill you in on a lot, Tabitha. The letters we sent didn't tell you half of what's gone on this past year. Tonks, you may as well come up with us and help me fill her in. Harry, you're in the same room as last year. I think Ron might be waiting for you." Lupin and Tonks showed Tabitha up to her room. Just when Harry started to think that his arrival, after a summer of his silence, was being met with more quiet than usual, pandemonium broke out before him.