Disclaimer: All characters are property of J.K. Rowling and are being used without permission. No attempt has been made to copyright this work. This novel is purely for the entertainment of the author and readers and is not being used for profit of any sort.

CHAPTER ONE

Parting is such sweet sorrow


In number four, Privet Drive, a raven-haired young man hurriedly gathered his things.

Harry was leaving Privet Drive to join the Weasley family for the final week of his summer holidays. He was arranging the last of his possessions. He was nearly done with packing his quidditch supplies when he realized he felt different than he had in quite some time.

Realization slowly dawned on him.

He was happy.

For most normal 16 year olds, happiness isn't really an odd occurance. But Harry Potter was no normal 16 year old. He had faced death, destruction, betrayal and loss. His bright green eyes had seen more sorrow in the past 5 years than any person of any age should ever have to endure.

But now he was leaving the one place that he despised more than any other, and he found that for the first time in days he was smiling. In just an hour or so he would be hanging out with Ron again, they might even be able to get a quick game of quidditch in before lunch.

Harry was contemplating the implications of the fact that the promise of seeing Ron Weasley again made him break out into smiles when a thundering voice broke him out of his thoughts. "POTTER!!" the voice boomed. "It's time to leave! Let's get this over with."

Vernon Dursley had had a miserable 6 weeks. After having been threatened by several of those oddball magic folk before taking Harry back, he found that he had to be very careful about his treatment of Harry. Imagine, having to walk on eggshells around that...boy...in his own home no less!! To do otherwise though risked having more of those riffraff show up at his doorstep (or worse, in his fireplace), and he would not have that again. At least it would be over soon.

"I'll be there when I'm ready!" Harry replied in an almost equally loud voice. During the summer Harry's voice had finally stopped breaking at embarrasing times. Although he couldn't match Uncle Vernon's baritone yell, he could get a lot more volume than he used to. He could also put a lot more seriousness in his tone, something that wasn't altogether due to puberty.

Having shut Uncle Vernon up for at least a few minutes, Harry looked around and assessed his packing situation. He had received more than he expected in birthday presents that year, and he was wondering how he was going to take it all with him. Mad-Eye Moody had given him a new Foe Glass ("In case that cousin of yours tries something"), Hermione had sent Harry a new book on protection spells for post owls. "That will come in handy" Harry thought.

The best, and worst, gift that Harry received that summer was from Lupin. It was a photo album of wizard pictures, all of Sirius Black. Remus had written notes underneath each picture describing when and where the picture was taken. Harry vividly recalled opening that gift. "You should know who he really was, Harry" said the note that Remus had attached to it. Harry had gone through the album many times but he still wasn't sure how he felt about it. He has happy to see Sirius' face, and even happier to read Remuses descriptions of the man that Harry cared so much for but never got the chance to really know. At the same time though, the pictures brought back that aching sense of loss. He knew Remus had had nothing but the best intentions in giving it to him, but sometimes he really wished that he hadn't bothered.

In addition to the gifts there was the massive pile of letters he had received. He had kept in touch with Moody and Lupin for general not-super-secret-but-still-sensitive-so-be-careful news on the Order of the Phoenix, as well as to make sure that they knew the Dursley's were keeping their promise. The letters he got from them were always vague, but at least they were trying to keep him in the loop. It appeared as though Voldemort was laying low after his defeat at the Ministry of Magic. Harry wondered how long the quiet would last as he ripped up the letters about the Order as Moody had requested.

Harry had been writing Ron and Hermione almost daily (Hedwig was glad for the exercise and didn't show any signs of complaint), and there was an untidy pile of letters from them that he planned on neatly binding in an album later. For now though, they could sit at the bottom of his trunk.

Harry finally decided to arrange his things according to which ones could survive being squashed into the additional suitcase he was going to have to carry with him. Mrs. Weasley's mince pies would still taste the same after being squished a bit, and Hagrid's thick moleskin gloves could certainly survive a little abuse. Dumbledore's phoenix feather quill (an old feather from Fawkes no doubt) would definitely have to be treated with care though. The quill was the best Harry had ever seen. One dip in ink was good for at least 3 full scrolls worth of writing, and he found that his hand never got tired while writing with it. Harry truly did appreciate the extra attention he had gotten that summer and spent quite a lot of time sending thank you notes, but he knew that everyone was trying to help him fill the void that Sirius' death had left. That was a problem he wasn't sure presents could remedy.

After some quick re-arranging, Harry was ready to leave. His momentary lapse back into depression was ended as he reminded himself that he was going to be seeing The Burrow again.

He grabbed his things, tucking Hedwig and her cage under his arm and left Dudley's second bedroom (he had never considered it to be his own, he was just borrowing it).

Harry found Dudley himself sitting in the living room watching television with the same vacant look on his face that he always had these days. His encounter with the Dementors last year had left a lasting impression (Harry was very glad he was able to convince Mad-Eye not to alter his memory of that experience). Dudley was a very different person after having dealt with that particular type of bully.

Uncle Vernon was standing in the entryway, waiting for Harry. "Are we ready now, your highness?"

Harry smiled, noting that his Uncle's tone wasn't nearly as spiteful as it had been in previous years when it was time to hand Harry off to someone else. "Yes", he replied, "let's get going. Later Dud", he said in Dudley's general direction. "Goodbye Aunt Petunia". Aunt Petunia was sitting in the kitchen, keeping her distance.

The Weasleys and the Dursleys had worked out a deal. Vernon would bring Harry to whatever location the Weasleys liked as long as it was far away from his home. They had agreed upon a park on the other side of town, far away from the prying eyes of the Dursley's neighbors. Harry loaded his things into the car, gave one last fleeting look at the house he loved to leave, and then they were off.