As the mid-day sun rose over Little Whinging, Surrey, there seemed to be an influx of people clamoring about their lawns and porches on a small drive named Privet. Surely not because of a desire to spy upon the neighbors (though few spurned the opportunity once it arose), it was because today was hot. Very hot; in fact it was the hottest day in Little Whinging thus far this summer. Yet as the inhabitants of Privet Drive ambled and sauntered about, children running through hosepipes and kicking balls about the yards, adults keeping their eyes on them scarcely as much as the neighbors, a closed rear window covered by curtains on one Number Four made it stand out from the rest.
"It must be positively baking," quipped one of the neighbors.
"I wonder what they're playing at, I do..."
No sooner had these words been uttered than Harry heard a door slam downstairs and a sharp voice came ringing up into the bedroom to which the closed window belonged.
"POTTER, WINDOW OPEN, NOW, THE NEIGHBORS ARE STARTING TO SAY THINGS!"
At these words, a bespectacled teenage boy lifted from his bed, walked slowly to his window, and threw it open. He wandered back slowly, and thought What a silly thing to worry about... a closed window... especially since... but no sooner had he begun his thought than a beautiful snowy-white owl had swooped down through the now open window, with a piece of tattered parchment attached to it's leg, and came to rest on a chair back. While to most it would seem unusual for an owl to swoop through their window, let alone during the day, let alone with the neighbors already fixated upon said window, let alone with a note to be delivered, Harry Potter thought nothing of it, because Harry Potter was far from usual, in the Privet sense of the word. He was a wizard; A good one, but alas, a caged one, for his Aunt and Uncle tried most unabashedly to cover this fact up from anyone who would try and pry. It seemed a good idea then, to Harry's Aunt and Uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley, to try and keep Harry closed up in his room, partly because around it lay a broom, a wand, an owl cage, and a school trunk full of books on potions and spells and creatures and all things certainly abnormal, but mostly because, Harry thought, they hated him. But to this he had grown quite accustomed over fifteen long years in their care, so it bothered him no more than the threadbare clothes he was given to wear and the, well, less than satisfactory freedoms he was allowed. A nipping at his hand brought him back to reality.
"Ouch, Hedwig, there's no need to be so rough!" The owl must have been pecking at his hand for a minute, because it was quite red. He untied the parchment from her leg and was quite taken aback as to whom it was made out to. "Looks as if you've delivered this to the wrong person." Written in green ink on the front was Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Dursley, No. 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Normally he would have torn the note open immediately and delved into it, overjoyed by any contact from the wizarding world to which he belonged, but his level of apathy had risen greatly in the summer heat, and he laid back down on his bed and reveled in the breeze now wafting in, making the curtains flutter. It can certainly wait 'til after dinner, at any rate he thought, and drifted instantly to sleep, his fringe shifting in just the right way so a scar, running from his hairline down his forehead, in the shape of a lightning bolt, was visible to any who may have been looking.
Dinner at the Dursley household was probably Harry's least favorite time imaginable. So when Aunt Petunia's shrill voice darted up the stairs and awoke him from his sound sleep, announcing dinnertime, he wasn't the quickest to jump out of his inviting bed and relinquish himself to his cousin Dudley's taunting, his Aunt's berating, and his Uncle's disapproving glares across the table over the top of the evening paper. It was, however poor an excuse, the most significant amount of food he got all day, so it was only for this reason Harry lifted himself from his bed and walked over to his desk under his still open window and grabbed the letter addressed to the Dursley's. He had set it atop one of his favorite books, Flying with the Cannons, which he had borrowed from his best friend Ron for about the thousandth time. He resisted the urge to thumb through it (anything to avoid dinner, he told himself), pocketed the letter, and set off down the stairs to the dining room.
If you could call it a dining room, that is. What it was, really, was a television room with a table. It seemed that whenever Dudley threw a fit about not wanting to watch what was on the television, Uncle Vernon bought another one. He crept into the room without a sound and sat down.
Dinner that night, like it had been for the past few weeks, was uneventful. Vernon spoke enthusiastically of some new employees he was going to have to fire at Grunnings. Dudley boasted about his boxing record from last term. Petunia commented on the news. Harry said nothing. He very much liked it like that. He knew he had to be there and as much as he wanted to say things to these people, as much as he wanted to stand up and tell them how lousy they were, and how hateful, he had found a way to control himself. He wanted nothing more than to curse them into next week. But he was safe there and Dumbledore would make him go back if he took flight. He was resigned to the fact every summer until he was done with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would be a Dursley summer; thankfully, he would be entering his sixth year at Hogwarts in September and this summer was his next to last. He was very much looking forward to no more Privet summers, though he had given little thought to where he would actually go...
"Well, what have you got there boy?"
Harry had apparently removed the note to the Dursley's out of his pocket and into his hands while he was thinking; he hadn't even noticed.
"It's, err, addressed to you, actually. I haven't opened it."
"And a good thing too, what were you thinking, snagging our post?" Vernon looked at him seriously over the top of the paper.
"It, uh, actually didn't come in the post." He didn't want to delve into its origins any further. "I suggest you read it, then."
He tossed the letter across the table at his Uncle, and caught a glimpse of his Aunt. She looked intrigued, if not a bit scared. The last time she had received a letter in this manner it had been a howler, and it had screamed quite loudly at her some cryptic message before bursting into flames.
Vernon perused the letter, staring first with a look of contempt and melting, as he read, into a look Harry could only describe as gleeful. Just what was in this letter anyways? Harry hadn't seen his Uncle smile this devilishly, well - actually he smiled quite devilishly during his talk of firing his new employees. This did not bode well for him. Vernon suddenly sat up from the table, crossed his arms, and grinned at Harry.
"Pack your things boy. Your... your... lot," Petunia shot him a dirty look but did not speak, "will be here in an hour and a half. Off you go now, and don't come down 'til then." He looked quite pleased with himself, like he had taken Harry to task and kicked him out of his own accord. Harry smirked at the thought but held his mouth and Vernon's gaze, before turning heel and heading straight up the stairs.
Harry strode into his room feeling on top of the world. It seemed to him that his luck had never been better. Three weeks was all he had spent with the Dursley's and now he was going to, well, he didn't know but he was leaving... But why? Why was he to be leaving so soon. He strode over to his bed and sat down, surveying his room. Was there something going on that put him in danger? A battle? Were there members of the order out there dying right now? Harry had been struggling with these thoughts all summer and he did now what he had been doing all along: concentrated on the here and now, and shoved the unknown out of his brain. He stooped down from his bed and started gathering his clothes in his arms, which had managed to scatter themselves across his floor in the few short weeks he'd been there. He dumped his first armload in his trunk and habitually patted the front pocket of the jeans he'd been wearing. Old Mad-Eye Moody had been rubbing off on him, he thought – his wand was right in place.
He whirled around the room grabbing this and that from what seemed to be every corner; his Firebolt racing broom, a gift from his late godfather, Sirius Black (Harry had tried his best to keep Sirius as far from the front of his mind as possible), his schoolbooks from last term, Flying with the Cannons, quills, parchment, and what Hagrid would have called 'all his bits and bobs for wizarding'. Hedwig was gone, out hunting, so he took her cage and set it atop his full trunk. Admiring his industriousness, he bent down and removed the loose floorboard where he kept some of his more secret things, and emptied it. This summer it had been filled with some letters from the order, and a letter from both Ron and Hermione, whom Harry assumed he would be joining in a few short hours. After he had finished he took one last glance across the room he wasn't about to miss, grabbed his trunk and Hedwig's cage, and set off down the stairs, making quite a bit of noise in doing so. As Harry entered the living room, he met eyes with a very irritated looking Vernon who was pacing the room, eyeing the fireplace.
"It's twenty-five after eight! They had better arrive soon, we might have had arrangements!" He was back to his same old self, having used this speech almost two years ago while waiting for the Weasley's to gather him from Privet Drive. Harry missed the Weasley's most of all, they were almost his family. Much more so than the Dursley's, anyway. Mrs. Weasley had taken great care to write letters every few days over the past weeks to make sure that he was being properly taken care of, and to his surprise and most certainly to hers, he had nothing but good to report. He supposed being threatened by a group of fully trained wizards would have that effect on people. Either way, Harry had to admit his stay had been almost... pleasant – comparatively anyways. Again Harry's thoughts were interrupted as there came a brisk knock on the door. Uncle Vernon looked downright contemptuous.
"Well, get the door boy, and get them off the lawn as quickly as you can!" Harry knew quite well his uncle had meant for them to leave as quickly as they could, but there was no harm now in inviting them all in. He hurried out of the living room and down the hall to the entrance, grasped the door handle, twisted, pulled, and opened it to see six wizards, looking their muggle best, waiting to greet him. Harry couldn't help but notice there were fewer of them in this advance guard, as there had been last time they had come to fetch him from Privet Drive. A witch with long auburn hair was the first to speak.
"Wotcher, Harry! Looking just as good as ever, I see." Nymphadora Tonks threw him a huge wink as she spoke. Harry just smiled at her.
"Well, won't you all come in, then?" said Harry, and he held the door open and moved to the side as the six of them stepped out of the darkness and into the soft lighting of the entrance hall. First was Alastor Moody – Harry could tell before he even could see his face because of the signature clunk he made as he walked – Moody had a wooden leg. Next was Bill Weasley, who smiled at Harry as he entered. He was followed by a wizard Harry had never seen before, who nodded politely as he entered and followed Bill and Moody down the hall. Next was Mr. Weasley, who looked solemn, followed by Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Tonks, both Ministry Aurors who looked anything but. Tonks nudged him in the side as she entered and leaned in to whisper "don't take Arthur seriously, alright?" before ushering Harry ahead of her down the hall. Harry sighed. He would much rather have walked behind her. The other five were already greeting the Dursley's as Harry entered, but he was just in time to catch the surname of the unknown wizard.
"...Hobbes, nice to meet you." The wizard said, catching Harry's eye out of the corner of his own. Harry surveyed him, and noticed and odd bulge coming from the side of his robes, like that of a wand, but larger. The other wizards introduced themselves in turn, although for most of them, it was just a pleasantry; they had introduced themselves the month before by threatening the Dursley's not to make Harry's life a veritable hell.
"... No time to stay, I'm afraid, we must be off as soon as possible. Nice to see you again, Mr. Dursley," Mr. Weasley spoke, and started to shuffle towards the door. Uncle Vernon looked petrified and made no move to hinder him, as both he and Petunia were now standing behind the sofa, about as far from the group as humanly possible. Dudley was nowhere to be seen – for some reason, he didn't care much for magical folk.
Tonks came bounding down the stairs, Harry hadn't even noticed she'd gone, levitating his trunk and Hedwig's still empty cage in front of her. She hadn't made it but a few steps from the stairs before she managed to trip over seemingly nothing and almost spilled the trunk's contents across the hall. This garnered a small chuckle from the group.
"Well then, anyone care to help me a bit?" Tonks answered angrily, and Kingsley picked up the owl cage from the top of the trunk. Smiling, she made her way down the hall and out the front door. Mr. Weasley had already left, Bill followed Kingsley who had followed Tonks, and Moody walked out after him. Hobbes walked up behind Harry and said softly "Off you go then," and just like that the seven of them were out the door, Harry without even looking back to see what he was sure were the positively stunned and frightened faces of his Aunt and Uncle. It's not everyday residents of Privet Drive were called upon by 'his lot'. The group marched aways down Privet Drive, which was now bathed in dusk. Tonks was no longer levitating the trunk but dragging it, looking not at all happy about her job.
"I'm the most clumsy, why am I doing this?" she cried.
"Because you're the youngest," retorted Alastor. The rest of the group got a laugh as Tonks pouted. Harry wondered what had everyone in such a chipper mood, except for Mr. Weasley, who still looked solemn. Wasn't there a war going on? Tonks fell in beside Harry and again nudged him in the ribs. She was walking much more effortlessly now. She started to whisper to him.
"Little lightening spell. Don't be too concerned with Arthur. Molly just made him promise to deliver you safely, is all. She's been worried sick, you know." This made Harry feel a bit better. There weren't five wizards he trusted more, save Dumbledore, he thought... One he needed to get to know a bit better, however.
Hobbes had taken his stride behind all of them and was looking left and right, his hand clutching the bulge in his side. Harry thought he looked ready to draw a very large wand from his belt. He was looking quite prepared for anything. The group trotted on down the street finally stopping at a park a good ways from the Dursley's. Harry noticed at once it had been the target of Dudley's gang; it was quite run down and not much seemed to be working. They were moving again, however, toward the only structure standing near any of the equipment, a small storage shed that had been chained and padlocked shut. When they arrived, Mr. Weasley did a quick head count and proceeded to relieve the lock of it's duty.
"Alohomora," he spoke softly and the lock undid itself, even though it's keyhole was stuck with chewing gum. "Everyone inside." They all piled into the small shed, one at a time, as Hobbes brought up the rear and closed the door behind him. Someone muttered "Lumos," and Hobbes walked to a small watering can hanging on the side of the shed, only barely visible in the silvery wandlight now emanating from Kingsley's wand. He pulled it down and rolled it over in his hands.
"This will do," he said softly, and held the tip of his wand to it. The next word he whispered was so barely audible that Harry barely picked up Portus from what sounded rather like a soft static.
"Everyone grab hold now," came Moody's gruff voice from the darkness, and six hands shot forward to grab the watering can any place they could, which was now glowing blue and slightly trembling. When the trembling stopped, he felt the familiar yet uncomfortable feeling like a hook was dragging him along through space - by the navel.