Disclaimer: I do not own anything familiar in this story. That privilege belongs to the one and only JK Rowling.
One: The First Letter
Night time on Privet Drive was a peaceful time. Parents tucked their small children into their beds and read them stories about far away lands with dragons and wizards. They left the doors cracked open, just in case, and headed down the stairs for a quick night cap before tucking themselves in. The stories the parents of Privet Drive read were things they knew could never exist; there was no such thing as magic, or witches who flew around on broomsticks, or evil wizards who existed only to terrorize the world. But the children enjoyed the stories, and that was all that mattered.
The inhabitants of Number Four, however, had proof that sort of thing existed. Vernon and Petunia Dursley had worked hard for nearly six years to keep what they knew to themselves. They despised anything that didn't fulfill their idea of normalcy. Right at the top of their list, highlighted in bright yellow marker was nearly sixteen-year-old boy who occupied the Dursleys' smallest bedroom.
While the other residents slept on Privet Drive, Harry Potter remained wide awake, staring out his window into the dark sky. Two weeks into his summer holiday from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry had spent every day in the exact same way: wake up, have a quick breakfast before his so-called family awoke, and spent the day wandering around the neighborhood. The only difference in his routine came on Tuesday nights when Tonks would meet him at the park and keep him company for a few hours.
So far, he'd kept his promise to the Order; he'd written them every few days, and stayed out of trouble.
Harry could laugh at the idea of staying out of trouble. Ever since his first year at Hogwarts, no matter how hard he tried to avoid it, Harry ran into trouble. Or rather, trouble usually ran into him. Whether it was three headed dogs locked up in the third floor, or Dementors on the Quidditch pitch, or mermaids in the lake, trouble of the worse sort found Harry Potter.
Laughter, however, was not something Harry had found in the last month or so. It wasn't something Harry had felt like doing since before he left school. Not since…
Harry shook his head, causing his naturally unruly hair to cover his emerald green eyes. He wouldn't think about that; he couldn't think about that.
The letters he sent to his friends and the Order were as cheerful as Harry could make them. They didn't contain much; usually only that he was okay, summer was hot, and the Muggles were normal.
To be honest, only two of the three things Harry included in his letters weren't lies. Yes, the summer was hot, and yes, the Muggles were normal, but Harry was not okay. Not by a long shot. He was miserable, depressed. He'd just lost the only person he had ever considered a parent that he could remember. He'd nearly caused his friends to die. And that damned Prophecy followed him wherever he went.
Every time he had attempted to sleep since his return to Privet Drive, he dreamed of that night. He was almost tempted to ask Tonks to bring a Dreamless Sleep Potion the next time she visited him, but he knew that probably wouldn't do any good. Even when he was awake he thought about it…
He meant what he said to Dumbledore that night. He didn't want to be himself any longer. He didn't want the fame, or the pain. He didn't want any of it. Sometimes, Harry thought it would be best just to leave the wizarding world and live as a Muggle. He could exchange all the gold his parents had left him and start a life somewhere else. Australia sounded good… He wanted to separate himself from his friends, to keep them safe. But Voldemort was back, and finally the world believed it. No one was safe.
Harry lay on his bed, willing himself to stay awake. He didn't want to see the Veil again, nor did he want to see his friends harmed. An hour later, his eyes closed, taking him back to it all.
Just before the Dursleys woke, Harry stumbled blurry eyed down the stairs and into the kitchen. Making the least amount of noise possible, Harry prepared some toast with butter, and quietly left the house. Munching on his breakfast only to have something to do, Harry walked down the street to the park he frequented every day of the summer thus far.
He sat down on an old rusted bench and stared at the ground, his toast lay forgotten next to him. His wand was in his jeans, just in case. One could never know what wouldl happen in this world, as he'd learned too many times in his young life.
Harry could feel eyes upon him and looked around. The park was empty. None of the bushes or trees moved. Perhaps one of the Order of the Phoenix members was watching him from under an Invisibility Cloak?
Let them watch, Harry thought dully.
Staring straight ahead over the trees, Harry failed to see the small brown owl land next to him. The owl began to eat Harry's toast, a letter sitting beside it.
Harry turned his head to see what was making the crunching noises and raised an eyebrow at the animal. It wouldn't do to have a Muggle see an owl in broad day light. He picked up the letter and realized it was only a sheet of parchment folded over. There was no name written on the outside. Cautiously, Harry opened it and read the tiny scrawl:
'Think I could have some of that toast?' was all it said.
Harry jumped up from the bench and pulled out his wand from his back pocket. He looked wildly around the park; it was still empty.
"Who's there?" Harry called, feeling immediately stupid. He narrowed his eyes to search the bushes. It wouldn't be the first time something was watching him from shrubs, after all. There was nothing in them, however, as far as he could see. He looked back to the owl that had been staring at him throughout the whole ordeal. It hooted once and took off into the trees when Harry waved his hand to shoo the animal away.
If an Order member had been nearby, surely they would have shown themselves. Right? And a Death Eater didn't send an owl to ask for toast… If someone was messing with him, it was a very weak joke.
Harry stuck his wand back in his pocket and headed back to Number Four.
Inside the house, the Dursleys were awake and in the kitchen having breakfast. Harry quickly and quietly made his way to his bedroom and sat at his desk. He would spend the day working on his summer course work. It had to be done sometime…