It was a cloudless night in July when Harry Potter awoke with a start. It wasn't the grunting snores of his cousin Dudley that had roused him, but rather the same nightmare that had haunted his dreams for a fortnight. Harry was used to these dreams by now, but they still induced fear, worry, and frustration in him. They also made him feel even lonelier than he had felt before he knew he had a godfather. Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban, proved his innocence to Harry, and showed him the real betrayer of his parent's trust. He then became something of a father figure to Harry for two short years before his own cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, murdered him. Now Harry had no family left except his mother's sister, Petunia, her husband, Vernon, and their son, Dudley.
A rustling of wings interrupted Harry's reminiscing as his snowy owl, Hedwig, flew into the room through the open window. She landed gracefully onto the bed, and Harry, not to make any unnecessary noise, untied the parchment from her leg. He unrolled the note and read:
I'm glad to hear that you are doing fine, and that your aunt and uncle are treating you better. There are only a few more things to arrange here before we can come and collect you to say here in London.
I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but I miss him just as much as you do. But we have to try to move past it. I know it's hard, but he wouldn't want us to dwell on it.
Here's hoping we'll see you soon,
- R. J. Lupin.
Move past it. Harry didn't think he ever could move past it, or if he could, how? It did mean more coming from Lupin than it would have coming from Ron or Hermione. Lupin, at least, knew Sirius and was close to him; like Harry.
Ron's owl, Pig, zooming through the open window like a cannon ball, interrupted his thoughts again. Unfortunately, Pig was not as quiet as Hedwig, and, in no time, his Uncle Vernon was banging on the door.
"Shut that bloody owl up!" thundered his uncle.
"Or what?" retorted Harry through the locked door, "you'll lock me in? Refuse to feed me? Lock up my owl?"
He knew Uncle Vernon had no choice but to give in. Mad Eye Moody's threat at the end of June seemed to make Uncle Vernon a little more reserved than usual around Harry. They all knew that if Harry were mistreated in any way, shape, or form, that various wizards would do something about it. So Uncle Vernon had no choice but to trudge back to bed.
Satisfied, Harry reached up and caught Pig, who was flying around the lampshade on the ceiling, hooting incessantly. He untied the scroll of parchment from the tiny owl's leg, unrolled the second note of the night and read:
I overheard mum and dad talking to Lupin last night, and they were planning a surprise birthday party for you, which either means you're coming here or we're going there. Mad Eye, for some reason, doesn't want you to leave the Dursley's yet. Doesn't he need a good kick up the arse.
Anyways, hope the muggles are treating you right,
Ps: Have you heard from Hermione at all? She hasn't written yet to see if she can stay. Take care.
Harry had not heard from Hermione either, which was quite strange. Usually she would have pelted him with letters or already been invited to the Burrow. Had something perhaps happened to her?
And Moody didn't want him to come and stay. That seemed a little strange, and it annoyed Harry. It was Moody, after all, who threatened Uncle Vernon and told Harry to keep in touch with regular owls.
And they were planning a surprise birthday party for him; for his sixteenth birthday. It would be the first birthday party he could remember. This cheered Harry up a great deal, and as Pig was already asleep with Hedwig, he figured he would turn in for the second time that night.
Tomorrow he thought he would try to find out where Hermione was, or at least find a way to get out of Privet Drive. With the thought of his birthday party planning under way, he fell into a much more peaceful sleep than before.
Harry arrived in the kitchen next morning to his usual greeting. Silence. This didn't bother Harry; it was to be expected of the Dursleys to ignore his presence. He sat down opposite Dudley and helped himself to toast.
The letterbox opened and they heard several letters fall to the floor in a flutter.
"Dudley," Uncle Vernon said, after a glace at Harry, "get the mail."
With what seemed like enormous difficulty, Dudley heaved himself out of his seat and proceeded to the front door. Just then, the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia answered it.
She turned to Harry, an unreadable look in her eyes. "It's for you," she said, holding the receiver out to him. Harry took it quizzically.
"Hello?" he asked.
"Hi, Harry," said the voice on the other end.
"Hermione?" he asked as his heart seemed to skip a beat.
"Yeah," she said, sounding relieved, "how are you?"
"Fine," he said, "how are you? Why haven't you sent any owls?"
"Oh, well, you see," she began, "things aren't that great here at the moment."
"What do you mean?" asked Harry, a feeling of unease coming over him.
Then there was silence on the other end.
"Hermione, are you there?" Harry questioned.
"Yes," she replied, "but I have to tell you Harry, I'm in trouble."
"Trouble?" he said, "what kind of trouble?"
"Well, you know how I'm a - a -"
"Yes," she said, "and you know how some people don't particularly like us?"
"Like Malfoy, you mean."
"Yes, Malfoy. He sent me a letter right after term ended."
"What did it say?" he asked with a sense of foreboding.
"Well, to sum it up, it said that if I didn't sever ties with you, that his dad would come after my family."
"What?" Harry gasped.
"I didn't believe it at first," she continued, "until I spoke with Viktor, and he said his dad said that Mr. Malfoy said that it was true."
"Yeah, and so now I don't really want to talk to Ron because Malfoy mentioned him, too."
"What did he say?"
"He said that if I was in touch with any of the Weasleys he would know, and they would go down, too."
"Oh my -"
"But he did mention you and said if it wasn't for the fact that you had no family, he would get them if I was in touch with you." She said all of this in a rush as though she had needed to say it for a while now.
"Okay," Harry said, "I'll talk to Ron and we'll all figure out a way to get you and your family to safety. Maybe you can come to London."
"Oh, that'd be great, Harry."
"I'll talk to Lupin, too."
"Okay," she said.
"Take care of yourself now, Hermione."
"I will. Thanks, Harry. Good bye."
"Bye," he said. He hung up.
There was only one thing to do, and he needed to do it fast. As he left the kitchen, his uncle spoke.
"Don't you want to see your letter?"
"Yes," his uncle said, "a letter for you from a N. Tonks."
"Let me have it then," Harry said.
As his uncle passed him the envelope, Dudley asked, "So, what did your girlfriend want?"
"Firstly, she's not my girlfriend, and secondly, it's none of your business," replied Harry coolly, as he left the room.
Once he was on the stairs, he opened and unfolded the letter from Tonks and read:
I know Lupin is probably going to write to you to say that you can't stay yet, and I am writing to tell you that you will probably be here in under a week of you getting this letter.
Now, I know you probably want to know what we are all up to, and all I'm allowed to say is we are working hard. You, however, are to stay out of trouble, and Molly says to be nice to your aunt and uncle. I, on the other hand, say you should wreak havoc on them while you can. I highly doubt they will try to punish you, seeing as how Mad Eye threatened them.
On another note, I would dismantle your electric fireplace if I were you. If we do come and get you, it will probably be by floo powder. And just as a final note and warning, Fred and George miss you, if you get where I'm going with this. So don't be surprised if they happen to pop into your house at one time or another.
Finally, most of Harry's questions had answers. He had been wondering for a while now what the Order was doing to keep the newly returned Voldemort at bay. Tonks' letter cheered Harry up a great deal. He now had reason to give the Dursleys a hard time. The looming worry of that letter was when the twins would visit.
But right now he needed to write to Ron and tell him about Hermione. He did not want to send all of that information by owl. For all he knew, Death Eaters could be intercepting mail. Pulling a scrap of parchment towards him, he dipped his quill in the ink and wrote:
Thanks for the letter. I have news that shouldn't be sent by owl. Send the twins.
He then prodded Pig awake and sent the note with the tiny owl back to London. With luck, there would be news soon.