Chapter one

Chapter one

The Vacation at Mrs. Figg's

"PETUNIA! We're going to be late! Get that boy down here now!"

Vernon Dursley's temper was as hot as the summer sun. In fact, it was an unusually hot summer, both in terms of the temperature and his temper.

"Hurry up or we'll miss our flight!"

Up in his bedroom, Harry could hear his uncle pacing and yelling from downstairs. His aunt, uncle, and cousin would be leaving soon to go on holiday for Dudley's birthday. Uncle Vernon had decided that Dudley was now old enough to fully appreciate a visit to America. Of course, they would be going to all the places Dudley had ever wanted to go to: California for the stars, New York for the stars as well, Arizona for the Grand Canyon, and Florida for Disney World. The trip would last them a whole month! Naturally, Harry would not be going with them.

No, Harry had only once been allowed to go out with the Dursleys and that was by pure accident. This time he'd be staying with old Mrs. Figg. It was August 1st, and in one month Harry would be leaving Privet Drive behind and returning to school. In fact, if he played his cards right, he might be able to leave sooner than that! At some point in the next few weeks he'd have to talk Mrs. Figg into driving him to London to pick up his school supplies. How he was going to do this he didn't know, but once he did he was sure he could meet up with Ron and go back to the Burrow with him.

"Harry! Quit dawdling and get downstairs, NOW!" Aunt Petunia spat at him from the doorway. No one in his family ever stepped a foot in his room; they were too afraid of what might happen to them!

"I'm almost ready," Harry said half-heartedly, finishing up the last of the three letters.

"Well, I should hope so!" Aunt Petunia said, turning and starting down the hall toward the stairs. "You've had more than enough time to pack!"

She was right. Harry was moving rather slowly this morning. It wasn't that he didn't want the Dursleys to leave; it was that the thought of listening to Mrs. Figg explain the complete history of each of her 500 cats wasn't quite Harry's idea of fun.

He labeled the letters Ron, Hermione, and Sirius and walked to the corner where Hedwig's cage stood. He opened the door to let the beautiful snowy-white owl out.

"I know it's a big delivery, but think of how jealous you'll make Pig when you get it all done!" She nipped at his fingers affectionately as he stroked her head. "There's one for each of them. And remember, I'll be at Mrs. Figg's when you get back." Hedwig clutched the parchment in her talons and took flight through the window and out of sight.

The letters had all said basically the same thing. He had thanked them all for his birthday presents and explained how he'd be spending the rest of the summer in a cat-infested prison. He also included his plan to meet up in Diagon Alley and spend the rest of the summer at the Burrow. Now, if only he had a plan for actually getting to Diagon Alley.

"HARRY!" Uncle Vernon yelled.

"Coming!" Harry picked up Hedwig's cage and his trunk full of school supplies, some left over birthday sweets, and the Firebolt and began pulling it down the hall to the steps.

Uncle Vernon looked up at Harry and his face almost exploded at the sight of the trunk. "Oh no you don't! You're not taking those…those…THINGS into Mrs. Figg's house!"

"Oh yes I am!" Harry declared as the trunk dropped down the first step with a loud clunk.

"I will not have the neighbors knowing that you're…well…not NORMAL!"

Harry stopped in the middle of the stairs. "Look, she won't see anything. But if I don't study, I'll fail my end of year tests and they'll send me back here…forever!" Harry hoped this would encourage his uncle to give in. Surely the Dursleys didn't want Harry around forever!

Unfortunately, Harry was wrong. "I don't care about your tests! You're not even allowed to use that…that… mumbo-jumbo unless you're at school! Now take it back up to your room!" he said pointing a fat finger up the stairs.

With a sigh Harry shrugged and added, "Alright. But I hate to leave these Exploding Snaps unattended…for a whole month…in this heat."

Uncle Vernon jumped. "The what?"

"Exploding Snaps." Harry repeated looking at his uncle's worried face with an innocent smile. One mention of something that could possibly cause damage to the house was all it took! Of course, Harry wasn't going to mention that the snaps were small and wouldn't hurt anything.

Uncle Vernon's brow furrowed with anger and his face turned even redder. "Fine! Take them with you, but so help me, if you even…"

"I know! I know! She won't suspect a thing!" Harry smiled triumphantly and continued clunking the trunk down the steps and out the front door.

Dudley and Aunt Petunia were already in the car. How Harry was going to fit was a mystery, for the Dursleys had stuffed the car so full with luggage that a few items were sticking out the windows! There certainly wasn't enough room for skinny Harry, let alone his enormous trunk!

Harry looked over his shoulder to his uncle. "Where am I going to sit?"

"Oh, come now Harry! Mrs. Figg is just a few blocks away. I think you can walk!"

Uncle Vernon climbed in to the already stuffed car and started the engine.

"Have a good summer, Harry!" Dudley's porky face squished up in an evil grin as he sneered at him from the rear window.

And they were gone. Harry was left alone with a trunk full of school things and an empty bird with the hot sun glaring down on him. He picked up one end of the trunk and began heaving it towards his month long doom with a sigh.

Why did he have to come back here, he thought. Dumbledore insisted he return to the Dursleys. At the time, Harry had thought it was for his protection, but how could the Dursleys protect him if they weren't even here? Harry thought he would have been better off at the Weasley's house with several grown wizards about who had connections with the Ministry of Magic.

The sweat was dripping down the back of his neck. As he rounded the corner his eyes lifted to look at the old house where Mrs. Figg lived. It was by far the oldest house on the street, and Mrs. Figg obviously wasn't able to care for it properly. Harry could tell that the yard had once been filled with neatly trimmed hedges and beautiful flowers. But now the flowerbeds were full of weeds and the hedges so unruly that they looked like the belonged in the woods somewhere. The two-story house itself wasn't much to look at either. It was in need of paint, a few shutters were missing, and the porch sagged ever so slightly.

And then, of course, there were the cats. Harry could see three of them already, sitting on the porch in various states of sleepiness. "What was it with this woman and cats?" Harry asked himself as he approached the front door. He dropped the trunk with a thud, grateful for the loss of such a heavy burden, and knocked on the front door.

Old Mrs. Figg's face peered out from the window at Harry before she opened the door. Now, Harry had always thought of Mrs. Figg as old, but that was because of how odd she looked and the manner in which she lived. The truth was, she was probably in her 50's. But she always wore old-fashioned dresses that reached the floor, boots that covered her ankles, and a shawl that Harry assumed she herself had knitted. Her graying hair was kept up in a tight bun that reminded Harry of Professor McGonagall. "Harry! Welcome, welcome!" And she stepped aside, allowing Harry to enter the house.

The smell of cabbage hit Harry hard as Mrs. Figg closed the door behind him. "Haven't seen you for a good while, dear! How are you?!" She patted Harry's cheek like he was a baby.

"I'm fine. Where can I put my things?" Harry asked, glancing around at the antiques that filled the stuffy house. Harry was always afraid of breaking one of the many nick-knacks she had covering all the tables and shelves.

"Oh you don't worry about that right this minute, dear. You make yourself at home and I'll bring out the tea!" She started for the kitchen before realizing Harry wasn't moving. "What's the matter, dear?"

"Er…I'm not really wanting something…hot to drink right now," he said.

"Nonsense!" She approached Harry and put her bony hands on his shoulders, causing Harry to lean back a bit from the closeness. "Tea always makes the day better!" She patted his cheek again and smiled a very toothy grin.

"OH! I almost forgot to tell you!" She said placing her hands rather dramatically on her heart. "I hope you don't mind, but my little niece, Daphne, is staying for a few days, as well. So, you'll have some company!" She disappeared behind the pass through leading to the kitchen.

Great, Harry thought. Just what I need. Some little girl getting into my stuff! Could this summer get any worse?

Mrs. Figg's head popped from around the corner. "Why don't you call her down for tea. She's napping upstairs," and she disappeared again.

Napping? "Well," Harry said to himself, "if she takes a nap everyday then at least I'll have a few minutes of peace and quite for myself.

Harry walked to the foot of the stairs and glanced upward. He didn't particularly want to go up there to wake her up, so he called to her instead. "Er…excuse me? Daphne?" He waited with a grimace on his face for a reply, but none came. "Daphne," he said more loudly, "You're supposed to come down for tea now." He left it at that. If Mrs. Figg wanted to wake her up, then she'll have to go get her.

"Alright. I'll be right down!" The voice was soft and kind of singsong like. Harry looked back up the steps questionably and then went to sit down in the oversized armchair. It was the one piece of furniture that didn't have cat hair all over it. It had some, but not as much as the sofa!

A few moments passed as Harry sat uncomfortably in the house he hardly knew, waiting to have tea with the crazy old lady and the little girl. Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. And then he saw the little girl.

**Daphne Affigo is an Alphie creation. Harry Potter and all other characters are property of J.K.Rowling and Warner Brothers.