Yep, you guessed it, another story! I warn you now though, this story will be long, dramatic and most likely filled with a million spelling and grammatical errors. But I'm really going to try hard to avoid all that this time. It's going to be different and surprising. I hope you enjoy this story, as I really am going to try my hardest to make it my best yet.
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own it. I just like to play in it.
In abstract, it was just another summer's day in Privet Drive.
The afternoon was warm, but not sweltering as it had been for the past two days. The cool change had finally arrived, bringing with it the energy and animation that the feverish heat had sucked out of the neighbours. The warm rays of sun that were swept across the street with the gentle, afternoon breeze were beckoning people out into their gardens once more. They tended to their Hydrangeas and Box hedges, watered their Pansy's and Primulas and trimmed their lawns until they were perfectly manicured. The laughter or kids down the road playing football out on the deserted street filled the air like trickles of a waterfall falling into the pool below. It was, by all accounts, a very peaceful afternoon, and everyone in their right mind was taking full advantage of it.
All except for one person.
Huddled up in his room of Number Four, Harry Potter lay sprawled out on his back on his small bed with his eyes shut and covered with his arm, his leg and other arm hanging over the edge of the mattress completely limp and his mouth wide open, emitting soft snores of delicate slumber. His tousled hair (which never sat flat anyway) covered his pillow like a spilt ink stain, pitch black as if each single hair really had been dunked in black ink. The bed covers sat piled at his bare feet, his faded t-shirt shoved half way up his torso exposing his belly to the room. He would have looked every bit the normal, lazy teenage slob, if it weren't for the bizarre objects that filled his room.
In his wardrobe hung two pairs of black, school robes, a red Quidditch robe and a black cloak. At the foot of his bed a trunk lay open, filled with loose pieces of parchment, weight scales, a cauldron and a box of potion ingredients and other items amongst a pile of messy, unfolded clothes. Propped up against the wall near the door was a broomstick of the finest quality with the word 'Firebolt' embossed on the handle. There were other little exclusive things as well, like books scattered on the floor with titles such as "Dark Lords throughout history", and "Standard book of spells, Grade seven", and even ones called "The Really Big Book of Cleverly Cunning Plans", "Locating The Unlocatable" and "What To Do When Someone You Know Is Out To Get You".
A breeze floated into the room through the open window, ruffling the papers on the desk underneath it. On this desk was where the most interesting belongings and assorted things sat. The entire desk top was taken up with pieces of parchment, blank sheet of lined, notepad paper, quills (three of them snapped) and two blue, ballpoint pens. On many papers and parchment, harried words had been jotted down in a spiky, male-typical handwriting, as if each word and their meaning were of the utmost importance, and he had been in such a hurry to put them down permanently for fear of them being forgotten. Spells had been recorded, incantations had been drafted, potions had been drafted and many flow charts had been constructed, all with two central words in bold, massive letters in the middle of it all.
Voldemort – Horcruxes.
Another breath of wind blew through the window and into the room, this time bringing with it a snowy owl. She circled the room twice in large, graceful turns before pulling up and swooping down to land on Harry's stomach.
Harry jerked and snorted, flinging his arm off his face and blinking away sleep. "Whazzit…? Wha'…' he looked around blurrily, before his eyes focused a little on the pure white blur settled on his stomach. 'Hedwig?"
Hedwig let out a soft hoot and leant forward to nip on the front of his shirt.
Harry groaned, reached out for his glasses and slipped them back on, bringing the world into sharper focus. "Ah, Hedwig, did you have to? I was dreaming of Liz Hurley!'. He grunted out a laugh as Hedwig screeched and began jumping up and down on his stomach. 'Alright, alright! I get the point!"
He sat up properly with another grunt, letting Hedwig jump up onto his arm. He carried her over to her cage by the window, set her down and stretched up to the ceiling, letting a powerful yawn overtake him momentarily. He hadn't meant to fall asleep like that. He'd only wanted a few minutes rest from staring blankly at his notes; something he'd been spending most of his time doing since arriving back in Surrey.
Rubbing his eyes from the weariness of sleep, he sniffed in the aroma of freshly cut lawn and summer air. It seemed a terrible irony that on one of the most pleasant days of the summer holidays, he could not go out and enjoy it. He looked down at the organized chaos of his notes, and then up at the calendar pinned on his wall.
"July 31st, Hedwig.' He sighed, putting his hands on his hips. 'My last day ever at Number Four, Privet Drive."
And indeed it was. Now that he was seventeen, he was completely of age in the wizarding world, and would now be seen by everyone as a man. He was finally free to do what he wanted, live where he wanted and most importantly of all… use magic whenever he wanted. The fact that it was his birthday at all was struggling against the fact that he could freely use magic for the appraisal and excitement it normally invoked within him.
His stomach rumbled, requesting to be fed. Grabbing his wand from his beside table and pocketing it, he sighed, ruffled the back of hair and padded down stairs barefoot for some food. Normally, he wouldn't have bothered with his Aunt's health food for his birthday, as the knowledge that there would soon be cakes and sweets arriving for his birthday would be enough to sustain him. But he wasn't getting any of that this year, for in just a few short hours he would be over at The Burrow anyway.
He paused in the doorway of the kitchen and looked around. Aunt Petunia was over at the bench with various salads around her, chopping up a lettuce into small shreds with one of her large steel knives she'd ordered from the shopping channel just the week before. Uncle Vernon was seated at the table, his massive face hidden behind a newspaper, and Dudley was half hidden by the refrigerator door as he considered its contents, his gigantic backside poking out like a boulder in the road.
But the moment Harry appeared in the doorway; the three Durselys went eerily still and looked up at him as one, a nervous expression crossing over all their features.
Harry resisted a smirk and flopped down in the chair adjacent to his Uncle. He reached out for a banana from the fruit bowl and slowly peeled it, trying to act as casual as he could. The tension in the air was heavy as it was amusing.
Uncle Vernon cleared his throat and ruffled the paper. "So, you're off today, are you?"
"Yeah, this afternoon." Answered Harry, trying not to reveal his excitement.
"Got all your stuffed packed up?" grunted his uncle.
"No, I'm about to do it though."
"Just be sure you don't go leaving any mess up there,' said Uncle Vernon, taking only a moment to give Harry a threatening look over the top of his paper. 'I don't want Petunia to have to spend hours cleaning up after you."
Harry sighed. "Guess I'd better sweep all the excess cocaine off the floor then."
"You'd better be making some ridiculous joke there, boy!"
"Yes, sir, of course."
Harry had to bite into his bananas to hide his grin. The temptation to rile his relatives up was almost irresistible. He was now allowed to use magic freely at home, and they knew it. And from that moment until the moment he stepped right out of the house for good, they would be walking on eggshells.
"What's that in your pocket?' demanded Aunt Petunia suddenly.
Harry looked down to see the handle of his wand protruding out from his pocket. He looked back up to see the Dursleys all looking at him in great apprehension. "It's a potted plant. I'm considering a career in Horticulture." He said, deadpan.
"Don't you take that tone of voice with your Aunt, boy!' snapped Uncle Vernon, although he seemed less sure of himself as he normally did when he was reprimanding Harry. 'We've been very clear about the rules; none of your…stuff at the table."
Harry just looked at his Uncle with a casual authority. "My wand is staying right here."
Uncle Vernon stared at Harry with bulging eyes, as if he wanted to badly to leap out of his seat and strangle him. But something, most likely the threat that Harry could turn him into an earwig if he wanted, kept him seated. Harry kept calm, knowing full well that he no longer had to tolerate any belittling from these horrid people anymore.
So, with all that in mind, Uncle Vernon simply ruffled the paper and disappeared behind it once more.
Aunt Petunia, however, wasn't normally one to let things go so easily. "And what are you doing wearing that ugly necklace around your neck again?"
Harry clenched his jaw and looked down at the silver trinket hanging around his neck, feeling his heart pound. He ran his thumb over the imprint of a snake on the front. 'It's a locket.' He muttered.
"Call it what you will, it's ghastly.' Said Aunt Petunia, looking at the locket with distaste. 'Look at it! All tarnished and smudged…looks like it's been sitting at the bottom of a lake! Where on earth did you get such a horrid thing?"
Forcing down his anguish, Harry rubbed his chin. "From school."
"Why do you insist on wearing it all the time?"
It was a fair question. Why did he insist on wearing it day and night? He wasn't all together sure. Perhaps he wore it to remind himself. To remind him of all that he had lost, and all that he could loose if he didn't stay focused on what it was he had to do. He could fall off the path so easily, and this necklace was like a compass, keeping him on track. Weighing him down with the sense of duty and responsibility, so he didn't loose his head and float off into the expanse of a sometimes overwhelming whirl of thoughts of his assignment.
Aunt Petunia sniffed somewhat pompously. "Well, if you had any sense in jewelry you would throw the horrid thing away. It can't possibly be worth anything. And Diddikums, please shut the fridge and sit down. Your lunch is almost ready."
As if being forced violently into it, Dudley tenderly sat himself down at the table adjacent to Harry, his eyes never wavering from his cousin's emerald ones. "Those frea-…er, I mean, friends of yours aren't coming over again today, are they?" he asked, saying the word 'friend' with so mush strain that one would have mistaken him for being constipated.
"No, Ron's not coming over.' Said Harry, not knowing where Dudley had plucked the courage to look at him in the eye, let alone speak to him. 'And Hermione's in Switzerland with her parents."
Aunt Petunia let out a soft, testy sniff. "Being miles away hasn't stopped your lot from just 'popping' in without any notice at all in the past, now has it?" she bristled irritably. Harry felt sorry for the lettuce she was desecrating with hard, petulant chops.
Harry didn't trust himself to give a mature response, so he simply kept his mouth shut. As they had promised at the end of June, Ron and Hermione had been coming around to Privet Drive as often as they could. With both of them now legally allowed to Apparate (Ron had gotten his license just a few short days into the summer holidays), nothing had stopped them from showing up at the most unexpected times to visit Harry and, by all accounts, be very supportive in a very unnoticeable way. It had been the best summer spent at the Dursleys by far just because of their visits.
"Hermione, yes.' Muttered Uncle Vernon. 'Strange name that."
"It's from Shakespeare, dear.' Said Aunt Petunia. 'I can't quite remember from which play."
"Still, I find it quite convenient how all these… other people have weird names. Take that chap that showed up last year, what was his name? Dumblydorm? Dumberdork?"
Harry felt his gut twist. "Dumbledore." He said through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, him! Made that wise crack about my Dudders! And then had the nerve to go and tell us about the way we raised Potter…"
Harry bit into the last remnants of his fruit, trying desperately to ignore his Uncle's ranting. He didn't want to hear such horrible things said about Albus Dumbledore. In fact, he didn't want to think about Dumbledore at all. Not out of disrespect or insolence, but because of the pain even just the name flared within him. It was bad enough that Hermione tried to press him about talking about what was on his mind, or Ron giving him those awkward looks that he used to give just after Sirius had died, or the fact that he couldn't even escape the dreaded final moments in his sleep, without having to listen to Uncle Vernon, a petulant old man with the brain capacity of an intellectually disabled Flubberworm, talk about one of the greatest men in the world in such a derogatory manor.
Without realizing, Harry must have had a very interesting expression on his face, for Dudley arched an eyebrow at him and muttered, "What's wrong with you?"
Harry blinked, thrown by Dudleys first ever sign of concern. "Why would you care?"
"I do care when all my electronic stuff is right upstairs, including my new stereo, and when you tend to blow things into smithereens when you get shirty."
"Relax, Diddykims,' said Harry, getting to his feet. 'Your precious things are safe."
Harry was two steps short of exiting the dining area when his Uncle barked "Hold it! Where the ruddy hell do you think you're going now, boy?"
Harry didn't even bother to turn around, resisting the urge to bang his head against the wall. "To my room." He said, deadpan.
"Oh no you don't! You've still got the breakfast dishes to wash and dry!" said Uncle Vernon, pointing to the stack of dirty dishes by the sink.
"Get Dudley to do it." Said Harry, waving a dismissive hand. He couldn't believe that they had the nerve to ask him to do household chores today of all days. The day he was moving out!
Uncle Vernon hit the table with his fist with a loud BANG and got to his feet. "While you live under this roof you'll pull your weight, Potter! Now do as you're told!"
Harry stared at his Uncle, not bothering to hide his glare. The tension had just increased once more. Dudley was looking at his father and Harry with a hungry expression, as if waiting desperately for his father to give Harry a backhand, and Aunt Petunia was watching with wide eyes, still chopping away at her lettuce until it was becoming nothing but little green pieces of edible confetti. Harry wasn't at all in the mood for this.
He rolled his eyes and pulled his wand out of his pocket. "Alright, fine, have it your way. Aguamenti."
Instantly, a jet stream of water shot out of his wand and into the sink, filling it with water. Harry then performed a heating charm to warm the water, a levitation charm to dunk all the dishes one by one into the water and charmed the scrubbing brush to scrub the dishes clean.
In all seriousness, he probably could have just cleaned them all with one simple spell. He also could have said no spell aloud at all (he'd been practicing his non-verbal spells, and was rather good at it now). But, it had been worth it to see the Durselys leap in horror and cry out in fear, their faces drain of colour and Dudley fall out of his chair and onto the floor with an earth-moving THUMP.
With a satisfied smile, Harry turned his back on the hysterical Dursleys and walked out of the kitchen.
His clothes were folded and stacked on his bed, his spell books were placed in piles on the floor, his broomstick, scales, cauldron and potions box were all laid out in a single file in front of his desk, and his precious notes were all filed away in the folder he had bought for himself, secured safely at the bottom of his open trunk.
Harry rolled his wand between his thumb and forefinger, taking a moment to double and triple check that he had everything. He didn't want to have any excuse to come back to this house ever again if he could help it, and he didn't think his Aunt and Uncle would appreciate it if he left anything 'abnormal' lying about.
Hedwig, who was sitting on top of her cage by the open window, let out a hoot. Harry looked over at her and smiled. "Don't worry, we'll be out of here soon enough.' He waved his wand with a short flick and silently said a spell, making each possession stack itself neatly into his magically expanded trunk. 'My entire life fits into one little trunk. How pathetic am I?"
Hedwig simply let out another hoot.
Harry looked around at her and laughed. "You're not meant to agree, feather brain!"
There was a knock at his door, just as Hedwig flapped her wings and flew toward the window.
"Alright, go for a fly. I'll meet you at the Burrow, then.' called Harry after her. He waited until his owl had flown out the window, before crossing to his door and pulling it open.
Aunt Petunia stood there with a stiff posture, her brown handbag wedged primly under her arm. Her blonde hair was pinned up away from her face, making her bony features stand out. As always, there was an authoritive, business-like air about her that reminded Harry suddenly of McGonagall when she was about to deliver a lecture about unruly behaviour. He looked down at her, in the back of his mind finally taking notice of how tall he had become. It was a strange experience to finally be able to look down to his Aunt. In his mind, she'd always been tall as a beanstalk; harsh and strict and sometimes very mean and cold like the evil step-mothers from fairy tales. But, in that moment, he saw her for what she was… just a sour, disapproving woman. Harry wanted to ask her what she wanted, but instead kept his mouth shut, waiting for her to speak first.
Aunt Petunia cast a quick glance over his shoulder to see the magic going on behind him, but if she was offended by it, she didn't show it. "Vernon, Dudley and I are going out. Dudley wants new shorts and shoes."
"We'll be gone for a few hours, I expect."
Harry nodded and folded his arms over his chest. "I'll be gone by the time you get back."
Aunt Petunia blinked, as if startled by this news. She sniffed and nodded, looking at the architraves of the doorway as if entranced by them. "Very well then. You have all your affairs in order?"
"Just about, yeah."
Another of those uncomfortable, heavy silences filled the space between them. This, Harry mused, was probably the longest civil conversation he and his Aunt had ever had where she wasn't yelling at him, snapping at him, fussing over his disheveled appearance or reprimanding him for something. She was looking at him with sidelong view, and looked as though she were feeling guilty for doing so. Harry saw in her expression an unusual curiosity, as if she couldn't quite believe who it was she was looking at.
The car horn beeped loudly from the driveway outside, causing Aunt Petunia to jump and remember herself. She cleared her throat and fiddled with the top button of her blouse. "Well, I had better get going.' She said softly. She looked at him once more, before nodding. 'Good-bye, Harry."
Harry nodded once. "Bye, Aunt Petunia."
And with that, she left down the stairs and out of sight.
Slowly, Harry shut the door and sat down on his bed just as the last book stacked itself in his trunk. The lid snapped shut, and Harry shrunk the trunk and slipped it into his hip pocket. He leant forward; his elbows on his knees as he listened to the distant sounds of the Durselys car pull out of the driveway and glide off down the street.
And realized that that was the last time he would ever see them.
It seemed a little anti-climactic, really. In his mind, Harry had always imagined his escape from the dreaded house to be a daring, close escape. As a little boy, he'd sometimes envision he real parents showing up one night, claiming that him having to live with his Aunt and Uncle had just been some horrible mistake, and they would then sweep away with him in the night to a large house in the country where his bedroom was the size of the entire Durselys living room. Then, after he began at Hogwarts, he imagined Hagrid showing up in a rage at Harry's treatment, crushing his way through the house to rescue Harry and the two of them flying off together on Sirius old motorbike. He even used to think sometimes that, after his third year, that Sirius would just show up out of the blue and take him to live with him as he had promised.
And even though the reality of this departure was less fascinating, it was still as exciting. It didn't matter how he was going, just as long as he was going!
Harry tilted his head right back and looked up at the crack in the ceiling. While he couldn't wait to get out of there, he couldn't deny that he felt just that little more vulnerable now that Dumbledore's defenses had vanished. And while going to The Burrow and staying with 4 other wizards was better than staying with muggles with no defenses at all, his mind still pressed at him with that old insecurity.
Resolving to cross that bridge when he would no doubt eventually came to it, Harry put his shoes and socks on, and then proceeded the clean his room. A few spells and it was more spotless than Aunt Petunia could have ever hoped to achieve with a simple duster. He then cleaned out Hedwig's cage, wiped the glass panels of the windows and emptied out everything from under the loose floorboard in the floor.
And he was just about to make his bed when the doorbell rang.
Harry straightened up and fingered the locket around his neck, debating for a minute whether or not to answer. He was so close to being out of this house, and getting into a chat with one of the neighbours or another of those pesky door-to-door salesmen would just be a waste of time.
The bell rang again.
With a sigh and a heavenward eye-roll, he pocketed his wand and headed out into the hall. He flew down the stairs two at a time, landing nimbly on the floor. With two quick strides he crossed the entrance hall to the front door and wrenched it open.
And found Lily Potter standing on his doorstep.
A/N – So, chapter one! What did you think? Grab your interest? Let me know!