Harry Potter, its characters, and its locations are the intellectual property of J. K. Rowling. The Dresden Files, its characters, and its locations are the intellectual property of Jim Butcher. Both authors are substantially more talented and successful than Cyberwraith9, and are unaware that he has pirated their ideas for this profitless work of fanfiction.
Harry Potter and the White Wizard
Privet Drive had never felt so unbearable. And considering the general hospitality of the neighborhood, with its quaint, squat houses lined up in neat rows, and the dry heat of the enduring drought, and the judgmental stares of the neighbors, it was quite the achievement to make his stay more unbearable.
In one such quaint house, Number Four of the lane, the young man lay draped across his bed, enduring much worse in his own mind without any thought to Privet Drive's unbearability. Sheaves of newsprint lay around and beneath him on the sheets, with fantastic pictures that moved on their own. This, too, he ignored. He had read each paper with only passing interest, scanning their headlines for the worst kind of news. Each time he did not find it, he tossed the paper aside to be forgotten in favor of the next paper. He repeated the process each day, until his entire room was covered in them.
He was taller than ever thanks to a growth spurt that made his ankles hang out from his jeans. Messy black hair splashed from his scalp, defiant of any comb and in desperate need of scissors. His face had the pinched look of someone with a passing acquaintance with hunger. He stared up at the ceiling with green eyes too deep for someone so young.
One more week, Harry thought. Just one more week.
The days had wound inexorably toward his seventeenth birthday. Since leaving Hogwarts, it had been one of his two only thoughts: what to do for his birthday. It had taken a month to decide, and a month more to hammer out the details with his coconspirators. Now, all that was left to do was wait, a task more arduous and exhausting than all his preparations combined.
Harry stared, lost in his only other thought: his mission. The sight of Dumbledore sailing off the tower's edge on a jet of green death had burned itself into Harry's mind. He thought endlessly of his private lessons with Dumbledore last year, and of the task Dumbledore had entrusted to him.
The locket. The snake. Something of Hufflepuff's. Something of Ravenclaw's. That had been Harry's mantra all summer. He thought endlessly about where he might find the four remaining horcruxes, and of how he might destroy them.
His determination had led to the impossible; his trunk sat at the foot of his bed, entirely packed. He had reorganized it three times to keep busy. Now it sat ready a full week before he was to join Ron and Hermione. His room was bare of all but his discarded copies of the Daily Prophet.
A soft fluttering at the window made Harry bolt upright. His eyes flew to the window, where a snowy owl landed on the sill. A yellowed envelope hung in her beak. The owl stared at him expectantly as he crossed the room to take her envelope.
"Have a good trip, Hedwig?" Harry asked. He stroked her feathers affectionately. Hedwig hooted once in acknowledgement, and then turned and left through the window. It had been a long trip. Harry wished her luck against the field mice before tearing the envelope open. He had waited for this letter all day.
Hope the Muggles are treating you well. I decided to write you from our hotel instead of waiting until we got back from holiday. Dad's still after me with his camera. He's so keen on seeing what his "little girl" is up to with all "that magic business." As if he'd be interested in Ancient Runes. Mum is still a bit cross with me for not helping with her shopping, but I've been busy with my own projects. I'm used to Mum being difficult by now anyway, but I wish my research was going better. I know how much you appreciate Ancient Runes. Maybe we'll have better luck when we meet up. I can't wait to see you at Hogwarts.
Harry frowned. This same baffling innuendo was why it had taken them a month to plan their rendezvous, just in case anyone got hold of their owls. As near as he could tell, Hermione was all right, but someone she couldn't identify was still watching her. He took her line about her mother as meaning that she and Ron were quarrelling again (no surprises there). And, like Harry, she seemed to have had no luck finding new leads on any Horcrux.
Harry ached to join her, or to visit the Burrow and help Ron. Anything would be better than sitting on his bed, awaiting the moment when his mother's protection finally ran out and his last refuge from Voldemort failed.
He had just crumpled the letter in disgust when a booming voice from below shook the house. His uncle filled Harry's ears with the notion that he was needed downstairs. Harry recognized the tone as being even less cheerful than usual. He was probably to be blamed for something. Nevertheless, Harry left his room and descended the stairs, knowing that his uncle's mood would only worsen if unanswered.
Vernon's face loomed at the bottom of the steps. Petunia waited with him, looking worriedly between her husband and the open front door. She, and Vernon's wide girth, blocked Harry's view of the door. Harry concerned himself instead with Vernon's flushed complexion and bristling mustache, which were sure signs that he was angrier than usual. Well-versed in Vernon's ire, Harry shrugged and said, "What?"
Vernon's jowls quivered as he tried to speak. He raised a finger to Harry, whose hand strayed toward his wand in his back pocket on reflex. But all Vernon did was sputter and point. The beginnings of his rant died once, then twice, as he visibly choked on his own displeasure. Finally, he stepped aside and swung his finger round to stab at the open door.
Harry leaned around his uncle's bulk. There, in the doorway, an imposing figure waited patiently and expectantly to be invited in. She stood in stature equal to the Dursleys only because of her tall, pointed hat. Wizarding robes hung from her prim, straight shoulders. The lines around her intelligent eyes crinkled as they fell on Harry. "Afternoon, Potter. Am I to stand on your welcome mat all day?"
"Professor McGonagall? With great effort, Harry pushed Vernon aside, allowing the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts (now actual headmistress, he recalled with a pang) room to enter. The Dursleys looked pleased as ever to have any of "his lot" in their house. Vernon's face grew redder with every step McGonagall took into the entryway, but he did not yet erupt. Harry ignored him and moved to greet her. "Er, what are you doing here? Ma'am?" he asked.
Her eyes roamed the house freely, unhampered by Petunia's disapproving look or Vernon's impending explosion. A not-quite critical look creased her face. She acted as if she hadn't heard Harry's question at all. "I trust you're having an alright summer?" she asked Harry.
When Harry opened his mouth to question her again, she shrugged out of her traveling cloak and held it toward him with an expectant look. Harry took the cloak and hastily jammed it into the hall closet. By the time he turned to ask again, McGonagall was halfway to the Dursleys' sitting room. He scrambled to follow. The Dursleys, he noted worriedly, were not far behind.
"Shall we have a drink?" she asked no one in particular as she was joined by Harry and his aunt and uncle. After appraising the room, McGonagall chose a chair cornering the couch. Harry could practically see the steam pouring from Vernon's ears at the sight of one of "them" in his favorite chair. Vernon's face purpled to a hue Harry had never before seen s McGonagall insisted, "Come on, then. I'll get the drinks."
Petunia warily led Vernon to the couch. Her eyes bugged as McGonagall drew her wand and waved it over the coffee table. Four chilled bottles of butterbeer appeared on the table, sweating onto the coasters with which they had come. As Petunia sat, easing Vernon onto the couch beside her, her horsy face grew longer with barely disguised disdain. Neither of the Dursleys touched their butterbeers, though McGonagall took hers and, as an afterthought, tapped her bottle with her wand, transfiguring it into a mug.
"I hate to be rude," Petunia began.
"Then by all means, please don't," McGonagall said cheerfully. She sipped her butterbeer, examining Harry over the rim of her mug. "Not thirsty, Potter? Sit down."
Harry unknowingly had been rooted to the spot waiting for Vernon to literally explode. He took stock of the remaining seats and, choosing wisely, dragged the ottoman around the table to sit opposite his aunt and uncle. At this point, being forced to sit next to Harry might prove to be too much for Vernon.
"Professor," Harry started.
McGonagall nodded to his butterbeer. "Drink up, Potter. You heard your aunt, no need for rudeness."
Harry fumbled with the top of his bottle, all the while searching for some clue in McGonagall's stony face. He took a single courtesy sip before insisting, "Professor, I don't understand. Why are you—"
Vernon's purple face finally cracked, right beneath his mustache. "Go on and tell him, then!" he thundered. "Tell him, and get out! Isn't it enough having to stomach you people just popping in and out without dealing with delay? Get out of this house and go on back to your own lot! I won't have you here a moment longer than I have to, so tell the boy and Get! Out!"
The booming words blew over McGonagall with the effect of a gentle breeze. She tilted her brow, and softly echoed, "My lot?"
"Yes!" roared Vernon, "Your lot!" He rose from his seat with Petunia dangling from his arm. She looked fearful as McGonagall weathered his abuse, as though the uninvited guest would skip all pretense and blast them with her wand. McGonagall, however, listened with polite interest as Vernon yelled, "It's bad enough having to live with him, and to have that in our house. But you…you…people! You people blow in whenever it suits you, waving those silly little sticks of your, mucking about as if we don't matter! We've endured it for sixteen years, and have we ever complained?"
Harry knew the answer to that, and wisely bit his tongue.
"But enough is finally enough! As of right now, you people and your you-know-what are officially unwelcome. So hang your drinks, hang your sticks, hang him," and he pointed to Harry, who tried not to flinch, "And take it all out of here! Take the boy and go!"
"That," McGonagall said calmly, "is precisely what I came here to do."
The stunned silence that followed broke only for McGonagall's soft sips from her mug. Harry felt her disinterested gaze pierce his skull. He suddenly understood. She knew. Maybe not everything, but she knew he intended to set out on his own in a campaign against Voldemort. That was why she hadn't warned Harry of her arrival, and that was why she had come to collect him.
Petunia found her voice first. "He…he's leaving? For good?" she asked.
"Well, whether or not he comes back is entirely between the three of you," McGonagall said. "But yes, he's leaving, and he doesn't have to come back. The reason for his staying will become moot in…what is it, Potter, seven days?" She gave his weak nod a look, and then continued to the Dursleys, "So I've come for him a bit early. I've also come to warn you."
"Warn us?" Vernon puffed with a fraction of his former anger. "Am I to understand that you're threatening us?"
"I'd warrant you wouldn't understand it if I did," McGonagall retorted coldly. "And no, neither I nor 'my kind' is the threat. But starting next week, some very dangerous wizards may come looking for you."
Vernon's scowl turned from McGonagall to Harry. "Because of him," he said, putting as much venom as possible into the last word.
She nodded. "That's right. Because of your generosity in taking Potter in," and she stressed the word "generosity," narrowing her eyes, "the followers of the Dark Lord might seek to use you to get to him. And there's no use in blaming him," she told Vernon before he could inflate. "What's done is done. The important thing is for you to avoid these wizards at all costs."
A thousand questions swam in the confused looks of Vernon and Petunia, and Harry knew that once those questions flooded out, he would never get a word in edgewise. "Professor," he said quickly, "where are we leaving to?"
"Elsewhere," she said. A wave of her wand banished the butterbeer, including the one in Harry's hand. "Fetch your trunk, Potter. You are packed, aren't you? Fine, then, quickly."
Harry rushed up the stairs in a daze, spurred by McGonagall's tone. He realized halfway to his room what a mess of things this would make of their quest for Voldemort's horcruxes. By the time he had his trunk, he'd resolved himself to go along with McGonagall for now, but to promise nothing for the future. Dumbledore had given him this mission for a reason. Not even the commanding air of Hogwarts' new headmistress could sway him from that.
Dragging his trunk down the hall, he caught sight of a blockish head poked out one of the doors. Dudley had evidently heard his father's rant and had poked his head out to listen. The sound of Harry's trunk scraping the floor made Dudley turn. Surprise lit his dull features as he opened his door fully. "You're really leaving, then?" he asked in a strange voice.
"Looks that way." Harry always thought he would be more joyous at the prospect of leaving the Dursleys' house forever. Now he felt annoyed that McGonagall was interfering with his plan. "Try not to cheer too loudly. I don't think Uncle Vernon needs the competition."
Dudley shifted uncomfortably at this. Both he and Harry looked up at Vernon's shout of "You want us to WHAT?" Evidently, McGonagall's advice was not being well received. Even after Vernon lowered his voice, both boys could hear the beginnings of one of his famous rows brewing.
Shaking his head, Harry looked back to Dudley. "Do yourself a favor, and tell him you want to take a trip. They never could say no to you, and it might keep you one step ahead of Voldemort's Death Eaters. If you see or feel anything too strange to explain, start running, and don't stop."
Harry turned to continue toward the stairs, his conscience appeased, when Dudley's cry of "Wait!" turned him around. He watched his cousin fidget in the doorway, stammering, "I don't…what I mean is, I want to say…"
Harry blinked. "Blimey, Dud, are you trying to say goodbye? To me?"
"It's not like I hate you," Dudley said indignantly. At Harry's look, he insisted, "I don't! You… Well, you saved my life, didn't you? I don't think I ever thanked you for that."
An unstoppable grin came to Harry. "No. I don't fancy that you did."
Dudley squirmed. "Right. Heh. Dad would kill me if he heard me talking like this." With an uneasy smile, Dudley stuck his hand at Harry. "All right, Harry?"
An entire childhood of bullying and jealousy flooded back to Harry as he looked at the Dursleys' favorite child, their only son, and his clumsy farewell. He couldn't help it. He laughed, and shook Dudley's hand. "All right, Big D. Take care of yourself."
Harry walked away from the strangest familial moment he'd ever had, dragging his trunk and shouldering his broom. He muscled the trunk down the stairs without too much undue clatter. Hedwig's empty cage, strapped to the trunk, rattled enough to alert McGonagall to his arrival. She walked out of the living room in a swirl of robes. The Dursleys followed close behind, as though she would bewitch the house out of existence the moment she left their sight.
"Now remember," McGonagall lectured the Dursleys, "Stay in populated areas. Don't go to any close relatives or friends, it's the first place they'll look."
Vernon's face steadily returned to its former shade of purple. "Yes, yes," he snapped. "It's all well and good for you lot to go flitting about on your brooms and flying cars, but us normal people have jobs and responsibilities. We can't go gallivanting about on your say-so."
She silenced him with a stern look, and turned his purple face white as she said, "You might wish to reconsider 'gallivanting' when a half-dozen Death Eaters are on your front lawn, turning your lovely home into so much kindling with a flick of their wands. But that is entirely up to you." She turned to Harry. "All set, Potter? Right. Drink this."
McGonagall pulled from her robes a small vial and handed it to Harry. He pulled its cork and examined the oily red substance inside. Before he could ask, she said, "It's a protection potion. You'll be glad for it later, believe me."
At her raised eyebrow, he tilted the vial back and drained its liquid. It tasted of cough syrup, and tingled briefly in the pit of his stomach. By the time he had corked and returned her empty vial, McGonagall had summoned her traveling cloak. She had not produced a vial for herself. "Professor, what kind of potion was that?" Harry asked.
"I'll explain on the way," she said. She reached around him and tapped his trunk with her wand. The trunk shivered and shrank, compacting itself until it resembled a small, black bean. McGonagall looked expectantly at Harry again until he plucked the bean from the floor and stuffed it in his pocket. He only hoped she would remember to untransfigure his trunk later. He doubted he could undo such a complicated spell so easily.
She nodded crisply. "We'd best be off. We've an appointment to keep, and I'd rather we weren't late. Say goodbye, Potter."
Harry glanced back at his aunt and uncle. Petunia wore a look he couldn't quite read. Vernon just scowled and tilted his head toward the door. "Um…goodbye," Harry said plainly.
He turned back. McGonagall tapped the closed door with her wand, muttering an incantation under her breath. She concentrated intently on the door, continuing the intricate pattern of tapping. Then she stepped back, evidently done. "You stay close," she told Harry. "Don't stray. No matter what you see, you must stay close, and never leave the path. Do you understand?"
He didn't, but nodded anyway, and shouldered his broom impatiently. It didn't matter to him where McGonagall was taking him. He had his own plans, and they didn't include coddling from any of the Order of the Phoenix.
But his plans ran to the back of his thoughts as McGonagall pushed open the door.