Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling. No matter how much I might wish otherwise.
Harry Potter groaned dully as he pressed his forehead against the cool glass. The windows at Number 4 Privet Drive were all thrown wide open, in an attempt to get some relief from the sweltering summer.
He debated going back upstairs to reread the letter's sent to him so far, but knew it was a useless gesture; he'd memorized the lot of them.
Most kids, on a day like this, would be miles away with friends, swimming in a pool, or perhaps at an air conditioned mall. But then, Harry wasn't 'most kids'. He had been, but at the tender age of fifteen months, his life had been snatched away by a infamous and powerful Dark Wizard, by the name of Lord Voldemort.
Until recently, the dangerous man (this term being used loosely) was thought dead. Of course, this hadn't been the case, and by the means of an evil and ancient potion, had come back to full powers just a few months previously.
Fate, not content to let Harry rest after his previous duels with the Dark Wizard, had him present when Voldemort returned. In fact, his very blood had been used in the incantation. He'd then fought the Dark Lord once more, only narrowly escaping with his life. Which was more than Cedric Diggory could say.
But naturally, this would have been far too easy. When Harry returned to Hogwarts, the Minister of Magic, who would have been one of the most important weapons in the arsenal against Voldemort, flat out refused to lend any credence to Harry's story. He had Ministry officials passing out notices denying his return, as he found both the newspapers and the Auror Department strangely reluctant.
And yet, in spite of all these extraordinary events, Harry was stuck in the most ordinary of neighborhoods, melting in the sun.
The messy haired young man had the look of someone who'd just had his new found height filled out by muscles, and his scruffy jeans and worn out t-shirt only accentuated his newly acquired physique.
You would think that someone who had one of the most dangerous wizards in existence after him would find somewhere better to be than lounging about the back patio, but frankly, frantic fights for his life now seemed quite monotonous to Harry.
The teenager sighed again when he pulled his head away from the glass, making a slight suctioning sound. The area his forehead had been pressed against was damp with condensation, but that small patch of his face felt cool.
"Boy!" came a rough bellow from the house, sounding like a wounded hippopotamus.
He sighed once more (he seemed to be doing a lot of that lately) and went to see what his Uncle wanted. Harry had already made several snow cones for them, as well as wiped their faces down with wet towels. There didn't seem to be much more they could make him do.
He was mistaken.
"There you are boy, what took you so long?!" said the swollen man from the armchair in the living room. The television blared loudly with sports updates.
"Oh never mind Vernon," said a thin, vulturish woman irritably. "Come, come, and hurry up," she fluttered her bony hands at him.
"Make a nice, refreshing fruit salad for your Uncle. The poor dear, he's been working so hard. It's the least you can do, it's him you have to thank for the clothes on your ungrateful back." his Aunt Petunia looked at him disgustedly with beady blue eyes. He shrugged it off; most of her looks were disgusted, or contemptible, or irritable or- well, you get the picture.
Harry cut and peeled the apples, pears and peaches at a slow, steady rhythm. Vernon Dursley occasionally yelled at Harry to hurry up, but he had to start over again when his cousin came into the kitchen and promptly ate all of Harry's progress.
Finally, he emerged with a bowl filled to the brim with a delicious looking fruit salad. Harry had even sprinkled granola on the top for a good measure.
His uncle looked at it, gave a grunt of satisfaction, and demolished the whole thing in what was probably the fastest he'd ever moved. "At least you're good for something boy," said Vernon in what was a shining commendation for him, while juice dribbled from the left corner of his mustache.
Harry quickly retreated to his room and lied down on the carpeted floor. He stared up at the whitewashed ceiling, boredom growing by the second.
Every now and then he'd sneak a glance at the window, hoping to see Hedwig returning with letters from his friends, only to be disappointed by the empty sky. So he kept lying there, watching the shadows slowly paint themselves across the walls as night fell.
Not long after the sun set, his aunt called him down by means of hitting a wooden spoon against a pan.
The family- and Harry- had a shorter-than-normal dinner, as they had been, Vernon Dursley said in a painfully superior voice 'Invited to England's Best Kept Suburban Lawns Competition. A good, real, normal event, no flying brooms or ruddy maniacs with magic sticks anywhere in sight.' His wife had responded with a prim nod, going on to say 'I wonder if Mrs. Hatfield has heard about this? Probably not, so I simply must tell her. You'll remember her, Vernon? Dreadfully plain woman, absolutely no fashion sense, although she does know all the going ons of the neighbors.'
Harry thought this was a bit rich coming from his Aunt Petunia; she was wearing beige velvet pants with a hideously bright orange jumper- made of leather no less- that clashed horribly with her blonde hair. And as for the 'going ons,' well, he'd bet his wand that she knew more about their female neighbor's social lives than their own husbands did.
He was still picking at his abnormally large pork chop (abnormally large by his standards, meaning that it was more meat than bone) when the Dursley's car had screeched out of the drive way. Good riddance, he thought, walking over to the living room to switch on the telly.
After cleaning the dishes, Harry'd become quite absorbed by a documentary on the Middle Ages. When they got to the bits on witch trials, he was surprised to find that he had, in fact, learned something in History of Magic the previous year.
Perhaps Professor Binns' voice permeated his head even when he was sleeping? Harry would have to research this; what if it were possible to learn, without actually being awake for the lesson? The Weasley twins would have a field day.
His head whipped to the door, then to the clock. He frowned; only 8 30? They couldn't be back yet.
Harry reached his wand into his pocket, ready to whip it out at a moments notice. Mentally reviewing defensive spells, he walked tentatively through the entrance way.
He looked at the doorknob for long seconds before undoing the dead bolt, and cracking the door open. Cold air rushed into the room, tousling his hair and making papers flutter.
"Harry? Harry!" came a happy response, in a voice that was reassuringly familiar.
"Professor Lupin?" asked Harry, amazed, as he opened the door the rest of the way.
"Yes, yes, but call me Remus. I'm not your teacher anymore, am I," the sandy haired man grinned "May I come in?"
"Uh, sure, sure," he said, flustered. His relief from a friendly face was accompanied by a slight suspicion. What was he doing here? And stranger yet, how could he even be here? Hadn't he owled Harry just days ago, to tell him he was hunting down a banshee near Albany?
He tried to wipe away his concerns, only partially succeeding.
Lupin immediately crossed to the living room, slouching into an armchair with a satisfied sigh. Harry's confusion intensified; Lupin never slouched. In class, his back had stayed straight as a meter stick, and Harry long ago lost track the times he had gently rebuked students for their bad posture.
Harry decided to obey his feelings and investigate, albeit in a roundabout sort of way. "Prof- er, Remus, why are you here? What happened to the banshee?"
The man in the chair looked confused for a moment before grinning shiftily, "Oh, right, the- uh, Banshee, did you say- yes I took care of that. Quite a while ago. Several weeks, in fact." Alarms went off in the other's head at what he knew to be a blatant untruth (because really, it's not possible to beat something when you haven't even heard of it yet), and his thoughts went back to the night only a month ago, when he'd been so easily fooled by Polyjuice Potion.
"Really?" he asked skeptically.
"Yes," continued the man who, Harry was quite sure, was most definitely not Remus Lupin, "it put up a, uh, a bit of a fight. Pardon me, I was mistaken, I only managed to subdue it last week, um, last week..." he cast around for a weekday.
"Tuesday?" offered Harry helpfully.
"That's right," said the sandy haired wizard, in a relieved sort of voice. "Tuesday night, it was."
Harry's heart began to beat very fast in his chest, face heating up while his stomach filled with ice. Because he knew for a fact that the full moon had been last week Tuesday, had watched it from his window thinking of Remus and his unfortunate fate. The real Remus Lupin, not this... impostor.
Well versed in sleight of hand by his Godfather, Harry's fingers began to drift towards the pocket he kept his wand in, passing the movement off like he was scratching his leg.
"I bet you're wondering why I'm here," said fake-Remus after several seconds of silence. The forced smile was still on his face.
The messy haired wizard just nodded, his nerves taut.
"I'm actually supposed to, er, take you to a safer place." said fake-Remus, his tone slightly off. "Dumbledore's orders."
"Really?" said Harry coolly, and here he brought his wand out to point at the other wizard. "You see, I don't think that's going to happen."
"Now Harry," said the man, and he hurriedly stood up, holding his hands in front of his face in a cautionary gesture. "Don't be hasty. Dumbledore's orders, Dumbledore's orders," he repeated the phrase like a mantra, perhaps thinking it would change Harry's mind. "You know me Harry, I'm Remus, Remus Lupin, I taught you at school remember?"
"That's bullshit, and you know it," responded the messy haired wizard, without batting an eyelid.
"Okay, well maybe it is," admitted the impostor, finally giving up his charade, "But what is not, is that you are going to come with me."
Harry laughed humorlessly, "And why would I do that?"
Remus' look alike gave a wry smile, "You don't have a choice."
With an explosion of wood, the door flew off of its hinges sending shrapnel everywhere. Harry looked, an automatic reaction, and then quickly ducked to dodge the spell he knew would fly from the others' wand.
Ropes flew uselessly over his head, tangling up around the stair's banister. Harry rolled out of the way and took cover behind the couch as several dark robed figures entered the Dursley's house, yelling roughly.
A bolt of light, hissing like a wasp, burned a hole through the chair Harry hid behind, narrowly missing his foot before smoldering into the floorboards. He sent a Furnunculus Curse from one side of his barrier, before moving hurriedly out of the other side. Someone gave an angry cry as tentacle-like feelers sprouted from their body. The Hogwarts student popped out to shoot another spell towards the noise. This one missed, shattering an ornament on the mantle place. "Where'd he go?" yelled a ragged and raspy voice.
"I don't know," snarled another "let's just burn the house down." There was malicious laughter following this comment.
"No!" cut across a drawling voice, Harry's mouth thinned. "Obey the Dark Lord's orders, we musn't harm the boy." continued Lucius Malfoy.
The boy in question resisted his urge to charge the group of Death Eaters with his wand drawn and hexes flying; but he'd be unconscious faster than he could say 'Stupefy.' He decided to buy himself some time instead, maybe he could stall them long enough for help to arrive.
"Damn Polyjuice is wearing off," cursed someone quietly, and he used the slight distraction to make his move.
"Abvolvus," whispered Harry, and copious amounts of smoke began to issue from his wand tip. In seconds, the room was obscured by a thick haze. Using his familiarity with the house, the young wizard navigated his way into the kitchen to gain a few more moments of freedom. Confused voices echoed from the living room, there was the bang of wood meeting human, and someone let out a painful exclamation.
Harry grinned; that damn coffee table. He banged his shins on it even when he could see.
He listened there for a few seconds more, before the noise abruptly died down. The sudden silence was Harry's only warning.
"Protego!" he threw up his shield, just as a broad man ducked into the kitchen with his wand out. The red light rebounded off Harry's spell, hitting the Death Eater full on. He stiffened and crumpled, his mask rolling away when he hit the ground to reveal a wide face with abnormally small eyes. A full black beard splayed out from his rounded chin as he breathed slowly, unconscious.
Someone else entered the kitchen, throwing up a shield as well. Harry hit the floor when his own spell ricocheted off the other's block. Before he could react, yet another robed figure slid in with a cry of 'Imperio!'
The Dursley's home disappeared in Harry's eyes, he was floating in a realm of rainbow light. A beguiling voice sounded in his ears 'Give up Harry, give up. Lay down your wand. Give up, give up.'
A glorious feeling suffused him, pure, untainted happiness. Give up? It sounded great, it felt great.
And he was about to, he really was, but that steel core which made him so good under pressure, so rebellious when things conflicted with his ideals, and such a phenomenal Quidditch player, rebelled instantly.
'I don't think I will' thought Harry. He fought back against the feelings of joy, and the rainbow lights flickered.
'Give up Potter, you can't win this, give it up. Come, come, give your wand to me,' the seductive voice continued.
'I won't.' he thought fiercely, 'I won't.' The radiance dimmed.
'Harry' the voice crooned again, but he didn't let it. 'I said I won't!'
And then he was back, face to face with a thin lipped, sallow cheeked man, who didn't seem to notice the change. "Have you subdued him yet?" came a bored voice from the living room.
"Nope," responded Harry, lips popping on the 'p,' and he cocked his arm, sending a straight right towards the Death Eater's temple. He only had time to widen his eyes in surprise before he too was unconscious on the floor.
"What-?" Harry heard the man in the other room start to ask, but then a handful of loud pops sounded, and several people screamed spells simultaneously.
There was a brief moment that was filled with large bangs and bright flashes, followed by a split second of silence. Hurried footsteps sounded then, calls from panicked voices blended together.
"Has anyone seen Harry?!"
"Remus! Don't go upstairs alone!"
"He's not among the bodies, thank Merlin."
"Has he been taken?"
Suddenly a slight, pink haired lady skittered into the kitchen. She let out an 'eep!' of surprise when she saw the Death Eaters, and then a louder one when she tripped over a leg.
"Tonks?!" someone cried, at the resounding crash. Harry was still in the same position he had been when the fighting started, right leg forward from the force of his punch, arm at his side, knuckles bleeding. His wand lay on the floor next to his left foot, surrounded by broken glass and plates.
The witch picked herself up off the floor muttering about bodies and improper clean up, but she froze when her eyes fell on the messy haired boy.
"Harry!" she squealed happily. He took an alarmed step back, wary.
"Harry?" echoed other voices throughout the house, there were more footsteps, and the bespectacled boy found himself looking at one of the strangest things he'd ever seen. Arranged in his Aunt's destroyed, once immaculate, kitchen, was a group of witches and wizards. There was a large, bald, black man, the two Chinese bodyguards he'd seen back at Hogwarts, an elderly witch with curly hair, Mad-Eye Moody, and-
"Remus?" said Harry incredulously, "Is it really you?"
"The one and only," grinned the sandy haired man. Harry felt the strangest sense of deja vu, but after what had happened tonight, he wasn't exactly sure about any of this. This Lupin stood with perfect posture, but Harry had to make sure.
"Prove it," he said defiantly. Moody let out a short 'Ha!' and the black man chuckled deeply. Lupin just kept grinning " I am Remus Lupin, nicknamed Moony, werewolf who once taught you during your third year at Hogwarts. Your Patronus is a stag, you have an invisibility cloak from James, and your Godfather-"
"Okay, okay," apologized Harry, "I believe you. It's just, had to check you know? I already met you tonight."
"What was that Potter?" said Moody sharply.
"Well it wasn't really him, they didn't act like him at all. But there was an impostor, pretending to be you." He pointed a finger at his father's friend.
"Tell us everything that happened, all we knew was that there was an attack taking place," said the black wizard, in a deep and commanding voice. There were nods all around.
Harry took a second to collect his thoughts before starting, "It happened after the Dursley's left; they went to some lawn competition. Someone knocked on the door, and I remember looking at the clock so it was around... half past eight. And I opened it, and," he shrugged "it was Remus. But then, I started noticing things. He didn't sit straight, and a lot of the things he said were wrong, and he just seemed... really nervous."
"But how did you know for sure?" asked Moody, who was now eyeing the real Remus with suspicion.
"Ah, well, you know that Banshee Remus went hunting in America?"
Everyone nodded, "Got it just yesterday," said the sandy haired man, with a kind of modest pride. The elderly witch patted him on the arm.
"I asked the impostor if he beat it last Tuesday. And he said yes, that he'd beaten it that night."
"But last Tuesday was the-" began Remus, with a confused expression on his face, "the full moon." Harry finished for him, with a wide grin.
Lupin's face cleared in understanding, "Brilliant," he whispered. Everyone looked likewise floored, "Well done Harry!" piped up the witch named Tonks.
"Indeed, quite masterful," rolled Long's smooth tones, and Fu grunted in affirmation. "That's what I've been trying to teach you all!" growled Moody loudly, "never ceasing, ever alert, CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
The people gathered jumped, except for Tonks who simply rolled her eyes.
"We know Mad Eye, you only say it twice a minute."
"And for good reason, you klutz..." he muttered under his breathe. She gave a cheerful laugh, "It's part of my charm."
"Your charm's going to get us caught!" hissed the former Auror, while the large black man examined the unconscious Death Eaters. They continued their teasing argument, while Harry turned to his father's friend.
"Sorry, but who were you all again?" he asked, feeling distinctly out of the loop.
Remus chuckled, "Well you know me and Mad-Eye. These two," he indicated the bodyguards, "are-"
"We've already met as well." Long cut across him, offering a wiry and calloused hand to Harry, who shook it. Fu simply afforded him an acknowledging nod; he didn't say much, that man.
Lupin looked surprised at the exchange but didn't ask any questions. "That," he gestured at the black wizard "is Kingsley Shacklebolt, Auror."
"Nice to meet you Harry," he said in his deep voice and he too shook his hand.
"And these two witches-"
"Are perfectly capable of introducing themselves, thanks." said the pink haired witch. "I'm Tonks, pleasure Harry."
"Dorace Crockford over here Mister Potter- though I was quite alright with Remmy introducing me."
Harry and Tonks snorted at the nickname while 'Remmy' gave the old witch a rather pained look. "Dorace-" he began, but she stopped him "Oh be quiet Remmy darling. I've known him for years, he was my neighbor," she explained to the other two, who were shaking with restrained laughter.
"What did I say muffin?" Dorace gave Remus an indulgent frown. He muttered something under his breathe.
"You watch your attitude young man," she said sharply "don't you want me to let you go out with Sirius?"
"Yes," he replied exasperatedly.
"Well then. You watch that mouth too. Harry dear, I think we better get you all packed up. It's not very safe here, is it?"
He thought that was a bit of an understatement, what with the unconscious dark wizards and the broken glass and furniture. Harry made towards the stairs, but the old woman grabbed his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip before he could leave the kitchen.
"Don't worry poppit, I've got it, Accio!" Loud bangs and crashes echoed down the stairs, like a small army was charging through the two story suburban home. Before Dorace could end the spell, Remus was buried in what appeared to be several thousand pounds of magical school supplies.
"Pft," he spit out a feather, his head enclosed in Hedwig's cage. Harry winced, how long had it been since he'd cleaned that?
"Oh Remmy!" said the old witch, and she fussed over him until he escaped Harry's things, a good deal shabbier than normal. Tonks would have helped, but her fist was stuffed in her mouth to stop her from laughing too loudly.
Dorace gave Remus a slightly analytical glance, "You're looking a smidgeon out of place dear. Why don't you let me-?"
"No," he said in a voice of forced calm, "I think I'll be alright." A rat bone dropped out of his hair and his left eye twitched.
"Wow Harry, a Firebolt!" exclaimed Tonks suddenly. Part of the pile had experienced a small avalanche, revealing the world's fastest racing broom. "It's really too bad we can't use it," she said, sounding crestfallen.
"Wait, how are we getting to, er, wherever we're going?"
"We're going to apparate." said Remus, while Tonks continued to gaze longingly at the broom. "It's how wizards-" "And witches!" Tonks piped up "-normally get from place to place."
"And how am I supposed to do that?" asked Harry in trepidation.
"You'll side-along with one of us," reassured Remus.
Mad-Eye walked in then, took one look at the unseemly pile, and waved his wand in a long sweeping movement. Harry's possessions were cleaned spotless, then tumbled of their own accord in perfectly ordered rows, and then-
Harry ran towards the now empty space with a shocked yell, that was his stuff, his stuff!
He looked at Moody accusingly, "Oh keep your britches on Potter," growled the Auror "I just banished them to our final destination."
"Final destination?" asked Tonks, a pink eyebrow raised "There's only one destination. Don't think your bringing us there via Iceland again!"
"Random apparation trips are a necessity!" he argued, "Throws them off our trail." his blue eye whizzed around in a paranoid way.
"Alastor, apparating doesn't leave a trail in the first place." said Kingsley in his reassuring voice.
Moody's eye looked for support that didn't come, "Fine," he ground out, "it's your lives. Let's hurry up and get this on the way, you..." his voice lowered while he grumbled about certain 'upstart members.'
"Excellent," said Remus, "Harry, you'll be with me. The rest of you," he nodded "we'll see you on the other side."
"What're we-?" began Harry, but then the werewolf grabbed Harry's arm and turned sharply on one foot. The rest of his words were shoved down his throat by a crushing force. The kitchen disappeared, and his body felt like it was being squeezed in every conceivable area by clamps. His ears were twisted, legs compressed, and his eyes were being forced back into his head. Harry struggled unsucessfully to draw breathe, and his lungs burned from lack of oxygen. And just when he thought he was going to pass out-
He reappeared with a small pop, the restraints mercifully leaving him. Harry drew in deep breathes, his stomach queasy.
"Sorry about that," said Remus, his hand still on Harry's arm; steadying now. "The, er, sensation, for lack of a better word, does take some getting used to."
"I'll bet," panted the black haired boy, and the man chuckled.
They were in a deserted street that looked as though it'd seen better days. The lamps were dim, the houses were close together and grungy, and the yards were scruffy and unkempt. Aunt Petunia would have screamed in horror if she'd come to a place such as this. He reckoned that little thought had been put into the planning, as the houses in front of him jumped straight from 11 to 13.
Loud pops echoed around them, and Tonks, Mad-Eye, Dorace and the body guards spun into existence from thin air.
"Where's Kingsley?" asked Lupin.
"He took the Death Eaters into custody," replied Moody, his eye revolving wildly. "But we'd better hurry, we may have already been spotted."
Tonks murmured something that sounded suspiciously like 'we're always being almost spotted.' Mad-Eye ignored her.
"Here Potter, read this, and memorize it." He felt a thin slip of paper being slipped into his hand by the grizzled Auror. Harry looked at it, perplexed. It was in slanted hand writing that looked tantalizingly familiar. He straightened his glasses, then read:
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
"What-?" Harry started to ask, but stopped at the warning look Lupin gave him.
"Just concentrate on what you read, Harry" he said.
Harry did, and no sooner had he reached the word 'phoenix' that something bizarre happened. The area between houses 11 and 13, a small gap between walls that measured only a handful of inches, began to slowly stretch apart.
If there were people in the area, they must not have noticed it. The lights in the neighboring dwellings didn't so much a flicker, and no Muggles poked out their head to witness the fascinating sight.
After the space between numbers 11 and 13 was sufficiently wide, another house popped into existence. Had Harry blinked, he would have missed it; one second there was an ever expanding gap between two houses, and the next, a third house filled that gap.
A small brass number 12 was affixed over the door way. It seemed, if possible, in even worse shape than the rest of the houses on the block.
Moody walked forward, his leg clunking on every other step, straight up to the new place's door. He knocked twice, waited a second, and then knocked again. Immediately there was the scraping sound of bolts being drawn back, along with the cracks and pops of deactivated defensive charms.
The door swung open soundlessly.
Lupin swept the street with his eyes, then ushered Harry quickly through the portal and into a damp smelling foyer. The rest of the witches and wizards followed closely behind.
He looked around curiously, the space they occupied was much larger then the house from the outside. The magically expanded area reminded him of the tent he'd shared with the Weasleys at the Quidditch World Cup, only a year ago.
Even though this was the first room he'd seen, Harry could tell that this place had once been as magnificent as Hogwarts, perhaps more so. Faded gold leafing bordered exquisitely painted pictures, marred by water stains. The once plush carpet was dirty and soiled, and the slightly rotten wood furniture would not, in its original state, have looked out of place in the Queen's own bedroom. A huge crystal chandelier tilted dangerously above him, and a staircase, wide as a driveway and infinitely more grand, led up to a second and third landing. He realized with a jolt that this house, or perhaps manor was a more appropriate term, could be large enough to have actual wings.
"Where are we?" asked Harry, finally getting a complete question out.
Remus smiled widely, looking years younger, "Welcome, to the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix."
Author's Note: Whew! Finally got that chapter finished. Sorry, I just hate transition chapters. They're both hard and boring to write. Drop a review! And I apologize for the shortness, there just wasn't much to talk about I suppose. No flames please, I don't rock those and they just kill your, er, creative spirit and inclination to write. No like'em.