By mid-July of 1996, Harry had just about had enough. The air about him fairly tingled as he paced through his Aunt and Uncle's Surrey cottage like a caged animal, enduring his cousin's taunts ("Crying out for Sirius again last night, you big poufter? Isn't your boyfriend Cedric going to be jealous?"), working like a house-elf cleaning out his uncle's garage in the summer sun (And I'm keeping this garage door closed so the neighbors don't know what kind of freak we have living here, you ungrateful pissant!"), cooking meal after meal he had no hope of eating himself. To make matters worse, Headmaster Dumbledore had once again cut Harry off from all contact with his Hogwarts friends. He looked at himself in the mirror that hung over his aunt and uncle's mantel. Eyes hollow and marked with dark black circles. Skin pale and sallow. And somewhere along the line, his left eyebrow had developed a nervous tic. He couldn't continue to live like this; he knew it would break him.

So Harry decided to call his Godfather, who'd also had to endure a life of captivity. Certainly Sirius would know how to cope; he'd probably be good for a laugh, too, while his alleged family was out enjoying a long weekend in Brighton. They weren't due home until that evening, so Harry reckoned he could use the Floo without anyone being the wiser. He picked up some Floo Powder from the fireplace floor, and through it into the fireplace.

"Sirius!" he cried out. "Sirius Black!"

There was no answer. Harry tried again.

"Sirius! Answer me, you mangy old coot!" Still nothing. Exhausted and coughing from the soot he'd just thrown into the air, Harry sat down on the floor.

"Well, I suppose that's to be expected," he thought. "Sirius is dead, isn't he? And even if he weren't, he's still a wanted criminal, right? So I guess I can't really expect him to answer a simple Floo call."

Harry thought about whom else he might call. Remus? Tonks? Ginny? Ginny and Tonks? Well, that might make him feel better. He smiled lasciviously for a quick moment, then remembered what he'd seen in the mirror and frowned, slumping his shoulders in defeat. "Who'd want to be with someone who looked like that, anyway?" he thought. Harry got up from the floor and looked at the television set. He switched it on, only to remember that his uncle had the cable shut off while they were on vacation. He needed to clear his head.

"It's not like there's going to be anything useful on the telly, anyway," Harry thought as he walked upstairs to his room to grab his wand. "Maybe a good walk will be just the thing."

Harry heard the faint, but unmistakable sound of a snoring Mundungus Fletcher as he walked out the front door of No. 4 Privet Drive. "Huh," he muttered to no one in particular. "Constant vigilance my arse!" He briefly considered throwing a stunner Dung's way, but reckoned that was a bad idea. He did, however, take a moment to move his wand from the back pocket of his bluejeans to the front.

Harry walked north on Privet Drive without incident. He even whistled a tune – an old New Wave song he'd heard on Radio 1 during the drive back from London the month prior. It had been stuck in his head ever since; but as it had a pleasant melody; it seemed to fit the warm summer day. He realized he hadn't walked through his quiet suburban neighborhood much at all as a kid, but since he was a Wizard, he shouldn't have that much problem dealing with Piers and his gang, should they come along. After all, he'd dealt fairly successfully with Death Eaters just a couple of months ago – what are a couple of juvenile delinquents like that going to say to him? He resolved to take more walks.

Ten or so minutes later, the sidewalk ended across the street from the playground, and Harry stopped to have a look. There were at least a dozen children swinging on the swings, twirling on the merry-go-round, running around like little hooligans having the time of their lives. Harry smiled at the sight. Then he raised his wand, and as an eight-year-old boy reached the apex of his swing, Harry fired a stunner that hit him square in the chest, knocking him to the asphalt seven feet below. Harry watched as blood quickly pooled underneath the child's head, but the resulting screams from the child's mother woke him from that reverie. Harry fired another stunner towards the merry-go-round, and watched as a four-year-old's body slammed lifeless into a nearby monkey bars, propelled by centrifugal force. People began to run for cover, and Harry fired several more stunners into the ensuing chaos, hitting a young mother, a nanny, and three other children. He was pleased that he hadn't missed with any of his shots. Harry was still firing when he heard a half-dozen or so pops in his immediate vicinity. Tonks, Kingsley and Moody had each fired stunners of their own toward him, and he chuckled at the irony before collapsing in a heap.

Harry woke up magically bound to the dining-room table in 12 Grimmauld Place. He smiled, because he'd wanted to talk to Sirius anyway, so this would make matters easier. Sirius would give him something to laugh about, maybe tell him how to cope with his confinement, probably tell him an off-color story or two about his dad. He didn't much care for the bindings, and really didn't appreciate the slapping, but he was grateful to be back in Headquarters.

Molly Weasley was the first Order member to see that Harry had woken up. She shooed Tonks and Kingsley away, placed a kiss on his forehead, and hugged his head tightly to her breast. Tears were streaming down her face as she looked at Harry; she'd never seen him so gaunt, so worn-down. The spacey smile on his face only exacerbated her concern.

"Harry, dear," she said, warily, "that was a terrible thing you did. What were you thinking? Why on Earth could you possibly have wanted to hurt those poor Muggle children, Harry? Tell me, Harry. Tell me why."

"Huh," Harry thought. "Tell me why. That's like that song." Harry began to whistle the tune he'd heard in June again. Molly cried further, and was led away by her husband. Ron and Hermione were the next to walk over to Harry's make-shift holding cell. Hermione grabbed Harry's hand, and also placed a kiss on his forehead. Ron ruffled his hair, grabbed a chair and sat down.

"All right then, mate?" Ron asked. "What's been going on there in Surrey, Harry?"

Harry's eyes widened. "Oh, it was wicked, Ron. I couldn't miss. It was like they were ducks in a pond. Really livens up the day, you know. Pretty boring all cooped up there on Privet Drive."