FIRST MOMENT OF IMPACT
The summer after his fifth year at Hogwarts was nearly half over and Harry Potter had spent most of it in his bedroom in the house on Privet Drive, reading. As expected, after Moody's threats at King's Cross Station, the Dursleys gave Harry a wide berth. He didn't leave the house often, just to weed the garden—the only outside chore that Aunt Petunia insisted he do—and to pop in on Mrs. Figg every now and then. With nothing else to do besides the usual cooking and cleaning indoors he sent Hedwig to his friends with a request for some interesting reading material. He needed something to keep his mind off of the Department of Mysteries, off of the prophecy, off of Sirius. Now that he knew why he was stuck here at the Dursley's every summer, the boredom was easier to bear and he didn't take his isolation so . . . personally.
Hermione had jumped at the chance to help out. Hedwig returned almost immediately with a heavy book: Hogwarts,a History. Harry almost laughed out loud when he unwrapped it. Hermione had been trying to get Ron and Harry to read that particular book for five years. He'd gone through it in less than a week, finding it fascinating in a dull sort of way. Much of it he already knew, but there were quite a few surprises. He wondered if Hermione had read the part about the house elf revolt of 1344, or if the Weasley twins had ever found the secret staircase to the observatory on top of the North Tower.
He was only half through the first book when Hedwig delivered a book from Ron. He smiled broadly when he unwrapped Perfect Prefects: Hogwarts' Shining Stars. The accompanying note read "Found this in Percy's old room. Knew you'd enjoy it. Notice there's no mention of Ron Weasley in the book?" Errol, the Weasley family's ancient owl, showed up a few hours after Hedwig with an offering from Ginny. It was a small book, leather bound and quite old. "Grandma Prewett's diary," wrote Ginny, "from when she was at Hogwarts. Not magical at all. Don't tell mum!" Harry kept that book next to his bed and read random passages when his other reading was too dry or dull. He quickly decided that Ginny and Ron's Grandma was more like Fred and George than Molly. Percival Prewett never knew what hit him! We were standing in the Great Hall, having just eaten lunch, when his stomach started rumbling and he started to pass gas, rather loudly at that. He turned red to the roots of his hair and ran out of the room, clutching his stomach. Maude Harris was giggling so hard she practically snorted….
His friends, Harry mentally noted, were careful not to send him anything too deep or dark or depressing. No books on Occlumency. No books on the history of the Dark Arts. Nothing at all on Voldemort.
The prophecy. His friends knew nothing about the prophecy. He knew he had to tell them. He owed it to them, but finding the words, finding the courage . . . Perhaps when they were all together again he would be able to voice it. To tell them that they were friends with a dead man, or a killer. But not in a letter. Not by owl….
He shook his head and gazed out the window of his room which looked out over Privet Drive. Neat rows of houses, immaculate lawns, not a leaf out of place. It was getting close to dinner time now, and Uncle Vernon would be home soon. He'd finished Hogwarts,a History and had returned it to Hermione. Hedwig glared at him when he'd given her the heavy package. Hermione had sent back Magical Me, Gilderoy Lockhart's autobiography, and Harry was well into it now, just beginning a chapter on Lockhart's encounter with a creature called "Big Foot" in the States. He sighed and closed his book. He hadn't weeded and watered the curbside flower beds, and even though it was Aunt Petunia's garden, Uncle Vernon would be sure to notice. Best to get at it. Uncle Vernon liked to see him working. He could get started now and his uncle would be sure to see him sweating and miserable when he got home from work. Might cheer him up for an entire evening.
Thirty minutes later, Harry was up to his elbows in zinnias and lemon balm. Curiously, he didn't so much mind this particular job. It rather reminded him of Herbology class with Professor Sprout. He was reaching down into a particularly thick patch of mint when several things happened at once.
A loud and raucous "Meow!" startled him as a sleek gray cat, which had apparently been hiding in the mint patch, jumped in the air. A loud "Crack!" reverberated from somewhere behind him and Harry's scar exploded with pain. He stumbled backward toward the street, gripping his forehead, tripped on the curb and sprawled on the pavement. It was as all this was happening that Uncle Vernon's company car rounded the corner, ran into and over Harry, and screeched to a halt after running head on into a tree.
He heard yelling, and footsteps running toward him.
"Harry! Harry . . . oh hell . . ."
"Bill?" Harry muttered. His left hand was still on his head but the pain in his head was now rivaled by the pain in his legs, and a sick, wet feeling in his right arm.
"Lay still, Harry," murmured Bill Weasly. "Don't try to move. Help is coming."
"Legs hurt," said Harry with a barely suppressed groan. His scar was throbbing and he felt or heard? a dark wind and a cold voice. "Potter? Did that hurt?" And then the voice was gone, and the pain ebbed.
"Bill! What happened?" said a second voice. Someone else knelt down next to him.
"Wrap this around him," said an unfamiliar female voice.
Harry groaned as he felt someone press something around his legs. Whathadhappened?
"Don't move him. Wait for Dumbledore."
"Remus?" said Harry, struggling to sit up. Somehow, Harry felt better knowing his old professor, his father's friend, was here.
A woman's screams startled him again, and he jerked his head at the sound.
"Quiet, Harry, it's just your aunt. Bill, someone has to deal with these Muggles." There was more jostling and a few blurry yet vaguely familiar faces pushed their way in, faces Harry thought belonged to the Dursley's neighbors on Privet Drive.
Tires squealed and a car door slammed as a passerby on the road stopped to see what the commotion was all about. The noise almost covered up a double crack as two more wizards apparated in.
Albus Dumbledore, his robes covered by a long green cape, was now bent down next to Harry. Bill began moving all the neighbors away, assuring them that the situation was under control and that they would take Harry directly to hospital. Someone was being rather pushy, not wanting to leave the scene until an ambulance was called. Bill deftly maneuvered himself between the woman and Harry, blocking her view of the Headmaster as he tried to push Harry's hand away from his head. Harry clamped it down tighter.
"Harry! Is he…?"
Harry shook his head. "Was, gone now."
"Harry, we're going to get you help. Stay calm."
"How are we going to move him?" asked a low voice. Harry turned his head slightly but couldn't make the face come into focus.
"All the easy means are impossible," answered Dumbledore. "Apparition or flooing could injure him further, and an illegal portkey used from this location….."
"It's the best option," answered the other wizard. "Unless you want him on the Knight Bus." Harry grimaced at that suggestion. "One of us will have to go with him—hold him to prevent injury when we arrive."
"You know the risks, Severus," answered Dumbledore.
Snape! Harry's eyes opened.
"Where?" he muttered. "Where are you taking me?"
"St Mungo's," answered Remus' voice from above them.
"No," corrected Dumbledore quickly. "He can't go there."
"Albus, he needs help! Look at him! We can't…."
"It will be all over the Prophet if he goes there," said Dumbledore softly.
"Hogwarts, then," said Snape's cool voice. "And quickly. He is losing blood."
"How?" asked Remus, clearly frustrated. "We can't just disappear in the middle of all these Muggles…."
"We'll move him away from the crowd—in that Muggle's car," said Snape.
"But portkeying while holding someone…."
"I've done it before."
"There really is no other way," added Dumbledore. "The pressure of apparition with these wounds. The pressure would…." His voice trailed away into a moment of silence. "Harry?" he said, "Can you hear me?"
Harry nodded vaguely.
"Professor Snape is going to portkey to Hogsmeade with you. You must listen to him carefully and do what he says."
"Can't you…?" Even in his current condition, his instincts told him not to trust Snape. Snape had wanted Sirius to die...
"Harry . . . " Dumbledore's face was close to his now, and his voice was soft. "You need help now. Professor Snape is the one who has the best chance of getting you that help. Accept this. Listen to him closely."
Dumbledore stood and Snape knelt down to take his place. There was more commotion from the yard where the neighbors stood and the car that had arrived at the same time as Snape and Dumbledore started up and drove off.
"Potter, your head must be in contact with my body when the portkey activates. You have to will yourself to me—don't think. I know this will be hard for you but you must do it. Maintain contact with your head and make it your most fervent desire to stick with me wherever I go. Got it?" He ended with what would have passed for a sneer if the situation had been less serious.
""Remus, you can drive a Muggle car, can't you?" asked Dumbledore quietly.
"It's been a while but yes, I can," answered Remus. He hurried away and commandeered Uncle Vernon's car which fortunately was still running and drivable, even with the sizeable dent in the bumper and bonnet.
Snape passed his wand quickly over the injured Boy Who Lived. Harry felt his legs tighten as Snape lifted him carefully and crawled into the back seat of the waiting car.
"Watch the blood!" roared Uncle Vernon from the yard where he was being comforted by Aunt Petunia
Dumbledore simply ignored him as he slid into the front passenger seat, leaving Bill alone to deal with the Muggles and apparate out later. Remus sped off with a squeal of tires, driving a dozen blocks and around several corners before deftly pulling the car over to the side of the road.
"I'll go ahead and get Hagrid and a carriage," said Dumbledore. "Take him to the gates, Severus. The wards, you know…." He was gone with a whisper of a crack and Harry once again heard Snape's cold voice.
"Head," said Snape.
Harry looked for Remus instead.
"Remus, please . . . " he croaked. He raised his good hand toward the werewolf.
"Head, Harry," said Remus quietly. "Lean in tight. I'll be there as soon as I help Bill with these Muggles."
"You may have to obliviate them," said Snape. Harry, from his inglorious position with his head and shoulders on the Potion Master's lap, thought he sounded happy at the prospect.
"Take Uncle Vernon's car back," said Harry, gritting his teeth as pain once again radiated out from his legs up to his torso. Snape and Remus exchanged glances.
"I'll take it back, Harry, not to worry," assured Remus. "Hold tight, now. Severus is going to portkey back with you. He needs to concentrate to hold on to you and you must listen to him. Do what he tells you."
"You must retain contact," said Snape.
"I know," said Harry sharply. "You keep saying—"
"Because it is important," replied Snape, his cold voice even icier. "If I lose my grip on you—"
"Harry," said Remus, "You're going to Hogwarts. You're going home ."
Harry nodded. He closed his eyes tightly
"Now!" said Snape, pressing what felt like a quill into his uninjured hand.
With the usual tug behind the navel, they disappeared and before he had time to even think about the odd sense of both flying and falling at the same time, he was jarred by Snape's feet hitting the ground heavily. His body felt extremely heavy as Snape stumbled then steadied himself. Then Snape was hurrying, almost running, still holding him. Harry heard shouts ahead of them but didn't open his eyes. Screwing them tight, his head still against Snape's smooth black cape, seemed to help with the pain.
The last thing he remembered was Hagrid lifting him from Snape's arms and placing him in a waiting carriage. Someone inside took him in their arms but he didn't remember who it was. He only remembered seeing, out of the corner of his eye as Hagrid handed him up, Snape, panting, leaning heavily against the thestral that was harnessed to the carriage.