AN: I've worked on this story, among others, off and on for the past few years. I've read quite a bit of fanfiction, but never posted anything before. This has not been checked by a beta, so any comments are welcome. I have no ownership of any sort for Harry Potter or any of its associated characters or entities, I'm just a bored 23 year old exploring a hobby.

This initial chapter has a fair bit of text from the first and second chapters of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; 'Dudley Demented' and 'A Peck of Owls'. I've used it to intertwine the beginnings of my own story and provide the branching point with canon. JKR's text is bolded. While most of it is left unchanged, I have added or omitted segments as necessary for it to fit my amended backgound. I'm aware its often repetitive to drudge through, however it should only feature in this first chapter to serve as a foundation.

As stated in the summary this will be an H/Hr story. Harry will be significantly powerful, but hopefully not unbelievably so. I plan to delve a bit deeper into the history of the Potter family and Harry's heritage as a member of magical society. He will be moderately wealthy, as any upper class family with the pedigree I'm aiming for should be. Generations of political, business, and magical leaders have left Harry with a significant inheritance.

Warnings: H/hr, mild to moderate Dumbledore bashing, potential FF slash relationship, mild Weasley bashing (primarily Ron but may feature some Molly or Ginny as well).

I hope that you enjoy my little experiment.

- Godric

Harry was lost in thought as he sat on the last remaining swing in the park. His recent run in with Uncle Vernon over the news and the mysterious apparition had led him to think of how he had been virtually shut out of all goings on in the wizarding world for the past month and a half. It was now the first week of August and he had heard virtually nothing since school let out in mid June.

Ron had yet to write him, and Sirius and Remus were both apparently very busy with whatever anti-Voldemort plans Dumbledore had going. He had exchanged regular letters through the muggle mail with Hermione, but she was just as isolated as he was, back at her parents' home in Muggle London for the summer. As great as it was to talk to his friend about normal teenage issues like nerves over exam results, her families upcoming trip to America, and the difficulties she's had with convincing Viktor Krum that going to last year's Yule ball together and a kiss on the hand at the end of the night did not a relationship make, he couldn't help but wish that he knew more about what was really going on.

Harry was beginning to feel completely useless; despite the fact that he had proven himself against not only Death Eaters and various magical monsters and other difficulties over the past four years, but Voldemort himself on three occasions now, four if you count the diary-Riddle the adults refused to allow him any scrap of information. He felt like a discarded book, just lying around until the powers that be decided to pick him up again.

He did not know how long he had sat on the swing before the sound of voices interrupted his musings and he looked up. The streetlamps from the surrounding roads were casting a misty glow strong enough to silhouette a group of people making their way across the park. One of them was singing a loud, crude song. The others were laughing. A soft ticking noise came from several expensive racing bikes that they were wheeling along.

Harry knew who those people were. The figure in front was unmistakably his cousin, Dudley Dursley, wending his way home, accompanied by his faithful gang. Dudley was as vast as ever, but a year's hard dieting and the discovery of a new talent had wrought quite a change in his physique. As Uncle Vernon delightedly told anyone who would listen, Dudley had recently become the Junior Heavyweight Inter-School Boxing Champion of the Southeast. 'The noble sport', as Uncle Vernon called it, had made Dudley even more formidable than he had seemed to Harry in their primary school days when he had served as Dudley's first punching bag. Harry was not remotely afraid of his cousin any more but he still didn't think that Dudley learning to punch harder and more accurately was cause for celebration.

Neighborhood children all around were terrified of him - even more terrified than they were of 'that Potter boy' who, they had been warned, was a hardened hooligan and attended St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys. Harry watched the dark figures crossing the grass and wondered who they had been beating up tonight. If Dudley's friends saw him sitting here, they would be sure to make a beeline for him and what would Dudley do then? He wouldn't want to lose face in front of the gang, but he'd be terrified of provoking Harry… it would be really fun to watch Dudley's dilemma, to taunt him, watch him, with him powerless to respond… and if any of the others tried hitting Harry, he was ready - he had his wand. Let them try… he'd love to vent some of his frustration on the boys who had once made his life hell.

But they didn't turn around, they didn't see him, they were almost at the railings. Harry mastered the impulse to call after them… seeking a fight was not a smart move… he must not use magic… he would be risking expulsion again.

The voices of Dudley's gang died away; they were out of sight, heading along Magnolia Road. There you go, Sirius, Harry thought dully. Nothing rash. Kept my nose clean. Exactly the opposite of what you'd have done.

He got to his feet and stretched. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon seemed to feel that whenever Dudley turned up was the right time to be home and any time after that was much too late. Uncle Vernon had threatened to lock Harry in the shed if he came home after Dudley ever again, so, stifling a yawn, and still scowling, Harry set off towards the park gate.

Magnolia Road, like Privet Drive, was full of large, square houses with perfectly manicured lawns, all owned by large, square owners who drove very clean cars similar to Uncle Vernon's. Harry preferred Little Whinging by night, when the curtained windows made patches of jewel bright color in the darkness and he ran no danger of hearing disapproving mutters about his 'delinquent' appearance when he passed the householders. He walked quickly, so that halfway along Magnolia Road Dudley's gang came into view again; they were saying their farewells at the entrance to Magnolia Crescent. Harry stepped into the shadow of a large lilac tree and waited until the others had gone and only Dudley remained.

"Hey, Big D!"

Dudley turned. "Oh," he grunted. "It's you."

"How long have you been 'Big D' then?" said Harry.

"Shut it," snarled Dudley, turning away.

"Cool name," said Harry, grinning and falling into step beside his cousin. "But you'll always be 'Ickle Diddykins' to me."

"I said, SHUT IT!" said Dudley, whose ham-like hands had curled into fists.

"Don't the boys know that's what your mum calls you?"

"Shut your face."

"You don't tell her to shut her face. What about 'Popkin' and 'Dinky Diddydums', can I use them then?"

Dudley said nothing. The effort of keeping himself from hitting Harry seemed to demand all his self-control.

"So who've you been beating up tonight?" Harry asked, his grin fading. "Another ten-year-old? I know you did Mark Evans two nights ago -"

"He was asking for it," snarled Dudley.

"Oh yeah?"

"He cheeked me."

"Yeah? Did he say you look like a pig that's been taught to walk on its hind legs? Cause that's not cheek, Dud, that's true."

A muscle was twitching in Dudley's jaw. It gave Harry enormous satisfaction to know how furious he was making Dudley; he felt as though he was siphoning off his own frustration into his cousin, the only outlet he had.

They turned right down the narrow alleyway where Harry had first seen Sirius and which formed a short cut between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. It was empty and much darker than the streets it linked because there were no streetlamps. Their footsteps were muffled between garage walls on one side and a high fence on the other. "Think you're a big man carrying that thing, don't you?" Dudley said after a few seconds.

"What thing?"

"That - that thing you are hiding."

Harry grinned again.

"Not as stupid as you look, are you, Dud? But I s'pose, if you were, you wouldn't be able to walk and talk at the same time."Harry pulled out his wand. He saw Dudley look sideways at it.

"You're not allowed," Dudley said at once. "I know you're not. You'd get expelled from that freak school you go to."

"How d'you know they haven't changed the rules, Big D?"

"They haven't," said Dudley, though he didn't sound completely convinced.

Harry laughed softly.

"You haven't got the guts to take me on without that thing, have you?" Dudley snarled.

"Whereas you just need four mates behind you before you can beat up a ten year old. You know that boxing title you keep banging on about? How old was your opponent? Seven? Eight?"

"He was sixteen, for your information," snarled Dudley, "and he was out cold for twenty minutes after I'd finished with him and he was twice as heavy as you. You just wait till I tell Dad you had that thing out –"

"Running to Daddy now, are you? Is his ickle boxing champ frightened of nasty Harry's wand?"

"Not this brave at night, are you?" sneered Dudley.

"This is night, Diddykins. That's what we call it when it goes all dark like this."

"I mean when you're in bed!" Dudley snarled.

He had stopped walking. Harry stopped too, staring at his cousin.

From the little he could see of Dudley's large face, he was wearing a strangely triumphant look. "What d'you mean, I'm not brave when I'm in bed?" said Harry, completely nonplussed. "What am I supposed to be frightened of, pillows or something?"

"I heard you last night," said Dudley breathlessly. "Talking in your sleep. Moaning."

"What d'you mean?" Harry said again, but there was a cold, plunging sensation in his stomach. He had revisited the graveyard last night in his dreams. Other similar nightmares had been plaguing him on and off all summer.

Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter then adopted a high-pitched whimpering voice. "'Don't kill Cedric! Don't kill Cedric!' Who's Cedric - your boyfriend?"

"I - you're lying," said Harry automatically. But his mouth had gone dry. He knew Dudley wasn't lying - how else would he know about Cedric?

"Mum! Help me, Dad! I'm trapped, Dad! Boo hoo!"

"Shut up," said Harry quietly. "Shut up, Dudley, I'm warning you!"

"No, not Hermione, don't you dare hurt her! No, not her t- don't you point that thing at me!" Dudley backed into the alley wall. Harry was pointing the wand directly at Dudley's heart. Harry could feel fourteen years' hatred of Dudley pounding in his veins - what wouldn't he give to strike now, to jinx Dudley so thoroughly he'd have to crawl home like an insect, struck dumb, sprouting feelers…

"Don't ever talk about that again," Harry snarled. "D'you understand me?"

"Point that thing somewhere else!"

"I said, do you understand me?"

"Point it somewhere else!"

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

"GET THAT THING AWAY FROM -"

Dudley gave an odd, shuddering gasp, as though he had been doused in icy water. Something had happened to the night. The star-strewn indigo sky was suddenly pitch black and lightless - the stars, the moon, the misty streetlamps at either end of the alley had vanished. The distant rumble of cars and the whisper of trees had gone. The balmy evening was suddenly piercingly, bitingly cold. They were surrounded by total, impenetrable, silent darkness, as though some giant hand had dropped a thick, icy mantle over the entire alleyway, blinding them.

For a split second Harry thought he had done magic without meaning to, despite the fact that he'd been resisting as hard as he could - then his reason caught up with his senses - he didn't have the power to turn off the stars. He turned his head this way and that, trying to see something, but the darkness pressed on his eyes like a weightless veil. Dudley's terrified voice broke in Harry's ear.

"W-what are you d-doing? St-stop it!"

"I'm not doing anything! Shut up and don't move!"

"I c-can't see! I've g-gone blind! I -"

"I said shut up!"

Harry stood stock still, turning his sightless eyes left and right. The cold was so intense he was shivering all over; goose bumps had erupted up his arms and the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up - he opened his eyes to their fullest extent, staring blankly around, unseeing. It was impossible… they couldn't be here… not in Little Whinging… he strained his ears… he would hear them before he saw them…

"I'll t-tell Dad!" Dudley whimpered. "W-where are you? What are you d-do—?"

"Will you shut up?" Harry hissed, "I'm trying to lis —"

But he fell silent. He had heard just the thing he had been dreading. There was something in the alleyway apart from themselves, something that was drawing long, hoarse, rattling breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread as he stood trembling in the freezing air.

"C-cut it out! Stop doing it! I'll h-hit you, I swear I will!"

"Dudley, shut—"

WHAM.

In his fear Dudley had launched a blind, flailing punch, and his fist made contact with Harry's jaw, splitting his lip and lifting him off his feet. Small white lights popped in front of his eyes. Next moment, he had landed hard on the ground and his wand had flown out of his hand.

"You moron, Dudley!" Harry yelled, his eyes watering with pain as he scrambled to his hands and knees, carelessly wiping his bleeding mouth with his hand while feeling around frantically in the blackness. Judging from the strength of the chill and the extent of the darkness there had to be close to a dozen dementors closing in; without his wand he had no way of defending himself or his cousin. He heard Dudley blundering away, hitting the alley fence, stumbling.

"DUDLEY, COME BACK! YOU'RE RUNNING RIGHT AT THEM!" There was a horrible squealing yell and Dudley's footsteps stopped. At the same moment, Harry felt a creeping chill behind him that could mean only one thing. They were beginning to surround them. "DUDLEY, KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND YOUR MOUTH SHUT! WHATEVER YOU DO, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Wand!" Harry muttered frantically, his hands flying over the ground like spiders. "Where's - wand -come on –I wish I had some help here!"

Suddenly his hand closed around something large and solid. It wasn't his wand, but the moment Harry grasped it he was surrounded by a dull red glow. In the new light he could see that he was now holding the Sword of Gryffindor and that there were at least half a dozen dementors closing in. Out of nowhere a voice seemed to echo; "Behind you, Swing!" Without looking Harry spun and lashed out with the magical blade, catching one dementor across the chest and earning a shrill cry as it rapidly retreated. The other dementors seemed to sense that this enchanted steel could actually harm them for they too began to fade into the darkness, warmth and light returning in their wake.

Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw his wand lying near a bush. Just as he was about to step towards it another scream echoed from the far end of the alley. "Dudley!" Without thinking Harry reached for his wand, an effortless, subconscious tendril of magic pulling it the remaining ten feet to his hand as he ran off to aid his cousin. As Harry came around a large dumpster he saw that another four or five dementors had backed Dudley into a corner, where he had passed out. They were closing in and preparing to administer the kiss. Once again a few clumsy swings of the magical blade seemed to be enough to chase them off.

As the glow from the streetlamps grew outward and the temperature rose, Harry looked down at the length of steel in his hand. How did I summon this? He was so surprised when the voice spoke again that he jumped and nearly dropped both the sword and his wand.

"This sword has always been available to a member of the family in need." Though Harry looked around he could not identify the source of the voice. He realized that the sword, much like the sorting hat, had its own consciousness and could speak in his mind. "Right on the nose my boy!" The voice confirmed his suspicions.

If you can talk, why didn't you speak to me when I was fighting the basilisk? "

"I am an impression of Godric Gryffindor. Near the end of my life I chose to leave some of my conscience in this blade, much like the other founders and I did with the sorting hat. Once they've claimed the sword, any direct descendant of mine can summon this sword to aid them. Although, I remembered Salazar's betrayal, so I placed the spells and enchantments in such a way that in order for my progeny to communicate with me they had to give the sword a blood sample, to prove that they were in fact one of my true descendants, and not someone who happened to find the sword. When you used the sword to slay the serpent, you did not touch it with any of your own blood. When you picked up the sword this evening, your hand was smeared with it, so the enchantments activated and brought my personality to the surface again. This is the first time I've been fully awake in almost two hundred years."

To say that Harry was surprised would have been an understatement. He was related to Godric Gryffindor! So you're Godric? And I'm your something-something great grandson? "Yes, well sort of, and yes. You are the last remaining direct descendant of Godric Gryffindor and his wife Rowena Ravenclaw. However, I am not Godric. Not exactly. I'm not a ghost or spirit, or even a memory. I'm an imprint of Grodric's thoughts and feeling; His knowledge and his wishes to protect and guide his family. However, you may do as has been done before and call me Godric if that will be easier for you. We may wish to continue this discussion later. I believe your companion is coming around, and this does not appear to be a very safe place, should your enemies return.

While Harry hid his wand and turned back to Dudley, he questioned Godric further. You can see? "In a manner of speaking, while I do not possess eyes or ears, I can observe the world around me though my connection to you, and by monitoring the magical fields that the sword interacts with. I could tell by this man's strengthening life force and aura that he was returning to consciousness, and I knew that we were in an alley because you know that we are in an alley. Just as I have no mouth, I speak to you because your mind is linked to my consciousness by the bond created by your blood." Oh, that makes sense …I guess."

Harry held the sword in one hand and used the other to pull one of Dudley's massive arms around his own shoulders and dragged the semi-conscious boy towards the road, sagging slightly under the weight. It was not easy to hold the sword in a way that it wouldn't inadvertently stab someone and haul Dudley along at the same time.

Harry gave his cousin an impatient dig in the ribs, but Dudley seemed to have lost all desire for independent movement. He was slumped on Harry's shoulder, his large feet dragging along the ground. "God Dud, when are you going to learn to lay off the sweets?" He gave the semi-conscious Dudley a heave and staggered onwards.

He could only imagine what gossip the sight of him carrying a barely there Dudley down the street with a sword would inspire among the neighbors as they turned into Privet Drive. He could already see several of the neighbors peaking through their windows at the pair. Scowling, Harry readjusted Dudley on his shoulder and made his slow, painful way up number four's garden path.

The hall light was on. Harry stuck his arm out and used the tip of the sword to ring the bell and watched Aunt Petunia's outline grow larger and larger, oddly distorted by the rippling glass in the front door.

"Diddy! About time too, I was getting quite - quite -Diddy, what's the matter!"

Harry looked sideways at Dudley and ducked out from under his arm just in time. Dudley swayed on the spot for a moment, his face pale green… then he opened his mouth and vomited all over the doormat.

"DIDDY! Diddy, what's the matter with you? Vernon? VERNON!"

Harry's uncle came galumphing out of the living room, walrus moustache blowing hither and thither as it always did when he was agitated. He hurried forwards to help Aunt Petunia negotiate a weak-kneed Dudley over the threshold while avoiding stepping in the pool of sick.

"He's ill, Vernon!"

"What is it, son? What's happened? Did Mrs. Polkiss give you something foreign for tea?"

"Why are you all covered in dirt, darling? Have you been lying on the ground?"

"Hang on - you haven't been mugged, have you, son?"

Aunt Petunia screamed. "Phone the police, Vernon! Phone the police! Diddy, darling, speak to Mummy! What did they do to you?"

In all the kerfuffle nobody seemed to have noticed Harry, or the large sword he somehow managed to keep from being seen, which suited him perfectly. He managed to slip inside just before Uncle Vernon slammed the door and, while the Dursleys made their noisy progress down the hall towards the kitchen, Harry moved carefully and quietly towards the stairs.

"Who did it, son? Give us names. We'll get them, don't worry."

"Shh! He's trying to say something, Vernon! What is it, Diddy? Tell Mummy!"

Harry's foot was on the bottom-most stair when Dudley found his voice. "Him." Harry froze, foot on the stair, face screwed up, braced for the explosion.

"BOY! COME HERE!"

With a feeling of mingled dread and anger, Harry removed his foot slowly from the stair and turned to follow the Dursleys. The scrupulously clean kitchen had an oddly unreal glitter after the darkness outside. Aunt Petunia was ushering Dudley into a chair; he was still very green and clammy-looking. Uncle Vernon standing in front of the draining board, glared at Harry through tiny, narrowed eyes.

"What have you done to my son?" he said in a menacing growl. "And where the bloody hell did you get that?" His uncle gestured wildly at the glittering blade.

"Nothing," said Harry, knowing perfectly well that Uncle Vernon wouldn't believe him. "And this is a magical artifact that belongs to my family. It helps when we are in times of need."

The mention of the 'm' word obviously penetrated his rage and effected his uncle. "M-ma-m…Freaky you say? Well…put the bloody thing away, you won't need it here unless you need a crutch to hobble up the stairs if you don't start explaining things!" Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, Harry placed the sword on the counter behind him.

"What did he do to you, Diddy?" Aunt Petunia said in a quavering voice, now sponging sick from the front of Dudley's leather jacket. "Was it - was it you-know-what, darling? Did he use – his thing? Did he do something with that sword?"

Slowly, tremulously, Dudley nodded.

"I didn't!" Harry said sharply, as Aunt Petunia let out a wail and Uncle Vernon raised his fists. "I didn't do anything to him, it wasn't me-"

"Was," muttered Dudley unexpectedly, and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia instantly made flapping gestures at Harry to quieten him while they both bent low over Dudley.

"Go on, son," said Uncle Vernon, "what did he do?"

"Tell us, darling," whispered Aunt Petunia.

"Pointed his wand at me," Dudley mumbled.

"Yeah, I did, but I didn't use -" Harry began angrily, but –

"SHUT UP!" roared Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia in unison.

"Go on, son," repeated Uncle Vernon, moustache blowing about furiously.

"All went dark," Dudley said hoarsely, shuddering. "Everything dark. And then I h-heard… things. Inside m-my head." Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia exchanged looks of utter horror. If their least favorite thing in the world was magic - closely followed by neighbors who cheated more than they did on the hosepipe ban - people who heard voices were definitely in the bottom ten. They obviously thought Dudley was losing his mind.

"What sort of things did you hear, Popkin?" breathed Aunt Petunia, very white-faced and with tears in her eyes. But Dudley seemed incapable of saying. He shuddered again and shook his large blond head, and despite the sense of numb dread that had settled on Harry, he felt a certain curiosity. Dementors caused a person to relive the worst moments of their life. What would spoiled, pampered, bullying Dudley have been forced to hear?

"How come you fell over, son?" said Uncle Vernon, in an unnaturally quiet voice, the kind of voice he might adopt at the bedside of a very ill person.

"T-tripped," said Dudley shakily. "And then –" He gestured at his massive chest. Harry understood. Dudley was remembering the clammy cold that filled the lungs as hope and happiness were sucked out of you. "Horrible," croaked Dudley. "Cold. Really cold."

"Okay," said Uncle Vernon, in a voice of forced calm, while Aunt Petunia laid an anxious hand on Dudley's forehead to feel his temperature. "What happened then, Dudders?"

"Felt… felt… felt… as if… as if…"

"As if you'd never be happy again," Harry supplied dully.

"Yes," Dudley whispered, still trembling.

"So!" said Uncle Vernon, voice restored to full and considerable volume as he straightened up. "You put some crackpot spell on my son so he'd hear voices and believe he was - was doomed to misery, or something, did you?"

"How many times do I have to tell you?" said Harry, temper and voice both rising. "It wasn't me! It was about a dozen Dementors!"

"A dozen - what's this codswallop?"

"De - men - tors," said Harry slowly and clearly. "At least a dozen of them."

"And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?"

"They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban," said Aunt Petunia.

Two seconds of ringing silence followed these words before Aunt Petunia clapped her hand over her mouth as though she had let slip a disgusting swear word. Uncle Vernon was goggling at her.

Harry's brain reeled.

"How d'you know that?" he asked her, astonished.

Aunt Petunia looked quite appalled with herself. She glanced at Uncle Vernon in fearful apology, then lowered her hand slightly to reveal her horsy teeth. "I heard - that awful boy – telling her about them - years ago," she said jerkily.

"If you mean my mum and dad, why don't you use their names?" said Harry loudly, but Aunt Petunia ignored him. She seemed horribly flustered. Harry was stunned. Except for one outburst years ago, in the course of which Aunt Petunia had screamed that Harry's mother had been a freak, he had never heard her mention her sister. He was astounded that she had remembered this scrap of information about the magical world for so long, when she usually put all her energies into pretending it didn't exist.

Uncle Vernon opened his mouth, closed it again, opened it once more, shut it, then, apparently struggling to remember how to talk, opened it for a third time and croaked, "So - so - they - er - they - er - they actually exist, do they - er - Dementy-whatsits?"

Aunt Petunia nodded.

Uncle Vernon looked from Aunt Petunia to Dudley to Harry as if hoping somebody was going to shout 'April Fool!' When nobody did, he opened his mouth yet again, "I want to know exactly what happened to my son!"

"Dudley and I were in the alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk," said Harry, speaking fast, fighting to control his temper. "Dudley thought he'd be smart with me, I pulled out my wand but didn't use it. Then the Dementors turned up —"

"But what ARE Dementoids?" asked Uncle Vernon furiously. "What do they DO?"

"I told you - they suck all the happiness out of you," said Harry, "and if they get the chance, they kiss you -

"Kiss you?" said Uncle Vernon, his eyes popping slightly. "Kiss you?"

"It's what they call it when they suck the soul out of your mouth."

Aunt Petunia uttered a soft scream.

"His soul? They didn't take - he's still got his -"

She seized Dudley by the shoulders and shook him, as though testing to see whether she could hear his soul rattling around inside him. "Of course they didn't get his soul, you'd know if they had," said Harry, exasperated.

"Fought 'em off, did you, son?" said Uncle Vernon loudly, with the appearance of a man struggling to bring the conversation back on to a plane he understood. "Gave 'em the old one-two, did you?"

"You can't give a Dementor the old one-two," said Harry through clenched teeth.

"Why's he all right, then?" blustered Uncle Vernon. "Why isn't he all empty, then?"

"Because I used the sword -"

"But what were Dementoids doing in Little Whinging?" said Uncle Vernon in an outraged tone.

"Couldn't tell you," said Harry wearily. "No idea."

His head was pounding in the glare of the strip-lighting now. His anger was ebbing away. He felt drained, exhausted. The Dursleys were all staring at him.

"It's you," said Uncle Vernon forcefully. "It's got something to do with you, boy, I know it. Why else would they turn up here? Why else would they be down that alleyway? You've got to be the only - the only -" Evidently, he couldn't bring himself to say the word 'wizard' "the only you know-what for miles."

"I don't know why they were here."

But at Uncle Vernon's words, Harry's exhausted brain had ground back into action. Why had the Dementors come to Little Whinging? How could it be coincidence that they had arrived in the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent? Had the Ministry of Magic lost control of the Dementors? Had they deserted Azkaban and joined Voldemort, as Dumbledore had predicted they would?

"These Demembers guard some weirdo's prison?" asked Uncle Vernon, lumbering along in the wake of Harry's train of thought.

"Yes," said Harry.

If only his head would stop hurting, if only he could just leave the kitchen and get to his dark bedroom and think… "Oho! They were coming to arrest you!" said Uncle Vernon, with the triumphant air of a man reaching an unassailable conclusion. "That's it, isn't it, boy? You're on the run from the law!"

"Of course I'm not," said Harry, shaking his head as though to scare off a fly, his mind racing now.

"Then why -?"

"He must have sent them," said Harry quietly, more to himself than to Uncle Vernon.

"What's that? Who must have sent them?"

"Lord Voldemort," said Harry. He registered dimly how strange it was that the Dursleys, who flinched, winced and squawked if they heard words like 'wizard', 'magic' or 'wand', could hear the name of the most evil wizard of all time without the slightest tremor.

"Lord - hang on," said Uncle Vernon, his face screwed up, a look of dawning comprehension coming into his piggy eyes. "I've heard that name… that was the one who —"

"Murdered my parents, yes," Harry said dully.

"But he's gone," said Uncle Vernon impatiently, without the slightest sign that the murder of

Harry's parents might be a painful topic. "That giant bloke said so. He's gone."

"He's back," said Harry heavily.

It felt very strange to be standing here in Aunt Petunia's surgically clean kitchen, beside the top of-the-range fridge and the wide-screen television, talking calmly of Lord Voldemort to Uncle Vernonwith an intensely powerful magical artifact resting calmly on the counter beside him. The arrival of the Dementors in Little Whinging seemed to have breached the great, invisible wall that divided the relentlessly non-magical world of Privet Drive and the world beyond, Harry's two lives had somehow become fused and everything had been turned upside-down. Harry's head throbbed more painfully.

"Back?" whispered Aunt Petunia.

She was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister's) were not narrowed in dislike or anger, they were wide and fearful. The furious pretence that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry's life - that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon - seemed to have fallen away.

"Yes," Harry said, talking directly to Aunt Petunia now. "He came back a month and a half ago. saw him."

Her hands found Dudley's massive leather-clad shoulders and clutched them.

"Hang on," said Uncle Vernon, looking from his wife to Harry and back again, apparently dazed and confused by the unprecedented understanding that seemed to have sprung up between them.

"Hang on. This Lord Voldything's back, you say."

"Yes."

"The one who murdered your parents."

"Yes."

"And now he's sending Dismembers after you?"

"Looks like it," said Harry.

"I see," said Uncle Vernon, looking from his white - faced wife to Harry and hitching up his trousers. He seemed to be swelling, his great purple face stretching before Harry's eyes. "Well, that settles it," he said, his shirt front straining as he inflated himself, "you can get out of this house, boy!"

"What?" said Harry.

"You heard me - OUT!" Uncle Vernon bellowed, and even Aunt Petunia and Dudley jumped. "OUT! OUT! I should've done this years ago! Owls treating the place like a rest home, puddings exploding, half the lounge destroyed, Dudley's tail, Marge bobbing around on the ceiling and that flying Ford Anglia - OUT! OUT! You've had it! You're history! You're not staying here if some loony's after you, you're not endangering my wife and son, you're not bringing trouble down on us. If you're going the same way as your useless parents, I've had it! OUT!"

Harry stood rooted to the spot. "MOVE" said Uncle Vernon, bending forward now, his massive purple face coming so close to Harry's, he actually felt flecks of spit hit his face. "Get going! Get out and never darken our doorstep again! Why we ever kept you in the first place, I don't know, Marge was right; it should have been the orphanage. We were too damn soft for our own good, thought we could squash it out of you, thought we could turn you normal, but you've been rotten from the beginning and I've had enough! I want you, and every freaky thing in this house gone within the hour!"

Harry's exhaustion and his barely suppressed temper caught up to him at once. "FINE! I'm gone, should've never come back here anyway!" He grabbed the sword and stormed up the stairs. His temper caused his magic to swirl around him and almost crackle in the air. His bedroom door burst open so fast it nearly ripped off the hinges. He set the sword on his desk and grabbed an old letter from Hermione and quickly scribbled a note on the back of it:

Hermione,

Dursley's have finally thrown me out. Not sure where I'm going yet, but please hang on to Hedwig, she will sense when I need her. I'll contact you in a few days. Please don't tell anyone else about this, they'd only make me come back, and the way things are between Vernon and I, well let's just say it's better this way.

-Harry

Harry tied the message to Hedwig's leg, instructed her to stay with Hermione for a few days and, mindful of recent events, ordered her to stay unseen as best she could, then he let her out the window. He opened his trunk and began stuffing everything he could into it. He left nothing that could tie this place to the magical world behind. His old school books, bits of magical paraphernalia that had built up over the years, even his old school robes. Anything that suggested this was more than just a normal household was crammed into his trunk. In his hurry he even shoved all of Dudley's unread encyclopedias and novels inside his trunk. He was sure he was stressing the limits of the spatial expansion charms when Godric's voice sounded in his mind once again. "If I might hazard a suggestion, I believe you should consider the family manor if this current residence has become hostile."

"Hostile doesn't even begin to describe it. But I didn't have any idea there was an ancestral manor, much less how to find it."

"Well, you will first need the family signet. Once you have that, it acts as a portkey to the manor. If you don't have the ring, it must be in the family vault."

Harry had finished his packing, removing the cloak and other personal items from the hidden floorboard and closing the straining trunk. "That'll mean Gringott's. I may not know much, but I can guarantee that the bank is closed by this time. It's nearly eleven. I guess I'll stay at the Leaky tonight and head to the bank in the morning. What about you though? I don't think it'd be wise to walk around the knight bus or the Cauldron with a sword in my hand.

"I believe I can help with that." Without warning the sword began to shrink and alter shape until the only thing left was a small knife in a belt sheath.

"That…works." Harry grabbed the knife and attached it to his belt before grabbing his trunk and, thanking whoever thought of permanent featherlight charms, left his room and Privet Drive for the last time, saying nothing to his relatives other than a cold stare as he exited the house forever. Within another half hour he was safely behind the doors of a suite at the Leaky Cauldron and five minutes after that he was out for the night, the day's events having long since worn him out.