Harry stepped out into the sunny afternoon air, slowly pushing along the trolley holding his trunk and Hedwig's cage. His earlier warm feelings had rapidly cooled when his aunt and uncle had caught up to him in the station and his uncle whispered furiously into his ear, "Don't think this will make any difference when we get home, boy!" Harry realized that there was some truth to that statement. While he was certain that the Dursleys would probably be a little more paranoid this summer, the truth of the matter was that most of the mistreatment he had always suffered from them usually occurred behind closed doors, anyway. It wasn't likely that the Order would be able to notice anything of that sort going on
Harry knew that he could complain about any mistreatment in his letters to the Order, but he seriously doubted that anything they did, short of hexing the Dursleys, would make any lasting impression on them.
They were walking ahead of him, now, his uncle glancing back every few steps and waving his arm to indicate that Harry should pick up the pace. Harry just rolled his eyes whenever Vernon would turn around, and they just continued on at the same pace. He knew that his relatives wanted to just hurry up and get his stuff stowed away in the boot of the car in the hopes that none of the passers by would notice Harry's "abnormality", as they called it.
Harry bit back a snicker as he considered the fact that his relatives considered him abnormal when they had to be quite abnormal in general appearance themselves. His Uncle Vernon was now shorter than Harry, which seemed to surprise both of them. But whereas Harry was slender, often bordering on a sickly, skinny appearance, his Uncle was nearly as wide as he was tall. If one also considered the bristly moustache that he grew, his uncle resembled nothing more than a giant walrus with legs that was wearing a suit. Harry's mind visualized his uncle trying to roll about on a cold, windswept beach and had to bite his lower lip to keep from bursting out with laughter.
His Aunt Petunia's appearance always puzzled him, because she seemed so unlike her sister, Harry's mother, Lily'. Harry's mum had had long, auburn hair with a few brighter highlights and bright green eyes that Harry had inherited. She had had a slender build and was of medium height. Harry imagined his mum would come up to his nose if she had lived to see him grow up. Harry contrasted this with his Aunt Petunia, who was so skinny that she had a bony appearance. She had dull dirty blonde hair that she usually kept up in a severe bun. Her often-watery eyes were an unremarkable shade of blue, as well. She was about the same height that Harry imagined his mum to have been. She appeared taller due to her seemingly long neck, which she often craned around corners and out of windows in order to eavesdrop on the neighbours. While Harry obviously felt his mum was much prettier, he imagined that probably no one other than his Uncle Vernon found his aunt pretty. Her face reminded Harry of nothing more than the face of a horse, with a long nose, extremely thin lips, and extremely large teeth. At that point an image of Petunia with a feedbag tied around her face entered Harry's mind. This time, he did let out a snort of amusement.
In response to the noise, Uncle Vernon turned and scowled briefly at Harry before once again motioning for Harry to pick up his pace. Harry fought to suppress a grin as long as his uncle was watching, but he could feel his mouth quirking a bit at the corners. Finally, his uncle turned forward and continued on, and Harry allowed the grin to fully form on his face. Oddly enough, or maybe not, considering the events of the past week, Harry couldn't remember the last time he had smiled.
For a moment Harry felt guilty about smiling; after all, wasn't it partially his fault that his Godfather had been killed a week ago? But then he realized that he knew that Sirius would not have felt guilty about smiling, if the situations had been reversed. In fact, Harry imagined that if his Godfather had seen the images Harry had been contemplating, he wouldn't have likely limited himself to a smile or a snort, but would have burst out with that barking laughter of his. He allowed himself to bask a moment in that image. He hoped it would continue to get easier to think about Sirius like this. He couldn't imagine dwelling on Sirius like this a week ago, but he had to admit the weight in his chest seemed to lighten when he thought about the good things and didn't dwell so much on the loss.
Finally, they had reached the car. Harry quickly deposited his trunk into the boot and placed Hedwig's cage in with it. He had released Hedwig to fly home on her own after the Hogwarts Express had arrived at King's Cross Station. Harry quickly pushed the trolley to the curb and turned in time to see his cousin try to squeeze his bulk into the back seat of the car.
Dudley, it appeared, had finally settled on a size this past year, as he didn't appear any larger than he had the previous summer. He kept his blondish-brown hair cut tight to the head which gave his head a rather round shape. He still was the same height as his father, but was quite a bit wider. It appeared that the shock absorbers on that side of the car wouldn't be able to support his uncle and Dudley's combined weights. Harry could imagine the car literally tipping over on its side. He hid a smirk behind a cough as he climbed into the car behind his aunt.
Harry settled in for the ride after strapping his safety belt and lay his head against the car window to watch the scenery go by. Oddly enough, Uncle Vernon was refraining from his usual activity for the ride back to Privet Drive: complaining incessantly about Harry. The silence was actually a little unnerving, but Harry chalked it up to his relatives still trying to digest being confronted by Mad-Eye Moody at the station.
He had to grin at the thought of Mad-Eye promising to pay a visit to Privet Drive if Harry didn't send a letter every three days. He was greatly tempted to 'forget' to write once, just to see it happen. He tried to imagine his relatives sitting down to tea with Mad-Eye and a purple haired Tonks, and he had to bite his lip to keep from snickering.
He once again reflected upon the show of support the members of the Order had shown him at the station and felt a well of emotion creep up inside him. He really wished that he could've found the words to express the gratitude he had felt towards them earlier. He actually did have wonderful people in his life. He would be forever thankful for whatever power it was that allowed him to cross paths with Ron and Hermione.
Considering his thoughts about Ron and Hermione, Harry realized that he hadn't been the best of friends to either of them this past year. He had been way too self-absorbed in his problems and his battles with Umbridge. He understood, now, that he could have been much more helpful and supportive of Ron when he was struggling as the Keeper on the house Quidditch team. He also comprehended that sometimes he could have benefited from listening to Hermione more and following her advice. Harry made up his mind right there and then that he was going to do something when he got the chance to let them know what they meant to him. He also grasped that both would be coming of age during the next school year. Hermione would turn 17 in September and Ron would in March. He had never gone overboard for their birthdays before, but had determined this year to do something extra special for each of them. He would have to ask Mrs. Weasley or Professor Lupin about what kind of gift would be appropriate for a witch and wizard when they came of age.
Harry's thoughts begin turning sour as he considered coming of age. He would have to wait until the following July before he would reach that milestone. That was assuming, of course, that he would live until then. Harry was slowly understanding that he really didn't have a promise of seeing tomorrow. While Professor Dumbledore had assured Harry that he was safe while staying with the Dursleys, Harry had his doubts. Until a year ago, Harry had thought Hogwarts was safe for him, but he had been abducted right from the castle grounds and had been lucky to escape with his life. Even though Dumbledore had thought Harry was in the castle, there had been no guarantee that he truly was safe. He would need to be alert and vigilant this coming summer.
The prophecy… everything came back to the prophecy. Upon first hearing it, the part that had jumped out at him was the 'kill or be killed' part. Harry still wasn't sure if he could actually kill someone, even if that person was Voldemort, but the alternative, to die, was even worse in 'his mind. The part that hit him, now, was they way it had been worded, "Neither can live while the other survives." He wondered if that meant that his life would be put on hold in order to fulfil the prophecy. On the one hand, Harry felt that it made sense to not entangle himself in normal everyday happenings of life while this hung over his head, but another part of him, which suspiciously sounded a lot like Sirius, was telling him that he should seize whatever comfort and happiness he could… while he could.
It would be difficult to try to live in the dark times that were ahead, and Harry knew it would be a struggle for him to lower his guarded nature. Unfortunately, wonderful as Ron and Hermione were, they didn't always meet his needs or give him the right kind of helpful advice. He needed to make new friends; not to replace Ron and Hermione, but just to have more company and companionship than he currently had. In fact, Harry appreciated that he had actually begun forming new friendships this past year with both Ginny and Luna. The decision would be as to whether he would continue to pursue these friendships or withdraw and limit himself to being with just his two best friends as he had usually done in the past.
Actually, Ginny and Luna had both helped him this year in their own unique way. Ginny had helped him by arranging for him to talk to Sirius when he had been down after witnessing Snape's memory of his father. Despite his not wanting to involve her, she had organized for him to break into Umbridge's office, again, to try to check if Sirius was home or had been captured as his vision had indicated. When the moment of decision came in the Forbidden Forest, she had refused to be left behind when they went to the Ministry to rescue Sirius.
If he were honest with himself, Harry had to admit that despite the fact that he didn't want Ginny to come with them to the Ministry, he had been quite impressed with her and the way she had handled herself. Actually, now that he considered it, she had performed quite well during the D.A. meetings throughout the year, but at the time, he had chalked it up to her partner and boyfriend, Michael Corner, being afraid to hex her. Not only had she impressed him with her ability to handle herself, but she had also shown herself to be a very good flyer and Seeker when she had replaced him on the Quidditch team.
Harry resolved at that moment, that if the chance to become better friends with Ginny next year presented itself, he would take it. He remembered how guilty he had felt at Christmas when he had forgotten her ordeal in the Chamber and with Riddle's diary during her first year. Now, with the clear vision of perfect hindsight, he knew that he had missed a golden opportunity to make a true friend in the aftermath of the incident. Besides, she was right; she was the only person who could understand what he was going through with having to fight Voldemort.
His path to friendship with Luna was a totally different story. Harry remembered when he first met her on the 'Hogwarts Express to school and how strange he had found her. Poor Neville had been even more confused by her than he had been, Harry thought with a chuckle. It turned out that she was a loyal friend. She had been one of the first students to openly support him besides Hermione and the Weasleys. Also thanks to her and her father, Hermione had been able to arrange for his story about Voldemort's return to be printed in The Quibbler. Most importantly, she had helped him gain a little perspective on Sirius's death by reminding him that the people he loved were never truly gone. That had helped him feel a little better.
Harry was disappointed in the way her housemates apparently treated her: stealing her things and hiding them from her. Harry might not have much influence in Ravenclaw in the coming year due to his break up with Cho, but whatever influence he did have, he would try to use it to improve her lot with her housemates. He also determined that while he probably would never really understand her, he would try to be as good a friend to her as she had been to him.
"Boy, pay attention; I'm going to go over the rules for the summer once and only once. Break them at your own peril." Uncle Vernon's face was turning a nice shade of purple as he shouted at Harry. This caught Harry's attention and broke him out of his musing. He glanced up at his cousin and noticed him snickering under his hand.
"Now that I have your attention; you will stay in your room except to do your chores and to use the bathroom in the evening before bed. You will shower before bed each evening, no longer than five minutes. You will cook breakfast and lunch and eat them in the kitchen. Dinner will be served to you in your room and you will slide the tray out when you are finished. You will write your freak friends every three days, and I will screen every letter you send out. Do you understand?" By this point Uncle Vernon had spittle flying from his mouth and reminded Harry of a fat, rabid bulldog.
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry replied evenly, but without enthusiasm. So much for the Order, he thought. It appeared he was looking at two and a half months of solitary confinement and slave labour.
"Good, I'm glad we understand one another," his uncle responded, a smile forming on his face for the first time in a long while in Harry's presence. The only times Vernon ever smiled at Harry was when he felt he had gotten one up on Harry.
Harry comprehended, at that moment, he had been correct earlier. The Order wasn't going to be able to make anything better for him at his relatives' house this summer. With a sigh he leaned his head back against the window and watched the scenery as it passed by.
Harry must have dozed off. The next thing he knew, the door in front of him was slamming shut. He lifted his head up and looked around somewhat groggily. His Aunt Petunia was scurrying up the walk to the front door as quickly as her spindly legs would carry her.
The entire car shifted. Harry turned his head to his left and to see Dudley rocking back and forth trying to squeeze his bulk out of the backseat of the car. On the third rock, he managed to pull himself free. The exertion had caused him to become flushed, and sweat was beading all over his forehead. He glanced at Harry and blanched at Harry gazing upon him. He did a quick look around and then scrambled after his mother.
Harry heard the lock to the boot click and knew that Uncle Vernon must be behind the car. Harry opened the door and quickly stepped to the open boot to retrieve his belongings. Uncle Vernon glared at him before simply stating, "Get your freaky belongings up to your room. We will check before we go to bed to see if you need to use the loo. Otherwise, I don't want any noise or any freakishness going on. Understand?"
Harry lifted his trunk from the boot and simply rolled his eyes, responding, "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
After Harry pulled his trunk from the boot, he reached for Hedwig's cage and placed it on top of his trunk. His uncle then closed the lid and proceeded up the walk toward the front door. Harry sighed, turned his trunk on its side, and pulled the handle so that he could drag it. He carefully placed the cage on top and followed his uncle up the walk.
He pulled his trunk into the house gently, not wanting to ding the doorjamb and give his aunt or uncle any reason to get started on him. Once through the door, he quietly shut it and then began pulling the load up the stairs.
Once he climbed the stairs, he made his way immediately to his room and deposited his belongings in the centre of the room. He quickly visited the loo and relieved himself, since he wouldn't put it past his relatives to 'forget' to allow him out later. He then returned to his room and closed the door behind him.
The room hadn't really changed since the last time he had been there nearly a year before, except that the pile of broken junk from Dudley's room seemed to have grown a little larger. Harry moved across the room and opened the window to allow Hedwig in when she arrived. He wouldn't have been surprised if she took her time returning, since she had been cooped up in the castle for most of the school year. Harry hadn't sent or received many letters since Professor Umbridge, the High Inquisitor, had been screening the post.
Harry suppressed a shudder and absently rubbed the back of his right hand where the words, "I will not tell lies," were permanently etched. Harry had never reckoned that it would have been possible for him to find a teacher he would dislike more than his Potions professor, Severus Snape, but he had found one in Delores Umbridge. The toad-like woman had been a lackey for Minister Fudge during the school year and had taken special delight in making Harry miserable.
Thanks to that woman, Harry had nearly been expelled the previous summer and nearly had his wand snapped because he, as an underage wizard, had cast a Patronus Charm to repel the two Dementors she had sent after him the previous summer. She had then been appointed Defense professor when Dumbledore had failed to find anyone to fill the position. Harry had butted heads with her on several occasions due to her insistence that Voldemort had not returned, despite the fact that Harry had witnessed it with his own eyes. Furthermore, she proved herself to be incompetent as a teacher as it was her opinion, along with the Ministry, that the students would not need to actually practice any of the spells from their Defense curriculum. As a result Harry, at the behest of and with the help of Ron and Hermione, had formed a secret and illegal Defense study group called Dumbledore's Army, or the D.A. for short. That had nearly resulted in Harry getting expelled, again, when the group was betrayed by one of its members, Marietta Edgecombe. Marietta had joined the group at the urging of her close friend, Cho Chang, the girl Harry had gone out with this past year. The incident resulted in Dumbledore having to flee the school, as he had taken the blame for the group in Harry's stead.
Finally, Umbridge's attempts to control every aspect of the school had ended up costing Harry in the worst sort of way. Due to her closing and monitoring all methods of communication to and from Hogwarts, Harry had been unable to verify whether or not his godfather, Sirius Black, had been captured by Death Eaters. The vision Harry had suffered while taking his History of Magic OWL had seemed just as real as his vision of Arthur Weasley's injury right before Christmas had been. Harry had had no way of knowing that Voldemort was using their connection to plant the image in Harry's mind, just as he had planted the strange images of the Department of Mysteries all year. It had turned out that Sirius was safe at home, but then had to come to the Ministry to rescue Harry and his friends, and his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, had killed him in the resulting confrontation.
In the end, Umbridge had been undone by her own zealousness. She had been incapacitated and captured by the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest when Hermione had led the woman, along with Harry, to go in search of the weapon that the students in the D.A. had supposedly been preparing for Dumbledore. The plan (or lack of one) by Hermione had also nearly resulted in the two of them being injured or killed by the centaurs when Hagrid's half-brother Grawp had accidentally come to their rescue while searching for Hagrid.
During the battle in the Ministry, several witnesses saw Voldemort duel with Dumbledore, and the headmaster was restored to his post afterwards. Minister Fudge could no longer deny that Dumbledore had been trying to act in the best interests of the Wizarding World. It would be interesting to see what would happen to Umbridge. The last Harry had seen of her, she had had the indignity of being caned by Peeves as she was trying to leave Hogwarts.
While he was ruminating, Harry had set his trunk level and opened it. First, he took out his few sets of clothes and hung them up in the armoire that the Dursleys had put in the room after Dudley had broken the door off the hinges on one side. It was understood that Harry should hang any and all of his school robes and uniforms up in the side with the door to hide them from view, while his hand-me-downs from Dudley were to be hung where they would be displayed on the open side.
At this point ,Harry was strongly considering trying to convert some of his money in his vault at Gringotts to Muggle money and do some clothes shopping. The current set of hand-me-downs Harry possessed were at least two or three inches too short in length, while being several sizes too large. The result was that Harry often looked like a scarecrow when he was dressed at Privet Drive. Dudley's shirts literally hung off of Harry like blankets, while his pants rarely came down to the top of his ankles while sagging in the crotch. It was no wonder, Harry thought bitterly, that the neighbours all think I am some type of juvenile delinquent. He certainly dressed the part in Dudley's hand-me-downs.
Harry resolved that he would ask about planning a shopping trip to get some clothes in the first letter he wrote to the Order in three days. Until then, he would just have to make do with the ill-fitting clothes the Dursleys had given him.
Once Harry had hung up all of his clothes and placed his socks and undergarments in the drawers of the armoire, he got down on his knees by the bed and pried up the loose floorboard and began transferring the extra food he had purchased from the food trolley on the way home on the Hogwarts Express. That would have to serve as an emergency source of food if, as he suspected, at some point during the summer, his relatives tried to limit the amount of food he was given.
After a moment's deliberation, he also placed a stack of parchment, a couple of spare quills, and two bottles of ink in the space, as well. With Vernon planning to monitor his letters, Harry felt it might be prudent to have a secret stash of writing materials that he had access to. In the event his relatives began to really mistreat him, he would secretly send out a letter in the middle of the night to ask for help.
Even as he hid the items there, he knew that, most likely, he would never use them. At this point in his life, Harry was becoming resentful of adults treating him like he couldn't handle himself. Ultimately, it was this issue that had led Harry to the Department of Mysteries the previous week. If Dumbledore had trusted Harry with the truth about what was going on and that Voldemort was seeking the prophecy, Harry knew he would have tried harder in his Occlumency lessons with Snape. Instead, Harry was simply told to learn Occlumency without any reason for it. There hadn't been much chance of success; Harry and Snape went together like oil and water. Their mutual dislike for one another had sabotaged the effort from the beginning. Additionally, Harry was increasingly curious about the dream he had been having of the dark corridor, and so he rarely bothered to practice what Snape had taught him. Of course, Harry wasn't sure that Snape had actually taught him anything. Harry reckoned that it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that Snape had used the sessions as nothing more than a chance to take shots at him. He even considered the possibility that Snape wasn't as loyal to the Order as Dumbledore thought. If this were the case, Harry could easily imagine that Snape had used the sessions to further open Harry's mind to Voldemort, instead of teaching him to close it. If that were the case, then the Order had some serious troubles since Snape knew quite a great deal about the Order's dealings.
Harry was broken out of his musings by the arrival of an official looking owl with a letter attached to her leg. Harry looked the owl over carefully before deciding to remove the letter from her leg. As soon as Harry removed the envelope, it immediately took off and flew back out of the window.
Harry held the envelope in his hands and examined the address:
Harry J. PotterSmallest BedroomNumber Four, Privet DriveLittle WhingingSurrey
There was no return address on the envelope and the handwriting wasn't one that Harry recognized. In fact, it looked similar to the writing made by a quick quill. He figured it must be something official from either the Ministry or Gringotts, since he had received similar letters from them on occasion. Harry pulled the envelope open and touched the parchment within. Oh bugger. So much for being vigilant this summer, he thought, as the panic set in with the familiar tugging sensation from behind his navel.
His head felt like it was spinning. Harry struggled to crack his eyes open to see what was around him. When he opened them all he could make out was a bright light shining in his face. The light hurt his eyes, and the pain spread throughout his head, so he closed them.
It was then that he began hearing strange voices. It seemed that there was someone near him, mumbling incantations. Then he felt a jolt of something like electricity hit his body. He opened his mouth to cry out, but although he could feel his vocal chords vibrating, no sound came out. Then he knew no more.
He heard the voices again. He couldn't make out what they were saying, but they seemed to be discussing something. Once again, Harry risked opening his eyes. This time, the room was nearly pitch black. He could see two figures standing about five feet from where he was laying. It was too hard to concentrate, so he simply closed his eyes again.
He had nearly drifted off to sleep when someone grabbed him and forced his mouth open. He then had the misfortune to have a foul-tasting liquid poured into his mouth. The person holding his jaws open clamped his mouth shut and held it closed until Harry swallowed. Suddenly, he felt a burning sensation in his stomach that spread throughout his body.
This was followed by another strange incantation, and then Harry felt as if every cell in his body was trying to rearrange itself. Again, he let out a loud scream that apparently had been silenced. He felt himself slipping into unconsciousness.
Consciousness came back to Harry in fits and spurts. Finally, he was coherent enough to open his eyes. The bright light was still shining in his face, and he reflexively closed them, again. While he lay there, he concentrated on what he was hearing, feeling, and smelling. He tried not to dwell on the taste in his mouth, but he thought it probably had something to do with the potion he had been force-fed earlier. He lay there for what seemed to be hours to him.
He jolted awake as he felt something or someone poking him with a pointed object. The person seemed to be focused on what reactions, if any, he would make to the prodding. After what seemed like forever, he surrendered himself to the sleep that was threatening to overtake him.
Harry sat up from his bed with a start. His heart was pounding. His breath was coming in gasps. His whole body ached as if he had been subjected to Cruciatus. He sat there, blinking his eyes and trying to clear the tears from them. Finally, his breath slowed and his heart rate returned to normal. He was thoroughly drenched in sweat.
Harry tentatively swung his legs over the edge of the bed and put his feet on the floor. He brought his hands to his face and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. His head was pounding with pain. Harry figured that this was what it felt like to take a Bludger to the head.
As he sat there, Harry had tried to remember the strange dreams he had been having right before he had woken up. All he could remember were fleeting images of hooded figures and whispers in the dark. After a few minutes, Harry gave up and realized he had a more pressing need.
His bladder felt as if it was going to burst. Harry shakily got to his feet and moved to the door. He tentatively tried the handle, hoping that his relatives hadn't locked him inside this morning. Luckily the door was unlocked. Harry quietly slid the door open and crept as stealthily as possible towards the loo.
Harry quickly relieved himself and took a sip of water to relieve the dryness in his mouth. It was when he looked in the mirror that it hit him. He wasn't wearing his glasses and his vision was as clear as day. He looked around the bathroom and saw that everything was perfectly clear to his unaided eyes. This was a puzzle that Harry couldn't even begin to fathom.
Harry silently crept back to his room, keeping alert for any sounds of his relatives. The house seemed oddly silent for morning. It almost seemed as if no one was home. Harry made his way back to his room and prepared to change out of his clothes. He took off his shirt and reached for the armoire and found that all of his clothes were gone. He checked all of the drawers and it was the same. He wildly looked around the room and noticed his books, trunk, and Hedwig's cage were all missing, as well. In fact, were he not standing in the room and the bed unmade, Harry would have thought the room was just an empty spare.
Harry's mind raced, could the Dursleys have taken all of his things while he slept last night? He checked his back pocket and much to his relief his wand was there. Harry quickly ran his fingers through his hair and tried to figure out what was going on.Harry obviously wasn't going to find his answers in his room, so he turned around and crept back out into the hallway. He quietly checked Dudley's room to find it empty, but as messy as it always was. He then peered into the master bedroom to find everything neat and orderly, and the bed appeared not to have been slept in.
Suddenly, Harry had an irrational thought that his relatives had stolen all of his things and then abandoned him in the house. Harry quietly crept down the stairs, being careful to step over the creaky step near the bottom. He looked up and down the hallway, glanced into the sitting room, and heard how quiet it was in the house. He slinked down the hallway, pausing to briefly check in the cupboard under the stairs to see if his things were there.
A quick glanced confirmed that his belongings were apparently not in the house. Harry slipped the door closed and prepared to enter the kitchen and dining rooms. He stepped into the combination kitchen and dining room and found, like the rest of the house, it had been abandoned. Harry was absolutely puzzled. His stomach also let out the loudest growl at that point. Harry’s stomach reminded him that before he did anything else, he needed a bite to eat.
Harry pulled a glass from the cabinet over the sink and then turned to the refrigerator to get either some milk or some type of fruit juice to drink. He would then decide on what to have for breakfast, based on what he found available in the refrigerator.
Harry muttered incomprehensibly when the opened refrigerator revealed itself to be nearly empty. There was no milk or juice. There were no eggs, lunchmeats, or cheeses. There wasn't anything at all that could spoil within a week or two. Harry suddenly had a very sick feeling in his stomach. It appeared his relatives had been gone for at least a week, perhaps longer. He began wondering just how long he had slept.
At that moment, Harry's need for information outweighed his need for food. He closed the door and returned to the sink. He quickly filled and drained a couple of glasses of water and then rinsed the glass and returned it to its place in the cabinet.
Harry squared his shoulders and made his way to the front door. He unlatched the locks and opened it gingerly. He peered around outside and noticed that is was a dreary day with heavy cloud cover. The sombreness of the weather matched Harry's own emotions as he stepped from the front door and shut it behind him.
Harry could think of only one place to go where he could get more information about what had happened to the Dursleys and what was to happen to him, now that they appeared to be gone. Harry needed to get to Mrs. Figg's house on Wisteria Walk and see if she had any way to contact the Order.
Harry quickly made his way to the sidewalk. He was keeping an eye out for anyone suspicious, especially anyone who seemed interested in him beyond a cursory stare that he usually received from the neighbours.
The street seemed quiet, as usual. In fact, it was even more quiet than usual. It was possible there were no children playing in the streets or yards due to the gloomy weather. Harry quickly made his way up the street to the street crossing to make his way over to Wisteria Walk.
This street, like Privet Drive, seemed abandoned, but Harry suddenly felt, beyond a shadow of doubt, that he was being watched and followed. He quickly ran through his options and concluded that just ahead was the alleyway where he and Dudley had met the Dementors last summer. Harry quickly ducked into the alley and hid himself behind a rubbish bin.
Harry crouched there, gripping his wand tightly in his right hand, and listened carefully. The only sounds he heard were a couple of birds chirping in their nest, waiting for their mother to return with food, and the occasional car passing by the alley.
Harry was about to just give up and step out of his hiding place, when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and he heard it. Someone was stepping very lightly down the alley. It was almost as if they were trying to not be heard. Harry peered around the bin in the direction of the sound, trying to catch a glimpse of his pursuer. He saw no one, at first, but then noticed the bending of light that gave away someone who has been Disillusioned but is moving.
He kept listening. There were the distinct steps of at least two or possibly three individuals. Carefully he peered again and looked carefully. He had marked the first opponent easily. The second was a few steps behind the first. He couldn't make out the third, but he knew he couldn't wait any longer. The first had nearly reached his hiding place.
Quickly, Harry rolled from his hiding place and fired a Stunning Spell as he paused in a low crouch. There was a bright flash of light, a curse, and then a thud as his first opponent went down in a heap.
He quickly raised a Shield Charm when he heard a male voice utter, "Reducto." The Reductor Curse rebounded harmlessly away from his shield. Harry responded by stepping two steps to his left and casting a spell he had seen mentioned in one of his Defense books he had received from Sirius and Lupin.
"Contundo," Harry bellowed. He could actually feel the recoil from his wand as the spell left it. A blaze of light streaked towards the spot where he knew the person was standing. He heard his opponent swear and then cast a Shielding Charm. The sound of the spell striking the shield sounded like wood cracking and then there was a crash and several rubbish bins toppled over directly behind where his opponent was standing. He heard the thud of a body hitting the pavement and then a groan of pain.
Harry assumed a crouching defensive stance as he sought to locate the third opponent in the alley. He cocked his head to the side, trying to hear the telling sounds of someone approaching. While he listened, his mind raced for a spell that would help him in this situation. He needed to use something that would be widespread, so that he wouldn't have to aim precisely in his opponent's direction, but Harry didn't know any such spells. He noted to himself that he would need to learn some, if he managed to survive this confrontation.
Finally, he heard what his was listening for: a footstep. This was quickly followed by a curse and then the skittering of a can across the alley. As quick as a cat, Harry pointed and whispered, "Frendo." Once again Harry's wand recoiled, although this time much more softly. Little streaks of light arced away from Harry's wand and then began closing into the general direction where Harry thought his opponent was.
His opponent cursed, and he heard a step taken and then a thud, as if the person had fallen. Suddenly, a head appeared in front of Harry on the ground. Harry was ready to cast again when the purple hair caught his attention. He hesitated and that hesitation cost him. He heard the word, "Stupefy."
Harry tried to dodge to his left, but he wasn't quick enough as the red beam of light hit him square in the chest. He felt pain shoot throughout his body, and his chest felt as if he had been hit with a Bludger. His vision blurred as he struggled to fight the malaise overtaking him. He staggered a couple of steps and then heard the word again, "Stupefy." He felt this one slam into his shoulder and he spun to the ground. The pavement was rising up to greet him and darkness overtook him.