On the night before the last day of July, the fourth house on Privet Drive was quite calm and quiet. This was actually an abnormal occurrence for this residence because between Vernon, Petunia and Dudley Dursley and Harry Potter, there was always something to yell about.
It was partly because of Harry's two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, that there had quite a bit of yelling at Privet Drive lately. The Dursleys barely put up with one wizard under their roof, so they had no tolerance for the presence of three. Well, two wizards and a witch actually, but it had been too much for them to bear. Ron and Hermione had insisted, and Harry had been too worn out to argue; so in the end the Dursleys had been overruled, and Hermione and Ron returned from King's Cross Station to Privet Drive with Harry.
That arrangement had lasted about three days. The three of them hadn't really thought it through; not even Hermione, who was quite good at finding flaws in their plans. Ron and Harry slept in Harry's room, while Hermione slept in the guest room. And that was just about all they had done. They had just hung around for three days. Three long, boring days of sitting in the park, because the Dursleys didn't want them in the house, and there was quite a bit more room to stretch out in at the park. Then, on the third night, Ron, in a stroke of brilliance, had come up with a reasonable solution.
Hermione would return to her parents, Ron would return to his family, and Harry would endure the Dursleys until the beginning of August. Ron's brother, Bill, was getting married on the first Saturday in August, and the three of them would meet at the Burrow before the wedding. From there they would set out to search for the remaining Horcruxes.
This plan made sense, as it meant putting off their searching until Harry was legally able to perform magic, which he could do after his seventeenth birthday.
Harry couldn't wait for his birthday, which was now only one hour away, because in the wizarding world, he would be of age, legally an adult. He could do magic freely, though it was still illegal to perform magic in front of Muggles: he would definitely be in trouble if he turned the Dursleys into newts as he had daydreamed of doing. For once, Harry was looking forward to his birthday; and for another first, his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and his cousin Dudley were also looking forward to Harry's birthday. It was the day that he would be leaving them forever.
Harry had formed a plan to get to the Burrow. He was going to flag down the Knight Bus in Little Whinging, go into London and stay at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the house he had inherited from his godfather. From there he was going to take the Underground, and then walk to the Leaky Cauldron. Then he was going to Floo to the Burrow. It was a bit complicated, but Harry thought it would be best if he were to try and elude anyone who might want to follow him. After Bill and Fleur's wedding, Harry, Ron and Hermione were going to set out on the dangerous adventure of destroying the remaining pieces of Voldemort's soul.
At least that had been the plan until about three days ago. Harry had received a certified message from one Godric Coe, asking him to put his Horcrux searching on hold and to allow Mr. Coe to treat him to a birthday dinner.
Harry had never met anyone with the surname of Coe. He had been quite sure at first that the letter was some sort of trap set by Voldemort to kill him or kidnap him, but something Coe had written had made him think twice about it.
Horcrux. He knew about the Horcruxes.
Harry had not mentioned the Horcruxes to anyone apart from Ron and Hermione, and of course he had talked to Professor Dumbledore about them. Professor Dumbledore was dead, and Ron and Hermione would die before telling anyone about them. So how did this Coe character know about them?
A knock on the front door brought an abrupt end to Harry's brooding and he jumped to his feet. Coe had said in his letter that he would arrive at eleven thirty on the eve of Harry's birthday to collect him.
Harry beat his uncle to the door, which was not a huge accomplishment, as his uncle was a large, beefy man, who surprised Harry every time he was able to stand up.
"Is that one of your freak friends calling this late at night?" Uncle Vernon grunted at him. "I thought we got rid of them for good."
"Dunno," Harry said. "It might be someone coming to take me away. You don't want them to get upset and change their mind do you?"
Uncle Vernon gave another grunt. He had taken to grunting in Harry's presence rather than using actual words. He glared at his nephew for a moment longer before turning back into the living room.
Harry stared at the front door, wondering what or who could possibly be on the other side. After another moment's thought, he slowly opened the door.
Light poured out onto the doorstep, and onto a smiling man.
"Hello Harry," the man said. "I'm Eric Coe. I'll be your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts."
Harry hadn't really known what to expect when he had first thought about Coe. What he saw was nothing like the picture he had imagined. For one, Coe looked practically normal: he didn't look like a wizard at all, apart from his cloak. Coe was taller than Harry, but not by much, and Harry wasn't sure that Coe would win a height contest when measured against Ron. He had wavy dark brown hair, which stopped gracefully at his chin. Peering at Harry from behind a pair of glasses were bright blue eyes with long black eyelashes. He looked healthy and tan, but not in a way that suggested that he worked for his bread. No, Coe, Harry was certain, came from a family of great wealth. His robes looked expensive, and his traveling cloak looked especially tailored to match the rest of his outfit.
"That position is cursed," Harry said, not really realizing what he was saying until the words had escaped his lips.
But instead of looking alarmed, Coe chuckled. "Well, we'll see what we can do about that. May I come in?"
"Oh, yeah, of course," Harry replied, and held the door open. Coe stepped into number four, Privet Drive and Harry closed the door. "My aunt and uncle are watching the end of the late evening news. It would probably be best if we didn't disturb them."
"That's not a problem, Harry," Coe said as he checked his pocket-watch. "We do need to hurry a bit. Do you have your trunk packed? Good, the sooner we get out of here the better."
Harry nodded and climbed a few stairs before turning and looking at the wizard in the hall.
"How do I know I can trust you?" Harry asked, suddenly wary of his companion. Six years at Hogwarts had taught Harry a lot. Most importantly he had learnt that even teachers can make mistakes; nobody is infallible, especially wise adults; and not all wizards are good wizards.
"If I had come to hurt you, wouldn't I have done it by now?" Coe replied, looking slightly amused.
"Perhaps," Harry said. "But I don't know what sort of protection Dumbledore set up here. You might not be able to hurt me while it's still up and running."
"What can I say to you to convince you to trust me?" Coe asked. "I assure you, I am only here to help."
"Help how?" Harry asked.
"I told you in my letter."
"No you didn't, you asked me not to go looking for the other-" Harry stopped and thought for a moment about Coe's letter. "How did you know about the things that you wanted me not to look for?"
"The Horcruxes?" Coe casually asked. "Why, Professor Dumbledore contacted me, of course. Months ago, before he died. I gave him a negative answer at first, but then after his funeral, Fawkes appeared in my sitting room and dropped a letter into my tea. And it was this letter that... well, it was most convincing. So I decided that if you would at least hear me out, then what I know would be of some use to you."
"What was his favorite sweet?" Harry asked.
"Lemon Drops," Coe replied immediately. "But honestly, Harry, everyone knows that. Thrust them upon everyone he met, didn't he? Come now, you can do better than that!"
Harry narrowed his eyes. "What was his favorite kind of jam?"
Again, to Harry's surprise, Coe did not react as he expected. Instead of looking confused, Professor Coe's mouth broke into a broad grin.
"Raspberry," Coe replied. "In fact he told you that after you mentioned those dreadful pamphlets the Ministry sent out last year. He said you might ask something like that. Does that satisfy you, Harry?"
Harry nodded. "It does."
"Good, now let's get moving. We're on a timed Portkey here, and if we miss it... well, let's just not miss it okay?"
Within a few minutes, Harry was back on the landing, his trunk at his feet, his wand up his sleeve and his cloak in his hand.
"Good, good," Coe said, looking Harry over. "You certainly are taller than when I last saw you."
"When did you last see me?" Harry asked.
"Another time," Coe replied, waving away Harry's question with his hand. "I'll tell you about it when we have more time. For now, as always, time is against us, and we must depart. Do you wish to say goodbye to your family?"
"Family?" Harry scoffed. "That lot? Not likely."
"Well, at least your Aunt Petunia," Coe said. "In a weird twist of circumstances, it is her blood that has kept you alive and safe all these years."
Harry rolled his eyes and walked into the living room.
"Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, I'm leaving now," Harry announced. Neither of them looked up at him, though Uncle Vernon gave a grunt. "So, bye then."
When no further acknowledgment was made, Harry picked up his trunk and followed Coe out of the front door.
"You have no idea how glad I am to be out of that place," Harry said, stepping into the cool night air.
"I can only imagine," Coe said. "Come on, we need to get further away from the house."
"What time is our Portkey set for?" Harry asked.
They crossed the street and walked right up to number five's garage door. Coe was keeping an eye on his pocket-watch, and holding a roll of parchment.
"Right now Harry, under that Invisibility Cloak I know you've got tucked underneath your traveling robe. Best you aren't seen."
"Please Harry, under the cloak, and keep quiet, no matter what you see or hear. And here is your Portkey."
Harry pulled his Invisibility Cloak out and threw it over himself, dozens of questions flying through his mind. He clutched the rolled parchment tightly in his hand.
"All right there, Coe?" came a familiar voice and a mousey-haired witch's head popped up out of nowhere.
"Right on time, Tonks," Coe replied. "Are you ready to set those Charms?"
"We're as ready as we'll ever be," Tonks replied and slipped back under her Invisibility Cloak. A few moments later the surrounding houses glowed a translucent pink before number four burst into flames.
Harry managed control his shock, and when Coe didn't move to do anything, Harry realized this must be some sort of Charm. In fact once he thought about it, he remembered that he had seen Professor Dumbledore use something just like it once.
"Steady, Harry," Coe whispered, as he cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself. "You're going to see something in a moment, but don't let go of that Portkey, no matter what happens."
Harry nodded, and even though he was invisible and Coe couldn't see the motion, Harry thought that Coe understood it all the same. It was another thirty seconds before a number of loud cracks filled the air, the sounds of a dozen or so Death Eaters, cloaked and masked, Apparating to the front of number four. Harry's scar seared with pain; then he felt the Portkey activate, felt the pull from behind his navel that was taking him to safety.
Author's Notes: A huge thank you goes out to my beta, Paula, for whipping this into shape. Thank you thank you thank you!!! ~Belle