Harry lay sprawled out on his bed, his long limbs hanging off the edges, staring at the ceiling. He was fully clothed in a new pair of trousers and dress shirt that he had recently purchased, waiting for the booming voice of Vernon Dursley to call him down to the living room.
Though Harry had to admit he liked the way his new, proper-fitting clothes looked on him, he wasn’t looking forward to spending the entire night at a wedding for Dudley’s girlfriend’s sister with the Dursleys, who most undoubtedly did not want him there.
The Dursleys never would have even considered inviting him along, but Dudley’s new girlfriend, Sara, had asked him if he was bringing a date to the wedding. When Harry told her he wasn’t going because he didn’t think he was invited, she had insisted that he was going (it was her sister’s wedding so she could invite whomever she wanted), and had whisked him and Dudley off to a local shopping centre and helped Harry pick out an outfit.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, who did not want to upset Dudley by making a scene about Harry’s “unnaturalness” in front of his girlfriend, had no choice but to allow Harry to be invited to the wedding. But the minute Sara had left the house, they had berated Harry for “inviting himself” to the wedding, and warned him that if he screwed this up he’d find himself locked in the cupboard again for an undisclosed, but long, period of time.
Harry found these were empty threats. He’d be seventeen in a few days and could easily and legally magic himself out if he did happen to “cause a scene” at the wedding. He’d be leaving in a few days anyway to attend Bill and Fleur’s wedding and then start his hunt for the Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. He doubted that the Dursleys and a cupboard would deter his plans.
After getting invited to the wedding he had to, of course, owl the Order to tell them where he’d be going, since they had a nasty habit of watching and following him these days. He’d also owled Ron and Hermione about the whole event. The two of them had spent the first few weeks of summer at the Dursleys with Harry, but had recently returned home, on Harry’s insistence, to spend time with their own families. Both of themhad met Sara and liked her, despite her dating Dudley, and would get a kick out of her inviting Harry right under the Dursleys’ noses.
“Boy, get down here! We’re leaving!” shouted Vernon from the foot of the stairs. Harry shook himself from his stupor, straightening his clothes and checking his reflection in the mirror.
‘Not bad,’ he thought to himself, examining his strong, chiseled jaw line and recently shaved face.
He’d started to notice not long ago that his face no longer held any of the adolescent roundness that made him look like he might be twelve and he had to admit that he was starting to look like a man of seventeen. He’d grown a few inches, and was now just a shade over six feet. He still was skinny for being sixteen, but he no longer had that awkward, scrawny look about him. He’d filled out in the shoulders and chest and his arm and stomach muscles were clearly defined even under Dudley’s hand-me-downs.
Apparently he wasn’t too bad looking. He had noticed the smiles and looks he received from girls he had passed while shopping with Dudley and Sara. Sara had even mentioned how handsome he had looked when she forced him to come out of the changing room to model his outfit.
“I don’t know how the girls keep their hands off you at that school you go to,” Sara had said, eying him, “Whoever she is, she’s a lucky girl.”
All Harry could do was smirk stupidly and watch with delight as Dudley’s face contorted into a bulge of rage and jealousy.
Sara wasn’t bad looking and she was really nice. Harry couldn’t fathom how she had ended up with an oaf like Dudley, but she seemed to have a good effect on his pig-headed demeanor. Harry wasn’t interested in Sara like that. Dudley could have her. His heart belonged to someone else, but he couldn’t think about that right now.
Eyeing himself in the mirror again, he tried to flatten his hair and tuck parts of it behind his ears to tame it a bit. He still had his impossibly messy mop of black hair that refused to lie flat no matter what. But it suited him and added to his good looks. He had even let it grow a bit longer, almost to his shoulders, and he enjoyed this shaggier look.
“Boy! GET DOWN HERE NOW!” screamed Vernon from down the stairs. Harry quickly pulled himself away from the mirror leapt down the stairs to join the Dursleys, who were standing near the door. Dudley and Vernon were in suits and Aunt Petunia was in a frilly blue dress, all clearly ready and waiting to leave.
“I meant what I said,” whispered Vernon withforced calmness, taking Harry’s new red dress shirt in his stubby fingers, “anything funny happens, anything out of the ordinary, and I’ll shove you in that cupboard and throw away the key.”
Harry nodded and followed the Dursleys out the front door, climbing into the backseat of the silver Audi next to Dudley, who glared at him with a look of utter loathing and then turned to look out the window.
It wasn’t as though Harry especially wanted to spend the evening at a wedding with the Dursleys. But Sara had invited him and he wanted to be nice. Plus, he’d never been to a wedding before, or any real party for that matter. ‘It could be fun,’ he thought. ‘And I could use some of that.’ He whispered silently as the Dursleys’ car pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.
‘I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in...well...forever,’ Harry thought to himself as he plopped into the backseat of the Dursleys’ Audi. A tired-looking Dudley opened the other backseat door and slid over next to Harry, pulling Sara in after him.
“Have a good time?” Sara questioned over Dudley as she leaned across Dudley, who was holding her hand and smiling stupidly at her.
“Yeah, I had a blast. Thanks for inviting me,” Harry grinned, throwing his head back against the headrest and closing his eyes. The truth was that he had trulyhad fun. He was exhausted from the noisy and chaotic nature of the wedding reception. He was full from the delicious food at the dinner. And he was a bit tipsy from the few glasses of beer he had.
For a few hours, Harry had been able to forget about the prophecy, about the Horcruxes, about his destiny. For the first time in a long time, he’d felt like a teenager. Hell, he’d even played a drinking game with Dudley, which he could proudly say he’d won. Everything about the night had just seemed so surreal, so surreal,so much so that he had felt...normal.
“I didn’t know you could dance, Potter,” blurted Dudley suddenly. Whether it was the alcohol or the fact that Dudley was holding the hand of a very pretty girl that made him talk, Harry didn’t know, but it still brought a smile to his face.
“Neither did I,” he smirked, not bothering to lift his head.
His thoughts flickered back to a few hours ago when Sara had pulled him, although he was unwilling,onto the dance floor after spotting him sitting in a corner by himself. He thought he must have looked incredibly stupid. The only time he had ever danced before had been at the Yule Ball during fourth year, and if memory served him correctly, he wasn’t exactly graceful.
But shortly after the music had stopped and both he and Sara were giggling and forgetting their inhibitions, a very pretty blonde girl had came up from behind him and asked if he’d dance with her. After a push from Sara, he’d found himself dancing with her, and then with several other girls at the wedding.
A very flustered-looking Uncle Vernon dropped himself into the driver’s seat and reached across to open the door for his wife. Aunt Petunia scooted into the passenger seat and turned to face the teens in the backseat.
“Did you all have a nice time?” she said smiling, obviously forgetting Harry was sitting in the back too.
“Yeah,” chimed the three teens.
Uncle Vernon made a coughing noise in the front seat and fired up the car.
“Are you all right, Vernon?” questioned Aunt Petunia, giving her husband a worried look. Uncle Vernon was red, well, redder than usual, and despite sitting down and not doing anything strenuous, he was sweating.
“Yes, I’m just a bit tired I guess from all the excitement,” he said giving his wife a reassuring pat on the arm.
Petunia seemed to accept this and turned her attention to the radio, which she switched on and turned to her favorite station. Vernon put the car into drive and pulled onto the roadway that led back to Little Whinging.
Harry was still lost in the bliss had been experiencing from that evening. He hadn’t been this happy or had this much fun in a while. The time he’d spent recently with his friends had been filled with a few lighthearted moments—like Ron finally getting up the courage to take his relationship with Hermione seriously—but in the background had always been that dread, the waiting for something to happen, and the feeling that he was putting his life on hold until he had destroyed Voldemort.
But tonight, he had put all that aside. It had felt so good to let loose and act like there wasn’t a care in the world. He’d drunk a little, had fun—with Dudley of all people, and had even danced with girls he had just met.
He’d enjoyed it and had fun, but still, underneath all that fun, he wished there was one person he could have shared it with. There was one person he wished he could have shared a dance, or two, or ten with. He had pretended, with every girl he had danced with that night, that it was Ginny he was holding.
‘I’ve never danced with her,’ he suddenlythought to himself.
Suddenly he found himself dreaming of Ginny, remembering their walks around the lake and snuggling on the couch in Gryffindor common room. He let all the memories he had been trying to suppress flood into his mind.
God, he missed her. It was so unfair that he couldn’t have her. He had to do what was right and protect her. It was the only way they could ensure that they’d have a life together after this was all over, after he became a murderer or...well...he didn’t want to think of the alternative at the moment.
“Wonder if she’ll dance with me at her brother’s wedding?” he mumbled to himself. A small smile slid across his face as images of Ginny looking beautiful in her bridesmaid’s robes and dancing closely in his arms flitted across his mind.
“What are you smiling about, Harry? Your gir—” but Sara’s sassy inquiry was drowned out by Aunt Petunia screaming in the front seat. Harry’s eyes shot open and he quickly scanned the front seat.
Uncle Vernon’s hulking figure was hunched over the steering wheel. Sick, choking noises were coming from his throat and he had gone into convulsions, his meaty neck now turning blue.
“Vernon! VERNON!” Aunt Petunia screamed again, shaking her husband and desperately trying to take control of the steering wheel that was now pinned beneath his massive, unconscious girth. He was too heavy for her to lift, and his huge frame was now steering the car straight towards the guardrail on the opposite side of the road, his dead weight pressing on the accelerator.
Harry’s first instinct was to grab for his wand and somehow get Uncle Vernon’s weight off the wheel. But as he reached toward his back pocket, he suddenly realized he hadn’t brought it. He didn’t think he’d need it tonight and he really hadn’t had a place to put it in his new clothes. STUPID!
Relying on his Quidditch instincts and reflexes, he unbuckled his seatbelt and reached forward to jerk the wheel, but it was too late. The silver Audi hit the metal guardrail head on.
There was a sickening crunch of metal on metal and a squeal of sparks as the car smashed through the barrier. Harry suddenly felt his body become airborne as the car careened down the side of the steep hill.
‘The seatbelt!’ he screamed in his head as the car flipped over and Harry saw the windshield and the tree that the car was about to hit coming at him. Before he could register the sick crunching noise of his body hitting the windshield, blackness had consumed him.
‘What the hell is that buzzing noise?’ he thought to himself.
A loud drone or humming noise was filling his ears, everything else seemed muffled and he could hear faint noises piercing the humming....
‘It sounded like....no, it couldn’t be....who’d be screaming?’
If only he could open his eyes see where it was coming from he could use his wand and make it stop, it was really hard to sleep with all that noise.
‘Sleep...yeah that sounds good.’
Sara groped around and felt for the seatbelt that was holding her in. She found the buckle and pushed it, waiting for a soft click. Holding the side of the car, she slid herself down to the floor, which had previously been the roof and crawled through the broken glass of the crumpled window and onto the soft grass beside the car. She surveyed herself, feeling for any broken bones or other serious injuries, but found only cuts and scrapes, and one hell of a bump on her head.
She looked back into the car, expecting to see Dudley, who had been strapped in beside her before they had crashed, but there was no one in the back seat.
“Dudley?” she called out loud, hoping he was somewhere nearby. She called again when she got no answer and a scraping noise could be heard coming from the passenger side of the car. Sara limped around the back of the car to see Dudley frantically pulling at the mangled and crumpled car door.
Sara breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Dudley. He didn’t look injured; he was standing and trying to get someone out. Sara hurried over to his side and peered into the overturned wreck.
Petunia Dursley was still strapped in her seat, her eyes wide open, but non-seeing. Her neck was bent at a strange angle and her face covered in a thin layer of blood.
She was dead.
This clearly hadn’t registered with Dudley and he continued to frantically pull at the door, hoping to drag out his mother. Sara reached out a hand to touch Dudley’s shoulder and he pulled back on contact.
“Dad’s dead.” Dudley cried frantically, “We need to get Mum out, she’s still trapped and there’s gas leaking...we need to....”
“Dudley,” Sara whispered bracingly, “you can’t help her. We need to get away from here in case that gas catches fire.” She turned her head toward the mangled back end of the car and could see the clear liquid wetting the ground around them.
But Dudley just stood there, staring at the car, at his parents, feeling truly alone for the first time in his life.
“Dudley, come on...we need to get as far away as we can and wait until help comes,” gasped Sara, trying to tug Dudley away from the wreck. “Your back is bleeding. We need to get that taken care of.”
Sara took him by his hand and started to lead him away. She turned back to view the wrecked car, checking to see if there was any sign of fire that might prematurely ignite it.
She glanced at the car and couldn’t help but feel sad, feel Dudley’s pain. He’d lost his mum and dad and they wouldn’t be there to watch him go through the important parts of his adulthood. He and Harry were both alone now. Dudley had told her about how Harry’s parents had died in a car crash when he was little and had been sent to... ‘Shit!’
“Dudley, where’s Harry?” Sara shouted, spinning him around to face her.
“Dunno...I didn’t see him anywhere. He wasn’t in the car when I got out,” mumbled Dudley, continuing to stare blankly into the night, tears rolling freely down his cheeks.
“Dud, wait. We have to go see if he’s not still in the car...what if that gas...” but Dudley cut her off and turned quickly toward the car.
“He wasn’t in the car, I would have seen him when I...when I checked on Dad...” Dudley trailed off and stared at the ground that was covered in ruts and deep gouges from the path of the car. Dudley seemed to be contemplating the ruts, deep in thought, when his head popped up and he started at Sara.
“He wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. He tried to stop the car from crashing... he tried to grab the wheel...tried to save us,” stuttered Dudley with a look of dawning comprehension.
“He could have been thrown from the car and he could be badly hurt. We need to go back and see....” urged Sara, whipping around towards the car. But Dudley grabbed her arm and started dragging her further away.
“What are you—Dudley—let go!”
“That engine could spark and car could explodeand we’d both be killed,” scowled Dudley, “I’m not going to lose you too. Besides, Potter can take care of himself.”
“Are you crazy? What if the car explodes and he’s still alive? For God’s sake, Dudley...Harry’s your cousin,” snarled Sara as she wrenched her arm out of Dudley’s grasp and started back toward the car.
Snippets of a heated conversation woke Harry out of his slumber and he lay there with his eyes closed, not wanted to move or open them. He must have been deep asleep because the voices were muffled and he felt so warm and fuzzy.
Maybe the Dursleys had left him in the car and gone in without him? Maybe that was them inside still shouting about allowing Harry to go to the wedding?
‘Maybe I’ll just stay here for a bit, venture inside if it gets too cold?’ he thought to himself.
What were they talking about an exploding car for? And what did that have to do with him? They couldn’t be possibly blaming Harry for an exploding car that he had no recollection of. His magic had gotten out of hand a few times, sure...but he wasn’t so pissed tonight that he didn’t recall blowing up any cars.
‘Wait a minute...car...Uncle Vernon...guard rail...windshield... Oh, God!’
His instant realization seemed to shake him out of his slumber and he was thrown back into his senses. The muffled sounds that his ears had been picking up on the past few minutes suddenly were loud and clear. He could hear a car engine humming loudly in the background and the noise of the wind whistling through the tree above him. He could hear someone calling his name...a girl...Sara.
And Merlin did his head hurt. As a matter of fact, his whole body felt like it had been run over by the Knight Bus, several times. He tried opening his eyes, afraid of what he’d see when he did. His eyes fluttered open and struggled to get a handle on his surroundings as things seemed to spin and come in and out of focus. Squinting into the darkness, he could make out the front end of the car he’d been riding in.
Harry slowly moved his head from side to side trying to figure out exactly where he was, but could only see the car in front of him because it hurt to bad to move.
The pain was beginning to get to him and he felt his breath catching in his chest. He leaned his head back and found it met a hard surface behind him. Looking up, he saw the thick branches of a huge oak tree branching out above him.
‘At least I didn’t hit the tree with my face,’ he thought brightly to himself, letting a small laugh go.
But the force of the laugh caused the pain to intensify and he felt a warm bubbly feeling creep up his throat. He coughed, and felt something wet fall down his chin.
“Oh, God,” he cried to himself, at the same time someone nearby said the same thing.
Sara ran back to see if she could find Harry. She thought maybe he had been thrown from the car and had landed farther away. She scanned the area around the car, looking for possible places he could have landed, hoping she wouldn’t find him dead with a broken neck somewhere.
She ran past the tree that the car was pinned up against, to see if maybe he had landed in the little clearing beyond the tree line. She had almost given up hope when she had heard a coughing noise coming from behind her. Spinning around her breath caught in her chest and she let out a cry of horror.
“Oh, God,” cried Sara. “Dudley, get over here now!”
She rushed over to the front end of the car that was smashed up against the tree where it had come to rest, and braced herself for what she was going to see.
Harry was lying against the big oak tree, his head flat against the trunk, the car pinning the right side of his body just below his chest. He was coughing and struggling to catch his breath and his eyes were searching wildly for help.
His face was cut and bloodied, but she could tell that was coughing up blood because of the fresh wave of crimson that was wetting his chin. That was not a good sign...that meant internal bleeding.
“Harry?” she whispered, her voice breaking for the first time tonight. She knelt down beside him trying to find a way to get him out and found herself fighting the urge to vomit. She had to look away.
His right arm had been severed and a sharp piece of his upper arm bone was sticking sickly from his shoulder socket. He was in obvious pain and hysterics and didn’t seem to be aware of it or her presence as he struggled for air. She called his name again and grabbed his free left hand. He turned his head toward her and looked at her with those green eyes that were now filled with horror.
“Sara?” he questioned, looking at her with a look of helplessness. He let out a whimper of anguish and leaned his head back against the tree.
Dudley had made his way over to Sara, not realizing she had found Harry pinned between the car and tree until he was right beside the car.
“Sara, I can’t find him. Maybe we should—Oh, shit!” he started upon seeing Harry. His face visibly paled in the darkness and his face took on a look of horror and utter revulsion.
“Dud...we need to get him out of here,” she said turning her head toward the car and gesturing at the gas leak. Dudley stood there staring at Harry and didn’t seem to register what Sara had just said.
“DUDLEY!” she shouted. “I need you to see if you can’t pull the car back a bit so I can slip him out of there.”
Dudley looked at his girlfriend incredulously. How was he supposed to lift a car? Sara picked up on his questioning look and stood up and strode over toward him.
“Dudley...please...he’s still alive and we need to get him away from here so help can get to him,” she pleaded to her boyfriend, placing her hand on his waist.
“Sara...how do we know we won’t hurt him more if we move it off of him?”
“We don’t. But if that car explodes, he’s dead anyway,” she whispered turning back to Harry.
“Harry? Dudley’s going to see if he can’t get you out of here, ok? I’m going to pull you out and we need to get away from the car,” she said soothingly, waiting for him to acknowledge her. He shook his head and closed his eyes against the pain.
Harry watched Dudley walk around to the other side of the car next to him, the side that was pinning him and stopped, staring at his own right shoulder.
His arm was gone.
A piece of bone was sticking out of the socket and the flesh above it was ripped and torn away. He stared at the spot stupidly, moving his right shoulder socket, watching the remaining bone move back and forth. He knew this was bad, but somehow the fact that his arm had been ripped off didn’t register in his brain. It didn’t register that this was his arm, his body.
Harry was snapped out of his trance when he felt the car against him shudder and move. He felt Sara’s hands grip his left arm and shoulder and pull him out from against the tree. Pain beyond pain ripped through him and he wanted to scream. He felt her dragging him against the soft grass, each step she took, jarring him and sending waves of pain up and down his body.
She stopped about a half a minute later and lay him down on the grass so that he was looking up at the stars that were visible through a clear patch in the clouds. He still couldn’t catch his breath and his side and stomach were killing him. The area around him was serenely quiet, though he could still here the soft hum of the still running car in the background.
Cutting through the silence, a sharp wail of a siren could be heard and he heard Sara let out a soft cry of thanks as she knelt next to him.
“Hang on, Harry...help is coming...you’re going to be...” but Sara’s words started to become softer and he could feel warmth spread throughout his body, numbing the pain of his injuries. His breath started to come in more shallow gasps and he found it suddenly hard to focus on anything.
“Harry! HARRY! Look at me...stay with me...just a little longer, ok?” Sara cried, holding his face and forcing him to look at her.
Harry didn’t know if he could hang on any longer. The sirens were getting louder, but he didn’t know if they’d get here soon enough.
‘I’m dying,’ he thought to himself.
And suddenly the heaviness of his words hit him hard. If he were dying he’d never get to see Ron or Hermione...or Ginny.
If he died, what would happen to them or the rest of the wizarding world for that matter? He was the only one who could kill Voldemort. If he died, all his friends and everyone he loved were doomed.
But the darkness seemed to be clouding his consciousness and he knew he had to say something before he couldn’t any longer.
“Tell...tell...Ron and...Hermione...tell them...I’m...I’m sorry,” he coughed, a fresh patch of blood wetting his chin.
“Don’t, Harry...just hang on,” choked Sara, grasping his hand.
“No...tell them...tell Ginny...tell her...I...love...love her...” Harry stammered, closing his eyes.
In the background he could hear footsteps and shouts of people running toward them. He opened his eyes to see a uniform clad police officer and an emergency worker running towards them.
“What’s his name?” he heard a male voice shout.
“Harry,” said Sara through tears.
“Harry? My name is Cliff. Harry, I need you to stay with me...look at me, big guy. Harry...Harry...stay with me....”
But Cliff, whoever he was, faded away and the blackness that had been threatening, overtook him.