The Sugar Quill
Author: Doctor Cornelius (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter, Prisoner of Azkaban  Chapter: Chapter One: A Knock at the Door
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Chapter 1: A Knock at the Door

Harry Potter looked out at the dimming evening sky from the window of his small bedroom at number four, Privet Drive. Three days had passed since his return from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he was still exhausted.  Indeed, what Harry had gone through on the twenty-fourth of June would have been enough to exhaust anyone.

Harry groaned softly as he massaged his right leg. It didn't hurt anymore, but the memory of what had happened kept tricking Harry's mind into thinking the pain was still there. He had suffered a nasty bruise on his shin during the final task of the Triwizard Tournament competition when a giant spider had dropped him awkwardly from a height of twelve feet. He could never have gotten past the spider if it hadn't been for Cedric- No, not Cedric! Harry shuddered at the thought.

Cedric Diggory had been co-champion with Harry in the Triwizard Tournament, a contest featuring students from three leading European schools of magic. When Cedric and Harry had knocked out the giant spider and grasped the Cup together, they were magically whisked away to a cemetery where Lord Voldemort, the most evil wizard in the world, had ordered his servant Wormtail to kill Cedric. Harry had been extremely fortunate to escape and bring Cedric's body back to his parents.  Why Cedric? Harry thought. Why did Cedric have to die? It was me he wanted.

And this was entirely true. At the age of one, Harry had become the first person ever to survive the dreaded Avada Kedavra curse. Avada Kedavra, the killing curse, the worst of the three Unforgivable Curses of the wizarding world. Harry's mother, Lily Potter, had died to save him after the murder of his father James. Then, when Voldemort attempted to finish off the newly orphaned Harry, the curse rebounded on its source. Voldemort was not killed, but his powers were shattered as he fled to the Albanian forests as a formless shadow. Only on June the twenty-fourth, after the death of Cedric, had Voldemort returned to his proper body, using a potion made with Harry's blood. No, not that again- Harry shivered, trying to shake off that memory too.

Curse you, Voldemort, thought Harry. You killed my parents. You killed Cedric. How many more people are going to have to die on my account?

And now Voldemort, wherever he was, wanted Harry dead. And this, Harry reflected, had turned out to be the reason why he was now staying at Privet Drive. Voldemort himself had acknowledged, "Not even I can touch him there." As long as he stayed with his relatives, he was safe. Unfortunately, Harry's aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley (not to mention their son Dudley) hated Harry with a passion. They had spent ten years after Harry's parents' deaths making Harry's life miserable, and they still tried to do as much of that as they could manage while Harry was at home on his summer holidays. Curse you again, Voldemort- if it wasn't for you I wouldn't have to stay in this awful place.

Just then, Harry was stirred from his restless thoughts by a hint of a movement in the swiftly darkening sky. An owl! And that was indeed what it was, bearing a message from someone in the wizarding world. Harry didn't know from whom it might be, but he felt it was bound to be good news. He grinned as the owl approached his open window. It almost felt a relief to smile- he hadn't done much smiling since his return from Hogwarts three days earlier.

The sophisticated-looking brown owl at his windowsill turned out to be from Hogwarts. He quickly opened the envelope and unfolded the parchment within. Written there in green ink was the following message:


Dear Harry,
Greetings. I trust you are enjoying your summer.
As you know, your safety is a matter of serious concern to many of us in the wizarding world. Accordingly, I am seeking to have you protected by the Fidelius Charm. As you may be aware, this will involve your protection by a Secret-Keeper. As long as the Secret-Keeper guards the knowledge of your whereabouts, your enemies will be kept from finding you even if they walk so close in front of you that you could breathe on them. And so the Secret-Keeper should be someone whom you would trust with your life- for that is exactly what you will be doing.
I have contacted several qualified candidates- Remus Lupin, Professor McGonagall, Arthur and Molly Weasley, Rubeus Hagrid, and your friend Snuffles- and they all have declined the role of Secret-Keeper, feeling that I should fill that role instead. If you are willing to have me as your Secret-Keeper, please indicate in a reply by this owl. Also, please return the envelope with a hair from your head enclosed. It will be an necessary ingredient in the Fidelius Potion, which is essential for this charm and which is presently being prepared by your good friend and mine, Professor Snape.
My very best wishes to you in these darkening times.
Yours sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore


Harry excitedly grabbed a quill from on top of his bed and scribbled Yes, please at the bottom of the parchment Dumbledore had sent, plucked a few strands of his messy black hair, slipped them into the envelope, sealed it, and gave it back to the school owl, saying, "Back to Professor Dumbledore!" The owl obediently launched itself into the air and disappeared back into the night sky, heading north toward Hogwarts.

Wow, thought Harry. Dumbledore's going to be my Secret Keeper!  Unable even to think of going to sleep, he kept going over in his mind the contents of the letter from Dumbledore, trying to figure out what the implications might be. Soon an even happier thought struck his mind. The reason for his being stuck at Privet Drive was because he was safe from Voldemort and his Death Eaters there. But if Dumbledore was his Secret Keeper, then he had no such limitations. He could go to the Burrow in Ottery St. Catchpole, home of his best friend Ron Weasley and the rest of Ron's family. Or, perhaps even better, he could stay with his godfather, Sirius Black. He could go freely to Diagon Alley, the secluded street in London that was full of the finest collection of shops that wizarding England had to offer. The world was open to Harry like it had never been before. He only needed to hold on for a little bit longer, while Professor Snape brewed the Fidelius potion.

Professor Snape. Harry grinned wryly at the phrase "your good friend and mine." He supposed that it made sense that Snape would be the one to do it- he did have a reputation as one of the best potion brewers around. Unfortunately, he also happened to be one of Harry's worst enemies at Hogwarts, along with his favorite student, Draco Malfoy. Snape had been a student at Hogwarts along with Harry's father, James Potter, and long held a grudge against James and his friends Sirius and Remus. It was Snape who had revealed that Remus Lupin was a werewolf at the end of Harry's third year, resulting in Lupin's immediate resignation from the Hogwarts faculty. And this grudge had carried over to Harry as well: Snape had made Potions class a weekly misery for Harry from the beginning of his first year.

And then, a little more than a month ago, Harry had found out something new about Snape. Professor Snape had at one time been a Death Eater, one of the Dark Lord's most loyal followers. But, according to Professor Dumbledore, Snape had "rejoined our side before Voldemort's downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk." Dumbledore had refused, however, to tell Harry what made him so confident that Snape had really changed sides.

What if Snape isn't really on our side?, Harry worried. What if he does the potion wrong on purpose, just to spite me and let me get killed by Voldemort? It occurred to him that he was being forced to trust not only Professor Dumbledore with his life, but Professor Snape also. The Dumbledore part was easy; trusting Snape was rather more difficult. He was still excited about getting to do the Fidelius charm, but having Snape involved added a degree of uneasiness to the excitement.

Sometime around midnight, Harry's mind finally calmed down enough to let him fall asleep.

* * *

A bright green fire roared in the fireplace of the house, as a tall wizard with slanted red eyes and a flat snakelike face stood before the fire like a medieval monarch holding court, amid the circle of his followers. The others in the circle were all wearing hooded robes and masks that somewhat resembled their Master's face. A rather short wizard was groveling on the floor before his leader, saying, "Master, I would be honored... if it should be your desire..."

"Silence", interrupted the tall wizard's unnaturally cold, high-pitched voice. "Have you forgotten our timetable, Wormtail? We will release the Dementors when the time is right, and not a moment sooner! Is that understood?"

"Yes... Yes, Master", whimpered Wormtail.

"Very well. Don't try to get creative on me, Wormtail, your 'creativity' has spoiled more than one of my plans before this. And I think you won't need me to tell you what awaits you should I deem you to need a reminder about the wisdom of airing your worthless ideas before me..."

"No... no, Master... I quite understand..."

"Good," cackled the Master. "Even your dense little brain should be able to process that particular point, I should hope. And now, my dear Death Eaters, we have one further order of business... as soon as our favorite 'spy's' ever-so-tight schedule should permit him to grace us with his honorable presence... Ah, here he is now."

Another masked wizard had suddenly appeared in the room. A lock of long, greasy black hair was visible behind his mask.

"And what news have we from Saint Dumbledore, that most magnificent of Muggle-lovers? I must confess that I have been disappointed with the extent of the information you have thus far been able to provide... And I do prize loyalty among my followers, as you no doubt recall, and I would hate to see so accomplished a servant suffer the penalty of disloyalty at the hands of Lord Voldemort...."

"Master," replied the newly-arrived wizard, "Dumbledore has formulated his plan for the Potter boy." He spoke the name Potter with especial distaste. "He plans to allow young Potter to escape the unpleasant confinement imposed by his Muggle relations before the summer is over."

"Oh, does he, now?" said Voldemort, sounding almost impressed. "And how does our precious Headmaster intend to keep young Potter safeguarded from the threat of Lord Voldemort without the security provided by the ancient magic which protects him at his relations' home?"

"With the Fidelius Charm, of course," replied the wizard's silky voice. "And your Lordship will no doubt have guessed whom Dumbledore trusts to prepare the particular potion on which this charm depends."

Lord Voldemort laughed, a high, joyless laughter which caused even the Death Eaters (who of course had heard their Master's laughter many times previously) to feel as though the blood were about to freeze in their veins.

"Of course," added the Death Eater with a sigh, "I fear that I may not be quite the potion-brewer that our dear Headmaster esteems me to be... One small slip, and the potion will be worthless..."

The Master laughed again, and then stopped. "Severus! I would like to make sure of your loyalty. Tell me plainly and without your crafty wordsmithing: What shall be the result of this Fidelius Potion, my friend? Do not lie to Lord Voldemort. He knows. He always knows."

"Harry Potter shall be delivered into your hands, my Lord."

"Ah, yes! Hatred for all things Potter! That's what I like to see. But, dear Severus, just in case your loyalty should ever be tempted to waver, let me remind you..."

"No, my Lord!" interrupted another Death Eater, with a voice as silky as Severus' but with greater urgency. "Severus has remained loyal to us throughout, my son is in his house at Hogwarts..."

"Lucius!" shouted Lord Voldemort, and then spoke again more quietly. "Well, now, perhaps I should just step down then. Take your place at the fireside, Lucius, you would make so much better a Dark Lord than I. You, who renounced me for thirteen long years, are so much better qualified to judge loyalty than Lord Voldemort. Don't you think so?"

"No, my Lord... I never intended..."

"Very well, I should hope not indeed. Then let's get back to business, shall we? As I was saying, my dear Severus, let me remind you that should your loyalty waver, a curse even more, shall we say, unforgivable than this one awaits you." He pointed his wand at the Death Eater spy. "Crucio!" And the spy rolled on the ground, screaming in pain.

* * *

Harry sat bolt upright in bed as the nightmare faded. The scar on his forehead was hurting terribly. The scar-something in the dream-Voldemort! Dumbledore will want to know about this, he thought. I've got to remember it-what was it? A plan-some plan of Dumbledore's-that was it, the potion! He scrambled to grab a parchment and quill to start writing when the sound heavy footfalls in the hall told him that he had inadvertently awakened his Uncle Vernon.  Oh, no...

"What's all the yelling about?!" Uncle Vernon demanded.

"I'm sorry, Uncle Vernon", replied Harry. "A bad dream... and my head hurts..."

"So, which is it? A nightmare, or a headache? Can't keep your story straight, can you, boy? Trying to disturb your Aunt Petunia's sleep again, are you? This better not happen again, or I'll give your head a reason to hurt, see if I don't."

Harry wasn't sure if Uncle Vernon meant the threat literally, but he couldn't rule out the possibility. As arguing the point would have done him no good-he knew this from long experience-he rolled back under the covers and groaned, "All right." Uncle Vernon watched him for an uncomfortable minute, and then went back to bed, apparently satisfied that Harry was going back to sleep.

Harry waited a minute or two after he heard Uncle Vernon's bedroom door close, and then stealthily got back up and grabbed a parchment. What was the dream about again? Voldemort, of course... and something about a plan... oh, bother, I can't remember what the plan was. He felt dead tired, and the pain from his scar didn't help matters any. He had almost given up trying to remember when he glanced at the window and remembered the previous night's owl from Hogwarts that had brought him the message about the Fidelius Potion. That's it... the potion... Voldemort was finding out about the potion... but how? Snape? Yeah, it was Snape! Snape told Voldemort about the potion! And... what did he tell him? Was he going to sabotage the potion? I think he was... Did Voldemort do the Cruciatus Curse on anyone this time? I think so... I think it was Snape... but why would he, if Snape was going to make it so the potion didn't work? It all made sense at the time... was it just an ordinary dream that doesn't make sense after you wake up? No, it had to be real,  it seemed just like the one in Divination class this spring...

He took a deep breath, and began to write.

Dear Professor Dumbledore,
I just had a dream about Voldemort. I woke up with my scar hurting. Professor Snape was talking to Voldemort about the potion. I think he agreed to sabotage the potion so the Fidelius Charm wouldn't work. It seems like Voldemort was doing the Cruciatus Curse on him at the end, too, but that doesn't make sense. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, it's hard to remember, and my Uncle Vernon came in and yelled at me before I could write anything down.

He wanted to ask Dumbledore why he was so sure that Snape was on their side, but he had asked that before and been told, in effect, that that was none of his business. So he decided to leave that one alone, and simply added,

I hope this all works out. Thanks again.

Hedwig, his snowy white owl, was of course a nocturnal creature and was quite happy to see her master keeping proper hours for once. She eagerly accepted the letter once Harry had sealed it. "To Professor Dumbledore!" he whispered as he opened the window for her. Hedwig nibbled his ear affectionately and soared off into the night sky.

* * *

Harry was awakened far too early the next morning by the sound of Aunt Petunia's shrill voice calling through his bedroom door: "Harry! Are you awake yet?!" Of course I'm awake now, you idiot, he thought (but restrained himself from saying out loud).

"Yeah... I'm awake", he droned wearily.

"Well, then, let's get a move on! Time to set the table for breakfast!"

Harry grudgingly set out the Dursleys' plates and silverware, wondering why they couldn't do such a simple chore themselves. At least he didn't have to cook, though. In past years the Dursleys had often made Harry do their cooking for them, but after the previous summer's distressing incident involving a magical toffee produced by Ron's twin brothers Fred and George, they had apparently decided against allowing anyone magical to be involved in the preparation of food. They seemed rather superstitious about it, in fact. Harry didn't feel he'd gotten the full story quite yet, but from the parts he could piece together it seemed that Dudley had refused to eat anything for about two weeks after having his tongue restored to normal (it had swollen to a length of over four feet). It wasn't clear just how much time Dudley had spent in hospital, although he knew that Dudley had apparently fainted from exhaustion (Aunt Petunia talked about that part fairly often).  In any case, the experience had certainly seemed to cure Dudley of his overeating, and he was looking a bit slimmer. He looked more shrunken than fit and trim, but it was still an improvement. Harry had suggested that perhaps the Dursleys might write Fred and George a thank-you note, but this suggestion was not well received.

Harry spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon doing whatever chores Aunt Petunia could think up. Anything not involving food preparation seemed to be fair game. Much of it seemed unnecessary, too. He agreed that their lawn needed to be mowed from time to time, but three times a week seemed a bit much.

"All right, I'm done," he said on his way in the house late that afternoon, not daring to look directly at Aunt Petunia. After a few seconds of silence, she snapped, "Took you long enough". Harry knew Aunt Petunia well enough to conclude with relief that she had tried to think of more chores and failed, and that he could come and rest inside. As he hadn't slept well the previous night, he was glad of the opportunity of a nap before dinner.

But exhausted though he was, he couldn't drop off to sleep.

He started to think about Cho Chang, a very pretty girl who played Seeker for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. But then-no, he couldn't think about Cho, not that way, not anymore. She had been the girlfriend of Cedric Diggory before he was killed-And if I hadn't told Cedric to take the Cup with me-no, don't start that again, he told himself. But in any case, he found that could no longer imagine Cho smiling at him after some great triumph-he could only see her as she had been at the end of the school year, with a background of the Great Hall decorated in black, mourning the loss of Cedric, crying as if the world would end. And, he supposed, it must have seemed to her as though the world was indeed ending. She and Cedric had been a really nice couple; they had belonged together. Harry wondered how he could have been so stupid not to see it at the time. And now it's all over, all because I told Cedric to-no, don't even go there.

And yet-Harry felt a strange inexpressible longing. Now that he couldn't think that way about Cho anymore, he felt that he had somehow lost something in the process. It was strange. For the whole first thirteen and a half years of his life, up to the first time he had played against Cho in a Quidditch match, it would never have occurred to him to want a girl to look at him the way Cho had looked at Cedric last year. Now he was almost fifteen, and still had never had a girlfriend, and once again there wasn't any girl that he could even hope for that way-but now it somehow felt terribly like he was missing something.

On one hand, he did feel a kind of freedom, as if his liking for Cho had been a heavy weight about his neck for the past year which had now been removed. But on the other, he also felt a strange loneliness, a new kind that he had never felt before, and which somehow seemed deeper than any loneliness he had felt before. He supposed it was stupid to feel like this-At least I've got friends now, which before Hogwarts I didn't used to. But the feeling didn't go away. He wished he knew how to handle feelings like this. It seemed like there ought to be somebody... somebody... somebody special; but there wasn't.

He found himself almost involuntarily ticking off the names of all the girls he knew. Hermione? No, she's just a friend, I could never think of her that way. Ginny? She's Ron's little sister, hate to think what Ron would say if I started liking her. Lavender or Parvati? No thanks... He stopped himself. How ridiculous to be thinking about girls that way. If he were ever going to have a girlfriend, he wanted it to be because he really liked that person and she really liked him, the way Cho and Cedric had liked each other, not because there was some kind of vacancy that needed to be filled, like when people applied for jobs to work for Uncle Vernon at the Grunnings drill factory.

But maybe there's some really nice girl that I just haven't met yet, his mind insisted. Certainly none of the Slytherins would do-the thought of Pansy or Millicent in that context made him gag. But he didn't know the Hufflepuffs very well, and the Ravenclaws even less-one of them, maybe? Maybe that one girl from Hufflepuff with the dark hair and haunted-looking eyes-Susan, was that her name? She might be interesting, she seemed like there was some mystery about her that Harry didn't know. Or maybe someday he'd meet a girl from a foreign school? All the Beauxbatons girls he had met last year were three or four years older than he, and Durmstrang hadn't brought any girls at all. But that kind of situation might be tough, because they wouldn't speak each other's languages. Was there a wizard school in America, perhaps? Harry remembered Dean and Seamus talking (a bit wolfishly) about a really beautiful and talented American girl named Mary Sue who was reportedly going to be transferring to Hogwarts; but that sounded like a pretty far-fetched rumor to Harry. He doubted such a person even existed, or if she did the stories probably weren't even half true.

Again Harry forced himself to stop. There I go again. Why am I getting like this? He sighed. If things won't work out with the girls I do know, what makes me think that some new girl is going to come around the corner and solve all my problems? I've just got to face the facts, he thought gloomily. I'm just a short skinny kid with glasses and an ugly scar. Not much here that a girl could want. Maybe I'll just end up going through life on my own. The strange lonely feeling was stronger now than ever before.

Harry wished there were somebody that he could talk to about these things. Ron? No, Ron was just as confused about girls as he was, maybe even more so. Ron had obviously been very jealous when Hermione had gone to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum the previous year. But afterwards, when Hermione had told Ron, "Next time, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort", Ron had amazingly failed to cotton on.

No, Harry needed somebody he could talk to like a father. He had never known his real father. Uncle Vernon obviously would be no help. Sirius, he suddenly realized, I should write to Sirius! That was what a godfather was for, of course, to take the place of a father should anything happen. And he was sure Sirius would be happy to help, if only Harry could think of the right way to ask the question.

But how to ask the question was the difficulty. Harry got out a parchment and began:

Dear Sirius,
Did you ever like a girl?


No, that's stupid, thought Harry. He tried another approach:

Dear Sirius,
How did my Mum and Dad get together? You know, like, as boyfriend and girlfriend? How does that work, anyway?

Even stupider, thought Harry, reaching for the stack of parchment once again.
About three crumpled pieces of parchment later, and after the very rude interruption of having to eat dinner with the Dursleys, he finally got through a complete version of what he wanted to say:

Dear Sirius,
Can you help me understand girls? I mean, how to deal with them as girls, that is? If my dad was here I'd be asking him of course, but since he's not I guess my godfather will be the next best thing.
It's like this: There's one girl that I liked, Cho Chang, but she liked another guy, and that was Cedric Diggory, and now that Cedric's dead I'm not sure that I like her any more, and besides it would be kind of like insulting Cedric to go out with his girlfriend after he's dead.
There's another girl that seems like she likes me, but that's Ron's little sister Ginny. She's a really nice girl, and I wouldn't want to hurt her or anything, but I've never really felt like that about her, and even if I did it would be just too weird to go out with my best friend's little sister. She really acted weird around me in her first year, but now she seems more normal, so maybe she doesn't like me that way any more anyway. She went to the Yule Ball with Neville Longbottom last year, and so maybe she likes him now. After what happened with Neville's parents, it would be really nice for him to have a good girlfriend like Ginny.
And everybody thinks Hermione is my girlfriend, but she's not, we're just friends. If anything, she and Ron might like each other, but don't tell them I said that. Last year at the Yule Ball Ron got really mad when Hermione came with Victor Krum, and Hermione gets mad when other girls pay attention to Ron too.
The girl I went to the ball with was Parvati Patil, from Gryffindor in my year, but there's nothing going on there. It was kind of bad, I suppose I should have danced with her more at the ball, she was kind of unhappy with me for a while afterwards. But I was kind of forced into the situation, since I was a school champion I had to take somebody. Nice of her to go with me at all, I guess.
I hope we don't have another Ball or anything like that-well, maybe-no, I don't know what I hope. But if we do I suppose I ought to be ready for it and not be such a total prat as I was last year.
I suppose this has been a totally stupid letter, but if you can say anything to help I'd really appreciate it.
Hope whatever you're doing this summer is going okay. I got an owl yesterday about the plan for keeping me safe-sounds great! Tell Professor Lupin I said hi.

Harry hid the letter in his trunk, to be sent to Sirius once Hedwig returned from her delivery to Dumbledore, and then worked until bedtime on his essay for History of Magic, "Political and Social Factors Related to the Goblin-Dwarf Alliance of 1846."

* * *

The next day, he was awakened at sunrise by an owl tapping on his window. Hedwig!, he thought. And so it was.

Hedwig had brought another letter from Professor Dumbledore, but it wasn't as encouraging as Harry might have hoped. Indeed, what Dumbledore had to say made Harry feel a bit uncomfortable:

Dear Harry,
Thank you very much for your reply to my owl of yesterday. Our plans are going forward as I had described them.
I appreciate also your information about your dream of last night. I spoke with Professor Snape after receiving your owl, and he confirmed that everything happened as you saw it. It seems that your connection with Lord Voldemort allows you to see his doings in your dreams. Professor Trelawney will be most impressed-unless perhaps you'd rather I restrain myself from telling her? Ah, very well, I suppose not. It would have been fun, I admit.
As for Professor Snape: His is the most difficult role in the newly-revived conflict with Lord Voldemort, more difficult than yours or even mine. As I have said before, it is essential that those of us who know the truth and are willing to act on it trust one another. I am aware of the personal animosities that have existed between you and the Potions Master over the years, but the need to stand together against Voldemort is far more important than whatever petty conflicts may exist among ourselves. Therefore I must insist once again: Trust Professor Snape, Harry.
And please do continue to give me any information you may have about Lord Voldemort's doings. Any information may make a difference. Again I thank you.
Yours sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore

Receiving even a gentle rebuke from Dumbledore was always painful to Harry, and so when he went downstairs to breakfast, it was with an empty feeling in his stomach that had nothing to do with hunger. He still hasn't told me, Harry thought, why is he so sure that Snape is on our side?

After feeding Hedwig and sending her off to Sirius, another long day of chores lay ahead for Harry. This time they kept him busy all the way up to dinner, and it was only after dinner that he had a chance to think again.  This time, he forced himself to think of the more pleasant times he had had at Hogwarts the previous year. For there had been plenty of good things last year as well: Draco Malfoy, Harry's worst enemy at Hogwarts, getting transformed into a white ferret and bounced around the corridor; his victory over the Hungarian Horntail in the First Task of the Tournament; getting to know the foreign schools' Champions, Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour, both of whom had been very nice to Harry; and the time spent with his two best friends, Ron and Hermione. Harry almost laughed-the closest he had come to laughing in a long time-when he remembered how the three of them, along with Ron's brothers Fred and George, had left Malfoy and his friends Crabbe and Goyle on the floor of the Hogwarts Express, knocked out by a slew of hexes, after Malfoy had boasted about the Dark Lord's return and insulted the memory of Cedric.

Yeah, Harry thought with only a slight touch of grimness, last year wasn't all bad-

Suddenly, from downstairs, he heard a knock at the door. He sat silently, and a minute later Uncle Vernon's voice came up the staircase. "Boy!" he yelled at Harry with what seemed to be a mixture of anger and fear. In a harsh whisper he said to Harry, "There's a man at the door... and he's one of your kind."

Sirius! Harry eagerly leaped down the stairs, taking them three at a time, expecting that his godfather had come to visit.

But he was wrong. There was indeed a wizard at the door, but it was not one that Harry recognized. He flashed a Ministry of Magic badge at Harry as he spoke.

"Harry James Potter", came his voice in a calm but threatening tone, "My name is Brundage Avery from the department of Magical Law Enforcement."

Harry's mind raced... Avery! I know that name! He's a Death Eater! He's one of Voldemort's!

"It is my duty", Avery continued, "to arrest you for the assault and battery of Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle... and for the murder of Cedric Diggory... and for the aid and abettance of a convicted mass murderer, Sirius Black." At the mention of Sirius, Avery drew out of his cloak a letter that Harry recognized as the one he had sent to Sirius.

Suddenly stricken with fear, Harry's mind madly scrambled to find what to do next. At first he wanted to make a mad grab for the parchment, but Avery anticipated this move and brandished his wand at Harry. Harry then made as if to turn around and run back into the house, but Uncle Vernon, looking suddenly gleeful at this turn of events, blocked the hallway, standing with his arms crossed and saying, "They've got you now, boy."

Finally, Harry's nerve broke entirely and he made a run for it. Strangely, Avery stood out of the way with a smug grin on his face. Why was Avery letting him run away? But Harry didn't care-he was pelting down the driveway toward the street, thinking of nothing other than getting away from there any way he could. And then, in an instant, he heard in his memory the evil voice of Lord Voldemort telling Avery and the other Death Eaters, Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy's protection as long as he is in his relations' care. Not even I can touch him there....

That's what they're doing!  They want me to run away, Harry realized suddenly and tried to put on the brakes. But it was too late. As his right foot touched the pavement of Privet Drive, he heard Avery's voice shouting "Stupefy!". The last thing he felt was himself falling down toward the pavement.


Continued in Chapter Two...

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