Death Eater closed the door quietly behind him as he entered the stone chamber.
The flickering glow of the fire filled the chamber with a dim light, and the
back of the throne was crowned eerily by the hissing flames. The Death Eater
chair’s intricately carved wooden legs lifted off the floor and the throne
rotated slowly until Voldemort faced his disciple.
you have information for me?" Voldemort’s red eyes narrowed as he lowered
the chair to the floor with a flick of his wand.
do, Master." The Death Eater fell to his knees and bent to kiss the hem of
his master’s robes before he continued. "I have come to tell you that he
is ready to enter into your service."
muscle above Voldemort’s eye twitched as he raised what should have been an
eyebrow. "And how exactly do you suppose he can be of use to me?"
know he is inexperienced, My Lord, but he has assured me of his allegiance to
you and he is eager to prove himself worthy of your trust." The Death Eater
paused and then added, "Not to mention that he is very strategically
am fully aware of where he is placed," Voldemort snapped, "I asked
you how he can be of use to me?"
Death Eater hesitated. He had been sure that his master would be pleased by the
news, and eager to put his new follower to work immediately. "Perhaps just
a small task, to begin, Master."
did not respond immediately. He pressed his palms together and rested his chin
on his fingertips, considering the possibilities that this news presented.
After thinking for a long moment, he replied.
was running as fast as he could, turning right, then left, then left again. The
hedges around him were twenty feet high, forming the passageways through which
he was barreling.
turned right again. "Cedric?" He shouted, "Where are you?"
He was running so fast that he rushed past a pathway to his left and had to
double back to make the turn. "CEDRIC?" He came to a fork in the path
and looked frantically to his left and right. "CEDRIC?" ‘I have to
find him...I have to find him now, before it’s too late,’ he thought, taking
off down the path to his right.
scrambled to his feet and whipped around to see what he had tripped over.
was the Triwizard Cup, gleaming cruelly at him, oblivious to the horrors that
ran faster. "CEDRIC?" He sped further along the path and came to a
dead end. Frustrated and terrified, he turned around to double back and
instantly froze. Cedric Diggory stood before him, or rather he floated before
him, holding out a hand and pointing a long finger at the frenzied boy.
Potter sat bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat and panting heavily. It took
him a few moments to realize where he was and that he had been dreaming.
he moaned, falling back down on the bed and pressing his hands to his closed
eyes as if to erase the images still lingering on the back of his eyelids. He
lay for a few moments listening to his pulse pounding steadily in his ears.
When he had caught his breath, Harry rolled miserably out of bed and rummaged
around on the bedside table for his glasses, which he found and slipped on.
night,’ he thought to himself as he stumbled across the room to the window and
drew the curtain back. ‘Can’t I just have one night when I don’t have to see
his face?’ As soon as he had thought it, though, he shook his head, disgusted
with himself. “But it’s true,” he reminded himself in a whisper. “It was your fault and this is the price you
have to pay. At least you’re alive.”
squinted as he looked out onto Privet Drive. The sun was bright this morning
and several children were already playing football in the street. As he watched
them, still trying to snap fully back into reality, a far away patch of white
in the blue sky caught his eye. As it got closer he knew that it was Hedwig,
his owl, and he pushed the window open to allow her to come inside.
circled the room several times, hooting proudly, before landing on the desk and
holding out her leg.
Hedwig, you’ll set Vernon on me." He untied the letter from Hedwig’s leg
and allowed her to nip his finger before he held her water dish out to her.
"I’ll get you something to eat in a minute."
Hedwig drank heartily, Harry sank back onto the bed to read his letter.
was just about to send Pig out when Hedwig arrived with your letter. I’m glad
you liked the birthday presents we sent. Ginny made the cake herself and was
awfully giggly after she read that you liked it.
on to the important news. Dad spoke to Dumbledore yesterday and he said things
seem calm, so you can come to the Burrow now! After what happened with the floo
powder last summer, Dad thinks it would be better if you come on the Knight
Bus. Stan Shunpike knows where we live, so they can bring you right to the edge
of the garden. I’m sure you won’t be wasting any time getting away from the
Dursleys, so we’ll expect you tonight. Owl back if the Muggles get their
knickers in a twist.
smiled as he refolded the letter, the first genuine smile he could remember
cracking in months. This was exactly the news he had spent the past six weeks
waiting for. All he wanted was to be around people like himself, and who cared
about him - who knew what he had been through just a few weeks ago. He dressed
quickly and hurried downstairs to the kitchen.
Petunia, and Dudley were already in the room. Vernon was at the table reading
the newspaper and drinking tea, grumbling about the rising price of petrol.
Apparently it was all the fault of "the bloody, meddling Americans".
Huge Dudley was next to Vernon, stuffing sausages into his mouth, and Petunia
stood primly at the stove scrambling eggs.
family," Harry said derisively as he entered the kitchen.
only response he got was a small grunt from Vernon. Harry was unfazed, as this
was the same greeting that he got every morning. Harry sauntered over to where
Dudley sat and casually took three sausages from his plate, two for himself and
one for Hedwig.
Dudley exclaimed through his mouthful of food, reaching back to hit Harry on
the shoulder with the back of his hand. Undaunted, Harry reached up and smacked
Dudley on the back of the head. Dudley screwed his face up into what he must
have thought was a dangerous sneer, and Harry resisted the urge to burst out
had gotten a lot braver with the Dursleys this summer. After what he had been
through with Voldemort six weeks ago, the Dursleys were like a walk in the
park. He wasn’t afraid of them anymore, and he laughed at himself when he
remembered the effect they used to have on him. They were such nobodies,
Vernon growled warningly, rising from his chair.
have good news," Harry interrupted, munching on a sausage.
shifted gears as he sized Harry up.
good news could you possibly have?" Petunia snapped, scraping eggs onto
Dudley and Vernon’s plates.
leaving here tonight, for the rest of the summer," Harry said.
the tiniest whoop of joy, Petunia dropped her metal spatula, which fell to the
floor with a clang. Vernon, however, burst into a tirade. "IF YOU THINK I
AM LETTING THOSE RAGGEDY WEASLEY PEOPLE BACK INTO THIS HOUSE AFTER WHAT THEY
PULLED THE LAST TIME, YOU HAVE GOT ANOTHER THINK COMING, BOY!"
your pants on, Vernon," Harry interjected calmly, "they aren’t coming
here. My transportation has been arranged."
reddened. He looked as though he didn’t know whether to launch into a
thunderous rant at Harry for his lack of respect or break into a bouncing jig
at the thought of this being Harry’s last day at 4 Privet Drive for a long
time are you going?" he finally asked, sneering.
after dark, I suppose."
then, go upstairs and pack your things," Vernon said impatiently, as
though this was the most obvious thing in the world and Harry was an idiot for
just standing there.
Harry murmured, pushing between Dudley and Petunia on his way out of the room.
he ascended the stairs, Harry scowled, thinking about his only relatives. He
had stopped referring to Vernon and Petunia as "Aunt" and
"Uncle". These titles only reminded Harry that he shared some part of
his genetic makeup with these miserable people, and the thought made him
nauseous. Besides, he told himself, blood isn’t what makes a family. Sirius,
the Weasleys, and Hermione - those people were his family now.
pushed his bedroom door open and headed straight for Hedwig’s cage. He held out
the sausage, which she gratefully accepted in her beak. Harry then turned his
attention to packing his belongings in his school trunk. As he packed his
robes, wand, and books, he couldn’t help but think about the events that had happened
at Hogwarts when he had been there last, when he had last used these items.
Memories of what had happened after he and Cedric had touched the Triwizard Cup
haunted his waking hours as well as his sleeping. The only visions that haunted
him more frequently were of the horrific things he imagined Voldemort might do
to people, especially the people Harry cared about, now that he, Harry, had
unwittingly helped Voldemort regain all of his old powers.
packing didn’t take long, and Harry spent the rest of the day just trying to
pass the time and stay out of the Dursleys’ way. With each passing hour, he
grew more and more anxious to get to the Burrow. After a long day spent doing
pointless things, like alphabetizing his Chocolate Frog Cards, it was finally
starting to get dark. He had let Hedwig nap all day, and now he sent her off to
Sirius with a letter telling him where he would be for the rest of the summer.
you’re done, fly to the Weasleys’. I’ll be there.” After a final stroke of her silky feathers, Harry watched Hedwig
fly off into the dusk. When it was good and dark, he took one last look around
his room to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Satisfied that he hadn’t,
he left his bedroom, dragging his trunk and Hedwig’s cage down the stairs.
he got to the first floor landing, Harry poked his head into the living room,
where Vernon and Petunia were watching television. Harry assumed Dudley was
upstairs in his bedroom, and Harry didn’t care in the least that he wasn’t
there to say goodbye to.
good-bye, then," Harry said.
waited a moment for a response other than the "mm-hmm"s he received.
Getting none, he shrugged and hauled his things out to the curb. He then raised
his right hand, his wand hand, into the air and waited. A moment later he heard
the rumbling of bus wheels and the purple triple-decker Knight Bus rolled to a
stop in front of him.
bus door burst open and Stan Shunpike, the bus conductor, jumped out. He
glanced casually at Harry and then did a double take.
he shouted, "Guess who it is?"
rolled his eyes and waited patiently for the inevitable raucous to come and go.
is it?" came the reply.
‘Arry Potter!" he exclaimed, and then more quietly to Harry, "Or
should I call you Neville Longbottom, eh?" he elbowed Harry in the ribs
knowingly, like someone who knows a very private secret about something
bring him up then, what are ya waitin’ for?" Ernie shot.
I’m just going by Harry now," Harry said politely to Stan, anxious to get
onto the bus. Even though he knew Muggles couldn’t see the Knight Bus, he
wasn’t sure that they couldn’t see him and Stan, or worse yet, just Harry,
standing there talking to what appeared to be thin air.
ya are, ‘Arry... Where ya off to?" Stan asked as he heaved Harry’s trunk
ahead of him onto the bus.
Weasleys’ house - the Burrow," he replied, flopping down on the bed behind
the driver, next to which Stan had placed his trunk. It was the same bed he had
been assigned the one other time he was on the Knight Bus, almost two years
ago. Harry set Hedwig’s cage on top of his trunk and pulled his fare out of his
pocket, handing it to Stan.
then, ‘Arry," said Stan cheerfully, "should be a quick one, you’re our
first passenger tonight."
said Harry, settling back on the bed.
‘eard you won that tournament at ‘Ogwarts!" said Stan, taking his seat
next to Ernie. "Musta been somethin, eh?"
felt all his muscles tense up involuntarily. He didn’t quite know how to
respond to this. Having been relatively cut off from the wizarding world for
the past six weeks, Harry wasn’t sure how much everyone knew about what had
happened. Did they know that Voldemort was back?
it was something, all right," he finally replied, his stomach churning as
Ernie hit the gas pedal.
we were all mighty proud, eh , Ern?"
who Stan meant by "we all", Harry just smiled politely, hoping they
wouldn’t ask too many questions. They didn’t, and only minutes later, the bus
gave a powerful lurch and rolled to a stop.
ya are, then, Potter," said Ernie.
could just make out the shadow of the Burrow in the dark distance as he
gathered his things. Once Harry stepped off the bus, Stan and Ernie bid him
farewell and the Knight Bus rolled noisily away and disappeared. Harry walked
part of the way to the house and then stopped and set his trunk on its end.
Leaning on it with an elbow, he just gazed for a few moments at the awkward
house which had come into view. He wanted to savor the moment of being back
among friends - to let it sink in - before he faced the Weasleys.
events of the previous June 24th had in some ways made Harry even more
vulnerable to his emotions than he had been previously. Oddly, though, at the
same time, he felt somewhat numb. Some days he felt as if he were bubbling up
like lava, as if a volcano were going to erupt in him at any second and he had
no idea what would come out. Other days he felt dead inside, empty. He didn’t
know how to reconcile these conflicting feelings in his own mind, and it was
taking its toll on him. If the Dursleys had paid any attention to him at all,
they would have noticed that his previously sparkling green eyes were now
male voice boomed out across the yard. "He’s here, everybody! He’s
here!" Fred or George Weasley (Harry couldn’t tell which) clumsily emerged
from the front door and jogged across the yard towards Harry.
Harry!" he exclaimed as he approached, "Heard the bus -" then,
with a puzzled expression, he said, "Why are you just standing there? You
were pouring across the yard now, Ron leading the way, calling "Harry! You
I’m all right...George?" George nodded. "It’s good to see you,
George." Harry held out his hand and George shook it, and slapped him on
the back. The rest of the Weasleys had reached them and were expressing their
Harry," said Ron apprehensively, as if wanting to gauge Harry’s emotional
state before deciding exactly how to act.
Ron," Harry grinned, clapping Ron on the shoulder with one hand and
rustling his flame red hair with the other. "Hi, everybody. Thanks so much
for letting me come." Ron seemed to relax a little and Mrs. Weasley came
forward and wrapped Harry in a tight hug. He hugged her back just as tightly.
dear, we’ve been worrying about you so much." She pulled back and held
Harry at arm’s length to get a better look at him. "You look well though,
and so grown up. I can’t believe how much you’ve all grown in the last four
years. Not at all the kids you once were." She said all this wistfully and
Harry assumed she was referring to himself, Ron, and Hermione.
gave her a small smile.
him alone, now, Molly," said Mr. Weasley, stepping forward to shake
Harry’s hand, "Let him breathe. Fred, you get that trunk there, help him
George. Ron, get that cage."
Fred," Harry said in greeting to the other twin, and then, "Hey,
Gin." He smiled at his friend’s little sister as they all started towards
Harry," she said, smiling back, and she didn’t blush, at least not that
Harry could see in the moonlight. He guessed they were all growing up now, and
assumed that Ron had exaggerated about Ginny being giggly about the cake. Ron
was often known to overreact where his sister was concerned.
they walked, Harry greeted the last Weasley present, Percy, with a handshake as
well, and tried not to laugh at Percy’s businesslike demeanor.
Harry," he said, "We’re so pleased you could come. Unfortunately, I
have to get to the Ministry first thing in the morning, but we can talk
tomorrow night at dinner, perhaps."
sounds fine, Percy," Harry replied.
all went into the house, the twins and Ron setting Harry’s things at the foot
of the stairs, and continued into the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley had prepared
sandwiches and tea for everyone.
wasn’t sure if you would have had dinner," she explained, setting several
teacups on the table.
is wonderful, Mrs. Weasley, thank you," Harry said, sitting down and
helping himself to a sandwich.
sent a letter today," Ron said between mouthfuls of sandwich. "She
said to tell you she’s glad you’re here and she can’t wait to see you in a few
weeks. She’s going to meet us in Diagon Alley when we go to get our Hogwarts
stuff, and then she’s going to stay here the last few days before we go back to
tried to hide a smile. "You been owling Hermione a lot this summer,
Ron?" he asked lightly.
he replied, not picking up on Harry’s angle. "Haven’t you?"
I suppose." Then, not giving up, Harry continued, "She’s said she had
a great time with her parents in France. Guess she decided not to visit Viktor
Krum in Bulgaria after all." Harry took a bite of his sandwich and chewed
did the trick.
good thing too. That oafish git, he’s all wrong for her. Imagine! He’s three
years older than her! That’s so gross." Ron bit his sandwich aggressively,
his face screwed up in disgust.
who was sitting on Ron’s other side, had overheard. "You didn’t seem to
think he was an oafish git when you harassed him for his autograph," he
off, Fred." snapped Ron, earning him a warning glance from his mother.
she interjected, "We’ve got you all set up in Ron’s room. If you need
anything, you’ll let us know."
sure I’ll be fine, Mrs. Weasley, thank you."
all chatted for a while and before long, most of them were yawning. Harry and
Ron made their way up to Ron’s room, lugging his trunk with them. Ginny carried
Hedwig’s cage and set it on the corner of Ron’s dresser once they got to his
goodnight, Ron," she said, "Goodnight, Harry." She smiled, closing
the door behind her.
glanced at Ron, amused by Ron’s lack of perception where his sister was
doesn’t seem so starstruck anymore, does she?" Harry asked, opening his
trunk to pull out some pajamas.
was Ron’s reply, muffled from behind the open door of his wardrobe.
just chuckled. "Nothing."
he pulled on his pajamas, Harry felt content for the first time in months. He
was happy to be back with Ron and, even with everything that had happened at
Hogwarts before he left, was looking forward to being back at the castle soon.
It felt so much more like home than 4 Privet Drive, or anywhere else for that
turned off the lights and they both climbed into their beds. After a few
minutes of silence, Harry heard Ron’s voice in the dark.
Ron spoke his voice was strained, as though he were struggling to say something
much more important, but didn’t quite know how.
really glad you’re here, mate."
got the message, and smiled into the darkness.