“HOGWARTS WILL REOPEN,” SAYS SCRIMGEOUR
Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour issued a statement last evening that puts to rest recent concerns regarding the fate of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rumors had been circulating that the prestigious educational facility would not reopen in September. Concerns for students’ safety (always a high priority) were heightened when it was confirmed three weeks ago that Death Eaters had infiltrated the castle and were allegedly responsible for the death of headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
But how many students will return? These shocking events have lead many already apprehensive parents to decide not to send their children back come fall. Many parents have told The Daily Prophet that they will instead be teaching their children at home.
“It’s just not safe. We were only allowing our children to go because we were assured this kind of thing would not happen. If Hogwarts isn’t safe for my children, I am not going to allow them to go,” said one witch, who wished to remain anonymous.
The Minister confirmed that the school Governors and current Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, had indeed been discussing the very matter of safety of the castle inhabitants. The ministry confirmed that the previous security spells and enchantments that had been placed on the castle have been restored, and the security hole that allowed for the Death Eaters to enter has been patched. Scrimgeour also confirmed suspicions that the extra security that had been added prior to the last school year had indeed been removed the night of the Death Eater attack.
“We do not yet know why the headmaster saw fit to take this course of action,” the Minister said. “There is someone who was reported to be with Dumbledore that night, and might be able to provide us with that information, but so far he is not talking.”
Could this someone be Harry Potter? It has also been rumored that the Boy Who Lived was with Albus Dumbledore that fateful night. Harry Potter has refused comment on these claims, but anonymous sources tell us that there were two broomsticks atop the astronomy tower on the night in question, and also that Mr. Potter was the first to know of Albus Dumbledore’s death.
At this time, the Daily Prophet is not aware of Harry Potter’s intentions on returning to the school. However, based on previous reports of his antics, this reporter wonders whether the school might be safer if he stays away.
Harry sighed as he put the newspaper down. It wasn’t because of the news about Hogwarts. He had thought it unlikely that the school would close. But how did a news story about the fate of Hogwarts end with him? Why could the stupid Daily Prophet reporters not stick to facts and leave opinions for the editorials and advice columns? The paper had, once again, seemed to be able to drag him into almost every news story on the first dozen pages. Thankfully, they weren’t reporting that he was an attention seeking git like they had done before his fifth year, or that he was the chosen one as was the flavor of last summer. Now, they were reporting on something that had been obvious to Harry for years. They seemed to think that trouble followed him, and that people should avoid famous Harry Potter whenever possible. Harry would have been fine with this, if only the paper would take its own advice. He had been deluged with owls requesting he give an interview, which he flat out refused. His aunt and uncle were not pleased with the plethora of owls that were arriving at the house.
Ron and Hermione had both been apoplectic when the Daily Prophet had started a new campaign against Harry. Ron had stopped reading altogether, or rather had stopped asking Hermione what was in the paper, after the third day. Hermione, for her part, only skimmed the papers, as she would start to sear with anger when she read the stories about Harry that were now being written. She said she thought it was best not to abandon the paper entirely as they needed to stay informed. Ron laughed at this, saying the Prophet was less reliable than Trelawney’s brand of divination. Hermione countered by saying they may print something useful one day. She one and so the paper kept coming.
“First Rita Skeeter, then the attention seeking stuff, then the Chosen One, and now this.” she said angrily, after a week of the stories. “Harry I don’t know how you stand it. If it were me, I’d –”
“We know what you’d do,” Ron said, smiling. “I’m sure Rita Skeeter would be more than willing to fill us in on the finer points though.”
Their indignation on his behalf was both comforting and amusing to Harry. He was far too used to all of the attention to become too worked up over it himself. And in any case he had other more important worries to occupy his time. Chief among those immediate worries had been Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon.
Harry hadn’t been disappointed in how the Dursleys reacted when he, along with Ron and Hermione stepped through the barrier at King’s Cross.
Still lost in thoughts about how he could have let things get out of hand with Ginny, Harry didn’t pay much attention to where they were going until Moody nudged him and said, “that’s them, eh Potter?”
About twenty feet from the barrier stood Vernon and Petunia Dursley, looking exactly as they had done the last time that he had seen them. Vernon was purple-faced, his moustache as bushy as ever. Aunt Petunia was looking as bony and horse-faced as she had always done. Their eyes, which had been darting around the station, as if making sure no one they knew was around, narrowed when Harry came into sight.
“Hello,” Lupin smiled warmly at the Dursleys from Harry’s right, they made no motion to indicate they had heard him.
“Hurry up boy,” Uncle Vernon snapped his greeting. “Normal people have to work in the morning and don’t have time to go gallivanting all over the country at ungodly hours.” Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Ron and Hermione exchange a look.
“I agree. We should go,” Lupin said, motioning to Ron and Hermione. The two stepped up beside Harry and made to come with him. Both the Dursleys eyes narrowed even further. They were now only slits.
“What do you mean by this rubbish?” Uncle Vernon asked through clenched teeth.
“Ron and Hermione are coming to stay with me,” Harry supplied. Inwardly he cringed. Even though they were in a public setting, he was sure this bit of news would cause his uncle to fly completely off the handle.
“Wh – wh – what?” Aunt Petunia spluttered, looking both aghast and furious. She looked at her husband as if asking what to do.
“I forbid it!”
Uncle Vernon had stepped forward faster than Harry thought possible. His puce colored face was inches away from Harry’s. “You know that your abnormality is not tolerated under my roof. I will not stand for more of it, especially around my wife and son.”
Ron, who had been watching the Dursleys with a bemused expression, now stepped forward.
“The only people with abnormalities here are you two and your whale of a son,” he said.
Although Ron didn’t look angry, he could get so at even the slightest provocation. Both Harry and Lupin seemed to be thinking along the same lines, that is they both put precautionary hands on Ron in case he needed to be held back.
“Now you listen here,” Vernon Dursley swelled to his full, and considerable, size. “I will not have your lot bandying about my house.” His face was fire engine red now. “I accept that he –” he jerked his head in Harry’s direction, ” – has to stay, but that’s where we draw the line. And you can tell Dumberton – or whatever the hell his name is, that we have had ENOUGH.”
“Dumbledore’s dead,” growled Moody making his presence known for the first time.
Harry was pleased to see Uncle Vernon recoil. His last meeting with the battle-scarred ex-Auror had not yet escaped his recollection it seemed. Hulking man though he was, Vernon Dursley now resembled Neville Longbottom when face to face with Severus Snape. His bushy mustache twitched nervously as he surveyed Moody.
“Dead?” Aunt Petunia had her hand over her mouth. She didn’t look shocked at her outburst, but rather sad and scared. Harry recalled her reaction when she learned that Voldemort was back. As she had done then, she seemed to have a small idea what this information meant for the world that she had so long asserted didn’t exist. Harry wasn’t sure why he felt this right now, but he had a strong feeling that his aunt knew more about the wizarding world than she had ever let on.
“Yeah, dead,” Moody repeated, glancing briefly at Petunia. Harry was willing to bet that he was keeping his magical eye on Vernon though.
“Given current events, we think it wise they accompany Harry,” Lupin said. “It might be prudent for your safety as well,” he added, as though it were an afterthought.
The Dursleys shuddered violently. Apparently, they didn’t agree with Lupin’s assertion.
“We’re coming anyway.” Ron was glaring at the Dursleys. “They can’t stop us.”
“Yes,” Hermione agreed.
“Now wait just one minute. It’s our home. You are not welcome,” Vernon Dursley said his teeth clenched in fury again. “I have already said I forbid it.”
“Y’sure about that?” growled Moody. He was fiddling with the bowler hat he kept pulled over his magical eye. Uncle Vernon obviously remembered the last time had had seen it because he stepped backwards rapidly, knocking into Aunt Petunia who was cowering behind him, and almost making her fall.
“It’s time we move on,” Lupin spoke, glancing around at the passers-by. “It’s not a good idea for us to stay out in the open too long.” He grabbed a trolley that had been abandoned a few feet away and helped Harry, Ron and Hermione load their trunks on it.
The three teens and Lupin lead the procession out of King’s Cross Station. The Dursleys followed, with Moody trailing them. The expression on the their faces reminded Harry of one he had seen before on Snape’s face, during his third year. The only proof that they hadn’t been stunned, or knocked unconscious was that they were still moving on their own.
The drive to Little Whinging was completely silent. Harry, Ron and Hermione were crammed into the back seat with one of the trunks that wouldn’t fit in the boot, Hedwig and Pigwidgeon’s cages and Crookshanks’s basket. Ron and Hermione would every so often exchange incredulous looks, or glance at Harry for reassurance that this was normal behaviour. Harry could only shrug. Honestly, he thought, this was better than he had expected.
When they reached Little Whinging and finally number four, Privet Drive it was a relief. The five occupants piled out of Uncle Vernon’s large, shiny company car.
“Get your things and get into the house, quickly,” demanded Uncle Vernon. “The last thing we need is ruffians like you bandying about, ruining the neighborhood,” He added, glancing around to make sure none of the neighbors were watching.
“What?” asked Ron, who had just regained his full height after reaching into the car to grab Pigwidgeon’s cage. He appeared to not have heard what Vernon Dursley had said.
“Don’t you use that tone with me,” Uncle Vernon controlled his urge to shout, but it was a near thing. By the way he had just acted he had saved his real diatribe for home. “We allow your kind to stay in our house and this is how you react. I always knew you wiz- weirdoes were not a good kind.”
Harry was quite shocked at Uncle Vernon’s brazenness. For one thing he had actually almost said ‘wizard’, something that he had only done once before, as far as Harry could recall. He had the urge to burst out and ask, “who are you and what have you done with my uncle?’ But he was more shocked by how forward and direct his uncle was being. He had never been so Snape-like in front of a fully qualified wizard before. Next moment Harry realized that Uncle Vernon probably didn’t realize that Ron and Hermione were fully qualified.
“Bit rich calling us weirdoes,” Ron said. He was grinning mischievously. It was an expression reminiscent of Fred and George at their finest. “I mean you are the parents of the boy who had achieved the feat of being wider than he is tall.”
“Ron,” Hermione chastised quietly. She was obviously fighting two conflicting feelings – the desire to reprimand and to laugh. This coupled with Ron uttering to the Dursleys something that he had been thinking for years caused Harry to unsuccessfully stifle a snigger.
It was perhaps this attack on her beloved Dudleykins that caused Aunt Petunia to speak up for the first time since her exclamation at the train station.
“You,” she shrieked at Harry, “How dare you discuss Dudley with them. How dare you spread lies,” she was quite loud. Harry realized that Uncle Vernon wasn’t the only one who knew how to bellow.
“I didn’t –” Harry started to say, but was cut off by a hearty guffaw from Ron.
“Yeah right. You’re the one that’s lying. Have you even looked at your great whale of a son? I haven’t had to rely on Harry’s accounts. I’ve seen him. That day we came to pick up Harry for the Quidditch World Cup.”
Uncle Vernon’s eyes were narrowed again. He wasn’t likely to forget the day his living room had been blown apart. He did not appear to have remembered Ron though, at least until now. His recollection of the events of that afternoon three years before was perceptible.
“YOU, y – y – you’re one of them?” he spluttered through his anger. “One of those red-headed freaks who tried to murder my SON BY HAVING HIM CHOKE ON HIS OWN TONGUE.” Uncle Vernon bellowed the last words. They echoed through the empty street.
“Vernon.” Aunt Petunia’s face was turning this way and that, to see if any of the neighbors were watching. “SSSSSSHHHHH.”
Looking absolutely furious, Uncle Vernon quickly shuffled Harry, Ron and Hermione into the house.
The three large Hogwarts trunks, the three teens, and the Dursleys crowded into the small entrance. These less than cozy accommodations did nothing for Uncle Vernon’s temper.
“No consideration, none of you,” Uncle Vernon continued his tirade. “How you could even have the gall to show your face around here after that egregious – ”
“We’re here for Harry,” Hermione spoke up. She was wearing an expression of incredulity. Harry was quite sure she had underestimated what the Dursleys were actually like. He understood how she could have done this. It wasn’t really that hard to do. “Surely that should be all that matters.”
“Who are you?” Aunt Petunia asked, rather rudely.
“Hermione Granger.” They had been introduced just that evening, this was further proof, to Harry (not that he needed it), that the Dursleys didn’t listen to anything that he said.
“And you’re –”
“I’m a witch, yes.”
Both Vernon and Petunia cringed at Hermione’s declaration.
“And frankly I am shocked at you,” she said glaring at each of the Dursleys in turn. “The way you react at seeing Harry, especially after everything he’s been though. It’s despicable. What kind of people are you?” The look she had was one of mixed rage and loathing.
Being questioned on their behaviour by a teenage witch made both of the Dursleys to glower at her.
“I will not be spoken to like this in my own house,” shrieked Aunt Petunia. “Especially not when it comes from a freak like you.”
“Don’t call her that,” Ron snarled from his position near the stairs.
“This is my hou-” Uncle Vernon began.
“Yeah, whatever, we know it’s your house.” Ron waved away the repetitive remark. “You sound like a bloody parrot.” The room fell silent as neither Dursley could think of a retort. “Right then,” Ron broke the silence. “Harry, where’s your room again?” He whipped out his wand and said “Locomotor trunks.”
The three trunks rose a foot off the ground and lined up like boxcars on a train at the bottom of the stairs.
“What the hell are you doing?” roared Uncle Vernon, grabbing Aunt Petunia and retreating to the entrance of the living room.
“The laundry,” Ron said sarcastically. “What does it look like? I’m taking these to wherever we’re staying.”
“You can’t . . . they’ll kick you out . . . ruddy owls again . . . ” Uncle Vernon was not able to complete an entire sentence, finally trailing off completely. He had quite the look of wild horror in his eyes.
“Nah, that’s only for underage wizards.” Ron was barely able to hide his glee. “Both Hermione and I are fully qualified now.”
Vernon and Petunia Dursley’s skin went from red to green to deathly white in the blink of an eye. To say this was unwelcome news would be the understatement of the millennium.
“Liar,’ Aunt Petunia finally whispered.
“Actually he’s not,” Harry said. It was a little enjoyable seeing his aunt and uncle squirm at this information. Their faces were horror-stricken.
“Anyway,” Ron continued, turning away to hide the huge grin that was still on his face. “Should get these upstairs. Where are we staying, exactly?” He looked at Harry quizzically again.
“Er . . . . . ” This hadn’t been discussed before they arrived. Harry was fairly certain that his aunt and uncle would not want Ron or Hermione staying in the guest room usually reserved for Aunt Marge.
“They’re not staying in the guest room. I haven’t the time to be playing maid to them.” Aunt Petunia said shrilly, proving Harry right
“With me I guess.” How they were going to fit he didn’t know. Harry’s room was already the smallest in the house. It was fine when it was just he and Hedwig, but two other people, along with an overly excited owl and Hermione’s ginger cat Crookshanks. . . It was going to be tight.
The trio marched up the stairs and into the smallest bedroom. “It’s not that big.” Harry explained to Hermione as Ron had seen his room once before. “It’s going to be a tight squeeze with all three of us.”
“No worries.” Hermione whipped out her wand and pointed it at few objects; they shrank making a little more room. Then she conjured two more beds.
“These are better than camp beds. Hermione you’re bloody brilliant. Have I told you that?” Ron said, eyeing the two new pieces of furniture with appreciation. Hermione blushed deeply at the praise, but she was smiling brightly
“My aunt and uncle will go mad if they see these.” Harry commented, also with an appreciative glace at them. He doubted that the Dursleys would dare set foot in his room, especially now, but it would almost be worth it to see their reactions, or Dudley for that matter.
The day having been long and tiring, they all decided sleep was the best idea.
They lay in the dark room in complete silence. Ron’s snores soon broke the quiet, and Hermione’s breathing became rhythmical. Harry was staring at the light on his ceiling that was coming from the streetlamp outside. Despite feeling completely exhausted, he could not get to sleep.
It was starting to get light out when Harry finally fell into an uneasy doze. It seemed that he had barely closed his eyes when there was movement in his room, and the unmistakable sound of Aunt Petunia shrieking and Uncle Vernon bellowing over something.
“What the bloody hell . . . ?” Ron’s groggy voice came from Harry’s right.
Harry jumped out of bed and was halfway out of the room when he realized Hermione’s bed was empty.
” . . . OWLS, NOW FILTHY CATS.” were the first words that greeted him when he opened the bedroom door.
Uncle Vernon’s voice echoed up the stairs that Harry and Ron were quickly descending. It appeared that Crookshanks had got out of Harry’s room and traipsed downstairs.
“I’m really sorry,” Hermione’s voice carried up to them. Even though they couldn’t see her, the tone of her voice was one of high amusement.
“Sorry are you?” barked Uncle Vernon. “That great ugly fur ball is destroying my house and that’s all you have to say. Your lot are just . . . ungrateful . . . . er . . . ” he seemed to be searching for the right words “RUFFIANS,” he finally blurted out.
Harry and Ron entered the living room just in time to hear Hermione burst into laughter. Crookshanks, whom she was holding in her arms, seemed thoroughly put out by her shaking.
“You cannot be serious,” she choked out through her gales of laughter. “Not particularly loquacious are you?”
Uncle Vernon swelled indignantly.
“In my own house! You dare to be this disrespectful.”
“Yeah, because you’ve been so respectful to us,” Ron replied in an offhand way because he was watching Hermione with a look of surprise on his face. It seemed he couldn’t believe Hermione’s behaviour. She had never behaved so to an adult before, except Rita Skeeter.
Uncle Vernon was growing purple in the face again. Aunt Petunia, who Harry just noticed, was eyeing Crookshanks with the same look she had given Kreacher the one time he appeared at Privet Drive.
Hermione was still grinning madly as she said, “Who would like to join me in a spot of breakfast?”
She pulled her wand out of the pocket of her dressing gown. Harry glanced at his Aunt and Uncle; their reaction on seeing a wand was always comical.
They didn’t fail to disappoint. Aunt Petunia shrieked again and Uncle Vernon, spluttering, backed right into the side table, knocking over several knick-knacks as he did so.
Harry thought Hermione had not noticed their reaction as she twirled her wand and eggs, bacon, sausages and toast appeared out of thin air. Then he saw the corners of her mouth were twitching. She was clearly trying very hard to keep a straight face.
“I’m starving.” Ron sat down in front of the table now laden with food. Harry was hungry as well, but like Hermione, was enjoying the reaction of his Aunt and Uncle, who were staring with their mouths agape, apparently too horrified to speak. He sat down slowly and began to pile some of the food on his plate.
“Would you like some, there’s plenty?” Hermione asked the Dursleys innocently.
“Isquigood.” Ron critiqued, his mouth full of eggs.
They didn’t answer. They just slowly backed out of the room as if scared to take their eyes of the trio.
Harry couldn’t help but smile as he thought of his Aunt and Uncle’s reaction to Ron and Hermione. After that breakfast the Dursleys tended to stay clear of the three teenagers. If Harry chanced to come downstairs by himself he would often hear hissed complaints or demands from them (“you’re to clean that up” or “keep that damn cat in your room.”) but they would scurry out of any room Ron or Hermione entered.
By and large the few weeks that Harry, Ron and Hermione stayed at number four, Privet Drive were uneventful. They spent many hours talking over the information they had on the Horcruxes and trying to ascertain the location of the next one. They tried to think where the real locket Horcrux was, but came up blank every time.
“It could be anywhere,” was Ron’s constant refrain? “Mate, we’ll be Dumbledore’s age by the time we find it.”
Harry agreed. He was starting to feel more strongly that this task was insurmountable. If Dumbledore had trouble finding them, how on earth were three teenagers supposed to?
Harry decided that he didn’t want to think about the seemingly impossible task ahead of them just now. They had discussed the topic to no end, and as he had no further information to think about, figured he could try not to dwell for once.
He sat down at the window and started absentmindedly down Privet Drive. Ron and Hermione had left that morning. They were going to Hermione’s parent’s house and then to the Burrow to drop off their school things and pick up anything that they thought they would need for the next four weeks. The next day the trio were going to stay at Grimmauld Place.
Harry didn’t want to stay at Sirius’s old house. He was sure that it was going to bring back too many painful memories of his godfather. But after some careful deliberation he decided that the alternatives were far worse. He could stay at Privet Drive and endure his Aunt and Uncle for another four weeks, or he could go to the Burrow. And just now the Borrow was the only place that was worse than Privet Drive..
Harry wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about how things had been left with Ginny. On the one hand he was glad that she had taken it as well as she did. He didn’t know how to deal with girls that cried. As torn as he was about breaking up with her if she had cried he wasn’t sure he could bear it. On the other hand, a small and loathsome part of him was a little hurt that she hadn’t. Did she not feel that strongly about him after all?
Harry knew he was being stupid. Ginny’s demeanor was one of the reasons he liked her so much. She wasn’t a human hosepipe like Cho had been. But all the same . . . .
The sun was starting to sink behind the neat square houses on Privet Drive as Harry sat lost in his recollections and reflections. He was staring out the window but not really seeing. He was, therefore, taken aback when he spotted movement on the street below. He saw what looked like a dozen cloaked figures moving quickly up Privet Drive.
His sense of foreboding at peak levels, Harry snatched up his wand and dashed from his room. He ran down the stairs as quickly as he could and into the living room, where his Aunt and Uncle sat watching television.
Without preamble he hurried over and shut off the television (which had been the only source of light in the room).
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” bellowed his uncle.
“Shut up,” Harry hissed. He was peering through the curtains trying to see who was approaching.
“How dare you –”
“There’s someone coming, and I don’t think it’s a friendly visit,” Harry explained rapidly, not taking his eyes off the street. From this level they all seemed to be running. The group was about thirty seconds away from number four’s garden path when one of them pulled out a wand and something large and silvery erupted. It took Harry a minute to recognize it as Tonks’s patronus.
Temporarily relieved he ran to the front door of number four and threw it open. Seven people piled in, the last in slammed the door.
“Wotcher, Harry,” came Tonks’s breathless voice
“Hey, Tonks,” Harry said. “What’s going on? Why’re you all running up Privet Drive as if Death Eaters –”
Before he could finish his question he heard several loud CRACKs that sounded as if they had come from the end of the street.
“They are.” Hermione answered in a frantic voice.
Each of the people that had run into Privet Drive had lowered their hoods. Standing there were Tonks, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Moody, Charlie Weasley and, most surprisingly of all, Ginny.
Caught off guard, Harry stared at her for a few seconds, forgetting the impending Death Eater attack. He was snapped out of it by Lupin’s hurried explanation.
“We haven’t much time to talk Harry; we’re here to take you and your Aunt and Uncle to headquarters.”
Harry’s bewilderment increased.
“We’re not going,” Uncle Vernon’s voice came from the living room door.
“There’s no time to argue.” Tonks ran over and grabbed Aunt Petunia.
Before it had registered that she had moved there was another loud CRACK and the two women disappeared.
Uncle Vernon stared blankly at the spot where his wife had been a moment before.. He was at a complete loss for words. He was in such a deep state of shock that he didn’t even put up a fight when Moody grabbed his arm and Disapparated with him.
“We’ll explain everything in a bit,” Lupin told Harry. He motioned for Ron and Hermione and Charlie and Ginny to Disapparate first. They vanished in an instant. “Let’s go, Harry.” Lupin said quickly He grabbed Harry’s arm, rather harder than he would normally have done, in haste and twisted away.
Harry prepared himself for the unpleasant squeezing sensation that accompanied Apparition.
“What the –” Lupin had stumbled and would have fallen if Harry hadn’t grabbed him.
“Anti-Apparition jinx?” Harry asked.
“Probably,” Lupin agreed. “Let’s hope they just put it on the house. Come on.’
They dashed through the kitchen and into the back garden just as they heard the front door crash in. At that same moment Harry felt the all too familiar searing pain in his scar. He screwed up his eyes as they took the last few steps into the back garden.
“He’s here,” Harry gasped, through the pain he was feeling. “Voldemort –”
Lupin didn’t respond, but Harry was sure that he had heard him; because Lupin’s renewed grip on his arm was so tight Harry was already starting to lose feeling in his fingers.
“Let’s go,” Lupin said quietly and twisted away.
Harry had the briefest glimpse of Voldemort’s scarlet eyes and skull white face staring at him from the kitchen door before he felt the familiar unpleasant sensation of Apparition – yet this time he didn’t mind it so much.