Chapter 1 (expanded and updated)
"Dudley, run!" Harry shouted.
He could feel it coming at him. Of course, he'd known. He'd known the minute the air had changed, and everything had gone cold, and the world around him had taken on a tinge of darkness.
Dudley didn't know, though. His cousin had no frame of reference for what was happening or for the Dementors bearing down on them. Naturally, he still thought it was Harry's fault somehow. In a way, Harry couldn't blame him. He knew he shouldn't have provoked his stupid cousin. It was hard not to. Everyone and everything angered him these days, especially Dudley. He was tired of just sitting back and being bullied by him.
"Go!" Harry repeated. "And for Merlin's sake, keep your mouth closed!"
It was no use. Dudley was frozen in fright. Harry didn't want to scare him more, but that really was the lesser of two evils at this point. Once he retrieved his wand from the ground, where it had fallen when Dudley punched him, he shouted the spell to drive the Dementors away.
Despite a seriously strong Patronus that must have come from sheer determination, the Dementors kept coming. Harry's stomach grew queasy. There were at least two of them, possibly more. He raised his wand again and tried to guide his Patronus at them, but he was rapidly losing strength. He could hear his mother's screaming in his ears and Voldemort's cold laughter. That was never a good sign. The next thing was usually …
Despite his anger with his friends, it was the image of their faces that filled his mind as he was losing consciousness. Harry desperately tried to think of something happy, and then, he felt the strength fill him again. He had to stay alive. He had to wake up.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" He cried. "EXPECTO PA-TRONUM!"
This time it worked, and the Dementors descending on him were blasted away. Harry turned his stag Patronus toward Dudley, reminding it that there was another victim. He looked around to see where his cousin was.
*"THIS WAY!" Harry shouted at the stag. Wheeling around, he sprinted down the alleyway, holding the lit wand aloft. "DUDLEY? DUDLEY!"
"GET IT!" Harry bellowed, and with a rushing, roaring sound, the silver stag he had conjured came galloping back past him. The dementor's eyeless face was barely an inch from Dudley's when the silver antlers caught it; the thing was thrown up into the air, and, like its fellow, it soared away and was absorbed into the darkness. The stag cantered to the end of the alleyway and dissolved into silver mist.*
After the Dementors around Dudley pulled back and then flew off, Harry gasped and dropped to the pavement in relief. Sweat was pouring off his forehead even though his skin was cold and clammy. He crawled half the distance to Dudley before he managed to pull himself up and walk the rest of the way in jarring footsteps.
When he got to his cousin, Harry realized that the much larger boy was not moving any time soon. Dudley was utterly out of it. Harry tried to pull him to his feet.
"Dudley, come on!" Harry said. "Someone might have seen something."
This got no reaction. At first, Harry was afraid that the Dementors had actually taken Dudley's soul, but it looked like he might just have been scared out of his wits. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to his aunt and uncle. There was going to be hell to pay when he did get Dudley home.
Since his cousin couldn't, or wouldn't, move on his own, Harry half pulled, half dragged him. It was slow going. He had barely gotten a few feet to the end of the alley when his old babysitter, Mrs. Figg, appeared. Harry was so shocked that he could hardly grasp what she was saying when she started nattering about Dumbledore and Mundungus Fletcher, he just gaped at her.
Harry didn't like the idea of being spied on, for security reasons or any reasons, without his knowledge. It also really annoyed him that no one had ever told him the woman who had been his babysitter since he was a toddler was a squib. He kept most of it to himself. The only justification anyone ever gave him was 'Dumbledore's orders.'
When they got to Number 4 Privet Drive, Harry took a deep breath and opened the door. At first, his relatives were none the wiser. Then, they saw the state of Dudley; they assumed he had been mugged. Harry took the opportunity to sneak up the stairs since, for the moment, they were ignoring him.
*"Who did it, son? Give us names. We'll get them, don't worry."
"Shh! He's trying to say something, Vernon! What is it, Diddy? Tell Mummy!"
Harry's foot was on the bottommost stair when Dudley found his voice.
Harry froze, foot on the stair, face screwed up, braced for the explosion.
"BOY! COME HERE!"
With a feeling of mingled dread and anger, Harry removed his foot slowly from the stair and turned to follow the Dursleys.*
Harry went to face his relatives in the too-bright, too-clean kitchen. His uncle was glaring at him with beady-little eyes, and his aunt was petting Dudley and clutching him tightly. Despite having spoken long enough to accuse Harry, Dudley still seemed pretty out of it.
"What have you done to my son?" Uncle Vernon said in a menacing growl.
"Nothing," Harry said.
There was no way he was getting away with this. Uncle Vernon wouldn't believe him. He always took Dudley's side. Harry's worst punishments had always been over times when Dudley had accused him of hurting him somehow, as laughable as that was.
Aunt Petunia shook her head, babbling to Dudley about Harry using his wand. Uncle Vernon was just about ready to explode when they were all distracted by a screech owl barreling through the open kitchen window and dropping an official-looking parchment envelope at Harry's feet. His heart sank. This could not be good.
As Uncle Vernon bellowed uselessly about owls in his house, Harry opened the letter with shaky hands and a pounding heart. He was expecting another warning like the one he had gotten when Dobby had dropped the pudding on Mrs. Mason. He wasn't expecting to be expelled from Hogwarts.
As he watched Uncle Vernon shake his fists and Aunt Petunia try to calm a retching Dudley, the enormity of the letter was starting to sink in. Harry felt like the world was ending. In a way, it was. His world was ending.
*Harry's temporarily stupefied brain seemed to reawaken. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand. There was only one thing for it. He would have to run — now. Where he was going to go, Harry didn't know, but he was certain of one thing: At Hogwarts or outside it, he needed his wand. In an almost dreamlike state, he pulled his wand out and turned to leave the kitchen.*
"Oh, no, you don't!" Vernon called after him. "Where do you think you're going? Come back and put him right!"
"No!" Harry cried, pulling his wand on his uncle. "I'm leaving. For good!"
"You can't leave!" Vernon cried. "Your funny lot will chuck you out."
"Too late!" Harry scoffed. "They already have done. So, there's nothing you can do. I can jinx you or curse you, all I want now. I can use my wand. So GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY!"
"No!" Petunia shrieked. "You have to fix him, now."
"What is the matter with you two?" Harry said. "I can't 'FIX' him! I didn't DO anything to him. It was Dementors. DEMENTORS, get it? If you're lucky, they didn't suck out his soul."
As soon as he said it, he almost regretted it. He could tell by the way his aunt's face went completely white that she, at least, knew what a Dementor was. He hadn't expected her to. Even if she didn't, what he said probably had made an impression.
"Dementors?" She breathed. "Here? How? Why?"
"I don't know," He answered honestly. "I got rid of them, though. I saved your pathetic son's life. You should thank me for it. If you ever get around to it."
"Now, see here," Vernon said. "What are you talking about? His soul?"
Just then, there was another owl. This one, Harry recognized as the Weasley's old, haggard family owl Errol. He sighed and took the letter. It was from Arthur Weasley, telling him to stay put, not do any more magic, and not surrender his wand. Harry fought the urge to scream.
Although he wanted nothing more than to leave, Harry sat down. He decided to follow orders and advice. After all, he always did. Arthur Weasley seemed to always have his best interests at heart, and if Dumbledore could straighten out this mess, he would let him.
"What?" Vernon taunted. "Not leaving? Not expelled."
"No," Harry huffed. "And maybe not."
"Humph," Vernon said. "I don't think there were any of these … whatever you called them. Codswallop, if you ask me."
"De-men-tors," Harry said slowly and clearly as if talking to a two-year-old. "They are real, and there were two, and they almost took your son's soul."
*"They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban," said Aunt Petunia.*
"Hang on," Harry said. "How do you know about Dementors?" He glared at Petunia.
Aunt Petunia, for her part, looked thoroughly disgusted with herself for saying a magical world like Azkaban. Uncle Vernon looked like he was ready to pass out. Dudley was still out of it.
*"I heard — that awful boy — telling her about them — years ago," she said jerkily.
"If you mean my mum and dad, why don't you use their names?" said Harry loudly, but Aunt Petunia ignored him. She seemed horribly flustered.*
Uncle Vernon leaned in closer to Aunt Petunia and asked her if the Dementors really existed. She just nodded. Harry continued to glare at them both. He wasn't going to let his aunt off so easily.
"She was your sister, you know," he said. "How can you hate her so much? Or the man she married? He's awful just because he married her? Really."
"No, not him," she said in a quiet voice.
"What do you mean, not him?" Harry demanded.
"I wasn't talking about your father," she snapped. "And I didn't hate my sister."
Harry looked at her, even more confused. Everything about this day was getting to him. Nothing seemed to make sense. By the time he got yet another owl telling him that the decision to expel him was being repealed and he had to appear at a disciplinary hearing on August 12, Harry was starting to feel exhausted. That was a month away.
Uncle Vernon was hopefully asking Harry if he had been sentenced to the death penalty as Harry read the letter, but Harry ignored him. He just told his uncle he had a hearing to go to. All he wanted now was to go to bed. He needed to get away from his relatives before he did or said anything he would regret. Then, another owl came through the window, this one from Sirius. All it said was for him not to leave the house.
As Uncle Vernon continued yelling at him to stop the owls, and Aunt Petunia complained about Dudley, Harry felt the anger and resentment rising inside him at being ignored. No one asked how he was. No one commended him on fighting off two Dementors with advanced magic. No one tried to ease his fears of being expelled, having his wand snapped, and being shunned by wizard society, not to mention defenseless with a homicidal maniac and said maniac's followers after him. No, he was to sit here in the too-bright, too-clean kitchen with his shouting relatives and do as he was told.
"SHUT IT!" Harry said. "I can't do anything about the owls!"
He crumbled up Sirius's letter in his hand, wishing he had the satisfaction of an incendio right now. He wanted nothing more than to get away from these people and everyone who thought they knew what was best for him but never bothered to care about him. He glared at his aunt and uncle.
"I did what I could," Harry said bluntly. "I used the Patronus to scare the Dementors away from Dudley. As far as I know, he's just scared. He's talking, so he still has his soul. Take him to St. Mungo's if you're worried about him. I didn't do anything to him, so I can't undo anything."
"Why?" Vernon said.
"Why were those things here?" he demanded.
"Oh," Harry said. "I have no idea. I suppose He sent them."
"Who?" Vernon asked.
Although that name would have had a kitchen full of wizards flinching or yelling at him, the Dursleys just looked thoughtful. Aunt Petunia made a grimace like sucking a lemon, and Uncle Vernon scrunched up his face.
"Where have I heard that name before?" he asked. "Funny sounding name, even for you lot. Wait a minute … isn't he the one who …."
"Murdered my parents," Harry supplied grimly.
*"But he's gone," said Uncle Vernon impatiently, without the slightest sign that the murder of Harry's parents might be a painful topic to anybody. "That giant bloke said so. He's gone."
"He's back," said Harry heavily.*
Harry could see the wheels turning in his uncle's head. His aunt had turned white. He knew that she was thinking of her sister's death, and he remembered the comment she had made earlier about not hating her sister. He supposed on some level she meant it, even if that lack of hatred didn't extend to love for him.
"Out," Vernon said suddenly. "Get out of my house, boy!"
"What?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"Oh, no, you heard me," Vernon said. "I should have done it years ago. We never wanted you, but Petunia said we had to. Well, no more. You're not staying here when some loony's after you. Get out. Now!"
"Uncle Vernon," Harry protested, remembering all of the letters telling him to stay put.
"No!" Vernon roared. "Out!"
He stood up and descended on Harry, who got up from the table and considered what to do. Threatening him with his wand probably wasn't a good idea, now that he was no longer officially expelled and Vernon knew it. Obviously, self-defense wasn't working as an excuse for the ministry. Still, Vernon looked even more deranged than usual.
Vernon was still yelling, and Harry couldn't get a word in edgewise.
*"…Why we ever kept you in the first place, I don't know. Marge was right, it should have been the orphanage, we were too damn soft for our own good, thought we could squash it out of you, thought we could turn you normal, but you've been rotten from the beginning, and I've had enough — OWLS!"*
There was another owl, alright, but this one was a howler, addressed to Aunt Petunia. She stared at it in horror. Harry encouraged her to open it and get it over with. Dumbledore's voice came roaring into the kitchen, harsh and stern.
*"REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA."*
"Pe-pe-petunia?" Vernon whispered. "What is it, Pet?"
"We have to keep him," she replied in a chalky voice.
"If we put him out, the neighbors will talk."
"We just … we can't," she finally said.
"What about this … voldy-whatsits? What about Dudley? Petunia, we finally have a chance to be rid of him!"
Harry listened to them talk about him as if he wasn't there, but that was nothing new. It was more common than them talking to him, as a matter of fact. He stole a glance at Dudley, who had his head down on the table, drool dripping from his mouth.
"No, Petunia," Vernon said. "I'm putting my foot down this time. I'm not letting some crackpot fool scare me into risking my family's life." He turned to Harry. "You! Get your things and get out."
Ten minutes later, Harry was sitting on the front porch.
Harry's breaths were coming in shallow, quick gasps. He knew he might pass out at any minute. Nothing seemed real. His hands were pale and clammy. He was real. He was standing here. There was the cold cement beneath his feet. He wished it would swallow him whole. He didn't want to believe anything from the past hour had really happened.
Harry turned in the direction of the emotionless voice. When the man had turned up at Privet Drive, Harry had been almost grateful. That alone showed what a state he was in. No one was ever happy to see Severus Snape, least of all Harry Potter.
After a moment's hesitation, Harry followed his least favorite professor down the front walk and then down the street. He had no idea where they were going and didn't ask. Harry was numb inside. The feeling of cold death hadn't left. His mother's scream and his cousin's empty expression still haunted him.
"This way," Snape snapped.
They walked into a narrow alley between rows of houses where people usually set out their trash bins. There were no people here. Harry caught a glimpse of a black cat racing off when it had seen them coming. The alley pitch black had no other signs of life.
"Take my arm."
Harry looked up with a start. In the nearly five years he had known Snape, he couldn't remember ever being this close to the man unless they were shouting at each other. He had no idea why Snape would want him touching his arm.
"Do as you're told, Potter. We are going to Apparate."
"Right," Harry breathed.
He had never apparated before, and the sensation was not one he would want to repeat again. For one thing, he had to hold tightly to Snape's arm. That would have made him uncomfortable enough without the feeling of being squeezed through a straw at two hundred miles an hour to go along with it. When his feet touched solid ground again, he would have fallen flat on his face if he didn't still have a death-grip on Snape's forearm.
"Read this," Snape ordered, not commenting on the fact that Harry hadn't let go.
Still disoriented, Harry didn't question him. He just read the paper that had been thrust under his nose.
"The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London."*
Harry was just about to ask what that meant when he looked up and noticed something peculiar. They were standing on a sidewalk in a city; obviously, London and the houses were moving. As Harry watched, number eleven and number thirteen moved apart to make room for number twelve.
As soon as the houses stopped moving, Snape half-pulled, half-pushed Harry put the front steps of number twelve. He tapped a silver knocker on the front door, and they were inside in seconds. Harry barely had time to ask what was going on before Snape was ordering him around again.
"Stay here. Be quiet."
Without a word, Snape left him at the front entrance of the spooky house. It smelled musty as if the house hadn't been lived in for years. The walls were peeling paper, but it had once been a grand manor. There were old-fashioned gas lamps but no electricity. It was a wizard's house. Harry wondered if this was where Snape lived. He could see snakes carved in the wood railings of the stairs and in the brass fixtures. The place was definitely spooky enough.
Unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Harry started inching forward down to look down the long, dark hallway in front of him. He spied dingy portraits, more snakes, and elaborate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. He reached out to touch one of the candelabras, also shaped like a snake. It bit him.
"What the!" Harry croaked.
"Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! Half-breeds, mutants, freaks, begone from this place! How dare you befoul the house of my fathers —"*
Harry jumped back, trying to figure out who was screaming at him and why. He spun around in a circle because he still seemed to be alone in the hallway. The yelling continued, and got more creative.
"Can you never do what you're told?"
Harry spun around again. Snape was coming back down the hall.
"I'm sorry, Sir," he blathered, "I don't know what I did. I just touched …."
Snape reached out and grabbed his hand without preamble. Harry hadn't realized his finger was slightly bleeding in the commotion of having obscenities screamed at him. Snape murmured some things at Harry's finger and then, seeming to be satisfied, waved his hand over it. The skin healed itself.
"Shut up, old woman," Snape shouted behind Harry. Then, to Harry, "Come with me."
Harry didn't hesitate to follow and get away from whoever was screaming. Snape led him down the hallway a bit through a door, down a hall, and then down a flight of narrow stone steps. Harry was beginning to think that Snape was bringing him to some kind of dungeon, and he should have said his goodbyes.
Then he found himself in a brightly lit basement that turned out to be a kitchen. It was lit by a large fireplace, and Harry would have found it just as gloomy as the rest of the house if it didn't have people he was very happy to see. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
Harry soon found himself with his arms full of a bushy-haired bookworm. Then he was being patted on the back by the Weasley twins while Ron chattered in his ear. Sirius was sitting at the edge of the table grinning ear to ear, and Molly Weasley was nattering on and on about how thin he was and how he needed to eat something straight away. Remus Lupin was even sitting by the fire, drinking a cup of tea like nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Forgetting about Snape and everything else that had happened that night, it was suddenly too much for Harry.
"What is WRONG with all of you!?" Harry shouted.
The room went completely silent. Harry had stunned all of them, from Hermione to the Weasleys. Sirius looked hurt, Remus looked puzzled, and Snape looked angry.
"How can you all just stand there and act like nothing is WRONG?" Harry asked again, with almost the same volume. "I have been TRAPPED in PRIVET DRIVE for WEEKS while you are all HERE at some secret headquarters? What are you all playing at? And then you just act like NOTHING IS WRONG? You just … you just …." Harry was ready to hyperventilate. He didn't even know how to express the anger and hurt that had been welling up inside him since his fight with Voldemort at the end of the Triwizard Tournament.
"You DUMP me there and IGNORE me. And then YOU," he turned toward Snape. "What is with YOU? You just show up and take me here? And tell me nothing?"
Harry waited a moment. He wasn't sure what he was waiting for, but something had snapped inside him. He had been numb for the past couple of hours. Now, he felt unhinged. He sent one last glare around the room.
"I'm done," he said bluntly.
It was not a yell. It was a statement. With that, he turned and ran up the stairs he had just descended only a few minutes before.
Note: *indicates quotations from the book.
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (p. 9, 12, 13, 15,18, 19, 28, 37). Pottermore Publishing. Kindle Edition.