Uncle Vernon removed his key from the trunk lock and left Harry to struggle with his baggage. Harry lifted his huge school trunk into the back of his uncle's car along with his broom and closed the door. He trudged around the car and got into the backseat with Hedwig. Uncle Vernon started the car and they were on their way back to Privet Drive.
Harry ignored the constant looks he got from his uncle in the rear view mirror and contented himself with staring out the window. Another summer with the Dursleys. Another summer without Ron or Hermione or Sirius . . . . Harry prayed to God that his godfather would be safe. Sirius had a habit of putting himself in danger for Harry. He just hoped that he wasn't going to do anything stupid.
Harry was brought out of his thoughts by a soft hoot from Hedwig. He turned and smiled at his faithful pet owl.
"Shut that confounded bird up!" shouted Vernon from the front seat.
"Sorry Uncle Vernon," said Harry. He looked at Hedwig and put a finger to his lips to urge his owl to be quiet.
"Don't think we forgot about that clever little magic trick your freak friends pulled last summer. You're going to pay for that one boy."
Harry's breath caught in his throat as he heard his uncle's words and saw the crazed look in his uncle's eyes. What could happen that would possibly be worst than the last fourteen summers? Harry began to cherish every moment he had in the silent car. No doubt this would be the last time he would see daylight in a very long time.
The car ride ended too quickly for Harry, even despite the fact he was in a very small space with a very large, angry man. The car pulled into the driveway and Harry got out of the car very quickly. Maybe he could make a run for it before his uncle got out of the car. He had his wand in his hooded sweatshirt. He could run and flag down the Knight Bus.
Harry glanced down the left side of Privet Drive. All clear. He turned his gaze to the right side of the street and his heart fell. A muggle was walking down the sidewalk. Calling the Knight Bus was out of the question. The muggle would see too much and Vernon would lock Harry in the cupboard forever. The muggle was drawing closer and Harry suddenly got another idea. If he could stay outside as long as possible, Uncle Vernon couldn't do anything to harm him and after the muggle passed, he could make a run for it.
Harry fingered his wand inside the front pocket of his sweatshirt. The muggle was closer and Harry noted something familiar about the way the man walked. It was stealthy and cat-like. Where had he seen that walk before? Harry turned his gaze back to his uncle, who was struggling to remove his pudgy self out from behind the steering wheel. Harry turned back to the man walking towards him. He was now close enough to enable Harry to note his features. He was lean and tall and was dressed in all black with a sweatshirt like Harry's. As he approached, Harry noticed his long black hair . . . Harry froze. He knew this man.
'Why on earth is Severus Snape walking down my street?' thought Harry to himself as his Potions professor drew closer. Harry's shock prevented him from realizing that his uncle was shouting his name.
"Harry! Get over here and get your trunk! Are you daft boy? Potter!" Harry took his eyes from Snape and back to his enraged uncle. His face was a dark shade of purple. Harry looked over to Snape who was just a few yards from him. Quickly making up his mind, he dashed towards his professor and stopped in front of him.
"Professor, help me please."
Snape looked at the boy in front of him. He smirked to himself. Potter was asking him for help.
"Potter, I'm not walking down your street for pleasure. I've been sent to collect you."
"Am I going back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked hopefully.
"It will be explained later Potter. Now, if you don't mind, I have some business to attend to with your uncle." Snape walked past Harry and towards a very apprehensive Vernon.
"Are you Harry's uncle?" asked Snape who crossed his arms over his chest. He was at least a head taller than Vernon who was looking quite intimidated.
"Who wants to know?" said Vernon as he eyed the strange man suspiciously.
"I've been made Harry's guardian for the summer," said Snape. "He'll be leaving immediately."
Vernon, if possible, turned even purpler.
"That boy is not leaving. He is going to pay for the little stunt he pulled last summer!"
Snape snorted at this and drew his wand.
"Harry will come with me."
Vernon moved to protest but Snape fixed his wand in between the man's eyes. Without another word, Vernon spun around and ran his pudgy self into the house. Snape turned back to Harry.
"Potter, where are your things?"
Harry pointed to the open trunk. Snape walked over and muttered a spell. Harry's giant trunk shrunk to the size of a matchbox, which Snape put in his pocket. Harry watched his Professor. Almost as shocking as his being on his street was the fact that he acted neutral towards Harry. He wasn't being his normal hate-Harry-with-every-cell-of-his-being self, but he also didn't look happy to be there either.
"Potter, I need to use your owl. She can catch up with us later. Dumbledore will know where to send her."
Harry nodded and took Hedwig's cage out of the car. Snape used his wand to write on a piece of parchment. Harry coaxed Hedwig onto his arm and walked over to Snape.
"This needs to get to Dumbledore as soon as possible," said Snape as he tied the note to the owl's leg. She hooted and flew off. Snape then took Hedwig's cage and shrunk it down to the size of a thimble.
"Do you have anything else Potter?"
"Um . . . yeah. My broom." Harry took his firebolt out of the trunk of the car and walked over to Snape. He proceeded to shrink the broom.
"We're going to travel by portkey," said Snape as he pulled out an old, leather bound book. He held it out to Harry. Harry didn't move. His eyes were fixed on the book. "Well, are you coming or not?"
Harry said nothing and continued to look at the book. A portkey. It was a portkey that took him to Voldemort a few days ago . . . . Where would this one take him?
"Potter! Are you coming or would you rather stay here with your relatives?"
Harry looked up and met Snape's gaze. He wasn't going to stay with the Dursleys but he wasn't going to touch the portkey either.
"Professor, I. . . I can't. . . I. . ."
"You can't what?" Snape's tone was going from slightly frustrated to thoroughly annoyed.
"I can't touch the p-portkey. I. . . just can't."
"And why the Hell not?" Snape was quite past thoroughly annoyed.
"A p-portkey. . . t-took me t-t-to. . . Voldemort. . . the tournament. . . Cedric."
Snape had forgotten that the tri-wizard cup had been a portkey. The fear in Harry's eyes was confirming the fact that he was severely traumatized by this.
"Mr. Potter, I understand your apprehension but I can assure you that you'll be perfectly safe. I will be with you the entire time," Severus was not sure that that fact would lessen the boy's fear.
"No, Professor . . . could we travel by floo or the Knight Bus?"
"Potter, take the portkey. You can trust me. I will not let anything happen to you."
Harry was taken back by these words. They almost sounded . . . nice. Harry looked down at the portkey again and then back up to Snape. He nodded slightly before placing a hand on the book. After a minute or so, he felt the familiar pull behind his navel and the rushing sound in his ears. He could feel Snape's shoulders bumping into his and then it all ceased.
It took Harry a moment to steady himself and open his eyes. When he did, he was a little disappointed. They did not land in Hogwarts. They were in a cottage, it looked like. It looked slightly larger than the Burrow and was a two-story house at least, judging by the staircase in the corner. Harry guesses they had landed in the living room. There was a fireplace in the center of the left wall with a window on each side. There was a couch in front of the fireplace and an armchair in the left top corner of the room. To his left, there was a desk beneath the window. Harry turned around to see that there was a bookshelf brimming with books behind him. Next to the shelf was a doorway that led to the kitchen and another door, which Harry guessed to be the bathroom. Harry returned to his original position and realized he was alone in the room. Where was Snape? Harry was startled when he heard a voice.
"Your things are in the second room to the left upstairs," said Snape as he walked down the stairs. "You will remain here for the rest of the summer."
Harry froze. The whole summer? With Snape?
"Excuse me Professor, am I to stay here with you?"
Snape straightened before answering. "Yes, I am to remain here with you along with another person who should be arriving shortly."
"I don't know. Dumbledore informed me that it was going to be a former auror but left it at that."
Harry nodded slightly before venturing to ask another question.
"Professor, why do I have to stay here?"
Snape walked over and sat in the armchair in the corner of the room.
"Dumbledore received some disturbing news this morning, as you were boarding the train for Kingscross. It seem as though you have gained another enemy: the ministry and they want you to be questioned extensively about Cedric's death. Dumbledore knew you'd probably end up in Azkaban so we decided to move you here."
Harry sat down on the sofa. Azkaban?
"They want to put me in Azkaban?"
Snape shrugged. "It's a possibility. Fudge, damn him, doesn't believe that Voldemort has returned, so he wants to place the blame on someone."
Snape nodded. "This cottage is quite a long way from Hogwarts and your relatives house so they will have a tough time finding you. One of the reasons you've been placed in my care is that it is known that you and I do not get along. This is the last place people will expect to find you."
"Is this your house?"
Snape shook his head.
"No, this cottage belongs to one of Dumbledore's sons. It's his summer home but he is in France for the summer so we can stay here."
Harry leaned back on the sofa. A whole summer with Snape and some stranger. Harry's expression must have been easily read because Snape made a comment that surprised Harry.
"Potter, I know this isn't ideal, but you can relax. This is no way how I imagined my summer but I will leave you alone if you do the same for me."
Both professor and student were startled when there was a knock at the door. Snape got up from his place in the corner and pulled out his wand. He walked over to the door and opened it slowly.
"Merlin," groaned Snape. "Please don't tell me you're the former auror Dumbledore was talking about!"
There wasn't a person at the door, as Harry expected. Instead, a big, black, grim-like dog trotted into the cottage.