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Chapter 3 : Family
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Number Four Privet Drive. Harry was not at all surprised to already find a couple of moving vans out front. The Dursleys weren't wasting any time.
Harry found himself in no hurry, casually surveying the house and neighborhood of his childhood with an odd curiosity. Here, he had been young and small and weak; days spent dodging Dudleys' gang and the berating of his aunt and uncle.
He returned a man, a wizard. He had stood toe to toe with Voldemort himself, not once, but on five different occasions, and he alone was left to recount them all. But then here he was, still hiding. He'd been hiding all his life.
He could see Mrs Figg's house just around the corner. There were, as usual, a horde cats mulling about the front lawn. But it was all so very different to him now, as if he were seeing it from a different angle. Indeed, he was.
Harry's gaze settled back onto his aunt and uncle's house. The last of his kin was just inside. Harry couldn't help but wonder what this last year had held for them. He hoped Uncle Vernon didn't still have that shotgun... but he had a strange feeling he was to be soon reacquainted with it. Nevertheless, he was glad Hermione was there with him.
This house. If that day, ten months ago hadn't been the last time he'd seen it, Harry most certainly knew that this time would be. That night... it seemed so long ago, like it belonged to a different lifetime.
He remembered them in that living room, watching helplessly as half his friends, half of all those he loved in this world, drank polyjuice potion to help him escape. George had lost his ear. Moody had been killed...
As Harry sat hesitantly in his seat, staring out at the house and the vans but not moving, his throat swelling, he felt a soft hand on his. He looked to it. It was Hermione's.
It's warmth spread him warmth. It's reassurance gave him reassurance. His eyes traveled up from their clasped hands, along her slender arm, to her soft brown eyes. He found courage in them. He could do this. He felt he could do anything with Hermione by him.
Harry collected himself, nodded to Burns and the other Auror in the front seat, and made his way out the car. Harry had insisted they go as muggles, not wanting to alarm the Dursleys any more than necessary.
Both the front doors opened in turn to let the Aurors out, before they then promptly slammed back closed on them.
“What the..?!” Burns cunfounded.
"Wait here for us, will you?" Harry asked the Auror. Burns looked doubtful. “This is my only family and they're muggles, not too big on the whole magic thing...”
“No,” Burns said flatly pushing back against the bewitched door.
“I insist,” Harry leaned right down into the window, staring Burns in the eyes as he shoved the door the rest of the way closed. Burns swallowed hard, turning to his partner in the passenger seat for backup, but he just shrugged.
"Alright, dammit, just make it fast!" Burns retorted.
Harry had to bite his tongue from sniping back. In two hours, he reminded himself, he'd be done with them all.
Instead Harry pushed himself back up with a sigh to turn to Hermione. She stood there smiling, waiting for him. Harry took a step forward, but then stopped. Something...
'To many days on the run...' he told himself as an odd feeling prickled down his spine – the feeling like he was being watched.
“Harry?” Hermione frowned, noting his pause.
Harry glanced back over his shoulder to the shadows of a giant elm just down the street. It's shadow was deep and black. Too black... Sensing something, Harry turned to face it.
And just like that, as if coming out of no where, an old man atop a rather rustic looking bicycle with wide handlebars and a broad seat came creaking his way out from the darkness.
Harry flinched for his wand – but no. It was just an old man on a bike? The front tire was bent and wobbled haphazardly with each rotation. The rusted chain creaked in protest as the homeless looking man's long legs drove it around.
Harry's eyes flashed to the two Aurors, but they were both leaned in, arguing with one another within the car. Burns was obviously displeased with letting Harry out of their sights. Harry turned back to the old man on the bike.
He was seemingly mesmerized by this odd sight on Privet Drive. The old man's ragged clothes were a dull brown, more from dirt than dye. He wore a sweat stained ball cap with a badly frayed bill that covered his deep set eyes. Filthy, wiry hair blended down into an even wirier beard. Harry watched cautiously as the old man cycled right by him, apparently oblivious to his audience.
But Harry did not let his guard down. Something was off. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it was there, right in front of him, staring him in the face.
And as if on cue, just as the old man was about to turn the corner, he flashed a glance back over his shoulder, right at Harry. It was an eerie, knowing, rotting toothed grin, one filled with malice and danger. And those eyes... those black, beady eyes...
'Kill him!' A voice from seemingly deep within him boomed in his head. Harry faltered from the sudden shock of brutality. Tripping a step forward, he reached for his wand.
“What..?” he mumbled aloud to himself, waging against this sudden battle within. He could not understand it.
“Harry?!” Hermione rushed forward with alarm, grasping at his arm.
Harry quickly caught himself then. Glancing back to the street, the old man and bicycle were gone, but Burns and his partner were now looking right to Harry, full of suspicion. Burns tried his door again.
“Come on,” Harry grabbed Hermione by the hand and started pulling her towards the house. “It was nothing.”
Hermione was not fooled, but decided to let it go for the moment.
"Well, this is it," he said, stopping to look at her before he opened the front door. “Thanks for being here."
"Wouldn't be anywhere else," she smiled and squeezed his hand tight.
. . . . .
Harry found his aunt and uncle just inside, directing the moving crew. He waited for them to take notice of him before he said anything.
Aunt Petunia spotted him first, merely glancing over him before she did a double take. Shock spread across her face. 'Here it goes,' thought Harry, 'now Hermione will see why I didn't want to come.'
Though that initial impulse of disgust flashed across her face, Aunt Petunia did not shriek like Harry had expected. Instead, she quickly washed her face of that shocked expression which then turned to that of a... smile?
She looked to Hermione and smiled further - it looked forced and fake - but then she peered down to their hands and if it were even possible, it grew even wider. They were still holding hands... Embarrassed, Harry quickly let go before looking back to his aunt.
"Harry!" Petunia finally feigned some sort of joyous surprise, which inevitably caught Uncle Vernon's attention.
"Hello, Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon," Harry said cordially, desperately wanting to latch back on to Hermione's hand. Petunia then did something Harry never would have expected. With a burst of emotion, Petunia tripped forward, taking Harry in with an all embracing hug.
"Oh, Harry, my little war hero! I'm so glad you're okay," she said frantically. "We were so worried about you! I mean, they told us you were okay, but to see you, to know it's true, I can't believe it! I'm so happy you're well!"
Harry was speechless. His arms flopped out to the sides beneath her python like grip, unsure of what to do with them. As she was still hugging him, Harry felt obliged and awkwardly wrapped his arms back around his aunt, giving her the first hug he ever had in his life.
Harry quickly ended it though, letting his arms fall back to his sides just as soon as his hands had come together around her. Petunia pulled back, holding him by the shoulders. "Vernon, aren't you happy to see Harry's okay?" The strained experssion on her face didn't exactly match her words.
'I wouldn't bet on it,' Harry thought to himself.
"Hmmpff!" Vernon snorted, confirming Harry's suspicion before he turned his back to him and went about his business.
"And look at you!" Petunia ignored her husband's sour hello. "All grown up! I can't believe it's only been ten months! I almost didn't recognize you! And so handsome!"
Harry was left flabbergasted. What was is aunt on to? He'd feel more comfortable if she would just act normal like Uncle Vernon, but he had a suspicion something more was afoot.
"What's going on here?" Harry asked, looking around the emptying house.
"We've decided to move," his aunt informed him as cheerily as she could muster. "We're selling the place."
"You're moving?!" Harry asked fervently, out of patience and without the slightest clue as to what was going on. "But, what about Uncle Vernon's business?!"
"Oh, Harry, we had to sell that when we left. You're people took care of everything."
'My people?' Harry thought. 'Uncle Vernon was forced to sell his business he'd spent his whole life building?' Harry had the urge to leave before things grew violent.
"And only got a fraction of what it was worth!" Uncle Vernon grumpily piped in.
"That's nonsense, Vernon!" Harry's aunt scolded her husband, to Harry's further awe. "Your people were most gracious to us!" Petunia adamantly informed Harry. "We are most thankful. You'll be sure to tell them that won't you? Tell them we're very grateful!" Aunt Petunia persisted.
'What's going on?' Harry could not understand. Tell them she's thankful?
"And that we're not giving the bloody money back either!" Uncle Vernon spat on himself. The card fell.
"Huh?" Harry turned towards his uncle.
"Vernon! Enough!" Petunia squealed at him, glancing back at Harry nervously from the corner of her eye.
"What's going on?" Harry demanded. "What money and why are you moving?!"
Petunia forced a sweet smile again and took a moment to collect herself. "Didn't they tell you, honey? We won the Lottery!" now she really did shine with glee.
"The Lottery?!" both Harry and Hermione guffawed.
"Yes!" Aunt Petunia nodded excitedly. "Well, that was part of our cover... Why we picked up so fast and took off on holiday. Vernon's sold the business, we've seen so many wonderful places, I could just never stand to come back here," she said it as more of a threat.
"So they're not taking back the bloody money! Do you hear me, boy?!" Uncle Vernon bellowed again, seconding his wife. "That's our bloody money, we earned it!"
"Vernon!" Aunt Petunia shrieked again, flapping her arms at him. "No one's coming for our money!" she waved him off, but then turned urgently back to Harry. "No one is going to come back for the money, are they Harry, because-"
"-I don't think anyone's coming Aunt Petunia, but I don't know anything about-"
"-So they could?" she interrupted him in turn, a distressed tone now in her voice. "Harry, if they did, you could put in a good word for us, couldn't you? You know... after all we've..." but Petunia could not finish her own sentence. The second card fell and Harry could begin to make sense of this little charade and what it was for.
"Of course," Harry was kinder than he needed to be - 'put in a good word for them?' - "but I don't think any witch or wizard is interested in your muggle money," Harry tried to reassure them. His aunt and uncle looked to each other, obviously confused about what he said, "Muggle Money?" but nevertheless, it worked and they both eased a little, or as much as they could in the presence of their disgraceful nephew.
"So this is it then. Where are you moving to?"
"To the beach! The British Virgin Islands, we've already got a very nice place there," she seemed very excited about it as her hands clasped together and her eyes seemed to travel off to that far away place.
"Harry, you can make do?" she asked him with a sense of distrust, as if fearful he'd be wanting to come with them.
"Of course," Harry said, for some reason looking to Hermione. Between her and Ron, he'd always have a place to stay. They were his real family.
"Very well," her fake smile began to fade. "Did you need anything from upstairs?" Petunia asked bluntly. "We're leaving tonight. Vernon still doesn't think it's very safe for us here with all your kind about," the corner of her lip pulled with a slight disgust at saying that word.
"No," Harry said honestly, ignoring her last remark. Everything he owned and needed was either on him or in a trunk at the Burrow. "Mind if I take one last look around before we go? I'd like to see the old room."
"Suite yourself," she seemed obviously displeased by it.
Hermione and Petunia made to follow Harry up the stairs but stopped confused as Harry walked by them. Petunia involuntarily gasped when Harry turned and opened up the door to the small cupboard beneath the stairs.
Harry stared for a long time down into the now empty, but still small and cramped closet. It amazed him how he could ever have fit in there. 'I must've been tiny little brat!'
He remembered the First Years at Hogwarts and how they all seemed to get smaller and smaller with each passing year, rather than he taller. This had been his room. His for nearly eleven years of his life - for a majority of his life. So many memories in this tiny little nook, lying, staring up at the cornered planks above, wishing for a different life. Harry smiled to himself at the irony.
"Harry, come away from there!" Petunia beckoned him with angst, still careful not to give up too much on her charade. They just might still need Harry to remind his people of all the nice things they did for him, just in case they ever came back for the money. Ha!
"Lucky we gave him that..." Uncle Vernon groveled angrily under his breath as he continued to slur a little diatribe no one paid any attention to.
"Let's go upstairs and see your real room. Dudkins is up there now, packing up the last of his own things," Petunia tried pulling him away.
Dudley. At least Dudley had come through for him. The only thing Dudley had ever done for him. Well, that was still to be seen, but he did not doubt his cousin. Harry had even contacted him by owl earlier to set his plans into motion. Dudley... the owl had returned back not an hour later with a reply.
“If you wouldn't mind, I'd like a few private words with Dudley?” Harry asked them. They all three looked alarmed, but for different reasons.
"Now don't you go..." Vernon started shaking a finger at him withboth fear and threat in his eyes, but Petunia stopped him.
“It's alright,” Harry said to reassure his aunt and uncle more than Hermione. “I just need to talk to him.”
Nobody blinked, much less said anything. Harry moved with a quicker step now, eager to see his cousin.
It was definitely awkward for Hermione as Harry's aunt turned to her. Hermione could sense she was not welcome here. There was a long silence before Harry's aunt finally spoke. "And you must be one of Harry's nice friends, Hermini Granger?" Petunia put back on that fake, forced grin.
"Hermione," Hermione kindly corrected her. "And yes, I've been Harry's friend for quite some time, we actually met on the train to Hogwarts our first year there."
"Well isn't that interesting!" Harry's uncle stormed past them both, uttering with the utmost sarcasm he could muster, followed by a long train of profanities until he disappeared into the kitchen.
"Never mind him," Petunia tried to reassure her. "He's just nervous something still might happen. Once we get back to the islands..." Petunia just trailed off. It was awkward. "A-are you and Harry..." Petunia stuttered, "Are you, like - like boyfriend and girlfriend?"
Hermione laughed aloud at this, "No, no, nothing like that. We're just friends, best friends!"
"Oh," was all Petunia said with a doubtful look in her eye, glaring at Hermione now as if she were some kind of scarlet, but Hermione did not feel the need to defend herself. Let the woman believe what she wants.
“Y-you know... he's famous...” Petunia, however, felt the need to go on. Hermione balked at her.
“No... that's not what I meant," Hermione watched the older woman's shoulders slump as she glanced one last time to ensure Vernon was out of earshot. She seemed to be talking more to herself than Hermione. "He's just... a very quiet boy, he will not like all the attention... I do worry for him at times,” Petunia brought a nervous hand to her mouth as she watched the top of the stairs. "Lily..."
Hermione could only stare at the woman. Somewhere in there, she could recognize the subtle features she'd seen in pictures of Harry's mum.
Harry didn't take too long upstairs, and after only a few minutes, he came marching back down with his cousin Dudley in the lead.
"And hello there, you must be Hermione?!" Dudley immediately greeted her. "I've heard so much about you!"
"You have?!" Hermione giggled as Dudley tried to give her an awkward hug. She certainly wasn't expecting this.
"Of course, Harry's always gone on about you. And in his sleep, you wouldn't believe the thi-!"
"Alright, that's enough, Dudley!" Harry cut him off, punching him in the shoulder as he blushed redder than a tomato.
"I want to hear it!" Hermione giggled in protest.
"No, no, some other time," Harry began playfully herding her towards the stairs. "We're about out of time and there is something I've got to show you upstairs."
"Harry, wait!" she laughed but he would not let her stop. Once to the stairs, he began pushing her up until reaching the landing. Harry turned back once more to the only blood relatives he had alive, his aunt and cousin.
"Take care," Harry said heartfelt. "I'm glad everything has worked out for you."
"Write to us, Harry!" Dudley called back as Harry's aunt and Hermione both looked to each other with confusion. “That owl was wicked!”
Hermione looked questioningly to Harry.
"Harry, you'll say goodbye before you go?" his aunt beckoned, fidgeting awkwardly from having said such a thing.
"Goodbye," Harry said, sharing one last glance with them before taking Hermione by the hand to lead her to his old room.
"Godspeed, mate!" Dudley called after them.
"Goodbye..." Aunt Petunia whispered, wholly without comprehension, they going further into the house, but... her sister's son was a wizard afterall.
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