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â€œAre you out of your mind?â€ demanded Harry. â€œA plot to get this house? Are you actually as stupid as you look?â€
â€œDonâ€™t you dare â€“!â€ squealed Aunt Petunia, but again Vernon waved her down. Slights on his personal appearance were it seemed as nothing to the danger he had spotted.
â€œJust in case youâ€™ve forgotten,â€ said Harry, â€œIâ€™ve already got a house my godfather left me one. So why would I want this one? All the happy memories?â€
There was silence. Harry thought he had rather impressed his uncle with this argument.
â€œYou claim,â€ said Uncle Vernon, starting to pace yet again, â€œthat this Lord Thing â€“ â€
â€œ â€“ Voldemort,â€ said Harry impatiently, â€œand weâ€™ve been through this about a hundred times already. This isnâ€™t a claim, itâ€™s fact. Dumbledore told you last year, and Kingsley and Mr. Weasley â€“ â€
Vernon Dursley hunched his shoulders angrily, and Harry guessed that his uncle was attempting to ward off recollections of the unannounced visit, a few days into Harryâ€™s summer holidays, of two fully grown wizards. The arrival on the doorstep of Kingsley Shacklebolt and Arthur Weasley had come as a most unpleasant shock to the Dursleys. Harry had to admit, however that as Mr. Weasley had once demolished half of the living room, his reappearance could not have been expected to delight Uncle Vernon.
â€œ â€“ Kingsley and Mr. Weasley explained it all as well,â€ Harry pressed on remorselessly, â€œOnce Iâ€™m seventeen, the protective charm that keeps me safe will break, and that exposes you as well as me. The Order is sure Voldemort will target you, whether to torture you to try and find out where I am, or because he thinks by holding you hostage Iâ€™d come and try to rescue you.â€
Uncle Vernonâ€™s and Harryâ€™s eyes met. Harry was sure that in that instant they were both wondering the same thing. Then Uncle Vernon walked on and Harry resumed, â€œYouâ€™ve got to go into hiding and the Order wants to help. Youâ€™re being offered serious protection, the best there is.â€
Uncle Vernon said nothing but continued to pace up and down. Outside the sun hung low over the privet hedges. The next door neighborâ€™s lawn mower stalled again.
â€œI thought there was a Ministry of Magic?â€ asked Vernon Dursley abruptly.
â€œThere is,â€ said Harry, surprised.
â€œWell, then, why canâ€™t they protect us? It seems to me that, as innocent victims, guilty of nothing more than harboring a marked man, we ought to qualify for government protection!â€
Harry laughed; he could not help himself. It was so very typical of his uncle to put his hopes in the establishment, even within this world that he despised and mistrusted. â€œYou heard what Mr. Weasley and Kingsley said,â€ Harry replied. â€œWe think the Ministry has been infiltrated.â€
Uncle Vernon strode back to the fireplace and back breathing so strongly that his great black mustache rippled his face still purple with concentration.
â€œAll right,â€ he said. Stopping in front of Harry get again. â€œAll right, letâ€™s say for the sake of argument we accept this protection. I still donâ€™t see why we canâ€™t have that Kingsley bloke.â€
Harry managed not to roll his eyes, but with difficulty. This question had also been addressed half a dozen times.
â€œAs Iâ€™ve told you,â€ he said through gritted teeth, â€œKingsley is protecting the Mug â€“ I mean, your Prime Minister.â€
â€œExactly â€“ heâ€™s the best!â€ said Uncle Vernon, pointing at the blank television screen. The Dursleys had spotted Kingsley on the news, walking along the Muggle Prime Minister as he visited a hospital. This, and the fact that Kingsley had mastered the knack of dressing like a Muggle, not to mention a certain reassuring something in his slow, deep voice, had caused the Dursleys to take to Kingsley in a way that they had certainly not done with any other wizard, although it was true that they had never seen him with earring in.
â€œWell, heâ€™s taken,â€ said Harry. â€œBut Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle are more than up to the job â€“ â€
â€œIf weâ€™d even seen CVsâ€¦â€ began Uncle Vernon, but Harry lost patience. Getting to his feet, he advanced on his uncle, not pointing at the TV set himself.
â€œThese accidents arenâ€™t accidents â€“ the crashed and explosions and derailments and whatever else has happened since we last watched the news. People are disappearing and dying and heâ€™s behind it â€“ Voldemort. Iâ€™ve told you this over and over again, he kills Muggles for fun. Even the fogs â€“ theyâ€™re caused by dementors, and if you canâ€™t remember what they are, ask your son!â€
Dudleyâ€™s hands jerked upward to tower his mouth. With his parentsâ€™ and Harryâ€™s eyes upon him, he slowly lowered them again and asked, â€œThere areâ€¦ more of them?â€
â€œMore?â€ laughed Harry. â€œMore than the two that attacked us, you mean? Of course there are hundreds, maybe thousands by this time, seeing as they feed off fear and despair â€“ â€
â€œAll right, all right blustered,â€ blustered Vernon Dursley. â€œYouâ€™ve made your point â€“ â€
â€œI hope so,â€ said Harry, â€œbecause once Iâ€™m seventeen, all of them â€“ Death Eaters, elementors, maybe even Inferi â€“ which means dead bodies enchanted by a Dark wizard â€“ will be able to find you and will certainly attack you. And if you remember the last time you tried to outrun wizards, I think youâ€™ll agree you need help.â€
There was a brief silence in which the distant echo of Hagrid smashing down a wooden front door seemed to reverberate through the intervening years. Aunt Petunia was looking at Uncle Vernon; Dudley was staring at Harry. Finally Uncle Vernon blurted out, â€œBut what about my work? What about Dudleyâ€™s school? I donâ€™t suppose those things matter to a bunch of layabout wizards â€“ â€
â€œDonâ€™t you understand?â€ shouted Harry. â€œThey will torture and kill you like they did my parents!â€
â€œDad,â€ said Dudley in a loud voice, â€œDad â€“ Iâ€™m going with these Order people.â€
â€œDudley,â€ said Harry, â€œfor the first time in your life, youâ€™re talking sense.â€ He knew the battle was won. If Dudley was frightened enough to accept the Orderâ€™s help, his parents would accompany him. There could be no question of being separated from their Duddykins. Harry glanced at the carriage clock on the mantelpiece.
â€œTheyâ€™ll be here in about five minutes,â€ he said, and when one of the Dursleys replied, he left the room. The prospect of parting â€“ probably forever â€“ from his aunt, uncle, and cousin was one that he was able to contemplate quite cheerfully but there was nevertheless a certain awkwardness in the air. What did you say to one another at the end of sixteen yearsâ€™ solid dislike?
Back in his bedroom, Harry fiddled aimlessly with his rucksack then poked a couple of owl nuts through the bats of Hedwigâ€™s cage. They fell with dull thuds to the bottom where she ignored them.
â€œWeâ€™re leaving soon, really soon,â€ Harry told her. â€œAnd then youâ€™ll be able to fly again.â€
The doorbell rang. Harry hesitated, then headed back out of his room and downstairs. It was too much to expect Hestia and Dedalus to cope with the Dursleys on their own.
â€œHarry Potter!â€ squeaked an excited voice, the moment Harry had opened the door; a small man in a mauve top hat that was sweeping him a deep bow. â€œAn honor as ever!â€
â€œThanks, Dedalus,â€ said Harry, bestowing a small and embarrassed smile upon the dark haired Hestia. â€œItâ€™s really good of you to do thisâ€¦ Theyâ€™re through here, my aunt and uncle and cousinâ€¦â€
â€œGood day to you, Harry Potterâ€™s relatives!â€ said Dedalus happily striding into the living room. The Dursleys did not look at all happy to be addressed thus; Harry half expected another change of mind. Dudley shrank neared to his mother at the sight of the witch and wizard.
â€œI see you are packed and ready. Excellent! The plan, as Harry has told you, is a simple one,â€ said Dedalus, pulling an immense pocket watch out of his waistcoat and examining it. â€œWe shall be leaving before Harry does. Due to the danger of using magic in your house â€“Harry being still underage it could provide the Ministry with an excuse to arrest him â€“ we shall be driving, say, ten miles or so before Disapparating to the safe location we have picked out for you. You know how to drive, I take it?â€ He asked Uncle Vernon politely.
â€œKnow how to â€“? Of course I ruddy well know how to drive!â€ spluttered Uncle Vernon.
â€œVery clever of you, sir, very clever. I personally would be utterly bamboozled by all those buttons and knobs,â€ said Dedalus. He was clearly under the impression that he was flattering Vernon Dursley, who was visibly losing confidence in the plan with every word Dedalus spoke.
â€œCanâ€™t even drive,â€ he muttered under his breath, his mustache rippling indignantly, but fortunately neither Dedalus nor Hestia seemed to hear him.
â€œYou, Harry,â€ Dedalus continued, â€œwill wait here for your guard. There has been a little change in the arrangements â€“ â€
â€œWhat dâ€™you mean?â€ said Harry at once. â€œI thought Mad-Eye was going to come and take me by Side Along-Apparition?â€
â€œCanâ€™t do it,â€ said Hestia tersely, â€œMad-Eye will explain.â€
The Dursleys, who had listened to all of this with looks of utter incomprehension on their faces, jumped as a loud voice screeched, â€œHurry up!â€ Harry looked all around the room before realizing the voice had issued from Dedalusâ€™s pocket watch.
â€œQuite right, were operating to a very tight schedule,â€ said Dedalus nodding at his watch and tucking it back into his waist coat. â€œWe are attempting to time your departure from the house with your familyâ€™s Disapparition, Harry thus the charm breaks the moment you all head for safety.â€ He turned to the Dursleys, â€œWell, are we all packed and ready to go?â€
None of them answered him. Uncle Vernon was still staring appalled at the bulge in Dedalusâ€™s waistcoat pocket.
â€œPerhaps we should wait outside in the hall, Dedalus,â€ murmured Hestia. She clearly felt that it would be tactless for them to remain the room while Harry and the Dursleys exchanged loving, possibly tearful farewells.
â€œThereâ€™s no need,â€ Harry muttered, but Uncle Vernon made any further explanation unnecessary by saying loudly, â€œWell, this is good-bye then boy.â€
He swung his right arm upward to shake Harryâ€™s hand, but at the last moment seemed unable to face it, and merely closed his fist and began swinging it backward and forward like a metronome.
â€œReady, Duddy?â€ asked Petunia, fussily checking the clasp of her handbag so as to avoid looking at Harry altogether.
Dudley did not answer but stood there with his mouth slightly ajar, reminding Harry a little of the giant, Grawp.
â€œCome along, then,â€ said Uncle Vernon.
He had already reached the living room door when Dudley mumbled, â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
â€œWhat donâ€™t you understand, popkin?â€ asked Petunia looking up at her son.
Dudley raised a large, hamlike hand to point at Harry.
â€œWhy isnâ€™t he coming with us?â€
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia froze when they stood staring at Dudley as though he had just expressed a desire to become a ballerina.
â€œWhat?â€ said Uncle Vernon loudly.
â€œWhy isnâ€™t he coming too?â€ asked Dudley.
â€œWell, he â€“ doesnâ€™t want to,â€ said Uncle Vernon, turning to glare at Harry and adding, â€œYou donâ€™t want to, do you?â€
â€œNot in the slightest,â€ said Harry.
â€œThere you are,â€ Uncle Vernon told Dudley. â€œNow come on weâ€™re off.â€
He marched out of the room. They heard the front door open, but Dudley did not move and after a few faltering steps Aunt Petunia stopped too.
â€œWhat now?â€ barked Uncle Vernon, reappearing in the doorway.
It seemed that Dudley was struggling with concepts too difficult to put into words. After several moments of apparently painful internal struggle he said, â€œBut whereâ€™s he going to go?â€
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon looked at each other. It was clear that Dudley was frightening them. Hestia Jones broke the silence.
â€œButâ€¦ surely you know where your nephew is going?â€ she asked looking bewildered.
â€œCertainly we know,â€ said Vernon Dursley. â€œHeâ€™s off with some of your lot, isnâ€™t he? Right, Dudley, letâ€™s get in the car, you heard the man, weâ€™re in a hurry.â€
Again, Vernon Dursley marched as far as the front door, but Dudley did not follow.
â€œOff with some of our lot?â€
Hestia looked outraged. Harry had met this attitude before Witches and wizards seemed stunned that his closed living relatives took so little interest in the famous Harry Potter.
â€œItâ€™s fine,â€ Harry assured her. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter, honestly.â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t matter?â€ repeated Hestia, her voice rising considerably.
â€œDonâ€™t these people realize what youâ€™ve been through? What danger you are in? The unique position you hold in the hearts of the anti Voldemort movement?â€
â€œEr â€“ no, they donâ€™t,â€ said Harry. â€œThey think Iâ€™m a waste of space, actually but Iâ€™m used to â€“ â€
â€œI donâ€™t think youâ€™re a waste of spaceâ€
If Harry had not seen Dudleyâ€™s lips move, he might not have believed it. As it was, he stared at Dudley for several seconds before accepting that it must have been his cousin who had spoken; for one thing, Dudley had turned red. Harry was embarrassed and astonished himself.
â€œWellâ€¦ erâ€¦ thanks, Dudley.â€
Again, Dudley appeared to grapple with thoughts too unwieldy for expression before mumbling, â€œYou saved my life,â€
â€œNot really,â€ said Harry. â€œIt was your soul the dementor would have takenâ€¦â€
He looked curiously at his cousin. They had had virtually no contact during this summer or last, as Harry had come back to Privet Drive so briefly and kept to his room so much. It now dawned on Harry, however, that the cup of cold tea on which he had trodden that morning might not have been a booby trap at all. Although rather touched he was nevertheless quite relieved that Dudley appeared to have exhausted his ability to express his feelings. After opening his mouth once or twice more, Dudley subsided into scarlet-faced silence.
Aunt Petunia burst into tears. Hestia Jones gave her an approving look that changed to outrage as Aunt Petunia ran forward and embraced Dudley rather than Harry. â€œS-so sweet, Duddersâ€¦â€ she sobbed into his massive chest. â€œS-such a lovely b-boyâ€¦ s-saying thank youâ€¦â€
â€œBut he hasnâ€™t said thank you at all!â€ said Hestia indignantly. â€œHe only said he didnâ€™t think Harry was a waste of space!â€
â€œYea but coming from Dudley thatâ€™s like â€˜I love you,â€™â€ said Harry, torn between annoyance and a desire to laugh as Aunt Petunia continued to clutch at Dudley as if he had just saved Harry from a burning building.
â€œAre we going or not?â€ roared Uncle Vernon, reappearing yet again at the living room door. â€œI thought we were on a tight schedule!â€
â€œYes â€“yes, we are,â€ said Dedalus Diggle, who had been watching these exchanged with an air of bemusement and now seemed to pull himself together. â€œWe really must be off. Harry â€“ â€
He tripped forward and wrung Harryâ€™s hand with both of his own.
â€œ â€“ good luck. I hope we meet again. The hopes of the Wizarding world rest upon your shoulders.â€
â€œOh,â€ said Harry, â€œright. Thanks.â€
â€œFarwell, Harry,â€ said Hestia also clasping his hand. â€œOur thoughts go with you.â€
â€œI hope everythingâ€™s okay,â€ said Harry with a glance toward Aunt Petunia and Dudley.
â€œOh Iâ€™m sure we shall end up the best of chums,â€ said Diggle slightly, waving his hat as he left the room. Hestia followed him.
Dudley gently released himself from his motherâ€™s clutches and walked toward Harry who had to repress an urge to threaten him with magic. Then Dudley held out his large, pink hand.
â€œBlimey, Dudley,â€ said Harry over Aunt Petuniaâ€™s renewed sobs, â€œdid the dementors blow a different personality into you?â€
â€œDunno,â€ muttered Dudley, â€œSee you, Harry.â€
â€œYea â€¦â€ said Harry, raking Dudleyâ€™s hand and shaking it. â€œMaybe. Take care, Big D.â€
Dudley nearly smiled. They lumbered from the room. Harry heard his heavy footfalls on the graveled drive, and then a car door slammed.
Aunt Petunia whose face had been buried in her handkerchief looked around at the sound. She did not seem to have expected to find herself alone with Harry. Hastily stowing her wet handkerchief into her pocket, she said, â€œWell â€“ good-byeâ€ and marched towards the door without looking at him.
â€œGood-byeâ€ said Harry.
She stopped and looked back. For a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him; She gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little of her head, she hustled out of the room after he husband and son.
The Deathly Hallows
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