Lupin held out his hand and shook Harry's. 'How are you?' he asked, looking
closely at Harry. T-fine:'
Harry could hardly believe this was real. Four weeks with nothing, not the
tiniest hint of a plan to remove him from Privet Drive, and suddenly a whole
bunch of wizards was standing matter-of-factly in the house as though this was
a long-standing arrangement. He glanced at the people surrounding Lupin; they
were still gazing avidly at him. He felt very conscious of the fact that he
had not combed his hair for four days.
'I'm - you're really lucky the Dursleys are out:' he mumbled.
'Lucky, ha!' said the violet-haired woman. 'It was me who lured them out
of the way. Sent a letter by Muggle post telling them they'd been short-listed
for the All-England Best Kept Suburban Lawn Competition. They're heading off
to the prize-giving right now: or they think they are.'
Harry had a fleeting vision of Uncle Vernon's face when he realised there
was no All-England Best Kept Suburban Lawn Competition.
'We are leaving, aren't we?' he asked. 'Soon?'
Almost at once,' said Lupin, 'we're just waiting for the all-clear.'
'Where are we going? The Burrow?' Harry asked hopefully.
'Not The Burrow, no,' said Lupin, motioning Harry towards the kitchen; the
little knot of wizards followed, all still eyeing Harry curiously. Too risky.
We've set up Headquarters somewhere un-detectable. It's taken a while:'
Mad-Eye Moody was now sitting at the kitchen table swigging from a hip flask,
his magical eye spinning in all directions, taking in the Dursleys' many labour-saving
'This is Alastor Moody, Harry' Lupin continued, pointing towards Moody.
'Yeah, I know,' said Harry uncomfortably. It felt odd to be introduced to
somebody he'd thought he'd known for a year.
'And this is Nymphadora -'
'Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus,' said the young witch with a shudder, 'it's
'Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname only,' finished
'So would you if your fool of a mother had called you Nymphadora,' muttered
'And this is Kingsley Shacklebolt.' He indicated the tall black wizard, who
bowed. 'Elphias Doge.' The wheezy-voiced wizard nodded. 'Dedalus Diggle -'
'We've met before,' squeaked the excitable Diggle, dropping his violet-coloured
'Emmeline Vance.' A stately-looking witch in an emerald green shawl inclined
her head. 'Sturgis Podmore.' A square-jawed wizard with thick straw-coloured
hair winked. 'And Hestia Jones.' A pink-cheeked, black-haired witch waved from
next to the toaster.
Harry inclined his head awkwardly at each of them as they were introduced.
He wished they would look at something other than him; it was as though he had
suddenly been ushered on-stage. He also wondered why so many of them were there.
'A surprising number of people volunteered to come and get you,' said Lupin,
as though he had read Harry's mind; the corners of his mouth twitched slightly.
'Yeah, well, the more the better,' said Moody darkly. 'We're your guard,
'We're just waiting for the signal to tell us it's safe to set off,' said
Lupin, glancing out of the kitchen window. 'We've got about fifteen minutes.'
'Very clean, aren't they, these Muggles?' said the witch called Tonks, who
was looking around the kitchen with great interest. 'My dad's Muggle-born and
he's a right old slob. I suppose it varies, just as it does with wizards?'
'Er - yeah,' said Harry. 'Look -' he turned back to Lupin, 'what's going
on, I haven't heard anything from anyone, what's Vol-?'
Several of the witches and wizards made odd hissing noises; Dedalus Diggle
dropped his hat again and Moody growled, 'Shut up!'
What?' said Harry.
'We're not discussing anything here, it's too risky,' said Moody, turning
his normal eye on Harry. His magical eye remained focused on the ceiling. 'Damn
it,' he added angrily, putting a hand up to the magical eye, 'it keeps getting
stuck - ever since that scum wore it.'
And with a nasty squelching sound much like a plunger being pulled from a
sink, he popped out his eye.
'Mad-Eye, you do know that's disgusting, don't you?' said Tonks conversationally.
'Get me a glass of water, would you, Harry,' requested Moody.
Harry crossed to the dishwasher, took out a clean glass and filled it with
water at the sink, still watched eagerly by the band of wizards. Their relentless
staring was starting to annoy him.
'Cheers,' said Moody, when Harry handed him the glass. He dropped the magical
eyeball into the water and prodded it up and down; the eye whizzed around, staring
at them all in turn. 'I want three hundred and sixty degrees visibility on the
'How're we getting - wherever we're going?' Harry asked.
'Brooms,' said Lupin. 'Only way. You're too young to Apparate, they'll be
watching the Floo Network and it's more than our life's worth to set up an unauthorised
'Remus says you're a good flier,' said Kingsley Shacklebolt in his deep voice.
'He's excellent,' said Lupin, who was checking his watch. 'Anyway, you'd
better go and get packed, Harry, we want to be ready to go when the signal comes.'
'I'll come and help you,' said Tonks brightly.
She followed Harry back into the hall and up the stairs, looking around with
much curiosity and interest.
'Funny place,' she said. 'It's a bit too clean, d'you know what I mean? Bit
unnatural. Oh, this is better,' she added, as they entered Harry's bedroom and
he turned on the light.
His room was certainly much messier than the rest of the house. Confined
to it for four days in a very bad mood, Harry had not bothered tidying up after
himself. Most of the books he owned were strewn over the floor where he'd tried
to distract himself with each in turn and thrown it aside; Hedwig's cage needed
cleaning out and was starting to smell; and his trunk lay open, revealing a
jumbled mixture of Muggle clothes and wizards' robes that had spilled on to
the floor around it.
Harry started picking up books and throwing them hastily into his trunk.
Tonks paused at his open wardrobe to look critically at her reflection in the
mirror on the inside of the door.
'You know, I don't think violet's really my colour,' she said pen-sivey,
tugging at a lock of spiky hair. 'D'you think it makes me look a bit peaky?'
'Er -' said Harry, looking up at her over the top of Quidditch Teams of Britain
'Yeah, it does,' said Tonks decisively. She screwed up her eyes in a strained
expression as though she was struggling to remember something. A second later,
her hair had turned bubble-gum pink.
'How did you do that?' said Harry, gaping at her as she opened her eyes again.
'I'm a Metamorphmagus,' she said, looking back at her reflection and turning
her head so that she could see her hair from all directions. 'It means I can
change my appearance at will,' she added, spotting Harry's puzzled expression
in the mirror behind her. 'I was born one. I got top marks in Concealment and
Disguise during Auror training without any study at all, it was great.'
'You're an Auror?' said Harry, impressed. Being a Dark-wizard-catcher was
the only career he'd ever considered after Hogwarts.
'Yeah,' said Tonks, looking proud. 'Kingsley is as well, he's a bit higher
up than me, though. I only qualified a year ago. Nearly failed on Stealth and
Tracking. I'm dead clumsy, did you hear me break that plate when we arrived
'Can you learn how to be a Metamorphmagus?' Harry asked her, straightening
up, completely forgetting about packing.
'Bet you wouldn't mind hiding that scar sometimes, eh?'
Her eyes found the lightning-shaped scar on Harry's forehead.
'No, I wouldn't mind,' Harry mumbled, turning away. He did not like people
staring at his scar.
'Well, you'll have to learn the hard way, I'm afraid,' said Tonks. 'Metamorphmagi
are really rare, they're born, not made. Most wizards need to use a wand, or
potions, to change their appearance. But we've got to get going, Harry, we're
supposed to be packing,' she added guiltily, looking around at all the mess
on the floor.
'Oh - yeah,' said Harry, grabbing a few more books.
'Don't be stupid, it'll be much quicker if I - pack!' cried Tonks, waving
her wand in a long, sweeping movement over the floor.
Books, clothes, telescope and scales all soared into the air and flew pell-mell
into the trunk.
'It's not very neat,' said Tonks, walking over to the trunk and looking down
at the jumble inside. 'My mums got this knack of getting stuff to fit itself
in neatly - she even gets the socks to fold themselves - but I've never mastered
how she does it - it's a kind of flick -' She flicked her wand hopefully.
One of Harry's socks gave a feeble sort of wiggle and flopped back on top
of the mess in the trunk.
'Ah, well,' said Tonks, slamming the trunk's lid shut, 'at least it's all
in. That could do with a bit of cleaning, too.' She pointed her wand at Hedwig's
cage. 'Scourgify.' A few feathers and droppings vanished. 'Well, that's a bit
better - I've never quite got the hang of these householdy sort of spells. Right
- got everything? Cauldron? Broom? Wow! - A Firebolt!
Her eyes widened as they fell on the broomstick in Harry's right hand It
was his pride and joy, a gift from Sirius, an international-standard broomstick.
'And I'm still riding a Comet Two Sixty' said Tonks enviously. 'Ah well:
wand still in your jeans? Both buttocks still on? OK, let's go. Locomotor trunk.'
Harry's trunk rose a few inches into the air. Holding her wand like a conductor's
baton, Tonks made the trunk hover across the room and out of the door ahead
of them, Hedwig's cage in her left hand. Harry followed her down the stairs
carrying his broomstick.
Back in the kitchen Moody had replaced his eye, which was spinning so fast
after its cleaning it made Harry feel sick to look at it. Kingsley Shacklebolt
and Sturgis Podmore were examining the microwave and Hestia Jones was laughing
at a potato peeler she had come across while rummaging in the drawers. Lupin
was sealing a letter addressed to the Dursleys.
'Excellent,' said Lupin, looking up as Tonks and Harry entered. We've got
about a minute, I think. We should probably get out into the garden so we're
ready. Harry, I've left a letter telling your aunt and uncle not to worry -
They won't,' said Harry.
- that you're safe -'That'll just depress them.'
- and you'll see them next summer.'
'Do I have to?'
Lupin smiled but made no answer.
'Come here, boy,' said Moody gruffly, beckoning Harry towards him with his
wand. 'I need to Disillusion you.'
'You need to what?' said Harry nervously.
'Disillusionment Charm,' said Moody, raising his wand. 'Lupin says you've
got an Invisibility Cloak, but it won't stay on while we're flying; this'll
disguise you better. Here you go -
He rapped him hard on the top of the head and Harry felt a curious sensation
as though Moody had just smashed an egg there; cold trickles seemed to be running
down his body from the point the wand had struck.
'Nice one, Mad-Eye,' said Tonks appreciatively, staring at Harry's midriff.
Harry looked down at his body, or rather, what had been his body, for it
didn't look anything like his any more. It was not invisible; it had simply
taken on the exact colour and texture of the kitchen unit behind him. He seemed
to have become a human chameleon.
'Come on,' said Moody, unlocking the back door with his wand.
They all stepped outside on to Uncle Vernon's beautifully kept lawn.
'Clear night,' grunted Moody, his magical eye scanning the heavens. 'Could've
done with a bit more cloud cover. Right, you,' he barked at Harry, 'we're going
to be flying in close formation. Tonks'll be right in front of you, keep close
on her tail. Lupin'll be covering you from below I'm going to be behind you.
The rest'll be circling us. We don't break ranks for anything, got me? If one
of us is killed -
'Is that likely?' Harry asked apprehensively, but Moody ignored him.
- the others keep flying, don't stop, don't break ranks. If they take out
all of us and you survive, Harry, the rear guard are standing by to take over;
keep flying east and they'll join you.'
'Stop being so cheerful, Mad-Eye, he'll think we're not taking this seriously'
said Tonks, as she strapped Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage into a harness hanging
from her broom.
'I'm just telling the boy the plan,' growled Moody. 'Our jobs to deliver
him safely to Headquarters and if we die in the attempt -
'No one's going to die,' said Kingsley Shacklebolt in his deep, calming voice.
'Mount your brooms, that's the first signal!' said Lupin sharply pointing
into the sky.
Far, far above them, a shower of bright red sparks had flared among the stars,
Harry recognised them at once as wand sparks. He swung his right leg over his
Firebolt, gripped its handle tightly and felt it vibrating very slightly, as
though it was as keen as he was to be up in the air once more.