'Second signal, let's go!' said Lupin loudly as more sparks, green this time,
exploded high above them.
Harry kicked off hard from the ground. The cool night air rushed through
his hair as the neat square gardens of Privet Drive fell away, shrinking rapidly
into a patchwork of dark greens and blacks, and every thought of the Ministry
hearing was swept from his mind as though the rush of air had blown it out of
his head. He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he
was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he'd been fantasising about
all summer, he was going home: for a few glorious moments, all his problems
seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.
'Hard left, hard left, there's a Muggle looking up!' shouted Moody from behind
him. Tonks swerved and Harry followed her, watching his trunk swinging wildly
beneath her broom. 'We need more height: give it another quarter of a mile!'
Harry's eyes watered in the chill as they soared upwards; he could see nothing
below now but tiny pinpricks of light that were car headlights and streetlamps.
Two of those tiny lights might belong to Uncle Vernon's car: the Dursleys would
be heading back to their empty house right now, full of rage about the non-existent
Lawn Competition: and Harry laughed aloud at the thought, though his voice was
drowned by the flapping robes of the others, the creaking of the harness holding
his trunk and the cage, and the whoosh of the wind in their ears as they sped
through the air. He had not felt this alive in a month, or this happy.
'Bearing south!' shouted Mad-Eye. Town ahead!'
They soared right to avoid passing directly over the glittering spider's
web of lights below.
'Bear southeast and keep climbing, there's some low cloud ahead we can lose
ourselves in!' called Moody.
'We're not going through clouds!' shouted Tonks angrily, 'we'll get soaked,
Harry was relieved to hear her say this; his hands were growing numb on the
Firebolt's handle. He wished he had thought to put on a coat; he was starting
They altered their course every now and then according to Mad-Eyes instructions.
Harry's eyes were screwed up against the rush of icy wind that was starting
to make his ears ache; he could remember being this cold on a broom only once
before, during the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff in his third year, which
had taken place in a storm. The guard around him was circling continuously like
giant birds of prey. Harry lost track of time. He wondered how long they had
been flying, it felt like an hour at least.
Turning southwest!' yelled Moody 'We want to avoid the motorway!'
Harry was now so chilled he thought longingly of the snug, dry interiors
of the cars streaming along below, then, even more longingly, of travelling
by Floo powder; it might be uncomfortable to spin around in fireplaces but it
was at least warm in the flames: Kingsley Shacklebolt swooped around him, bald
pate and earring gleaming slightly in the moonlight: now Emmeline Vance was
on his right, her wand out, her head turning left and right: then she, too,
swooped over him, to be replaced by Sturgis Podmore:
'We ought to double back for a bit, just to make sure we're not being followed!'
'ARE YOU MAD, MAD-EYE?' Tonks screamed from the front. We're all frozen to
our brooms! If we keep going off-course we're not going to get there until next
week! Besides, we're nearly there now!'
Time to start the descent!' came Lupin's voice. 'Follow Tonks, Harry!'
Harry followed Tonks into a dive. They were heading for the largest collection
of lights he had yet seen, a huge, sprawling crisscrossing mass, glittering
in lines and grids, interspersed with patches of deepest black. Lower and lower
they flew, until Harry could see individual headlights and streetlamps, chimneys
and television aerials. He wanted to reach the ground very much, though he felt
sure someone would have to unfreeze him from his broom.
'Here we go!' called Tonks, and a few seconds later she had landed.
Harry touched down right behind her and dismounted on a patch of unkempt
grass in the middle of a small square. Tonks was already unbuckling Harry's
trunk. Shivering, Harry looked around. The grimy fronts of the surrounding houses
were not welcoming; some of them had broken windows, glimmering dully in the
light from the streetlamps, paint was peeling from many of the doors and heaps
of rubbish lay outside several sets of front steps.
'Where are we?' Harry asked, but Lupin said quietly, 'In a minute.'
Moody was rummaging in his cloak, his gnarled hands clumsy with cold.
'Got it,' he muttered, raising what looked like a silver cigarette lighter
into the air and clicking it.
The nearest streetlamp went out with a pop. He clicked the unlighter again;
the next lamp went out; he kept clicking until every lamp in the square was
extinguished and the only remaining light came from curtained windows and the
sickle moon overhead.
'Borrowed it from Dumbledore,' growled Moody, pocketing the Put-Outer. That'll
take care of any Muggles looking out of the window, see? Now come on, quick.'
He took Harry by the arm and led him from the patch of grass, across the
road and on to the pavement; Lupin and Tonks followed, carrying Harry's trunk
between them, the rest of the guard, all with their wands out, flanking them.
The muffled pounding of a stereo was coming from an upper window in the nearest
house. A pungent smell of rotting rubbish came from the pile of bulging bin-bags
just inside the broken gate.
'Here,' Moody muttered, thrusting a piece of parchment towards Harry's Disillusioned
hand and holding his lit wand close to it, so as to illuminate the writing.
'Read quickly and memorise.'
Harry looked down at the piece of paper. The narrow handwriting was vaguely
familiar. It said:
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve,
Grimmauld Place, London.
- CHAPTER FOUR -
Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place
'What's the Order of the -?' Harry began.
'Not here, boy!' snarled Moody. 'Wait till we're inside!'
He pulled the piece of parchment out of Harry's hand and set fire to it with
his wand-tip. As the message curled into flames and floated to the ground, Harry
looked around at the houses again. They were standing outside number eleven;
he looked to the left and saw number ten; to the right, however, was number
'But where's -?'
Think about what you've just memorised', said Lupin quietly.
Harry thought, and no sooner had he reached the part about number twelve,
Grimmauld Place, than a battered door emerged out of nowhere between numbers
eleven and thirteen, followed swiftly by dirty walls and grimy windows. It was
as though an extra house had inflated, pushing those on either side out of its
way. Harry gaped at it. The stereo in number eleven thudded on. Apparently the
Muggles inside hadn't felt anything.
'Come on, hurry,' growled Moody, prodding Harry in the back.
Harry walked up the worn stone steps, staring at the newly materialised door.
Its black paint was shabby and scratched. The silver doorknocker was in the
form of a twisted serpent. There was no keyhole or letterbox.
Lupin pulled out his wand and tapped the door once. Harry heard many loud,
metallic clicks and what sounded like the clatter of a chain. The door creaked
'Get in quick, Harry,' Lupin whispered, 'but don't go far inside and don't
Harry stepped over the threshold into the almost total darkness of the hall.
He could smell damp, dust and a sweetish, rotting smell; the place had the feeling
of a derelict building. He looked over his shoulder and saw the others filing
in behind him, Lupin and Tonks carrying his trunk and Hedwig's cage. Moody was
standing on the top step releasing the balls of light the Put-Outer had stolen
from the streetlamps; they flew back to their bulbs and the square glowed momentarily
with orange light before Moody limped inside and closed the front door, so that
the darkness in the hall became complete.
He rapped Harry hard over the head with his wand; Harry felt as though something
hot was trickling down his back this time and knew that the Disillusionment
Charm must have lifted.
'Now stay still, everyone, while I give us a bit of light in here,' Moody
The others' hushed voices were giving Harry an odd feeling of foreboding;
it was as though they had just entered the house of a dying person. He heard
a soft hissing noise and then old-fashioned gas lamps sputtered into life all
along the walls, casting a flickering insubstantial light over the peeling wallpaper
and threadbare carpet of a long, gloomy hallway, where a cobwebby chandelier
glimmered overhead and age-blackened portraits hung crooked on the walls. Harry
heard something scuttling behind the skirting board. Both the chandelier and
the candelabra on a rickety table nearby were shaped like serpents.
There were hurried footsteps and Rons mother, Mrs Weasley, emerged from a
door at the far end of the hall. She was beaming in welcome as she hurried towards
them, though Harry noticed that she was rather thinner and paler than she had
been last time he had seen her.
'Oh, Harry, it's lovely to see you!' she whispered, pulling him into a rib-cracking
hug before holding him at arm's length and examining him critically. 'You're
looking peaky; you need feeding up, but you'll have to wait a bit for dinner,
She turned to the gang of wizards behind him and whispered urgently, 'He's
just arrived, the meeting's started.'
The wizards behind Harry all made noises of interest and excitement and began
filing past him towards the door through which Mrs Weasley had just come. Harry
made to follow Lupin, but Mrs Weasley held him back.
'No, Harry, the meetings only for members of the Order. Ron and Hermione
are upstairs, you can wait with them until the meetings over, then we'll have
dinner. And keep your voice down in the hall,' she added in an urgent whisper.
'I don't want anything to wake up.'
'What d'you -?'
'I'll explain later, I've got to hurry, I'm supposed to be at the meeting
- I'll just show you where you're sleeping.'
Pressing her finger to her lips, she led him on tiptoe past a pair of long,
moth-eaten curtains, behind which Harry supposed there must be another door,
and after skirting a large umbrella stand that looked as though it had been
made from a severed troll's leg they started up the dark staircase, passing
a row of shrunken heads mounted on plaques on the wall. A closer look showed
Harry that the heads belonged to house-elves. All of them had the same rather
Harry's bewilderment deepened with every step he took. What on earth were
they doing in a house that looked as though it belonged to the darkest of wizards?
'Mrs Weasley, why -?'
'Ron and Hermione will explain everything, dear, I've really got to dash,'
Mrs Weasley whispered distractedly. There -' they had reached the second landing,
'- you're the door on the right. I'll call you when it's over.'
And she hurried off downstairs again.
Harry crossed the dingy landing, turned the bedroom doorknob, which was shaped
like a serpents head, and opened the door.
He caught a brief glimpse of a gloomy high-ceilinged, twin-bedded room; then
there was a loud twittering noise, followed by an even louder shriek, and his
vision was completely obscured by a large quantity of very bushy hair. Hermione
had thrown herself on to him in a hug that nearly knocked him flat, while Ron's
tiny owl, Pigwidgeon, zoomed excitedly round and round their heads.
'HARRY! Ron, he's here, Harry's here! We didn't hear you arrive! Oh, how
are you? Are you all right? Have you been furious with us? I bet you have, I
know our letters were useless - but we couldn't tell you anything, Dumbledore
made us swear we wouldn't, oh, we've got so much to tell you, and you've got
things to tell us - the Dementors! When we heard - and that Ministry hearing
- it's just outrageous, I've looked it all up, they can't expel you, they just
can't, there's provision in the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage
Sorcery for the use of magic in life-threatening situations -'
'Let him breathe, Hermione,' said Ron, grinning as he closed the door behind
Harry. He seemed to have grown several more inches during their month apart,
making him taller and more gangly looking than ever, though the long nose, bright
red hair and freckles were the same.
Still beaming, Hermione let go of Harry, but before she could say another
word there was a soft whooshing sound and something white soared from the top
of a dark wardrobe and landed gently on Harry's shoulder.
The snowy owl clicked her beak and nibbled his ear affectionately as Harry
stroked her feathers.
'She's been in a right state,' said Ron. 'Pecked us half to death when she
brought your last letters, look at this -'
He showed Harry the index finger of his right hand, which sported a half-healed
but clearly deep cut.
'Oh, yeah,' Harry said. 'Sorry about that, but I wanted answers, you know
'We wanted to give them to you, mate,' said Ron. 'Hermione was going spare,
she kept saying you'd do something stupid if you were stuck all on your own
without news, but Dumbledore made us -'