Chapter Twenty-Three: Road Trip
Harry had spent four days in Snape's rooms now, sleeping most of the time, and taking an endless amount of anti-headache draft. Snape was out teaching all day, but he always returned after dinner, followed by a house-elf with some food. Hermione was doing a wonderful job of rounding up any homework he got, and most evenings she came down to see him, with messages of concern from all his friends. Apparently, Ernie Macmillan had been thrown into guilt, as it was his Bludger which had knocked Harry out.
"He says he shouted out to you, thinking you'd be able to hit it after Fabiola," said Hermione. "But you didn't turn around in time. He's feeling really really guilty Harry. I was patrolling the corridors with him yesterday evening and he was telling me all about it. Ron and Draco are both furious at Fabiola, they say she was distracting you. Apparently Ginny got into a fight with her yesterday on the Charms corridor, and somebody's hex went wrong. Everybody within three corridors got covered in Greater Spotted Woodpecker poo. We still don't know how on earth they did it." She shook her head with a slight smile. "Sometimes it's easy to see the twins in Ginny."
Snape came into the room, carrying a tray of food and Harry's usual dose of Dreamless Sleep Draught. "Miss Granger, there are fifteen minutes until lock-out time... I suggest you head back to your dormitory, unless you are planning a night on the corridor."
Hermione nodded. "Yes, sir. See you tomorrow Harry. I'll get Ron to give me any homework you get set tomorrow. Bye!" She left, hurrying out into the corridor, and closing the door behind her.
Snape sat down by Harry's bed and handed him the tray. "Dreamless Sleep Draught first, Potter," he said, nudging the cup towards Harry. "With any luck you will be at school again on Monday, with a weekend of rest and relaxation. I may allow some of your friends in to see you, if you have enough strength."
Harry picked up the little cup of Dreamless Sleep Draught, and sipped at it timidly. He was only halfway through it when there was a knock at the door of Snape's rooms. Snape stood up.
"Finish your draft," he said. "I'll be a moment."
Harry sat back in the pillows, sipping at the rest of the cup, as Snape left to answer the door. Harry listened idly. He heard Snape's feet on the stone floor, heard the door open, and then there were low voices. He recognised the broad Scottish accent of Professor Chetry, but Harry couldn't think of why on earth Chetry would want to see Snape, so late at night. A few words met Harry's ears, and he frowned.
"... Dumbledore's waitin' outside on the lawns... we have te get goin' now, or we're nae gonnae get there in time... s'urgent..."
"The boy is ill. He can't be expected to..."
"... ye're gonnae have te tell Dumbledore... I've jus' been sent te bring him, and you..."
"... absolutely ridiculous. I'm not going to..."
"What's going on?" Harry called.
"Dumbledore's wantin' te see you, Harry," came Professor Chetry's voice. "S'urgent. Ye've both got te come out te the lawns, now."
"Why?" said Harry, frowning.
"Everythin'll be explained once ye're out there," said Chetry.
Snape came through into the main room, rolling his eyes and muttering. He got Harry out of bed, as Chetry wandered through.
"Ye might want te get him some clothes," said Chetry, smiling. "If ye dunnae want 'im te catch his deatha cold."
"And how long is he expected to be out in the cold for?" said Snape, raising an eyebrow, as he handed Harry his bag.
Chetry shrugged. "Long enough. S'just that Dumbledore's waitin' outside. Cannae keep him there fer long, we've gottae be on the road soon."
Harry hurried into the bathroom, and starting pulling on clothes, while listening to Snape argue with Chetry outside. Snape was trying to pry some more information out of Chetry, who was stubbornly refusing to tell anything until Harry and Snape agreed to come out. Harry finished dressing, straightened out his clothes and slid out of the bathroom.
Chetry beamed. "Great... now then, let's get down there an' on the road, aye? C'mon, before we get locked in..."
Snape was still looking very suspicious as Chetry lead them out of the dungeons. Snape paused to seal his wards, then they headed up into the entrance hall. Harry had an odd feeling about all this. That feeling only increased when Professor Chetry pushed open the castle doors, and Harry stopped dead, staring down the steps of the castle. Suddenly the possibility that he was actually asleep and dreaming was a very likely one. For sitting below him on the lawn was the strangest little car that Harry had ever seen in his life. It was a bright purple mini, with a lurid green racing stripe going up the bonnet, and a large plastic pink daisy stuck to the roof. Smiling and waving at Harry from the passenger seat was none other than Mr Weasley, and next to him was Albus Dumbledore, eating what looked like a bag of gummy bears.
"Uh..." said Harry, quite unsure of what to say. "What's going on?"
"Precisely my thoughts," said Snape from behind Harry.
Dumbledore chuckled merrily. "All will be explained in a moment, Severus. Here, have a gummy bear... hop in all! We need to get on the road soon."
Harry got nervously into the back seat of the purple hippy car, sitting next to Snape, who was twisting the head off the gummy bear that Dumbledore had given him, with a look of sadistic pleasure on his face. Professor Chetry clambered in next to Harry, and the car rocked slightly as he slammed the door.
"Now then," said Dumbledore, pleasantly, turning round to look at Harry. "I suppose you're wondering what on earth is going on, Harry."
"He's not the only one," muttered Snape, flicking the bear's head into the ash compartment.
"Well, Harry..." said Dumbledore, cheerily, "I'm afraid we've received an urgent warning from our spies in Lord Voldemort's ranks. Voldemort is a little behind on the times, and unfortunately, he still believes your blood protection is with your aunt and uncle in Surrey. He plans to kidnap them, possibly very soon, and we must rescue them and bring them back to Hogwarts. Though we can't let Voldemort get wind of what we're doing, or he may catch us in the act, and so we're going incognito. For a long time we have suspected that Voldemort has planted somebody within the floo regulation panel, and if we take the fireplace, who knows what may happen. We are going to drive to Surrey, pick up your aunt and uncle, and take them back to Hogwarts. Arthur is here as the Minister for Inter-Muggle Relations, and Professor Chetry as our Muggle Studies teacher is going to be a negotiator. Professor Snape is here to protect you."
"With all due respect, I think I'm going to need more than Professor Snape to protect me when I tell my uncle that we're taking him to Hogwarts," said Harry, mildly.
Dumbledore smiled. "I'm sure that Arthur and Professor Chetry will be able to assist, Harry, there's no reason to be scared. We have quite a drive ahead of us, so I suggest all of you get comfortable. Before we go, does anybody need the bathroom?"
"Wouldn't it have been wiser to ask that before we were dragged out of the castle?" said Snape, raising an eyebrow.
Dumbledore handed him another gummy bear. "Now, now, Severus. We shall be in each other's company for a few long hours, at the very least, let's not start any fights. I can't hex you and drive at the same time. All strapped in? Yes? Let's get going then." He shuffled himself in the driving seat, and started the ignition. He gave a small chuckle. "Ah, I remember this all very well... the 1970s were a tremendous era... I feel like I'm 150 again."
He put his foot down gently, and the little car trundled forwards through the grass, heading for the gates. The luminous yellow plastic baubles on the antennae were swaying pleasantly back and forth, and by the time they were passing out onto the road to Hogsmeade, Snape had hit his head on the ceiling twice. One of the security dragons eyed the little purple mini as it left the grounds, and merely yawned, stretching out, and giving a belch of fire into the night-air.
"So, Harry... how's your year going so far?" asked Mr Weasley, turning around in his seat to smile at Harry.
"Pretty good," said Harry, smiling back. He didn't think it would be very wise to say, 'No, there's a vampire trying to kill us all, I'm being black-mailed by one of my professors and I nearly got my neck broken by a Bludger just last week'.
"Ron and Ginny doing okay?" asked Mr Weasley.
"Yeah, they're fine," said Harry. "We won our last Quidditch match, a few days ago. And I think Ron got an O on his Care of Magical Creatures project."
"Did he?" said Mr Weasley, proudly. "I'll have to tell Molly when I get home. She will be pleased. I think she was a little disappointed that Fred and George didn't get any NEWTs, but they seem to be doing well with their shop."
"Let's have some music on," said Dumbledore. "Arthur, just have a look in the glove compartment, there should be some tapes..."
Snape had suddenly snapped out of his state of dull annoyance. "Albus," he growled. "If you dare put on anything that is popular at muggle childrens' parties or similar, I'm getting out of the car right now."
Mr Weasley found a decent looking tape. "This one doesn't have muggle party songs on... well, it's better than nothing." He pushed it into the tape player, and the car was filled with the cheery tones of the Bay City Rollers.
Chetry cheered and started singing along in his broad Scottish accent, more like yodelling than anything. Snape groaned and covered his face with his hands. "Are we there yet?" he asked.
It was definitely the oddest car journey Harry had ever experienced. Sandwiched between a yodelling Professor Chetry and a deeply annoyed Snape was certainly interesting, and with Mr Weasley sitting in the front of the car getting excited about every road sign they passed, Harry was quite enjoying himself by the time they pulled in at a road-side service station. Snape practically leapt out of the car and ran for the sanctuary of the shop. Harry got out, shut the door and followed him.
"No more Bay City Rollers," Snape hissed as Harry came and stood beside him at the magazine shelf. "If I hear one more note of the Bay City Rollers..."
"Not into muggle music then?" said Harry, trying not to grin.
"No, I am not," Snape snapped. "And I never will be."
Mr Weasley was coming over and joining them. He peered over their shoulders. "What's this? Magazines? Ah, yes... oh! Oh, what's that?" He reached out, and picked one up. It was a gadget magazine, about computers and electronics. Mr Weasley's eyes seemed to fill with tears of joy. "Look, it's about muggle machines!"
"Shhh," said Harry, glancing at the teenager at the counter. He was watching them shrewdly.
"I must buy this," said Mr Weasley hurriedly, reaching into his pockets for change, as though if he didn't purchase it immediately it would burst into flames and never be seen again. "Oh, drat... I hate paying for things with muggle money, this complicated system..."
Harry checked the price on the magazine, and helped Mr Weasley count out the correct amount of money. Mr Weasley went tearing off towards the counter with his precious magazine. The teenager behind the desk was already looking at them very suspiciously, even more so when Dumbledore swept into the shop in his long purple robes and his white beard. As he stepped underneath the ceiling fan, it chopped off the top of his pointed hat, but he didn't seem to notice.
"Now then," he said, smiling at them. "Snacks, I think. I haven't had any supper yet. Let's see... I had a little dish of salad from one of these service stations a few years ago, that was quite nice. Where do they keep those?"
"In the fridge," said Harry, pointing.
Professor Chetry was now lumbering into the shop. The muggle behind the counter was looking rather scared now. Chetry's shock of rainbow-coloured hair, the long tartan scarf and the t-shirt declaring 'I LUV MUGGLES' were a bit daunting.
Mr Weasley noticed the man's terrified expression, and smiled kindly. "Ah, we're at a costume party. We just stopped to get some snacks."
The teenager didn't seem to swallow this excuse, especially as Dumbledore was now reading the slogans of the cans of pop aloud and chuckling merrily to himself, and Chetry was looking through the tapes shelf for anything by "those GeeBee fellas". The young man said nothing, and just handed Mr Weasley his change, still giving him a very frightened look.
"What's this?" said Dumbledore, picking up a box on the travel games shelf.
Harry peered over his shoulder. "Oh, it's Travel Battleships. I don't think there's a wizarding version of Battleships. You have to pick co-ordinates, and guess where the other person's ships are."
"My, this sounds fascinating," said Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly. He turned the box over and looked at the pictures on the box. "How interesting," he mused. "I do tire of Gobstones sometimes... one can only be squirted with horrible-smelling liquid so many times before the novelty wears out."
Snape was languishing by the doors at this point, with his purchases hanging in a bag from his arm. Harry went to stand with him. "It's sort of like... kids in a toy shop, isn't it?" said Harry, watching Mr Weasley, Chetry and Dumbledore all pouring over the Battleships box.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "I couldn't have put it better myself."
"How far are we from Little Whinging?" asked Harry.
"A few long, terrible hours," said Snape. He glanced at Harry. "If Dumbledore plays any more music, I order you to slit my wrists for me, Potter."
"Alright," said Harry. "Only if you'll do mine too."
"How come you know so much about muggles?" asked Harry, glancing up at Snape curiously.
Snape shrugged. "A lot of contact with them. I lived amongst them in a grotty little flat in London for some time, while working for the Dark Lord... it's a wonder I remained sane really."
"I really want to hear your life story one day," said Harry. "And I mean everything. Not just little bits here or there."
"Perhaps one day," said Snape, idly. "Providing I manage to survive this car journey, and the return. Ah yes, your uncle thought I was a dementor when I visited their house last year, didn't he? What a wonderful day I'm in store for."
It was a good job that there weren't many cars around, Harry thought, as the car swerved dangerously to the right and screeched across three lanes of the motorway. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, casting everything in a soft amber glow, but the peaceful atmosphere was broken by the little purple car winding its way back and forth down the road.
There was another protesting squeal from the brakes as the little purple mini swerved again and nearly crashed into the banking.
"Headmaster!" said Snape, loudly. "I do not wish to intrude upon your fun, but perhaps it would be wiser not to play Travel Battleships and drive at the same time!"
"Nonsense Severus!" said Dumbledore cheerily, as the car squealed to the other side of the four lanes again. "Oh no, Arthur, you've got another one!"
"I think there's a law against this," said Harry worriedly.
Sure enough, only two moves later, a blue flashing light could be seen racing up the road behind them. Snape groaned. Harry leant forward and tapped Dumbledore on the shoulder. "We've got to stop, Professor!"
"Why? But I'm winning, Harry, I can't give up now."
"No, it's the police. We've got to pull over."
"It's a jumper, actually, but I'm glad that you like it. My auntie Dotty gave me it when I was about six, but a few engorgement charms did a world of good."
There was a crackle from behind them, and the police spoke through a large microphone. "Stop the car, and pull over to the side of the road! This is the police! Stop the car!"
Dumbledore took one more go at Travel Battleships, then pulled over at the side of the road, putting on the brakes. The police pulled up behind them. Harry remembered a time when Uncle Vernon had been caught speeding, and he had barked at them all to be quiet and let him do the talking. Mr Weasley was doing a similar thing.
"Ah, yes, this has happened before," he said. "Everybody just stay here and I'll sort it all out." He got out of the car, and waved at the police as they came over. Harry was not surprised to see a breathalyzer test in one man's hands.
Mr Weasley met the police, and seemed to be explaining something very complicated to them, with lots of large hand gestures. The police were having none of it. Mr Weasley looked rather scared as they held up the breathalyzer, and nervously allowed them to test his breath.
"They're nae gonnae take us te Muggle Azkaban, are they?" said Chetry, worriedly.
"It's not a scratch on Azkaban," said Snape coolly.
"When have you been in prison?" said Harry, staring at him.
"The weekend after Graduation Night," said Snape. He smiled slightly. "It was worth it."
The police were checking the results of Mr Weasley's test, and seemed completely astounded that he was in fact sober. Mr Weasley was smiling still. The police were shaking their heads, and one of them was producing hand-cuffs, clicking them round Mr Weasley's wrists, the other walking towards the car. He opened the door, and leant in.
"Can you all please step out of the car?" he asked.
Dumbledore, Chetry, Harry and Snape all got out silently. The policemen stared at them with wide eyes. "Rushing back to the circus, were we?" he said dryly, directing the question at Harry, who obviously looked the most normal.
"It's a costume party," said Harry limply.
"Funny sorta costume party," said the policeman. His eyes travelled to Snape, and he frowned. "Here, haven't I seen you before?"
Snape glared at him. "I don't believe so. It's odd. I normally never forget faces, but with yours I clearly made an exception."
The policemen's smile fell off his face. He moved forward, producing more hand-cuffs, but Snape was far faster. His wand was out within split-seconds and he snarled, "Obliviarte!"
The policemen's eyes rolled back into his head and he stopped dead, taking on a hazy, dreamy sort of expression. His tongue lolled out of his mouth.
"Here!" shouted the other policeman. "Here, what are you doing?"
"Obliviarte," said Snape again. The other policeman slumped to the ground with a blank look on his face, staring up at the sky dimly. Snape walked over to him. "You pulled us over to compliment us on the plastic daisy."
The policeman got up slowly, smiling in a hazy way. "I love your plastic daisy there..." he said dimly.
"Good," said Snape. He glanced at Arthur. "Alohomora." The hand-cuffs fell off to the ground. Snape turned his dark eyes onto the police again. "Good day, gentlemen."
They got back into their car, and drove away, without another word. Snape put his wand away. Mr Weasley was coming over, looking rather angry.
"How am I supposed to explain that one away, Severus?" he said. "As the Minister for Inter-Muggle Relations, I'm supposed to interact with the police and work alongside them, not have my associates jinx them to get my own way. I have a reputation to uphold."
They all got back into the car. Mr Weasley was still talking at Snape, who didn't seem to be paying attention to a single word he said.
"It's like working with Mad Eye Moody all over again," he said. "You can't just hex muggles and make them do what you want. They're people like us and they deserve some respect, you know."
"I shall let them arrest you next time," said Snape calmly.
Mr Weasley mumbled something, going a little red in the ears, before sitting back and putting on his seat belt. Dumbledore started the car, and they were off again.
It was properly light by the time the little purple mini trundled wearily down the end of Privet Drive. A man out in his garden looking after the flowers turned to stare, unaware he was watering his mail box. Harry grinned. Suddenly, Privet Drive looked very funny. He gazed around at all the twee little lawns, perfectly cut to match the neighbours', all the exactly similar houses, all the expensive cars in clear view out in the street. And here was Harry, in a bright purple mini with bobbles on the antennae, with four of the oddest people to ever set foot in Privet Drive.
"It's there," said Harry, pointing to the end of the street. "Number four. I think Uncle Vernon's got a new car."
Dumbledore pulled up right behind the new black car sitting in the drive. The exhaust gave off a little cloud of green smoke, as though the purple mini wanted to mock the shiny black BMW. Harry opened the door of the car and got out, grinning. He couldn't wait to see the Dursleys' faces. Dumbledore, Chetry, Mr Weasley and Snape all got out too and shut the doors of the car.
"Harry, I think you'd better come first," said Mr Weasley. "I'll stand with you, just in case... everybody else just wait here. We'll try to be quick."
Harry, still grinning, headed up the path. He remembered walking this way home from his old primary school every day, with Dudley following behind him, kicking his ankles. Standing neatly on the step, he lifted his hand, and knocked three times. There was a moment's pause, and then it opened.
Uncle Vernon hadn't changed at all. He was still built like a walrus, with a moustache to match, and dressed in his suit ready to go to work. He held a bottle of milk in one hand, but as the door swung open and he caught sight of just who it was standing on his front step, it slipped from his hand and shattered all over his perfectly shined shoes.
"Hiya," said Harry, grinning. "We were in the neighbourhood and thought we'd drop by."
Uncle Vernon was just staring at him in horror. His face was turning quickly from red, to white, and back again. "You!!"
"Me," said Harry. He beamed at Uncle Vernon. "How are things? Hey, have you lost weight? You look so much slimmer."
"What are you doing here?" Uncle Vernon hissed. "We got rid of you for good last year, and no way are we having you back! I don't care if you've been expelled or what. Get out of my street!"
"Vernon? Who is it?" came Aunt Petunia's voice. She stepped into the hall, cleaning a frying pan with a dish cloth. "It isn't -" She saw Harry. And screamed. The frying pan hit the floor with a dull clunk.
"I apologise for the sudden appearance," said Mr Weasley. "But you are in great danger, and we need you to come with us. We have word that Death Eaters are coming to attack your house, very soon, and if we don't leave almost immediately then they may arrive and capture us all."
Uncle Vernon gave Mr Weasley a highly suspicious look. "How am I supposed to believe this? Could be one of your little tricks. I know what your kind are like, and don't you pretend you're different. I've had enough of it. We got rid of the boy to stop you coming and pestering us, not to bring you back every year!"
"Please," said Mr Weasley, desperately. "Do not risk your lives because of a silly prejudice. If you come with us, we promise you will be returned the moment the threat is out of the way."
"And how soon will that be?" growled Uncle Vernon.
"As soon as possible," said Mr Weasley. He put his hands together. "We assure you, this is a most serious matter."
"Very well," grunted Uncle Vernon. "But not for long mind! Dudley and I have to go to work very soon, and I'm not leaving him in the house on his own to get ready."
"Dudley's going to have to come too," said Harry. "Unless you want him murdered."
Uncle Vernon glared at Harry through his piggy eyes, then shouted upstairs. "Dudders! Come down here!"
"What is it?" came a loud shout back, in a voice that Harry hardly recognised anymore. "I'm trying to shave here!"
"You can do it later! Come down!" yelled Uncle Vernon. There were a lot of loud, heavy footsteps, and Dudley came lumbering down the stairs.
Harry couldn't help but stare. He could hardly believe that the boy before him was the cousin that he grew up with. Dudley had suddenly grown a lot taller, and fatter too. His hair was shaved short around the back and sides, with a silly sort of tuft on top, and he was practically covered in acne. He wore a t-shirt with a rude slogan stretched across his belly, and he was dripping shaving cream along the old carpet as he went.
"What's HE doing here?!" Dudley squawked as he saw Harry.
"It's nice to see you too," said Harry coolly.
"Get your coat on," said Uncle Vernon gruffly. "We've got to go out for a while. Some Deaf Heaters or something coming to attack the house. Petunia, come on!"
The three Dursleys filed out of the house, pulling on coats as they went. Dudley was still leaving blobs of shaving cream on the path, and he was staring at Harry with half-anger and half-amazement. "What happened to you?" he said.
"Probably the opposite of what happened to you," said Harry, dimly.
Uncle Vernon was just following Mr Weasley down the path, when he spotted the purple mini parked nearby. He stopped dead, staring at it in utter disgust. "What is that horrible little thing? I hope you don't expect us to fit in there. Dudley's a big lad."
"Special wizarding car," said Mr Weasley vaguely. "Packed with enlargement charms. We'll fit, don't you worry. Come along now, quickly... the Death Eaters might be coming right this second..."
Chetry, Snape and Dumbledore were all out of the car to greet the Dursleys. Chetry was grinning at them as they approached. Snape was wearing the completely opposite expression. Dumbledore smiled and shook hands politely.
"Nice to see you," he said, pleasantly. The Dursleys said nothing. Dudley dripped a large dollop of shaving foam onto the head of a garden gnome nearby, but that was about it. "Now then," said Dumbledore. "Everybody get in, and we'll be off in a jiffy..."
'Get in' didn't turn out to be quite so simple. Uncle Vernon had to sit in the passenger seat, with Aunt Petunia on his lap. In the back, they managed to fit Snape, Harry, Professor Chetry and Mr Weasley. Dumbledore was the only one with any room at all. Everybody was already squashed enough as it was, even with Dumbledore's stretching charms on the car, but when they all looked out and saw Dudley was still to get in, they realised there was a major problem.
"You'll all have to breathe in," said Dumbledore. "Come on, that's it... move up a bit Severus, there's some room there..."
Everybody groaned and felt their ribs straining as Dudley squeezed into the car. After trying to slam the door four times and failing, they finally managed it. Harry could hardly breathe, squished between Snape and Mr Weasley.
"Well now," said Dumbledore pleasantly. "Are we all comfy?"
Nobody answered, not trusting their mouths to come out with something they could say to such a respected wizard as Albus Dumbledore.
Dumbledore put his foot down, and the car struggled away from the path, wobbling as it tried to start on the road. Harry could feel the tension in the back seat straining to free itself, and sure enough, they had only gone a few metres when the doors gave way. Snape and Dudley were both ejected sideways and dumped onto the road. Mr Weasley, Professor Chetry and Harry all sighed at the relief to their rib cages. Dumbledore turned around and chuckled lightly. "Dear me," he said. "Perhaps magic has its limits after all... well, this won't do at all." He stopped the car, and everybody got out. "We're going to have to do some rearranging I think... the boot is big enough for one, I'm sure, but after that I don't know what we're going to do."
"I am not going in the boot," said Snape, sternly, clearly sensing what was coming. "You have made me into a lot of things over the years, Albus, you have made me a fool many, many times but by Merlin I shall not get into that boot."
A few minutes later, Snape was lying in the boot, along with a rather reluctant Mr Weasley. Dudley was in the front seat, and squashed in the back was Aunt Petunia sitting on Uncle Vernon's lap, and Harry perched on Professor Chetry awkwardly. His head was pressed uncomfortably against the ceiling, but at least he could breathe. It looked like a convention of yoga artists in the back seat.
Dumbledore was once again the only person with any proper leg room. "Now... is everybody comfortable? Are you alright back there, Severus?"
There was a lot of dark muttering from the trunk. Everybody tried not to smile too much.
"Then off we go," said Dumbledore pleasantly, pushing a muggle tape into the cassette player, and pushing his foot on the accelerator. Most unfortunately for everybody in the car, during all the shuffling around, the gear stick had been jammed into third. They all lurched forward with a universal groan as the car kangaroo-hopped its way down Privet Drive, and Dumbledore chuckled quite delightedly. "Dear me!" he shouted over the noise of 'Agadoo' playing from the radio. "There seems to be a problem with the car!"
Harry nearly hit Dudley in the back of the head with his nose, but stopped just in time, and held onto the back of Dumbledore's head-rest for support. Dudley was staring at Dumbledore as though he was utterly mad.
"Maybe you should change the gear," he said, as with another lurch, the front window was splattered in shaving cream.
"Oh, of course!" said Dumbledore. "Thankyou, young man." He reached down, and yanked it back into second gear.
Everybody screamed as the bright purple car shot forward like a bullet, zooming down the street with incredible speed. Dumbledore's hands flew off the steering wheel and it spun right the way around, sending the car jerking and spinning out of control. There was another scream as they went crashing straight through a fence at the end of Privet Drive and out onto a large playing field, sending children shrieking for cover as the mad purple mini went tearing away across the grass, churning mud and splattering the back window as it went.
"USE THE BRAKES!!!" Uncle Vernon was bellowing, but Dumbledore was still having trouble with the steering wheel, trying to stop the car spinning and whirling as it went tearing down the hill. Harry could see his life flashing before his eyes - even more when he looked ahead, and saw a huge park lake surging towards them, getting closer and closer.
"LOOK OUT FOR THE LAKE!!!" he yelled, but it was too late.
The car hit the bank at an estimated speed of forty miles per hour, the engine shrieking nearly as loud as the passengers. Any muggles who happened to be watching their windows would have been mildly surprised to see a bright purple car (complete with large plastic hippy flower on the roof and Agadoo blazing through the windows) launch into the air and sail gracefully down towards the lake. Everybody was screaming, pounding at the windows, the musical disaster that was Black Lace blaring in their ears before Dumbledore yanked the steering wheel hard and the car turned just in time, missing the black waters by inches, soaring elegantly up into the sky like a large purple owl.
Dumbledore chuckled, his eyes sparkling. "This is turning out to be quite an adventure after all," he said, delightedly.
Everybody sat in stunned silence, all pale, all with identical looks of blind horror on their faces. From the back came the sound of Snape expelling his lunch, and Mr Weasley's wail of indignation.
Flying above the clouds, it took a lot less time than going by the road, though the return trip wasn't without problems. When the Dursleys twigged that they were being taken away to Hogwarts, they tried to get out of the car, and had to be given numerous stunning charms to keep them in. Snape complained loudly the whole way, promising curses and hexes the moment he was let out, but Mr Weasley eventually calmed him down with a game of Travel Battleships. Finally, after a few long and very exhausting hours, Dumbledore's purple mini descended gracefully onto the lawns of Hogwarts, landing with a gentle bump. A group of students out by the lake backed away, staring, as everybody got out of the car. Harry fell onto the grass and rolled over, covering his face with his hands, deciding that if he ever heard any muggle party songs ever again, he would jinx everybody in sight. He heard the other car doors opening, and then the boot crashed open, and Snape leapt out. He hissed and shivered, stamping on the ground, as though he'd been shut in a cage full of maggots for the past few hours. Mr Weasley clambered out dazedly.
"Dad?" shouted a voice. "Harry?" Harry managed to open his eyes, and saw Ron tearing across the grass towards them, followed by Hermione and Ginny. "What on earth's going on?" said Ron, staring at the car.
All attention was snatched then, as the Dursleys started to get out of the car. They all looked very groggy and spaced out from all the stunning charms, and as they stared around, Harry could see horror and shock mingling in their faces.
"This is it?" said Uncle Vernon, very groggily. "You go to school in some broken down crumbling old castle?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Ah, of course... they're being affected by the anti-muggle repelling charms. Let's see now." He drew his wand and swirled it at the Dursleys. There was a flash of white sparks, and all three muggles jumped, staring at Hogwarts.
"What happened?!" squawked Dudley. "It suddenly just... grew!"
"It's always been there," said Harry grinning. "We just charm it so that you can't see it."
Dudley stared at him, as though Harry was talking utter nonsense. "Shut up," he slurred eventually. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were eyeing Dudley closely. He glanced at them, and frowned. "What are you looking at?" he growled.
"I don't really know," said Ron idly. "I think it's a pig, but pigs don't get acne."
"Let's get them to the castle," said Mr Weasley. "Um, Brian, have you set up their new home?"
"New home?" snarled Uncle Vernon. "Now wait just one second - "
"Stupefy!" said Mr Weasley, reacting faster than Harry had ever seen him. Uncle Vernon's eyes rolled into his head, and he hit the grass. Two spells later, and Aunt Petunia and Dudley joined him there.
Harry smiled a little. "Nice shot."
Mr Weasley rubbed his forehead. "Yes, I'm afraid it was... I do hope my superiors don't find out about me jinxing muggles, or there'll be trouble."
Professor Chetry and Mr Weasley both levitated the three Dursleys into the air, and headed off towards the castle with them. Ron was still looking very shocked. He looked at Harry on the ground.
"Um... what's going on, exactly?" he asked.
Harry smiled a little. "It's a long story."
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