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 nonexistent 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.
'I told you - they suck all the happiness out of you,' said Harry, 'and if they get the chance, they kiss you - '
Tell us, darling,' whispered Aunt Petunia.
The empty house creaked around him. The pipes gurgled. Harry ay there in a kind of stupor, thinking of nothing, suspended in misery.
Further to our letter of approximately twenty-two minutes ago, the Ministry of Magic has revised its decision to destroy your wand forthwith. You may retain your wand until your disciplinary hearing on the twelfth of August, at which time an official decision will be taken.
Harry's heart was thumping uncontrollably. He knew that voice, but he did not lower his wand.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia exchanged looks of utter horror. If their least favourite thing in the world was magic - closely followed by neighbours who cheated more than they did on the hosepipe ban - people who heard voices were definitely in the bottom ten. They obviously thought Dudley was losing his mind.
He snatched up his wand from the bedside table and stood lacing his bedroom door, listening with all his might. Next moment, he jumped as the lock gave a loud click and his door swung open.
'How come - ?'
'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 return journey.'
She seized Dudley by the shoulders and shook him, as though testing to see whether she could hear his soul rattling around inside hint.
'It's addressed to me,' said Aunt Petunia in a shaking voice. 'It's addressed to me, Vernon, look! Mrs Petunia Dursley, The Kitchen, Number Four, Privet Drive - '
'Mount your brooms, that's the first signal!' said Lupin sharply, pointing into the sky.
But Harry was already pulling a roll of parchment from the owl's leg. He was so convinced that this letter had to be from Dumbledore, explaining everything - the Dementors, Mrs Figg, what the Ministry was up to, how he, Dumbledore, intended to sort everything out - that for the first time in his life he was disappointed to see Sirius's handwriting. Ignoring Uncle Vernons ongoing rant about owls, and narrowing his eyes against a second cloud of dust as the most recent owl took off back up the chimney, Harry read Sirius's message.
'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.
She followed Harry back into the hall and up the stairs, looking around with much curiosity and interest.
'He's back,' said Harry heavily.
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.
'I'm - you're really lucky the Dursleys are out . . .' he mumbled.