|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event|
|Escape from Privet Drive|
|Location||Privet Drive and environs|
|Time Period||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, late July|
|Important Characters||Harry, many Order of the Phoenix members, many Death Eaters, Voldemort|
As the protection afforded him at Privet Drive will end when Harry reaches maturity at age 17, the Order of the Phoenix elect to move him to an Order safe house. In order to confuse Voldemort, who they believe has infiltrated the Ministry of Magic, Polyjuice Potion is used to create six simulacra of Harry, each of whom sets off for a different safe house. Attacked by Death Eaters, the various groups battle their way to their various safe houses, eventually gathering at The Burrow, where they make plans and grieve their losses.
Once Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley have left the house at Privet Drive, Harry, knowing that he is to be transported to a safe house before his protection runs out, finishes his preparations for departure. A noise in the back garden brings him downstairs, where he finds that many of the members of the Order have arrived, on broomsticks, Thestrals, and Hagrid on Sirius Black's flying motorcycle. Mad-Eye Moody, the leader of the group, explains that Harry's house is being monitored by the Ministry, nominally to prevent anyone from arriving via Apparition, Portkeys, or the Floo network. Moody is convinced that the Ministry has been infiltrated by Voldemort, and the monitoring is to determine if Harry is departing Privet Drive, and if so with whom and where, so they have chosen to travel by means that are not monitored. Additionally, there will be seven different Harry Potters traveling to seven different Order safe houses. Over Harry's protests, Moody produces a flask of Polyjuice Potion and demands some of Harry's hair. Eventually Harry gives in, and six of the wizards present, Mundungus Fletcher, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Ron, Fleur Delacour, and Hermione, drink the prepared potion, becoming Harry Potters. Each one is paired with a protector, and they leave the house.
Almost immediately they come under attack. Harry, with Hagrid, is initially attacked by four Death Eaters. A killing curse aimed at Harry misses Harry by inches, killing Hedwig. Hagrid uses gadgets that Arthur Weasley has built into the motorcycle to try to defend against the following Death Eaters, but it is only when the motorcycle spits dragon flame that the following Death Eaters are deterred. The dragon flame, however, pushes the motorcycle forwards, straining the connection between it and the sidecar, where Harry is sitting. A second attempt to use the dragon fire causes the sidecar to break off and start falling. Harry Levitates the sidecar, but is unable to move it, and so hangs in the air while the three remaining Death Eaters attack. Hagrid manages to swing around and collect Harry out of the side car, but Harry loses everything except his rucksack. Harry, now hanging on to Hagrid's back, destroys the sidecar to disable a Death Eater, then notes that of the two left, one is Stan Shunpike, clearly under the Imperius curse. Not wanting to injure Stan, Harry disarms him, whereupon the remaining Death Eater shouts "It's the real one!" and vanishes.
Harry doesn't trust the apparent breaking off of the action by the Death Eaters, so urges Hagrid to use the dragon-fire to speed them to their destination. They are surrounded by Death Eaters, however, including Voldemort. Harry feels his wand, on its own, twist and fire a bolt of golden flame, and hears Voldemort's scream of rage as his borrowed wand is destroyed. Hagrid leaps off the motorcycle to attack a Death Eater only feet away. As Harry desperately tries to brake the falling motorcycle, he hears Voldemort demanding a new wand from another Death Eater. Suddenly, all the Death Eaters vanish, and Harry falls into mud. He sees the fallen Hagrid, and crawls towards him, but blacks out.
Harry regains consciousness in the house of Ted Tonks, one of the Order safe houses, where he learns that the reason for the Death Eaters vanishing was that they had run afoul of the Order's protective spells. After nearly jinxing Andromeda Tonks under the impression that she is Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry finds Hagrid unwounded, and together they are led to the hairbrush Portkey that will take them to the Burrow.
Lupin now arrives with an injured George; his ear has been severed with the Dark Sectumsempra curse by Severus Snape. Now believing that someone in the group had betrayed them, Lupin tests Harry to see if he is who he appears. Reassured by Harry's response, he says that Voldemort probably homed in on Harry because of Harry's use of the disarmament charm. His use of it against Voldemort in the cemetery had made the Death Eaters consider that something of a signature spell. Lupin urges Harry to use stronger spells in self defence, even if they do result in injury or death of those fighting on the side of the Death Eaters.
Next to arrive are Kingsley Shacklebolt with Hermione. Kingsley has apparently had the same thought as Lupin, because he immediately tests Lupin the same way that Lupin had tested Harry.
Next to arrive is Arthur Weasley, with Fred, one of the two groups originally scheduled to arrive before Harry. Arthur, frantic with worry, brushes aside the Order members who want to test his identity, to rush to George's side. George, to everyone's relief, regains consciousness and seems to be in good humour.
Tonks and Ron, the other couple originally scheduled to arrive before Harry, now show up, explaining that they had been followed by Tonks' Aunt Bellatrix, and had quite the battle with her. In the process, they had done some damage to Rodolphus Lestrange.
Finally, after Shacklebolt has returned to the Muggle Prime Minister's office, Bill and Fleur arrive, saying that they had been delayed by Auntie Muriel. The last pair, Alastor Moody with Mundungus Fletcher, will not be returning. The gathered Order members decide that Voldemort, finding so many Harry Potter simulacra, assumed the one defended by the strongest Auror, Moody, was the real one. Fletcher, finding that he was Voldemort's direct target, had Disapparated out of the path of a curse, which had then hit Moody and apparently killed him. In his absence, the remaining Order members wonder if Mundungus was the traitor, but decide that he could not be; Voldemort had clearly not been expecting the multiplicity of Harry Potters, and that suggestion had come from Mundungus.
As Bill and Lupin depart to try to find Moody's body, Harry announces that his presence at The Burrow brings danger on everyone there, and says he has to leave as well. He is overruled by the Order members who say there is no way Voldemort could know which of several safe-houses he is in.
Voldemort assumes that the most powerful Auror will be assigned to protect Harry, and so concentrates his efforts initially on Mad-Eye Moody's passenger, Mundungus Fletcher. Mundungus, perceiving that he is catching most of the attacks, Disapparates, leaving Moody to catch the curse fired at Mundungus. This results in Moody's death.
George Weasley losing an ear to a curse cast by Snape reinforces the Order's belief that Snape has become a Death Eater. It also may foreshadow another loss for the Weasley family.
The Ministry had been told that Harry would be moved on his birthday, but the actual escape had happened a few days earlier. The fact that Death Eaters were ready for the transfer indicates that there is a spy within the Order. The obvious candidate is the underworld element, Mundungus Fletcher; but he had originated a plan element that the Death Eaters were not prepared for, which indicates that it is someone else.
Lupin mentions that Harry's use of the Expelliarmus disarming charm has become a trademark of sorts. Lupin seems to indicate here that Harry is not ruthless enough for the battle he is facing; he certainly encourages Harry to use more destructive spells.
Harry, at the Burrow, is safe for the moment and can look forward to his own birthday and Bill and Fleur's wedding. However, he has seen the effort that the Death Eaters are willing to make to capture him, and fears for the safety of the people near him.
In the course of the escape, we get to meet Ted Tonks and Andromeda (Black) Tonks. Andromeda, like Sirius, had rebelled against her pure-blood heritage, but we see here that she looks like her sister Bellatrix.
Sirius' flying motorcycle is destroyed, though we will later learn that Arthur Weasley has recovered the pieces and is trying to reassemble it.
The fact that this battle happens quite early in the book, and is so lethal, is a clear indication that with this final book in the series we have entered a new and harsher phase of the epic. Until now, when Harry has faced Voldemort directly, it has been at the culmination of the year's adventures, so that we have been building up to the battle with Voldemort. This book, Voldemort makes himself known within the first few chapters. Apart from signaling to us that Harry's mission this year will be much harder, this also lets us know that Voldemort feels so secure in his power that he is willing to dogfight in the skies above Muggle England, where any Wizard or Muggle could see him and his followers.
One thing that we see mentioned in passing is that Voldemort is flying without a broomstick. We will perceive this again much later in the book when Harry is looking into his mind, and we will also see that Snape has evidently learned it as well. In the earlier part of the series, we were told that no Wizard can fly unassisted. This seems to reinforce our understanding that Voldemort is a wizard of rare power and inventiveness, as well as being evil.
In what is quite possibly a deliberate parallel with the opening of the first story, Harry is carried out of danger to safety by Hagrid on Sirius' flying motorcycle. In an interview, the author had stated that Hagrid's fate was certain; as he had carried Harry out of the wreckage of his parents' house to Privet Drive, and from the Muggle world of the Dursleys to the Wizarding world behind the Leaky Cauldron, so would he carry Harry out of the Forbidden Forest at the end of the story. Hagrid's carrying Harry at this point, though not mentioned by the author in that interview, is clearly another echo of that same pattern.
We will later learn that the plan to have multiple Harry Potters in the escape was a collaborative effort between Snape and the portrait of Dumbledore. In order to stay in Voldemort's confidence, Snape would have to give him the true date of Harry's transfer, so the only way to avoid Harry being singled out and killed was to make a confusing multplicity of targets. Under instruction from Dumbledore, Snape had planted the idea in Mundungus' mind, and then hidden it from Voldemort in his own mind. Although this is never explicitly laid out, the fact that Snape had such easy access to Mundungus leads us to believe that Snape had extracted the information concerning the date of the transfer from Mundungus earlier.
Harry will later retrieve Moody's magical eye from inside the Ministry of Magic. No other part of Moody will ever be found, leaving the possibility that he had escaped just ever so slightly open.