Harry Potter and the Order
of the Phoenix
By J.K. Rowling
The hottest day of the summer so far was
drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square
houses of Privet Drive. Cars that were usually gleaming stood dusty
in their drives and lawns that were once emerald green lay parched
and yellowing; the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought.
Deprived of their usual car-washing and lawn-mowing pursuits, the
inhabitants of Privet Drive had retreated into the shade of their
cool houses, windows thrown wide in the hope of tempting in a
nonexistent breeze. The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy
who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number
He was a skinny, black-haired, bespectacled boy
who had the pinched, slightly unhealthy look of someone who has
grown a lot in a short space of time. His jeans were torn and
dirty, his T-shirt baggy and faded, and the soles of his trainers
were peeling away from the uppers. Harry Potter’s appearance did
not endear him to the neighbors, who were the sort of people who
thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law, but as he had
hidden himself behind a large hydrangea bush this evening he was
quite invisible to passers-by. In fact, the only way he would be
spotted was if his Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia stuck their heads
out of the living-room window and looked straight down into the
On the whole, Harry thought he was to be
congratulated on his idea of hiding here. He was not, perhaps, very
comfortable lying on the hot, hard earth but, on the other hand,
nobody was glaring at him, grinding their teeth so loudly that he
could not hear the news, or shooting nasty questions at him, as had
happened every time he had tried sitting down in the living room to
watch television with his aunt and uncle.
Almost as though this thought had fluttered
through the open window, Vernon Dursley, Harry’s uncle, suddenly
“Glad to see the boy’s stopped trying to butt
in. Where is he, anyway?”
“I don’t know,” said Aunt Petunia, unconcerned.
“Not in the house.”
Uncle Vernon grunted.
“Watching the news…” he said scathingly. “I’d
like to know what he’s really up to. As if a normal boy cares
what’s on the news - Dudley hasn’t got a clue what’s going on;
doubt he knows who the Prime Minister is! Anyway, it’s not as if
there’d be anything about his lot on our news–”
“Vernon, shh!” said Aunt Petunia. “The window’s
“Oh - yes - sorry, dear.”
The Dursleys fell silent. Harry listened to a
jingle about Fruit ‘n’ Bran breakfast cereal while he watched Mrs.
Figg, a batty cat-loving old lady from nearby Wisteria Walk, amble
slowly past. She was frowning and muttering to herself. Harry was
very pleased he was concealed behind the bush, as Mrs. Figg had
recently taken to asking him around for tea whenever she met him in
the street. She had rounded the corner and vanished from view
before Uncle Vernon’s voice floated out of the window again.
“Dudders out for tea?”
“At the Polkisses’,” said Aunt Petunia fondly.
“He’s got so many little friends, he’s so popular.”
Harry suppressed a snort with difficulty. The
Dursleys really were astonishingly stupid about their son, Dudley.
They had swallowed all his dim-witted lies about having tea with a
different member of his gang every night of the summer holidays.
Harry knew perfectly well that Dudley had not been to tea anywhere;
he and his gang spent every evening vandalizing the play park,
smoking on street corners and throwing stones at passing cars and
children. Harry had seen them at it during his evening walks around
Little Whinging; he had spent most of the holidays wandering the
streets, scavenging newspapers from bins along the way.
The opening notes of the music that heralded
the seven o’clock news reached Harry’s ears and his stomach turned
over. Perhaps tonight - after a month of waiting - would be the
“Record numbers of stranded
holiday makers fill air ports as the Spanish
strike reaches its second
“Give ‘em a lifelong siesta, I would,” snarled
Uncle Vernon over the end of the newsreader’s sentence, but no
matter: outside in the flowerbed, Harry’s stomach seemed to
unclench. If anything had happened, it would surely have been the
first item on the news; death and destruction were more important
than stranded holidaymakers.
He let out a long, slow breath and stared up at
the brilliant blue sky. Every day this summer had been the same:
the tension, the expectation, the temporary relief, and then
mounting tension again… and always, growing more insistent all the
time, the question of why nothing had happened yet.
He kept listening, just in case there was some
small clue, not recognized for what it really was by the Muggles -
an unexplained disappearance, perhaps, or some strange accident…
but the baggage-handlers’ strike was followed by news about the
drought in the Southeast (“I hope he’s listening next door!”
bellowed Uncle Vernon. “Him with his sprinklers on at three in the
morning!”), then a helicopter that had almost crashed in a field in
Surrey, then a famous actress’s divorce from her famous husband
(“As if we’re interested in their sordid affairs,” sniffed Aunt
Petunia, who had followed the case obsessively in every magazine
she could lay her bony hands on).
Harry closed his eyes against the now blazing
evening sky as the newsreader said, “-and
finally, Bungy the budgie has found a novel
way of keeping cool this summer. Bungy, who lives at the
Five Feathers in Barnsley, has learned to water
ski! Mary Dorkins went to find out more. ”
Harry opened his eyes. If they had reached
water-skiing budgerigars, there would be nothing else worth
hearing. He rolled cautiously on to his front and raised himself on
to his knees and elbows, preparing to crawl out from under the
He had moved about two inches when several
things happened in very quick succession. A loud, echoing crack
broke the sleepy silence like a gunshot; a cat streaked out from
under a parked car and flew out of sight; a shriek, a bellowed oath
and the sound of breaking china came from the Dursleys’ living
room, and as though this was the signal Harry had been waiting for
he jumped to his feet, at the same time pulling from the waistband
of his jeans a thin wooden wand as if he were unsheathing a sword -
but before he could draw himself up to full height, the top of his
head collided with the Dursleys’ open window. The resultant crash
made Aunt Petunia scream even louder.
Harry felt as though his head had been split in
two. Eyes streaming, he swayed, trying to focus on the street to
spot the source of the noise, but he had barely staggered upright
when two large purple hands reached through the open window and
closed tightly around his throat.
“Put - it-away!” Uncle Vernon snarled into
Harry’s ear. “Now! Before-anyone - sees!”
“Get - off - me!” Harry gasped. For a few
seconds they struggled, Harry pulling at his uncles sausage-like
fingers with his left hand, his right maintaining a firm grip on
his raised wand; then, as the pain in the top of Harry’s head gave
a particularly nasty throb, Uncle Vernon yelped and released Harry
as though he had received an electric shock. Some invisible force
seemed to have surged through his nephew, making him impossible to
Panting, Harry fell forwards over the hydrangea
bush, straightened up and stared around. There was no sign of what
had caused the loud cracking noise, but there were several faces
peering through various nearby windows. Harry stuffed his wand
hastily back into his jeans and tried to look innocent.
“Lovely evening!” shouted Uncle Vernon, waving
at Mrs. Number Seven, who was glaring from behind her net curtains.
“Did you hear that car backfire just now? Gave Petunia and me quite
He continued to grin in a horrible, manic way
until all the curious neighbors had disappeared from their various
windows, then the grin became a grimace of rage as he beckoned
Harry back towards him.
Harry moved a few steps closer, taking care to
stop just short of the point at which Uncle Vernon’s outstretched
hands could resume their strangling.
“What the devil do you mean by it, boy?” asked
Uncle Vernon in a croaky voice that trembled with fury.
“What do I mean by what?” said Harry coldly. He
kept looking left and right up the street, still hoping to see the
person who had made the cracking noise.
“Making a racket like a starting pistol right
outside our –”
“I didn’t make that noise,” said Harry
Aunt Petunia’s thin, horsy face now appeared
beside Uncle Vernon’s wide, purple one. She looked livid.
“Why were you lurking under our window?”
“Yes - yes, good point, Petunia! What were you
doing under our window, boy?”
“Listening to the news,” said Harry in a
His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of
“Listening to the news! Again?”
“Well, it changes every day, you see,” said
“Don’t you be clever with me, boy! I want to
know what you’re really up to - and don’t give me any more of this
listening to the news tosh! You know perfectly well that your lot
“Careful, Vernon!” breathed Aunt Petunia, and
Uncle Vernon lowered his voice so that Harry could barely hear him,
“-that your lot don’t get on our news!”
“That’s all you know,” said Harry.
The Dursleys goggled at him for a few seconds,
then Aunt Petunia said, “You’re a nasty little liar. What are all
those -” she, too, lowered her voice so that Harry had to lip-read
the next word,
“-owls doing if they’re not bringing you
“Aha!” said Uncle Vernon in a triumphant
whisper. “Get out of that one, boy! As if we didn’t know you get
all your news from those pestilential birds!”
Harry hesitated for a moment. It cost him
something to tell the truth this time, even though his aunt and
uncle could not possibly know how bad he felt at admitting it.
“The owls… aren’t bringing me news,” he said
“I don’t believe it,” said Aunt Petunia at
“No more do I,” said Uncle Vernon
“We know you’re up to something funny,” said
“We’re not stupid, you know,” said Uncle
“Well, that’s news to me,” said Harry, his
temper rising, and before the Dursleys could call him back, he had
wheeled about, crossed the front lawn, stepped over the low garden
wall and was striding off up the street.
He was in trouble now and he knew it. He would
have to face his aunt and uncle later and pay the price for his
rudeness, but he did not care very much just at the moment; he had
much more pressing matters on his mind.
Harry was sure the cracking noise had been made
by someone Apparating or Disapparating. It was exactly the sound
Dobby the house-elf made when he vanished into thin air. Was it
possible that Dobby was here in Privet Drive? Could Dobby be
following him right at this very moment?
As this thought occurred he wheeled around and
stared back down Privet Drive, but it appeared to be completely
deserted and Harry was sure that Dobby did not know how to become
invisible. He walked on, hardly aware of the route he was taking,
for he had pounded these streets so often lately that his feet
carried him to his favorite haunts automatically. Every few steps
he glanced back over his shoulder. Someone magical had been near
him as he lay among Aunt Petunia’s dying begonias, he was sure of
it. Why hadn’t they spoken to him, why hadn’t they made contact,
why were they hiding now?
And then, as his feeling of frustration peaked,
his certainty leaked away.
Perhaps it hadn’t been a magical sound after
all. Perhaps he was so desperate for the tiniest sign of contact
from the world to which he belonged that he was simply overreacting
to perfectly ordinary noises. Could he be sure it hadn’t been the
sound of something breaking inside a neighbor’s house?
Harry felt a dull, sinking sensation in his
stomach and before he knew it the feeling of hopelessness that had
plagued him all summer rolled over him once again.
Tomorrow morning he would be woken by the alarm
at five o’clock so he could pay the owl that delivered the Daily
Prophet - but was there any point continuing to take it? Harry
merely glanced at the front page before throwing it aside these
days; when the idiots who ran the paper finally realized that
Voldemort was back it would be headline news, and that was the only
kind Harry cared about.
If he was lucky, there would also be owls
carrying letters from his best friends Ron and Hermione, though any
expectation he’d had that their letters would bring him news had
long since been dashed.
We can’ t say much about you-know-what, obviously… We’
ve been told not to say anything important in case our letters go astray… We’
re quite busy but I can’ t give you details here…
There’ s a fair amount going on, we’ ll
tell you everything when we see you…
But when were they going to see him? Nobody
seemed too bothered with a precise date. Hermione had scribbled I
expect we’ll be seeing you quite soon inside his birthday card, but
how soon was soon? As far as Harry could tell from the vague hints
in their letters, Hermione and Ron were in the same place,
presumably at Ron’s parents’ house. He could hardly bear to think
of the pair of them having fun at The Burrow when he was stuck in
Privet Drive. In fact, he was so angry with them he had thrown
away, unopened, the two boxes of Honeydukes chocolates they’d sent
him for his birthday. He’d regretted it later, after the wilted
salad Aunt Petunia had provided for dinner that night.
And what were Ron and Hermione busy with? Why
wasn’t he, Harry, busy? Hadn’t he proved himself capable of
handling much more than them? Had they all forgotten what he had
Hadn’t it been he who had entered that
graveyard and watched Cedric being murdered, and been tied to that
tombstone and nearly killed?
Don’ t think about that, Harry told himself sternly for
the hundredth time that summer. It was bad enough that he kept
revisiting the graveyard in his nightmares, without dwelling on it
in his waking moments too.
He turned a corner into Magnolia Crescent;
halfway along he passed the narrow alleyway down the side of a
garage where he had first clapped eyes on his godfather. Sirius, at
least, seemed to understand how Harry was feeling. Admittedly, his
letters were just as empty of proper news as Ron and Hermione’s,
but at least they contained words of caution and consolation
instead of tantalizing hints:
I know this must be
frustrating for you… Keep your nose clean and everything will be
okay… Be careful and don’ t do anything rash…
Well, thought Harry, as he crossed Magnolia
Crescent, turned into Magnolia Road and headed towards the
darkening play park, he had (by and large) done as Sirius advised.
He had at least resisted the temptation to tie his trunk to his
broomstick and set off for The Burrow by himself. In fact, Harry
thought his behavior had been very good considering how frustrated
and angry he felt at being stuck in Privet Drive so long, reduced
to hiding in flowerbeds in the hope of hearing something that might
point to what Lord Voldemort was doing. Nevertheless, it was quite
galling to be told not to be rash by a man who had served twelve
years in the wizard prison, Azkaban, escaped, attempted to commit
the murder he had been convicted for in the first place, then gone
on the run with a stolen Hippogriff.
Harry vaulted over the locked park gate and set
off across the parched grass. The park was as empty as the
surrounding streets. When he reached the swings he sank on to the
only one that Dudley and his friends had not yet managed to break,
coiled one arm around the chain and stared moodily at the ground.
He would not be able to hide in the Dursleys’ flowerbed again.
Tomorrow, he would have to think of some fresh way of listening to
the news. In the meantime, he had nothing to look forward to but
another restless, disturbed night, because even when he escaped the
nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about long dark
corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors, which he
supposed had something to do with the trapped feeling he had when
he was awake. Often the old scar on his forehead prickled
uncomfortably, but he did not fool himself that Ron or Hermione or
Sirius would find that very interesting any more. In the past, his
scar hurting had warned that Voldemort was getting stronger again,
but now that Voldemort was back they would probably remind him that
its regular irritation was only to be expected… nothing to worry
about… old news…
The injustice of it all welled up inside him so
that he wanted to yell with fury. If it hadn’t been for him, nobody
would even have known Voldemort was back! And his reward was to be
stuck in Little Whinging for four solid weeks, completely cut off
from the magical world, reduced to squatting among dying begonias
so that he could hear about water-skiing budgerigars! How could
Dumbledore have forgotten him so easily? Why had Ron and Hermione
got together without inviting him along, too? How much longer was
he supposed to endure Sirius telling him to sit tight and be a good
boy; or resist the temptation to write to the stupid Daily Prophet
and point out that Voldemort had returned? These furious thoughts
whirled around in Harry’s head, and his insides writhed with anger
as a sultry, velvety night fell around him, the air full of the
smell of warm, dry grass, and the only sound that of the low
grumble of traffic on the road beyond the park railings.
He did not know how long he had sat on the
swing before the sound of voices interrupted his musings and he
looked up. The streetlamps from the surrounding roads were casting
a misty glow strong enough to silhouette a group of people making
their way across the park. One of them was singing a loud, crude
song. The others were laughing. A soft ticking noise came from
several expensive racing bikes that they were wheeling along.
Harry knew who those people were. The figure in
front was unmistakeably his cousin, Dudley Dursley, wending his way
home, accompanied by his faithful gang.
Dudley was as vast as ever, but a year’s hard
dieting and the discovery of a new talent had wrought quite a
change in his physique. As Uncle Vernon delightedly told anyone who
would listen, Dudley had recently become the Junior Heavyweight
Inter-School Boxing Champion of the Southeast. ‘The noble sport’,
as Uncle Vernon called it, had made Dudley even more formidable
than he had seemed to Harry in their primary school days when he
had served as Dudley’s first punching bag. Harry was not remotely
afraid of his cousin any more but he still didn’t think that Dudley
learning to punch harder and more accurately was cause for
celebration. Neighborhood children all around were terrified of him
- even more terrified than they were of
‘that Potter boy’ who, they had been warned,
was a hardened hooligan and attended St. Brutus’s Secure Center for
Incurably Criminal Boys.
Harry watched the dark figures crossing the
grass and wondered who they had been beating up tonight. Look round, Harry found himself thinking as he
watched them. Come on… look round… I’ m sitting here all
alone… come and have a go…
If Dudley’s friends saw him sitting here, they
would be sure to make a beeline for him and what would Dudley do
then? He wouldn’t want to lose face in front of the gang, but he’d
be terrified of provoking Harry… it would be really fun to watch
Dudley’s dilemma, to taunt him, watch him, with him powerless to
respond… and if any of the others tried hitting Harry, he was ready
- he had his wand. Let them try… he’d love to vent some of his
frustration on the boys who had once made his life hell.
But they didn’t turn around, they didn’t see
him, they were almost at the railings. Harry mastered the impulse
to call after them… seeking a fight was not a smart move… he must
not use magic…
he would be risking expulsion again.
The voices of Dudley’s gang died away; they
were out of sight, heading along Magnolia Road. There you go, Sirius, Harry thought dully. Nothing rash. Kept my nose clean. Exactly the
opposite of what you’ d
He got to his feet and stretched. Aunt Petunia
and Uncle Vernon seemed to feel that whenever Dudley turned up was
the right time to be home, and any time after that was much too
late. Uncle Vernon had threatened to lock Harry in the shed if he
came home after Dudley ever again, so, stifling a yawn, and still
scowling, Harry set off towards the park gate.
Magnolia Road, like Privet Drive, was full of
large, square houses with perfectly manicured lawns, all owned by
large, square owners who drove very clean cars similar to Uncle
Vernon’s. Harry preferred Little Whinging by night, when the
curtained windows made patches of jewel bright color in the
darkness and he ran no danger of hearing disapproving mutters about
‘delinquent’ appearance when he passed the
householders. He walked quickly, so that halfway along Magnolia
Road Dudley’s gang came into view again; they were saying their
farewells at the entrance to Magnolia Crescent. Harry stepped into
the shadow of a large lilac tree and waited.
“… squealed like a pig, didn’t he?” Malcolm was
saying, to guffaws from the others.
“Nice right hook, Big D,” said Piers.
“Same time tomorrow?” said Dudley.
“Round at my place, my parents will be out,”
“See you then,” said Dudley.
“See ya, Big D!”
Harry waited for the rest of the gang to move
on before setting off again. When their voices had faded once more
he headed around the corner into Magnolia Crescent and by walking
very quickly he soon came within hailing distance of Dudley, who
was strolling along at his ease, humming tunelessly.
“Hey, Big D!”
“Oh,” he grunted. “It’s you.”
“How long have you been ‘Big D’ then?” said
“Shut it,” snarled Dudley, turning away.
“Cool name,” said Harry, grinning and falling
into step beside his cousin. “But you’ll always be
‘Ickle Diddykins’ to me.”
“I said, SHUT IT!” said Dudley, whose ham-like
hands had curled into fists.
“Don’t the boys know that’s what your mum calls
“Shut your face.”
“You don’t tell her to shut her face. What
about ‘Popkin’ and ‘Dinky Diddydums’, can I use them then?”
Dudley said nothing. The effort of keeping
himself from hitting Harry seemed to demand all his
“So who’ve you been beating up tonight?” Harry
asked, his grin fading. “Another ten-year-old? I know you did Mark
Evans two nights ago -”
“He was asking for it,” snarled Dudley.
“He cheeked me.”
“Yeah? Did he say you look like a pig that’s
been taught to walk on its hind legs? Cause that’s not cheek, Dud,
A muscle was twitching in Dudley’s jaw. It gave
Harry enormous satisfaction to know how furious he was making
Dudley; he felt as though he was siphoning off his own frustration
into his cousin, the only outlet he had.
They turned right down the narrow alleyway
where Harry had first seen Sirius and which formed a short cut
between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. It was empty and much
darker than the streets it linked because there were no
streetlamps. Their footsteps were muffled between garage walls on
one side and a high fence on the other.
“Think you’re a big man carrying that thing,
don’t you?” Dudley said after a few seconds.
“That - that thing you are hiding.”
Harry grinned again.
“Not as stupid as you look, are you, Dud? But I
s’pose, if you were, you wouldn’t be able to walk and talk at the
Harry pulled out his wand. He saw Dudley look
sideways at it.
“You’re not allowed,” Dudley said at once. “I
know you’re not. You’d get expelled from that freak school you go
“How d’you know they haven’t changed the rules,
“They haven’t,” said Dudley, though he didn’t
sound completely convinced.
Harry laughed softly.
“You haven’t got the guts to take me on without
that thing, have you?” Dudley snarled.
“Whereas you just need four mates behind you
before you can beat up a ten year old. You know that boxing title
you keep banging on about? How old was your opponent? Seven?
“He was sixteen, for your information,” snarled
Dudley, “and he was out cold for twenty minutes after I’d finished
with him and he was twice as heavy as you. You just wait till I
tell Dad you had that thing out –”
“Running to Daddy now, are you? Is his ickle
boxing champ frightened of nasty Harry’s wand?”
“Not this brave at night, are you?” sneered
“This is night, Diddykins. That’s what we call
it when it goes all dark like this.”
“I mean when you’re in bed!” Dudley
He had stopped walking. Harry stopped too,
staring at his cousin.
From the little he could see of Dudley’s large
face, he was wearing a strangely triumphant look.
“What d’you mean, I’m not brave when I’m in
bed?” s aid Harry, completely nonplussed. “What am I supposed to be
frightened of, pillows or something?”
“I heard you last night,” said Dudley
breathlessly. “Talking in your sleep. Moaning.”
“What d’you mean?” Harry said again, but there
was a cold, plunging sensation in his stomach. He had revisited the
graveyard last night in his dreams.
Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter, then
adopted a high-pitched whimpering voice.
“‘Don’t kill Cedric! Don’t kill Cedric!’ Who’s
Cedric - your boyfriend?”
“I - you’re lying,” said Harry automatically.
But his mouth had gone dry. He knew Dudley wasn’t lying - how else
would he know about Cedric?
“Dad! Help me, Dad! He’s going to kill me, Dad!
“Shut up,” said Harry quietly. “Shut up,
Dudley, I’m warning you!”
“Come and help me, Dad! Mum, come and help me!
He’s killed Cedric! Dad, help me! He’s going to - don’t you point
that thing at me!”
Dudley backed into the alley wall. Harry was
pointing the wand directly at Dudley’s heart. Harry could feel
fourteen years’ hatred of Dudley pounding in his veins - what
wouldn’t he give to strike now, to jinx Dudley so thoroughly he’d
have to crawl home like an insect, struck dumb, sprouting
“Don’t ever talk about that again,” Harry
snarled. “D’you understand me?”
“Point that thing somewhere else!”
“I said, do you understand me?”
“Point it somewhere else!”
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
“GET THAT THING AWAY FROM -”
Dudley gave an odd, shuddering gasp, as though
he had been doused in icy water.
Something had happened to the night. The
star-strewn indigo sky was suddenly pitch black and lightless - the
stars, the moon, the misty streetlamps at either end of the alley
had vanished. The distant rumble of cars and the whisper of trees
had gone. The balmy evening was suddenly piercingly, bitingly cold.
They were surrounded by total, impenetrable, silent darkness, as
though some giant hand had dropped a thick, icy mantle over the
entire alleyway, blinding them.
For a split second Harry thought he had done
magic without meaning to, despite the fact that he’d been resisting
as hard as he could - then his reason caught up with his senses -
he didn’t have the power to turn off the stars. He turned his head
this way and that, trying to see something, but the darkness
pressed on his eyes like a weightless veil.
Dudley’s terrified voice broke in Harry’s
“W-what are you d-doing? St-stop it!”
“I’m not doing anything! Shut up and don’t
“I c-can’t see! I’ve g-gone blind! I -”
“I said shut up!”
Harry stood stock still, turning his sightless
eyes left and right. The cold was so intense he was shivering all
over; goose bumps had erupted up his arms and the hairs on the back
of his neck were standing up - he opened his eyes to their fullest
extent, staring blankly around, unseeing. It was impossible… they
couldn’t be here… not in Little Whinging… he strained his ears… he
would hear them before he saw them…
“I’ll t-tell Dad!” Dudley whimpered. “W-where
are you? What are you d-do—?”
“Will you shut up?” Harry hissed, “I’m trying
to lis —”
But he fell silent. He had heard just the thing
he had been dreading.
There was something in the alleyway apart from
themselves, something that was drawing long, hoarse, rattling
breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread as he stood trembling
in the freezing air.
“C-cut it out! Stop doing it! I’ll h-hit you, I
swear I will!”
A fist made contact with the side of Harry’s
head, lifting him off his feet. Small white lights popped in front
of his eyes. For the second time in an hour Harry felt as though
his head had been cleaved in two; next moment, he had landed hard
on the ground and his wand had flown out of his hand.
“You moron, Dudley!” Harry yelled, his eyes
watering with pain as he scrambled to his hands and knees, feeling
around frantically in the blackness. He heard Dudley blundering
away, hitting the alley fence, stumbling.
“DUDLEY, COME BACK! YOU’RE RUNNING RIGHT AT
There was a horrible squealing yell and
Dudley’s footsteps stopped. At the same moment, Harry felt a
creeping chill behind him that could mean only one thing. There was
more than one.
“DUDLEY, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! WHATEVER YOU DO,
KEEP YOUR MOUTH
SHUT! Wand!” Harry muttered frantically, his
hands flying over the ground like spiders.
“Where’s - wand -come on -lumos!”
He said the spell automatically, desperate for
light to help him in his search - and to his disbelieving relief,
light flared inches from his right hand - the wand tip had ignited.
Harry snatched it up, scrambled to his feet and turned around.
His stomach turned over.
A towering, hooded figure was gliding smoothly
towards him, hovering over the ground, no feet or face visible
beneath its robes, sucking on the night as it came.
Stumbling backwards, Harry raised his wand.
A silvery wisp of vapour shot from the tip of
the wand and the Dementor slowed, but the spell hadn’t worked
properly; tripping over his own feet, Harry retreated further as
the Dementor bore down upon him, panic fogging his brain
A pair of grey, slimy, scabbed hands slid from
inside the Dementor’s robes, reaching for him. A rushing noise
filled Harry’s ears.
His voice sounded dim and distant. Another wisp
of silver smoke, feebler than the last, drifted from the wand - he
couldn’t do it any more, he couldn’t work the spell.
There was laughter inside his own head, shrill,
high-pitched laughter… he could smell the Dementor’s putrid,
death-cold breath filling his own lungs, drowning him - think…
But there was no happiness in him… the
Dementor’s icy fingers were closing on his throat - the
high-pitched laughter was growing louder and louder, and a voice
spoke inside his head: “Bow to death, Harry… it might even be
painless… I would no t know… I have never died…”
He was never going to see Ron and Hermione
And their faces burst clearly into his mind as
he fought for breath.
An enormous silver stag erupted from the tip of
Harry’s wand; its antlers caught the Dementor in the place where
the heart should have been; it was thrown backwards, weightless as
darkness, and as the stag charged, the Dementor swooped away,
bat-like and defeated.
“THIS WAY!” Harry shouted at the stag. Wheeling
around, he sprinted down the alleyway, holding the lit wand aloft.
He had run barely a dozen steps when he reached
them: Dudley was curled up on the ground, his arms clamped over his
face. A second Dementor was crouching low over him, gripping his
wrists in its slimy hands, prizing them slowly almost lovingly
apart, lowering its hooded head towards Dudley’s face as though
about to kiss him.
“GET IT!” Harry bellowed, and with a rushing,
roaring sound, the silver stag he had conjured came galloping past
him. The Dementor’s eyeless face was barely an inch from Dudley’s
when the silver antlers caught it; the thing was thrown up into the
air and, like its fellow, it soared away and was absorbed into the
darkness; the stag cantered to the end of the alleyway and
dissolved into silver mist.
Moon, stars and streetlamps burst back into
life. A warm breeze swept the alleyway. Trees rustled in
neighboring gardens and the mundane rumble of cars in Magnolia
Crescent filled the air again.
Harry stood quite still, all his senses
vibrating, taking in the abrupt return to normality. After a
moment, he became aware that his T-shirt was sticking to him; he
was drenched in sweat. He could not believe what had just happened.
Dementors here, in Little Whinging.
Dudley lay curled up on the ground, whimpering
and shaking. Harry bent down to see whether he was in a fit state
to stand up, but then he heard loud, running footsteps behind him.
Instinctively raising his wand again, he span on his heel to face
Mrs. Figg, their batty old neighbor, came
panting into sight. Her grizzled grey hair was escaping from its
hairnet, a clanking string shopping bag was swinging from her wrist
and her feet were halfway out of her tartan carpet slippers. Harry
made to stow his wand hurriedly out of sight, but-
“Don’t put it away idiot boy!” she shrieked.
“What if there are more of them around? Oh, I’m going to kill
A Peck of Owls
“He left!” said Mrs. Figg, wringing her hands.
“Left to see someone about a batch of cauldrons that fell off the
back of a broom! I told him I’d flay him alive if he went, and now
Dementors! It’s just lucky I put Mr. Tibbies on
the case! But we haven’t got time to stand around! Hurry, now,
we’ve got to get you back! Oh, the trouble this is going to cause!
I will kill him!”
“But -” The revelation that his batty old
cat-obsessed neighbor knew what Dementors were was almost as big a
shock to Harry as meeting two of them down the alleyway. “You’re -
you’re a witch?”
“I’m a Squib, as Mundungus knows full well, so
how on earth was I supposed to help you fight off Dementors? He
left you completely without cover when I’d warned him -”
“This Mundungus has been following me? Hang on
- it was him! He Disapparated from the front of my house!”
“Yes, yes, yes, but luckily I’d stationed Mr.
Tibbies under a car just in case, and Mr. Tibbies came and warned
me, but by the time I got to your house you’d gone - and now - oh,
what’s Dumbledore going to say? You!” she shrieked at Dudley, still
supine on the alley floor. “Get your fat bottom off the ground,
“You know Dumbledore?” said Harry, staring at
“Of course I know Dumbledore, who doesn’t know
Dumbledore? But come on - I’ll be no help if they come back, I’ve
never so much as transfigured a teabag.”
She stooped down, seized one of Dudley’s
massive arms in her wizened hands and tugged.
“Get up, you useless lump, get up!”
But Dudley either could not or would not move.
He remained on the ground, trembling and ashen-faced, his mouth
shut very tight.
“I’ll do it.” Harry took hold of Dudley’s arm
and h heaved. With an enormous effort he managed to hoist him to
his feet. Dudley seemed to be on the point of fainting. His small
eyes were rolling in their sockets and sweat was beading his face;
the moment Harry let go of him he swayed dangerously.
“Hurry up!” said Mrs. Figg hysterically.
Harry pulled one of Dudley’s massive arms
around his own shoulders and dragged him towards the road, sagging
slightly under the weight. Mrs. Figg tottered along in front of
them, peering anxiously around the corner.
“Keep your wand out,” she told Harry, as they
entered Wisteria Walk. “Never mind the Statute of Secrecy now,
there’s going to be hell to pay anyway, we might as well be hanged
for a dragon as an egg. Talk about the Reasonable Restriction of
Underage Sorcery… this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of -
What’s that at the end of the street? Oh, it’s just Mr.
don’t put your wand away, boy, don’t I keep
telling you I’m no use?”
It was not easy to hold a wand steady and haul
Dudley along at the same time. Harry gave his cousin an impatient
dig in the ribs, but Dudley seemed to have lost all desire for
independent movement. He was slumped on Harry’s shoulder, his large
feet dragging along the ground.
“Why didn’t you tell me you’re a Squib, Mrs.
Figg?” asked Harry, panting with the effort to keep walking. “All
those times I came round your house - why didn’t you say
“Dumbledore’s orders. I was to keep an eye on
you but not say anything, you were too young. I’m sorry I gave you
such a miserable time, Harry, but the Dursleys would never have let
you come if they’d thought you enjoyed it. It wasn’t easy, you
know… but oh my word,” she said tragically, wringing her hands once
more, “when Dumbledore hears about this - how could Mundungus have
left, he was supposed to be on duty until midnight - where is he?
How am I going to tell Dumbledore what’s happened? I can’t
“I’ve got an owl, you can borrow her.” Harry
groaned, wondering whether his spine was going to snap under
“Harry, you don’t understand! Dumbledore will
need to act as quickly as possible, the Ministry have their own
ways of detecting underage magic, they’ll know already, you mark my
“But I was getting rid of Dementors, I had to
use magic - they’re going to be more worried about what Dementors
were doing floating around Wisteria Walk, surely?”
“Oh, my dear, I wish it were so, but I’m afraid
- MUNDUNGUS FLETCHER, I AM GOING TO
There was a loud crack and a strong smell of
drink mingled with stale tobacco filled the air as a squat,
unshaven man in a tattered overcoat materialized right in front of
them. He had short, bandy legs, long straggly ginger hair and
bloodshot, baggy eyes that gave him the doleful look of a basset
hound. He was also clutching a silvery bundle that Harry recognized
at once as an Invisibility Cloak.
“S’up, Figgy?” he said, staring from Mrs. Figg
to Harry and Dudley. “What ‘appened to staying undercover?”
“I’ll give you undercover!” cried Mrs. Figg.
“Dementors, you useless, skiving sneak thief!”
“Dementors?” repeated Mundungus, aghast.
“Yes, here, you worthless pile of bat
droppings, here!” shrieked Mrs. Figg. “Dementors attacking the boy
on your watch!”
“Blimey,” said Mundungus weakly, looking from
Mrs. Figg to Harry, and back again. “Blimey, I
“And you off buying stolen cauldrons! Didn’t I
tell you not to go? Didn’t I!”
“I - well, I -” Mundungus looked deeply
uncomfortable. “It — it was a very good business opportunity, see
Mrs. Figg raised the arm from which her string
bag dangled and whacked Mundungus around the face and neck with it;
judging by the clanking noise it made it was full of cat food.
“Ouch - gerroff - gerroff, you mad old bat!
Someone’s gotta tell Dumbledore!”
“Yes - they - have!” yelled Mrs. Figg, swinging
the bag of cat food at every bit of Mundungus she could reach. “And
- it - had - better - be - you - and - you - can - tell - him - why
- you - weren’t - there - to - help!”
“Keep your ‘airnet on!” said Mundungus, his
arms over his head, cowering. “I’m going, I’m going!”
And with another loud crack, he vanished.
“I hope Dumbledore murders him!” said Mrs. Figg
furiously. “Now come on, Harry, what are you waiting for?”
Harry decided not to waste his remaining breath
on pointing out that he could barely walk under Dudley’s bulk. He
gave the semi-conscious Dudley a heave and staggered onwards.
“I’ll take you to the door,” said Mrs. Figg, as
they turned into Privet Drive. “Just in case there are more of them
around… oh my word, what a catastrophe… and you had to fight them
off yourself… and Dumbledore said we were to keep you from doing
magic at all costs… well, it’s no good crying over spilt potion, I
suppose… but the cat’s among the pixies now.”
“So,” Harry panted, “Dumbledore’s… been having…
“Of course he has,” said Mrs. Figg impatiently.
“Did you expect him to let you wander around on your own after what
happened in June? Good Lord, boy, they told me you were
right… get inside and stay there,” she said, as
they reached number four. “I expect someone will be in touch with
you soon enough.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Harry
“I’m going straight home,” said Mrs. Figg,
staring around the dark street and shuddering. “I’ll need to wait
for more instructions. Just stay in the house. Goodnight.”
“Hang on, don’t go yet! I want to know -”
But Mrs. Figg had already set off at a trot,
carpet slippers flopping, string bag clanking.
“Wait!” Harry shouted after her. He had a
million questions to ask anyone who was in contact with Dumbledore;
but within seconds Mrs. Figg was swallowed by the darkness.
Scowling, Harry readjusted Dudley on his shoulder and made his
slow, painful way up number four’s garden path.
The hall light was on. Harry stuck his wand
back inside the waistband of his jeans, rang the bell and watched
Aunt Petunia’s outline grow larger and larger, oddly distorted by
the rippling glass in the front door.
“Diddy! About time too, I was getting quite -
quite -Diddy, what’s the matter!”
Harry looked sideways at Dudley and ducked out
from under his arm just in time. Dudley swayed on the spot for a
moment, his face pale green… then he opened his mouth and vomited
all over the doormat.
“DIDDY! Diddy, what’s the matter with you?
Harry’s uncle came galumphing out of the living
room, walrus moustache blowing hither and thither as it always did
when he was agitated. He hurried forwards to help Aunt Petunia
negotiate a weak-kneed Dudley over the threshold while avoiding
stepping in the pool of sick.
“He’s ill, Vernon!”
“What is it, son? What’s happened? Did Mrs.
Polkiss give you something foreign for tea?”
“Why are you all covered in dirt, darling? Have
you been lying on the ground?”
“Hang on - you haven’t been mugged, have you,
Aunt Petunia screamed.
“Phone the police, Vernon! Phone the police!
Diddy, darling, speak to Mummy! What did they do to you?”
In all the kerfuffle nobody seemed to have
noticed Harry, which suited him perfectly. He managed to slip
inside just before Uncle Vernon slammed the door and, while the
Dursleys made their noisy progress down the hall towards the
kitchen, Harry moved carefully and quietly towards the stairs.
“Who did it, son? Give us names. We’ll get
them, don’t worry.”
“Shh! He’s trying to say something, Vernon!
What is it, Diddy? Tell Mummy!”
Harry’s foot was on the bottom-most stair when
Dudley found his voice.
Harry froze, foot on the stair, face screwed
up, braced for the explosion.
“BOY! COME HERE!”
With a feeling of mingled dread and anger,
Harry removed his foot slowly from the stair and turned to follow
The scrupulously clean kitchen had an oddly
unreal glitter after the darkness outside. Aunt Petunia was
ushering Dudley into a chair; he was still very green and
clammy-looking. Uncle Vernon standing in front of the draining
board, glaring at Harry through tiny, narrowed eyes.
“What have you done to my son?” he said in a
“Nothing,” said Harry, knowing perfectly well
that Uncle Vernon wouldn’t believe him.
“What did he do to you, Diddy?” Aunt Petunia
said in a quavering voice, now sponging sick from the front of
Dudley’s leather jacket. “Was it - was it you-know-what, darling?
Did he use –
Slowly, tremulously, Dudley nodded.
“I didn’t!” Harry said sharply, as Aunt Petunia
let out a wail and Uncle Vernon raised his fists. “I didn’t do
anything to him, it wasn’t me, it was –”
But at that precise moment a screech owl
swooped in through the kitchen window. Narrowly missing the top of
Uncle Vernon’s head, it soared across the kitchen, dropped the
large parchment envelope it was carrying in its beak at Harry’s
feet, turned gracefully, the tips of its wings just brushing the
top of the fridge, then zoomed outside again and off across the
“OWLS!” bellowed Uncle Vernon, the well-worn
vein in his temple pulsing angrily as he slammed the kitchen window
shut. “OWLS AGAIN! I WILL NOT HAVE ANY MORE OWLS
IN MY HOUSE!”
But Harry was already ripping open the envelope
and pulling out the letter inside, his heart pounding somewhere in
the region of his Adam’s apple.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received
intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three
minutes past nine this evening in a
Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle.
The severity of this breach
of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery
has resulted in your expulsion from
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of
residence shortly to destroy your wand.
As you have already
received an official warning for a previous offence under Section
13 of the International Confederation of
Warlocks’ Statute of Secrecy, we regret to
inform you that your presence is required
at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m. on the
twelfth of August.
Hoping you are
Improper Use of Magic
Ministry of Magic
Harry read the letter through twice. He was
only vaguely aware of Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia talking. Inside
his head, all was icy and numb. One fact had penetrated his
consciousness like a paralyzing dart. He was expelled from
Hogwarts. It was all over. He was never going back. He looked up at
the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon was purple-faced, shouting, his fists
still raised; Aunt Petunia had her arms around Dudley, who was
Harry’s temporarily stupefied brain seemed to
reawaken. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of
residence shortly to destroy your wand. There was only one thing
for it. He would have to run - now. Where he was going to go, Harry
didn’t know, but he was certain of one thing: at Hogwarts or
outside it, he needed his wand. In an almost dream like state, he
pulled his wand out and turned to leave the kitchen.
“Where d’you think you’re going?” yelled Uncle
Vernon. When Harry didn’t reply, he pounded across the kitchen to
block the doorway into the hall. “I haven’t finished with you,
“Get out of the way,” said Harry quietly.
“You’re going to stay here and explain how my
“If you don’t get out of the way I’m going to
jinx you,” said Harry, raising the wand.
“You can’t pull that one on me!” snarled Uncle
Vernon. “I know you’re not allowed to use it outside that madhouse
you call a school!”
“The madhouse has chucked me out,” said Harry.
“So I can do whatever I like. You’ve got three seconds. One - two
A resounding CRACK filled the kitchen. Aunt
Petunia screamed, ‘Hide!’ Uncle Vernon yelled and ducked, but for
the third time that night Harry was searching for the source of a
disturbance he had not made. He spotted it at once: a dazed and
ruffled-looking barn owl was sitting outside on the kitchen sill,
having just collided with the closed window.
Ignoring Uncle Vernon’s anguished yell of
‘OWLS!’ Harry crossed the room at a run and wrenched the window
open. The owl stuck out its leg, to which a small roll of parchment
was tied, shook its leathers, and took off the moment Harry had
taken the letter. Hands shaking, Harry unfurled the second message,
which was written very hastily and blotchily in black ink.
Dumbledore’ s just arrived at the Ministry and he’ s trying to sort it all out. DO NOT LEAVE
YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE’
S HOUSE. DO NOT DO ANY MORE MAGIC. DO
Dumbledore was trying to sort it all out… what
did that mean? How much power did Dumbledore have to override the
Ministry of Magic? Was there a chance that he might be allowed back
to Hogwarts, then? A small shoot of hope burgeoned in Harry’s
chest, almost immediately strangled by panic - how was he supposed
to refuse to surrender his wand without doing magic? He’d have to
duel with the Ministry representatives, and if he did that, he’d be
lucky to escape Azkaban, let alone expulsion.
His mind was racing… he could run for it and
risk being captured by the Ministry, or stay put and wait for them
to find him here. He was much more tempted by the former course,
but he knew Mr. Weasley had his best interests at heart… and after
all, Dumbledore had sorted out much worse than this before.
“Right,” Harry said, “I’ve changed my mind, I’m
staying.” He flung himself down at the kitchen table and faced
Dudley and Aunt Petunia. The Dursleys appeared taken aback at his
abrupt change of mind. Aunt Petunia glanced despairingly at Uncle
Vernon. The vein in his purple temple was throbbing worse than
“Who are all these ruddy owls from?” he
“The first one was from the Ministry of Magic,
expelling me,” said Harry calmly. He was straining his ears to
catch any noises outside, in case the Ministry representatives were
approaching, and it was easier and quieter to answer Uncle Vernon’s
questions than to have him start raging and bellowing. “The second
one was from my friend Ron’s dad, who works at the Ministry.”
“Ministry of Magic?” bellowed Uncle Vernon.
“People like you in government! Oh, this explains everything,
everything, no wonder the country’s going to the dogs.”
When Harry did not respond, Uncle Vernon glared
at him, then spat out, “And why have you been expelled?”
“Because I did magic.”
“AHA!” roared Uncle Vernon, slamming his fist
down on top of the fridge, which sprang open; several of Dudley’s
low-fat snacks toppled out and burst on the floor. “So you admit
it! What did you do to Dudley?”
“Nothing,” said Harry, slightly less calmly.
“That wasn’t me -”
“Was,” muttered Dudley unexpectedly, and Uncle
Vernon and Aunt Petunia instantly made flapping gestures at Harry
to quieten him while they both bent low over Dudley.
“Go on, son,” said Uncle Vernon, “what did he
“Tell us, darling,” whispered Aunt Petunia.
“Pointed his wand at me,” Dudley mumbled.
“Yeah, I did, but I didn’t use -” Harry began
angrily, but –
“SHUT UP!” roared Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia
“Go on, son,” repeated Uncle Vernon, moustache
blowing about furiously.
“All went dark,” Dudley said hoarsely,
shuddering. “Everything dark. And then I h-heard…
things. Inside m-my head.”
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia exchanged looks
of utter horror. If their least favorite thing in the world was
magic - closely followed by neighbors 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
“What sort of things did you hear, Popkin?”
breathed Aunt Petunia, very white-faced and with tears in her
But Dudley seemed incapable of saying. He
shuddered again and shook his large blond head, and despite the
sense of numb dread that had settled on Harry since the arrival of
the first owl, he felt a certain curiosity. Dementors caused a
person to relive the worst moments of their life. What would
spoiled, pampered, bullying Dudley have been forced to hear?
“How come you fell over, son?” said Uncle
Vernon, in an unnaturally quiet voice, the kind of voice he might
adopt at the bedside of a very ill person.
“T-tripped,” said Dudley shakily. “And then
He gestured at his massive chest. Harry
understood. Dudley was remembering the clammy cold that filled the
lungs as hope and happiness were sucked out of you.
“Horrible,” croaked Dudley. “Cold. Really
“Okay,” said Uncle Vernon, in a voice of forced
calm, while Aunt Petunia laid an anxious hand on Dudley’s forehead
to feel his temperature. “What happened then, Dudders?”
“Felt… felt… felt… as if… as if…”
“As if you’d never be happy again,” Harry
“Yes,” Dudley whispered, still trembling.
“So!” said Uncle Vernon, voice restored to full
and considerable volume as he straightened up.
“You put some crackpot spell on my son so he’d
hear voices and believe he was - was doomed to misery, or
something, did you?”
“How many times do I have to tell you?” said
Harry, temper and voice both rising. “It wasn’t me! It was a couple
“A couple of - what’s this codswallop?”
“De - men - tors,” said Harry slowly and
clearly. “Two of them.”
“And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?”
“They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban,” said
Two seconds of ringing silence followed these
words before Aunt Petunia clapped her hand over her mouth as though
she had let slip a disgusting swear word. Uncle Vernon was goggling
at her. Harry’s brain reeled. Mrs. Figg was one thing - but Aunt
“How d’you know that?” he asked her,
Aunt Petunia looked quite appalled with
herself. She glanced at Uncle Vernon in fearful apology, then
lowered her hand slightly to reveal her horsy teeth.
“I heard - that awful boy – telling her about
them - years ago,” she said jerkily.
“If you mean my mum and dad, why don’t you use
their names?” said Harry loudly, but Aunt Petunia ignored him. She
seemed horribly flustered.
Harry was stunned. Except for one outburst
years ago, in the course of which Aunt Petunia had screamed that
Harry’s mother had been a freak, he had never heard her mention her
sister. He was astounded that she had remembered this scrap of
information about the magical world for so long, when she usually
put all her energies into pretending it didn’t exist.
Uncle Vernon opened his mouth, closed it again,
opened it once more, shut it, then, apparently struggling to
remember how to talk, opened it for a third time and croaked, “So -
so - they - er - they - er - they actually exist, do they - er -
Aunt Petunia nodded.
Uncle Vernon looked from Aunt Petunia to Dudley
to Harry as if hoping somebody was going to shout ‘April Fool!’
When nobody did, he opened his mouth yet again, but was spared the
struggle to find more words by the arrival of the third owl of the
evening. It zoomed through the still-open window like a feathery
cannon-ball and landed with a clatter on the kitchen table, causing
all three of the Dursleys to jump with fright. Harry tore a second
official-looking envelope from the owls beak and ripped it open as
the owl swooped back out into the night.
“Enough - effing - owls,” muttered Uncle Vernon
distractedly, stomping over to the window and slamming it shut
Dear Mr. Potter,
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.
Following discussions with
the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
the Ministry has agreed that the question
of your expulsion will also be decided at that time. You
should therefore consider yourself suspended
from school pending further enquiries.
With best wishes,
Improper Use of Magic
Ministry of Magic
Harry read this letter through three times in
quick succession. The miserable knot in his chest loosened slightly
with the relief of Knowing he was not yet definitely expelled,
though his fears were by no means banished. Everything seemed to
hang on this hearing on the twelfth of August.
“Well?” said Uncle Vernon, recalling Harry to
his surroundings. “What now? Have they sentenced you to anything?
Do your lot have the death penalty?” he added as a hopeful
“I’ve got to go to a hearing,” said Harry.
“And they’ll sentence you there?”
“I suppose so.”
“I won’t give up hope, then,” said Uncle Vernon
“Well, if that’s all,” said Harry, getting to
his feet. He was desperate to be alone, to think, perhaps to send a
letter to Ron, Hermione or Sirius.
“NO, IT RUDDY WELL IS NOT ALL!” bellowed Uncle
Vernon. “SIT BACK DOWN!”
“What now?” said Harry impatiently.
“DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon. “I want to know
exactly what happened to my son!”
“FINE!” yelled Harry, and in his temper, red
and gold sparks shot out of the end of his wand, still clutched in
his hand. All three Dursleys flinched, looking terrified.
“Dudley and I were in the alleyway between
Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk,” said Harry, speaking fast,
fighting to control his temper. “Dudley thought he’d be smart with
me, I pulled out my wand but didn’t use it. Then two Dementors
turned up —”
“But what ARE Dementoids?” asked Uncle Vernon
furiously. “What do they DO?”
“I told you - they suck all the happiness out
of you,” said Harry, “and if they get the chance, they kiss you
“Kiss you?” said Uncle Vernon, his eyes popping
slightly. “Kiss you?”
“It’s what they call it when they suck the soul
out of your mouth.”
Aunt Petunia uttered a soft scream.
“His soul? They didn’t take - he’s still got
She seized Dudley by the shoulders and shook
him, as though testing to see whether she could hear his soul
rattling around inside him.
“Of course they didn’t get his soul, you’d know
if they had,” said Harry, exasperated.
“Fought ‘em off, did you, son?” said Uncle
Vernon loudly, with the appearance of a man struggling to bring the
conversation back on to a plane he understood. “Gave ‘em the old
onetwo, did you?”
“You can’t give a Dementor the old one-two,”
said Harry through clenched teeth.
“Why’s he all right, then?” blustered Uncle
Vernon. “Why isn’t he all empty, then?”
“Because I used the Patronus -”
WHOOSH. With a clattering, a whirring of wings
and a soft fall of dust, a fourth owl came shooting out of the
“FOR GOD’S SAKE!” roared Uncle Vernon, pulling
great clumps of hair out of his moustache, something he hadn’t been
driven to do in a long time. “I WILL NOT HAVE OWLS HERE, I WILL NOT
TOLERATE THIS, I TELL YOU!”
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 Vernon’s on going rant about owls, and narrowing his eyes
against a second cloud of dust as the most recent owl look off back
up the chimney, Harry read Sirius’s message.
Arthur’s just told us
what’ s happened. Don’ t leave the house again, whatever you do.
Harry found this such an inadequate response to
everything that had happened tonight that he turned the piece of
parchment over, looking for the rest of the letter, but there was
nothing else. And now his temper was rising again. Wasn’t anybody
going to say ‘well done’ for fighting off two Dementors
single-handed? Both Mr. Weasley and Sirius were acting as though
he’d misbehaved, and were saving their tellings-off until they
could ascertain how much damage had been done.
“…A peck, I mean, pack of owls shooting in and
out of my house. I won’t have it, boy, I won’t-”
“I can’t stop the owls coming,” Harry snapped,
crushing Sirius’s letter in his fist.
“I want the truth about what happened tonight!”
bar ked Uncle Vernon. “If it was Demenders who hurt Dudley, how
come you’ve been expelled? You did you-know-what, you’ve admitted
Harry took a deep, steadying breath. His head
was beginning to ache again. He wanted more than anything to get
out of the kitchen, and away from the Dursleys.
“I did the Patronus Charm to get rid of the
Dementors,” he said, forcing himself to remain calm.
“It’s the only thing that works against
“But what were Dementoids doing in Little
Whinging?” said Uncle Vernon in an outraged tone.
“Couldn’t tell you,” said Harry wearily. “No
His head was pounding in the glare of the
strip-lighting now. His anger was ebbing away. He felt drained,
exhausted. The Dursleys were all staring at him.
“It’s you,” said Uncle Vernon forcefully. “It’s
go t something to do with you, boy, I know it. Why else would they
turn up here? Why else would they be down that alleyway? You’ve got
to be the only - the only -” Evidently, he couldn’t bring himself
to say the word ‘wizard’ “the only you know-what for miles.”
“I don’t know why they were here.”
But at Uncle Vernon’s words, Harry’s exhausted
brain had ground back into action. Why had the Dementors come to
Little Whinging? How could it be coincidence that they had arrived
in the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent? Had the
Ministry of Magic lost control of the Dementors? Had they deserted
Azkaban and joined Voldemort, as Dumbledore had predicted they
“These Demembers guard some weirdo’s prison?”
asked Uncle Vernon, lumbering along in the wake of Harry’s train of
“Yes,” said Harry.
If only his head would stop hurting, if only he
could just leave the kitchen and get to his dark bedroom and
“Oho! They were coming to arrest you!” said
Uncle Vernon, with the triumphant air of a man reaching an
unassailable conclusion. “That’s it, isn’t it, boy? You’re on the
run from the law!”
“Of course I’m not,” said Harry, shaking his
head as though to scare off a fly, his mind racing now.
“Then why -?”
“He must have sent them,” said Harry quietly,
more to himself than to Uncle Vernon.
“What’s that? Who must have sent them?”
“Lord Voldemort,” said Harry.
He registered dimly how strange it was that the
Dursleys, who flinched, winced and squawked if they heard words
like ‘wizard’, ‘magic’ or ‘wand’, could hear the name of the most
evil wizard of all time without the slightest tremor.
“Lord - hang on,” said Uncle Vernon, his face
screwed up, a look of dawning comprehension coming into his piggy
eyes. “I’ve heard that name… that was the one who —”
“Murdered my parents, yes,” Harry said
“But he’s gone,” said Uncle Vernon impatiently,
without the slightest sign that the murder of Harry’s parents might
be a painful topic. “That giant bloke said so. He’s gone.”
“He’s back,” said Harry heavily.
It felt very strange to be standing here in
Aunt Petunia’s surgically clean kitchen, beside the top
of-the-range fridge and the wide-screen television, talking calmly
of Lord Voldemort to Uncle Vernon. The arrival of the Dementors in
Little Whinging seemed to have breached the great, invisible wall
that divided the relentlessly non-magical world of Privet Drive and
the world beyond, Harry’s two lives had somehow become fused and
everything had been turned upsidedown; the Dursleys were asking for
details about the magical world, and Mrs. Figg knew Albus
Dumbledore; Dementors were soaring around Little Whinging, and he
might never return to Hogwarts. Harry’s head throbbed more
“Back?” whispered Aunt Petunia.
She was looking at Harry as she had never
looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time
in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his
mother’s sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very
powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only
person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being
back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him
like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister’s)
were not narrowed in dislike or anger, they were wide and fearful.
The furious pretence that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry’s
life - that there was no magic and no world other than the world
she inhabited with Uncle Vernon - seemed to have fallen away.
“Yes,” Harry said, talking directly to Aunt
Petunia now. “He came back a month ago. I saw him.”
Her hands found Dudley’s massive leather-clad
shoulders and clutched them.
“Hang on,” said Uncle Vernon, looking from his
wife to Harry and back again, apparently dazed and confused by the
unprecedented understanding that seemed to have sprung up between
“Hang on. This Lord Voldything’s back, you
“The one who murdered your parents.”
“And now he’s sending Dismembers after
“Looks like it,” said Harry.
“I see,” said Uncle Vernon, looking from his
white - faced wife to Harry and hitching up his trousers. He seemed
to be swelling, his great purple face stretching before Harry’s
eyes. “Well, that settles it,” he said, his shirt front straining
as he inflated himself, “you can get out of this house, boy!”
“What?” said Harry.
“You heard me - OUT!” Uncle Vernon bellowed,
and even Aunt Petunia and Dudley jumped.
“OUT! OUT! I should’ve done this years ago!
Owls treating the place like a rest home, puddings exploding, half
the lounge destroyed, Dudley’s tail, Marge bobbing around on the
ceiling and that flying Ford Anglia - OUT! OUT! You’ve had it!
You’re history! You’re not staying here if some loony’s after you,
you’re not endangering my wife and son, you’re not bringing trouble
down on us. If you’re going the same way as your useless parents,
I’ve had it! OUT!”
Harry stood rooted to the spot. The letters
from the Ministry, Mr. Weasley and Sirius were all crushed in his
left hand. Don’t leave the house again, whatever you do. DO NOT
YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE’S HOUSE.
“You heard me!” said Uncle Vernon, bending
forward now, his massive purple face coming so close to Harry’s, he
actually felt flecks of spit hit his face. “Get going! You were all
keen to leave half an hour ago! I’m right behind you! Get out and
never darken our doorstep again! Why we ever kept you in the first
place, I don’t know, Marge was right, it should have been the
orphanage. We were too damn soft for our own good, thought we could
squash it out of you, thought we could turn you normal, but you’ve
been rotten from the beginning and I’ve had enough - owls!”
The fifth owl zoomed down the chimney so fast
it actually hit the floor before zooming into the air again with a
loud screech. Harry raised his hand to seize the letter, which was
in a scarlet envelope, but it soared straight over his head, flying
directly at Aunt Petunia, who let out a scream and ducked, her arms
over her face. The owl dropped the red envelope on her head,
turned, and flew straight back up the chimney.
Harry darted forwards to pick up the letter,
but Aunt Petunia beat him to it.
“You can open it if you like,” said Harry, “but
I’ll hear what it says anyway. That’s a Howler.”
“Let go of it, Petunia!” roared Uncle Vernon.
“Don’t touch it, it could be dangerous!”
“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
She caught her breath, horrified. The red
envelope had begun to smoke.
“Open it!’ Harry urged her. “Get it over with!
It’ll happen anyway.”
Aunt Petunia’s hand was trembling. She looked
wildly around the kitchen as though looking for an escape route,
but too late -the envelope burst into flames. Aunt Petunia screamed
and dropped it.
An awful voice filled the kitchen, echoing in
the confined space, issuing from the burning letter on the
Remember my last,
Aunt Petunia looked as though she might faint.
She sank into the chair beside Dudley, her face in her hands. The
remains of the envelope smouldered into ash in the silence.
“What is this?” Uncle Vernon said hoarsely.
“What - I don’t -Petunia?”
Aunt Petunia said nothing. Dudley was staring
stupidly at his mother, his mouth hanging open. The silence
spiraled horribly. Harry was watching his aunt, utterly bewildered,
his head throbbing fit to burst.
“Petunia, dear?” said Uncle Vernon timidly.
She raised her head. She was still trembling.
“The boy - the boy will have to stay, Vernon,”
she said weakly.
“He stays,” she said. She was not looking at
Harry. She got to her feet again.
“He… but Petunia…”
“If we throw him out, the neighbors will talk,”
she said. She was rapidly regaining her usual brisk, snappish
manner, though she was still very pale. “They’ll ask awkward
questions, they’ll want to know where he’s gone. We’ll have to keep
Uncle Vernon was deflating like an old
“But Petunia, dear –”
Aunt Petunia ignored him. She turned to Harry.
“You’re to stay in your room,” she said. “You’re not to leave the
house. Now get to bed.”
Harry didn’t move.
“Who was that Howler from?”
“Don’t ask questions,” Aunt Petunia
“Are you in touch with wizards?”
“I told you to get to bed!”
“What did it mean? Remember the last what?”
“Go to bed!”
“How come -?”
“YOU HEARD YOUR AUNT, NOW GET TO BED!”
The Advance Guard
I’ ve just been attacked by Dementors and I might be
expelled from Hogwarts. I want to know what’ s going on and when I’
m going to get out of here.
Harry copied these words on to three separate
pieces of parchment the moment he reached the desk in his dark
bedroom. He addressed the first to Sirius, the second to Ron and
the third to Hermione. His owl, Hedwig, was off hunting; her cage
stood empty on the desk. Harry paced the bedroom waiting for her to
come back, his head pounding, his brain too busy for sleep even
though his eyes stung and itched with tiredness. His back ached
from hauling Dudley home, and the two lumps on his head where the
window and Dudley had hit him were throbbing painfully. Up and down
he paced, consumed with anger and frustration, grinding his teeth
and clenching his fists, casting angry looks out at the empty,
star-strewn sky every time he passed the window. Dementors sent to
get him, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher tailing him in secret,
then suspension from Hogwarts and a hearing at the Ministry of
Magic - and still no one was telling him what was going on.
And what, what, had that Howler been about?
Whose voice had echoed so horribly, so menacingly, through the
Why was he still trapped here without
information? Why was everyone treating him like some naughty kid?
Don’t do any more magic, stay in the house…
He kicked his school trunk as he passed it, but
far from relieving his anger he felt worse, as he now had a sharp
pain in his toe to deal with in addition to the pain in the rest of
Just as he limped past the window, Hedwig
soared through it with a soft rustle of wings like a small
“About time!” Harry snarled, as she landed
lightly on top of her cage. “You can put that down, I’ve got work
Hedwig’s large, round, amber eyes gazed at him
reproachfully over the dead frog clamped in her beak.
“Come here,” said Harry, picking up the three
small rolls of parchment and a leather thong and tying the scrolls
to her scaly leg. “Take these straight to Sirius, Ron and Hermione
and don’t come back here without good long replies. Keep pecking
them till they’ve written decent-length answers if you’ve got to.
Hedwig gave a muffled hooting noise, her beak
still full of frog.
“Get going, then,” said Harry.
She took off immediately. The moment she’d
gone, Harry threw himself down on his bed without undressing and
stared at the dark ceiling. In addition to every other miserable
feeling, he now felt guilty that he’d been irritable with Hedwig;
she was the only friend he had at number four, Privet Drive. But
he’d make it up to her when she came back with the answers from
Sirius, Ron and Hermione.
They were bound to write back quickly; they
couldn’t possibly ignore a Dementor attack. He’d probably wake up
tomorrow to three fat letters full of sympathy and plans for his
immediate removal to The Burrow. And with that comforting idea,
sleep rolled over him, stifling all further thought.
But Hedwig didn’t return next morning. Harry
spent the day in his bedroom, leaving it only to go to the
bathroom. Three times that day Aunt Petunia shoved food into his
room through the cat flap Uncle Vernon had installed three summers
ago. Every time Harry heard her approaching he tried to question
her about the Howler, but he might as well have interrogated the
doorknob for all the answers he got. Otherwise, the Dursleys kept
well clear of his bedroom. Harry couldn’t see the point of forcing
his company on them; another row would achieve nothing except
perhaps make him so angry he’d perform more illegal magic.
So it went on for three whole days. Harry was
alternately filled with restless energy that made him unable to
settle to anything, during which time he paced his bedroom, furious
at the whole lot of them for leaving him to stew in this mess; and
with a lethargy so complete that he could lie on his bed for an
hour at a time, staring dazedly into space, aching with dread at
the thought of the Ministry hearing.
What if they ruled against him? What if he was
expelled and his wand was snapped in half?
What would he do, where would he go? He could
not return to living full-time with the Dursleys, not now he knew
the other world, the one to which he really belonged. Might he be
able to move into Sirius’s house, as Sirius had suggested a year
ago, before he had been forced to flee from the Ministry? Would
Harry be allowed to live there alone, given that he was still
underage? Or would the matter of where he went next be decided for
him? Had his breach of the International Statute of Secrecy been
severe enough to land him in a cell in Azkaban? Whenever this
thought occurred, Harry invariably slid off his bed and began
On the fourth night after Hedwig’s departure
Harry was lying in one of his apathetic phases, staring at the
ceiling, his exhausted mind quite blank, when his uncle entered his
bedroom. Harry looked slowly around at him. Uncle Vernon was
wearing his best suit and an expression of enormous smugness.
“We’re going out,” he said.
“We - that is to say, your aunt, Dudley and I -
are going out.”
“Fine,” said Harry dully, looking back at the
“You are not to leave your bedroom while we are
“You are not to touch the television, the
stereo, or any of our possessions.”
“You are not to steal food from the
“I am going to lock your door.”
“You do that.”
Uncle Vernon glared at Harry, clearly
suspicious of this lack of argument, then stomped out of the room
and closed the door behind him. Harry heard the key turn in the
lock and Uncle Vernon’s footsteps walking heavily down the stairs.
A few minutes later he heard the slamming of car doors, the rumble
of an engine, and the unmistakable sound of the car sweeping out of
Harry had no particular feeling about the
Dursleys leaving. It made no difference to him whether they were in
the house or not. He could not even summon the energy to get up and
turn on his bedroom light. The room grew steadily darker around him
as he lay listening to the night sounds through the window he kept
open all the time, waiting for the blessed moment when Hedwig
returned. The empty house creaked around him. The pipes gurgled.
Harry lay there in a kind of stupor, thinking of nothing, suspended
Then, quite distinctly, he heard a crash in the
kitchen below. He sat bolt upright, listening intently. The
Dursleys couldn’t be back, it was much too soon, and in any case he
hadn’t heard their car.
There was silence for a few seconds, then
voices. Burglars, he thought, sliding off the bed on to his feet -
but a split second later it occurred to him that burglars would
keep their voices down, and whoever was moving around in the
kitchen was certainly not troubling to do so.
He snatched up his wand from the bedside table
and stood facing his bedroom door, listening with all his might.
Next moment, he jumped as the lock gave a loud click and his door
swung open. Harry stood motionless, staring through the open
doorway at the dark upstairs landing, straining his ears for
further sounds, but none came. He hesitated for a moment, then
moved swiftly and silently out of his room to the head of the
His heart shot upwards into his throat. There
were people standing in the shadowy hall below, silhouetted against
the streetlight glowing through the glass door; eight or nine of
them, all, as far as he could see, looking up at him.
“Lower your wand, boy, before you take
someone’s eye out,” said a low, growling voice.
Harry’s heart was thumping uncontrollably. He
knew that voice, but he did not lower his wand.
“Professor Moody?” he said uncertainly.
“I don’t know so much about ‘Professor’,”
growled the voice, “never got round to much teaching, did I? Get
down here, we want to see you properly.”
Harry lowered his wand slightly but did not
relax his grip on it, nor did he move. He had very good reason to
be suspicious. He had recently spent nine months in what he had
thought was Mad-Eye Moody’s company only to find out that it wasn’t
Moody at all, but an impostor; an impostor, moreover, who had tried
to kill Harry before being unmasked. But before he could make a
decision about what to do next, a second, slightly hoarse voice
“It’s all right, Harry. We’ve come to take you
Harry’s heart leapt. He knew that voice, too,
though he hadn’t heard it for over a year.
“P-Professor Lupin?” he said disbelievingly.
“Is that you?”
“Why are we all standing in the dark?” said a
third voice, this one completely unfamiliar, a woman’s.
A wand-tip flared, illuminating the hall with
magical light. Harry blinked. The people below were crowded around
the foot of the stairs, gazing up at him intently, some craning
their heads for a better look.
Remus Lupin stood nearest to him. Though still
quite young, Lupin looked tired and rather ill; he had more grey
hairs than when Harry had last said goodbye to him and his robes
were more patched and shabbier than ever. Nevertheless, he was
smiling broadly at Harry, who tried to smile back despite his state
“Oooh, he looks just like I thought he would,”
said the witch who was holding her lit wand aloft. She looked the
youngest there; she had a pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling
eyes, and short spiky hair that was a violent shade of violet.
“Yeah, I see what you mean, Remus,” said a bald
black wizard standing furthest back - he had a deep, slow voice and
wore a single gold hoop in his ear - “he looks exactly like
“Except the eyes,” said a wheezy-voiced,
silver-haired wizard at the back. “Lily’s eyes.”
Mad-Eye Moody, who had long grizzled grey hair
and a large chunk missing from his nose, was squinting suspiciously
at Harry through his mismatched eyes. One eye was small, dark and
beady, the other large, round and electric blue - the magical eye
that could see through walls, doors and the back of Moody’s own
head. “Are you quite sure it’s him, Lupin?” he growled.
“It’d be a nice lookout if we bring back some
Death Eater impersonating him. We ought to ask him something only
the real Potter would know. Unless anyone brought any
“Harry, what form does your Patronus take?”
“A stag,” said Harry nervously.
“That’s him, Mad-Eye,” said Lupin.
Very conscious of everybody still staring at
him, Harry descended the stairs, stowing his wand in the back
pocket of his jeans as he came.
“Don’t put your wand there, boy!” roared Moody.
“What if it ignited? Better wizards than you have lost buttocks,
“Who d’you know who’s lost a buttock?” the
violet-haired woman asked Mad-Eye interestedly.
“Never you mind, you just keep your wand out of
your back pocket!” growled Mad-Eye.
“Elementary wand-safety, nobody bothers about
it any more.” He stumped off towards the kitchen. “And I saw that,”
he added irritably, as t he woman rolled her eyes towards the
Lupin held out his hand and shook Harry’s.
“How are you?” he asked, looking closely at
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 realized there was no All-England Best Kept Suburban
“We are leaving, aren’t we?” he asked.
“Almost at once,” said Lupin, “we’re just
waiting for the all-clear.”
“Where are we going? The Burrow?” Harry asked
“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 undetectable. 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 labor-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
“And this is Nymphadora -”
“Don’t call me Nymphadora, Remus,” said the
young witch with a shudder, “it’s Tonks.”
“Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by
her surname only,” finished Lupin.
“So would you if your fool of a mother had
called you Nymphadora,” muttered Tonks.
“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-colored top hat.
“Emmeline Vance.” A stately-looking witch in an
emerald green shawl inclined her head.
“Sturgis Podmore.” A square-jawed wizard with
thick straw-colored hair winked. “And Hestia Jones.” A
pink-cheeked, black-haired witch waved form next to the
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 onstage. He also wondered why so many of them were
“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, Potter.”
“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,”
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 return
“How’re we getting - wherever we’re going?”
“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 unauthorized Portkey.”
“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
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
“You know, I don’t think violet’s really my
color,” she said pensively, 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 and Ireland.
“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 bubblegum 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
“You’re an Auror?” said Harry, impressed. Being
a Dark-wizard-catcher was the only career he’d ever considered
“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 downstairs?”
“Can you learn how to be a Metamorphmagus?”
Harry asked her, straightening up, completely forgetting about
“Bet you wouldn’t mind hiding that scar
Her eyes found the lightning-shaped scar on
“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
“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 t he 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? Okay, 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
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 color and
texture of the kitchen unit behind him. He seemed to have become a
“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
“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 recognized 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.
“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 fantasizing 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
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!”
“We’re not going through clouds!” shouted Tonks
angrily, “we’ll get soaked, Mad-Eye!”
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 to shiver. 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 traveling 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
“We ought to double back for a bit, just to
make sure we’re not being followed!” Moody shouted.
“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
“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
“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 fro the streetlamps, paint was peeling from many
of the doors and heaps of rubbish lay outside several sets of front
“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
“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
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
Number Twelve, Grimmauld
“What’s the Order of the -?” Harry began.
“Not here, boy!” snarled Moody. “Wait till
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 memorized,” said
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 materialized 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 open.
“Get in quick, Harry,” Lupin whispered, “but
don’t go far inside and don’t touch anything.”
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
“Now stay still, everyone, while I give us a
bit of light in here,” Moody whispered.
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
oldfashioned 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
baseboard. Both the chandelier and the candelabra on a rickety
table nearby were shaped like serpents.
There were hurried footsteps and Ron’s 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, I’m afraid.”
She turned to the gang of wizards behind him
and whispered urgently, “He’s just arrived, the meetings
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
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 snout-like nose.
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
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 -”
“-swear not to tell me,” said Harry. “Yeah,
Hermione’s already said.”
The warm glow that had flared inside him at the
sight of his two best friends was extinguished as something icy
flooded the pit of his stomach. All of a sudden - after yearning to
see them for a solid month — he felt he would rather Ron and
Hermione left him alone.
There was a strained silence in which Harry
stroked Hedwig automatically, not looking at either of the
“He seemed to think it was best,” said Hermione
rather breathlessly. “Dumbledore, I mean.”
“Right,” said Harry. He noticed that her hands,
too, bore the marks of Hedwigs beak and found that he was not at
“I think he thought you were safest with the
Muggles -” Ron began.
“Yeah?” said Harry, raising his eyebrows. “Have
either of you been attacked by Dementors this summer?”
“Well, no-but that’s why he’s had people from
the Order of the Phoenix tailing you all the time-”
Harry felt a great jolt in his guts as though
he had just missed a step going downstairs. So everyone had known
he was being followed, except him.
“Didn’t work that well, though, did it?” said
Harry, doing his utmost to keep his voice even.
“Had to look after myself after all, didn’t
“He was so angry,” said Hermione, in an almost
awestruck voice. “Dumbledore. We saw him. When he found out
Mundungus had left before his shift had ended. He was scary.”
“Well, I’m glad he left,” Harry said coldly.
“If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have done magic and Dumbledore would
probably have left me at Privet Drive all summer.”
“Aren’t you… aren’t you worried about the
Ministry of Magic hearing?” said Hermione quietly.
“No,” Harry lied defiantly. He walked away from
them, looking around, with Hedwig nestled contentedly on his
shoulder, but this room was not likely to raise his spirits. It was
dank and dark. A blank stretch of canvas in an ornate picture frame
was all that relieved the bareness of the peeling walls, and as
Harry passed it he thought he heard someone, who was lurking out of
“So why’s Dumbledore been so keen to keep me in
the dark?” Harry asked, still trying hard to keep his voice casual.
“Did you - er - bother to ask him at all?”
He glanced up just in time to see them
exchanging a look that told him he was behaving just as they had
feared he would. It did nothing to improve his temper.
“We told Dumbledore we wanted to tell you what
was going on,” said Ron. “We did, mate. But he’s really busy now,
we’ve only seen him twice since we came here and he didn’t have
much time, he just made us swear not to tell you important stuff
when we wrote, he said the owls might be intercepted.”
“He could still’ve kept me informed if he’d
wanted to,” Harry said shortly. “You’re not telling me he doesn’t
know ways to send messages without owls.”
Hermione glanced at Ron and then said, “I
thought that, too. But he didn’t want you to know anything.”
“Maybe he thinks I can’t be trusted,” said
Harry, watching their expressions.
“Don’t be thick,” said Ron, looking highly
“Or that I can’t take care of myself.”
“Of course he doesn’t think that!” said
“So how come I have to stay at the Dursleys’
while you two get to join in everything that’s going on here?” said
Harry, the words tumbling over one another in a rush, his voice
growing louder with every word. “How come you two are allowed to
know everything that’s going on?”
“We’re not!” Ron interrupted. “Mum won’t let us
near the meetings, she says we’re too young -”
But before he knew it, Harry was shouting.
“SO YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN THE MEETINGS, BIG DEAL!
YOU’VE STILL BEEN HERE, HAVEN’T YOU? YOU’VE STILL BEEN TOGETHER!
ME, I’VE BEEN STUCK AT THE
DURSLEYS’ FOR A MONTH! AND I’VE HANDLED MORE
THAN YOU TWO’VE EVER
MANAGED AND DUMBLEDORE KNOWS IT - WHO SAVED THE
STONE? WHO GOT RID OF RIDDLE? WHO SAVED BOTH
YOUR SKINS FROM THE