Enjoy your holidays! Yours sincerely,
Mafalda Hopkirk IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE Ministry of Magic
Harry looked up from the letter and gulped.
“You didn't tell us you weren't allowed to use magic outside school,” said Uncle
Vernon, a mad gleam dancing in his eyes. “For got to mention it... Slipped your
mind, I daresay...”
He was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. “Well,
I've got news for you, boy... I'm locking you up... You're never going back to that
school... never... and if you try and magic yourself out—they'll expel you!”
And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to
fit bars on Harry's window. He himself fitted a catflap in the bedroom door, so
that small amounts of food could be pushed inside three times a day. They let Harry
out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room
around the clock.
Three days later, the Dursleys were showing no sign of relenting, and Harry couldn't
see any way out of his situation. He lay on his bed watching the sun sinking behind
the bars on the window and wondered miserably what was going to happen to him.
What was the good of magicking himself out of his room if Hogwarts would expel
him for doing it? Yet life at Privet Drive had reached an all-time low. Now that
the Dursleys knew they weren't going to wake up as fruit bats, he had lost his only
weapon. Dobby might have saved Harry from horrible happenings at Hogwarts, but the
way things were going, he'd probably starve to death anyway.
The cat-flap rattled and Aunt Petunias hand appeared, pushing a bowl of canned
soup into the room. Harry, whose insides were aching with hunger, jumped off his
bed and seized it. The soup was stone-cold, but he drank half of it in one gulp.
Then he crossed the room to Hedwig's cage and tipped the soggy vegetables at the
bottom of the bowl into her empty food tray. She ruffled her feathers and gave him
a look of deep disgust.
“It's no good turning your beak up at it—that's all we've got,” said Harry grimly.
He put the empty bowl back on the floor next to the cat-flap and lay back down
on the bed, somehow even hungrier than he had been before the soup.
Supposing he was still alive in another four weeks, what would happen if he didn't
turn up at Hogwarts? Would someone be sent to see why he hadn't come back? Would
they be able to make the Dursleys let him go?
The room was growing dark. Exhausted, stomach rumbling, mind spinning over the
same unanswerable questions, Harry fell into an uneasy sleep.
He dreamed that he was on show in a zoo, with a card reading UNDERAGE WIZARD
attached to his cage. People goggled through the bars at him as he lay, starving
and weak, on a bed of straw. He saw Dobby's face in the crowd and shouted out, asking
for help, but Dobby called, “Harry Potter is safe there, sir!” and vanished. Then
the Dursleys appeared and Dudley rattled the bars of the cage, laughing at him.
“Stop it,” Harry muttered as the rattling pounded in his sore head. “Leave me
alone... cut it out... I'm trying to sleep...”
He opened his eyes. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window. And
someone was goggling through the bars at him: a frecklefaced, red-haired, long-nosed
Ron Weasley was outside Harry's window.
“Ron!” breathed Harry, creeping to the window and pushing it up so they could
talk through the bars. “Ron, how did you—What the -?”
Harry's mouth fell open as the full impact of what he was seeing hit him. Ron
was leaning out of the back window of an old turquoise car, which was parked in
midair Grinning at Harry from the front seats were Fred and George, Ron's elder
“All right, Harry?” asked George.
“What's been going on?” said Ron. “Why haven't you been answering my letters?
I've asked you to stay about twelve times, and then Dad came home and said you'd
got an official warning for using magic in front of Muggles—”
“It wasn't me—and how did he know?”
“He works for the Ministry,” said Ron. “You know we're not supposed to do spells
“You should talk,” said Harry, staring at the floating car.
“Oh, this doesn't count,” said Ron. “We're only borrowing this. It's Dad's, we
didn't enchant it. But doing magic in front of those Muggles you live with—”
“I told you, I didn't—but it'll take too long to explain now look, can you tell
them at Hogwarts that the Dursleys have locked me up and won't let me come back,
and obviously I can't magic myself out, because the Ministry'Il think that's the
second spell I've done in three days, so—”
“Stop gibbering,” said Ron. “We've come to take you home with us.”
“But you can't magic me out either—”
“We don't need to,” said Ron, jerking his head toward the front seat and grinning.
“You forget who I've got with me.”
“Tie that around the bars,” said Fred, throwing the end of a rope to Harry.
“If the Dursleys wake up, I'm dead,” said Harry as he tied the rope tightly around
a bar and Fred revved up the car.
“Don't worry,” said Fred, “and stand back.”
Harry moved back into the shadows next to Hedwig, who seemed to have realized
how important this was and kept still and silent. The car revved louder and louder
and suddenly, with a crunching noise, the bars were pulled clean out of the window
as Fred drove straight up in the air. Harry ran back to the window to see the bars
dangling a few feet above the ground. Panting, Ron hoisted them up into the car.
Harry listened anxiously, but there was no sound from the Dursleys' bedroom.
When the bars were safely in the back seat with Ron, Fred reversed as close as
possible to Harry's window.
“Get in,” Ron said.
“But all my Hogwarts stuff—my wand—my broomstick—”
“Where is it?”
“Locked in the cupboard under the stairs, and I can't get out of this room—”
“No problem,” said George from the front passenger seat. “Out of the way, Harry.”
Fred and George climbed catlike through the window into Harry's room. You had
to hand it to them, thought Harry, as George took an ordinary hairpin from his pocket
and started to pick the lock.
“A lot of wizards think it's a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick,”
said Fred, “but we feel they're skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow.”
There was a small click and the door swung open.
“So—we'll get your trunk—you grab anything you need from your room and hand it
out to Ron,” whispered George.
“Watch out for the bottom stair—it creaks,” Harry whispered back as the twins
disappeared onto the dark landing.
Harry dashed around his room, collecting his things and passing them out of the
window to Ron. Then he went to help Fred and George heave his trunk up the stairs.
Harry heard Uncle Vernon cough.
At last, panting, they reached the landing, then carried the trunk through Harry's
room to the open window. Fred climbed back into the car to pull with Ron, and Harry
and George pushed from the bedroom side. Inch by inch, the trunk slid through the
Uncle Vernon coughed again.
“A bit more,” panted Fred, who was pulling from inside the car. “One good push—”
Harry and George threw their shoulders against the trunk and it slid out of the
window into the back seat of the car.
“Okay, let's go,” George whispered.
But as Harry climbed onto the windowsill there came a sudden loud screech from
behind him, followed immediately by the thunder of Uncle Vernon's voice.
“THAT RUDDY OWL!”
“I've forgotten Hedwig!”
Harry tore back across the room as the landing light clicked on—he snatched up
Hedwig's cage, dashed to the window, and passed it out to Ron. He was scrambling
back onto the chest of drawers when Uncle Vernon hammered on the unlocked door and
it crashed open.
For a split second, Uncle Vernon stood framed in the doorway; then he let out
a bellow like an angry bull and dived at Harry, grabbing him by the ankle.
Ron, Fred, and George seized Harry's arms and pulled as hard as they could.
“Petunia!” roared Uncle Vernon. “He's getting away! HE'S GETTING AWAY!”
But the Weasleys gave a gigantic tug and Harry's leg slid out of Uncle Vernon's
grasp. As soon as Harry was in the car and had slammed the door shut, Ron yelled,
“Put your foot down, Fred!” and the car shot suddenly towards the moon.
Harry couldn't believe it—he was free. He rolled down the window, the night air
whipping his hair, and looked back at the shrinking rooftops of Privet Drive. Uncle
Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley were all hanging, dumbstruck, out of Harry's window.
“See you next summer!” Harry yelled.
The Weasleys roared with laughter and Harry settled back in his seat, grinning
from ear to ear.
“Let Hedwig out,” he told Ron. “She can fly behind us. She hasn't had a chance
to stretch her wings for ages.”
George handed the hairpin to Ron and, a moment later, Hedwig soared joyfully
out of the window to glide alongside them like a ghost.
“So—what's the story, Harry?” said Ron impatiently. “What's been happening?”
Harry told them all about Dobby, the warning he'd given Harry and the fiasco
of the violet pudding. There was a long, shocked silence when he had finished.
“Very fishy,” said Fred finally.
“Definitely dodgy” agreed George. “So he wouldn't even tell you who's supposed
to be plotting all this stuff?”
“I don't think he could,” said Harry. “I told you, every time he got close to
letting something slip, he started banging his head against the wall.”
He saw Fred and George look at each other.
“What, you think he was lying to me?” said Harry.
“Well,” said Fred, “put it this way—house-elves have got powerful magic of their
own, but they can't usually use it without their master's permission. I reckon old
Dobby was sent to stop you coming back to Hogwarts. Someone's idea of a joke. Can
you think of anyone at school with a grudge against you?”
“Yes,” said Harry and Ron together, instantly.
“Draco Malfoy,” Harry explained. “He hates me.”
“Draco Malfoy?” said George, turning around. “Not Lucius Malfoy's son?”
“Must be, it's not a very common name, is it?” said Harry. “Why?”
“I've heard Dad talking about him,” said George. “He was a big supporter of You-Know-Who.”
“And when You-Know-Who disappeared,” said Fred, craning around to look at Harry,
“Lucius Malfoy came back saying he'd never meant any of it. Load of dung—Dad reckons
he was right in YouKnow-Who's inner circle.”
Harry had heard these rumors about Malfoy's family before, and they didn't surprise
him at all. Draco Malfoy made Dudley Dursley look like a kind, thoughtful, and sensitive
“I don't know whether the Malfoys own a house-elf...” said Harry.
“Well, whoever owns him will be an old wizarding family, and they'll be rich,”
“Yeah, Mum's always wishing we had a house-elf to do the ironing,” said George.
“But all we've got is a lousy old ghoul in the attic and gnomes all over the garden.
House-elves come with big old manors and castles and places like that; you wouldn't
catch one in our house...”
Harry was silent. Judging by the fact that Draco Malfoy usually had the best
of everything, his family was rolling in wizard gold; he could just see Malfoy strutting
around a large manor house. Sending the family servant to stop Harry from going
back to Hogwarts also sounded exactly like the sort of thing Malfoy would do. Had
Harry been stupid to take Dobby seriously?
“I'm glad we came to get you, anyway,” said Ron. “I was getting really worried
when you didn't answer any of my letters. I thought it was Errol's fault at first-”
“Our owl. He's ancient. It wouldn't be the first time he'd collapsed on a delivery.
So then I tried to borrow Hermes—”
“The owl Mum and Dad bought Percy when he was made prefect,” said Fred from the
“But Percy wouldn't lend him to me,” said Ron. “Said he needed him.”
“Percy's been acting very oddly this summer,” said George, frowning. “And he
has been sending a lot of letters and spending a load of time shut up in his room...
I mean, there's only so many times you can polish a prefect badge... You're driving
too far west, Fred,” he added, pointing at a compass on the dashboard. Fred twiddled
the steering wheel.
“So, does your dad know you've got the car?” said Harry, guessing the answer.
“Er, no,” said Ron, “he had to work tonight. Hopefully we'll be able to get it
back in the garage without Mum noticing we flew it.”
“What does your dad do at the Ministry of Magic, anyway?”
“He works in the most boring department,” said Ron. “The Misuse of Muggle Artifacts
“It's all to do with bewitching things that are Muggle-made, you know, in case
they end up back in a Muggle shop or house. Like, last year, some old witch died
and her tea set was sold to an antiques shop. This Muggle woman bought it, took
it home, and tried to serve her friends tea in it. It was a nightmare—Dad was working
overtime for weeks.”
“The teapot went berserk and squirted boiling tea all over the place and one
man ended up in the hospital with the sugar tongs clamped to his nose. Dad was going
frantic—it's only him and an old warlock called Perkins in the office -and they
had to do Memory Charms and all sorts of stuff to cover it up—”
“But your dad—this car—”
Fred laughed. “Yeah, Dad's crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our shed's
full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart, puts spells on it, and puts it back together
again. If he raided our house he'd have to put himself under arrest. It drives Mum
“That's the main road,” said George, peering down through the windshield. “We'll
be there in ten minutes... Just as well, it's getting light...”