Harry—this is a Pocket Sneakoscope. If there's someone untrustworthy around,
it's supposed to light up and spin. Bill says it's rubbish sold for wizard tourists
and isn't reliable, because it kept lighting up at dinner last night. But he
didn't realize Fred and George had put beetles in his soup.
Harry put the Pocket Sneakoscope on his bedside table, where it stood quite
still, balanced on its point, reflecting the luminous hands of his clock. He
looked at it happily for a few seconds, then picked up the parcel Hedwig had
Inside this, too, there was a wrapped present, a card, and a letter, this
time from Hermione.
Ron wrote to me and told me about his phone call to your Uncle Vernon. I
do hope you're all right.
I'm on holiday in France at the moment and I didn't know how I was going
to send this to you—what if they'd opened it at customs?—but then Hedwig turned
up! I think she wanted to make sure you got something for your birthday for
a change. I bought your present by owl-order; there was an advertisement in
the Daily Prophet (I've been getting it delivered; it's so good to keep up with
what's going on in the wizarding world), Did you see that picture of Ron and
his family a week ago? I bet he's learning loads. I'm really jealous—the ancient
Egyptian wizards were fascinating.
There's some interesting local history of witchcraft here, too. I've rewritten
my whole History of Magic essay to include some of the things I've found out,
I hope it's not too long—it's two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns
Ron says he's going to be in London in the last week of the holidays. Can
you make it? Will your aunt and uncle let you come? I really hope you can. If
not, I'll see you on the Hogwarts Express on September first!
Love from Hermione
P. S. Ron says Percy's Head Boy. I'll bet Percy's really pleased Ron doesn't
seem too happy about it
Harry laughed as he put Herrmone's letter aside and picked up her present.
It was very heavy. Knowing Hermione, he was sure it would be a large book full
of very difficult spells—but it wasn't. His heart gave a huge bound as he ripped
back the paper and saw a sleek black leather case, with silver words stamped
across it, reading Broomstick Servicing Kit.
“Wow, Hermione!” Harry whispered, unzipping the case to look inside.
There was a large jar of Fleetwood's High-Finish Handle Polish, a pair of
gleaming silver Tall-Twig Clippers, a tiny brass compass to clip on your broom
for long journeys, and a Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare.
Apart from his friends, the thing that Harry missed most about Hogwarts was
Quidditch, the most popular sport in the magical world—highly dangerous, very
exciting, and played on broomsticks. Harry happened to be a very good Quidditch
player; he had been the youngest person in a century to be picked for one of
the Hogwarts House teams. One of Harry's most prized possessions was his Nimbus
Two Thousand racing broom.
Harry put the leather case aside and picked up his last parcel. He recognized
the untidy scrawl on the brown paper at once: this was from Hagrid, the Hogwarts
gamekeeper. He tore off the top layer of paper and glimpsed something green
and leathery, but before he could unwrap it properly, the parcel gave a strange
quiver, and whatever was inside it snapped loudly—as though it had jaws.
Harry froze. He knew that Hagrid would never send him anything dangerous
on purpose, but then, Hagrid didn't have a normal person's view of what was
dangerous. Hagrid had been known to befriend giant spiders, buy vicious, three-headed
dogs from men in pubs, and sneak illegal dragon eggs into his cabin.
Harry poked the parcel nervously. It snapped loudly again. Harry reached
for the lamp on his bedside table, gripped it firmly in one hand, and raised
it over his head, ready to strike. Then he seized the rest of the wrapping paper
in his other hand and pulled.
And out fell—a book. Harry just had time to register its handsome green cover,
emblazoned with the golden title The Monster Book of Monsters, before it flipped
onto its edge and scuttled sideways along the bed like some weird crab.
“Uh-oh,” Harry muttered.
The book toppled off the bed with a loud clunk and shuffled rapidly across
the room. Harry followed it stealthily. The book was hiding in the dark space
under his desk. Praying that the Dursleys were still fast asleep, Harry got
down on his hands and knees and reached toward it.
The book snapped shut on his hand and then flapped past him, still scuttling
on its covers. Harry scrambled around, threw himself forward, and managed to
flatten it. Uncle Vernon gave a loud, sleepy grunt in the room next door.
Hedwig and Errol watched interestedly as Harry clamped the struggling book
tightly in his arms, hurried to his chest of drawers, and pulled out a belt,
which he buckled tightly around it. The Monster Book shuddered angrily, but
could no longer flap and snap, so Harry threw it down on the bed and reached
for Hagrid's card.
Think you might find this useful for next year. Won't say no more here. Tell
you when I see you. Hope the Muggles are treating you right.
All the best,
It struck Harry as ominous that Hagrid thought a biting book would come in
useful, but he put Hagrid's card up next to Ron's and Hermione's, grinning more
broadly than ever. Now there was only the letter from Hogwarts left.
Noticing that it was rather thicker than usual, Harry slit open the envelope,
pulled out the first page of parchment within, and read:
Dear Mr. Potter,
Please note that the new school year will begin on September the first. The
Hogwarts Express will leave ftom King's Cross station, platform nine and three-quarters,
at eleven o'clock.
Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends.
Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.
A list of books for next year is enclosed. Yours sincerely,
Professor M. McGonagall
Harry pulled out the Hogsmeade permission form and looked at it, no longer
grinning. It would be wonderful to visit Hogsmeade on weekends; he knew it was
an entirely wizarding village, and he had never set foot there. But how on earth
was he going to persuade Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia to sign the form?
He looked over at the alarm clock. It was now two o'clock in the morning.
Deciding that he'd worry about the Hogsmeade form when he woke up, Harry
got back into bed and reached up to cross off another day on the chart he'd
made for himself, counting down the days left until his return to Hogwarts.
Then he took off his glasses and lay down, eyes open, facing his three birthday
Extremely unusual though he was, at that moment Harry Potter felt just like
everyone else—glad, for the first time in his life, that it was his birthday.
AUNT MARGE'S BIG MISTAKE
Harry went down to breakfast the next morning to find the three Dursleys
already sitting around the kitchen table. They were watching a brand-new television,
a welcome-home-for-the-summer present for Dudley, who had been complaining loudly
about the long walk between the fridge and the television in the living room.
Dudley had spent most of the summer in the kitchen, his piggy little eyes fixed
on the screen and his five chins wobbling as he ate continually.
Harry sat down between Dudley and Uncle Vernon, a large, beefy man with very
little neck and a lot of mustache. Far from wishing Harry a happy birthday,
none of the Dursleys made any sign that they had noticed Harry enter the room,
but Harry was far too used to this to care. He helped himself to a piece of
toast and then looked up at the reporter on the television, who was halfway
through a report on an escaped convict:
“...The public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special
hot line has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately.”
“No need to tell us he's no good,” snorted Uncle Vernon, staring over the
top of his newspaper at the prisoner. “Look at the state of him, the filthy
layabout! Look at his hair!”
He shot a nasty look sideways at Harry, whose untidy hair had always been
a source of great annoyance to Uncle Vernon. Compared to the man on the television,
however, whose gaunt face was surrounded by a matted, elbow-length tangle, Harry
felt very well groomed indeed.
The reporter had reappeared.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will announce today —”
“Hang on!” barked Uncle Vernon, staring furiously at the reporter. “You didn't
tell us where that maniac's escaped from! \What use is that? Lunatic could be
coming up the street right now!”
Aunt Petunia, who was bony and horse-faced, whipped around and peered intently
out of the kitchen window. Harry knew Aunt Petunia would simply love to be the
one to call the hot line number. She was the nosiest woman in the world and
spent most of her life spying on the boring, law-abiding neighbors.
“When will they learn,” said Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his large
purple fist, “that hanging's the only way to deal with these people?”
“Very true,” said Aunt Petunia, who was still squinting into next door's
Uncle Vernon drained his teacup, glanced at his watch, and added, “I'd better
be off in a minute, Petunia. Marge's train gets in at ten.”
Harry, whose thoughts had been upstairs with the Broomstick Servicing Kit,
was brought back to earth with an unpleasant bump.
“Aunt Marge?” he blurted out. “Sh—she's not coming here, is she?”
Aunt Marge was Uncle Vernon's sister. Even though she was not a blood relative
of Harry's (whose mother had been Aunt Petunia's sister), he had been forced
to call her “Aunt” all his life. Aunt Marge lived in the country, in a house
with a large garden, where she bred bulldogs. She didn't often stay at Privet
Drive, because she couldn't bear to leave her precious dogs, but each of her
visits stood out horribly vividly in Harry's mind.
At Dudley's fifth birthday party, Aunt Margo had whacked Harry around the
shins with her walking stick to stop him from beating Dudley at musical statues.
A few years later, she had turned up at Christmas with a computerized robot
for Dudley and a box of dog biscuits for Harry. On her last visit, the year
before Harry started at Hogwarts, Harry had accidentally trodden on the tail
of her favorite dog. Ripper had chased Harry out into the garden and up a tree,
and Aunt Marge had refused to call him off until past midnight. The memory of
this incident still brought tears of laughter to Dudley's eyes.
“Marge'll be here for a week,” Uncle Vernon snarled, 11 and while we're on
the subject”—he pointed a fat finger threateningly at Harry—”we need to get
a few things straight before I go and collect her.”
Dudley smirked and withdrew his gaze from the television. Watching Harry
being bullied by Uncle Vernon was Dudley's favorite form of entertainment.
“Firstly,” growled Uncle Vernon, “you'll keep a civil tongue in your head
when you're talking to Marge.”
“All right,” said Harry bitterly, “if she does when she's talking to me.
“Secondly,” said Uncle Vernon, acting as though he had not heard Harry's
reply, “as Marge doesn't know anything about your abnormality, I don't want
any—any funny stuff while she's here.
You behave yourself, got me?”
“I will if she does,” said Harry through gritted teeth.
“And thirdly,” said Uncle Vernon, his mean little eyes now slits in his great
purple face, “we've told Marge you attend St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably
“What?” Harry yelled.
“And you'll be sticking to that story, boy, or there'll be trouble, spat
Harry sat there, white-faced and furious, staring at Uncle Vernon, hardly
able to believe it. Aunt Marge coming for a weeklong visit—it was the worst
birthday present the Dursleys had ever given him, including that pair of Uncle
Vernon's old socks.
“Well, Petunia,” said Uncle Vernon, getting heavily to his feet, “I'll be
off to the station, then. Want to come along for the ride, Dudders?”
“No,” said Dudley, whose attention had returned to the television now that
Uncle Vernon had finished threatening Harry.
“Duddy's got to make himself smart for his auntie,” said Aunt Petunia, smoothing
Dudley's thick blond hair. “Mummy's bought him a lovely new bow tie.”
Uncle Vernon clapped Dudley on his porky shoulder. “See you in a bit, then,”
he said, and he left the kitchen.
Harry, who had been sitting in a kind of horrified trance, had a sudden idea.
Abandoning his toast, he got quickly to his feet and followed Uncle Vernon to
the front door.
Uncle Vernon was pulling on his car coat.
“I'm not taking you,” he snarled as he turned to see Harry watching him.
“Like I wanted to come,” said Harry coldly. “I want to ask you something.”
Uncle Vernon eyed him suspiciously.
“Third years at Hog—at my school are allowed to visit the village sometimes,”
“So?” snapped Uncle Vernon, taking his car keys from a hook next to the door.
“I need you to sign the permission form,” said Harry in a rush.
“And why should I do that?” sneered Uncle Vernon.
“Well,” said Harry, choosing his words carefully, “it'll be hard work, pretending
to Aunt Marge I go to that St. Whatsits —”
“St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys!” bellowed Uncle
Vernon, and Harry was pleased to hear a definite note of panic in Uncle Vernon's
“Exactly,” said Harry, looking calmly up into Uncle Vernon's large, purple
face. “It's a lot to remember. I'll have to make it sound convincing, won't
I? What if I accidentally let something slip?”