“It was only a dream,” said Ron bracingly. “Just a nightmare.”
“Yeah, but was it, though?” said Harry, turning to look out of the window
at the brightening sky. “It's weird, isn't it?... My scar hurts, and three days
later the Death Eaters are on the march, and Voldemort's sign's up in the sky
“Don't—say—his—name!” Ron hissed through gritted teeth.
“And remember what Professor Trelawney said?” Harry went on, ignoring Ron.
“At the end of last year?”
Professor Trelawney was their Divination teacher at Hogwarts. Hermione's
terrified look vanished as she let out a derisive snort.
“Oh Harry, you aren't going to pay attention to anything that old fraud says?”
“You weren't there,” said Harry. “You didn't hear her. This time was different.
I told you, she went into a trance—a real one. And she said the Dark Lord would
rise again... greater and more terrible than ever before... and he'd manage
it because his servant was going to go back to him... and that night Wormtail
There was a silence in which Ron fidgeted absentmindedly with a hole in his
Chudley Cannons bedspread.
“Why were you asking if Hedwig had come, Harry?” Hermione asked. “Are you
expecting a letter?”
“I told Sirius about my scar,” said Harry, shrugging. “I'm waiting for his
“Good thinking!” said Ron, his expression clearing. “I bet Sirius'll know
what to do!”
“I hoped he'd get back to me quickly,” said Harry.
“But we don't know where Sirius is... he could be in Africa or somewhere,
couldn't he?” said Hermione reasonably. “Hedwig's not going to manage that journey
in a few days.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Harry, but there was a leaden feeling in his stomach
as he looked out of the window at the Hedwig-free sky.
“Come and have a game of Quidditch in the orchard, Harry” said Ron. “Come
on—three on three, Bill and Charlie and Fred and George will play... You can
try out the Wronski Feint...”
“Ron,” said Hermione, in an I-don't-think-you're-being-very-sensitive sort
of voice, “Harry doesn't want to play Quidditch right now... He's worried, and
he's tired... We all need to go to bed...”
“Yeah, I want to play Quidditch,” said Harry suddenly. “Hang on, I'll get
Hermione left the room, muttering something that sounded very much like “Boys.”
Neither Mr. Weasley nor Percy was at home much over the following week. Both
left the house each morning before the rest of the family got up, and returned
well after dinner every night.
“It's been an absolute uproar,” Percy told them importantly the Sunday evening
before they were due to return to Hogwarts. “I've been putting out fires all
week. People keep sending Howlers, and of course, if you don't open a Howler
straight away, it explodes. Scorch marks all over my desk and my best quill
reduced to cinders.”
“Why are they all sending Howlers?” asked Ginny, who was mending her copy
of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi with Spellotape on the rug in front
of the living room fire.
“Complaining about security at the World Cup,” said Percy. “They want compensation
for their ruined property. Mundungus Fletcher's put in a claim for a twelve-bedroomed
tent with en-suite Jacuzzi, but I've got his number. I know for a fact he was
sleeping under a cloak propped on sticks.”
Mrs. Weasley glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. Harry liked
this clock. It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise
very informative. It had nine golden hands, and each of them was engraved with
one of the Weasley family's names. There were no numerals around the face, but
descriptions of where each family member might be. “Home,” “school,” and “work”
were there, but there was also “traveling,” “lost,” “hospital,” “prison,” and,
in the position where the number twelve would be on a normal clock, “mortal
Eight of the hands were currently pointing to the “home” position, but Mr.
Weasley's, which was the longest, was still pointing to “work.” Mrs. Weasley
“Your father hasn't had to go into the office on weekends since the days
of You-Know-Who,” she said. “They're working him far too hard. His dinner's
going to be ruined if he doesn't come home soon.”
“Well, Father feels he's got to make up for his mistake at the match, doesn't
he?” said Percy. “If truth be told, he was a tad unwise to make a public statement
without clearing it with his Head of Department first—”
“Don't you dare blame your father for what that wretched Skeeter woman wrote!”
said Mrs. Weasley, flaring up at once.
“If Dad hadn't said anything, old Rita would just have said it was disgraceful
that nobody from the Ministry had commented,” said Bill, who was playing chess
with Ron. “Rita Skeeter never makes anyone look good. Remember, she interviewed
all the Gringotts' Charm Breakers once, and called me 'a long-haired pillock'?”
“Well, it is a bit long, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley gently. “If you'd just
Rain lashed against the living room window. Hermione was immersed in The
Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4, copies of which Mrs. Weasley had bought for
her, Harry, and Ron in Diagon Alley. Charlie was darning a fireproof balaclava.
Harry was polishing his Firebolt, the broomstick servicing kit Hermione had
given him for his thirteenth birthday open at his feet. Fred and George were
sitting in a far corner, quills out, talking in whispers, their heads bent over
a piece of parchment.
“What are you two up to?” said Mrs. Weasley sharply, her eyes on the twins.
“Homework,” said Fred vaguely.
“Don't be ridiculous, you're still on holiday,” said Mrs. Weasley.
“Yeah, we've left it a bit late,” said George.
“You're not by any chance writing out a new order form, are you?” said Mrs.
Weasley shrewdly. “You wouldn't be thinking of restarting Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes,
by any chance?”
“Now, Mum,” said Fred, looking up at her, a pained look on his face. “If
the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you
feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?”
Everyone laughed, even Mrs. Weasley.
“Oh your father's coming!” she said suddenly, looking up at the clock again.
Mr. Weasley's hand had suddenly spun from “work” to “traveling”; a second
later it had shuddered to a halt on “home” with the others, and they heard him
calling from the kitchen.
“Coming, Arthur!” called Mrs. Weasley, hurrying out of the room.
A few moments later, Mr. Weasley came into the warm living room carrying
his dinner on a tray. He looked completely exhausted.
“Well, the fat's really in the fire now,” he told Mrs. Weasley as he sat
down in an armchair near the hearth and toyed unenthusiastically with his somewhat
shriveled cauliflower. “Rita Skeeter's been ferreting around all week, looking
for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she's found out about poor old
Bertha going missing, so that'll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I
told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago.”
“Mr. Crouch has been saying it for weeks and weeks,” said Percy swiftly.
“Crouch is very lucky Rita hasn't found out about Winky,” said Mr. Weasley
irritably. “There'd be a week's worth of headlines in his house-elf being caught
holding the wand that conjured the Dark Mark.”
“I thought we were all agreed that that elf, while irresponsible, did not
conjure the Mark?” said Percy hotly.
“If you ask me, Mr. Crouch is very lucky no one at the Daily Prophet knows
how mean he is to elves!” said Hermione angrily.
“Now look here, Hermione!” said Percy. “A high-ranking Ministry official
like Mr. Crouch deserves unswerving obedience from his servants—”
“His slave, you mean!” said Hermione, her voice rising passionately, “because
he didn't pay Winky, did he?”
“I think you'd all better go upstairs and check that you've packed properly!”
said Mrs. Weasley, breaking up the argument. “Come on now, all of you...”
Harry repacked his broomstick servicing kit, put his Firebolt over his shoulder,
and went back upstairs with Ron. The rain sounded even louder at the top of
the house, accompanied by loud whistlings and moans from the wind, not to mention
sporadic howls from the ghoul who lived in the attic. Pigwidgeon began twittering
and zooming around his cage when they entered. The sight of the half-packed
trunks seemed to have sent him into a frenzy of excitement.
“Bung him some Owl Treats,” said Ron, throwing a packet across to Harry.
“It might shut him up.”
Harry poked a few Owl Treats through the bars of Pigwidgeon's cage, then
turned to his trunk. Hedwig's cage stood next to it, still empty.
“It's been over a week,” Harry said, looking at Hedwig's deserted perch.
“Ron, you don't reckon Sirius has been caught, do you?”
“Nah, it would've been in the Daily Prophet,” said Ron. “The Ministry would
want to show they'd caught someone, wouldn't they?”
“Yeah, I suppose...”
“Look, here's the stuff Mum got for you in Diagon Alley. And she's got some
gold out of your vault for you... and she's washed all your socks.”
He heaved a pile of parcels onto Harry's camp bed and dropped the money bag
and a load of socks next to it. Harry started unwrapping the shopping. Apart
from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4, by Miranda Goshawk, he had a handful
of new quills, a dozen rolls of parchment, and refills for his potion-making
kit—he had been running low on spine of lionfish and essence of belladonna.
He was just piling underwear into his cauldron when Ron made a loud noise of
disgust behind him.
“What is that supposed to be?”
He was holding up something that looked to Harry like a long, maroon velvet
dress. It had a moldy-looking lace frill at the collar and matching lace cuffs.
There was a knock on the door, and Mrs. Weasley entered, carrying an armful
of freshly laundered Hogwarts robes.
“Here you are,” she said, sorting them into two piles. “Now, mind you pack
them properly so they don't crease.”
“Mum, you've given me Ginny's new dress,” said Ron, handing it out to her.
“Of course I haven't,” said Mrs. Weasley. “That's for you. Dress robes.”
“What?” said Ron, looking horror-struck.
“Dress robes!” repeated Mrs. Weasley. “It says on your school list that you're
supposed to have dress robes this year... robes for formal occasions.”
“You've got to be kidding,” said Ron in disbelief. “I'm not wearing that,
“Everyone wears them, Ron!” said Mrs. Weasley crossly. “They're all like
that! Your father's got some for smart parties!”
“I'll go starkers before I put that on,” said Ron stubbornly.
“Don't be so silly,” said Mrs. Weasley. “You've got to have dress robes,
they're on your list! I got some for Harry too... show him, Harry...”
In some trepidation, Harry opened the last parcel on his camp bed. It wasn't
as bad as he had expected, however; his dress robes didn't have any lace on
them at all—in fact, they were more or less the same as his school ones, except
that they were bottle green instead of black.
“I thought they'd bring out the color of your eyes, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley
“Well, they're okay!” said Ron angrily, looking at Harry's robes. “Why couldn't
I have some like that?”
“Because... well, I had to get yours secondhand, and there wasn't a lot of
choice!” said Mrs. Weasley, flushing.
Harry looked away. He would willingly have split all the money in his Gringotts
vault with the Weasleys, but he knew they would never take it.
“I'm never wearing them,” Ron was saying stubbornly. “Never.”
“Fine,” snapped Mrs. Weasley. “Go naked. And, Harry, make sure you get a
picture of him. Goodness knows I could do with a laugh.”
She left the room, slamming the door behind her. There was a funny spluttering
noise from behind them. Pigwidgeon was choking on an overlarge Owl Treat.
“Why is everything I own rubbish?” said Ron furiously, striding across the
room to unstick Pigwidgeon's beak.
ABOARD THE HOGWART EXPRESS
There was a definite end-of-the-holidays gloom in the air when Harry awoke
next morning. Heavy rain was still splattering against the window as he got
dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt; they would change into their school robes
on the Hogwarts Express.
He, Ron, Fred, and George had just reached the first-floor landing on their
way down to breakfast, when Mrs. Weasley appeared at the foot of the stairs,
“Arthur!” she called up the staircase. “Arthur! Urgent message from the Ministry!”
Harry flattened himself against the wall as Mr. Weasley came clattering past
with his robes on back-to-front and hurtled out of sight. When Harry and the
others entered the kitchen, they saw Mrs. Weasley rummaging anxiously in the
drawers—”I've got a quill here somewhere!”—and Mr. Weasley bending over the
fire, talking to—
Harry shut his eyes hard and opened them again to make sure that they were
Amos Diggory's head was sitting in the middle of the flames like a large,
bearded egg. It was talking very fast, completely unperturbed by the sparks
flying around it and the flames licking its ears.
“... Muggle neighbors heard bangs and shouting, so they went and called those
what-d'you-call-'ems—please-men. Arthur, you've got to get over there—”
“Here!” said Mrs. Weasley breathlessly, pushing a piece of parchment, a bottle
of ink, and a crumpled quill into Mr. Weasley's hands.
“it's a real stroke of luck I heard about it,” said Mr. Diggory's head. “I
had to come into the office early to send a couple of owls, and I found the
Improper Use of Magic lot all setting off—if Rita Skeeter gets hold of this