Wormtail, who had been sputtering incoherently, fell silent at once. For
a few seconds, Frank could hear nothing but the fire crackling. The the second
man spoke once more, in a whisper that was almost a hiss.
“I have my reasons for using the boy, as I have already explained to you,
and I will use no other. I have waited thirteen years. A few more months will
make no difference. As for the protection surrounding the boy, I believe my
plan will be effective. All that is needed is a little courage from you, Wormtail—courage
you will find, unless you wish to feel the full extent of Lord Voldermort's
“My Lord, I must speak!” said Wormtail, panic in his voice now. “All through
our journey I have gone over the plan in my head—My Lord, Bertha Jorkin's disappearance
will not go unnoticed for long, and if we proceed, if I murder—”
“If?” whispered the second voice. “If? If you follow the plan, Wormtail,
the Ministry need never know that anyone else has died. You will do it quietly
and without fuss; I only wish that i could do it myself, but in my present condition...
Come, Wormtail, one more death and our path to Harry Potter is clear. I am not
asking you to do it alone. By that time, my faithful serant will have rejoined
“I am a faithful servant,” said Wormtail, the merest trace of sullenness
in his voice.
“Wormtail, I need somebody with brains, somebody whose loyalty has never
wavered, and you, unfortunately, fulfill neither requirement.”
“I found you,” said Wormtail, and there was definitely a sulky edge to his
voice now. “I was the one who found you. I brought you Bertha Jorkins.”
“That is true,” said the second man, sounding amused. “A stroke of brilliance
I would not have thought possible from you, Wormtail—though, if truth be told,
you were not aware how useful she would be when you caught her, were you?”
“I—I thought she might be useful, My Lord—”
“Liar,” said the second voice again, the cruel amusement more pronounced
than ever. “However, I do not deny that her information was invaluable. Without
it, I could never have formed our plan, and for that, you will have your reward,
Wormtail. I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many
of my followers would give their right hands to perform...”
“R-really, My Lord? What—?” Wormtail sounded terrified again.
“Ah, Wormtail, you don't want me to spoil the surprise? Your part will come
at the very end... but I promise you, you will have the honor of being just
as useful as Bertha Jorkins.”
“You... you...” Wormtail's voice suddenly sounded hoarse, as though his mouth
had gone very dry. “You... are going... to kill me too?”
“Wormtail, Wormtail,” said the cold voice silkily, “why would I kill you?
I killed Bertha because I had to. She was fit for nothing after my questioning,
quite useless. In any case, awkward questions would have been asked if she had
gone back to the Ministry with the news that she had met you on her holidays.
Wizards who are supposed to be dead would do well not to run into Ministry of
Magic witches at wayside inns...”
Wormtail muttered something so quietly that Frank could not hear it, but
it made the second man laugh—an entirely mirthless laugh, cold as his speech.
“We could have modified her memory? But Memory Charms can be broken by a
powerful wizard, as I proved when I questioned her. It would be an insult to
her memory not to use the information I extracted from her, Wormtail.”
Out in the corridor, Frank suddenly became aware that the hand gripping his
walking stick was slippery with sweat. The man with the cold voice had killed
a woman. He was talking about it without any kind of remorse—with amusement.
He was dangerous—a madman. And he was planning more murders—this boy, Harry
Potter, whoever he was—was in danger—
Frank knew what he must do. Now, if ever, was the time to go to the police.
He would creep out of the house and head straight for the telephone box in the
village... but the cold voice was speaking again, and Frank remained where he
was, frozen to the spot, listening with all his might.
“One more murder... my faithful servant at Hogwarts... Harry Potter is as
good as mine, Wormtail. It is decided. There will be no more argument. But quiet...
I think I hear Nagini...”
And the second man's voice changed. He started making noises such as Frank
had never heard before; he was hissing and spitting without drawing breath.
Frank thought he must be having some sort of fit or seizure.
And then Frank heard movement behind him in the dark passageway. He turned
to look, and found himself paralyzed with fright.
Something was slithering toward him along the dark corridor floor, and as
it drew nearer to the sliver of firelight, he realized with a thrill of terror
that it was a gigantic snake, at least twelve feet long. Horrified, transfixed,
Frank stared as its undulating body cut a wide, curving track through the thick
dust on the floor, coming closer and closer—What was he to do? The only means
of escape was into the room where the two men sat plotting murder, yet if he
stayed where he was the snake would surely kill him—
But before he had made his decision, the snake was level with him, and then,
incredibly, miraculously, it was passing; it was following the spitting, hissing
noises made by the cold voice beyond the door, and in seconds, the tip of its
diamond-patterned tail had vanished through the gap.
There was sweat on Frank's forehead now, and the hand on the walking stick
was trembling. Inside the room, the cold voice was continuing to hiss, and Frank
was visited by a strange idea, an impossible idea... This man could talk to
Frank didn't understand what was going on. He wanted more than anything to
be back in his bed with his hot-water bottle. The problem was that his legs
didn't seem to want to move. As he stood there shaking and trying to master
himself, the cold voice switched abruptly to English again.
“Nagini has interesting news, Wormtail,” it said.
“In-indeed, My Lord?” said Wormtail.
“Indeed, yes,” said the voice, “According to Nagini, there is an old Muggle
standing right outside this room, listening to every word we say.”
Frank didn't have a chance to hide himself. There were footsteps and then
the door of the room was flung wide open.
A short, balding man with graying hair, a pointed nose, and small, watery
eyes stood before Frank, a mixture of fear and alarm in his face.
“Invite him inside, Wormtail. Where are your manners?”
The cold voice was coming from the ancient armchair before the fire, but
Frank couldn't see the speaker. the snake, on the other hand, was curled up
on the rotting hearth rug, like some horrible travesty of a pet dog.
Wormtail beckoned Frank into the room. Though still deeply shaken, Frank
took a firmer grip on his walking stick and limped over the threshold.
The fire was the only source of light in the room; it cast long, spidery
shadows upon the walls. Frank stared at the back of the armchair; the man inside
it seemed to be even smaller than his servant, for Frank couldn't even see the
back of his head.
“You heard everything, Muggle?” said the cold voice.
“What's that you're calling me?” said Frank defiantly, for now that he was
inside the room, now that the time had come for some sort of action, he felt
braver; it had always been so in the war.
“I am calling you a Muggle,” said the voice coolly. “It means that you are
not a wizard.”
“I don't know what you mean by wizard,” said Frank, his voice growing steadier.
“All I know is I've heard enough to interest the police tonight, I have. You've
done murder and you're planning more! And I'll tell youthis too,” he added,
on a sudden inspiration, “my wife knows I'm up here, and if I don't come back—”
“You have no wife,” said te cold voice, very quietly. “Nobody knows you are
here. You told nobody that you were coming. Do not lie to Lord Voldemort, Muggle,
for he knows... he always knows...”
“Is that right?” said Frank roughly. “Lord, is it? Well, I don't think much
of your manners, My Lord. Turn 'round and face me like a man, why don't you?”
“But I am not a man, Muggle,” said the cold voice, barely audible now over
the crackling of the flames. “I am much, much more than a man. However... why
not? I will face you... Wormtail, come turn my chair around.”
The servant gave a whimper.
“You heard me, Wormtail.”
Slowly, with his face screwed up, as though he would rather have done anything
than approach his master and the hearth rug where the snake lay, the small man
walked forward and began to turn the chair. The snake lifted its ugly triangular
head and hissed slightly as the legs of the chair snagged on its rug.
And then the chair was facing Frank, and he saw what was sitting in it. His
walking stick fell to the floor with a clatter. He opened his mouth and let
out a scream. He was screaming so loudly that he never heard the words the thing
in the chair spoke as it raised a wand. There was a flash of green light, a
rushing sound, and Frank Bryce crumpled. He was dead before he hit the floor.
Two hundred miles away, the boy called Harry Potter woke with a start.
Harry lay flat on his back, breathing hard as though he had been running.
He had awoken from a vivid dream with his hands pressed over his face. The old
scar on his forehead, which was shaped like a bolt of lightning, was burning
beneath his fingers as though someone had just pressed a white-hot wire to his
He sat up, one hand still on his scar, the other hand reaching out in the
darkness for his glasses, which were on the bedside table. He put them on and
his bedroom came into clearer focus, lit by a faint, misty orange light that
was filtering through the curtains from the street lamp outside the window.
Harry ran his fingers over the scar again. It was still painful. He turned
on the lamp beside him, scrambled out of bed, crossed the room, opened his wardrobe,
and peered into the mirror on the inside of the door. A skinny boy of fourteen
looked back at him, his bright green eyes puzzled under his untidy black hair.
He examined the lightning-bolt scar of his reflection more closely. It looked
normal, but it was still stinging.
harry tried to recall what he had been dreaming about before he had awoken.
It had seemed so real... There had been two people he knew and one he didn't
...He concentrated hard, frowning, trying to remember...
The dim picture of a darkened room came to him... There had been a snake
on a hearth rug... a small man called Peter, nicknamed Wormtail... and a cold,
high voice... the voice of Lord Voldemort. Harry felt as though an ice cube
had slipped down into his stomach at the very thought...
He closed his eyes tightly and tried to remember what Voldemort had looked
like, but it was impossible... All Harry knew was that at the moment when Voldemort's
chair had swung around, and he, Harry, had seen what was sitting in it, he had
felt a spasm of horror, which had awoken him... or had that been the pain in
And who had the old man been? For there had definitely been an old man; Harry
had watched him fall to the ground. It was all becoming confused. Harry put
his face into his hands, blocking out his bedroom, trying to hold on to the
picture of that dimly lit room, but it was like trying to keep water in his
cupped hands; the details were now trickling away as fast as he tried to hold
on to them... Voldemort and Wormtail had been talking about someone they had
killed, though Harry could not remember the name... and they had been plotting
to kill someone else... him!
Harry took his face out of his hands, opened his eyes, and stared around
his bedroom as though expecting to see something unusual there. As it happened,
there was an extraordinary number of unusual things in this room. A large wooden
trunk stood open at the foot of his bed, revealing a cauldron, broomstick, black
robes, and assorted spellbooks. Rolls of parchment littered that part of his
desk that was not taken up by the large, empty cage in which his snowy owl,
Hedwig, usually perched. On the floor beside his bed a book lay open; Harry
had been reading it before he fell asleep last night. The pictures in this book
were all moving. Men in bright orange robes were zooming in and out of sight
on broomsticks, throwing a red ball to one another.
Harry walked over to the book, picked it up, and watched on of the wizards
score a spectacular goal by putting the ball through a fifty-foot-high hoop.
Then he snapped the book shut. Even Quidditch—in Harry's opinion, the best sport
in the world—couldn't distract him at the moment. He placed Flying with the
Cannons on his bedside table, crossed to the window, and drew back the curtains
to survey the street below.
Privet Drive looked exactly as a respectable suburban street would be expected
to look inthe early hours of Saturday morning. All the curtains were closed.
As far as Harry could see through the darkness, there wasn't a living creature
in sight, not even a cat.
And yet... and yet... Harry went restlessly back to the bed and sat down
on it, running a finger over his scar again. It wasn't the pain that bothered
him; Harry was no stranger to pain and injury. He had lost all the bones from
his right arm once and had them painfully regrown in a night. The same arm had
been pierced by a venemous foot-long fang not long afterward. Only last year
Harry had fallen fifty feet from an airborn broomstick. He was used to bizarre
accidents and injuries; they were unavoidable if you attended Hogwarts School
of Witchcraft and Wizardry and had a knack for attracting a lot of trouble.
No, the thing that was bothering Harry was the last time his scar had hurt
him, it had been because Voldemort had been close by... But Voldemort couldn't
be here, now... The idea of Voldemort lurking in Privet Drive was absurd, impossible...
Harry listened closely to the silence around him. Was he half expecting to
hear the creak of a stair or the swish of a cloak? And then he jumped slightly
as he heard his cousin Dudley give a tremendous grunting snore from the next