BACK TO THE BURROW
By twelve o'clock the next day, Harry's school trunk was packed with his
school things and all his most prized possessions—the Invisibility Cloak he
had inherited from his father, the broomstick he had gotten from Sirius, the
enchanted map of Hogwarts he had been given by Fred and George Weasley last
year. He had emptied his hiding place under the loose floorboard of all food,
double-checked every nook and cranny of his bedroom for forgotten spellbooks
or quills, and taken down the chart on the wall counting down the days to September
the first, on which he liked to cross off the days remaining until his return
The atmosphere inside number four, Privet Drive was extremely tense. The
imminent arrival at their house of an assortment of wizards was making the Dursleys
uptight and irritable. Uncle Vernon had looked downright alarmed when Harry
informed him that the Weasleys would be arriving at five o'clock the very next
“I hope you told them to dress properly, these people,” he snarled at once.
“I've seen the sort of stuff your lot wear. They'd better have the decency to
put on normal clothes, that's all.”
Harry felt a slight sense of foreboding. He had rarely seen Mr. or Mrs. Weasley
wearing anything that the Dursleys would call “normal.” Their children might
don Muggle clothing during the holidays, but Mr. and Mrs. Weasley usually wore
long robes in varying states of shabbiness. Harry wasn't bothered about what
the neighbors would think, but he was anxious about how rude the Dursleys might
be to the Weasleys if they turned up looking like their worst idea of wizards.
Uncle Vernon had put on his best suit. To some people, this might have looked
like a gesture of welcome, but Harry knew it was because Uncle Vernon wanted
to look impressive and intimidating. Dudley, on the other hand, looked somehow
diminished. This was not because the diet was at last taking effect, but due
to fright. Dudley had emerged from his last encounter with a fully grown wizard
with a curly pig's tail poking out of the seat of his trousers, and Aunt Petunia
and Uncle Vernon had had to pay for its removal at a private hospital in London.
It wasn't altogether surprising, therefore, that Dudley kept running his hand
nervously over his backside, and walking sideways from room to room, so as not
to present the same target to the enemy.
Lunch was an almost silent meal. Dudley didn't even protest at the food (cottage
cheese and grated celery). Aunt Petunia wasn't, eating anything at all. Her
arms were folded, her lips were pursed, and she seemed to be chewing her tongue,
as though biting back the furious diatribe she longed to throw at Harry.
“They'll be driving, of course?” Uncle Vernon barked across the table.
“Er,” said Harry.
He hadn't thought of that. How were the Weasleys going to pick him up? They
didn't have a car anymore; the old Ford Anglia they had once owned was currently
running wild in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. But Mr. Weasley had borrowed
a Ministry of Magic car last year; possibly he would do the same today?
“I think so,” said Harry.
Uncle Vernon snorted into his mustache. Normally, Uncle Vernon would have
asked what car Mr. Weasley drove; he tended to judge other men by how big and
expensive their cars were. But Harry doubted whether Uncle Vernon would have
taken to Mr. Weasley even if he drove a Ferrari.
Harry spent most of the afternoon in his bedroom; he couldn't stand watching
Aunt Petunia peer out through the net curtains every few seconds, as though
there had been a warning about an escaped rhinoceros. Finally, at a quarter
to five, Harry went back downstairs and into the living room.
Aunt Petunia was compulsively straightening cushions. Uncle Vernon was pretending
to read the paper, but his tiny eyes were not moving, and Harry was sure he
was really listening with all his might for the sound of an approaching car.
Dudley was crammed into an armchair, his porky hands beneath him, clamped firmly
around his bottom. Harry couldn't take the tension; he left the room and went
and sat on the stairs in the hall, his eyes on his watch and his heart pumping
fast from excitement and nerves.
But five o'clock came and then went. Uncle Vernon, perspiring slightly in
his suit, opened the front door, peered up and down the street, then withdrew
his head quickly.
“They're late!” he snarled at Harry.
I know,” said Harry. “Maybe—er—the traffic's bad, or something.”
Ten past five ...then a quarter past five ...Harry was starting to feel anxious
himself now. At half past, he heard Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia conversing
in terse mutters in the living room.
“No consideration at all.”
“We might've had an engagement.”
“Maybe they think they'll get invited to dinner if they're late.”
“Well, they most certainly won't be,” said Uncle Vernon, and Harry heard
him stand up and start pacing the living room. “They'll take the boy and go,
there'll be no hanging around. That's if they're coming at all. Probably mistaken
the day. I daresay their kind don't set much store by punctuality. Either that
or they drive some tin-pot car that's broken dAAAAAAAARRRRRGH!”
Harry jumped up. From the other side of the living room door came the sounds
of the three Dursleys scrambling, panic-stricken, across the room. Next moment
Dudley came flying into the hall, looking terrified.
“What happened?” said Harry. “What's the matter?”
But Dudley didn't seem able to speak. Hands still clamped over his buttocks,
he waddled as fast as he could into the kitchen. Harry hurried into the living
Loud bangings and scrapings were coming from behind the Dursleys' boarded-up
fireplace, which had a fake coal fire plugged in front of it.
“What is it?” gasped Aunt Petunia, who had backed into the wall and was staring,
terrified, toward the fire. “What is it, Vernon?”
But they were left in doubt barely a second longer. Voices could be heard
from inside the blocked fireplace.
“Ouch! Fred, no—go back, go back, there's been some kind of mistake—tell
George not to—OUCH! George, no, there's no room, go back quickly and tell Ron-”
“Maybe Harry can hear us, Dad—maybe he'll be able to let us out-”
There was a loud hammering of fists on the boards behind the electric fire.
“Harry? Harry, can you hear us?”
The Dursleys rounded on Harry like a pair of angry wolverines.
“What is this?” growled Uncle Vernon. “What's going on?”
“They—they've tried to get here by Floo powder,” said Harry, fighting a mad
desire to laugh. “They can travel by fire—only you've blocked the fireplace—hang
He approached the fireplace and called through the boards.
“Mr. Weasley? Can you hear me?”
The hammering stopped. Somebody inside the chimney piece said, “Shh!”
“Mr. Weasley, it's Harry ...the fireplace has been blocked up. You won't
be able to get through there.”
“Damn!” said Mr. Weasley's voice. “What on earth did they want to block up
the fireplace for?”
“They've got an electric fire,” Harry explained.
“Really?” said Mr. Weasley's voice excitedly. “Eclectic, you say? With a
plug? Gracious, I must see that... Let's think ...ouch, Ron!”
Ron's voice now joined the others'.
“What are we doing here? Has something gone wrong?”
“Oh no, Ron,” came Fred's voice, very sarcastically. “No, this is exactly
where we wanted to end up.”
“Yeah, we're having the time of our lives here,” said George, whose voice
sounded muffled, as though he was squashed against the wall.
“Boys, boys...” said Mr. Weasley vaguely. “I'm trying to think what to do...
Yes ...only way... Stand back, Harry.”
Harry retreated to the sofa. Uncle Vernon, however, moved forward.
“Wait a moment!” he bellowed at the fire. “What exactly are you going to—”
The electric fire shot across the room as the boarded-up fireplace burst
outward, expelling Mr. Weasley, Fred, George, and Ron in a cloud of rubble and
loose chippings. Aunt Petunia shrieked and fell backward over the coffee table;
Uncle Vernon caught her before she hit the floor, and gaped, speechless, at
the Weasleys, all of whom had bright red hair, including Fred and George, who
were identical to the last freckle.
“That's better,” panted Mr. Weasley, brushing dust from his long green robes
and straightening his glasses. “Ah—you must be Harry's aunt and uncle!”
Tall, thin, and balding, he moved toward Uncle Vernon, his hand outstretched,
but Uncle Vernon backed away several paces, dragging Aunt Petunia. Words utterly
failed Uncle Vernon. His best suit was covered in white dust, which had settled
in his hair and mustache and made him look as though he had just aged thirty
“Er—yes—sorry about that,” said Mr. Weasley, lowering his hand and looking
over his shoulder at the blasted fireplace. “It's all my fault. It just didn't
occur to me that we wouldn't be able to get out at the other end. I had your
fireplace connected to the Floo Network, you see—just for an afternoon, you
know, so we could get Harry. Muggle fireplaces aren't supposed to be connected,
strictly speaking—but I've got a useful contact at the Floo Regulation Panel
and he fixed it for me. I can put it right in a jiffy, though, don't worry.
I'll light a fire to send the boys back, and then I can repair your fireplace
before I Disapparate.”
Harry was ready to bet that the Dursleys hadn't understood a single word
of this. They were still gaping at Mr. Weasley, thunderstruck. Aunt Petunia
staggered upright again and hid behind Uncle Vernon.
“Hello, Harry!” said Mr. Weasley brightly. “Got your trunk ready?”
“It's upstairs,” said Harry, grinning back.
“We'll get it,” said Fred at once. Winking at Harry, he and George left the
room. They knew where Harry's bedroom was, having once rescued him from it in
the dead of night. Harry suspected that Fred and George were hoping for a glimpse
of Dudley; they had heard a lot about him from Harry.
“Well,” said Mr. Weasley, swinging his arms slightly, while he tried to find
words to break the very nasty silence. “Very—erm—very nice place you've got
As the usually spotless living room was now covered in dust and bits of brick,
this remark didn't go down too well with the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon's face purpled
once more, and Aunt Petunia started chewing her tongue again. However, they
seemed too scared to actually say anything.
Mr. Weasley was looking around. He loved everything to do with Muggles. Harry
could see him itching to go and examine the television and the video recorder.
“They run off eckeltricity, do they?” he said knowledgeably. “Ah yes, I can
see the plugs. I collect plugs,” he added to Uncle Vernon. “And batteries. Got
a very large collection of batteries. My wife thinks I'm mad, but there you
Uncle Vernon clearly thought Mr. Weasley was mad too. He moved ever so slightly
to the right, screening Aunt Petunia from view, as though he thought Mr. Weasley
might suddenly run at them and attack.
Dudley suddenly reappeared in the room. Harry could hear the clunk of his
trunk on the stairs, and knew that the sounds had scared Dudley out of the kitchen.
Dudley edged along the wall, gazing at Mr. Weasley with terrified eyes, and
attempted to conceal himself behind his mother and father. Unfortunately, Uncle
Vernon's bulk, while sufficient to hide bony Aunt Petunia, was nowhere near
enough to conceal Dudley.
“Ah, this is your cousin, is it, Harry?” said Mr. Weasley, taking another
brave stab at making conversation.
“Yep,” said Harry, “that's Dudley.”
He and Ron exchanged glances and then quickly looked away from each other;
the temptation to burst out laughing was almost overwhelming. Dudley was still
clutching his bottom as though afraid it might fall off. Mr. Weasley, however,
seemed genuinely concerned at Dudley's peculiar behavior. Indeed, from the tone
of his voice when he next spoke, Harry was quite sure that Mr. Weasley thought
Dudley was quite as mad as the Dursleys thought he was, except that Mr. Weasley
felt sympathy rather than fear.
“Having a good holiday, Dudley?” he said kindly.
Dudley whimpered. Harry saw his hands tighten still harder over his massive
Fred and George came back into the room carrying Harry's school trunk. They
glanced around as they entered and spotted Dudley. Their faces cracked into
identical evil grins.
“Ah, right,” said Mr. Weasley. “Better get cracking then.”
He pushed up the sleeves of his robes and took out his wand. Harry saw the
Dursleys draw back against the wall as one.
“Incendio!” said Mr. Weasley, pointing his wand at the hole in the wall behind
Flames rose at once in the fireplace, crackling merrily as though they had
been burning for hours. Mr. Weasley took a small drawstring bag from his pocket,
untied it, took a pinch of the powder inside, and threw it onto the flames,
which turned emerald green and roared higher than ever.
“Off you go then, Fred,” said Mr. Weasley.
“Coming,” said Fred. “Oh no—hang on—”
A bag of sweets had spilled out of Fred's pocket and the contents were now
rolling in every direction—big, fat toffees in brightly colored wrappers.
Fred scrambled around, cramming them back into his pocket, then gave the
Dursleys a cheery wave, stepped forward, and walked right into the fire, saying
“the Burrow!” Aunt Petunia gave a little shuddering gasp. There was a whooshing
sound, and Fred vanished.
“Right then, George,” said Mr. Weasley, “you and the trunk.”
Harry helped George carry the trunk forward into the flames and turn it onto
its end so that he could hold it better. Then, with a second whoosh, George
had cried “the Burrow!” and vanished too.
“Ron, you next,” said Mr. Weasley.