“Have you had a good summer, Harry?” said Hermione. “Did you get our food
parcels and everything?”
“Yeah, thanks a lot, “ said Harry. “They saved my life, those cakes.
“And have you heard from -?” Ron began, but at a look from Hermione he fell
silent. Harry knew Ron had been about to ask about Sirius. Ron and Hermione
had been so deeply involved in helping Sirius escape from the Ministry of Magic
that they were almost as concerned about Harry's godfather as he was. However,
discussing him in front of Ginny was a bad idea. Nobody but themselves and Professor
Dumbledore knew about how Sirius had escaped, or believed in his innocence.
“I think they've stopped arguing,” said Hermione, to cover the awkward moment,
because Ginny was looking curiously from Ron to Harry. “Shall we go down and
help your mum with dinner?”
“Yeah, all right,” said Ron. The four of them left Ron's room and went back
downstairs to find Mrs. Weasley alone in the kitchen, looking extremely bad-tempered.
“We're eating out in the garden,” she said when they came in. “There's just
not room for eleven people in here. Could you take the plates outside, girls?
Bill and Charlie are setting up the tables. Knives and forks, please, you two,”
she said to Ron and Harry, pointing her wand a little more vigorously than she
had intended at a pile of potatoes in the sink, which shot out of their skins
so fast that they ricocheted off the walls and ceiling.
“Oh for heaven's sake,” she snapped, now directing her wand at a dustpan,
which hopped off the sideboard and started skating across the floor, scooping
up the potatoes. “Those two!” she burst out savagely, now pulling pots and pans
out of a cupboard, and Harry knew she meant Fred and George. I don't know what's
going to happen to them, I really don't. No ambition, unless you count making
as much trouble as they possibly can...”
Mrs. Weasley slammed a large copper saucepan down on the kitchen table and
began to wave her wand around inside it. A creamy sauce poured from the wand
tip as she stirred.
“It's not as though they haven't got brains, she continued irritably, taking
the saucepan over to the stove and lighting it with a further poke of her wand,
“but they're wasting them, and unless they pull themselves together soon, they'll
be in real trouble. I've had more owls from Hogwarts about them than the rest
put together. If they carry on the way they're going, they'll end up in front
of the Improper Use of Magic Office.”
Mrs. Weasley jabbed her wand at the cutlery drawer, which shot open. Harry
and Ron both jumped out of the way as several knives soared out of it, flew
across the kitchen, and began chopping the potatoes, which had just been tipped
back into the sink by the dustpan.
“I don't know where we went wrong with them,” said Mrs. Weasley, putting
down her wand and starting to pull out still more saucepans. “It's been the
same for years, one thing after another, and they won't listen to—OH NOT AGAIN!”
She had picked up her wand from the table, and it had emitted a loud squeak
and turned into a giant rubber mouse.
“One of their fake wands again!” she shouted. “How many times have I told
them not to leave them lying around?”
She grabbed her real wand and turned around to find that the sauce on the
stove was smoking.
“C'mon,” Ron said hurriedly to Harry, seizing a handful of cutlery from the
open drawer, “let's go and help Bill and Charlie.”
They left Mrs. Weasley and headed out the back door into the yard.
They had only gone a few paces when Hermione's bandy-legged ginger cat, Crookshanks,
came pelting out of the garden, bottle-brush tail held high in the air, chasing
what looked like a muddy potato on legs. Harry recognized it instantly as a
gnome. Barely ten inches high, its horny little feet pattered very fast as it
sprinted across the yard and dived headlong into one of the Wellington boots
that lay scattered around the door. Harry could hear the gnome giggling madly
as Crookshanks inserted a paw into the boot, trying to reach it. Meanwhile,
a very loud crashing noise was coming from the other side of the house. The
source of the commotion was revealed as they entered the garden, and saw that
Bill and Charlie both had their wands out, and were making two battered old
tables fly high above the lawn, smashing into each other, each attempting to
knock the other's out of the air. Fred and George were cheering, Ginny was laughing,
and Hermione was hovering near the hedge, apparently torn between amusement
Bill's table caught Charlie's with a huge bang and knocked one of its legs
off. There was a clatter from overhead, and they all looked up to see Percy's
head poking out of a window on the second floor.
“Will you keep it down?!” he bellowed.
“Sorry, Perce,” said Bill, grinning. “How're the cauldron bottoms coming
“Very badly,” said Percy peevishly, and he slammed the window shut. Chuckling,
Bill and Charlie directed the tables safely onto the grass, end to end, and
then, with a flick of his wand, Bill reattached the table leg and conjured tablecloths
By seven o'clock, the two tables were groaning under dishes and dishes of
Mrs. Weasley's excellent cooking, and the nine Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione
were settling themselves down to eat beneath a clear, deep-blue sky. To somebody
who had been living on meals of increasingly stale cake all summer, this was
paradise, and at first, Harry listened rather than talked as he helped himself
to chicken and ham pie, boiled potatoes, and salad.
At the far end of the table, Percy was telling his father all about his report
on cauldron bottoms.
“I've told Mr. Crouch that I'll have it ready by Tuesday,” Percy was saying
pompously. “That's a bit sooner than he expected it, but I like to keep on top
of things. I think he'll be grateful I've done it in good time, I mean, its
extremely busy in our department just now, what with all the arrangements for
the World Cup. We're just not getting the support we need from the Department
of Magical Games and Sports. Ludo Bagman—”
“I like Ludo,” said Mr. Weasley mildly. “He was the one who got us such good
tickets for the Cup. I did him a bit of a favor: His brother, Otto, got into
a spot of trouble—a lawnmower with unnatural powers—I smoothed the whole thing
“Oh Bagman's likable enough, of course,” said Percy dismissively, “but how
he ever got to be Head of Department ...when I compare him to Mr. Crouch! I
can't see Mr. Crouch losing a member of our department and not trying to find
out what's happened to them. You realize Bertha Jorkins has been missing for
over a month now? Went on holiday to Albania and never came back?”
“Yes, I was asking Ludo about that,” said Mr. Weasley, frowning. “He says
Bertha's gotten lost plenty of times before now—though must say, if it was someone
in my department, I'd be worried...”
“Oh Bertha's hopeless, all right,” said Percy. “I hear she's been shunted
from department to department for years, much more trouble than she's worth
...but all the same, Bagman ought to be trying to find her. Mr. Crouch has been
taking a personal interest, she worked in our department at one time, you know,
and I think Mr. Crouch was quite fond of her—but Bagman just keeps laughing
and saying she probably misread the map and ended up in Australia instead of
Albania. However”—Percy heaved an impressive sigh and took a deep swig of elderflower
wine—”we've got quite enough on our plates at the Department of International
Magical Cooperation without trying to find members of other departments too.
As you know, we've got another big event to organize right after the World Cup.”
Percy cleared his throat significantly and looked down toward the end of
the table where Harry, Ron, and Hermione were sitting. “You know the one I'm
talking about, Father.” He raised his voice slightly. “The top-secret one.”
Ron rolled his eyes and muttered to Harry and Hermione, “He's been trying
to get us to ask what that event is ever since he started work. Probably an
exhibition of thick-bottomed cauldrons.”
In the middle of the table, Mrs. Weasley was arguing with Bill about his
earring, which seemed to be a recent acquisition.
“... with a horrible great fang on it. Really, Bill, what do they say at
“Mum,. no one at the bank gives a damn how I dress as long as I bring home
plenty of treasure,” said Bill patiently.
“And your hair's getting silly, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley, fingering her wand
lovingly.” I wish you'd let me give it a trim...”
“I like it,” said Ginny, who was sitting beside Bill. “You're so old-fashioned,
Mum. Anyway, it's nowhere near as long as Professor Dumbledore's...”
Next to Mrs. Weasley, Fred, George, and Charlie were all talking spiritedly
about the World Cup.
“It's got to be Ireland,” said Charlie thickly, through a mouthful of potato.
“They flattened Peru in the semifinals.”
“Bulgaria has got Viktor Krum, though,” said Fred.
“Krum's one decent player, Ireland has got seven,” said Charlie shortly.
“I wish England had got through. That was embarrassing, that was.”
“What happened?” said Harry eagerly, regretting more than ever his isolation
from the wizarding world when he was stuck on Privet Drive.
“Went down to Transylvania, three hundred and ninety to ten,” said Charlie
gloomily. “Shocking performance. And Wales lost to Uganda, and Scotland was
slaughtered by Luxembourg.”
Harry had been on the Gryffindor House Quidditch team ever since his first
year at Hogwarts and owned one of the best racing brooms in the world, a Firebolt.
Flying came more naturally to Harry than anything else in the magical world,
and he played in the position of Seeker on the Gryffindor House team.
Mr. Weasley conjured up candles to light the darkening garden before they
had their homemade strawberry ice cream, and by the time they had finished,
moths were fluttering low over the table, and the warm air was perfumed with
the smells of grass and honeysuckle. Harry was feeling extremely well fed and
at peace with the world as he watched several gnomes sprinting through the rosebushes,
laughing madly and closely pursued by Crookshanks.
Ron looked carefully up the table to check that the rest of the family were
all busy talking, then he said very quietly to Harry, “So—have you heard from
Hermione looked around, listening closely.
“Yeah,” said Harry softly, “twice. He sounds okay. I wrote to him yesterday.
He might write back while I'm here.”
He suddenly remembered the reason he had written to Sirius, and for a moment
was on the verge of telling Ron and Hermione about his scar hurting again, and
about the dream that had awoken him ...but he really didn't want to worry them
just now, not when he himself was feeling so happy and peaceful.
“Look at the time,” Mrs. Weasley said suddenly, checking her wristwatch.
“You really should be in bed, the whole lot of you you'll be up at the crack
of dawn to get to the Cup. Harry, if you leave your school list out, I'll get
your things for you tomorrow in Diagon Alley. I'm getting everyone else's. There
might not be time after the World Cup, the match went on for five days last
“Wow—hope it does this time!” said Harry enthusiastically.
“Well, I certainly don't,” said Percy sanctimoniously. “I shudder to think
what the state of my in-tray would be if I was away from work for five days.”
“Yeah, someone might slip dragon dung in it again, eh, Perce?” said Fred.
“That was a sample of fertilizer from Norway!” said Percy, going very red
in the face. “It was nothing personal!”
“It was,” Fred whispered to Harry as they got up from the table. “We sent
Harry felt as though he had barely lain down to steep in Ron's room when
he was being shaken awake by Mrs. Weasley.
“Time to go, Harry, dear,” she whispered, moving away to wake Ron.
Harry felt around for his glasses, put them on, and sat up. It was still
dark outside. Ron muttered indistinctly as his mother roused him. At the foot
of Harry's mattress he saw two large, disheveled shapes emerging from tangles
“'S' time already?” said Fred groggily.
They dressed in silence, too sleepy to talk, then, yawning and stretching,
the four of them headed downstairs into the kitchen.
Mrs. Weasley was stirring the contents of a large pot on the stove, while
Mr. Weasley was sitting at the table, checking a sheaf of large parchment tickets.
He looked up as the boys entered and spread his arms so that they could see
his clothes more clearly. He was wearing what appeared to be a golfing sweater
and a very old pair of jeans, slightly too big for him and held up with a thick
“What d'you think?” he asked anxiously. “We're supposed to go incognito—do
I look like a Muggle, Harry?”
“Yeah,” said Harry, smiling, “very good.”
“Where're Bill and Charlie and Per-Per-Percy?” said George, failing to stifle
a huge yawn.
“Well, they're Apparating, aren't they?” said Mrs. Weasley, heaving the large
pot over to the table and starting to ladle porridge into bowls. “So they can
have a bit of a lie-in.”
Harry knew that Apparating meant disappearing from one place and reappearing
almost instantly in another, but had never known any Hogwarts student to do
it, and understood that it was very difficult.
“So they're still in bed?” said Fred grumpily, pulling his bowl of porridge
toward him. “Why can't we Apparate too?”
“Because you're not of age and you haven't passed your test,” snapped Mrs.
Weasley. “And where have those girls got to?”
She bustled out of the kitchen and they heard her climbing the stairs.
“You have to pass a test to Apparate?” Harry asked.
“Oh yes,” said Mr. Weasley, tucking the tickets safely into the back pocket
of his jeans. “The Department of Magical Transportation had to fine a couple
of people the other day for Apparating without a license. It's not easy, Apparition,
and when it's not done property it can lead to nasty complications. This pair
I'm talking about went and splinched themselves.”