And what were Ron and Hermione busy with? Why wasn't he, Harry, busy? Hadn't
he proved himself capable of handling much more than them? Had they all forgotten
what he had done? Hadn't it been he who had entered that graveyard and watched
Cedric being murdered, and been tied to that tombstone and nearly killed?
Don't think about that, Harry told himself sternly for the hundredth lime
that summer. It was bad enough that he kept revisiting the graveyard in his
nightmares, without dwelling on it in his waking moments too.
He turned a corner into Magnolia Crescent; halfway along he passed the narrow
alleyway down the side of a garage where he had first clapped eyes on his godfather.
Sirius, at least, seemed to understand how Harry was feeling. Admittedly, his
letters were just as empty of proper news as Ron and Hermione's, but at least
they contained words of caution and consolation instead of tantalising hints:
I know this must be frustrating for you: Keep your nose clean and everything
will be OK: Be careful and don't do anything rash:
Well, thought Harry, as he crossed Magnolia Crescent, turned into Magnolia
Road and headed towards the darkening play park, he had (by and large) done
as Sirius advised. He had at least resisted the temptation to tie his trunk
to his broomstick and set off for The Burrow by himself. In fact, Harry thought
his behaviour had been very good considering how frustrated and angry he felt
at being stuck in Privet Drive so long, reduced to hiding in flowerbeds in the
hope of hearing something that might point to what Lord Voldemort was doing.
Nevertheless, it was quite galling to be told not to be rash by a man who had
served twelve years in the wizard prison, Azkaban, escaped, attempted to commit
the murder he had been convicted for in the first place, then gone on the run
with a stolen Hippogriff.
Harry vaulted over the locked park gate and set off across the parched grass.
The park was as empty as the surrounding streets. When he reached the swings
he sank on to the only one that Dudley and his friends had not yet managed to
break, coiled one arm around the chain and stared moodily at the ground. He
would not be able to hide in the Dursleys' flowerbed again. Tomorrow, he would
have to think of some fresh way of listening to the news. In the meantime, he
had nothing to look forward to but another restless, disturbed night, because
even when he escaped the nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about
long dark corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors, which he supposed
had something to do with the trapped feeling he had when he was awake. Often
the old scar on his forehead prickled uncomfortably, but he did not fool himself
that Ron or Hermione or Sirius would find that very interesting any more. In
the past, his scar hurting had warned that Voldemort was getting stronger again,
but now that Voldemort was back they would probably remind him that its regular
irritation was only to be expected: nothing to worry about: old news:
The injustice of it all welled up inside him so that he wanted to yell with
fury. If it hadn't been for him, nobody would even have known Voldemort was
back! And his reward was to be stuck in Little Whinging for four solid weeks,
completely cut off from the magical world, reduced to squatting among dying
begonias so that he could hear about water-skiing budgerigars! How could Dumbledore
have forgotten him so easily? Why had Ron and Hermione got together without
inviting him along, too? How much longer was he supposed to endure Sirius telling
him to sit tight and be a good boy; or resist the temptation to write to the
stupid Daily Prophet and point out that Voldemort had returned? These furious
thoughts whirled around in Harry's head, and his insides writhed with anger
as a sultry, velvety night fell around him, the air full of the smell of warm,
dry grass, and the only sound that of the low grumble of traffic on the road
beyond the park railings.
He did not know how long he had sat on the swing before the sound of voices
interrupted his musings and he looked up. The street lamps from the surrounding
roads were casting a misty glow strong enough to silhouette a group of people
making their way across the park. One of them was singing a loud, crude song.
The others were laughing. A soft ticking noise came from several expensive racing
bikes that they were wheeling along.
Harry knew who those people were. The figure in front was unmistakeably his
cousin, Dudley Dursley, wending his way home, accompanied by his faithful gang.
Dudley was as vast as ever, but a year's hard dieting and the discovery of
a new talent had wrought quite a change in his physique. As Uncle Vernon delightedly
told anyone who would listen, Dudley had recently become the Junior Heavyweight
Inter-School Boxing Champion of the Southeast. The noble sport', as Uncle Vernon
called it, had made Dudley even more formidable than he had seemed to Harry
in their primary school days when he had served as Dudley's first punchball.
Harry was not remotely afraid of his cousin any more but he still didn't think
that Dudley learning to punch harder and more accurately was cause for celebration.
Neighbourhood children all around were terrified of him - even more terrified
than they were of 'that Potter boy' who, they had been warned, was a hardened
hooligan and attended St Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys.
Harry watched the dark figures crossing the grass and wondered who they had
been beating up tonight. Look round, Harry found himself thinking as he watched
them. Come on: look round: I'm sitting here all alone: come and have a go:
If Dudley's friends saw him sitting here, they would be sure to make a beeline
for him, and what would Dudley do then? He wouldn't want to lose face in front
of the gang, but he'd be terrified of provoking Harry: it would be really fun
to watch Dudley's dilemma, to taunt him, watch him, with him powerless to respond:
and if any of the others tried hitting Harry, he was ready - he had his wand.
Let them try: he'd love to vent some of his frustration on the boys who had
once made his life hell.
But they didn't turn around, they didn't see him, they were almost at the
railings. Harry mastered the impulse to call after them: seeking a fight was
not a smart move: he must not use magic: he would be risking expulsion again.
The voices of Dudley's gang died away; they were out of sight, heading along
There you go, Sirius, Harry thought dully. Nothing rash. Kept my nose clean.
Exactly the opposite of what you'd have done.
He got to his feet and stretched. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon seemed to
feel that whenever Dudley turned up was the right time to be home, and any time
after that was much too late. Uncle Vernon had threatened to lock Harry in the
shed if he came home after Dudley ever again, so, stifling a yawn, and still
scowling, Harry set off towards the park gate.
Magnolia Road, like Privet Drive, was full of large, square houses with perfectly
manicured lawns, all owned by large, square owners who drove very clean cars
similar to Uncle Vernon's. Harry preferred Little Whinging by night, when the
curtained windows made patches of jewel-bright colour in the darkness and he
ran no danger of hearing disapproving mutters about his 'delinquent' appearance
when he passed the householders. He walked quickly, so that halfway along Magnolia
Road Dudley's gang came into view again; they were saying their farewells at
the entrance to Magnolia Crescent. Harry stepped into the shadow of a large
lilac tree and waited.
': squealed like a pig, didn't he?' Malcolm was saying, to guffaws from the
'Nice right hook, Big D,' said Piers.
'Same time tomorrow?' said Dudley.
'Round at my place, my parents will be out,' said Gordon.
'See you then,' said Dudley.
'See ya, Big D!'
Harry waited for the rest of the gang to move on before setting off again.
When their voices had faded once more he headed around the corner into Magnolia
Crescent and by walking very quickly he soon came within hailing distance of
Dudley, who was strolling along at his ease, humming tunelessly.
'Hey, Big D!'
'Oh,' he grunted. 'It's you.'
'How long have you been "Big D" then?' said Harry.
'Shut it,' snarled Dudley, turning away.
'Cool name,' said Harry, grinning and falling into step beside his cousin.
'But you'll always be "Ickle Diddykins" to me.'
'I said, SHUT IT!' said Dudley, whose ham-like hands had curled into fists.
'Don't the boys know that's what your mum calls you?'
'Shut your face.'
'You don't tell her to shut her face. What about "Popkin" and "Dinky Diddydums",
can I use them then?'
Dudley said nothing. The effort of keeping himself from hitting Harry seemed
to demand all his self-control.
'So who've you been beating up tonight?' Harry asked, his grin fading. 'Another
ten-year-old? I know you did Mark Evans two nights ago -
'He was asking for it,' snarled Dudley.
'He cheeked me.'
'Yeah? Did he say you look like a pig that's been taught to walk on its hind
legs? 'Cause that's not cheek, Dud, that's true.'
A muscle was twitching in Dudley's jaw. It gave Harry enormous satisfaction
to know how furious he was making Dudley; he felt as though he was siphoning
off his own frustration into his cousin, the only outlet he had.
They turned right down the narrow alleyway where Harry had first seen Sirius
and which formed a short cut between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. It
was empty and much darker than the streets it linked because there were no street
lamps. Their footsteps were muffled between garage walls on one side and a high
fence on the other.
Think you're a big man carrying that thing, don't you?' Dudley said after
a few seconds.
'That - that thing you are hiding.'
Harry grinned again.
'Not as stupid as you look, are you, Dud? But I's'pose, if you were, you
wouldn't be able to walk and talk at the same time.'
Harry pulled out his wand. He saw Dudley look sideways at it.
'You're not allowed,' Dudley said at once. 'I know you're not. You'd get
expelled from that freak school you go to.'
'How d'you know they haven't changed the rules, Big D?'
They haven't,' said Dudley, though he didn't sound completely convinced.
Harry laughed softly.
'You haven't got the guts to take me on without that thing, have you?' Dudley
'Whereas you just need four mates behind you before you can beat up a ten
year old. You know that boxing title you keep banging on about? How old was
your opponent? Seven? Eight?'
'He was sixteen, for your information,' snarled Dudley, 'and he was out cold
for twenty minutes after I'd finished with him and he was twice as heavy as
you. You just wait till I tell Dad you had that thing out -
'Running to Daddy now, are you? Is his ickle boxing champ frightened of nasty
'Not this brave at night, are you?' sneered Dudley.
This is night, Diddykins. That's what we call it when it goes all dark like
'I mean when you're in bed!' Dudley snarled.
He had stopped walking. Harry stopped too, staring at his cousin.
From the little he could see of Dudley's large face, he was wearing a strangely
'What d'you mean, I'm not brave when I'm in bed?' said Harry, completely
nonplussed. 'What am I supposed to be frightened of, pillows or something?'
'I heard you last night,' said Dudley breathlessly. Talking in your sleep.
'What d'you mean?' Harry said again, but there was a cold, plunging sensation
in his stomach. He had revisited the graveyard last night in his dreams.
Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter, then adopted a high-pitched whimpering
'"Don't kill Cedric! Don't kill Cedric!" Who's Cedric - your boyfriend?'
'I - you're lying,' said Harry automatically. But his mouth had gone dry.
He knew Dudley wasn't lying - how else would he know about Cedric?
'"Dad! Help me, Dad! He's going to kill me, Dad! Boo hoo!"'
'Shut up,' said Harry quietly. 'Shut up, Dudley, I'm warning you!'
''Come and help me, Dad! Mum, come and help me! He's killed Cedric! Dad,
help me! He's going to -" Don't you point that thing at me!'
Dudley backed into the alley wall. Harry was pointing the wand directly at
Dudley's heart. Harry could feel fourteen years' hatred of Dudley pounding in
his veins - what wouldn't he give to strike now, to jinx Dudley so thoroughly
he'd have to crawl home like an insect, struck dumb, sprouting feelers:
'Don't ever talk about that again,' Harry snarled. 'D'you understand me?'
'Point that thing somewhere else!'
'I said, do you understand me?'
'Point it somewhere else!'
'DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?'
'GET THAT THING AWAY FROM -'
Dudley gave an odd, shuddering gasp, as though he had been doused in icy
Something had happened to the night. The star-strewn indigo sky was suddenly
pitch black and lightless - the stars, the moon, the misty streetlamps at either
end of the alley had vanished. The distant rumble of cars and the whisper of
trees had gone. The balmy evening was suddenly piercingly, bitingly cold. They
were surrounded by total, impenetrable, silent darkness, as though some giant
hand had dropped a thick, icy mantle over the entire alleyway, blinding them.