For a split second Harry thought he had done magic without meaning to, despite
the fact that he'd been resisting as hard as he could - then his reason caught
up with his senses - he didn't have the power to turn off the stars. He turned
his head this way and that, trying to see something, but the darkness pressed
on his eyes like a weightless veil.
Dudley's terrified voice broke in Harry's ear.
'W-what are you d-doing? St-stop it!'
'I'm not doing anything! Shut up and don't move!'
'I c-can't see! I've g-gone blind! I -'
'I said shut up!'
Harry stood stock still, turning his sightless eyes left and right. The cold
was so intense he was shivering all over; goose bumps had erupted up his arms
and the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up - he opened his eyes
to their fullest extent, staring blankly around, unseeing.
It was impossible: they couldn't be here: not in Little Whinging: he strained
his ears: he would hear them before he saw them:
'I'll't-tell Dad!' Dudley whimpered. 'W-where are you? What are you d-do-?'
'Will you shut up?' Harry hissed, I'm trying to lis-'
But he fell silent. He had heard just the thing he had been dreading.
There was something in the alleyway apart from themselves, something that
was drawing long, hoarse, rattling breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread
as he stood trembling in the freezing air.
'C-cut it out! Stop doing it! I'll h-hit you, I swear I will!'
A fist made contact with the side of Harry's head, lifting him off his feet.
Small white lights popped in front of his eyes. For the second time in an hour
Harry felt as though his head had been cleaved in two; next moment, he had landed
hard on the ground and his wand had flown out of his hand.
'You moron, Dudley!' Harry yelled, his eyes watering with pain as he scrambled
to his hands and knees, feeling around frantically in the blackness. He heard
Dudley blundering away, hitting the alley fence, stumbling.
'DUDLEY, COME BACK! YOU'RE RUNNING RIGHT AT IT!'
There was a horrible squealing yell and Dudley's footsteps stopped. At the
same moment, Harry felt a creeping chill behind him that could mean only one
thing. There was more than one.
'DUDLEY, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! WHATEVER YOU DO, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Wand!'
Harry muttered frantically, his hands flying over the ground like spiders. 'Where's
- wand -come on - lumos!'
He said the spell automatically, desperate for light to help him in his search
- and to his disbelieving relief, light flared inches from his right hand -
the wand tip had ignited. Harry snatched it up, scrambled to his feet and turned
His stomach turned over.
A towering, hooded figure was gliding smoothly towards him, hovering over
the ground, no feet or face visible beneath its robes, sucking on the night
as it came.
Stumbling backwards, Harry raised his wand.
A silvery wisp of vapour shot from the tip of the wand and the Dementor slowed,
but the spell hadn't worked properly; tripping over his own feet, Harry retreated
further as the Dementor bore down upon him, panic fogging his brain - concentrate
A pair of grey, slimy, scabbed hands slid from inside the Dementor's robes,
reaching for him. A rushing noise filled Harry's ears.
His voice sounded dim and distant. Another wisp of silver smoke, feebler
than the last, drifted from the wand - he couldn't do it any more, he couldn't
work the spell.
There was laughter inside his own head, shrill, high-pitched laughter: he
could smell the Dementor's putrid, death-cold breath filling his own lungs,
drowning him - think: something happy:
But there was no happiness in him: the Dementor's icy fingers were closing
on his throat - the high-pitched laughter was growing louder and louder, and
a voice spoke inside his head: 'Bow to death, Harry: it might even be painless:
I would not know: I have never died:"
He was never going to see Ron and Hermione again -
And their faces burst clearly into his mind as he fought for breath.
An enormous silver stag erupted from the tip of Harry's wand; its antlers
caught the Dementor in the place where the heart should have been; it was thrown
backwards, weightless as darkness, and as the stag charged, the Dementor swooped
away, bat-like and defeated.
'THIS WAY!' Harry shouted at the stag. Wheeling around, he sprinted down
the alleyway, holding the lit wand aloft. 'DUDLEY? DUDLEY!'
He had run barely a dozen steps when he reached them: Dudley was curled up
on the ground, his arms clamped over his face. A second Dementor was crouching
low over him, gripping his wrists in its slimy hands, prising them slowly almost
lovingly apart, lowering its hooded head towards Dudley's face as though about
to kiss him.
'GET IT!' Harry bellowed, and with a rushing, roaring sound, the silver stag
he had conjured came galloping past him. The Dementor's eyeless face was barely
an inch from Dudley's when the silver antlers caught it; the thing was thrown
up into the air and, like its fellow, it soared away and was absorbed into the
darkness; the stag cantered to the end of the alleyway and dissolved into silver
Moon, stars and street lamps burst back into life. A warm breeze swept the
alleyway. Trees rustled in neighbouring gardens and the mundane rumble of cars
in Magnolia Crescent filled the air again.
Harry stood quite still, all his senses vibrating, taking in the abrupt return
to normality. After a moment, he became aware that his T-shirt was sticking
to him; he was drenched in sweat.
He could not believe what had just happened. Dementors here, in Little Whinging.
Dudley lay curled up on the ground, whimpering and shaking. Harry bent down
to see whether he was in a fit state to stand up, but then he heard loud, running
footsteps behind him. Instinctively raising his wand again, he span on his heel
to face the newcomer.
Mrs Figg, their batty old neighbour, came panting into sight. Her grizzled
grey hair was escaping from its hairnet, a clanking string shopping bag was
swinging from her wrist and her feet were halfway out of her tartan carpet slippers.
Harry made to stow his wand hurriedly out of sight, but -
'Don't put it away idiot boy!' she shrieked. 'What if there are more of them
around? Oh, I'm going to kill Mundungus Fletcher!'
- CHAPTER TWO
A Peck of Owls
'What?' said Harry blankly.
'He left!' said Mrs Figg, wringing her hands. 'Left to see someone about
a batch of cauldrons that fell off the back of a broom! I told him I'd flay
him alive if he went, and now look! Dementors! It's just lucky I put Mr Tibbies
on the case! But we haven't got time to stand around! Hurry, now, we've got
to get you back! Oh, the trouble this is going to cause! I will kill him!'
'But -' The revelation that his batty old cat-obsessed neighbour knew what
Dementors were was almost as big a shock to Harry as meeting two of them down
the alleyway. 'You're - you're a witch?'
'I'm a Squib, as Mundungus knows full well, so how on earth was I supposed
to help you fight off Dementors? He left you completely without cover when I'd
warned him -'
This Mundungus has been following me? Hang on - it was him! He Disapparated
from the front of my house!'
'Yes, yes, yes, but luckily I'd stationed Mr Tibbies under a car just in
case, and Mr Tibbies came and warned me, but by the time I got to your house
you'd gone - and now - oh, what's Dumbledore going to say? You!' she shrieked
at Dudley, still supine on the alley floor. 'Get your fat bottom off the ground,
'You know Dumbledore?' said Harry, staring at her.
'Of course I know Dumbledore, who doesn't know Dumbledore? But come on -
I'll be no help if they come back, I've never so much as Transfigured a teabag.'
She stooped down, seized one of Dudley's massive arms in her wizened hands
'Get up, you useless lump, get up!'
But Dudley either could not or would not move. He remained on the ground,
trembling and ashen-faced, his mouth shut very tight.
'I'll do it.' Harry took hold of Dudley's arm and heaved. With an enormous
effort he managed to hoist him to his feet. Dudley seemed to be on the point
of fainting. His small eyes were rolling in their sockets and sweat was beading
his face; the moment Harry let go of him he swayed dangerously.
'Hurry up!' said Mrs Figg hysterically.
Harry pulled one of Dudley's massive arms around his own shoulders and dragged
him towards the road, sagging slightly under the weight. Mrs Figg tottered along
in front of them, peering anxiously around the corner.
'Keep your wand out,' she told Harry, as they entered Wisteria Walk. 'Never
mind the Statute of Secrecy now, there's going to be hell to pay anyway, we
might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg. Talk about the Reasonable Restriction
of Underage Sorcery: this was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of - What's
that at the end of the street? Oh, it's just Mr Prentice: don't put your wand
away, boy, don't I keep telling you I'm no use?'
It was not easy to hold a wand steady and haul Dudley along at the same time.
Harry gave his cousin an impatient dig in the ribs, but Dudley seemed to have
lost all desire for independent movement. He was slumped on Harry's shoulder,
his large feet dragging along the ground.
'Why didn't you tell me you're a Squib, Mrs Figg?' asked Harry, panting with
the effort to keep walking. 'All those times I came round your house - why didn't
you say anything?'
'Dumbledore's orders. I was to keep an eye on you but not say anything, you
were too young. I'm sorry I gave you such a miserable time, Harry, but the Dursleys
would never have let you come if they'd thought you enjoyed it. It wasn't easy,
you know: but oh my word,' she said tragically, wringing her hands once more,
'when Dumbledore hears about this - how could Mundungus have left, he was supposed
to be on duty until midnight - where is he? How am I going to tell Dumbledore
what's happened? I can't Apparate.'
'I've got an owl, you can borrow her.' Harry groaned, wondering whether his
spine was going to snap under Dudleys weight.
'Harry, you don't understand! Dumbledore will need to act as quickly as possible,
the Ministry have their own ways of detecting underage magic, they'll know already,
you mark my words.'
'But I was getting rid of Dementors, I had to use magic - they're going to
be more worried about what Dementors were doing floating around Wisteria Walk,
'Oh, my dear, I wish it were so, but I'm afraid - MUNDUNGUS FLETCHER, I AM
GOING TO KILL YOU!'
There was a loud crack and a strong smell of drink mingled with stale tobacco
filled the air as a squat, unshaven man in a tattered overcoat materialised
right in front of them. He had short, bandy legs, long straggly ginger hair
and bloodshot, baggy eyes that gave him the doleful look of a basset hound.
He was also clutching a silvery bundle that Harry recognised at once as an Invisibility
'S'up, Figgy?' he said, staring from Mrs Figg to Harry and Dudley. 'What
'appened to staying undercover?'
I'll give you undercover]' cried Mrs Figg. 'Dementors, you useless, skiving
'Dementors?' repeated Mundungus, aghast. 'Dementors, 'ere?'
'Yes, here, you worthless pile of bat droppings, here!' shrieked Mrs Figg.
'Dementors attacking the boy on your watch!'
'Blimey,' said Mundungus weakly, looking from Mrs Figg to Harry, and back
again. 'Blimey, I -'
'And you off buying stolen cauldrons! Didn't I tell you not to go? Didn't
'I - well, I -' Mundungus looked deeply uncomfortable. 'It - it was a very
good business opportunity, see -'
Mrs Figg raised the arm from which her string bag dangled and whacked Mundungus
around the face and neck with it; judging by the clanking noise it made it was
full of cat food.
'Ouch - gerroff - gerroff, you mad old bat! Someone's gotta tell Dumbledore!'
'Yes - they - have!' yelled Mrs Figg, swinging the bag of cat food at every
bit of Mundungus she could reach. 'And - it - had
- better - be - you - and - you - can - tell - him - why - you -weren't -
there - to - help!'
'Keep your 'airnet on!' said Mundungus, his arms over his head, cowering.
'I'm going, I'm going!'
And with another loud crack, he vanished.
'I hope Dumbledore murders him!' said Mrs Figg furiously. 'Now come on, Harry,
what are you waiting for?'
Harry decided not to waste his remaining breath on pointing out that he could
barely walk under Dudley's bulk. He gave the semi-conscious Dudley a heave and
'I'll take you to the door,' said Mrs Figg, as they turned into Privet Drive.
'Just in case there are more of them around: oh my word, what a catastrophe:
and you had to fight them off yourself: and Dumbledore said we were to keep
you from doing magic at all costs: well, it's no good crying over spilt potion,
I suppose: but the cat's among the pixies now.'
'So,' Harry panted, 'Dumbledore's: been having: me followed?'
'Of course he has,' said Mrs Figg impatiently. 'Did you expect him to let
you wander around on your own after what happened in June? Good Lord, boy, they
told me you were intelligent: right: get inside and stay there,' she said, as
they reached number four. 'I expect someone will be in touch with you soon enough.'