Uncle Vernon opened his mouth, closed it again, opened it once more, shut
it, then, apparently struggling to remember how to talk, opened it for a third
time and croaked, 'So - so - they - er - they - er - they actually exist, do
they - er - Dementy-whatsits?'
Aunt Petunia nodded.
Uncle Vernon looked from Aunt Petunia to Dudley to Harry as if hoping somebody
was going to shout 'April Fool!' When nobody did, he opened his mouth yet again,
but was spared the struggle to find more words by the arrival of the third owl
of the evening. It zoomed through the still-open window like a feathery cannon-ball
and landed with a clatter on the kitchen table, causing all three of the Dursleys
to jump with fright. Harry tore a second official-looking envelope from the
owls beak and ripped it open as the owl swooped back out into the night.
'Enough - effing - owls,' muttered Uncle Vernon distractedly, stomping over
to the window and slamming it shut again.
Dear Mr Potter,
Further to our letter of approximately twenty-two minutes ago, the
Ministry of Magic has revised its decision to destroy your wand forthwith.
You may retain your wand until your disciplinary hearing on the twelfth of August,
at which time an official decision will be taken.
Following discussions with the Headmaster of Hogwarts School o/ Witchcraft
and Wizardry, the Ministry has agreed that the question of your expulsion will
also be decided at that time. You should therefore consider yourself suspended
from school pending further enquiries.
With best wishes,
Improper Use of Magic Office
Ministry of Magic
Harry read this letter through three times in quick succession. The miserable
knot in his chest loosened slightly with the relief of Knowing he was not yet
definitely expelled, though his fears were by no means banished. Everything
seemed to hang on this hearing on the twelfth of August.
'Well?' said Uncle Vernon, recalling Harry to his surroundings. 'What now?
Have they sentenced you to anything? Do your lot have the death penalty?' he
added as a hopeful afterthought.
'I've got to go to a hearing,' said Harry.
'And they'll sentence you there?'
'I suppose so.'
'I won't give up hope, then,' said Uncle Vernon nastily.
'Well, if that's all,' said Harry, getting to his feet. He was desperate
to be alone, to think, perhaps to send a letter to Ron, Hermione or Sirius.
'NO, IT RUDDY WELL IS NOT ALL!' bellowed Uncle Vernon. 'SIT BACK DOWN!'
'What now?' said Harry impatiently.
'DUDLEY!' roared Uncle Vernon. 'I want to know exactly what happened to my
'FINE!' yelled Harry, and in his temper, red and gold sparks shot out of
the end of his wand, still clutched in his hand. All three Dursleys flinched,
'Dudley and I were in the alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria
Walk,' said Harry, speaking fast, fighting to control his temper. 'Dudley thought
he'd be smart with me, I pulled out my wand but didn't use it. Then two Dementors
turned up -'
'But what ARE Dementoids?' asked Uncle Vernon furiously. 'What do they DO?'
'I told you - they suck all the happiness out of you,' said Harry, 'and if
they get the chance, they kiss you -
'Kiss you?' said Uncle Vernon, his eyes popping slightly. 'Kiss you?'
'It's what they call it when they suck the soul out of your mouth.'
Aunt Petunia uttered a soft scream.
'His soul? They didn't take - he's still got his -'
She seized Dudley by the shoulders and shook him, as though testing to see
whether she could hear his soul rattling around inside him.
'Of course they didn't get his soul, you'd know if they had,' said Harry,
'Fought 'em off, did you, son?' said Uncle Vernon loudly, with the appearance
of a man struggling to bring the conversation back on to a plane he understood.
'Gave 'em the old one-two, did you?'
'You can't give a Dementor the old one-two,' said Harry through clenched
'Why's he all right, then?' blustered Uncle Vernon. 'Why isn't he all empty,
'Because I used the Patronus -'
WHOOSH. With a clattering, a whirring of wings and a soft fall of dust, a
fourth owl came shooting out of the kitchen fireplace.
'FOR GOD'S SAKE!' roared Uncle Vernon, pulling great clumps of hair out of
his moustache, something he hadn't been driven to do in a long time. 'I WILL
NOT HAVE OWLS HERE, I WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS, I TELL YOU!'
But Harry was already pulling a roll of parchment from the owl's leg. He
was so convinced that this letter had to be from Dumbledore, explaining everything
- the Dementors, Mrs Figg, what the Ministry was up to, how he, Dumbledore,
intended to sort everything out - that for the first time in his life he was
disappointed to see Sirius's handwriting. Ignoring Uncle Vernon's ongoing rant
about owls, and narrowing his eyes against a second cloud of dust as the most
recent owl look off back up the chimney, Harry read Sirius's message.
Arthur has just told us what's happened. Don't leave the house again, whatever
Harry found this such an inadequate response to everything that had happened
tonight that he turned the piece of parchment over, looking for the rest of
the letter, but there was nothing else.
And now his temper was rising again. Wasn't anybody going to say 'well done'
for fighting off two Dementors single-handed? Both Mr Weasley and Sirius were
acting as though he'd misbehaved, and were saving their tellings-off until they
could ascertain how much damage had been done.
': a peck, I mean, pack of owls shooting in and out of my house. I won't
have it, boy, I won't -'
'I can't stop the owls coming,' Harry snapped, crushing Sirius's letter in
I want the truth about what happened tonight!' barked Uncle Vernon. 'If it
was Demenders who hurt Dudley, how come you've been expelled? You did you-know-what,
you've admitted it!'
Harry took a deep, steadying breath. His head was beginning to ache again.
He wanted more than anything to get out of the kitchen, and away from the Dursleys.
'I did the Patronus Charm to get rid of the Dementors,' he said, forcing
himself to remain calm. 'It's the only thing that works against them.'
'But what were Dementoids doing in Little Whinging?' said Uncle Vernon in
an outraged tone.
'Couldn't tell you,' said Harry wearily. 'No idea.'
His head was pounding in the glare of the strip-lighting now. His anger was
ebbing away. He felt drained, exhausted. The Dursleys were all staring at him.
'It's you,' said Uncle Vernon forcefully. 'It's got something to do with
you, boy, I know it. Why else would they turn up here? Why else would they be
down that alleyway? You've got to be the only - the only -' Evidently, he couldn't
bring himself to say the word 'wizard'. The only you-know-what for miles.'
'I don't know why they were here.'
But at Uncle Vernon's words, Harry's exhausted brain had ground back into
action. Why had the Dementors come to Little Whinging? How could it be coincidence
that they had arrived in the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent? Had
the Ministry of Magic lost control of the Dementors? Had they deserted Azkaban
and joined Voldemort, as Dumbledore had predicted they would?
These Demembers guard some weirdo prison?' asked Uncle Vernon, lumbering
along in the wake of Harry's train of thought.
'Yes,' said Harry.
If only his head would stop hurting, if only he could just leave the kitchen
and get to his dark bedroom and think:
'Oho! They were coming to arrest you!' said Uncle Vernon, with the triumphant
air of a man reaching an unassailable conclusion. That's it, isn't it, boy?
You're on the run from the law!'
'Of course I'm not,' said Harry, shaking his head as though to scare off
a fly, his mind racing now.
Then why -?'
'He must have sent them,' said Harry quietly, more to himself than to Uncle
'What's that? Who must have sent them?'
'Lord Voldemort,' said Harry.
He registered dimly how strange it was that the Dursleys, who flinched, winced
and squawked if they heard words like 'wizard', 'magic' or 'wand', could hear
the name of the most evil wizard of all time without the slightest tremor.
'Lord - hang on,' said Uncle Vernon, his face screwed up, a look of dawning
comprehension coming into his piggy eyes. 'I've heard that name: that was the
one who -'
'Murdered my parents, yes,' Harry said dully.
'But he's gone,' said Uncle Vernon impatiently, without the slightest sign
that the murder of Harry's parents might be a painful topic. That giant bloke
said so. He's gone.'
'He's back,' said Harry heavily.
It felt very strange to be standing here in Aunt Petunia's surgically clean
kitchen, beside the top-of-the-range fridge and the wide-screen television,
talking calmly of Lord Voldemort to Uncle Vernon. The arrival of the Dementors
in Little Whinging seemed to have breached the great, invisible wall that divided
the relentlessly non-magical world of Privet Drive and the world beyond, Harry's
two lives had somehow become fused and everything had been turned upside-down;
the Dursleys were asking for details about the magical world, and Mrs Figg knew
Albus Dumbledore; Dementors were soaring around Little Whinging, and he might
never return to Hogwarts. Harry's head throbbed more painfully.
'Back?' whispered Aunt Petunia.
She was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of
a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that
Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister. He could not have said why this hit him
so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only
person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might
mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her
large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister's) were not narrowed in dislike or anger,
they were wide and fearful. The furious pretence that Aunt Petunia had maintained
all Harry's life - that there was no magic and no world other than the world
she inhabited with Uncle Vernon - seemed to have fallen away.
'Yes,' Harry said, talking directly to Aunt Petunia now. 'He came back a
month ago. I saw him.'
Her hands found Dudley's massive leather-clad shoulders and clutched them.
'Hang on,' said Uncle Vernon, looking from his wife to Harry and back again,
apparently dazed and confused by the unprece-dented understanding that seemed
to have sprung up between them. 'Hang on. This Lord Voldything's back, you say.'
The one who murdered your parents.'
'And now he's sending Dismembers after you?'
'Looks like it,' said Harry.
'I see,' said Uncle Vernon, looking from his white-faced wife to Harry and
hitching up his trousers. He seemed to be swelling, his great purple face stretching
before Harry's eyes. 'Well, that settles it,' he said, his shirt front straining
as he inflated himself, 'you can get out of this house, boy!'
'What?' said Harry.
'You heard me - OUT!' Uncle Vernon bellowed, and even Aunt Petunia and Dudley
jumped. 'OUT! OUT! I should've done this years ago! Owls treating the place
like a rest home, puddings exploding, half the lounge destroyed, Dudley's tail,
Marge bobbing around on the ceiling and that flying Ford Anglia - OUT! OUT!
You've had it! You're history! You're not staying here if some loony's after
you, you're not endangering my wife and son, you're not bringing trouble down
on us. If you're going the same way as your useless parents, I've had it! OUT!'
Harry stood rooted to the spot. The letters from the Ministry, Mr Weasley
and Sirius were all crushed in his left hand. Don't leave the house again, whatever
you do. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE'S HOUSE.
'You heard me!' said Uncle Vernon, bending forwards now, his massive purple
face coming so close to Harry's, he actually felt flecks of spit hit his face.
'Get going! You were all keen to leave half an hour ago! I'm right behind you!
Get out and never darken our doorstep again! Why we ever kept you in the first
place, I don't know, Marge was right, it should have been the orphanage. We
were too damn soft for our own good, thought we could squash it out of you,
thought we could turn you normal, but you've been rotten from the beginning
and I've had enough - owls!'
The fifth owl zoomed down the chimney so fast it actually hit the floor before
zooming into the air again with a loud screech. Harry raised his hand to seize
the letter, which was in a scarlet envelope, but it soared straight over his
head, flying directly at Aunt Petunia, who let out a scream and ducked, her
arms over her face. The owl dropped the red envelope on her head, turned, and
flew straight back up the chimney.
Harry darted forwards to pick up the letter, but Aunt Petunia beat him to
'You can open it if you like,' said Harry, 'but I'll hear what it says anyway.
That's a Howler.'
'Let go of it, Petunia!' roared Uncle Vernon. 'Don't touch it, it could be