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J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 6)


'It's addressed to me,' said Aunt Petunia in a shaking voice. 'It's addressed to me, Vernon, look! Mrs Petunia Dursley, The Kitchen, Number Four, Privet Drive -

She caught her breath, horrified. The red envelope had begun to smoke.

'Open it!' Harry urged her. 'Get it over with! It'll happen anyway.'

'No.'

Aunt Petunia's hand was trembling. She looked wildly around the kitchen as though looking for an escape route, but too late -the envelope burst into flames. Aunt Petunia screamed and dropped it.

An awful voice filled the kitchen, echoing in the confined space, issuing from the burning letter on the table.

'Remember my last, Petunia.'

Aunt Petunia looked as though she might faint. She sank into the chair beside Dudley, her face in her hands. The remains of the envelope smouldered into ash in the silence.

'What is this?' Uncle Vernon said hoarsely. 'What - I don't -Petunia?'

Aunt Petunia said nothing. Dudley was staring stupidly at his mother, his mouth hanging open. The silence spiralled horribly. Harry was watching his aunt, utterly bewildered, his head throbbing fit to burst.

'Petunia, dear?' said Uncle Vernon timidly. 'P-Petunia?'

She raised her head. She was still trembling. She swallowed.

'The boy - the boy will have to stay, Vernon,' she said weakly.

'W-what?'

'He stays,' she said. She was not looking at Harry. She got to her feet again.

'He: but Petunia:'

'If we throw him out, the neighbours will talk,' she said. She was rapidly regaining her usual brisk, snappish manner, though she was still very pale. They'll ask awkward questions, they'll want to know where he's gone. We'll have to keep him.'

Uncle Vernon was deflating like an old tyre.

'But Petunia, dear -

Aunt Petunia ignored him. She turned to Harry. 'You're to stay in your room,' she said. 'You're not to leave the house. Now get to bed.' Harry didn't move. 'Who was that Howler from?'

'Don't ask questions,' Aunt Petunia snapped. 'Are you in touch with wizards?'

'I told you to get to bed!'

'What did it mean? Remember the last what?'

'Go to bed!'

'How come -?'

'YOU HEARD YOUR AUNT, NOW GO UP TO BED!'

- CHAPTER THREE -

The Advance Guard

I've just been attacked by Dementors and I might be expelled from Hogwarts. I want to know what's going on and when I'm going to get out of here.

Harry copied these words on to three separate pieces of parchment the moment he reached the desk in his dark bedroom. He addressed the first to Sirius, the second to Ron and the third to Hermione. His owl, Hedwig, was off hunting; her cage stood empty on the desk. Harry paced the bedroom waiting for her to come back, his head pounding, his brain too busy for sleep even though his eyes stung and itched with tiredness. His back ached from hauling Dudley home, and the two lumps on his head where the window and Dudley had hit him were throbbing painfully.

Up and down he paced, consumed with anger and frustration, grinding his teeth and clenching his fists, casting angry looks out at the empty, star-strewn sky every time he passed the window. Dementors sent to get him, Mrs Figg and Mundungus Fletcher tailing him in secret, then suspension fromHogwarts and a hearing at the Ministry of Magic - and still no one was telling him what was going on.

And what, what, had that Howler been about? Whose voice had echoed so horribly, so menacingly, through the kitchen?

Why was he still trapped here without information? Why was everyone treating him like some naughty kid? Don't do any more magic, stay in the house:

He kicked his school trunk as he passed it, but far from relieving his anger he felt worse, as he now had a sharp pain in his toe to deal with in addition to the pain in the rest of his body.

Just as he limped past the window, Hedwig soared through it with a soft rustle of wings like a small ghost.

'About time!' Harry snarled, as she landed lightly on top of her cage. 'You can put that down, I've got work for you!'

Hedwig's large, round, amber eyes gazed at him reproachfully over the dead frog clamped in her beak.

'Come here,' said Harry, picking up the three small rolls of parchment and a leather thong and tying the scrolls to her scaly leg. Take these straight to Sirius, Ron and Hermione and don't come back here without good long replies. Keep pecking them till they've written decent-length answers if you've got to. Understand?'

Hedwig gave a muffled hooting noise, her beak still full of frog.

'Get going, then,' said Harry.

She took off immediately. The moment she'd gone, Harry threw himself down on his bed without undressing and stared at the dark ceiling. In addition to every other miserable feeling, he now felt guilty that he'd been irritable with Hedwig; she was the only friend he had at number four, Privet Drive. But he'd make it up to her when she came back with the answers from Sirius, Ron and Hermione.

They were bound to write back quickly; they couldn't possibly ignore a Dementor attack. He'd probably wake up tomorrow to three fat letters full of sympathy and plans for his immediate removal to The Burrow. And with that comforting idea, sleep rolled over him, stifling all further thought.

* * *

But Hedwig didn't return next morning. Harry spent the day in his bedroom, leaving it only to go to the bathroom. Three times that day Aunt Petunia shoved food into his room through the cat-flap Uncle Vernon had installed three summers ago. Every time Harry heard her approaching he tried to question her about the Howler, but he might as well have interrogated the doorknob for all the answers he got. Otherwise, the Dursleys kept well clear of his bedroom. Harry couldn't see the point of forcing his company on them; another row would achieve nothing except perhaps make him so angry he'd perform more illegal magic.

So it went on for three whole days. Harry was alternately filled with restless energy that made him unable to settle to anything, during which time he paced his bedroom, furious at the whole lot of them for leaving him to stew in this mess; and with a lethargy so complete that he could lie on his bed for an hour at a time, staring dazedly into space, aching with dread at the thought of the Ministry hearing.

What if they ruled against him? What if he was expelled and his wand was snapped in half? What would he do, where would he go? He could not return to living full-time with the Dursleys, not now he knew the other world, the one to which he really belonged. Might he be able to move into Siriuss house, as Sirius had suggested a year ago, before he had been forced to flee from the Ministry? Would Harry be allowed to live there alone, given that he was still underage? Or would the matter of where he went next be decided for him? Had his breach of the International Statute of Secrecy been severe enough to land him in a cell in Azkaban? Whenever this thought occurred, Harry invariably slid off his bed and began pacing again.

On the fourth night after Hedwig's departure Harry was lying in one of his apathetic phases, staring at the ceiling, his exhausted mind quite blank, when his uncle entered his bedroom. Harry looked slowly around at him. Uncle Vernon was wearing his best suit and an expression of enormous smugness.

'We're going out,' he said.

'Sorry?'

'We - that is to say, your aunt, Dudley and I - are going out.'

'Fine,' said Harry dully, looking back at the ceiling.

'You are not to leave your bedroom while we are away.'

'OK.'

'You are not to touch the television, the stereo, or any of our possessions.'

'Right.'

'You are not to steal food from the fridge.'

'OK.'

'I am going to lock your door.'

'You do that.'

Uncle Vernon glared at Harry, clearly suspicious of this lack of argument, then stomped out of the room and closed the door behind him. Harry heard the key turn in the lock and Uncle Vernon's footsteps walking heavily down the stairs. A few minutes later he heard the slamming of car doors, the rumble of an engine, and the unmistakeable sound of the car sweeping out of the drive.

Harry had no particular feeling about the Dursleys leaving. It made no difference to him whether they were in the house or not. He could not even summon the energy to get up and turn on his bedroom light. The room grew steadily darker around him as he lay listening to the night sounds through the window he kept open all the time, waiting for the blessed moment when Hedwig returned. The empty house creaked around him. The pipes gurgled. Harry lay there in a kind of stupor, thinking of nothing, suspended in misery.

Then, quite distinctly, he heard a crash in the kitchen below. He sat bolt upright, listening intently. The Dursleys couldn't be back, it was much too soon, and in any case he hadn't heard their car.

There was silence for a few seconds, then voices. Burglars, he thought, sliding off the bed on to his feet - but a split second later it occurred to him that burglars would keep their voices down, and whoever was moving around in the kitchen was certainly not troubling to do so.

He snatched up his wand from the bedside table and stood facing his bedroom door, listening with all his might. Next moment, he jumped as the lock gave a loud click and his door swung open. Harry stood motionless, staring through the open doorway at the dark upstairs landing, straining his ears for further sounds, but none came. He hesitated for a moment, then moved swiftly and silently out of his room to the head of the stairs.

His heart shot upwards into his throat. There were people standing in the shadowy hall below, silhouetted against the streetlight glowing through the glass door; eight or nine of them, all, as far as he could see, looking up at him.

'Lower your wand, boy, before you take someone's eye out,' said a low, growling voice.

Harry's heart was thumping uncontrollably. He knew that voice, but he did not lower his wand.

'Professor Moody?' he said uncertainly.

'I don't know so much about "Professor",' growled the voice, 'never got round to much teaching, did I? Get down here, we want to see you properly.'

Harry lowered his wand slightly but did not relax his grip on it, nor did he move. He had very good reason to be suspicious. He had recently spent nine months in what he had thought was Mad-Eye Moody's company only to find out that it wasn't Moody at all, but an impostor; an impostor, moreover, who had tried to kill Harry before being unmasked. But before he could make a decision about what to do next, a second, slightly hoarse voice floated upstairs.

'It's all right, Harry. We've come to take you away.'

Harry's heart leapt. He knew that voice, too, though he hadn't heard it for over a year.

'P-Professor Lupin?' he said disbelievingly. 'Is that you?'

'Why are we all standing in the dark?' said a third voice, this one completely unfamiliar, a woman's. 'Lumos.'

A wand-tip flared, illuminating the hall with magical light. Harry blinked. The people below were crowded around the foot of the stairs, gazing up at him intently, some craning their heads for a better look.

Remus Lupin stood nearest to him. Though still quite young, Lupin looked tired and rather ill; he had more grey hairs than when Harry had last said goodbye to him and his robes were more patched and shabbier than ever. Nevertheless, he was smiling broadly at Harry, who tried to smile back despite his state of shock.

'Oooh, he looks just like I thought he would,' said the witch who was holding her lit wand aloft. She looked the youngest there; she had a pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling eyes, and short spiky hair that was a violent shade of violet. 'Wotcher, Harry!'

'Yeah, I see what you mean, Remus,' said a bald black wizard standing furthest back - he had a deep, slow voice and wore a single gold hoop in his ear - 'he looks exactly like James.'

'Except the eyes,' said a wheezy-voiced, silver-haired wizard at the back. 'Lily's eyes.'

Mad-Eye Moody, who had long grizzled grey hair and a large chunk missing from his nose, was squinting suspiciously at Harry through his mismatched eyes. One eye was small, dark and beady, the other large, round and electric blue - the magical eye that could see through walls, doors and the back of Moody's own head. 'Are you quite sure it's him, Lupin?' he growled. 'It'd be a nice lookout if we bring back some Death Eater impersonating him. We ought to ask him something only the real Potter would know. Unless anyone brought any Veritaserum?'

'Harry, what form does your Patronus take?' Lupin asked. 'A stag,' said Harry nervously. That's him, Mad-Eye,' said Lupin.

Very conscious of everybody still staring at him, Harry descended the stairs, stowing his wand in the back pocket of his jeans as he came.

'Don't put your wand there, boy!' roared Moody. 'What if it ignited? Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know!'

'Who d'you know who's lost a buttock?' the violet-haired woman asked Mad-Eye interestedly.

'Never you mind, you just keep your wand out of your back pocket!' growled Mad-Eye. 'Elementary wand-safety, nobody bothers about it any more.' He stumped off towards the kitchen. 'And I saw that,' he added irritably, as the woman rolled her eyes towards the ceiling.

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
Viewed 183000 times

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