'- swear not to tell me,' said Harry. 'Yeah, Hermione's already said. '
The warm glow that had flared inside him at the sight of his two best friends
was extinguished as something icy flooded the pit of his stomach. All of a sudden
- after yearning to see them for a solid month - he felt he would rather Ron
and Hermione left him alone.
There was a strained silence in which Harry stroked Hedwig automatically,
not looking at either of the others.
'He seemed to think it was best,' said Hermione rather breathlessly. 'Dumbledore,
'Right,' said Harry. He noticed that her hands, too, bore the marks of Hedwig's
beak and found that he was not at all sorry.
'I think he thought you were safest with the Muggles -' Ron began.
'Yeah?' said Harry, raising his eyebrows. 'Have either of you been attacked
by Dementors this summer?'
'Well, no - but that's why he's had people from the Order of the Phoenix
tailing you all the time -'
Harry felt a great jolt in his guts as though he had just missed a step going
downstairs. So everyone had known he was being followed, except him.
'Didn't work that well, though, did it?' said Harry, doing his utmost to
keep his voice even. 'Had to look after myself after all, didn't I?'
'He was so angry,' said Hermione, in an almost awestruck voice. 'Dumbledore.
We saw him. When he found out Mundungus had left before his shift had ended.
He was scary.'
'Well, I'm glad he left,' Harry said coldly. 'If he hadn't, I wouldn't have
done magic and Dumbledore would probably have left me at Privet Drive all summer.'
'Aren't you: aren't you worried about the Ministry of Magic hearing?' said
'No,' Harry lied defiantly. He walked away from them, looking around, with
Hedwig nestled contentedly on his shoulder, but this room was not likely to
raise his spirits. It was dank and dark. A blank stretch of canvas in an ornate
picture frame was all that relieved the bareness of the peeling walls, and as
Harry passed it he thought he heard someone, who was lurking out of sight, snigger.
'So why's Dumbledore been so keen to keep me in the dark?'
Harry asked, still trying hard to keep his voice casual. 'Did you - er -
bother to ask him at all?'
He glanced up just in time to see them exchanging a look that told him he
was behaving just as they had feared he would. It did nothing to improve his
'We told Dumbledore we wanted to tell you what was going on,' said Ron. 'We
did, mate. But he's really busy now, we've only seen him twice since we came
here and he didn't have much time, he just made us swear not to tell you important
stuff when we wrote, he said the owls might be intercepted.'
'He could still've kept me informed if he'd wanted to,' Harry said shortly.
'You're not telling me he doesn't know ways to send messages without owls.'
Hermione glanced at Ron and then said, 'I thought that, too. But he didn't
want you to know anything.'
'Maybe he thinks I can't be trusted,' said Harry, watching their expressions.
'Don't be thick,' said Ron, looking highly disconcerted.
'Or that I can't take care of myself.'
'Of course he doesn't think that!' said Hermione anxiously.
'So how come I have to stay at the Dursleys' while you two get to join in
everything that's going on here?' said Harry, the words tumbling over one another
in a rush, his voice growing louder with every word. 'How come you two are allowed
to know everything that's going on?'
'We're not!' Ron interrupted. 'Mum won't let us near the meetings, she says
we're too young -'
But before he knew it, Harry was shouting.
'SO YOU HAVEN'T BEEN IN THE MEETINGS, BIG DEAL! YOU'VE STILL BEEN HERE, HAVEN'T
YOU? YOU'VE STILL BEEN TOGETHER! ME, I'VE BEEN STUCK AT THE DURSLEYS' FOR A
MONTH! AND I'VE HANDLED MORE THAN YOU TWO'VE EVER MANAGED AND DUMBLEDORE KNOWS
IT -WHO SAVED THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE? WHO GOT RID OF RIDDLE? WHO SAVED BOTH
YOUR SKINS FROM THE DEMENTORS?'
Every bitter and resentful thought Harry had had in the past month was pouring
out of him: his frustration at the lack of news, the hurt that they had all
been together without him, his fury at being followed and not told about it
- all the feelings he was half-ashamed of finally burst their boundaries. Hedwig
took fright at the noise and soared off to the top of the wardrobe again; Pigwidgeon
twittered in alarm and zoomed even taster around their heads.
'WHO HAD TO GET PAST DRAGONS AND SPHINXES AND EVERY OTHER FOUL THING LAST
YEAR? WHO SAW HIM COME BACK? WHO HAD TO ESCAPE FROM HIM? ME!'
Ron was standing there with his mouth half-open, clearly stunned and at a
loss for anything to say, whilst Hermione looked on the verge of tears.
'BUT WHY SHOULD I KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON? WHY SHOULD ANYONE BOTHER TO TELL
ME WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING?'
'Harry, we wanted to tell you, we really did -' Hermione began.
'CANT'VE WANTED TO THAT MUCH, CAN YOU, OR YOU'D HAVE SENT ME AN OWL, BUT
DUMBLEDORE MADE YOU SWEAR -
Well, he did -'
'FOUR WEEKS I'VE BEEN STUCK IN PRIVET DRIVE, NICKING PAPERS OUT OF BINS TO
TRY AND FIND OUT WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON -'
We wanted to -'
'I SUPPOSE YOU'VE BEEN HAVING A REAL LAUGH, HAVEN'T YOU, ALL HOLED UP HERE
'No, honest -'
'Harry we're really sorry!' said Hermione desperately, her eyes now sparkling
with tears. 'You're absolutely right, Harry - I'd be furious if it was me!'
Harry glared at her, still breathing deeply, then turned away from them again,
pacing up and down. Hedwig hooted glumly from the top of the wardrobe. There
was a long pause, broken only by the mournful creak of the floorboards below
'What is this place, anyway?' he shot at Ron and Hermione.
'Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix,' said Ron at once.
'Is anyone going to bother telling me what the Order of the Phoenix -?'
'It's a secret society,' said Hermione quickly. 'Dumbledore's in charge,
he founded it. It's the people who fought against You-Know-Who last time.'
'Who's in it?' said Harry, coming to a halt with his hands in his pockets.
'Quite a few people -'
'We've met about twenty of them,' said Ron, 'but we think there are more.'
Harry glared at them.
'Well?' he demanded, looking from one to the other.
'Er,' said Ron. 'Well what?'
'Voldemort!' said Harry furiously, and both Ron and Hermione winced. 'What's
happening? What's he up to? Where is he? What are we doing to stop him?'
'We've told you, the Order don't let us in on their meetings,' said Hermione
nervously. 'So we don't know the details - but we've got a general idea,' she
added hastily, seeing the look on Harry's face.
'Fred and George have invented Extendable Ears, see,' said Ron. They're really
'Ears, yeah. Only we've had to stop using them lately because Mum found out
and went berserk. Fred and George had to hide them all to stop Mum binning them.
But we got a good bit of use out of them before Mum realised what was going
on. We know some of the Order are following known Death Eaters, keeping tabs
on them, you know -'
'Some of them are working on recruiting more people to the Order -' said
'And some of them are standing guard over something,' said Ron. They're always
talking about guard duty.'
'Couldn't have been me, could it?' said Harry sarcastically.
'Oh, yeah,' said Ron, with a look of dawning comprehension.
Harry snorted. He walked around the room again, looking anywhere but at Ron
and Hermione. 'So, what have you two been doing, if you're not allowed in meetings?'
he demanded. 'You said you'd been busy.'
'We have,' said Hermione quickly. 'We've been decontaminating this house,
it's been empty for ages and stuff's been breeding in here. We've managed to
clean out the kitchen, most of the bedrooms and I think we're doing the drawing
With two loud cracks, Fred and George, Ron's elder twin brothers, had materialised
out of thin air in the middle of the room. Pigwidgeon twittered more wildly
than ever and zoomed off to join Hedwig on top of the wardrobe.
'Stop doing that!' Hermione said weakly to the twins, who were as vividly
red-haired as Ron, though stockier and slightly shorter.
'Hello, Harry,' said George, beaming at him. 'We thought we heard your dulcet
'You don't want to bottle up your anger like that, Harry, let it all out,'
said Fred, also beaming. There might be a couple of people fifty miles away
who didn't hear you.'
'You two passed your Apparation tests, then?' asked Harry grumpily.
'With distinction,' said Fred, who was holding what looked like a piece of
very long, flesh-coloured string.
'It would have taken you about thirty seconds longer to walk down the stairs,'
Time is Galleons, little brother,' said Fred. 'Anyway, Harry, you're interfering
with reception. Extendable Ears,' he added in response to Harry's raised eyebrows,
and held up the string which Harry now saw was trailing out on to the landing.
We're trying to hear what's going on downstairs.'
'You want to be careful,' said Ron, staring at the Ear, 'if Mum sees one
of them again:"
'It's worth the risk, that's a major meeting they're having,' said Fred.
The door opened and a long mane of red hair appeared.
'Oh, hello, Harry!' said Ron's younger sister, Ginny, brightly. 'I thought
I heard your voice.'
Turning to Fred and George, she said, 'It's no-go with the Extendable Ears,
she's gone and put an Imperturbable Charm on the kitchen door.'
'How d'you know?' said George, looking crestfallen.
Tonks told me how to find out,' said Ginny. 'You just chuck stuff at the
door and if it can't make contact the door's been Imperturbed. I've been flicking
Dungbombs at it from the top of the stairs and they just soar away from it,
so there's no way the Extendable Ears will be able to get under the gap.'
Fred heaved a deep sigh.
'Shame. I really fancied finding out what old Snape's been up to.'
'Snape!' said Harry quickly. 'Is he here?'
'Yeah,' said George, carefully closing the door and sitting down on one of
the beds; Fred and Ginny followed. 'Giving a report. Top secret.'
'Git,' said Fred idly.
'He's on our side now,' said Hermione reprovingly.
Ron snorted. 'Doesn't stop him being a git. The way he looks at us when he
'Bill doesn't like him, either,' said Ginny, as though that settled the matter.
Harry was not sure his anger had abated yet; but his thirst for information
was now overcoming his urge to keep shouting. He sank on to the bed opposite
'Is Bill here?' he asked. 'I thought he was working in Egypt?'
'He applied for a desk job so he could come home and work for the Order,'
said Fred. 'He says he misses the tombs, but; he smirked, 'there are compensations.'
'What d'you mean?'
'Remember old Fleur Delacour?' said George. 'She's got a job at Gringotts
to eempwve 'er Eeenglish -'
'And Bill's been giving her a lot of private lessons,' sniggered Fred.
'Charlie's in the Order, too,' said George, 'but he's still in Romania. Dumbledore
wants as many foreign wizards brought in as possible, so Charlie's trying to
make contacts on his days off.'
'Couldn't Percy do that?' Harry asked. The last he had heard, the third Weasley
brother was working in the Department of International Magical Co-operation
at the Ministry of Magic.
At Harry's words, all the Weasleys and Hermione exchanged darkly significant
'Whatever you do, don't mention Percy in front of Mum and Dad,' Ron told
Harry in a tense voice.
'Because every time Percy's name's mentioned, Dad breaks whatever he's holding
and Mum starts crying,' Fred said.
'It's been awful,' said Ginny sadly.
'I think we're well shot of him,' said George, with an uncharacteristically
ugly look on his face.
'What's happened?' Harry said.
'Percy and Dad had a row,' said Fred. 'I've never seen Dad row with anyone
like that. It's normally Mum who shouts.'
'It was the first week back after term ended,' said Ron. 'We were about to
come and join the Order. Percy came home and told us he'd been promoted.'
'You're kidding?' said Harry.
Though he knew perfectly well that Percy was highly ambitious, Harry's impression
was that Percy had not made a great success of his first job at the Ministry
of Magic. Percy had committed the fairly large oversight of failing to notice
that his boss was being controlled by Lord Voldemort (not that the Ministry
had believed it - they all thought Mr Crouch had gone mad).
'Yeah, we were all surprised,' said George, 'because Percy got into a load
of trouble about Crouch, there was an inquiry and everything. They said Percy
ought to have realised Crouch was off his rocker and informed a superior. But
you know Percy, Crouch left him in charge, he wasn't going to complain.'