'What are you going to do?' asked Harry quickly.
'I'm going straight home,' said Mrs Figg, staring around the dark street
and shuddering. 'I'll need to wait for more instructions. Just stay in the house.
'Hang on, don't go yet! I want to know -
But Mrs Figg had already set off at a trot, carpet slippers flopping, string
'Wait!' Harry shouted after her. He had a million questions to ask anyone
who was in contact with Dumbledore; but within seconds Mrs Figg was swallowed
by the darkness. Scowling, Harry readjusted Dudley on his shoulder and made
his slow, painful way up number four's garden path.
The hall light was on. Harry stuck his wand back inside the waistband of
his jeans, rang the bell and watched Aunt Petunia's outline grow larger and
larger, oddly distorted by the rippling glass in the front door.
'Diddy! About time too, I was getting quite - quite - Diddy, what's the matter!'
Harry looked sideways at Dudley and ducked out from under his arm just in
time. Dudley swayed on the spot for a moment, his face pale green: then he opened
his mouth and vomited all over the doormat.
'DIDDY! Diddy, what's the matter with you? Vernon? VERNON!'
Harry's uncle came galumphing out of the living room, walrus moustache blowing
hither and thither as it always did when he was agitated. He hurried forwards
to help Aunt Petunia negotiate a weak-kneed Dudley over the threshold while
avoiding stepping in the pool of sick.
'He's ill, Vernon!'
'What is it, son? What's happened? Did Mrs Polkiss give you something foreign
'Why are you all covered in dirt, darling? Have you been lying on the ground?'
'Hang on - you haven't been mugged, have you, son?'
Aunt Petunia screamed.
'Phone the police, Vernon! Phone the police! Diddy, darling, speak to Mummy!
What did they do to you?'
In all the kerfuffle nobody seemed to have noticed Harry, which suited him
perfectly. He managed to slip inside just before Uncle Vernon slammed the door
and, while the Dursleys made their noisy progress down the hall towards the
kitchen, Harry moved carefully and quietly towards the stairs.
'Who did it, son? Give us names. We'll get them, don't worry.'
'Shh! He's trying to say something, Vernon! What is it, Diddy? Tell Mummy!'
Harry's foot was on the bottom-most stair when Dudley found his voice.
Harry froze, foot on the stair, face screwed up, braced for the explosion.
'BOY! COME HERE!'
With a feeling of mingled dread and anger, Harry removed his foot slowly
from the stair and turned to follow the Dursleys.
The scrupulously clean kitchen had an oddly unreal glitter after the darkness
outside. Aunt Petunia was ushering Dudley into a chair; he was still very green
and clammy-looking. Uncle Vernon standing in front of the draining board, glaring
at Harry through tiny, narrowed eyes.
'What have you done to my son?' he said in a menacing growl.
'Nothing,' said Harry, knowing perfectly well that Uncle Vernon wouldn't
'What did he do to you, Diddy?' Aunt Petunia said in a quavering voice, now
sponging sick from the front of Dudley's leather jacket. 'Was it - was it you-know-what,
darling? Did he use - his thing?'
Slowly, tremulously, Dudley nodded.
'I didn't!' Harry said sharply, as Aunt Petunia let out a wail and
Uncle Vernon raised his fists. 'I didn't do anything to him, it wasn't me,
it was -
But at that precise moment a screech owl swooped in through the kitchen window.
Narrowly missing the top of Uncle Vernon's head, it soared across the kitchen,
dropped the large parchment envelope it was carrying in its beak at Harry's
feet, turned gracefully, the tips of its wings just brushing the top of the
fridge, then zoomed outside again and off across the garden.
'OWLS!' bellowed Uncle Vernon, the well-worn vein in his temple pulsing angrily
as he slammed the kitchen window shut. 'OWLS AGAIN! I WILL NOT HAVE ANY MORE
OWLS IN MY HOUSE!'
But Harry was already ripping open the envelope and pulling out the letter
inside, his heart pounding somewhere in the region of his Adam's apple.
Dear Mr Potter,
We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three
minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence
of a Muggle.
The seventy of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of
Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion
from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives
will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand.
As you have already received an official warning for a previous offence under
Section I3 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy,
we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing
at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m. on the twelfth of August.
Hoping you are well,
Improper Use of Magic Office
Ministry of Magic
Harry read the letter through twice. He was only vaguely aware of Uncle Vernon
and Aunt Petunia talking. Inside his head, all was icy and numb. One fact had
penetrated his consciousness like a paralysing dart. He was expelled from Hogwarts.
It was all over. He was never going back.
He looked up at the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon was purple-faced, shouting, his
fists still raised; Aunt Petunia had her arms around Dudley, who was retching
Harry's temporarily stupefied brain seemed to reawaken. Ministry representatives
will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand. There
was only one thing for it. He would have to run - now. Where he was going to
go, Harry didn't know, but he was certain of one thing: at Hogwarts or outside
it, he needed his wand. In an almost dreamlike state, he pulled his wand out
and turned to leave the kitchen.
'Where d'you think you're going?' yelled Uncle Vernon. When Harry didn't
reply, he pounded across the kitchen to block the doorway into the hall. 'I
haven't finished with you, boy!'
'Get out of the way,' said Harry quietly.
'You're going to stay here and explain how my son -'
'If you don't get out of the way I'm going to jinx you,' said Harry, raising
'You can't pull that one on me!' snarled Uncle Vernon. 'I know you're not
allowed to use it outside that madhouse you call a school!'
The madhouse has chucked me out,' said Harry. 'So I can do whatever I like.
You've got three seconds. One - two -'
A resounding CRACK filled the kitchen. Aunt Petunia screamed,
I hide Vernon yelled and ducked, but for the third time that night Harry
was searching for the source of a disturbance he had not made. He spotted it
at once: a dazed and ruffled-looking barn owl was sitting outside on the kitchen
sill, having just collided with the closed window.
Ignoring Uncle Vernon's anguished yell of 'OWLS!' Harry crossed the room
at a run and wrenched the window open. The owl stuck out its leg, to which a
small roll of parchment was tied, shook its leathers, and took off the moment
Harry had taken the letter. Hands shaking, Harry unfurled the second message,
which was written very hastily and blotchily in black ink.
Dumbledore's just arrived at the Ministry and he's trying to sort it all
out. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE'S HOUSE. DO NOT DO ANY MORE MAGIC. DO
NOT SURRENDER YOUR WAND. Arthur Weasley
Dumbledore was trying to sort it all out: what did that mean? How much power
did Dumbledore have to override the Ministry of Magic? Was there a chance that
he might be allowed back to Hogwarts, then? A small shoot of hope burgeoned
in Harry's chest, almost immediately strangled by panic - how was he supposed
to refuse to surrender his wand without doing magic? He'd have to duel with
the Ministry representatives, and if he did that, he'd be lucky to escape Azkaban,
let alone expulsion.
His mind was racing: he could run for it and risk being cap-lured by the
Ministry, or stay put and wait for them to find him here. He was much more tempted
by the former course, but he knew Mr Weasley had his best interests at heart:
and after all, Dumbledore had sorted out much worse than this before.
'Right,' Harry said, 'I've changed my mind, I'm staying.' He flung himself
down at the kitchen table and faced Dudley and Aunt Petunia. The Dursleys appeared
taken aback at his abrupt change of mind. Aunt Petunia glanced despairingly
at Uncle Vernon. The vein in his purple temple was throbbing worse than ever.
'Who are all these ruddy owls from?' he growled.
The first one was from the Ministry of Magic, expelling me,' said Harry calmly.
He was straining his ears to catch any noises outside, in case the Ministry
representatives were approaching, and it was easier and quieter to answer Uncle
Vernon's questions than to have him start raging and bellowing. 'The second
one was from my friend Ron's dad, who works at the Ministry.'
'Ministry of Magic?' bellowed Uncle Vernon. 'People like you in government!
Oh, this explains everything, everything, no wonder the country's going to the
When Harry did not respond, Uncle Vernon glared at him, then spat out, 'And
why have you been expelled?'
'Because I did magic.'
'AHA!' roared Uncle Vernon, slamming his fist down on top of the fridge,
which sprang open; several of Dudley's low-fat snacks toppled out and burst
on the floor. 'So you admit it! What did you do to Dudley?'
'Nothing,' said Harry, slightly less calmly. 'That wasn't me -'
'Was,' muttered Dudley unexpectedly, and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia instantly
made flapping gestures at Harry to quieten him while they both bent low over
'Go on, son,' said Uncle Vernon, 'what did he do?'
Tell us, darling,' whispered Aunt Petunia.
'Pointed his wand at me,' Dudley mumbled.
'Yeah, I did, but I didn't use -' Harry began angrily, but -
'SHUT UP!' roared Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia in unison.
'Go on, son,' repeated Uncle Vernon, moustache blowing about furiously.
'All went dark,' Dudley said hoarsely, shuddering. 'Everything dark. And
then I h-heard: things. Inside m-my head.'
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia exchanged looks of utter horror. If their least
favourite thing in the world was magic - closely followed by neighbours who
cheated more than they did on the hosepipe ban - people who heard voices were
definitely in the bottom ten. They obviously thought Dudley was losing his mind.
'What sort of things did you hear, Popkin?' breathed Aunt Petunia, very white-faced
and with tears in her eyes.
But Dudley seemed incapable of saying. He shuddered again and shook his large
blond head, and despite the sense of numb dread that had settled on Harry since
the arrival of the first owl, he felt a certain curiosity. Dementors caused
a person to relive the worst moments of their life. What would spoiled, pampered,
bullying Dudley have been forced to hear?
'How come you fell over, son?' said Uncle Vernon, in an unnaturally quiet
voice, the kind of voice he might adopt at the bedside of a very ill person.
'T-tripped,' said Dudley shakily. 'And then -
He gestured at his massive chest. Harry understood. Dudley was remembering
the clammy cold that filled the lungs as hope and happiness were sucked out
'Horrible,' croaked Dudley. 'Cold. Really cold.'
'OK,' said Uncle Vernon, in a voice of forced calm, while Aunt Petunia laid
an anxious hand on Dudley's forehead to feel his temperature. 'What happened
'Felt: felt: felt: as if: as if:'
'As if you'd never be happy again,' Harry supplied dully.
'Yes,' Dudley whispered, still trembling.
'So!' said Uncle Vernon, voice restored to full and considerable volume as
he straightened up. 'You put some crackpot spell on my son so he'd hear voices
and believe he was - was doomed to misery, or something, did you?'
'How many times do I have to tell you?' said Harry, temper and voice both
rising. 'It wasn't me! It was a couple of Dementors!'
'A couple of - what's this codswallop?'
'De - men - tors,' said Harry slowly and clearly. 'Two of them.'
'And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?'
'They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban,' said Aunt Petunia.
Two seconds of ringing silence followed these words before Aunt Petunia clapped
her hand over her mouth as though she had let slip a disgusting swear word.
Uncle Vernon was goggling at her. Harry's brain reeled. Mrs Figg was one thing
- but Aunt Petunia'?
'How d'you know that?' he asked her, astonished.
Aunt Petunia looked quite appalled with herself. She glanced at Uncle Vernon
in fearful apology, then lowered her hand slightly to reveal her horsy teeth.
'I heard - that awful boy - telling her about them - years ago,' she said
'If you mean my mum and dad, why don't you use their names?' said Harry loudly,
but Aunt Petunia ignored him. She seemed horribly flustered.
Harry was stunned. Except for one outburst years ago, in the course of which
Aunt Petunia had screamed that Harry's mother had been a freak, he had. never
heard her mention her sister. He was astounded that she had remembered this
scrap of information about the magical world for so long, when she usually put
all her energies into pretending it didn't exist.