Chapter 2 – An Unexpected Party
another unusual thing about Harry was how little he looked forward to his
Harry Potter and the Prisoner
of Azkaban, Ch. 1
* * *
Harry wasn’t smiling any more when his alarm
shrilled at 6 AM. His aunt required him
to get up early enough to make breakfast for her and his Uncle Vernon before
Uncle Vernon left for work. Three
hours of sleep… Harry dragged his
protesting body from the bed and stumbled into his clothes. He wished he could take a shower to help him
wake up, but he wasn’t allowed into the upstairs bathroom until his aunt and
uncle were completely done with it.
Harry went down to the kitchen and began
pulling out pots and pans with practiced ease.
He’d been made to do some cooking for years, but this summer he was
doing almost all of it. Harry got out
eggs and tomatoes, sausage, bacon, and toast.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia liked a hearty breakfast, because it was
the only meal of the day not ruined by their son Dudley’s diet. Even Dudley’s greed for food wasn’t enough
to get him up before ten after staying out late committing who-knew-what acts
of juvenile delinquency each night with his hoodlum friends. Harry rather appreciated the one decent
meal, too, since he was forced to serve lean chicken and fish, raw celery and
carrots, and grapefruit for the other two meals. As if it’s doing any good, considering Dudley’s walking around
with unlimited pocket money. On the
bright side, Harry had discovered that it was rather hard to starve the
cook. Speaking of which… he
snagged himself two more sausages and another piece of toast as he heard the
clip-clop of Aunt Petunia’s shoes down the stairs.
Aunt Petunia made no sign that she even saw
Harry. She looked at the breakfast
table, sniffed impatiently, and rearranged the table settings slightly. Uncle Vernon trod heavily in and sank into
“Where’s my newspaper, boy?” he growled.
glared coldly at his uncle, but went into the hall and out the front door to
get the Daily Mail. As he bent
to pick it up, he felt Ron’s letter rustle in his jeans pocket, where he’d
tucked it while getting dressed that morning.
There was no sense reading it while Uncle Vernon was still around. He hadn’t mentioned putting a lock on Hedwig’s
cage this year, but Harry didn’t want to take a chance of reminding him. He only let Hedwig out while his aunt and
uncle were asleep.
Vernon grunted when Harry handed him the newspaper, and opened it
immediately. Aunt Petunia held out a
piece of paper without looking at Harry, and he took it from her hand. It had his day’s chores listed on it. Dust and vacuum bedrooms, wash downstairs
windows, clean drive with bleach, water all shrubbery and flowerbeds, wash Aunt
Petunia’s car. This would be in
addition to cooking and cleaning up after all meals. Not as bad as some days.
If I hurry, I can take a nap before I make dinner.
to admit he was getting along with his aunt better this summer than he ever had
before. He had got old enough – and had
enough practice – to be really useful around the house, and his mood of settled
gloom kept him quiet and fairly docile.
He could stare into space and worry just as well while weeding the
garden as not. Sometimes, when he and
his aunt were both working quietly around the house, there was almost an air of
teamwork between them. She never
complimented him on any of his work, but she didn’t have many complaints
either. I need to talk to Hermione,
Harry thought. I think I know how it
feels to be a house elf now.
Vernon kissed his wife goodbye and glared one last time at Harry. “Watch yourself!” He stumped out the door.
Petunia disappeared upstairs while Harry was clearing up the dishes. Finally, he could look at Ron’s letter in peace. It was a long one:
Harry, who are you calling a cretin?
Oh, me then, was it? All right,
but don’t do it again! Who knew the
girl wanted to be written back to?
this letter is going to be so late. I
sent Pig to Hermione today with orders not to come back without a letter from
her. Don’t worry, I humbly apologized
and she DID write back to me. She needs
to get over herself, though.
she told me her idea for you and it’s BRILLIANT. No, I mean really brilliant - even for her. I wish I could tell you, but she said not
to. It sounds like she’s having fun on
her trip, so that’s good. She sent me a
picture of her in a sort of grotto thing with mad coloured lava and stuff. Did she send you one?
said your scar hurt last night as well.
What do you reckon it was? I
asked Dad, and he said there wasn’t anything going on, as far as he knew. It only hurt a little? Maybe You-Know-Who is far away from you, or
something. Have you heard from Hagrid
yeah, I do have news. Fred and George
are going to visit Lee Jordan for 2 weeks, and Ginny is going with them to stay
with Lee’s little sister Cassie (you remember her – 2nd year
Gryffindor last year?). They invited me
too, but I’m not going. It’s pretty
scary to think what new inventions Gred & Forge will come up with away from
Mum – I don’t think the Jordans know what they’re letting themselves in for.
I’ll be left with only Percy. Mum &
Dad are really worried about him. He
won’t talk about his job now. I know he
was supposedly cleared of having anything to do with that Crouch fiasco, but I
think people are still treating him like dirt.
He doesn’t want to hear ANYTHING about you-know-what. If Mum or Dad even
mentions it, he gets up and leaves the room.
He’s a bloody pillock to try and be so loyal to Fudge and those others
at the Ministry, instead of to his FAMILY.
How can he not believe YOU? He
knows you. I think he’s having trouble with Penelope as well. Anyway he looks awful.
a nice long letter to make up for the last one. I’ve written letters all bloody day. See you soon, I hope!
pondered as his hands automatically proceeded with the washing-up. He needed to write both his friends about
last night’s events. But should he,
really? Sirius had once warned him to
use different owls when writing to him.
Hedwig was so distinctive in her snowy white colour. If she were intercepted -- Harry was
frowning as he went outside to begin washing the windows.
dinner that night, Harry was in his room yawning over his Divination textbook
when an uproar arose in the next bedroom.
Either a rogue elephant had suddenly Apparated into Dudley’s room, or
his cousin was upset about something.
There were sounds of slammed doors and expensive electronic equipment
being kicked into walls.
it?” Dudley was shouting. “Mum, what
have you done with my striped shirt?
MUM! I NEED it!”
rolled his eyes and went back to his book.
He knew what the problem was now.
Dudley and his friends Piers and Dennis were going to a teen disco
tonight, almost with actual girls.
Harry had overheard Dudley talking on the phone with his friends about
some girls who had said they would be at that disco tonight. Harry suspected they actually had plans to
be on the other side of the globe, if necessary, to get away from Dudley and
his ghastly friends, but who knew? Some
people really had terrible taste.
Naturally, Dudley wanted to look his best for such an auspicious occasion,
and for some reason he fancied himself striped like an enormous circus
tent. Despite the so-called diet,
Dudley was a very large boy.
darling,” twittered Aunt Petunia, rushing up the stairs, “I know I washed it on
Thursday and… oh, dear, I remember now, it was missing a button, and I hung it
in the utility room until I could get a chance…”
cut her off. “Well, sew it on,
then. I’m in a hurry.”
Dudley dear, I was just pressing your trousers for you, and -- HARRY!” Harry stuck his head out his door.
finish pressing Dudley’s trousers,” ordered Aunt Petunia. “Make sure you get the seams straight, and
turn off the iron when you’re done.”
Aunt Petunia probably knew that Harry couldn’t sew on a button to save
his life, though a simple Reparo spell should do the trick, if he were
only allowed to do magic.
sighed and headed downstairs. It was no
use objecting. Uncle Vernon would roar
at him, and anyway, the challenge of ironing several yards of fabric was at
least as entertaining as Unfogging the Future by Cassandra
Harry returned to Dudley’s bedroom with the trousers, his cousin was already
dressed in the striped shirt, looking in the mirror as he slicked down his
perfectly smooth yellow hair. He spun
around at the sound of the door.
“MUM! Get OUT!
Oh, it’s you.” Apparently,
Dudley didn’t mind Harry seeing him in his boxers. “Put them on the bed.”
complied, but then leaned against the wall and watched his cousin primp. Much as he disliked Dudley, the temptation
to tease him was irresistible.
mirrors talk to you when you do that,” he said lazily. Dudley scowled at his use of the forbidden
not let Dad hear you say that,” he snapped.
Then he smirked. “I bet I know
what yours says – ‘Brush your hair, you ugly little dirt ball.’”
mouth quirked. “Actually, you’re right
about the hair. Want to know what yours
turned around quickly, balling his fists.
Harry rested lightly on his feet.
He was almost as tall as Dudley now, and much faster. Dudley was still extremely strong, though,
so Harry had to be wary. He raised both
palms, backing out of the room.
to get upset. I’m sure it would give
you good advice. Like, ‘if you really
want to impress the babes, wear your Smeltings uniform.’” Smeltings was Dudley’s school. Its uniform was a maroon tailcoat and orange
knickerbockers, with a flat boater hat.
Dudley let out a roar, a pretty good copy of Uncle Vernon’s, and rushed
at Harry like a bull. Harry just
managed to close and lock his bedroom door in time, collapsing in laughter
against it as Dudley crashed into it from the other side.
going on?” Harry heard Aunt Petunia calling as she hurried up the stairs. “Dudley dear, is Harry bothering you? Why,
Dudley, what are you doing out in the hall in your under things?” Harry felt the floor shake as Dudley pounded
back to his room and slammed his door shut.
shook with silent laughter, but prudently kept quiet behind his locked door
until Dudley had left the house. In
the meantime, he had a letter to write:
Wow, thanks for the nice long letter. I reckon I can call my best friend a cretin
if I feel like it. I didn’t rate a picture
from Hermione – that must have been some apology you wrote. No, I have no idea why my scar was
hurting. I have heard from Dumbledore,
but he didn’t really tell me anything.
I do know that Snuffles and Moony are all right. Actually, I had rather an adventure last
night, which I REALLY need to tell you about, but I don’t think I should in a
letter. Do you think there’s any way we
three could get together and talk? Soon?
You and Hermione are driving me crazy with all this
talk about her “idea.” Why can’t you go
ahead and tell me? And why didn’t you
go to the Jordans? It sounds like
fun. Say hi to Ginny and the twins for
me, and tell them to have a good time.
I haven’t heard from Hagrid at all this summer, but I
usually don’t until my birthday. If I
don’t hear from him then, I will be worried.
I’m sorry Percy’s having a hard time.
I wonder if he’d believe me if I could talk to him. We used to get along okay. Don’t drive your mum too crazy. Maybe she’ll play chess with you. Take care of yourself.
sent Hedwig off with the letter as soon as the Dursley’s went to bed, and for
once he was asleep before Dudley came home.
later, on the morning of his fifteenth birthday, Harry was at the top of an extension
ladder in the Dursleys’ back yard, cleaning out roof gullies. He hadn’t found out what Hermione’s big idea
was or had a chance to tell Ron and Hermione about his adventure with Snape. In fact, nothing had changed except that
Hermione was home from her cruise and Dudley had caught Harry unawares, broken
his glasses, and given him a black eye.
The Dursleys hadn’t mentioned his birthday, of course, or his black eye,
but he had gotten cards from Sirius, Hermione, and Ron the previous night. No presents, though – and nothing at all
from Hagrid, which had Harry very worried.
whir of wings, a strange owl landed on the rooftop beside Harry. After he took the note from it, it settled
down to wait for a reply. The note was
from Arabella Figg:
It was lovely to see you again the other
night, though rather brief. I am wondering if you can possibly get away
and come for early tea today, say about 3:00?
If you have difficulty, please tell me, and I will ask Petunia if you can
help me with some heavy lifting.
I do hope you will join me.
thought quickly. At three o’clock that
afternoon, he was supposed to be cleaning out the garage. He could easily climb out the garage window
and over the fence to the garden behind.
Aunt Petunia rarely looked into the back garden, anyway; she spent most
of her time in the front drawing room, craning her long, thin neck to watch her
neighbours’ comings and goings. He
wrote a brief acceptance on the note and gave it to the owl, who took it
politely and flew off.
Harry had finished cleaning the garage in an impatient frenzy. He left a note in the garage for his aunt in
case she came back to look for him, saying only that he had gone to tea at Mrs.
Figg’s. Then he slipped out the window
and over the fence.
kept his hand on his wand and stayed alert as he walked, but he reached Mrs.
Figg’s front door without trouble. As
soon as the door opened, a large black dog bounded out, wagging his tail
widely. He put his paws on Harry’s
shoulders, and slurped his face with a big lick. Harry made a face and pushed the dog away, laughing helplessly.
YUCK! Down, boy. SIT!”
“Come in, come in, Harry dear.” Mrs. Figg opened the door wide. “Really, Sirius, must you be such a dog?
This way, Harry.” Harry followed her into the parlour, which
was filled with people laughing and talking.
to reach Harry was Ron, taller and more freckled than ever, punching him in the
chest with a big grin.
Weasley was right behind Ron, squeezing Harry in a hug. Mr. Weasley, Remus Lupin, and Sirius
(changed back into a man) crowded behind to shake Harry’s hand and wish him a
looked around in a daze. Mrs. Figg’s
shabby old-fashioned rooms were more crowded even than usual. There were presents, and balloons, and on a
table in the next room, a huge chocolate birthday cake with candles. The first birthday party I’ve ever had! For a moment, Harry was speechless. Then he looked around again with a
frown. Why wasn’t Hermione here?
doorbell chimed. Harry and Ron followed
Mrs. Figg to the front hall. Mrs. Figg
peered carefully out of the peephole, and then peeked past the curtains of the
window beside the door, while Ron rolled his eyes impatiently. Finally, Mrs. Figg flung open the door, and
there was Hermione! She was bright-eyed
and tanned in a pale yellow sleeveless dress, with a smile a mile wide, and her
parents (looking rather nervous) behind her.
A large black motorcar was parked behind them at the kerb.
dear,” said Mrs. Figg, “you must be Hermione, and you must be Mr. and Mrs.
Granger! I’m Arabella Figg.”
pleased to meet you, Mrs. Figg,” said Hermione breathlessly, and she rushed
past to Harry.
“Harry! Happy birthday!” She took his two hands and grinned at him. “Are you surprised, or did you guess when we
didn’t send you any presents? I thought
we should send you something, just so you wouldn’t suspect, but Ron said
suddenly dropped Harry’s hands and stopped talking. She looked over at Ron, who was hanging back, looking awkward and
hesitant. “Hi, Ron.”
looked curiously from Hermione to Ron until he was distracted by Mr. Granger
shaking his hand and wishing him a happy birthday. Next, Mr. Granger stretched out his hand to Ron. Harry gave Ron a vicious dig with his elbow
and Ron started and took Mr. Granger’s hand.
Mrs. Granger shook hands with both boys next, looking rather amused
and cake and much conversation, they moved back to the parlour for Harry to
open his presents. Sirius gave him a wristwatch,
which he badly needed since his old one had been ruined in the second task of
the Triwizard Tournament.
gift was a book, Curses and Countercurses, by Professor Vindictus
Viridian. Harry laughed.
you, Professor – I mean Remus. I
wanted this book the first time I ever went in Flourish and Botts, but Hagrid
wouldn’t let me get it.” Ron snagged
the book from Harry.
Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss,
Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and Much, Much More – excellent!” He raised his eyebrows at Harry with
Weasley, Mrs. Figg, and even Sirius looked sternly at Lupin. Lupin shrugged one shoulder.
a teacher any more. It’s a good book.”
Mrs. Weasley gave Harry handkerchiefs embroidered with his initials and a box
of fudge. Ron’s gift was a pair of
leather Quidditch gloves specially made for Seekers, with the palm and inside
of the fingers left bare. Mrs. Figg
gave him some red sealing wax and a Gryffindor seal.
was my house, too” she said proudly.
held out her gift last, with a smug smile.
Harry took it. Definitely a
book. He removed the wrapping. Apparition for Beginners? Harry looked at Hermione.
uh, I’m sure it’ll come in useful.” He
grinned. “Do you really think I need to
study for two years to learn how to Apparate?”
Hermione beamed back at him, bouncing on her chair with excitement.
walked to the fireplace and threw in a handful of powder. “Albus Dumbledore!” Professor Dumbledore’s snowy-maned head
appeared in the grate.
Arabella. Happy birthday, Harry,” he
said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t attend your
celebration.” He smiled genially at all
you, Professor,” said Harry.
have a proposal for you,” Professor Dumbledore continued. “Your friend Miss Granger has been very
concerned about your safety since the attack on you last month. She reminded us that the original Decree for
the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Magic included a provision for
exceptions for hardship cases. Miss
Granger maintains that you would be very much safer if you learn to Apparate,
and I agree with her. The Department of
Magical Transportation has agreed as well; the department head is a friend of
could only gape at the Headmaster. Me? Learn to Apparate? Yes, that would have been very helpful when
he and Cedric were in the graveyard.
had agreed on that, Miss Granger pointed out that you are usually in the
company of herself and Mr. Weasley, and that you would naturally refuse to
Apparate to safety if it meant leaving them behind. I had to concur, so I have obtained hardship exemptions for the
two of them as well.”
could feel his face flushing. This
was Hermione’s plan? No wonder she was
receive the most benefit, your ability to Apparate must be kept completely
secret from our enemies,” Dumbledore continued blandly. “And you must begin at once. As you probably know, you cannot Apparate on
Hogwarts grounds, and there is barely time for you to become proficient before
the school term begins. Mr. Lupin has
agreed to give the three of you intensive tutoring, beginning as soon as can be
arranged.” Harry looked at Remus, who
nodded, smiling. “My first thought was
that you could stay with him for the rest of the summer, but Professor
McGonagall was of the opinion it would not be appropriate for Miss Granger,
being a bachelor household. Therefore,
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have agreed to host the lessons. Mr. Lupin will Apparate to the Burrow each day to instruct you.”
finally found his voice. “Wow,
Professor, that’s – I mean, uh, thank you – and Hermione, and Remus, and Mr.
and Mrs. Weasley –” The head in the
fireplace spoke again.
go now, Harry, but I will stress one thing.
You are being given a special privilege for your safety only, not for
your amusement. I trust you won’t abuse
it. During your training time, you must
never Apparate without Mr. Lupin’s supervision. After your lessons are over, you must not Apparate for any reason
other than the utmost necessity.”
use good judgment?”
nodded. “I promise.”
Weasley? Miss Granger?”
sir!” chorused Ron and Hermione.
well. Many happy returns, Harry.” With a sizzle and a pop, Dumbledore’s head
that, the party began to break up. Mr.
Weasley Apparated back to his office, and Remus took Sirius-as-a-dog for a walk
to patrol the neighbourhood. The
Grangers began asking Mrs. Weasley anxious questions about Apparating, and
about the terrible news of Voldemort’s return, and Mrs. Figg joined in to try
to reassure them. Harry tugged both Ron
and Hermione through the dining room and into the kitchen.
need to talk to you,” he told them in a low voice.
ebullient. He snagged another piece of
cake as they went through the dining room and grinned broadly at Harry.
why I wouldn’t go to Lee’s house, Harry.
No way was I going to miss this!
Can you believe Hermione, doing all that research? I’ve never heard of anyone getting to
Apparate before they were 17.” Hermione
blushed a little.
was just looking up the restrictions on Underage Magic in general and I saw –“
all right?” interrupted Harry ruthlessly.
“I mean, you’re wonderful and all, Hermione, but I have something really
important to tell you two, and I need to get back to the Dursleys before-“
your adventure,” Ron broke in. “What
quickly ran through the events of the night Snape had been ill, hugely relieved
to finally be telling Ron and Hermione about it. When he got to the part about leaving with Sirius, Hermione burst
Harry! You shouldn’t have – did you
even check to make sure it was Sirius?”
it, Hermione,” said Ron, putting his hand over her mouth. “Let Harry tell it.” Hermione coloured, and Ron snatched his hand
really, really careful,” Harry assured Hermione kindly. “Sirius was impressed.” He continued the story.
limited herself to a squeak of surprise when Harry got to the part about seeing
Professor Snape lying on the table, but when he told them about the Myrmidon
Potion, it was Ron who interrupted.
that can’t be – why would they be testing his loyalty? You-Know-Who already knows Snape isn’t a
Death Eater anymore. Remember, you
heard him, Harry, saying about the one who had left forever, and would be
killed. And Snape didn’t go when they
were all summoned – we saw him in the stands while you were gone.”
maybe this was how he was going to kill him,” said Harry. “Or maybe I was wrong, and Voldemort was
talking about someone else.”
“But Voldemort must have known about Snape
since first year,” Hermione jumped in.
“I mean, he was under Quirrell’s turban the whole time, right? So he heard Snape trying to stop Quirrell
from getting the stone.”
don’t think so,” said Ron, frowning in concentration. “I mean, we knew that Quirrell was going for the stone to
help You-Know-Who, ’cause Firenze told Harry in the Forest, but I don’t know if
Snape knew. Couldn’t he just
have thought that Quirrell was going for the Stone for his own sake, just to be
rich and live forever and all? So Snape
wouldn’t know he was going against You-Know-Who?”
sure that’s why Dumbledore moved the Stone to Hogwarts in the first place,”
argued Hermione. “He must have known
somehow that Voldemort was active and trying for the Stone.”
but did he tell Snape that?” shot back Ron.
“Or, if he did, did You-Know-Who know it?”
considered. “Well, Voldemort would
never tell his subordinates anything, I’m sure. But Snape might have said something to
Quirrell when he was threatening him that showed he knew.”
he was smart,” said Ron. “He’d want to
leave his options open.”
“But – ”
Harry was still not convinced. “When
Quirrell tried to kill me during the Quidditch match, and Snape did the counter
curse – ”
gave a gasp. “Harry! Finish the story. Did Snape die or what?”
caught Harry’s eye over Hermione’s head with a hopeful grin. Harry choked. Hermione whirled around to glare at Ron.
funny! Harry, stop laughing.”
okay,” Harry rushed to reassure Hermione, “my blood worked. Snape saved himself, really, with the
counter potion. Although Dumbledore was
the one who thought of using my blood – I think Snape would be dead without
narrowed his eyes. “Maybe he wasn’t
even in danger. Maybe he was just
trying to get Dumbledore to trust him by pretending that the potion was killing
him, because that would prove he was disloyal to Voldemort.”
that’s dumb,” huffed Hermione.
“Dumbledore trusted him already.
Why in the world would he pull a stunt like that if it weren’t real?”
off on another subject. “I wonder who
made the Myrmidon Potion, and who forced Snape to taste it?”
guessing Snape made it himself,” said Harry, who had thought about it all
week. “I bet that’s why Voldemort
called Snape back even if he doubted him – to make that potion and test all his
followers. Maybe Snape is the only one
who can make that potion; maybe it’s really hard.”
poisoned himself.” Ron
snorted. “I bet he felt like a total
prat. I can see that You-Know-Who might
like that as poetic justice or something.
But now that Snape didn’t die, will he think he’s loyal after all, or
will he think he buggered up the potion somehow?”
you’re right, Harry,” said Hermione, “I wonder how many Death Eaters did
die that night? When was it, anyway?”
ago Saturday night was when he took the potion,” said Harry. “I saw him on Sunday night.”
eyes widened. “Oh! – so when your scar
hurt –” Harry nodded.
that must be when Voldemort summoned the Death Eaters to come take their
medicine. I felt it before when he
touched Wormtail’s Dark Mark at the cemetery.”
heard the voices of Remus and Sirius in the parlour. They must have returned from their patrol.
lowered her voice. “How did they”
– she tilted her head toward the two men in the parlour – “get into it?”
were meeting with Dumbledore – at his home in Hogsmeade – when Snape Apparated
in. They were reporting on some mission
they’d done the night before.”
said Ron. “D’you think it was related?”
said Harry. He lowered his voice to a
whisper. “I begged Sirius to tell me
what he was up to, and he told me he’d always fancied himself as a rat catcher.”
looked at each other in mutual understanding, Sirius Black came into the
kitchen. He was carrying a small
package and smiling.
this on the floor under the letter slot, Harry. It must have come while we were on our walk.”
it’s from Hagrid,” said Harry, taking it eagerly. Then he frowned, looking at the unfamiliar angular printing: ‘H.
Potter, The Kitchen, 7 Larkspur Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.’ No, not
Hagrid. Harry had an uneasy
feeling. He opened the package
gingerly. There was a photograph, and a
note on a tiny slip of paper.
TO HARRY POTTER, A BIRTHDAY GREETING FROM YOUR
picture showed an unfamiliar house, with flames catching and moving across
it. Hermione, looking over Harry’s shoulder,
gave a strangled gasp, and turned white.
She ripped the photo from Harry’s hand and ran back into the
parlour. Harry, Ron, and Sirius pelted
felt a queasy twisting in his stomach as Hermione thrust the photograph at her
parents. It was a wizard picture,
showing the flames igniting at a corner of the house and quickly moving across
the front wall. It looked like a very
powerful Incendio spell.
Dad, it’s our house – it’s on fire.”
Mr. and Mrs. Granger took the photo, looking sick and terrified, and
completely bewildered. Mrs. Figg
immediately took charge.
can you go check it out? I must stay
with Harry, in case – Molly, tell Arthur about this. Sirius, will you please –”
going with Remus,” growled Sirius, and both men disappeared with an audible
‘pop.’ Mrs. Figg glared at the place
where Sirius had been, her hands on her hips.
really, Sirius,” she huffed. “Do you want
to get caught?” She shook her head,
grumbling under her breath. “Impulsive
fool – wanted criminal – get us all in trouble – well, too late now, I just
hope nobody sees him.” She turned back
to her guests. Mrs. Granger was crying,
and Mr. Granger was trying to comfort her.
Mrs. Weasley started to the fireplace to call her husband.
Hermione brushed past Mrs. Weasley and reached for the jar of Floo Powder on
the mantel. As she was throwing the
powder into the flame, Ron ran over and grabbed her from behind. He held her with both arms around her
middle, despite her furious struggles.
Harry rushed to get between Hermione and the fire.
are you crazy?” yelled Harry. “What are
you doing? You can’t go into
your house! It’s ON FIRE!” Harry tried to catch her hands, which were
beating frantically against Ron. Ron
backed up, dragging her further away from the hearth. Both her parents watched, wide-eyed and frozen in confusion.
kept struggling. She was saying
something. Harry could hardly hear her
for her sobs, but finally he made out the words.
“Crookshanks! Crookshanks is in there.” Ron cursed horribly and shoved Hermione down
on the sofa, where she finally collapsed.
Harry knelt beside her.
I’m sure he got out. Cats always get
out, when there are fires. And think
how smart Crookshanks is – smarter than a normal cat. I’m sure he got out.”
“But how could he?” Hermione lifted a tear-stained face. “We don’t have a cat door, or a window open. How could he get out?”
thought quickly. “But he’ll hide from
the smoke and fire, and the fire department will put it out. He’ll be all right.” Harry hoped this was true. Hermione’s parents came to her, and she
jumped up to hug them.
Dad, this is all my fault. I’m the one
they’re after. You’re in danger because
of me.” She was crying on her mother’s
shoulder while her father patted her back awkwardly.
No, Harry thought, it’s all MY
fault. Hermione’s in danger because
she’s MY friend.
looked at Ron, who looked back, white as a sheet, his freckles standing out
starkly against his pallor. Somehow,
Harry knew what his friend was thinking – the Burrow. No one was home there, either. Had it been burned down, too?
Weasley finished talking to Mr. Weasley in the fire and walked over to
Ron. Mrs. Figg threw in another handful
of powder and called Professor Dumbledore’s name. Ron put his arm around his much shorter mother.
“Mum? Shouldn’t we check –?” Mrs. Weasley shook her head.
Department of Magical Law Enforcement is sending a team to the Burrow,
too. We’ll hear soon enough.” She looked sadly at the Grangers, and at
Mrs. Figg still talking with Dumbledore.
“I’d better make some tea.”
she could move off to the kitchen, there was a ‘pop’ and a strong smell of
smoke as Sirius Apparated back into the room.
He walked right over to the Grangers.
Muggle fire department is there,” he reported, “and they’re doing a good job of
putting out the fire. It looks like the
front of the house is pretty much destroyed, but the back might be – might have
some left. The Ministry team is there,
too – Remus is talking to them – but there may not be anything for them to
do. If they used Incendio, it
will just look like a normal fire – no sign of arson, and no clear sign of
magic. I could smell where the Death
Eaters had been, but I didn’t recognize any of their scents. I will if I smell them again, though.” Sirius looked grim. Hermione grabbed his arm.
see Crookshanks?” Sirius’s expression
darkened. Crookshanks had been his
friend, when he was trying to break into Hogwarts to get Peter Pettigrew. He covered Hermione’s hand with his.
“No – but
Hermione, I’ll go back as a dog and I swear I’ll find him. I know his scent as well as I know
anyone’s. Leave it to me.” He stepped back a pace and
looked somewhat comforted. She walked
back over to the group by the sofa, and let Mrs. Weasley hug her. Then she bit her lip and looked down at the
Ron and Harry,” she muttered. “I wasn’t
thinking straight. I’m sorry.” Ron shrugged and grinned a little.
held me back often enough.” It was
true. Harry could remember many times
when Hermione had restrained Ron from attacking Draco Malfoy by holding on to
the back of his robes.
said Hermione to Ron with a little smile, “but you don’t usually hit me.” Ron laughed. Then Hermione gasped and put her hand over her mouth, looking
from Ron to Mrs. Weasley. “The Burrow!”
being checked, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley, putting a hand on Hermione’s
shoulder. “No sense worrying until we
hear.” As if on cue, Arthur Weasley
Apparated back into the room and walked immediately to his wife and son.
he said simply. “It’s fine.” Mrs. Weasley closed her eyes in relief and
Hermione clasped her hands together.
Mr. Weasley turned to Harry.
said you got a note, and a photograph?”
Harry nodded. “May I have them,
please? I’ll turn them over to Parker
in Magical Law Enforcement.”
looked about rather weakly. He had no
idea where the note or the photograph was.
After some searching, it was discovered that Mr. Granger had shoved the
photograph into his trouser pocket, and Harry had dropped the note and wrapping
on the kitchen floor. Mr. Weasley took
them in his handkerchief without touching them and prepared to leave. Harry wondered if the wizarding world knew
about fingerprints – it appeared that they did.
it’s safe for you to go home,” Mr. Weasley said to his wife. “The team will still be there.”
right, Arthur, but I think I’ll stay a little while.” Mr. Weasley nodded and Disapparated.
Sirius returned, fifteen minutes later, they were all much calmer, sitting and
drinking tea. Hermione jumped to her
feet at the sight of him; he was smiling broadly.
Crookshanks three streets away,” he said, “but I persuaded him to go back. He meowed at the kitchen door of your
neighbours on the left, and they took him in.
You can go get him when you get back.”
Hermione thanked him profusely.
sat down and accepted a cup of tea. “Do
you know yet what you’re going to do?” he asked the Grangers. “Do you need somewhere to stay?” Mr. Granger looked seriously at his
we’ll have to do what Hermione’s been begging us to do all summer,” he said
slowly. “My brother-in-law has just
moved to the Azores and bought a hotel.
He’s been telling us that the islands are in crying need of dentists and
urging us to move our practice there.”
didn’t really consider moving,” Mrs. Granger added, “but we did take our
holiday there this summer, and it really is lovely. We could sell our practice, and with the insurance money from the
house –” She trailed off and turned to
her husband. “Oh Miles,” she wailed,
“how can we even think of going out there and leaving our daughter here
– with those, those monsters?”
husband took her hand comfortingly.
Hermione sat up indignantly.
she burst out. “I’ve told you and told
you – I’m a witch and I have to learn how to protect myself. You’re Muggles, and you – well, you can’t do
anything to protect yourselves from them.
I’ll be safer at Hogwarts than anywhere, but if you stay here, they can
always use you to get to me” – she lowered her voice – “and to Harry.”
his jaw. “Mr. and Mrs. Granger, I’m
really, really sorry. I never knew – I
mean, when I was making friends with Hermione, I had no idea that – that it was
a bad idea for her to be friends with me.”
Hermione and Ron scowled and glared at him, but he ignored them.
you think you could go to the Azores – maybe you should,” continued Harry,
wishing he could find better words. “If
you could not tell anyone, or hardly anyone, where you are going, that would be
Weasley leaned forward. “I think Harry
is right. You wouldn’t be totally safe
there, but I don’t think You-Know-Who would bother you so far away.”
Hermione could still go to you on holidays,” added Harry eagerly. “She’d be much safer there than at your old
house.” He winced, and flopped a hand
helplessly in the air. “Well,
Granger took both his wife’s hands and looked into her eyes.
think we need to do this, Joanna.” Hermione looked beseechingly at her
mother. Mrs. Granger hesitated, and
well.” Harry breathed a sigh of
relief. Hermione nodded with great
you like Hermione to come stay with us right now?” Mrs. Weasley spoke up
tentatively. “While you get things in
order?” Hermione shook her head
leaving them until they’re on the airplane.
I may not be a full-fledged witch, but I can do Stupefy.” Her face was pale and determined.
the spirit, dear,” said Mrs. Figg briskly, “and I think we can get you some
help. How would you like Alastor Moody
as a temporary bodyguard?” Hermione’s
face lightened at the thought of the retired Auror whose motto was ‘Constant
would be just about perfect,” she smiled.
turned to Mrs. Figg.
what you are to me? A bodyguard? Have you been keeping watch over me all
my pleasure, dear boy.” Mrs. Figg
smiled fondly at him. “Your grandmother
was a very dear friend of mine.”
his head in amazement.
those times you babysat for me – why didn’t you tell me anything?” He looked around with a sudden frown. “And where are all your cats?”
they’re all upstairs.” Mrs. Figg
smoothed the apron over her flowered dress. “They hate crowds and noise, but
I’m sure they’d love to see you sometime when it’s quieter. As for the secrecy – well, I did as Albus
– ‘BANG, BANG, BANG’ – there was a pounding at the front door. Startled, Mrs. Figg jumped up and rushed
into the hall. Harry and Sirius stood
up to follow. Mrs. Figg looked through
the peephole and shrank back with her hand over her mouth.
whispered to Harry and Sirius, “it’s Vernon Dursley!”
* * *