1. Little Whinging
It was a normal day in Little Whinging, Surrey. The sun was out, children were playing at the playground and traffic was at its usual leisurely pace. It was your typical English village: a small town center area with a chemist, grocer, meat cutter, pub and a few other small businesses which saved the residents from having to travel to London for their daily essentials. Several neighborhoods circled the center, including one called Hedge Hollow.
Hedge Hollow spouted pastoral streets such as Magnolia Road, Wisteria Walk, Holly Circle and Privet Drive. It was the most affluent of the neighborhoods in Little Whinging and the residents did everything they could to ensure everyone else knew it. Privet Drive was the showcase of the neighborhood. What made this street the epitome of normal were the houses. There were essentially four basic house designs: two had two stories and two had one. Apparently the architect must have taken a cookie cutter and cut out outlines of the four house types, laid them out on a sheet of paper and then built them in that order.
Each house had a front and back garden as well as a garage for two automobiles. If one was pretentious enough to have more than one auto, it was parked in the driveway. Only visitors parked on the street, which enabled everyone an unobstructed view of who the visitor was and whether or not they "fit" with the airs of the street. It also fueled the gossip subjects for the Privet Drive Book Club. The book club was just a cover for the ladies of the neighborhood to gather together for tea (or something stronger) and discuss the business of those not present in the club.
Number four Privet Drive looked like a normal house on a normal street was anything but normal. The Dursleys, Vernon, Petunia and their son Dudley were no different from their neighbors. It was the fourth occupant of their house that set them apart. The Dursley's nephew, Harry Potter, was as abnormal as they came. You see, Harry Potter was a wizard.
Harry Potter was looking forward to his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry which would be starting in four more weeks. Harry had been back at Privet Drive for three weeks, three painful weeks, so the sooner he returned to Hogwarts the happier he would be. Since he had returned from school, Harry had spent his days manicuring the gardens, cooking the family's meals (of which he seldom got to partake) and cleaning the house. In return, Harry was allowed to have the smallest bedroom in the house. This was an improvement over his first ten years in the house, when his bedroom had been the cupboard under the stairs.
Today found Harry in the back garden, weeding the flower beds and mowing the lawn. Some people would think that these would be some of the worst chores Harry had to do, but Harry thought differently. He was out of the house and in the sunshine. Since nobody could see over the tall privacy fence, he didn't have to worry about being stared at by the neighbors. The neighbors feared Harry, because it was rumored that he attended St. Brutus' Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys. What they didn't realize was that it was his cousin Dudley who terrorized the other children in the neighborhood. If Harry didn't fear attracting the attention of his aunt, he would be whistling. Whistling would make his aunt think he enjoyed what he was doing - and far be it from the Dursleys to have him do something he enjoyed.
He heard the back door open and his aunt stuck her head out. "Boy! Get in here now! Your uncle will be home in an hour and you know he likes to have his dinner waiting when he gets here. And don't track dirt in this house! Leave your shoes on the back steps."
Harry quickly put his tools away, dusted the dirt and grass from his clothes and headed inside. He went to the loo to wash his hands. While in there, he surreptitiously took two handfuls of water to quench his thirst. He had been caught drinking from the hose once, and it had not ended well for him.
He was just setting dinner on the table when his uncle arrived home. The family gathered at the dinner table; Harry was sent to his room until the others finished. If there was anything left (and there probably wouldn't be) he would be allowed to have it. Just as he turned to head up the stairs, he heard the announcer on the evening news warn everyone to be on the lookout for an escaped mass murderer named Sirius Black.
"Too bad they eliminated the death penalty," said Uncle Vernon. "People like him should get the same punishment as the people he killed. Where did they say he escaped from?"
"I don't know, Vernon, I don't think they said," Aunt Petunia replied.
"Boy! What are you doing standing there? I told you to go to your room! You'll do as I say unless you don't want anything to eat tonight."
Harry trudged up the stairs to his room and closed the door. When called to clean up, an hour later, he found a decent serving of salad and one piece of garlic toast left for him to eat. Far be it for the Dursleys to eat something healthy. Harry quickly washed up the dishes and returned to his room. While he waited for the house to settle down into sleep, Harry thought about his previous two years at Hogwarts. One thing he had learned during those two years was that his life was anything but normal.
Harry watched as the clock ticked up to midnight. It was now July 31, his birthday. He was officially a teenager. As he wondered what his parents would think of him at 13 years old, he noticed several things flying towards him. As they got nearer, he could tell one of them was his own snowy owl Hedwig. She'd taken off earlier that day to parts unknown. The next owl appeared to be having trouble staying in the air, much less flying straight. He quickly recognized the Weasley's family owl Errol. He didn't know how old Errol was (or how long owls lived for that matter), but Errol had seen better days. He barely made it across the window sill before he collapsed. Harry relieved him of his package and took him over to Hedwig's perch, gave him an owl treat and let him drink his fill of water. Hedwig was next entering. He relieved her of her package and she flew to her perch, looking disdainfully at Errol. The third owl turned out to be from Hogwarts. After relieving it of its letter and package the owl turned and flew off, not bothering to wait for a treat or a drink of water.
Harry opened the Weasley's present first. A piece of newspaper fell out. Ron's father had won a drawing held by the Daily Prophet (the British wizarding paper). According to Ron's letter, they were using the money to go to Egypt and visit his oldest brother, Bill, who was a curse breaker for Gringotts Bank (the wizarding bank). Harry knew they deserved the extra gold. They would be back just before school started and hoped Harry could meet up with them in Diagon Alley to buy their school supplies. When he opened the present he found a pocket sneakoscope. It would let him know if someone who was not trustworthy was near.
Opening the next present, he was delighted to discover it was from Hermione. Hedwig always seems to know when Hermione needed to send him something and was always there when she was ready to send it. Knowing Hermione, it was some sort of book. He was surprised to find it was actually a broom servicing kit. She hoped that the Muggles were treating him well, and said that she was planning to meet up with Ron and his family just before school started to get her supplies. Harry couldn't wait to make use of the present once he had his broomstick back. It was locked in the cupboard under the stairs with his school trunk and wand.
The last package was heavy. He got half of the wrapping off before something jumped out of his hand and began eating the wrapping paper. Once the thing had digested the paper, it looked for something else to consume. Harry jumped on the bed and waited until it came back out, then jumped down on top of it. Once he had it captured, he realized it was a book. Only one person at Hogwarts would send him a book that would eat you, and that was Hagrid. He grabbed a belt and tied it around the book to avoid another chase-or-be-chased event. The only thing Hagrid told him was that it was something he thought Harry might find handy.
The last letter was his usual before-term book list from Professor McGonagall. This year there was an additional piece of parchment. A permission form. Students third year and up could visit the nearby town of Hogsmeade on designated weekends. The catch was that it required a parent or guardian's permission. Fat chance getting Aunt Petunia, much less Uncle Vernon, to sign it. Hopefully he could find a way.
Having opened his presents and put them away, Harry took off his glasses and went to sleep. He fervently wished, as he did every year at this time, that this birthday would be his best and he would be able to leave Privet Drive for the last time.