The boy called Harry Potter lay, taking deep breaths at the same time, on his bed, writing with his quill. He was writing quickly, quill skimming the page as if it never even touched the parchment. But, then, it wasn't really touching the parchment – it was a charm Harry had learned off one of his best friends, Hermione Granger, last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had enchanted the quill last year, knowing that you were not allowed to perform magic outside of school and that he had almost got expelled for protecting his cousin and himself with a powerful spell called the Patronus Charm. He sat with his head in his hands, now; his quill had dropped to the floor. He started to re-live the day when he had had to go for a full Ministry Hearing so they could consider evidence and decide upon whether to expel him or not, because he had done serious magic against the Decree For Underage Wizardry.
Then his heart gave a little pang. He missed Hogwarts so much, he even missed Draco Malfoy and detentions, he would give anything to be there for the summer, but he knew all students had to go home. He crossed off a day on his Hogwarts wall chart; it counted the days until he could be back there with Hermione and his other best friend Ron Weasley, back in the lessons – however boring they actually were – learning the best thing of all (how to do magic) and back there taunting his rival and arch-enemy Draco and his best friends Crabbe and Goyle.
Suddenly there was a flapping of wings and a shrill hooting. Harry looked out of the window and saw three owls, fluttering towards the window. He opened it; they flew in and landed on his chest-of-drawers. Harry grabbed his letters from the owls' legs and saw there were two bearing the Hogwarts Crest and one other in Ron's untidy writing; he slit the first one open, which had Ron's scrawl on the front, pulled out the parchment and began to read silently.
Harry – hi, I've sent Pig with your present, it's in the envelope, mum's writing to your horrible aunt and uncle (sorry if that's offensive) to see if we can meet at Diagon Alley, something important's on and I'd hate for you to miss it, Bill won't let me in on anything which makes me think it has got summat to do with Gringotts or Fleur Delacor…remember her? I asked her out. Charlie's in on it too, and you know he works with dragons…how are you anyway, Harry? I'm sorry, I always say too much in these letters, never actually get around to what I want to tell you about…never mind. Send Pidwidgeon back immediately with all the news from your household…see you soon – Ron xx.
Harry turned the parchment envelope upside down, and nothing came out. First time Ron had forgotten his birthday present. And it was also the first time Ron had sent him a letter in a month. He reached for another envelope and pulled the parchment out. The Hogwarts Crest, which bore a picture of a lion-raven-badger-snake, leapt out of the page at him. He was used to this, he got letters from Hogwarts all the time, or at least some not from Hogwarts bearing the crest. It was the usual lecture: meet on Platform 9 ¾ at 11 O'Clock to catch the Hogwarts Express, please find an equipment and book list enclosed. Intruged, Harry pulled a spare sheet of parchment from the envelope and read the list in his head.
Please make sure you have, or buy, copies of the following. All sixth-year students need these books as they are essential for studies and class-guides:
The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Six
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
Advanced and Dangerous Potion Making
The Complete Potion and Poison Guide
Magical Creatures and Their Needs
A Guide to Exotic Plants
Achievements in Charming
The Advanced Charms Book
Hexes, Jinxes and Jelly-Legs
Dark Arts for Protection
A Complete Dark Arts Guide
Intermediate Broomstick Riding
A Good Guide for Spotting Animagi
Harry smiled to himself, though his spirits sank. The best part about the list was that he needed a book on flying and everyone who knew him had experience of how well he could fly on his broomstick. He didn't like the look of the potion books, but he was not allowed to leave them behind when he bought them. He looked at the letter he had not opened yet, and hoped it would be something that would make his spirits ebb up by reading the ink. It looked like Hermione's neat handwriting on the envelope, but he did not want to take the chance of the contents right now. Instead, he dressed in his night-clothes and took off his glasses and slipped between his covers. His birthday was soon and he hoped that she had sent him a special card.
The next morning Harry was out of bed before his Uncle could wake him. He had three letters he wanted to post: one for Ron, one for Hagrid and one for his godfather Sirius. He ran a knife down his unopened envelope and pulled out not one, but three, different bits of parchment. The first was from Ron, the second was from Hermione and the last was from Fred and George. He read Hermione's letter first, and his spirits went into the sky after he'd read the last word.
I have ordered your present and you can pick it up on the train. Ron made a mistake with his letter. There's nothing on at Diagon Alley at all. I told him, through my new owl Griselda, to make sure he put your present in the envelope but I think he forgot. He asked me to put in a letter from him in this envelope, so I have done and I made sure your present was in it. You may not notice it first time as it's so thin. I've been away for so long that I thought I wasn't going to get back in time for school and that would've been a disaster. I went to France again and I learned a lot more about their magic. I think you should come with me one day. I've asked my parents. My dad says that your dad grew up at Normandy but I'm not sure that's true. Your mother grew up in Germany, didn't she? If I'm not right please don't put acid all over this letter. Remember, Harry, that we're not allowed to do magic yet. But I bet you can't wait until the end of this year so you can put a curse on that cousin of yours. I scryed and saw him in my crystal so I think he deserves every single thing that you have planned. You do have two or more things planned for him, don't you? He deserves them. He's bullied you over the years and think about it when I say it's only fair that you bully him,
Love from Hermione.
Harry tucked the letter into a drawer in his bedside cabinet, thinking about all the things he had planned for his cousin. He hadn't given a single thought to the fact that he would be allowed to use magic at the end of the next school year. He read Ron's letter next. It was very short, but Harry considered it to be a suitable apology for all he'd done. Ron was his best friend, after all.
Harry – listen, mate, I'm really sorry I forgot your birthday present. It's flat and very tiny so I guess it slipped out the envelope when I was sealing it. I spotted your present on the floor at my feet and I tried to call Pig back, but he was gone by that time. Hermione had sent me an owl about twenty minutes before I sent you my letter. She's been to France again, lucky girl. I've been stuck in my crumbling little house and you've been stuck with them. I'll see you real soon. Sorry about this, but there's nothing on at Diagon Alley so maybe we'll see each other – from Ron xx.
Harry didn't have to ask him by post what 'them' meant. It meant that Harry had been stuck at Number Four Privet Drive with his horrible relatives, and that was true. It had been ages since he'd had any contact with the wizards and witches from the world in which he really belonged. He looked at the open envelope and spotted a thin black disc. He took it from the envelope and examined it. It was like a camera, but only papery thin like an actual photograph. It had a glass lens which was pink, a button which was pink, a number in one of the corners which was pink and the rest of his circular present had two different shades of black. One shade was the normal ebony, and the other looked like it had been mixed in with a little bit of white. He didn't know what his present was, but he appreciated it all the same.
He turned to the letter of Fred and George next, and then decided to add people to his list of mail instead. He now had six letters to write: Ron, Hagrid, Sirius, Hermione, Ginny, Lupin. He wasn't sure where Ginny and Lupin had come from, but he wanted to write to them anyway. He sat at his desk and began to write. It took him three hours to write them before he decided that they could leave his bedroom via his owl Hedwig and go to the various recipients.
He opened the letter from Fred and George next, and it consisted of a quick little message and an order form. He smiled to himself, pleased to know that their joke-shop business was still strong. He had set it up, really, by giving them his Triwizard winnings two years ago and he'd threatened to hex them if they didn't take it. They did him one favour, though, and bought Ron new dress-robes and said the robes were from them. It didn't matter who they were from as long as Ron was happy.
He went downstairs, having dressed in Dudley's oversized t-shirt and trousers and he had his wand clasped in his left hand for some bizarre reason. He put it down on the table and went over to heat up the frying pan. He always did this every morning and then he heard someone bounding down the stairs, and the moment his cousin came through the door it all became clear. Today was his cousin Dudley Dursley's sixteenth birthday, and Harry knew exactly what Dudley had been hoping for.
"A kick up the ass," he muttered to himself, and Dudley waddled over, frowning at him suspiciously. "That man on the television, who's been splashing his cat with water – he's the one I was talking about," he found himself saying quickly. He held out the pan and stepped towards the table.
"Do you want some bacon?"
Dudley sat himself down at the table, not noticing Harry's wand. "Yes," Dudley said grumpily. "Harry, d'you have any idea where all my presents have gone this year as I can't see a single one?"
"Perhaps it is only a single one," Harry hinted, dropping the bacon and oil in the pan. "Now you're getting older you don't want all them toys, do you? Don't want Piers to see you with baby toys, eh? I'm sure the boys at your school won't be getting all those games you like." He moved the bacon onto a plate and held it out to his cousin, with his forced smiled still in place.
"Harry, thanks, maybe we should forgive each other and – aaagh! What is that pointy thing? It's your wand, isn't it?" Dudley said, panicking slightly.
Harry snatched his wand up out of sight and stuffed it into his back pocket, being careful to make sure his t-shirt was covering it before his Uncle came in. "Hey, Harry, I won't tell my dad," Dudley said.
"Are we making amends, then?" Harry asked quietly, in case his Aunt came in to demand her breakfast. He turned off the cooker, got himself a bowl of museli and sat in a seat next to Dudley.
"Perhaps," said Dudley just as quietly. It was then that, just as Harry and Dudley were perhaps going to forget their differences, Harry's Uncle Vernon came in and he was brushing his moustache with a comb.
"Bacon, Potter," he said nastily, as Harry jumped to his feet to get the cold pan reheated again. "Dudley, I hid your present in a bedroom…I think it would be best if I showed you where it was, or you can go and find it if you like…but don't let Potter help because I told him where it is…"
"Sure," said Dudley, with a look at Harry who felt sure that Dudley was going to tell about the fact that he'd had his wand out at the table. But Dudley didn't. He looked at Harry, cleared his plate and then waited in the hall until Harry had served Vernon with bacon, fried egg and orange juice. Harry put Aunt Petunia's croissant and black, no-milk coffee on the table. The moment he'd backed away, he felt Dudley pulling him into the dining room where Uncle Vernon couldn't hear them. Dudley was red in the face and Harry felt very surprised.
"So, where's my present?"
Dudley bit his lip, as if he was worried.
"I don't know," said Harry truthfully. "He was going to tell me but he got a call from a business man, and I didn't hear anything after that. I bet it's in his bedroom near his side of the bed, though."
"Tell me how to do it," Dudley said, changing the subject and drumming two of his fingers along the windowsill. "I want to know. I've tried to conceal it from dad, but I want to know how to do it."
"Huh?" Harry asked, confused.
"I've always wanted to know," Dudley continued. "Dad will be mad at me, mum will start crying but I know it's worth the sacrifice." He drummed his fingers again, face now calm and deathly white.
"How to do what?" Harry asked.
"Magic," whispered Dudley. "Can you do a spell or a charm or something on me that would enable me to do it? Just for a short while, to see if I like it? I really hate being called a Muggle," he admitted. He eyed Harry with the deepest look of adoration Harry had ever seen since Dobby.
"I don't blame you," said Harry, moving into the light to survey his cousin while trying to remember a spell that would let Muggles perform magic for a short time. Ron had learned it from Hermione and had taught it to him, the day before the last day of the last school year had ended.
"Please," whispered Dudley again.
"I can't do magic outside of school," Harry said.
"Oh, but maybe you could do it on an occasion that was not for your benefit? It would make me really delirious, Harry," Dudley told him. "Happy, I mean. I learned the word at school two years ago."
"Do you want to go to Hogwarts?" Harry asked him sternly. "I can't do magic, I can write letter so you can go. Do you want to go to my school? If you do not want to then we can't get you a wand, and then you won't be able to do magic at all. Not even a bit, it would be such a shame."
Dudley sighed. "I want to with all my heart."