.

ACCOUNT OF HERMIONE GRANGER

NEARLY 10, BEST FRIEND

How many times have I got to tell you? I don't know why I ran. It's just he was my first best friend, and he came out of nowhere. I was scared he was going to disappear into nowhere, too, and then I'd never have another best friend. Not like him. He was special - magical. I'm not even talking about the funny things he says he can do. Those are nothing special to me. I can do the same things as he can.... But, he was different. He didn't think I was strange for liking to read or being clever. He wanted to be my friend. He liked me, and no one but grown-ups ever do.

All I know is I saw that man staring at my best friend - he just looked bad - so I ran. No one was going to take my friend from me. I don't really know where I thought I could go. It was just a small boat, wasn't it? But, I didn't think he would jump over. I hope he's all right. You do think he's all right, don't you? I saw him go over the edge. I'm sure he hit the water. The Black Man jumped after him, right into the water. He flapped round for a bit. I don't think he knew how to swim, you know. Some grown-ups don't. And after that, we couldn't see either of them. They were just gone, and not drowned either. Just, gone. Disappeared, like magic. Straight back to nothing.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ACCOUNT OF HARRY JAMES POTTER

9, MAIN CHARACTER

Aunt Petunia was going to put me into swimming lessons with Dudley when we were five, but Dudley didn't want to do swimming once he found out it was really exercise, and the only thing Uncle Vernon thought I should be taught to do in a pool was drown, so it didn't happen. And that was okay. I never much fancied swimming anyways, I think, because who wants to be wet and cold for no reason at all? Swimming isn't like running. Running is easy. Running I am clever at. Dudley chases me with his mates at school, when they play Harry Hunting; I am the best at running very fast and hiding where no one can find me.

Hermione sees him first, the Black Man. "Marcus!" she tells me, taking my arm. I don't like people to touch me. Not ever. And especially not girls. So, I pull away. I give her my angry look, with the crinkly eyebrows and skinny lips. Aunt Petunia's always telling me I'm going to get a smack if I keep up with that face. "Oh, Marcus, watch out!"

We both turn round at the same time, and I see him. He is very tall and very thin, with yellow skin like a banana and the shiny sort of black eyes that only the very most terrible of bad guys in cartoons ever seem to have. With his skinny, bad guy arms, he pushes Hermione's mum and dad out of the way and heads straight for me. His face is dark like Uncle Vernon's when he's pushing me up against the wall and squeezing all the breath from my throat. He says something that we cannot hear, far away as we are.

If I was back in my cupboard at Privet Drive, I could have found a hiding spot and sat down and thought for ages and ages about how strange it is that the Black Man has found me so quickly since I ran away from him in London, especially because I am on a boat. But, I am not home, and here there is no hiding spot, so I've got to make my thoughts pass quickly until I find the right one to help me get away. I think, only the most cleverest of bad guys could track down a superhero on a moving boat. That's scary. Scarier than Uncle Vernon on a rainy day when one of his deals has fallen through, or Aunt Petunia when somebody has tracked mud through the foyer, or even more than Aunt Marge's biggest dog, Vicious, who is louder and bites harder than Ripper does.

Hermione is shouting and panicky. She tugs my sleeve, tells me to hurry up - c'mon, Marcus, run! - but my legs are not working properly. All I can do is stare at the Black Man. He stares back at me with his pointy black eyes and his massive nose, his lips twisted into something that perhaps is supposed to be a smile, only he's not very good at smiling, the Black Man. So, his smile looks crooked and nasty and full of ugly, yellow teeth that the school nurse says you get when you smoke too many cigarettes. If he was any other person and not the bad guy, if I was not running away from him, if he wasn't so scary, I would have thought that maybe he shouldn't smoke so many cigarettes. Then, his teeth could be more better looking and whiter, and perhaps he wouldn't look so nasty anymore.

"Marcus!" Hermione takes my hand, runs from one bench to another. Her parents call after her, 'Hermione! Hermione!', but she doesn't stop. The ferry is suddenly very big and very empty. There is nowhere to hide, no one to run to. Hermione's hands are sweaty in mine, and the tiny heartbeats inside them are thumping so quickly that I am afraid they might explode. My head is spinning. How did he find me, the Black Man? What does he want? What happens when he catches me? A million questions swirling inside my head, filling it.

Run, Harry. I almost forgot my snake. He slithers round in my pocket. How did he get there? But, there's no time to think about anything now. Run, Harry. Just like with Dudley and Piers and all the others at school. Forget about the untied shoelaces trying to trip you, the shouts from all of the people on the deck who want to make you stop. Forget everything, even yourself. Forget your whole self - body, hair, shoes, glasses - all of it. Just run. Fast. Forget everything and get away.

When I am running, I am thinking of a million things and nothing all at the same time. I am wondering where I can run to, where I will be safe, where I will not be found. I am afraid of what will happen if my feet do not move me quickly enough. Forwards, left, another left, right, left once more. Up the deck, over the rails. Splash. Kick. Mouthful of water.

Cold.

Dark.

Swimming lessons.

I try to move, to make my body float like I know it should, but I can't. I am like the heavy stones Dudley and his gang like to toss into the kiddie pool. Sinking, choking, like a rock. A big, heavy, Harry-sized rock. I remember my snake. Slimy on my hand, moving up. Good, I think. He can swim, at least. I've only killed myself....

* * *

"Stupid, wretched boy!" I hear Aunt Petunia's screechy voice in my head, telling me off for drowning myself. I wonder why it matters so much to her. Aunt Petunia's always hoping that if I walk too far from the pavement, I'll be hit by someone in a speeding car. She's told me as much, loads of times. "Foolish! Idiot!" Aunt Petunia must be ill. Her voice is deep like a man's, and her hands on my arms are too cold and sweaty. Furious, she is. Her hands are so tight round my arms that I can feel all of the blood being squeezed from them. She shakes me - hard - my head flopping in every direction like the stuffed bear Dudley used to play Hangman with.

"Ow," I tell her, hoping she will stop. My neck is sore from all of the shaking, and my arms are achy, and my throat is full of water that stops me saying anything other than "Owlghhh."

"Ow, indeed," say the hands, which I am beginning to think are not Aunt Petunia. They shake me again. "Up, boy, up!"

My body is waking up now, but I wish it hadn't. Everything is freezing cold and hard. Uncomfortable. I feel a bit like laundry when Aunt Petunia takes it out of the washing machine - all wrung out and damp and dizzy. "Can't," I tell the voice. I try to sound as sore as I feel so that the voice will leave me alone. "Dead," I say. "Can't move. Too dead."

The voice makes the huff-y sort of noise Aunt Petunia does when she's in a hurry and feeling hexasprated with me. But, I know now that this is not Aunt Petunia. She has given me enough smacks and told me off plenty of times for me to know that these are not her hands trying to pull me from the ground or her voice telling me what a horrible, awful, terrible abomination of a boy I am. "Unfortunately, Potter, you are not dead." The hands tug my t-shirt, my hair, my arms. They make me sit up, keep my head straight, let out all of the water that has been trying to turn my mouth into a swimming pool. "But you will be, if you do not wake up and stop this foolishness."

Quiet. There is nothing I can think of to say back to the voice, but I will not open my eyes. The minute I am up, boom. Everything is over. Everything is real life again. Secretly I am wishing to myself that the voice and the hands belong to my dad. I make believe that he is very tall and strong, but not fat like Uncle Vernon. He's got black hair like mine, green eyes like mine, everything the same as mine. In my head, he's smiling and happy that I am alive and didn't die when I jumped from the ferry. He pulls me in; I hear his clothes whispering as he moves. His hand raises; I can feel it against my cheek. He is going to give me a cuddle, and then we will go home where my mum is waiting with dry clothes and a nice bed in a bedroom that will be all my own. Just me and my dad and my mum. Alive. All alive.

There is a cloud in my head that makes it hard to think or move, but the cloud is going away now, slowly. "Potter!" I flop back, waiting for my dad to pick me up and take me home. He makes the huffing noise again, pulls my body back up so that I can feel his breath on my face, and slaps me. "Stop this now, Potter, and wake up. I know you can hear me!" At Privet Drive I am always being smacked for something. Aunt Petunia says it's because I've got a terrible mouth on me, which is a bit stupid, because my mouth is fine. Straight teeth and everything, even. The hand that is smacking me now is much bigger than hers, but it doesn't hurt. Just stings a bit as it slaps, again and again, taking turns with each cheek.

There are different kinds of slaps. Some are for misbehaving, and those are all right, because you knew you were going to get them you misbehaved in the first place, so you're ready for it. There are waking-up slaps that Aunt Petunia does sometimes when she is too tired in the morning to shout, slaps for doing stupid things that could get you hurt, slaps for poor marks in school, slaps for burning the bacon, slaps for nothing at all, slaps, slaps, slaps. All sorts, all different feeling.

The hands are smacking me quickly and softly, waking me up and telling me off for doing something as dangerous as jumping into the middle of the English Channel. Finally, I open my eyes.

"You!"

If I was not dead before, I will be soon. My eyes move slowly from his feet to his head, taking it all in. Tall, skinny, pale, black eyes, dirty hair. His mouth is twisted up into the angriest frown I have ever seen. It's not a human mouth, but a snarling dog's mouth with yellow teeth that barks and spits. The Black Man looks at me the same way Uncle Vernon looks at Polish construction workers and people who ride motorbikes. I know what he is thinking without him having to say it. I am disgusting and useless. He wishes he could be looking at anything else, but me.

"Me," says the Black Man in his horrible, low voice, like two rocks being scraped against each other. He does the smile that is not really a smile again.

When you live with the Dursleys, you've got to be good at knowing where you are. You've got to keep a look out, always know how to get away quickly. The Black Man and me are sitting in the sand. That's going to be hard to run on, even if I am the fastest boy in my class. On my left is water. Loads of it. A whole channel full. Can't go that way. On my right is loads of nothing. Trees, rocks, bushes and things. Nature stuff. I can run there, if I'm fast enough. I can lose myself until the Black Man gives up and goes away for good. I think, no one could want to chase after me for too long. Even if I was the best and only superhero in the whole world, and he was the only bad guy and my worst enemy, I'm not that important.

The Black Man stands up, lifting me with him. He smacks the dirt from my jeans and wipes the water from my face with his sleeve. His lips move. He's talking, but not to me. He's whinging to himself about me, the way Aunt Petunia does when she is very cross. "Leave it to you, Potter, Apparating away.... the bloody English Channel, Merlin's sake...."

I make a decision. No running away this time. My hand tears itself from his, and I turn round to face him, full of energy. "Stay away from me!" I warn, swinging my arms out, punching as powerfully as I can. "Stop following me! Leave me alone!" For a second the Black Man looks like he is going to say something to me, but he just reaches out to take my hand again, his lips shut tight, his eyes full of fire. "Get off!"

"Potter," he says, very quiet. If I wasn't so angry and shouting, I would have heard the way his voice was too soft, would have seen the way his eyes flashed like lightning, the way his lips curved like a dog's do right before it barks.

My face is hot and itchy and miserable. I want to cry. I want to sit down, put my head in my hands, and have a long, miserable cry. Why won't he leave me alone? Why can't I even run away properly, without being followed and kidnapped and probably killed? I point my finger at him, my voice loud, panicky even. "Bugger off, you! Just...just bugger off, or I'll get you! I'm serious! I can hurt you! I will hurt you!"

He comes toward me again. "Potter - "

"I don't know how you know my name, and I don't care! I'll kill you, I will! I can do things, things that normal boys can't do! You can't kidnap me, because I'm dangerous! I'm dangerous and I'll hurt you, and I, and - don't come any closer!" Matthew Evans says that the only way to make someone bugger off properly is to scare him, and the best way to scare him without getting yourself carted off to jail is to show him how tough you are. My eyes go up and down the beach, looking for anything I can use as a weapon, but there is nothing. Not even a stick. I can't fight the Black Man with my fists, as he's much bigger than I am and doesn't look like he's hurt by my punches in the least. My breath catches, my hands shake. There is no way to fight, no way to scare him.

They take off, my feet, before I've got the time to think about which direction I should be running in. It's easier than I thought it would be to run away on the sand, even with my shoes full of water and my t-shirt flapping about like a fat, Dudley-sized flag on my back. Run, Harry, run. I make it off the beach and through the trees, the branches scratching at my arms and legs, the angry shouts of the Black Man close behind. Run faster. Run. Run. My legs pump hard, shooting me out from the trees, down an empty street, and then another. Faster and faster, I think, watching the world around me blur together until it is nothing but colours and sounds and wind on my face.

The Black Man follows me through rows of houses, gardens, parks, and more streets. This is a strange town, very old and made of stone and brick. Nothing at all like Magnolia Crescent. We run past other kids playing games in the street, past mothers with prams and men buying newspapers. The Black Man is always close, no matter how fast I go. I feel like my heart is going to burst from my chest, it's pounding so hard, but I don't stop. I can't stop.

Further and further, until the people start to disappear and the bricks look blacker with dirt. My legs want to keep running, but my head says stop. There is no where else to go. Ahead, there is only a brick wall.

"Potter!" breathes the Black Man, his cheeks pink and sweaty. "Potter, you little idiot - "

Sometimes the anger burning in my chest is too much for me. It wants to come out, and I can't make it stay in. It breaks free in shouts and punches, pushing me back, towards the brick wall, away from him. My anger takes over where my brain used to be. It makes the decisions. It tells me to back away, keep shouting, find a weapon. Anger makes my hands reach for a bottle. I've seen people do this trick in films where they hold the bottle and break it against a wall, making it sharp. Like a knife. I used to think it was cool, but now there is no time to think.

My knife is pointed at the Black Man's chest. I want him to know that I will cut him, if I have to. It's scary, I think, but I could kill him. If he's going to hurt me, I'd rather kill him. At least then I could get away on my own, left in peace. "Don't come near me," I shout, closing my eyes for a minute so they don't get teary. He won't listen to me if I cry. Uncle Vernon never does. "Don't touch me, or I'll kill you. Got it?"

We stay that way for a few minutes, the Black Man and me. Staring at each other, me with my bottle-knife, him with his empty hands. I almost think he is going to shout at me to put down my weapon, like they do in the films, but he doesn't. Tilting his head back, he shows me all of his horrible, crooked teeth - a whole mouthful - and makes a funny, choking sort of noise that, I realise, is supposed to be a laugh. It's not a nice laugh, not a sort of laugh that someone who laughs a lot would have. The Black Man does not raise his voice or put his hand on his stomach or even smile. He just stands there, his hands dropped to his sides, laughing and laughing like I'm the funniest thing he's ever seen.

This, I think, is not how bad guys are supposed to behave when you fight them.

"I mean it!" That's not right, him laughing when I'm so serious. It's not funny. I could kill him, and he'd be dead, like my mum and dad, and that's not funny at all. The anger is so strong, I don't hardly feel like myself anymore. This is Superhero Harry. He's not afraid of the Black Man. Superhero Harry takes his knife and raises it high into the air so that the Black Man can see. "Aha!" says Superhero Harry, full of victory, and brings it down onto his own arm.

"See?" Again and again, the knife flashing, cutting, making blood. Anger can make pain go away. The knife doesn't hurt as it slices. Just makes blood, more and more of it. "Do you see? I mean it, don't come near me! I can hurt you!" It doesn't hurt, I tell myself, but the tears come anyway. They drip down my cheeks and fog up my glasses and make me feel a bit stupid, a bit too small. "I can! I can...don't come near, and, I, and - don't touch m - stop it!"

I know it is wrong to hate, but I can't help it. I hate grown ups. It's not fair that they are so much bigger than me. I should be strong. I'm a superhero, after all. Superheroes can do anything, fight anyone. But, if I'm so strong, how come the Black Man has pulled my knife away so easily and tossed it away so that it smashes and breaks into millions and zillions of little pieces? He shakes me again, his big hands pulling, making me sit on a step beside him.

"Idiot! Mongrel!" he says, his voice rocky again. "Give me your arm." He doesn't wait for me to hold it out, though. Just grabs, running his fingers over the cuts and making me cry all over again. "No need for the theatrics, Potter. You are not seriously injured."

One more sniff, and then I am done. I will not cry in front of him. Superheroes never cry, anyways. They aren't that weak.

"Hold still," orders the Black Man, tearing off a bit of his sleeve. "I said hold still, boy!" He wraps my arm up very quickly and then pushes me away, like it hurts him to touch me. Fine by me, I think.

When I was on the ferry with Hermione, the sun was shining and the sky was lovely and blue. The Black Man looks up at the same time I do, only to see loads of clouds and flashes of lightning. It was warm before, but now the wind cuts straight through my new jumper, which is still damp from jumping into the Channel. I think perhaps I should find somewhere else to go before it rains, but the Black Man has still got my wrist tightly in his hand. He stares straight ahead, like he's thinking hard about something important. His nose wrinkles.

We sit like that for a bit, me and the Black Man. Quiet, thinking. I should say something, do something, make him explain to me why he's here, why he's been following me. But I don't. I'm afraid that if I speak, I will remind him that I am sat here next to him, and then he will do something awful. It's like that with the Dursleys sometimes. They're not half as nasty when I let them forget about me. Sometimes they even forget to do the lock on the cupboard door at night.

"Come, Potter." Even as he stands his fist is tight on my arm. "We're leaving."

"Where?" I ask, before I can stop myself. My legs feel heavy, and my head is stuffy, as if I've been ill. I don't feel much like fighting.

The Black Man shows me his teeth, yellow and shiny with spit. "That, boy, is none of your concern." When he talks, I notice, he looks down his nose at me. I feel sort of specky and small standing next to him, but I can't break my hand from his, and my arm is more and more sore every second. I want Hermione back, with the ferry and the suitcase that smelled like plastic.

"It's my concern if you're taking me somewhere."

But the Black Man is brushing sand from his clothes and doesn't pay me any attention. Just like the Dursleys, I think. Aunt Petunia is always saying that the only way to deal with a rotten boy like me is to ignore him.

"Stay close to me," he orders, tugging my sore arm. "Or you will be extremely sorry."

Before I've got the chance to ask why, something strange happens. It is the same feeling from before, when I disappeared in London and ended up in Hermione's car. Like being squeezed through a tube of toothpaste and then spat out again all over the floor. Only, this time the Black Man is holding my arm, and we land in the middle of the woods, not a car with a curly-haired girl and her bag full of books.

There are some trees in Magnolia Crescent that Aunt Petunia says are off limits to little boys. Dudley and his mates used to drag me there when they wanted to play punching bag without being caught. I liked the woods. They were big - big enough that if I ran for a bit, I could shake off Dudley and Piers and Dennis no problem. It's easy to forget things when you are surrounded by loads of nothing. If Aunt Petunia was being a stroppy old bint, or if Uncle Vernon had been at the sherry with Aunt Marge, I could go to the wood and no one would bother me there. Animals don't care much if your parents were useless, or if you live in a cupboard under the stairs because it's the only place your kind are suited for. They don't mind if you're not very popular at school, or if you haven't got any friends.

The animals will be your friend for little things, like bread crumbs and soft pats and cups of water. In the woods, I was never alone. There were squirrels and birds and titchy little things that liked to eat bits of nut and fruit I brought from the kitchen back at Privet Drive. I would watch them play, and they would sit very patient and quiet while I finished my homework, and then we would have a siesta or go exploring until the sun went very low in the sky and it was time to go home.

"Quickly, now, Potter!" barks the Black Man, tugging me along. His eyebrows are like furry, black caterpillars pushed down over his dark eyes, and his lips are even thinner than they were the last time I looked at them. He looks from side to side, almost like he is expecting something to pop out at us from behind one of the big trees. The sky has been getting darker and darker; I try and guess if it's on account of the trees being so massive and leafy as they are, or if maybe the night time has come sooner than I thought it would. I wonder where we are, where we're going, and why, but I won't ask. The Black Man is walking so fast I can't hardly keep up, but he drags me along anyways, his hand as tight as ever round my wrist.

Something about his voice reminds me of my snake. Where has Walrus gone? I do a quick check; he's not in my pockets. Have I left him?

"Er - hey," I say, very softly, in case he is the Aunt Petunia-y sort that get angry when you ask too many questions. The Black Man keeps walking. If he heard me, he won't show it. I sigh, feeling a bit hexasprated. "Hello?"

He stops. "I said, quickly, Potter!"

"I know, I know, it's just, my snake, he's not here - "

Before I can finish, though, his other hand has reached deep into a pocket I hadn't noticed before, and there is Walrus, wrapped all comfy and cosy round the Black Man's big finger.

Had a pleasant swim? he asks me, as the Black Man shoves him into my hands and starts walking again. I nod, but don't say anything. It's difficult enough keeping up, without trying to speak snake.

We walk for what seems like ages and ages, the Black Man pulling me after him, the trees whizzing by. Walrus doesn't ask me anything else. He's clever like that, always knowing when to keep quiet and just listen. The woods are getting blacker and blacker, but we keep walking. I imagine the Black Man is going to take me to his secret lair and do tests. He'll want to know where my superhero powers come from, of course. It's obvious now that he wasn't the bad guy at all. He's my scientist, just like Batman's friend, the old man. The Black Man is going to help me improve my powers and train to fight evil, I know it. He's probably been tracking me down my entire life, but he could never find me because the place my parents left me at Privet Drive was made secret. That way I could grow up without the bad guys finding me and killing me when I was still a baby. Babies are awful at fighting evil. They always lose, on account of they're not very good at kicking, or punching, or using gadgets.

When we finally have got out of the trees, the Black Man turns to me once more and says, "There are people here that are not to see you, Potter. Even you can't be idiot enough not to understand the meaning of the words conceal yourself."

I must be an idiot, though, because I haven't got any clue what conceal yourself means, except for the "yourself" bit. But that's not very much help, is it? "Who's not to see me?" I'm feeling brave enough to chance a question, or six. "Why can't they see me? Where are we?"

The Black Man says nothing. With his lips squeezed together and his eyes all squinty and angry, he yanks something like a scratchy blanket over my head and pulls the hood down low onto my eyes. "Speak to no one," he orders me and starts off again up a massive hill.

I don't know how I didn't see it before, the castle. It's bigger than any building in Magnolia Crescent and even London, with loads of towers and turrets and windows that sparkle like little stars in the tall, dark walls. This is a fairy tale. I'm dreaming. There are no castles like this, massive and grey and sat up on a hill like something from a storybook. This is going to be my secret hideout. I'm jumping up and down at the Black Man's side, but he pushes me away.

"Do not climb my arm, Potter, I am not a playground," he says crossly, but I don't hardly notice. So what if he's not a playground? I'm going to live in a castle! A real castle, like with knights and kings and damsels in distress! If only Hermione could see this with me, or Jo, or both of them.

Impressive, hisses Walrus from my arm, but I ignore him. My stomach is doing flip-flops and my legs can't stop skipping. A castle! I'm going to live in a castle!

"Potter!"

Up, up, up. The Black Man leads us to a pair of doors that are as big, I think, as the Dursleys' entire house. He doesn't knock, but pushes them open with his hands, pulling me after him. The hall inside is so big I could fit my entire primary in it six times over, with room for the Tesco, the playground, the public swimming pool, and the ferry Hermione and me were taking to France, before I jumped off. We start to walk again, even faster than before, our shoes clicking and clacking on the floor and round the hall.

"Professor Snape!" someone calls. The Black Man tugs my hood down lower, so that I can't see anything but black, and pushes me along. I wonder who is Snape and what a professor is doing inside this castle. Does he work for the superheroes, too? I suppose a professor would be useful if a superhero needed help looking up something in a book, or if he had to build something but didn't know how.

It's more difficult to walk when I can't see, but every time I try to lift the hood, the Black Man pushes it back down again and gives my hand a slap, so I stop playing with it and let it sit. The Black Man steers me on for ages again, up steps and down corridors, our footsteps clacking all over the place. My feet feel achy now, after all of the walking, and my legs are tired like they were before, when I woke up on the beach. I want to ask the Black Man to stop, slow down a bit so that I can give my legs a break, but I don't. He's in a hurry, and when grown-ups are in a hurry, they don't like to be bothered by whingy little boys with tired feet.

We stop very suddenly. "Mars bar," comes the Black Man's voice from somewhere over my head. I perk up. We get sweets, as well in this place? But, before I can ask, he is pushing me again. We're going up steps, one after another, until, finally, he shoves me forwards and pulls the hood from off my face.

It takes my eyes a minute to get focused from behind my glasses. This can't be real, I think to myself, glancing round. The Black Man has taken me to the most amazing, coolest room I have ever been in before in my life. There are paintings of old men that snore and talk to themselves in their sleep, tables of sparkling, shining things that Dudley would go mad for, statues of funny-looking animals and all sorts of abnormal things that would make Uncle Vernon turn purple at the sight of. This is a real superhero's lair. It's got to be. Is it going to be mine?

I look to the Black Man, hoping he will tell me something about the place he has just taken me to, but he says nothing, as usual. His hands, like pale claws, dig into my shoulder, and he looks straight ahead at something that I hadn't noticed before, when I looking at all of the cool gadgets and stuff.

Behind a massive, wooden desk that's covered in more silver things is the oldest man probably in the whole world. He smiles at me, a real smile, not like the one the Black Man gives, and scratches a spot beneath his St Nicholas beard that, I think, is maybe his chin.

"Hello, Harry," he tells me in a nice, old man sort of voice. Maybe it is the way he smiles with his mouth and his twinkly blue eyes, or the way he talks to me like I am somebody special - I dunno - but, I feel like he is somebody very important, somebody I am supposed to like. And I do like him, more than I've ever liked anyone before, except maybe Hermione and Jo, who are my best friends and have to be liked the most out of all the people I know. He lifts his wrinkly, ancient hand and shows me a dish of little, yellow balls."Would you like a sherbet lemon?"