Reading Chapter One: The Worst Birthday
Not for the first time, an argument had broken out at number four, Privet Drive.
"Let, me guess, you're at the center of the argument?" Hermione asked wearily.
"Hermione! I can't believe you would ever suspect me of such a thing!" Harry exclaimed in a mock hurt tone.
Mr. Vernon Dursley had been woken in the early hours of the morning by a loud, hooting noise from his nephew Harry's room.
"Third time this week!" he roared across the table. "If you can't control that owl, it'll have to go!"
"She has a name!" Harry snapped in defense of his owl.
Harry tried, yet again, to explain.
"She's bored," he said. "She's used to flying around outside. If I could just let her out at night -"
"They wouldn't let you let Hedwig out?" Luna demanded in a tone lacking its usual dreamy quality.
[*"Do I look stupid?" snarled Uncle Vernon, a bit of fried egg dangling from his bushy mustache.
"Please tell me that's a rhetorical question," Fred said, rolling his eyes.
"I know what'll happen if that owl's let out."
He exchanged dark looks with his wife, Petunia.
Harry tried to argue back but his words were drowned by a long, loud belch from the Dursleys' son, Dudley.
"I want more bacon."
"Such a charming child," Professor McGonagall murmured to Professor Sprout, who nodded grimly.
"There's more in the frying pan, sweetums," said Aunt Petunia, turning misty eyes on her massive son. "We must build you up while we've got the chance ... I don't like the sound of that school food ..."
"Probably because it's good for him!" Ron grumbled loudly.
[*"Nonsense, Petunia, I never went hungry when I was at Smeltings," said Uncle Vernon heartily. "Dudley gets enough, don't you, son?"
Dudley, who was so large his bottom drooped over either side of the kitchen chair,
"Did not need that mental image Harry," Ginny scolded lightly and Harry shrugged.
"Sorry Gin. Next time someone is going to write a book about my thoughts, I'll try to tone down the observations."
grinned and turned to Harry.
"Pass the frying pan."
"You've forgotten the magic word," said Harry irritably.
"That won't go over well," George surmised.
[*The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen;
"Exaggeration?" Hermione asked hopefully but Harry, along with Fred and George, shook their heads.
[*Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.
"I meant `please'!" said Harry quickly. "I didn't mean -"
"WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE `M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?"
"The 'M' word?" George repeated. "I don't know any 'M' words, do you Gred?"
"Nope, cant say I do Forge."
"Well…not in English anyway," Remus spoke up. "In French…"
"Remus Lupin! You will not teach my children that!" Mrs. Weasley scolded and Remus held his hands up in surrender.
"But I -"
"HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!" roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.
"How were you threating him? You didn't do anything!" Ron protested.
Harry shrugged. "By existing probably." He didn't catch Snape wincing ever so slightly at those words.
"I just -"
"I WARNED YOU! I WILL NOT TOLERATE MENTION OF YOUR ABNORMALITY UNDER THIS ROOF!"
"Abnormality?" Mr. Weasley questioned sharply, looking at Harry.
"Er… my aunt and uncle aren't particularly fond of magic," Harry offered weakly.
"That's an understatement," Remus grumbled under his breath as he remembered the previous book.
[*Harry stared from his purple-faced uncle to his pale aunt, who was trying to heave Dudley to his feet.
"She almost went down about five times before she got him up," Harry sniggered.
"All right," said Harry, "all right. . . "
Uncle Vernon sat back down, breathing like a winded rhinoceros
"You have a weird thing with animals mate," Ron said shaking his head.
and watching Harry closely out of the corners of his small, sharp eyes.
Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn't a normal boy. As a matter of fact, he was as not normal as it is possible to be.
"Well that much was obvious."
"Sorry mum." Fred apologized in a non-apologetic tone.
Harry Potter was a wizard - a wizard fresh from his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And if the Dursleys were unhappy to have him back for the holidays, it was nothing to how Harry felt.
He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. He missed the castle, with its secret passageways and ghosts, his classes (though perhaps not Snape, the Potions master),
"I assure you Potter, that I did not miss you either." Snape drawled.
"Well at least everything's right with the world," Fred said cheerfully.
the mail arriving by owl, eating banquets in the Great Hall, sleeping in his four-poster bed in the tower dormitory, visiting the gamekeeper, Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds, and, especially, Quidditch, the most popular sport in the wizarding world (six tall goal posts, four flying balls, and fourteen players on broomsticks).
"What about us?" Ron asked, pouting slightly.
Harry thought for a moment. "Yeah I guess I missed you guys," he admitted with a large grin.
All Harry's spellbooks, his wand, robes, cauldron, and top-of-the-line Nimbus Two Thousand broomstick
"Actually the Firebolt is the top of the line broomstick," Harry corrected.
had been locked in a cupboard under the stairs by Uncle Vernon the instant Harry had come home.
"What?" Remus said blankly.
"Wait until he finds out about the bars," Fred whispered to his twin, forgetting that with his hearing, Remus could hear every word. Remus shot a sharp look to Fred, then at Harry. Bars?
What did the Dursleys care if Harry lost his place on the House Quidditch team because he hadn't practiced all summer?
George snorted. "Please, Wood wouldn't kick you off if you didn't show up to any practices!"
What was it to the Dursleys if Harry went back to school without any of his homework done? The Dursleys were what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins), and as far as they were concerned, having a wizard in the family was a matter of deepest shame.
"It is not! They should be proud to have you as a part of their family!" Mrs. Weasley exploded.
[*Uncle Vernon had even padlocked Harry's owl, Hedwig, inside her cage,
"That's animal cruelty!" Luna said fiercely, surprising those that knew her only as a somewhat dreamy girl.
to stop her from carrying messages to anyone in the wizarding world.
Harry looked nothing like the rest of the family.
"Thank goodness for that," Harry said reverently and Ginny silently agreed.
Uncle Vernon was large and neckless, with an enormous black mustache; Aunt Petunia was horse-faced and bony; Dudley was blond, pink, and porky. Harry, on the other hand, was small and skinny, with brilliant green eyes and jet-black hair that was always untidy.
Remus sighed softly at the reminder of his two best friends. Yes it had been fourteen years, but seeing Harry brought it back up even though it was far from the boy's fault.
He wore round glasses, and on his forehead was a thin, lightning-shaped scar.
It was this scar that made Harry so particularly unusual, even for a wizard. This scar was the only hint of Harry's very mysterious past, of the reason he had been left on the Dursleys' doorstep eleven years before.
"Doorstep?" Mrs. Weasley said, even sharper that her husband had. "What does that mean, left on a doorstep?" She questioned Harry.
"Well…you see…" Harry struggled.
"Perhaps later when we finish this book, you and Arthur can read the first one and become caught up," Remus suggested smoothly, saving Harry from explaining and getting a grateful look in return.
At the age of one year old,
"Technically you were fifteen months," Remus corrected and Harry rolled his eyes.
Harry had somehow survived a curse from the greatest Dark sorcerer of all time, Lord Voldemort, whose name most witches and wizards still feared to speak.
"Say it with me now," Harry said slowly. "Vold-e-mort. It's not that hard." Hard or not, several people in the room either winced or flinched.
Harry's parents had died in Voldemort's attack, but Harry had escaped with his lightning scar, and somehow - nobody understood why Voldemort's powers had
been destroyed the instant he had failed to kill Harry.
"Or some people know and just don't like to tell," Harry grumbled, giving Dumbledore a pointed look. Sure he had forgiven the Headmaster, but he still didn't like being left in the dark.
So Harry had been brought up by his dead mother's sister and her husband. He had spent ten years with the Dursleys, never understanding why he kept making odd things happen without meaning to, believing the Dursleys' story that he had got his scar in the car
crash that had killed his parents.
Remus growled at the mention of how the Dursleys had lied to Harry.
And then, exactly a year ago, Hogwarts had written to Harry, and the whole story had come out. Harry had taken up his place at wizard school, where he and his scar were famous ... but now the school year was over, and he was back with the Dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog that had rolled in something smelly.
The Dursleys hadn't even remembered that today happened to be Harry's twelfth birthday.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!" Fred and George yelled, only to receive a glare from their mother.
Harry chuckled. "You couldn't have waited a few months?"
Of course, his hopes hadn't been high; they'd never given him a real present, let alone a cake - but to ignore it completely...
"You poor boy," Mrs. Weasley cooed softly making Harry flush somewhat.
At that moment, Uncle Vernon cleared his throat importantly and said, "Now, as we all know, today is a very important day."
Harry looked up, hardly daring to believe it.
"I wouldn't have," Neville said, speaking for the first time.
"This could well be the day I make the biggest deal of my career," said Uncle Vernon.
Harry went back to his toast. Of course, he thought bitterly, Uncle Vernon was talking about the stupid dinner party. He'd been talking of nothing else for two weeks. Some rich builder and his wife were coming to dinner and Uncle Vernon was hoping to get a huge order from him (Uncle Vernon's company made drills).
"I think we should run through the schedule one more time," said Uncle Vernon.
"They had a schedule?" George asked incredulously. "Blimey, how boring can you get?"
"We should all be in position at eight o'clock. Petunia, you will be -?"
"In the lounge," said Aunt Petunia promptly, "waiting to welcome them graciously to our home."
"Good, good. And Dudley?"
"I'll be waiting to open the door." Dudley put on a foul, simpering smile. "May I take your coats, Mr. and Mrs. Mason?"
"They'll love him!" cried Aunt Petunia rapturously.
As Dumbledore read this line, Fred and George mimed being sick much to the general amusement.
"Excellent, Dudley," said Uncle Vernon. Then he rounded on Harry. "And you?"
"I'll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," said Harry tonelessly.
"You shouldn't have had to." Remus growled, low enough for only Harry and Hermione, who was sitting right next to him, to hear.
[*"Exactly," said Uncle Vernon nastily. "I will lead them into the lounge, introduce you, Petunia, and pour them -drinks. At eight fifteen -"
"Blimey, right down to the minute? Seriously?" Fred asked.
"I'll announce dinner," said Aunt Petunia.
"And, Dudley, you'll say -"
"May I take you through to the dining room, Mrs. Mason?" said Dudley, offering his fat arm to an invisible woman.
"That's the only kind of woman he'll ever get." Fred inputted wisely.
"My perfect little gentleman!" sniffed Aunt Petunia.
A round of snorts in disbelief broke through the reading.
"And you?" said Uncle Vernon viciously to Harry.
"I'll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," said Harry dully.
Remus growled softly again. This was going to be a long chapter.
"Precisely. Now, we should aim to get in a few good compliments at dinner. Petunia, any ideas?"
"They actually thought of ideas for compliments?" Hermione interrupted.
"Yes." Harry answered simply.
"Vernon tells me you're a wonderful golfer, Mr. Mason... Do tell me where you bought your dress, Mrs. Mason ..."
"Perfect. . . Dudley?"
"How about -'We had to write an essay about our hero at school, Mr. Mason, and I wrote about you."'
"Had he ever even met the bloke Harry?" Ron asked.
Harry shook his head. "Nope," he answered, popping the 'p'.
This was too much for both Aunt Petunia and Harry. Aunt Petunia burst into tears and hugged her son, while Harry ducked under the table so they wouldn't see him laughing.
In the present, Harry had no such reservations and laughed out loud.
"And you, boy?"
Harry fought to keep his face straight as he emerged.
"That wasn't easy either, let me tell you."
[*"I'll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," he said.
"Too right, you will," said Uncle Vernon forcefully. "The Masons don't know anything about you and it's going to stay that way. When dinner's over, you take Mrs. Mason back to the lounge for coffee, Petunia, and I'll bring the subject around to drills. With any luck, I'll have the deal signed and sealed before the news at ten. We'll be shopping for a vacation home in Majorca this time tomorrow."
"Why Majorca?" Ginny wondered.
Harry couldn't feel too excited about this. He didn't think the Dursleys would like him any better in Majorca than they did on Privet Drive.
"Probably not," Ginny said sadly but Harry gave her a small smile.
"Right - I'm off into town to pick up the dinner jackets for Dudley and me. And you," he snarled at Harry. "You stay out of your aunt's way while she's cleaning."
Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the garden bench, and sang under his breath:
"Happy birthday to me ... happy birthday to me. . ."
Harry did his best to try and ignore the pitying glances he was getting.
No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist.
Remus just sighed and clenched his hands into fists, not even bothering to growl anymore.
He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
"There we are!" Ron cried triumphantly.
[*They, however, didn't seem to be missing him at all. Neither of them had written to him all summer, even though Ron had said he was going to ask Harry to come and stay.
"Of course we did!" Hermione protested. "You know we did but –"
"I know, I know, and I forgave you." Harry said hastily.
Countless times, Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig's cage by magic and sending her to Ron and Hermione with a letter, but it wasn't worth the risk. Underage wizards weren't allowed to use magic outside of school. Harry hadn't told the Dursleys this; he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into dung beetles that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs with his wand and broomstick.
"Cupboard?" Mr. and Mrs. Weasley asked.
"First book," majority replied, giving the current book harsh glares
For the first couple of weeks back, Harry had enjoyed muttering nonsense words under his breath and watching Dudley tearing out of the room as fast as his fat legs would carry him.
Fred and George laughed heartily at the picture.
But the long silence from Ron and Hermione had made Harry feel so cut off from the magical world that even taunting Dudley had lost its appeal - and now Ron and Hermione had forgotten his birthday.
The two opened their mouth but Harry quickly cut them off. "I know you didn't, but at the time it seemed that way."
[*What wouldn't he give now for a message from Hogwarts? From any witch or wizard? He'd almost be glad of a sight of his archenemy, Draco Malfoy, just to be sure it hadn't all been a dream...
Not that his whole year at Hogwarts had been fun. At the very end of last term, Harry had come face-to-face with none other than Lord Voldemort himself.
"What!" Mrs. Weasley cried. She hadn't heard about that, though her boys had been saying something about Ron and a chess set…
Seeing that no one was going to reply, Mr. Weasley quickly mumbled, "Must be first book." To his wife.
Voldemort might be a ruin of his former self, but he was still terrifying, still cunning, still determined to regain power. Harry had slipped through Voldemort's clutches for a second time, but it had been a narrow escape, and even now, weeks later, Harry kept waking in the night, drenched in cold sweat, wondering where Voldemort was now, remembering his livid face, his wide, mad eyes.
"You shouldn't have had to." Hermione said, quickly giving the Headmaster a glare. Now more than ever she was convinced that Dumbledore had set everything up for Harry that year.
Harry suddenly sat bolt upright on the garden bench. He had been staring absent-mindedly into the hedge - and the hedge was staring back. Two enormous green eyes had appeared among the leaves.
"Whose were they?" Several people demanded.
"Why don't you let the Headmaster continue so that we may find out?" Professor McGonagall snapped.
Harry jumped to his feet just as a jeering voice floated across the lawn.
"I know what day it is," sang Dudley, waddling toward him.
"He can't carry a tune to save his life," Harry said shaking his head.
"Are you really surprised though?" Ron asked.
The huge eyes blinked and vanished.
"Weird," Neville commented.
"What?" said Harry, not taking his eyes off the spot where they had been.
"I know what day it is," Dudley repeated, coming right up to him.
"Congratulations! Next is the numbers!" Fred and George mocked.
"Well done," said Harry. "So you've finally learned the days of the week."
"Today's your birthday," sneered Dudley. "How come you haven't got any cards? Haven't you even got friends at that freak place?"
"Better not let your mum hear you talking about my school," said Harry coolly.
Dudley hitched up his trousers, which were slipping down his fat bottom.
"Again with the detail," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
"Why're you staring at the hedge?" he said suspiciously.
"I'm trying to decide what would be the best spell to set it on fire," said Harry.
Dudley stumbled backward at once, a look of panic on his fat face.
"You c-can't - Dad told you you're not to do m-magic
"How would he know anyway?" Neville asked.
- he said he'll chuck you out of the house - and you haven't got anywhere else to go - you haven't got any friends to take you -"
"Yes he does!" Nearly all those in the semi-circle exclaimed.
"Jiggery pokery!" said Harry in a fierce voice. "Hocus pocus squiggly wiggly -"
There was an explosion of laughter.
"Brilliant Harry!" Fred managed to gasp between his laughter.
"Absolutely brilliant!" George agreed, not much better off than Fred.
"MUUUUUUM!" howled Dudley, tripping over his feet as he dashed back toward the house. "MUUUUM! He's doing you know what!"
[*Harry paid dearly for his moment of fun. As neither Dudley nor the hedge was in any way hurt, Aunt Petunia knew he hadn't really done magic, but he still had to duck as she aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy frying pan.
"She did what?" Remus growled, glaring at the book, looking ready to tear it apart.
"She missed," Harry said quickly.
"That's beside the point."
Then she gave him work to do, with the promise he wouldn't eat again until he'd finished.
While Dudley lolled around watching and eating ice cream, Harry cleaned the windows, washed the car, mowed the lawn, trimmed the flowerbeds, pruned and watered the roses, and repainted the garden bench. The sun blazed overhead, burning the back of his neck.
"But you could have gotten heat stroke!" Hermione fretted.
"Relax 'Mione. Obviously I didn't, since I'm right here, perfectly fine," Harry told her.
Harry knew he shouldn't have risen to Dudley's bait, but Dudley had said the very thing Harry had been thinking himself... maybe he didn't have any friends at Hogwarts...
"Of course you do!" All of the students said or in some cases, shouted.
Wish they could see famous Harry Potter now, he thought savagely as he spread manure on the flower beds, his back aching, sweat running down his face.
It was half past seven in the evening when at last, exhausted, he heard Aunt Petunia calling him.
"They had you work all day with no food, water, or rest?" Hermione looked almost as livid as Remus, who was pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stop the headache that was forming.
[*"Get in here! And walk on the newspaper!"
Harry moved gladly into the shade of the gleaming kitchen. On top of the fridge stood tonight's pudding: a huge mound of whipped cream and sugared violets. A loin of roast pork was sizzling in the oven.
"Eat quickly! The Masons will be here soon!" snapped Aunt Petunia, pointing to two slices of bread and a lump of cheese on the kitchen table.
"That's not a meal for a growing boy!" Mrs. Weasley gasped, and Harry could already smell all the food that she would be getting him to eat at lunch.
She was already wearing a salmon-pink cocktail dress.
Harry washed his hands and bolted down his pitiful supper. The moment he had finished, Aunt Petunia whisked away his plate.
As he passed the door to the living room, Harry caught a glimpse of Uncle Vernon and Dudley in bow ties and dinner jackets. He had only just reached the upstairs landing when the door-bell rang and Uncle Vernon's furious face appeared at the foot of
"Remember, boy - one sound -"
Harry crossed to his bedroom on tiptoe slipped inside, closed the door, and turned to collapse on his bed.
The trouble was, there was already someone sitting on it.
"Who was it?" Neville asked anxiously.
"I'm afraid that will have to wait until next chapter Mr. Longbottom," Dumbledore said. "Who would care to read next? Professor McGonagall?"
"Oh, all right then," McGonagall sighed, accepting the offered book. She turned the page.