“‘Proud? ’said Harry. ‘Are you mad? All those times I could’ve died and I didn’t manage it? They’ll be furious…’
And together they walked through the gateway to the Muggle world.”
- CoS, pp251
Harry was still grinning as they walked though the gateway. Ron and Hermione quickly stuffed the pieces of parchment with the Dursleys’ phone number on it into their pockets. Mrs. Weasley welcomed him back and hugged him tightly, before Harry waved goodbye to the rest of the Weasleys and made his was over to the entrance from where the Dursleys were eyeing the waiting parents with suspicion and a little bit of fear.
As Harry approached, Uncle Vernon nodded at him and turned without waiting to ensure that Harry was keeping up. Harry followed the Dursleys out to the car park where they stopped by a strange car. Uncle Vernon popped the boot and watched Harry load his trunk into the car.
“Careful there boy, I don’t want any scratches on the car.”
Harry decided to start out the summer as well as possible, “Of course, Uncle Vernon. I’ll be careful. It’s very impressive. Have you had it long?”
“I just got it last week so BE CAREFUL.”
Harry spent the journey squished up again the car door, just like the year before. He was trying to figure out the best way to sneak some stuff upstairs if Uncle Vernon locked everything in the cupboard under the stairs again. He’d taken the time to learn how to pick locks Muggle-style from the twins after exams were over. He hadn’t wanted to be stuck in the same position as last summer without access to his school things. After the way he had left last summer, flying away from the window, it was a fair bet Uncle Vernon wasn’t too happy with Harry.
Harry hurriedly carried Hedwig up to his room and opened both her cage and his window before going back to the car for his trunk. Just as last summer, Uncle Vernon stopped him before going up the stairs to lock anything magical in Harry’s old cupboard. Harry sorted out the old things he had from the Dursleys to take upstairs and added spare food for Hedwig to the pile, then, hidden behind the lid of his trunk, sorted out the magical things he would most need this summer. He set them on top of his robes and shut the lid carefully on top. He wanted them easy to find in case he had the opportunity to pick the lock in the holidays.
Uncle Vernon clapped the padlock on the door of the cupboard and grinned while Harry climbed up the stairs with his arms full. He stayed in his room until it was time for dinner. He cleaned out Hedwig’s cage and filled her water dish, before tidying away the latest of the broken toys Dudley had deposited in his room since he came back from Smeltings.
Aunt Petunia woke Harry the next morning knocking loudly on the door. Well, it was an improvement over last years wakeup call. It was back to cooking the bacon for Harry.
Over breakfast Harry decided to tackle the topic of Hedwig before Uncle Vernon got too angry with her.
“Err…Uncle Vernon. I wanted to ask you about Hedwig. If I am allowed to let her out, then she won’t make so much noise and keep you awake.” It all came out in a rush. Uncle Vernon’s face showed his indecision. It was the usual story of self-interest inadvertently making Harry happy and trying to decide which was more important. Seeing he was close to winning, Harry decided to play his trump. Turning to Aunt Petunia, he continued, “And if she can go out, there won’t be so much mess under her cage.”
Uncle Vernon looked at his wife. Aunt Petunia’s face reflected her longing for less mess, even in Harry’s room that neither of them ever entered must have convinced them. “You can let her out, but only at night. During the day she has to be out of the neighbour’s sight.” Harry nodded and opened his mouth to thank him but Uncle Vernon wasn’t finished. “And if I find out you’ve been using it to send mail, then it’s locked up like last year, and God help you if you can’t keep it quiet.”
Harry was finally taking a break. He had been doing chores for Aunt Petunia all week. He was keeping an ear out for what everyone else was doing. He’d been carrying around a hairpin Hermione had given him at school when he told her about his plan. Usually she wouldn’t approve of him picking a lock, but in this case, since it was in aid of his homework, she seemed to think it was a good cause.
Harry hoped that Aunt Petunia would go out soon. He knew they needed milk at least, so she should make a trip to the shops. As long as Uncle Vernon was busy he would be OK. Dudley wouldn’t notice anything if one of his shows was on.
Harry heard all three of them go out to the front of the house and watched out the window for a minute.
“Oh, Vernon it is such a lovely car. How nice of Grunnings to reward you for your hard work like that.” Harry pretended to gag, as his Aunt Petunia was overdoing it a bit, but it sounded like they would be a few minutes, this was his chance. He pulled a pillow off his bed and stripped it of its pillowcase, checked his pocket for Hermione’s hairpin and, with a final check out the window, raced down the stairs.
Jamming the hairpin into the lock, Harry wiggled it around as fast as he could. He let out a breath when he felt the lock click; glancing at the front door, he pulled the lock open and left it hanging on the lock as he pulled the door open. He had been careful to position the trunk in a way that he could open it while still in the cupboard.
Opening the trunk, he stuffed his school books, some parchment, ink and quills into the empty pillow case. He could still hear Dudley oohing and aahing over the new car. He couldn’t have much longer before they came back inside. He lowered the lid of his trunk carefully to avoid any noise of slamming, backed out of the cupboard, shutting the door, and put the padlock back in place.
Harry made sure the hairpin was in his pocket, he didn’t want evidence of his sneakiness to be found by Aunt Petunia. Climbing the stairs, he started thinking about where he was going to hide his books. When he got to his room he simply stuffed them in the cupboard for the time being. He didn’t want to leave them lying around while he found a good place.
He was just heading down for dinner when he heard the phone ring. He’d made it as far as the bottom of the stairs when the ringing stopped.
“Vernon Dursley speaking.”
“HELLO? HELLO? CAN YOU HEAR ME? I – WANT – TO – TALK –TO – HARRY –POTTER!”
Harry felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as the conversation, such as it was, continued. Uncle Vernon getting more and more distressed as Ron yelled down the line. When he finally had had enough, much quicker than most people, he turned on Harry and bellowed. Harry was sure the neighbours could hear.
“HOW DARE YOU GIVE THIS NUMBER TO PEOPLE LIKE – PEOPLE LIKE YOU!
“I’m sorry, Uncle Vernon,” Harry thought quickly. “I…I just wanted them to know how to get in touch with me the Mug…I mean the normal way. So there would be fewer owls to disturb the neighbours.”
This seemed to relax Uncle Vernon a little, but he still ordered Harry to his room for the rest of the day. Harry stroked Hedwig as she sat on headboard of his bed, she’d just come back from a couple of days hunting. He didn’t want to be out of his room at the moment and in view of Uncle Vernon, who was still angry over Ron’s phone-call and scowled and grumbled whenever Harry was in the room.
Harry used the extra chore-free time to find a hiding space for his school things. He tried first a space in the bottom of the cupboard, but there was so much stuff of Dudley’s in there, he could hardly find it again quickly. The parchment he could at least slip under the mattress and a couple of the thinner books could probably go there too. As long as it was all in the middle of the mattress, Aunt Petunia shouldn’t disturb them when changing the sheets.
Harry laid himself flat on the floor and shimmied under the bed. There he tucked parchment into the springs holding up his mattress. He was wriggling out again when he felt something catch on his t-shirt. He kept wriggling out but as soon as he was clear flipped onto his belly and made his way back in again. He felt with his fingers ahead of him till he came to a raised edge on one of the floorboards. That must be what had caught his t-shirt. Harry felt carefully around the edge of the floorboard; he pressed down as heavily as he could on the end and the entire thing moved slightly.
Harry sneaked down to the kitchen and grabbed an old knife from the bottom drawer before racing up the stairs. Upstairs, he worked it in under the loose edge and prised up the floorboard; it came clear with a creak. Harry flipped the floorboard over and froze while he listened to see if anyone had heard the creak.
He didn’t hear anything so he turned his attention to the hole in the floor, shuffling a little closer to the hole and looked in. There was a space about a foot wide and a foot and a half long. He could only reach in under the single floorboard, four inches across, but for the whole length of the hole. It was perfect.
Harry shuffled out again, this time taking the loosened floorboard with him. Once out, he sat on his bed and worked the nails out of the board. When done, he got back down on the floor and placed it over the hole, wedging it back into place. It was easy to get loose again with the knife, and now quieter, he could even prise it free with his fingers if necessary.
Harry made one final trip out and back under the bed. This time he brought back his school things and packed them into the hole, making sure to place the big things further away so he could still grab the things in the corners. Harry placed the board back in place, gave it a friendly pat and wiggled out again.
Harry was weeding the garden this week. Aunt Petunia seemed never to run out of things to keep him busy. It seemed like she was finding things for him to do rather than giving him things to do because they needed doing.
Harry was thinking about how lucky he had been at school that year. It was terrible that Tom Riddle had infiltrated the school, but given that, they had got off rather lightly. No one had died; Harry still couldn’t believe that no one had looked the Basilisk in the eye. It must have been dumb luck, all except for Hermione and Percy’s Ravenclaw girlfriend.
He’d been lucky again when he and Ron went down into the tunnel to the Chamber of Secrets. If Ron’s wand hadn’t backfired, the two of them would probably be thinking that Lockhart was the best wizard ever, and they would never have made it to Ginny in time. If he’d been much later, then Riddle would have drained her completely and been free of the diary.
Thinking of the fraud made Harry so angry he was stabbing at the ground with his trowel. Lockhart was useless as a teacher, he’d made that pretty obvious from that first disastrous DADA lesson. How could Dumbledore have been taken in, unless Hagrid was right, and he was the only one willing to take the job?
Harry wondered how Lockhart was doing at St. Mungo’s. He hoped that when – if – Lockhart got his memories back, he would have learnt his lesson about taking credit for other people’s work. Probably not, his head was that swollen. In a way, it was lucky for the next year of school, that Lockhart was unable to teach. It was interesting that Lockhart didn’t seem to know that magic was real. Harry wondered if Lockhart was Muggle-born or pure-blood and if that would make a difference. Ron had never doubted that magic was real, he’d been around it all his life; would he still know that if the memory charm had worked on him? It seemed to be more believable that Harry would have forgotten, as he had been told for eleven years that magic wasn’t real and should never be mentioned.
Harry was lucky again in the Chamber of Secrets when Fawkes came to his rescue. How on earth did Fawkes know to come to him there and at just the right time? Harry grinned when he found himself thinking ‘I guess it was just magic.’ But how? Harry tried to recall what it said about Phoenixes in Fantastic Beasts and Where Too Find Them. They could lift tremendously heavy loads; well, that fit with Fawkes lifting the four of them out of the tunnel.
Where were Hermione and her photographic memory when he needed it? Phoenix song would bring courage to the pure of heart and strike fear in the hearts of evil people. That would explain how he felt better when Fawkes came into the chamber. At the time he attributed it to not being alone anymore, even if at that point he didn’t think Fawkes would be able to help him at all. There were also the healing tears that had saved Harry’s life. Harry was lucky there too.
Umm, what else…They were tremendously loyal to the particular wizards who could tame them. In Fawkes’ case that would be Dumbledore. Harry could understand Fawkes coming to Dumbledore’s rescue, not that he could imagine Dumbledore in a situation where he couldn’t manage by himself, if Fawkes was linked with Dumbledore. Fawkes had appeared after Harry had defended Dumbledore to Riddle, but wouldn’t Fawkes have been with Dumbledore? He would have known that Dumbledore was safe. Dumbledore had said it was loyalty, but Harry didn’t know how that would work.
Even ignoring how he knew to come, why had he brought the Sorting Hat with him? Did he know that Gryffindor’s sword was in there?
Gryffindor’s sword, it was gorgeous; silver and red and gleaming in the half-light. The blood of the Basilisk even shining on it. Dumbledore said that only a true Gryffindor could have pulled it out of a hat. Harry cringed at the thought of pulling something out of a hat. It was so…it was the typical Muggle idea of a magician, of someone who did magic. It was magic based on party tricks rather than it being useful. Cringing over it, Harry realised he didn’t doubt that he belonged in Gryffindor anymore.
Harry was missing having people to talk to. Having the Dursleys ignore him for the most part was better than having them actively hate him, but it did get kind of lonely. He was surprised he hadn’t been getting any mail at all. Even after the disastrous phone call, he thought Ron and Hermione would still write. He would write to them, but he had promised not to use Hedwig for mail and he didn’t want to risk Uncle Vernon finding out that she was carrying mail for him and be locked up for the rest of the holidays. He never said anything about not sending mail with any other owls though.
Harry suddenly had a thought. Last year he hadn’t got any mail because Dobby had been collecting it as it arrived so Harry never saw it. He couldn’t be doing it again, could he?
Harry decided to try something. He stood in the middle of the room, holding his wand in one hand. “Dobby” he said sternly. “If you are nearby, I want to see you.”
He waited. Nothing happened. It probably wasn’t that then.
Harry was tempted to start a diary or journal or something, but Riddle’s diary had made him wary of diary’s in general. Of course a normal Muggle diary wouldn’t suck the life out of him the way Riddle’s had with Ginny, but he couldn’t help being a little anti-diary anyway. Part of him felt they were a little girly anyway, and he didn’t want someone to find out about it and try and steal the diary of ‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’.
Harry still felt a little guilty over what had happened to Ginny. He’d had the diary and seen inside Riddle’s memories and hadn’t known it for what it was. Harry couldn’t help but wonder how he had done it, how Riddle had managed to capture part of himself in a book. Logically he knew it was Voldemort’s fault for writing and enspelling the book, and Malfoy’s for hiding it in Ginny’s cauldron of books.
“No, no I’m not like you, I’m not …” Harry woke suddenly. He was back in the Chamber of Secrets with Tom Riddle. Riddle was listing the ways they were alike. They were both orphaned, both raised by Muggles, both half-bloods, both could speak Parseltongue, although that last one was Riddle’s fault. Harry wouldn’t have been a Parselmouth if Voldemort hadn’t tried to kill him and ended up dying.
Harry had woken as the Basilisk was about to bite him, but this time there was no Fawkes to save him if he was bitten, and Ginny Weasley was dead. Riddle had absorbed the life out of her. How had Ginny got into the chamber anyway? Harry could only get in because he was a Parselmouth. Ginny wasn’t one too, was she? Harry decided the Parselmouth ability must have come with the possession by Riddle. He didn’t want to think of Ron’s little sister being ostracized like he was last year.
Harry sighed. He wasn’t going to get any sleep anytime soon with thoughts like that running through his head. He may as well do some homework. He would be twelve at midnight tonight. He was going to wait up for it.
“It was nearly midnight, and he was lying on his front in bed, the blankets drawn right over his head like a tent, a torch in one hand and a large leather-bound book (A History of Magic, by Bathilda Bagshot) propped open against the pillow. …”