There seemed to be no escape. No matter where he went he couldn't get
away. Just a few minutes break! He felt his strength dwindling. He'd
sought shelter for hours and now his stamina was failing fast.
"Boy! Get in here! You're needed!"
last Harry was able to stand up straight from his hours of backbreaking
labour in Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's back garden. I don't know
about Aunt Petunia winning a prize from the local horticultural
society; I reckon that prize should go to me not her! thought Harry
as he cleared up the tools he had been using and carefully put them
away in the shed before going indoors. Harry was taking extreme care
with everything from tools to bags of potting compost as he knew his
uncle was on tenterhooks these days and likely to blow up at Harry for
the slightest perceived misdemeanour. There were not many punishments
he could inflict on him as Uncle Vernon was now too frightened of what
Harry's "Welcome-home-for-the-summer-committee" would do to him if he
so much as laid a single finger on Harry, but that didn't stop Vernon
from ranting and raving at the top of his lungs. In fact Harry had
heard his uncle's raised voice so much this summer he had begun to
wonder if he hadn't had a Sonorus charm cast on him!
stepped gingerly onto the patio and approached the kitchen door; Aunt
Petunia scrutinised his appearance to ensure he would not be dropping
mud on her sparkling kitchen floor before allowing him to step into the
house. Thinking that he would enjoy coming out again after dark to do
the watering (there was no hosepipe ban this year), Harry made his way
indoors carefully removing his Wellington boots and slipping on an old,
very battered pair of trainers.
Bent double while tying his
laces, Harry saw a pair of very large shoes come into his field of
vision. Realising in a split second that those shoes definitely did not
belong to Aunt Petunia nor were they Uncle Vernon's and Dudley only
wore trainers with Velcro fastening as his fat stomach made it almost
impossible for him to even see his feet let alone tie laces. So then to whom did they belong?
let his gaze travel up from the shoes past the tweed box-pleated skirt
and tailored matching jacket taking in the stance of hands on hips,
wearing an expression that looked as though something nasty, smelly and
very definitely unwanted was on the floor before her was….
"Aunt Marge!" said Harry standing and tripping backwards at the same time landing painfully on his backside on the paved patio.
up and get yourself cleaned up. Aunt Marge needs you to run an errand
for her," declared Aunt Petunia. Harry could only hear her voice as she
was entirely hidden by the enormous frame of Uncle Vernon's sister.
Harry almost wanted to smile as he heard the thin reedy voice seemingly
come from the enormous rotund body in front of him! They'd make a good ventriloquist act! thought Harry.
back to the summer before his third year at Hogwarts and the last time
Harry had laid eyes on Aunt Marge when he had inadvertently blown her
up to monstrous proportions, Harry wondered just how effective the
Memory Charm was that had been cast on her. Deciding to play it cool
(after all he didn't want another warning from the Improper Use of
Magic Office) Harry asked her as inoffensively as he could, "How are
you, Aunt Marge? Keeping well I hope."
Marge scowled at this unaccustomed behaviour from Harry.
seems to be learning some manners at last I see, Petunia," said Marge,
rudely ignoring Harry's enquiry as to her state of health. "I take it
that school of his, St. Brutus's, I think you said it was called, has
been complying with your request not to spare the rod! It's as I told
you, Petunia, see what a damn good thrashing can do to even the most
disobedient and self-willed pup! You have to show them who's boss. Put
your foot down and make no bones about it."
All the time
Marge had been speaking, she had not taken her eyes off Harry. He could
feel his anger rising in his chest, but was determined to control it.
He was stronger than she and no matter what Marge said she would not
provoke him into doing something that could escalate into another
potential disaster. Harry had enough this last year not to want to go
down that path again. He could and would control his emotions.
feeling hot and thirsty from his gardening, Harry reached to open the
dishwasher to get a glass and have a drink of water from the tap behind
him when Marge swiped his hand away.
"There's no time for that now, boy! I have an errand for you to run and you'll have to hurry before the shop shuts," she said.
"But it's already gone eight and it's Sunday! All the shops shut at four on Sunday!" replied Harry.
you answer back to me, boy, or you'll get another dose of what's good
for you!" Marge raised her walking stick above her head ready to bring
it down on Harry's back.
"Now, now, Marge," blustered Vernon rushing into the kitchen and grasping the raised stick, "the boy hasn't refused to do as you've asked, he's just pointed out a possible problem!" Vernon almost sounded panicky.
boy! Of course I thought about that!" spluttered Marge indignantly. "I
remember that old cat woman, Mrs. Figg, isn't it, telling me that she
knows of a little shop that's open at all sorts of hours that should
have what I want. Come to think of it, you can call in on her to see if
she wants anything before you go. Get upstairs and clean yourself up
before you leave the house. You look a positive disgrace! Don't want
the neighbours to see you looking like the down-and-out that you are!"
was about to argue, but thought better of it when he saw the look that
Uncle Vernon was giving him. Instead, he simply shrugged his shoulders
and went upstairs to the bathroom.
He just couldn't believe his luck!
at Privet Drive for probably the whole summer with little or no chance
of visiting the Burrow, not being allowed to Owl anyone just in case
the messages were intercepted by Death Eaters and to cap it all, Aunt
Marge had come to visit. Could things get much worse?
Yes, thought Harry, they could and unfortunately he could imagine very
much worse. At least everyone was alive and well, at least as far as
Harry knew they were, as he hadn't heard anything to the contrary.
was also true, however, that since his return from Hogwarts he had been
woken nearly every night by pains in his scar and, try as he might, he
just couldn't clear his mind of all thought when he went to bed. Snape
had continued to refuse to help Harry with learning Occlumency, but
Harry was secretly glad of this.
Whilst acknowledging the
very real need for him to block any possible connection with Voldemort,
Harry still felt that Snape's lessons had weakened him rather than
strengthened his ability to keep Voldemort at bay. Hadn't Harry been
able to successfully block the Imperius Curse naturally and without any
lessons? Hadn't he been able to block Snape's early attempts to gain
access to Harry's memories of his encounter with Cho? After weeks of
lessons Harry had seemed to be less able to block Snape than he had at the beginning.
Suddenly an excellent idea occurred to Harry and the timing couldn't be better.
Marge had specifically asked that Harry call in on Mrs. Figg. Harry
realised this would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on what was
going on in the war against Voldemort and give him a chance to check up
on his friends. At the same time, Harry decided, he would ask for some
books about Occlumency so that he could read up on the subject during
the holidays. Extra study would also help him keep out of Marge's way.
So it was with a sudden spring in his step that Harry ascended the stairs and entered the bathroom.
stood in front of the sink and looked at his reflection in the mirror;
this was something he had been carefully avoiding since returning from
Hogwarts. Every time he saw a mirror he was reminded of Sirius.
"If only…..!" his thoughts always began.
So many "if only's."
If only…… I had remembered about the package Sirius had given me sooner!
only…… I had seen the mirror and used it to speak to Sirius after going
into Snape's Pensieve I wouldn't still have so many unanswered
questions about my mum and dad.
If only… … I had used the
mirror instead of breaking into Umbridge's office then Fred and George
might have stayed at Hogwarts and sat their N.E.W.T.s!
only…… I had used the mirror to speak to Sirius instead of using the
Floo Network, then Kreacher wouldn't have been able to lie to me and I
would have known Sirius was safe. There would have been no need to go
charging off to the Ministry of Magic and…
…I wouldn't have gotten Sirius killed and my friends so badly hurt!
Harry gave himself a mental slap around the face. Pull
yourself together, Potter! Thinking like this is not going to bring him
back! You need to keep your wits around you, learn all you can and make
sure you do everything in your power to stop anything like that
happening ever again!
He quickly washed and, after
pulling on a clean t-shirt, he went downstairs to find out exactly what
Aunt Marge wanted him to get.
"Dog biscuits! You want me to go trailing the streets at this time of night for dog biscuits!"
dare you speak to your aunt like that!" spluttered Aunt Marge
indignantly. "She and Vernon gave you house-room, boy! I'd think you'd
show a bit more gratitude for all that they give you, not kick up a
fuss when asked to run one little errand for a house-guest! They feed
and clothe you and what do they get in return? Refusal to do one little
task when asked!"
One little task! Yeah, thought Harry,
I'd like to see you dragging your great overweight body round the
streets of Little Whinging on a hot sticky summer night, after doing a
full day's work in the garden with only an apple and a glass of water
to keep you going!
"Petunia, you have the
patience of a saint, my dear, but you know you really aren't doing
yourself, Vernon or Dudley any favours by continuing to put up with
this boy's behaviour each summer. Why don't you just tell that school
of his to keep him over the holidays? Perhaps he could earn some money
working for the school to repay some of his indebtedness?"
Harry thought of his vault in Gringotts and smiled.
so you think that idea is funny, do you? Afraid of a little hard work?
Just like your good-for-nothing father!" Marge continued, but Harry was
determined her words would not get any reaction from him.
Keep your cool, Harry! Don't let the old bat get to you! he thought to himself.
"Never amounted to anything! Never contributed anything to society!"
Stay calm! She's not worth it!
Marge's rant seemed to go on for hours, but instead of losing his
temper Harry, for once, managed to stay calm and simply said, "Time
really is getting on, Aunt Marge, and we don't want Ripper to do
without his favourite treats now do we?"
At Harry's words Aunt
Marge stopped her flow of venom and looked at him with her mouth
hanging open. She seemed to have been struck dumb. Just as though a silencing charm had been cast on her! Did I do that? thought Harry. No, I couldn't have, my wand's in my trunk upstairs!
Petunia stood up and thrust two £1 coins into Harry's hand with the
reminder to check with Mrs. Figg first before she almost bodily pushed
Harry out of the door.
Harry's route to Mrs. Figg's took him
past the park where Dudley and his gang hung out most evenings. The
setting sun appeared to be sitting on the rooftops of the houses on the
far side, huge and blood-red casting long shadows over the lush green
In the still night air Harry could pick out the notes
of "Greensleeves" as the tinkling tune was played from an ice-cream van
driving slowly through the streets of Little Whinging calling the
residents to "Stop me and buy one." Images sprung to mind of Aunt
Petunia buying Dudley a "Double 99 with chocolate sauce and nuts" while
Harry got nothing but a clip round the ear for being cheeky enough to
ask for something.
Harry remembered back to one occasion
when a complete stranger, seeing Harry's treatment from Aunt Petunia,
had objected so strongly that she had been forced to give in and buy
him a 30p plain cone – no chocolate and no nuts. Harry remembered
enjoying the taste of that forbidden food so much, but then the memory
of Uncle Vernon's reaction when they got home came to mind.
was one occasion when Harry had failed to duck and Vernon had caught
him round the back of the head with the book he had been reading. Harry
had fallen to the floor seeing stars. He'd dragged himself to his
cupboard and lain on his bed, tears streaming down his face. The pain
had lasted for two whole days and his teacher had called Aunt Petunia
in to see her to ask what was wrong with him. Petunia explained that
Harry's clumsiness had caused him to fall and he'd hit his head, but
she'd reluctantly agreed to take Harry to see the doctor who diagnosed
concussion. His aunt and uncle's reaction to all this was so extreme
that no matter what happened after that Harry kept it all to himself
and he never saw a doctor again no matter how hurt he had been.
found that these memories had meant that he had walked almost
mechanically to the house of Mrs Figg. It was almost exactly a year ago
that Harry had learned that Mrs. Figg, who Harry used to think was just
a batty old cat-loving lady who babysat him as a child, was in fact a
Squib posted by Dumbledore to keep a watchful eye on the growing up
Harry. Another "If only" crept to Harry's mind. If only I had known she was there and a member of the Order of the Phoenix then I wouldn't have felt so alone and isolated!
brightened at the prospect of being able to get some news of how the
others were doing and to pass on some greetings to Ron, Hermione and …
he smiled as he thought of her…. to Ginny! More and more often as Harry
lay in bed at night (one of the few times he had peace to just lie
still and think) he thought of the smiling face of Ginny Weasley.
Ron's words in the Forbidden Forest came back to him as he walked. "Ginny was best, she got Malfoy - Bat Bogey Hex - it was superb!" Oh how he wished he'd been there to see that!
realised that Ron's little sister had surprised him on more than one
occasion over the last year and he had to smile as he recalled being on
the sharp end of her tongue back in Grimmauld Place. She had been right
when she told him he was an idiot for forgetting about her experience
of being possessed by Voldemort.
The last time Harry had
seen Ginny was on the train home and this led him to wonder if she was
really thinking of going out with Dean Thomas or had she simply said
that to wind up Ron? Mind you, Dean Thomas is better than that Michael Corner! Ron was right about him… Ginny's far too good for him. Butthen he remembered that Ron had gone on to say to Ginny, "Just choose someone – better – next time," and then he looked straight at … ME!
more Harry thought about Ginny, the more Ron's words about him breaking
up with Cho came back to him. "… you want someone a bit more cheerful."
Well, thought Harry, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone more cheerful than Ginny!
Could he see Ginny going out with him? She seemed to have well and
truly gotten over her crush and this last year Harry had a chance to
get to know her a lot better. But would she want to go out with him?
Ginny could have the pick of the boys in the school…. Why should she go out with me? thought Harry despondently.
knew Ginny had a terrible crush on him back in her first year but
Hermione had told him that she had "given up" on him; that was
apparently the reason why she could talk in front of him now, but
hadn't Hermione gone on to say that she "still likes you," but was just liking enough?
mind was going round and round, thinking about Ginny, thinking of her
beautiful smiling face. Despite leaving Privet Drive in a sour mood,
being mad at Aunt Petunia and Aunt Marge, Harry now found himself
smiling like an idiot just at the thought of Ginny Weasley. God, if Ron could see me now! he thought as he walked along clinking the two pound coins together as he walked to Mrs. Figg's. Smiling like an idiot just 'cos I'm thinking about his sister!
He went on to think of Ron and Hermione's reactions if he were to tell
them he fancied Ginny just as he turned the corner into Wisteria Walk.
sun had set now and the sky looked beautiful with red and fuchsia
streaks blazing across it cut in half by the almost pure white streak
left behind by a jet. Probably just more holidaymakers going off for
their two weeks in the sun in complete ignorance of the fact that, as
far as the wizarding world was concerned, a war was going on.
How Harry envied them their ignorance!
was hard to reconcile the war with the normalcy he could witness around
him. Even Mrs. Figg's house was very ordinary looking. A three-bedroom
semi-detached house built in the 1930's and typical of its time, not
having been modernised with the addition of double glazing, a garage
and conservatory like so many of its neighbours.
It was true
that the house looked like it belonged to a very ordinary and elderly
spinster lady whose main interest was going to church on Sunday and
looking after her innumerable cats.
It was also true,
however, that this appearance was very carefully cultivated, for the
lady whose home it had been for the past 16 years was anything but
ordinary. Arabella Figg was a member of a secret underground movement
against the most feared and one of the most powerful wizards in the
Arabella Figg was born to parents who were both
magical, but unfortunately Arabella was born without an ounce of magic
in her. To many Squibs this would be a cause of much hand-wringing and
agonizing in the order of, "Why me?" But oh no, Arabella Figg was made
of much stronger stuff than that!
Her brother was none other
than Albus Dumbledore himself and, to Arabella, it made sense that the
magical ability in her family went to the one with the ability and
brains to use and apply it, so she developed within herself other
skills with which to aid her brothers.
ordinariness within the Muggle world had enabled her to stay close to
her charge: one Harry James Potter and to be a part of the band of
witches and wizards known as the Order of the Phoenix. The Dursleys of
course had no idea that Mrs. Figg was a Squib or had any connection to
the magical world and therefore had no hesitation in asking Harry to
call there first.
Harry was still thinking of Ginny as he
crossed the road and opened the gate to enter Mrs. Figg's front garden.
He was not surprised to see her look through the net curtains at her
front window to see who was knocking at her door before opening it. He
was surprised when the door was opened and he was grabbed and dragged
into the house!
"Harry! What the hell are you doing wandering the streets at this time of night?" came the unmistakable voice of Bill Weasley.
time of night?" queried Harry in return. "It's only a quarter past nine
for goodness sake! And anyway I wouldn't be out at all if my aunt Marge
had remembered to pack her dog's favourite treats. She and Aunt Petunia
have sent me to go to the shop Mrs. Figg uses to get some before it gets too late and she wanted me to call in to see if Mrs. Figg wanted anything while I'm there. So don't go blaming me for being out!"
was surprised that he had become angry so quickly. Ever since coming
home from school for the summer Harry had been trying to keep that
temper of his under control. If he hadn't lost his temper so much last
year and done what he wanted to do instead of thinking things through
first, so many things might have been so different. He took a deep
breath, steadying himself, and said as calmly as he could, "Good
evening, Mrs. Figg. Would you like anything from the shop before it
Mrs. Figg was so taken aback by Harry's
sudden change in attitude that she muttered a quiet, "No, thank you,"
in surprise as Harry turned on his heel and was back out the door
before Bill had time to pose his next question.
"Well, what do you make of that?"
Arabella's only reply was to raise a surprised eyebrow.
He was pleased with the way he had been able to control his temper when he had been so close to losing it. Ginny would be proud of me, he thought to himself.
Again his thoughts had gone straight back to Ginny and he realised suddenly how much her opinion did
matter to him. Perhaps it was seeing Bill Weasley with his long red
hair that brought Ginny to mind. It was only then that Harry started to
wonder why Bill Weasley was at Mrs. Figg's, but as Harry
continued to walk to the shop he supposed that it shouldn't be too odd
that members of the Order called in to Mrs. Figg's. After all Mundungus
Fletcher had been based there when it had been his turn to keep an eye
on Harry last summer –or rather he should have been keeping an
eye on Harry and not off buying a load of dodgy cauldrons. Harry
couldn't help but smile as he thought of Mundungus. Every time he saw
him he couldn't help but think of a certain famous character that he'd
seen on TV in his aunt's house before Hogwarts.
Yes, thought Harry, Dung certainly does remind me of Delboy Trotter fromOnly Fools and Horses,
and he smiled to himself as he thought of Delboy sitting astride a
beaten up broomstick smoking a pipe and flogging thin-bottomed
cauldrons to unsuspecting witches in Diagon Alley. It was while he had
this happy and incongruous picture in his mind that he pushed open the
door of "All 'Ours" the little newsagents-cum-supermarket at the far
corner of Wisteria Walk as it joined Church Road.
It was a
typical single-fronted shop with the owners living in a small flat
upstairs, the kind of shop where you could buy everything from a
postage stamp to a packet of nappies and food of all descriptions, but
at a price.
When Harry found the section selling pet food he wasn't surprised that they didn't stock exactly
the brand of dog biscuits he'd been asked to get. Harry supposed he had
better go home with something rather than nothing at all. He selected
the only size they had in the only variety they had. He thought of the
reaction he would get when he got home, "What do you call this? Ripper
won't eat that rubbish! Might have known HE'd come back with the wrong
item, Petunia. A complete and utter wastrel just like his
Mind you, Harry thought, it
would probably be just as bad if I went home empty-handed. "Couldn't
you use your common-sense, boy? Ripper isn't some pampered pooch, it's
food he needs not some fancy brand name! Why didn't you buy what they
had in stock?" With Marge it was always a case of heads you lose – tails I win as far as she was concerned.
Harry made up his mind. No matter what she says to me this time I won't let her get to me.
He walked passed the shelves of dusty tins and sweets reduced in price
as they had passed their "best by" date to the long counter that filled
most of the back wall of the shop. Placing the dog biscuits beside the
till on the counter, Harry reached into the front pocket of his baggy
and torn jeans (he couldn't use the two back pockets as Dudley had worn
great holes in them, but he had been too fat to use the front pockets)
and pulled out the two pound coins handing them automatically to the
cashier without even glancing up at him. The till registered the sale
and Harry held out his hand expecting to feel coins fall into it; what
he didn't expect was for one of the coins to be a silver Sickle.