Mr and Mrs Dursley of Number 15, Woodland Rise, were perfectly normal - thank you very much. They were regular people, living their regular lives, even if every once in a while they wished something more strange or mysterious would happen to them.
Mr Dursley worked in his father’s company, Grunnings, a firm which made drills. He was a big, beefy man, with blond hair and was starting to go bald at the top of his head. He looked a lot like his father, except for the fact he didn’t have a moustache. Mrs Dursley, on the other hand, was very different from her husband. She was tall and had long dark hair, and was a lawyer. She usually spent her days going over legal documents at the office.
Mr and Mrs Dursley had three children: two boys, Vernon and David, and one little girl, Houda. Their sons, Vernon and David, were the two most normal boys for their age - Vernon spent his days thinking about girls and not studying for his A-levels, and David spent his days playing football and computer games and not studying for his GSCEs. But their daughter, Houda, was a very unusual girl. Like other girls, she played with her friends, ran outside to play or stayed inside with her dolls and computer games, and did well in school. But strange things had the tendency of happening around her, things that didn’t happen to other girls. When she was eight, she decided she hated the colour blue, and all of her blue trousers turned purple. When she was nine, the boys didn’t let her play football with them, and for the rest of that afternoon, whenever they tried kicking the ball, it moved somewhere else. And when she was ten, she fell out of the attic window on the fourth floor, but got up from the pavement without a scratch. Mrs Durlsey always said Houda was the luckiest girl in the world, but Mr Dursley just looked at her in a funny way. He didn’t seem very happy.
Mr Dursley had one more family member - a cousin called Mr Potter. Mr Potter also had a wife and three children, but the Dursley family and the Potter family had never met. Mr Potter had invited Mr Dursley to his wedding, but Mr Dursley was ill with the flu at the time and couldn’t make it. When Mr Dursley got married he also invited his cousin, but something came up as well. That was the only time Mrs Dursley had ever heard of Mr Potter, because Mr Dursley and his father had shouted at one another for quite a long time over the subject. Mrs Dursley was very curious about her husband’s cousin, and why her father-in-law didn’t want anything to do with him, but for some reason, she had never asked her husband about the story behind it, and he never offered to tell.
These days, the only interaction between the Dursleys and the Potters were the Christmas cards they sent each other every year. Mr Dursley would always write down the Potters’ address carefully on an envelope and put a stamp on it, together with the rest of the cards, two weeks before Christmas. His cards always had a photograph of him and his family, smiling at the camera. In return, Mr Dursley always got a Christmas card from the Potters, too. But the Potters’ Christmas card never arrived in an envelope with a stamp. Instead, every year, on the night of the 25th of December, an owl knocked on the window, and when Mr Dursley had let it in, it dropped an envelope into his lap, or, at times, on his head. In the envelope was a card with a picture of the Potters waving merrily at him.
Mr Dursley had never shown the card to his wife, or to his children. He would look at it himself, and then put it in the drawer with the other cards, which were all full of waving people. He didn’t want to explain to his family why his cousin was sending him cards with pictures that moved.
For the rest of the year, Mr Dursley never thought of Mr Potter at all.
On the rainy July evening our story begins, Mr and Mrs Dursley were sitting in their living room together with all their children, and watched television. It was time for the Dursleys’ favourite television show, and they never missed an episode. And so, they were a bit unhappy when the doorbell rang, just five minutes before the end of the episode.
“I’ll get it,” said their little girl, Houda. She wasn’t enjoying the episode very much, so she didn’t care about missing the ending.
When she opened the door, she saw a man she had never met before. He had untidy black hair and glasses, and was smiling at her with a big, pleasant smile.
“Hello,” he said. “You’re Houda, right?”
“Yes,” she answered, a bit confused. Why did this man know her name?
“Happy birthday,” he said.
He was right, of course - tomorrow was Houda’s eleventh birthday. “How do you know it’s my birthday?” she asked, curious. She didn’t invite him in, but if he thought she was being rude, he didn’t say anything.
“Oh, I’m sorry - we’ve never actually met, have we? I’m Harry, I’m your dad’s cousin,” he said and offered her his hand. She liked that - he treated her like a proper adult. She supposed now that she was eleven and going to secondary school at Smeltings, more people would treat her like that. Pleased, she took his hand and shook it.
“How come you’ve never come to visit us before?” she asked once he released her hand.
“Oh, I’ve been busy,” he said. She frowned - it was obvious he was lying, and it was the kind of lie adults told little children. He had just treated her like an adult, and it wouldn’t do for him to think about her like a child.
“D’you want to come in?” she asked, and he smiled and followed her into the living room.
Just in time, the episode ended and the blue credits started rolling. “Dad,” she called, “your cousin’s here.”
She had seen her father react oddly at times to some unexpected events. Like the time her hair had turned green overnight, or when she fell from the attic, even though nothing had happened. But it was nothing compared to the way he reacted now. She rather thought he looked like a frog that had swallowed a spider instead of a fly. It would have been comical, if not for the way his eyes darted between Mum, Houda herself, and the newcomer.
“Hey, Dudley,” said his cousin.
Dad still didn’t say a word. It was Mum who saved the situation. “So you’re Harry, then,” she said, hurrying forward to stretch her hand. Dad’s cousin took it gladly.
“You must be Aminah, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.”
“I wish I could say I’ve heard all about you,” she shot Dad a look, “but Dudley tends to turn mute on such occasions, as you can see.” Houda knew that tone of voice - if Dad hadn’t been in trouble until that point, he was now. She abandoned any pretence of watching television, and was now staring at them openly.
“Oh, I’m the black sheep of the family, I guess,” Harry said, still wearing his pleasant smile.
“Anyway, better introduce everyone else - you’ve met Houda, and these are Vernon and David.”
“Hi Vernon, David,” he shook their hands quickly and smiled again at Houda. “I was just telling Houda I’m a terrible uncle, I haven’t brought anything for her birthday.”
“Oh, that’s alright,” Mum said. “You have a daughter the same age too, don’t you?”
“Yeah, Lily,” he said, and for some reason he looked at Dad when he said the next sentence, “she just turned eleven a couple of months ago.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Mum said, and all of a sudden Dad spoke.
“I think we better have this conversation in the kitchen,” he said. Mum looked at him in confusion, but Harry nodded.
“Yeah, it’s probably for the best.”
The three adults went together to the kitchen, while Houda and her brothers remained staring at each other.
After a moment’s silence, Vernon spoke. “What the hell was that all about?!”
“I don’t know, I didn’t even know Dad had a cousin,” David offered.
“Well, he didn’t look very happy to see him,” said Vernon.
Houda’s mind, however, was already focused to the next problem, which was: How to listen in to what was being said in the kitchen. The door wasn’t a very good option - it wasn’t too thick, so technically listening in was a possibility, but it wasn’t attached very well and there was too much of a danger that she would actually lean too hard on it and her parents would notice. It was raining outside, so listening in from the garden window wasn’t a possibility, although -
“Hold on,” she said and gave her brothers a surprised look. “He wasn’t wet!”
“Who wasn’t wet?” Vernon had already started looking for a different channel to watch.
“That man - Dad’s cousin! It’s raining outside, but all of his clothes were completely dry!”
“There’s this new invention, Houda, maybe you’ve heard of it - it’s called an umbrella.”
“No, but Dad’s been messing round the garden again, the whole road is muddy, he can’t have not stepped there and if he had, he’d be full of mud!”
David shrugged. Vernon didn’t even bother with that, as he had found something more interesting on the television and was ignoring her completely.
“Fine,” she snapped at her two clueless brothers, and walked softly to the door. If she was the only one learning at the door, she might be able to listen in undetected.,, if she was just careful enough...
Her attempts at finding out what was going on in the kitchen proved useless, though. She must have leant too hard on the door, or else approached it at just the wrong moment - the door opened from within and Houda found herself grabbing the wall in order not to fall down, having completely lost her balance.
“Ahem,” Mum said, and Houda flushed in embarrassment.
“Maybe it’s a good idea to invite Houda in,” someone suggested from the kitchen - Dad’s cousin. Now she flushed even more, and in addition, stared at them in confusion. Since when was the punishment for listening in even remotely similar to getting invited into the conversation?
“Yeah,” Mum said, but without much enthusiasm. “I guess she should.”
Curiosity made her forget her embarrassment. She walked in, slightly confused, slightly wary, and stood behind her father. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table, holding a weird, heavy, yellowish envelope. Dad’s cousin Harry was sitting in front of him, looking at Mum with an odd expression. Mum, satisfied that neither Vernon nor David found what was going on in the kitchen to be more interesting than the television, closed the door again and sat down.
“Sit down, Houda,” she said and gestured at the chair between her and Dad, right in front of Harry. Houda sat down, confused even more.
“Your uncle Harry has come with a... proposition,” Mum said, obviously looking for a better word. “He’s come to offer you a place in a school.”
“But I’m going to Smeltings! Dad said so - he said they’re accepting girls now and that I’m going,” she said and her brow furrowed. Both Dad and Granddad Vernon had been talking about Smeltings for years, and Granddad Vernon had been ever so pleased when they started taking girls in, and kept on talking about how Houda could go now. Why would she want to go to a different school?
“Hogwarts is a bit... different,” it was now Harry who spoke.
“Your dad tells me weird things sometimes happen to you?” he asked gently. “He said last year you fell from the fourth floor attic and sort of... bounced?”
“The land was soft because of the rain,” she repeated what she had heard Mum say afterwards. To her surprise, Harry burst out laughing. Was he mocking Mum? She decided maybe she didn’t like him that much after all.
“Dudley, no offence, but you should have said something after that one. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the excuses we make? I remember that time I ended up on the school roof and thought it must have been the wind,” he said, his mouth twitching, but he didn’t start laughing again. “It wasn’t the ground, Houda. It was you.”
“What? I’m extra bouncy?”
“No,” he said, his mouth twitching again. “You’re a witch.”
A... witch? “That’s not a very nice thing to say,” she said uncertainly. He didn’t sound like he was trying to be mean.
“It’s not a comment about you,” he hastened to say. “It just means you were born with magic. Some people do, some people don’t. You’re a witch, you were born with magic.”
“Magic?” she looked from him to her parents, full of doubt. It wasn’t like her parents to play pranks on people, especially their kids. They didn’t much approve with stuff like that. They wouldn’t have told her that unless they were absolutely sure - but how could they - it’s completely ridiculous - unless...
“Were you born with magic?” she asked Harry.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m a wizard. I went to Hogwarts when I was eleven, too.”
“Prove it.” She knew she was being rude, but she didn’t care.
He pulled out a wooden stick - a magic wand - and directed it at the kettle. Immediately, it started whistling. Next, four cups jumped out of the cupboard and had the tea poured into them by the untouched kettle. Within a few seconds, those same four cups were now on the table in front of them. No one got up to make tea that whole time.
Dad eyed the cups apprehensively; Mum almost jumped in her seat. Harry, however, smiled and took a sip. “I forgot the sugar,” he said all of a sudden, and with another wave of his wand, the sugar travelled to the table as well. “Ah, that’s better.”
“That’s really magic,” she whispered, completely in awe.
“Or some really good work with invisible strings,” Harry said, unable to stop himself from smiling. “I think maybe you should read your letter now?”
It was phrased as a question, but it didn’t sound like a question. Without a word, Dad handed her the heavy envelope. Now that she was looking at it, she could see it wasn’t a regular envelope - it looked as if it was made of parchment.
She didn’t hesitate before ripping the envelope open and smoothing out the letter inside, which was definitely made of parchment. There, in green ink, she started reading: Dear Ms Dursley, it said, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
She finished reading the letter within seconds, excitement building up inside her. “Can I go?” were the first words that came out of her mouth. She couldn’t understand why Dad looked so unhappy.
“What happens if she doesn’t go?” he asked Harry.
“What?” she couldn’t stop herself from raising her voice, even though she knew her parents frowned at such behaviour. “But I want to go, this is brilliant!”
“I’m not saying you can’t go, Houda,” Dad said levelly. “I just want to know exactly what we’re facing. What happens if she doesn’t go, Harry?”
Harry thought for a moment. “I don’t know,” he said in the end. “Look, the magic isn’t going to go away. The Ministry is definitely going to want to keep an eye if there’s an untrained witch living among Muggles, and she’s already registered with them and everything, that’s automatic. It’s the Statute of Secrecy, they’ll want to keep an eye on her. But I don’t really know what that entails, it’s not in my department.”
“Is it dangerous?” Mum asked suddenly, looking tense. “If she’s not trained.”
“Well,” Harry said, very slowly, “accidents have happened. That’s why it’s so important for kids like her to go to Hogwarts - they learn how to control their magic, not just how to make the best out of it. You remember how I was before I went, Dudley, sometimes... accidents happen.”
“So what you’re saying, it’s in her best interest to go,” Dad said, and Houda didn’t quite understand why he sounded angry all of a sudden.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest that she goes,” Harry said. “But mostly in Houda’s. Look, she’s not going to be disconnected from the Muggle world - non-magic folk,” he added at the confused look on Mum’s face, and undoubtedly on Houda’s own. “She’ll still be here on holidays, and the whole attitudes towards Muggles are changing, there’s a lot more openness these days. There even were a couple of students who sat the GSCEs as well as the O.W.L.s last year, from what a friend told me. If people are interested in being able to assimilate into Muggle society later, Hogwarts is willing to help.”
“And it won’t make a difference... I mean... She’s not - you know, how it was when you were...” Dad seemed to be looking for words in vain. “It doesn’t matter that we’re not magic?” he asked finally.
“Not at all. It’s not like those days, Dudley. Things have changed. No one cares who her parents are anymore. Honestly.”
“We’ll have to think about it.”
Harry nodded. “Sure. Take your time. Well, take some time - Hogwarts is going to need an answer eventually. I’ll tell you what, let me give you my number -” he flicked his wand again, causing a paper and a pen to appear out of thin air and, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, the pen scribbled the number on the paper all by itself. “There,” he gave the piece of paper to Dudley, who eyed it suspiciously. “Whatever you decide, talk to me, okay?”
Dad nodded. Mum just stared at the pen.
“I, uh, I think I better go now,” Harry said.
Mum and Dad got up to show him to the door, and Houda remained behind reading the second part of the letter. This one was all about the stuff she would study and need. She read in interest the list of subjects, most of it with exciting names like Potions, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts. Even History didn’t sound that bad when it had ‘of Magic’ attached to it. The required equipment list was equally exciting, with items such as ‘cauldron, pewter’, ‘telescope’ and ‘wand’. And it even said she was allowed to bring a pet, but the pets listed weren’t dogs or hamsters, but animals like owls. Immediately, she wanted an owl.
“Can I get an owl?” was the first thing she asked her parents when they returned to the kitchen. Mum looked at her in alarm. Dad couldn’t look more uncomfortable than he already was, so he just fidgeted unhappily.
“We’ll talk about it,” he said.
“I want to go,” she told them, just in case it wasn’t obvious the first time round.
“I know, Houda - but think, it’s a big decision.”
“But I already am a witch, that’s what Harry said, isn’t it? He said that it doesn’t matter if I go or not, I’m a witch no matter what I do, so I might as well go and learn all that stuff like - like -” she fetched the parchment and read - “like Herbology and Charms.”
“We’ll talk about it,” he said unhelpfully.
But Houda wasn’t going to wait for a discussion she might not even be a part of. She rushed to the living room and declared to her stunned brothers that she was a witch and going to a school of magic.
“We always knew there’s something wrong with you,” Vernon joked, but she didn’t mind. She was a witch!
Her brothers reacted to the news differently when they realised Houda wasn’t being facetious or pranking them, but that she was, indeed, a witch. David was horrified with the idea of his sister going to a school for witches. Vern, on the other hand, thought it was cool. “I wish I was magic,” he said when he compared her book list to the list of books he had to read for his A-levels the next year. He kept on looking over and over at her letter, and announced to their parents that they couldn’t possibly not let her go.
To Houda’s delight, Mum had adopted the same attitude after the initial shock had worn off. “If she’s a witch,” she told Dad, “and it’s not going to go away, I guess we might as well let her make the best of it.” Dad just shrugged, but he didn’t object.
And so, three weeks later, they stood in the middle of Charing Cross road, waiting for Harry to come and show them where they could get robes (black), protective gloves (dragon hide) and spell books. Houda didn’t quite understand why they were standing there, in the middle of a regular street - surely, they couldn’t get things like robes and spell books in the middle of London? Mum and Dad seemed just as apprehensive.
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” Mum asked Dad a couple of times, who answered that yes, this was the address Harry had given him, but as the moments passed and there was no sign of Harry, he seemed less and less certain.
After about fifteen minutes of standing there, they were starting to draw attention from a couple of shopkeepers. “You should ring him,” Mum said, but Dad looked dubiously at the piece of paper and said that it was only a home number and that he didn’t know whether Harry had a mobile.
“Maybe they’re still at home,” Vern suggested.
“Maybe,” Dad sighed and fished for his mobile - at the same moment as Harry appeared next to them, as if out of nowhere.
“I’m so sorry, guys, I forgot you can’t see the entrance - anti-Muggle charms - I completely forgot...”
“How d’you mean, ‘anti-Muggle charms’?” Dad looked positively alarmed now.
“Oh, no, nothing sinister, just so that Muggles won’t be able to see it. C’mon,” he led them towards a small pub in front of them. But the most peculiar thing happened then - Mum and Dad just stopped dead on the spot and refused to move.
“What, here?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, through here.”
“Er, shouldn’t we go to the door or something?” Mum asked, even though she was right in front of the door.
“Mum, it’s right here,” Houda said, somewhat amused, and pointed at the door. “Can’t you see it?” But Mum just looked confused.
“She can’t see it,” Harry said suddenly. “Like I said - anti-Muggle charms. Once we get through it’ll be fine.”
“But we can’t go through here! There’s nothing here!” Dad said. His voice had turned high and nervous.
“Dudley, there’s a door here. I know you can’t see it, and that it looks like you’re going to go crashing straight into the wall, but it’s really there. Trust me?”
Dad looked at Harry suspiciously, then nodded and - extremely reluctantly - started walking towards the door. It was obvious to Houda now he couldn’t actually see it - after a few steps, it looked almost like he was going to miss it; Harry had to steer him back to face it before he could continue, and then open it for him. Dad kept on walking in slow, measured steps, until finally, he disappeared inside the pub. Behind Houda, she could hear Mum gasp.
“Is he... where did he go? Did he go in?”
“Yeah, he walked inside. Your turn now,” Harry smiled, and helped Mum the same way. Next came Vern and David, Vern with a big smile on his face, saying ‘cool’ all the time, while David looked dubiously at the door he couldn’t see and tried to ignore Harry at the same time, and almost crashed into the wall until he finally listened to Harry’s warning and walked back into the right path.
“How about it, Houda? You now?” Harry asked and smiled at her. She smiled back and walked straight through the door without any help.
The pub was not what she had expected. If this was a magic place, why did it look so shabby? Couldn’t they make it look much better and cleaner with magic? But the place they were in looked old and dirty and pretty miserable. She couldn’t see the point in hiding it from non-wizards. It wasn’t like they would want to spend time in there. The whole place looked like it was taken from Gran Petunia’s worst nightmares.
“Heya, Tom,” Harry, who had walked into the pub last, nodded to the barman, who returned his greeting with an enthusiastic, “Hello, Mr Potter!”
Harry then turned to them. “Through here, guys.” They went through a back door and into a small alley, where Harry tapped his wand on a stone wall and the whole thing opened to reveal -
A huge street, full of shops and buildings and people, hidden from everyone, slap bang in the middle of London. And what a street it was - Houda could see that this was the place to get all those things she needed, pewter cauldrons and owls and wands. It was packed with people, and animals, and voices and noises.
She would have wanted nothing more than just go around and look, but at that exact moment, another girl appeared. She was about her age, slightly taller than Houda and with long, flaming red hair, very much different from Houda’s short and black one. “Are you my cousin?” the girl asked excitedly.
“Yeah, that’s them, Lily - Houda, this is Lily, my daughter. She’s also starting Hogwarts in September.”
“Hi,” Houda said nervously. She was now eyeing the red-headed girl with much curiosity, and a little bit of trepidation, too. After all, this girl had been living with wizards all her life, and unlike Houda, she had always known she was magic.
“Dad says your family’s Muggles, that must be so cool!” Lily went on with the same air of excitement. “My cousin Hugo’s grandparents are Muggles, and he always has these weird stories - have you got a television?”
“Let her breathe, Lily,” Harry said.
Other people had joined them, and Harry introduced them too. “Um, Dudley, Aminah, that’s Ginny, my wife, and our kids, James and Al, and Lily you’ve met. Guys, these are the Dursleys, those are Vernon and David, and this is Houda.”
“Hi,” Ginny, Harry’s wife, smiled at her warmly, but the older boys seemed almost bored.
“Hi,” the taller and obviously oldest of the three kids said, and immediately turned to his father. “Dad, can we go to George’s shop? He said he’s got some pretty cool stuff, and I don’t need a lot of things anyway -”
“You need new robes,” his mother said sternly. “Honestly, the rate you’re growing...”
“Tell you what,” Harry suggested calmly, “how about you go to the shop while we’re going to the bank, that way you could also show your cousins around a bit, and we’ll meet you there and do all the shopping together? Dudley, Aminah, that alright with you? It’s going to take a while in the bank to exchange Muggle money, no reason for them to get bored waiting in the queue.”
“Yeah, it’d be great, they’d love it,” James quickly latched towards Vern and started leading him deeper into the street. Dad had no choice but to agree, and so all the kids followed James.
Diagon Alley was incredible. ‘George’s shop’ turned out to be a joke shop, full of incredible and unexpected tricks, toys, and other things Houda didn’t even have words for. She didn’t mind at all when Lily’s older brother said they shouldn’t leave the shop until their parents got there, and neither did Vernon and David. Only Lily’s other brother Al sulked a bit, and complained how there weren’t any goblins in the shop. Houda started asking what did he mean by ‘goblins’, but then she was shown something called Headless Hats and forgot all about it.
Even after their parents got there and they all left the shop, there were so many unexpected places to go to get all of her school things. Lily and her brothers turned out to be extremely nice, even though Lily was getting excited at the prospect of very silly things - after television, she had a hard time wrapping her head around mobile phones and, once Houda had accidentally mentioned them, electric toothbrushes (although Houda had to admit she didn’t much see the point of these, either), and James and Vern got along famously.
Soon enough, they had to start rushing from one shop to the other. Every shop they walked into had a huge queue and many kids and adults. All of them, Houda had noticed, seemed to know Harry and his family, and they stopped to greet people or exchange a few words every minute or so. And sometimes, they seemed to be having more important conversations. Houda thought she caught a snippet of a conversation - another mention of goblins, in fact, this time by Harry - but just then they went into a shop that sold potion ingredients, and Houda was completely lost in the exciting but weird world of rat tails, chameleon skin and fly wings.
By the end of the day, they had boxes over boxes of school equipment and robes and books and even a cat, which Harry claimed was much cleverer than regular cats, being a magical one. Even David stopped acting like a snot, because he was too busy getting excited over everything. He was even too excited to be jealous. It was a perfect day. Before Houda went to sleep, she took a look at some of her books. Magical Drafts and Potions looked dreadfully hard, with so many disgusting-sounding ingredients like beetle eyes and lizard tails; Magical Theory looked very much like her maths book from last year; and Muggle Life in the British Isles proved quite entertaining - the author, Wilhelm Wigworthy, didn’t seem to know much about non-magic people. She was trying to decide whether to look at A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot or the other history book on the list, Magic Britain in the 20th Century, when the unthinkable had happened, and she fell asleep.
The next month rushed on. They had met Harry’s family a couple of times more - now that she was going to go to Hogwarts, Dad had wanted her to know more about wizards. Harry had brought Lily over a couple of times to their home, where she showed her cousin the television and computer and some of the books she had about wizards, which made Lily giggle. Then they got in the car one weekend and drove to Harry’s house, which wasn’t far outside London. Lily had shown her around the house, with its owls and the unkempt garden, and dishes that cleaned themselves in the sink. Houda found herself giggling over a bunch of comic books called The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle - much like her Muggle Studies book, it didn’t seem the author had known a lot about Muggles before writing it. Lily looked offended, but only for one moment, then she started laughing, too.
The holiday would have ended on the best of notes if it weren’t for Granddad and Grandma Dursley, who had returned from their holiday in Majorca right at the end of August.
“And here she is!” Granddad Vernon opened his hands for a hug as soon as she opened the door. She hugged him gladly, then Grandma Petunia, only a lot more carefully, because Gran didn’t like it when her clothes were being ruffled.
“How was Majorca?” she asked excitedly.
“Oh, it was alright,” Gramps said. He didn’t look very happy. “It was full of tourists, you know, everyone being noisy -”
“ - And there was rubbish everywhere,” Gran said, looking just as unhappy. “With all the money we paid, you’d have thought they could afford better cleaning services.”
“Hi Mum, Hi Dad,” Dad said, and hugged his father. “Trip went alright?”
“Well, like we were just telling Houda, people were very loud. And there was rubbish everywhere. I thought Majorca would be more pleasant.”
“Yeah, you said the same thing about Cyprus last year,” Dad said and gave his mother a kiss.
“But that doesn’t matter now, does it? The holiday is over! And your holiday will be over soon too, young lady!” Gramps pinched Houda’s cheek. She hated when he did that. “But you’ll be going to Smeltings, and you’ll have quite a time there. I’ll be honest, Dudley, I wasn’t sure they were doing the right thing when they started accepting girls, but I can’t think of another school our Houda could go to.”
“Actually, Dad...” Dad swallowed. He looked as nervous as he did on that first night, when Harry showed up. “She’s not going to Smeltings.”
“Not going...? Nonsense!” Gramps dismissed Dad’s words with a wave of his hand. “Of course she is! Where else would she go?”
“I’m going to Hogwarts to become a witch!” Houda announced happily.
She might as well have told them she was going to drop out of school altogether, judging by her grandfather’s expression. He stared at her for a moment, the smile still frozen on his face, and then a vein started throbbing in his neck and he turned completely red - almost purple, in fact. There was no hint of a smile now.
Gran’s hand shot straight to her mouth in horror.
“Hog... Hog...?” he whispered, apparently incapable of pronouncing the school’s name, which was odd because it wasn’t a hard name to pronounce, just different.
“Yeah... Uncle Harry was here and brought me the letter! Want to see?”
“You’ve been in touch with Harry?” Gran said in a strange voice. Gramps seemed to have lost his voice altogether. His vein kept on throbbing dangerously.
“He dropped by to bring us the letter. We talked about it. We decided it would be best to let Houda go,” Dad said carefully. “And she wants to go.”
Houda didn’t think she would forget the fight that ensued in a hurry.