“Then Dobby must do it, sir, for Harry Potter’s own good.”
The pudding fell to the floor with a heart-stopping crash. Cream splattered the windows and walls as the dish shattered. With a crack like a whip, Dobby vanished.
There were screams from the dining room and Uncle Vernon burst into the kitchen to find Harry, rigid with shock, covered from head to foot in Aunt Petunia’s pudding.
At first, it looked as though Uncle Vernon would manage to gloss the whole thing over. (“Just my nephew—very disturbed—meeting strangers upsets him, so we kept him upstairs…”) He shooed the shocked Masons back into the dining room, promised Harry he would flay him to within an inch of his life when the Masons had left, and handed him a mop. Aunt Petunia dug some ice cream out of the freezer and Harry, still shaking, started scrubbing the kitchen clean.
Uncle Vernon might still have been able to make his deal—if it hadn’t been for the owl.
Aunt Petunia was just passing around a box of after-dinner mints when a huge barn owl swooped through the dining room window, dropped a letter on Mrs. Mason’s head, and swooped out again. Mrs. Mason screamed like a banshee and ran from the house shouting about lunatics. Mr. Mason stayed just long enough to tell the Dursleys that his wife was mortally afraid of birds of all shapes and sizes, and to ask whether this was their idea of a joke.
Harry stood in the kitchen, clutching the mop for support, as Uncle Vernon advanced on him, a demonic glint in his tiny eyes.
“Read it!” he hissed evilly, brandishing the letter the owl had delivered. “Go on—read it!”
Harry took it. It did not contain birthday greetings.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree for the Reasonable Restrictionof Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non-magical community (Muggles) is a serious offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks’ Statute of Secrecy.
Enjoy your holidays!
IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Harry looked up from the letter and gulped.
“You didn’t tell us you weren’t allowed to use magic outside school,” said Uncle Vernon, a mad gleam dancing in his eyes. “Forgot to mention it… Slipped your mind, I daresay…”
He was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. “Well, I’ve got news for you, boy…I’m locking you up…You’re never going back to that school…never…and if you try and magic yourself out—they’ll expel you!”
And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to fit bars on Harry’s window. He himself fitted a cat-flap in the bedroom door, so that small amounts of food could be inside three times a day. They let Harry out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around the clock.
Four weeks later, the Dursleys were still showing no signs of relenting. Harry’s trunk was packed for school just in case and on the morning of September 1st he woke early, sick and anxious, and waited at the door of his room with baited breath.
But nothing happened.
Two hours later his meager breakfast (half a bowl of soggy wheatabix) was pushed through the cat-flap like it was on every other morning and when he called through the door there was no answer, just the sound of Aunt Petunia’s shoes hurrying away down the hallway. Harry pounded on the door and yelled but no one came.
He threw himself on his bed in a wave of despair. Hedwig hooted despondently from her cage. What was going to happen to him if the Dursleys didn’t take him to the train? Would someone be sent to see why he hadn’t come back? Would they be able to make the Dursleys let him go?
Harry looked at the clock next on his nightstand. The glowing numbers read 10:47. Then 10:52. 10:56. 10:58. 10:59…
That was it, the train was gone.
The Hogwarts Express had left, and he wasn’t on it.
Harry stood up. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the door. The spell was on his lips—alohamora—but he didn’t speak. He stood there for a while, trembling with indecision.
What was the good of magicking himself out of his room if Hogwarts would expel him for doing it? Where would he go if he left—where could he go? It was Hogwarts or here, and if he couldn’t go back to Hogwarts…
Harry chewed his lip until it bled then, finally, with a low wail, he flopped back onto the bed, his wand dropping from his listless hand. Harry heard it roll away across the floor of his room. He didn’t bother getting up to go after it; what good would it do him? Here, on Privet Drive, in the Muggle word, it was just a bit of stick.
And Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, was just a prisoner.