Hoping For a Better Future: BOOK ONE

One day after the end of Harry's third year, he wanders the castle when suddenly a whole package of books falls on his head. Read my version of Reading the Harry Potter Books! =D

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6. IV - Keeper of the Keys

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JK Rowling, I own nothing. Writing in bold
comes directly from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

IV – The Keeper of the Keys

BOOM. They knocked again. Dudley jerked awake.

"Where's the cannon?" he said stupidly.

"Well, he is stupid," Harry commented lightly.

There was a crash behind them and Uncle Vernon came skidding into the room. He was holding a rifle in his hands – now they knew what had been in the long, thin package he had brought with them.

"That- That man-" McGonagall was at a loss for words. The same seemed to be said for the whole room.

"He brought a gun? There were children in the room!" Tonks ranted. "Oh, when I get my hands on him..." Harry could hear her mutter to herself.

"Who's there?" he shouted. "I warn you – I'm armed!"

There was a pause. Then –

SMASH!

The door was hit with such force that it swung clean off its hinges and with a deafening crash landed flat on the floor.

A giant of a man

"Actually, he's only a half-giant," Tonks supplied them with. Harry wasn't that surprised, although he never knew that there were actual giants. That made him feel ashamed of himself. He was in the Wizarding world for how long already and he still didn't know much about it. Silently, and to himself, he made a promise to learn as much as he could about the world he was living in. He never wanted to feel like an outsider.

was standing in the doorway. His face was almost completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like black beetles under all the hair.

"Makes you worried about your own descriptions, doesn't it?" commented Remus and everyone chuckled, although a bit uncomfortably. They all wondered how Harry would describe them. Hearing about how his imagination worked made them all a bit worried. Well, at least Remus, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Sirius were worried – seeing as Harry has not yet met either Moody or Tonks.

The giant squeezed his way into the hut, stooping so that his head just brushed the ceiling. He bent down, picked up the door and fitted it easily back into its frame. The noise of the storm outside dropped a little. He turned to look at them all.

"Couldn't make us a cup o' tea, could yeh? It's not been an easy journey …"

"Only Hagrid," said Harry with a grin. Everyone agreed, knowing Hagrid.

He strode over to the sofa where Dudley sat frozen with fear.

"Budge up, yeh great lump," said the stranger.

"Go, Hagrid!" Ron cheered.

Dudley squeaked and ran to hide behind his mother, who was crouching, terrified, behind Uncle Vernon.

"That must have been an interesting sight," Sirius commented dryly.

"An' here's Harry!" said the giant.

Harry looked up into the fierce, wild, shadowy face and saw that the beetle eyes were crinkled in a smile.

"Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby," said the giant. "Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mum's eyes."

"The first time I heard that," Harry whispered sadly. Everyone glared at the Headmaster yet again.

"Actually," Sirius said thoughtfully as he stared at Harry's face. "You look more like your mum."

Everyone stared at Sirius in surprise. Then they turned to stare at Harry. Harry was intrigued. Everyone was telling him how much he looked like his dad and that he only got his mother's eyes.

"Your cheekbones and nose are all Lily's," Sirius said, while tweaking Harry's nose with a smile.

"Your chin is also like your mum's," Remus said as he watched Harry's and Sirius' interactions.

"You also inherited your mother's temper," added McGonagall to everyone's amusement.

"And your mother's huge heart," said Dumbledore quietly.

"And her open-mindedness," contributed Moody who had known Lily from the Order.

Harry was overwhelmed by this. Sirius seeing that continued to read.

Uncle Vernon made a funny rasping noise.

"I demand that you leave at once, sir!" he said. "You are breaking and entering!"

"Breaking is the keyword," Tonks joked, referring to the fact that the half-giant had broken the door down in order to get in the hut. Everyone (well, except for Snape and Moody) grinned at that.

"Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune," said the giant. He reached over the back of the sofa, jerked the gun out of Uncle Vernon's hands, bent it into a knot as easily as if it had been made of rubber, and threw it into a corner of the room.

"One of my better memories of that day," said Harry thinking of Hagrid fondly.

Uncle Vernon made another funny noise, like a mouse being trodden on.

Hermione couldn't stop herself from giving out a small giggle as she imagined the big man squeaking like a mouse.

"Anyway – Harry," said the giant, turning his back on the Dursleys, "a very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here – I mighta sat on it at some point, but it'll taste all right."

From an inside pocket of his black overcoat he pulled a slightly squashed box. Harry opened it with trembling fingers. Inside was a large, sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Harry written on it in green icing.

"What's with the green colour, anyway?" Ron said, tactlessly as usual. "I mean, first with the ink on the letter, then with the birthday cake."

"It's professor McGonagall's favourite colour – that's why she's writing the letters with it; and my eyes are green, so Hagrid made green icing for the cake. Also, green is my favourite colour as well," Harry explained, matter-of-factly. Ron just stared at him.

"How did you know what my favourite colour is, Mr Potter?" asked a perplexed McGonagall. Harry blushed a bit and then explained his observations quietly,

"Well, you're almost always wearing the green tartan robe, and you circle the transfiguration spells on the blackboard with green chalk, and you wear a green brooch sometimes, and you mostly use green ink on our essays when you correct them..."

Everyone was once again struck dumb at Harry's observation skill. Minerva McGonagall had to admit that she was profoundly touched by how many things Harry had noticed and remembered. Sirius, seeing that Harry was getting more and more embarrassed as he watched McGonagall go a bit teary-eyed, quickly continued with the reading.

Harry looked up at the giant. He meant to say thank you, but the words got lost on the way to his mouth, and what he said instead was, "Who are you?"

"Manners, Mr Potter," Minerva chided him sternly. Harry blushed.

The giant chuckled.

"True, I haven't introduced meself. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts."

He held out an enormous hand and shook Harry's whole arm.

"That actually hurt a bit," Harry chuckled softly as he remembered Hagrid almost dislocating his shoulder while doing that.

"What about that tea then, eh?" he said, rubbing his hands together. "I'd not say no ter summat stronger if yeh've got it, mind."

"Hagrid, you are not supposed to drink in front of children," McGonagall said exasperatedly. Harry just smiled and shared a look with Hermione and Ron, remembering what Hagrid did to become sober. Hermione caught on and giggled softly while Ron looked clueless.

His eyes fell on the empty grate with the shrivelled crisp packets in it and he snorted. He bent down over the fireplace; they couldn't see what he was doing but when he drew back a second later, there was a roaring fire there.

"Did Hagrid just use magic?" asked Tonks confused. "Wasn't his wand snapped when he was expelled?"

Harry didn't say anything, preferring to read about it later instead of trying to explain it now.

It filled the whole damp hut with flickering light and Harry felt the warmth wash over him as though he'd sunk into a hot bath.

The giant sat back down on the sofa, which sagged under his weight, and began taking all sorts of things out of the pockets of his coat: a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, several chipped mugs and a bottle of some amber liquid which he took a swig from before starting to make tea.

"Just how many pockets does Hagrid's coat have?" said Ron sarcastically.

"Enough to hold a lot of things in," Harry said matter-of-factly. Neville couldn't help but snort at that comment.

"Shut up, Harry," Ron said, rolling his eyes. Harry mimicked zipping his lips and throwing away the zipper, his eyes sparkling with laughter.

Soon the hut was full of the sound and smell of sizzling sausage. Nobody said a thing while the giant was working, but as he slid the first six fat, juicy, slightly burnt sausages from the poker, Dudley fidgeted a little. Uncle Vernon said sharply, "Don't touch anything he gives you, Dudley."

The giant chuckled darkly.

"Yer great puddin' of a son don' need fattenin' any more, Dursley, don' worry."

He passed the sausages to Harry, who was so hungry he had never tasted anything so wonderful, but he still couldn't take his eyes off the giant. Finally, as nobody seemed about to explain anything, he said, "I'm sorry, but I still don't really know who you are."

"That's better," McGonagall murmured appreciatively. Harry had to hold back a smart comment and rolled his eyes instead. Luckily, McGonagall did not notice that. Instead, Snape noticed it and had to hold back a snort. Cheeky little brat, he thought to himself fondly, surprising himself.

The giant took a gulp of tea and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Call me Hagrid," he said, "everyone does. an' like I told yeh, I'm Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts – yeh'll know all about Hogwarts, o' course."

"No, because his relatives never told him," Ron said.

"Way to state the obvious," Neville murmured with a grin. Hermione giggled again and said, "Well, Ron is Mr Obvious sometimes. Though, that's a good thing."

"How so?" asked Sirius curiously.

"Well, sometimes I overthink things," Hermione started to explain but was immediately interrupted by three simultaneous snorts.

"Okay, okay, I always overthink things," she glared at her fellow Gryffindors. Remus grinned as he remembered that he used to do the same thing. He could see, from the corner of his eyes, Sirius grinning at him in a way that told him they were thinking of the same thing.

"If I may continue," Hermione said bossily at the three boys who were still chuckling at her. All three of them made a show of becoming quiet and obedient. Sirius could almost imagine three tails wagging behind them.

"While I overthink things, and Harry goes by his instinct, we sometimes overlook obvious things. That's where Ron comes in with his pureblood upbringing and stating the obvious thing in such a manner that we could hit ourselves for not noticing it before," Hermione explained.

"That's what makes us such a great team," Harry added. "Hermione's our main researcher, Ron's the strategist, and I figure things out with the information they give me."

The professors started at that. Harry's and Hermione's explanations made a lot of sense.

"Er – no," said Harry.

Hagrid looked shocked.

"Sorry," Harry said quickly.

"What are you apologizing for? It's them that should be sorry!" Sirius barked in irritation.

"I was used to apologizing for every little thing that went wrong in the Dursley residence," said Harry calmly while holding back laughter at what Sirius said, even though it was a serious matter. Sirius couldn't understand why Harry's lips were twitching and giving up, read on.

"Sorry?" barked Hagrid, turning to stare at the Dursleys, who shrank back into the shadows. "It's them as should be sorry!

He immediately knew just why his godson's lips were twitching and had to endure the entire room laughing at him… again…

"So, now you want to be like Hagrid?" said Harry wickedly.

"You're evil," Sirius pouted.

"But you love me anyway," Harry said without thinking. When he realized what he said, he went beat red in mortification. The whole room seemed to shake with the sound of Sirius' laughing.

"Sure do, pup," Sirius said while messing up Harry's hair.

I knew yeh weren't gettin' yer letters but I never thought yeh wouldn't even know abou' Hogwarts, fer cryin' out loud! Did yeh never wonder where yer parents learnt it all?"

"All what?" asked Harry.

"ALL WHAT?" Hagrid thundered. "Now wait jus' one second!"

He had leapt to his feet. In his anger he seemed to fill the whole hut. The Dursleys were cowering against the wall.

"Do you mean ter tell me," he growled at the Dursleys, "that this boy – this boy! – knows nothin' abou' – about ANYTHING?"

"Uh-oh, Harry won't like that," Hermione mumbled and grinned cheekily when Harry glared at her mockingly.

Harry thought this was going a bit far. He had been to school, after all, and his marks weren't bad.

"I know some things," he said. "I can, you know, do maths and stuff."

"And stuff," Ron repeated, snickering loudly.

"That doesn't tell us much," Hermione teased. Harry ignored her.

But Hagrid simply waved his hand and said, "About our world, I mean. Your world. My world. Yer parents' world."

"What world?"

Hagrid looked as if he was about to explode.

"DURSLEY!" he boomed.

Uncle Vernon, who had gone very pale, whispered something that sounded like "Mimblewimble". Hagrid stared wildly at Harry.

"But yeh must know about yer mum and dad," he said. "I mean, they're famous. You're famous."

"What? My – my mum and dad weren't famous, were they?"

"And the only thing you got out of that was that your parents were famous and not that you were famous too?" asked Remus for clarification. Harry's blush told him everything.

"Yeh don' know … yeh don' know …" Hagrid ran his fingers through his hair, fixing Harry with a bewildered stare.

"Yeh don' know what yeh are?" he said finally.

Uncle Vernon suddenly found his voice.

"Stop!" he commanded. "Stop right there, sir! I forbid you to tell the boy anything!"

A braver man than Vernon Dursley would have quailed under the furious look Hagrid now gave him; when Hagrid spoke, his every syllable trembled with rage.

"You never told him? Never told him what was in the letter Dumbledore left fer him? I was there! I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley! an' you've kept it from him all these years?"

"Kept what from me?" said Harry eagerly.

"STOP! I FORBID YOU!" yelled Uncle Vernon in panic.

Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.

"Drama queen," muttered both Snape and Harry, then stared at each other in surprise. Sirius moaned at that and shook his head, as if he was disappointed. Remus was shaking with quiet laughter at the look on Snape's face.

"Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh," said Hagrid. "Harry – yer a wizard."

There was silence inside the hut. Only the sea and the whistling wind could be heard.

"I'm a what?" gasped Harry.

"Nice reaction," Ron guffawed around the laughter and snickering that filled the room. Even Snape was smirking, Harry noticed embarrassedly.

"A wizard, o' course," said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, "an' a thumpin' good'un, I'd say, once yeh've been trained up a bit. With a mum an' dad like yours, what else would yeh be? an' I reckon it's abou' time yeh read yer letter."

Harry stretched out his hand at last to take the yellowish envelope, addressed in emerald green to Mr H. Potter, The Floor, Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea. He pulled out the letter and read:

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Questions exploded inside Harry's head like fireworks and he couldn't decide which to ask first. After a few minutes he stammered, "What does it mean, they await my owl?"

"That's the first question you asked?" Hermione said in disbelief, remembering her own questions.

"It was the last thing I read," Harry tried to defend himself.

"Gallopin' Gorgons, that reminds me," said Hagrid, clapping a hand to his forehead with enough force to knock over a cart horse, and from yet another pocket inside his overcoat he pulled an owl – a real, live, rather ruffled-looking owl – a long quill and a roll of parchment. With his tongue between his teeth he scribbled a note which Harry could read upside-down:

"You can read Hagrid's writing upside down?" said McGonagall impressed.

"Er," said Harry eloquently while Sirius and Remus grinned at him. It wasn't easy to impress Minerva McGonagall.

Dear Mr Dumbledore,

Given Harry his letter. Taking him to buy his things tomorrow. Weather's horrible. Hope you're well.

Hagrid

"Nice," commented Tonks.

"Short and to the point," Remus said grinning over at the female Auror. Tonks blushed at the smile and looked everywhere else but at Remus. Remus frowned at that a little, but Sirius almost broke two of his ribs while trying not to laugh at his clueless friend.

Hagrid rolled up the note, gave it to the owl, which clamped it in its beak, went to the door and threw the owl out into the storm. Then he came back and sat down as though this was as normal as talking on the telephone.

"Ron still calls it a fellytone," Harry commented with a straight face.

"Oi, my dad calls it that!" Ron defended himself not realizing just what a pickle he put himself in.

"I think I remember your dad asking me about escalators during the summer before my second year," mused Harry. And Ron being Ron dug his hole deeper.

"You mean escapators?"

Before Harry could tease him further, Sirius decided to put Ron out of his misery and continued reading, ignoring the mocking glare that Harry sent his way.

Harry realised his mouth was open and closed it quickly.

"Where was I?" said Hagrid, but at that moment, Uncle Vernon, still ashen-faced but looking very angry, moved into the firelight.

"He's not going," he said.

Hagrid grunted.

"I'd like ter see a great Muggle like you stop him," he said.

"A what?" said Harry, interested.

"A Muggle," said Hagrid. "It's what we call non-magic folk like them. an' it's your bad luck you grew up in a family o' the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on."

"And the pun was totally intended," Harry confessed to the room. "Hagrid told me so later."

"We swore when we took him in we'd put a stop to that rubbish," said Uncle Vernon, "swore we'd stamp it out of him! Wizard, indeed!"

Another small earthquake went through the room, but no one stared at the Headmaster this time, though Snape and Harry did give him two identical worried looks.

"You knew?" said Harry. "You knew I'm a – a wizard?"

"Knew!" shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. "Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was?

"Lily was not dratted," snarled a suddenly angry Sirius. Snape scowled at that, having thought the same thing as the mangy mutt, although he had no intention of saying it out loud.

Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that – that school – and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was – a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"

"As they should be," said Hermione primly. "Having magic is a great gift."

"With great power comes great responsibility," cited Harry and sending Hermione a smile.

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," she responded to him with another quote. They looked at each other for a second, and then snickered in unison, oblivious to the general confusion of the others that were gathered in the Room of Requirements. Not everyone recognized the quotes.

"I didn't know you knew that quote," Hermione said once they calmed down.

"My favourite hiding place in primary school was the library," Harry admitted abashed.

She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say all this for years.

"She probably did," grimaced Harry.

"Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you'd be just the same, just as strange, just as – as – abnormal – and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!"

"That's how you found out?" asked a pale Dumbledore. Everyone was in shock. No one had imagined that this was how Harry found out about the truth of his parents' deaths. Sirius was trembling with rage and Remus was breathing deeply, trying to calm himself down before he lashed out.

Harry stayed quiet. Once Sirius was calmer, he continued reading.

Harry had gone very white. As soon as he found his voice he said, "Blown up? You told me they died in a car crash!"

"CAR CRASH!" roared Hagrid, jumping up so angrily that the Dursleys scuttled back to their corner. "How could a car crash kill Lily an' James Potter? It's an outrage! A scandal! Harry Potter not knowin' his own storywhen every kid in our world knows his name!"

"But why? What happened?" Harry asked urgently.

The anger faded from Hagrid's face. He looked suddenly anxious.

"I never expected this," he said, in a low, worried voice. "I had no idea, when Dumbledore told me there might be trouble gettin' hold of yeh, how much yeh didn't know. Ah, Harry, I don' know if I'm the right person ter tell yeh – but someone's gotta – yeh can't go off ter Hogwarts not knowin'."

"That would have been a disaster," said McGonagall seriously.

He threw a dirty look at the Dursleys.

"Well, it's best yeh know as much as I can tell yeh – mind, I can't tell yeh everythin', it's a great myst'ry, parts of it …"

He sat down, stared into the fire for a few seconds and then said, "It begins, I suppose, with – with a person called – but it's incredible yeh don't know his name, everyone in our world knows –"

"He'll never tell," said Tonks smugly.

"Wanna bet?" Sirius retorted, trying to get over this anger towards the Dursleys.

"One galleon says he doesn't say the name," agreed Tonks and looked around the room to see if anyone else would be interested in betting.

"A galleon on him saying the name," Sirius added his bet.

Soon a couple of galleons was sitting on the table. McGonagall (she loved betting, though she would never admit it) bet on Hagrid not saying the name, while Dumbledore (he just went along with the silliness) bet on Hagrid saying the name.

"Who?"

"Well – I don' like sayin' the name if I can help it. No one does."

"Why not?"

"Gulpin' gargoyles, Harry, people are still scared. Blimey this is difficult. See, there was this wizard who went … bad. As bad as you could go. Worse. Worse than worse. His name was …"

Hagrid gulped, but no words came out.

"Could you write it down?" Harry suggested.

"Nah – can't spell it. All right – Voldemort."

"Ha!" burst out Sirius and grabbed his share of the bet, while Tonks shoved the other part at Dumbledore, grumbling under her breath. Harry was amazed to notice that none of the adults flinched at the name, though he did see Snape grimacing a bit and his right hand twitching towards the left one for a second before it stilled. Snape noticed him watching him and exhaled loudly in exasperation. Couldn't he do anything without the boy noticing? He wondered how Harry would react when (not if) it came out that he was a Death Eater… and worse, that he was the one to blame for his parents' deaths. He frowned at himself, feeling guilt encompass him. It was only Black's voice that made him concentrate again.

Hagrid shuddered. "Don' make me say it again. Anyway, this – this wizard, about twenty years ago now, started lookin' fer followers. Got 'em, too – some were afraid, some just wanted a bit o' his power, 'cause he was gettin' himself power, all right. Dark days, Harry. Didn't know who ter trust, didn't dare get friendly with strange wizards or witches … Terrible things happened. He was takin' over. 'Course, some stood up to him – an' he killed 'em. Horribly. One o' the only safe places left was Hogwarts. Reckon Dumbledore's the only one You-Know-Who was afraid of. Didn't dare try takin' the school, not jus' then, anyway.

"Now, yer mum an' dad were as good a witch an' wizard as I ever knew. Head Boy an' Girl at Hogwarts in their day! Suppose the myst'ry is why You-Know-Who never tried to get 'em on his side before … probably knew they were too close ter Dumbledore ter want anythin' ter do with the Dark Side.

"Maybe he thought he could persuade 'em … maybe he just wanted 'em outta the way. All anyone knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Hallowe'en ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an' – an' –"

Hagrid suddenly pulled out a very dirty, spotted handkerchief and blew his nose with a sound like a foghorn.

Everyone was morose at the reminder of their friends' deaths. There was an unspoken of, but agreed minute of silence in the room as they paid their respects and then Sirius read ahead, his voice cracking with sadness remembering James' and Lily's bodies in the rubble of their house.

"Sorry" he said. "But it's that sad – knew yer mum an' dad, an' nicer people yeh couldn't find – anyway –

"You-Know-Who killed 'em. an' then – an' this is the real myst'ry of the thing – he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin' by then. But he couldn't do it. Never wondered how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That's what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh – took care of yer mum an' dad an' yer house, even – but it didn't work on you, an' that's why yer famous, Harry. No one ever lived after he decided ter kill 'em, no one except you, an' he'd killed some o' the best witches an' wizards of the age – the McKinnons, the Bones, the Prewetts

Ron grew pale at the mention of his uncles and Harry noticed. His face was awash with realization as he realized that the Prewetts were somehow related to Ron. Ron, for once noticing his friend's look, said quietly, "They're my mum's twin brothers."

– an' you was only a baby, an' you lived."

Something very painful was going on in Harry's mind. As Hagrid's story came to a close, he saw again the blinding flash of green light, more clearly than he had ever remembered it before – and he remembered something else, for the first time in his life – a high, cold, cruel laugh.

The whole room shuddered at that. Snape grew cold as he listened to Harry remembering the Dark Lord's laughter. It was a terrifyingly correct description.

Hagrid was watching him sadly.

"Took yeh from the ruined house myself, on Dumbledore's orders. Brought yeh ter this lot …"

"Load of old tosh," said Uncle Vernon. Harry jumped, he had almost forgotten that the Dursleys were there.

"So did I," murmured Tonks.

Uncle Vernon certainly seemed to have got back his courage. He was glaring at Hagrid and his fists were clenched.

"Now, you listen here, boy," he snarled. "I accept there's something strange about you, probably nothing a good beating wouldn't have cured

Snape clenched his fists at that.

– and as for all this about your parents, well, they were weirdos, no denying it, and the world's better off without them in my opinion – asked for all they got, getting mixed up with these Wizarding types – just what I expected, always knew they'd come to a sticky end –"

"He did not just say that," Remus said angrily. Harry watched him wearily as the red slowly diminished from Lupin's face as he calmed himself down.

But at that moment, Hagrid leapt from the sofa and drew a battered pink umbrella from inside his coat. Pointing this at Uncle Vernon like a sword, he said, "I'm warning you, Dursley – I'm warning you – one more word …"

"Go Hagrid!" Ron yelled, dispersing the rising tension in the room.

In danger of being speared on the end of an umbrella by a bearded giant, Uncle Vernon's courage failed again; he flattened himself against the wall and fell silent.

"That's better," said Hagrid, breathing heavily and sitting back down on the sofa, which this time sagged right down to the floor.

Harry, meanwhile, still had questions to ask, hundreds of them.

"You wouldn't be Harry if you hadn't had them," Hermione teased. Harry grinned modestly.

"But what happened to Vol – sorry – I mean, You-Know-Who?"

"You actually said You-Know-Who?" Ron continued the teasing. Harry rolled his eyes.

"Not for long," he countered as he remembered Ron's reaction to the name on the train.

"Good question, Harry. Disappeared. Vanished. Same night he tried ter kill you. Makes yeh even more famous. That's the biggest myst'ry, see … he was gettin' more an' more powerful – why'd he go?

"Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he's still out there, bidin' his time, like, but I don' believe it. People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of 'em came outta kinda trances. Don' reckon they could've done if he was comin' back.

"Most of us reckon he's still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. 'Cause somethin' about you finished him, Harry. There was somethin' goin' on that night he hadn't counted on – I dunno what it was, no one does – but somethin' about you stumped him, all right."

Everyone agreed with Hagrid. Though most of them were flabbergasted at Hagrid saying something so profound.

Hagrid looked at Harry with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes, but Harry, instead of feeling pleased and proud, felt quite sure there had been a horrible mistake. A wizard? Him? How could he possibly be? He'd spent his life being clouted by Dudley and bullied by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon; if he was really a wizard, why hadn't they been turned into warty toads every time they'd tried to lock him in his cupboard? If he'd once defeated the greatest sorcerer in the world, how come Dudley had always been able to kick him around like a football?

"Hagrid," he said quietly, "I think you must have made a mistake. I don't think I can be a wizard."

To his surprise, Hagrid chuckled.

"Not a wizard, eh? Never made things happen when you was scared, or angry?"

Harry looked into the fire. Now he came to think about it … every odd thing that had ever made his aunt and uncle furious with him had happened when he, Harry, had been upset or angry … chased by Dudley's gang, he had somehow found himself out of their reach … dreading going to school with that ridiculous haircut, he'd managed to make it grow back … and the very last time Dudley had hit him, hadn't he got his revenge, without even realising he was doing it? Hadn't he set a boa constrictor on him?

Harry looked back at Hagrid, smiling, and saw that Hagrid was positively beaming at him.

"See?" said Hagrid. "Harry Potter, not a wizard – you wait, you'll be right famous at Hogwarts."

"Wish I wasn't," muttered Harry darkly, while trying to hide his scar by flattening his fringe over it. Sirius watched him in sympathy.

But Uncle Vernon wasn't going to give in without a fight.

"He never does," muttered Harry again.

"Haven't I told you he's not going?" he hissed. "He's going to Stonewall High and he'll be grateful for it. I've read those letters and he needs all sorts of rubbish – spell books and wands and –"

"If he wants ter go, a great Muggle like you won't stop him," growled Hagrid. "Stop Lily an' James Potter's son goin' ter Hogwarts! Yer mad. His name's been down ever since he was born. He's off ter the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world. Seven years there and he won't know himself. He'll be with youngsters of his own sort, fer a change, an' he'll be under the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts ever had, Albus Dumbled–"

"I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!" yelled Uncle Vernon.

"He shouldn't have said that," mumbled Dumbledore, knowing what kind of a reaction Hagrid always had when someone badmouthed him in his presence.

But he had finally gone too far. Hagrid seized his umbrella and whirled it over his head. "NEVER –" he thundered, "– INSULT – ALBUS – DUMBLEDORE – IN – FRONT – OF – ME!"

He brought the umbrella swishing down through the air to point at Dudley – there was a flash of violet light, a sound like a firecracker, a sharp squeal and next second, Dudley was dancing on the spot with his hands clasped over his fat bottom, howling in pain. When he turned his back on them, Harry saw a curly pig's tail poking through a hole in his trousers.

The room was silent for a few moments, then Ron started snickering loudly. Most of them soon followed his example. You could even see McGonagall's lips twitch a bit.

Uncle Vernon roared. Pulling Aunt Petunia and Dudley into the other room, he cast one last terrified look at Hagrid and slammed the door behind them.

Hagrid looked down at his umbrella and stroked his beard.

"Shouldn'ta lost me temper," he said ruefully, "but it didn't work anyway. Meant ter turn him into a pig, but I suppose he was so much like a pig anyway there wasn't much left ter do."

Harry chuckled at that.

He cast a sideways look at Harry under his bushy eyebrows.

"Be grateful if yeh didn't mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts," he said. "I'm – er – not supposed ter do magic, strictly speakin'. I was allowed ter do a bit ter follow yeh an' get yer letters to yeh an' stuff – one o' the reasons I was so keen ter take on the job –"

"Why aren't you supposed to do magic?" asked Harry.

"Oh, well – I was at Hogwarts meself but I – er – got expelled, ter tell yeh the truth. In me third year. They snapped me wand in half an' everything. But Dumbledore let me stay on as gamekeeper. Great man, Dumbledore."

"Why were you expelled?"

"He never told us that," mused Sirius while scratching his chin. Then he looked at Harry with suspicious eyes.

"Though, knowing you – you'll find out somehow," he finished. Harry pretended to be interested in his nails.

"You do know!" Remus exclaimed in disbelief. "How did you get him to tell you?" he continued to question the boy.

"You'll see," was the only thing he received as an answer and had to clench his lips to prevent himself from pouting.

"It's gettin' late and we've got lots ter do tomorrow," said Hagrid loudly. "Gotta get up ter town, get all yer books an' that."

He took off his thick black coat and threw it to Harry.

"You can kip under that," he said. "Don' mind if it wriggles a bit, I think I still got a couple o' dormice in one o' the pockets."

Sirius put the book down on the table in relief at the chapter being finished. Remus quickly swished the book away and opened it to the next chapter.

 

 

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