The only good thing about Marge Dursley’s presence was that April being in her cupboard was no longer the worst possible option. In fact, it was almost relieving to hear the divine words: “Cupboard, now,” when she came to town. Compared to having to do the countless insignificant chores Marge had always managed to come up with, or listen to one of her monologues about all the things that displease her about Harry and April.
April supposed Marge must’ve liked her at some point; she had scarce memories of money being shoved into her hands, and being embraced, feeling the rough material of Marge’s triple-XL black pantsuits, smelling the repugnant scent of dog. But just as April’s parents, there had come a time when Marge’s visits ceased to recognise her as the child she had spoilt, and rather an object for mockery.
Of course, with Marge visiting, Harry and April weren’t even allowed to sit at the table. Partially because even without Marge they had to eat bread with either water or an inconsequential amount of milk, partially because Marge’s massive body took up two chairs.
“It’s disgusting, the lack of gratitude,” Marge started, pausing to belch loudly before continuing. “You mustn’t blame yourselves, some are just born funny. You know, the runt of the litter.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry,” April said coldly. “I didn’t realize I should be thanking my family for forcing me to live outside in a small garden shed for five years of my life.”
“Oh, you’ve got nerve.” Marge stood excitedly as though an argument was just what she wanted: an opportunity to prove how much of a abominable, scrawny little runt April truly was. “Go on! Tell us all how unfair it is, poor little April!”
April readied herself to advance upon Marge, but Harry grabbed her arm and shook his head. Perhaps he was wondering the same thing as her: whether garden shears would tear her to pieces as well as they did with April’s pants.
Marge just laughed. “Terrible the way some just turn out wrong. You’ve done your best with her, Petunia, but she’s had the terrible influence of him,” she pointed her fork toward Harry. “If you leave one rotten apple next to a good one, the good one’s bound to go bad. Should have listened to me sooner when I said the boy deserved the orphanage.”
April was too quick for Harry that time. She wasn’t entirely sure what happened; she just remembered getting angry, and the dishes flying off the dinner table. Then she ran quickly to her cupboard, attempting to ignore the shouts from her family in vain.
“Why’d you give her the satisfaction of knowing she’d gotten to you?” April asked herself angrily.
“I’ve got nothing against your family, Petunia,” Marge said, voice obnoxiously loud. “But your sister was a bad egg, and so is your daughter. The show up in the best of families.” April wished she hadn’t already stormed out of the kitchen so she could throw the things off the table once more. “What did the Potter man do, again?”
“Unemployed,” Vernon told her.
“As I expected,” Marge continued, sounding delighted. “A no-good, lazy scrounger who-"
“He was not,” Harry interrupted, just as loud. April was surprised he had managed to keep his temper for so long, but it had started to show.
“Go to bed!” Vernon yelled angrily.
“No Vernon,” Marge said. “Let the boy go on. Proud of your parents, are you? Drunks, probably, getting themselves killed in a car crash.”
“They didn’t die in a car crash,” Harry growled. That confused April. Of course they died in a car crash, April thought. Perhaps Harry was just-
“They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar!” Marge screeched, causing the door on April’s cupboard to shake. “And left you to be a burden upon their decent, hard-working relatives! But you don’t-”
Suddenly, the entire house quieted. April could hear the almost-muted TV and the ever-running air conditioning. She decided to risk opening the door slightly to see what caused the silence. She could only see part of the kitchen, half of which was taken up by Dudley shoveling pie in his mouth.
“MARGE!” Vernon’s unexpected howl caused April to jump as it reverberated through the lifeless house. She hesitantly approached the kitchen with both caution and anticipation.
Petunia was frightfully hugging her gaunt arm around Dudley’s obese torso. Marge’s dog, Ripper, was dashing around the kitchen with disarray, his jaw snapping at the air as though trying to catch a bird.
Marge was no longer bulging from two of Petunia’s chairs, but was bouncing against the ceiling, April’s father clinging desperately to her leg, which was about the width of a car tire. Her whole body had inflated like a bouncy castle, stretching her fingers into salami, testing the elastic of her waistband to its absolute limit. She was so round she could have been a hot air balloon. A rather ugly hot air balloon in a ghastly tweed pantsuit.
Ripper finally stopped running around, and instead clamped his jaws around Vernon’s ankle with a bristling snarl. Vernon roared in pain, causing the clock on the wall to rattle and fall onto the carpet below.
Harry was standing in place, green eyes flashing dangerously, mouth clamped shut so tightly that it was simply a thin white line. He breathed heavily, staring as Marge started to drift through the open patio doors, then he ran from the room, crashing into me. He ran upstairs to the small extra room he Dursleys had given him, and April followed. The door to him room opened automatically for him.
“Harry, what’re you doing?” April shouted as he grabbed his trunk from the corner of his room and threw some clothes into it. “Harry! What are -”
“What does it look like?” he asked. He was breathing unevenly, eyes still wild with fury.
“Where are you going to go?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“But where?” Harry grabbed his owl cage and shoved it between his arm and waist as he grabbed the handle of his trunk. His school was far from an ordinary school, but April couldn’t understand why it was a requirement to have an owl like Harry’s. Perhaps being pecked to death was a punishment for criminal behavior.
“Get out of the way!” he snarled and pushed her sideways.
“Harry, seriously, what are you going to do> You don’t have any money, or food, or -”
He stopped halfway down the stairs and turned to April. “Shut up, okay? I have friends from school, they got me out of my room last year, remember? They got my stuff out of the cupboard and everything.”
“Right, then there’s no problem.” He turned back and proceeded his trek down the stairs. Vernon was waiting at the bottom.
“COME BACK HERE!” he bellowed, attempting to seize Harry by the shirt. “YOU COME BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, AND YOU PUT HER RIGHT!”
“She deserved it,” Harry hurled back, trying to escape. “She deserved what she got. And you keep away from me!” He pulled a stick out of his pocket and pointed it toward Vernon. Has he gone mad? April thought. “I’m going. I’ve had enough.” He bashed his way out the door, his bizarre packages catching awkwardly in the frame. April watched him until she couldn’t anymore.
The wind blowed the door closed, snapping Vernon out of his angry daze. That was when he turned to April. “YOU! YOU’RE PART OF THIS, BRING HER BACK!”
“Wherever from?” April asked coolly, albeit how tight his grip was.
“HOW SHOULD I BLOODY WELL KNOW? IT WAS YOU TWO WHO SENT HER UP THERE! SHE’LL BE HALFWAY ACROSS TOWN BY NOW!”
“Oh, of course. I’ll just go chasing across town, trying to locate my aunt who’s gone into orbit, and while I’m at it, I’ll climb the church spire and bring her back to Earth. I don’t suppose she’ll stay there, not while she’s still flapping around like a great bloated blow-fly, but I’ll give it a try. Anything else you’d like me to do while I’m at it? I could pop into the chemist and see if they’ve got any anti-inflammatory tablets.”
Vernon slapped April so hard that the walls of the house seem to dance for several moments. She stared at the paisley patterned wallpaper, willing it to burn up under her furious gaze, but no such thing happened. April’s cheek burned as though someone was holding a match to it, and she longed to press her cold hand against it in comfort, but I couldn’t. Not while her father was watching, not while he could see how much he had hurt her.
“One more word and you won’t leave you cupboard for a year,” he hissed, watching April’s face for tears that would satisfy his desire to inflict pain.
“A potential flaw in that plan is the issue of urinating,” she said in a distant and unfeeling voice.
He shook her violently and her head realed. “YOU FILTHY LITTLE WITCH!” he screamed. Then he turned white.
He dropped his hands away from April in horror and presses them to his mouth as though trying to clamp the words he had just said back inside. He started to shake, his face slack with fear, and for a long time he could not bring himself to say anything.
He turned and staggered shakily into the lounge, where he collapsed onto one of the over-stuffed chairs.
April stayed where she stood, frozen in bewilderment.
The doorbell rang, although not with a sound that was familiar to the Dursleys, and Vernon lept to his feet.
“Marge? Is that you?” he called to the large, fuzzy silhouette that could be seen through the glass panel on the door. He opened it eagerly but froze in mid-sentence. His face turned an alarming shade of violet, and he seemed to be unable to speak.
“You,” he breathed finally, putting as much hatred into the word as possible, but without disguising his fear. “Petunia! It - it’s that man.”
“Good evening Mr. Dursley,” said a calm, airy voice. The silhouette stepped inside without invitation, and the light in the hall revealed him to be the strangest man April had ever seen. He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak which sweeps the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles, and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it has been broken at least twice. April could see instantly why he was the sort of man that her parents would not approve of.
“Good evening,” he said again, turning to gaze at each of the Dursleys in turn. As his eyes swept over April, she felt as though she was somehow being x-rayed by the piercing, bright blue eyes.
“I wish to assure you, Vernon, that your sister has been restored to her former state and has been returned home. She will not remember anything in the morning.”
Petunia emerged from her fastidiously clean kitchen timidly and dragged Dudley into a seat, trying very hard not to catch the man’s eye.
“Ah Petunia, tea?” he asked, and April stared incredulously at the polished table where a blue-spotted tea pot and several cups appeared out of nowhere. April stared at them in confusion, thinking that she must have been imagining them, before coming to the conclusion that Petunia must have brought them through from the kitchen.
Petunia looked at him with a strangely strained expression, as though she was resisting the urge to say something offensive.
“Do you know each other?” April asked, perplexed, feeling certain that if she had ever met that man, she would not have forgotten him.
“Of sorts,” he replied. “We have met twice now, and I have received, and sent, a few letters over the years.” Petunia’s face turned an unpleasant shade of white, while Dudley looks highly uncomfortable squashed into the sofa beside her.
“Why are you here?” she demanded.
“I think you are fully aware of that, Petunia,” he replied, slightly inclining his head toward April. “I believe it is not too ludicrous to suggest that you have an extremely clear idea of why I am here, you simply do not wish to believe it.”
Petunia made a slightly strangled noise, but seemed unable to argue.
“I doubt,” continued the old man, “that you have failed to notice just how much like your sister April is.”
April’s mother’s sister, Harry’s mother, was dead – killed in a car crash. She always thought she was more like Harry.
The stranger turned to April. “There are many things that I must tell you today. I will permit any of you to ask as many questions as you wish, but it would be far simpler if you would allow me to explain first, without interruption.”
“You mean, you’re going to tell her everything,” Vernon said, jumping to his feet, looking outraged. “Everything we swore she would never be told. Our daughter was meant to be protected from your w-”
“I am afraid it is necessary,” he said simply. “Do please sit down Mr. Dursley, I’m afraid this will take rather a long time.” Vernon sat down jerkily, his face purple and his hands clenched. “I promised you that I would do everything in my power to protect her. I even allowed you to hide as much from her as you desired, but I believe that we agreed that this information would never be disclosed to her, unless she showed the signs that I believed she would.” He turned back to April, and before she could stop herself, she asked, “Sorry sir, but who are you?”
“Sorry, terrible of me not to introduce myself, we have met once before, but you were only three weeks old at the time. I am Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” he smiled, causing April to lean back in her chair, feeling even more baffled. “Now this story begins a little over fifty years ago with a boy of your age. He was an orphan by the name of Tom Marvolo Riddle. His mother had died shortly after his birth; he never knew his father, and all his life he had never been shown how to love or what being in love felt like. He was an unusual boy and the others at the orphanage were rather afraid of him. You see, he could do rather unusual things.” April’s heart sped up, and she felt sure that she was going to be told why unusual things have happened to her.
“These unusual things were random at first, but as he grew older, he found himself able to control them. He wanted revenge on the other children who had tormented him and used his abilities to punish them. He never had any friends, indeed, he was perhaps closer to the snakes with which he found he could communicate than to any human.” A memory flashed in April’s head of the zoo nearly two and a half years ago. Hadn’t Harry set a python on Dudley? she thought. “In fact, his relationships have remained the same since childhood.” He paused and looked down at his long fingers. “It’s a tragedy, those poor few who have never known love; they are often unable to ever love anyone else. Tom Riddle had been starved of attention and care for eleven years when I first met him.” April looked at her knees and wondered if that meant that she would grow up heartless.
“Tom Riddle liked to feel powerful, as I have already mentioned, he enjoyed using his abilities to hurt other children, and was more than ready to believe what I told him – he was ‘special’; that he was a wizard. This is no trick April Dursley,” he said, glancing at her incredulous face. “Witches and wizards have lived alongside non-magical beings for thousands of years. Tom Riddle was one of them, as is your cousin, and indeed yourself” Vernon struggled to his feet, and Petunia let out a small scream of horror.
“I forbid you to say anymore!” Vernon shouted.
“I’m terribly sorry, my dear man, but this is really up to April to decide, if she wishes to know the secrets that you have kept from her all these years, then she is welcome to be told” He glanced at April, and she nodded firmly. She wanted to know why she had grown up the way she had. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Petunia stand up as well.
“We will not have another one in the family,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Forgive me Petunia, but it is not your business to decide where Magical blood comes from and goes to. Why it follows the patterns it does, and why some children of non-magical parentage are born with different abilities, we shall, perhaps, never know but you cannot simply destroy magical power by ignoring it. Neither can you be given it on request, as I daresay you remember me saying to you when you were only thirteen.” She put a hand to her mouth and sunk weakly back onto the sofa. April glanced from one to the other hoping for an explanation, but none was given. Vernon wavered furiously, opening and closing his mouth like a baby bird before joining her.
“Tom Riddle attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and as he grew up, his magical talent became clear. He was extremely intelligent and had a way of charming the teachers; many teachers believed he would go on to be the Minister of Magic, but shortly after leaving school, he was known to be working in a shop named Borgin and Burk’s, which is known for selling and collecting dark objects.”
He paused as though lost in thought. “Very little is known what Tom Riddle went on to do next, but we will return to his story a little later. In the mean time, I wish to move on to another eleven-year-old. Her name was Lily Evans.” Petunia gasped loudly, and her eyes seemed to expand on her pasty face. April couldn’t help thinking that the name was familiar, but she didn’t know why. “She was a young witch, although nobody in her family knew it until she received a letter with her name on it.” Harry had received hundreds of letters, addressed precisely to him. “Her parents were non-magical, yet still delighted for Lily, but her older sister was jealous, I believe,” he said, inclining his head toward Petunia, who was even paler and shaking her head furiously.
“She was a freak,” Petunia said loudly, and it clicked; Lily Evans was Petunia’s sister – Harry’s mother – the girl that April was said to be like.
“Do you really believe that Petunia?” he asked sadly. “If I am not mistaken, you were incredibly jealous. Jealous of her abilities, of the attention she got, and the world that had opened up to her. I have not forgotten what you wrote to me that summer. I was sorry that I had to break a child’s hopes but as I told you, I cannot simply hand out magic to those who want it.”
“I - didn’t - beg - to - be - like - them,” she said breathlessly, and April tried to imagine her aged thirteen, desperately trying to keep up with her younger sister, writing to a headmaster in a world that she didn’t belong to. For the first time in her life, April felt sorry for her mother.
“I never said you begged. You asked very politely. But when I could not help you, you decided that the best way to protect yourself was to pretend that you had never wanted it; to pretend that you thought your sister, and any like her, were freaks. You despised the magical world that had not accepted you and chose to ignore its existence. I do not, however, believe that you ever stopped loving Lily Evans.”
April glanced at Petunia, who was holding her fingers to her mouth, trembling as silent tears ran down her cheeks.
“Now,” Dumbledore said. “We must move on to another branch of this complicated story if we wish to be finished by midnight. This story starts with another two sisters, these two sisters were from a magical family and had known since they were children that they would be attending Hogwarts. They were both reasonably intelligent, but what they were really known for was their uncanny thirst for gossip. Joanne and Rita spent their days at Hogwarts gathering news rather than intelligence and writing rather than studying. While Rita was in her third year, and Joanne in her sixth, they began producing a magazine for Ravenclaw house filled with information, and gossip, and rumours. In doing so, they created plenty of enemies, (indeed many said that they should have been in Slytherin) but, particularly Rita, seemed to enjoy hearing and creating gossip. The next year, Rita came upon the idea of having bewitched quills. They realized how useful it would be to have quills that could think and write by themselves. Quills that were skilled in occlumency – that is, the ability to read minds – and could operate without need of a writer.”
April’s mind was working overtime; a quill that worked by itself…
“Sir, did they succeed?” she asked eventually.
“Very good April, I see you are keeping up with me. Yes indeed, they managed to create this phenomenon just before Joanne left school and applied for a job at the Daily Prophet. To my knowledge the two quills that they created are the only known in the world. They could have made thousands of Galleons – wizarding gold – from selling these inventions but they preferred to keep them secret. Over the years, I dare say they’ve made just as much money from their incredible careers in journalism. But perhaps the fact that they didn’t care about the money proves that they did not belong in Slytherin but Ravenclaw. They were not ambitious so much as hungry for knowledge.
As they grew older, while Joanne used her quill to interview people and give informative stories, Rita used hers for, in my opinion, a less worthy cause. She is rather famous in our world for her cutting views and sharp tongued wit and over the years she has adopted the pen name Rita Skeeter and her quill – as she calls it, a Quick Quotes Quill – has adopted a taste for writing less-than-pleasant lies.”
April glanced around at the Dursleys to see whether they had reached the same conclusion that she had. Petunia looked ill and Dudley looked terrified as his eyes twitched from April to Dumbledore and back again. Vernon, on the other hand, stood up with bristling agitation.
“I forbid her to go. That giant said we couldn’t stop Harry from going but April is our daughter, we refuse to allow it.”
Dumbledore only smiled and said calmly “Firstly, I would rather that my staff were referred to by name, 'The Giant' as you call him, is called Rubeus Hagrid. Secondly April’s name has been down for Hogwarts since her sixth birthday; the very day, I must remind you, that you stopped calling her your daughter. The very day that you sent her to sleep in the shed because she could not explain the act of uncontrolled magic that escaped her.”
She looked down at her hands and tried to remember: Dudley hitting her, laughing… Dudley up a tree screaming… Dudley laughing as he watched her traipse over to the shed carrying a pillow and a stack of picture books.
“I’m sorry, but I really must continue” Dumbledore said, breaking the cold silence. “We re-join Tom Riddle about 17 years ago, now known by the name Lord Voldemort. He was raising an army, determined to become the most powerful wizard of all time and over-throw any who stood in his way. I am not sure how many he had killed by this point but I believe that he had murdered at least three times, probably many more. Murder is, for most, the most terrible action that can be performed – doing so mutilates the soul – but Voldemort did not know what it felt like to show love, to show remorse, in fact he enjoyed killing, especially those he believed to be lesser-beings – non-magical people.
Over the next few years his power increased. He led the way for his followers, killing any who attempted to stop him.
People were terrified; many joined him out of fear that he would destroy their families if they didn’t. There were deaths and disappearances every day and his army built up – wizards, giants, werewolves joined him – the thuggish seeking brutality, the brilliant seeking shared knowledge and magical power, and the cowardly seeking protection. Thousands of non-magical blood was spilt but their deaths could not be explained by policemen, it became clear that Voldemort and his Death Eaters simply killed them for fun. People became too afraid to mention his name; he is still known in our world as you-know-who by most.”
To April, the whole explanation still seemed like an elaborately dressed fairy tale and she found herself wondering how it ended without fully comprehending that its events were true. She wanted to know how it was finished and how the killings were stopped, but struggled to imagine this villain as anything more than fiction.
“Lily Evans had married a man named James Potter; they had a one-year-old son named Harry. Both were members of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organisation of skilled wizards who opposed Voldemort. Voldemort was looking for them and they needed to be hidden. They placed the fidelius charm on their house and made their friend secret keeper. The fidelius charm means that the place in question will be protected and hidden from anyone as long as the secret keeper has not told others how to find it. This way, only friends of the Potter family could get in and Voldemort would never find them.” He looked through Petunia’s wallpaper sadly and paused before continuing.
“The Potters put their trust in the wrong person; their friend betrayed them to Voldemort. On Halloween night, 1981, Voldemort found their house at Godric’s hollow and murdered James Potter, Lily Potter and then turned his wand on Harry. Harry Potter is the only wizard known to have survived the killing curse, I have many theories why, each as unlikely as the next. However, when someone sacrifices their life for someone else, they create a charm stronger than any other. After Lily Potter died to save her son, Harry was protected by her love and Voldemort’s spell rebounded.”
“You mean Voldemort’s dead?” April asked.
“No, that is not what I mean,” he answered slowly, “Nobody knows what happened; many say that he died but I believe that that is impossible. Since he was, I think, no-longer fully mortal. What remained of Lord Voldemort fled, the terror that had gripped the world loosened its hold. People were celebrating all over the country, all because of your cousin.
"I arranged for him to be brought here, to stay with his closest relatives, because his mother’s blood runs in your mother’s veins, the same blood that Lily Potter sacrificed. While living under your mother’s protection, Lily Potter’s protection lasts.
"However as I stopped to meet with The Minister on the way I ran into Joanne Rowling. Her sister had, during Voldemort’s rule, kept her job while Joanne, who, as I have already mentioned, preferred to write the truth, refused to write Voldemort’s lies and so had gone into hiding.
"She stopped me as I was about to leave for Privet drive and asked for my permission to write the biography of this extraordinary child. She knew that the wizarding world was clamouring to hear the story of 'The Boy Who Lived,' and she was, for once, one step ahead her sister.
She was going to revolutionise how biographies were written; this biography would not be written at the end of his life looking back, it would be written in real time. Everything he said, did, or thought would be written down, as would the actions of any who interacted with him. The quill that she had produced in her seventh year at Hogwarts would be able to do this; enter his mind, describe everything that had happened, and then it would be edited by her, to be released in the wizarding world.
"I cannot pretend that the idea did not interest me, but I told her that it was not my decision and that it should be up to Harry whether he wanted this book containing his thoughts to be made available to everyone. However I was unable to prevent her from putting her plan into action, only able to prevent the publication of the book.”
“So you mean that is what the quill does? It follows us all around and writes down everything?” she asked and Vernon rose to his feet again.
“EVERY DAMN THING!” he shouted. “You’re spying on us, that’s what you’re doing and, like I said before, I won’t allow it.”
“Yes and no.” Dumbledore replied to April, ignoring the interjection “When you were born your parents decided that they had had enough of our interferences, which I dare say are terribly infuriating for those so desperate to ignore the existence of magical blood. They sent me a letter – yes, there are wizards working in the muggle postal service – and I, with Miss Rowling arrived here to discuss the matter. We reached an agreement; Miss Rowling would bewitch the quill so that anything you said or did would be omitted, therefore saving your parents’ daughter from the same ordeal that they have to go through. I managed to persuade them to allow the writing to continue due to its importance as a historical artefact, on the condition that the majority of writing about your family would also be omitted save for crucial events. Eventually your parents agreed that this would be satisfactory, although it seems that they now feel differently.”
“YES I BLOODY WELL DO.” Vernon bellowed “YOU’RE INTERFERING WITH OUR FAMILY, DIDN’T I TELL YOU I WOULDN’T HAVE IT? WE WOULDN’T HAVE ANY MORE NONSENCE WITH YOUR LOT. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A MAGIC TRICK WRITING DOWN EVERY THING YOU SAID? A MAGIC TRICK!” He screamed the last words so vociferously that April wouldn’t have been surprised if the whole of Privet Drive was hanging out of their windows listening. He panted heavily and glared at April, half mad with fury. His eyes and face were so swollen with rage that he looked deranged.
“Yes, yes” Dumbledore said lightly. It seemed to him as if the whole discussion had been a mildly interesting conversation at a tea party. “It’s causing all sorts of trouble in our world too – the wizarding community, I mean. Although it is far more sophisticated than your idea of “a magic trick” might suggest… indeed, perhaps one of the most remarkable pieces of magic in wizarding history.” He seemed completely unfazed by the disgusted grunt that Vernon emitted at the word wizarding.
“You see it was all fairly simple and under control, until Miss Rowling realised its potential success with muggles too… er… non magical people” he clarified, obviously aware of their confusion. “You see the Ministry – yes, there’s a Ministry of Magic – is working overtime to modify the memory of hundreds of muggles to insure that they forget they ever knew Harry Potter, or indeed, any other Hogwarts student. I suppose that you understand why this procedure is necessary?” He said turning to April, “The wizarding community is very well protected – there is a whole Ministry department devoted to keeping it a secret that witches and wizards live all over the country – and this book could, of course, be dangerously revealing for us. Muggles no longer believe that witches and wizards exist as our safety precautions are rather better thought out these days but we’ve been persecuted in the past. Most Muggles are afraid of us, you see – unfortunately. Anyway, they were highly unsuccessful in their attempts to wipe us out as they were labouring under the impression that despite being magical we would be unable to survive, what do you call it, er… being burnt at the stake.”
She looked at him, searching for the bitterness that seemed due towards Muggles for taking such destructive action, instead he was half smiling and his blue eyes were twinkling slightly as though he found the whole matter rather amusing.
“However,” he continued, “it would be rather disastrous for us, as I’m sure you could imagine, if our secrets were unveiled… Not to mention everything else the Ministry has on its plate at the moment. As if it wasn’t enough with the whole Sirius Black problem, you probably saw him on your news…” He broke off looking vaguely concerned as though this “Serious Black” person was far more problematic than anything else they had discussed that evening.
“Wait” said Vernon slowly, a look of dawning revelation flooding his face. “You mean to say that that escaped prisoner was one of your lot?” He looked at Petunia and muttered darkly; “Should have guessed from the state of him, filthy lay-about.”
April studied Dumbledore and attempted to discern whether if he was offended by Vernon but he was staring at Petunia’s wallpaper again with an air of being too lost in thought to have heard.
“Sir?” she inquired tentatively “Who exactly is Serious Black.”
He smiled at her gently and said, “Sirius Black is a man who is linked closely to what I told you about Harry. I believe that it is unwise to burden you with the whole story now but I will give you a general overview. On Halloween night 1981 he was convicted of the murder of thirteen people and sent to Azkaban… the wizarding prison… he has, however, managed to escape and it is believed” he turned gravely to the Dursleys, “that he wishes to find Harry.”
Petunia and Vernon looked at one another darkly and Dudley whimpered loudly.
“He’s after Harry, not you” April muttered scathingly but only Dumbledore appeared to hear as he chuckled slightly.
Petunia began to speak, slightly shakily, “Good thing Harry left then, I mean, we won’t be having any criminals around here.”
“Good thing he left?” Dumbledore exclaimed, jumping to his feet with angry incredulity. “Have you forgotten what I told you nearly 12 years ago Petunia? Harry is safe at this house. In light of recent events; I was forced to hope that you would not overlook that. I had hoped that you might take my words more seriously despite the lack of love that you have spent on him.”
An awkward silence fell and, glancing at Vernon, April saw that he was bristling with insults that he would be only too glad to spill if Dumbledore had not happened to be a fully qualified wizard.
“Where is Harry now?” she asked gingerly and was relieved when Dumbledore replied in a far friendlier tone. “He will spend the rest of the holiday at the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley. I hope you will allow me to take you to join him; you will be able to purchase all your school books and equipment there.”
“You mean you’re taking her now?” asked Vernon, looking as though Christmas had come early. It was one of the rare occasions on which Vernon and April seemed to be of the same opinion; she could not be happier to leave 4 Privet Drive and all its inhabitants behind. Dumbledore apparently understood this as he signaled out of the door.
“You don’t want to take any of your things with you?” April shrugged. “If you do you are welcome to collect them.”
She thought about the books that had formed her life for the past few years, books that would seem boring now that her reality was more exciting than their fantasy. She thought about the clothes, clothes that once belonged to her brother and hung off her like sheets. She shook her head.
“I think then that we should invade no longer the grudging hospitality of your parents, if you have any further questions I shall be delighted to answer them on the way.” He gestured her out of her front door and into the street. She wondered impishly whether any of her stuffy, middle-class neighbours were still watching the street, trying to catch gossip. Dumbledore would certainly make a good talking point for the dull suburbia of Privet Drive, she thought.
“Er, professor, how do wizards travel?” She asked trying, in vain, to imagine this man driving a car.
“There are many ways, the most efficient being apparation – the ability to disappear and reappear at will – however you must be seventeen to pass your apparation test…”
“So it’s like a driving test then, er, sir?”
“Well, there are very few similarities between the two but I suppose that, for the purpose of this conversation, yes. It is similar to a driving test. Today, however, we shall use brooms – yes that Muggle belief is correct – Arabella Figg has agreed to lend us two.”
Of all the bizarre things she had heard that night, the idea that her batty, cat-loving neighbour might have two witch’s broomsticks stored in her musty, cabbage-scented house was the hardest to believe. Dumbledore must have caught sight of April’s look of surprise as he smiled and said.
“Yes, Mrs Figg is a member of the magical community. She is, however, a squib, that is to say, someone who comes from a wizarding family but is unable to perform magic. She, I believe, treasures her mother and father’s old brooms too help her feel a link to both her family and the world of witches and wizards.”
Dumbledore shut the front door of No. 4 behind them. She shouted a hasty goodbye over her shoulder and followed him down the road feeling sure that her parents were more than happy to see the back of her.
Dumbledore walked briskly up the street to Mrs Figg’s front door. They had to wait almost three minutes before she opened the door but the elderly woman was overjoyed to see Dumbledore and smiled at April more fully than she ever had before.
“Come in, Sir, how lovely to see you April, I’ll just go and get some…” she trailed off at the sight of Dumbledore’s raised hand.
“I’m afraid, Arabella, we shall not be stopping. I have a meeting with the Minister to go to after I have taken April to Diagon Alley, he wishes to place dementors around the castle,” Mrs. Figg shivered violently and April decided that, tonight, she would rather not ask what dementors were. “I do however require your brooms.” Mrs Figg looked somewhat crestfallen and April supposed that Dumbledore’s visits must have been the highlights of her lonely life. She quickly recovered her expression and hurried off to fetch them.
She returned a short while later with her arms full of wood.
April had imagined that she would be riding some sort of garden broom with a rutted handle and a mess of twigs on one end but these brooms, despite the thick layer of dust, showed signs of being well made and highly polished. She took one with a smile of thanks and let Mrs. Figg lead her (past Mr. Trimble, her cat) into the back garden.
Standing among the out-sized pot plants on the patio she watched as Dumbledore mounted his broom. She followed suit and stood astride it, convinced that she would wake up from this long and bizarre fantasy before much longer. She was surprised by the comfort of it. Dumbledore, however, winced and commented that the cushioning charm on his seemed to be wearing thin.
Mrs. Figg smiled and attempted to offer them biscuits off the willow-patterned, pink plate she was holding. April declined, thinking about how long ago the use-by date probably was.
They sat astride our brooms in the shadow of her house and Dumbledore turned to her apologetically;
“I’m afraid they’re only Comet 140s – first manufactured in 1929 – but at least they’ve got a braking charm and should be relatively well balanced. He took out his wand and lifted its tip to her head.
“Simple disillusionment charm.” He explained as she shivered, feeling like someone cracked an egg over her head. “It means nobody will be able to see you.”
“What about you sir?” she asked without voicing the opinion that he was rather more conspicuous than her.
“There are other ways of making oneself invisible. Now, if you do not mind, we should press on. As I told Arrabella I have a rather important appointment tonight and it would be unwise to not be punctual. It would, of course, be quicker to take you side-along apparation but I feel you’ve had rather enough surprises for one night.”
They kicked off from the ground and shot up into the sky – surely this was the point when she was meant to realise that she was dreaming – and she almost screamed in delight. She suddenly understood why Dudley got such a thrill from those trips to funfairs and theme parks that Piers Polkiss’ family used to take him on. She was overwhelmed by the exhilaration and the dizzying prickle of the wind against her face.
Then she saw it, crouching in the shadows of Magnolia Crescent, a great, black shape hulking behind some bushed. Her mind raced wildly – what sort of animal was that big? A bear perhaps, she speculated thickly. No, you don’t get bears in Britain. The mass moved slightly and she caught a glint of an enormous eye and the shape disappeared. It disappeared. Perhaps it was never there, perhaps she was just tired, or the streetlights were using the bushes to play tricks on her eyes. She blinked rapidly and craned her neck for a better view but they were still soaring upwards and the ground was falling away, too far to see.