Finding my Fate book one: Sorcerer's Stone

Harry is 13 years old when he recieves a package from his future self, containing books about his life. How will knowing the future change it?

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4. The Letters from No One

CHAPTER 3

THE LETTERS FROM NO ONE

The escape of the Brazilian boa constrictor earned Harry his longest-ever punishment. By the time he was allowed out of his cupboard again, the summer holidays had started

"Did you go to school?" Hermione asked.

"Uh, no, actually." Harry said. "If I hadn't gone to Hogwarts instead, I would've had to redo fifth grade. I missed a very important project." 

"When is Dudley's birthday?" Hermione asked, horrified. 

"June 23." Harry said.

"You missed four weeks of school?" Hermione looked stricken.

"Can Sirius keep reading, please?" Harry asked, looking uncomfortable.

Sirius complied. 

and Dudley had already broken his new video camera, crashed his remote control airplane, and, first time out on his racing bike, knocked down old Mrs. Figg as she crossed Privet Drive on her crutches.

Harry was glad school was over, but there was no escaping Dudley’s gang, who visited the house every single day. Piers, Dennis, Malcolm, and Gordon were all big and stupid, but as Dudley was the biggest and stupidest of the lot, he was the leader. The rest of them were all quite happy to join in Dudley’s favorite sport: Harry Hunting.

"And what happened if they caught you?" Sirius asked loudly.

"They beat me up." Harry said simply. "What else would they do?" 

Sirius looked horrified at how casually Harry said this.

Draco was feeling immensely guilty. He had spent so much time bullying someone who had already been bullied his whole life.

Severus was also feeling quite guilty. He'd had no idea how bad Harry had it at home when he'd been so cruel to him.

Severus and Draco both decided they would treat Harry much better. Draco thought he might even try to become friends.  

This was why Harry spent as much time as possible out of the house, wandering around and thinking about the end of the holidays, where he could see a tiny ray of hope. When September came he would be going off to secondary school and, for the first time in his life, he wouldn’t be with Dudley. Dudley had been accepted at Uncle Vernon’s old private school, Smeltings. Piers Polkiss was going there too. Harry, on the other hand, was going to Stonewall High, the local public school. Dudley thought this was very funny.

“They stuff people’s heads down the toilet the first day at Stonewall,” he told Harry. “Want to come upstairs and practice?”

“No, thanks,” said Harry. “The poor toilet’s never had anything as horrible as your head down it—it might be sick.” Then he ran, before Dudley could work out what he’d said.

Ron was laughing so hard that everyone else started laughing at how hard he was laughing. Harry looked completely bemused.

"It's not that funny." he said repeatedly to Ron. 

One day in July, Aunt Petunia took Dudley to London to buy his Smeltings uniform, leaving Harry at Mrs. Figg’s. Mrs. Figg wasn’t as bad as usual. It turned out she’d broken her leg tripping over one of her cats, and she didn’t seem quite as fond of them as before. She let Harry watch television and gave him a bit of chocolate cake that tasted as though she’d had it for several years.

"Well, that's nice." Ron said sacastically.

"Actually, compared to what usually happened over there, that was quite nice." Harry said. 

That evening, Dudley paraded around the living room for the family in his brand-new uniform. Smeltings boys wore maroon tailcoats, orange knickerbockers, and flat straw hats called boaters. They also carried knobbly sticks, used for hitting each other while the teachers weren’t looking. This was supposed to be good training for later life.

As he looked at Dudley in his new knickerbockers, Uncle Vernon said gruffly that it was the proudest moment of his life. Aunt Petunia burst into tears and said she couldn’t believe it was her Ickle Dudleykins,

"Ickle Dudleykins?" Ron asked, laughing again.

"You should talk." Harry said. "Don't Fred and George call you Ickle Ronniekins?"

"Shut up." Ron said, his ears turning red, while everyone else laughed. 

he looked so handsome and grown-up. Harry didn’t trust himself to speak. He thought two of his ribs might already have cracked from trying not to laugh.

* * *

There was a horrible smell in the kitchen the next morning when Harry went in for breakfast. It seemed to be coming from a large metal tub in the sink. He went to have a look. The tub was full of what looked like dirty rags swimming in gray water.

“What’s this?” he asked Aunt Petunia. Her lips tightened as they always did if he dared to ask a question.

“Your new school uniform,” she said.

Harry looked in the bowl again.

“Oh,” he said, “I didn’t realize it had to be so wet.”

“Don’t be stupid,” snapped Aunt Petunia. “I’m dyeing some of Dudley’s old things gray for you. It’ll look just like everyone else’s when I’ve finished.”

"Why doesn't she just go out and buy you a uniform?" Molly asked angrily.

"Because she hates me." Harry said. "Go on, Sirius." 

Harry seriously doubted this, but thought it best not to argue. He sat down at the table and tried not to think about how he was going to look on his first day at Stonewall High—like he was wearing bits of old elephant skin, probably.

Dudley and Uncle Vernon came in, both with wrinkled noses because of the smell from Harry’s new uniform. Uncle Vernon opened his newspaper as usual and Dudley banged his Smelting stick, which he carried everywhere, on the table.

They heard the click of the mail slot and flop of letters on the doormat.

“Get the mail, Dudley,” said Uncle Vernon from behind his paper.

“Make Harry get it.”

“Get the mail, Harry.”

“Make Dudley get it.”

“Poke him with your Smelting stick, Dudley.”

"That is not a very nice thing to do." Charlie said. 

"Of course it's not, that's why Uncle Vernon told him to do it." Harry said, with the air of explaining something very simple to someone extremely dense. 

Sirius scowled, but continued reading. 

Harry dodged the Smelting stick and went to get the mail. Three things lay on the doormat: a postcard from Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge, who was vacationing on the Isle of Wight, a brown envelope that looked like a bill, and—a letter for Harry.

"Yes, now you can get out of there!" Fred sounded relieved. 

"Uh, yeah, okay." Harry said. "Let's go with the version of the story where Vernon and Petunia just let me go to the magic school that they think is a "freak school" without putting up a fight, and giving me a ride to Diagon Alley, and to Platform 9 3/4, with Petunia helping me onto the platform. Let's go with that."

"So... How did you get here, then?" Tonks asked. 

"You'll see." was the only answer she got. 

Harry picked it up and stared at it, his heart twanging like a giant elastic band. No one, ever, in his whole life, had written to him. Who would? He had no friends, no other relatives

Sirius and Remus shifted guiltily. 

—he didn’t belong to the library, so he’d never even got rude notes asking for books back. Yet here it was, a letter, addressed so plainly there could be no mistake:

Mr. H. Potter

The Cupboard under the Stairs

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

The envelope was thick and heavy, made of yellowish parchment, and the address was written in emerald-green ink. There was no stamp.

"Why would there be a stamp?" Molly asked. "A wax seal is just fine."

"Well, Muggles use stamps." Harry explained. "It's how they pay to send the letter." 

"You have to pay to send letters?" Arthur looked astonished. 

"Just, like, fifty pence." Harry said. 

"But why would you need to?" Arthur started entering his 'Muggle mode.' "Does it cost money to get the post, too?" 

"No." Harry said. "Can Sirius continue, please?" 

Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion,

"GRYFFINDOR!!" Harry, Remus, Sirius, Hermione, Neville, all the Weasleys, and even Dumbledore and Minerva shouted.

an eagle,

There was a brief pause, then Moody gave a grunt, which everyone took to mean he was Ravenclaw. 

a badger,

"Hufflepuff loyalty!" Tonks said brightly. 

and a snake

"Uh, Slytherin." Draco said quickly, then blushed slightly. 

surrounding a large letter H.

"HOGWARTS!" Harry, Hermione, Neville, all the Weasleys, Remus, Sirius, Dumbledore, Minerva, and Tonks shouted.  Moody and Snape gave a sort of grunt, and Draco muttered something vaguely like "orts." 

“Hurry up, boy!” shouted Uncle Vernon from the kitchen. “What are you doing, checking for letter bombs?” He chuckled at his own joke.

"You think that's a joke?" Fred looked so incredulous, it was hilarious. 

Harry went back to the kitchen, still staring at his letter. He handed Uncle Vernon the bill and the postcard, sat down, and slowly began to open the yellow envelope.

"Why didn't you open it in the hall?" George asked. "Or slip it into your room, uh... cupboard, uh... space, to read later?"

"Because I was eleven and not smart." Harry said. 

Uncle Vernon ripped open the bill, snorted in disgust, and flipped over the postcard.

“Marge’s ill,” he informed Aunt Petunia. “Ate a funny whelk…”

“Dad!” said Dudley suddenly. “Dad, Harry’s got something!”

Harry was on the point of unfolding his letter, which was written on the same heavy parchment as the envelope, when it was jerked sharply out of his hand by Uncle Vernon.

“That’s mine!” said Harry, trying to snatch it back.

“Who’d be writing to you?” sneered Uncle Vernon,

"I wrote a letter to you once." Neville said suddenly. "When I was seven."

Ron started laughing. "Ginny wrote one every year on his birthday! She trusted Fred and George to send them, though, so none of them ever got sent."

Ginny blushed crimson. 

shaking the letter open with one hand and glancing at it. His face went from red to green faster than a set of traffic lights. And it didn’t stop there. Within seconds it was the grayish white of old porridge. 

"That is impressive." Tonks commented. "My dad's face can change colors pretty fast, but not as fast as that." 

“P-P-Petunia!” he gasped.

Dudley tried to grab the letter to read it, but Uncle Vernon held it high out of his reach. Aunt Petunia took it curiously and read the first line. For a moment it looked as though she might faint. She clutched her throat and made a choking noise.

“Vernon! Oh my goodness—Vernon!”

They stared at each other, seeming to have forgotten that Harry and Dudley were still in the room. Dudley wasn’t used to being ignored. He gave his father a sharp tap on the head with his Smelting stick.

“I want to read that letter,” he said loudly.

“I want to read it,” said Harry furiously, “as it’s mine.”

"Uh oh!" Ron was grinning. "This isn't gonna end well."

“Get out, both of you,” croaked Uncle Vernon, stuffing the letter back inside its envelope.

"Digging yourself in deeper." Hermione sighed. 

Harry didn’t move.

"Here it comes..." Neville grinned as Harry glared at all three of them.

“I WANT MY LETTER!” he shouted.

"And there's the Harry we know and love!" Sirius said, tousling Harry's hair. 

"Shut up, all of you." Harry said, turning red. 

“Let me see it!” demanded Dudley.

“OUT!” roared Uncle Vernon, and he took both Harry and Dudley by the scruffs of their necks and threw them into the hall, slamming the kitchen door behind them. Harry and Dudley promptly had a furious but silent fight over who would listen at the keyhole; Dudley won, so Harry, his glasses dangling from one ear, lay flat on his stomach to listen at the crack between door and floor.

“Vernon,” Aunt Petunia was saying in a quivering voice, “look at the address—how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don’t think they’re watching the house?”

“Watching—spying—might be following us,” muttered Uncle Vernon wildly.

"Or we've got a magic quill that knows everything." Minerva said. 

"Yeah, that's creepy." Harry said. 

“But what should we do, Vernon? Should we write back? Tell them we don’t want—”

Harry could see Uncle Vernon’s shiny black shoes pacing up and down the kitchen.

“No,” he said finally. “No, we’ll ignore it. If they don’t get an answer… Yes, that’s best… we won’t do anything…”

"That's going to work." Severus muttered under his breath. Harry grinned at him, and swore he received the tiniest trace of a smile back, before it immediately vanished, to be replaced by the hardened look Harry knew so well. 

“But—”

“I’m not having one in the house, Petunia! Didn’t we swear when we took him in we’d stamp out that dangerous nonsense?”

That evening when he got back from work, Uncle Vernon did something he’d never done before; he visited Harry in his cupboard.

“Where’s my letter?” said Harry, the moment Uncle Vernon had squeezed through the door. “Who’s writing to me?”

“No one. It was addressed to you by mistake,”

"How could that have been a mistake?" Ginny asked suddenly. "There is no possible way they could know exactly where he sleeps and have it be a mistake." 

said Uncle Vernon shortly. “I have burned it.”

“It was not a mistake,” said Harry angrily, “it had my cupboard on it.”

"See?" Ginny asked. "Even past Harry agrees with me."

"Present Harry does, too." Harry muttered. Ginny turned scarlet. 

“SILENCE!” yelled Uncle Vernon, and a couple of spiders fell from the ceiling.

Ron immediately jumped, and looked around at the ceiling. Everyone but Hermione and Snape laughed. Hermione smacked Ron around the head several times, calling him an idiot, and nobody really knew if Snape knew how to laugh. 

He took a few deep breaths and then forced his face into a smile, which looked quite painful.

"It probably was." Harry said suddenly, thinking. "That was the first time I'd ever seen him even fake smile." 

“Er—yes, Harry—about this cupboard. Your aunt and I have been thinking… you’re really getting a bit big for it… we think it might be nice if you moved into Dudley’s second bedroom.”

"Dudley's second bedroom?" Sirius looked furious again. "He has two bedrooms while you're locked in the cupboard under the stairs?" 

“Why?” said Harry.

“Don’t ask questions!” snapped his uncle. “Take this stuff upstairs, now.”

The Dursleys’ house had four bedrooms: one for Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, one for visitors (usually Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge), one where Dudley slept, and one where Dudley kept all the toys and things that wouldn’t fit into his first bedroom.

"Wow." Sirius looked livid. "They're going to have a bad life once we're done here." 

"Yeah, well, their lives with wizards and magic haven't been great, especially for the past three years." Harry said. "Maybe they get better." 

Ron snorted. "You think so?" 

"No." Harry said. "But I can hope. I mean, I have to go back there every summer." 

It only took Harry one trip upstairs to move everything he owned from the cupboard to this room. He sat down on the bed and stared around him. Nearly everything in here was broken. The month-old video camera was lying on top of a small, working tank Dudley had once driven over the next door neighbor’s dog; in the corner was Dudley’s first-ever television set, which he’d put his foot through when his favorite program had been canceled; there was a large birdcage, which had once held a parrot that Dudley had swapped at school for a real air rifle, which was up on a shelf with the end all bent because Dudley had sat on it. Other shelves were full of books. They were the only things in the room that looked as though they’d never been touched.

"But why not?" Hermione looked stricken. 

"Because nobody reads in that house." Harry said. "But I read all of them the summer before second year."

"Oh, you mean when..." Ron said.

"Yeah." Harry grinned at him, and subtly glanced at Sirius. "But I have a feeling this summer will probably be better than the last two." 

Ron grinned. 

From downstairs came the sound of Dudley bawling at his mother, “I don’t want him in there… I need that room… make him get out…”

Harry sighed and stretched out on the bed. Yesterday he’d have given anything to be up here. Today he’d rather be back in his cupboard with that letter than up here without it. 

Next morning at breakfast, everyone was rather quiet. Dudley was in shock. He’d screamed, whacked his father with his Smelting stick, been sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the greenhouse roof, and he still didn’t have his room back.

"And if I was in charge of him, he wouldn't have anything else, either!" Molly said, looking furious. 

Harry was thinking about this time yesterday and bitterly wishing he’d opened the letter in the hall. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia kept looking at each other darkly.

When the mail arrived, Uncle Vernon, who seemed to be trying to be nice to Harry, made Dudley go and get it. They heard him banging things with his Smelting stick all the way down the hall. Then he shouted, “There’s another one! ‘Mr. H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom, 4 Privet Drive—’”

"If he wanted to read it, why tell everyone that there's another one?" Fred asked.

"Why not just open it in the hall, and then tell everyone?" George added. 

With a strangled cry, Uncle Vernon leapt from his seat and ran down the hall, Harry right behind him. Uncle Vernon had to wrestle Dudley to the ground to get the letter from him, which was made difficult by the fact that Harry had grabbed Uncle Vernon around the neck from behind.

"Practicing for the troll, now are we?" Ron asked. 

"What troll?" Sirius immediately asked.

Harry, Ron and Hermione just stifled giggles, and Remus read on. 

After a minute of confused fighting, in which everyone got hit a lot by the Smelting stick, Uncle Vernon straightened up, gasping for breath, with Harry’s letter clutched in his hand.

“Go to your cupboard—I mean, your bedroom,” he wheezed at Harry. “Dudley—go—just go.”

Harry walked round and round his new room. Someone knew he had moved out of his cupboard and they seemed to know he hadn’t received his first letter. Surely that meant they’d try again? And this time he’d make sure they didn’t fail. He had a plan.

"Uh oh." Neville said. "We all know how those work out." 

"Hey, it worked in first year, didn't it?" Harry asked, defending himself. 

"Yeah... sort of." Ron grinned as Harry stuck his tongue out at him. 

The repaired alarm clock rang at six o’clock the next morning. Harry turned it off quickly and dressed silently He mustn’t wake the Dursleys. He stole downstairs without turning on any of the lights.

He was going to wait for the postman on the corner of Privet Drive and get the letters for number four first. His heart hammered as he crept across the dark hall toward the front door—

“AAAAARRRGH!”

Harry leapt into the air; he’d trodden on something big and squashy on the doormat—something alive!

Lights clicked on upstairs and to his horror Harry realized that the big, squashy something had been his uncle’s face.

Everyone roared with laughter. 

Uncle Vernon had been lying at the foot of the front door in a sleeping bag, clearly making sure that Harry didn’t do exactly what he’d been trying to do. He shouted at Harry for about half an hour and then told him to go and make a cup of tea. Harry shuffled miserably off into the kitchen and by the time he got back, the mail had arrived, right into Uncle Vernon’s lap. Harry could see three letters addressed in green ink.

“I want—” he began, but Uncle Vernon was tearing the letters into pieces before his eyes.

Uncle Vernon didn’t go to work that day. He stayed at home and nailed up the mail slot.

“See,” he explained to Aunt Petunia through a mouthful of nails, “if they can’t deliver them they’ll just give up.”

"That'll work." Minerva said sarcastically. 

“I’m not sure that’ll work, Vernon.”

“Oh, these peoples minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,” said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.

"And we're quite glad we're not like you!" Hermione said shrilly.  

"They say our minds work in strange ways?" Severus asked. "I've met the woman." 

On Friday, no less than twelve letters arrived for Harry. As they couldn’t go through the mail slot they had been pushed under the door, slotted through the sides, and a few even forced through the small window in the downstairs bathroom.

Uncle Vernon stayed at home again. After burning all the letters, he got out a hammer and nails and boarded up the cracks around the front and back doors so no one could go out. He hummed “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” as he worked, and jumped at small noises.

On Saturday, things began to get out of hand. Twenty-four letters to Harry found their way into the house, rolled up and hidden inside each of the two dozen eggs that their very confused milkman had handed Aunt Petunia through the living room window.

Everyone looked at Dumbledore. 

"You rolled them up inside the eggs?" Minverva asked. "Were you enjoying this?"

"At first it was all about getting Harry his letter." Dumbledore said. "Then it became entertaining, so I let it go on a bit before I sent Hagrid." 

Harry laughed. 

While Uncle Vernon made furious telephone calls to the post office and the dairy trying to find someone to complain to, Aunt Petunia shredded the letters in her food processor.

“Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?” Dudley asked Harry in amazement.

"Everyone in the Wizarding World." Bill said. 

* * *

On Sunday morning, Uncle Vernon sat down at the breakfast table looking tired and rather ill, but happy.

“No post on Sundays,” he reminded them cheerfully as he spread marmalade on his newspapers, “no damn letters today—”

Something came whizzing down the kitchen chimney as he spoke and caught him sharply on the back of the head. Next moment, thirty or forty letters came pelting out of the fireplace like bullets. The Dursleys ducked, but Harry leapt into the air trying to catch one—

"Why didn't you just pick one up off the ground?" Hermione asked.

"He was training for being a Seeker." Ron said. "And for the keys."

"What keys?" Sirius asked sharply.

The trio looked at each other.

"You'll see." 

“Out! OUT!”

Uncle Vernon seized Harry around the waist and threw him into the hall. When Aunt Petunia and Dudley had run out with their arms over their faces, Uncle Vernon slammed the door shut. They could hear the letters still streaming into the room, bouncing off the walls and floor.

“That does it,” said Uncle Vernon, trying to speak calmly but pulling great tufts out of his mustache at the same time. “I want you all back here in five minutes ready to leave. We’re going away. Just pack some clothes. No arguments!”

He looked so dangerous with half his mustache missing that no one dared argue. Ten minutes later they had wrenched their way through the boarded-up doors and were in the car, speeding toward the highway. Dudley was sniffling in the back seat; his father had hit him round the head for holding them up while he tried to pack his television, VCR, and computer in his sports bag.

They drove. And they drove. Even Aunt Petunia didn’t dare ask where they were going. Every now and then Uncle Vernon would take a sharp turn and drive in the opposite direction for a while.

“Shake ’em off… shake ’em off,” he would mutter whenever he did this.

They didn’t stop to eat or drink all day. By nightfall Dudley was howling. He’d never had such a bad day in his life. He was hungry, he’d missed five television programs he’d wanted to see, and he’d never gone so long without blowing up an alien on his computer.

Uncle Vernon stopped at last outside a gloomy-looking hotel on the outskirts of a big city. Dudley and Harry shared a room with twin beds and damp, musty sheets. Dudley snored but Harry stayed awake, sitting on the windowsill, staring down at the lights of passing cars and wondering…

They ate stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes on toast for breakfast the next day. They had just finished when the owner of the hotel came over to their table.

“’Scuse me, but is one of you Mr. H. Potter? Only I got about an ’undred of these at the front desk.”

She held up a letter so they could read the green ink address:

Mr. H. Potter

Room 17

Railview Hotel

Cokeworth

Harry made a grab for the letter but Uncle Vernon knocked his hand out of the way. The woman stared.

“I’ll take them,” said Uncle Vernon, standing up quickly and following her from the dining room.

* * *

“Wouldn’t it be better just to go home, dear?” Aunt Petunia suggested timidly, hours later, but Uncle Vernon didn’t seem to hear her. Exactly what he was looking for, none of them knew. He drove them into the middle of a forest, got out, looked around, shook his head, got back in the car, and off they went again. The same thing happened in the middle of a plowed field, halfway across a suspension bridge, and at the top of a multilevel parking garage.

“Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Dudley asked Aunt Petunia dully late that afternoon.

"He's just now realizing this?" Ron asked. 

Uncle Vernon had parked at the coast, locked them all inside the car, and disappeared.

It started to rain. Great drops beat on the roof of the car. Dudley sniveled.

“It’s Monday,” he told his mother. “The Great Humberto’s on tonight. I want to stay somewhere with a television.”

Monday. This reminded Harry of something. If it was Monday—and you could usually count on Dudley to know the days of the week, because of television—then tomorrow, Tuesday, was Harry’s eleventh birthday. Of course, his birthdays were never exactly fun—last year, the Dursleys had given him a coat hanger and a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks. Still, you weren’t eleven every day.

"Wow, Harry, optimism!" Ron said, voice dripping with sarcasm. 

"That's about all I had left at that point." Harry said. "Let me have something, okay?" 

Uncle Vernon was back and he was smiling. He was also carrying a long, thin package and didn’t answer Aunt Petunia when she asked what he’d bought.

“Found the perfect place!” he said. “Come on! Everyone out!”

It was very cold outside the car. Uncle Vernon was pointing at what looked like a large rock way out at sea. Perched on top of the rock was the most miserable little shack you could imagine. One thing was certain, there was no television in there.

“Storm forecast for tonight!” said Uncle Vernon gleefully, clapping his hands together. “And this gentleman’s kindly agreed to lend us his boat!”

A toothless old man came ambling up to them, pointing, with a rather wicked grin, at an old rowboat bobbing in the iron-gray water below them.

“I’ve already got us some rations,” said Uncle Vernon, “so all aboard!”

It was freezing in the boat. Icy sea spray and rain crept down their necks and a chilly wind whipped their faces. After what seemed like hours they reached the rock, where Uncle Vernon, slipping and sliding, led the way to the broken-down house.

The inside was horrible; it smelled strongly of seaweed, the wind whistled through the gaps in the wooden walls, and the fireplace was damp and empty. There were only two rooms.

Uncle Vernon’s rations turned out to be a bag of chips each and four bananas. He tried to start a fire but the empty chip bags just smoked and shriveled up.

“Could do with some of those letters now, eh?” he said cheerfully.

"I thought the point of this entire thing was to escape all the letters?" Tonks asked. 

"He was trying to start a fire." Harry said. "Plastic bags don't burn very well."

"And they're terrible for the environment!" Hermione said. "I can't believe he would do that!"

"Yes, Hermione." Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Vernon Dursley is totally the type of man that cares about the environment. It's not like he's completely crazy and evil and not caring about a single living thing other that him, Petunia, and Dudley." 

Hermione quieted. 

He was in a very good mood. Obviously he thought nobody stood a chance of reaching them here in a storm to deliver mail. Harry privately agreed, though the thought didn’t cheer him up at all.

"I don't think it was meant to." Fred said. 

"Of course it wasn't." Harry said. 

As night fell, the promised storm blew up around them. Spray from the high waves splattered the walls of the hut and a fierce wind rattled the filthy windows. Aunt Petunia found a few moldy blankets in the second room and made up a bed for Dudley on the moth-eaten sofa. She and Uncle Vernon went off to the lumpy bed next door, and Harry was left to find the softest bit of floor he could and to curl up under the thinnest, most ragged blanket.

Sirius growled. "If I ever get my hands on those two-"

"We'll make sure you never get the chance." Remus interrupted. "Keep reading." 

The storm raged more and more ferociously as the night went on. Harry couldn’t sleep. He shivered and turned over, trying to get comfortable, his stomach rumbling with hunger. Dudley’s snores were drowned by the low rolls of thunder that started near midnight. The lighted dial of Dudley’s watch, which was dangling over the edge of the sofa on his fat wrist, told Harry he’d be eleven in ten minutes’ time. He lay and watched his birthday tick nearer, wondering if the Dursleys would remember at all, wondering where the letter writer was now.

Five minutes to go. Harry heard something creak outside. He hoped the roof wasn’t going to fall in, although he might be warmer if it did. Four minutes to go. Maybe the house in Privet Drive would be so full of letters when they got back that he’d be able to steal one somehow.

Three minutes to go. Was that the sea, slapping hard on the rock like that? And (two minutes to go) what was that funny crunching noise? Was the rock crumbling into the sea?

"Oh, now I know what that was!" Harry said. 

"What was it?" Sirius asked eagerly. 

"You'll see soon, just shut up and read." Harry said. 

One minute to go and he’d be eleven. Thirty seconds… twenty… ten… nine—maybe he’d wake Dudley up, just to annoy him—three… two… one…

BOOM.

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

"That's the end." Sirius said. "Who wants to go next?"

"I'll go." Ron said, reaching for the book. 

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