From No. 4 Privet Drive


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3. Albus Dumbledore

The only good thing about Marge Dursley’s presence was that being sent to the cupboard was not the worst possible option. In fact, April found it was almost relieving to hear the words: “Cupboard, now,” when her aunt was around. Compared with playing the servant or listening to Marge reel off all of April's undesirable characteristics, the quiet of her cupboard was almost pleasant.

April supposed Marge must have liked her at some point as she had memories of money being shoved into her hands and being embraced. She remembered feeling the rough material of Marge’s triple-XL tweed suits but 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.

 “Disgusting; the lack of gratitude,” she paused to belch loudly. “You mustn’t blame yourselves, some are just born funny. The runt of the litter…”

 “Oh I’m so sorry; how very rude of me not to thank my parents for five years locked away,” April said coldly.

 “Oh ho, you’ve got nerve” she rose excitedly as though an argument with April was just what she wanted; an opportunity to prove what a disgusting, scrawny little runt her niece was.

“Go on, go on!” she goaded. “Is it unfair on poor little April?” she pouted grotesquely. April went to stand but Harry grabbed her arm and pulled her back into her seat.

“Don’t rise to it; it’s what she wants,” he muttered although April was too hot-headed to pay him much attention.

 Marge just laughed.

 “…terrible the way some just turn out wrong; you’ve done your best with her Petunia but she’s has the terrible influence of him,” she pointed her fork towards Harry, “for all these years and if you leave one rotten apple next to a good one the good one’s sure to go bad. Should have listened to me sooner when I said that boy deserved the orphanage.”

Vernon nodded and opened his mouth to acquiesce but Marge ploughed on regardless:

 “With unsatisfactory pups they drown them…” she began. This time April was too quick for Harry; her anger burst its seams and flooded through her. In a moment of clouded rage she swept her arm across the table top, scattering the wine glasses like bowling skittles across Petunia’s floral table cloth.

 She kicked back her chair and left the room.

 She regretted it almost immediately, whishing she had the self-control to sit there without giving Marge the satisfaction of knowing she’d got to her. She let the cupboard door slam behind her and threw herself, breathing heavily, down on the bed. She was shaking with incontrollable rage.

  “I’ve got nothing against your family Petunia,” Marge continued as though there had been no interruption; her voice a little loud from the brandy. “But your daughter is a bad egg – they turn up in the best of families. And your sister too, and then she ran off with a wastrel and here’s the result right in front of us.”

April almost wished that she hadn’t left so that she could do it all over again, she could not believe Harry was still able to bite his tongue.

 “This Potter, you never told me what he did?” Her voice was getting louder; bloated with the perverse excitement that criticising April and Harry gave her.

 Vernon muttered something April couldn’t make out through the cupboard door.

 “As I expected,” Marge continued sounding delighted; “A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who-”

 “He was not,” Harry burst out. And Vernon yelled “MORE BRANDY” as though this might return the conversation to comfortable territory. “You, boy,” he snarled, “go to bed, go on-”

 “No Vernon,” Marge interrupted. “Go on boy, go on. Proud of your parents are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash…” her voice quietens a little and I cannot make out the end on the sentence.

 “They didn’t die in a car crash.” Harry said loudly. This statement confused April a little; her parents had always made it perfectly clear how her cousin had come to live with them.

 “THEY DIED IN A CAR CRASH YOU NASTY LITTLE LIAR” Her screaming was so loud that the door of the cupboard rattled in its frame and several spiders landed in April’s hair, “AND LEFT YOU TO BE A BURDEN ON THEIR DECENT, HARD WORKING RELATIVES. YOU ARE AN INSOLENT, UNGRATEFUL LITTLE-”

But she didn’t finish her sentence. An angry silence fell in place of her stream of accusations. The silence stretched and April felt curiosity rising amongst the outrage that had overwhelmed her. Peering round the edge of her door, April’s view of the kitchen consisted only of Dudley, still shovelling pie into his mouth.

 “MARGE!” Vernon and Petunia’s howl punctured the hush that had fallen. Dudley dropped his spoon in astonishment. Ripper rushed past April, barking wildly and snapping at her feet

“NOOOOO,” Vernon yelled and April approached the kitchen with an unsettling mixture of caution and excitement.

 Petunia was clinging onto the table cloth desperately and wringing her hands, Ripper was dashing manically back and forth, his jaws snapping at the air as though trying to catch a bird. April saw why: Marge was no longer bulging out of one of Petunia’s chairs but was floating across the ceiling, Vernon clinging to her leg which had reached the width of a car tyre. Her whole body was inflated like a bouncy castle, stretching her fingers into salami and testing the elastic of her waist band to the absolute limit.

 She was so round she could almost be a hot air balloon. A hot air balloon dressed in ripped tweed.

 Ripper clamped his jaws around Vernon’s leg with a bristling snarl and he roars in pain causing the clock on the wall to rattle and fall to the carpet below.

 Harry was standing up in his place, his green eyes flashing dangerously, his mouth clamped into a thin white line.

 He breathed heavily, apparently paralysed with rage while Marge started to drift to the open patio doors and then ran from the room, crashing straight past April. She followed him leaving her parents to bustle outdoors in an attempt to return Marge to earth. Harry ran to April’s cupboard and the door swung open of its own accord.

 “Harry, what are you doing?” she shouted as he hauled his trunk from beneath her bed. He levered out, his arms heaving with the strain of the, battered, leather case and dragged it upstairs. “Harry? What are-”

 “What does it look like?” he snapped. His eyes and breath were still wild with rage.

 “Where are you going to go?”

 “Anywhere but here.”

 “But where?” April reached the top of the stairs as he slammed through his bedroom door. He emerged with his owl cage under his arm and several ancient-looking books. April knew that his school was far from an ordinary state school, but still couldn’t understand the requirement for owls.

 “Get out of the way,” he snarled with uncharacteristic venom. April was not used to being treated so brusquely by her cousin; from her brother it was to be expected, but from Harry?

 “Harry seriously, what are you going to do? You have no food or money or-”

 He stopped halfway down the stairs and turned back to me. “Shut up, OK. I have friends from school, in case you don’t remember, they rescued me from behind bars in the middle of the night and took my trunk from the cupboard as well.”

 “I remember.”

 “Right, well there’s no problem then.” He took the handle of his trunk once more and proceeded to drag it down the stairs.

 Vernon was waiting at the bottom.

“COME BACK IN HERE.” He bellowed, attempting to seize Harry by the shirt. “COME BACK AND PUT HER RIGHT.”

 “She deserved it,” Harry hurled back, backing away against the front door. “She deserved what she got. You keep away from me.” He pulled a stick out of his case and directed it a Vernon’s head. April decided that anger had turned him mad; what on earth did he think he would do with an old bit of wood?

“I’m going,” Harry announced, turning the door handle. “I’ve had enough.” He bashed his way out into the garden; the bags and case and cage all clattered and caught awkwardly in the door frame. April saw his t shirt under the street light and then he, his owl, and all his bizarre packages disappeared from sight.

 The wind blew the door slamming shut in April and her father’s faces and Vernon turned on her.

 “YOU! YOU ARE PART OF THIS; YOU SORT HER OUT YOU BRING HER BACK DOWN NOW.”

 “Where from?” She asked coolly although his grip on her collar was very tight.

“HOW SHOULD I BLOODY WELL KNOW, IT WAS YOU TWO WHO SENT HER UP THERE? SHE’LL BE HALFWAY ACROSS TOWN BY NOW.”

 “Why of course,” April said sweetly. “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 up 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.”

 He slapped her hard, so hard that the walls of the house seemed to dance for several moments. She stared at the paisley patterned wallpaper to try to steady herself but the patterns swum before her eyes. Her cheek burned as though someone was holding a match to it and she longed to press her cold hand against it in comfort, but refused to. Not while her father was watching; she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her hurt. “One more word and you won’t leave you cupboard for a year.” He hissed, watching her face for tears that would satisfy his desire to inflict pain.

 “A potential flaw in that plan is the issue of urinating.” April replied in as distant and unfeeling a voice as I can muster.

 He shook her violently and her head reeled. “YOU FILTHY LITTLE WITCH!” he screamed and then he turned white.

He droped his hands away from her in horror and pressed 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 couldn’t bring himself to say anything.

 He turned and staggered into the lounge where he collapsed on to the arm of a chair.

 April stayed where she stood, frozen with bewilderment.  

 

The doorbell rung and Vernon leapt to his feet.

“Marge? Is that you?” He called to the large, fuzzy silhouette that could be seen through the glass panel. He hurried to open it but halted mid-sentence at the sight that met his eyes. His face turned an alarming shade of beige and he seemed to have been rendered totally unable to speak.

 “You” he breathed finally, the loathing in his voice not quite covering the 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 swept 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 had been broken at least twice. April understood instantly why he was the sort of man that her parents were likely to invite inside.

“Good evening” he repeated turning to gaze at each of them in turn. As his eyes swept over April without judgement but she couldn’t help feeling that she was somehow being x-rayed by the piercing, bright blue.

“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 and dragged Dudley into a seat, trying very hard to avoid the stranger’s eyes.

“Ah, Petunia. Tea?” He said and April stared incredulously at the polished table where a blue-spotted tea pot and several cups had appeared. Surely they had not been there a minute ago… and yet she could not see where else they might have come from.

Petunia looked at him with a strained expression as though attempting to resist the urge to say something offensive.

 “Do you know each other?” April asked, perplexed, and feeling certain that, had she ever met this 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 looked highly uncomfortable squashed into the sofa beside her.

“Why are you here?” she demanded after a prolonged silence.

“I think you are fully aware of that Petunia” he replied, inclining his head towards 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 and so will deny it until the last possible moment.”

 Petunia made a small, strangled noise but seemed unable to argue

 “I doubt” continued the old man “that you have failed to notice just how like your sister April is.”

 The stranger turned his gaze to April; “There are many things that I must tell you today. When I have finished 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 without interruption.”

 “You mean you’re going to tell her everything.” Vernon jumped 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 will be necessary,” the stranger responded conversationally. “Please sit down Mr Dursley, this will take rather a long time.”

Vernon sat, jerkily, his face purple and his hands clenched.

 “I promised you,” continued the man, “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 turns back to me and before I can stop myself I ask

 “Sorry, er 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 and April leant 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 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, certain that she was about to discover what all of her unfortunate misadventures meant. “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 had 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 through April’s head – a zoo nearly two and a half years ago. Hadn’t Harry set a python on Dudley? “In fact, his relationships have remained the same since childhood.” He pauses and looks down at his long fingers “The tragedy of those who have never known love is that they are often unable to ever love anyone else. Tom Riddle had been starved of compassion for eleven years when I first met him.” April stared at her knees hoping that the lack of care her parents had for her wouldn’t result in her growing 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”; he was a wizard. This is no trick April Dursley,” he said glancing at April’s 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 little 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 than she is welcome to be told” He glanced at April who nodded firmly: there were few things she would welcome more than an explanation for the way her life was panning out. From the corner of her eye she saw Petunia stand up as well.

 “We will not have another one in the family” her aunt insisted 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. 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 dare say you remember me telling you when you were only thirteen.” She put a hand to her mouth and sank back weakly onto the sofa. April glanced from one to the other hoping for an explanation but none came. Vernon wavered furiously, opening and closing his mouth like a baby bird before joining his wife.

 “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 of my colleagues believed he would go on to be Minister for Magic but shortly after leaving school he was known to be working in a shop named Borgin and Burks 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 Lilly Evans” Petunia gasped loudly and her eyes seemed to expand in her pasty face. April knew the name was familiar but could not remember why.

“She was a young witch although nobody in her family knew it until she received a letter with her name on it,” April recalled how Harry had received hundreds of letters, addressed precisely to him. “Her parents were non magical but delighted for her while her older sister was jealous, I believe” he said inclining his head towards Petunia who grew even paler and shook her head furiously.

 “She was a freak” Petunia exclaimed and April made the connection; Lily Evans was Petunia’s sister – Harry’s mother – the girl that Albus Dumbledore had likened her to.

 “Do you really believe that Petunia?” he asked sadly “If I am not mistaken you were incredibly jealous. Jealous of her abilities, and 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… ever… beg… to… be… like… them” She said breathlessly and April attempted 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 she felt a little sorry for her.

 “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 risked another glance at Petunia; she 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 could walk 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 the 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 realised how useful it would be to have quills that could think for themselves 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 again 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 overthrow 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. Gallons 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, 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?” April 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 signalled out of the door.

“You don’t want to take any of your things with you, do 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 – Arrabella 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, Arrabella, 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 realised 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.

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