Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“And I thought I had it bad staying here for another four weeks,” he said. “This makes the Dursleys sound almost human. Can’t anyone help you? Can’t I?”
Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn’t spoken. Dobby dissolved again into wails of gratitude.
“Please,” Harry whispered frantically, “please be quiet. If the Dursleys hear anything, if they know you’re here—”
“Harry Potter asks if he can help Dobby… Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew…”
Harry, who was feeling distinctly hot in the face, said, “Whatever you’ve heard about my greatness is a load of rubbish. I’m not even top of my year at Hogwarts; that’s Hermione, she—”
But he stopped quickly, because thinking about Hermione was painful.
“Harry Potter is humble and modest,” said Dobby reverently, his orblike eyes aglow. “Harry Potter speaks not of his triumph over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
“Voldemort?” said Harry.
Dobby clapped his hands over his bat ears and moaned, “Ah, speak not the name, sir! Speak not the name!”
“Sorry” said Harry quickly. “I know lots of people don’t like it. My friend Ron—”
He stopped again. Thinking about Ron was painful, too.
Dobby leaned toward Harry, his eyes wide as headlights.
“Dobby heard tell,” he said hoarsely, “that Harry Potter met the Dark Lord for a second time just weeks ago… that Harry Potter escaped yet again.”
Harry nodded and Dobby’s eyes suddenly shone with tears.
“Ah, sir,” he gasped, dabbing his face with a corner of the grubby pillowcase he was wearing. “Harry Potter is valiant and bold! He has braved so many dangers already! But Dobby has come to protect Harry Potter, to warn him, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door later… Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts.”
There was a silence broken only by the chink of knives and forks from downstairs and the distant rumble of Uncle Vernon’s voice.
“W-what?” Harry stammered. “But I’ve got to go back—term starts on September first. It’s all that’s keeping me going. You don’t know what it’s like here. I don’t belong here. I belong in your world—at Hogwarts.”
“No, no, no,” squeaked Dobby, shaking his head so hard his ears flapped. “Harry Potter must stay where he is safe. He is too great, too good, to lose. If Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger.”
“Why?” said Harry in surprise.
“There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year,” whispered Dobby, suddenly trembling all over. “Dobby has known it for months, sir. Harry Potter must not put himself in peril. He is too important, sir!”
“What terrible things?” said Harry at once. “Who’s plotting them?”
Dobby made a funny choking noise and then banged his head frantically against the wall.
“All right!” cried Harry, grabbing the elf’s arm to stop him. “You can’t tell me. I understand. But why are you warning me?” A sudden, unpleasant thought struck him. “Hang on—this hasn’t got anything to do with Vol—sorry—with You-Know-Who, has it? You could just shake or nod,” he added hastily as Dobby’s head tilted worryingly close to the wall again.
Slowly, Dobby shook his head.
“Not—not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir.”
But Dobby’s eyes were wide and he seemed to be trying to give Harry a hint. Harry, however, was completely lost.
“He hasn’t got a brother, has he?”
Dobby shook his head, his eyes wider than ever.
“Well then, I can’t think who else would have a chance of making horrible things happen at Hogwarts,” said Harry. “I mean, there’s Dumbledore, for one thing—You-Know-Who Dumbledore is, don’t you?”
Dobby bowed his head.
“Albus Dumbledore is the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had. Dobby knows it, sir. Dobby has heard Dumbledore’s powers rival those of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the height of his strength. But, sir”—Dobby’s voice dropped to an urgent whisper—“there are powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard…”
And before Harry could stop him, Dobby bounded off the bed, seized Harry’s desk lamp, and started beating himself around the head with earsplitting yelps.
A sudden silence fell downstairs. Two seconds later Harry, heart thudding madly, heard Uncle Vernon coming into the hall, calling, “Dudley must have left his television on again, the little tyke!”
“Quick! In the closet!” hissed Harry, stuffing Dobby in, shutting the door, and flinging himself onto the bed just as the door handle turned.
“What—the—devil—are—you—doing?” said Uncle Vernon through gritted teeth, his face horribly close to Harry’s. “You’ve just ruined the punch line of my Japanese golfer joke… One more sound and you’ll wish you’d never been born, boy!”
He stomped flat footed from the room.
Shaking, Harry let Dobby out of the closet.
“See what it’s like here?” he said. “See why I’ve got to go back to Hogwarts? It’s the only place I’ve got—well, I think I’ve got friends.”
“Friends who don’t even write to Harry Potter?” said Dobby slyly.
“I expect they’ve just been—wait a minute,” said Harry, frowning. “How do you know my friends haven’t been writing to me?”
Dobby shuffled his feet.
“Harry Potter mustn’t be angry with Dobby. Dobby did it for the best…”
“Have you been stopping my letters?”
“Dobby has them here, sir,” said the elf. Stepping nimbly out of Harry’s reach, he pulled a thick wad of envelopes from the inside of the pillowcase he was wearing. Harry could make out Hermione’s neat writing, Ron’s untidy scrawl, and even a scribble that looked as though it was from the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid.
Dobby blinked anxiously up at Harry.
“Harry Potter mustn’t be angry… Dobby hoped… if Harry Potter thought his friends had forgotten him… Harry Potter might not want to go back to school, sir…”
Harry wasn’t listening. He made a grab for the letters, but Dobby jumped out of reach.
“Harry Potter will have them, sir, if he gives Dobby his word that he will not return to Hogwarts. Ah, sir, this is a danger you must not face! Say you won’t go back, sir!”
“No,” said Harry angrily. “Give me my friends’ letters!”
“Then Harry Potter leaves Dobby no choice,” said the elf sadly.
Before Harry could move, Dobby had darted to the bedroom door, pulled it open, and sprinted down the stairs.
Mouth dry, stomach lurching, Harry sprang after him, trying not to make a sound. He jumped the last six steps, landing catlike on the hall carpet, looking around for Dobby. From the dining room he heard Uncle Vernon saying, “…tell Petunia that very funny story about those American plumbers, Mr. Mason. She’s been dying to hear…” Harry ran up the hall into the kitchen and felt his stomach disappear.
Aunt Petunia’s masterpiece of a pudding, the mountain of cream and sugared violets, was floating up near the ceiling. On top of a cupboard in the corner crouched Dobby.
“No,” croaked Harry. “Please… they’ll kill me…”
“Harry Potter must say he’s not going back to school—”
“Say it, sir…”
Dobby gave him a tragic look.
“Then Dobby must do it, sir, for Harry Potter’s own good.”
The pudding fell to the floor with a heart stopping crash. Cream splattered the windows and walls as the dish shattered. With a crack like a whip, Dobby vanished.
There were screams from the dining room and Uncle Vernon burst into the kitchen to find Harry, rigid with shock, cover
ed from head to foot in Aunt Petunias pudding.
At first, it looked as though Uncle Vernon would manage to gloss the whole thing over. (“Just our nephew—very disturbed—meeting strangers upsets him, so we kept him upstairs…”) He shooed the shocked Masons back into the dining room, promised Harry he would flay him to within an inch of his life when the Masons had left, and handed him a mop. Aunt Petunia dug some ice cream out of the freezer and Harry, still shaking, started scrubbing the kitchen clean.
Uncle Vernon might still have been able to make his deal—if it hadn’t been for the owl.
Aunt Petunia was just passing around a box of after dinner mints when a huge barn owl swooped through the dining room window, dropped a letter on Mrs. Mason’s head, and swooped out again. Mrs. Mason screamed like a banshee and ran from the house shouting about lunatics. Mr. Mason stayed just long enough to tell the Dursleys that his wife was mortally afraid of birds of all shapes and sizes, and to ask whether this was their idea of a joke.
Harry stood in the kitchen, clutching the mop for support, as Uncle Vernon advanced on him, a demonic glint in his tiny eyes.
“Read it!” he hissed evilly, brandishing the letter the owl had delivered. “Go on—read it!”
Harry took it. It did not contain birthday greetings.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non magical community (Muggles) is a serious offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks’ Statute of Secrecy.
Enjoy your holidays!
IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Harry looked up from the letter and gulped.
“You didn’t tell us you weren’t allowed to use magic outside school,” said Uncle Vernon, a mad gleam dancing in his eyes. “Forgot to mention it… Slipped your mind, I daresay…”
He was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. “Well, I’ve got news for you, boy… I’m locking you up… You’re never going back to that school… never… and if you try and magic yourself out—they’ll expel you!”
And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to fit bars on Harry’s window. He himself fitted a cat-flap in the bedroom door, so that small amounts of food could be pushed inside three times a day. They let Harry out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around the clock.
Three days later, the Dursleys were showing no sign of relenting, and Harry couldn’t see any way out of his situation. He lay on his bed watching the sun sinking behind the bars on the window and wondered miserably what was going to happen to him.
What was the good of magicking himself out of his room if Hogwarts would expel him for doing it? Yet life at Privet Drive had reached an all-time low. Now that the Dursleys knew they weren’t going to wake up as fruit bats, he had lost his only weapon. Dobby might have saved Harry from horrible happenings at Hogwarts, but the way things were going, he’d probably starve to death anyway.
The cat flap rattled and Aunt Petunias hand appeared, pushing a bowl of canned soup into the room. Harry, whose insides were aching with hunger, jumped off his bed and seized it. The soup was stone-cold, but he drank half of it in one gulp. Then he crossed the room to Hedwig’s cage and tipped the soggy vegetables at the bottom of the bowl into her empty food tray. She ruffled her feathers and gave him a look of deep disgust.
“It’s no good turning your beak up at it—that’s all we’ve got,” said Harry grimly.
He put the empty bowl back on the floor next to the cat flap and lay back down on the bed, somehow even hungrier than he had been before the soup.
Supposing he was still alive in another four weeks, what would happen if he didn’t turn up at Hogwarts? Would someone be sent to see why he hadn’t come back? Would they be able to make the Dursleys let him go?
The room was growing dark. Exhausted, stomach rumbling, mind spinning over the same unanswerable questions, Harry fell into an uneasy sleep.
He dreamed that he was on show in a zoo, with a card reading UNDERAGE WIZARD attached to his cage. People goggled through the bars at him as he lay, starving and weak, on a bed of straw. He saw Dobby’s face in the crowd and shouted out, asking for help, but Dobby called, “Harry Potter is safe there, sir!” and vanished. Then the Dursleys appeared and Dudley rattled the bars of the cage, laughing at him.
“Stop it,” Harry muttered as the rattling pounded in his sore head. “Leave me alone… cut it out… I’m trying to sleep…”
He opened his eyes. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window. And someone was goggling through the bars at him: a frecklefaced, red haired, long nosed someone.
Ron Weasley was outside Harry’s window.
3. THE BURROW
“Ron,” breathed Harry, creeping to the window and pushing it up so they could talk through the bars. “Ron, how did you—? What the—?”
Harry’s mouth fell open as the full impact of what he was seeing hit him. Ron was leaning out of the back window of an old turquoise car, which was parked in midair. Grinning at Harry from the front seats were Fred and George, Ron’s elder twin brothers.
“All right, Harry?” asked George.
“What’s been going on?” said Ron. “Why haven’t you been answering my letters? I’ve asked you to stay about twelve times, and then Dad came home and said you’d got an official warning for using magic in front of Muggles—”
“It wasn’t me—and how did he know?”
“He works for the Ministry,” said Ron. “You know we’re not supposed to do spells outside school—”
“You should talk,” said Harry, staring at the floating car.
“Oh, this doesn’t count,” said Ron. “We’re only borrowing this. It’s Dad’s, we didn’t enchant it. But doing magic in front of those Muggles you live with—”
“I told you, I didn’t—but it’ll take too long to explain now—look, can you tell them at Hogwarts that the Dursleys have locked me up and won’t let me come back, and obviously I can’t magic myself out, because the Ministry’Il think that’s the second spell I’ve done in three days, so—”
“Stop gibbering,” said Ron. “We’ve come to take you home with us.”
“But you can’t magic me out either—”
“We don’t need to,” said Ron, jerking his head toward the front seat and grinning. “You forget who I’ve got with me.”
“Tie that around the bars,” said Fred, throwing the end of a rope to Harry.
“If the Dursleys wake up, I’m dead,” said Harry as he tied the rope tightly around a bar and Fred revved up the car.
“Don’t worry,” said Fred, “and stand back.”
Harry moved back into the shadows next to Hedwig, who seemed to have realized how important this was and kept still and silent. The car revved louder and louder and suddenly, with a crunching noise, the bars were pulled clean out of the window as Fred drove straight up in the air. Harry ran back to the window to see the bars dangling a few feet above the ground. Panting, Ron hoisted them up into the car. Harry listened anxiously, but there was no sound from the Dursleys’ bedroom.
When the bars were safely in the back seat with Ron, Fred reversed as close as possible to Harry’s window.
“Get in,” Ron said.
“But all my Hogwarts stuff—my wand—my broomstick—”
sp; “Where is it?”
“Locked in the cupboard under the stairs, and I can’t get out of this room—”
“No problem,” said George from the front passenger seat. “Out of the way, Harry.”
Fred and George climbed catlike through the window into Harry’s room. You had to hand it to them, thought Harry, as George took an ordinary hairpin from his pocket and started to pick the lock.
“A lot of wizards think it’s a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick,” said Fred, “but we feel they’re skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow.”
There was a small click and the door swung open.
“So—we’ll get your trunk—you grab anything you need from your room and hand it out to Ron,” whispered George.
“Watch out for the bottom stair—it creaks,” Harry whispered back as the twins disappeared onto the dark landing.
Harry dashed around his room, collecting his things and passing them out of the window to Ron. Then he went to help Fred and George heave his trunk up the stairs. Harry heard Uncle Vernon cough.
At last, panting, they reached the landing, then carried the trunk through Harry’s room to the open window. Fred climbed back into the car to pull with Ron, and Harry and George pushed from the bedroom side. Inch by inch, the trunk slid through the window.
Uncle Vernon coughed again.
“A bit more,” panted Fred, who was pulling from inside the car. “One good push—”
Harry and George threw their shoulders against the trunk and it slid out of the window into the back seat of the car.
“Okay, let’s go,” George whispered.
But as Harry climbed onto the windowsill there came a sudden loud screech from behind him, followed immediately by the thunder of Uncle Vernon’s voice.
“THAT RUDDY OWL!”
“I’ve forgotten Hedwig!”
Harry tore back across the room as the landing light clicked on—he snatched up Hedwig’s cage, dashed to the window, and passed it out to Ron. He was scrambling back onto the chest of drawers when Uncle Vernon hammered on the unlocked door and it crashed open.
For a split second, Uncle Vernon stood framed in the doorway; then he let out a bellow like an angry bull and dived at Harry, grabbing him by the ankle.
Ron, Fred, and George seized Harry’s arms and pulled as hard as they could.
“Petunia!” roared Uncle Vernon. “He’s getting away! HE’S GETTING AWAY!”
But the Weasleys gave a gigantic tug and Harry’s leg slid out of Uncle Vernon’s grasp—Harry was in the car—he’d slammed the door shut—
“Put your foot down, Fred!” yelled Ron, and the car shot suddenly towards the moon.
Harry couldn’t believe it—he was free. He rolled down the window, the night air whipping his hair, and looked back at the shrinking rooftops of Privet Drive. Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley were all hanging, dumbstruck, out of Harry’s window.
“See you next summer!” Harry yelled.