The month of August was perhaps the most bearable time Harry had ever had at Number Four, Privet Drive. Dudley was so terrified after having crossed Hagrid that he wouldn't even stay in the same room as Harry. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had taken to ignoring him entirely, not even giving him any chores. Although this was an improvement in many ways, it did become a bit depressing after awhile.
His new friend Draco Malfoy was constantly on his mind. He'd been so excited about Hogwarts and Quidditch that Harry could not help but be infected with his enthusiasm. For the first time, Harry was not just concerned with surviving day to day. He was actually looking forward to something, to seeing his friend again. Draco was a friend that the Dursleys didn't know about. It was something Harry had for himself.
Without any chores to do, Harry kept to his room and tried to stay out of the Dursleys' notice. He passed the time eagerly reading his school books. He wanted to do well at school, wanted to do his Mum and Dad proud. The books were very interesting, especially A History of Magic. He lay on his bed reading all day and late into the night. Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on the piece of parchment he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first.
He was deeply absorbed in his Herbology text one afternoon when a frantic tapping at the window startled him from his reading. Peering outside he could see an owl hovering there. He hurried over and opened the window, stepping back to let the messenger inside. Hagrid had used an owl to send Professor Dumbledore a letter and had told him that wizards used owls to deliver their post. Who could be writing to him?
The eagle owl circled the room and then landed on Harry's shoulder. He grunted with the sudden weight. The bird stuck out its leg, permitting Harry to untie the letter. With a quick hop, the owl perched on the bed frame and began to groom itself.
Harry opened up the letter.
It was very nice to meet you the other day. Father and Mother send their greetings, and they hope to see you again on the train platform.
We will definitely have lots of fun once we get to school. I can't wait to introduce you to some of my other friends. First off is Theo. He's smart, but sometimes he has an attitude about it. He's easy enough to get along with if you ignore some of his more peevish behaviour. I do have to tolerate him, because his father was one of my tutors. Mr. Nott also tutored three girls: Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, and Tracy Davis. Pansy and Theo don't really get along, so don't let them scare you. Millie's not really girly. She's more of what Mother calls a tomboy. Pansy and Tracy are the pretty ones. They're all right, as far as girls go.
I wasn't sure if you'd got a post owl, so I told Arlette to wait for a return letter. If you could give her some toast leftover from tea, she'd be grateful. If you didn't get an owl, you should get one. They're dead useful.
P.S.: Those Muggles haven't been bothering you, right?
Harry looked up at the owl. She had finished preening and was looking at him with her head slightly cocked to one side. She hooted gently at him. She was hungry.
"C'mon downstairs with me, girl," he said, holding one arm out. When Arlette had perched on his forearm, he went back downstairs and into the kitchen.
Feeling a mite peckish himself, he put two slices of bread in the toaster. While he waited for them to toast, he wrote his return letter.
The Muggles have been ignoring me, which is a blessing. I can't wait to get out of here.
That day in Diagon Alley was the best ever. I've never had so much fun. I can't wait to try flying. Quidditch sounds absolutely amazing. I'm sure this book I got doesn't even do it justice.
I'm looking forward to meeting your friends. Thanks for telling Arlette to stick around. I wouldn't have been able to reply without her. Does Eeylop's take postal orders?
It would do. Harry didn't know exactly how one should go about writing a letter to a friend. He'd never had friends before. He folded the paper up and looked for Arlette.
She was already perched on the toaster, nibbling at the toast. She held a piece down with her talons and tore at it with her beak. Arlette was a beautiful bird, Harry could see. A very hungry, beautiful bird.
A piercing shriek nearly made Harry jump out of his skin. His ears ringing, he turned and saw Aunt Petunia standing in the doorway. She had one hand pointing at the toaster.
"What is that?" she screeched.
Arlette calmly looked at Aunt Petunia. "Hoot!"
"Out!" she shrieked.
Harry picked up his letter and the remaining toast. Arlette lighted on his shoulder as he pushed past Aunt Petunia on his way upstairs.
"Vernon!" she yelled. Clearly she had issues with owls being in the house.
Harry shut out their noise as he shut his door. He handed the remaining toast over to Draco's owl and tied the letter onto her leg.
"Thanks for visiting," he said, not sure how one spoke to a post owl. "It was fun."
Arlette hooted at him, nipped his ear, and flapped her wings, soaring out through the open window and off into the sky.
Harry watched her go, wishing she could carry him away as easily. He hated it here on Privet Drive. There was seldom any peace; this recent stretch was the longest in his memory. He had to keep two eyes open for danger at all times if he wanted to avoid a thumping.
"Boy! What is this about birds in the house?"
Uncle Vernon was in the doorway, and he looked angry. Harry's pleasure at hearing from Draco dissolved into sudden fear. He was trapped in the room.
Harry wiped his clammy hands on his trousers and considered his options. Unless he wanted to go out the first floor window and jump down to the ground, he likely wouldn't be able to get away. He would have to talk very quickly.
"It was an owl, sir. It brought me a letter."
The big man's face grew guarded. "Owl, did you say?"
Harry hoped it wasn't a mistake to mention owls. "Yes."
"You keep those things away from this house. Do you understand? No owls."
"I'm sorry, Uncle Vernon. I can't stop people from sending them."
"Do whatever you have to do, just get them away as quick as you can. I do not want the neighbors to ask any more questions. Bad enough we had to deal with all the gossip when your ruddy school letters came."
"I'll do my best, sir."
"You'd better," Vernon said pointing a thick finger at Harry. "I don't want any sort of funny business before you go."
Uncle Vernon closed the door behind him, and Harry heard his heavy footsteps going downstairs.
Harry picked up his textbook again and glanced wistfully at the parchment pinned to the wall.
Three more weeks.
Arlette brought another letter two nights later.
Harry had been leaving the window open for when she came back, but also to get some relief from the heat. While his room was stifling and uncomfortable, at least he was out of the Dursleys' sight. They hadn't said anything to him since his last letter, and he didn't want to give them any reasons to yell again.
The owl landed on the bedframe and stuck out her leg. She hooted at Harry and began bouncing her head up and down when he didn't move fast enough.
Harry laughed at the ridiculous sight. "All right. I'm coming. Silly bird." He untied the letter and scratched her head. Arlette nuzzled against his hand. "You like that, girl? If you stay here, I'll go make some toast."
Arlette shook her head fiercely. Harry wondered if she actually understood him or if it was a reaction to all the head scratchings.
He opened the letter.
Summer hols still going good, I hope. I've been out on the Quidditch pitch every day trying to get as much in flying time as I can before the train. Theo comes over a couple of times per week to give me a bit of challenge. Sometimes we throw the Quaffle around, and other times we just race. He's not bad. Nothing on me, of course, but still quite fine in his own right. If only he weren't so smug when he manages to win.
There are a couple of other boys whom I am acquainted with named Crabbe and Goyle. Father has business dealings with their fathers, and they were invited to associate with me. Their families aren't as important as mine, so they pretty much do what I tell them. They're fairly stupid, but they know their place.
If those Muggles get too threatening, you can defend yourself now. We're not supposed to do magic outside of school, but officially you don't know that yet. They don't tell you until after first year is over and you start the holiday, so if you want to hex them and get away with it, now's the time. There's a few good ones in chapter twenty of your Dark Forces book.
I wish I could get out and fly. The Muggles haven't even been giving me any chores to do lately, so I've been staying in my room a lot. It seems to make them happier when they don't see me. It would also make them happy if Arlette only came at night. They don't want the neighbors to see. Thanks.
Theo sounds like a very interesting fellow. I am uncertain about Crabbe and Goyle.
Thanks for telling me about that rule. I might just take advantage of it if they push me too hard. Most of the time I can get away, but being able to defend myself is a very nice feeling.
Harry enjoyed having a friend he could write to. He realized that the wizarding world would probably be a much less scary place if he had a friend to show him around. He was determined not to let his first chance at friendship slip away.
He always wrote back immediately. As much as he enjoyed scratching Arlette or stroking her feathers, he didn't want Uncle Vernon to catch her in the house. Harry only had a few minutes of company while he penned his letters. Then he tied it to her leg, and off she went again, leaving Harry alone, lonely, and impatient.
The time passed so very slowly, even if he were reading his school books. Though he was counting down the days on a piece of parchment and trying to be patient in the long-term, the letters from Draco were the only thing positive in his day to day, and Harry found himself looking frequently out the window after sunset in the hope of seeing Arlette returning. Draco didn't write every day, and Harry certainly didn't expect him to. Still, the nights when Arlette didn't come, Harry went to bed quite late, having waited up, and tried not to feel sad.
No wizard should ever have to worry about being threatened by Muggles. There are lots of spells we developed to keep ourselves safe. Mr. Nott told us all about Flame-Freezing Charms just a few weeks ago. It's supposed to make it feel like a warm bath, but I'd just as soon never have to find out.
Montrose won again last night. They beat Holyhead by seventy points. They're still looking good for that perfect season. The only team left who can really challenge them is Portree. Ellison had an amazing night. He scored a dozen times! If he can keep it up, he'll be setting records soon.
I wish we were able to go to the Cup Final, but we'll be in school. Father took me last year. Elan wasn't able to go because of school, so I got to spend the day just the two of us. Father is a very important wizard, so we got to meet the team afterward. I have a Quaffle signed by them all and a picture together with them.
Write back soon!
I can't wait to see my first Quidditch match. I'm so very excited about just getting out of this place. I think it's an awful tease to have a few hours to wander starry-eyed around Diagon Alley and then be stuck back here for a whole month. Sometimes I worry that this is all some cruel trick and I really will be stuck going to Stonewall.
I wish I could think of a good way for you to escape that place. Soon enough, mate. You've got years of catching up to do, and I mean to see that you do it properly. I reallywish there was a way to smuggle brooms into the school. We'd have a grand old time tearing around the skies.
I've been counting down the days. Only a few more to go.
It's almost here. I haven't been sleeping soundly the past few nights, because I'm so excited. I've been waiting to go to Hogwarts for years. It's finally happening.
I've got to go fly and let off some of this energy. I'll see you at the station.
On the last day of August, he thought he'd better speak to his aunt and uncle about getting to King's Cross station the next day, so he went down to the living room where they were watching a quiz show on the telly. He cleared his throat to let them know he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran out of the room.
Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening.
"My train to school leaves from King's Cross tomorrow at eleven o'clock."
Uncle Vernon grunted again.
"Will you give me a lift? Or at least give me fare for the train there?"
Grunt. Harry supposed that meant yes.
He turned to go back upstairs when Uncle Vernon actually spoke.
"Funny way to get to a w-wizards' school, the train. Magic carpets all got punctures, have they?"
Harry's head whipped back around as he glared at Uncle Vernon.
What would you know about it?
"Where is this school, anyway?"
"Planning on visiting me, are you?" said Harry, his voice turning vaguely insulting.
"Watch your tongue, boy, or you'll be walking to the ruddy station."
"Good night," Harry said, having gotten his answer. He turned back and walked up the stairs to his room.
Better make sure I'm all packed.
That task took very little time. All of Harry's school supplies fit easily into the shabby trunk the Dursleys had given him. Most of his books fit in the cauldron, so that saved a lot of space. His robes and uniforms didn't take up much room at all, and Harry didn't own anything else to even take, aside from his hand-me-downs from Dudley. He packed it all anyway. The Dursleys hadn't given him much, but Harry wasn't about to leave any of it behind. Who knew if it would still be there when he came back for the summer?
The thought of returning to Privet Drive was nearly as revolting as that of leaving was delightful.
"What goes up must come down, but a lot can change in a year," he said, trying not to think too negatively. "Maybe I can just stay at school year-round."
With that incredibly pleasant notion, Harry put on his pyjamas and got in to bed, though he was convinced that he was too excited to sleep. Soon enough, he was yawning. He closed his eyes and drifted off, his imagination full of the wonderous things that Draco had told him about Hogwarts.