Dudley's distress

Harry tries to explain to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia how Dudley ended up in such a state while being bombarded by a peck of owls

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

‘Dudley and I were in the alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk,’ said Harry, speaking fast, fighting to control his temper. ‘Dudley thought he’d be smart with me, I pulled out my wand but didn’t use it. Then two Dementors turned up –’

‘But what ARE Dementoids?’ asked Uncle Vernon furiously. ‘What do they DO?’

‘I told you – they suck all the happiness out of you,’ said Harry, ‘and if they get the chance, they kiss you –’

‘Kiss you?’ said Uncle Vernon, his eyes popping slightly. ‘Kiss you?’

‘It’s what they call it when they suck the soul out of your mouth.’

Aunt Petunia uttered a soft scream.

‘His soul? They didn’t take – he’s still got his –’

She seized Dudley by the shoulders and shook him, as though testing to see whether she could hear his soul rattling around inside him.

‘Of course they didn’t get his soul, you’d know if they had,’ said Harry, exasperated.

‘Fought ’em off, did you, son?’ said Uncle Vernon loudly, with the appearance of a man struggling to bring the conversation back on to a plane he understood. ‘Gave ’em the old one-two, did you?’

‘You can’t give a Dementor the old one-two,’ said Harry through clenched teeth.

‘Why’s he all right, then?’ blustered Uncle Vernon. ‘Why isn’t he all empty, then?’

‘Because I used the Patronus –’

WHOOSH. With a clattering, a whirring of wings and a soft fall of dust, a fourth owl came shooting out of the kitchen fireplace.

‘FOR GOD’S SAKE!’ roared Uncle Vernon, pulling great clumps of hair out of his moustache, something he hadn’t been driven to do in a long time. ‘I WILL NOT HAVE OWLS HERE, I WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS, I TELL YOU!’

But Harry was already pulling a roll of parchment from the owl’s leg. He was so convinced that this letter had to be from Dumbledore, explaining everything – the Dementors, Mrs Figg, what the Ministry was up to, how he, Dumbledore, intended to sort everything out – that for the first time in his life he was disappointed to see Sirius’s handwriting.

Ignoring Uncle Vernon’s ongoing rant about owls, and narrowing his eyes against a second cloud of dust as the most recent owl took off back up the chimney, Harry read Sirius’s message.

Arthur has just told us what’s happened. Don’t leave the house again, whatever you do.

Harry found this such an inadequate response to everything that had happened tonight that he turned the piece of parchment over, looking for the rest of the letter, but there was nothing else.
And now his temper was rising again. Wasn’t anybody going to say ‘well done’ for fighting off two Dementors single-handed? Both Mr Weasley and Sirius were acting as though he’d misbehaved, and were saving their tellings-off until they could ascertain how much damage had been done.

‘… a peck, I mean, pack of owls shooting in and out of my house. I won’t have it, boy, I won’t –’

‘I can’t stop the owls coming,’ Harry snapped, crushing Sirius’s letter in his fist.

‘I want the truth about what happened tonight!’ barked Uncle Vernon.

‘If it was Demenders who hurt Dudley, how come you’ve been expelled? You did you-know-what, you’ve admitted it!’

Harry took a deep, steadying breath. His head was beginning to ache again. He wanted more than anything to get out of the kitchen, and away from the Dursleys.

‘I did the Patronus Charm to get rid of the Dementors,’ he said, forcing himself to remain calm. ‘It’s the only thing that works against them.’

But what were Dementoids doing in Little Whinging?’ said Uncle Vernon in an outraged tone.

‘Couldn’t tell you,’ said Harry wearily. ‘No idea.’

His head was pounding in the glare of the strip-lighting now. His anger was ebbing away. He felt drained, exhausted. The Dursleys were all staring at him.

‘It’s you,’ said Uncle Vernon forcefully. ‘It’s got something to do with you, boy, I know it. Why else would they turn up here? Why else would they be down that alleyway? You’ve got to be the only – the only –’ Evidently, he couldn’t bring himself to say the word ‘wizard’. ‘The only you-know-what for miles.’

‘I don’t know why they were here.’

But at Uncle Vernon’s words, Harry’s exhausted brain had ground back into action. Why had the Dementors come to Little Whinging? How could it be coincidence that they had arrived in the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent? Had the Ministry of Magic lost control of the Dementors? Had they deserted Azkaban and joined Voldemort, as Dumbledore had predicted they would?

‘These Demembers guard some weirdo prison?’ asked Uncle Vernon, lumbering along in the wake of Harry’s train of thought.

‘Yes,’ said Harry. If only his head would stop hurting, if only he could just leave the kitchen and get to his dark bedroom and think

‘Oho! They were coming to arrest you!’ said Uncle Vernon, with the triumphant air of a man reaching an unassailable conclusion.

‘That’s it, isn’t it, boy? You’re on the run from the law!’

‘Of course I’m not,’ said Harry, shaking his head as though to scare off a fly, his mind racing now.

‘Then why –?’

‘He must have sent them,’ said Harry quietly, more to himself than to Uncle Vernon.

‘What’s that? Who must have sent them?’

‘Lord Voldemort,’ said Harry.

He registered dimly how strange it was that the Dursleys, who flinched, winced and squawked if they heard words like ‘wizard’, ‘magic’ or ‘wand’, could hear the name of the most evil wizard of all time without the slightest tremor.

‘Lord – hang on,’ said Uncle Vernon, his face screwed up, a look of dawning comprehension coming into his piggy eyes. ‘I’ve heard that name … that was the one who –’

‘Murdered my parents, yes,’ Harry said.

‘But he’s gone,’ said Uncle Vernon impatiently, without the slightest sign that the murder of Harry’s parents might be a painful topic. ‘That giant bloke said so. He’s gone.’

‘He’s back,’ said Harry heavily.

It felt very strange to be standing here in Aunt Petunia’s surgically clean kitchen, beside the top-of-the-range fridge and the wide-screen television, talking calmly of Lord Voldemort to Uncle Vernon. The arrival of the Dementors in Little Whinging seemed to have breached the great, invisible wall that divided the relentlessly non-magical world of Privet Drive and the world beyond. Harry’s two lives had somehow become fused and everything had been turned upside-down; the Dursleys were asking for details about the magical world, and Mrs Figg knew Albus Dumbledore; Dementors were soaring around Little Whinging, and he might never return to Hogwarts. Harry’s head throbbed more painfully.

‘Back?’ whispered Aunt Petunia.

She was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother’s sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister’s) were not narrowed in dislike or anger, they were wide and fearful. The furious pretence that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry’s life – that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon – seemed to have fallen away.

‘Yes,’ Harry said, talking directly to Aunt Petunia now. ‘He came back a month ago. I saw him.’

Her hands found Dudley’s massive leather-clad shoulders and clutched them.

‘Hang on,’ said Uncle Vernon, looking from his wife to Harry and back again, apparently dazed and confused by the unprecedented understanding that seemed to have sprung up between them. ‘Hang on. This Lord Voldything’s back, you say.’

‘Yes.’

‘The one who murdered your parents.’

‘Yes.’

‘And now he’s sending Dismembers after you?’

‘Looks like it,’ said Harry.

‘I see,’ said Uncle Vernon, looking from his white-faced wife to Harry and hitching up his trousers. He seemed to be swelling, his great purple face stretching before Harry’s eyes. ‘Well, that settles it,’ he said, his shirt front straining as he inflated himself, ‘you can get out of this house, boy!’


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

by J.K. Rowling