No, silly, it’s Harry Rotter!
Moreover, she’s a GIRL!
No, Our Best China’s in There!
Mr and Mrs Privet, of number five Dorsley Drive, were anything but normal. They had been normal only a few weeks earlier, but they were now as crazy as those incarcerated in the local loony bin.
On the outside, Mr Privet, a tall, bald and incredibly thin man, appeared quite normal, but just beneath the surface, barely hidden, he was a seething mass of nervous ticks, idiosyncratic behaviour, peptic ulcers and, above all, just plain looniness. As well as suffering from the same mad ways as her loopy husband, the extraordinarily fat Mrs Privet was also suffering from the dreadful infliction of hearing voices in her head. She might hear them at any time of the day or night, and would oftentimes jump up in her bed, screaming in a most alarming way, giving her husband such a fright he would begin shaking uncontrollably. It was a most dreadful state of affairs altogether. Despite suffering from these awful conditions, Mr and Mrs Privet tried to continue living as normal a life as was possible, but hardly a day went by without one of them experiencing a mad interlude that would make most normal people simply roll over and die.
Before I continue with my story, I must also tell you about their son Box, Box Privet. This child (the veritable apple of their eyes) was, like his father, of a tall and incredibly thin physique. At times, this trait would cause him to be the butt of jokes and jibes by his classmates and acquaintances. However, he paid little or no attention to them, because his mind was always set firmly on the love, the passion of his life – electronics. Upstairs, in his small bedroom, Box would work for hours on end with his soldering iron, long nose pliers and tweezers, creating, crafting bringing his new ideas to life. It was a lonely existence, but he loved it.
I have already told you how Mr and Mrs Privet had been quite normal only a few weeks earlier. In all truthfulness, the Privet’s had been one of the happiest families in their entire estate of mock Elizabethan detached houses. But
now they were mad, living in fear for their lives, the happy and contented existence they had so enjoyed, in tatters, a shambles, a mere shadow of what it had once been.
You see, the Privet’s had been hiding a secret, a big secret. And while it had been contained and suppressed, as they felt is should still be, they had been enjoying that happy and contented life, but from the moment, the very instant this secret, this terrible secret had escaped from its place of incarceration, a private boarding school going by the name of Hagswords, their happy and carefree life had come to an abrupt end.
This secret, this big dark secret was in reality a young girl, an orphan, the Privet’s only niece, going by the of Harry Rotter. She had actually been baptised Harriet, but from an early age had insisted that everyone call her Harry.
Let me tell you about Harriet – Harry… She was the boldest, cruellest, nastiest child you could ever be unfortunate enough to meet. To look as her, with her flowing locks of golden hair and a face that appeared so innocent, so angelic, one might easily be fooled into believing that butter could last forever in her mouth without melting. But she wasn’t an angel, no, the unfortunate truth, the terrible truth was she was an out and out scoundrel, a bully who had no respect for anyone but herself. Bullies can and so very often do make the lives of those living around them as miserable as hell – Harry proved to be no exception to this rule.
While Harriet – Harry – had been safely ensconced in her school everything had been just fine, and the Privet’s had been able to forgot about their troublesome niece, but from the moment she broke out, escaped from that high security ‘special’ boarding school, and found her way to the home of her only living relations, the Privets, their lives changed forever.
“Excuse me, please,” said Harry, ever so mannerly when Mrs Privet opened the front door, “I am your only niece. Will you please put me up for a few days?”
“Its young Harriet, isn’t it?” said Mrs Privet, patting her nervously upon the head. “Are you on a school break?”
Ignoring the question while resisting the urge to kick the condescending woman in the shins, Harry smiled, and said, “I prefer to be called Harry, if it all right with you?”
“Yes, yes, that’s fine,” said Mrs Privet as she ushered Harry through the doorway, looking up and down the road, to see if anyone had been following her. The road, however, was deserted. “Please go into the front room,” said Mrs Privet. The cat made a mad dash past Harry, through the open doorway.
Harry entered the room. It reminded her of Hagswords – far too much stained glass and wood panelling for her liking. “Sit down, sit down, Harry, and make yourself comfortable,” said Mrs Privet. “I will go fetch you some lemonade, you must be so thirsty after your travelling. Then I will go tell your uncle the good news.”
Leaving Harry alone in the room, Mrs Privet returned to the hallway where she opened the small door under the stairs that led down to the cellar, a den of sorts. Calling her husband, she said, “Dear…. we have a visitor…”
“Who is it?” a voice called up from below.
“It’s your niece.”
BANG. There was a sound like a baldhead striking a beam in the low slung ceiling, and then there was silence.
“Did you hear me, darling?”
Mumbles from below.
Mr Privet began speaking, and in a hushed voice, he asked, “Are you sure it’s our niece – THAT niece?”
“Yes, dear, it’s young Harriet – I mean Harry, Harry Rotter.”
“Harriet or Harry – you should know what sex they are.”
“He, she’s a girl, she just likes the name Harry – shortened, you know.”
“I don’t know if I know anything anymore,” Mr Privet grumbled as he made his way up the narrow staircase, “having to deal with your ‘unusual’ relations. Puffing and panting, Mr Privet emerged from the cellar. “Where is she, then?” he barked, looking up and down the hallway.
“I put her in the front room.”
“Our best china’s in there!” he hollered, storming down the hallway and then bursting into the room like an elephant was chasing after him. Inside, he found Harry carefully inspecting a piece of their hand-painted fine bone china.
“That’s an heirloom – but it’s not worth anything,” he muttered, eying Harry’s canvas shoulder bag with suspicion, while also trying, but unsuccessfully, to close the battered door.
“Not worth anything?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No, not a penny…”
“Can I have it, then, as a keepsake?”
Almost choking on his words, Mr Privet fumbled to find others, words that might save his prized china.
“I… we…we can’t give it away… we promised your Granny, on her death bed, that we would always treasure it…”
Studying his face, particularly the sweat beading upon it, Harry searched for signs of deceit. “Okay,” she said, “it was just a thought.” Then scanning the room, she added, “There must be loads of things amongst all this rubbish that you don’t want.”
“No, no, everything’s spoken for,” Mr Privet squeaked in reply. Then changing the subject from their prized possessions, he asked Harry the reason for her visit.
“Oh, I have already told your wife,” she said, “I will be staying with you for a few days…”
This time Mr Privet almost choked on Harry’s words.
Mrs Privet, carrying a tray with a tall glass of lemonade upon it, entered the room, “Everything all right?” she asked, smiling innocently at them.
Meet the Son
Over the course of the next few days, Harry settled in well at number five Dorsley Drive. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for her relationship with Mr and Mrs Privet’s beloved son, Box. From the moment Harry laid eyes on his bespectacled face and wimpishly thin body, she had taken a dislike to her cousin. Box, in turn, had taken an equally passionate dislike to Harry, but he was simply no match for her steely cunning and dogged determination, to get the better of him no matter what, to make his very existence a living hell.
This clash of personalities put a terrible strain on Harry’s relationship with Mr and Mrs Privet, who had always prided themselves, in being open minded and understanding of the challenging behaviour of all growing children. And they tried; they tried so hard to ignore the many terrible things Harry perpetrated upon their son, their only son. And she did so much to him; like knocking him down the stairs, sprinkling salt over his porridge and removing all of the fuses from his electrical gadgets and gizmos that he so loved.
In the end, Box avoided Harry like the plague. If he was out walking and saw her coming towards him, he would dash into the nearest shop, to avoid being anyway near her. If there weren’t any shops nearby, he would scurry up the garden path of the nearest house, where he would begin knocking frantically on its door, like his life depended on it.
At home, Box began spending more and more time in his bedroom, where he installed bolt after bolt and lock after lock on its door; to protect him from Harry’s constant and malevolent interferences. Bang, bang, bang. Every night they heard the sound of him sliding the bolts shut, before he retired to the safety of his bed. He would do anything to avoid Harry, absolutely anything.
Harry, on the other hand, had no need for locks or bolts on her bedroom door, for who would dare to enter it without asking her permission, first? Although
she had the run of the house, and she certainly made good use of it, whenever it so suited, Harry also began spending more and more time in her room, but it was for a far different reason than her wimpishly thin cousin. Harry had things to plan, and to workout…
It was now several days since her escape from school, Hagswords, and although Harry had conjured up a mannequin, a replica of her, to try and hide the fact that she was actually missing, she knew only too well that its effectiveness would soon wear off. And when it did, it would only be a matter of time until the school authorities began tracking her down, following her trail until they found her at number five Dorsley Drive.
Harry had even considered using a spell of concealment, to disguise her whereabouts when the school authorities caught up with her, but she had decided that with all the comings and goings in and out of number five Dorsley Drive its effectiveness would surely be compromised. The only way she could be totally sure of effectiveness was to stop everyone entering or leaving, and she couldn’t do that, could she?
Bang, bang, bang, another night had arrived and Box secreted himself safely within his bedroom, away from his dreaded cousin, Harry.
In the quietness of her room, lying comfortably in bed, Harry was ruminating over the words she was reading in a book, an old book that she had found hidden, secreted away, in the library at school. “They are so stupid, in that school,” she hissed. “They call it a school for mysticism and magic, more like a school for tolerance and fear. Fear of hurting the feelings of all those stupid
Muddles and far too much tolerance of them than is healthy. And as for the Principal…Hmm, I’ll show him. I’ll show them all, including the Muddles, what I am capable of…” Harry continued reading far into the night.
Next morning, Box jumped out of bed, determined to rush through his ablutions at the same breakneck speed he had adopted since the arrival of his horrid cousin. He was hell-bent on dashing downstairs, guzzling his breakfast, swilling down his tea, grabbing hold of his satchel and then heading off to school, and all of this before Harry awoke. After carefully, quietly sliding open the bolts on his bedroom door, Box opened it and peered outside, to see if the coast was clear.
“Hello,” Harry said ever so sweetly, less than three inches in front of his nose. “Did you sleep well?”
“I, I,” Box stammered, at a loss for words; shocked that she was there in the first place and even more shocked that she was speaking so sweetly. He slammed the door shut.
Knock knock. “Box, it’s me, Harry,” said Harry, in the same sweet tone that had unsettled him, so. “Box, are you coming out today?”
Box, however, believing that his end was nigh, that his evil cousin was about to finish him off once and for all, said nothing.
“Is that you, Box?” asked Mrs Privet, from the bottom of the stairs.
“No, it’s me, Harry.”
Mrs Privet, shocked that she was up so early, returned to the kitchen and began preparing the fry-up Harry insisted on having each morning. Then poking her head out of the kitchen door, she asked, “Would you like to go out somewhere nice, today, like the zoo?”
It was a Saturday. Harry had been so drawn into her reading, her studying of the old book she had lost all track of time. Her mind spinning into action, she replied, “Yes, I would love to… But only if Box comes along…”
At the kitchen table, peering out from behind his newspaper, Mr Privet called his wife over, and he said, “Now why did you have to go and say that?”
A Visit to the Zoo
It was a grand day for a drive, for a visit to the zoo; the first time in her entire life that Harry had actually been invited on a family outing. As Mr Privet drove the car slowly along the road (he always drove slowly, saying cars lasted years longer if they were treated that way), Harry stared out of the window, enjoying the moment, the feel of companionship, of being part of a family. Thus mellowed, she began to see the good in people, the Muddles. Mind you it was only for a moment, because soon, all too soon, her defences returned, protecting her from such nonsensical stupid ideas.
Box came along; it took them a while to convince him, but Mr and Mrs Privet had no intention of suffering the day’s outing if their son was at home, enjoying himself in his room with his electronics. No. He had to come and be miserable along with them.
When they arrived at the zoo, Mr Privet carefully parked his car (he said tyres lasted much longer if you parked your car carefully), and the not so happy family made their way towards the entrance.
“Two adult and two children, please,” said Mrs Privet, as she handed a five-pound note to the pimply attendant behind the counter.
“Isn’t she paying for herself?” Mr Privet whispered to his wife. “Her part of the family is supposed to be loaded, or so you have told me.”
“Hush,” Mrs Privet chided, hoping their niece hadn’t heard him.
For a Saturday, and such a fine one, the zoo was quiet, giving the Privet’s and Harry the place almost to themselves.
“Where are you going?” asked Mrs Privet, when she spotted her son skulking away.
“I was just going to…” he replied, trying to think up an excuse.
“You stay right here, with us,” she ordered. “Harry especially asked for you to come.”
“I know,” he whispered, “and that’s what worries me…”
As they made their way through the animal displays, from Crocodiles to Buffalos, from Elephants to Chimpanzees, from Parrots to Moorhens and almost everything else in between, Box couldn’t shake off the feeling that something terrible was about to happen, that his horrid cousin was going to perpetrate some dastardly deed upon him. Unfortunately, he was soon to prove himself right…
They were in the reptile house when Harry made her move, to corner her wimpishly thin cousin, the boy she so distained, but needed the help of…
“What are you doing?” Box yelled, when Harry opened the door of a particularly large snake’s enclosure (he had no idea how she had opened it, for it had a hefty bolt padlocked upon it).
“You’ll find out soon enough,” she replied, as she pushed him into the enclosure, slamming the door shut.
“Let me out!” he shouted, banging upon the glass partition that separated the viewers from the viewed.
Seeing its ‘guest’ the huge snake began slithering its way towards Box.
“LET ME OUT!” Box yelled again, banging even harder on the glass partition.
At the far end of the room Mr and Mrs Privet, inspecting an unusual albino tree snake, were totally oblivious to their beloved son’s growing distress.
“Well?” said Harry, folding her arms, smirking at her panicking cousin.
“WELL WHAT?” Box yelled, watching the huge snake slither ever closer.
“Are you going to help me?”
“HELP YOU WITH WHAT?”
“All in good time,” she said, enjoying the moment, her power over him. It was like eating a creamy ice cream – so very satisfying.
The snake, now less than a foot away from Box, tasted the air with its tongue – human being was on the menu.
Screaming with fright, Box hollered, “OKAY, OKAY, I’LL HELP YOU. NOW GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
She did, withdrawing a wand Harry waved it from left to right, saying, “Open Ses Me.”
In less than a millisecond Box was magically transported to the outside, the right side of the glass partition, the hungry snake having just missed its scrawny meal by mere inches.
“H, how did you do that?” he asked, shaking in fright.
Having returned the wand to the safely of her pocket, Harry said, “Do what?”
“What you just did, with that thingamajig…”
Ignoring his question, she said, “Come on, I have need of your assistance.”
“Yes, moron, you! Now come on, or do you want to rejoin that snake?”
Having no wish to return, Box followed his cousin, slipping quietly out of the reptile house, away from his parents.
“Here, eat this,” said Harry, offering Box an ice cream cone that she had purchased from one of the small kiosks scattered about the zoo grounds.
Making faces, Box licked the ice cream, wondering if it were poisoned.
“There’s nothing wrong with it, I just bought it,” she said, “You can swap it with mine if you’re that worried.” Harry offered him her ice cream.
“No, no, it’s all right,” he said, taking another, more relaxed lick from his cone. “Thanks.”
This was the second time (and in the same day) that his cousin had shown him some kindness; Box was confused.
As they wandered away from the shop, to a quiet part of the zoo grounds where many tall trees and bushes were growing, Harry began speaking, she said, “Box, cousin, you are handy with electrical items and so forth, are you not?”
He nodded, wondering where the conversation was heading. “Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of, and even less interest in such things…”
Box nodded again, though for politeness this time.
“I want you to make me something – electrical…”
He was interested; Box loved working with electronics, and he asked, “What do you want me to make?”
Carefully considering her words, choosing enough to tell him what she wanted him to do, but not enough to give him any idea of what she had planned, Harry said, “See this?” Removing her wand from her pocket, Harry showed it to him.
Seeing it, the wand, Box was gob smacked, and he shouted, “A wand! It was a wand! I knew it! Like the one dad sometimes talks about!”
“Tell everyone, why don’t you?” Harry hissed, annoyed that she needed the services of so stupid a Muddle.
Reaching out, Box asked, “Can I touch it?”
“No, you cannot.”
His face falling, Box was devastated.
“You can touch it, later,” Harry promised. “For now, it’s best that you only look.”
Box stared lovingly at the brown wooden stick – the wand, “I can hardly believe that I am really looking at a magical wand,” he mused.
“Now that you have had a good look,” said Harry, returning the wand to the safety of her pocket, “can we get back to my request?”
Coughing excitedly, Box said, “Yes, yes, please go on.”
“So you see, Box,” said Harry, after she had finished explaining what she wanted him to do, “I want you to make me a wand, a wand that combines all of the magical qualities of my own…but with the added benefit of the Muddles’ electrical wisdom. God, I so hate using that word ‘wisdom’ in the same sentence as Muddle.” Studying his face, his expression, Harry tried to sense Box’s mood, his thoughts on his chances of pulling it off.
Box remained silent for many minutes, ruminating over the pros and cons of such an undertaking. From the electrical point of view, creating something akin to a wand would be a relatively simple matter, for a person such as him. It was the magical qualities that caused him the most worry, and how he might ever hope to combine the two, even more…
Box offered Harry his answer; speaking slowly, as slowly and carefully as Harry had so recently done, he said, “I think I can do it…”
Relieved, Harry smiled, and she was so pretty when she did this.
Box continued, “Having said that, I feel that I must tell you that it will not be an easy matter, by any stretch of the imagination…”
“But you can do it?” she said, still smiling radiantly.
“You can,” said Harry, again. “That’s all that matters.” Then quite uncharacteristically, she grabbed hold of Box and gave him a peck on the cheek.
Embarrassed, Box mumbled something about finding his mum and dad. Harry agreed, for having heard what she had wanted to hear, she now wanted to get on with it.
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