1 Chapter 1

Harry Potter pulled his blanket up over his ears, a rather pointless attempt to drown out the sounds from downstairs. On the other side of his bedroom door, he could hear the muffled clatter of drums and the whine of guitars; the latest attempts by Dudley's band ('Rat Poison') to produce something resembling music.

It was unlike Dudley to care much about anything — apart from eating food, and beating people up — so his forays into music were quite a surprise to Harry. What was not surprising, however, were the quality of Dudley's band's performances.

Earlier in the summer, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had been very supportive of Dudley's new passion for rock music. They had taken a short trip together down to Liverpool, to buy Dudley a drum kit and bass guitar. They had then marvelled, in the following days, at Dudley's brilliance at both instruments.

'Always knew it!' Uncle Vernon would exclaim, as Dudley thumped the snare and the tom-tom at random. 'Boy's a genius! Can do anything he sets his mind to!'

Aunt Petunia would openly weep whenever Dudley played his guitar; Harry would weep, too, but for very different reasons.

Now, however, it seemed that Harry's aunt and uncle had finally come to their senses. Although they'd never admit that Dudley's music was bad, they'd restricted Rat Poison's rehearsal to two nights a week.

The upshot of this was that Harry's eardrums had finally been given enough time to properly heal. The downside, however, was that Rat Poison's practice sessions these days were much louder than normal — Harry surmised this was due to Dudley's annoyance at not being allowed to play whenever he wanted.

Harry tossed and turned in bed — trying to block out Rat Poison's awful rendition of 'Love Can't Help You' — but finally fed up with trying to sleep, he got up and walked over to his cupboard by the door.

He opened it up, then dug his hand into the mess at the very bottom. After a few moment's searching, he pulled something out.

It was a small, cardboard shoebox, bent out of shape; inside it were a number of letters.

He laid all of them aside, admiring them one by one.

He picked one up — written on neat, cream parchment — and began to read:

Dear Harry,

How have you been? I do hope you're all right.

Ron told me he's meeting us at Diagon Alley next Wednesday. He said he's got a surprise for us, I wonder what it is?

I've also been thinking about your trouble with Rat Poison — your cousin's band — and I think I've come up with a solution. I was reading through our textbooks, and I found something in Wendelin's Charms (Grade 3). Try the Quietus spell, it's on page 185.

I've been in the Netherlands over the summer, on holiday with my parents, but we'll be back home by the time this letter reaches you.

Anyway, please do let me know if that spell ends up working. I tried it on an annoying pigeon yesterday, and it seemed to work fine for me.

Love from,

Hermione

Harry read the letter over a couple more times, then he picked up another piece of parchment which appeared to be smudged with blood.

Harry —How's it going mate.

I hope the Muggles aren't giving you too much grief. I've actually been having a bit of grief myself, to be honest – I'm in a Muggle hospital right now!

They stuck a few needles in me, but Bill turned up soon enough, so he used his wand and took them all straight out.

Oh – remind me, I've got a surprise for you when I get back. I got something in Guatemala and, well… I think it might be illegal.

Ron

Harry stared at Ron's letter with a puzzled expression.

Hermione had been writing Harry quite regularly, but the same could not be said for his best friend, Ron. This was the only letter Harry had received from him, all holidays, and it seemed he had not written Hermione much, either.

From this short letter, Harry gathered that Ron had been in Guatemala during the break… for what reason, however, it was unclear.

As Harry picked up a third piece of parchment, from the Hogwarts gamekeeper Hagrid, he heard a sudden knocking at the door.

'Out! Now!'

Harry groaned.

'Out!' cried the shrill voice of his Aunt Petunia.

She opened the door as he was standing up.

'We're packing away Dudley's things,' she informed Harry. 'The drums have to go into the garage.'

'Fine,' Harry muttered.

Aunt Petunia stared at the letters clutched in Harry's hand. 'What are those?' she asked pointedly.

'They're nothing,' said Harry quickly, tucking them behind his back.

Aunt Petunia appeared to be very curious about what Harry was trying to hide, however she was distracted by a loud, wailing sound that had begun to ring out from downstairs.

'Oh, dear,' she sighed, as she shook her head wearily. She turned back to Harry. 'Come down in two minutes,' she ordered. 'Poor Duddy just needs a bit of ice-cream, that's all ��� that'll cheer him up…'

Aunt Petunia then left Harry's room, slamming the door loudly behind her.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

He pulled out the letters again, read them one more time over, then placed them carefully back into the shoebox at the bottom of his cupboard.

Then, wanting some rest before he had to lug around Dudley's heavy drum set, Harry flumped onto his bed, spreading out his arms like a snow angel.

He really hated being home for the holidays. He wasn't allowed to go anywhere outside the house, and of course he couldn't see any of his friends. The only company he had was that of his cousin, Dudley… who was honestly not much company at all. He would much rather be at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he had just finished his second year of studies.

That was where Harry really belonged — in the wizarding world, rather than the Muggle one. That was the world of his parents, James and Lily, who were murdered by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort when Harry was just a baby.

Harry rolled over in bed, burying his face into the middle of his pillow.

The thuds of footsteps filled the air, and Harry's door opened again. 'What are you doing?' sighed Aunt Petunia. 'The drums won't carry themselves.'

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