But at that precise moment a screech owl swooped in through the kitchen window. Narrowly missing the top of Uncle Vernon's head, it soared across the kitchen, dropped the large parchment envelope it was carrying in its beak at Harry's feet, turned gracefully, the tips of its wings just brushing the top of the fridge, then zoomed outside again and off across the garden.
The Dursleys goggled at him for a few seconds, then Aunt Petunia said, 'You're a nasty little liar. What are all those - ' she, too, lowered her voice so that Harry had to lip-read the next word, ' - owls doing if they're not bringing you news?'
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'Get - off - me!' Harry gasped. For a few seconds they struggled, Harry pulling at his uncle's sausage-like fingers with his left hand, his right maintaining a firm grip on his raised wand; then, as the pain in the top of Harry's head gave a particularly nasty throb, Uncle Vernon yelped and released Harry as though he had received an electric shock. Some invisible force seemed to have surged through his nephew, making him impossible to hold.
'Wait!' Harry shouted after her. He had a million questions to ask anyone who was in contact with Dumbledore; but within seconds Mrs Figg was swallowed by the darkness. Scowling, Harry readjusted Dudley on his shoulder and made his slow, painful way up number four's garden path.
'If you don't get out of the way I'm going to jinx you,' said Harry, raising the wand.
'I've got an owl, you can borrow her.' Harry groaned, wondering whether his spine was going to snap under Dudley's weight.
'See ya, Big D!'
An enormous silver stag erupted from the tip of Harry's wand; it's antlers caught the Dementor in the place where the heart should have been; it was thrown backwards, weightless as darkness, and as the stag charged, the Dementor swooped away, bat-like and defeated.
- CHAPTER TWO -
Harry vaulted over the locked park gate and set off across the parched grass. The park was as empty as the surrounding streets. When he reached the swings he sank on to the only one that Dudley and his friends had not yet managed to break, coiled one arm around the chain and stared moodily at the ground. He would not be able to hide in the Dursleys' flowerbed again. Tomorrow, he would have to think of some fresh way of listening to the news. In the meantime, he had nothing to look forward to but another restless, disturbed night, because even when he escaped the nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about long dark corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors, which he supposed had something to do with the trapped feeling he had when he was awake. Often the old scar on his forehead prickled uncomfortably, but he did not fool himself that Ron or Hermione or Sirius would find that very interesting any more. In the past, his scar hurting had warned that Voldemort was getting stronger again, but now that Voldemort was back they would probably remind him that its regular irritation was only to be expected . . . nothing to worry about . . . old news . . .
With a feeling of mingled dread and anger, Harry removed his foot slowly from the stair and turned to follow the Dursleys.
'Not as stupid as you look, are you, Dud? But I s'pose, if you were, you wouldn't be able to walk and talk at the same time.'
'At the Polkisses',' said Aunt Petunia fondly. 'He's got so many little friends, he's so popular . . .'
'And you off buying stolen cauldrons! Didn't I tell you not to go? Didn't I?'
'You're not allowed to use it outside that madhouse you call a school!'
'What are you going to do?' asked Harry quickly.
Harry closed his eyes against the now blazing evening sky as the newsreader said, '- and finally, Bungy the budgie has found a novel way of keeping cool this summer. Bungy, who lives at the Five Feathers in Barnsley, has learned to water ski! Mary Dorkins went to find out more.'
'Point it somewhere else!'