In Chapter 1 of Order of the Phoenix, we see just how Harry has fared at Privet Drive after the disastrous end to his fourth year at Hogwarts. Let’s go!
Here we are, starting the fifth book of the Harry Potter series! To be quite honest, when I first started doing this, I never thought I would actually keep up with it. And it hasn’t been easy. I’ve fallen off quite a few times, but kept going. Eventually. So let’s get started.
Remember at the end of Goblet of Fire how much I worried about Harry’s mental state? Yeah. Still very much worried about him here. We open up to Harry laying on the ground hiding in the Dursleys’ flower bushes. He does this so he can listen in on their news program to try and see if anything unusual has happened that might point to Voldemort. Vernon and Petunia don’t like when Harry tries to come down and watch the news; they think it’s unnatural for a boy his age.
“Watching the news . . . ” he said scathingly. “I’d like to know what he’s really up to. As if a normal boy cares what’s on the news — Dudley hasn’t got a clue what’s going on, doubt he knows who the Prime Minister is! Anyway, it’s not as if there’d be anything about his lot on our news –“
I do agree that it does seem a bit odd for a fifteen year old boy to want to watch the news, but I can’t imagine being this proud of the fact that my kid is really dumb. Also, Vernon and Petunia think that Dudley is very well liked in the neighborhood, when really Dudley is going around with his little gang of punks causing trouble.
The news comes on and talks about very mundane things, like a workers strike in Spain. Harry can relax a little bit. With Voldemort, he’s expecting disasters: disappearances, strange accidents, something major enough to be breaking news. He can’t understand why nothing has happened yet when Voldemort returned months ago.
A loud cracking sound fills the air and Harry immediately jumps up and draws his wand. The sound also startles Petunia, who drops some plates, and Vernon, who throws the window open and clocks Harry in the head. Other neighbors notice, and Vernon tries to laugh it off as a car backfiring to them before turning his anger to Harry. They give him a bunch of grief about lurking under their window, still not believing that he’s genuinely interested in listening to the news.
The thing is though, that cracking noise sounded like someone Apparating. If someone from the wizarding world had been nearby, Harry didn’t know why they hadn’t said something. He’s been trying to find out any information at all about what’s going on, even waking up early to get the newspaper every day. Was it all for nothing.
Perhaps it hadn’t been a magical sound after all. Perhaps he was so desperate for the tiniest sign of contact from the world to which he belonged that he was simply overreacting to perfectly ordinary noises. Could he be sure it hadn’t been the sound of something breaking inside a neighbor’s house?
This is the worst thing. After all the traumatic experience of the end of the last school year, Harry feels abandoned now by the very people he wants to see. He’s gotten letters from Ron and Hermione, but they aren’t able to tell him much. They have hinted that they will see him soon, so he has that. He’s heard from Sirius too, but Sirius’s letters only tell him to behave himself and be careful. It all just makes him so angry. Harry has been the one who has had to deal with Voldemort face to face, deal with his scar hurting constantly . . . and then be completely left out of anything that’s happening.
He’s also had reoccurring nightmares about Cedric dying in front of him. So that’s healthy.
Harry sits down in an old playground and it isn’t long before Dudley and his friends turn up. Dudley has been going through some changes himself. He now boxes at school and is not quite as chubby as he used to be. Now he’s just big and mean. All the kids in the neighborhood are scared of him. Harry hopes that he comes over and starts something. It would be funny to see Dudley try to act tough when deep down he’s still scared of Harry and magic in general.
Still, Harry is supposed to be back home by the time Dudley is, so he reluctantly trails behind them. After Dudley’s friends leave (they call him “Big D” of all things), Harry starts poking fun at Dudley. He’s angry and Dudley is the perfect one to take it out on. He makes fun of all the nicknames Petunia has for Dudley, the fact that he only beats up little kids. Dudley turns it around though and says that Harry is only confident because he has his wand, and then makes fun of Harry for talking in his sleep.
“I heard you last night,” said Dudley breathlessly. “Talking in your sleep. Moaning . . .”
Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter then adopted a high-pitched, whimpering voice. “‘Don’t kill Cedric! Don’t kill Cedric!’ Who’s Cedric — your boyfriend?”
“Dad! Help me, Dad! He’s going to kill me, Dad! Boo-hoo!”
Dudley has definitely crossed a line here, even if he doesn’t realize it. Harry doesn’t care. He draws his wand and is about to use it. He tells Dudley to never talk to him like that ever again. As they argue, the air starts to get cold and dark. Dudley is afraid that Harry has used magic, and Harry actually worries that he may have accidentally done something. Then he realizes what this all feels like: dementors. Dudley can’t see, but is panicking and for good reason. There are two dementors right there in the alley with them. Harry is able to dispatch them with his Patronus, but he can’t believe it. Why would dementors be here in Little Whinging?
Dudley is not doing well. He wasn’t kissed by the dementor, but he is definitely suffering from the effects of exposure to one. Harry hears someone else come up and turns to see their old neighbor, Mrs. Figg, run up to them. Harry tries to hide his wand, but that is unnecessary.
“Don’t put it away, idiot boy!” she shrieked. “What if there are more of them around? Oh, I’m going to kill Mundungus Fletcher!”
Hmmm. So one of Harry’s neighbors has been a witch this entire time! And who is Mundungus Fletcher? See you next time for Chapter 2!