A Peck of Owls (OP)

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Petunia and the owl that delivered the letter that was adressed to her.

A Peck of Owls is the second chapter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

"'S'up, Figgy?"

This chapter begins with Harry Potter's reaction to Arabella Figg's last line in Dudley Demented: a dumbfounded "What?" is all he can manage to utter when confronted with the fact that his loony neighbour knows what Dementors are.

Mrs. Figg thoroughly ignores him, and continues rambling about Mundungus Fletcher, who abandoned his post to go see someone about a batch of cauldrons that fell off the back of a broom, and the Dementors that attacked Harry.

She does explain to him that she's a Squib, not a witch. Meanwhile, Harry concludes that this Mundungus is the wizard who Disapparated from the front of number four, Privet Drive. Mrs. Figg confirms this, and points out that she had stationed Mr. Tibbles under a car, just in case, and that's how she found out Fletcher had left. Harry, somewhat slow on the uptake, is stunned at her mention of Albus Dumbledore ("Of course I know Dumbledore, who doesn't know Dumbledore?").

Arabella tries to get Dudley Dursley to get up off the floor, to no avail; he remains, trembling and ashen-faced, on the ground. Harry ends up having to drag his massive cousin by heaving Dudley's arm around his shoulders and pulling him along. Mrs. Figg instructs the boy not to let go of his wand as well, despite the unexpected appearance of Mr. Prentice—one of the Muggles who live nearby—down the street.

They keep walking, and Mrs. Figg explains that she never told Harry about her being a Squib on Dumbledore's orders: she had to keep an eye on the boy without saying anything. She also apologises for treating him miserably (PS2), but Vernon and Petunia would not have allowed Harry to come visit if they knew he enjoyed it.

Arabella is very nervous at the prospect of not having any way of informing Dumbledore at once. Harry offers Hedwig, but she thinks that would take too long. "But I was getting rid of Dementors, I had to use magic — they're going to be more worried about what Dementors were doing floating around Wisteria Walk, surely?" Harry asks. "Oh, my dear, I wish it were so, but I'm afraid — MUNDUNGUS FLETCHER, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!"

As if on cue, Mundungus Apparates, bringing with him the characteristic strong odour of alcohol and stale tobacco. He is a squat, unshaven man with long, straggly ginger hair and bloodshot, baggy eyes. He's holding an Invisibility Cloak.

"'S'up, Figgy?" he says, astonished. "What 'appened to staying undercover?"

Arabella reacts in a predictably furious way, blaming him entirely for the incident and calling him all sorts of insults (such as 'worthless pile of bat droppings'). He attempts to apologise, but she gives him no opportunity to do so, and starts beating him with her string bag of cat food cans. After a moment, he Disapparates to go inform Dumbledore.

She continues the way to Number Four with Harry and Dudley, mentioning that Dumbledore's instructions were to keep Harry from doing magic at all costs. The boy soon realises that Albus has had him followed all summer.

They arrive at the Dursleys', and Arabella leaves before Harry can question her as to the current happenings regarding Dumbledore. He rings the bell. Petunia opens the door, and panics at the sight of Dudley, who vomits on the doormat. Vernon comes to aid her bring him inside.

They both ignore Harry, which doesn't bother him in the least. He almost makes it to the stairs when Dudley utters his first word since he entered the house: "Him.".

Vernon bellows for Harry to join them, and he obliges. Harry tries to explain that he did nothing to his cousin; the Dursleys, of course, don't take his word over Dudley's.

The first owl

When Harry is about to explain that Dementors were responsible for the evening's events, a screech owl enters via the kitchen window; it drops the envelope from its beak by Harry's feet and leaves.

Vernon is furious at the presence of an owl in his house, and shuts the window. Harry doesn't pay attention to this; he is too busy being anxious over the letter in his hands. Signed by Mafalda Hopkirk of the Improper Use of Magic Office, it reads:

"Dear Mr Potter,

"We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle.

"The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand.

"As you have already received an official warning for a previous offence under Section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m. on the twelfth of August."

Harry tries to absorb the enormity of that fact: he is expelled from Hogwarts. He is never going back to school. His brain slowly starts working again, and he realises he has to run away immediately.

Threatening Vernon with his wand, Harry tells him that Hogwarts has expelled him; he can use magic if he likes now.

The second owl

Harry orders Vernon to get out of the way once more, but he is interrupted by the loud arrival of the second owl, a ruffled-looking barn owl waiting outside on the kitchen sill after having crashed into the closed window. The owl sticks out its leg, and Harry gets the roll of parchment tied to it.

The letter was clearly written in a hurry: "Harry – Dumbledore's just arrived at the Ministry and he's trying to sort it all out. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE'S HOUSE. DO NOT DO ANY MORE MAGIC. DO NOT SURRENDER YOUR WAND. – Arthur Weasley."

This helps calm Harry down a bit, and then he panics: how could he avoid surrendering his wand, if not by magic? In any case, he decides to trust Arthur and Dumbledore, and stays in Number Four.

The Dursleys are stunned by his change of mind. Harry explains who had sent the two owls, reasoning that it is easier to answer their questions than to have Uncle Vernon's yells preventing the sounds of the arrival of the Ministry representatives from reaching his ears.

Vernon triumphantly gets Harry to admit that he did magic. Dudley is now rather responsive, and describes to his parents the effects that the Dementors had on him. He does not, however, share with them the memory that the creatures' presence made him relive.

Harry tries to explain that Dementors were responsible for Dudley's current shaken state.

"And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?" Vernon asks irritably. To which, most unexpectedly, Aunt Petunia replies, "They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban."

Harry is as shocked to hear her share this bit of information as the other Dursleys. "I heard — that awful boy — telling her about them — years ago," she explains. This is the second time that Harry has heard Aunt Petunia mention her sister (the first was when she called Lily a freak – PS4).

Now having confirmation from an extremely reliable source, Vernon has no choice but to accept that Dementors exist.

The third owl

The third owl enters through the window Harry just opened and landed with a great deal of noise on the kitchen table, scaring the three Dursleys to jump with fright. This owl carries an official-looking envelope with its beak.

Vernon closes the window once more, while Harry reads another letter from Mafalda Hopkirk: this one schedules a hearing for August 12, suspending all decisions regarding his status as both a Hogwarts student and a wizard until then.

Harry calms down a tad, but not much; everything now hung on the hearing. He shares this information with the Dursleys; Vernon nastily voices his hopes that Harry will be sentenced to something cruel ("Do you lot have the death penalty?").

The boy attempts to leave to his room, but Vernon commands him to sit back down and explain what happened to Dudley. Harry yells, "FINE!"; he is so angry that red and gold sparks shoot out of his wand, terrifying his relatives. He quickly describes the night's events. It is worth noting that Petunia didn't know about the Kiss. The idea of Dudley losing his soul horrifies her.

The fourth owl

Vernon asks why Dudley wasn't Kissed; Harry is about to reply when another owl enters through the kitchen fireplace. Vernon is, of course, furious, and pulls several hairs out of his moustache while yelling (something he hadn't done in a long time – PS3).

Harry's hopes that the letter will be from Dumbledore, explaining everything, are destroyed when he recognises Sirius' handwriting: "Arthur has just told us what's happened. Don't leave the house again, whatever you do."

Harry is furious at the treatment he's receiving—as if he'd misbehaved, and not fought two Dementors single-handedly. He crumples Sirius' letter and answers more of Uncle Vernon's questions regarding the night's events. He explains that he did the Patronus Charm to get rid of the Dementors.

Harry and Vernon follow roughly the same trail of thought: Dementors guard Azkaban; Azkaban in the wizard prison; Harry is the only wizard for miles; they had obviously come for Harry. The boy concludes that the creatures had, according to Dumbledore's prediction in GF36, joined with Voldemort. Vernon, on the other hand, thinks that they have come to arrest his nephew.

"He must have sent them." Harry says, and clarifies, "Lord Voldemort."

He duly notes that the Dursleys, unlike most wizards, are unaffected by that name, despite flinching at the sound of anything remotely wizard-like.

Vernon recognises the name; Harry duly confirms that Voldemort was the wizard who killed his parents. Vernon points out that Hagrid told them the Dark Lord was gone; the boy replies that he is back.

Strangely enough, Aunt Petunia seems to grasp the importance of this fact. "Back?" she whispers, staring at Harry with an immense amount of fear. He has never before truly appreciated the fact that Petunia is, indeed, his mother's sister, but he does now. "Yes," he replies. "He came back a month ago. I saw him."

Vernon quickly adds up the facts to reach one conclusion: Harry has to leave the house, he bellows furiously, letting out years of accumulated anger.

"OUT! OUT! I should've done this years ago! Owls treating the place like a rest home, puddings exploding (CS2), half the lounge destroyed (GF4), Dudley's tail (PS4), Marge bobbing around on the ceiling (PA2) and that flying Ford Anglia (CS3)— OUT! OUT! You've had it! You're history! You're not staying here if some loony's after you, you're not endangering my wife and son, you're not bringing trouble down on us. It you're going the same way as your useless parents, I've had it! OUT!"

Hary doesn't move, remembering Arthur and Sirius' letters, which told him in no uncertain terms not to leave the house.

The fifth owl

The fifth owl is in such a hurry that it hits the floor under the chimney before delivering the envelope it carries. Harry tries to catch the letter, but Petunia beats him to it. He points out that they would all hear the contents of the letter anyway: it is a Howler.

She then notices it is addressed to her. The red envelope begins to smoke.

Petunia's trembling hands don't open the envelope in time, and it bursts into flames; she drops it with a scream. A loud and terrible voice echoes in the kitchen, saying, "Remember my last, Petunia."

While the envelope smoulders into ash, she sinks into the chair beside her son, hiding her face in her hands. Vernon and Dudley bewildered, and so is Harry.

She raises her head after a while, still trembling, and announces that Harry will have to stay. Petunia quickly conjures a half-hearted reason for her statement (the neighbours would ask awkward questions), and sends the boy to his room. He doesn't budge, and presses her for answers regarding who sent the Howler.

Petunia doesn't reply, and Vernon angrily sends Harry up to the room.

Trivia

  • A few interesting wizarding expressions are revealed in this chapter, such as "It's no good crying over spilt potion", "we might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg" and "the cat's among the pixies now."
  • A great deal of humour in this chapter derives from the different names Vernon calls Dementors, much like his "Voldything" in this chapter: ""Dementy-whatsits", "Demenders", "Dementoids", "Demembers" and "Dismembers".


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
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