Harry couldn’t believe it — he was free.
He rolled down the window, the night air whipping his hair, and looked back at the shrinking rooftops of Privet Drive.
Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley were all hanging, dumbstruck, out of Harry’s window.
“See you next summer!” Harry yelled.
The Weasleys roared with laughter and Harry settled back in his seat, grinning from ear to ear.
“Let Hedwig out,” he told Ron.
“She can fly behind us.
She hasn’t had a chance to stretch her wings for ages.”
George handed the hairpin to Ron and, a moment later, Hedwig soared joyfully out of the window to glide alongside them like a ghost.
“So — what’s the story, Harry?” said Ron impatiently. “What’s been happening?”
Harry told them all about Dobby, the warning he’d given Harry and the fiasco of the violet pudding.
There was a long, shocked silence when he had finished.
“Very fishy,” said Fred finally.
“Definitely dodgy,” agreed George.
“So he wouldn’t even tell you who’s supposed to be plotting all this stuff?”
“I don’t think he could,” said Harry.
“I told you, every time he got close to letting something slip, he started banging his head against the wall.”
He saw Fred and George look at each other.
“What, you think he was lying to me?” said Harry.
“Well,” said Fred, “put it this way — house-elves have got powerful magic of their own, but they can’t usually use it without their master’s permission.
I reckon old Dobby was sent to stop you coming back to Hogwarts.
Someone’s idea of a joke.
Can you think of anyone at school with a grudge against you?”
“Yes,” said Harry and Ron together, instantly.
“Draco Malfoy,” Harry explained. “He hates me.”
“Draco Malfoy?” said George, turning around.
“Not Lucius Malfoy’s son?”
“Must be, it’s not a very common name, is it?” said Harry. “Why?”
“I’ve heard Dad talking about him,” said George.
“He was a big supporter of You-Know-Who.”
“And when You-Know-Who disappeared,” said Fred, craning around to look at Harry,
“Lucius Malfoy came back saying he’d never meant any of it. Load of dung —
Dad reckons he was right in You-Know-Who’s inner circle.”
Harry had heard these rumors about Malfoy’s family before, and they didn’t surprise him at all.
Malfoy made Dudley Dursley look like a kind, thoughtful, and sensitive boy.
“I don’t know whether the Malfoys own a house-elf. . . .” said Harry.
“Well, whoever owns him will be an old wizarding family, and they’ll be rich,” said Fred.
“Yeah, Mum’s always wishing we had a house-elf to do the ironing,” said George.
“But all we’ve got is a lousy old ghoul in the attic and gnomes all over the garden.
“可是我们只有阁楼上那个讨厌的食尸鬼和满花园的地精。House-elves come with big old manors and castles and places like that;
you wouldn’t catch one in our house. . . .”
Harry was silent. Judging by the fact that Draco Malfoy usually had the best of everything,
his family was rolling in wizard gold; he could just see Malfoy strutting around a large manor house.
Sending the family servant to stop Harry from going back to Hogwarts also sounded exactly like the sort of thing Malfoy would do.
Had Harry been stupid to take Dobby seriously?
“I’m glad we came to get you, anyway,” said Ron.
“I was getting really worried when you didn’t answer any of my letters.
I thought it was Errol’s fault at first —”
“Our owl. He’s ancient.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’d collapsed on a delivery.
So then I tried to borrow Hermes —”
“Who?” “The owl Mum and Dad bought Percy when he was made prefect,” said Fred from the front.
“But Percy wouldn’t lend him to me,” said Ron. “Said he needed him.”
“Percy’s been acting very oddly this summer,” said George, frowning.
“And he has been sending a lot of letters and spending a load of time shut up in his room. . . .
I mean, there’s only so many times you can polish a prefect badge. . . .
You’re driving too far west, Fred,” he added, pointing at a compass on the dashboard.
Fred twiddled the steering wheel.