July 20, 1996
I think it’s clear to everyone now that this is my last summer with the Dursleys. They seem resigned to the reality that they’ve lost control over me, that they can no longer contain my development as a magical person and shield me from the world in which I belong. Previously, if I’d ever told Uncle Vernon that I wanted to carb-load for a magical footrace to Platform 9 ¾, he would’ve smacked me upside the head and tossed me in the cupboard under the stairs. But yesterday, when I asked him to drive me to the store so I could pick up some pasta, he merely grunted and shuffled out to the car like a sad, defeated walrus. He even bought me the pasta! What a luxury it was to not have to cobble together table scraps while I washed the dishes last night.
He and Aunt Petunia are quiet at the breakfast table, only occasionally glancing at me to shoot me sullen and disapproving looks. Dudley is still sleeping; he rarely wakes before mid-afternoon in the summer. He leads a charmed life, that one. The headline on Uncle Vernon’s newspaper reads Strange Weather Pattern Brings Dense Fog, Relentless Mist to Western Suburbs. Note to self: wear a jacket.
Something seems off as soon as I slip out the front door of 4 Privet Drive. The air in Little Whinging lacks its usual bland quality. Our neighbors aren’t as rigidly robotic as they typically are when tending to their excessively landscaped gardens, or herding their children into the car for their weekend trip to the department store. Even they can sense that something evil is afoot, though I’m sure they lack a true understanding of the forces at play. This is obviously more than just a strange weather pattern.
Dementors. Dementors in Little Whinging. Again. I’m not even at the starting line yet, and already this year’s Road to Hogwarts race is no joke. I should’ve known there’d be trouble when Ludo Bagman came back from retirement to run it. I should’ve known that his decision to start the race within a kilometer of the Dursleys’ home was a calculated move to make my life more complicated.
The dementors aren’t yet within striking distance, but I know they’re close. I need to start running now. I head toward a nearby park, just beyond the elementary school where Dudley earned his first D-minus. There’s a trail that cuts through the one remaining forest in the area, and it should provide a nice short cut to the starting line. Hopefully I can shake off these dementors and get there safely.
Of course, that’s too much to ask. The fog in the forest is impossibly thick, and there’s an unnatural swirling that tells me it’s not just fog. There are dementors ahead of me and behind me. The only place that might be free of them is off the beaten path, so I duck into the deep brush. The crunching of fallen branches and dead leaves is sure to give me away, but what choice do I have? There’s nothing for me to do but to keep running for my life.
Stay tuned for more updates from Harry Potter as his journey to Platform 9 ¾ continues! Don’t forget to let us know how you’re progressing with your own adventure. Tag your updates with #RoadtoHogwarts2!
Last time we heard from Harry, he was surrounded by dementors in a forested area near the Dursleys’ home in Little Whinging. They were closing in on him from all directions, and it seemed like there was nowhere to turn. Will he be able to escape and get to the starting line before the big race begins?
I bolt from the path and into the thick brush, pushing aside branches as I plunge forward. I can’t turn back, but I have no idea what’s ahead of me. It’s nearly mid-morning but it feels like dusk; the fog is so thick that I can feel it gathering in my lungs. If I hesitate for even a moment, the dementors will overtake me.
I’ve been off the path for a few minutes now. Surely, I must be nearing the forest’s edge. Is that a clearing ahead of me, or is the swirling of the fog playing tricks on my eyes? Neither. It’s a bloody dementor!
I’m frozen in my tracks as it approaches. I try to turn away but it’s reeling me in, and I can feel the will to press on being sucked out of me. Where was I headed again? Oh, the race. The terrible, pointless race. Why would I even bother with that nonsense?
Suddenly, there’s a loud crack and a small figure emerges from a cluster of bushes.
“Your wand, Harry Potter!”
It’s all coming back to me. There’s a spell for situations like this.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” A blinding light bursts from my wand and takes the shape of a stag, causing the dementor to recoil.
“Dobby, where did you come from?”
“Dobby thought you might need some help getting out of this forest,” he says. He smiles and snaps his finger, and a strange contraption appears at my feet.
“What is this?” I ask.
“The muggles of the future call it a hoverboard, sir. It’s like a broom for your feet.”
I step on and the hoverboard stays afloat, gliding forward but remaining impossibly stable. I push off with one foot and suddenly I’m speeding forward, leaning to dodge trees.
“Keep going, Harry Potter! The race begins in fifteen minutes!”
“Thank you, Dobby! You are a true friend!”
Dobby bursts into grateful tears and wishes me well. It occurs to me that he might be capable of time travel, but I have no time to stop and ask questions. I reach the edge of the forest in a matter of seconds, and I’m tremendously relieved as the fog dissipates and gives way to sunshine. There’s a huge crowd of oddly dressed people gathered nearby. They must’ve put some kind of concealment charm up to hide us from the muggles. My anxiety begins to subside; these are my people, and I’m just a 50-mile road race away from home.
Of course, those warm feelings don’t last long: who should appear but Draco Malfoy, in his father’s Flying Lamborghini!
“Nice ride, Potter,” he snarls, revving his engine. “Shall we see how fast it goes?”
Walk away. Just walk away. I step off the hoverboard and walk toward the crowd, trying hard to look casual.
“What are you, chicken?” taunts Malfoy.
“Nobody... calls me chicken.” Suddenly I’m on the hoverboard, racing away from the starting line and toward a crowded square in the center of town. Malfoy laughs gleefully; I’ve taken his bait, and I’m also riding a frigging hoverboard so I’m sure he understands his advantage. I manage to reach the square before he does, but I know he’ll catch up fast if I don’t find a way to pick up speed. I nearly collide with the back of a sedan; I grab onto its bumper and hang on for dear life, letting it pull me through town.
Dare I even look back? I can’t help it. There he is, cruising behind me like it’s no big deal, waiting for me to let go. I need an escape plan. I look ahead, and there it is: a large utility truck, full of some sort of brown material. I let go of the sedan and glide back to the front of Malfoy’s car, making myself as big as possible to obscure the truck from his view. He jolts the wheel and I almost lose my balance. I leap from the board onto the Lamborghini’s hood, making sure to stomp hard so I leave a nice dent. Somehow, I manage to run up the windshield and over the top of the car before jumping off the back. I hit the pavement hard and tumble.
There’s a loud screech of tires and then a thunderous crash as Malfoy’s car collides with the truck. I turn back and see that the contents have unloaded into Malfoy’s car through the now extremely busted windshield.
“Manure,” says Malfoy. “I hate manure!”
When we last heard from Harry, he had just escaped Draco Malfoy, who had arrived at the race in his father’s Flying Lamborghini looking for a fight. Thankfully, Harry was able to use a gift from Dobby -- a surprisingly non-magical muggle contraption called a hoverboard -- to elude Draco and send him careening into a utility truck full of manure. We now join Harry at the beginning of his 50-mile race to Platform 9 ¾!
Thank goodness for Dobby. His rather timely gift saved the day. I feel tremendously relieved to have shaken off Draco, but something tells me he’ll be back soon to cause more trouble. He’s like a cockroach in that regard -- you can never quite get rid of him.
I return to the starting line and see that the race has already begun without me, so I’ve no choice but to start running. The course takes us through streets that might as well be Privet Drive: boring, generic, repetitive, and devoid of any character or liveliness whatsoever. I’m not sure why they thought this route was a good idea, because we’re attracting a fair bit of attention from the Muggles.
“Harry…” A breathless but familiar voice emerges from the din of feet pounding pavement.
He sidles up to me and offers me a tired but goofy smile. “Helluva race. Do you know if they’ll have water along the way? I could drink the Great Lake right now.”
“Ron, it is SO GOOD to see you. You’ll never believe what happened to me on my way here.”
“Uhh, you’re Harry Potter, I’d be shocked if something ridiculous and dramatic didn’t happen to you.”
He glances toward my running shoes and I can sense a glimmer of envy in his eyes. I look down to his feet and see that he’s wearing a ratty old pair of sneakers.
“Secondhand tennis shoes, courtesy of an anonymous Muggle,” he says. “My father became obsessed with the function of tennis shoes and the science behind them. Performed a months-long study on them, and now we have piles of tennis shoes inhabiting every corner of the Burrow.”
“Fascinating, I’m sure,” I say, returning my focus to the course ahead. The houses have become much less frequent, and cookie-cutter homes have been replaced with farms and fields. Finally, I spot a water stand up ahead, glowing in the sun like a beacon.
The witch running the water stand seems jittery as we grab our cups and gulp down the liquid. She watches us finish our drinks and then bursts out into a cackle. She quickly muffles her laugh and then croaks, “Off you go!”
“That was strange,” I say to Ron as we exit the stand and begin to trot.
My legs suddenly give out beneath me. I’ve lost control of them, and Ron’s gone wobbly too. We strain to move forward, but it’s almost as if our legs have been rendered into jelly. We give up and hit the ground.
“I’ve heard of the Jelly Legs Curse, but I didn’t realize there was a potion that did the same thing,” Ron says.
What are we going to do now? Several other runners appear to have been suckered by the curiously cackling water stand witch, as jelly-legged racers begin to pile up just a few meters away from the stand.
“STOP!” A witch with bushy brown hair is running toward the water stand, frantically waving her arms. “STOP! DON’T DRINK THE WATER!”
“Hermione,” Ron says, his exasperated expression suddenly softening into relief. “She’ll know what to do.”
“Harry, Ron. You drank the potion.” She rolls her eyes. “Thankfully, I remembered my copy of Easy Antidotes for Poisons and Dark Potions. I don’t suppose either of you thought to bring it?”
“How could we have forgotten?” I ask, causing Ron to snort. She ignores this and plops down beside us, opening the book.
“Ah, of course,” Hermione says after a flipping through some pages. “The antidote will take just a few moments to prepare. I think I can find everything I need in that forested area across the way.”
“That’s super, but who poisoned our water?” says Ron.
“You haven’t heard?” asks Hermione, incredulously. “There was a late entrant into the race, and he brought his minions with him.”
“It can’t be,” I say, feeling a slight tingle on my forehead.
Hermione nods. “Apparently the Death Eaters are manning all the water stations now, replacing the water with prank potions. You-Know-Who had a very late start and this is how he’s decided to catch up!”
“Hermione, can you get the antidote before he catches up to us?” asks Ron.
“I think so,” she says, standing up and gathering her things. “Sit tight, boys. I’ll be back as soon as humanly possible.”
Will Hermione return in time with the antidote, or will The Dark Lord make up ground and catch Harry and Ron in their immobilized state? Find out in our next exciting update!