It was Quirrell. "You!" gasped Harry. Quirrell smiled. His face wasn't twitching at all. "Me," he said calmly. "I wondered whether I'd be meeting youhere, Potter." "But I thought -- Snape --" "Severus?" Quirrell laughed, and it wasn't his usual quiveringtreble, either, but cold and sharp. "Yes, Severus does seem thetype, doesn't he? So useful to have him swooping around like anovergrown bat. Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stutteringP-Professor Quirrell?" Harry couldn't take it in. This couldn't be true, it couldn't. "But Snape tried to kill me!" "No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Grangeraccidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape atthat Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Anotherfew seconds and I'd have got you off that broom. I'd have managedit before then if Snape hadn't been muttering a countercurse,trying to save you." "Snape was trying to save me?" "Of course," said Quirrell coolly. "\Why do you think he wantedto referee your next match? He was trying to make sure I didn't doit again. Funny, really... he needn't have bothered. I couldn't doanything with Dumbledore watching. All the other teachers thoughtSnape was trying to stop Gryffindor from winning, he did makehimself unpopular... and what a waste of time, when after all that,I'm going to kill you tonight." Quirrell snapped his fingers. Ropes sprang out of thin air andwrapped themselves tightly around Harry. "You're too nosy to live, Potter. Scurrying around the schoolon Halloween like that, for all I knew you'd seen me coming to lookat what was guarding the Stone." "You let the troll in?" "Certainly. I have a special gift with trolls -- you must haveseen what I did to the one in the chamber back there? Unfortunately,while everyone else was running around looking for it, Snape, whoalready suspected me, went straight to the third floor to head meoff -- and not only did my troll fail to beat you to death, thatthree-headed dog didn't even manage to bite Snape's leg off properly. "Now, wait quietly, Potter. I need to examine this interestingmirror. It was only then that Harry realized what was standing behindQuirrell. It was the Mirror of Erised. "This mirror is the key to finding the Stone," Quirrell murmured,tapping his way around the frame. "Trust Dumbledore to come up withsomething like this... but he's in London... I'll be far away bythe time he gets back...." All Harry could think of doing was to keep Quirrell talkingand stop him from concentrating on the mirror. "I saw you and Snape in the forest --" he blurted out. "Yes," said Quirrell idly, walking around the mirror to lookat the back. "He was on to me by that time, trying to find outhow far I'd got. He suspected me all along. Tried to frighten me -as though he could, when I had Lord Voldemort on my side...." Quirrell came back out from behind the mirror and stared hungrilyinto it. "I see the Stone... I'm presenting it to my master... but whereis it?" Harry struggled against the ropes binding him, but they didn'tgive. He had to keep Quirrell from giving his whole attention tothe mirror. "But Snape always seemed to hate me so much." "Oh, he does," said Quirrell casually, "heavens, yes. He wasat Hogwarts with your father, didn't you know? They loathed eachother. But he never wanted you dead." "But I heard you a few days ago, sobbing -- I thought Snapewas threatening you...." For the first time, a spasm of fear flitted across Quirrell'sface. "Sometimes," he said, "I find it hard to follow my master'sinstructions -- he is a great wizard and I am weak --" "You mean he was there in the classroom with you?" Harry gasped. "He is with me wherever I go," said Quirrell quietly. "I met himwhen I traveled around the world. A foolish young man I was then,full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showedme how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power,and those too weak to seek it.... Since then, I have served himfaithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to bevery hard on me." Quirrell shivered suddenly. "He does not forgivemistakes easily. When I failed to steal the stone from Gringotts,he was most displeased. He punished me... decided he would have tokeep a closer watch on me...." Quirrell's voice trailed away. Harry was remembering his trip toDiagon Alley -how could he have been so stupid? He'd seen Quirrellthere that very day, shaken hands with him in the Leaky Cauldron. Quirrell cursed under his breath. "I don't understand... is the Stone inside the mirror? ShouldI break it?" Harry's mind was racing. What I want more than anything else in the world at the moment,he thought, is to find the Stone before Quirrell does. So if Ilook in the mirror, I should see myseff finding it -- which meansI'll see where it's hidden! But how can I look without Quirrellrealizing what I'm up to? He tried to edge to the left, to get in front of the glasswithout Quirrell noticing, but the ropes around his ankles weretoo tight: he tripped and fell over. Quirrell ignored him. He wasstill talking to himself. "What does this mirror do? How does itwork? Help me, Master!" And to Harry's horror, a voice answered, and the voice seemedto come from Quirrell himself "Use the boy... Use the boy..." Quirrell rounded on Harry. "Yes -- Potter -- come here." He clapped his hands once, and the ropes binding Harry felloff. Harry got slowly to his feet. "Come here," Quirrell repeated. "Look in the mirror and tellme what you see." Harry walked toward him. I must lie, he thought desperately. I must look and lie aboutwhat I see, that's all. Quirrell moved close behind him. Harry breathed in the funnysmell that seemed to come from Quirrell's turban. He closed his eyes,stepped in front of the mirror, and opened them again. He saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. Buta moment later, the reflection smiled at him. It put its handinto its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. It winked andput the Stone back in its pocket -- and as it did so, Harry feltsomething heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow -- incredibly --he'd gotten the Stone. "Well?" said Quirrell impatiently. "What do you see?" Harry screwed up his courage. "I see myself shaking hands with Dumbledore," he invented. "I --I've won the house cup for Gryffindor." Quirrell cursed again. "Get out of the way," he said. As Harry moved aside, he feltthe Sorcerer's Stone against his leg. Dare he make a break for it? But he hadn't walked five paces before a high voice spoke,though Quirrell wasn't moving his lips. "He lies... He lies..." "Potter, come back here!" Quirrell shouted. "Tell me thetruth! What did you just see?" The high voice spoke again. "Let me speak to him... face-to-face..." "Master, you are not strong enough!" "I have strength enough... for this...." Harry felt as if Devil's Snare was rooting him to the spot. Hecouldn't move a muscle. Petrified, he watched as Quirrell reachedup and began to unwrap his turban. What was going on? The turbanfell away. Quirrell's head looked strangely small without it. Thenhe turned slowly on the spot. Harry would have screamed, but he couldn't make a sound. Wherethere should have been a back to Quirrell's head, there was a face,the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white withglaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake. "Harry Potter..." it whispered. Harry tried to take a step backward but his legs wouldn't move. "See what I have become?" the face said. "Mere shadow andvapor ... I have form only when I can share another's body... butthere have always been those willing to let me into their hearts andminds.... Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks... yousaw faithful Quirrell drinking it for me in the forest... and onceI have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of myown.... Now... why don't you give me that Stone in your pocket?" So he knew. The feeling suddenly surged back into Harry'slegs. He stumbled backward. "Don't be a fool," snarled the face. "Better save your own lifeand join me... or you'll meet the same end as your parents.... Theydied begging me for mercy..." "LIAR!" Harry shouted suddenly. Quirrell was walking backward at him, so that Voldemort couldstill see him. The evil face was now smiling. "How touching..." it hissed. "I always value bravery... Yes,boy, your parents were brave.... I killed your father first;and he put up a courageous fight... but your mother needn't havedied... she was trying to protect you.... Now give me the Stone,unless you want her to have died in vain." "NEVER!" Harry sprang toward the flame door, but Voldemort screamed "SEIZEHIM!" and the next second, Harry felt Quirrell's hand close on hiswrist. At once, a needle-sharp pain seared across Harry's scar;his head felt as though it was about to split in two; he yelled,struggling with all his might, and to his surprise, Quirrell let goof him. The pain in his head lessened -- he looked around wildly tosee where Quirrell had gone, and saw him hunched in pain, lookingat his fingers -- they were blistering before his eyes. "Seize him! SEIZE HIM!" shrieked Voldemort again, and Quirrelllunged, knocking Harry clean off his feet' landing on top of him,both hands around Harry's neck -- Harry's scar was almost blindinghim with pain, yet he could see Quirrell howling in agony. "Master, I cannot hold him -- my hands -- my hands!" And Quirrell, though pinning Harry to the ground with his knees,let go of his neck and stared, bewildered, at his own palms --Harry could see they looked burned, raw, red, and shiny. "Then kill him, fool, and be done!" screeched Voldemort. Quirrell raised his hand to perform a deadly curse, but Harry,by instinct, reached up and grabbed Quirrell's face -- "AAAARGH!" Quirrell rolled off him, his face blistering, too, and thenHarry knew: Quirrell couldn't touch his bare skin, not withoutsuffering terrible pain -- his only chance was to keep hold ofQuirrell, keep him in enough pain to stop him from doing a curse. Harry jumped to his feet, caught Quirrell by the arm, and hungon as tight as he could. Quirrell screamed and tried to throw Harryoff -- the pain in Harry's head was building -- he couldn't see -- hecould only hear Quirrell's terrible shrieks and Voldemort's yells of,"KILL HIM! KILL HIM!" and other voices, maybe in Harry's own head,crying, "Harry! Harry!" He felt Quirrell's arm wrenched from his grasp, knew all waslost, and fell into blackness, down ... down... down... Something gold was glinting just above him. The Snitch! Hetried to catch it, but his arms were too heavy. He blinked. It wasn't the Snitch at all. It was a pair ofglasses. How strange. He blinked again. The smiling face of Albus Dumbledore swaminto view above him. "Good afternoon, Harry," said Dumbledore. Harry stared athim. Then he remembered: "Sir! The Stone! It was Quirrell! He'sgot the Stone! Sir, quick --" "Calm yourself, dear boy, you are a little behind the times,"said Dumbledore. "Quirrell does not have the Stone." "Then who does? Sir, I --" "Harry, please relax, or Madam Pomfrey will have me thrown out. Harry swallowed and looked around him. He realized he must be inthe hospital wing. He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets,and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like halfthe candy shop. "Tokens from your friends and admirers," said Dumbledore,beaming. "What happened down in the dungeons between you andProfessor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the wholeschool knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasleywere responsible for trying to send you a toilet seat. No doubtthey thought it would amuse you. Madam Pomfrey, however, felt itmight not be very hygienic, and confiscated it." "How long have I been in here?" "Three days. Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Granger will be mostrelieved you have come round, they have been extremely worried." "But sit, the Stone I see you are not to be distracted. Very well, theStone. Professor Quirrell did not manage to take it from you. Iarrived in time to prevent that, although you were doing very wellon your own, I must say. "You got there? You got Hermione's owl?" "We must have crossed in midair. No sooner had I reached Londonthan it became clear to me that the place I should be was the oneI had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you." "It was you." "I feared I might be too late." "You nearly were, I couldn't have kept him off the Stone muchlonger --" "Not the Stone, boy, you -- the effort involved nearly killedyou. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had. As forthe Stone, it has been destroyed." "Destroyed?" said Harry blankly. "But your friend -- NicolasFlamel --" "Oh, you know about Nicolas?" said Dumbledore, sounding quitedelighted. "You did do the thing properly, didn't you? Well, Nicolasand I have had a little chat, and agreed it's all for the best." "But that means he and his wife will die, won't they?" "They have enough Elixir stored to set their affairs in orderand then, yes, they will die." Dumbledore smiled at the look of amazement on Harry's face. "To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible, but toNicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very,very long day. After all, to the well-organized mind, death is butthe next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such awonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The twothings most human beings would choose above all -- the trouble is,humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that areworst for them." Harry lay there, lost for words. Dumbledore hummeda little and smiled at the ceiling. "Sir?" said Harry. "I've been thinking... sir -- even if theStone's gone, Vol-, I mean, You-Know- Who --" "Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name forthings. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." "Yes, sir. Well, Voldemort's going to try other ways of comingback, isn't he? I mean, he hasn't gone, has he?" "No, Harry, he has not. He is still out there somewhere,perhaps looking for another body to share... not being truly alive,he cannot be killed. He left Quirrell to die; he shows just aslittle mercy to his followers as his enemies. Nevertheless, Harry,while you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merelytake someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losingbattle next time -- and if he is delayed again, and again, why,he may never return to power." Harry nodded, but stopped quickly, because it made his headhurt. Then he said, "Sir, there are some other things I'd liketo know, if you can tell me... things I want to know the truthabout...." "The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terriblething, and should therefore be treated with great caution. However, Ishall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to,in which case I beg you'll forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie." "Well... Voldemort said that he only killed my mother becauseshe tried to stop him from killing me. But why would he want tokill me in the first place?" Dumbledore sighed very deeply this time. "Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Nottoday. Not now. You will know, one day... put it from your mindfor now, Harry. When you are older... I know you hate to hearthis... when you are ready, you will know." And Harry knew it would be no good to argue. "But why couldn't Quirrell touch me?" "Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemortcannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love aspowerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, novisible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the personwho loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It isin your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition,sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for thisreason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good." Dumbledore now became very interested in a bird out on thewindowsill, which gave Harry time to dry his eyes on the sheet. Whenhe had found his voice again, Harry said, "And the invisibilitycloak - do you know who sent it to me?" "Ah - your father happened to leave it in my possession, andI thought you might like it." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Usefulthings... your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchensto steal food when he was here." "And there's something else..." "Fire away." "Quirrell said Snape --" "Professor Snape, Harry." "Yes, him -- Quirrell said he hatesme because he hated my father. Is that true?" "Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourselfand Mr. Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape couldnever forgive." "What?" "He saved his life." "What?" "Yes..." said Dumbledore dreamily. "Funny, the way people'sminds work, isn't it? Professor Snape couldn't bear being in yourfather's debt.... I do believe he worked so hard to protect you thisyear because he felt that would make him and your father even. Thenhe could go back to hating your father's memory in peace...." Harry tried to understand this but it made his head pound,so he stopped. "And sir, there's one more thing..." "Just the one?" "How did I get the Stone out of the mirror?" "Ah, now, I'm glad you asked me that. It was one of my morebrilliant ideas, and between you and me, that's saying something. Yousee, only one who wanted to find the Stone -- find it, but not useit -- would be able to get it, otherwise they'd just see themselvesmaking gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises evenme sometimes.... Now, enough questions. I suggest you make astart on these sweets. Ah! Bettie Bott's Every Flavor Beans! I wasunfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomitflavored one,and since then I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them --but I think I'll be safe with a nice toffee, don't you?" He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Thenhe choked and said, "Alas! Ear wax!" Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was a nice woman, but very strict. "Just five minutes," Harry pleaded. "Absolutely not." "You let Professor Dumbledore in..." "Well, of course, that was the headmaster, quite different. Youneed rest." "I am resting, look, lying down and everything. Oh, go on,Madam Pomfrey..." "Oh, very well," she said. "But five minutes only." And she let Ron and Hermione in. "Harry!" Hermione looked ready to fling her arms around him again, butHarry was glad she held herself in as his head was still very sore. "Oh, Harry, we were sure you were going to -- Dumbledore wasso worried --" "The whole school's talking about it," said Ron. "What reallyhappened?" It was one of those rare occasions when the true story is evenmore strange and exciting than the wild rumors. Harry told themeverything: Quirrell; the mirror; the Stone; and Voldemort. Ron andHermione were a very good audience; they gasped in all the rightplaces, and when Harry told them what was under Quirrell's turban,Hermione screamed out loud. "So the Stone's gone?" said Ron finally. "Flamel's just goingto die?" "That's what I said, but Dumbledore thinks that -- what wasit? -- 'to the well-organized mind, death is but the next greatadventure. "I always said he was off his rocker," said Ron, looking quiteimpressed at how crazy his hero was. "So what happened to you two?" said Harry. "Well, I got back all right," said Hermione. "I brought Ronround -- that took a while -- and we were dashing up to the owleryto contact Dumbledore when we met him in the entrance hall --he already knew -- he just said, 'Harry's gone after him, hasn'the?' and hurtled off to the third floor." "D'you think he meant you to do it?" said Ron. "Sending youyour father's cloak and everything?" "Well, " Hermione exploded, "if he did -- I mean to say that'sterrible -- you could have been killed." "No, it isn't," said Harry thoughtfully. "He's a funny man,Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I thinkhe knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. Ireckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and insteadof stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think itwas an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almostlike he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could...." "Yeah, Dumbledore's off his rocker, all right," said Ronproudly. "Listen, you've got to be up for the end-of-year feasttomorrow. The points are all in and Slytherin won, of course --you missed the last Quidditch match, we were steamrollered byRavenclaw without you -- but the food'll be good." At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled over. "You've had nearly fifteen minutes, now OUT" she said firmly. After a good night's sleep, Harry felt nearly back to normal. I want to go to the feast," he told Madam Pomfrey as shestraightened his many candy boxes. I can, can't I?" "Professor Dumbledore says you are to be allowed to go," shesaid stiffily, as though in her opinion Professor Dumbledore didn'trealize how risky feasts could be. "And you have another visitor." "Oh, good," said Harry. "Who is it?" Hagrid sidled through the door as he spoke. As usual when hewas indoors, Hagrid looked too big to be allowed. He sat down nextto Harry, took one look at him, and burst into tears. "It's -- all -- my -- ruddy -- fault!" he sobbed, his face inhis hands. I told the evil git how ter get past Fluffy! I toldhim! It was the only thing he didn't know, an' I told him! Yehcould've died! All fer a dragon egg! I'll never drink again! Ishould be chucked out an' made ter live as a Muggle!" "Hagrid!" said Harry, shocked to see Hagrid shaking with griefand remorse, great tears leaking down into his beard. "Hagrid,he'd have found out somehow, this is Voldemort we're talking about,he'd have found out even if you hadn't told him." "Yeh could've died!" sobbed Hagrid. "An' don' say the name!" "VOLDEMORT!" Harry bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked,he stopped crying. "I've met him and I'm calling him by hisname. Please cheer up, Hagrid, we saved the Stone, it's gone,he can't use it. Have a Chocolate Frog, I've got loads...." Hagrid wiped his nose on the back of his hand and said, "Thatreminds me. I've got yeh a present." "It's not a stoat sandwich, is it?" said Harry anxiously, and atlast Hagrid gave a weak chuckle. "Nah. Dumbledore gave me the dayoff yesterday ter fix it. 'Course, he shoulda sacked me instead --anyway, got yeh this..." It seemed to be a handsome, leather-covered book. Harry openedit curiously. It was full of wizard photographs. Smiling and wavingat him from every page were his mother and father. "Sent owls off ter all yer parents' old school friends, askin'fer photos... knew yeh didn' have any... d'yeh like it?" Harry couldn't speak, but Hagrid understood. Harry made his way down to the end-of-year feast alone thatnight. He had been held up by Madam Pomfrey's fussing about,insisting on giving him one last checkup, so the Great Hall wasalready full. It was decked out in the Slytherin colors of greenand silver to celebrate Slytherin's winning the house cup for theseventh year in a row. A huge banner showing the Slytherin serpentcovered the wall behind the High Table. When Harry walked in there was a sudden hush, and then everybodystarted talking loudly at once. He slipped into a seat between Ronand Hermione at the Gryffindor table and tried to ignore the factthat people were standing up to look at him. Fortunately, Dumbledore arrived moments later. The babbledied away. "Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully. "And I musttrouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink ourteeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefullyyour heads are all a little fuller than they were... you havethe whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before nextyear starts.... "Now, as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding,and the points stand thus: In fourth place, Gryffindor, withthree hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with threehundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty-sixand Slytherin, four hundred and seventy- two." A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Slytherintable. Harry could see Draco Malfoy banging his goblet on thetable. It was a sickening sight. "Yes, Yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However,recent events must be taken into account." The room went very still. The Slytherins' smiles faded a little. "Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points todish out. Let me see. Yes... "First -- to Mr. Ronald Weasley..." Ron went purple in the face; he looked like a radish with abad sunburn. "...for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in manyyears, I award Gryffindor house fifty points." Gryffindor cheers nearly raised the bewitched ceiling; thestars overhead seemed to quiver. Percy could be heard telling theother prefects, "My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Gotpast McGonagall's giant chess set!" At last there was silence again. "Second -- to Miss Hermione Granger... for the use of coollogic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points." Hermione buried her face in her arms; Harry strongly suspectedshe had burst into tears. Gryffindors up and down the table werebeside themselves -- they were a hundred points up. "Third -- toMr. Harry Potter..." said Dumbledore. The room went deadly quietfor pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor housesixty points." The din was deafening. Those who could add up while yellingthemselves hoarse knew that Gryffindor now had four hundred andseventy-two points -- exactly the same as Slytherin. They had tiedfor the house cup -- if only Dumbledore had given Harry just onemore point. Dumbledore raised his hand. The room gradually fell silent. "There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling. "Ittakes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but justas much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten pointsto Mr. Neville Longbottom." Someone standing outside the Great Hall might well have thoughtsome sort of explosion had taken place, so loud was the noise thaterupted from the Gryffindor table. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood upto yell and cheer as Neville, white with shock, disappeared undera pile of people hugging him. He had never won so much as a pointfor Gryffindor before. Harry, still cheering, nudged Ron in theribs and pointed at Malfoy, who couldn't have looked more stunnedand horrified if he'd just had the Body-Bind Curse put on him. "Which means, Dumbledore called over the storm of applause,for even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were celebrating the downfall ofSlytherin, "we need a little change of decoration." He clapped his hands. In an instant, the green hangings becamescarlet and the silver became gold; the huge Slytherin serpentvanished and a towering Gryffindor lion took its place. Snapewas shaking Professor McGonagall's hand, with a horrible, forcedsmile. He caught Harry's eye and Harry knew at once that Snape'sfeelings toward him hadn't changed one jot. This didn't worryHarry. It seemed as though life would be back to normal next year,or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts. It was the best evening of Harry's life, better than winningat Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls... hewould never, ever forget tonight. Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still tocome, but come they did. To their great surprise, both he and Ronpassed with good marks; Hermione, of course, had the best grades ofthe first years. Even Neville scraped through, his good Herbologymark making up for his abysmal Potions one. They had hoped thatGoyle, who was almost as stupid as he was mean, might be thrownout, but he had passed, too. It was a shame, but as Ron said,you couldn't have everything in life. And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks werepacked, Neville's toad was found lurking in a corner of the toilets;notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magicover the holidays ("I always hope they'll forget to give us these,"said Fred Weasley sadly); Hagrid was there to take them down to thefleet of boats that sailed across the lake; they were boarding theHogwarts Express; talking and laughing as the countryside becamegreener and tidier; eating Bettie Bott's Every Flavor Beans as theysped past Muggle towns; pulling off their wizard robes and puttingon jackets and coats; pulling into platform nine and three-quartersat King's Cross Station. It took quite a while for them all to get off the platform. Awizened old guard was up by the ticket barrier, letting them gothrough the gate in twos and threes so they didn't attract attentionby all bursting out of a solid wall at once and alarming the Muggles. "You must come and stay this summer," said Ron, "both of you --I'll send you an owl." "Thanks," said Harry, "I'll need something to look forwardto." People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gatewayback to the Muggle world. Some of them called: "Bye, Harry!" "See you, Potter!" "Still famous," said Ron, grinning at him. "Not where I'm going, I promise you," said Harry. He, Ron, and Hermione passed through the gateway together. "Therehe is, Mom, there he is, look!" It was Ginny Weasley, Ron's younger sister, but she wasn'tpointing at Ron. "Harry Potter!" she squealed. "Look, Mom! I can see "Be quiet, Ginny, and it's rude to point." Mrs. Weasley smiled down at them. "Busy year?" she said. "Very," said Harry. "Thanks for the fudge and the sweater,Mrs. Weasley." "Oh, it was nothing, dear." "Ready, are you?" It was Uncle Vernon, still purple-faced, still mustached,still looking furious at the nerve of Harry, carrying an owl in acage in a station full of ordinary people. Behind him stood AuntPetunia and Dudley, looking terrified at the very sight of Harry. "You must be Harry's family!" said Mrs. Weasley. "In a manner of speaking," said Uncle Vernon. "Hurry up, boy,we haven't got all day." He walked away. Harry hung back for a last word with Ron and Hermione. "See you over the summer, then." "Hope you have -- er -- a good holiday," said Hermione, lookinguncertainly after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be sounpleasant. "Oh, I will," said Harry, and they were surprised at the grinthat was spreading over his face. "They don't know we're not allowedto use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudleythis summer...." THE END