Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J. K. Rowling
1. OWL POST
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.
It was nearly midnight, and he was lying on his stomach in bed, the blankets drawn right over his head like a tent, a flashlight in one hand and a large leather bound book (A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot) propped open against the pillow. Harry moved the tip of his eagle feather quill down the page, frowning as he looked for something that would help him write his essay, “Witch Burning in the Fourteenth Century Was Completely Pointless Discuss.”
The quill paused at the top of a likely looking paragraph. Harry pushed his round glasses up the bridge of his nose, moved his flashlight closer to the book,
Non-magic people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognizing it. On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises.
Harry put his quill between his teeth and reached underneath his pillow for his ink bottle and a roll of parchment. Slowly and very carefully he unscrewed the ink bottle, dipped his quill into it, and began to write, pausing every now and then to listen, because if any of the Dursleys heard the scratching of his quill on their way to the bathroom, he’d probably find himself locked in the cupboard under the stairs for the rest of the summer.
The Dursley family of number four, Privet Drive, was the reason that Harry never enjoyed his summer holidays. Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and their son, Dudley, were Harry’s only living relatives. They were Muggles, and they had a very medieval attitude toward magic. Harry’s dead parents, who had been a witch and wizard themselves, were never mentioned under the Dursleys’ roof. For years, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had hoped that if they kept Harry as downtrodden as possible, they would be able to squash the magic out of him. To their fury, they had been unsuccessful. These days they lived in terror of anyone finding out that Harry had spent most of the last two years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The most they could do, however, was to lock away Harry’s spellbooks, wand, cauldron, and broomstick at the start of the summer break, and forbid him to talk to the neighbors.
This separation from his spellbooks had been a real problem for Harry, because his teachers at Hogwarts had given him a lot of holiday work. One of the essays, a particularly nasty one about shrinking potions, was for Harry’s least favorite teacher, Professor Snape, who would be delighted to have an excuse to give Harry detention for a month. Harry had therefore seized his chance in the first week of the holidays.