Dudley Demented

Thehottestdayofthesummersofarwasdrawingtoacloseandadrowsysilencelayoverthelarge,squarehousesofPrivetDrive.Carsthatwereusuallygleamingstooddustyintheirdrivesandlawnsthatwereonceemeraldgreenlayparchedandyellowingfortheuseofhosepipeshadbeenbannedduetodrought.Deprivedoftheirusualcar-washingandlawn-mowingpursuits,theinhabitantsofPrivetDrivehadretreatedintotheshadeoftheircoolhouses,windowsthrownwideinthehopeoftemptinginanonexistentbreeze.Theonlypersonleftoutdoorswasateenageboywhowaslyingflatonhisbackinaflowerbedoutsidenumberfour.

Hewasaskinny,black-haired,bespectacledboywhohadthepinched,slightlyunhealthylookofsomeonewhohasgrownalotinashortspaceoftime.Hisjeansweretornanddirty,hisT-shirtbaggyandfaded,andthesolesofhistrainerswerepeelingawayfromtheuppers.HarryPotter’sappearancedidnotendearhimtotheneighbours,whowerethesortofpeoplewhothoughtscruffinessoughttobepunishablebylaw,butashehadhiddenhimselfbehindalargehydrangeabushthiseveninghewasquiteinvisibletopassers-by.Infact,theonlywayhewouldbespottedwasifhisUncleVernonorAuntPetuniastucktheirheadsoutoftheliving-roomwindowandlookedstraightdownintotheflowerbedbelow.

Onthewhole,Harrythoughthewastobecongratulatedonhisideaofhidinghere.Hewasnot,perhaps,verycomfortablelyingonthehot,hardearthbut,ontheotherhand,nobodywasglaringathim,grindingtheirteethsoloudlythathecouldnothearthenews,orshootingnastyquestionsathim,ashadhappenedeverytimehehadtriedsittingdowninthelivingroomtowatchtelevisionwithhisauntanduncle.

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