A Peck of Owls
Synopsis by Maureen Knight
Notes and links by Michele L. Worley
U.S. hardcover edition: pages 20 - 41
U.S. hardcover edition: pages 24 - 42
U.K. paperback edition: pages 28 - 51
Monday, 2 August,
In which Harry is expelled from Hogwarts, Uncle Vernon swears,
reveals knowledge of the wizarding world, Dumbledore interferes and Harry
is no longer expelled, but suspended pending a Ministry of Magic
Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:
The chapter title comes from a mispronounciation by Vernon, who was
trying to say "a pack of owls" (see remarks below).
This chapter serves partly to recap the main points of the previous books,
but the exposition is handled in a way that dovetails with one of the
overall threads of the book: that of Harry's world being turned upside down,
that few things are quite what they appeared to be, and people behaving in
unexpected ways because they were more complicated than they previously
seemed. In short, Harry recaps the story so far because the Dursleys -
despite their dislike of anything to do with magic - demand an explanation
for the state Dudley has gotten into after the
"Left to see someone about a batch of cauldrons that
fell off the back of a broom!"
"...but luckily I'd stationed Mr. Tibbles under a car just in
"...and Mr Tibbles came and warned me..."
"...we might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg."
"Oh, it's just Mr. Prentice..."
"- how could Mundungus have left, he was supposed to be on duty
until midnight -"
"...the Ministry have their own ways of detecting underage magic,
they'll know already, you mark my words."
There was a loud crack...
...and a strong smell of drink and stale tobacco filled the air as
a squat, unshaven man in a tattered overcoat materialized right in
front of them.
He had short, bandy legs, long straggly ginger hair and bloodshot,
baggy eyes that gave him the doleful look of a basset hound.
He was also clutching a silvery bundle that Harry recognized at
once as an invisibility cloak.
"...well, it's no good crying over spilt potion..."
"...but the cat's among the pixies now..."
"Did you expect him to let you wander around on your own after
what happened in June?"
"Did Mrs. Polkiss give you something foreign for tea?"
The scrupulously clean kitchen had an oddly unreal glitter after the
"Was it - was it you-know-what, darling?
Did he use - his thing?"
But at that precise moment a screech owl swooped in through the
"OWLS!" bellowed Uncle Vernon, the well-worn vein in his temple
...as he slammed the kitchen window shut.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at
twenty-three minutes past nine this evening...
The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction
of Underage Sorcery
As you have already received an official warning for a previous offence
under Section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of
...a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m.
on the twelfth of August.
A resounding CRACK filled the kitchen.
...for the third time that night Harry was searching for the source of
a disturbance he had not made.
He spotted it at once: a dazed and ruffled-looking barn owl was sitting
outside on the kitchen sill, having just collided with the closed window.
Dumbledore's just arrived at the Ministry
A small shoot of hope burgeoned in Harry's chest
"AHA!" roared Uncle Vernon, slamming his fist down on top
of the fridge, which sprang open...
...several of Dudley's low-fat snacks toppled out and burst on the floor.
If their least favourite thing in the world was magic - closely
followed by neighbours who cheated more than they did on the
hosepipe ban -
- people who heard voices were definitely in the bottom ten.
"What sort of things did you hear, popkin?" breathed
Two seconds of ringing silence followed these words before
clapped her hand over her mouth as though she had let slip a disgusting
"I heard - that awful boy - telling her about them -
years ago," she said jerkily.
"Do your lot have the death penalty?" he asked as
a hopeful afterthought.
...roared Uncle Vernon, pulling great clumps of hair out of his
moustache, something he hadn't been driven to do in a long time...
"...a peck, I mean, a pack of owls shooting in and out of my house."
How could it be coincidence that they had arrived in
the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent?
He seemed to be swelling, his great purple face stretching before
"I should have done this years ago! Owls treating the place like a
rest home, puddings exploding..."
"...half the lounge destroyed..."
"...Marge bobbing around on the ceiling..."
"...and that flying Ford Anglia...."
...too late - the envelope burst into flames.
"Remember my last,
Characters introduced in this chapter:
Characters returning in this chapter:
Characters mentioned in this chapter:
Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:
Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:
Exceptional character moments:
Petunia, who makes clear
that she considers Harry's magic
to be a dirty family secret when she can't even bring herself to use the
word 'magic' in questioning her son.
Petunia's comment about
Dementors, then her reaction
after saying it.
Mrs. Figg laying into Mundungus for skiving off.
[one of MLW's favourite scenes, as read by Jim Dale]
Harry, who despite his extreme
state of panic manages to trust
HarryArthur Weasley and
Albus Dumbledore to
sort things out.
Vernon, asking hopefully if wizarding Britain has the death penalty
when he learns that Harry faces a disciplinary hearing.
Vernon, who never pauses to think that the murder of
might be a painful topic for him to discuss.
Harry's frustration at the amount
of explaining he has to do to give the
Dursleys the context surrounding
the Dementor attack: a very
typical reaction of a stressed-out expert explaining something to
an annoying novice.
Links and Resources:
"Ministry of Magic?" bellowed Uncle Vernon. "People
like you in government? Oh, this explains everything, everything,
no wonder the country's going to the dogs -"
If their least favourite thing in the world was magic - closely followed
by neighbours who cheated more than they did on the hosepipe ban -
people who heard voices were definitely in the bottom ten.
"You can't give a Dementor
the old one-two," said Harry through clenched teeth.
The action of this chapter takes place later during the same night
as that of the previous chapter.