Mr and Mrs Dursley sat in front of the television watching the Six O’Clock News, as Peter Sissons’
voice boomed out of the television. “And now the latest on notorious mass murderer Sirius Black,
who escaped from a top-security prison last night. We hand over to Nick Ross, Crimewatch
presenter. Nick, what can you tell us?”
“Well, the authorities are reporting that Sirius Black killed thirteen people in 1981, in a
spree killing on a busy shopping street. To be honest, though, Peter, we’re finding this difficult to
understand, because we’ve looked in the BBC Archive, and we don’t have any records of a spree
killing having taken place in 1981, much less by anyone by that name. We’ve found a record of a
gas explosion that killed that number of people at the time that Black supposedly carried out the
murder, but that’s it, and Black wasn’t named in connection with it, either as a culprit or as a
victim. Obviously we’ll continue to look into this—”
At that moment, a harassed looking woman in long flowing robes ran onto the screen. She
pointed a piece of wood at the presenter, and shouted “Confundo!”, before pointing at the camera
and shouting “Obliviate!”. Then she ran off.
Watching at home, Mr and Mrs Dursley were slightly confused, having forgotten what
point Nick Ross was making. Nick, who looked slightly blank, just said, “So, yes, we’re very
confused by this case, Peter, and I don’t have anything to report. Apologies, and back to you in the
“Right,” said the newsreader, looking nonplussed. “Well, anyway, the police have asked us
to inform viewers that if they spot Sirius Black anywhere, they should not approach him, and
should inform the police immediately by telephoning…”
“Nasty business,” said Vernon, turning to his wife. “They should bring back hanging,
shouldn’t they? Then we wouldn’t have any of this scum walking the streets.”
“Yes, well, I blame his parents,” said Petunia. “Something must have gone wrong with his
upbringing. People don’t raise their kids right these days. Potter, the washing machine’s done;
empty it, you lazy boy!” she added as an aside.
Harry trudged down to the washing machine, tossing Neville’s Remembrall idly. Neville
had left it in the dormitory at the end of term, and Harry had decided to keep it for safe-keeping.
It had turned red, which meant he’d forgotten something; he wondered for a while if the “thing”
was that he’d forgotten to throw the Remembrall at Aunt Petunia’s head, perhaps causing a mild
concussion, or maybe even death if he threw it at the right point; and he could use Alohomora to get
out of prison, so he’d escape, and could go on the run… But no, he thought, he didn’t want to
become a murderer; he liked his soul intact, he thought, presciently.
“Yes, Aunt Petunia,” he said, remembering what the Remembrall was telling him to
remember, and simultaneously wondering what the advantage of one of these was over a notepad.
He’d had his permission form for Hogsmeade all summer, and he needed to ask one of the
Dursleys to sign it.
“And make us some tea while you’re in there!”
“Yes, Aunt Petunia.” He got out the teapot, wondering whether she’d notice if he poured
some washing powder into the tea pot with the tea leaves, but he realised the lethal dose would be
detectable by taste. A shame. He boiled the kettle, put some tea leaves into the pot, and placed the
tea cosy over the top. It was slightly too large for the pot, and slightly worn, and it split along two
of its seams. He had a sudden vision of Dobby wearing the tea cosy as a hat, for no reason other
than that it really needed to be clear that a House-Elf might wear it.
Harry put the teapot down in the living room while Petunia was still talking about Sirius
Black. “No, it’s like your sister Marge says, it’s all about the breeding. We should ask her about
that when she comes.”
“Oh, bloody hell, Petunia, don’t get her on about dogs, I don’t think I could stand to listen
to another ruddy anecdote about Colonel ruddy Fubster.”
“We should get them together sometime,” muttered Petunia.
“I’m afraid last I heard he was spending a lot of time with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart,”
he said, a faint look of disgust on his face.
“Ah, well,” said Petunia. “Potter, this tea is cold.”
Harry had reached the end of his tether. Not thinking, he drew his wand, and sparks flew
out of it, pointing it, unfortunately, at the teapot.
With a small pop, the teapot disappeared, being replaced by the living embodiment of a
joke. Well, that’s what Harry thought it was—he had to admit he’d never seen a joke in the flesh
before, but he was pretty sure that this was one looked like. And “in the flesh” was the phrase for
it, because the joke was undeniably naked. Thankfully for anyone attempting to write about this
moment, the scene was utterly indescribable.
“What in blazes?! Is this some sort of a joke?” bellowed Uncle Vernon.
“Yes, I think it is,” said Harry, attempting to suppress a smile.
The joke, still wearing the tea cosy as a hat, was now standing on the table. It raised one
arm (was that an arm?), then another, in rhythm, before turning both arms over, then placing them
in turn on its—upper arms, maybe, or shoulders?—and then on its head.
At this point, Dudley walked into the room. “That’s the Macarena,” he said, dully.
Everyone stared at him. “It’s a dance you can do to a Spanish song. It’ll be big in three years or so,
I bet.” The other three continued to stare. “Everyone’s doing it at Smeltings.”
“Since when have you paid attention to what happens in school?” asked Harry.
“Enough!” shouted Petunia. “Up to your room!”
“Not yet, he’s not,” replied Vernon. “He needs to get rid of this bloody—whatever it is!”
Harry sighed. “This is such a joke.”
“Yes, it is. Now get rid of it!”
“But I don’t know how! I don’t know how I even created it!” The joke, meanwhile, had
now completed four quarter turns and seemed to have decided the inaudible music had stopped.
It had progressed, instead, to making horse like movements with its legs, in time to words it was
singing in Korean.
At this point, an official-looking owl flew in through the window. It dropped a letter on top
of the joke, which Harry had to wrestle off it (he wasn’t sure how something without identifiable
hands could have such a good grip). He opened the letter as the owl flew away, and read it.
Dear Mr Potter,
We have received intelligence that you carried out a Transfiguration at eight minutes past six this evening in a Muggle-inhabited house and in the presence of a Muggle, turning a teapot into the corporeal representation of a joke.
Ordinarily, the severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery would result in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, to be quite frank, we’re not sure what you did to make that happen, and the Department of Mysteries has got quite enough on at the moment to be trying to explain how you transfigured an object into a sentient version of an abstract concept, and so we’re going to let this one slide on this occasion. A Ministry Obliviator will be on their way to your address shortly to wipe your memories of this incident for canon-protecting purposes.
Enjoy the rest of this evening while you still remember it!
Improper Use of Magic Office, Ministry for Magic
Harry sighed, but thought that, since none of them would remember this, he might as well ask
Uncle Vernon to sign his Hogsmeade letter.
“Um, I realise this might not be the best moment,” said Harry, “but third-years are allowed
to go to the village near the school, but only with their guardians’ permission, and I wondered if
“Are you having a laugh?” replied Vernon, as the doorbell rang to signal the arrival of the
“Well, in the presence of a joke, I thought I might as well,” replied Harry.
The joke seemed to have sensed its imminent destruction. It started flailing around,
repeating itself over and over again, before the Obliviator made it vanish with a wave of his wand.
“Well, you killed that joke,” said Harry.
“It died about five paragraphs ago,” said the Obliviator.
“Fair enough,” said Harry, and waited to forget this had ever happened.