|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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- "Although I did feel a bit like a relapsing addict as I sat down to write - the words poured from my pen with frightening ease - I am NOT working on a prequel. Indeed, I've written that clearly at the bottom of the card itself. I just thought that this was the best way to make money for two extremely worthwhile charities."
- —J. K. Rowling[src]
The Harry Potter Prequel is an 800-word story written by J. K. Rowling, and was published online on June 11th, 2008. Set three years before the birth of Harry Potter, the story recounts an adventure had by Sirius Black and James Potter.
Policemen PC Anderson and Sergeant Fisher are chasing a motorbike which is breaking the speed limit into a dead-end alley. They confront the two youths riding the bike, who introduce themselves as Sirius Black and James Potter. As the policemen attempt to arrest them for speeding and riding without helmets, three men (presumably Death Eaters) on broomsticks fly down the alley towards them. James and Sirius use their wands to lift the police car up to form a barrier, and the broomstick riders crash into it. Sirius and James then leave the frightened policemen in the alley.
From Rowling's explicit cautionary words, it seems that readers' curiosity about what Sirius and James were about to do and who their opponents were is doomed to remain unanswered.
The speeding motorcycle took the sharp corner so fast in the darkness that both policemen in the pursuing car shouted ‘whoa!’ Sergeant Fisher slammed his large foot on the brake, thinking that the boy who was riding pillion was sure to be flung under his wheels; however, the motorbike made the turn without unseating either of its riders, and with a wink of its red tail light, vanished up the narrow side street.
‘We’ve got ‘em now!” cried PC Anderson excitedly. ‘That’s a dead end!”
Leaning hard on the steering wheel and crashing his gears, Fisher scraped half the paint off the flank of the car as he forced it up the alleyway in pursuit.
There in the headlights sat their quarry, stationary at last after a quarter of an hour’s chase. The two riders were trapped between a towering brick wall and the police car, which was now crashing towards them like some growling, luminous-eyed predator.
There was so little space between the car doors and the walls of the alley that Fisher and Anderson had difficulty extricating themselves from the vehicle. It injured their dignity to have to inch, crab-like, towards the miscreants. Fisher dragged his generous belly along the wall, tearing buttons off his shirt as he went, and finally snapping off the wing mirror with his backside.
‘Get off the bike!’ he bellowed at the smirking youths, who sat basking in the flashing blue light as though enjoying it.
They did as they were told. Finally pulling free from the broken wind mirror, Fisher glared at them. They seemed to be in their late teens. The one who had been driving had long black hair; his insolent good looks reminded Fisher unpleasantly of his daughter’s guitar-playing, layabout boyfriend. The second boy also had black hair, though his was short and stuck up in all directions; he wore glasses and a broad grin. Both were dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with a large golden bird; the emblem, no doubt, of some deafening, tuneless rock band.
‘No helmets!’ Fisher yelled, pointing from one uncovered head to the other. ‘Exceeding the speed limit by – by a considerable amount!’ (In fact, the speed registered had been greater than Fisher was prepared to accept that any motorcycle could travel.) ‘Failing to stop for the police!’
‘We’d have loved to stop for a chat,’ said the boy in glasses, ‘only we were trying -’
‘Don’t get smart – you two are in a heap of trouble!’ snarled Anderson. ‘Names!’
‘Names?’ repeated the long-haired driver. ‘Er – well, let’s see. There’s Wilberforce… Bathsheba… Elvendork…’
‘And what’s nice about that one is, you can use it for a boy or a girl,’ said the boy in glasses.
‘Oh, OUR names, did you mean?’ asked the first, as Anderson spluttered with rage. ‘You should’ve said! This here is James Potter, and I’m Sirius Black!’
‘Things’ll be seriously black for you in a minute, you cheeky little -’
But neither James nor Sirius was paying attention. They were suddenly as alert as gundogs, staring past Fisher and Anderson, over the roof of the police car, at the dark mouth of the alley. Then, with identical fluid movements, they reached into their back pockets.
For the space of a heartbeat both policemen imagined guns gleaming at them, but a second later they saw that the motorcyclists had drawn nothing more than -
‘Drumsticks?’ jeered Anderson. ‘Right pair of jokers, aren’t you? Right, we’re arresting you on a charge of -’
But Anderson never got to name the charge. James and Sirius had shouted something incomprehensible, and the beams from the headlights had moved.
The policemen wheeled around, then staggered backwards. Three men were flying – actually FLYING – up the alley on broomsticks – and at the same moment, the police car was rearing up on its back wheels.
Fisher’s knees bucked; he sat down hard; Anderson tripped over Fisher’s legs and fell on top of him, as FLUMP – BANG – CRUNCH – they heard the men on brooms slam into the upended car and fall, apparently insensible, to the ground, while broken bits of broomstick clattered down around them.
The motorbike had roared into life again. His mouth hanging open, Fisher mustered the strength to look back at the two teenagers.
‘Thanks very much!’ called Sirius over the throb of the engine. ‘We owe you one!’
‘Yeah, nice meeting you!’ said James. ‘And don’t forget: Elvendork! It’s unisex!’
There was an earth-shattering crash, and Fisher and Anderson threw their arms around each other in fright; their car had just fallen back to the ground. Now it was the motorcycle’s turn to rear. Before the policemen’s disbelieving eyes, it took off into the air: James and Sirius zoomed away into the night sky, their tail light twinkling behind them like a vanishing ruby.
J.K. Rowling announced on May 28, 2008 that she was writing a prequel story for English PEN, the writers' association, and the Dyslexia Society. The story, handwritten on a card, would then be auctioned off alongside similar cards from other authors on June 11th 2008, with the proceeds going to charity. A book of facsimiles was published in August 2008, allowing fans to own and read the story. As of 2009 the story is no longer officially available online.
The story was one of three Harry Potter writing projects undertaken by Rowling after the publication of the final book, along with The Tales of Beedle the Bard and a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter Encyclopedia project.
- Anderson (First appearance)
- Fisher (First appearance)
- Fisher's daughter (First mentioned)
- James Potter (First appearance, chronologically)
- Sirius Black (First appearance, chronologically)
- Unidentified guitarist (First mentioned)
- Three unidentified attackers
- Unnamed city (possibly London)
Notes and references
- Sirius and James appear to be in their late teens to the policemen. The story itself is undated with no direct reference to established events, but is said to take place about three years prior to the birth of Harry Potter, thus setting it in 1977.
- Both are wearing "T-shirts emblazoned with a large golden bird". This could be a reference to the Order of the Phoenix or it could be a Golden Snitch .
- When the policemen ask for their names, Sirius gives him three apparently random names: Wilberforce, Bathsheba and Elvendork. The middle name may be a reference to Hogwarts professor Bathsheba Babbling.
- Additionally, the three names given may be the ones of their pursuers, as Sirius might have thought that the policeman was asking for their pursuers' name, but then corrected himself by giving their own names.
- The boys' motorcycle is likely the same one Rubeus Hagrid later borrows from Sirius following James' death in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
- The reason for the three individuals on broomsticks chasing the two is not made clear. The boys' use of magic to defend themselves in front of Muggles may have been a violation of rules set out by the Improper Use of Magic Office. However, as they are seventeen, they have not have violated the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery.
- Official statement on J.K. Rowling's Official Site
- What's Your Story? official website
- Read the story on CopiedText