“What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?” said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. “Only innocent lives, Peter!”
“You don’t understand!” whined Pettigrew. “He would have killed me, Sirius!”
“THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!” roared Black. “DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”
“Actually,” said Harry, pocketing his e-cigarette, “Peter’s pursuit of rational self-interest is of a higher moral order than your determination to kill yourself on another person’s behalf, Sirius. Self-sacrifice is never the answer; it ends only in pain and death.”
Sirius blanched. “But Voldemort — we could have stopped Voldemort.”
“It’s a free market,” Harry said, shrugging.
Lupin turned into a wolf.
“Control yourself,” Harry said. “Good lord, man, you’re a being of pure will and drive. Exercise it.”
Lupin turned back into a man with flashing, clear eyes and a jaw that could level a mid-sized office building.
“In the marketplace of ideas,” Harry went on, “Voldemort has the same right to disseminate his philosophy as you do. If his philosophy is sound, it will flourish. If his philosophy is unsound, you have nothing to fear.”
Peter opened his mouth to speak.
“See, this is why I don’t vote,” Harry continued. He knelt and drew a circle in the dirt. “Let’s say this circle here represents my own self-interest. I think we can all agree that my existence here is interchangeable with my identity.” He laughed. It sounded like a cool mountain stream. “Now, let’s say this circle over here represents Peter, a rational self-actor…”
But Aunt Marge suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment, it looked as though words had failed her. She seemed to be swelling with inexpressible anger — but the swelling didn’t stop. Her great red face started to expand, her tiny eyes bulged, and her mouth stretched too tightly for speech — next second, several buttons had just burst from her tweed jacket and pinged off the walls — she was inflating like a monstrous balloon.
A reckless rage had come over Harry. He kicked his trunk open, pulled out his wand, and pointed it at Uncle Vernon.
“She deserved it,” Harry said, with a preternatural calmness. “Make no mistake, this was an essentially generous act. To have allowed her to continue to insult me would have been an act of self-genocide. She deserved what she got. You keep away from me.” He fumbled behind him for the latch on the door.
“I’m going,” Harry said. “I want to be an architect.”
Uncle Vernon was purple with fury, but said nothing.
“I’m going to build a building so tall you’ll break your neck if you try to make eye contact with me,” Harry said, and then he was gone.
“I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for,” Black growled.
“Well, everyone must do what he thinks is best,” Harry said without looking up from his Wizarding Economics Essay. “I think Peter is under Hermione’s bed. Luck and so on.”
“It may interest you to know that I object to prisons, morally,” Harry said, “so let that comfort you while you’re on the run again.”
“I’ve always been unpopular in school and it didn’t bother me,” Hermione explained, “but now I’ve discovered the reason. It’s an impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in class. I don’t even have to study. I always get top marks. Do you suppose I should try to get poor marks for a change and become the most popular girl in school?”
“Never let the failure of others induce you to achieve less,” Harry said.
“Agreed,” Hermione said, her eyes flashing like diamonds, which she was also wearing. “As equals, I suggest we maximize our achievement by making out now.”
Before Harry could answer, Cho Chang entered the room. “Harry!” she cried. “I wish to offer myself to you in recognition of your victory in today’s Quidditch match.”
“Frankly, I would like to make out with both of you,” Harry said. “I believe it would be efficient, and would also maximize my enjoyment.”
“Never get angry with a man for speaking the truth,” Harry reminded her.
“Believing in yourself is a sort of prayer,” Harry said. “Hermione, you may make out with me first.”
He felt the unnatural cold begin to steal over the street. Light was sucked from the environment right up to the stars, which vanished. The cold was biting deeper and deeper into Harry’s flesh.
Then, around the corner, gliding noiselessly, came Dementors, ten or more of them, visible because they were of a denser darkness than their surroundings, with their black cloaks and their scabbed and rotting hands. Could they sense fear in the vicinity? Harry was sure of it: They seemed to be coming more quickly now, taking those dragging, rattling breaths he detested, tasting despair on the air, closing in.
Suddenly he heard them: Marxists.
“No,” he whispered, sinking to his knees. When they get near you, he remembered Lupin saying, you will be left with only the worst memories of your life.
“Only together, collectively, can we achieve anything of lasting significance,” he heard one of them say. Harry moaned in pain.
“The fortunate owe it to society to contribute to those who cannot work,” another chanted. Harry closed his eyes and collapsed.
“A strong central government –” began a third. This was too much for Harry. He rose painfully to his knees and screamed —
A shining white dollar flew out of his wand. “I AM THE STRONGEST FORCE THERE IS,” it shouted. “I AM AN OBJECTIVE MEASUREMENT OF THE GOOD. I CANNOT BE DIMINISHED OR COMPROMISED.”
The Dementors scattered.
“Our worldview is corrupt and ineffective,” one of them shouted as it scurried away into the night.
Harry’s Patronum lazily floated back to him and rested on the tip of his wand.
“I’m going to spend you,” he said to it. And he did.
Artwork by Amy Collier, who once saw Fabio at an airport. Fabio is an Italian model who has appeared on many classic romance novels, such as Love Me with Fury, Lovestorm, and More Than a Feeling. He is 6’3” barefoot; usually in cowboy boots.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.