Disclaimer: I'm not JKR. Really.
Thanks go to Lallybroch, for beta-reading,
and to everyone who helps make HP obsession so much fun.
It was his birthday.
Not that you'd notice. It wasn't as
if there was a cake, or presents, or even a cheerful 'Happy birthday,
Harry!' to mark the day out as being in any way special or different from
any other day.
In fact, Harry thought as he sat down
at the breakfast table, probably the only person who had any idea it was
his birthday was himself. Once he'd spent the night before each birthday
hoping that this time it would be different, but now he realised there
wasn't any point. The Dursleys weren't suddenly going to surprise him
with a party and presents.
Besides, even if he had a party, who'd
go? The combination of Dudley's fists and wearing Dudley's hand-me-down
clothes was more than enough to put people off from being his friend.
The few people at school who spoke to him without sneering usually went
away as soon as they heard Dudley and his gang approaching.
Harry ate his cereal silently, singing
Happy Birthday to himself in his head. He wondered what would happen if
he sang it out loud in the Dursleys' hearing, then decided he didn't really
want to find out. The last time he had done something like that he'd been
shut in the cupboard under the stairs for a week, and he had no desire
to repeat the experience. He'd got used to the dark and the spiders, but
it was pretty cramped, even for someone who was only just ten.
Once he'd done the dishes, Harry surreptitiously
grabbed some sausage roll from the fridge and went outside to the back
garden. It was his favourite place, because from his perch on the back
wall he could see other houses, towns and villages spreading out into
the distance. He wondered, as he often did, whether he would be living
in one of those houses if his parents had not died in that car crash.
Would he have been opening their present to him right now?
He didn't know. He didn't even know
what his parents looked like. The first and only time he'd tried to ask
Aunt Petunia about them she'd practically had a fit, shrieking and shaking
so much that he had never asked again. He had a vague memory of a pair
of bright, smiling eyes, eyes the same shade of green as his, but that
wasn't very much.
He dug the toe of his too-large trainer
(yet another Dudley cast-off) into the mud at the base of the garden wall,
feeling vaguely rebellious. He looked around the garden, wondering at
its neatness. A thick jungle, full of amazing things and ready to be explored,
would have been much more to his taste. In this perfectly arranged piece
of suburbia there was nothing to do, much less anything to explore. Harry
sighed. Still, it was better than being inside, where the moment he sat
down he'd either be hit by Dudley, told to do chores or get sent off to
Sitting down on the wall, Harry noticed
a cat. It stalked across the grass, then jumped up onto the wall and sat
there, basking in the sun, staring at Harry impassively.
"Hi, cat," said Harry softly. He'd
always liked cats, and he'd seen this one around before - it was quite
distinctive, with odd square markings round its eyes.
He offered the cat a piece of the
"I don't know if cats like sausage
roll, but it's all I've got, I'm afraid. And I don't think Uncle Vernon
would like it much if I went in and asked for something that might appeal
The cat blinked then began to nibble
daintily on the piece of food it had been offered. Harry put out a tentative
hand and stroked the top of the cat's head. He felt somehow cheered when
the cat finished eating and started to purr. He smiled.
Suddenly the kitchen door opened and
Aunt Petunia stuck her head out.
"Harry, the stairs are simply not
going to Hoover themselves!"
Harry's face darkened. He got up,
leaving the rest of the sausage roll for the cat.
"Bye, cat," he said under his breath.
Unfortunately Aunt Petunia must have heard him, for as he walked towards
the house, still feeling the cat's eyes staring after him, she shrieked,
"Don't speak to animals!"
Harry sighed again. What a great birthday
this was going to be.
Watching Harry go back inside the
house, Minerva McGonagall felt decidedly uneasy. No matter what Dumbledore
had said (and Minerva respected Dumbledore's opinion above most other
people's), seeing Lily and James Potter's son with that look on his face
was almost more than she could stand. It made her want to spirit him away
to Hogwarts, where at least someone would acknowledge his birthday, immediately
- and whether Muggles saw them or not.
She was being foolish, really. She
had been so determined, when Dumbledore had first asked her to keep a
check on Harry (years ago now, she realised suddenly), that she would
do everything perfectly. Yet here she was, even considering breaking magical
law, and all because she was feeling sorry and maternal for a 10 year
Arabella had even told her she was
being an idiot, although not in so many words. Once the two of them had
made sure that the magic in the area really had been only Harry accidentally
shrinking a jumper, Minerva had said she would stay around for a while
longer just to make sure. Arabella had agreed that it was a good idea,
then rather seriously added that Privet Drive was really the best place
for Harry. He was protected there from both fame and anyone who might
wish him harm - of whom there were still plenty around, even if they looked
a bit more respectable since the Dark Lord's defeat.
Minerva had only just managed not
It wasn't as though she was really
going to drag the boy off to Hogwarts, anyway. She just felt that there
must be something they could do to make Harry's life a bit happier. He
looked somehow older at 10 years old than James had at 15, and it was
heartbreaking. It was ridiculous that she, a fully qualified witch and
teacher, should be unable to help him in any way whatsoever.
The problem was, she had no idea of
what she could do about it. She rather wanted to do something for his
birthday, but it couldn't be anything that would attract attention. She
was here in a position of trust, she certainly couldn't do anything that
might let Muggles see something they would consider odd - especially since
if she got into any trouble then Dumbledore would too, and that would
make Lucius Malfoy's entire year. Besides, she was meant to be
a teacher. Teachers simply did not go around breaking wizarding law for
the fun of it.
Feeling rather glum, Minerva made
her way back round to the front of the house. She could hear the faint
sound of vacuuming, and, realising it was made by Harry, looked in the
front window to try and see him. She could just make out some movement
through the open living room door, but the brightness of the living room
made seeing into the dark hall almost impossible, even with feline eyes.
The living room itself seemed as if
it had been constructed simply to house the many photographs of the Dursleys
that adorned the walls. There were no pictures of Harry at all. Most of
the pictures were of the Dursleys' son, but pride of place was a large,
framed family portrait featuring Mrs Dursley and Dudley sat rather stiffly
on the sofa with Mr Dursley stood beaming behind them.
And then she knew exactly what she
was going to do. The idea seemed to jump into her mind fully formed, and
she was sure it would work. It was unobtrusive and would seem perfectly
natural while giving Harry something he otherwise might never have. It
even seemed like something Dumbledore would appreciate. It was, in fact,
perfect - as long as she could find that book that Filius had lent her
A sudden fear gripped her that she
had left the book at Hogwarts and she started to hurry. When she opened
the door of Arabella's spare room, however, she felt a wave of relief
wash over her as the first thing she saw was the book itself, on top of
the pile of books packed in her bag.
It took her a while to find the right
page in the book, but after sitting down and re-reading it Minerva was
even more convinced that her plan was a good one. Charms had never given
her much difficulty, and while this one was complex and subtle she felt
sure she could manage it. She had to. It wasn't as if she had any better
ideas, after all.
Harry hated going to sleep in his
cupboard. It was usually cold, even in summer, and bits of plaster had
the annoying habit of falling onto his nose and making him sneeze whenever
he closed his eyes to try and go to sleep.
He did, however, have one sure-fire
tactic that helped. He buried himself as far under the covers as he could
go, and then he could pretend that on the other side of the covers lay
a proper room, with an armchair, his own bookshelves and everything. It
would all be painted colours that he could choose - maybe blue, or red…
Harry's reverie was broken by a sudden
odd noise outside his cupboard door. A kind of whooshing pop, followed
by what sounded like someone muttering. Then some quick, light footsteps,
and another weird whooshing sound. Odd. It must be Aunt Petunia, neither
Uncle Vernon nor Dudley would be that light-footed, but what was she doing
Harry lay in the darkness pondering
this for a while before falling asleep without realising it.
…The room was quite small but cosy.
A Christmas tree stood in one corner of the room, covered in lights and
glittering tinsel. Decorations hung from the branches, including what
looked amazingly like real snowflakes. A group of people were sat around
on sofas, two of whom appeared to be having some kind of mock duel with
Christmas crackers. Another member of the group, a woman with dark red
hair and startlingly bright green eyes, looked up from the baby she was
"Did you two ever get past
eleven years old?" she asked, laughing.
"No," grinned one of
the duellers, a man with messy black hair and spectacles, shifting even
nearer to the woman and putting an arm round her, stroking the baby's
shock of black hair with his other hand.
"Of course not," agreed
the other dueller, brushing a lock of thick wavy hair out of his eyes,
"otherwise how could we pass on the great Marauding tradition to
"Harry's insulted," proclaimed
the first man as the baby made a gurgling noise. "He never thought
anyone could be so heartless as to call him Junior."
"Nonsense, he's upset that
he's inherited your hair," said the second man, leaning over to make
faces at the baby. "And he thinks you should have got him better
"Says the man who wanted to
buy a six month old baby a broomstick," put in a thin man with light
brown hair, leaning back and sipping a cup of tea contentedly, grey eyes
shining over the rim of his teacup.
"I think he's laughing at
all these people who think they know what he's saying, actually,"
said the woman with the red hair, smiling down at the baby.
"You're just his mother, what
would you know?" retorted the man with the glasses, grinning
and tightening his arms around her.
A knocking sound was heard at the
window, and the occupants of the room seemed to freeze and draw in slightly.
The man with the shoulder-length thick black hair jumped up and pulled
the curtain back a little way, before announcing with relief in his voice
that it was just the wind making a branch tap against the window.
The whole group visibly breathed
a sigh of relief, but the smiles had gone from their faces.
"The wards would have gone
off anyway…" muttered the man with the glasses. The woman shivered
and held the baby a little closer to her.
The scene seemed to collapse in
on itself. Whirling white fog took its place, images flashing past nearly
too quickly to be seen. Voices, filled with panic -
"Lily, take Harry and run!
It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off -"
Flashes of bright green light -
the red-haired woman, stumbling from a room - eerie, cold, high-pitched
laughter - then screaming…
"Not Harry, not Harry, please
The desperate plea kept repeating,
echoing again and again…
"Not Harry! Please…have mercy…"
Another flash of green light -
a body falling to the ground - burning pain…
It had started to rain since Minerva
had entered the Dursleys' house. Not heavily, but the fine spray of rain
in the air was enough to soak her as she made her way back to Arabella's.
Still mentally cursing British weather
(honestly, it was meant to be July), she transformed back into
a human and opened Arabella's front door, to find her friend leaving the
kitchen with two steaming cups of tea.
"I thought you'd probably need
it," said Arabella as she handed one over.
"Thankyou," replied Minerva,
following Arabella into the sitting room and sitting herself down on one
of the overstuffed sofas. She leaned back and took a sip, then sighed
happily. No matter how uncertain she was about a certain course of action,
she always felt much better once it was over. And it was lovely to be
back inside with a nice cup of tea.
Arabella sat down also, casually conjured
a small fire in the fireplace, then turned to Minerva.
"So, did the Expiscor Memoria
Minerva supposed she should be used
to this by now. After all, it was one of the reasons why Arabella had
been chosen to help keep Harry safe on a day to day basis. But it remained
She was, however, glad she didn't
need to explain why Harry's situation bothered her so much, enough to
make her go against Dumbeldore's orders. Arabella had seen the same things
she had, knew the full extent of what Sirius Black had done. Arabella
understood - it bothered her for much the same reasons.
"I think so," said Minerva,
putting her mug down on the table. She sighed. "I hope so. The book
I got it from had some very distressing examples of early experiments
that left the testers stuck permanently in the worst moments of their
lives. Interfering with memories is generally not a good idea."
"I think it was this time though,"
said Arabella, looking serious. "Harry should know what it's like
to have a proper family, and the Dursley's certainly haven't given him
that. I think Dumbledore was right, but I'm…I'm glad you did something."
"So am I."
There was a pause, while Arabella
examined the way her tea swirled in the mug. Minerva suddenly realised
how old her friend looked, since her hair turned grey, when you couldn't
see her eyes.
"What do 10 year old boys nowadays
like, do you think?" asked Arabella suddenly, looking up.
"I - don't know. Food? The Weasleys'
twin boys are always raiding the kitchens for provisions."
"Hmm…it's just that I'm sure
Harry must get so bored with looking at the same cat photographs all the
time when he visits - they don't even move! And cooking was the only other
crazy-cat-lady thing I could think of too, but my Muggle cooking is even
worse than when I do it the magical way…"
"It has come in useful, though,"
said Minerva, a smile tugging at her mouth at the memory. "Dedalus
was most impressed by those biscuits that tasted like sardines."
"Only because he wanted to give
them to poor, unsuspecting people," returned Arabella, taking another
sip of tea and smiling too. "He never did believe my cooking spells
could be as bad as all that." She sighed and added, "Unfortunately,
I wasn't faking."
"Would you like me to try and
help?" offered Minerva. "I don't mind - my cooking skills are
rarely put into practice at the castle, and I'm certain Harry would love
"That'd be wonderful - thankyou,"
said Arabella, gratefully. "He must be as sick of those cat pictures
as I am. Besides, I don't trust those Dursleys to feed him properly."
She smiled and added, sounding much happier, "But he has a memory
of what it was like to have a family now, though, and that's something."
Harry woke up very early the next
morning. He wasn't entirely sure what had woken him, but he had the oddest
sensation that he had - lost something He screwed up his eyes to try and
remember what, but it was useless. Whatever it was was now completely
beyond his grasp. It was almost like a door had been opened, and then
slammed shut again, leaving him with just a vague picture of a flash of
Harry rolled over to peer blearily
at his watch, then groaned. No wonder he couldn't remember anything, it
was only half past five. Luckily he didn't have to make breakfast until
8.30 during the summer. He had three whole hours of sleep left.
Yawning, Harry turned over and fell