Harry sat in the window seat, looking out into the damp, windy October night. This wasn’t fair. He didn’t want tofeel sorry for himself, especially considering what tonight was. Not only was it Halloween, but it was also the anniversary of the night that his parents had died in a horrible car crash.
Nine years before, his parents had died and he had come to Privet Drive to live with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. He had been an unwelcome addition to the household. They had all made it very clear that he was only there as an act of charity.
The only reason they continue to keep me is that the neighbors would talk if they booted me out, Harry thought. All I am to them is an unpaid servant. He certainly didn’t cost much to feed, and as for clothes, cousin Dudley was forever “outgrowing” his own, so there was no shortage of clothes for him, as far as his guardians were concerned anyway.
Harry looked forward to a time when he had enough money to buy anything he wanted. When I come into my fortune, he fantasized, the first thing I’ll buy is clothes that fit, then all the sweets I can eat.
That reminded him of his “job” tonight. He looked ruefully down at the bowl of sweets he had been charged with handing out. He had to sit here in the front entryway and hand treats out to any little ones who stopped by. His aunt and uncle were having a party inside for Uncle Vernon’s business associates. Harry had been sent out here to keep him out of sight and to keep anyone from interrupting the party.
The selection in the bowl was rather sad, Harry thought. It had been much better earlier in the evening before Dudley had punched him hard in the arm and grabbed all the quality goodies from him. He threatened Harry with more pain where that had come from as he ran out the door to meet up with his mates, presumably to cause more mayhem in the neighborhood.
Harry stood there, still rubbing his arm as Dudley stuffed his mouth with the sweets and yelled at his friends waiting for him outside.
Harry silently wished that the whole world could see Dudley for the selfish bully that he was. Harry burst out laughing as Dudley tripped on the top stair, falling hard on his stomach. In spite of his amusement, he rushed over to make sure that his cousin hadn’t fatally injured himself. The impact had apparently caused little Dudders to spill most of what he had just eaten on the sidewalk. The only thing seriously hurt was his pride, however, since Dudley’s fellow terrorists were laughing so hard at him that none had yet made a move to help him up.
Some friends, Harry thought. I can’t wait to get away from here and make some real friends of my own. They certainly won’t be the fair-weather kind, either. They won’t care that I’m poor and wear baggy clothes. They won’t care that I’m shy and have knobby knees or that I have to wear spectacles to see properly.
Harry shook the thoughts from his head as he realized that someone was yelling at him. It was Dudley. Once again, something embarrassing had happened to him and he was blaming Harry. It didn’t matter that Harry had been no where near him and couldn’t have possibly pushed him. How does Dudley think I’m doing it -- with magic?
“You’re lucky I’m in such a hurry, Potter,” Dudley said angrily as he struggled up from his awkward position on the ground. “I should give you a solid thrashing, but I have more important things to do.”
Harry shrugged and backed up. Best not to make him any angrier, he thought. Dudley would just come back later and he and his friends would make sure that Harry would be in a world of pain if he so much as said anything.
Harry went and sat back down at his station by the picture window so that he could see anyone approaching. He was picking though the candy when the doorbell rang. Harry was startled. He was sure that he hadn’t seen any children approaching. Maybe it was another party guest, showing up unfashionably late.
Harry hesitated as he reached to open the door. He just had the oddest sensation that something was going to happen tonight. Time seemed to stop for a moment and Harry could almost swear that he heard a voice that said Prepare yourself, Harry. The feeling lasted only a split second, however as he turned the knob and opened the door.
Not a party guest, Harry thought as he looked at the stranger standing in the doorway. A bit old for a trick-or-treater, too. Harry couldn’t think of any other reason that the gentleman standing in front of him, dressed as a wizard, would be at this house, at this time of night.
“Erm,” Harry choked out as he reached back and grabbed the candy bowl. “Would you like a sweet?” he said as he held the candy out to the older man.
“Why certainly, Harry,” he said. “I love just about any kind of sweets, except of course the kind that taste of ear wax.”
Harry continued to look at him, puzzled. Suddenly the thought that this man might be an escapee from a home for the mentally infirm crossed his mind, causing Harry to take a step back. The older man must have sensed Harry’s panic. “Never fear, young Mr. Potter. I am neither crazy, nor senile. I was a friend of your parents. I was just in the neighborhood and wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Who are you? You knew my parents?” Harry said. “You know tonight is…” Harry’s voice trailed off, and to his embarrassment, tears welled up in his eyes.
“Just call me Professor for now, and yes, Harry, I know what tonight is,” the Professor said with a note of sadness in his voice. “It happened exactly nine years ago tonight. You were brought here and that was the last time I saw you. I was always hoping that you would find the family that you needed in your Aunt and Uncle,” he said. “I am afraid it has not always been so.”
Harry’s face reddened. “Not so bad,” he said. “I’m pretty tough.”
The defiant tilt of Harry’s chin made the Professor chuckle. “Truer words were never said, Harry. If you are anything like your parents, you are one of the bravest people I know.”
With that, the older man patted Harry on the shoulder and said something that Harry couldn’t understand.
“I would invite you in, Professor, but my Aunt and Uncle wouldn’t be pleased if I let a stranger in the house. I do hope you have a warm place to stay the night.”
“Not to worry, Harry, I’ll be home and warm in my own bed in less time than it would take your cousin to consume one of those toffees.”
“Oh, you live close by? Do you live anywhere near Mrs. Figg?” Harry said, wondering why he had never seen this man before, hoping that he could get to know someone who could tell him a little about his parents.
“Arabella and I happen to be old friends, as a matter of fact,” the Professor said. “I am afraid I live quite far away, but I am lucky enough to have very fast transportation.”
“Good,” Harry said, suddenly crestfallen. Here in front of him stood a chance to get to know his parents, and the man was leaving tonight. It wasn’t fair. If I could just know what kind of people they were, maybe I could find out what kind of person I will be. I certainly don’t want to grow up with a family like this. I wish I could just go out and pick a new one, he thought.
The Professor sensed Harry’s sadness, and crouched down to speak to Harry at eye level
“I know that life has not treated you as well as you, or I, would have hoped so far,” he said. “That was part of my reason for coming here tonight. I wanted to give you some hope that better days were on the horizon. I have to return home tonight, but rest assured we will see each other again soon. You will know your parents, I will see to that. Just bear with your old family a while longer and soon you will have a new one.”
“Do you really think so, Professor? You mean like someone would come and adopt me?” Harry said, not wanting to sound as if he was forgetting his parents, but wishing that he could have someone to love and take care of him.
“Something of that sort, Harry,” the Professor said. “I am hoping that, starting now, this night will no longer be a night of sadness and loneliness for you. When you go to bed tonight and every night from now on, I want you to have hope and believe that things will change someday. I know that your parents would be very proud of how brave you are already.”
With that, the Professor smiled and stood back up. Impulsively, Harry reached out and hugged the Professor as tightly as he could. “Thank you, sir, I can’t tell you what this means to me. I have been hoping to get to know them for a long time. Do you think I will have to wait long before my new family finds me?”
The wistful tone of Harry’s voice nearly brought tears to the older man’s eyes, then he remembered that his purpose in coming here was to cheer Harry up, not to depress him. “Harry, I can’t tell you exactly, but I would say that you should have a very nice birthday next year.”
Harry shook his head. “That would be nice, but I never have good birthdays, or presents, for that matter.”
“Harry, my boy, I see presents for many occasions in your future, not just your birthday,” he said as he reached out and mussed Harry’s hair. “I am afraid I must go, before I get you into trouble. Your Aunt and Uncle will surely be sending you to bed soon.”
“They don’t care much what I do as long as I get my chores done and stay out of the way,” Harry said. “I’m sorry you have to go so soon. I do hope we can talk about my mum and dad sometime.”
“Harry, I have been counting on that since the day I brought, I mean you, were brought here,” the Professor said. “Well, I must be on my way. Take care, Harry!”
The old wizard turned and began walking down the front steps when Harry realized that he hadn’t gotten the man’s proper name. He would have to find out, so he could ask Mrs. Figg about him the next time he saw her. When he stepped out the front door, however, the man was nowhere in sight. He didn’t know if it would be so wise to try to describe him to Mrs. Figg. She would probably tell Aunt Petunia and that would be the only excuse they would need to send Harry off to an asylum. He would just have to keep his visitor a secret a while longer, he thought, to give his new family a chance to come and find him.
Against all odds that night, Harry had a smile on his face as he went to bed. Even though he was rather cramped in his little cupboard and the mattress was very worn, Harry fell asleep easily. For once, his dreams were pleasant ones. He dreamt of a beautiful woman with red hair and a tall man with untidy black hair looking very cozy and happy with their little baby. Oh, how lucky that little baby is to have such a loving family, he thought, hoping there were many more dreams like this to come.