October, 31st, 1981
Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall gave Baby Harry Potter one more look, and Disapparated. Young Harry turned over in his sleep, and clutched the letter Professor Dumbledore had put there. The area was deserted.
Or, at least, it had been. In the time it took to blink, an old woman appeared at the end of Number Four's driveway. If Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had looked eccentric in their robes, this woman looked like she had come out of a movie, or perhaps a video game.
She was hunched over, and leaning heavily on a wooden stick that rose two feet over her head. The end was curved and carved, and resting on it was a crow, its yellow eyes fixed on the bundle on the doorstep. At the woman's side, a pure black wolf stood lean and strong. One of the woman's gnarled hands rested on the wolf's head, stroking its ears. The woman wore a long midnight blue colored robe, and her cloak was as black as night, but interwoven with the fabric were little specks of silver, shimmering and glimmering in the light of the moon. Her face was brown, and lined with her old age. Her hair was pure white, setting a dark contrast against the night. Her eyes gleamed as she looked at the bundle of blankets that held Baby Harry. She lifted her hand away from the wolf, and pulled from a pocket of her robes a wand, about fifteen inches long and made of black wood.
She walked, without even a limp, to the doorstep, and touched the tip of her wand to the scar on Baby Harry's forehead. She opened her mouth and her voice came out raspy and dark. She spoke in a tongue that had been long forgotten by man, each word resonating throughout the street, words of power. The wand tip glowed gold, the baby's scar glowed along with it, then the woman closed her lips, and the glow faded. She stepped back, touched a hand to the wolf's head, and as quickly as she appeared, she vanished.
Far away from Little Whinging, at a crooked house that could only be held up by magic, two adults slept soundly in their bed. At the end of the bed, were two hand carved wooden cribs. In one, a infant boy lay on his back, drool dripping from his chin, and in the other, a baby girl slept with her red hair splayed against her pillow. Her tiny left hand was curled into a fist, and her right clutched the blanket that rested upon her.
The woman that had appeared and vanished by Number Four Privet Drive reappeared by the girl's crib, with her wolf and crow still and silent at her side. She touched the tip of her wand to the baby girl's forehead, and whispered again in words long forgotten, but this time, the words were soft, to soft for the two adults to hear but enough to wake the baby girl in her crib.
The baby stared up at the woman in wonder and fear. The woman put away her wand, and, hesitantly, reached out and touched a finger to the baby girl's cheek.
"You will not hear his voice until the time is right," she said, her voice still raspy. "He will be dormant in your mind until you most desperately need him. Only when you turn inward to find solace will you hear him, and only when he does the same will he hear you."
The baby girl blinked her chocolate brown eyes. The woman withdrew her hand, and lay it back upon her wolf's head.
"Never let your dreams cease," the woman whispered. "Never let your imagination dry up; always believe in the last few untamed branches of magic. Always trust the wild ways, always know you are true, and not just because of what I have done this night. Look up to the stars and know you are not alone in this world, Ginevra Weasley."
The baby girl seemed to understand, even though this was impossible. She was a year old at least, but she seemed to understand what this strange woman said. The baby blinked her eyes once more, and the woman and her crow and wolf were gone.
In the apple orchard behind the house, the crow on the woman's staff let out a mournful croon, and the wolf sat back on its haunches to look up to the moon and howled. The woman drew her wand once more, and pointed it into the sky. The moon's light shone down on her, and her image faded. The wolf and her crow stopped their noise, and the three vanished once more.
They were gone, and this time, they did not reappear.
One: The Boy Who Dreamed
Harry stumbled into the front hall, and ducked automatically as a soapy sponge flew over his head. Aunt Petunia screeched loudly in the kitchen, while his uncle roared back from the safety of the underside of the kitchen table. Harry dodged a wooden spoon, and slipped into his cupboard. Literally slipped. The floor was soaked in Murphy's' Oil Soap. Today had been Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's anniversary. A loud chiming joined the din in the kitchen. Correction: yesterday had been their anniversary. Harry sighed, and tugged his soapy shirt over his head. He didn't bother undressing the rest of the way, just plopped onto the cot that served as his bed.
Harry smiled slightly as her voice drifted into his mind. Uncle Vernon forgot their anniversary.
Ouch, poor him.
Poor me! I'll have to clean everything up in the morning.
Yes, poor you. The world pities you. You are the most pitiable thing on God's green Earth. She rolled her eyes.
Harry glared at the ceiling. She giggled, and said; At least they aren't mad at you.
Yeah. Let's hope they forget that I'm here like they did with Dudley.
Upstairs playing his video games. What did you expect?
Dunno, maybe crying because his parents are fighting.
Don't tell me your parents are fighting.
No, but Mum's really upset.
Fred and George hexed Percy so that his hair turned pink. An image of a disgruntled boy with vivid pink hair flashed across his mind.
Harry laughed softly. Maybe he ought to keep it that way. It looks good.
Don't start. Percy's furious because Mum can't get it to go away, and he's leaving for school in a month.
Don't remind me, Harry groaned. The school year started soon, and he'd have to deal with the bullies again. At least this year, Dudley and most of his gang were going to a private school and he, Harry, would be going to the public school.
Oh, come on, her voice sang. It won't be too horrible. Look on the bright side, Dudley won't be there.
Yeah, big whoop.
What have I said about being negative?
That it's like inviting a Dementor inside.
Exactly. Be careful or it might suck out your soul.
But Dementors aren't real.
Yes they are. Daddy's had to interact with them, and they're worse than anything your uncle could do to you.
Harry sighed. The half bad, half crazy cool part about his imaginary friend was that she lived in a world of magic. With 'Dementors' and flying brooms and people who could turn into animals. But magic wasn't real, at least, not in his world.
Magic is real!
Yeah, yeah, I know.
Don't tease me!
No, stop. I hate fighting with you.
A pleasant, warm feeling came over him, and he smiled. You're right. Let's stop.
Good. What shall we talk about now?
Sleep? Harry suggested with a yawn. She giggled again. Fine with me. Sweet dreams.
Same to you. Harry shut his eyes, and fell asleep.
Harry spent the next day cleaning up from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's fight. Aunt Petunia was furious with him because he didn't clean up during the fight. Harry tried to explain that anything that got within eight feet of her got skewered with kitchen utensils. She just sniffed, and made him scrub the floor.
While he was cleaning, Dudley played video games or watched TV while eating nonstop. Around noon, Aunt Petunia told Harry to make himself a sandwich and take it outside. Harry slapped together cheese, mustard, and bologna, between the heels of the last loaf of bread he'd made, and wandered out to the back yard with it on a paper towel. He ate in silence, watching his cousin eating lasagna through the dining room window. Harry glanced at his pathetic sandwich, sighed, and walked away. He came to rest in the side yard near his aunt's cherry tree. He finished his sandwich and leaned up against the tree to enjoy the last moments of his break. The sitting room window in front of him sat open, and Harry paused to listen to the TV playing. After a minute or two, the phone rang.
His aunt walked into the room, switched of the TV, and sat down on the couch. His aunt picked it up, said hello, and then gasped. Harry, feeling curious, crept closer to hear what she was saying.
"Yes, Vernon Dursley lives here." She paused, listening to the other person on the line. "He left his what?... And, where?" Aunt Petunia pressed a hand to her chest, and took a deep breath. "Thank you, sir. I'm sure he'll go back to get it." She winced, held the receiver away from her ear. Then she paled, and set her lips in a firm line. "Do me a favor, mister. Never call this number again." Aunt Petunia slammed the receiver down on the cradle, and hugged her self.
"That is it." She grabbed the phone again, and dialed.
Harry normally didn't listen to his aunt's phone chats, since she usually only called the neighbors or her friends from the local Ladies' Club. But as Aunt Petunia began speaking, Harry noticed that her tone wasn't one she used when talking to Mrs. Next Door. More like she was speaking to a person in a position of authority. She said something about schools and Dudley, then spoke her good-byes, and hung up. She sat there in silence for a moment, then stood, and left the room. Harry sat back, rest against the house, pondering the two calls.
"Harry! Get in here!"
Sighing, Harry stood, and rushed to answer his aunt's summons.
Aunt Petunia set him to work again, and finally, the kitchen was clean. There were no more marks on the table from his aunt's rubber spatula collection, and the hallway floor was no longer sticky with oil soap. By that time, his uncle had returned from work full of apologies with a bouquet of lilies and a bottle of Jack Daniel's finest. Harry, who was sore from the scrubbing, was setting the table and warily watching his aunt as Uncle Vernon dropped the bottle on the counter and handed the bouquet to Aunt Petunia. She hated lilies.
Oooh, he's in trouble! Said his friend in a sing-song voice.
I'll say, Harry thought. She snorted.
Aunt Petunia gave Vernon a tight-lipped smile, and set out a vase to hold the flowers. Harry glanced back at the whiskey bottle. Aunt Petunia didn't even bother hiding her displeasure at it. She glared at the bottle. Vernon pretended he didn't see his wife's glare, and placed the bottle on the table.
I know my mother wouldn't blow up at my dad if he brought the wrong sort of flower, but whiskey? She said. What kind of man brings his wife whiskey?
An alcoholic? he suggested.
Oh, Harry, I'm sorry, I forgot, She said hurriedly. Just promise me you'll follow your cousin's example and scram when he starts to drink.
Good. Oh, Mum's calling me. Talk to you later!
Bye, Harry thought miserably as Uncle Vernon took his place at the table. Aunt Petunia gave him another tight-lipped smile and banged a platter bearing a roast chicken on the table. Uncle Vernon nodded, she sat down, and Dudley said, "I'm hungry. Let's eat."
"Oh, of course, sweetums," Aunt Petunia simpered. "Vernon, carve the chicken."
"Right," he said, and did as he was bid. Dinner was quiet; Harry ate quickly and cleared the table as soon as his aunt and cousin were done. While he was washing the dishes, Uncle Vernon opened the bottle of whiskey.
"Vernon," his aunt said in a low, dangerous voice. "Remember what the doctor said?"
"Yeah, right," he snorted, and stood. He went into the kitchen, pulled a shot glass from the cupboard, and poured two fingers worth of whiskey into the glass. Aunt Petunia stood up quickly, grabbed the flowers from the vase gracing the center of the table, and threw them into the waste bin. She crossed the room, and blocked the sitting room door. Uncle Vernon threw back his drink, and left the kitchen, heading for the sitting room. Dudley glanced over at Harry, still washing dishes, then at his mother standing in the doorway to the sitting room.
"Petunia, I need to watch the news."
"Give me the bottle, Vernon," she said.
"No! I can have a drink if I want," Vernon said. And he threw back another shot of whiskey
"You've been drinking entirely too much, Vernon. You know who called me yesterday? Your boss! He wants to know why you're leaving work early all the time. And do you know who called this afternoon?" his aunt's voice rose shrilly. "The manager of a strip club downtown! He said you left your jacket! From now on, no bars, no clubs, no coming home late, no leaving work early, and no drinking!" She snatched the bottle of whiskey from his hand, crossed the room, and dropped it in the waste bin too.
Slowly, Uncle Vernon turned towards her, a look of pure rage on his face. It took three strides for him to cross the room and stick his nose in Aunt Petunia's face. Harry, feeling suddenly scared for his aunt, set down his dish towel, and backed up in the direction of the knife block.
"You've overstepped your line, Petunia," he growled, his voice slurring dangerously. "Your job is to cook, clean, and raise my son. Not to regulate my drinking! I'll spend as much time as I want in bars, and clubs too, if I want! I do what I want, not what you want!" He grabbed the whiskey bottle out of the trash, and took a long swig.
"Think about what you're doing to our family! You're spending half your paycheck on beer and whiskey and who knows what else! With your spending habits, we won't be able to send Dudley to Smelting's!" Aunt Petunia screamed.
"Oh, piss off, woman. I already paid for it."
"What about feeding us? And him?" she jerked her thumb over at Harry. "Don't you think it would be a blot on your record if your family starves to feed your need for whiskey?"
"Honestly, you could do with a little less feeding. And Dudley won't starve, I'll make sure of that," Vernon snapped. "As for that runt, it would easier to dump him on the streets. Our financial worries would be cut in half without him!"
"I've told you before, that boy may be a pain, but he's not useless! He makes up for what we do for him. Besides, he's my sister's son, and no matter how freakish she was, I owe it to her to care for her son."
Harry was stunned. His aunt was defending him? And she'd done it before?
"Well, scream why don't you," uncle Vernon bellowed. "Let the whole world know, why don't you?"
"Vernon Dursley, I refuse to be treated this way anymore. Either you quit drinking, or I take my son and my nephew and we leave."
"Oh, putting that brat on the same level as Dudley, now are we?"
"I don't care how bothersome he is, he doesn't deserve to be with you! And don't change the subject!"
"You won't leave," Vernon laughed. "You're gonna stay right here and do as you're told!"
Aunt Petunia glanced at Dudley. "Go up to your room, Dudley."
"Mummy, are we really leaving?"
"If your father doesn't mend his ways, yes."
"'If your father doesn't mend his ways,'" Vernon mocked her. "You're not going anywhere."
"Dudley, go." Dudley stood up, and scurried from the room.
"We are leaving. And I won't let you stop us.'"
She pushed past Uncle Vernon, and stomped out of the dining room. A tiny glass angel on the china cabinet fell, and smashed.
Uncle Vernon glanced at the shattered remains of the cherub, and grumbled under his breath.
"Clean that up," he growled, and dropped into a dining room chair.
Harry grabbed a broom and dust pan, and crossed the room, eyes on his uncle. Slowly, he stooped down, and swept it up.
"She won't leave."
Harry looked up.
His uncle was squinting at him, the whiskey bottle sitting in his limp hand.
"She can threaten me all she wants, but she won't leave."
Oh, yes she will.
Weren't you listening? Aunt Petunia's taking me and Dudley and leaving. We'll be gone by tomorrow. Uncle Vernon won't stop drinking for anything.
Won't that be good? You'll be away from your uncle.
Yeah, but where will we go? This is the only place we've ever been. Aunt Petunia doesn't have any real friends to take her in.
Maybe an inn? Wait, what about her parents?
Harry shook his head, and, keeping his eyes on Uncle Vernon, he crossed to the waste bin and hastily deposited the glass shards.
She never talks about them. I think they're dead.
He could tell that his friend was thinking hard about this as he walked across the kitchen, opened the pantry door, and dropped the broom and pan on the floor. He then ran out of the kitchen and into the hallway.
I wish there was some way I could help, She said.
I have to go now; Mum needs me to peel potato's for dinner. We're having roast beef and mashed potato's and parsnips. I'm not too fond of parsnips.
I don't think anyone is.
She laughed. Vaguely, Harry heard a woman's voice, and the whistle of a water kettle.
Ignoring the noise on his imaginary friend's side of his mind, Harry shut the door to the dining room and kitchen. Through the stained glass windows, he could see his uncle pouring himself more whiskey. Sighing, Harry stepped up to the door of his cupboard, but stopped suddenly.
"…remember that teensy little drinking problem he had?" his aunt's voice, coming from the living room. Slowly, Harry edged to the living room doorway. Aunt Petunia sat on the couch, the telephone receiver in one hand, a pen hovering over a pad of paper in the other.
"He's an alcoholic now." His aunt paused, listening to the other person on the line. "Yes, yes, you were right. Listen, I told him that I'm leaving him, I can't stand him anymore. Could I come stay with you for a while?" Pause. "Yes, with Dudley. And Harry." He heard a muffled shout, and saw Aunt Petunia wince. "Yes, I mean Lily's son…. He's fine... I wanted to tell you he was with us, but Vernon insisted I keep it quiet… No! I did not pretend he was my son. Horrible thing for you to suggest… Well, he's not very bright, nor very pretty. He's a strange boy; you can imagine Vernon's want to avoid discussing him, Lily being what she was… No, I can't say he looks much like her… Look, I'm not overly fond of the boy, and if you met him, you'd dislike him too!" Aunt Petunia winced again, and then, in a soft hiss, said, "My husband is spending all his money at bars and strip clubs, so at the moment I'd rather not discuss why I don't like Lily's son!" Aunt Petunia's eyes flashed, and she stood up, throwing the pencil and paper away. "Please?... Thank you, we'll be there as soon as possible. And, please, when we get there, don't mention Lily's school when we get there. I haven't told him about his, ah, heritage. Good-bye." She put the receiver down, and sank onto the couch, hanging her head in her hands.
"Tonight," she whispered, and stood back up. Harry scrambled up and hurried to his cupboard. But before he could get inside, his aunt exited the living room.
"What are you doing?" she snapped.
"Nothing," he answered quickly.
His aunt narrowed her eyes, and turned her eyes on the door to the kitchen. Harry looked too, and saw his uncle draining his glass.
"We're leaving now," she said softly. Aunt Petunia sighed, and turned to him. "Go in there and make sure he keeps drinking until he passes out. Be best if he didn't see us packing."
"Now?" Harry said, feeling like he should point out that his uncle didn't need help.
"Yes, boy, now go do as you're told!"
Harry opened the kitchen door, and darted in. Vernon didn't notice him. Slowly, Harry crept over to the liquor cabinet, and quickly opened the glass door, and then carefully withdrew a bottle of scotch. Harry turned around and found himself nose to nose with his uncle.
Gulping, Harry glanced down at the bottle in his hands.
"Oh, sho she shends her nepew to get my whishkey, does she?" Vernon growled.
"No, no, I was-" Harry stammered, racking his brain for excuses.
"Stealing from me, then?" Vernon hiccuped, and snatched the bottle away from him. He unscrewed the lid, and drank heavily. Air bubbles rose to the bottom of the bottle, as Vernon swallowed. He lowered the bottle, and looked down on Harry, his eyes bloodshot and face ruddy.
"You know, I regret taking you in more and more every day," he slurred. "Fact, I'd blame you for my incresh… incrash… loads of drinking."
"Do you?" Harry squeaked.
"Oh, yeah," his uncle burped, and Harry coughed as the torrid smell of whiskey mixed with the leftovers from his uncle's last dozens meals washed over him. His uncle laughed at him, and stumbled back to the dinning room table, and sank into his chair.
"You're the strangest thing I ever met, you are," he rumbled.
"You think?" Harry said with raised eyebrows.
Vernon took another swig of the scotch, and stared at him, cross-eyed. "I wouldn't have married that woman had I known 'bout her good fer nothin' sithter."
"You mean my mother?"
"Yeah, her. She a crazy bitch, I heard."
Harry felt anger rise in him. He wasn't exactly sure what 'bitch' meant, whenever Dudley said it, Aunt Petunia shushed him, and Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge, always referred to her female dogs as 'bitches.'
His uncle cocked his head.
"A- a bitch."
Vernon laughed deeply, and swigged at his scotch. "You don't even know what it mean, do ya?"
"No, but I know my mother was not one."
He laughed again, and set the bottle on the table. "Doesn't matter now. She dead as a doorknob. Gone and blown up."
"Argh, blown up. Mad girl, she was. Funny thing, she was, and that husband o' hers."
"But you said my parents died in a car crash."
"But my mother blew up?"
"Don't ask questions," Vernon snapped. "Best you don't know."
"Know what? What are you hiding from me?"
"You don't need to know!" Vernon roared.
"Tell me!" Harry yelled back, advanced on him. The kitchen door burst open, and Aunt Petunia ran in.
"Harry Potter, calm yourself!" she gasped. "You'll wake up the whole neighborhood."
"But- but he won't tell me about it!"
"About what?" Petunia turned to her husband, glaring at him in disgust.
"Blew up, she did," he growled. "Not my fault. She had it coming." His uncle's eyelids drooped as he took another gulp of the scotch.
Petunia's face paled; she grabbed Harry's elbow, and dragged him through the door into the front hall. She slammed the kitchen door shut. One of the stained glass panels cracked.
"Your uncle doesn't know what he's talking about," she said in a hushed voice.
"He was talking about my mother!"
"She didn't exactly blow up."
"Then what happened?"
"I've told you before, she and your father died in a car crash."
"The gas tank exploded. That's what your uncle was talking about. Here, take this," she shoved a ratty rucksack into my arms, "pack your things."
"Don't ask questions!" she snapped, and stomped away, upstairs. Harry sighed, and opened his cupboard door. The packing went quickly, and, after retrieving the last few socks from under his bed, he latched the flap of the bag shut, and left his cupboard. Dropping it at the foot of the stairs, he climbed them dejectedly, and went into his aunt's room. She stood by the window, staring down at something in her hands.
Harry stepped forward, glancing at the suitcase on the bed. It was full of neatly folded clothes. He glanced back at his aunt. She hadn't notice him. Harry turned to the dresser, and checked the drawers. They were empty. He went to the closet, and started to remove his aunt dresses. He laid the first load out on the bed, so his aunt could select the ones she wanted to keep.
"What?" she turned around, hiding whatever it was behind her back.
"Where's your hanging bag?"
"My- oh, on the closet shelf."
Harry nodded, and fetched the bag. He put in the dresses and skirt suits he knew his aunt liked best, while Petunia finished with the suitcase. After a while, Dudley wandered in to report he had packed his favorite toys and all his clothes. Aunt Petunia then stunned both Harry and Dudley by telling her son that he had to leave his toys behind. Dudley whined and cried, but Aunt Petunia was firm. Eventually, Dudley, grumbling under his breath, agreed and went to put the toys back. After that, Aunt Petunia called a taxi company, and arranged for transport to London.
Finally, Aunt Petunia was ready to leave. Both Dudley and Harry pitched in to carry her bags downstairs, Dudley taking her purse and Harry taking the suitcase and hanging bag. The clock read 9:58. Aunt Petunia wrote Uncle Vernon a note, and she taped it to the kitchen door. Uncle Vernon was slumped over on the table. Dudley waved half-heartedly at him as he left the house. Harry grabbed his rucksack, and carted it along with his aunt's bags out to the driveway. The taxi pulled up, and Harry loaded the bags into the trunk, and tossed his aunt's purse in the front seat. Then, the front door burst open.
Uncle Vernon strode across the front lawn. Aunt Petunia shielded Dudley behind her. Harry had a brief vision of a red haired woman doing the same thing in front of him.
"Where are you going?" Uncle Vernon growled. Aunt Petunia clenched her jaw.
"I told you, I'm leaving. I've had enough of your drinking and faithlessness. I'm taking these two with me."
"And I told you," Vernon stuck his ruddy purple face in hers, "I won't let you go."
"If you touch me, or my son," Aunt Petunia squeaked, "You'll be arrested!"
Vernon grabbed her arm. The taxi driver honked his horn. Harry rushed forward and Dudley gasped.
"You're not going anywhere," Vernon sneered. "Dudley, get in the house."
Dudley whimpered, shrinking against the taxi.
"I told you to get in the house!" Vernon snapped.
"Get in the taxi," Petunia said.
"Dudley, get in the car."
Dudley opened the car door, and climbed in. Vernon glared at his wife.
"You dare defy me?"
"I'm keeping my son safe."
Harry felt a twinge of sadness. What about his safety?
"It's your safety you should be worried about," Vernon hissed, and he slugged her in the gut. Aunt Petunia fell to her knees, crying out in pain. Harry yelled "Stop!" Lights turned on along the street. Vernon kicked Aunt Petunia, she collapsed with a grunt, and he turned on Harry. Harry backed away, into the road.
"This is your fault," Vernon growled. "If you weren't such a nuisance-"
"Don't blame me, I didn't make you drink!" Harry said quickly.
"Argh, but you were the reason. We should have left you on the street, you filthy thing."
Harry felt anger boil up inside him.
"Sometimes I wish you did!" Harry snapped.
"You drove her away from me!"
"You did it on your own!"
Vernon lunged at him, hands outstretched; his bloodshot eyes alight with fury. Harry reacted instinctively: He held his hands out in front of him, and shut his eyes. There was a flash of golden light, and Harry peeked through his lashes. His uncle sat on his rump on the pavement. There was a shimmery substance between Harry and his uncle.
Confused, Harry lowered his arms, and stared at his dazed uncle.
"Harry, get in the car!" his aunt snapped. Harry shook his head, and the shimmering wall vanished.
Harry did as he was told, and climbed into the taxi. His aunt took the front seat.
"What the hell just happened there?" the taxi driver asked.
"Just take us to King's Cross Station, in London," Petunia snapped. "Quickly!"
The driver floored the accelerator, and in no time at all, they were rolling down the highway to London.