Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, that credit goes to J. K. Rowling.


BIRTHDAY SURPRISES

It had been a month or so since Harry had come home from a supposed "friend's" care. She still hadn't worked up the courage to tell the Dursleys that she was going to a wizarding school, not a public one. Imagine what their reactions would have been! Then again, Petunia was getting suspicious. Her lie in their private talk right after wouldn't hold for very much longer.

The date was July 31, a special day for Harry. It was the eleventh anniversary of her birth. Quite an achievement in her mind. Sometimes she had been sure she wouldn't make it that far, but made it she had. Even more amazing was that she had something to anticipate. She could go someplace beyond the reach of her strange relatives, although she wasn't quite sure how much she was nervous, happy, or scared. All three feelings buzzed through Harry's body, but they carried much of the same symptoms.

Petunia woke her niece when morning was only beginning to inhale awakeness, and together they had their annual celebration. Harry couldn't have a real party because she didn't have friends and Vernon and Dudley would likely both have a cow, so her birthday was always something only she and Petunia would recognize. There was no cake, nor presents, but it was the one day of the year that Petunia would answer a carefully chosen question. Later on in the course of the day Harry would also be granted more freedom than usual. Dinner wasn't anything special, but she didn't have to make it. To put it simply, it was her favorite day of the year.

This year, in light of recent happenings, Harry had picked her one question with even more care than the time after a series of strange situations had occurred to her. It was important that she didn't waste this one chance, because Harry wouldn't remember or consider previous questions she had thought of. So it was that the raven-haired child awaited morning with a busy mind in her cupboard. Her green eyes were still open when her aunt gently opened the door, and she was already dressed for the day.

"Good morning Harry," Petunia whispered, taking the child's hand.

"Good morning Aunt Petunia," the girl answered quietly.

The two settled on the couch, cuddled under a blanket the elder woman had brought out. Harry held the thought of how Vernon and Dudley would react to see them like this, enjoying their imaginary disbelief. The secret love Petunia would share with her warmed her heart, even if she didn't have all the answers.

The next part was what Harry had memorized completely. Every birthday of every year, she made sure to remember the question and answer. When she was four, she had asked how come Dudley was treated different from her. The reply had been along the lines of saying it was because Harry's special and lovable qualities had to be hidden, but Dudley's weren't, and so she didn't get the same attention. Now it seemed like what an adult would say to appease a child, but it was still something she appreciated.

Petunia continued to hold Harry's hand in her own, rubbing it warm and smooth, waiting for the child's words. It was a comforting gesture that the green-eyed girl gladly accepted and returned with her other hand over top. With all of their hands piled up, and the blanket pulled over for extra warmth, it was time.

"Aunt Petunia," Harry began hesitantly, second-guessing her choice. "Did you know I would be a witch?"

She looked down at her feet as she said it, so Harry didn't see her aunt's reaction. She only heard a gasp followed by what sounded like a muffled choking. In the silence after she could only think negatively.

She knew. Or if she didn't, Aunt Petunia knew I wasn't from normal origins. Either way, she knew and hadn't expected me to know. How much is she really hiding from me?

A hand brushed through the black bangs shadowing Harry's downcast eyes. The long, feminine fingers continued to comb through her hair, nails lightly scratching her scalp. "Oh, Harry," Petunia sighed, seeming somehow helpless.

Harry lifted her eyes slowly to find that Petunia had closed her eyes and was breathing deeply to regain control over herself, attempting to relax her facial muscles. Harry pushed her aunt's hand away and extended her own, smoothing away the creases wrinkling Petunia's forehead with her thumb.

"Harry," she said resolutely, "we need to talk about this with all seriousness." Harry pulled her hand away. "Where were you told that you were a witch?"

"Well, you know that sleepover I had? It wasn't really with a friend, it was with a complete stranger. She said she was a professor at Hogwarts, and that since she had been at the circus she might as well take me shopping for my supplies."

"Hogwarts?" Petunia asked, a barely noticeable film coming over her eyes.

"Yes. And I met a nasty boy when I was being fitted for my robes. He said that there were four sections that you could be in! Imagine how many people will be there, Aunt Petunia. I can't wait to go. Professor Snape said she would send an owl so we could tell the school I'm going. I am, aren't I?"

Harry had gotten so worked up about going to Hogwarts that she had never considered not being allowed to go. She realized just how unlikely it was that Vernon would allow it. Her green eyes traveled swiftly between her aunts brown ones, checking for sincerity as all children do at one point or another. Petunia could only avert her eyes, because she herself was uncertain of the likelihood of Harry making it to Hogwarts.

With that thinking needing to be done, she conveniently forgot about the owl.

A shriek resounded throughout not only the house but the entire sleeping street. It was strangely deep for a woman's throat. Once the victim of some heinous crime ran out of breath, a faint tapping could be heard from the upstairs area of the house. Scratching accompanied it; Petunia and Harry crept slowly up the stairs, checking warily for signs of forced entry.

Just as they rounded the corner of the hallway an angry shout echoed, causing them to jump in surprise. The voice was more recognizable now as Vernon Dursley's. This did make it easier to know where to go, but Harry lagged behind for fear of not making it to her twelfth birthday. She knew how deadly her uncle's rage could be, and she had a funny feeling that it would be directed at her for some reason.

"Vernon?!" Petunia yelled out with a touch of disbelief in her voice.

As Harry peered around the door, she understood immediately. In Vernon's hands was a tightly gripped lamp, positioned somewhat like a baseball bat might be. The snowy white target was trapped in the window, having apparently gotten as far as a leg in before the glass was slammed down on it. Unfortunately, Petunia did not approve and he was in for a little more than an earful.

Taking advantage of the momentary chaos, the little raven-haired girl raced around to free the stuck bird. Her heart went out to it, and she wasn't going to miss her chance. Contrary to her belief that the owl would fly away as soon as it could, it actually landed on her lap, snuggling its head against her chest affectionately. Harry now knew why she had felt she would get blamed. Too well when Vernon turned on her.

"HARRY!" Uncle Vernon shouted, raising a threatening hand.

Harry looked left and right, actually hoping for a second that there was another Harry in the room. Sadly, there was not. The white owl chose this moment to protest loudly, shrieking at Vernon. Though Harry was grateful for the feathered creature's attempts, she knew she was already doomed.

A letter fluttered to the floor, momentarily pausing Vernon's advance. "What is this?" he asked suspiciously.

All three in the room studied the paper carefully before Harry and Vernon both tried to snatch it up at the same time. "It's mine!" Harry yelled as they grappled. She emerged victorious with Vernon hot on her tail as she ran clutching owl and letter to her chest.

"You get back here!" Vernon thundered, red-faced and huffing.

She only ran faster, throwing the front door open and making her way down the cold, misty road. The owl screeched loudly, obviously uncomfortable, and Harry shifted her hold on it to prevent her uncle from tracking her progress; if he even made it to the intersection she turned off at. A good advantage of being small is speed, since you are already used to taking more steps than the average person. A good advantage to having an out-of-shape uncle is that he can't keep up.

The birds of the early morning made their calls, breaking the silence surrounding slapping footfalls every once in a while. There was the harsh chirp of the smaller species, and the rarer message meant to frighten unsuspecting prey right before their sudden demise. Harry broke from the paved road after three turns into a forested area. The leaves around rustled but she didn't worry about the noise this far out. She was certain Vernon wouldn't have made it that far.

The green-eyed child continued to run deeper in, but it wasn't long before she was satisfied with the distance. She finally rested to catch her breath, sitting cross-legged on the slightly wet ground. Harry set the snowy owl down in her warm lap and then unfolded the letter it had carried. Her eyes widened as she read:

Harry Potter

Apologies for late notice, but July 31 is the deadline for the confirmation of your planning on attending Hogwarts. In addition, having realized that you have no means to communicate within the wizarding world, this owl has been bought for your use. Her name is Hedwig, and you can send your letter of confirmation with her.

Set it up as you want, but make sure to make it out to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The owl will know where to go.

Professor Snape

Within the letter was also a train ticket, for the platform "9 & 3/4."

Harry looked to the owl, her owl, with a grin. She tore the unused part of the letter off, holding it in one hand while she walked over to a nearby tree and stuck her hand in the hollow that was at the base, hidden from side views with the roots. One would have to look straight on, knowing it was there, to see the hole. In her hand as it pulled out was a black sketching pencil, something Petunia had secretly gifted her with last Christmas. To keep it a secret, Harry had hidden it where she went whenever she wasn't loaded with chores.

Using her lap as the writing surface, Harry began to neatly write her letter.

Dear Headmaster Dumbledore,

I would like to inform you that I am going to attend Hogwarts this year, and I have received my letters along with my ticket already.

Sorry for the delay,
Harry Potter

She folded the paper in half, creasing it with her thumb and forefinger, and wrote Headmaster Albus Dumbledore on the blank side.

"Hedwig," Harry tested out the name. She found she quite liked it, thankfully. Obviously the newly dubbed "eleven" year-old couldn't change her owl's name. It had already been given. "Hedwig, I need you to take this to... Professor Dumbledore." Dumbledore seemed oddly ill-fitting to her tastes, however, but there was even less she could do to change that name.

Before the snowy owl perched atop Harry's arm to receive the hastily written letter an uncanny silence swept over the previously chattering forest. A shadow seemed to hang over the trees, blocking what little sunlight had managed to pierce the cloud-cover. Harry breathed deeply, focusing all of her senses on the sudden... emptiness.

It didn't make any sense. Only a massive predator could scare the forest so badly, but the ravenette was sure there was no such animal so close to home. If it had been a wolf, life would go on. Time did not pause for even wolves, and the birds would have continued to sing. The possible prey would either immediately run or freeze and then run, which would cause even more of a ruckus than before the chase.

Harry honestly had no idea what sort of creature could so completely terrify the entire forrest. It just didn't make sense!

To make this more vivid in your imagination, I will give a quick comparison.

If you have ever held your breath for extensive periods (not saying to try it!) then you know that the closer you get to your limit the more the world loses color and sound, even blurring. This black and white state was the forrest after the shadow fell. Then, after, you may know that when you breath everything snaps back so quickly that it flashes. Before the surreal sense of separation can dissipate everything disappears. Your vision and hearing and such take the final step before running back. Even breathing now, the blood takes a little bit to bring the oxygen to your heart, and, though it is not death you are on the verge of (you cannot forcefully cause yourself to asphyxiate by holding your breath), you tip over the edge. For a brief moment, everything is gone. How close to the edge you were when you took the alleviating breath determines how long this period of blankness lasts. Within the forrest it held for an infinite five seconds, holding all living things prisoner.

This was how drastic the emptiness was. And the desperation of any living being struggling to take a breath of air accompanied its ending. Color and sound was restored with the tornado of oxygen, causing everything to stand out before returning to normal.

Harry looked around, searching for the source of the momentary blindness, but nothing appeared off. The birds continued their chirping with restored vigor and the wind swept the mist away once more. Deciding there was nothing she could do here, the girl gave Hedwig the message and began to run back home.

Her thin frame gradually started shaking, so slowly that it was unnoticeable, on her way. Above and in front of her the snowy owl flew gracefully away, in no rush. When within viewing distance of the house Harry slowed down, inspecting carefully what was going on. She had not forgotten the state she left her uncle in, and he wouldn't have either. Telling them about Hogwarts was going to be fun.

Contrary to her expectations of a fuming Vernon and patrolling Dudley, it appeared they had a guest. Twenty feet away Harry ducked behind a bush, looking at the stranger that had appeared. It was a strange stranger indeed. He stood tall in front of the door, patient yet demanding. His hair reached past his shoulder blades, a stark contrast to his deep purple robes. An equally white beard could have easily been tucked into the string that served as a belt. The stranger's face carried many wrinkles along with a pair of half-moon spectacles. Atop his head was the finishing touch of what could only be a wizard's hat, matching his robes in color.

In the doorway was a not-so-imposing figure who looked about ready to faint. His fat cheeks were pale, for once. His eyes, believe it or not, did not immediately seek to lay the blame on a certain "nephew." This alone would be enough to know something was terribly wrong with this situation. But, creeping slowly around to the back, Harry saw her aunt's reaction to the man. And that was when Harry realized she shaking.

Petunia's face was carefully schooled into a smile, and the only thing showing it wasn't real was the absence of eye crinkling. There was only one time where she had worn that expression from what Harry remembered. The time where Dudley had been bullied for being overweight. Dudley had never, ever been picked on again after that. Yeah, Harry could understand why she would be shaking. This stranger was in serious trouble.

Harry lithely ducked around the backyard garden and ever so carefully opened the glass door, not wanting to alert the inhabitants of the house. She watched, her view carrying straight to the front door, as a fluttering wings startled Vernon into saying something.

"What're you doing with that owl?" He finally had some of his menace back. Turns out the owl in question was the exact same as the one the big man had caught earlier. Imagine the green-eyed child's horror.

"This, Mr. Dursely," the old man answered sagely, "is the bringer of very important news." Harry caught a flash of the letter being taken and the owl whooshing away. She strained to see past Vernon, but it was difficult from how far she was. "Ah, it would seem I am not needed here after all," he said in an exaggerated tone of enlightenment. "Well, I do look forward to seeing Harry in school, Mr. Dursely. Good day."

The rotund man spluttered in response, but it appeared the old man had left.

So that's who Dumbledore is... He could've stayed and told them any way, now I have to tell Uncle Vernon myself.

Harry frowned at that thought. She still wasn't sure how to go about it, but now she had been pushed into action by a stranger not even polite enough to stay and help!

Still, something with the whole situation seemed off; she had not forgotten the incident in the forest. Nor had her uncle forgotten about her disobedience, apparently. Break-time for thoughts was over.

"HARRY JAMES POTTER!" Vernon bellowed, having recovered.

The black-haired child flinched, knowing there was no chance of escape now. She silently cursed at the Dumbledore character that had dug her grave.

"I can explain," Harry said softly, lowering her green eyes submissively. As much as she hated it, her aunt and uncle would respond better to submission; she just had to bite her tongue and not rebel.

"Then do so boy, my patience will not last." At least he's honest.

Harry didn't brush aside her bangs to see how her relatives reacted to her quiet words. Her voice faded out at the end, so as not to draw especial attention.

"I am going to a school with witches and wizards like myself, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia. Because it is a special school for particular people, I can get in for free, and because it is a boarding school you would not have to see me except for during the breaks." She carefully appealed to what she knew they would like. "All materials will also be provided."

Vernon's face slowly went red, and then purple, so dark that it was a wonder he was still standing. And then he wasn't. Petunia gasped, clapping her hands to her mouth. Her husband now lied passed out on the carpeted floor.

"Dad!" Dudley exclaimed, coming down from the stairs where he had been eavesdropping. "This is your fault," he yelled at Harry, face contorted in anger.

The blond-haired boy walked slowly towards Harry, intimidating as best he could. Quite successfully, I may add.

"You stupid freak," Dudley began his bullying routine, not even caring it was actually in front of his mother. "Does your life really suck so bad you have to make crap like that up? If you think your life stinks now, wait 'til I'm done with you." He made quite the menacing front. And what did Petunia do at this show of bullying? She tended Vernon frantically.

Dudley dragged the ravenette child by the arms outside, huffing and puffing at the physical exertion. He threw the struggling Harry to the ground and took the moment she was limp to recapture his breath. Then he really started.

The blonde curled his lip in a sneer and pulled his arm back to punch his smaller cousin. It connected with Harry's gut, causing her to choke on the sudden lack of air and flow of spit. The next went straight for her nose, once more snapping her fragile glasses.

That was about when Harry had had enough. She was furious, and she wanted to show Dudley that he couldn't just hit her like that. She was a girl for crying out loud! Wasn't it supposed to be against a man's code to beat up girls? As these feelings built up Harry's face hardened, and Dudley paused in his attack. A flash momentarily blinded the two and any possible spectators, and then came an unlikely sound. From Dudley's mouth came, rather than words, the trumpet of an elephant. He tried again and made the holler of a monkey. Every attempt to speak had similar results, and Harry burst out laughing when it was the squeal of a pig.

Dudley ran back inside to tell his mother, and while Harry was still outside she heard her aunt's high-pitched scream.

.

Boom! Am I awesome or what? So, I think I've been making Petunia seem kind of iffy... But she is a hard character to get at considering all the things that I changed about her. She likes Harry, as her brother's daughter, but obviously there is still all the feelings that she has in canon for Vernon and Dudley. Also, magic took away her brother. So while there is some good feelings there, there is still all the underlying dislike/hate. Thus Petunia not coming to Harry's rescue. And did you like what I did with Dudley? I figured it couldn't be a pig's tail, so I went for something pretty close that I'm fairly sure can be fixed medically. (Dudley might not be talking for a while, though)

Well, I'm trying to get ffn up to date with what I've got on Wattpad, so expect fairly quick updates.