Aurora Black was a small girl even for a two year old, short, with stubby fingers but wide eyes. Her hair was already at her chin, a light reddish brown that she took from her mother whose face she couldn't quite remember. She stood alone in a spare cot in an unfamiliar bedroom, crying for her papa. The boy in the other cot stared at her; he was shorter and younger than her but he was plumper, and he wasn't crying yet because his parents were here and he wasn't scared.
Aurora Black was scared. She didn't know why, as two year olds rarely do, but she didn't feel right and she didn't like this house or this boy and she knew the man and woman who lived here but not well enough and she wanted her papa. Her hands grasped the edge of her cot and the boy opposite her shook his head urgently, and promptly started crying.
Her attempt at escape foiled, Aurora fell back down to sit grumpily on the bed as the boy's mummy ran in, and held him tightly. "Shush, Neville," she told him. "It's alright, sweetheart. Did you get a fright?" Neville cried. "There's nothing to hurt you here, Nev. Just Aurora." Neville looked over his shoulder at Aurora, who drew back and pouted. He seemed to be getting an awful lot of attention and cuddles.
"Papa," she cried out, and Neville's mummy turned around towards her. "Want Papa!"
Neville's mummy smiled uncertainly. "Don't worry, Aurora. Your papa will be here soon, he just has to find Harry."
"Papa," Aurora said again, pouting. She knew Harry, but why was her papa with him and not with her? That wasn't very fair. "Papa!"
Neville's mummy looked worriedly at Aurora and then at the window, where the sun was already beginning to set on the first day of November. "Your papa'll be here soon," she said, less certain this time. "I promise."
He did not come for Aurora that day nor the next. Instead, at dinnertime when Neville was being fed and Aurora was chasing sweet corn with a plastic fork, there was a sharp knock at the door. Aurora looked up excitedly. "Papa?"
Neville's mummy and daddy looked anxiously between each other, and his daddy went to answer the door. The voice there didn't sound like papa; it was a lady's voice, quiet but stern and authoritative, like the sort of person who would boss Aurora around and tell her off if she got fingerprints on her photo frame, which her grandad had done, but he wasn't as stern sounding. Aurora frowned, as the door closed and there was a clicking sound over the floor as the visitor entered the house.
She was very tall, Aurora thought, eyes wide. She had high cheekbones and dark hair and she was old, and a little scary. Aurora looked to Neville's mummy in confusion. She didn't know this lady. "Aurora," Neville's daddy said, and she got down obediently from the table, toddling over. Neville stared at her - he wasn't very good at walking yet, but Aurora could run when she wanted to. "Come over here. This is your granny Walburga."
Aurora looked at granny Walburga. She wasn't her granny. Aurora's granny was short and smiley and had orangey hair and snuck her sweeties and gave good cuddles and let her run around in the garden. Granny Walburga looked down her nose at Aurora with stern grey eyes and didn't look like she wanted to see her at all. Aurora pouted and folded her arms. "This isn't granny."
Neville's daddy looked nervous. "I am your grandmother," said Granny Walburga, and she said grandmother like it was a bad word. "Your father has gotten himself imprisoned." Aurora didn't know what that meant. "As such, the responsibility of... caring for you... has been given to me, as your closest living relative." Aurora stared at her.
Granny Walburga pursed her lips. "He is not important."
Aurora didn't agree with that. "Where's Papa?" she demanded, more louder this time. "I want Papa!"
Granny Walburga stood up abruptly. Neville started crying again. "I will be taking her now, Longbottom. The Ministry will be dealing with this."
Neville's daddy looked at a loss for what to do. "Well... We'd still be more than happy to—"
Granny Walburga shot him a very sharp look that Aurora didn't like at all. Neville's daddy stopped talking. "At least you kept her alive," she said. She looked at Aurora. "Come with me, girl."
"Aurora," she said. "I'm Au-ro-ra." She said her name slowly so that Granny Walburga understood, but she didn't look very pleased about it.
She scooped Aurora into her arms tightly, nodded stiffly to the Longbottoms, and then stalked out without another word or a thank you. It was cold outside and Aurora sniffled, looking over her shoulder as the door closed. All she could see of Neville and his family were their outlines in the living room.
"Where we going?" she asked Granny Walburga, who did not answer. She kept walking down the dark street in silence, and then when they came to a quiet corner with no funny cars or motorbikes, she brought out a stick which looked a bit like Papa's wand but wasn't, and then Aurora felt very sick as everything disappeared and reappeared in an instant.
She started crying. She didn't like that feeling at all, and now when she looked around she was in a room she had never been before. It was dark and scary-looking and had a very high ceiling. There weren't any windows, which she didn't like, either. Aurora liked seeing the sun and the sky and she liked having space to run. She stared up at Granny Walburga as she set her down onto a chair; it was hard and not squishy and her legs were very high off the floor. She might not be able to jump off it, and Aurora didn't like being restricted by that.
"Stop crying," Granny Walburga hissed at her, face twisted venomously. "I will not have a crying child in my house!"
"I want Papa!" Aurora cried out, looking around, but there was no sign of him. She turned back indignantly to Granny Walburga. "Papa!"
"Your Papa isn't here," Granny Walburga spat, and her voice was not nice. Aurora cried harder. "Stop crying, girl!"
"But — but—" Her lips wobbled. "Where's Papa?"
Granny Walburga did not tell her. "You are staying with me for the foreseeable future," she said, words pinched. "You will not cry. You will not whine. You will do as you're told. You will not ask for your papa."
"You will not!" Aurora's lip trembled again, but she nodded scaredly. Granny Walburga glared down at her. "Are you hungry?" She shook her head. "Good. Kreacher!"
There was a very loud crack and then a strange, wrinkly thing appeared in front of Aurora. She shrieked and scurried backwards, forgetting the height of her chair, and promptly knocked it over. The weird thing caught her just in time, its large eyes wide in alarm. "Mistress?" it said in a croaky voice, turning to Granny Walburga. "Is this the child?"
Granny Walburga nodded. The thing seemed to gasp, and then, setting Aurora down carefully, bent over so that its long nose scraped on the floor. It was weird. She looked at Granny Walburga, who pursed her lips. "Stand up, Kreacher. She will not be staying for long — half blood scum of the blood traitor." She shook her head, and though Aurora didn't know what that meant, she didn't like the way Granny Walburga said it. "See to it that she has a bed made up. Amuse her until she is tired."
Then Granny Walburga turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Aurora almost cried again but she didn't want to anymore, now she'd been told not to. So she looked at the weird thing who had just stood up. It had very large ears. "Who are you?" she asked in her politest voice, like Papa had taught her to.
"Kreacher, young mistress," the thing said. "At your service and the service of the Black family."
She folded her arms, frowning. "You're a Kreacher?"
Kreacher nodded. "What do you do?"
"I serve Mistress," he croaked.
He didn't say anything else. Aurora sat down on the floor, confused, then said, making sure Granny Walburga wasn't around, "Do you know where papa is?"
Kreacher shook his head with a strange sort of smile. "The traitorous son is gone. Locked up in Azkaban... as he should... his he hurt my mistress... how he betrayed her... now his little child is here... Oh but my mistress doesn't want her... No, she doesn't..."
"Az-ka-ban?" Aurora said, sounding out the word as Kreacher had pronounced it. She hadn't heard of an Azkaban before. "Where?"
Kreacher shook his head. "Kreacher does not know. Kreacher does not go to Azkaban. Kreacher serves his family and is loyal and does not betray them."
Aurora stared at him. "Papa come back?"
Kreacher looked at her with a mean smile. "Kreacher hopes not. Kreacher hopes the traitor Sirius rots in Azkaban."
Aurora flinched. She didn't want her papa to — to rot. She wanted to cry again and this time she did. Kreacher, to her surprise, was quick to try and comfort her, although she didn't really understand what he was saying. She didn't stop crying for ages, until Kreacher gave her a sort of pencil with a feather on the end and told her she could do some drawing on parchment, and she sniffled a bit, before she got to trying to draw him, a big, shakily lined blob with two smaller eye blobs and big triangular ears.
She didn't see Granny Walburga again that night. Kreacher told her to sleep in a room on the first floor, that was far too big for her one person, and it was dark and creepy and the floorboards creaked and one of the windows was open, so the curtains fluttered menacingly at her. Aurora didn't like to sleep on her own. Usually, Papa would sleep in the room with her in case she had a nightmare, and he would rock her back to sleep.
But Papa wasn't here. There was only Aurora and the wind and Kreacher, creeping in the hall outside. She curled up under a thick blanket, wishing for one of her stuffed toys, and she kept crying until it wore her out and she went to sleep, dreaming of bright lights and high cackles, and her papa screaming when she couldn't reach him.