Harry Potter and Sirius Unfortunately Absent
THE MAD BEGINNING
It was a Wednesday morning, and Harry Potter was awakened by the sounds of his half-family bustling noisily around the house. He groaned and pulled the bedcovers over his ears, but the sound continued in a suddenly-muffled style. He could hear the enormous bulk of his cousin Dudley as he plodded past the door, the floorboards creaking ominously beneath his every step. Harry's owl, Hedwig, made a quiet nose of owlish disapproval, and Harry agreed. The clock on the bedside table, which Harry had paid for by surreptitiously converting some of his many galleons into muggle money, said the time was only 7:15 AM. What business did the Dursleys have to be awake and so noisy at this hour?
A further surprise came when Harry's Uncle Vernon began a thunderous pounding on the closed bedroom door. The Dursleys' latest policy for dealing with Harry's presence was to ignore him completely; they left out food for him at mealtimes, presumably fearing the wrath of Alastor Moody or some other intimidating figure in Harry's life, but they never initiated conversation nor acknowledged that the food was meant for him. The only relative Harry had conversed with in weeks was Dudley, who responded angrily to taunts, forgetting his parent-assigned task of paying no attention to his skinnier cousin.
"Boy!" bellowed Uncle Vernon, abandoning the knocking for a more verbal approach to get Harry's attention. "Boy, get up!"
"Whadyerdoenawaeg?" mumbled Harry indistinctly from beneath the covers.
"New neighbor, boy! Everyone on the street's turnin' out to give'em a good greeting. UP!"
The covers slid slowly off of Harry as he sat up with aroused interest. "You want to show me to the new neighbors?" The Dursleys had always kept him as secret as possible, and damned his reputation with tales of criminal misbehavior every time he accidentally met anyone friendly or sympathetic. The only person besides the Dursleys themselves Harry had been allowed contact with was old Ms. Figg, who as Harry had learned in the summer before his fifth year at Hogwarts, was a squib planted by Dumbledore to ensure his safety. With all of this, Harry's existence being advertised - even proved - to new people was something of a novelty.
Uncle Vernon finally abandoned the hallway and wrenched Harry's door open, striding into the bedroom and standing over Harry's seated form. "Don't think we like you or anything because of this, boy," he said, words just loud enough to be audible. "Petunia let it slip that there was another boy here besides Dudley when she met Mr. Lowett or whatever yesterday, and it'll look strange to not have you there. Just keep your mouth shut and everything'll go fine. Get it?"
"Let slip," said Harry moodily, getting up from the bed and rooting around for his clothes. "Look strange, mouth shut. Got it."
"Good," said Uncle Vernon, and made to exit the room. Harry's voice stopped him with one final question. "How many of them are there?"
"Two," said Uncle Vernon, as if any number less than three was an abomination. "Just two, a man and his daughter. About your age… don't you go getting any funny ideas, though, boy."
"Of course not," said Harry, and pulled on an old pair of lucky shoes Dudley had abandoned after they had failed to get him a passing grade on a history exam.
A few minutes later, the Dursleys walked out their front door, Harry following a minimum distance of three meters behind. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were wearing their Sunday Bests, and Vernon had apparently polished his mustache for the occasion. Dudley was dressed in his Smeltings school uniform and cap, twirling his long stick around, eyes darting around for someone to hit with it. Harry, having no special clothes besides his black Hogwarts robes and the dress robes he had bought for the Yule Ball in his fourth year, neither of which would have been at all appropriate for Privet Drive, was plainly dressed in an old green t-shirt and faded jeans.
The crowd of people at Number 9 Privet Drive suggested that it was there the new neighbors had moved into, displacing Mr. and Ms. Charleston, and it was indeed to that address that the Dursleys made their stately way. Harry's eyes passed over the familiar faces of the Evanses and Polkisses and other people he had seen on countless occasions either through his window or while loitering in the streets, and searched for the newcomers.
The father was easy enough to find - Harry had only to look for where the older neighbors were not. A wide circle of space seemed to exist around the man, as if the various inhabitants of Privet Drive had no real wish to converse with him, even if they had come on this day to welcome him and his daughter to the community. He was tall and plump, with short yellowish hair and glasses, and he wore a plaid sweater and bright orange jeans. Harry's eyebrows went up - he had not seen such poorly matching clothes since Arnold and the other wizards at the Quidditch World Cup attempting to dress as muggles did. For a moment Harry wondered if this man could be a wizard as well, but then dismissed that thought as unlikely, sure that no such unusual person could ever want to move to a place like Privet Drive.
All thoughts of dismissal, however, flew from Harry's head as he noticed the man's daughter among the crowd. He stood still, staring in disbelief. The scraggly blonde hair, puzzled expression, and unusual dressing style were unmistakable. As he stared, the girl noticed him and smiled, walking up to him past the disagreeable Dursleys.
"Hello, Harry Potter," said the girl, twirling a lock of hair around her somewhat long finger. "How are you?"
"Luna?" asked Harry, blinking to see if she would go away when he closed his eyes. "Luna Lovegood?"
She nodded. "Yes, that is my name. Actually, some people like to call me Loony Lovegood instead, but I don't think you do. How are you?"
Realizing that she would probably keep asking until he answered the question, Harry shrugged. "I'm fine, I guess. But what are you doing here?"
"We just moved in," said Luna, gesturing vaguely behind her at Number 9 Privet Drive. "Dad decided we should move somewhere, and Arabella had said this house was empty, so it seemed quite nice."
Arabella was the first name of Ms. Figg, who kept a large number of cats and a larger number of cat scrapbooks. "You know her?"
"Oh, yes," said Luna, now gazing off at a tree somewhere behind Harry's left shoulder. "She and Dad have known each other for years. She offered to give us her house as a tent for the Quidditch World Cup, but tent spells attract rogue Juffleberns, so we had to say no."
Harry had never heard of Juffleberns, and doubted that his friend Hermione Granger, who memorized all of her schoolbooks at the start of every year, had either. One thing about Luna was that she tended to talk about complete nonsense quite calmly, claiming strange conspiracies or invisible creatures lurked around every corner.
"Oh," said Harry, "er, how was Sweden?" Luna had said last year that she and her father were going to Sweden in search of an animal called the Crumple-Horned Snorkack. Harry had asked his other friends if such a creature was known to exist, but they all gave decidedly negative responses, aside from the giant Hagrid, who had muttered darkly something about not asking questions and "showing up again in Knockturn Alley next", and refused to explain any further.
"Beautiful," answered Luna. "Unfortunately, we didn't find anything, and when we came home, the Death Eaters had burned down the house. But Sweden was very pretty."
Harry stared - this new information had come all in the disinterested voice, as if Death Eaters - Voldemort's servants - were nothing to care about or even find out-of-the-ordinary. Luna and Harry had both had first-hand experience with Death Eaters near the end of Harry's fifth year, when they and four other students had fought to protect Trelawney's prophecy in the Department of Mysteries, and they had seemed dangerous enough then.
"Don't worry about it," said Luna, "we weren't at home, and we don't have any pets, so no one got hurt. The only thing we couldn't replace was the pictures of my mother, and I remember what Mum looked like anyway."
There was an all-too-familiar silence as Harry struggled to find a response to Luna's calm sentences. "I'm sorry," he offered lamely.
"It's all right," said Luna, "but I don't like to talk about it very much. Are these all of our new neighbors? They don't seem very interesting."
"I think they call themselves 'normal'", said Harry, and Luna nodded, her protuberant eyes showing every sign of surprise.
"That makes sense," she said. "Why do you live here? You aren't normal."
Harry thought of all the times over the years he had asked similar questions. "Believe me, it's not by choice," he said. "I just live here so Voldemort can't get at me." Luna shrugged and walked off to talk to her father as if Harry wasn't there anymore. Confused, Harry stayed at the house-warming until the Dursleys left, talking to no one, and eliciting no further interest from the Lovegoods.
After the Dursleys had gone to sleep that night, Harry lay awake in his bed, composing two letters for Hedwig to deliver. The first was addressed to his best friend, Ron Weasley.
guess what? I went to a house-warming party for our new neighbor today. It was Luna. She and her father are living on my street now... no, of course I'm not joking. I remember hearing about their arrival a few days ago but I only today learned it was them. Pretty weird, huh?
Best wishes to everyone,
Harry thrust the letter into an envelope, sealed it, and put it aside. He dipped the sugar quill back into the green ink-pot and began the second letter, which was somewhat more serious.
it looks like there's another item to add to the Death Eater attacks list. Luna Lovegood's house got destroyed recently. (Don't worry, she and her father are fine.) Didn't they live near Ron? I hope Voldemort isn't too systematic in his attacks, even with all the defensive magic Ron says has been put onto the Burrow lately.
By now, you may be wondering how I heard about this. You'll never guess... Luna is my new neighbor. Apparently she knows Ms. Figg - remember, the cat woman I told you about, whose house we stayed in at the World Cup - and they just decided to move in. Do you know if this is more security against Voldemort, or just coincidence?
This letter too was enveloped and sealed, and Harry looked at the two letters sitting side-by-side for a few minutes before crossing over to Hedwig's cage and unlocking it.
"This one's for Ron," he said, giving her the first letter, "and this one's for Hermione. Got it?"
Hedwig pecked his finger gently to show assent, and took off into the night through Harry's open window. Harry stared after her dwindling snowy-white form, and sighed, thinking of another person he might have sent a letter to, only a few months previously.
Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, had died near the end of the last school year, just after Harry and his fifth-year friends had finished taking the Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations. Somewhere in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic, the Order of the Phoenix had been doing battle with Voldemort's Death Eaters, when a spell from Sirius' cousin Bellatrix Lestrange had sent him flying backwards through a mysterious veiled archway of unknown destination. Harry had tried to get Sirius back from behind the veil, doing everything short of entering it himself to grab his godfather and pull him back into the real world, but all to no avail.
Sirius had always been easy to talk to, even when Harry had believed he was a mass-murderer, and Harry found himself writing mentally the letter he would have sent his godfather had he still been living. Dear Sirius, went the words in Harry's head, Luna Lovegood just moved into a house on my street. You remember her, she was the blonde girl at the Department of Mysteries. Actually, she was knocked out by one of the Death Eaters before you got there, and then you couldn't meet her after you...
Harry's mental letter broke off at that point, and he sank down into the bed, dejected. He could write all the letters he wanted, but Sirius would never receive any of them. It was better to think of the living, the people around him now, like his new neighbor...
And, unbidden, Harry's thoughts traveled back to a conversation he had had with Luna just before the end of the last school year, during the great feast. They had been talking about Sirius, and Luna's dead mother, and Luna had 'reminded' Harry that it wasn't like they would never see them again. Harry had expressed confusion.
'Oh, come on. You heard them, just behind the veil, didn't you?"
"In that room with the archway. They were just lurking out of sight, that's all. You heard them."
"Just out of sight," murmured Harry quietly, and went to sleep.