Don't be frightened! Indeed, this story is coming back to life! Enjoy!
The boy's voice reverberated through the hall, bouncing off the walls and reaching his father's ears only moments before Alex crashed into the room.
His father had his back to him, quietly working at the second-hand desk they had purchased at a garage sale the year before. It had been their first purchase, arriving in a new and unfamiliar town, and Alex remembered thinking that maybe they would be here for a while.
"Yes, Alex?" his father responded, turning to face his son. Alex remarked the fatigue and weariness apart in his father's face and eyes, and this troubled him. He wanted to see his father smile, to laugh like he used to when Alex was just a child and his father would take him to the park, watching him climb up the slide and catching him in his strong and warm arms. But that was years ago, and neither of them were the persons they used to be.
Alex waved the paper he held tightly in hands at his father, excited beyond belief. "You'll never guess what happened, Dad! This letter came for me! But it didn't come by post or anything, or even by the front door! An owl came and pecked at the window! Can you believe that? I was in the kitchen and then all of a sudden there was an owl at the window and he had this letter in his beak and he was pecking on the window like he wanted me to open it! Isn't that so crazy? Dad?"
The boy's excitement drained away as he watched his father blanch visibly, all color seeping away from his already pale and drawn face. Something flashed behind his eyes, almost imperceptibly, and Alex couldn't quite tell what it was. Worry? Fright? Regret? But as quickly as the emotion had appeared, it vanished, leaving behind only a look of genuine confusion upon his father's features.
"An owl? Pecking at the window? With a letter? Alex," his father started gently, "I know you've been feeling a little lonely lately, but you really don't need to be making up stories just to-"
At that, Alex interrupted. "No, Dad, I'm serious! I'm not making things up, there really was an owl that came up to the window and tapped away until I opened it! And then he stuck out his beak, so I grabbed the letter, and then he left! Just look at it!" cried Alex, as he thrust the letter at his father.
James grabbed the letter from his son, willing himself to keep his hands steady and calm, to be ready for anything.
The problem was, he knew all too well what it was he was holding, and that what was frightened him the most.
His eyes scanned the letter quickly, though he made sure, under the intense gaze of his son, to seem surprised as he went through the letter, past the mentions of wizards and witches, of an enchanted school and of the magic they taught there. Briefly, selfishly, James closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had first gotten the letter, and how excited he had been to get out, to leave the Dursleys behind, to explore the new world that had just offered him everything he had ever wanted, and everything he had never been able to have.
A memory of red hair, framing ivory skin and a dazzling smile, flashed by in his mind's eye, and he was so overwhelmed that he felt faint, and he reached out a hand to steady himself on the desk.
"Dad?" asked Alex worriedly, his excitement fading as he nervously watched his father.
James took a deep breath and faced his son once more. "I'm fine, Alex, just stunned by this letter," he lied, lifting the letter up and shaking it lightly, as he attempted to feign anger and disappointment. "This is not funny, Alex. A prank like this just tells me that you have too much time on your hands, and if you are really displeased with your school this year, you could have just told-"
Once again, his son cut him off. "No, Dad, I'm not making anything up! Even this is a little too far-fetched for me! Dad," and at this, his son paused, realizing, "I think this is real."
And as James looked into his son's eyes, eager and hopeful and overwhelmingly sincere, he knew that there was nothing he could say to stop his son from going; there was nothing he would say to stop his son from going. Why should Alex continue to suffer for the mistakes of others? Why couldn't his son have the life that James had tried to have for himself?
"I think it's real, too," said James, his voice barely a murmur, as he handed the letter back to his son.
Alex took the letter from his father's hands, and suddenly saw it in a whole new light. This piece of paper was the ticket to a new life, a life full of people and creatures and places that no one else in his life had ever seen. He could feel his heart beat faster in his chest, and the excitement of a brand new start, away from the nomadic life that had been his childhood, was almost too much to bear.
However, there was still a part of him that worried about something else.
"What about you, Dad?"
"What do you mean, Alex?" his father asked, as he rose from the desk and straightened out, releasing some of the tension that had built up over the last few moments.
Alex knew what he wanted to say, to tell his father, but he couldn't find the right words. As long as he could remember, it had only been him and his father, Alex and James, the two fugitives running from the past. Alex had made friends over the years, whenever they'd make it to a new town and start at a new school, but his father had always been alone. From town to town, and from country to country, James had never had any other substantial human relationship other than the one he shared with his son. And now, if Alex went, what would his father have? What would be left?
Would he be alright, alone?
He stared into his father's eyes, and James seemed to know precisely what Alex was thinking, and it was a gift of their bond that let them leave it at that. "I'll be fine," stated James gently, and he quickly brought his son into his arms, feeling at that moment a strange sensation of immense pride and anxiety. Pride for his son and the courage he had, the willingness to accept the unknown. Anxiety, for his son, as Alex headed off into the world that they had left so long ago; and for himself as he faced the cold Muggle world without his sole companion, and without being able to watch over his son as he had for so long.
His son was going to Hogwarts.
Hogwarts and everything Harry had left behind.