Fighting The Green
Harry Potter knew a lot more than he let on. He perhaps knew a lot more than any average six year old because of his parents. His father did many important things that were sometimes quite dangerous, and his mother, despite being at home most of the time, wrote words that were somehow quite dangerous too. Harry hadn't been told any of this, instead he listened quietly by the staircase that led into the drawing room, sometimes hearing the frantic discussions of adults well into the night. His Uncle Remus would arrive, pale and pinched, and it was safe to say that after he left Harry's mother would be crying upstairs in her room, often for hours. They thought he didn't know and pretended everything was cheerful all the time so as not to frighten him. But Harry wished they'd stop because sometimes, Harry felt frightened and wanted to cry too; although over what he couldn't quite say. He was tired and lonely and bored, and there weren't any children to play with, or at least children that seemed very interesting. They were all muggles, and none of them could come over to his house anyway, because as his father often said they were still in 'grave danger'. Harry understood the meaning of the word grave, and the word danger, but wasn't sure quite how they went together. If you were dead and in a grave, weren't you out of danger? It was a quandary he wasn't certain he'd ever have answered.
Harry pressed his nose onto the window and exhaled a puff of air, turning it foggy. He used his finger to draw an ant, a tree, and a goofy looking smiley face. He grinned a bit at the last one, because it looked like Padfoot, his godfather. He knew Padfoot had been in prison for something he hadn't done, and was still very angry about it. Once in a while, he'd hear them all shouting together downstairs; his father, Moony, Padfoot and his Mum. The shouting had intensified the last few weeks, which usually meant a big decision was going to be made. There had been lots of shouting when Harry was a smaller right before they moved into this house, for example. Harry just hoped they weren't moving again. He had liked the last two houses, and missed his rooms. His current square shaped bedroom wasn't quite the same, and had small windows that weren't very good for drawing pictures. It did however, have one thing about it that he really did like.
"What are you drawing there, Harry?"
"A tree," he said, "An ant, and that right there, is Padfoot."
"Good show! Looks just like him."
Harry turned around and grinned at the skeleton that had come up through the floor. Its strangle limpid eyes stared at him, and its bony arms dangled right through the wood down into a very dark hole. There was no real hole in the ground, Harry had poked at the strange shadows with his foot. His skeleton friend had assured him that it wouldn't make the house fall down, or cause anyone any harm. It was just a lonesome spirit, it said, much like Harry himself. Occasionally, Harry thought that assessment was quite accurate.
"Dad's coming home today!" Harry said excitedly, skipping down the hall.
The specter followed him, loping through the floorboards with its long arms.
"Is that so? Is that why you're so excited?" it asked, with a crooked grin.
"Yeah!," Harry chirped, "I drew him a picture. I hope he likes it."
"He will, I'm sure of it. Why don't you go down and say hello? I can hear someone coming to the door," the skeleton said.
"Really?" Harry said, his eyes growing wide, "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," it said, its watery gaze on him, "pat down your hair, and straighten out your shirt."
Harry did as he was told and nervously twirled around for an assessment.
"Good boy," the skeleton chuckled, "Now go down and meet your father, I'll still be here when you come back."
Of course, Harry's hair was it's usual messy state, and his shirt was terribly rumpled as was the case with most children. His glasses were crooked on his nose, and his bony body looked a bit peaky and underfed, despite that not being the case in the slightest. No one would have guessed that earlier in the year the boy had suffered constant colds, or that he had been in bed for most of the spring due to persistent fevers. From what the skeleton gleaned from snatches of conversation, this was a constant worry to the boy's parents. The skeleton observed his young charge tearing down the stairs excitedly, as though he hadn't a care in the world.
"Poor little blighter," it murmured, before dipping down into the floor and vanishing, "At least if he dies here, I'll finally have some company."
Harry tore down the dark hallway just before the front door. Pictures of his family surrounded him on all sides of the stiff muggle type; mostly of his mum and dad, his uncles and some of Harry when he was very young. Shoes were in a pile by the door, and Harry's drawings had been tacked up on a push pin board above them. It was homey and bright, despite the dank weather and grim windows that let in only the smallest bit of gray light. The door was opening and Harry pushed the knob the rest of the way, despite being told a hundred times not to answer the door when he was alone.
"Dad!" he shouted excitedly, only to be quite disappointed, "Oh, it's only you."
"Only me?" Sirius said, mock offended, "Your favorite godfather?"
"You're my only godfather," Harry reminded him.
"Harry!" Lily chided, having arrived from the drawing room, "That's not very nice!"
"I'm sorry Padfoot," Harry said, wrapping his arms briefly around his long legs, "I was expecting someone else. I love you too."
Sirius took off his coat and hung it up, flinging his shoes in a pile. Harry wish he could fling his shoes the way Padfoot did, his Mum would have shouted at him if he did the same. Sirius was also carrying bags, and on some of them Harry could see Honeydukes distinctive stamp.
"Is Dad coming home?" Harry asked, his eyes still lingering on bags that promised lots of sweets.
Sirius gave Harry a wry smile, "He's managed to get caught up in something quite serious. He'd be here if he could, you know that."
"Yeah," Harry said tentatively, looking down at his sock feet. He wasn't going to cry, really.
"How about after I'm done having a chat with your Mum, we set up a game of exploding snap right on the good dining room table?" Sirius said.
"Really?" Harry asked excitedly, his disappointment temporarily abated, "are there candies in those bags?"
"Might be," Sirius said, with a twinkle in his eye, "Might not be either."
Harry's eyes lit up, chocolate toffees were his favorite. And caramels, and just about anything that was sticky and lingered on the tongue long enough to fill the mouth with a rainbow of flavors. He liked every flavor beans too, but was especially leery of them after accidentally eating an ear wax flavored one.
"Don't eat too many sweets Harry," Lily admonished, "Dinner will be ready soon."
Sirius had ushered Harry into the dining room with the big table that had the curled feet, and had let Harry tear into the various bags with abandon. Harry found toffees, and caramels and of course chocolate frogs and their cards, he chewed through chocolates with gooey centers and spied ever lasting bubblegum in bright green wrapping. Sirius and his mother were discussing things in the kitchen, and Harry pretended to be completely engrossed in his candies so he could listen.
Sirius had begun to murmur in a low voice, "...accident at the Nott place, wasn't his fault, he wasn't even there. A bloke on his team..."
A chocolate frog made a mad dash onto the china cabinet and nearly knocked over a gravy boat, sending Harry tumbling after it. He rescued his mother's china before it met an untimely end, but missed some of the conversation.
"...hearing at the Wizengamot. Old Nott isn't going to let this go, he went spare..."
Harry swallowed several of his toffees at once, and coughed slightly when they got stuck in his throat. He couldn't really hear his mother's voice, she always spoke too low. But he could make out Sirius' reply.
"Oh, come on Lils, it's not like she's going to be missed! It's practically a service to the public!"
"Sirius!" Harry heard his mother shout, "Whether it's what we all think or not, you still shouldn't say it out loud, it's not very nice!"
There were some other quiet murmurs that Harry couldn't hear, then his mother's footsteps heading towards the dining room. Harry tried to appear engrossed in his chocolate frogs, whom he had sent leaping about the chairs in large numbers, leaving frog footprints all over everything.
"You could at least think about that poor little boy losing his Mum!" his mother said to Sirius, before she stared open mouthed at the carnage an entire pile of chocolate frogs could create, "good grief, Harry! What in the world-!"
Sirius spotted the carnage, and then laughed riotously, "Brilliant! I told you Lils, six years old and he's a Maurader already! Hogwarts won't know what hit it in another five!"
Lily huffed, and magicked away the mess with her wand, Harry watched as the chocolate frogs ceased their frantic hopping and stacked themselves neatly back in their boxes.
"That was cool, Mum!" Harry said excitedly, he couldn't wait until he had his own wand, just like his Dad's.
Sirius stacked the Exploding Snap cards on the de-frogged table, shoving the toffee wrappers off to the side. Lily couldn't help but roll her eyes, muttering something about boys not outgrowing their dorm habits.
Sirius sniggered and said to Harry quietly, "It's not like she was ever in the boy's dorm when it was really messy, your Dad had fits trying to get us to clean up the place to impress your Mum."
Harry giggled along with his godfather, wishing sorely that his father were here playing Snap with them, right now. He crammed another toffee into his mouth, the sugar only slightly abating the awful swirling sensation in his stomach. He couldn't say why, but he felt very bad all of a sudden, very sad, despite the candies and congenial atmosphere.
Hours later, after chocolate frogs and dinner and exploding snap had been thoroughly enjoyed, Harry was reading in his pajamas by the window sill. Sirius had gone home, and it was just Harry and his Mum now, and she was usually writing late into the night these last few days. He flipped his picture book about magical creatures, pausing at the unicorn pawing gently at the moss covered ground. It was night time in the picture, and the unicorn looked especially beautiful with its white main and high haunches, glowing softly.
"Are you ready for bed?" his Mum asked him.
"Mm hm," he said distractedly.
"Another half hour, and then it's off to dream land with you," his Mum warned him, before going downstairs.
Harry continued to flip through his book, watching plimpy's and mermen and augrey's go by. The thestrals were the last in the book, their strange black bodies highlighted by the light of a full moon. Harry had never seen a thestral before, most people hadn't because you could only see them if you had seen someone die. Harry suddenly wondered about the little boy his mother was talking about, if he could see thestrals now. It became very cold by the window sill, and the book tumbled from Harry's hands. His arms were shaking, his shoulders began to shudder and he curled up in a tiny ball, his body trembling.
"What's wrong?" the skeleton asked him, coming up from the floor, "Are you all right?"
Harry sniffed, his shoulders shook.
"Do you want me to get your Mum? I'm sure I could make something rattle," it offered.
"N-no," Harry stammered, "I want my-"
His sniffles turned into a quiet sob, tears unabashedly running down his cheeks. He hated that boy and his mother who had died, for taking his father away from him. But he couldn't bear hating someone, who hadn't really done anything wrong.
It was only a few days after the disappointment of his father's absence, that Harry was ushered to the Weasley's because of an emergency errand.
"But I don't know Ronald," Harry had sulked.
His mother wore the expression of the truly harassed. Harry had not been in a pleasant mood since that morning and had fought every step of the way. From being particularly choosy about what to wear, to refusing every breakfast possible, right until his mother had lost her temper and had shouted at him. Harry's reaction naturally, had been that of tears.
"You met when you both were very young," Lily said, "And Neville will be there too. You know him."
"I don't like Neville," Harry said, even though he couldn't recall having ever met him.
"You don't like anyone today," Lily sighed.
"Not really," Harry said.
Lily couldn't help but laugh, a little, "Oh Harry. It's only a day, then you'll be back home."
"I want to stay with Padfoot," Harry said, "Or Moony. When's Dad coming home?"
"Someday you'll understand," Lily said, "We all have very important things to do today, things that you'll be very happy about when you're older."
Harry mumbled, "I'm not happy, now."
Lily embraced Harry suddenly, squeezing the air out of him. Her shoulders shuddered slightly, enough for Harry to understand that he had said something to upset her. Harry wasn't sure what he would do if he'd made his Mum cry, as miserable as he was, it hadn't been his intention.
"I know," she said quietly, petting his hair, "I wish things could be different."
"It's okay mum," he said, clutching her, "I'll be on my best behavior. Promise."
When they had arrived at the Weasley Burrow there were introductions and exclamations, adults and children all foolishly running around in a frantic, excited clamor. It startled Harry terribly, and he hid behind his mother's legs. He was not impressed with the odd looking house, it smelled funny, and was full of magical things and children. This was nothing like the ordered muggle house he was accustomed to.
"Oh," the red headed woman exclaimed, "This must be little Harry!"
Harry peered out from behind his mother's robes. Mrs. Weasley was a very plump, loud woman who cheerfully told Harry he was going to have a wonderful time, despite the scowl on his face. A few older redheads milled about paying him no mind, and he was soon hugging his mother goodbye and being herded out into the backyard. Harry blinked in the bright sunlight. It was a lovely June day, very warm, with only a few fluffy white clouds in the sky.
"Are you a vampire?" a timid voice asked him.
Harry saw the brown haired boy sitting on a large boulder. He was a bit fat, and wore traditional wizarding robes, which looked strange and out of place on such a warm day. Harry was wearing his favorite blue shorts, and a green t-shirt, sensible clothes as his Mum had always said, for summer weather.
"That's silly," said Harry, "everyone knows vampires burn up in the sun. They turn to ashes. If I'm not ashes, then I'm obviously not a vampire."
"Oh," the boy said, "Well, that's good then. I had wondered, you're so pale."
Harry blinked at this strange boy, who hadn't been able to tell the difference from a vampire and an ordinary person. He couldn't help but question if the boy wasn't a bit daft.
"I don't like outdoors," Harry said, scooting into the shade, "It's hot, and there are lots of bugs that like to bite."
"Yeah," the boy agreed eagerly, "I can't stand spiders. Neither can Ron."
Harry glared, "Spiders don't bite. It's flies and mosquitos and things that are awful."
"Oh," the boy said, blinking owlishly, "I'm Neville Longbottom. Who are you?"
"Harry Potter," he said, kicking a clod of dirt, "we were supposed to have met when we were babies after you killed You Know Who. Dad told me all about it a hundred times."
Neville blushed furiously, "I don't know anything about killing anyone it's just what I was told. If I did hurt someone, I didn't mean it!"
"So it was an accident," Harry said, "That makes sense, I suppose. I haven't ever heard of a baby killing anything."
"Because you know everything!" Ron's voice interrupted.
Harry blinked in the light, and observed the red headed boy who had ran from the house. He was thin and his skin flushed with pink, he looked quite annoyed, although over what Harry couldn't quite say. There was no mistaking the boy for anyone else, it must have been Ronald Weasley.
"I don't know everything," Harry shot back, "But I bet I know more than you!"
"Stop it, Ron," Neville said, "And you too, Harry."
"I don't have to listen to you," Harry said, "You're not my mum."
Ron turned a dramatic shade of red, "Neville's the Boy Who Lived! You should pay attention to what he says, he's going to grow up and be a great wizard someday!"
"I am not," Neville said, "Stop saying those things! It only gets me into trouble!"
Harry couldn't help it, he laughed. His father had told him many times about brave Neville and how he had killed the most powerful wizard in the world when he was just a babe. But upon seeing the reality, it was an entirely different story. Neville was painfully ordinary and possibly a bit stupid. It was nothing like the hero his Dad had made him out to be, and Harry felt quite relieved. No wonder his Dad loved him best when Neville and his friend were so foolish by comparison.
"You're both the most ridiculous sight I've ever seen," Harry said.
Ron walked right up to him, his irritation evident in his rapidly reddening cheeks.
"Say that again!" he said, shoving Harry harshly.
Harry stumbled, surprised, he'd never been pushed before. But his father had told him to always stand up for himself against bullies, Harry glared at Ron and shoved him back.
"I said, you look ridiculous," and on an impulse, because Harry's day had been awful and he wanted it to be awful for everyone else too, he added, "And Neville's the biggest coward I've ever met!"
A shoving match began, with both boys trying to overpower the other, their shoes scuffing on the dirt and bodies tumbling in the grass.
"Stop it!" Neville shouted, "You're going to get into trouble!"
"What are you boys doing out here?" Mrs. Weasley shouted.
Harry and Ron both stopped their tumbling, and stood on their feet. Harry had a scraped knee and a grass stain on his shorts, while Ron had bumped elbow and puffy red hair full of sticks and leaves. No serious injuries had been delivered to either party, but Harry was quite out of breath.
"Nothing," Ron said, at the same time as Harry.
"They were fighting!" said Neville.
Harry glared at him, no one liked a snitch.
Molly scolded them both, but no further discipline was undertaken, as a raucous noise was heard from the house. She quickly left as Ron whispered to Neville, 'the twins most likely'. Harry wondered what sort of people made things explode often enough that their own sibling paid it no mind.
"They sound dangerous," Harry said.
Ron just rolled his eyes, "Not really. They're my older brothers, they're not going to hurt anyone, but if you have a puffskein you'd better keep it out of their sights. My last one was used for bludgeor practice."
Harry scrunched up his face, "That's evil!"
"It's only a puffskein," Ron countered.
"It's still a thing, like you or me!" Harry said, "You're whole family is mental."
"It is not!"
But before renewed fisticuffs could begin, Ron squealed and jumped back, Harry saw the creature of contention crawling along the grass. It was a gigantic brown spider, almost the size of Harry's palm. Harry laughed and held out his hand, letting the spider crawl onto it. He held it out to Ron who shrieked like a girl.
"What's the matter, it's just a spider," Harry said.
"Keep it away!" Ron shouted.
"Stop it!" Neville said, "He's scared of them!"
Harry laughed, "I know he's scared, frightened of a tiny little spider! A teensy weensy little spider!"
Harry pushed the spider towards Neville who also cried out in fright.
"Are both of you big fat cowards?" Harry said, "It's only a bug!"
Neville flailed his limbs, dislodging the spider from Harry's hands, sending it flying amongst the grass. Harry noticed it struggling a few feet away, and dashed to rescue it. He cradled the spider who was struggling to right itself, one of it's legs bent.
"It's hurt!" Harry said outraged, "You nearly killed it!"
"Sorry," muttered Neville.
"I'm not sorry," Ron said, "It's a spider."
"A spider?" a voice said behind Harry, "We can't have that, can we little brother!"
A shoe clad foot stomped on the spider, narrowly missing Harry's fingers.
"There you are Ron, your spider troubles are over," another voice chimed in, "Best not to dwell on it, or else you'll be sorted into Hufflepuff."
"Very funny," Ron said.
Harry stared at the still wiggling squished spider organs and limbs, and looked up to see the long legs of a taller boy. He had the distinct Weasley hair, freckles, and was currently smiling in a way that Harry felt was intolerably smug. These were the infamous Puffskein murderers, Harry ascertained, and their newest victim had been his eight legged friend.
"Hullo Harry," the boy said, "I'm Gred and this is my brother Forge. Pleasur-"
Before the boy could finish, Harry had landed a punch directly in the one place he could reach from his vantage point on the ground. Fred, or George, Harry wasn't quite sure which, was now doubled over on the grass, barely able to utter a word.
The other twin laughed, "He hit Fred in the sickle sacks!"
"That's not funny!" Ron shouted.
"Grab him!" Fred managed, still curled on the ground.
George and Ron scrambled to go after Harry, Ron nearly grabbed him but Harry landed a punch on Ron's stomach that sent him doubling over. George finally wrangled Harry, hoisting him up by his underarms. Harry screamed, and kicked, biting all the while.
"He's like a wild animal!" George merrily exclaimed.
Fred had managed to stagger to his feet, "It's a good thing he's so skinny, he might be able to do some damage otherwise. Now let's see about a bit of retaliation."
On the ground, a small spider teetered on the edge of the grass. Fred quickly snapped it up and held it out in front of Harry.
"All this noise for a spider," Fred said, sighing, "it's really not worth it."
He began pulling the legs off, one by one, Harry's screams became more frantic.
"Let's see how it does with three legs, oh oops! It fell over," Fred had nabbed up the spider again after it's failed attempt at running away, "I suppose I should kill it."
Harry shrieked in dismay when Fred crushed it right between his hands.
"There we are," Fred said, separating his palms, "No need to make so much noise, you still have your friend."
Fred smeared the dead spider on Harry's cheeks, who took that moment to try and kick George in the shins.
Fred laughed at him, "He's got to be taught that kicking another boy like that is not on."
Neville had retreated to the edge of the overgrown shrubs, his eyes widening as he watched the goings on, as Harry struggled frantically and fruitlessly against his captors. Harry was near hysterical now, crying and fighting, his skin turning red from exertion and panic.
"Stop it!" Neville screamed, "You're all horrible!"
Ron stared at his friend, "But he's the one that started it!"
"You're torturing him! I can't stand it!" Neville cried.
George had dropped Harry to the ground, who frantically wiped his face to remove the bits of spider. Neville ran over to him, his concern evident.
"Are you all right?" Neville asked.
"Shut up!" Harry screamed, "You're all evil and wrong!"
Neville appeared quite shocked, staggering backwards.
"And you're the worst of all," Harry gasped from the sobs that had his ribs heaving, "Stupid and a coward! I wish you'd died like your dad!"
Harry had realized that everyone had gone quite silent, and stared at him agog. Neville let out a shuddering sob and ran towards the house.
"You're the evil one!" Ron shouted, and took off towards Neville.
Harry was gulping in air in deep breaths, his vision blurry from so many tears. He hadn't really meant to say that at the time, but he'd meant it with every fiber of his being. If it weren't for Neville his Dad wouldn't have to leave so much, maybe his Mum wouldn't be in tears all the time. Everything revolved around You Know Who, and while Harry was glad such an evil person was dead, he hated the circumstances. A helpless little baby killing You Know Who, who grabbed up all the attention for himself without even trying. Neville was a baby, an idiot. He admitted it himself that he hadn't done a single thing to warrant all of the praise.
Harry sniffled and glared at the twins before running off into the woods.
"Wait!" He heard George's voice call after him.
"Just leave him, George," Fred said, "if he wants to be a crybaby-"
"It's dangerous," George countered, "you know what Mum will say."
Harry didn't care about their concern, or about their Mum. He was tearing through the forest, the brambles catching on his knobby knees, scratching against his skin. He ran further and faster then he'd ever run before, until he couldn't see the trails that led back to the Weasley's house, deep into the woods so that none of the red headed boys could find him.
When Harry was winded, he found himself standing on a cliff overlooking a rushing river. He wiped his face, and stopped his haggard breaths. He made a seat out of a rock, and toyed with a few blades of grass. It was nice in the forest, quiet and calm but without anyone around or anything to do, Harry quickly found himself bored. He heard rustling from the river below and leaned over to see what kind of animal had come to visit.
"What a weird dog," he said, observing the limping animal, its fur scruffy and mangled.
Harry wanted to get a closer look, perhaps in all his reading he had missed this particular creature. He ran to the lower overhang of the cliff, and slid his chest and arms over it. He could see the creature clearly here, and noticed its bulging eyes and bent teeth. It was panting, as though it were injured.
"Are you all right?" Harry said, outstretching his hand "Are you hurt?"
Harry had always wanted a dog, or any animal at all, magical or mundane. His Mum unfortunately was allergic, and Harry himself had a problem with cats. It didn't stop him from asking for an animal every birthday. Perhaps Harry could convince his parents to take it home, if the dog were hurt. But when the dog's eyes met his, Harry realized it wasn't a dog at all but something else entirely.
He could see snake-like slits glowing red in his mind's eyes, the dog distorting, bending until the long limbs of a man appeared. Harry felt a strange sort of blankness, as though all of his memories had just bled out of him. He couldn't remember why he was there in the forest, his name, or even his parents; his very life had vanished to be replaced by the existence of a stranger, pale and serpentine. Watching him with red, eerie eyes.
His chest slipped against the rocks and grass and he slowly began to slide off the edge of the cliff. Strong arms wrapped around him and he was pulled back up, before he could plummet into the dark rushing water below.
"Goodness Harry," the red headed man said, "What in the world were you doing, hanging over a ledge like that?"
It was Arthur Weasley, Molly's husband who had pulled him back from the cliff. Harry blinked and rubbed his eyes, he couldn't quite remember what he had been doing, if anything at all.
"Dunno," he said, then a flash of an image hit him, "There was a dog down there, it looked like it was hurt."
Arthur peered over the ledge but there was nothing there, only dead trees, big logs, and a lot of leaves.
"Well, it's certainly not there now," Arthur said, "Come on, let's get you home and all cleaned up."
Harry was reluctantly led through the woods back to the Weasley burrow, his mood grim and countenance surly. He saw Ron and Neville in the backyard, though only Neville stopped his playing and watched him, warily. Harry preferred the silent treatment, he was quite content to be ignored. Arthur brought him upstairs to the bathroom, and directed him to sit on the edge of bathtub. Harry did so, kicking his legs a bit while he watched Arthur rummage through the medicine cabinet.
"It may sting a bit," Arthur said, holding out his wand, "Are you ready?"
Harry gave his consent, and the skin around his skinned knees and scratched up legs smarted before closing up completely.
"There we are," Arthur said, "All patched up. Now, can you tell me Harry what you were doing in the woods? It's not a place a little boy should wander alone."
"I ran away," Harry said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Why did you run away, Harry," Arthur asked.
He said the question with such tired sincerity that Harry felt compelled to answer truthfully.
"Because Fred squashed a spider and then I hit him in the sickle sacks, then Ron and Neville were mean. And then George grabbed a hold of me, and Fred squashed another spider and put it on my face, so I yelled at them and left," Harry said, in a single breath.
Arthur regarded Harry with an extraordinary amount of confusion. He opened his mouth, then closed it, and then shaking his head slightly, could only smile.
"I see," he said, "Well, it will be quite some time before your parents come and get you. Do you like to read Harry? I can set you up in Percy's room. He's gone to a friends for a few days, as long as you promise not to be rough with his things you're welcome to them."
Harry sighed, his breath flinging his messy hair into his eyes, "I promise, I'll be good."
"I believe you," Arthur said.
It was a very decent room, tidier then everywhere else Harry noticed, with the items older boys liked. Less toys, more books and a record player that had seen much better days, but it was certainly an improvement from the absolute chaos that seemed to reign downstairs.
Arthur hummed at the shelf, "I'm not sure how much is here that a little boy would like."
"I can read anything," Harry said, boastfully, "But I do like magical creatures."
Arthur seemed to take his statement as an amusing challenge.
"Is that so?" Arthur said, picking up a thick looking book, "Then how about we read some of this together."
They read together, Arthur was very surprised that Harry could read a book meant for third years at Hogwarts. But soon enough Molly was at the door, and Arthur excused himself to speak with his wife. She did not look pleased that Harry was sitting on her older son's bed flipping through one of his books but she didn't say anything about it. Harry tried to be as incognito as possible, attempting to disappear behind the large textbook. It was perhaps better that he didn't listen to the frantic sound of Mrs. Weasley's voice right outside his door.
Quite a few hours later, after a humiliating confrontation between parents and a lot of tears, Harry was finally at home in his pajamas eating a bowl of ice cream. His father sat at the table with him, carefully observing his every move, while his mother fretted and Padfoot made his opinion known.
"No one at that age," Padfoot said, "should be subjected to Fred and George Weasley."
"Sirius," Lily said, "Harry has to learn to get along with other children."
"Not necessarily those other children," James said, "And not anytime soon. One traumatic adventure was enough."
"I'm not traumatized," Harry said, continuing to shovel the ice cream into his mouth, it was good, he hadn't been able to bring himself to eat until now.
"Course you're not," James said fondly, ruffling Harry's hair, "you've been very brave, going out into the woods all by yourself."
"Which," Lily smartly replied, "you shouldn't have done! Harry, those woods are dangerous. It's a wizarding woods, there are magical creatures everywhere. If you were in trouble, you should have found ."
"I know all about magical creatures," Harry mumbled from behind his spoon.
"He did make it out alive," Sirius said, "without getting eaten by anything."
Lily did not look very pleased with Sirius' input on the subject and graced him with a very strong glare.
"Besides," Harry said, "Mrs. Weasley doesn't like me."
James was surprised, "Harry, what in the world would make you think that?"
"She was angry," Harry said, "And she shouted, even when Ron called me names."
Lily sighed, "Harry, tell your father what you said to Mrs. Weasley before Sirius and I arrived."
Harry swirled his spoon around the empty bowl, "I said she was fat. And that her house smelled."
A slight wheezing noise was heard in Sirius' direction as he desperately tried to cover his laughter behind his hand. James was also biting his lip, while trying to remain stern about the situation.
"Harry, that wasn't very nice," James managed, "or accurate."
"The proper term is big boned," Sirius helpfully supplied.
The look Harry's mum was shooting the two friends could have wilted flowers.
"She called me a hellion," Harry sulked, "And an- an instigator. I don't even know what that means."
"It means she thinks you started it," Sirius said, "Which is obviously a fallacy."
"Of course I didn't start it," Harry insisted, "Ron did."
"Harry," Lily sighed, "It doesn't matter who started it. You attacked two boys, and they retaliated. They were wrong, but it was also wrong to upset them. You have to do what's right in these situations."
"What if I don't want to," Harry said, his eyes filling up with water, "they tortured it. It was a helpless spider, why's it wrong to try and save it?"
"Oh, Harry," Lily said, "It was just a bug, it's not a person. Not the way little boys are."
Harry's sniffling became catastrophic, "Why don't you understand!" he cried.
He leaped from the table, hurling his bowl and spoon to the floor. His footsteps pounded on the steps, with an accentuated loudness. They all winced when the door slammed, and all three rose from the table at once.
"Don't worry about it," Sirius said, "let me go. You've both had a rough day, and I'm a fresh face in all this mess."
Lily and James returned to their seats, James leaning his his head on one hand, his face pale and drawn from tiredness.
"I'll admit I don't quite understand it," Lily said, "I can't see how a person could be less important than an animal."
"That's just it, Lils," James says, "To a kid who spends most of their time off on their own, it might as well be a real person. It's as good as one, for all the comfort it provides. I remember a paper bird that my old Uncle Balazar made for me. A little flying paper bird, just something he folded up and animated for me one morning, without another thought. Well, old Balazar was a relic when I was a babe, so he didn't last much longer. But that little paper bird, it became sort of a friend to me, took on a personality of its own. Something happened to it, I don't even remember now, I lost it or it just crumbled away after a long enough time – I mourned that little bird like a real person."
"I suppose it's just like his imaginary friend," Lily says, "That ghost he says lives with us."
"Ghosts are a little more morbid than paper birds," James admits, "But at least no one can squash a ghost."
"That's very true," Lily says, "though I wish he'd make some real friends."
"He will in Hogwarts," James replies, "Gryffindor is a friendly house."
"I think you're counting your eggs before they hatch," Lily says primly, "The amount he reads I bet we'll have a Ravenclaw on our hands."
"Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff," James said, "Doesn't matter to me, as long as he's happy."
"I notice you did leave one house out of that equation," Lily said wryly.
"You'd best believe it," James said, a grin splitting across his face.
Lily smile is light, but her heart is heavy. She can't help but think of an old friend, and she suddenly wonders what would happen to Harry if he were sorted into Slytherin. But James mischievous smile brings to mind the same look on Harry's childish face, and she can't help but feel just a little bit relieved. They're so much alike, there's no doubt in her mind that Harry will be all right.