You're going to be an aunt! I don't know yet whether it will be a niece or a nephew for you though. Vernon said he's hoping for a girl with my eyes, the great sap.
Poor man, he's been trying to help me out around the house because of my morning sickness. He's a sweetie but I have to admit I wish he wouldn't try quite so hard. I don't need to deal with food poisoning on top of everything else.
Speaking of which, I smell something burning in the kitchen. I'll write more soon.
It was only a few weeks after Harry's 10th birthday that Aunt Petunia informed him that she and Uncle Vernon had decided he was old enough to learn more about his parents. Petunia sounded calm but Harry could tell she was quite upset by the way her lips pinched together and her hands trembled just the slightest bit. When she turned down the hall and descended the stairs, Harry followed, half excited about the coming conversation and half dreading it.
He paused at the foot of the stairs. Vernon and Dudley were already seated on one of the couches. Dudley held a book in his hands but was obviously not reading, instead staring into space, his eyes unfocused. Vernon was not much better. He fidgeted, leaning forward to straighten the newspaper on the table, crossing and uncrossing his legs, picking up his glass of water but putting it back down without taking a sip. Both of them snapped to attention when Petunia sat down on the couch catty-corner to theirs. That left the spot between Petunia and Vernon for Harry. Harry dragged his feet only slightly as he went to join them.
"First, a refresher." Harry watched as Aunt Petunia visibly gathered her thoughts. "We've told you about the Magical World and how your mum was a witch and your dad a wizard. You know the Magical World has prejudice about blood purity like the rest of the world has prejudice about race and religion. You know there was a war and Lily and James fought and died in it."
She paused again. Harry stayed quiet. He couldn't remember a time he hadn't known his parents had been murdered. When he was little, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had left it at Lily and James stopping bad people gradually giving more detail as he grew old enough to ask. They believed that if Harry was old enough to ask, he was old enough to hear the answer even if the details were carefully edited to be age appropriate.
Harry glanced at Dudley who sat stone still as if riveted to the couch. Dudley wanted stories about Lily, James and the Magical World almost as much as Harry. They all knew that Dudley wasn't magical; every magical incident had clearly been due to Harry's emotional turmoil. But it was magic and family. Neither Harry nor Dudley would admit it to Vernon or Petunia but they both felt the lack of close family (Marge didn't count because she was a "Bad Person"). So they eagerly gathered all the stories offered about Lily and James, childhood events, and grandparents on all sides of the family to trot out, carefully edited of magic, of course, when other children at their school started bragging about various family members.
"Well," Vernon picked up the narrations, unaware of Harry and Dudley's thoughts, "a man called Voldemort styled himself a lord and led those who were radical blood purists, known as Death Eaters." Both Harry and Dudley were slightly wide-eyed at hearing Death Eater; it sounded like the kind of name they would expect from a spoof or a fantasy movie that took itself too seriously, inadvertently turning into a bad comedy. They had no desire to laugh though, knowing that these people were real and had killed.
"Those fanatical blood purists are smaller in number but powerful politically and rich, very rich. They could and did control the Magical World's government and ignored the British crown as inferior rather than over the Minister of Magic. I'm sure you've learned in school that many of the royal executive powers are delegated to the prime minister and other government officials. This is not true of the Magical World. The royal powers have never been delegated to magical officials. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to find out much information about why the Magical government is operating so separately from the Crown. Our only current guess is that most of the Lords that make up the Wizengamot – the Magical World's version of the House of Lords, don't swear a magically binding oath of loyalty to Crown and Country. I'm sorry, I'm getting off track.
"Anyway, Lily and James joined an organization run by a man named Albus Dumbledore despite their jobs as a researcher and an auror." Petunia spoke up again. "Just so you know, Harry, Dumbledore is also the headmaster of Hogwarts. Anyway, sometime later, I don't know when precisely, Dumbledore claims to have heard a prophecy. At least part was either overheard by or leaked to a spy so the two families it was believed the prophecy might apply to went into hiding." Petunia stopped to blot her teary eyes with her handkerchief and Vernon took over again.
"Peter Pettigrew, one of their supposed friends, betrayed them, led Voldemort right to them! No one is quite sure what happened at this point. James was found in the front room. He probably sacrificed himself to give Lily the chance to escape with you. Lily was found in the nursery. A pile of robes almost certainly belonging to Voldemort was found near the doorway. You, Harry, were found alive in your crib with only a scar from Voldemort's murder attempt." At Vernon's last words, Harry's hand flew up to his forehead; he had known that he had gotten his scar the night his parents were killed but he hadn't realized it was from surviving his own attempted murder.
"No one knows what happened to Voldemort." Petunia had brought herself under control so spoke up again. "Most people believe he's dead and I can't blame them for wanting to believe that. But there wasn't a body and Voldemort dove deep into the Dark Arts from what Lily told me. It is possible that he's alive, hiding and recuperating." She paused to give Harry's hand a comforting squeeze. "Harry, understand that we don't want to scare you but you have to know, you're famous in the Magical World. Some people will want to use and control you while others, especially the blood purists, will want to kill you. Vernon and I tried to think of a way to avoid all of that but you'll be going to Hogwarts in a year. We couldn't wait till then to tell you this." She gave a choked up laugh. "If I could have, I would have waited decades longer. But this way at least, you'll have time to adjust."
Everyone was silent; Harry and Dudley tried to absorb the new information while Vernon and Petunia tried to recover their emotions. After a few minutes of contemplation, Dudley spoke up.
"What happened to Peter Pettigrew?"
"Ah," Vernon grimaced. "Yes he was killed. Harry, your godfather, a man named Sirius Black, hunted him down and killed him because of the betrayal."
"My godfather? Why didn't I know I had a godfather?" Harry interrupted.
"Because we didn't tell you, sweetie," Petunia answered calmly, carding her fingers through his hair. "You see, from what little I know of him, Sirius Black was incredibly single-minded. He'd get focused on one goal to the exclusion of all else. He was so focused on Peter Pettigrew that he killed 12 other people in the explosion he caused to get Pettigrew. He's in prison."
"Oh." Harry's voice was small and he hunched deeper into Petunia's side.
"How did I survive?" Harry had a puzzled frown on his face as he pushed away the issue of his grandfather. "I mean, you did say no one knew what happened but how did I live but Mum and Dad didn't?"
"You're right, we did say that. The Magical World attributes it to something I did."
"But I was a baby!" Harry was shocked and Dudley actually laughed in disbelief.
"Precisely! Fools, the lot of them," Vernon grumbled.
"Vernon, now is not the time," Petunia said sharply and he subsided. "Yes, you were a baby and while you are a very special kid, it is highly unlikely that you had anything to do with Voldemort's defeat. Lily was very intelligent and had excellent research skills. She had already gotten a great deal of research done on ancient druidic rituals. She hoped to have enough time while hiding to finalize and implement them. I can only guess that she was able to do so for you but for some reason could not to the same for James and herself. She sent a copy of her research to me and I believe I've been able to fill in some holes but we don't have the resources to do much more. I've only been able to use her old school books and a few other random books that she had forgotten at our parent's house." She paused, then continued slowly. "When you go to Hogwarts, you may take a copy if you promise not to show anyone. Your formal re-entry into the Magical World will allow me to get more legal books concerning governance of purely magical matters without arousing suspicion from any watchers. Lily may not have cared about the legality of any of the rituals she researched but we must."
"What do you mean? And why didn't Aunt Lily care?" Dudley spoke up that time. He, like Harry had with Petunia, had gradually burrowed into Vernon's side.
"Wartime," Vernon said gruffly. "Things that would be condemned in peacetime are always excused in wartime, especially when they work. With the Potter name behind her, Lily would be able to excuse almost anything as efforts against Voldemort. That's if she was even ever accused of breaking some law. As for why we have to be so much more careful, Harry's magical but the rest of us aren't. The Magical World goes nuts at the idea of any of the so called muggles even knowing about magic. If they found out that non-magicals, even ones who already knew about the Magical World, were researching rituals and spells… Well, I don't care to think of the possibilities. So, we have to know every bit of law concerning what relatives of magicals are allowed or forbidden to do. If we can spout out chapter and verse of their own laws and stay within those laws, we're a lot safer than if we just dive in headfirst.
"And to head off your next question, we're waiting until Harry goes off to school because there are people intensely interested in his life and not in a good way. By waiting, we can disguise much of our buying research materials in with buying school supplies."
"Oh," Dudley murmured. "I guess that makes sense."
"Now," Petunia said quickly, "I know you both probably have several more questions but you've got a lot of information to process and I don't want to give you too much. So, I want you two to think about it, figure out your questions, and ask them tomorrow. Go ahead and get ready for bed." She held up a finger to stop Harry and Dudley's protests before they were even completely verbalized. "I know it's early but I think routine would be good to calm you both down. Also, I'm not saying go to bed, just get ready. Vernon and I will be up for quite awhile more and you are welcome to come back down once you're done."
"Aunt Petunia," Harry started hesitantly, "can Dudley sleep in my room tonight?"
After a quick glance at Dudley, Petunia agreed. "Very well, I'll set up a second bed if you both promise to actually sleep sometime tonight."
With their promises secure, Petunia and Vernon chivied the boys upstairs. When they heard doors shut, and running water, Petunia fell into Vernon's comforting embrace.
"Oh Petunia, they're much too young!"
"I know, Vernon."
This chapter just would not come. I had to rewrite it several times. Still not completely happy with it but it's loads better than it was.
As I'm sure most of you have been able to guess, I am American, not British. That means I don't know all that much detail about the British government and its workings. My main source is Wikipedia and we all know how unreliable that can be. If you see me get something wrong on the muggle side of things, feel free to correct me. If I get something wrong on the magical side of things, again feel free to point it out but I'll probably claim artistic license… unless of course, the correction fits better with my vague plans.
Oh, and speaking of artistic license, I'm viewing the Wizengamot as a sort of combined judiciary court of law and the Parliament's House of Lords. There's no House of Commons (after all a muggleborn might be elected – the horror!). Again playing fast and loose with facts and canon, I'm working on the premise that the Magical World was under the British monarchy way back before the Statute of Secrecy and stayed under the monarchy when the Statute was put in place.
In future chapters, I'll try to have more interesting data dumps instead of people just sitting around talking.
And for those who asked, Harry will not meet Hermione until the train or Hogwarts.
Next time: Hogwarts letter!
(And Silwed, I know I owe you several emails)