Note: Hello! This story is AU in that Lupin and Tonks survived the final battle! That's about all I have to say, except that I hope you enjoy reading it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor am I making any profit from this piece of writing. However, Caroline "Carrie" Winters is a character of my own creation.
1: The Boy Wearing the Wooly Hat
It was exactly one month before her eleventh birthday that Caroline Winters arrived at Number Fifteen Silver Birch Avenue, in the back of her parents' hatchback car, sat on the backseat between her two squabbling older brothers.
"For goodness sake, boys!" Caroline's mother cried as they turned into the driveway, gravel crunching under the wheels of the car. "Can you not stop bickering for just a few minutes? Besides, look, we're here!"
Caroline's brothers, twin boys two years their sister's senior, immediately halted their noisy disagreement in order to turn and press their faces to the cool glass of the windows, looking up at the house with wide, excited eyes.
"There's a window in the roof!" one twin, whose name was Timothy, observed excitedly, causing the other boy, Thomas, to crane his neck to get a good look for himself.
"That would be the attic bedroom." their father informed them happily as the car came to a halt, and the two boys immediately began to argue about which one of them would lay claim to the room in question.
Caroline folded her arms firmly across her chest, eyes upon her shoes as the twins flung open the car doors and scrambled out of the car.
"Come along, Carrie love." her mother said encouragingly, twisting in her seat to look at her daughter's slumped pose. "Don't want the boys to get the best bedrooms, do you?"
As her father climbed out of the car and hurried after the twins, Carrie looked up at her mother, face contorted moodily as she declared:
"I don't care."
Mrs. Winters suppressed a heavy sigh and tried again:
"Well why don't you go and take a look in the back garden? There's a great big tree out there, Dad says he could build you a tree house! A proper tree house, Carrie! Couldn't have one of those back at the flat now, could you?"
Carrie drew her legs up upon the seat and hugged her knees to her chest.
"No," she mumbled, long hair falling to cover her face as she hung her head dejectedly. "But what's the point of having a tree house if you've got no friends to play in it with?"
"You're going to have plenty of friends to play with!" Mrs. Winters insisted, reaching to pat the girl comfortingly upon the knee. "You'll be starting school in September, you'll be just as new as everybody else and you'll make lots of new friends! Not to mention there must be children living on this street..."
"I don't want lots of new friends!" Carried protested miserably, jerking away from her mother's hand. "I've already got lots of friends! And we were all going to go to school together! To Tillbury High! Together!"
"Oakhurst Manor is a wonderful school, Caroline, and your father has been waiting for this promotion for years..." Mrs. Winters began firmly, only for her daughter to let out a little shriek of anger, jabbing the seat belt release button with far more force than was necessary, before slumping down onto her side, curling herself up into a ball.
"I want to go home!" the child cried, grasping fistfuls of hair in agitation. "I want to go back to Tillbury!"
Her mother sighed heavily.
"I'm going to go inside now, love." she informed Carrie rather sadly. "You can just come in when you are ready." And with that, she left her daughter to her sulking.
Within ten minutes Carrie had grown tired of crying and aiming kicks at the back of the driving seat, and so she reluctantly sat up and looked out of the window.
The Winters' new home was certainly far nicer to look at than their old flat back in the town of Tillbury. It was a white-washed semi-detatched house with a front door painted in shiny, bright blue paint. A creeper plant was slowly climbing up the wall to the left of the door and there was a flowerpot of bright yellow flowers upon the doorstep.
Carrie reached to open the car door and slid out of the back seat, closing the door carefully behind her. She stared at the house for a long moment, counting the front windows (six including the one in the roof) and the number of pigeons sat up beside the chimney. (Two, three including the strange brown looking one that after some squinting really didn't look like a pigeon at all. If Carrie would have allowed herself to guess she would have said it was an owl, but she did not allow herself to be so silly. Everybody knows that owls only come out at nighttime.) Then she turned to her left to look at the house next door. There was no car in the drive, so she supposed that her new neighbors were not at home. Their house looked much the same as hers, except their front door was bottle green and there were rather overgrown bushes either side of the door, not creepers. Somebody needed to give them a good trim, they reached above the bottom of the window frames, the windows themselves were dark, net curtains blocking the view inside.
Carrie turned again, her back to her new home, and looked across the road at the houses opposite. They all looked the same – white washed buildings only distinguishable from one another by the bright paint upon their front doors. Carrie heaved a sigh. It was, she concluded, a boring neighborhood. A long way away from her friends.
Carrie reluctantly wandered over to the blue front door and pushed it open, peering into the hallway. Boxes were stacked up along one wall and as she stepped inside and wandered along, past the staircase, Carrie tapped her fingers upon the cardboard as she passed. At each door that she reached, the girl paused to peer into a room, slowly, quietly as if she did not want to be seen or heard. She pretended that she was in somebody else's house, having a sneaky look around before the real owners came home from work, or the shops, or from visiting friends. Behind the first door Carrie found herself looking at a large living room with a big fireplace and stripy red wallpaper upon the walls. Carrie grimaced. Something would need to be done, it all clashed terribly with the sofa and chairs that they had brought with them from their old flat. The ceiling seemed very high, too. Carrie closed the door with a sigh. It didn't look very cosy, not like the little living room back in Tillbury, with the old rug that she had liked to curl up on whilst watching television. As she advanced up the hallway, Carrie regretted her father throwing that rug away, no matter how many holes had been in it.
The next room was much smaller and adorned with rather dull looking cream wallpaper. It was full of yet more boxes. Carrie suspected that this would be the study, somewhere to keep her father's books and the family's computer. Backing out into the hallway again, Carrie found only two doors left. The first turned out to be a cupboard. The second, Carrie assumed, had to be the kitchen, where the rest of her family had congregated judging from the noise coming from within. Carrie shuffled down the hallway and reached to push the door open.
Her mother was busy stacking tins and jars into one of the many kitchen cupboards, whilst her father was busy examining the cooker with far more enthusiasm than Carrie could possibly deem necessary, or even sane. Timothy and Thomas were both sat at the dining table at the far end of the room, they were seemingly still discussing their new bedrooms.
"I'm the oldest!" Timothy was saying as Carrie shuffled past her parents and into the dining area. "So I should have the bigger room..."
"You're older by three minutes!"
"What difference does it make?"
Carrie had reached the doors out to the patio. Bored by the debate already she slid them open and stepped out into the back garden. For the first time that day, she found herself smiling. Her mother had been right, it was exciting. After all, Carrie had never had a garden to play in before.
It was a narrow but long garden with a small patio made up of concrete slabs. The rest of the space was covered in grass, it would be good for ball games, Carrie decided. Thick bushes blocked the garden to the left from view. As she wandered down the garden, Carrie wondered what the neighbors were like. Private people, she supposed from the tall hedges both here and at the front of their house. Maybe they were shy. Or maybe they were trying to hide something. As she walked, Carrie allowed her imagination to run away with her, thoughts of secret agents, criminal masterminds and monsters in the attic racing through her head.
Then she reached the tree that her mother had been talking about. It was a big, sturdy tree, perfectly suited for a tree house. Carrie reached to grab hold of a low branch, pulling herself upwards so that her feet swung just short of the ground, testing. Yep, she thought happily, I could have a big tree house right here in this tree. I bet I could see for miles...
She climbed higher, scrambling up so that she could sit upon the low branch in an attempt to see just what the view would be like.
It was then that she found herself able to look down into the garden next door. Her new neighbors had a tree at the bottom of their garden too, though it was far taller and didn't look any good for climbing. It was the sort of tree that you could sit under on a warm summer's day like today, and read a good book.
It was just as this thought occurred to her that Carrie saw him. The boy in the wooly hat. Sat underneath the tree next door, a book in his hands, legs spread out before him as if he were sunbathing.
In a wooly hat.
Carrie simply stared.
She supposed that he was about her own age, though possibly a little taller than she was. He had unusually long legs and was dressed in a pair of grubby looking denim jeans with a white t shirt that had a big grass stain across the front, rather like the twins' attire after a good game of football in the park.
For the life of her, though, Carrie could not recall her brothers, nor anybody for that matter, wearing a wooly hat in the middle of July. The girl adjusted her grip upon her perch as she leaned, squinting through the bright sunshine to get a better look at him. The tree gave a creak and, at the sound of it, the boy next door looked up from his book, eyes coming to rest upon the stranger sat in the tree.
There was a long pause as they regarded one another, before Carrie called:
"Hello...my name's Carrie...Caroline Winters. My family just moved in here."
The boy closed his book with a snap and put it down upon the grass beside him. He reached to shade his eyes against the sun as he looked up at her.
"Hello Carrie," he called back, offering her a little wave with his other hand. "My name's Teddy. Teddy Lupin."
"You're wearing a wooly hat." Carrie called, just in case he hadn't noticed his blunder.
"Yes..." came the slightly hesitant response, and Carrie wondered if it had been a little rude of her to pick out his odd choice of clothing. "I couldn't find my baseball cap."
"It's the middle of the summer though," Carrie pointed out, letting go of the branch with one hand so that she could gesture towards the sun, wobbling a little at the movement. "You'd be better off without any hat at all, wouldn't you? You must feel terribly hot!"
Teddy Lupin shrugged his shoulders, apparently he did not seem to have noticed the heat.
"I have to wear a hat sometimes," he told Carrie, just as the two children heard the sound of a back door being opened. "When I'm not well."
Carrie felt colour flood her cheeks and she drew a hasty breath to say something apologetic, only for a woman's voice to call:
Teddy Lupin offered her a bright smile and a wave, before he snatched up his book and headed back towards his house at a run.
Carrie wondered quite what could be wrong with him. He certainly didn't seem very unwell. Jumping from the tree and landing upon the ground with a soft thump, Carrie ran back to her own house, ready to tell her mother all about the strange boy she had met in the garden, and ask what possible reason he could have to need to wear a wooly hat.