this is a disclaimer.
(... The second thing he did was write to his cousin Lily. The third thing he did was take the Smeltings stick his Grandad Dursley had given him for his birthday last week and plant it in the flowerbed with the Smeltings hat and coat hanging off it - for the crows, he explained to Mum. No, not to scare them off. For food. It was a symbolic gesture, Mum.)
teach us something please
It was the pounding that woke Harry around half-one; the front door was shaking under a beating that would have splintered it if it hadn't been magically reinforced and warded up one side of the thing and down the other.
"It's your cousin," said Ginny crossly, staring out of the upstairs window. "Make him go away!"
Never one to enjoy abrupt, unplanned awakenings, she went back to bed.
When Harry got the door open, the sight that greeted him was of a downright frazzled-looking Dudley, in slippers, with the car parked in the road behind him, all the lights on and the engine growling.
He took a moment to let this register on him. Slippers. On Harry's front doorstep. In December.
"Erm," he said. Who's dead was the question that first leapt to mind, but it would probably ruin this whole – cheerful, but still slightly fragile – peace thing that they had going on.
"LOOK!" Dudley shouted, and shoved a letter in his face. "LOOK AT THIS. What the Hell am I going to do? Dad will kill us all."
Addressed to Luke Dursley, in familiar green ink on heavy parchment; Harry took it out of his cousin's slightly trembling hand and found he was having a lot of trouble fighting down a very wide grin indeed.
"This isn't funny!" Dudley yelled. "I know they were - and you - but it's different, Luke is his grandson - what am I supposed to do?"
Harry paused. "Ask him if he wants to go," he said.
"Of course he wants to go! Of course he does! Ever since we came over last year it's been Lily this and Lily that. He's bouncing off the walls yelling in delight and wanting to know why I won't let him tell my parents."
Harry tapped a finger against the door handle. "Tell you what, mate," he said. "Go shut the car down and I'll pour us a drink."
He had an uncomfortable feeling he might be having to make a very great sacrifice - do the unthinkable in point of fact - and have to lay eyes on Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon again. The only saving grace was that he was an adult now and an Auror. That might - might! - make things easier.
Of course, it probably wouldn't. But it wasn't Luke's fault, poor lad; just gone eleven and he was about to split his family apart by being nothing more than who he was. Perhaps Harry could help him, but even if he couldn't, he owed it to the boy to try.
Besides, there was an angry light coming on over at the Dread Mrs Packenham's place, and he didn't want poor Sally Greenwood dragged out of her nice cosy police station at this hour of the night without a proper reason.
A week later, Harry was pouring pennies into the telephone on the street corner opposite the newsagents, where Albus and Lily were plundering the comic book stand. James - Jim, sorry, Jim - was slouching on the pavement outside with Socks' lead wrapped around his fist; he had that far-away look on his face which usually meant upcoming pranks, midnight excursions, phone calls from Constable Greenwood and/or owls from Hogwarts and a great deal of trouble keeping a straight face while Harry told him off.
He wondered if it was an expression his paternal grandparents would have recognised on his Dad's face.
"So how did it go?"
He could picture Dudley's groan rattling the very phone lines. "I lost him his grandparents."
"His grandparents lost him his grandparents. It wasn't your fault."
"He called Dad a fat stupid bully."
Harry just about managed to save himself with a coughing fit. "...sorry. Gotta cold coming on... Erm, he said that?"
"Yep. And then he called Mum even stupider, and said that if she'd acted like this towards her Lily she should have been unforgivably cursed for all infinity. So then she says, my Lily? and Luke says, yes, I've got a Lily too, my cousin Lily, she's got red hair and she told me about magic and she's fantastic and their house has got a mirror that talks and when I'm grown up so will mine."
Harry rubbed at his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Oh... boy."
Dudley sighed. There was a shifting noise and a few short thumps, as if he'd changed position or pushed something off a sofa onto the carpet. "It got worse."
Harry found he was biting down on his left thumb trying not to grin. "How?"
Harry clapped a hand over his mouth to keep the laughter in. It was several seconds before he managed to wheeze, "You what?"
"She fainted. Dead away. Just collapsed. Went from upright to horizontal in one smooth – fell swoop, Anne called it. Never seen anyone go down like that," Dudley added thoughtfully, "most people buckle at the knees, you know? Not Mum." He sounded admiring.
Harry was positively shaking by now.
"Oh God," he managed. "And your Dad?"
"Fell onto the sofa and flapped a hand at Luke going get out – room – leave – never gain."
"Never gain?" Harry frowned. "Oh, again. Hmm."
Thank God Dudley couldn't see his face.
"So," Dudley said gloomily. "I suppose that was that with the Christmas dinners."
"Hmph," said Harry. "I suppose it was."
And then, because he was desperate to get off the phone and have a proper laugh about it and the need to do so was addling his thinking processes, he added, "You could come to ours on Boxing Day."
"Uh – yeah."
Too late to back out now.
"That'd be great, Harry, thanks so much. Luke needs someone to talk to, you know? And he thinks your lot hung the moon anyway..."
eight and a half months later
Dear Mum and Dad,
Thought I'd better send a quick note and tell you about Luke's Sorting, he's in Slytherin... you should have seen Professor Bulstrode's face. Scorpius is in fits, he's writing to his Dad as well – listen Dad, no matter the provocation, if you see Mr Malfoy at the Ministry Al says do not punch him in the face. Or anywhere else! They want him to invite them to Greengrass Park during the Christmas hols, Scorpius's Aunt Daphne – that's Professor Greengrass to us lowly second-years – has gone bonkers over the summer (no other reason for her to take the Astronomy position according to Rosie, and for the first time since Scorpius got into Ravenclaw she's started paying attention to him and buying them all ice cream and stuff, which is sort of suspicious, but people can change, right?) and they're planning an Investigation. Hugo and I think they're just trying to be as daft as they can be before OWL year starts.
I'll write again soon, got to go and stop Jim flooding the Slytherin Quidditch dressing rooms. He's hugely naffed off that any relative of his is in the snake house. Says the Marauders would never stand for it and he has an obligation to their memories and a duty to their good name. I keep telling him, what about Teddy's Gran? Or Sirius's brother Regulus? Or Dorea Black who married Grandad James's uncle Charlus? And Grandad Weasley said that his Mum was a Black as well. But he won't listen. Yet. Don't worry though, I've got a plan.
Erm, apologies in advance in case Professor Longbottom has to send you another owl tomorrow.
Love you both lots!