With a tired groan Alice rolled over in her bed, right arm flailing blindly about in the dark, sleepily attempting to locate the source of the shrill ringing in an effort to snuff it out. After an interval which her eardrums considered intolerably long her fumbling fingers touched cool metal and she bashed the top of the clock to silence it. The stillness that ensued seemed welcomingly empty. As she lay there it took her a few seconds to work out why she felt so content. It took several more of adjusting to her newly awake status before it dawned on her. Pettigrew's week-long trial had finally concluded yesterday: a trial that had seen him sent to Azkaban for the rest of his miserable life and her godfather truly vindicated once and for all. The party that the Weasleys had kindly held afterwards to celebrate had been long and exuberant which was why she was only now waking up at… she squinted through the gloom at the clock face – eleven o'clock. Such a lie in was very unlike her.
For a couple of minutes she just lay there, staring up at the ceiling, enjoying the chance to just lie in her warm, comfortable bed in her own room, a luxury which she was still just getting used to, listening to the sounds of Sirius whistling cheerfully as he clattered around in the kitchen downstairs. Eventually the smell of burning bacon was enough to rouse her from her bed and she sat up, pulling on her dressing gown before going off to rescue her godfather, and breakfast, in that order.
"Sirius," she padded into the kitchen whisking the now smoking pan out from under his nose and running it under the tap, "we really need to work on your cooking skills. What are you going to do when I go back to Hogwarts, starve?"
"Of course not," he chuckled as he watched her fetch some eggs and crack them into a fresh pan, "I'm just going to have to develop a taste for carbonised bacon that's all."
Alice mock glared at him from between the escaping tendrils of her overnight plait. "Honestly, you're as bad as Harry and Ron sometimes – actually," she paused to reflect, "I think you might be worse."
"High praise indeed."
"There, that's slightly more edible." A few minutes later she placed a freshly cooked breakfast onto the tiny table in front of him before wedging herself into a chair pushed up against the kitchen dresser. As they ate in companionable silence her eyes flicked around the room, noting the enormous pile of dishes she was going to have to cajole her godfather into tackling later. It was a small room, which reflected the overall size of the house, but it managed to achieve a snug and cosy air rather than a cramped one somehow. Sirius could have used magic to enlarge the rooms if he wanted to, but he always claimed it would take too much effort, she suspected that he liked the size of the house and if she was honest so did she. After the endless corridors of Hogwarts (much as she loved it) and the echoing emptiness of the Home, it made a pleasant change. Alice also rather suspected that Sirius had wanted something as different to the vast house which he described growing up in as was possible.
Unlike the only other wizarding house she had ever come across, the Burrow, the cottage looked relatively normal from the outside; a simple two storey, whitewashed country cottage with the front door set between two windows all painted in a matching shade of moss green and a thatched roof on top. Surrounding it was a patchwork of fields scattered across rolling hills, all in the full grip of summer, and gently sloping down to cliffs at which point they ended abruptly and suddenly plunged into the sea. On days when the tide was out a vast expanse of rock pools were revealed, a fact which she had discovered to her delight several days after moving in.
Inside of course was an entirely different matter. The house was stuffed from head to toe with an assortment of wizarding items, from magical clocks and radios, to mirrors that spoke; kettles that poured themselves, rugs that weren't really rugs but that sprang up to form chairs whenever you required it; in the bathroom there was a bath that had four taps, one for hot water, one for cold, one for bubbles and another one which she hadn't worked out how to use yet. The walls of the main sitting room were adorned with photographs that Sirius had taken on his travels, as well as those from his Hogwarts days, there were pictures of Alice and her friends as well as the newest addition – which incidentally was her favourite – one of Sirius, Harry and herself all together taken at the start of the summer.
To look at the furniture it was obvious Sirius had been brought up in a wealthy wizarding family, although wild horses would have to be employed to drag the information from her in front of Sirius. It was true however, there was a certain taste and style which came along with his upbringing, although most of the main pieces of furniture had been bought second hand they were all very traditional, solid and dependable, which at one time had obviously been quite expensive. She didn't mind, it reminded her of Hogwarts and made a nice change from the flat-pack surroundings of the Home. Each piece had a history and an air of untold secrets about them that she found endlessly amusing. Take the table for example; it's dark varnished surface was pitted with a myriad of tiny burns and scrapes, evidently well used, but the glossy sheen also told her it had been well loved and cared for by previous owners; at the top of one of the legs were scratched a set of minute initials: K.H., who was that and when had they made the mark? She liked to entertain herself by imagining their lives.
"Have I missed something here?" Sirius' amused tone startled her from her reverie. "Is the table about to transfigure into something interesting?" His eyes danced as he watched her glance up from the wood, flush bright red and then stick her tongue out at him. The impertinent response which would have followed however was cut short by a light rapping on the back door.
"Who could that be at this time in the morning?" Sirius frowned towards the door as Alice rose from her seat.
"It's hardly early," she commented, undoing the latch. "It's almost lunchtime. Professor Lupin!" She beamed as she saw the rather shabby looking form of her former teacher standing outside. "What are you doing here?"
"Didn't Sirius tell you?" He moved into the room as she stood aside and took a seat at the table. The worn carpet bag he placed next to his feet didn't escape her notice either.
"Oops," her godfather shook his head sheepishly, "I might have forgotten."
"Forgotten what?" Alice returned to her seat and grabbed a piece of toast from the plate, biting into it hungrily before pushing the plate towards their new arrival.
"Remus is looking for a place to stay for a while… and I might have said at the party last night that he could stay here for a bit. You don't mind do you?"
"No," she grinned, "at least then someone beside me might do the dishes for a change."
Sirius sighed and attempted to look wounded; out of the corner of her eye she could see Lupin duck his head and raise a hand to try and cover up his smile, he didn't do a very good job of it. "Alice," her godfather tried to be sober and authoritative, but she could see the twinkle in his eye as he spoke, "I'm afraid I can't stand for such impertinence, especially in front of guests. Go to your room and get dressed this minute."
She smirked and rose to her feet, she didn't mind being told off in jest so long as she got the last word. Walking quickly to the sink she dumped her cup and plate on top of the frying pans and crockery both she and Sirius had used in their varyingly successful attempts at breakfast. "Alright, that's some more dishes for you to start practicing on then." She grinned crookedly at them as she skipped from the room before calling back over her shoulder: "You know what they say: there's no time like the present!"
As she scampered up the stairs to her room she could hear them chuckling in the kitchen and an intense feeling of gratitude and happiness swept over her. For the first time in her life she had a real home and family, it was more than she could ever have hoped for. The only thing that marred the perfection was Harry's absence, and she was counting down the days until his arrival. She didn't have to wait very long.
"Happy birthday Alice!"
She glanced up from where she had been sitting cat-like on her bed room floor, reading a book she had just received for her birthday from Sirius, to see Harry standing in the doorway. As she took in the enormous grin lighting up his face an almost identical one spread itself across her features.
"Hi Harry!" She dropped the book and bounded up towards him. "Happy birthday to you too," she threw her arms round his neck, feet lifting from the floor as she did so. "I didn't hear you come in, have you just arrived?" She examined his face critically as he put her down. "How are you?" He looked thinner than the last time she had seen him and there were dark circles surrounding his eyes, but he looked whole and happy so she didn't mention it.
"I'm good, I'm fine; better now I'm here. I'd forgotten how amazing this place was!"
"It is, isn't it? Has Sirius shown you your room yet? He said he'd let me do it. How did you get here? Have you seen Sirius and Lupin yet? Oh," she suddenly took pause from her torrent of questions and dashed back towards her bed, dropping flat onto her stomach and searching blindly underneath it with one arm. After several fruitless seconds her dusty fingers made contact with the dry crinkled surface of an object wrapped in paper. Grasping it she pulled herself upright again and swivelled to face her bemused looking brother. "You can put your bag down you know," she indicated the frayed rucksack hanging loosely from his shoulder. "Here," she held out the box, "happy birthday."
Moving swiftly across the floorboards Harry sat on the bed beside her. As he deftly dealt with the wrapping paper he glanced around the rest of her room. "Well I approve of the colour anyway," he smiled, indicating her pale yellow walls and red curtains that matched the blanket they were sitting on.
"Well I had to make it feel like home she grinned sheepishly, and home was Hogwarts before this." She smoothed the blanket under her fingers self consciously.
"Well I want mine the – oh thanks Alice!" He had finally succeeded in undoing the layers of spellotape she had wrapped around the present. There, lying carefully nestled within the wrappings, was a book; bound in embossed brown leather it had his name printed across the front in scrolling gold script. He quickly flipped it open to reveal seemingly endless pages of plastic pockets each the size of a postcard. Returning to the very first page he read the inscription she had written:
To my brother on your 14th birthday. I hope you fill this with the record of your adventures (goodness knows we have enough to fill several albums!) Lots of love, your new sister – Alice Clover Evans-Potter.
She could see Harry blinking back tears as he gazed at her handwriting. She hadn't intended to add the "Evans" part, after all she was a Potter now, but the name had looked strange without out it; besides it was difficult to just cast off a name after having owned it for almost all her life.
"I thought, since the photo album Hagrid gave you was full you might want to start a new one," she smiled as he hugged her by way of wordless thanks.
"Here," he sniffed after a moment, "I got something for you too… well," he blushed, "actually I asked Hermione to get it for me because the Dursleys barely let me out of the house."
Curiously she ripped at the paper and opened the tiny box she found inside. As she saw the contents it took her a moment to register what she was looking at; once she had realised though a huge grin began creeping across her face and she began to chuckle, quietly at first until it built encompass the room in peels of musical laughter. Harry watched her quietly.
"Does that mean you like it?"
Straightening her face and speedily hooking the charm, a tiny silver pot-plant, onto her bracelet to prove her point, she looked back up at him. "Harry its perfect."
Relief broke across his face. "Good, I wasn't sure. Hermione… Anyway, now you are a proper Potter."
She giggled at that, before standing up and grabbing his hand. "Come on have you seen your room yet? I said we should wait till you arrived before we decorated it, but," she moved down the hall as she spoke, dragging her brother after her, "Sirius got a bit over excited last week and… well…" she threw open the door they had reached to let him see for himself.
"I…" He walked slowly into the room looking thunderstruck, Alice stayed where she was letting him take it all and twisting her fingers anxiously. She really hoped that he liked it, Sirius and she (once she had seen that her godfather wasn't going to be deterred) had put a lot of work into the room. It was at least twice the size that his room at Privet drive had been, the walls were a rich, warm brown which by chance Alice had found a rug that matched to cover the floorboards in the centre of the room. Painted on one wall was a large Gryffindor shield – something that had taken them both hours to finish and which her critical eye still thought looked slightly wonky. Hedwig was already installed in her cage on top of a sturdy looking desk next to a pile of books Sirius had found about Quidditch. She nodded towards the dresser.
"That's from Sirius." She watched as he walked over and curiously inspected a moving model of a Nimbus 2000 with a tiny note attached to it, which he detached and proceeded to read with a slight smile. Finally he dropped his bag onto the bed and turned to face her.
She laughed and let out a breath she didn't even know she had been holding, she had been so keen to make Harry feel welcomed, even if he had seen the house before, she hadn't realised though how nervous she was about it.
"Oi, you two miscreants," they heard Sirius' voice floating up the stairs, "lunch is ready!"
Alice glanced at her brother with a mischievous smile. "Are you ready to sample some of Sirius' cooking?" Her eyes danced with laughter as she watched his expression.
"Is it any good?"
"Well," she pretended to ponder the question, "put it like this: on a scale of great to Hagrid's, it's not bad."
Harry laughed. "Well there is only one way to find out I suppose!" The two of them trotted down the stairs to join their godfather in the kitchen.
If Alice had been asked later what the best part of her birthday had been, she would have been hard pressed to settle on an answer. Had it been the moment Harry had arrived? The look on his face when he was told he was being thrown his first birthday party ever? Perhaps it had been the party itself? Or seeing all her friends again after weeks of separation? She couldn't decide. She did know however that the party was hands down the best she had ever had.
Shortly after six o'clock Neville and Seamus had appeared in a flurry of green flames, closely followed by Hermione – greeted ecstatically by both Harry and Alice – then Dean who had knocked nervously on the front door. Alice had considered inviting the other girls from Gryffindor tower, but she didn't really know them as well as the boys so she hadn't bothered, besides, she had had parties before, this one was really about Harry. Last to turn up had been the Weasleys, who seemed to pour through the fire place in an endless stream of red hair.
"Alice!" Mrs Weasley gave her a motherly hug, "Happy birthday my dear, how are you coping? Are Sirius and Remus looking after you properly?"
She answered her questions with a smile, before the Weasley matriarch turned to her brother and began grilling him about looking too peaky for her liking. Alice smiled, Ron was definitely lucky to have a Mum like her however much he protested otherwise.
"Here Midget," the twins bounded up to her as full of irrepressible energy as ever, "happy birthday." They handed her a box. "You might want to open that later on," George informed her in a theatrical whisper.
"Yeah, and maybe use oven gloves or something," added his brother with a smirk.
She looked askance first at the box she was now holding gingerly, then at the twins who were sporting identical wicked grins on their freckled faces. "Should I even ask?"
"I wouldn't bother," George put his arm around her shoulders and steered her towards the pile of gifts she and Harry had accumulated, it was the most presents either of them had ever seen in their lives. "Except thank you, of course."
"Oh yes," Fred added, "it's our civic duty to cultivate manners in you. So come on," he put his hand under her chin and pretended to make her speak, "say: thank you Gred and Forge."
Alice rolled her eyes as she tried to suppress a laugh. "Thank you idiots," her words were made more difficult by the fact Fred still had a hold on her face.
"I don't know, what do you think George?"
"Well it wasn't word perfect but -"
"It's a start," they chorused before the three of them burst out laughing.
"Hey you three," Ron shouted across the room, "are you going to keep on mucking about over there or are you going to come and eat like a normal person?" He waved a chicken leg at them to emphasise his point. She laughed again; trust Ron to make a bee line for the food.
"Well I suppose we had better do as our ickle brother commands don't you Evans?"
"Otherwise he'll have all the food eaten before we get there."
As the party got under way and everyone ate their fill, she noticed that Seamus, Dean and even occasionally Neville would cast a curious, and often rather nervous glance in Sirius' direction. Her godfather for the most part was deep in conversation with Lupin and Mr Weasley, although she suspected he was aware of the looks he was receiving. Moving subtly across the room she approached the boys.
"He's not going to bite you know." All three of them jumped at the sound of her low, quiet voice.
"I – Alice, I didn't think he… what do you mean?" Neville stammered and then tried to cover up his slip of the tongue.
"Sirius," she smiled at them, "I saw you watching him. He's lovely once you get to know him; there's no need to be nervous."
"It's not that, we were just…" Seamus had gone bright red.
"We're just used to seeing him in the papers that's all," Dean finished the sentence that his friend was stumbling over.
"Yeah, well you know half of what they say in there is rubbish don't you? I mean he is innocent," she added hurriedly, "I just meant that everything they said about him before that, and half of this stuff now about him being some sort of fearsome warrior facing injustice, blah, blah, blah… he's just a normal wizard like anyone else."
The three of them nodded, still glancing towards her godfather, but now more with curiosity than anything else in their expression.
"If you just -" she paused as there was a brief flurry of motion on the other side of the room and the man in question stood up from the sofa.
"Well," Sirius raised his glass and smiled towards Harry and Alice. "Firstly I think we would all like to wish Alice and Harry a happy fourteenth birthday. I'm so glad I can be here to enjoy it with them – goodness knows the surroundings are more appealing than those I usually have to face every year at this time." That brought a few wry smiles. "I know I haven't been a very good godfather up till now, but I am going to do my best to live up to the role. We've all been through a lot over the last year, but hopefully now things will begin to settle own a bit and this next year will be much calmer."
"I've been saying that for years," Ron interjected grumpily, "and I'm still waiting for it to come true." Everyone laughed at his gloomy comment.
"I would also like to take this opportunity, since I've got you all pinned to your seats anyway," he flashed a quick smile as he spoke, "to welcome both of you to your new home." Alice could feel a lump build in her throat as he held his drink above his head and toasted their birthday, good health and anything else he could think of. When the cheers of the rest of the party had died down she caught his eye and nodded, the corner of her mouth crooking upwards leaving Harry to thank him with the words she could not find; she could see the understanding in her godfather's eyes though.
"Alice, are you alright?" Hermione's voice whispered behind her and she turned to find her best friend peering owlishly at her in concern.
"What? Oh yes," she cleared her throat and wiped her face quickly to check that she hadn't done anything embarrassing, like cry, during the speech. "Yes I'm fine."
"You've gone a bit red."
"I'm alright, it's just a bit hot in here that's all," she pretended to fan her face. Hermione didn't look convinced, but changed the subject anyway.
"So are you looking forward to the World Cup then?" Mr and Mrs Weasley's present to the two of them had been tickets to go and watch the Quidditch World Cup in August.
"Of course," Alice enthused, "it's going to be brilliant, I can't wait to see it, I might actually get to see Moran play if they get through to the final, because she's on the Ireland squad!" She grinned referring to the captain of her favourite team the Kenmare Kestrels. "Are you looking forward to it?" Hermione was notoriously reticent when it came to all matter broom-related.
"It should be interesting," her friend answered evasively, "I mean… I doubt I'll get as excited as you or Harry and Ron -"
"I don't think anyone could get as excited as Ron," Alice observed wryly, their friend had talked of little else all evening.
"But still I don't think you can help getting caught up in the moment of these things, and it'll be a historical occasion, even if it is just Quidditch."
"Do my ears deceive me?" Fred and George popped up again suddenly as they were apt to do. "Did the words 'just Quidditch' just come from your mouth Hermione?"
"Evans, what are you doing consorting with such misinformed people?"
Alice opened her mouth to respond, just as Hermione's chin jutted out defensively; the twins however, gave neither of them the opportunity to say a word.
"Don't worry Hermione, we'll see that your education on the subject is properly conducted -"
"Yeah, I mean you can't be brilliant all the time can you?"
"It would just be exhausting -"
"- not to mention that it would be really stressful, I mean imagine having to be like that all the time; the pressure -"
"- the responsibility!" Both boys shuddered dramatically at the thought as Alice tried not to giggle at their antics.
"So don't worry Hermione, if you think about it, it's actually better that you don't know about some stuff."
"But please," Fred went down on his knees in front of her, hands clasped as though in prayer, "please can it be about something other than Quidditch?"
Hermione looked at him in silence for a minute, going slowly red as she did so. Eventually, seemingly lost for words, she glanced up at the rest of the party, some of whom were watching the twins display with ill-concealed amusement and sighed: "Oh for goodness sake, stop being ridiculous and get up off the floor." For a second Alice wondered if she was upset, but then she saw the corner of her friend's mouth twitch and she knew that she had taken it in the spirit of fun intended. "Honestly you two are just… you're ridiculous sometimes! Alice, can you deal with them please?" She pretended to storm off, but Alice could see her grinning as she was engaged in conversation by Lupin and Harry.
Eventually, after everyone had eaten their fill and the party games had been concluded the guests departed with promises to see each other very soon. Alice, exhausted more than she would have thought possible, slowly dragged herself up the stairs and collapsed onto her bed. As she lay staring at the darkened ceiling she could hear plates being moved around in the kitchen and the soft pad of feet in the corridor outside. They paused outside her bedroom door.
She smiled contentedly. "Goodnight Harry."
A/N: Right so here we go: book 4! The only thing I would say about this chapter is that I decided Moran – who is a Chaser on the Ireland team in the book – should play for the Kestrels, other than that please R&R as always.