Mum and Dad received an owl very early in the morning. I could hear the insistent tapping on the window, even from my bedroom. Determined to go back to sleep, I rolled over and snuggled further down into my blankets. But my parents began shouting, and I was quickly jarred awake. Fearing that we were under attack, I slipped out of bed and quietly made my way to the dresser - the Portkey that would take me to my grandmother's house was hidden inside.
"Annie!" they yelled, calling me to them. I ran down the stairs at a frantic pace, taking in their wide-eyed, glee-filled expressions. "It's over! The war is over! You-Know-Who has been defeated!"
My face broke into a wide smile, and Mum and I danced around the kitchen while Dad called my grandmother using the Floo to make sure she had heard the news.
"How, Mum? No one can beat You-Know-Who!" I was nearly shouting with excitement.
"A little boy did it," Mum said happily. "A boy named Harry Potter. You-Know-Who tried to kill him, but something went wrong, and Harry Potter lived! You-Know-Who died instead! He's gone, Annie! He's really gone!"
I was amazed and ecstatic. My entire life had been spent in a state of fear, constantly wondering if the Death Eaters would come to take away my family next, like they had done to my friend Andrew from down the street. The idea that there was nothing left to fear gave me the best feeling I'd ever experienced: safety.
That night, when Mum tucked me in, I didn't make her look in the closet or under the bed. I wasn't afraid of anything lurking there anymore. She knelt beside my bed and folded her hands, beginning our nightly prayer.
"God, thank You for making our world safe again," she said, and I nodded in agreement, closing my eyes and folding my small hands in front of me. "Please bless our family, our friends, and all of the people who have lost someone to You-Know-Who."
I opened my eyes and saw that Mum was crying. Feeling my own tears begin to surface, I quickly bowed my head once more.
"And God, please bless Harry Potter for saving us all. Take care of him," she whispered, smiling softly.
"Yeah," I said sleepily, gratefulness evident in my tone, "please bless Harry Potter. Amen."
When I was eleven, I learned about him.
He was in our history books, and his name peppered the conversation when we were taught about the rise of You-Know-Who. His role in the grand scheme of things was really only a tiny part of the story, and yet we clung to information about him obsessively. We knew what he should look like, and we had memorized the location of his curse-scar. He was a hero in our eyes.
It didn't matter to us that he had only been a year old at the time. To be brave was to have 'the courage of Harry Potter.' No one seemed to know what had happened to the saviour of the Wizarding world, but we all dreamed of meeting him some day, if only to see his scar.
When I was sixteen, I feared him.
Talk ran through the school that he may be the Heir of Slytherin, and everyone avoided him. He was never in the company of more than just a few other second-years, and even then he looked miserably lonely and a bit angry at the world.
We were terrified to cross him, and we stared when he passed by. My best friend in those days was Muggle-born, and on more than a few occasions I found myself wishing death on the Boy-Who-Lived for threatening her safety.
When the truth came out, I was ashamed. No twelve-year-old deserved what he had been through. So I avoided him still, too embarrassed by my actions to face the boy who had risked his life for us yet again.
When I was nineteen, I laughed at him.
You-Know-Who had come back, but I refused to believe it. The Ministry assured us that there was nothing to worry about, and I didn't doubt them. When he was ridiculed in the DailyProphet, I indulged in jokes at his expense just like everyone else. After all, I'd thought, just because he had survived (on pure luck, might I add) at the age of one didn't mean that he deserved undue attention fourteen years later. He was old news, and his pleas for us to listen fell on deaf ears.
And yet, he was right. The Wizarding world was in trouble, and we had wasted a year with our laughter.
When I was twenty-one, I wondered about him.
The Prophet said that he'd left Hogwarts a year early, hinting that he had decided not to return because of the death of Albus Dumbledore. I couldn't say that I blamed him. Professor Dumbledore had been the only one who could truly keep the school safe, and without his presence there was no security to be found within Hogwarts' walls.
What he may be doing and where he might be going were the general topics of conversation in those days. Of course, that was only when there was conversation to be had. Not many would dare to venture out for more than the absolute necessities - myself included. But I thought about him, and I scanned the paper hopefully every morning, searching for his name. The Chosen One: that's what they were calling him. I couldn't help but pity him, and I wondered if he resented the fact that he had ever been 'chosen' in the first place.
When I was twenty-three, I prayed for him.
Once again, he had earned the title of 'saviour.' Many still called him The Chosen One, and occasionally The Boy-Who-Lived, though he was hardly a boy anymore. Had he ever been just a boy? At the age of nineteen he had somehow managed to slay the most powerful wizard ever to threaten our world. The details were still a mystery, but the outcome was shouted from the rooftops. You-Know-Who was dead. Not gone this time, free to regain his strength and strike again; his body was in a coffin, displayed for the world to see. The day of his 'funeral'was not a sombre one, but a time of celebration and parties.
And Harry Potter was nowhere to be found. He had packed his things and disappeared the day he was released from St. Mungo's. The Prophet said that he had decided to take some time 'for himself.' The majority of the celebrants agreed that he was one man who deserved to have his wishes granted, and no one attempted to force him into the public eye. He did not attend the funeral or any of the parties, but his name was spoken as many times that night as it had been the first time You-Know-Who had fallen.
When the parties dulled and the celebrations died down I returned to my small flat in London. I hadn't prayed in years - not since I was a small child, and Mum would tuck me into bed. But I found myself on my knees beside my bed that night, folding my hands just as Mum used to do and closing my eyes.
'God,' I whispered softly, my whole heart going into my prayer, 'please bless Harry Potter for saving us all. Take care of him. Amen.'