B/N: It’s been nearly four months since the first chapter of this story was posted. Alexannah, in her note to me when she sent back the chapter wrote, “Sorry, I've been kind of distracted by exams, end of term, etc.”Therefore, we highly recommend that you go back and read the chapter I posted in April. Happy reading...
The house was small, only two bedrooms set just off the main street of Hogsmeade. Harry had never been to the village before and was curious to look around, but that could wait. Madam Pomfrey showed him inside and where everything was, apparently trying to keep a balance between her professional self and a polite host. Harry didn’t mind, anything was better than the Dursleys. The house was very interesting: not having been in a wizarding house before, Harry couldn’t help but be fascinated at the displays of casual magic all over the place, from the self-sorting cupboards to the talking mirrors.
The two of them paused outside the spare room. A strange noise was coming from within. Madam Pomfrey, frowning, opened the door and they both gasped in surprise. A goat with white shaggy hair was in the middle of the bedroom, chewing thoughtfully on the bed sheets. There was straw sticking to its coat and it smelled like it had used a corner Harry couldn’t see as a toilet.
“Ugh!” Madam Pomfrey clamped a hand to her nose. “ABERFORTH!!!” She tugged on the animal, trying to get it to move, but no go. In the end she, after apologising profusely to Harry (who was quite enjoying the spectacle, minus the smell) opened the window and yelled the second word, which Harry guessed was someone’s name, out of it.
A minute later Harry heard the sound of a door opening and closing and hurried footsteps coming towards them. A tall man with long grey hair and beard appeared in the doorway. He looked oddly familiar.
“Aberforth,” Madam Pomfrey positively snarled at him, “what is that animal doing in my house?”
The man looked from her to the goat, which was surveying them with a look of mild interest. “Minerva!” he exclaimed delightedly, throwing his arms around the animal’s neck. “That’s where you went!”
“Aberforth,” Madam Pomfrey growled. “Get it out of my house this instant.”
His sense of self-preservation seemed to kick in and he quickly said, “Oh! Sorry, I’ll take her now.” He made a clicking noise to the goat, whose ears pricked up. “Here, girl. Follow me.”
“And you can clean up this mess as well before you go anywhere. Or I’ll get your brother to do it. Or perhaps the real Minerva. I’m sure she’ll be flattered that you named your goat after her,” Madam Pomfrey said sarcastically. Aberforth paled.
“Absolutely, right away, my dear Poppy. Scourgify! There, all better.”
He fled, Minerva the goat in tow.
Madam Pomfrey heaved a deep sigh and ran a hand through her hair. “My next-door neighbour,” she explained to Harry. “He owns a pub in the next street and has about five goats. He’s an absolute nuisance.”
“He looked familiar,” Harry mused.
“I’m not surprised. His brother happens to be my employer.”
“Professor Dumbledore?” Harry said in surprise. “I didn’t know he had a brother.”
Madam Pomfrey nodded. “And a pain in the backside he is too. Aberforth, that is, not the headmaster. Well, I suppose I’ll leave you to get settled in.” She hesitated. “Harry?”
“While you’re here, you may call me Poppy.”
After asking him to call her by her first name, Poppy suddenly seemed much more relaxed about his presence. Rather than cooking, as it was his first night there, she ordered pizza (Harry didn’t even know wizards ate pizza, it had never been served at Hogwarts) and they spent a pleasant evening arguing over the best toppings. Poppy liked Hawaiian, Harry liked pretty much anything that didn’t have pepperoni, anchovies or spinach.
The pizza argument was followed by peaches and yoghurt and a discussion about the other members of staff. According to Poppy, Flitwick was part goblin, Dumbledore was addicted to anything lemon flavoured and Snape wore Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle underwear. When Harry asked her how she knew this, she recounted the tale of Snape’s first duel in Hogwarts in his first week; he and four Gryffindors had ended up in the Hospital Wing, where she made them all strip down to their pants.
After Harry recovered from this tale, Poppy started on another about Professor McGonagall failing Divination class on purpose. Upon asking curiously, Poppy told Harry that the two of them had been at Hogwarts together – and because the headmaster was a close friend of Professor McGonagall, Poppy was forced to tolerate Aberforth.
“He’s a nightmare, but he has his moments when he’s not too bad,” she sighed. “If he didn’t have that passion for goats he would be quite a sweet character.”
Harry stored this information for future use. He suspected the wine Poppy had drunk with the pizza (he’d had pineapple juice) had played a large part in that admission.
It wasn’t till she realised what the time was and shooed him to bed that Harry was left alone with his thoughts. As he unpacked Dudley’s old pyjamas, he decided he felt more at home here than he had ever felt with the Dursleys. Perhaps not as much as Hogwarts, but it would do for now. As he turned the light off, he noticed a strange glow out of the window. Peering through the dark, he could just make out an outline of a tower. Harry grinned before drawing the curtains and climbing into bed.
“Kill him! Kill him!”
Harry woke suddenly in a cold sweat, shaking all over. For a moment he couldn’t remember where he was. He fumbled for his glasses and found them on a bedside table that was taller than what he was used to. After putting them on, he sat up and felt for a candle. There was no candle, but an oil lamp on the table. He lit it and looked around, remembering in a rush where he was, and relaxed. The chances of Voldemort turning up at the school nurse’s house were slim.
He slid out of bed quietly and padded to the window, pulling the curtains aside a little to see Hogwarts. The night was beautiful and cloudless, the stars twinkling at him and the moonlight flooding the village of Hogsmeade and the little Harry could see of the school. He opened the window a crack to let a small breeze in and just stood looking out, his arms resting on the window-sill, the wind ruffling his hair relaxing him.
Where was Voldemort? What was he doing now? Was he trying to find another innocent to possess in an attempt to get to him again? Harry shivered, but not with cold. What were the other ways which he could use to return? The lone face had been bad enough; Harry dreaded to think what Voldemort would be like at full power.
Hopefully, he told himself firmly, Voldemort will never return. Dumbledore said he might never return if he keeps being thwarted. Harry closed the window and crawled back into bed, but he kept the light on.
“You look tired,” Poppy commented when she saw him next morning. “Did you sleep well?”
“Um, normal,” Harry said, not really lying. He had been having nightmares since the confrontation with Quirrell. He avoided Poppy’s eye, thinking she knew he wasn’t being entirely truthful. She didn’t press the matter, but seemed to survey him suspiciously as she started on breakfast. Expecting the school matron to be all for muesli and fruit, he was pleasantly surprised as she took out a frying pan. Seeing his look, Poppy smiled.
“It’s Saturday,” she said simply as if that explained everything. “Do you want to help?”
Harry grinned. Accustomed as he was to cooking the breakfast in Privet Drive, frying bacon and eggs was something he could do in a wizarding house without feeling like an idiot. He did, however, feel a little useless when Poppy summoned the bacon from the pantry with a flick of her wand.
As the room filled with appetising aromas, the two of them restarted the conversation about the other members of staff from where they left last night. It wasn’t just the staff either: Harry felt a surge of excitement when Poppy admitted she’d been working at the school when his parents were students.
“Did you know them well?” he asked eagerly.
Poppy laughed. “I should say so. Your father was one of my most frequent patients. He and his little gang of friends were always paying me visits for this and that.” She sniffed. “Quidditch injuries, a lot of the time, but they were always getting into scrapes with other boys in their year. The number of times I had to remove an ill-performed jinx …”
“And my mum?”
“Oh, yes. She was a lot more careful, but I saw Lily on a regular basis too – she had both a fondness and talent for Potions, and in her later years she used to help me out. She wanted to be a Healer, you know,” she added.
“I didn’t know.” An odd tingling feeling was spreading through Harry as he thought about the parents he had never known. He only knew what they looked like from the Mirror of Erised and Hagrid’s photo album. Now he was receiving a personality to match to the images. “Did she become one?”
Poppy sighed. “No. She studied hard, and was qualified, but she decided that she wanted to have children first, and … well, she never got to go back. A waste if you ask me, she had so much potential. So many people’s lives went to waste in the war against You-Know-Who, but not many of them had your mother’s talent.”
Harry thought about this as he and Poppy sat down at the breakfast table. He’d never really thought about what his parents’ careers were before. “What did my dad want to be, do you know?”
“Oh, that I’m afraid I don’t know. The way he loved sport I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to be a professional Quidditch player, but he had a number of interests.”
“How many of the other teachers knew my parents? Would any of them know?”
“Well, Professor McGonagall was their Head of House – she would be the best person to ask, she would have given him career advice. Why don’t you ask her when term starts?” Poppy looked over the table at his plate. “Aren’t you hungry?”
Harry realised he’d been letting his breakfast get cold and hastily shovelled in a mouthful of egg to keep her happy. He was about to ask more questions, but the doorbell rang. Poppy motioned for him to continue eating and stood to answer. Harry swallowed thoughtfully, his mind wandering back to his parents. He didn’t know Professor McGonagall knew his parents. He would definitely ask her once term started. And he could ask Hagrid what his dad ended up being. Harry liked the thought of the Quidditch player – it seemed to fit, somehow.
His thoughts were interrupted by Poppy coming back, followed by Aberforth Dumbledore. Harry looked up. Now he knew, he could see the resemblance between the brothers. They both had the same long nose and bright blue eyes.
“I keep telling you Poppy, I’m sorry,” Aberforth pleaded. “It won’t happen again, I promise – I’ve got a new lock on the -” he broke off, spotting Harry. “Oh, hello. I didn’t realise you had a visitor, Poppy.”
“Harry’s staying for the summer,” Poppy informed him, “so he might as well get used to your incompetence now. Harry, this is Aberforth. If he ever calls to ask a favour when I’m not around, the answer is no.” She ignored Aberforth mouthing ‘Incompetence?’ at her in surprise and sat back down in front of her cold sausages. “You know the way out, Aberforth.”
Harry felt sorry for the man as he visibly deflated, mumbled a goodbye and left, shutting the front door behind him. Harry looked at Poppy. “Last night you said he was quite a sweet character.”
“I did?” Poppy looked surprised. “I said no such thing. And I meant what I said about not accepting favours. The last time I tried to help him with a charm we ended up being questioned by the Ministry for inappropriate use of magic. Honestly, the man’s a nightmare.”
“He can’t be that bad.”
“He has good intentions,” Poppy admitted, “but the execution is another matter. And no, I am not being mean, I am merely looking out for my best interests – and yours, now you’re here,” she added. “Fortunately he’s not likely to rope you into some crazy experiment of his, because you’re not allowed to do magic yet. But watch out all the same. His experiments have a history of backfiring.”
Harry nodded seriously. “I’ll remember.”
The sound of bleating interrupted the conversation. Poppy furiously opened the window to bellow at her neighbour, who was trying to quieten Minerva the goat. Harry had a feeling this would be a very interesting holiday.