Though he couldn't be sure exactly what woke him, Harry found himself sitting bolt upright in bed halfway through the night. Unable to fall asleep, he lay there for a minute, then let his paranoia get the best of him. Even though the alarms weren't going off, he found himself going through the house, checking every room for disturbances. Once he reached the third floor, he paused outside Miranda's door, unsure how to address the muffled crying he heard.
Tapping softly on her door, he spoke quietly. "Miranda? Is everything all right?" Almost immediately, he reproached himself for the question. Of course everything isn't all right, you dolt, she's crying. He could hear her take big, gulping breaths of air, and the shaky half-sobs of someone who's cried themselves out.
"I'm fine," she croaked out, hiccupping at the end.
Harry frowned, less uncertain. Pushing open the door, he cautiously entered and sat himself on the end of her bed. They didn't know each other well, but Harry figured he knew enough about what she was feeling. "Miranda, it's ok to not be fine. It's....it's okay to cry," he told her, struggling for the right words. "I understand that you're sad, and probably angry, and I'm not going to be angry or disappointed if you are. You don't have to pretend everything's ok." He paused again, trying to express himself clearly. "If you ever want to talk about it, I'll be here to listen. And, if you ever feel like breaking things, I'll be happy to put them back together," he told her with a slight smile. He put an arm around her shoulders, unsure about the action, but gave in to the impulse to give her a light hug.
As the hiccups started to subside, Miranda took another shaky breath. "Thanks," she replied, then lapsed into silence again. Her head rested itself against his shoulder, and Harry wondered if he was doing everything all right. Abruptly, Miranda asked, "What do I call you anyway?"
The question was so unexpected, Harry was at a loss. "Uh...well, you could call me Harry, I guess. Mr. Potter would make me feel way too old, and I'm more like your brother than a guardian or anything...is that all right with you?"
"Yeah," Miranda said, nodding. Following a train of thought, she asked, "Do I have to change my name?"
"No, not if you don't want to. You're Miranda Alexander. If you want to add Potter to that, you can, but you definitely don't have to decide tonight."
Miranda thought for a moment. "You're a good brother, Harry."
He flushed at her praise. "Thanks. Now, I think you should try and get some sleep. Tomorrow we're going to get you some clothes, cause I doubt you want my hand-me downs."
Miranda cracked a smile. "Thank you. I'll try to go to bed now."
Harry nodded and ruffled her hair. "Night." Going back to his room, he wearily shut his eyes and anticipated tomorrow. It was one of his few days off, and if he didn't buy Miranda some clothing, she'd be stuck with the clothes out of the Becketts ragbag. This was only one more reason to hate the Death Eaters and their scorched earth campaign. He choked back the bitter taste in his mouth. Voldemort disgusted him.
The next morning came too early for both residents of the Lighthouse, and Hedwig's insistent tapping at breakfast made Harry feel even groggier. Pulling Ron and Hermione's letter from her, her set it aside to write a short note to Ginny. Once that was complete, he sent Hedwig off with a sympathetic pat, more awake and ready to read the letter.
Our new flat is nice, but I'm glad we're only renting it. The Lighthouse sounds positively massive. You can't be serious about us living with you there; that would be more than a little odd. You might want to think about changing the colour of the house though, it sounds more than a little noticeable.
What's wrong with yellow? Anyway, mate, you should come visit my department at the ministry. Since the World Cup match has been cancelled, we're stuck trying to get a Quodpot team from America to come over. Idiotic sport. No one wants to go to a Quodpot game. Please, come save me from myself!
If he really wanted something to do, he would help me with my research. And, no, Harry, I'm not "in withdrawal." The library at Oxford's magical branch is more than sufficient, thank you.
By the way she's writing, you can tell she's wound tighter than a bloody spring, can't you? It's even worse than NEWTs; she just won't stop studying! Now she's threatening me with a book twice the size of her precious 'Hogwarts, A History!" I swear, chuck that at You Know Who, and even he would keel over!
Harry, we'll see you at the Burrow. And, I am not 'wound tighter than a spring.' Ron just doesn't understand. Anyway, take care, and stay safe.
Harry cracked a grin as Miranda stumbled into the kitchen. "There's cereal in the pantry," he told her, amused by her lack of cheer. She was clearly not a morning person. His amusement grew as she hunched over her cereal bowl at the table, glaring at the sun. The cheery nightgown she wore was a direct contrast to the scowl on her face, and Harry couldn't help but see himself in her lack of enthusiasm. Hearing a soft chime from the wards, he realized that Ginny was nearing the house from the tunnel. That was fast.
"What's that?" Miranda mumbled, her mouth full of cereal. He noticed how full her bowl was and made note to get more Quidditch Puffs at the grocers.
"Just a friend of mine. I thought she could help us with the shopping."
"Harry?" Ginny's concerned voice floated up from the cellar. "Is everything okay?" she questioned, stopping short at the top of the stairs. She looked from Miranda to Harry quizzically, clearly wanting an explanation.
Harry quirked a smile. "Ginny Weasley, I'd like you to meet Miranda Alexander, newest resident of the Lighthouse." As Miranda was engrossed in her cereal, he stepped closer to Ginny and lowered his voice. "Her family was attacked by Death Eaters, and the wizarding orphanages are all full, so I decided to help out."
Ginny's face changed from puzzlement into something unreadable. "That's so sweet, Harry! But, what do you need my help with? I thought there was an emergency by the way you'd written!"
He hadn't realized his note came off that way, and felt guilty. "Well, I need to buy some clothes for Miranda, and I'm so sorry that you came rushing over. I understand that you probably have plans of your own, and-"
"No, no, it's fine," Ginny interrupted. "Just don't worry me like that again!" she scolded. "The shop's doing inventory today, and, if you don't mind, I'll come along with you."
Harry swallowed. "Of course I don't mind." He was starting to get uncomfortable. Ginny was looking at him with admiration, and he couldn't help but notice how pretty she looked this morning. Realizing he was staring, Harry flushed and looked at Miranda, who suddenly looked more alert over her breakfast cereal. Harry almost groaned. She was looking at the two of them with interest.
"Well, I'll just let you two get ready then," Ginny remarked, moving to pour herself a cup of coffee.
As Miranda moved off to her bathroom, Harry realized he was still in his pyjamas as well. "Oh, right, sorry," he muttered, exiting the kitchen as well. As he went into his bedroom, he could still hear Ginny laughing in the kitchen. When, exactly, had she become this off-putting to him?
When he came back, Miranda was dressed, and Ginny was braiding her hair, telling some story about a Quidditch practice when Harry fell off his broom. He rolled his eyes. "It's all lies, I swear. It never happened," he protested weakly, running a hand through his damp hair. He had put on jeans and a wrinkled button-down, holding two robes in his hands. "Green or blue?" he questioned.
"Green," Miranda replied quickly, wrinkling her nose at the blue ones. "The blue clashes with your shirt."
Ginny laughed again. "Definitely the green."
Harry let out an exaggerated sigh. "As you wish," he replied, laying the blue on the kitchen table. He was pleased to see a smile on Miranda's face, and this time, it seemed more genuine. "Are you going to be at the Burrow Sunday?" he asked Ginny.
She looked at him curiously. "I live there, why wouldn't I be there for family supper?"
"Where's the Burrow? Am I going?" Miranda interrupted.
"Ottery St. Catchpole, and yes," Harry replied, fastening his robes and checking his wand.
"It's my house, with my mum and dad, and the rest of the family will be there too," Ginny explained.
Miranda still looked curious. "Do you have a lot of family?
Harry let out a short laugh. "It's not too big. Just Ginny, and her brothers Ron, Fred, George, Charlie, and Bill."
Miranda's eyes widened. "Wow."
"Don't forget, we've got Fleur, Angelina, Alicia, and Hermione. Those are some of my brother's wives," Ginny added.
If possible, Miranda looked more awed as Harry added more people to the list. "Then there's Ginny's nieces and nephews. Let's see, there's uh...Danielle, Isabelle, Arthur, Hailey, Michael, and Cameron."
"That's a lot," Miranda finally said, not sure how to reply. "Are you married?" she asked Ginny.
Ginny let out a laugh. "No, I'm not. I only finished school last year," she told her. Noticing the hem falling out of her robe, she knelt next to Miranda. "Here, let me fix that."
"How old are the kids?" Miranda asked as Ginny went to work.
Harry's face bunched in concentration, but he gave up and went over to the fridge, grabbing a piece of paper. "It's my cheat sheet," he explained. "Ok, Bill is married to Fleur. They have Danielle, who's almost 5, Isabelle, who's 3, and Arthur, who is on his way. Then there's Charlie, who isn't married. Then there's Fred and George, they're twins. Fred is married to Angelina, and they have Hailey, who's 2, and Michael who's 9 months. George is married to Alicia, and they just had Cameron, who everyone calls Cammie, about 5 months ago. Ron and Hermione just got married." Finishing his speech, he took a breath and placed the sheet back on the fridge.
No wonder you have a cheat sheet," Miranda said with a giggle. She looked at her hem, and smiled. "Thanks for fixing that."
Ginny smiled; it was easy to see why Harry had taken her in. "Are we ready?" she questioned, pulling out a gold bangle bracelet. "I've got a voice-activated portkey to the shop, if you'd like," she offered.
"Definitely better than flying," Harry commented, hooking a finger over the bracelet. He couldn't catch what Ginny muttered, but he felt the familiar pulling sensation as the portkey was activated. He ended up sprawled on the floor of Madam Malkin's stockroom, but it was much better than being covered in soot, or flying. Getting up hastily, he followed the girls out into the shop.
Ginny headed towards the door. "I've got just the shop in mind," Ginny told them, heading towards a small shop a few doors down. It had a collection of Muggle and wizard clothes that were geared towards younger wizards. Along with the robes and charmed shoelaces were regular jumpers and trousers for everyday wear. After a few suggestions that were turned down, Harry sat himself in a chair, letting Ginny take the lead. He really didn't mind that his sense of style was found 'lacking.'
Once she had gotten Miranda off into the dressing room, Ginny turned to Harry with a smile. "You look amused," she teased.
"Oh, I am," Harry replied, throwing her a grin.
Ginny felt her insides melt. Impulsively, she reached forward and smoothed the front of his hair down. "It's always so messy," she tried to remark lightly, then went back to check on Miranda.
With a blink, Harry wondered exactly what had just happened. Ginny always threw him off like that. He could never tell if she was simply being friendly or wanting something more. Any time he managed to get the courage to ask her, the situation always was interrupted. Realizing his mind had drifted, he snapped back to attention. They were the only ones in the shop, but he should have known better. His eyes scanning the perimeter, he realized he couldn't afford to relax. Not when I have Miranda and Ginny with me, he thought, feeling guilty. If something had happened, it would have been his fault.
What am I going to do with Miranda? He thought, once again startled. There's no guarantee I'll survive. What happens if I don't? Where will she go? Am I even fair in taking her in? Harry's grim thoughts were interrupted when Ginny came back with three bags and a delighted Miranda. For the rest of the day, he was dragged shop to shop, until he was finally rewarded with a rest at Florean Fortescues.
After staring unseeing at his melting cone, Harry looked up at a concerned Ginny. "Uh, Ginny, would you like to stay for dinner? I'd like to talk to you about something," he added quickly.
Ginny bit her lip, telling herself that this wasn't romantic in the least. "Sure," she paused, searching for conversation. "Mum's bursting with curiosity. She's been badgering everyone who your guest is. She keeps asking Ron when you got a girlfriend, and he keeps swearing you would have told him. It's quite funny, actually."
Harry smiled. "Well, I am bringing a girl, technically. Miranda's more like a sister than a girlfriend though."
"You two could pass for siblings," Ginny replied, studying the two. "You've both got dark hair, and you're a bit alike with the nose and mouth."
Looking at Miranda, Harry cocked his head. "I guess we could. I didn't notice it before, but we do look a bit alike."
"I just want to be a Potter," Miranda blurted out. "I mean, if we look alike, and you're like my brother, shouldn't we have the same name?"
Ginny looked puzzled, but Harry was concerned with Miranda. "You really didn't think that long about it, Miranda. Once it's changed, you'll always be Potter. Are you really sure that's what you want?"
Miranda nodded emphatically. "I'm not really an Alexander anymore. You're all the family I've got now.Why shouldn't we have the same name?"
Harry remained unconvinced, sure that it was too soon for this decision. It just didn't seem right to him that she'd want to change her name so soon. It seemed like she was trying to forget all about them. "Well, I'm not going to change it right away. If you still want this in a month or two, we'll talk about it then. I don't want this to be something you regret later on."
"I won't," Miranda said stubbornly, her jaw set.
"We'll see," Harry dubiously replied.
Changing the subject, Ginny tried to ease some of the tension. "Thank you for the ice cream, Harry."
"My pleasure," he told her, giving her a grin that made her melt once again. It was truly baffling to her how, after eight years, he could still make her feel like a giggling first year. Feeling a blush fighting itsway to her cheeks, Ginny almost groaned. If she could make it through dinner without embarrassing herself, it would be a miracle indeed. As if taunting her, a little voice in the back of her head started reciting, His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad...