“‘Godfather?’ spluttered Uncle Vernon. ‘You haven’t got a godfather!’
‘Yes, I have,’ said Harry brightly. ‘He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch will me, though…keep up with my news…check I’m happy…’
And grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off towards the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.”
- PoA, pp 317
Harry sat in the back of the car. Even though no one was in front, Harry didn’t think trying to sit in the front would have been a good start to the holiday. When they pulled up in the driveway, Harry took Hedwig upstairs, opening her cage and the window to his room before going back to the car for his trunk.
When Harry came back inside with his trunk, Uncle Vernon was in the kitchen with Aunt Petunia. Harry could just make out the words “…godfather…” and “…murderer…” He grinned and started lugging his trunk upstairs. If Uncle Vernon wasn’t around to lock it in the cupboard, Harry was going to take his chances with taking it upstairs, dropping it just inside the door.
Harry set about unpacking his things. He hadn’t had anything magical in his room since before he started Hogwarts three years ago. Harry didn’t count the few school books he had hidden under the floorboards last year, they were out of sight, and anyway they were just books, from the outside they looked just like Muggle books. It was only when you opened them up to the moving diagrams that they looked different.
Harry stacked his books and parchment on his desk next to Hedwig’s cage. With no books in it, his trunk was much lighter and he shoved it across the floor to the foot of the bed. Looking around the room felt much more like his than ever before, it even felt more his than the cupboard had.
“Harry, come down to the kitchen.” That was odd. Aunt Petunia didn’t usually call so politely for him. Maybe having a convicted murderer for a godfather was going to be useful. If he couldn’t live with Sirius, the thought of Sirius could probably improve things here at the Dursleys'.
“Harry, what is this your uncle is telling me about a godfather? Why haven’t we heard of him before?”
“I’m sure you’ve met him before Aunt Petunia, he was my dad’s best man at Mum and Dad’s wedding. He couldn’t take me after they died because he chased after the man who betrayed them and Muggles testified that they saw him blow up a street killing a bunch of people. He got taken away and locked up after that. He escaped last year to check on me.” That was all true as far as it went. Muggles did say they had seen Sirius blow up the street. Aunt Petunia didn’t need to know that he hadn’t actually been the one to do the deed. “Remember, he was on the news last summer -- Sirius Black?”
Aunt Petunia blanched and gripped the side of the table as she lowered herself into her chair. Harry grinned and made a mental note to tell Sirius of this when he next wrote. Harry set the table for dinner as Aunt Petunia recovered enough to set a large bowl of salad on the table and called for Dudley.
Aunt Petunia dished salad onto a plate and handed it to Dudley who vacuumed it up even quicker than Harry remembered. What was the hurry? Aunt Petunia wouldn’t bring out the main course till she was done anyway. Harry wondered what it was, he couldn’t smell anything and for all her faults his aunt was a wonderful cook. Harry was picking at his salad when Dudley jumped up from the table and disappeared back up the stairs.
“Clear the table when you’re done, Harry, your uncle is eating out tonight.”
“That’s it? We’re only having salad for dinner? I thought it was a starter.” Aunt Petunia glanced at the fridge before staring down Harry’s look.
“We are having simpler meals this summer, Harry, I don’t have time to cook anymore.”
That didn’t seem right to Harry, Aunt Petunia loved to outdo herself in the kitchen, but he dutifully cleared the table and did the dishes. He didn’t feel full, and if he wasn’t satisfied he couldn’t imagine Dudley was. Dudley, who had always had portions twice those of Harry’s, and then took seconds and thirds.
Harry was putting the dishes away in the cupboard when he saw something hanging by a magnet from the fridge. He pulled it down to investigate, revealing another page stuck behind it that had the letterhead of Smelting’s Academy, Dudley’s school. Dudley’s report had never been stuck to the fridge before; in fact, it was hardly ever mentioned in front of Harry.
Looking closer, Harry realised it wasn’t a report but a letter from the school nurse. Glancing around, satisfied Aunt Petunia was busy, he skimmed through and snorted. The school didn’t stock uniforms big enough for Dudley anymore and the nurse said he was dangerously overweight. Harry could have told them that. Anyone looking at him could tell you that. The nurse went on to say she had started Dudley on a special diet and had enclosed a copy of it with the letter demanding that Aunt Petunia follow it over the holidays.
Harry then turned to the other piece of paper in his hand. Sure enough, it was Dudley’s diet; salad for dinner most nights, fruit salad or grapefruit for breakfast, just a sandwich for lunch. Meat twice a week only and then only two bites tops, and a note at the bottom that Dudley should be taking vitamin supplements.
Aunt Petunia wasn’t going to make him follow that diet as well, was she? He didn’t need to lose weight; every time Mrs Weasley saw him she said he needed fattening up. Harry didn’t want to risk it. He carefully pinned the pages back under the magnet and climbed the stairs. “Hedwig, I hope you’re up for a long flight.”
Clearing a space on his desk, Harry shoved his books back into his trunk and sat down to write. He wrote a letter each to Ron, Hermione and Hagrid, telling them about the note he had found on the fridge and how with only salad for dinner he was scared he was expected to live on rabbit food for the summer. He added a bit about how otherwise the Dursleys seemed to be better about him and magic this summer, adding the expected cause in the letters to Ron and Hermione.
“Hedwig, I have three letters for you. Go to Hermione first, then Ron and Hagrid, you can stay there for a bit if you like, and then maybe back to Hermione’s. That’ll give her a chance to write a letter without worrying how to send it. Ron and Hagrid have owls they can use.”
Sitting back down, Harry started on a more difficult letter. How to write to a man you had only just met, but had already offered to take Harry in.
I am ‘home’ safely, although the Dursleys' never feels like home as much as Hogwarts does.
Thanks for the letter and the permission slip for Hogsmeade, I got it on the Hogwarts Express. Ron loved the owl, it doesn’t have a name yet but I’ll let you know what it is when it does. The first thing he did was let Crookshanks smell it, saying Crookshanks liked Padfoot and tried to eat Scabbers/Wormtail so he must be a good judge of character. I don’t know how he’s going to explain the rat/owl switch to his parents though. Speaking of Wormtail, Dumbledore said that he’ll owe me a life bond now. How do they work? Dumbledore didn’t say much about it.
I have been allowed all my school things in my room this year. I don’t know how much you know about Mum’s sister, Aunt Petunia, but she hates all things magical. I think it’s mainly up to you I’ve got my stuff too. I told Uncle Vernon that I had an escaped murderer for a godfather when he saw your letter in my hand. I don’t see any reason to tell him you’re innocent just yet, do you? He recognised your name from when it was on the Muggle news last year. It scared him good and proper, so even if I can’t live with you yet, you’re still making my summers better.
Errol turned up two days later struggling under the weight of an enormous fruitcake and a pile of pasties. He almost collapsed onto Harry’s bed and could just barely manage the hop into Hedwig’s cage. Errol slurped some water and ate a little before swiftly falling asleep.
Hedwig wasn’t back from her deliveries yet, she’d probably spent a couple of days with Hagrid. The hunting was sure to be better around Hogwarts than in Little Whinging; Harry didn’t mind as long as she remembered to visit Hermione again on the way home. His letter to Sirius was waiting on his desk for her return.
One of the school owls came the next day carrying some rock cakes and a letter from Hagrid. Hagrid’s note mentioned that Hedwig had left that day, so she shouldn’t be to far away then. Sure enough, Hedwig turned up the day after that and was less than impressed with Errol taking up space in her cage. She had remembered to visit Hermione again and had brought a box of sugar-free snacks with Hermione’s letter. No doubt the snacks were on the recommendation of Hermione’s dentist parents.
“When you’re recovered, Hedwig, I’ve got this letter for Sirius, I don’t where he is, it could be quite a way away. I think he was planning to go overseas. I know you’ll find him though.” Harry stroked her on the head and gave her an owl treat. Hedwig hooted at Errol till he moved over, bent down and drank some water before fluttering over to the windowsill and sticking out her leg. “You want to go now?” Hedwig hopped sideways closer to Harry and stuck her leg out again. Harry tied on his letter and watched as Hedwig soared away again.
Harry trudged up the stairs to his room. Aunt Petunia had had him weeding the garden. It wasn’t so bad this summer. Three weeks in and he had only had to spend a handful of days in the garden. He was allowed breaks and he wasn’t being made to do quite so much per day as before. Must be the threat of Sirius. He wished he could have gone to Sirius’s for the summer. He didn’t know where that would be but anywhere had to be better than here. He had been able to produce such a Patronus off of that thought. He had spent a lot of time wandering around Little Whinging thinking about the night he had met Sirius.
He’d been thinking about what he could have done differently that night. What if Professor Lupin hadn’t been the one chained to Pettigrew? What if he had taken the Wolfsbane Potion that night? What if the professor had bitten someone while running around the forest transformed? Logically Harry knew it was a waste of time thinking about these things as he couldn’t change them, but being stuck with the Dursleys when he had been so close to escaping was tough and he couldn’t help thinking about it.
Harry stopped up short as he re-entered his room. There was a large and colourful bird perched on the top of Hedwig’s cage with a letter attached to its leg. Harry approached it cautiously, he wasn’t familiar with this type of bird. When he got within arms length the bird stuck out its leg and allowed him to untie the letter. Hedwig flew back at that moment and, seeing the intruder, made straight for her cage.
Harry sat on his bed and opened it carefully, the letter was from Sirius! Harry looked up at a loud squawk. Hedwig was taking up most of the door to her cage, guarding it possessively, and the visiting bird looked like it wanted at her water-dish. “Come on, Hedwig, move over. The sooner the visitor gets a drink, the sooner it will leave and you have your cage to yourself again.” Hedwig hopped sideways and the visiting bird drank deeply, then flew out the window. “Told you so,” Harry told the bird. Hedwig fluffed up her feathers and turned her back on him. Harry sighed and turned back to his letter.
I’m glad my status as a convict is helping someone other than the traitorous Wormtail. If they really are a problem let me know and I can show my face in the area. That’ll scare them into submission.
At the moment I am far from Hogwarts and the Dementors although I hear they have already moved on. Buckbeak and I have found a safe place for the time being, I won’t tell you where in case this letter is intercepted.
I do remember your aunt. According to Lily she wasn’t always that way. When they were small they were best friends. Lily said once that she thought Petunia seemed to feel that Lily got more attention from your grandparents for being a witch than Petunia did. I don’t know if that was the case but I’m sorry I can’t take you away from there yet.
Don’t hesitate to write to me for anything.
Harry reread the letter twice then shimmied under the bed to the loose floorboard he had found the year before. Although he was allowed to keep his things in his room rather than having them locked up in the cupboard under the stairs he didn’t want to leave important things lying about. This year, that was the food he had been sent as well as his Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map the twins had given him on the day of the first Hogsmeade visit last year. Tucking the letter from Sirius safely into the gap, he shuffled backwards and set about cleaning up from the gardening he had just finished for Aunt Petunia.
Harry was walking round the park scuffing his shoes. When Aunt Petunia didn’t give him any chores at lunch he had thought it best to get out before she thought some up, especially as he had been lucky enough to escape that morning too. She’d been giving him more since there hadn’t been any sign of Sirius since he had come back from school six weeks ago. Not any signs that she had seen, anyway.
He’d had a second letter the other day; he had added it to the space under the floorboard with the cake he had received on his birthday accompanied by a folded piece of parchment with a large paw print on it. His latest letter had explained he daren’t send a real letter with his cake order to the patisserie. Padfoot had taken the order in. He’d received cakes from Hagrid, Hermione and from Ron and the Weasleys too. He was relieved that they had arrived, he’d run out of sugar-free snacks and pastries. He had been so hungry he had been contemplating starting on Hagrid’s rock cakes before the multitude of cakes had arrived.
Harry decided he better reply to Sirius soon but he was waiting till he had something to report. Ron had said something about the Quidditch World Cup. If he got tickets to that it would be something to report.
Harry reached the playground, and instead of walking past like usual he headed for the solitary functioning swing. Dudley and his gang must have been past lately. He sat down and pushed off…and went straight back into thinking about the year before again. It was his usual subject when out walking.
He wished Professor Lupin was coming back to school that year. After Gilderoy Lockhart and the Voldemort-host of Quirrel the year before that, they had finally learnt something. Harry had enjoyed his Patronus lessons too, as much as one could when continually being faced with a Dementor anyway. Harry hadn’t found out as much about his parents as he would have liked and with Sirius gone, who else was there?
Harry understood why he felt he had to resign. Even though Lupin was good and conscientious, there were parents who would rather withdraw their children from Hogwarts than to let them be taught by a werewolf. Harry had to admit that it had been frightening to see him transform in front of them, but that was a one-off. Lupin would never let that happen again. He could take the potion and transform in the shack, then if the potion didn’t work, there would still be no risk.
Lupin and Sirius seemed to have been really really good friends with his dad. They must have been to have learnt to be Animagi for one of their own. Harry wouldn’t hesitate to do something like that for Ron or Hermione. From the sounds of things, they would do the same for him. Harry remembered Ron defending him from Sirius before they knew the truth, saying they would have to go through him to get to Harry; Hermione, too.
Harry wouldn’t mind having Hermione next to him in a Muggle fight with a punch like she had given Malfoy. That had been hilarious and it brought a huge grin to his face even now. And he had been lucky enough to see it twice; once with Ron, then later due to the Time-Turner.
Harry’s grin fell from his face at the thought of the Time-Turner. They were incredibly lucky with that. If he and Hermione hadn’t travelled back three hours then he would have been Kissed by the lake when the Dementors were closing in, Buckbeak would be dead too. Because of the Time-Turner Sirius, had escaped the Kiss twice, and Harry had seen his dad.
He knew now that it had really been himself and not his dad, but he clung to the feeling that his dad had rescued him. The memory of that thought, even if it was mistaken, was as good as the thought that he could go to live with Sirius. Maybe he should try to summon it the next time a Dementor came around.
He felt comforted that his Patronus was his dad’s animagus form. Maybe Sirius was right and he had found the truth inside himself; that the dead we have loved never truly leave us. Harry wondered why Professor Lupin hadn’t told him what his Patronus, or the significance of it, was after that Quidditch match where he had cast it at the Slytherins.
Harry climbed off the swing and started heading back to Privet Drive. The sun was starting to go down. He didn’t mind if he missed dinner, it was a salad night again, but he was sure to receive a tongue-lashing from Aunt Petunia about causing her extra work if he didn’t turn up on time.
Harry turned up just in time for ‘dinner’ and was assigned the clearing up. He cleaned the kitchen to Mrs Weasley’s standards. He’d never achieve Aunt Petunia’s standard; it didn’t matter how well he cleaned, she would still go over it before going to bed anyway.
When he was done, he went up to his room and got ready for bed. He wouldn’t be going out again, so why wait till he was tired? Harry fished out ‘Flying with the Cannons,’ Ron’s favourite book, and settled into bed, reading until his eyes started to droop. Harry watched the Cannons flying back and forth for a while, then set his glasses next to his bed and snuggled down under the covers.
“Two hundred miles away, the boy called Harry Potter woke with a start…
…On the floor bedside his bed a book lay open; he had been reading it before he fell asleep the previous night…”