The Vanishing Glass

“So Bellatrix what’s your story?” Harry asked, turning his head to look at the woman in the opposite cell.

“What’s yours? Why is the Boy-Who-Lived and the blood traitor here in Azkaban?”

Harry’s temper flared and he snarled at her.  Bellatrix flinched as she saw his fangs.  “A story for a story then?”

“Why not?  I was in Hogwarts with Sirius, my sisters Narcissa and Andromeda, Severus Snape, Lucius Malfoy, your parents and other children who become the Dark Lord’s followers,” Bellatrix said.  “My mother was a real bitch.  She believed in blood purity like most of the Black family.  Our family is dark as is our magic.  Every family has ancient family magic that they can access.”

“Family magic?  I’ve never heard of that before,” Harry said.

“I’m not surprised if you were raised with Muggles,” Bellatrix said.  “But yes the Potters, like every wizarding family has ancient magic that only the children of that family can access.  Unless they are disowned from the family anyway by the current Lord of the house.  Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin like our family had been for generations.  My aunt Walburga was even crazier than my mother about blood purity. In fact our family motto is Toujours Pur which means in Latin ‘always pure’.  Andromeda went off and married a Muggle and had my niece, Nymphadora, who was sorted into Hufflepuff.  She was disowned by my mother and blasted off the family tapestry.  Sirius’s mother was also upset at him and demanded he get a resorting and called him a blood traitor.”

“The woman was an abusive bitch,” Sirius said.  “God I hated that woman.  I made some good friends in Gryffindor.  Your dad and mom, Moony and the rat.  We used to pick on Slytherins a lot, especially Snivellus.” 

“Yes and that was cruel,” Bellatrix said.  “But this is about my story, not Sirius.  Though he was blasted off the family tree as well when he ran away.  Our uncle was also blasted off the family tree.  I was in Slytherin and while I believed that Muggles and Magical people shouldn’t mix because it would only put our society at risk of being found out with all the Muggle children coming into Hogwarts, I didn’t believe they should be killed.  But I couldn’t say that around my family.  As I was the oldest child, the expectations of my family were forced upon me.  Mother was determined I not fall into the same trap as Andy and run off with a Muggle and Narcissa was engaged to Lucius Malfoy by the time she was fourteen. 

“I was betrothed to Rodolphus Lestrange.  I didn’t even like him and had only seen him a few times at pureblood parties but my parents were determined I marry someone of good stock. It’s not unusual for houses to make betrothal contracts with their children when they’re infants.  Since you’re the ‘Boy-Who-Lived’ I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a lot of betrothal contracts in your vault.”

Harry winched at that idea.  “Ginny is my soul mate.  I don’t need any other women in my life,” he said.  “Besides since I’m apparently a vampire which I didn’t know about until two weeks ago, I doubt any father would want his daughter being married to a creature.”

Sirius stared open mouthed at his godson.  “You’re a vampire? I didn’t know James had any creature blood in him,” he said.  

“Got a problem with that?” Harry asked.

“No,” Sirius said.  “It may take some time to get used to but Moony…” he trailed off.  Thinking about Moony hurt the once playful Marauder.  Moony probably thought he was responsible for James and Lily’s deaths as well as the deaths of the rat and those Muggles.  They hadn’t told Moony about them switching secret keepers because they thought Moony might be the spy.

“So you were forced to marry Lestrange?” Harry asked.

Bellatrix nodded.  “I thought the Dark Lord was right in sealing off our world from Muggles and not letting Muggle born witches and wizards into Hogwarts.  Getting jobs for half-bloods in the magical world since most are only for purebloods and those who have connections and money.  I was married when I turned eighteen and Rodolphus became abusive towards me.  Magical society is still very patriarchal.  He was never good at Potions so he got Severus to brew an Imperious Potion which he then began administering to me.  I never wanted to join the Dark Lord but I couldn’t fight the potion.  I remember feeling sick after I was branded with the Dark Mark and threw up when I got home after Rodolphus went to bed. 

“I got weaker with the abuse and the imperious potion that was forced on me every day.  To join the Death Eaters and get the mark, I was forced to torture and kill a five year old Muggle girl.  The Dark Lord said that Muggles had no business being around witches and wizards and were nothing but animals.  Things just got worse from there. I knew there was no way I could leave the Dark Lord’s service.  My mind began to slip with the abuse and the things I was forced to do under the Imperious potion and over time I suppose I did become insane. Three days after the Dark Lord was defeated, Rodolphus, his brother Rabastan, and myself went to the Longbottoms and I tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity against my will.  I had been put under a heavy dose of the potion for that mission and we were caught at the scene of the crime and thrown in here.  I was lucky that I wasn’t thrown on the same cell block as my brother-in-law and husband.  Once I came to Azkaban the potion slowly began to wear off and I was able to gain control of my sanity and mind once again.  You have no idea what it is like to be abused by your spouse, passed around to the male death eaters for their own amusement…” Bellatrix trailed off, tears falling down her face. 

“How do I know you are telling the truth and not lying to me?” Harry asked.  “This could all be a death eater trick.  You could want me to tell me your story so if Voldemort does come back then you can give him right to me.”

“I can show you my memories,” Bellatrix said.  “I know Legilimency and can show you my memories of my life up until the time I was thrown into Azkaban.”

“What’s Legilimency?”

“It’s a mind art,” Sirius said. “Legilimency is the practice of being able to peer into another’s mind and see their memories.  People who have this skill are known as Legilimens.  Voldemort, Dumbledore and Snivellus are all skilled Legilimens.  It’s done through eye contact and to someone who has never had it performed on them before, can feel a buzz in their head. Occlumency is the second mind art and the opposite of Legilimency.  People who know Occlumency are known as Occlumens.  They can shield their mind from Legilimency, create false memories in case of a Legilimens attack, and are able to build mental shields to shield their mind from invasion by other people.  But both skills take a lot of work and are not easy to master unless you practice or you are a natural in the Mind Arts.”

“How do I know you aren’t going to plant false memories in my head then or rummage through my mind?” Harry asked.

“I’ll take a magical oath,” Bellatrix said.  There was no hesitation or uncertainty in her voice.  “If I’m lying then I’ll lose my magic and possibly my life.”

“And you’re willing to risk that?” Harry asked in shock.

“Yes.”

“Suit yourself,” Harry said and Bellatrix appeared in the cell he and Ginny shared. 

“Just look into my eyes and don’t blink or move your head.  I’ll do the rest,” Bellatrix said.

Harry nodded and did as the woman commanded.  Instantly a stream of memories appeared in his mind, memories that were not his own.   He saw memories of three girls playing together outside, a pale girl with dark brown hair nervously sitting on the stool during the Welcoming Feast, arguing with a younger version of Sirius Black, the abuse she took from her parents to be the perfect pureblood daughter, seeing a young Dark Lord during a party at her family home for the first time and the fear and awe at seeing him, her parents telling her that she was to be married to one of the Lestrange brothers when she turned eighteen, the first time she had been put under the Imperious potion and having the Dark Mark branded into her skin after being forced to kill an innocent child and other painful memories. He felt Bellatrix pull out of his mind and he shook his head to rid himself of the horror of what he had just witnessed. 

“Is all that true?” Harry asked Bellatrix. 

“I, Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black, do hereby swear on my life and magic that the memories I have just shown Harry Potter are in fact true and I also swear that I do not intend to turn him over to the Dark Lord or cause him any harm should the Dark Lord return, so mote it be.”  There was a flash of light as her magic bound the oath. 

“The oath is sealed,” Bellatrix said.  “Now what about your story? What are two kids doing in a place like this?”

Harry looked at Bellatrix and then at Sirius who nodded.  “The oath is sealed,” Sirius said.  “Bella’s telling the truth about her story,” he said. “Even though she doesn’t have a wand at the moment, her oath drew upon her magic.  If she hurts you or gives you to Voldemort she will lose her magic and/or her life.  Let that be a lesson for you not to ever give a wizarding oath lightly.  Many do not do that because of the consequences in the event they are lying or break their oath.”

Harry admitted to himself that he had no clue what wizard oaths were about but he got the sense that both of them were telling the truth so he decided to tell his story after all.   So he proceeded to tell them both about the events of his second year at Hogwarts, since the first book they were reading was about his first year.  He told them about finding out he was a parslemouth during a duel with Draco Malfoy, who it turned out was related to Bellatrix and Sirius, how people suspected him of being the Heir of Slytherin because he could talk to snakes, how he and Ron had flown Mr. Weasley’s flying car to Hogwarts and crashed into the Whomping Willow because the barrier at the platform in King’s Cross had sealed itself and they couldn’t get through, how Hagrid had been taken to Azkaban on suspicion of being the one behind the attacks, how Harry had discovered Hagrid’s past and the fact that he had been expelled, how he and Ron had snuck into the Forbidden Forest to talk to an Acromantula named Aragog and almost got killed if it hadn’t been for the flying car which had turned wild due to being in the Forbidden Forest, how Dumbledore had been forced to step down from his position as headmaster of Hogwarts, about the petrification of a few students, how Hermione had created a Polyjuice Potion and he and Ron had changed themselves into Crabbe and Goyle and snuck into the Slytherin Common Room to see if Malfoy was the Heir of Slytherin or if he knew who it was-this got laughter from Sirius and Bellatrix, how Hermione had been attacked in the library and had figured out that it was a Basilisk that Harry was hearing, Ginny’s kidnapping and the messages on the wall, Harry and Ron going down to rescue Ginny, the cave in and Lockhart getting his memory wiped-“Good riddance,” Sirius said-and Harry’s fight with the Basilisk and finally being able to destroy the diary by plunging a fang into the diary.

Ginny had remained silent throughout the story, jumping at parts in the story as Harry told it.  Harry told of nobody coming to save him, how the Sword of Gryffindor had flashed into the Chamber of Secrets which he had used to kill the Basilisk, how the Basilisk had sunk a fang into him and he had blacked out, only to wake up hours later and find out from Ginny that he had died, how he discovered he was a vampire when Ginny mentioned he had stopped breathing and then come back to life, and the fact that Ron had been getting paid to be his friend, Nexus revealing himself to Harry in the tunnel that led out from the Chamber of Secrets, trying to explain to Dumbledore about the diary and Tom Riddle and how they had been arrested, tried and then thrown into Azkaban.

“And you have a soul bond at twelve years old?” Bellatrix asked.

“Well Ginny’s eleven but yeah.  It happened when Ginny helped me up after I came back to life,” Harry said. “Nexus here,” Nexus let out a trill, “said it was a soul bond that we experienced and that’s partly why we were convicted.  He scared Fawkes though when we came into the headmaster’s office.”

“Dark and Light Phoenixes don’t get alone. They’re like mortal enemies,” Sirius said.  “What about Ginny?”

“She was possessed by Tom Riddle’s memory for the entire year until she threw away the diary and I found it.  I think Lucius Malfoy slipped it in her cauldron when we were in Flourish and Blotts when shopping for school supplies. Instead of getting Ginny a healer, those idiots threw her in here with me.  Is there anything either of you can do to help her?”

Both adults shook their heads.  “The public and the Ministry don’t care prisoners like us,” Bellatrix said.  “The only way she can get help is if we can figure out a way to break out of here and get her to a healer in a different country.”

Harry nodded.  “Sirius what’s an Animagus?”

“It’s a person that can turn into an animal,” Sirius said.  “You retain your mind when in an Animagus form, unlike with… say werewolves… where they lose their mind during their transformation.  You can’t pick your Animagus either.  It’s usually a reflection of your personality and may carry some markings that you have as a person.  It’s a difficult branch of magic and not everybody can do it.”

“Can you teach us?” Harry asked.

“I can try but I don’t know if two kids will be able to learn it.”

“Do you have an Animagus Bellatrix?”  Harry asked the woman.

“A raven,” Bellatrix said and transformed to reveal a raven with violet eyes before she changed back. 

“Didn’t know you had an Animagus form Bella,” Sirius said.

“I kept it hidden from everybody,” Bellatrix said.  “It was necessary.”

“Well who wants to read the next chapter?” Harry asked.

“Since I’m in here with you and Ginny then I guess I will,” Bellatrix said.  Harry handed her the book and she flipped the pages until she saw chapter two.

Chapter Two.  The Vanishing Glass.

“Oh I bet this is going to be interesting,” Sirius said.

Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front step, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all. 

“Wow that must be boring,” Sirius said.  “How can nothing change in ten years?”

The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens and lit up the brass number four on the Dursleys’ front door; it crept into the living room, which was almost exactly the same as it had been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful news report about the owls.  Only the photographs on the mantelpiece really showed how much time had passed.  Ten years ago, there had been lots of pictures of what looked like a large pink beach ball wearing different-colored bonnets-but Dudley Dursley was no longer a baby, and now the photographs showed a large blond boy riding his first bicycle, on a carousal at the fair, playing a computer game with his father, being hugged and kissed by his mother.  The room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too.

“But you were there,” Bellatrix said.  “Why wouldn’t they have any pictures of their nephew?”

“Because they hate me,” Harry said.  “For the first ten years of my life I lived under the stairs in a cupboard. Then when I got my Hogwarts letter they moved me to my cousin’s second bedroom.”

Yet Harry Potter was still there, asleep at the moment, but not for long.  His Aunt Petunia was awake and it was her shrill voice that made the first noise of the day.

Sirius winched as he remembered the time that Petunia had shouted at him after he turned the woman’s teacup into a frog when they were kids.  He let out a whine.

“Up! Get up! Now!”

Harry woke with a start.  His aunt rapped on the door again.

“Up!” she screeched.  Harry heard her walking toward the kitchen and then the sound of the frying pan being put on the stove.  He rolled onto his back and tried to remember the dream he had been having.  It had been a good one.  There had been a flying motorcycle in it.  He had a funny feeling he had had the dream before.

Sirius looked up in shock.  “That wasn’t a dream pup.  That was a memory.  I’m surprised you remember that.”

His aunt was back beside the door.

“Are you up yet?” she demanded.

“Nearly,” said Harry.

“Well, get a move on. I want you to look after the bacon.  And don’t you dare let it burn, I want everything to be perfect on Dudley’s birthday.”

Harry groaned.

“What did you say?” his aunt snapped through the door.

“He didn’t say anything you old bat!” Ginny shouted.

“Nothing, nothing…”

Dudley’s birthday-how could he have forgotten?  Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for socks.  He found a pair under his bed, and after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on.  Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.

When he was dressed, he went down the hall into the kitchen.  The table was almost hidden beneath all of Dudley’s birthday presents.  It looked as though Dudley had gotten the new computer he wanted, not to mention the second television and the racing bike.  Exactly why Dudley wanted a racing bike was a mystery to Harry, as Dudley was very fat and hated exercise-unless of course it involved punching somebody.  Dudley’s favorite punching bag was Harry, but he couldn’t often catch him.  Harry didn’t look it but he was very fast.

“What a spoiled brat,” Ginny said. 

“They never disciplined this child?” Bellatrix asked concerned.

Harry shook his head in the negative. “No they think that their precious Duddykins can do no wrong and is an angel.” 

Sirius laughed.  “Duddykins.  That’s hilarious!”

“Wait until you see some other things that Aunt Petunia calls Dudley,” Harry said with a grin.

“Did they ever hit you Harry?” Ginny asked.

“Aunt Petunia hit me over the head with a frying pan once,” Harry said shrugging his shoulders.  “Sometimes Uncle Vernon would hit me but I was mostly sent to my cupboard without meals.”

“Child abuse is unheard of, or rather isn’t talked about in the magical world,” Sirius said remembering how his own mother used to curse him, yell at him and hit him.  It was mainly why he had run away from home at sixteen to go live with James and the Potters.  The other part being he didn’t want to fall into his parents’ trap of pureblood ideology.  Unfortunately he had left behind his little brother, Regulus, who had been caught up in the abuse and had joined the Death Eaters at a young age. Sirius and Regulus had never been on good terms after he had been sorted into Slytherin.  Sirius had ignored Regulus in favor of his friends and that may have been partly why Regulus joined the Death Eaters.

“I’m sure plenty of things in the Muggle world aren’t heard of or talked about in the magical world,” Harry said with a growl.  “Magical Britain is stuck in the Victorian Era and puts muggleborn students at a disadvantage during the summer since they can’t practice magic.”

The others nodded.  They could agree with the fact that Britain was stuck on pureblood bigotry and old traditions and laws that made them look like fools in to the rest of the wizarding world. Of course some adults knew that this was a ploy by the ‘purebloods’ and politicians to kick out the muggleborn, squib and half-bloods after graduating from Hogwarts by denying them jobs based on their lack of money and blood status.  It just wasn’t talked about in ‘polite’ society.

Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. 

“No James was that way as well until he hit sixteen and then he went through a big growth spurt,” Sirius said.

“It could be also due to the neglect you experienced for twelve years,” Ginny voiced.  “I noticed that you always ate a lot more when the school term ended.” 

“That’s because I was starved by my loving family,” Harry said. 

He looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley’s, and Dudley was about five times bigger than he was.  Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes.  He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose.  The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning. 

“You used to like your scar?” Ginny asked in shock.

“Yeah,” Harry said. Speaking of said scar, it was still there and had surprisingly turned silver.  This was a result of the phoenix tears in Harry’s system. 

He had had it as long as he could remember, and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had gotten it. 

“In the car crash when your parents died,” she had said.  “And don’t ask questions.”

“You can’t learn if you don’t ask questions,” Bellatrix said.

“Thank you Miss Obvious,” Harry said glaring at Bellatrix. 

Don’t ask questions-that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys.

Uncle Vernon entered the kitchen as Harry was turning over the bacon.

“Wait they make you cook?!” Bellatrix shouted.

“They made me do everything since I was four,” Harry said.

“Comb your hair!” he barked, by way of a morning greeting.

“Won’t work.  James’ hair was always like that,” Sirius said.  “It’s the Potter genes.”

“Thank Merlin you didn’t have any kids,” Bellatrix said.  “That’s all we need.  A mini Sirius running around.”

“A mini me? Sounds like a fabulous idea Bella.  I like it!”

Bellatrix put her head in her hands and groaned before going back to the book.

About once a week, Uncle Vernon looked over the top of his newspaper and shouted that Harry needed a haircut.  Harry must have had more haircuts than all his classmates put together, but it made no difference, his hair simply grew that way-all over the place.

“That’s the way James’ hair was as well,” Sirius said.  “He never could get it to lie flat.”

Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchen with his mother. Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon.  He had a large pink face, not much neck, small, watery blue eyes, and thick blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head.  Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel-Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.

“You’re really observant aren’t you?” Bellatrix asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said. 

Sirius meanwhile was laughing at what Harry used to call Dudley. 

Harry put the plates of egg and bacon on the table, which was difficult as there wasn’t much room.  Dudley, meanwhile, was counting his presents.  His face fell.

“Thirty-six,” he said, looking up at his mother and father.  “That’s two less than last year.”

“Thirty-six presents?  They obviously spoil the brat,” Bellatrix said.  “No wonder he hits you Harry.”

“I think he hit me because Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia never did a thing to stop him,” Harry said.  “Do either of you know why I’m a vampire?”

“Well it’s obvious you get it from the Potter line since your mother was a muggle,” Bellatrix said.  “I didn’t know James well enough.  Did he say anything to you Sirius?”

Sirius shook his head.  “I can’t remember if he did or not.  It’s possible that James didn’t know and that the gene was dormant.”

“What does that mean?” Ginny asked.

“It means that somewhere in the family, a Potter may have married and had a child with a vampire or perhaps one of James’ distant relatives was turned into a vampire, married one and they had a child.  That gene may have then lain dormant until you were born Harry.”

“Or it could be a curse on the Potter line,” Bellatrix said in thought.  “Sometimes that happens when a witch or wizard does something to upset another witch or wizard. The witch or wizard who was upset would cast a spell on the wizard’s family that would affect future generations.”

“Darling, you haven’t counted Auntie Marge’s present, see, it’s here under this big one from Mummy and Daddy.”

“All right, thirty-seven then,” said Dudley, going red in the face.  Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, began wolfing down his bacon as possible in case Dudley turned the table over.

Aunt Petunia must have scented danger, too, because she said quickly, “And we’ll buy you another two presents when we’re out today.  How’s that popkin?  Two more presents.  Is that all right?”

Dudley thought for a moment.  It looked like hard work.  Finally he said slowly, “So I’ll have thirty… thirty…”

“Thirty-nine, sweetums,” said Aunt Petunia.

“Oh.”  Dudley sat down heavily and grabbed the nearest parcel.  “All right then.”

“Merlin he can’t even count?” Bellatrix asked. 

“Dudley’s always been bad with schoolwork.  He gets abysmal grades as he prefers bullying people to actually studying,” Harry said. He took another drink from the bottle of blood in his hand. 

Uncle Vernon chuckled.

“Little tyke wants his money’s worth, just like his father.   ‘Atta boy, Dudley!”  He ruffled Dudley’s hair.

At that moment the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia went to answer it while Harry and Uncle Vernon watched Dudley unwrap the racing bike, a video camera, a remote control airplane, sixteen new computer games, and a VCR.  He was ripping the paper off a gold wristwatch when Aunt Petunia came back from the telephone looking both angry and worried.

“What’s a VCR? Sirius asked.

“It’s a video cassette recorder that Muggles stick video tapes in so they can watch movies,” Harry said.  “And a video camera is a device that you can use to videotape people, animals or anything else you want and convert into a movie.”

“Bad news, Vernon,” she said.  “Mrs. Figg’s broken her leg.  She can’t take him.”  She jerked her head in Harry’s direction.

Dudley’s mouth fell open in horror, but Harry’s heart gave a leap.  Every year on Dudley’s birthday, his parents took him and a friend out for the day, to adventure parks, hamburger restaurants, or the movies.  Every year, Harry was left behind with Mrs. Figg, a mad old lady who lived two streets away.  Harry hated it there.  The whole house smelled of cabbage and Mrs. Figg made him look at all the photographs of all the cats she’d ever owned.

“That’s cruel Harry,” Ginny said as Sirius laughed at the thought of his godson calling the squib a mad lady.

“Now what?” said Aunt Petunia, looking furiously at Harry as though he had planned this.  Harry knew he ought to feel sorry that Mrs. Figg had broken her leg, but it wasn’t easy when he reminded himself it would be a whole year before he had to look at Tibbles,  Snowy, Mr. Paws, and Tufty again.

Bellatrix wrinkled her nose in disgust at the names that Mrs. Figg had given her cats. 

“We could phone Marge,” Uncle Vernon suggested.

“Don’t be silly, Vernon, she hates the boy!”

“And I hate her,” Harry growled.

The Dursleys often spoke of Harry like this, as though he wasn’t there-or rather, as though he was something very nasty that couldn’t understand them, like a slug.

“What about what’s-her-name, your friend-Yvonne?”

“On vacation in Majorca,” snapped Aunt Petunia.

“You could just leave me here,” Harry put in hopefully (he’d be able to watch what he wanted on television for a change and maybe even have a go on Dudley’s computer).

“That’s not going to work,” Sirius said.

“And come back to find the house in ruins?” she snarled.

“I won’t blow up the house,” said Harry, but they weren’t listening.

“I suppose we could take him to the zoo,” said Aunt Petunia slowly “…and leave him in the car….”

“That car’s new, he’s not sitting in it alone.…”

“That fat walrus cares more for his car than his own nephew?!” Bellatrix shrieked causing Harry to cover his ears. 

“Yes now can we get on with the story,” Harry said. 

Dudley began to cry loudly.  In fact, he wasn’t really crying-it had been years since he’d really cried-but he knew that if he screwed up his face and wailed, that his mother would give him anything he wanted.

“Dinky Duddydums don’t cry! Mummy won’t let him spoil your special day!” she cried flinging her arms around her son.

“I…don’t…want…him…t-t-to…come!” Dudley yelled between huge, pretend sobs.  “He always sp-spoils everything!”  He sat Harry a nasty grin through the gap in his mother’s arms.

“Drama queen,” Ginny said.

Just then, the doorbell rang-“Oh good Lord they’re here!” said Aunt Petunia frantically-and a moment later, Dudley’s best friend, Piers Polkiss, walked in with his mother.  Piers was a scrawny boy with a face like a rat. 

Sirius growled at the mention of Piers being like a rat.  It reminded him of Pettigrew.

He was usually the one to hold peoples’ arms behind their backs while Dudley hit them.  Dudley stopped pretending to cry at once.

Half an hour later, Harry, who could barely believe his luck, was sitting in the back of the Dursleys’ car with Piers and Dudley, on the way to the zoo for the first time in his life.  His aunt and uncle had been unable to think of anything else to do with him, but before they’d left, Uncle Vernon had taken Harry aside.

“I’m warning you,” he had said putting his large purple face up to Harry’s, “I’m warning you now, boy-any funny business, anything at all-and you’ll be in that cupboard from now until Christmas.”

“I’m not going to do anything,” said Harry, “honestly…”

But Uncle Vernon didn’t believe him.  No one ever did.

The problem was, strange things tended to happen around Harry and it was and it was just no good telling the Dursleys he didn’t make them happen.

Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barbers looking as if he had never been at all, took a pair of kitchen scissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except for his bangs, which she left “to hide that horrible scar.”  Dudley had laughed himself silly at Harry, who spent a sleepless night imagining school the next day, where he was already laughed at for his baggy clothes and taped glasses.  Next morning, however, he had gotten up to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia had sheared it off. He had gotten a week in his cupboard for this, even though he had tried to explain that he couldn’t explain how it had grown back so quickly.

“It sounds like that may be a metamorphmagusability,” Bellatrix said as she finished the paragraph.

“Metamorphmagus?” Harry asked.

“Yeah.  It’s a witch or wizard who can change their appearance at will.  They’re born, not made and extremely rare.”

Another time, Aunt Petunia had been trying to force him into a revolting old sweater of Dudley’s (brown with orange puffballs).

“Yuck,” Ginny said.

The harder she tried to pull it over his head, the smaller it seemed to become, until finally it might have fitted a hand puppet, but certainly not Harry.  Aunt Petunia had decided it must have shrunk in the wash and, to his great relief, Harry wasn’t punished. 

“Why would you be punished for that?” Sirius asked.

“Because my relatives hate magic,” Harry said.

On the other hand, he’d gotten into terrible trouble for being found on the roof of the school kitchens.  Dudley’s gang had been chasing him as usual when, as much to Harry’s surprise as anyone else’s, there he was sitting on the chimney.  The Dursleys had received a very angry letter from Harry’s headmistress telling them Harry had been climbing school buildings.  But all he’d tried to do (as he shouted at Uncle Vernon through the locked door of his cupboard) was jump behind the big trash cans outside the kitchen doors.  Harry supposed the wind had caught him in mid-jump.

“You apparated?!” Sirius shouted in surprise.  “You must have had powerful magic even back then to be able to do that.  How old were you anyway?”

“Five,” Harry said.

Sirius let out a whistle and looked to his cousin who had stopped reading at the sentence as well.  “I have to agree with Sirius. Very few children are able to apparate that young consciously.”

 But today, nothing was going to go wrong.  It was even worth being with Dudley and Piers to be spending the day somewhere that wasn’t school, his cupboard, or Mrs. Figg’s cabbage-smelling living room.

While he drove, Uncle Vernon complained to Aunt Petunia.  He liked to complain about a lot of things: people at work, Harry, the council, Harry, the bank, and Harry were just a few of his favorite subjects.  This morning, it was motorcycles.

“…roaring around like maniacs, the young hoodlums,” he said as a motorcycle overtook them.

“I had a dream about a motorcycle,” said Harry, remembering suddenly. “It was flying.”

“Poor Harry,” Ginny said. 

Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front.  He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: “MOTORCYCLES DON’T FLY!”

Dudley and Piers snickered.

“I know they don’t,” said Harry.  “It was only a dream.”

But he wished he hadn’t said anything.  If there was one thing the Dursleys hated more than his asking questions, it was his talking about anything acting in a way it shouldn’t, no matter if it was in a dream or even a cartoon-they seemed to think he might get dangerous ideas.

It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families.  The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice pop.  It wasn’t half bad, Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching his head who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn’t blond.

Laughter came from Sirius, Ginny and Bellatrix at the thought causing Harry to give a weak smile.

Harry had the best morning he’d had in a long time.  He was careful to walk a little way apart from the Dursleys so that Dudley and Piers, who were starting to get bored with the animals by lunchtime, wouldn’t fall back on their favorite hobby of hitting him.

Sirius let out a low growl.  If he got out of Azkaban and met that little whale, he’d make the kid sorry for hurting his pup along with the Dursleys.

They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory didn’t have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first.

Harry felt, afterward, that he should have known it was all too good to last.

After lunch they went to the reptile house.  It was cool and dark in there, with lit windows all along the walls.  Behind the glass, all sorts of lizards and snakes were crawling and slithering over bits of wood and stone.  Dudley and Piers wanted to see huge, poisonous cobras and thick, man-crushing pythons.  Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place.  It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon’s car and crushed it into a trashcan-but at the moment it didn’t look in the mood.  In fact, it was fast asleep. 

Dudley stood with his nose pressed against the glass, staring at the glistening brown coils.

“Make it move,” he whined at his father.  Uncle Vernon tapped on the glass, but the snake didn’t budge.

“Do it again,” Dudley ordered.  Uncle Vernon rapped the glass smartly with his knuckles, but the snake just snoozed on.

“This is boring,” Dudley moaned.  He shuffled away.

Harry moved in front of the tank and looked intently at the snake. He wouldn’t have been surprised if it had died of boredom itself-no company except stupid people drumming their fingers on the glass trying to disturb it all day long.  It was worse than having a cupboard as a bedroom, where Aunt Petunia was the only visitor hammering on the door to wake you up; at least he got to visit the rest of the house.

The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes.  Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry’s.

It winked.

“This author is an idiot,” Bellatrix said. “Snakes don’t have eyelids so they can’t wink.”

Harry stared.  Then he looked quickly around to see if anyone was watching.  They weren’t.  He looked back at the snake and winked, too.

The snake jerked its head toward Uncle Vernon and Dudley, then raised its eyes to the ceiling.  It gave Harry a look that said quite plainly:

I get that all the time.

“I know,” Harry murmured through the glass, though he wasn’t sure the snake could hear him.  “It must be really annoying.”

The snake nodded vigorously.

“I still can’t believe you’re a parslemouth,” Sirius said with a shake of his head.  “Though I can’t believe you’re a vampire either or that you have a dark phoenix.”

Nexus trilled and turned his beady gaze on Sirius. /I’ll have you know that dark phoenixes are as loyal to their masters as a light phoenix human./

Harry laughed and related what Nexus had said.  “No offense meant.  It’s just hard for me to comprehend,” Sirius said holding up his hands.

“I have to agree with my cousin there on that Harry.  Parsletongue is a trait of Slytherin’s bloodline,” Bellatrix said. 

“Where do you come from anyway?”

The snake jabbed its tail at a little sign next to the glass.  Harry peered at it.

“Didn’t you find it odd that you were talking to a snake?” Bellatrix asked.

“Snakey, snakey,” Ginny said.

Harry frowned at Ginny. “I didn’t even I was speaking another language,” Harry admitted.  “I was surprised that the snake could understand me.”

Boa Constrictor, Brazil.

“Was it nice there?”

The snake jabbed its tail at the sign again and Harry read on: This specimen was bread in the zoo.  “Oh, I see-so you’ve never been to Brazil?”

As the snake shook its head, a deafening shout behind Harry made both of them jump. 

“Oh no,” Sirius said sensing something bad was about to happen.

“DUDLEY!  MR. DURSLEY!  COME AND LOOK AT THIS SNAKE!  YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT IT’S DOING!”

Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could.

“Out of the way, you,” he said, punching Harry in the ribs.

Sirius let out an angry growl at the thought of his pup being hurt.

 Caught by surprise, Harry fell hard on the concrete floor.  What came next happened so fast no one saw how it happened-one second, Piers and Dudley were leaning right up close to the glass, the next they had leapt back with howls of horror.

“Oh what happened?” Sirius asked excitedly.  Bellatrix too seemed interested in what had occurred in the zoo.

Harry sat up and gasped; the glass in front of the boa constrictor’s cage had vanished.  The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly and slithering onto the floor. People throughout the reptile house started screaming and running for the exits.

Everyone burst out laughing at that.  “You set the snake free?” Bellatrix asked in surprise. 

“A pity your cousin couldn’t have been eaten by it,” Sirius said.

“That’s probably a good thing,” Harry said.  “The poor snake would probably get indigestion or something.”

As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, “Brazil, here I come…Thanksss, amigo.”

The keeper of the reptile house was in shock.

“But the glass,” he kept saying, “where did the glass go?”

“It vanished you idiot,” Ginny said.

The zoo director himself made Aunt Petunia a cup of strong, sweet tea while he apologized over and over again.  Piers and Dudley could only gibber.  As far as Harry had seen, the snake hadn’t done anything except snap playfully at their heels as it passed, but by the time they were all back in Uncle Vernon’s car, Dudley was telling them how it had nearly bitten off his leg, while Piers was swearing it had tried to squeeze him to death.  But worst of all, for Harry at least, was Piers calming down enough to say, “You were talking to it, weren’t you, Harry?”

“Ungrateful bastard,” Harry muttered.  “I wish the snake had eaten them both.”

Uncle Vernon waited until Piers had left the house before starting on Harry.  He was so angry he could hardly speak.  He managed to say, “Go-cupboard-stay-no meals,” before he collapsed into a chair and Aunt Petunia had to fetch him a strong glass of brandy.

Harry lay in his dark cupboard much later, wishing he had a watch.  He didn’t know what time it was and he couldn’t be sure that the Dursleys were asleep yet.  Until they were, he couldn’t risk sneaking to the kitchen for some food.

“Did they really starve you?” Bellatrix asked concerned which many would find was not like her.

“I managed to sneak to the kitchen for some food that night,” Harry said.  “They never really starved me but they never gave me as much food as Dudley.”

He’d lived with the Dursleys almost ten years, ten miserable years, as long as he could remember, ever since he’d been a baby and his parents had died in that car crash.  He couldn’t remember being in the car when his parents had died.  Sometimes, when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain his forehead.

Ginny, Sirius and Bellatrix looked at him in shock. “You actually remember the night your parents died?” Sirius asked in disbelief.  Nexus laid his head against Harry’s check and Harry reached up a hand to stroke his familiar’s breast. 

“I can remember every detail of that night,” Harry said.  “Dad telling mom to run for it, mom putting me in my crib and barricading the door, shielding me from Voldemort as he blasted open the door, my mom begging him not to kill me and to take her instead, Voldemort offering her a chance to live…” he frowned at that, “…and she refused, mom falling to the floor, him turning to me and firing the jet of green light at me, it backfiring onto him even as it cut into my forehead…”  he shook his head and trailed off.

“Why would He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named spare a muggle?” Ginny asked.  “I thought the Dark Lord hated all muggles?”

“He does,” Bellatrix said.  “It seems odd that he would consider sparing Lily if he could just kill Harry.”

This, he supposed, was the crash, though he couldn’t imagine where all the green light came from.  He couldn’t remember his parents at all.  His aunt and uncle never spoke about them, and of course he was forbidden from asking questions.  There were no photographs of them the house.

When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened; the Dursleys were his own family.  Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers on the street seemed to know him.  Very strange strangers they were, too.  A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley.  After asking him furiously if he knew the man, Aunt Petunia had rushed them out of the shop without buying anything.  A wild-looking old woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus.  A bald man in a very long purple cloak had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word. 

Harry stopped as he sensed the adults were upset about something.  “What’s wrong?”

“Harry did anyone know that you were with your relatives?” Sirius asked.

“I don’t think so,” Harry said frowning.  “Dumbledore never explained why I had to go there.”

Sirius raised his gaze to look at his cousin who met the gaze with a hard one of her own.  “If they had no idea where you were then why were these people in a muggle neighborhood and why did they just happen to spot you out of dozens of people?” Bellatrix asked. 

“I don’t know,” Harry said, realizing that Bellatrix and Sirius were making a good point. 

“Maybe Dumbledore sent his little vigilante group to watch Harry and make sure he stayed at the Dursleys,” Sirius murmured thoughtfully.

“What vigilante group?” Ginny asked curious.

“The Order of the Phoenix,” Sirius said.  “Dumbledore’s own personal and unmarked group of witches and wizards that was used to hunt down Death Eaters and battle Voldemort’s forces in the first and second wars.  Your parents, myself, the Longbottoms, and two of my friends were all part of the order along with many other people.”

Bellatrix nodded thoughtfully.  “I bet the woman in the emerald green robe was McGonagall.”

Harry pulled out the letter and frowned.  “It looks like book five is called Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” he said.

“Then maybe that book will talk about the Order,” Sirius said. 

The weirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.

At school, Harry had no one.  Everybody knew that Dudley’s gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley’s gang.

“That’s the end of this chapter,” Bellatrix said.  “Who volunteers next?”

“I will,” Ginny said. Bellatrix handed her the book and was sent back to her cell. Ginny flipped to the third chapter and read: “Chapter Three. The Letters From No One.”

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