Part 1: The Nanny
Disclaimer: All I own are the plot bunnies, and ownership there is actually shared with my co-writer. Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, and Nanny McPhee by Universal Pictures among others.
Title: 100 Ways Harry DIDN'T Find Out He Was a Wizard: Part 1, The Nanny
Word Count: 1338
At the end of her rope, Nancy Polkiss finally agreed to try the new nanny that her neighbor, Evangeline, had recommended. She was a little taken aback with the old lady's appearance, but, realizing that beggars can't be choosers, didn't raise a fuss over it. She was just happy that Nanny M. didn't charge too much.
Gradually, oh so gradually, so slowly that it wasn't evident to anyone...well, almost anyone, the character of the neighborhood, and especially of Dudley's friends, seemed to be changing. Petunia, of course, didn't notice this, thinking that, as always, Dudley's friends were above reproach--certainly more acceptable than the other boy impinging on her existence. Vernon didn't notice any changes, but then, in his mind, Dudley was still a round baby in a bonnet.
Harry... well, Harry was a different story. Living in an atmosphere of fear and wariness, he had learned very early on to notice things--not in the plastic, see-through, faux-solicitous "noticing" that all the housewives of Privet Drive did, and not in the intrusive, beady-eyed way of his schoolmaster that always led to problems, and punishments, at home. Rather, Harry noticed that the new Nanny at the Polkiss' house always knew, somehow, when Piers was misbehaving, no matter the location. This strange ability of Piers' nanny was gradually effecting a change in Piers, and, by extension, the rest of Dudley's hooligans. While they still Harry Hunted, Harry found that when caught, as happened as often as not, the character of the beatings became less painful, and eventually he was allowed to get away after a few noogies to the head, and occasionally a push into the mud. Harry found this almost as exciting as when his teacher gave him new crayons for his very own at the beginning of his educational journey.
Harry noticed other things about Nanny M. too. He noticed that although she was always very strict with Piers, she seemed to take on a different disposition whenever Harry was the only child around. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that he wasn't sure what the word "love" meant, he'd probably have labelled it just that way. But perhaps the most amazing thing that Harry noticed, and the one that eventually led to the most incredible event in Harry's life (at least, that he could remember), was that she seemed to have two faces.
Now, when normal people talk about someone having two faces, it's usually not complimentary. Petunia could definitely be said to have two faces--Mrs. Number 6 knew one of them very well, having the same "neighbor" face that Petunia had. Harry, unfortunately, knew the other face very well indeed, and it caused some of his more spectacular nightmares. Nanny M. didn't have two metaphorical faces at all--she was always consistent in her treatment of people: if you were proper, respectful, and above all, kind, she treated you that way. If you weren't... well, she treated you that way too. No, Nanny M.'s two faces were, as Harry called them, the "nice old" face, and the "nice young" face. He could see that most of the denizens of his neighborhood only saw the former--they treated her as a little old lady, a nanny, curiously enough. But when Harry chanced to look at her in one of the few instances when no-one else was around, he saw beneath, or through, or around--he lacked the words to explain this adequately--the "nice old" face, to the beautiful young woman with the smiling lips and the kind eyes.
Because of this strange dual nature of Nanny M., Harry started to seek out opportunities to be near her. He never quite dared to talk to her openly, nor presume to touch her, but he found that being in her near environs helped him be calm and less unhappy than usual. As observant as he usually was, though, it took him quite awhile to notice that she seemed to be making excuses to be near him, too. At first, of course, he didn't believe this, attributing it to an overactive imagination, something that the Durselys punished harshly, and as often as they encountered it, which merely caused Harry to learn to be extremely reticent in imagining things where he could be caught. But eventually it became too obvious to deny--she really seemed to want to spend time with Harry.
A tentative friendship developed between the two, built on small words of greeting, and casual mentions of how nice the temperature was. Occasionally Nanny M. would ask how school was, which usually called forth an answer of "It's fine", or whether he was hungry, which he always denied, and which always brought about some dark muttering on her side, and the introduction of a sandwich which she just "happened" to have in her pocket, but had decided she really didn't need.
Unbeknownst to Harry, he started to thrive under the subtle caring and support of the "little old nanny of the Polkisses'". The Dursleys were somewhat surprised at this, but were grateful that they could then cut down on the amount of food they gave him, because "obviously we're feeding the freak too much!" This, of course, was noticed by Nanny M., who endeavored to ensure that "unneeded sandwiches" were more nourishing than usual, and more prevalent than before.
Time passed, as it tends to do, and Harry's eleventh birthday approached, not that this fact impinged upon his existence any. As far as Harry was concerned, there was really no need to mark the day at all, inasmuch as the only significance of it was that he now had to tell people that he was 11 rather than ten. But something strange happened the night of July 30th to the normal residents of #4 Privet Drive; Vernon was suddenly taken with the idea of taking his family to the shore. Since his "family" of course didn't include the freak in the cupboard, and since they needed the extra space in his new car for Dudley's friends, Piers being included of course, Petunia suggested to Nancy that maybe Nanny M. could mind Harry while they were gone. To Nancy's utmost shock, Nanny M. seemed delighted with the idea. Harry was delighted himself, but took great pains not to show it, having learned from sad experience that this was the quickest way to have privileges revoked and freedoms curtailed.
And so, the next morning, Harry found himself alone in the house with none other than his one friend, the "nice young"-faced Nanny McPhee. For the first time ever, he allowed himself to talk to her without worrying about being overheard. For the first time ever, he knew the touch of a kind hand on his arm. And for the first time ever, he heard about magic. Harry had known about magic of course. Once in school there was a magician who pulled rabbits out of a hat and called that magic, although Harry was sure he had seen wriggling lumps in the man's sleeves, although he didn't tell anybody what he'd seen, because "freaks never tell the truth anyway". And Harry, in his more introspective moments, had figured there was something... different... about Nanny M. that he couldn't explain using logic and school learning. But to hear Nanny talk about it, there were a lot of people who could do real magic, without having to hid small animals in uncomfortable locations. Harry was predisposed to believe anything Nanny told him, of course, since she had never lied to him, and never treated him poorly.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was when Nanny M. told Harry that she had known his parents, that she had, in fact, been a nanny to Harry's father, and helped him become a nice young man too, although, to be fair, it was a much less difficult journey than that of young Polkiss. But the biggest shock of Harry's young life came when she looked him in the eye and pronounced, "You're a wizard, Harry!"
Additional disclaimer: To make the admins happy, we own neither Harry Potter, nor Nanny McPhee.