The Boys of Summer
If you're having problems visualizing the house, it's heavily based - on the interior at least - on a real set of blueprints that I can link you to if you message me. Apart from that… not much else to say. Other than that while I don't do that stupid 'holding chapters hostage' shit, I've got nothing against whoring for reviews and so… review please!
A few minutes later, his sisters swept past the island on their way from the living room to the supposed breakfast nook that evidently served other meals as well. Lily handed Harry a separate plate bearing a sandwich larger than any of the ones that had gone by on the platter before shooing him in the same direction, the fireplace off to his left flaring as he slid off the island stool. The green flames of an incoming floo connection danced merrily for a moment and then Sirius emerged, followed by a statuesque woman with wheat blonde hair and a brunette girl who looked to be his sisters' age. As the blonde approached the table, a tickle against Harry's mind made him twitch before realizing that he recognized the sensation: it was similar to how he felt around Fleur, albeit several magnitudes stronger. Reinforcing his occlumency shields to prevent himself from doing something stupid, Harry sat back and waited to see how the room settled.
Remus sat in the middle of one side of the table, the twins claiming spots on either side of him. Lily and Sirius took opposite ends of the table, with Sirius's wife seating herself at his left and leaving the spot to his right open. With the blonde the only occupant of her side of the table, it left three seats for Harry to pick from along with the one between Rose and Sirius. He opted to take the seat directly at his mother's right, blinking as Sirius's daughter slid into the seat next to him. The twins abruptly went from snickering at something Remus had whispered to them to glaring and Harry looked from them to the blushing, very shy looking brunette beside him before he caught on. Sirius's daughter had a crush on him. Jasmine and Rose were not amused. Great. He forced himself to smile even though he wanted to bang his head against the table. Out of all the things that he'd thought having a family would mean, overprotective siblings was not one of them. Suddenly he found himself able to empathize with how Ginny must have felt… and then his mind leapt from there to less pleasant thoughts about his stalker, forcing him to clench his fist as he further reinforced his occlumency shields, banishing his feelings and regaining control through brute force. He had to pay attention. The only reason he even had names for these people was because he had good ears. Apart from that, he knew nothing about them and so unless he listened, thought fast, and spoke carefully, they represented yet more threats to his chances of remaining hidden.
His godfather had a wife and daughter. It was an incredibly bizarre thought to try and wrap his mind around, since all of his encounters with Sirius had come after the man had suffered in Azkaban for twelve years and was on the run as a fugitive from the law. Here, obviously, that had never happened and he'd forged a nice life for himself as best Harry could tell. As he nibbled on his sandwich, Harry remained quiet and let the various conversations swirl around him, absorbing as much information as he could. The last thing he needed was to be exposed because he didn't know something he should have, or knew something the adults didn't think he should.
While Harry was by no means an expert when it came to deciphering foreign accents, he recognized Anastasiya's as vaguely similar to Viktor Krum's but distinctly different at the same time. Over the course of lunch's conversation, he managed to confirm his suspicions: Anastasiya was from Ustynivka, Ukraine, where Sirius had stumbled across a small colony of veela. After the war had ended, he'd decided to dip into the Black vaults and go on a world tour to 'find himself'. Harry didn't know whether or not Sirius had succeeded on that front, but he had found a wicked hot wife at the very least. It made him wonder… Bill's coworkers had been in awe of him snagging a quarter-veela. What would they have said to Sirius?
Cassiopeia - Cassie in casual conversation, but the signature House of Black astronomy name had come out when Anastasiya had chided her daughter for missing her bowl with half a ladleful of soup - had medium brown hair that looked to be a shade perfectly halfway between Anastasiya and Sirius's hair colors, along with blue-grey eyes that likewise seemed to straddle the line between her two parents. He didn't know much about veela development, but assumed the fact she was only ten was why he felt no allure coming off her despite the hesitant, blushing glances she kept sending him. Harry bit back a groan at that. It was like Ginny Weasley all over again. Hopefully Cassie was smarter and saner, or things had the potential to get awkward quickly when she entered puberty. Harry found himself idly wondering what she'd done to irritate the twins so. Something to look into later, he supposed.
Remus, sadly, lacked both a significant other and children at present. Evidently this world wasn't any kinder to its werewolves than Harry's original had been. Thinking back, Harry remembered Remus mentioning an interest in one or two of their fellow Order members during firewhiskey-fueled moments of sharing. Maybe he could manipulate things so Remus met them again in this world, except without the shadow of war and painful death hanging over them to squash the romantic mood.
The werewolf was still a part of the extended Potter-Black-Lupin family, though, entertaining the twins with jokes as the group passed the soup pot and sandwich platters around. Lily would occasionally scold him for a joke that skirted the line of good taste, making Harry raise an eyebrow. His world's Remus had never been that relaxed in the four years he'd known the man. Fascinating. When she wasn't busy scolding Remus, Lily would engage Anastasiya in discussions about what Harry was pretty sure were the latest advancements in the field of enchanting; while he could cast spells with the best of them and even knew how most of his repertoire worked these days, that was one field he'd never gotten around to touching and so it was all Gobbledegook to him.
Sitting beside the quiet Cassie, Harry slowly worked through his lunch, enjoy the sounds of his happy family and the simple but tasty food. His good mood came to an abrupt end when he found a pair of green eyes boring into his own. They were quite familiar; he saw them in the mirror every day. After all, he'd been told ever since he'd first entered the wizarding world that he had his mother's eyes. "Harry? What possessed you to wander off this morning before the rest of us got up? And where'd you go? I had to call in Sirius and Remus, your father was late to work…"
"I… uhh…" Harry racked his brain, trying desperately to come up with an answer to give her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing came to mind to explain such odd behavior in a ten-year-old. Bugger. Maybe his mother had a sense of humor? She had to have one to be married to James Potter… right? "You don't need to know where he was this morning."
"I don't need to know where you were this morning."
"This isn't the son you're looking for."
"You aren't the son I'm looking for."
"He can go back to his lunch."
"You can go back to your lunch."
"Eat up… eat up." The twins were giggling away, even as Anastasiya tried to affect a politely confused smile rather than admit she had no idea what was going on. Cassie, Sirius, and Remus seemed likewise baffled. His mother's lips quirked upward at his evasion attempt, but she didn't join the twins in laughing at his joke. "But fine. If you don't want to tell me, you can tell your father when he gets home tonight. And I'll let him set your punishment."
The way his sisters abruptly stopped laughing told Harry that doing as much would be a Very Bad Thing for him and his future in this house. "Um… can we discuss it after, then? You know, so I don't have to embarrass myself in front of everyone?"
Lily eyed him before nodding slowly. "Fine. But you'd better have a darn good excuse, young man." Picking her sandwich back up, she paused just before biting into it and let out a small snort of laughter. "I never should have taken you to see the trilogy when they were rereleased. Although the Jabba imitation you did the first time you met your cousin Dudley… that was hilarious." Thank God he'd actually seen the movies here. Harry hadn't even thought about that before trying his little joke out. That would have been a hell of an awkward explanation, to be sure.
When lunch ended, Harry made his way back to the first floor landing before ascending the stairs to the second floor in search of his room. When he finally found it, he could only stare in awe. It was huge, especially compared to his room at the Dursleys' house, and not only was it bigger than the room he'd stayed in when he visited the Burrow but it was all his! Hanging on one wall was a Nimbus 2000 and there were Falmouth Falcons quidditch posters and memorabilia everywhere. Strangely enough, there literally wasn't a book in sight, not even something fictional for pleasure reading. Clearly, he was not an intellectual in this world or at least he hadn't been in the past. With everything he knew now, it would be hard to avoid being labeled as a bookworm unless he severely downplayed what he knew and could do… and that wasn't something he was entirely keen on doing.
He could ponder his future at a later date, though. What did he want to do with his afternoon? Harry still knew almost nothing about this self and the world he lived in… and he really didn't want to get into the habit of seriously mentally invading his family and friends. So he decided to adopt Hermione's outlook on life: when in doubt, go to the library. Unlike the Potter Manor he was familiar with, the second floor connector to what should have been the library instead led to a room with a large television and other expensive-looking electronics. Adding it to his list of questions to answer at a later point, Harry backtracked to the first floor landing and gained access to the slightly smaller, two-storied library via the twin of the hallway that had dumped him into the strange muggle room upstairs. He quickly found a book on modern history with the help of a wandless Summoning Charm and settling down in an armchair to do some light reading.
What he found shocked him. This Harry's parents had escaped Voldemort three times on the battlefield, but the house had never been attacked at the end of the first war. Voldemort had attacked the Longbottoms first, turning Neville into the Boy-Who-Lived. According to the notes scrawled in the margins in a looping, feminine script, Neville was the son of Frank Longbottom and a near-squib witch who had been willing to let Alice take credit for continuing the Longbottom line in exchange for a life of comfort. She had been hired on as Neville's nanny after delivering him and had been the sole adult home when Voldemort attacked, imparting the same protection upon death that allowed him to become the Boy-Who-Lived of this world while still retaining both parents. Or at least both publicly known ones. Just like Harry did, this Neville now possessed the lightning bolt scar that marked him as Voldemort's supposed equal. Although assuming the prophecy here was the same, it confirmed a suspicion of Harry's and finally provided an answer to an ongoing argument of his with Dumbledore… not that he'd be able to tell the man now.
That raised two interesting questions, though, and Harry made sure he was alone before wandlessly conjuring up a mirror. Well, any reference to his scar would be in the past tense from here on out. It was gone now. Interesting. And if that was true, then… another wave of his hand created a small, silvery-red viper. § Hello? §
After turning back and forth to assess its surroundings, tongue flicking out of its mouth to taste the air, the viper raised its head to stare at Harry. § What is it that you desire, Master? §
Even more interesting. He apparently had shed his link to Voldemort but had somehow retained the most infamous power he'd inherited from the Heir of Slytherin. He reminded himself to look on the bright side: at least it meant that he could still read his parselscript journal. Losing that would have been a royal pain in the arse. With a quick Vanishing Charm, the viper was gone and Harry went back to reading about the recent past. Or at least recent in so far as this world was concerned; losing close to a decade was playing havoc with his sense of relative time.
Moving on to just after Voldemort's fall, Harry discovered that Igor Karkaroff had again betrayed his comrades and provided the Ministry with a list of names. Lucius had again bought his way out of trouble, the Lestrange trio was in Azkaban, albeit for crimes unnamed… and Peter Pettigrew had not only been named, but captured and imprisoned? That was new. He was currently serving three consecutive life sentences in Azkaban for crimes also not listed in the book but was, at least at the time of printing, still alive. Harry checked the publishing information. A year ago. How that weak, pitiful, miserable excuse for a human being had been able to survive this long, even with the benefit of his animagus form, Harry had no idea.
It was so odd, finding himself in a place where things he'd taken for granted as 'fact' weren't anymore, while other things that had been completely and totally screwed up in his world were finally set to rights. Letting his thoughts wander down that path led Harry to wondering if his original self here had kept a journal, so he could get a better idea of how he was supposed to behave around everyone. Even if this wasn't really his family, it was the closest he'd ever get and the last thing he wanted was to be torn away because Dumbledore thought he was a renegade Death Eater impersonating Harry Potter or something.
As time marched on and day turned into night, Harry continued to read, totally unaware of the progression of time. Dinner passed without him noticing and it wasn't until his stomach rumbled noisily that he realized it'd been a while since he'd last eaten. Closing his book, he looked up and found his mother standing in the doorway with a plate of food. "Hi?"
"Hey, Harry. You missed dinner. And that explanation you owe me." Lily entered the library, setting his dinner down in front of him. "So… last chance. Your father will be home in twenty minutes or so and if I don't have something to tell him…"
Harry had been thinking about this one on and off for a good chunk of the afternoon, and was pretty sure he'd finally come up with an acceptable answer. Hopefully. Maybe. He'd had plenty of incidents of accidental magic at Privet Drive; what were the odds that he hadn't had any here? "Well, I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep, so I took a shower and still nobody else was up… so I was sitting there staring out the window wondering if that first train up the Maritime Line had gone by yet. Next thing I know, I feel like I'm being squeezed through this really tight tube and then I'm standing on that little stone bridge on Trewedna Lane, looking down at the track."
Closing her eyes, Lily let out a muttered string of swears in four languages - English, French, Cornish, and one that even Harry didn't recognize - before calming herself and sighing noisily. "I keep telling your father that we need to deal with that. 'It's not accidental magic when he's apparating six or seven times a month, James.' 'If he does it after July 31st, we're in deep shit, James.' But no. It'll sort itself out. Having a wand will settle your magic down. Trust him, he's the pureblood and he knows all about magical children. Well fine. If he's not going to take responsibility for his children and help me with this, then he's not allowed to be mad when his decisions come back to bite him on the ar… erm, bum." Looking around at the books Harry had pulled from the shelves for research, Lily arched a brow. "Need help finding something?"
There was a loud whoosh from downstairs and Harry shook his head. "Err, no thanks. Because if you're here, he'll come up here looking for you, and it'll make it harder to avoid the angry father by hiding in here." Lily opened her mouth to say something but Harry waved his hand. "He was angry when he left and I don't think he's in a better mood now. All the crazies come out at night, so he probably had more work than his normal shift. So it's probably better if I'm out of his hair until he relaxes a bit. Even if it is all his own fault."
Lily grimaced before nodding her assent. "Alright. I'll check in on you later." Heading for the library door, she shook her head sadly. "One of these days, I'll figure out a way to avoid Azkaban and then I'll kill those damn Longbottoms for turning my husband into…"
Another interesting bit of information that Harry filed away for further review as he went back to reading and began blindly consuming his dinner. It wasn't bad, although the chicken was awfully bland. So were the vegetables, for that matter. Given that they were living in Cornwall, which was growing in culinary importance as its primary industry shifted from mining to farming and fishing, and his mother seemed to be the stay at home type, he'd - perhaps irrationally - expected better. Then again, had that happened yet here? Would it happen here? Did it matter? Bland food was bland, no matter what the reason. Hmm. Maybe there was a way he could impart a bit of his own culinary experience onto his mother without her becoming suspicious?
Eventually, the clock struck nine and Harry decided to relocate to his room as he heard his mother puttering around, taking care of the twins. As he entered his own room, he again had to squash his paranoid instincts; his parents would not react well to finding an array of locking and privacy charms on his door.
As he changed into a pair of pajamas, Harry frowned as he inspected his pudgy body. Maybe be could find more chores to do that involved walking places outside of this weekly market run he was being sent on tomorrow. While he was nowhere close to Dudley's level of fatness, he had surpassed where Neville was back in first year in his old universe. Which definitely wasn't the lean, muscular figure he was used to. He definitely had to start working out again; even if he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived in this world, he wasn't going to just sit back and let Voldemort run wild. Neville might be the only one capable of killing the bastard in this dimension because of Trelawney's damned prophecy, but that didn't mean he couldn't help. And kill a whole lot of Death Eaters along the way.
Hmm. Well, when in doubt, fall back on his normal Privet Drive workout: long walks that became long jogs that became long runs. Setting his alarm clock for five in the morning, which would hopefully get him up before the rest of the family, Harry crawled into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
The next month at Potter Manor was fun for Harry once he managed to settle in and find his place. It was just like he'd always dreamed life in a world with no Voldemort would have been like. Well, almost. He would have preferred two loving parents but a loving mother and a distant father was close enough for his tastes. And the two sisters and cool older cousin made up for James's absence pretty well. It was like being back at the Burrow again, back in the days before Ginny became an obsessive stalker and his friendship with Ron imploded. Except here at Potter Manor, he didn't feel bad about a poor family taking in yet another mouth to feed and could relax and enjoy things more. He'd even found a journal, stashed under a floorboard in his room, filled with entries in wince-worthy attempted English by this universe's original Harry. Having read that from cover to cover a few times, he was now doing a much better job of fitting in… or at least he was only arousing a little suspicion as he subtly began changing their expectations of him to match who he really was.
Returning from his five-mile morning run - which was actually a run these days, instead of a walk around Perranarworthal like when he'd started - Harry looked at the clock and smiled. He'd shaved another few seconds off his previous best time. Excellent. The house was still as quiet as a tomb and so after using a few spells to freshen up until he could take a proper shower, Harry decided to treat his family to breakfast. After all, he was up and surely his mother would enjoy a break from cooking. That, and after years with the Dursleys, it felt downright odd to be staying at home and not cooking every meal.
With the experience gleaned from years of cooking for the Dursleys, Harry worked quickly but efficiently, cooking up portions of scrambled eggs, sausages, black pudding, bacon, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, baked beans, and hash browns suitable for his family of six. He'd seen in the past how much food his family could pack away, especially his father, although Jasmine and Rose weren't exactly pixies either. And none of the three could hold a candle to his cousin when it came to packing food away. As much as it looked like on the counter, Harry severely doubted there'd be anything left when they were done. Footsteps on the stairs alerted him that his family was awake, and Harry grabbed the serving platters and bowls, moving them to the table in the breakfast nook. His mother and the twins were the first to arrive, stopping dead in the doorway and staring in disbelief at the breakfast he'd prepared. "Morning."
Jasmine was the first to break out of her stupor, hurrying over to the table while eyeing the food hungrily. "Wow, Harry. I never knew you could cook."
"Uh, well, I can't. Or would that be couldn't? I found a cookbook in the library that had moving pictures so you could watch everything being done from all kinds of angles. After watching it for a month now, I decided it didn't look too hard and I figured I'd give it a try." Technically it was true… for the Harry of this universe. He'd found the book, tried his hand at it, failed miserably, and been stuck scrambling to clean up the evidence before his mom came down to cook breakfast. This time around, though, Harry had succeeded, although it wasn't exactly his first time in the kitchen and he had actual skill rather than just having peeked at a book.
Lily just smiled and kissed Harry on the cheek. "Is that what you've been up to whenever I catch you in the library?" Err… not at all, but it sounded like a good excuse, so Harry nodded. "I'm so proud of you, Harry." He blushed as his sisters mocked him, but their amusement at his expense didn't keep them from descending on the food like Ron Weasley, serving up heaping plates for themselves that they began to devour. His mother followed suit, albeit a good deal more slowly and neatly. Biting into one of the fried mushrooms, she let out a moan the likes of which Harry had previously only heard when he interrupted romantic interludes while on patrol. Well then. Evidently she liked his cooking?
Stumbling into the kitchen, Nymphadora 'Dora' Black announced herself with a sleepy 'wotcher' before plopping herself down into a chair and fixing herself a plate. Finding out that she was the occupant of the locked bedroom on the first floor had been a validation of his suspicions but at the same time a hell of a shock. The original Harry had never felt the need to document his family tree and so it had taken a bit of creative questioning, eavesdropping, and detective work to figure out why the young woman lived at Potter Manor. Evidently Bellatrix Lestrange and her husband had dropped by to 'chat' with her sister Andromeda shortly before the end of the war and had executed Ted Tonks before turning their attention to Andromeda herself. Showing herself to be a true daughter of the House of Black, Andromeda had led them on a running battle through the house, all the way up to Dora's room, at which point she'd managed to actually overpower and blow through the anti-apparition ward her sister had cast over the house. She'd arrived in the lobby of St. Mungo's and promptly dropped dead from a burnt out magical core, at which point Lily had taken the parentless Dora as a favor for Sirius, seeing as how she and James had both the spare room and the experience with raising children, while Sirius and Anastasiya had no such experience and called a different hotel in a different city each week 'home'.
Dora began to choke and gasp and Lily rolled her eyes before drawing her wand and flicking it. A glowing hand appeared in the air behind the metamorphmagus before swinging down and slapping her hard on the back. Two chunks of half-eaten mushroom came flying out of her mouth to land on the table, eliciting squeals of disgust from the twins before Lily could vanish the mess. Tucking her wand away, the older redhead just rolled her eyes. "There's this newfangled thing called 'chewing', Dora. Try it for me, would you?"
Hair shifting from the long black curls of her base form to a long, straight, bright red mane, Dora ducked her head in an attempt to hide her blush. "Sorry, Aunt Lily. This is really good, though." After a few seconds, her hair shortened and lightened into the bubblegum pink spikes that Harry was used to seeing and she gave Harry a thumbs up before selecting a fried tomato, popping it into her mouth, and chewing with exaggerated slowness.
"Hey, what's that smell?" James was the last to make his presence known, stumbling into the kitchen with his hair mussed and standing up strangely. Or maybe not. Maybe he was just trying to do something new with it today? "Wow, Lily. You haven't bothered cooking a full breakfast for something other than a holiday in… Merlin knows how long, actually. What's the occasion?"
Shrugging, Lily swallowed another mouthful of mushroom before pointing her fork at Harry. "Ask him. He's the one who cooked it."
James almost missed his chair as he stared at Harry in disbelief. "What… Harry? Since when can you..?"
"Wow!" Everyone turned to look at Jasmine, who was staring at Harry with wide eyes. "I wanted to try everything first to make sure he hadn't gotten lucky… it's all great! Sorry, Mum, but Harry's a way better cook than you. No offense."
Rose nodded in agreement as James stared at his food suspiciously, looking from it to Harry and back several times. "Considering your mother has been cooking longer than Harry's been alive, I find that hard to believe." After serving up a bit of everything for himself, he decided to try a forkful of Harry's scrambled eggs first. After chewing slowly and swallowing, he turned to stare at Harry with an unreadable expression on his face. "Huh. I'll be damned."
Letting out a vaguely affirmative noise, Lily sliced off a piece of her fried tomato and popped it into her mouth before patting Harry's hand. "Sweetie, this is wonderful. Would you like to help me cook breakfast from now on?"
Looking up from where he was cutting up a piece of sausage for himself, Harry continued to blush from all the compliments, only to freeze at the question. "Honestly, it was just going to be a one-time thing. I wanted to give you the morning off because you cook all the time."
"Can't you give me all the mornings off then?" Lily held up a piece of sausage speared on the end of her fork. "But no, seriously, this is amazing, especially for a first timer, and…"
As much as he loved his new family, he had no desire to be trapped in a situation like at the Dursleys and Harry held up his hand. "It's okay, Mum. How about I'll help out with both breakfast and lunch sometimes, but only if you're there with me? I like your cooking too, you know." Well, it was enjoyable enough. Even after a few subtle hints, her stuff still trended towards the blander side of things, except for when she dove into the cookbooks that Sirius and Anastasiya had brought home for her at the end of their world tour. What in the world was 'chicken fried steak'? He understood the 'fried steak' part, but what did chickens have to do with it?
Lily smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "Okay. And thank you for cooking this morning, it was sweet of you. I'm sure the girls are going to be all over you when you're older. A man who knows how to be useful around the house is hard to find." James scowled at her comment but Lily quelled him with a glare and the family went back to eating, chattering about everything and yet nothing at all over breakfast.
The first to finish eating, James disappeared into his study for a few minutes, emerging in the red cloak of an auror and disappearing through the floo to go to work. Tonks likewise disappeared to her room upstairs before returning with a similar garment, subtle differences marking it as the cloak of a trainee instead of a full-fledged auror, and stepping through the floo herself. The twins finished next, disappearing back upstairs to change and get ready for their day, leaving Harry alone at the table as his mother began to levitate the dirty dishes towards the sink. After flaring green again, the floo deposited a familiar brunette in the kitchen and Harry waved to Cassie. Standard weekday procedure for the family, he had quickly learned; evidently Anastasiya had a career and so Lily had become the de facto childcare provider for both families. The half-veela girl let out a squeak and blushed, ducking her head, and Harry sighed before sliding off his chair.
Shower versus annoyingly shy preteen admirer.
Shower won hands down.
After emerging from the shower, feeling a good deal more human than when he'd entered, Harry went into his room and retrieved the copy of Hogwarts, A History
he'd found in the library before curling up in a chair in the living room. Who would have thought the book was so interesting? Well, apart from Hermione? It also helped him see that, apart from who Voldemort had attacked, the only differences between the two realities were those in the last ten years or so. Slytherin wasn't suddenly a hero of the wizarding world, and it was still Helga rather than Herbert Hufflepuff or something bizarre like that. It was comforting to know that he could at least expect school to be familiar, even if the people around him weren't.
He was left largely alone for at least an hour, until someone perching on the arm of his chair interrupted his solitude. Looking up, he found himself staring into the blue-grey eyes of Cassie. His other self's journal had done him a world of good in understanding the brunette and how she fit into both the Potter family as a whole and his life in specific: she crushed on him, the twins didn't approve, and his original self had thought girls were gross and gone out of his way to mock and torment her.
He, on the other hand, saw the value in making friends with Cassie and reshaping her interest into something more platonic. After all, if she persisted in crushing on him, he could be in for a world of trouble when her aura manifested. He knew he could easily repress a quarter-veela's general aura, but he'd never tried a half-veela or a veela of any degree who was specifically interested in him. Not to mention a woman scorned with the ability to warp most men into willing servants was a very dangerous woman indeed. So being far nicer to Cassie was near the top of his to-do list and now was the perfect time to start, at least in his mind. "Hey, Cassie."
"Hiya." Blushing, Cassie fidgeted on the arm of his chair, causing Harry to instinctively wrap one arm around her waist to still her the way he did with Hermione when she was excited. That just made her blush darker and Harry quickly pulled his arm away from her. Her hand shot out, grabbing his wrist and halting his retreat as she examined him. "Wow. Have you been working out?"
Well that was convenient. He'd been looking for some way to tie his two newest 'not Harry' behaviors together and she had given him an opening to do it with just one lie. "Yeah. I heard that fit wizards are more powerful - I mean, look at our dads compared to some of the fat lumps we've seen when we go to Diagon Alley - so I've been running in the morning. It'll come in handy, especially if I'm a Gryffindor or Ravenclaw at Hogwarts. Their common rooms are both on the seventh floor of the school, and then there are stairs in their towers to get up to the dorms. Older you get, the higher you have to climb. Anyways, after I started running, I kept coming home hungry and breakfast was either half-ready or Mum was still in bed. So I started looking into how to cook my own food." Cassie nodded at that one; it did sound sensible enough. Gently prying his arm out of her grasp, Harry cast about for a question that would turn the conversation away from himself. "Can you cook? Both your parents are purebloods and most of them think housekeeping is 'woman's work'… not that Uncle Sirius or Dad would ever let my mum catch them saying that."
Cassie shook her head, a small frown on her face. "I try to cook, but I'm pants at it. I think even my dad is better than I am, and he managed to blow up that muggle toaster your mum bought him. It's okay, though. I have years to get the hang of it before I'm married and need to cook for my family."
As much as he wanted to, Harry resisted the urge to comment on that. After all, while neither the Blacks nor Weasleys were dark, both retained the somewhat male chauvinist ideas about the world that were popular in the wizarding world. It was just the way society operated. So instead of urging her to throw off the shackles of the patriarchy and tell men where to shove it when they asked her to cook dinner, Harry decided on another route, one that would also advance his friend agenda. "If you want, maybe your dad will let you floo over here a bit earlier in the mornings. I'm going to be helping Mum with breakfast and lunch sometimes and you could learn from us."
"Really? Oh, thanks Harry!" Cassie slid off the arm of the chair and into his lap, hugging him tight. Harry just patted her awkwardly on the back. Wait a second. On second thought, was this really going to help with the crush problem or just make it worse? After pondering the matter for a few seconds, Harry decided it likely would. Hopefully forcing her to spend time around him in such a mundane activity instead of admiring him from afar would show her that he was just Harry, rather than something worth getting worked up about.
Besides, they'd grown up together thanks to the closeness of their families. She was practically his sister. Cassie crushing on him was just… wrong.
When the day of his birthday arrived, Harry received another first: the first birthday party ever thrown for him by his family. While the party itself wasn't too different from the ones he'd spent with the Weasleys - apart from the people present, obviously - the fact that it was his family that he had celebrated it with made it all the more special for him. For once, his father had actually remembered that he was a part of the family, and the non-Dora Blacks had attended as well. Remus had poked his head in briefly to hand off a gift before retreating, citing post-transformation tiredness, but that hadn't been nearly as interesting as the two surprising guests: Narcissa Malfoy and a polite but aloof girl who looked to be roughly his age, both of whom sported black hair shot with streaks of a familiar shade of blonde. Neither Lucius nor Draco had come with the pair, meaning the Potters and Malfoys weren't somehow the best of friends in this world for no apparent reason… which only raised more questions about how the two had ended up there.
Still, Narcissa had spoken to him politely and handed him a gift before heading over to sit with Lily and Anastasiya while her daughter - Altaira when scolded, but otherwise simply Tara - seemed to get along well enough with Cassiopeia, so he wasn't inclined to paint this Narcissa with the same brush as her husband, at least for now. And he couldn't do such a thing with Tara until he figured out exactly who the heck the girl was and whether or not he should be wary of her.
His presents were nothing special and yet incredibly special at the same time: clothes, books, trinkets from Zonko's… nothing of earth-shattering significance, but full of sentimental value in that they were the first presents he'd received from his parents. Well, that he could remember at any rate; he assumed they'd bought him presents for his first birthday in the old world but damned if he could remember what they'd gotten him. He'd half-expected socks or something from Narcissa, but his school nemesis's mother had instead purchased him a forearm holster for the wand he'd soon be getting. Curiouser and curiouser.
Later that day, after the party was over and only the Potters - and Dora - remained at the house, Harry received an owl from Hogwarts inviting him to attend and faked jumping for joy and all the other antics he figured were probably appropriate for a kid his physical age. Like there'd been any doubt he'd be attending his parents' alma mater. His mother's smile seemed a bit strained, and it took him a moment to realize why: her first child was leaving the nest, even if it was only for ten months at a time. It had to be hard for her.
Unsurprisingly, Harry received a visitor that evening while reading in bed: his mother. He ignored her opening the door to check on him, used to her making the rounds each night, but when she entered his room and sat on the end of his bed, he put a bookmark in to save his place and dropped his book onto the nightstand. "Harry?"
Lily leaned over, wrapping her arms around him. "Harry honey, I'm going to miss you when you go off to Hogwarts."
Oh bugger, she was sniffling. Harry hated crying women. Patting her on the back, he tried to make a joke. "No, you're just going to miss the chocolate chip muffins I bake for breakfast once a week." Lily let out a watery chuckle. "And bacon that's not burnt on one end."
"How do you do that, anyway?" Lily let go of him, using her wand to conjure up a handkerchief and wipe her eyes.
Harry shrugged, a small grin on his lips. "That one burner's not working quite right. The heat's not even so unless you move the bacon around while it's cooking, there's one part that gets cooked more than the rest. You might wanna get that looked at."
That made her stop and blink for a moment. Likely she wasn't even aware magical stoves could be imperfect. Unlike muggle technology, the fact that wizarding appliances ran on magic generally meant that it either worked… or it didn't. Stoves were one of the few things Harry could think of that could keep working, albeit not working right, as time went on. "Oh. I'll tell your father to have someone come and check it out. Thanks, Harry." She sighed, ruffling his hair. "You're turning into such a little genius. Just like me. Thank God; I was worried you'd turn out like your father."
That caught Harry's attention; it was the first time he'd ever heard one parent speak ill of the other to any degree. "Oh?"
"I don't want to speak badly of your father… but he wasn't the best person when he was back in school. He liked to prank people, make fun of them… he was a bully, Harry." Lily sighed, leaning back and staring up at the ceiling. "He grew out of it, of course, and I fell in love with him and we married, but the way you were acting, it was like him all over again. I'm so glad you've started growing up already, instead of taking until sixth year like he did."
Harry just shrugged; he honestly couldn't see himself as a bully after growing up under Dudley's fist and so she was essentially thanking him for being himself instead of the son she'd given birth to. "I'll do my best. I mean, Dad may have a big important job and all, but you're the one who does the real hard work. I can't imagine having a better role model for who I'd want to be when I grow up than you, Mum."
A moment later, Harry regretted that as his mother teared up again and pulled him into a hug, crying on his shoulder.