Chapter 2: Dinner
AN: As a few people mentioned, the premise of Death Eater's using muggle attacks is a bit shaky. All I ask is that you go with me here. I needed something semi-plausible and it's what I came up with.
His first impression of Mr. Giles’s place was one of warm clutter. A large bookcase dominated the wall to his left behind an old brown, comfortably plump couch. The coffee and end tables were covered in magazines, papers, more books, and little decorative pieces valiantly poking their heads up through the rest. Behind the armchair that was opposite the couch was a small wooden chest, also covered in books. Hermione would have had a field day in here.
Paintings and other pieces of artwork covered the walls tastefully. They were quiet pictures of landscapes and abstracts but none were overpowering. Taking it in, Harry saw a home and a well lived in one at that, which made his heart ache a bit because it was something he didn’t have. He’d been locked out of the one he was entitled to, and Dumbledore had denied him the one he wanted. In fact, the Headmaster would hate it that he was in a stranger’s flat, potentially putting himself in harm’s way. The thought made Harry smile. And then frown. And then not wanting to think about Dumbledore at all, he went to take a look at the books on the chest.
“I was planning on a stir fry. I’ve some leftover chicken to use up,” Mr. Giles said as he followed Harry in. Harry, not seeing the thrill in The Key to Successful Management
or The Power of We: Succeeding through Partnerships
, followed him into the kitchen. Like the living room, the kitchen was another host to paper clutter alongside the spice rack, bowl of fruit, and various other normal kitchen necessities including a string of garlic hanging from a hook over the window above the sink. But it was the refrigerator door that drew Harry’s attention as Mr. Giles bustled about gathering things for dinner.
It was covered in postcards from all over the world. The Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Vatican in Rome, the Cleveland Indians baseball team, Lake Michigan, Moscow, the Amazon River, the Eiffel Tower, the African savanna, The Great Barrier Reef . . . there were almost too many to look at. Some of them were photographs of people several years older than him. One was a blond guy in front of a church in Lego Land, another of two girls, one blond and one brunette sitting on a statue of a horse. There was one of a redhead and another brunette in big round straw hats, laughing, and one of a white one-eyed man standing in front of a newly built house with a whole bunch of black people, grinning proudly.
“Would you rather have rice or pasta to round it out?” Mr. Giles startled Harry out of his exploration. He turned to where his neighbor was chopping garlic and onions by the stove.
“Oh . . . uh . . . pasta,” said Harry awkwardly, out of the habit of giving his opinion again. He wanted to ask about the pictures and postcards, but brought back to reality, didn’t feel comfortable doing so. These people were obviously important to Mr. Giles, and he to them by the look of it. It reminded him of how Aunt Petunia had pictures of Dudley all over the house in Little Whinging – and how there had never been any of him, anywhere.
“Do you like pesto?” Mr. Giles asked to which Harry nodded. He moved out of the way so Mr. Giles could get into the fridge where he pulled out vegetables, a tin of pesto, and the leftover chicken.
Feeling awkward and useless, Harry said, “Would you like help?”
Mr. Giles turned to him a little surprised and smiled faintly. “No, I think I’ve got everything under control. Thank you.”
“I can cook,” said Harry defensively.
“You help your aunt?”
“Sometimes.” She usually had him chop and dice, not trusting him near the stove.
“Well, if you would like to help, you can finish chopping the squash and chicken,” said Mr. Giles indicating the cutting board he was working on. Harry gratefully took over the task while Mr. Giles turned to the pasta. They worked in silence till both were done then Mr. Giles took charge again with the stir fry which seemed to simply be mixing everything together in the hot frying pan with a little oil. It smelled very good.
“So your family went out to dinner without you?”
The question made Harry stand up straight from where he’d been leaning against the counter. He shrugged carefully. “They said in their note that they couldn’t find me in time. It was a last minute invitation.”
“Where were you?”
“In the back garden.”
“Do you usually go out in town?”
Mr. Giles looked at him at that, and feeling embarrassed again, Harry wished he hadn’t said so much. It was painfully obvious that if his relatives had wanted to find him, they would have.
“I see,” was all Mr. Giles said however, and Harry wondered how much he did see since he’d ignored Harry’s existence until today. He didn’t know anything, Harry thought with a resurgence of his earlier anger. And yet he’d offered dinner. How was Harry supposed to feel about that?
He looked at the floor with not quite a scowl on his face, and Mr. Giles went back to the stir fry. The silence between them this time was heavy. After a few more minutes, Mr. Giles turned off the heat and grabbed plates from another cupboard.
“What would you like to drink?” he asked. “I’m afraid I don’t have much variety.” He opened the fridge and sighed. “I’ve water and orange juice.”
“Orange juice, please,” said Harry quietly. Mr. Giles poured him a glass, getting water for himself, before serving the pasta and stir fry onto two plates. Harry accepted his with another thank you as they sat down at the table by the far wall. The stir fry was every bit as good as it had smelled, much better than the steamed vegetables that Aunt Petunia always fixed.
They ate in a silence Harry was grateful for, but after a while it began to be too much. Oddly Harry found himself wanting to talk after weeks of being ignored. The only problem was he didn’t know what to say. How did one go about making small talk with a complete stranger who knew nothing about him? How did he talk about muggle things when he had no idea what was going on in the muggle world? The pictures on the fridge were interesting, but Harry didn’t feel like talking about people he didn’t know. Or be reminded that no one had pictures of him up anywhere, so he didn’t say anything.
After another minute though, Mr. Giles did. “So Harry, are you staying with your aunt and uncle long?”
“I live with them.” His abrupt answer made Mr. Giles look up. Harry could see understanding pass across his face, that horrible look of sympathy that Harry neither wanted nor needed.
“Your parents. . .”
“Died when I was a baby.” It was odd explaining something everyone knew in the Wizarding World.
Harry shrugged and poked at his plate. Everyone said they were sorry, but no one really was. “I didn’t know them,” he said. Not like Sirius. Sirius who loved him, wanted him to live with him . . . died because of him. A tight welling seized Harry’s throat and he took a sip of orange juice to make it go away. Embarrassed by his weak showing of emotion, Harry blushed on top of it, but if Mr. Giles noticed he gave no indication.
“How has your holiday been?” he asked instead.
Bloody brilliant so far, thought Harry. “Fine.”
“Done anything interesting?”
“Not really,” said Harry.
“Any plans for later on?” Mr. Giles tried again.
Harry shrugged this time. He would end up at Grimmauld Place undoubtedly, and he really didn’t want to think about that now.
“You know, it’d be easier to have a conversation if you actually spoke,” said Mr. Giles with a hint of exasperation. Harry looked up quickly, but found that his neighbor appeared challenging rather than angry.
Harry resisted squirming and tried to stare back defiantly but found that it didn’t really work when Mr. Giles just went back to his dinner while he waited. “It’s been a boring summer,” he finally said with another shrug. “My relatives ignore me and besides the day we moved here, I haven’t had anything to do. I even started my schoolwork, though I can’t stand the thought of that anymore.”
“Where do you go to school?” asked Mr. Giles.
“A small place up in Scotland. You probably haven’t heard about it.”
Mr. Giles smiled, “Probably not,” he agreed. “You board there?” Harry nodded and took another bite of the stir fry. “Do you like it?”
Harry paused in his chewing and looked away, thinking of his last conversation with Dumbledore. Would the wards care if he said it was home? Not wanting to tempt the Fate that had already screwed him over he said instead, “I love it there. There’s my friends and . . . sports,” he quickly caught himself, “and other stuff.”
“You’ll be in your fifth year?” asked Mr. Giles.
“Sixth,” said Harry.
“I take it you have no clue what you want to do after finishing?” said Mr. Giles, accepting the correction easily.
Harry took the easy out and shook his head. He was not about to explain the Auror’s Program. “What do you do?” he asked before the questions became harder to dodge.
“Oh, I manage a historical society.”
“That sounds nice,” said Harry wondering just what a historical society did. Sounded pretty boring.
Mr. Giles smiled at his tone. “Yes, and I’m sure you’d be utterly fascinated by the antics of the English court.”
Harry did smile at that. He didn’t know much about muggle history, but if it was anything like that in the magical world, he knew he wouldn’t care that much. “I’m not much for history,” he said, his eyes wandering to the bookshelves in the other room. “Though at this point, I’m so bored I’d read just about anything that didn’t have to do with school.”
“Well then, I might be able to help you out there. What do you like?”
“Sports?” Harry suggested but he could tell from Mr. Giles’s expression that that wouldn’t pan out.
“If you like non-fiction, how about music? They’d be a little dated, but I do have a few excellent books on the Beatles.”
Only vaguely knowing who the Beatles were, Harry nodded. “What else have you got?”
What followed was Harry’s first true introduction into the world of literature. And for the first time, Harry had to concede that there was someone who knew more about books than Hermione. Mr. Giles told him about so many authors that Harry couldn’t remember them all. He described plots of the ones that sounded more interesting and after dinner dragged Harry to his collection of Shakespeare when he learned that Harry had barely even heard of him. “Buffy liked the movie of this one,” he commented as he pulled off A Midsummer Night’s Dream
. “It will take a little getting used to the language, but it is well worth it. Now . . .” Mr. Giles turned back to the shelf, pulling a few more books here and there, putting some back. He added one of his books on the Beatles and a mystery involving a chess set that looked pretty cool.
“That should do for a start,” said Mr. Giles as his eyes continued to roam his shelves. “You’re of course welcome to pick anything else out.”
“Thanks,” said Harry even though he knew he would never be able to find anything on his own. Who knew that muggles had written so much? He sat on the couch to give the books a look over. The Shakespeare was intimidating and barely comprehensible, but the other two looked promising. When Mr. Giles returned to the kitchen to clean up, he shooed Harry back to the couch.
“It’s quite all right,” he said. “Go have a look and tell me what you think.”
Harry sat back down, and after another hesitation at not helping in the kitchen, he opened the Beatles book and flipped through the pictures before setting it aside for the mystery called The Eight
. He started the first chapter but kept getting distracted by Mr. Giles in the kitchen. He wondered why he was being so nice to him when he didn’t know Harry at all and hadn’t taken any interest in him before. He’d barely known he’d existed. And then he’d cooked him dinner, and now the books. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. Did he want something? If it weren’t for his very mugglishness, Harry would have suspected it was another ploy by the Death Eaters to win his trust.
“Harry? Something wrong?” Mr. Giles caught him staring. Quickly Harry shook his head and returned to the book. He could feel is neighbor’s eyes still on him but he didn’t dare look up.
A few minutes later, Mr. Giles finished and came and joined him in the living room with a book of his own and a notepad. It had a leather cover with no title that Harry could read. It looked more like a book from Hogwarts’s library, but then Mr. Giles had said he was a historian. It actually made Harry feel a little better and he was able to settle down and read past the first few pages. A little while after that, Harry lost track of time.