Three days had passed before Harry was able to study the photographs he had smuggled from Violet's trunk. The first was spent cleaning the attic again, as Uncle Vernon claimed he hadn't done it properly the first time. The following two days were spent trying to avoid his relatives, who hovered and stared suspiciously if he so much as turned on the tap to wash his hands. Several times, he overheard Uncle Vernon muttering about 'that boy' being far too quiet and docile. Finally, on the fourth day, the Dursleys piled into the car to go and buy Dudley a new computer, as he no longer liked the one he had.
Harry peered out the window as the car disappeared down the street and around a corner. He stood in place a moment or two more, making certain they didn't turn around and come back for something forgotten. A nervous excitement possessed him as he returned to his bedroom, closed the door, and pulled his school trunk to the center of the floor. The letters and pictures were in a large envelope, tucked between a well-worn 'Quidditch Through the Ages' and an unopened copy of 'Hogwarts: A History' (from Hermione, of course).
Harry tried to pretend his hands weren't shaking as he sat on his bed and opened the envelope, carefully sliding the contents out. As he reached for the first of the photographs, the teen could not deny the feeling that he was about to do something very important. The photos he had already looked through were on top, of course, and he flipped quickly past the one of the unfamiliar Aunt Petunia with a right lovely smile and the chubby baby smiles captured forever on film. Most of them he had seen but near the bottom of the stack there were a few he had barely glanced at in the attic.
A much more slender Uncle Vernon held a pudgy baby hand and offered a stiff smile at some sort of garden party. Little Violet grinned as she held a bouquet of flowers in front of her lacy white dress. Little Violet with . . . no! It wasn't possible. But there it was before him. Harry took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes before replacing them and staring at the photograph once more. It wasn't his imagination or some trick of the light. The final photograph from the envelope was of his mother, radiant in her wedding dress, holding Violet and smiling. The picture fell from numb fingers as Harry's mind reeled from the shock.
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had been at his parents' wedding. With Violet. Little Violet, who by the look of things had been some sort of flower attendant at the ceremony.
"But they never . . . they had nothing to do with my parents." Hedwig stirred in her cage, large golden eyes on Harry as she hooted softly in disapproval at having her nap interrupted. Looking once more at the picture of his mother and little Violet, Harry began digging frantically through his belongings. His hands trembled as he lifted the album of wizarding photographs of his parents, mostly from Hagrid though he had gotten a few more from Mrs. Weasley. He flipped through, ignoring the ones he had studied most often and searching through the back pages until he finally found what he was looking for. Carefully Harry placed the still snapshot of Violet and his mother next to one of the group shots from their wedding. He tapped the group shot with a fingertip. "Move about, there, I'm looking for someone," he muttered. The tiny James Potter waved and the new Mrs. Potter blew kisses. A healthy, happy Sirius Black lifted a cup of something that most likely was not pumpkin juice and winked. A much younger and less care-worn Remus Lupin smiled from the end of the nearest table . . . and there peeking out from under the long white tablecloth was little Violet Dursley, grinning impishly and playing peek-a-boo with an edge of the lacy fabric.
Harry sat up and rubbed his face, too numb yet for anger. Another look at the picture and he noticed that there were two figures in the corner, trying to slink out of the frame. The slightly less plump Uncle Vernon was scowling and tugging at Aunt Petunia, who in turn was looking frantically about for something or, more likely, someone. "How could I not have noticed?" The pictures didn't answer, and Hedwig simply ruffled her feathers and offered her back to him. Deciding that nothing else could be any more shocking than what he had already learned Harry reached for the letters, practically tearing off the red ribbon holding the stack together.
The muggle envelopes were all addressed to Mrs. Petunia Dursley and contained letters written on rather heavy, yellowing parchment. The person who had sent them had used a feather quill. Harry swallowed hard and opened the first letter, dropping the parchment at the salutation--Dearest Sister--and he found himself staring at the letter as if it might be some strange beast ready to attack him. After a few moments of staring, Harry seized the letters from the bed, where they had scattered when his numb fingers lost hold. He read them all, much more quickly than anything in his life, and yet every word seemed seared into his brain.
After reading every letter for the third time, Harry lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling as words and phrases from the letters--his mother's letters to Aunt Petunia--seemed to fill the silence:
" . . . and I believe Dudley Harold is a wonderful name. Dad would have been very proud . . ."
"Violet learned to tie her shoes today . . ."
" . . . and we've decided to name him Harry James, after his father and grandfather."
"She still misses you terribly and asks after you each day . . ."
"Of course James doesn't know I've been writing to you, just as I suspect you've not told Vernon . . ."
" . . . and you should know that Violet is an excellent big sister."
The words mocked him, taunting him with the knowledge that had been so close, his entire life. His mother's words brought up an ache in him, opening a well of grief. Perhaps most haunting of all was the final letter, dated only weeks before his parents had been murdered.
"This may well be my final letter until all of this is over. We're to go into hiding tomorrow. I shouldn't even be telling you this, but I simply had to. Just, please, burn my letters, all of them Petunia. It's for your own safety. Our enemies are not above harming you and yours to find us. Just know, my dear sister, that I have always loved you in spite of our disagreements, and I swear to you that I will protect Violet with my life, just as I would my Harry. They and James are the only bright spots in my life these days. As always, with love, Lily."
Clutching that final letter crumpled tightly in one fist, Harry cried himself to sleep, haunted by nightmares of that fateful Halloween, and the mysterious fate of the cousin he had never really had the chance to know.