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For Your Own Good
A Wish Your Heart Makes
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Harry sat at the kitchen table, trying to concentrate on his maths homework and get as many answers down as possible before Dudley, climbing ponderously onto a kitchen chair behind him, came to the inevitable ending of his expedition after the chocolate biscuits Aunt Petunia had stashed atop the refrigerator. Three-quarters divided by five-eighths is three-quarters times eight-fifths, is twenty-four over twenty, is six-fifths, is one and one-fifth…
His pencil had barely finished tracing the final 5 when Dudley's foot slipped.
The resulting crash shook the entire house.
Swiftly Harry scooped up his books and was inside his cupboard with the door shut before Dudley had enough breath back to start yelling. Switching on the torch he'd liberated from Dudley's second bedroom some years ago, he moved to the next problem on the page. Three-tenths divided by seven-twelfths is three-tenths times twelve-sevenths…
Three problems later, he stopped and looked up at the torch where it stood, balanced on its end, on top of the box where he kept his clothes. He'd been about six years old when he'd removed it from the back of one of the overcrowded shelves in the smallest bedroom upstairs, and now he was less than four months from being eleven. Dudley's vast array of beeping, whirring, flashing toys and gadgets seemed to need a change of batteries almost every other day, yet the little torch had never failed to come to life at Harry's hand on the switch.
"You shouldn't still work," he murmured under his breath. "Why do you?"
"Simple," said Ryan Blake, author of the popular Townhouse series of fantasy-set mystery novels, leaning his chair back on two legs. "Magic."
"Stop that." Dr. Thea Blake slapped her husband on the top of the head as she passed by his place at the kitchen table. "I won't be stitching you up if you fall over."
"She's so strict," Henry's dad complained, rolling his gray eyes, but lowered his chair legs to the polished wood floor nonetheless. "As I was saying, kid, your magic's coming in. You've probably been powering that little flashlight all by yourself for the last couple years."
"Cool." Henry frowned at a funny-looking answer to one of his worksheet problems, then let out a small "ha" of understanding, erased the denominator he'd written down wrong, and blew away the eraser bits before attacking the problem again from that point. "How'm I going to find out magic's real, though?" he asked when he had a more suitable answer. "In the dreams, I mean. The Dursleys aren't exactly going to tell me!"
"You'd think they would have." Henry's mom leaned against one of the kitchen counters, surveying her menfolk with thoughtful deep brown eyes. Her hair, as black as either of theirs, grew in thick twists rather than the messy mops father and son sported, and she wore it clipped close to her head, giving her the look of a warrior helmed for battle (not an inaccurate description, Henry thought, although the enemies against which she most usually fought were diseases Muggle and magical rather than human beings). "You'd think Petunia would have, at any rate. She certainly knows enough about it. But I suppose when she finally accepted she was never going to have magic of her own, she decided it wasn't worth having in the first place."
"Sour grapes." Ryan drew his wand, its polished mahogany only a shade or two darker than his skin, and sketched a trellised grapevine in midair, with a fox underneath it, leaping at the tempting bunches but coming up short every time. "If she can't have it, nobody should. Come to think of it, that's probably why they're so rough on you, kid. They're hoping to stamp the magic out of you."
"But they can't be too terrible, because they've seen what you can do if you feel truly threatened." Thea chuckled. "I remember that story about you suddenly finding yourself on the roof!"
Henry mimed a tremendous leap with one hand, landing it on top of the other, which he'd tented to look like a ridgepole. "I wonder if I could still do that when I get to school?" he said thoughtfully.
"No," said both parents in chorus, before Ryan gave his short, barking laugh and waved a hand for Thea to proceed.
"No for three reasons." Thea ticked them off on her fingers, a similar shade of brown to her own rosewood wand. "First, we are trying to fly under the radar here, young man, not light it up like the Fourth of July. You and your cousins will get quite enough attention for being raised American. We don't need to give anyone a reason to look harder at us. And second, which applies to both you and your dream-self, so don't start," she cut Henry off before he could get his mouth open. "Once you have your wand, your magic will channel through it, which means you'll be far less able to pull off anything like that. You'll also be morelikely to hurt yourself if you try it anyway, and I do not intend to fly several thousand miles to visit you in the infirmary."
"Yes, Mom." Henry stabbed his pencil moodily into his worksheet, then stopped. "Wait. You said three reasons. What's the third one?"
"It's sitting right there." Thea pointed at her husband, who was leaning back in his chair again. "Joint holder with his best friend, who also happens to be your birth father, of the records for most points ever lost by, and most detentions ever given to, any pair of students over the last thousand years. Which is one record no child of mine will be trying to break, thank you."
"Rub it in, why don't you," muttered Ryan with a sidelong glare. "I know what you and this one's mum used to get up to."
"The difference being that we never got caught at it." Thea dusted her hands off smugly. "In any case, Henry love, your dream-self is probably in for a bit of a shock come late July. There's no question you count as magically born, with your birth father a wizard and your birth mum a witch, and while it's true you were raised by Muggles, they were Muggles who're legal to know about magic under the Statute of Secrecy, which means you'll most likely be down in the archives as already knowing the basics yourself. And that would mean you'd get just the standard letter by owl post. No preparatory visit, no extra explanation, nothing."
"Oh, boy." Henry scribbled his name at the top of his worksheet and folded it inside his math book, snapping it shut. "Can't wait to hear what Aunt Petunia will have to say about that."
"Why's she have to know?" Ryan caught himself on the corner of a shelf filled with cookbooks as he started to overbalance. "Why should any of them? Given their past record with letting you keep hold of nice things, I'd hope you're smart enough not to flaunt your letter in front of them!"
"Well, they're going to have to be involved somewhere along the way." Thea bent down to stroke River, who was nudging at her knee for attention. "You can't exactly go out one day and buy a train ticket to London, and come back with a trunk full of spellbooks and robes and a cauldron, without them realizing something's up. Come to think of it, you could hardly do that in any case, could you? I doubt they've ever considered giving you pocket money."
"There's ways around that." Henry waggled his fingers. "Dudley gets pocket money, and he doesn't always count it as carefully as he should. But I don't much want to go to London all on my own, even if it is just in my dreams. Bad things happen in dreams too. And besides." He grimaced. "I'll have to deal with being a celebrity when I walk into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time, won't I? Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, and all of that garbage." He angled until he could see his reflection in the mirror hanging on the side wall. "I wish there were some way I could go looking like this. Nobody knows anything about Henry Blake. He's just another kid getting ready for Hogwarts…"
He roused, momentarily confused as to where and who he was, until his hand knocked against a box and he recognized the cupboard under the stairs at number four, Privet Drive. His head was swimming with words that made no sense, words like "Hogwarts", "Leaky Cauldron", "spellbooks", "Muggles"…
Magic. Harry laughed under his breath, sitting up carefully and switching on his torch. My dream family has magic. Just in case I had any doubts that it really is a dream!
Then he looked again at the torch, dutifully shedding its improbable light.
Don't get too excited, warned his practical side (which sounded, to his amusement, rather like Henry's cousin Jeanie). You only use the torch when you know you won't get caught with it, and that isn't so very often, so it's possible one set of batteries could have lasted all this time. And besides, even if magic were real, how would you know so much about it in a dream when you don't know anything while you're awake?
"It's a good question," Harry murmured aloud, clicking the torch off and lying down again. "I don't know, but I know who I could ask…"
"Dreams, you say?" Henry's Aunt Gigi scrubbed at another bowl with the yellow soap-filled pad in her hand. "I have done a bit of research on dreams in my time." She tapped a finger against the dish drainer, which was half-full of clean, dripping items. "Those who work may also ask questions."
Henry plucked the dishtowel from its place on the handle of the cabinet set into the wall behind the sink and helped himself to a handful of forks. "Could I know something in a dream that I don't know when I'm awake?" he asked, wiping the forks dry and depositing them in the silverware drawer in front of him before going back for more. "Like if I learned a secret while I was asleep and being Harry, is it possible that secret would be true when I woke up back here?"
"Well, yes and no." Aunt Gigi blew a strand of her mid-brown hair off her slightly crooked nose (legacy of a roller-skating accident at age eight) and pursed her lips as she considered the question. "I doubt you could truly learn anything in a dream that you had absolutely no way of finding out in your real life. If you told me, let's say, that you'd dreamed the secret of an ancient Egyptian puzzle hidden away somewhere in Japan, I'd tend to think that's just your mind amusing itself. But if it's something that you might conceivably have come into contact with, then there's a chance the answer's yes."
"Why?" Henry sorted the last handful of towel-dried silverware into its proper slots in the drawer, then went to work on glasses and mugs. "And how would that work, anyway?"
"It's all to do with what dreams are, and how they're related to reality." His aunt paused, a faint blush suffusing her pale cheeks. "Not that I have any right to talk about that," she muttered, then shook her head, dismissing her momentary mood. "Pardon me. Dreams, as I understand them, fall into one of two categories. Some of them, as I mentioned before, are nothing more than your mind amusing itself. But others are one part of your mind trying to talk to another part. And those are the ones where it's possible you could find something out that you didn't know you knew."
"How can one part of me know something when another part doesn't?" Henry slid glasses into their place on the shelf in an upper cabinet. "That doesn't make any sense."
"Bear with me here, Henry." Aunt Gigi narrowed her brown eyes in thought for a moment, then nodded. "All right, imagine that everything you see and hear during the day is like a box full of pieces for a jigsaw puzzle." She angled her head towards the main room, where one of these items was currently set out in a partial state of completion. "Only the pieces aren't from only one puzzle, but a dozen of them, all different, and maybe a handful of random ones that don't belong anywhere, just to make it harder. And while you're awake and living your life, while you're thinking about the thousand things you have to do just to get through an ordinary day, you don't have time to do anything with those puzzle pieces. But when you're asleep…"
"When I'm asleep, my mind might have time to sort through some of them, and maybe start putting them together." Henry nodded, picking up a blue plastic mixing bowl and starting to dry it. "So if my aunt and uncle, my dream aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, if they were keeping a secret from me, from Harry. A secret like my being a wizard. If I'd heard them talking about bits and pieces of that secret without realizing it, or seen or done things that might be part of it, then it might all come together in my dreams?"
"It might." His aunt chuckled. "But then, to Harry, this life is the dream, isn't it?"
"In more ways than one." Henry gazed out the window at the backyard of 2319 Tudor Lane, green with the advancing springtime, his little sister busily weeding her way around the edge of their mother's newly planted vegetable garden. "He wants what I have, so much, and there isn't any way for him to get it. He'll be lucky if he even makes any real friends at Hogwarts, instead of people who're just interested in being able to say they know The Boy Who Lived."
"Oh, I don't think it'll be that bad." Aunt Gigi shook her head. "All Harry will have to do is be himself, and people will soon realize he's not interested in inflating his ego or bragging about his magical prowess or trying to be the center of attention all the time. Because he's you, dear heart, and you don't do that." She leaned over to kiss the top of his head. "We wouldn't let you. Besides, think of the friends you've already made, when we've taken our trips over there every so often. I'm sure Harry will have just as easy a time making friends when he goes away to Hogwarts."
"I hope so." Henry finished drying his mixing bowl and set it down on the counter. "But he has to get there first. And figuring out some way to do that without getting the Dursleys involved, when he doesn't have an owl of his own to reply to the letter…" He snorted. "An owl of his own, what am I talking about? He doesn't even know owl post is for real! And I don't think he'll be too convinced by remembering he dreamed about it," he added at his aunt's raised eyebrow. "Like you said yourself, you can dream up all sorts of weird things, but that doesn't make them true. It could just be his mind keeping itself busy through the night."
"No, but if he remembers dreaming about a letter written in emerald green on parchment, a letter that doesn't have a stamp and is addressed very particularly to him, and then that exact same letter arrives at number four, Privet Drive, one morning, that might just get his attention, don't you think?" Aunt Gigi held Henry's gaze, and waited until he nodded. "And it might just get him to remember what to do with that letter. Which is very simple. Hide it, keep it safe, and don't open it."
"What?" Henry blurted. "But if he doesn't open it—"
"If he doesn't open it, the enchantment back in a certain office at Hogwarts will report that his letter hasn't been read by the person it's addressed to," his aunt cut him off smoothly. "Accurately so, of course, since it's difficult to read a letter you haven't opened. Another letter will therefore be sent to him immediately, to arrive around the same time as the Muggle post the next day. Which means that early the next morning, there will undoubtedly be a post owl flying down Privet Drive. And when was the last time you met a post owl that wouldn't wait a moment to take another letter if you asked it politely?"
Henry shrugged, trying to hide his rising excitement. "I haven't met very many post owls at all. Mostly we use crows or pigeons around here. Blends in better."
"Literalist." Aunt Gigi pinched the top of his ear with two soapy fingers. "But you see where I'm going with this, don't you?"
"I see it." Henry stopped bothering to restrain his grin. "And as Pearl would say, it's shiny. Which means, if it were a thing instead of an idea, we'd have to hide it when it gets to be mail time around here," he added. "Crows think every shiny thing in the world should belong to them."
"Crows think everything in the world in general should belong to them," his aunt corrected. "Which is why so many people prefer pigeons. They take longer and they can't carry much, but they're reliable. Crows are always looking out for number one first and foremost, and unless you understand that about them, you'll get nowhere fast." She winked at Henry. "Why do you think we've been letting Mal handle all the outgoing mail around here for years?"
Henry laughed aloud, scooping up a smaller green mixing bowl from the dish drainer to dry it, then stacking it inside the blue one on the countertop. For this moment, his two worlds were in harmony, and life was very good.
…and life was very good, Harry finished in his best handwriting, ignoring the yells from Dudley's gang in the living room as they battled to their video game characters' deaths in multiplayer Mega-Mutilation Part 2. Stacking together the sheets of paper on which he'd written his final story assignment for the year, he started reading it over from the beginning, swallowing against the feeling of a small nest of snakes squirming around in his stomach. He'd never told anyone about his dreams in his life, and now he was giving his teacher information he'd barely known himself until a month or two before.
But she liked my first story about them, and my second one. Even my third one, where I hinted a little bit about the magic. And she made me the hat I wrote about Aunt Gigi making for Henry in the story. Harry glanced towards the living room and allowed himself a small, smug smile. The one new thing anyone's ever given me that Dudley hasn't bothered to steal or ruin, because it really does look like I got it out of the lost-and-found box at school!
Still, winning his teacher's sympathies were one thing. Asking her advice, especially about something he'd heard in a dream, was entirely different. Harry had been debating the subject back and forth with himself for two months, and the answer on which he'd finally settled was the reason for the serpentine love-fest behind his ribs.
Swallowing again, he picked up his pen and moved several lines down on the paper from where the story had ended, taking a deep breath to calm himself before he began.
I'm not sure what to think about this, he wrote. I know magic isn't real, but the bit about dreams sounds like it could be true. Maybe there really is a secret one part of my mind knows and another part doesn't. Do you think there could be anything in what Henry's aunt said to him, about puzzle pieces getting put together? Or is it all just the other thing she said, my mind keeping itself amused while I'm asleep?
Quickly, before he could change his mind, Harry stacked the papers together once more, signed his name at the top of the first one, and slid them into his schoolbag. He'd hand the story in tomorrow during class, and the teacher had said to expect the marked copies back on Friday. That also happened to be the day before Dudley's birthday, meaning his cousin was likely to be distracted enough by the thoughts of upcoming presents that he probably wouldn't bother with snatching the papers out of Harry's hands and flinging them to the four winds or flushing them down the toilet.
And I'll have all day at Mrs. Figg's to look over everything I wrote and see if I could make it better. Harry grinned to himself. Who'd have ever thought I'd be happy to go to her house? But she won't make me look at her albums full of cats if she thinks I'm doing schoolwork, and I could probably spend a few decent hours doing things like drawing maps of the house on Tudor Lane and showing where all the furniture sits, or writing down the exact rules for crosseball, or describing every step of helping Aunt Gigi cook dinner…
Dudley went thundering upstairs as soon as he and Harry arrived home from school on Friday. The crashing noises from overhead suggested wholesale demolition being done, but Harry had heard Dudley in the throes of what passed for a cleaning binge before. His cousin was hauling all of what he considered "this old rubbish" into his second bedroom to make way for the shiny new presents which would surely be thronging the kitchen table in the morning. That suited Harry perfectly, as it meant he would have the living room to himself long enough to pull out the marked copy of his story and look it over.
The red ink dotted in among the lines was sparing, a minor spelling error marked here, a query on the proper use of a word there. Finally Harry turned over the second-to-last sheet, and his breath caught in his throat as he saw the half-tidy paragraphs written in red beneath his own carefully scripted note.
He pressed his palms against his legs once to slow his racing heart, then began to read.
I'm sure your aunt and uncle would want me to throw cold water on you, Harry. Only for your own good, of course. They'd want me to tell you that believing in such silly things as dreams is just as foolish as thinking magic could be real. But I'm not going to tell you that, because I don't happen to think it's true.
The dreams you have while you sleep are an expression of the dream you hold in your heart, to find the place and the people who make you happy, who make you feel like you belong. That powerful of a dream is the truest magic in the world, and the only thing really worth living for. Never give it up, no matter what.
As for the rest of your question, Henry's aunt said that if a letter should come for you that looked a certain way, that you should hide it from your relatives, keep it unopened for the length of that day, and then go outside early the next morning to have a look around. I don't see how that could cause you any harm, so why not give it a try?
After all, maybe that post owl really will come flying down Privet Drive.
Wishing you all the best,
The teacher's signature was smeared to the point of unreadability, but Harry didn't care. He had his answer.
I can't control whether or not I really am a wizard. Carefully, he set his story aside on the table, so as not to crush it in his hands. While I'm still a kid, I can't even control where I live or who I see. But I can control what I dream about, and what I want to do about those dreams. And what I want to do is write them down so I don't forget them, and make as many parts of them as possible come true as soon as ever I can. And then—
Harry caught his breath, thinking of a chair neatly balanced on two legs, a mischievous pair of gray eyes, a careless bark of a laugh.
My dad, in the dreams, he's an author.
Maybe I could be one too.
Magic might or might not be real, but Harry didn't think he'd have much trouble writing about it either way.
But right now, what I have to do is wait. Recovering his story hastily as Dudley's voice sounded from overhead, Harry hurried to his cupboard to put his schoolbag safely away before heading into the kitchen to see what Aunt Petunia wanted him to do in the way of chores this afternoon. If my parents in my dreams are right, if there is such a place as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and if my name has been down for it since I was born, then about a month from now, early in the morning, something ought to happen that's never happened before here at number four, Privet Drive…
And so, it begins. I'd feel sorry for the Dursleys, but they really don't deserve it.
Happy Read an Ebook week, O readers! All Anne B. Walsh original ebooks at Smashwords are FREE until March 7! Visit my Smashwords profile to find links to all my published originals. A reminder that Smashwords carries all of the most popular ebook file types, such as Kindle files, epub for Nook or iPad, and PDF, and accepts both credit/debit cards and PayPal. But that won't matter, not for the rest of this week. Happy reading!
Next time: what will Harry write in his letter back to Hogwarts, and what kind of response will he get? Like the Facebook page, read the blog Anne's Randomness, leave reviews/comments (right here), and more will be forthcoming as soon as possible!
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