The Witch of the Westmoreland
By Anne B. Walsh
Veri stood at the door of James and Lily’s cottage in Godric’s Hollow, looking towards the center of the village, where a few last children in their costumes were being called home by anxious parents. One arm cradled the bundle around which a good deal of her life had come to revolve in the last five months. Absently, she heard the squeals of happiness from within.
Wormtail must be letting them chase him again. They do love trying to catch the rat.
Footsteps behind her warned her of an approach. "Knut for your thoughts," said the voice she loved the best.
"I thought the best things in life were free," she teased, leaning back against Sirius.
"They are, so what does that tell you?" Laughing, he dodged her slap, and bent to kiss her. "But honestly, what’s got you so pensive tonight? I’ve barely seen you smile at all."
"Do you recall the world of which I once told you?"
"The one where we’d all die before we were forty? Yeah."
"Tonight would have been most important in that world." Her imagination painted her a vivid picture of the red-eyed wizard whom they had defeated nearly two years before, alive and stalking down this street, sure that he was about to destroy the only possible threat to his continued life and power...
"Tell me more."
"What?" Veri turned to look at her husband. "Why?"
"Well, I could say I’m getting a headache from listening to five toddlers all try to outscream each other and two babies helping them out." Sirius rubbed his forehead. "Which is true. It was a cute idea to introduce our lot to Gideon and Fabian’s nephew and Frank and Alice’s boy, especially because with Hermione and Reynard being born early they’ll be in the same year as Harry and Ron and Neville, but Merlin’s pants, don’t they make a lot of noise. And with your cousin’s baby, or whatever she is, the one who gave Moony those directions, and Ron’s little sister..." He shook his head. "I’m just glad Pearl doesn’t shriek like that."
"She does. You are simply never awake to hear it." Veri handed over their daughter, allowing Sirius to smile down into Meghan’s sleeping face. "Are you sure that you wish to hear more of the world that would have been? It is a very dark story in parts, and holds a great deal of pain."
"If you’re willing to tell me." Sirius hooked his free arm around Veri’s waist. "See, I always used to love telling stories at parties or whenever we’d all be hanging around getting drunk, and now that there’s not so much need for Aurors, I’ve been thinking that it might be fun to try that out again. But if I’m going to do it, I want to get lots of people to enjoy it, and you can’t do that with just a story you tell. It takes writing."
"You wish to become an author?"
"Basically, yeah. I thought I’d take a pen name, at least to start with. That way, if I flop, nobody knows it’s me. But I couldn’t decide what to write about." Sirius swayed on his feet as Meghan began to stir. "This world of yours sounds like a good choice. It lets me stick with people and places I know, but nobody can get too mad because I wrote them wrong, because it isn’t really them at all. And it’ll give the kids an idea what they missed out on, with the war ending before they were born and all."
"I can tell you only the most important events," Veri warned. "You will have large stretches of time to fill with your own imagination."
Sirius grinned. "That’ll be the best part. Feasts, Quidditch, and trouble in the halls, as only the Junior Marauders can do it."
"Very well, then." Veri nudged Sirius towards the stairs. "As I said, the story begins on this very night, in this very cottage, with the arrival of Lord Voldemort, guided here by a prophecy and a forsworn Secret-Keeper..."
"Read more about the other me, Mummy," Harry Potter begged his mother, holding up the brightly covered hardback book. "More about the Chamber of Secrets and the shiny sword I pulled out of the Sorting Hat like Uncle Peter and Fawkes and the basilisk and Tom Riddle and saving Ginny."
"Well, maybe just one more chapter." Lily patted the couch beside her, and her pajama-clad five-year-old scrambled up and cuddled against her side, as her lap was rather smaller than it had been. "We won’t be able to do this as much anymore when the new baby comes."
"That’s okay," said Harry. "I can read to myself soon. Neenie and Ray just have to show me how to do really long words, and then I’ll be good enough even for these." He touched the cover of his favorite book reverently.
"I hope you will." Lily dropped a kiss on her son’s messy head. "Padfoot’s almost done with the next one, you know. All about how you’re afraid of him."
Harry laughed. "I’m not afraid of Padfoot!"
"No, but the other you is." Lily opened the book to her bookmark. "He thinks Padfoot gave us away to Voldemort, and that’s why your dad and I died."
"But that’s silly. Padfoot wouldn’t do that."
"You know that, and I know that," said James, coming in. "But the other Harry doesn’t know that. Not until the very end of the book."
"And he doesn’t know anything about Moony or Wormy, either," Lily added. "But he finds out."
"Good," Harry said, nodding solemnly. "Read now, Mummy?"
"What do you say?"
"That’s better." Lily cleared her throat. "Chapter Seventeen. The Heir of Slytherin."
Reynard Lupin closed the thick book in front of him with a sigh. "Do you think they’ll ever really have the Triwizard Tournament again?" he asked his sister.
"If they do, you’re not entering," Hermione said without looking up from her homework.
"You’re not the boss of me!"
"No, but I am the person who knows whenever you’re hurt, and who shares all your bad dreams. Especially the ones about the black monsters."
Ray shuddered. "Do you have to remind me?"
"Sorry." Hermione got up and came across the room, hugging her brother as she knew she wouldn’t be able to do much longer. Even at nine, he was starting to get touchy about public displays of affection. Their bedroom, though, was scarcely public. "But we are connected, you know. If you did enter the Tournament, and got hurt, or even killed..."
"I wouldn’t get killed. And I’d block off our bond, so you wouldn’t feel it if I got hurt." Ray sighed and hugged Hermione back. "I’d ask you first, how’s that?"
Hermione laughed. "That sounds great. As long as you ask me first, you can enter any Tournament you want."
"I’d win, too," said Ray, flopping down on his bed as Hermione let him go. "Like Harry did in the book. Except Harry had the fake Moody helping him along. I’d want to win it fair and square." He made a face. "Not that my character ever does anything fair. Or nice."
"You wanted to know why you weren’t in the books," Hermione reminded him, dipping her quill. "It isn’t Padfoot’s fault that’s who you started out as."
Ray rolled his eyes at his twin’s back.
Ron waited outside Ginny’s door, counting silently to himself. Five... four... three... two... one...
A shriek emerged from within, and his sister threw the door open, clutching her recently purchased wand in one hand and the enormous hardcover book in the other. "I’m going to find him," she said, her eyes blazing. "I’m going to find him, and I’m going to kill him."
"No, you’re not." Ron drew his own wand with all the assurance of having completed a full year of Hogwarts where Ginny had none. "They’re his stories, Gin. He’s allowed to do that."
"I don’t care!" Ginny flung the book furiously onto the bed. "It’s horrible!"
"He said it had to happen for the story to work right."
"Butâ€”butâ€”" Ginny gripped her wand still tighter. "How could he do that?"
"Better in a story than in real life," Ron said. "If it was in real life, we’d never find out how the other two books were going to come out."
Ginny snarled into his face and slammed her door.
She says she’s going to kill him, but the thing she’s objecting to is him killing off his own character. Ron shrugged, putting his wand away. I don’t think I’ll ever understand girls.
Veri, coming into the kitchen, smiled. "Good morning, Severus," she said to the head in the fireplace. "Can I help you with something?"
"Yes," Severus said shortly. "I wish to speak with your husband. Immediately."
"Ah, you’ve seen the manuscript for the sixth one, haven’t you?"
"I have." Severus bit the words off short. "Regulus was kind enough to lend me his copy last night. And I want an explanation. Now, not in two more years when he finishes the last of these... things."
"Be fair, he is writing as quickly as he can." Veri intercepted her youngest daughter as Susanna ran through the kitchen and sent her upstairs to find Sirius. "And I believe he intends to tell your true story at the end of the seventh book. It is only that you are so very easy for his younger readers to hate, as he once did, and he hopes to teach them to look beyond the obvious..."
"So," said Neville, shutting up his copy of the seventh book. "Do you really think that’s how this year is going to go?"
Ron snorted. "What, you want to get used as a knife-sharpener?"
"No. I’m just wondering."
"I don’t think it can," said Hermione. "We’re missing a couple important people for it to happen that way. Like Voldemort, for one. And this little git for another." She ruffled Ray’s hair until he swatted her hand away. "Uncle Peter has Aunt Evanie and isn’t Dark, Master Snape stayed at Flamel College after he got his Mastery instead of going back to Hogwarts so he can’t be Headmaster, and I don’t think Dad is going to leave Mum and go marry Tonks."
"He’d better not," said Ginny. "Charlie’s picked up a few things from the dragons over the years. Like breathing fire if anyone gets near his mate."
"I thought you were going to say dragon pox," Ray quipped. Ginny made a face at him.
"And there’s me," said Meghan, stretching languidly. "I don’t exist in the books. Dad said he made Cho Chang a bit like me, but she was only really important in four and five, and she wasn’t right for you anyway, Harry. In the books or in real life."
"Don’t remind me," Harry groaned. "I thought it was supposed to be Romilda Vane who tried using love potion on me, not Cho..."
"At least I didn’t get it this time," said Ron, grinning. "You were funny while it lasted."
Harry made an obscene gesture in Ron’s direction.
"I was a little sad that I didn’t come in until book five," said Luna, lying down with her head in Ray’s lap. "But I suppose there wouldn’t have been much of a way for you to meet me before then in the book world. And we know each other really, so it’s all right." She smiled up at Ray. "I wouldn’t mind so much being locked up in your family’s cellar."
"As long as I came down to see you lots, right?" Ray bent over and kissed her forehead. "Astoria Greengrass," he muttered under his breath. "Cross-eyed little pureblood brat. No thank you."
"It was clever of your dad’s publishers to publish the first book in the Muggle world on the same day we got the last one," Neville was saying to Meghan. "Do you think they’ll be as popular there as they are here?"
"I’m sure they will. Dadfoot’s already holding auditions for an actress to pretend to be him for interviews and things." Meghan giggled. "It was Uncle Reggie’s idea to make sure she’s blonde, to account for all the stupid mistakes Dadfoot made writing the books. And Dadfoot wants her to be pretty but not beautiful, so he won’t be tempted to fall in love with himself."
"I don’t think Aunt Veri would let him," said Hermione. "And if he still tried, Mum would sort him out. She’s good that way."
"Isn’t she just," said Ray, sitting up and easing his back. "We need to pick a date to play through this one in game mode before we go back to school. Does it have a special setting for that time you die, Harry?"
"I’d assume. Otherwise there’d be no way to move beyond that point, because it’d reset me every time I died."
"Interesting idea," said Ginny. "A game there’s no way to win."
"Effing frustrating idea," countered Ron. "I wouldn’t want to play it."
"You won’t be playing as Harry," Hermione said. "At least, I’d assume he wants to be himself."
"No reason to change it now." Harry looked around the room. "How about the day after my birthday, all? Take our own roles or equivalents, start around nine, play until the story’s over or someone has to go?"
Noises of approval met this. It was so decided. On the first of August, 1997, Harry Potter would enter a world of darkness and danger for the seventh and final time, seeking Horcruxes and Hallows, helping his friends and battling his enemies, moving inexorably towards his final battle with Lord Voldemort.
Unless his mother called him home for dinner first, of course.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my little foray into wish-fulfillment fantasy! And if you're interested in what could go wrong with Harry and friends' little game, check out
Going Home, now available on a website near you...