The first time Harry ever heard his daddy raise his voice was when Harry was little (not a big boy, like he was now) and fell off his broomstick. It was one of those toy models that his Uncle Sirius gave him for his first birthday: it didn't go up, up, up like Daddy's did, but it was fast and he had loads of fun dodging around obstacles in the house. On this particular occasion, he was zooming around the back garden in hot pursuit of the family cat, a fuzzy old tortoiseshell with a tail just begging to be pulled. He chased her past Mummy, who was attempting to feed a crying John; around the cherry tree that stood at the edge of the property; and weaving between Daddy's legs, who stood talking with Uncle Sirius and Uncle Peter, discussing boring adult things. The cat, having enough of his antics, spun around and hissed, her hair standing on end. Harry managed to swerve her claws at the last moment, but in doing so, lost his balance and fell. In reality, it was only a few feet, but to little Harry, it might as well have been a thousand. It didn't help that he landed in Mummy's rose bushes either. Daddy shouted then, and Uncle Sirius had explained later that it was because he had been very scared.
So when the sound of Daddy's voice yelling woke him up, Harry knew that something was very, very, wrong.
"Lily, take the boys and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off—"
Daddy was making a lot of noise downstairs. There was a boom! that shook the entire house, causing a picture frame to fall to the floor, glass shattering into a hundred pieces. Mummy burst into his room, John in her arms, just as another blast went off downstairs. Daddy shouted even louder, and Harry could just make out the glow of spells dancing on the wall in the hallway.
"Mummy?" Harry asked, sitting up in his bed and rubbing his eyes. He didn't have his glasses on, but he could still see Mummy dashing around the room, the furniture sliding to block the door when she waved her wand. "What—?"
Mummy scooped him up out of bed and sat him on her hip, John cradled in her other arm. She spun around, eyes squeezed shut.
"No, no, no, no, no," she muttered, spinning around again, faster. Again, faster. A fourth time she spun around so quickly, she stumbled and almost dropped Harry. Harry grabbed a fistful of Mummy's hair to keep himself upright. Mummy didn't even say anything when Harry did so, even though she didn't like it when he pulled her hair. What was happening? And why was her face was wet like John's was when he cried? Was she hungry?
"Why you cry, Mummy?" Harry asked, reaching up to pat Mummy's face.
A scary, shrill voice that Harry had never heard before laughed down below.
It grew silent downstairs, and Mummy sobbed so hard that her body shook. She placed Harry on his bed and dropped down to kneel before him. John squirmed in her arms, letting out a wail when his mother hugged him too tightly.
"Where is Daddy?" Harry asked, looking over Mummy's shoulder. Was this some game that they were playing? But no, Daddy never shouted when they played games and a game wouldn't make Mummy look so sad. What was happening?
"Shhhh," Mummy said before kissing his forehead. "Daddy loves you."
Mummy shushed him again. "Mummy loves you, Harry."
"I love you too, Mummy," Harry replied. Mummy always smiled when Harry told her that he loved her. Why wasn't she smiling?
She kissed John on the forehead and placed him on the bed next to Harry before pulling him into a bone-crushing hug. "Mummy and Daddy love you so much, Harry," she breathed. "We love you both so much."
But Harry didn't get the chance to respond because someone was banging outside of his bedroom. There was a moment of silence before the door burst open, sending all the furniture Mummy had put there flying. It wasn't his daddy that stood in the doorway, but a tall, thin man with waxy, bone-white skin and bloodshot eyes. He was dressed in black robes and twirled a long stick between his fingers. Harry didn't know who this stranger was, but the sight of him caused an icky feeling in Harry's stomach, the hair on his arms standing on end.
This man, Harry decided, was very, very bad.
Mummy stood up to face the stranger.
"Not my babies, not my boys. Please, not my babies!" she pleaded, throwing her arms out to her sides as if doing so would shield the children behind her.
The scary man sighed as if he were annoyed. "Stand aside, you silly girl. Stand aside, now…"
But Mummy didn't move. She shook her head, her long red hair catching the moonlight that filtered through the window. "Not them. Please no, take me. Kill me instead—"
"I said stand aside!"
"Not my babies! Please, have mercy! Have mercy!"
There was a bright flash of green light, and Mummy crumpled to the ground.
"Mummy?" Harry asked, crawling to the edge of his bed and peering down over the side. Mummy didn't respond, just stared blankly up at him, her green eyes dull and unfocused. "Are you okay?"
"She's dead," the stranger said, his high-pitched voice hurting Harry's ears.
"Mummy? Wake up, please," Harry said in his most polite voice. Mummy usually gave him what he asked for if he said it nicely. But she didn't move, didn't blink, didn't even breathe.
"She's dead," the stranger said again, this time a little more forcefully, an annoyed bite colouring his tone.
"Dead?" Harry repeated.
"Yes, dead," the man snapped.
Harry had a vague understanding of what that meant. After all, his Grandad and Granny Potter were dead too. Daddy said that meant that Harry wouldn't see them for a long, long time. "Gone?"
The man ignored Harry and instead stepped over Mummy to crouch down before him. The man was even scarier up close and had a sickly sweet smell that made Harry's nose itch. Harry tried to scoot away, but his back hit the wall behind him, trapping him in. Tears welled in his eyes as the scary man continued to watch him. John let out a wail and Harry pulled his brother into his lap.
"What is your name?"
"Harry Potter," he replied. "I'm three." Three-years-old was the reason why Daddy transfigured his cot into a big boy bed. Three-years-old meant he could hold John without Mummy or Daddy's help.
"And your brother. But which one?" the man muttered, the tip of his wand wavering between Harry and John. "No matter. You'll both be dead in a moment."
"Your father too."
"Daddy is dead?"
"Time to die, Harry Potter," the man whispered, his voice hissing and dry like autumn leaves on a windy day. He raised the stick— his wand, Harry realised— and pointed it at his face. "Avada Kedavra!"
There was another bright flash of green light, and Harry knew nothing more.
"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins?" — Edgar Allen Poe, The Premature Burial