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Harriet Evans and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Mr. and Mrs. Evans, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense. Mrs. Evans was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which processed packaging for food companies. She was a big, beefy woman with hardly any neck. Mr. Evans was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as he spent so much of his time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors. The Evans’ had a small daughter called Diana and in their opinion there was no finer girl anywhere.

The Evans’ had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn't think they could bear it if anyone found out about the other Evans’. Mr. Evans was Mr. Evans’ brother, but they hadn't met for several years; in fact, Mr. Evans pretended he didn't have a brother, because his brother and his good-for-nothing wife were as unEvansish as it was possible to be. The Evans’ shuddered to think what the neighbors would say if the other Evans’ arrived in the street. The Evans’ knew that the other Evans’ had a small daughter, too, but they had never even seen him. This girl was another good reason for keeping the other Evans’ away; they didn't want Diana mixing with a child like that.

When Mr. and Mrs. Evans woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening all over the country. Mrs. Evans hummed as she picked out her most boring dress for work, and Mr. Evans gossiped away happily as he wrestled a screaming Diana into her high chair.

None of them noticed a large, tawny owl flutter past the window.

At half past eight, Mrs. Evans picked up her bag, pecked Mr. Evans on the cheek, and tried to kiss Diana good-bye but missed, because Diana was now having a tantrum and throwing her cereal at the walls.

"Little tyke," chortled Mrs. Evans as she left the house. She got into her car and backed out of number four's drive.

It was on the corner of the street that she noticed the first sign of something peculiar -- a cat reading a map. For a second, Mrs. Evans didn't realize what she had seen -- then she jerked her head around to look again. There was a tabby cat standing on the corner of Privet Drive, but there wasn't a map in sight. What could she have been thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light. Mrs. Evans blinked and stared at the cat. It stared back. As Mrs. Evans drove around the corner and up the road, she watched the cat in her mirror. It was now reading the sign that said Privet Drive -- no, looking at the sign; cats couldn't read maps or signs. Mrs. Evans gave herself a little shake and put the cat out of her mind. As she drove toward town she thought of nothing except a large order of packages she was hoping to get that day.

But on the edge of town, packaging was driven out of her mind by something else. As she sat in the usual morning traffic jam, she couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of strangely dressed people about. People in cloaks. Mrs. Evans couldn't bear people who dressed in funny clothes -- the getups you saw on young people! She supposed this was some stupid new fashion. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and her eyes fell on a huddle of these weirdos standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mrs. Evans was enraged to see that a couple of them weren't young at all; why, that man had to be older than he was, and wearing an emerald-green cloak! The nerve of him! But then it struck Mrs. Evans that this was probably some silly stunt -- these people were obviously collecting for something. . . yes, that would be it. The traffic moved on and a few minutes later, Mrs. Evans arrived in the Grunnings parking lot, her mind back on the days work.

Mrs. Evans always sat with her back to the window in her office on the ninth floor. If she hadn't, she might have found it harder to concentrate on drills that morning. She didn't see the owls swooping past in broad daylight, though people down in the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as owl after owl sped overhead. Most of them had never seen an owl even at nighttime. Mrs. Evans, however, had a perfectly normal, owl-free morning. She yelled at five different people. She made several important telephone calls and shouted a bit more. She was in a very good mood until lunchtime, when she thought she'd stretch her legs and walk across the road to buy herself a bun from the bakery.

She’d forgotten all about the people in cloaks until she passed a group of them next to the baker's. She eyed them angrily as she passed. She didn't know why, but they made her uneasy. This bunch were whispering excitedly, too, and she couldn't see a single collecting tin. It was on her way back past them, clutching a large doughnut in a bag, that she caught a few words of what they were saying.

"The Evans’, that's right, that's what I heard--"

"-- yes, their daughter, Harriet--"

Mrs. Evans stopped dead. Fear flooded her. She looked back at the whisperers as if she wanted to say something to them, but thought better of it.

She dashed back across the road, hurried up to her office, snapped at her secretary not to disturb her, seized her telephone, and had almost finished dialing her home number when she changed her mind. She put the receiver back down and stroked the back of her neck, thinking. . . no, she was being stupid. Evans wasn't such an unusual name. She was sure there were lots of people called Evans who had a daughter called Harriet. Come to think of it, she wasn't even sure her niece was called Harriet. She’d never even seen the girl. It might have been Henrietta. Or Hannah. There was no point in worrying Mr. Evans; he always got so upset at any mention of his brother. She didn't blame him -- if she’d had a brother like that. . . but all the same, those people in cloaks. . .

She found it a lot harder to concentrate on packaging that afternoon and when she left the building at five o'clock, she was still so worried that she walked straight into someone just outside the door.

"Sorry," she grunted, as the tiny old woman stumbled and almost fell. It was a few seconds before Mrs. Evans realized that the woman was wearing a violet cloak. She didn't seem at all upset at being almost knocked to the ground. On the contrary, her face split into a wide smile and she said in a squeaky voice that made passersby stare, "Don't be sorry, my dear madam, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!"

And the old woman hugged Mrs. Evans around the middle and walked off.

Mrs. Evans stood rooted to the spot. She had been hugged by a complete stranger. She also thought she had been called a Muggle, whatever that was. She was rattled. She hurried to her car and set off for home, hoping she was imagining things, which she had never hoped before, because she didn't approve of imagination.

As she pulled into the driveway of number four, the first thing she saw -- and it didn't improve her mood -- was the tabby cat she'd spotted that morning. It was now sitting on her garden wall. She was sure it was the same one; it had the same markings around its eyes.

"Shoo!" said Mrs. Evans loudly.

The cat didn't move. It just gave her a stern look. Was this normal cat behavior? Mrs. Evans wondered. Trying to pull herself together, she let herself into the house. She was still determined not to mention anything to her husband.

Mr. Evans had had a nice, normal day. He told her over dinner all about Mrs. Next Door's problems with her daughter and how Diana had learned a new word ("Won't!"). Mrs. Evans tried to act normally. When Diana had been put to bed, she went into the living room in time to catch the last report on the evening news:

"And finally, bird-watchers everywhere have reported that the nation's owls have been behaving very unusually today. Although owls normally hunt at night and are hardly ever seen in daylight, there have been hundreds of sightings of these birds flying in every direction since sunrise. Experts are unable to explain why the owls have suddenly changed their sleeping pattern. " The newscaster allowed himself a grin. "Most mysterious. And now, over to Jim McGuffin with the weather. Going to be any more showers of owls tonight, Jim?"

"Well, Ted," said the weatherman, "I don't know about that, but it's not only the owls that have been acting oddly today. Viewers as far apart as Kent, Yorkshire, and Dundee have been phoning in to tell me that instead of the rain I promised yesterday, they've had a downpour of shooting stars! Perhaps people have been celebrating Bonfire Night early -- it's not until next week, folks! But I can promise a wet night tonight. "

Mrs. Evans sat frozen in her armchair. Shooting stars all over Britain? Owls flying by daylight? Mysterious people in cloaks all over the place? And a whisper, a whisper about the Evans’. . .

Mr. Evans came into the living room carrying two cups of tea. It was no good. She’d have to say something to him. She cleared her throat nervously. "Er -- Peter, dear -- you haven't heard from your brother lately, have you?"

As she had expected, Mr. Evans looked shocked and angry. After all, they normally pretended he didn't have a brother.

"No," he said sharply. "Why?"

"Funny stuff on the news," Mrs. Evans mumbled. "Owls. . . shooting stars. . . and there were a lot of funny-looking people in town today. . . "

"So?" snapped Mr. Evans.

"Well, I just thought. . . maybe. . . it was something to do with. . . you know. . . his crowd. "

Mr. Evans sipped his tea through pursed lips. Mrs. Evans wondered whether she dared tell him she’d heard the name "Evans. " She decided she didn't dare. Instead she said, as casually as she could, "Their daughter -- she'd be about Diana’s age now, wouldn't she?"

"I suppose so," said Mr. Evans stiffly.

"What's her name again? Hetty, isn't it?"

"Harriet. Nasty, common name, if you ask me. "

"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Evans, her heart sinking horribly. "Yes, I quite agree. "

She didn't say another word on the subject as they went upstairs to bed. While Mr. Evans was in the bathroom, Mrs. Evans crept to the bedroom window and peered down into the front garden. The cat was still there. It was staring down Privet Drive as though it were waiting for something.

Was she imagining things? Could all this have anything to do with the Evans’? If it did. . . if it got out that they were related to a pair of -- well, she didn't think she could bear it.

The Evans’ got into bed. Mr. Evans fell asleep quickly but Mrs. Evans lay awake, turning it all over in his mind. Her last, comforting thought before she fell asleep was that even if the Evans’ were involved, there was no reason for them to come near her and Mr. Evans. The Evans’ knew very well what she and Peter thought about them and their kind. . . She couldn't see how she and Peter could get mixed up in anything that might be going on -- she yawned and turned over -- it couldn't affect them. . .

How very wrong she was.

Mrs. Evans might have been drifting into an uneasy sleep, but the cat on the wall outside was showing no sign of sleepiness. It was sitting as still as a statue, its eyes fixed unblinkingly on the far corner of Privet Drive. It didn't so much as quiver when a car door slammed on the next street, nor when two owls swooped overhead. In fact, it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all.

A woman appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought she'd just popped out of the ground. The cat's tail twitched and its eyes narrowed.

Nothing like this woman had ever been seen on Privet Drive. She was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of her hair, which was long enough to tuck into her belt. She was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. Her blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and her nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice. This woman's name was Ariana Dumbledore.

Ariana Dumbledore didn't seem to realize that she had just arrived in a street where everything from her name to her boots was unwelcome. She was busy rummaging in her cloak, looking for something. But she did seem to realize she was being watched, because she looked up suddenly at the cat, which was still staring at her from the other end of the street. For some reason, the sight of the cat seemed to amuse her. She chuckled and muttered, "I should have known. "

She found what she was looking for in her inside pocket. It seemed to be a silver cigarette lighter. She flicked it open, held it up in the air, and clicked it. The nearest street lamp went out with a little pop. She clicked it again -- the next lamp flickered into darkness. Twelve times she clicked the Deluminator, until the only lights left on the whole street were two tiny pinpricks in the distance, which were the eyes of the cat watching her. If anyone looked out of their window now, even beady-eyed Mr. Evans, they wouldn't be able to see anything that was happening down on the pavement. Dumbledore slipped the Deluminator back inside her cloak and set off down the street toward number four, where she sat down on the wall next to the cat. She didn't look at it, but after a moment she spoke to it.

"Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall. "

She turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead she was smiling at a rather severe-looking man who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes. He, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one. His black hair was slicked back against he’s head. He looked distinctly ruffled.

"How did you know it was me?" he asked.

"My dear Professor, I've never seen a cat sit so stiffly. "

"You'd be stiff if you'd been sitting on a brick wall all day," said Professor McGonagall.

"All day? When you could have been celebrating? I must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on my way here. "

Professor McGonagall sniffed angrily.

"Oh yes, I've celebrating, all right," he said impatiently. "You'd think they'd be a bit more careful, but no -- even the Muggles have noticed something's going on. It was on their news." He jerked his head back at the Evans’ dark living-room window. "I heard it. Flocks of owls. . . shooting stars. . . Well, they're not completely stupid. They were bound to notice something. Shooting stars down in Kent -- I'll bet that was Deirdre Diggle. She never had much sense. "

"You can't blame them," said Dumbledore gently. "We've had precious little to celebrate for eleven years. "

"I know that," said Professor McGonagall irritably. "But that's no reason to lose our heads. People are being downright careless, out on the streets in broad daylight, not even dressed in Muggle clothes, swapping rumors. "

He threw a sharp, sideways glance at Dumbledore here, as though hoping she was going to tell him something, but she didn't, so he went on. "A fine thing it would be if, on the very day You-Know-Who seems to have disappeared at last, the Muggles found out about us all. I suppose he really has gone, Dumbledore?"

"It certainly seems so," said Dumbledore. "We have much to be thankful for. Would you care for a lemon drop?"

"A what?"

"A lemon drop. They're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of. "

"No, thank you," said Professor McGonagall coldly, as though he didn't think this was the moment for lemon drops. "As I say, even if You-Know-Who has gone--"

"My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like yourself can call him by his name? All this 'You-Know-Who' nonsense -- for eleven years I have been trying to persuade people to call him by his proper name: Voldemort. " Professor McGonagall flinched, but Dumbledore, who was unsticking two lemon drops, seemed not to notice. "It all gets so confusing if we keep saying 'You-Know-Who. ' I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Voldemort's name. "

"I know you haven't, said Professor McGonagall, sounding half exasperated, half admiring. "But you're different. Everyone knows you're the only one You-Know- oh, all right, Voldemort, was frightened of. "

"You flatter me," said Dumbledore calmly. "Voldemort had powers I will never have. "

"Only because you're too -- well -- noble to use them. "

"It's lucky it's dark. I haven't blushed so much since Master Pomfrey told me he liked my new earmuffs. "

Professor McGonagall shot a sharp look at Dumbledore and said "The owls are nothing next to the rumors that are flying around. You know what they're saying? About why he's disappeared? About what finally stopped him?"

It seemed that Professor McGonagall had reached the point he was most anxious to discuss, the real reason he had been waiting on a cold, hard wall all day, for neither as a cat nor as a man had he fixed Dumbledore with such a piercing stare as he did now. It was plain that whatever "everyone" was saying, he was not going to believe it until Dumbledore told him it was true. Dumbledore, however, was choosing another lemon drop and did not answer.

"What they're saying," he pressed on, "is that last night Voldemort turned up in Godric's Hollow. He went to find the Evans’. The rumor is that Lesley and Jane Evans are -- are -- that they're -- dead. "

Dumbledore bowed his head. Professor McGonagall gasped.

"Lesley and Jane. . . I can't believe it. . . I didn't want to believe it. . . Oh, Ariana. . . "

Dumbledore reached out and patted him on the shoulder. "I know. . . I know. . . " she said heavily.

Professor McGonagall's voice trembled as he went on. "That's not all. They're saying he tried to kill the Evans’ daughter, Harriet. But he couldn't. He couldn't kill that little girl. No one knows why, or how, but they're saying that when he couldn't kill Harriet Evans, Voldemort's power somehow broke -- and that's why he's gone."

Dumbledore nodded glumly.

"It's -- it's true ?" faltered Professor McGonagall. "After all he's done. . . all the people he's killed. . . he couldn't kill a little girl? It's just astounding. . . of all the things to stop him. . . but how in the name of heaven did Harriet survive?"

"We can only guess," said Dumbledore. "We may never know. "

Professor McGonagall pulled out a tartan handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes beneath his spectacles. Dumbledore gave a great sniff as she took a golden watch from her pocket and examined it. It was a very odd watch. It had twelve hands but no numbers; instead, little planets were moving around the edge. It must have made sense to Dumbledore, though, because she put it back in her pocket and said, "Hagrid's late. I suppose it was she who told you I'd be here, by the way?"

"Yes," said Professor McGonagall. "And I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you're here, of all places?"

"I've come to bring Harriet to her aunt and uncle. They're the only family she has left now. "

"You don't mean - you can't mean the people who live here ?" cried Professor McGonagall, jumping to his feet and pointing at number four. "Dumbledore -- you can't. I've been watching them all day. You couldn't find two people who are less like us. And they've got this daughter -- I saw her kicking her father all the way up the street, screaming for sweets. Harriet Evans come and live here!"

"It's the best place for her," said Dumbledore firmly. "Her aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to her when she's older. I've written them a letter. "

"A letter?" repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. "Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand her! She’ll be famous -- a legend -- I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harriet Evans day in the future -- there will be books written about Harriet -- every child in our world will know her name!"

"Exactly. " said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over the top of his half-moon glasses. "It would be enough to turn any girl’s head. Famous before she can walk and talk! Famous for something she won't even remember! Can you see how much better off she'll be, growing up away from all that until she's ready to take it?"

Professor McGonagall opened his mouth, changed his mind, swallowed, and then said, "Yes -- yes, you're right, of course. But how is the girl getting here, Dumbledore?" He eyed her cloak suddenly as though he thought he might be hiding Harriet underneath it.

"Hagrid's bringing her. "

"You think it -- wise -- to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"

"I would trust Hagrid with my life," said Dumbledore.

"I'm not saying her heart isn't in the right place," said Professor McGonagall grudgingly, "but you can't pretend she's not careless. She does tend to -- what was that?"

A low rumbling sound had broken the silence around them. It grew steadily louder as they looked up and down the street for some sign of a headlight; it swelled to a roar as they both looked up at the sky -- and a huge motorcycle fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them.

If the motorcycle was huge, it was nothing to the woman sitting astride it. She was almost twice as tall as a normal woman and at least five times as wide. She looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild -- long tangles of bushy black hair, she had hands the size of trash can lids, and her feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins. In her vast, muscular arms she was holding a bundle of blankets.

"Hagrid," said Dumbledore, sounding relieved. "At last. And where did you get that motorcycle?"

"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, ma’am," said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorcycle as she spoke. "Young Siri Black lent it to me. I've got her, ma’am. "

"No problems, were there?"

"No, ma’am -- house was almost destroyed, but I got her out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' around. She fell asleep as we was flyin' over Bristol. "

Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bent forward over the bundle of blankets. Inside, just visible, was a baby girl, fast asleep. Under a tuft of jet-black hair over her forehead they could see a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lightning.

"Is that where -- ?" whispered Professor McGonagall.

"Yes," said Dumbledore. "She’ll have that scar forever. "

"Couldn't you do something about it, Dumbledore?"

"Even if I could, I wouldn't. Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground. Well -- give her here, Hagrid -- we'd better get this over with. "

Dumbledore took Harriet in her arms and turned toward the Evans’ house.

"Could I -- could I say good-bye to her, ma’am?" asked Hagrid. She bent her great, shaggy head over Harriet and gave her a kiss. Then, suddenly, Hagrid let out a howl like a wounded dog.

"Shhh!" hissed Professor McGonagall, "You'll wake the Muggles!"

"S-s-sorry," sobbed Hagrid, taking out a large, spotted handkerchief and burying her face in it. "But I c-c-can't stand it -- Lesley an' Jane dead -- an' poor little Harriet off ter live with Muggles--"

"Yes, yes, it's all very sad, but get a grip on yourself, Hagrid, or we'll be found," Professor McGonagall whispered, patting Hagrid gingerly on the arm as Dumbledore stepped over the low garden wall and walked to the front door. She laid Harriet gently on the doorstep, took a letter out of her cloak, tucked it inside Harriet’s blankets, and then came back to the other two. For a full minute the three of them stood and looked at the little bundle; Hagrid's shoulders shook, Professor McGonagall blinked furiously, and the twinkling light that usually shone from Dumbledore's eyes seemed to have gone out.

"Well," said Dumbledore finally, "that's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and join the celebrations. "

"Yeah," said Hagrid in a very muffled voice, "I'll be takin' Siri her bike back. G'night, Professor McGonagall -- Professor Dumbledore, ma’am. "

Wiping her streaming eyes on her jacket sleeve, Hagrid swung herself onto the motorcycle and kicked the engine into life; with a roar it rose into the air and off into the night.

"I shall see you soon, I expect, Professor McGonagall," said Dumbledore, nodding to him. Professor McGonagall blew his nose in reply.

Dumbledore turned and walked back down the street. On the corner she stopped and took out the silver Deluminator. She clicked it once, and twelve balls of light sped back to their street lamps so that Privet Drive glowed suddenly orange and she could make out a tabby cat slinking around the corner at the other end of the street. She could just see the bundle of blankets on the step of number four.

"Good luck, Harriet," she murmured. She turned on her heel and with a swish of her cloak, she was gone.

A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harriet Evans rolled over inside her blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside her and she slept on, not knowing she was special, not knowing she was famous, not knowing she would be woken in a few hours' time by Mr. Evans’ scream as he opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that she would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by her cousin Diana. . . She couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: "To Harriet Evans -- the girl who lived!"