Monday, 31st October 1981
Godric’s Hollow, just before midnight
It was incredible. It was a tragedy, but it was incredible too. Lily and James were dead, and their house was in ruins. But You-Know-Who was gone, and Harry… Harry was alive and well.
Hagrid made his way out of the ruins, careful not to upset the baby boy in his arms. Harry had escaped the ordeal with only a small cut on his forehead… Hagrid would have to get a Healer to look at that, just in case, but it didn’t seem serious. It had even stopped bleeding. Harry had cried a little as Hagrid picked him up, but now he was just whimpering softly.
“It’s gonna be all right,” Hagrid told him in a soothing voice. ”Yer Mum an’ Dad… can’t be with yeh anymore. But Dumbledore’ll know what ter do – Hey!”
That last part hadn’t been intentional, but it was the sort of thing you say when a young man almost collides with you as you exit a ruin.
“Blimey, Sirius,” said Hagrid, looking at the man. “Yeh almos’ ran me over.” (This was a slight exaggeration since Sirius didn’t even reach up to Hagrid’s chest and wouldn’t have been able to run him over unless he was in a car… but Hagrid often tried to downplay his size among wizards)
Sirius looked wild and dishevelled. He was holding his wand, but was shaking so badly that if he’d tried to fire off any spells he wouldn’t have been able to hit anything. “Hagrid!” he panted, clearly on the verge of tears. “James and Lily…they’re not… tell me they’re not…!”
“I don’ think yeh should go in there,” said Hagrid as gently as he could. It was all he could do not to start crying himself. “S’too late. We can’t do anythin’ for ‘em. Harry’s the only one still alive.”
“You don’t understand,” said Sirius. “They can’t be. Voldemort couldn’t have found them. He… No. No no no no no, It can’t be that, there has to be another explanation, there has to be, he couldn’t have…” And then he paused as Hagrid’s words apparently reached his brain, because his expression turned to one of shock. “Harry’s alive?”
“Yeah,” Hagrid shifted the boy in his arms to let Sirius see. “Dunno how, but he survived. You-Know-Who’s gone, but Harry’s alive.”
“Pah-fu,” said Harry, whatever that meant. He stretched his arms out towards Sirius.
Sirius stared at him in amazement. ”Harry,” he repeated. He took a huge breath and seemed to calm down slightly. “I’ll take him, Hagrid. I’m his godfather, I’ll look after him. Got my motorbike parked just down the road, I can put him in the sidecar…”
“Ah.” Hagrid shook his head. “Sorry, Sirius. Dumbledore’s orders, see. Gotta take him to a safe house ter get his forehead looked at, first, an’ then I gotta —”
“It sounds like you have a busy day ahead of you, Rubeus,” came a sudden voice from behind. “I was hoping you could spare a few minutes…”
Hagrid and Sirius, and even Harry, turned to see a woman come walking up the pathway to the house… a woman who radiated an almost ethereal grace and beauty. She was tall and willowy, not as tall as Hagrid but tall enough to tower over Sirius, her skin was pale green and her ears were long and pointy. As she moved closer, the air around them filled with the faint, but unmistakable scent of honey and spring flowers.
“Auntie Vidia?” said Hagrid, not even bothering to hide his surprise.
“Auntie Vidia?!” Sirius repeated, grief and anger momentarily giving way to astonishment. “Hagrid, that’s your Aunt?!”
“Er. Well. Friend o’ me Mum’s, really.” Hagrid held Harry a little closer. “Auntie Vidia, what are you doin’ here?”
“I could ask the same of you,” said Aunt Vidia as she came closer. “Clearly this Halloween sees us both in unexpected places. And in unexpected company, it seems. Hello, who are you?” she cooed at Harry, who looked back at her in wonder.
“Stay away from my godson, lady!” Sirius had raised his wand and was pointing it at her. His hands were still shaking, but not as badly as before. “Hagrid,” he said in a tense voice. “Did you know your Aunt is a Fae?”
Aunt Vidia laughed. “I should hope he does,” she said. “He is half Fae himself, after all…”
Sirius turned his head to look at Hagrid, though his wand stayed pointed at Aunt Vidia. “You’re what?”
“Oh yes. His mother’s a giantess from the Autumn Court. Did you think he was that large because some magic spell had gone wrong?” Aunt Vidia grew serious. “Oh. I see. You truly didn’t know.”
“Sirius, it's not —” Hagrid began.
“You're half-Fae and you didn't tell me?!” Sirius snapped. “You know what those monsters did to my family!” He brandished his wand, still pointing it at Aunt Vidia. "Never trust a Fae. Only decent advice my mother ever gave me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Hagrid, we’ll talk about this later. I’ll be taking Harry, and then we’re going rat-hunting.”
(Hagrid wouldn’t figure out what he meant by that until much later… and by then it was too late.)
But now Aunt Vidia had had enough. In a flash, she was right next to Sirius and pressed a slender green finger against his forehead. “Shush,” she commanded.
At once, Sirius’s eyes grew blank and his arms fell limply to his sides, his wand still in his right hand.
“That’s better. Wizards like you should be seen and not heard.” Aunt Vidia turned her attention back to Harry, all smiles again. “Now, as I was saying…”
“Auntie!” Hagrid growled. “Did yeh have ter do that?”
“Self-defence, Rubeus,” said Aunt Vidia in an annoyed tone. “If a wizard points his wand at me, I will defend myself. Don’t worry, when I leave he’ll wake up, and he won’t remember any of this.” She sighed heavily. “I never understood why you insist on living here among these wizards, like some banker goblin or house-elf. When are you going to return to Faerie, where you belong? You haven’t visited Dewberry Grove in ages. Jenny misses you, you know.”
“Well, tell her I said hi,” said Hagrid. “She wants ter come see me, she’s welcome to. But yeh’re wrong, yeh know. I never belonged in Faerie, I belong here. I got friends here in this realm.”
“Friends who don’t know your true nature?” said Aunt Vidia with a look at the entranced Sirius. “I would ask why you keep your heritage a secret, but judging from this man’s reaction when he found out, I believe I can make an educated guess. Wizards are still as hostile towards the Folk as ever.”
“It’s not like that!” Hagrid protested. “Sirius is good people. Yeh gotta forgive him, he jus’ found out his best friends was murdered. “An’ yeh did kinda mess up his family... remember the Blacks? All right, they weren’t good people, but still.”
“You mean to say that this man is a Black?” Aunt Vidia looked at the entranced Sirius. “My apologies. If I had known, I would have been much nastier to him.”
“He's not like that! I tol’ yeh, he’s one o’ the good ones! He woulda come aroun’, he woulda unnerstood…”
“He’s a wizard, Rubeus.”
“Not all wizards are bad!”
Aunt Vidia paused and then admitted: “Well, all right, I suppose your father was different. I was sad to hear that he died, by the way, he was one of the good ones… Oh, and there was that one wizard family, I forget their name, but they’ve been friends to the Summer Court for ages…”
“And there’s the Dumbledores,” said Hagrid. “Don’ tell me yeh’ve forgotten the Dumbledores!”
“Oh, yes… Albus,” said Lady Vidia. “Now that you mention it, I did quite like him. Very polite for a wizard. A bit too sharp for his own good, but after he abandoned that silly quest to unite the Hallows, I thought he even bordered on being sensible. But still…”
“Well, yeah,” said Hagrid. “Great man, Albus Dumbledore. I owe him a lot. He helped me when nobody else would, not even the Folk. But he’s not the only one I’m talkin’ about. I mean, I mean, you an’ Ab —”
“Rubeus,” said Lady Vidia, a slight sharpness in her voice. “I know what you are about to say, and I would greatly appreciate it if you didn’t.”
“Don’t mention that name.”
By now, however, Harry’s patience was running short. He’d been quiet for a bit, looking at Aunt Vidia with wide eyes, but now the novelty of the pretty green lady had clearly worn off, and the sudden sharpness in her voice was making him nervous. He was starting to fuss in Hagrid’s arms, stretching his tiny hands out towards the still entranced Sirius. “Pah-fu!” he insisted. “Pa-fu!”
“Oh yes.” Aunt Vidia softened again and turned her attention back to Harry. “Before we were so rudely interrupted, I believe I was wondering who this little cutie is.”
Hagrid sighed. “Young Harry here’s an orphan. Parents jus’ killed by… y’know, never mind. I’m takin’ him to a safe house to get that cut on his forehead looked at, an’ then we’re gonna wait fer further instructions from Dumbledore. So if yeh don’ mind —”
“I had almost forgotten how adorable human children can be. Hello there, little one!” Aunt Vidia smiled at Harry – and then her eyes widened in surprise.
“What?” said Hagrid. “What’s wrong?”
“Rubeus,” said Aunt Vidia, “what has happened to this child?”
“It’s a long story.” said Hagrid. “Don’ have time ter tell it righ’ now, like I said, I got ter get him to – ah, Harry, it’s all right,” he added, because now Harry’s patience was really at an end. He started to wail loudly, squirming in Hagrid’s arms.
“I was just wondering,” Aunt Vidia exclaimed over Harry’s cries. “how this child – this Harry – came to be marked for death.”
“Marked fer what?! C’mon, s’just a cut on his forehead…! Harry, don’t cry, it’s okay, I’m not gonna let anyone hurt yeh!”
Harry, however, wasn’t interested in being calmed down. He kept crying, his tiny hands balling up into fists. In his heart of hearts, Hagrid couldn’t blame the poor boy… he’d lost both his parents, he couldn’t possibly understand anything that was going on, and was probably both scared and confused. If he’d been a frightened bear cub or another animal, Hagrid wouldn’t have had any problems calming him down, but human babies were slightly out of his expertise.
Unexpectedly, Aunt Vidia solved the problem. She went straight into “mother” mode, reached out and took the screaming boy to cradle him gently. For a few moments, Harry kept wailing… but then he happened to look into her eyes and almost immediately he fell silent. As she gently kissed his forehead, taking great care to avoid the cut, Harry relaxed.
“Hey now!” Hagrid reached to take Harry back from her. “You’re not puttin’ any spells on him!”
“Just a tiny one to calm him down,” she protested, but let him take the boy back. “It’s harmless. I often did it to Jenny when she was his age. I did it to you when you were that age.”
“Jenny an’ me are half Fae! He’s all mortal!” Hagrid did his best, with his limited magical sight, to see if the spell had left any sort of lasting effect. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with Harry; he was rubbing his eyes and yawning, and appeared to have become very sleepy, but other than that he seemed to be fine. Well, now there was one more thing to tell the Healers to check for.
“With that mark on him, I would say he’s more ‘mortal’ than most.” Aunt Vidia crossed her arms. “I don’t quite recognize the type of magic… wizard magic was never my field. But I do know a mark of death when I see one. Something dark is going on here, and if you’re involved in it I would very much like to know about it.”
“Right. All right.” Hagrid looked down at Harry, who was yawning softly, then at his Aunt. “Firs’ of all, yeh know we’ve had a war goin’ on here the las’ ten years, right?”
“No,” she answered. “But I’m not surprised to learn it. Wizards always have some war going on. Either with each other, or with the humans…”
“Muggles,” Hagrid corrected her automatically. At her quizzical look, he continued, a little sheepisly: “Eh. S’the local language. Wizards think of themselves as human, jus’ with a bit of extra. So they call the non-magic folk ‘Muggles.’”
“So it’s basically the same as when some of the Winter Fae call all mortals ‘mud people,’ then,” said Aunt Vidia. “I see. Now what is this war you have gone and got yourself involved in?”
Hagrid held back a sigh. “All right,” he relented. “There’s this wizard, see, we don’ speak his name if we can avoid it…”
“That, at least, is sensible. Do go on.”
“Well, I suppose it all started ten years ago, y’ know, not too long after that business with the Blacks…”
She listened, and Harry quietly fell asleep, as Hagrid briefly summed up the story of You-Know-Who, the Death Eaters, and his vendetta against Muggles and Muggle-born. He told her about Lily and James, and how he had just found out that You-Know-Who had attacked them, but apparently Harry had survived.
“Dunno what happened ter You-Know-Who,” he finished. “He never let anyone live once he had ‘em in his power, but seems like he’s jus’ up an’ vanished. Dumbledore’ll know.”
“Perhaps so,” Aunt Vidia said thoughtfully. “And perhaps not. Right now, you may want to focus more on this child. A mark of death isn’t easy to deal with.”
“Yeh mean…” Hagrid swallowed. “He’s gonna die?”
“Well, yes,” she said, looking surprised that he even asked. “He is mortal. All mortals die. But mortals who have been marked for death… especially at such a young age… it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything like it. Not a pretty story, as I recall. That mortal didn’t live to see his twentieth year, and everyone agreed he had been supremely lucky to make it even that far.”
“But there’s gotta be summat we can do!” said Hagrid. “Harry… he can’t jus’ die! He survived a Killin’ Curse, he’s gonna be famous among wizards as the Boy Who Lived!”
“That would be an ironic title,” Aunt Vidia remarked, before shaking her head. “It’s regrettable, Rubeus, especially for a child so young and adorable as this one. But a mark of death is what it is. He can’t escape it. Death will claim him. Not straight away… he will have a few years, maybe even a couple of decades if he’s very lucky. But in the end…”
“Codswallop!” Hagrid snapped. “I’m not an expert, but even I know nothin’s absolute! There’s always a way around!”
“There is,” she agreed. “But seldom a pleasant way. And there will be a price. There’s always a price.”
“Well, then I’ll pay that price!” said Hagrid. ”S’not right ter shove this on an innocent child!”
Surprisingly, Aunt Vidia laughed. “You have heart, Rubeus. I suppose that’s why I always forgive your bursts of insolence.” She looked over at Sirius, who was still standing there in a deep trance. “Tell you what. This man... this Black. He will not remember me or anything we talked about, but I suppose I did technically reveal your secret to him. So to make up for that, I am willing to make a bargain.”
“You did say you would pay the price. You still work at that school of Albus’s, don’t you?”
“What?” Hagrid blinked at the sudden subject change. “Er, yes. Still groundskeeper. What about it?”
“And this boy… Harry. I can sense the magic in him. So, presuming he lives long enough, he will attend this school, am I right?”
“Course he will, but what —”
“And he will attend the school for seven years, correct?”
“Yes! Now what is this bargain yeh’re talkin’ about!”
“Merely this.” Aunt Vidia looked at the sleeping Harry as she spoke. “Since he will be in your care for seven years, I will grant the boy seven favours. When he finds himself in dire straits — which he will, because no one with a mark of death ever lives a peaceful life — I will come to his aid. If I can’t come myself, I will send him whatever aid he needs. Whether it’s smiting his enemies, or pulling him back from the brink of death; if it’s at all in my power, I will do it. Seven times.”
Hagrid blinked. It was a generous offer. A little too generous, to be honest. Aunt Vidia was among the kinder and more charitable members of the Folk he knew, and he had never known her to get needlessly malicious or vindictive — but she usually had an angle and seldom granted favours unless there was something in it for her. “An’ what do yeh want in return?”
“From you? No more than you can afford.” She smiled brilliantly. “Some time in the future… it might be next week, it might be years from now… I will ask you to return to Faerie and perform a task for me. You will come, and you won’t leave Faerie until you have successfully performed that task, or until I say you can leave.”
Hagrid could have kicked himself. “That’s why yeh came ter see me, isn’t it!” he exclaimed. “Yeh got a job fer me!”
“Well, yes,” Aunt Vidia replied lightly. “I was wondering how I would get you to agree to do it, especially with how reluctant you’ve been to return to Faerie even for a visit. But it seems like we both have something to offer that the other wants. Because you do want to help the boy, don’t you?”
Hagrid sighed. “If I do this, it means no obligations fer Harry. Yeh don’ try ter collect any payments from him, yeh don’t try ter trick him inter some kinda service, yeh don’t tempt him with anythin’ that’d tie him to Faerie.”
She nodded. “I had expected as much. Seven favours, the boy doesn’t pay anything. But no more than seven favours either. If he needs my help an eighth time, he will have to pay a price. I’m very fond of you, Rubeus, but there is a limit to how far I can take this, even for you.”
Hagrid thought it over. He would have to explain all this to Harry when he was older, warn him so he wouldn’t ask for, or accept, more than those seven favours. He was about to nod in agreement, but then caught himself in the nick of time. ”An’ no countin’ trivial things as favours either! He’s got ter actually be in dire straits, or at leas’ he’s got ter really need summat he can’t easily do or get for himself! If I hear that he scraped his knee or summat, an’ you jus’ bandaged it up an’ called that a favour, the bargain’s off.”
“Yes, yes, I think I know enough about mortals to judge what dire straits actually is for them,” she answered, a vague hint of irritation in her voice. “I won’t get involved unless my help is truly needed.”
“And,” he added, “yeh don’t try to trick or harm or collect no payments from anyone else neither. I’m the one payin’ for this, don’ want ter see any innocents get caught up in this.”
”Innocents? You think too highly of these wizards,” said Aunt Vidia. “Honestly, I can’t begin to understand why you’re so fond of them. Apart from Albus and your dear father, has any of them ever treated you half-decently?”
“Yeah,” said Hagrid, a little more gruffly than he’d intended. “An’ two of ‘em are lyin’ dead in these ruins. Lily an’ James Potter. Harry’s Mum an’ Dad.”
There was a long pause as Aunt Vidia looked at him. “I suppose I can understand the desire to protect the son of people you counted as friends,” she finally said. “But you’re really much too soft-hearted, Rubeus. You didn’t get that from your mother.”
“No, I didn’t.” Hagrid muttered. “If anythin’, I got it from me Dad. Me wizard Dad.”
Aunt Vidia sighted. “Oh, I suppose I’m much too soft-hearted as well. Let me make you a counter-offer. For as long as I still owe Harry even one favour, I will not try to harm, trick or collect from him, or from anyone who is his friend or ally. Mind you, I make no promises for those who aren’t friends or allies to the boy. Them, I will deal with as I see fit.”
Hagrid took a deep breath. It was probably as good a deal as he was going to get. Besides, when Harry’s story came out, especially his role in You-Know-Who’s disappearance, he wouldn’t be lacking friends or allies, would he? There would be those who would try to exploit him for their own gain, of course… and You-Know-Who had his followers who would no doubt try to seek revenge on Harry… but honestly, Hagrid didn’t care too much what happened to them. If Aunt Vidia decided to “deal with” them, they probably deserved it.
“All right,” he said. “Bargain. Now what’s this job yeh want me ter do? Should get Harry off to the safe house firs’, but after that —”
“Oh, no rush, no rush. I don’t need you straight away. Like I said, it might not be for several years. Maybe young Harry here will already be at Albus’s school by the time I call on you. So, feel free to keep doing… whatever it is you do at that job of yours for now. As long as you do come when I call on you. That’s the bargain.”
“An’ I don’t s’ppose yeh’ll tell me in advance what the job is?”
“Of course not,” she said sweetly. “But don’t concern yourself too much. I think we can both benefit from this, Rubeus.”
“Long as Harry benefits from it,” said Hagrid.
“Oh, he will. Seven favours’ worth of benefit, in fact.” Aunt Vidia ruffled the sleeping boy’s hair. “In fact… he can have the first favour right now.”
“Yes. I can already see something I can help him with. Hold him still, Rubeus… this will only take a moment.”
She leaned over and once more, she kissed Harry’s forehead. This time, however, rather than avoiding the oddly-shaped cut, she pressed her lips right against it. The cut began to glow, a sickly green glow. To Hagrid’s surprise, Aunt Vidia coughed and sputtered. She pulled back and placed her hand onto the cut — and then simply pulled the glow off it, as if she was peeling off a sticker. Harry twitched, but didn’t wake up.
Aunt Vidia muttered something under her breath, and a small sphere of transparent smoke formed around the green glow in her hand. She blew lightly on it, and the smoke solidified, trapping the glow in a solid glass sphere.
“That,” said Aunt Vidia, “was unpleasant.”
“What did yeh just do?” Hagrid looked at Harry, but the boy seemed fine; he was sleeping as peacefully as before. The cut on his forehead had faded slightly; now it was only visible as a faint, but still rather noticeable scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.
“I removed the pain,” she answered. “Curse scars, even those that aren’t a mark of death, often bring a lot of pain and grief to those who are cursed. This one had quite a lot of pain in it — dormant, but ready to flare up. I trapped it all in this sphere. From now on, all the pain from his mark will go to the sphere. The boy himself will not feel so much as a twinge of it.”
She handed Hagrid the sphere, which was still glowing a sickly green. “You had better keep this somewhere safe.The glass is very strong, but not unbreakable.”
Hagrid gingerly took the sphere. It was surprisingly hot to touch. “What’ll happen if it breaks?” he asked, not really eager to know the answer but figuring he needed to ask.
“Let’s just say,” said Aunt Vidia, “that I pity whoever breaks it. ”
Hagrid carefully slid the sphere into his coat pocket. He’d have to ask Dumbledore for advice on where to put it. “So that’s the first favour, then?” he said.
“That’s right. He has six left.” Aunt Vidia smiled. “And now I think I will take my leave. Do give my greetings to Albus, and I’ll bring yours to Jenny.”
“An’ should I send greetings ter Aber—”
“No, not him. He can rot for all I care.”
“C’mon, he used ter be your —”
“He shouldn’t have done what he did.” Lady Vidia crossed her arms. “And he’s lucky he had Albus to plead for his case, or I would have cursed him much worse than I did.”
“Yeh made him fall in love with a goat.”
“Served him right. Besides, I don’t know why he complained, it was a very good-looking goat. Now, please don’t mention him to me again. I want nothing more to do with him.” Then she smiled, all sweetness again. “But you’re always welcome at Dewberry Grove, Rubeus. And young Harry here… he will be as well, when he's old enough. But now, I really must be going.”
With that, she was gone.
Sirius blinked and gave a start, snapping out of his trance. For a moment, he looked dizzy, but then he shook it off, looking back at Hagrid. “I’ll take him, Hagrid,” he repeated, just as if no time had passed. “I have my motorbike parked just down the road, I can put him in the sidecar… did he fall asleep?” he added, slightly surprised.
Hagrid looked down at Harry, who was still sleeping soundly. “Er. Yeah. Bin a rough day for him. An’ sorry, Sirius, can’t let yeh take him. Least not yet. Dumbledore’s orders, see?” Hagrid saw that Sirius was about to argue, so he hurried to add: “Can’t yeh come with us to the safe house, though? I mean… nothin’ yeh can do here, Harry’s the one who needs yeh now…”
For a brief moment, Sirius looked conflicted. Then he shook his head and fished something out of his pocket. “There’s something I have to do first,” he said. There was an odd resolve in his eyes as he handed what proved to be a set of keys over to Hagrid. “Here, the keys to my bike. Take that, it’ll get you to this safe house faster.”
“Yeh’re lettin’ me borrow yer bike?” said Hagrid in astonishment. Sirius loved his motorbike like it was his child, and the number of times he’d let anyone else ride it could be counted on one finger.
“You can keep it for all I care!” Sirius growled. “I don’t need it. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, except…” the wild look in his eyes was back. “The rat!”
“The rat?” said Hagrid, confused. But Sirius had already stepped away, and with a loud CRACK, he vanished.
Hagrid was left alone, with the soundly sleeping Harry in his arms. He looked down at the boy and sighed. “Why do I get the feelin’ yer godfather’s abou’ ter do summat stupid?” he said. “Should really go after him… but we don’t got the time. They’re waitin’ fer you at the safe house. He’ll jus’ have ter manage on his own. C’mon, let’s go see if we c’n find that motorbike…”
Hagrid made his way towards the motorbike he could see parked down the street. There were a lot of things he needed to discuss with Dumbledore, but that could wait until Harry was safely delivered to… wherever it was he was supposed to go. Probably to Sirius, come to think of it. He was Harry's godfather, after all, and neither Lily nor James had any close family left. Wait, no, that wasn't true... didn't Lily have a Muggle sister somewhere that she'd lost touch with?
Oh well, whatever would be, would be. And hopefully they could find a way to deal with this nasty mark of death, and hopefully Harry’s life wouldn’t get too messed up by Aunt Vidia’s seven favours.