Author's Note: Read my profile for any updates on Blindness/WSOSW, please. This is just a ONESHOT drabble, inspired by a very sad time in my life exactly one year ago when my horse of seventeen years had to be put down while I held his head and spoke to him gently (he is the horse in the cover photo). He was forty years old, which is a ripe old age in horse-land. But I loved him.
The mantle was arrayed with ribbons and plastic trophies; rearing horses and prancing ponies in gold and silver and bronze, stylized english saddles and bridles.
Most bore Petunia Evans' name; but a loved few had Lily Evans carved on metal plaques instead.
Harry grew up with the stories; retold often by his aunt with loving detail, of how his mother and she had begged for riding lessons when they were young, how his grandparents had reluctantly given in, hoping the fad would not last when the hard work of cleaning tack and mucking stables would also be given in equal measure. The trouble the sisters had gotten in to; of muddy clothes and horse hair on dresses, stolen rides at midnight and one particular episode involving the police that would send his aunt into guilty giggles that did not fit her normally severe expression.
His aunt, Petunia Evans, who lived alone near a farm in Berkshire County until he came along, her considerable income made exercising and caring for horses and giving riding lessons to rich kids from the city, while she reminisced about the glory days of her youth. Competitions won and lost, horses she loved most and loved least, but all loved like precious children she never had time to have herself.
Except Harry, her nephew, who she at times affectionately called Black for his untamable hair and a temper that matched one of her favorite childhood horses.
Petunia had not known what to do with a child; her expertise was with horses, and grown ones at that. One summer in a brood mare stable had been enough for her of that business.
Foals were standing within moments, and didn't have to have their nappies changed. She would rather muck manure from a stable than change a nappy.
But the baby bore her sister's eyes, and beloved Lily had visited only months before and made such easy work of caring for her newborn while Petunia winced at the process of breastfeeding and discussed the stable's newest mare.
On her last visit, the very last time Petunia had ever seen her, Lily had mentioned her plans to buy Abraxus breeding stock, the famous flying horses of Britain, with her new rich husbands money.
Petunia had heartedly approved; and dreamed of finally riding a horse through the sky like Hercules.
Dreams died hard; and her sister had gone into hiding and been murdered months after, leaving only a child, a son, and Petunia knew nothing of children.
But she learned, most of the advice gained from the old grizzled stable master, Henry, who had five grown children and a dozen grandchildren, and made frequent comparisons to their unlikely similarities with foals.
They'll always be up to mischief, from the moment they open their eyes. Foals, puppies, and babies, they'll all chew on anything, break everything, and probably get stuck a time or two in dangerous places.
Petunia thought of a ramaging foal in her house, and put anything breakable and sharp five feet up or up the stairs, safe behind a gate.
She did know, at least, how to fence in a wild creature, and wild was what Harry Potter was.
He was able to crawl when he first came to her; and he was walking soon after, climbing on every stitch of furniture she had (at least that was something horses did not do), while babbling garbled syllables and smiling fiercely.
She read him her favorite stories, of horses and the boys and girls that loved them. She took him to the stables and locked him in a stall while she did her own work; and got her first run-ins with accidental magic when the fiend child escaped through wooden walls and gates impossible to climb or unlock from the inside.
She would inevitably find him with the nearest horses; and John Garrick, the owner of the stable she worked with, inevitably gave her a look and a few muttered words about liability and the safety of children on his property.
If the boy had not liked horses, been afraid of them or simply disliked them, she did not know what she would have done. Horses were what she lived for; they were what she understood. She had never married, only dated sparingly, not willing to give time or money to men who did not understand why she would wake up before dawn to tend a collicky gelding, or forget their meetings while having a particularly good ride across the country.
She lived for the stable; so naturally, to be a part of her life, Harry must too.
At three, she put him on his first pony. At four, she set him to work polishing leather and brass and had him help bring feed buckets. She caught him eating sugar cubes and licking oats, and gave him a stern lecture on the differences between horse food and human food. For one entire week when he was five, he pretended to be a horse, and claimed he heard the large beasts talking inside his head.
When he was six, he told her a horse was sick before it showed the signs; and a month later, when a horse stumbled and sprained a tendon, he cried and hugged its leg and the horse was as good as new; as if the fall had never happened.
Petunia had to explain certain details to John and Henry, and for half a year was treated as if she was mentally unstable, a pitiable spinster who thought her sister and nephew had magic.
But Harry pointed out horses who had stones in their hooves or had burrs under their saddles. He calmed a frightened mare who went wild at the sound of a summer storm, and the dozen horses that made up Garrick stables came by name at his call without complaint.
Slowly, the muggles began to believe, and when, just past his seventh birthday, Harry placed his hands on a gelding and told Henry that its heart felt funny, the stable master only spent a heartbeat in question.
Then, he called the vet.
After, Petunia had to comfort her nephew when the boy wailed and cried as the old familiar beast was put down before it's broken heart could do the job in an hour or a day or a week, no doubt with horrible pain.
Harry was silent and avoided the stables for an entire day. Then, in the middle of the night, Petunia found him gone, and knew where he had fled.
She went to where he curled on the thick straw of the horse's stall, every horse's large square head out of their stalls, craning around as if pointing the way to her boy, their ears perked forward, their tails flicking in agitation.
"I could have helped him." Harry whispered, green eyes wide with tears. "If I only knew how, I could have fixed him. With my magic."
Petunia had run a hand over his wild black hair and sighed.
"Even magic can't cure age, darling Black. When you love an animal, you have to learn to say goodbye."
And she sat beside him and pulled him into her arms and held him in the warm stable as he wept.
When he was eight, Harry saw a teenager dig his heels into a mare ferociously, pulling too hard on her bit as he whipped her around, slapping her sides with the leather ends of the rein, laughing while he did so, caring nothing for the poor horse he rode so callously while he tried to impress his friends.
So Harry reached out for Lady's mind, the gentle mare putting up with the ill treatment as she would put up with an annoying fly her tail could not swat away; her warm thoughts familiar to him, as steady as a summer morning, her heart echoing strong in his own chest.
When she felt him, she turned and came, heedless of the boy, and Harry looked up at the sneer the older teen gave to him.
"This beast is too slow! And she won't heed the rein.I want another!" He demanded, and slapped the reins again against her neck, before yanking her head to the right and away.
And with a suggestion from Harry and a hump of her back, Lady jumped with all four feet off the ground before coming down solidly, the teen falling from her back in an almost graceful toss.
Harry smiled, and led Lady away, giving her an extra cube for her patience in dealing with flies of the human variety, while the boy yelled and hollered like a banshee and his friends laughed.
It was Wildfire, the dark chestnut gelding, who was given to the boy next; and the teenager never complained again about Lady's slow ways.
Petunia made Harry go to school; and she made him do his work, though she remembered dimly her own childhood dislike of anything not four-legged and covered in fur.
The years passed, time marked with horse illnesses and the many difficulties of running a riding stable, even a small, simple one. Harry's job became more official; receiving a small wage for the work he had always done voluntarily, riding the horses and rubbing them down, then cleaning stalls and tack with the same fervor he spent doing his homework, which was little.
But Harry rode like he was part of the beast he sat astride, whether in full english dress or flung bareback on a mare in the pasture, it didn't matter. He barely used his reins, using slight pressure in his knees and his mind to control whomever he asked to carry him on their back.
Harry always asked; and the horses always said yes.
And when he was nine, Petunia knew he had a talent that few in the world ever possessed; and with half a mind on his magic and the other half on what the boy would want out of life, she gave him all the facts as she knew them. She told him of Hogwarts and his mother, of Dark Lords and murder, of his handsome wizard father and the wonders of magic.
And when he looked sceptical, the same obstinate gleam in his eyes as Petunia had seen in her sister's, she smiled slightly and drew out the moving pictures of horses who bore feathered wings and arched proud dappled necks, dancing on the air itself.
And saw her nephew fall in love all over again.
To Harry, there was only ever one choice.
His aunt found the Alley; and together, they found the bank and his goblin manager and his money, mountains of gold and silver and bronze.
Then, with the helpful mind of a shrewd goblin on their side, they were given information.
Harry knew what he wanted, and was beyond thrilled when they found it.
In the magical world, there were schools of magic, and there were schools of magical trade. Those like Hogwarts and Beauxbatons, the revered schools that took in students and taught them a little of everything they might need to succeed, subjects like Charms and Transfiguration and Potions.
Then, there were schools like the Hebridean Black School of Magical Zoology, who took in pupils based on aptitude and knowledge and taught them how to train and tame everything from kneazles and crups to the very namesake of the school, dragons.
Of course, most people who attended the school were at least over sixteen, having attended a lesser school of magic first before deciding to dedicate their life to the magical fauna of the world. In fact, a great deal of the pupils were in their twenties, with one degree already under their belt.
Harry didn't care. He had no desire to waste any time learning spells he would never use.
He wanted the flying horses; and he would do whatever was necessary to get them.
It was unorthodox, even among wizards, Petunia learned, for a nine year old child to apply to a school more suited to teenagers and young adults.
It was even more strange for the child to be accepted.
Laster, she would suppose it was partly due to his name itself; who would turn down the savior of the wizarding world, even if he could not possibly succeed?
To Petunia Evans, it meant hooking her fireplace into the floo network, so her underage ward could still spend his nights and weekends with her instead of living on campus.
To Harry Potter, it meant a considerable sum was spent in donations, using the Evans name to hide his identity from curious peers, and his new dream was at hand.
All while he could still work at the Garrick stable on weekends, the best of both possible worlds.
And when Harry saw an Abraxus for the first time, his mind touching something new and so much more intelligent than an average horse, he knew it was all worth it.
His mother would have been proud.
Harry Black Evans was very far behind; he knew practically nothing of the wizarding world or how it worked, and cared even less. He spent most of his time in the magical stables, listening to the professors and the classes they taught there, reading books on every type of magical equine there was, thestrals and unicorns and pegasi alike.
At the school's insistence, he was made to study basic spells and purchase a wand, both tasks he performed with the attitude of shoveling manure; necessary jobs done quickly only so that one could get back to the horses.
He was a bit of a nuisance, sneaking past wards to pet a stallion like it was a tame crup; but the horsemasters soon learned that the Evans boy had a way with animals that was uncanny, even among wizards, and decided to put him to work if he must make himself present.
Harry learned very quickly the difference between muggle horses and their magical brethren; he learned of magical wards to cage beasts that could fly, of the tricks such animals played and their ability to open locks and manipulate mundane gates. There were only pegasi on the premises; both thestrals and unicorns were rarely tamed for very different reasons. Thestrals because they terrified most people, and unicorns because they were deemed too precious and pure.
He learned the odd things such horses ate; some breeds preferring fermented barley or oats, others normally poisonous plants as delectable treats, and still others that ate meat instead of any plants at all. It was a contradiction to him; almost like the beasts were wolves in horse clothing, more fierce and mean.
But he loved them all, every flavor, every color. The black wings on grey horses in a stormy sky, or the brown barred feathers of a bay mare as it fluttered through a paddock. Bird and horse merged together, their wings so large that their stalls were sometimes measured nearly fifty feet across with arched ceilings.
And Harry learned magic because he had to know levitation spells to move bags of magical seed; he learned cleaning spells to his everlasting delight, no longer forced to shovel smelly secretions by hand. There were delicate charms to put a shine on dangling tack, and coarse, harsh spells for the stall floors before straw was enchanted to lay warm and flat upon the newly clean surface. He learned to change the color of leather so it complemented the hue of a mares silky coat; he learned to test water and feed to make sure it was fresh and untainted.
He learned wards to prevent both mundane and magical pests from infiltrating stalls and feed stores; he learned spells to shield their charges from flies and bugs, and spells to heal scratches both light and deep.
With magic and a wand, everything seemed possible; and the more he learned of everything, the more he knew he needed to know.
And he didn't spare a thought for Hogwarts, far too busy with his own plans.
Petunia saw the letters and frowned; Harry was already attending a school, after all. She sent a polite decline back by owl, and was disgruntled when three wizards arrived on her doorstep the very next day as she stepped out to leave for the stables.
"He's not interested." Petunia insisted firmly, with a stern glare, as the elderly Headmaster asked once again why Harry was not, in fact, enrolling at his school. "He's quite content with the school he is at."
"Hogwarts is the best school of magic in Britain!" Professor McGonagall burst out, her hat quivering atop her head comically.
Petunia smiled brightly and stamped her feet to shake off the chill. She absolutely refused to invite the visitors inside and be kept from her horses even longer.
"But it does not offer a care of magical creatures class until third year, which Harry found unacceptable. Also, he did not want to wait until he was eleven to start. He has been at Hebridean for two years already and is very happy."
"Hebridean Black?!" The third wizard burst out, an oddly familiar face hidden behind a curtain of long black hair.
Was he some friend of Lily's once?
"Yes." Petunia said firmly, and rubed two gloved hands together. "Like that preposterous gigantic dragon your kind boasts of. And before you say so, I am aware it is normally a secondary school, but Harry was accepted despite his lack of formal education and has compensated quite well, though it's no business of yours. I don't understand why you are interested in my nephew now, after leaving him on my doorstep ten years ago without so much as a by your leave."
The last was said with a venomous look at Albus Dumbledore, who flushed, his mouth opening to speak before it snapped closed again.
An awkward silence fell, and Petunia grumbled.
"Enough. I'm late for work, and the whole countryside miles around will know it in another thirty minutes." Not much of an exaggeration; the horses knew when it was time to be fed and would indeed put up a loud complaint if gone unfed, though she hadn't personally been doing such for many years now. Still, she was quite ready to go. "Goodbye."
And without another word, she stomped down the drive.
Harry Evans made a name for himself; as a horrible student in everything but the classes that could somehow be applied to anything remotely equine in nature; and as a decent zoologist with an expertise on both wingless and winged horses of every variety.
He could tell the difference between an Abraxian and a Aethonan across an entire stable yard, and discuss at length what kind of carcass the few domesticated thestrals preferred.
He was eleven, an average sized boy, slim and wiry from constant riding and fiercely protective of his free time to do so. The few friends he gained were periphery; he only cared that they knew how to properly saddle a Granian versus an Abraxian, and didn't argue over who rubbed down the horses afterwards.
He floo'd to his classes in the morning, and stayed later and later into the day as he gained the approval to ride the flighty magical beasts and proved himself a master.
"It's uncanny." One professor said to another, while they watched the boy ride through the air, kneeling low over the grey Abraxian stallion. "He could win money."
It was well-known in the magical world that those who owned winged horses only went through the trouble for two reasons; to compete in the races, and for love of horses, and only one of those reasons were financially sound.
To Harry, both sounded perfectly fine to him. To his aunt, it sounded like trouble.
"Races? You, race?"
She envisioned her wild nephew flailing through the air, and winced. She and Lily had only ever participated in dressage and the one year of jumping. Horse racing was simply too risky and required a great deal of luck in the horse you rode and the people who managed it.
"Lord Faellon owns a racing stable in Spain, champion Granian horses. They're the fastest breed in the air, though not the smartest. Still, I've ridden some of the herd at Hebridean, and I like them."
Petunia narrowed her eyes.
"What are you trying to say, young man."
Harry flicked his head just like a nervous colt caught in an act of mischief. Then he grinned unrepentantly.
"Faellon has open trials for jockeys every spring. I'm small and light enough for the job."
"You are a young boy. Of course you're small!"
Harry raised his hands.
"So, can I?"
His green eyes sparked with mischief and hope. Petunia remembered another pair of green eyes across her table, speaking about horses, with that exact same look; and her heart softened.
But she didn't let it show on her face.
She fixed him with a stern look, and held up a hand.
"On one condition."
Her nephew did not wait to hear it; he let out a wild whoop and sprang upon her with open arms.
Petunia never doubted Black would get selected; he was simply too good, the horses too responsive, and his size made him a perfect candidate.
Lord Faellon took one look at the boy riding and came to speak with her. The spanish man's black hair was nearly as wild as her nephew's, and he smelled strongly of horse. His dark brown eyes pierced her, and Petunia felt an odd flutter in her chest, one she ruthlessly subdued.
She was not a young filly anymore to go prancing about for stallions.
She stiffened her back and put on a severe frown at the middle-aged wizard, who held a pointed hat crumpled in one hand and a ornate cane in the other.
"Mrs. Evans, your son is certainly talented. I admit, when I heard his age I had my doubts… but Faellon Stables would be proud to have him."
Petunia narrowed her eyes.
The wizard frowned slightly.
His voice had a melodic edge, english obviously not his first language. But Petunia was certain he understood what she had said. She let herself smile politely.
"As you said, Harry is very talented. He mentioned that there are several racing stables for your kind, and I've encouraged him to explore his options. We will, of course, consider any offers."
Faellon looked shocked; Petunia's smile became genuine. There, let the wizard think on that!
Of course, Harry had said no such thing. But Petunia was not about to let him be taken advantage of, and she knew when selling a horse one must make sure the buyers know that the horseflesh is prime and the selling itself optional.
It always raised the price.
The spanish man ran one tanned hand through his hair; then he smiled, showing a perfect row of white teeth.
"I see. I'm prepared to offer room and board for both he and yourself, if you wish to come with him, on the stable proper. One hundred galleons a week for training and exercise, and ten percent of a winning purse in a race, once he is deemed fit to compete."
She had no idea what a galleon was, or if that was good money. She only nodded once.
"We will keep that in mind."
"Two hundred, then, if you accept now. We are the best, Mrs. Evans. Our name would ensure his career, and the training we offer with Granian stock is superb. He can learn enough here that any other stable would be glad to take him in a few years as more than just a jockey."
Petunia primly folded her hands.
"I'm a muggle, Mr. Faellon." She stressed the title, and was gratified when the man looked unnerved. But then again, it was probably more at the fact that she was a muggle than that she had not used Lord. "But I know what my nephew is capable of. In a few years, he will have stables like yours begging for him, with or without your name."
For a long moment there was silence. Then, the wizard smiled again, and lifted his hat to point towards the aerial track, where Harry was nimbly dancing with a winged grey horse through several obstacles.
"Four hundred galleons, then, and fifteen percent of winnings if he places. You'll find no better offer anywhere, and some will be calling me a fool for giving it. He's never raced professionally, despite his skill. It's a different world."
"We are quite used to entering different worlds."
She didn't want to move; she didn't want to leave Garrick Stables and the horses there.
But the money Faellon offered was substantial, so much so that Harry had been struck speechless.
When he told her the exchange rate, it was her turn to for silence.
It was more than she made at the Stable. Twice over.
And Harry would have to move, if he took on the position and the training. The hours were rigorous; and the common floo network did not work internationally.
So the decision was made, and Petunia and Harry Evans moved to Spain, to live on a wizarding horse farm, though she kept her house shut up in case she ever needed to return.
She couldn't say she was that sad to leave Britain behind; the only thing she missed were the horses.
Petunia found it hard to get used to magic in her life at first; and then, too easy. She didn't have to wash dishes; or even cook, as meals were provided in a communal kitchen for all the live-in staff. She didn't have to clean; odd short creatures called house-elves were responsible for that.
She spent her time walking and watching the horses. There were not just the grey Granian racing stock; there were brown winged horses that resembled Belgians, then odd paddocks of invisible horses whose hooves she could hear clatter when she passed.
But best of all, there were normal, regular horses.
Well, she supposed they weren't quite regular. They were Andalusians, the trademark horse of Spain, and one was probably worth more than the entire Garrick Stable. She had never been so close to them; and they were majestic things, with proud arched necks and sleek white coats.
The Horse of Kings, Petunia thought romantically, Lily would have loved to see this.
"Black tells me you worked in a stable."
The voice surprised her; she turned to see the wizarding Lord approaching, for once dressed somewhat normally in pants and shirt instead of those odd robes wizards preferred.
Robes were not as conducive to riding, or working with horses in general, she had learned. Which meant the wizard must have been doing one of the two aforementioned things, instead of off counting his money, which was all she could assume the wealthy man must do.
"I did." Petunia confirmed. "I probably would have been stable master, in a few years."
Faellon nodded slowly, turning to look into the wide green pasture.
He didn't comment on the fact that she had left such a promising position; she wondered at how uncomfortable he looked.
"Would you like to ride? That is, your nephew implied you would."
Petunia blinked at the quick question; then, she smiled widely.
"Point me to the nearest horse."
Lord Faellon turned his head to face her, and nodded once.
"Speak to Soto. There are always horses that could use extra riding by a trained hand."
And no doubt Soto, the master of the Andalusian portion of the stables, would make sure her hand was very trained indeed.
But her heart leapt at even the chance.
"Thank you, Mr. Faellon." She said earnestly, and the man nodded once, turning to walk quickly away as if remembering some urgent task.
Her smile did not fade the rest of the night.
And the next morning, she began to ride again, and proved herself valuable.
After a year of training, starting at the worst jobs before proving himself worthy, the beginning jockey called only Black competed in his first race; a smaller circuit in Spain, on a young filly that Faellon thought had potential.
He won. And he didn't stop winning.
Harry Black Evans rarely had time to read the news; the hours not spent riding and training were spent combing through tomes on flying horses and their breeding, reading up on the various racing circuits, or talking with the stable hands and jockeys about the next mare or stallion that showed promise.
He only learned about the death of Nicolas Flamel because the Flamel's had owned one of the oldest running stables that breed Aethonan horses, the second most popular racing breed after the Granians, though they were mostly used as personal riding horses, the chestnuts more docile than the flighty, skittish grey horses Harry rode now.
Ireland, who had races specifically for Aethonian's, was holding a memorial, and Lord Faellon was attending.
He invited Harry to go with him, but Harry declined.
He really wanted to check out the first year foals, and saw no use in going to a funeral of any sort for a man whom he had never known.
It was not long before it was noticed that Harry had a knack for more than riding; Flores, the witch who oversaw the Granian broodmares, first made note of it when he healed the bruised snout of a young filly whose antics had led her to getting stuck in one of the ward gates.
Black had freed the struggling creature and kissed its muzzle, and Flores had not missed the transfer of magic.
She was sensitive to such things; winged horses did not give birth as easily as their wingless cousins, and small magical healing spells were often useful.
She told Bianca, who organized the medical barns, and within a week an excuse was made to bring the young boy in to see one of the Granian colts whose right wing was bound close to his back with a spell.
They knew what was wrong, of course; a simple potion in its feed would mend the over-strained tendons of wings too small yet to fly.
But Black, who waltzed in with a swagger, stopped on his way to deliver a message to Bianca to run one hand down its neck, the colt stilling at the touch like a personal message was being given to it.
Its ears perked forward; liquid eyes bright and young and excited.
Both witches saw the magic; subtle, elegant work, no doubt using a wand in one of the boy's large trouser pockets.
The wizard turned to face them with a jaunty smile, leaving the colt behind with a last pat.
When he was gone, Bianca ran a diagnostic spell on the colt; and found him painlessly healed.
"Natural talent." She murmured. "The boy is wasted on racing. He could be a world class equine healer, to diagnose and heal in simple minutes like that."
"We'll see if Lord Faellon agrees."
Bartolome Faellon did not agree, precisely.
But he saw no harm in his newest jockey learning horse medicine as well.
He was certainly getting what he paid for from the Evans boy.
Because Lord Faellon had insisted, Harry continued his basic magical studies, though he had no love for them.
Many an evening Petunia would watch her nephew stomp around the wide living quarters, grumbling about the latest owl from his tutor over one failed paper or another.
He was a horrid student; she hoped he would straighten out enough to at least pass the wizarding tests.
But she was very much afraid he would not unless the subject matter was a horse.
Years passed in just such a manner; the next horse to ride, the next race to run.
Petunia watched as her nephew grew taller, wiry muscles on a coltish form, all long legs and awkward stride as he got used to his growth spurts.
Often, she found herself talking to her sister in her mind; telling Lily how wonderful her son was, how loving and giving and kind.
Of course, sometimes she also ranted about how reckless and wild he was, too. She didn't want her sister to get the wrong impression.
When he raced, which was seldom still, her heart pounded in her chest. It was not simply around a track; there were obstacles to fly through, cliffs to dive off of, loops to spiral through, the path winding both up and down and around the stadiums.
Harry made it elegant; the flickering beat of wings, the churning legs of a horse, mane and tail braided in knots to keep them from his face.
But she saw others fail, and it reminded her that the sport was not safe.
Some horses clipped a levitating hurdle and fell; others ran into each other. Sometimes a rogue wind would run through, sending horses and riders alike off course.
On the more advanced tracks, the obstacles moved, and with the greater challenge came greater risk, and on one of those Petunia saw her first fatality.
The rider was fine; wizards and witches waited below to catch both ride and rider as they fell. But the horse had twisted his neck when colliding with the invisible wards around the stadium it had clipped when dodging another rider.
The twisted thing of fur and feather had haunted her; and Harry was oddly silent, even when accepting his reward.
"They don't always treat them right." He said softly, later, when they sat in the den. "The winged horses. They care too much about the audience being able to see, the excitement, the revenue from tickets. They could put color into the wards, make them slightly more visible to the horses. It never would have made that horizontal leap had it known it was there."
She hadn't known what to say.
But the next day, Lord Faellon had plenty.
"Your, your nephew." The man spat, pacing, for the first time in two years having stepped inside the Evans' shared quarters. "Refuses to compete in the next race unless I send a personal letter complaining to the Granian Board about the, the humanness of using wards!"
The wizard took a deep breath, then plowed on. "He refuses to see reason! We've used these type of wards for over a century, and there have been very few deaths. What he saw yesterday was a, a… oh, what's the word…"
He ruffled his black hair and stomped one foot, grumbling in spanish.
"Anomaly?" She asked, and the man spun to face her with a snarl.
"Yes, precisely. Speak to him and tell him it's nonsense."
Petunia placed her cup of tea down and folded her hands where she sat.
Faellon sputtered. "What do you mean, why?! Because I pay him to race, that's why!"
Petunia sighed. "He won't back down. I'm honestly surprised he didn't just write a letter himself. He must have assumed your name would have greater impact."
"Of course it would, he's just a jockey. But perhaps that would console him, if he did."
Petunia blinked; she had quite forgotten that the wizard before her was not aware of Harry's real name; she even forgot it sometimes herself.
But, perhaps it was time the man know a little more about the boy he was dealing with.
"I'm not so sure. The name of Harry Potter has opened doors to him in the past."
She saw the wheels spin for him; the puzzle pieces fall into place.
The wizard sat.
"So that's why Hebridean let him in. I had wondered… his grades were quite abysmal, you know."
"I know. He never told me how much he donated."
Faellon let out a rough laugh; then he sighed, his shoulders drooping.
"I can't let it be known I have Harry Potter working for me as a jockey. He's not as well known over the channel, but I had plans to race in Britain in the coming year. Last I heard of it, the rumor was he was training with some auror force in a secret hideaway, tracking down villains and killing them and such. I'll have reporters stampeding my barns, making the horses nervous, within a day."
Petunia raised a brow.
"The only people he probably wants to track down and kill are his tutors. And now the makers of those wards."
Faellon drooped further. Petunia stood briskly, and prepared another cup of tea, placing it beside him.
"He'll get his way, you know. I'm afraid I've raised a precocious boy. Lily would have loved him, of course. She was always looking after the horses too."
The wizard raised his head, looking towards the tea before focusing on her.
"You've done a good job with him, you know." He said softly. "I only hate making waves. I'd rather stay here with my horses and leave the racing committee to themselves."
"If you felt that way, you wouldn't race at all and be done with it."
He laughed; then he stood, leaving the tea untouched.
"I guess that puts me in my place. Thank you, Ms. Evans, for your opinion."
She looked up at him, and took another sip.
"Call me Petunia. Good luck with Black."
He snorted, and walked to the door, glancing over one shoulder.
"Then call me Bartolome."
Harry did read the news the next week; but he skipped right past the articles on slain basilisks and Hogwarts and petrified students, and directly to the headline on page six.
World-Renowned Faellon Stables Refuses to Race Horses Until Reforms Made
What followed was an article touting the Faellon's star-studded history of racing, the Racing Committees strident refusals to comment, and the basics of warding structures that were under fire, with highlights of the various lives lost over the years.
And Harry smiled in triumph down at a picture of Lord Faellon looking grim beside an elegant winged Granian.
It took six months for the changes to be made; which was very fast, by wizarding standards.
Mostly, it was rushed because other stables followed Faellon's example; they did not like losing valuable horses in any way, especially one easily preventable.
Also, it was because the sole animal rights group in the wizarding world had seemed to come alive overnight, passing out fliers at the magical wizarding alleys, owling petitions and organizing protests.
When the Racing Committee finally convened to discuss under pressure the old warding structures, they found a solution to suit both themselves and the irate spectators and stable owners.
New wards were designed that were only invisible one way; the spectators having a clear view, and the horse and riders seeing purple opaque swirls of magic.
The very next race, thirteen year old Black Evans raced on Vendeval in the Irish Grande, and Faellon Stables took home a prize of ten thousand galleons, an amount of money that made Petunia's head spin nearly as much as the swift embrace Bartolome gave her when Vendeval spiralled down the finish line in victory.
And everyone who paid attention to the sport of racing winged horses knew the name of the teenage jockey Black Evans.
To Harry, fame was a nuisance. He became very tired of fan mail; and even more tired that his aunt insisted he answer it.
Without her knowledge, he duplicated much of his replies to the letters; they were all mostly the same anyway, touting his skill, or fawning over his age, or worse still, the young witches who claimed they wanted to be his girlfriend.
That he blamed entirely on Witch Weekly running his picture in the magazine.
His only luck so far was that the glamours he had over his scar were in place during every race; all he needed was some random picture of a lighting bolt on his forehead to get bandied about.
In the stable, things were blessedly normal, though it was a mite odd that Lord Faellon came to visit so often.
Harry usually left the wizard with his aunt. He despised useless conversation unless it was about horses, and for some odd reason the man usually wanted to talk about the weather, or staff changes, or the new menu in the kitchens.
That his Aunt would bother listening to the drivel he put up to her keen sense of manners. He was certain she would rather talk about horses, too.
Sirius Black saw James Potter's picture in the magazine the auror dropped; he couldn't miss it, that familiar grin, that crazy hair.
Only the eyes were different, and they were a familiar green.
When he saw the name, he was certain.
James' son was using his mother's maiden name. Fitting; he knew Lily had adored her older sister.
Perhaps Dumbledore was also part of the scheme; hiding the Boy-Who-Lived in plain sight. He always was a sly fox.
At least the boy was safe. That was all that mattered; at least the boy was safe.
At that thought, Sirius leaned back against his cell door, and soon dreamed of wild runs through dark forests with a stag at his side.
Petunia sat calmly as Bartolome walked in, his dusty leather riding uniform mucked in more than one place with the grime of horses.
He paced in front of her; there was no mention of the stable, or of horses, or of the next race.
He looked, to her mind, like an old stallion locked in a pen far, far away from his herd. It was only a matter of time before he escaped.
He certainly is gorgeous, though, Petunia thought, and smiled.
He saw that smile, and stopped, dark eyes staring into hers.
"I know we're different. I mean, I'm a wizard and you're not." He began, paused, cleared his throat. "That is, you're not a witch, not a wizard. But I'm getting old, and… no, that's not what I mean to say." He clarified with a sharp gesture about his head. "It wouldn't matter if I'm old. I meant… I really enjoy your company. I do."
He said firmly, and Petunia debated whether laughing would be considered an insult. Her smile only widened.
"I enjoy your company as well." She murmured, taking a sip of her morning tea.
He stared blankly at her a moment, then sat in the chair she had come to think of as his.
"Okay. Well, that's good."
When he reached for her hand, she let him take it, and for a long moment sat there basking in the simple affection of a man.
Black raced in every race that the stables had a horse to enter. At every one, his aunt and the stable owner stood, side by side, the entire time.
When at one race, he saw them holding hands, he smiled into his horse's mane.
When he won, and he saw them exchange a quick, chaste kiss, he whooped.
Maybe now, his aunt would understand why he really didn't have time to take wizarding exams this year.
Or better yet, she would just forget them completely.
Petunia kept abreast of the news back in Britain, both muggle and magical. She missed her country at times; missed the horses, most of all.
She read of the forced resignation of old Headmaster, Dumbledore, with a grin. She hadn't ever liked that man, and agreed wholeheartedly with the papers when it stated that any wizard who allowed several students to die from a gigantic snake over a period of six months was not worthy to be head of any facility whatsoever.
His replacement, McGonagall, sounded much more capable to her mind. Lily had always had good things to say about her mentor.
Harry was sixteen when his aunt married Lord Faellon; and when he found that he would have the entire quarters to himself, he reveled.
More time with the horses, he figured. More time to fly on four hooves or two wings.
She did insist he take his exams; and unfortunately for them all, those exams had truth charms embedded in them. And despite his own insistence that his name was Harry Black Evans, he was forced instead to write Harry James Potter.
And suddenly, the world knew that he was not a savior lurking within the British Ministry, but a popular jockey in Spain.
Harry discovered that the fame of being a world-renowned racer was nothing compared to being the vanquisher of a Dark Lord.
"Another one, Black." The other jockey teased in thick spanish, one thumb pointing towards the warded gateway into the stable commons. "Maldito Paparazzi."
Harry ignored him, tossing the saddle he carried over a hanger.
He refused to talk to the press. If they continued to attend his races in force, well, that just meant more tickets were sold, more bets placed, and more money made.
It was all the same to him. Unless they wanted to talk about the horses, they could all rot in hell.
He was nineteen when Harry rode Rayo De Sol, a pale brown Granian as vibrant as his namesake, in the supreme obstacle course racing event of the wizarding world, an event that occurred once every three years in the high arid mountains of West Africa.
The Dragon's Breath, as it was called. Dangerous and beautiful both, a course full of levitated earth and falling rivers of water that cast rainbows across the ground. And as its name implied, there were hoops of fire that spun and moved to the music that was broadcasted through the air.
The horses had to be trained to a level that they would not react negatively to sudden sounds, to frequent movement, to the heat of fire or the chill of water. The rider had to know his horse and know him well.
Harry had seen Rayo born when he first came to the stables. He had watched the last Dragon's Breath tournament, and seen rider and horses alike injured. And for the last three years since, he had spent every day with the horse he had chosen from all of the stock at Faellon Stables. He knew his horse's mind like he knew his own. They were a team; they were one.
And he would ride Rayo De Sol through the Dragon's Breath, and if he won, he would take the Granian as his prize, to be the first stud of his own stables.
Lord Faellon had agreed.
The crowd roared their approval from the stands when Harry took to the saddle, strapping his legs into the harness, running one hand over Rayo's sides as the winged horse pranced in excitement.
He heard the call of his born name, Potter, and calls of his chosen one, Evans, and over them both he heard the chant of Black, Black, Black.
He was the favorite to win. And he would.
With one mind, they stretched wings and took to the air. The course stretched before them, winding, long, as they rose higher and higher and higher, the beauty of their strength like a drug.
Then, they dove.
Petunia Faellon, watching, held Bartolome's hand tightly in hers. At every close call, she tensed; at every finished hurdle, she screamed with the crowd, ignoring propriety, ignoring the cameras of the press.
Her Black, her wild Black, a nickname she had given him so long ago from one of her and Lily's favorite novels, about a Black stallion who could not be tamed.
Lily would be so proud.
She saw them dive through the fire as it spun, black on brown, wings tipped with white, and saw the time displayed as they finished unscathed.
As one, she roared with the crowd, jumping in exuberance, dragging Bartolome into a wild dance.
Oh, Lily. If only you could see our son.
Petunia sat, months later, in her comfortable chair that had been relocated into her new quarters after her marriage.
Harry was turning twenty, soon. She needed to plan a party for him, if she could drag him away from his horses.
The stable pastures spread out below her through the window as she rocked, horses prancing along the grass while more danced in the sky overhead.
What a wonderful life, she thought, as she had thought often over the last years. What a wonderful life.
All for the love of horses.
Author's Note: Hope you enjoyed this drabble. For all who are wondering: Petunia never married Vernon, she was too busy. The prophecy was self-fulfilling crap that Voldemort took too seriously; I mean, who takes Trelawney seriously? Sirius never escapes prison. Dumbledore is sacked after the Basilisk deaths, when McGonagall takes over. The Tournament never happens. Crouch remains in hiding, locked up by his dad. Peter Pettigrew dies a natural, rat death. The shade of Voldemort continues to wander, tempting wayward souls. The horcruxes are all eventually destroyed by one adventure seeker/treasure hunter or another. Harry becomes a world-renowned racer, and goes on to start his own stable specializing in rehabilitating horses and breeding new lines of horses. Probably meets Luna at a animal rights convention just because I could see someone like Luna putting up with a husband always chasing after horses, his head in the clouds as much as hers. He eventually dies of old age surrounded by family, and the scar and its taint die with him. Happily Ever After, The End. :D