"Afternoons are your time, you can work on whatever interests you, or read. Read at least a chapter of the Hogwarts book every day," Jezbet said after lunch.
"All right," Harry said, "I'll read some more, then?"
"I'll call you down for dinner," Jezbet told him.
He got about 75 pages into Sassinank, put in a bookmark after Sass graduates Fleet academy, and Abe is killed.
Annie was a much easier read, and he smiled a lot at Annie and Eliza's antics, both at the Met and the Cloisters. The story drew him along, and he was more than halfway through the book by dinnertime.
The spicy scents from downstairs distracted him well before dark, so he carried Annie downstairs, and set the book on the table while he investigated the stove.
"What's this?" he asked Jezbet when she walked up behind him.
"Vegetable kofta curry," she said, "With saffron rice and naan."
"It smells awesome."
She sampled the curry, then held the spoon out to him, "Here, taste."
Harry took the spoon, licked it clean, then washed it before he handed it back. "It's good. My aunt never let me," he paused, "She never made anything like this, and she wouldn't buy me anything."
"Your aunt has always been a bit off. She has been getting better as she's grown, but she's very young, still. If she doesn't change who she hangs out with, it'll be a few centuries, but she'll grow up."
"Most people don't live that long."
"Yeah, there's something about magic, or magical society, that really inhibits reproductive success."
Harry cocked his head, "Reproductive success?"
"Having grandkids who survive to adulthood."
Harry thinks about it a bit, then nods, "Magic should provide a big advantage."
"Yep. In wild populations, a 1% advantage will spread and supplant those without that trait, so there's obviously something disadvantageous involved. What that is? We haven't been studying you guys long enough to be sure, but I have some guesses."
"What do you guess?"
"In England? Britain, actually? You keep having little wars, keep yourselves segregated, ignore or kill off your new blood, and that's leaving aside the stupidity that is magical contracts. That's just a guess, but ask about grandmothers and great-grandmothers when you get to school."
Harry nodded, a frown turning his face down.
"Sit down, continue your book. Dinner will be ready in an hour or so, and there's plenty of time to worry about the fate of the wizarding world later."
"Yeah," Harry said before he sat back down.
After dinner Miriam turned to Harry, "Have you seen E.T.?"
"Most of it, on the TV."
"No. Dudley wanted to, but my aunt said no."
"Then I guess we have a plan for tonight. Popcorn?" Jezbet asked.
They watched Alien first, and Harry's eyes were glued to the screen from the moment the first line of the opening titles faded in until Ripley's closing log entry, "are dead, the cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off." Fade to black, Ripley tucked into hyper sleep with Jones, the orange cat.
Harry was almost asleep by the end of E.T., and Miriam carried him up to bed.
Harry protested sleepily, "I can walk," he said, softly.
"I know you can, but that would wake you up. It's not like you're heavy."
"OK, then," Harry nodded.
He submitted quietly to getting tucked under the covers, and was asleep by the time they closed the door.
He woke, again, but less panicked this time, to the smell of breakfast cooking. He washed his face and brushed his teeth, then padded down the stairs.
Miriam is cooking this morning, singing softly along with the male voice on the stereo, "well believe me this has been one lousy day. Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark. Someone shut the fence off in the rain," as she grates potatoes.
Harry watched as she turned the bacon, cracked another egg into the skillet, "I thought that song was "McArthur Park."
"Yeah, this version will be out in a few years, probably," Miriam said. She plated the bacon, and poured the grated potatoes into the bacon grease. They sizzle eagerly, filling the room with the earthy scent of raw potatoes for a moment, gradually becoming more delicious as they cook. She flipped them after a bit, and they sizzle again.
"Set the table?" she asked.
Harry nodded, and set to work.
"Do you know how to ride a bicycle?" Jezbet asked, sitting down with the paper.
"No," Harry said, "Dudley wanted a racing bike for his birthday, but I don't think he knows how, either."
"Then I guess we'll have to teach him before the summer's out. There's nothing like a bike to make the world smaller."
"Oh? How about a car?"
Miriam set down platters, "Here the modern safety bicycle only predated the car by a few decades. A human with a bicycle is the most efficient land animal, ever. Even a single-speed fixed gear can easily cover a hundred miles a day on good gravel roads. Thirty miles with a horse is an all-day trip."
"Will I be able to ride a hundred miles in a day?"
Jezbet shrugged, "If you decide you want to, and work up to it. Without much effort, you can beat public transit anywhere within ten miles."
After breakfast Harry fell down. A lot. Every few meters at first.
"It's discouraging, I remember, but," Miriam walked behind, holding onto the seat, and Harry started peddling again.
A few meters later, she let go, and he peddled along a bit. He wobbled sharply, hopped off the saddle, dabbed with one foot, then recovered with a big grin, and continued.
Miriam kicked the sidestand up on her bike, put her foot on the near pedal, and swung her leg over as she took off. She caught up to Harry and Jezbet, and pedaled sedately on the other side.
"Where do you want to go?" she asked.
Harry looked at her, wobbled, and quickly looked back forward, "Brooklands Museum." he said, after a bit.
"That's a long way for a first ride," Jezbet said.
"Can we get there before they close?"
"If we work at it, we should be able to get there by lunch."
Harry's lips tightened a moment, he swallowed, rode along a bit, "I'd like that."
"Then let's go."
They got there about lunch, and Harry was dragging a bit as the bikes vanished back wherever they came from. Jezbet found them a table outside the little cafe, and Miriam led Harry inside to order.
After a bit of rest and some food, Harry took the lead.
There were not any races that day, but Harry spent all afternoon looking at the old racecars, motorcycles, and airplanes.
They were the last visitors out.
"Can we come back again? I didn't get to see everything."
"There's a race in a few weeks," Jezbet said, "I could run the SLR."
"Do we have a kart? I can't remember," Miriam asked.
"We had one. I'm not sure if they do karts here."
"I'm sure we can find someplace for Harry to practice."
"Whats a cart?"
"Go-kart, un-suspended 4-wheel vehicle, small, relatively low power, fun to race," Miriam said, "There are often youth brackets down to as low as five or six."
"That might be fun," Harry allowed.
They got home about dark, and Harry ate a hamburger and fries, eyes drooping. Jezbet carried him upstairs, and tucked him in his bed.
Miriam kissed him on the forehead.
"That was a lot of fun," Harry said, eyes closed.