The Boy Who Lived
Shantae, the Half-Genie of the lighthouse off Scuttle Town was happy to say she was beyond extraordinary. She probably would have been expected to be involved in many things strange or mysterious.
She was indeed a Half-Genie, as her mother was a genie, and her father was a human being. She was a beautiful young girl with very long purple hair and a voluptuous hourglass figure. She was the protector of Scuttle Town itself and devoted her lifeline to that profession. Her adoptive uncle, her living relative, was a big, beefy relic hunter and inventor named Mimic. She had good faith in him and his inventions. They normally had everything they wanted, but they also had a big enemy. Her arch-nemesis was not someone to cross. Her name was Risky Boots, who lusted for control of another dimension, who Shantae had contact with as her mother was a part of that dimension.
When Shantae woke on a very gray and dull Tuesday as the story started, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside that morning to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening. Shantae sang a very happy tune to herself as she picked out her favorite belly dancing clothes and got dressed, then hummed happily as she slid down the pole to prepare breakfast.
She hadn't heard nor noticed a large tawny owl flutter past outside.
At half-past eight, Shantae finished washing her hair, put her shoes on, and prepared for her usual day of things to do around Main Street. She closed the door behind her and went on her merry way.
It was on the corner near her lighthouse that she noticed something peculiar - a cat reading a map. For a split second, Shantae couldn't believe what she just saw. A tabby cat was standing at the corner near her home, but there wasn't a map in sight. Was it a trick of the light? She turned around and walked up to the cat, reached her hand, and gently stroked it. As she turned away, she still watched it from behind. It was now reading the sign that said "Scuttle Town". No, no, LOOKING at the sign. "Can cats read maps and signs?" she wondered. She shrugged and left to move on with her day. As she walked toward town she thought of a moment's peace she would hope to get that day, where she would pick up the parts her uncle Mimic would need for his work, and where she could relax in the bathhouse and dance with the children.
But on the edge of town, she began to notice the people were doing more than their usual morning chores. They were also whispering excitedly together. Shantae was surprised to see that a lot more of them were young; why, that boy had to be younger than she thought he was, and wearing an emerald-green turban! Wow! But then it struck Shantae that this was probably some silly stunt - these people were obviously collecting for something... yes, that would be it. She realized what she had to do, and a few minutes later, Shantae arrived in the local shop, her mind back on her anticipated relaxation.
Shantae always picked up the memo of approval for her uncle from the shop where she got her hair cream and her clothes. If she hadn't, she might have found it harder to help her uncle with his projects. She didn't see the owls swooping past in broad daylight, though people in the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as owls after owls sped overhead. Most of them had never seen an owl even at nighttime. Shantae, however, had a perfectly normal, owl-free morning. She collected five different parts of her Uncle's invention. She made several important telephone calls and helped out even a bit more. She was in a very good mood until lunchtime when she thought she'd walk across the road to buy herself a ham from the butchers' opposite.
She had forgotten all about the excited people in cloaks and turbans until she passed a group of them next to the butchers. She eyed them anonymously as she passed.
She didn't know why, but something about them was fishy. This lot was whispering excitedly, too, and she couldn't see a single collecting tin. It was on his way back past them, clutching a ham in a bag, that she caught a few words of what they were saying.
"The Potters! That's right, that's what I heard-"
"-Yes, their son, Harry!"
Shantae stopped dead. Curiosity flooded her. She looked back at the whisperers as if she wanted to ask something to them, but thought better of it.
She dashed across the road, hurried to the bathhouse, asked the owner if she could use the telephone, seized it, and had almost finished dialing her uncle's workshop number when she changed her mind. She put the receiver back down and stroked her hair, thinking ...now, wait a minute... Harry may be an unusual name, but not too uncommon. She was sure there were lots of people called Potter who had a son called Harry. Come to think of it, she wasn't sure she knew any child in Scuttle Town called Harry. She'd never seen the boy. It might've been Harvey. Or Harold. But all the same, those people in cloaks…
She was able to drown the uncertainty with the much-needed relaxation at the bathhouse that afternoon, but when she left the building at five o'clock, she walked straight into someone just outside the door.
"Sorry," she said, as the tiny old man stumbled and almost fell, and she managed to help him. It was a few seconds before Shantae realized that the man was wearing a violet turban. He didn't seem upset at being almost knocked to the ground. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smile and he said in a squeaky voice that caused passers-by to stare: "Don't be sorry, my dear lady, for nothing, can upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Half-Genies like yourself should be celebrating this happy, happy day!"
The old man hugged Shantae around the middle and walked off.
Shantae smiled as she watched the old man walk away, and she set off to the hatchery, where the birdkeeper, one of her best friends Sky, invited her to get together.
Sky had had a nice, normal day. She told Shantae over dinner all about Rottytops' funny problems with her brain cravings, and how Bolo had learned to fight with a mace that had no chains. After a little girl was given a piece of caramel candy and sent home to bed, Shantae went to her uncle's radio and turned it on 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 newsreader 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 Hail, Salalah, and Dubai 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."
Shantae sat frozen on her stool. Shooting stars all over The Peninsula? Owls flying by daylight? Mysterious people in cloaks all over the place? And a whisper, a whisper about the Potters?
Mimic came into the living room carrying two cups of tea. It was no good, she would have to say something to him. She cleared his throat nervously. "Er - Uncle Mimic - you haven't seen the people and the commotion today, have you?"
As she had expected, Mimic looked shocked and confused. After all, they hoped everyone would be calm and have no need for attacks today. "No," he said sharply. "Why?"
"Funny stuff on the news," Shantae mumbled. "Owls... Shooting stars... And there were a lot of funny-looking people in town today ..."
"So?" questioned Mimic.
"Well, I just thought ... maybe ... it was something to do with ... you know ... this… "You-Know-Who" everyone's talking about."
Uncle Mimic sipped his tea through pursed lips. Shantae wondered whether he dared tell her he'd heard the name Potter. She decided she didn't dare. Instead, she said, as casually as she could, "Their son - he'd be about a year old by now, wouldn't he?"
"I suppose so," said Mimic stiffly.
"What's his name? Harry, isn't it?"
"Yes. Something about him seems fishy if you ask me."
She didn't say another word on the subject as she walked home to bed. While Mimic stayed behind wrapping up his work, Shantae noticed her island across the bridge. The cat was still there. It was staring down the bridge as if it was waiting for something. Was she imagining things? Could all this have anything to do with the Potters? If it did... well, she hoped nothing went wrong with them.
Shantae got into bed but lay awake, turning it all over in her mind. Her last comforting thought, before she fell asleep was that even if the Potters were involved, there was no reason for them to be hurt. The Potters were well aware of what their estranged Muggle relatives said about them and their kind... She couldn't see how they and the Muggles could get mixed up in anything that might be going on. She yawned and turned over.
Shantae may 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 the street. It didn't so much as quiver when a car door slammed in the next street, nor when two owls swooped overhead. It was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all. A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he had just popped out of the ground. The cat's tail twitched and its eyes narrowed.
Nothing like this man had ever been seen in Scuttle Town. Nothing like this man had ever been seen in Scuttle Town. He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak which swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice. This man's name was Albus Dumbledore.
Albus Dumbledore didn't seem to realize that he had just arrived in a street where everything from his name to his boots was unwelcome. He was busy rummaging in his inside pocket, looking for something. What he did seem to realize, was that he was being watched, because he looked up suddenly at the cat, which was staring at him from the other end of the street. For some reason the sight of the cat seemed to amuse him, he chuckled - which those close to Albus Dumbledore know is not common - and muttered, "I should have known."
He had found what he was looking for in his inside pocket. It seemed to be a silver cigarette lighter. He flicked it open, held it up in the air, and clicked it. The nearest street lamp went out with a little pop. He clicked it again - the next lamp flickered into darkness. Twelve times he clicked the Put-Outer until the only lights left were two tiny pinpricks in the distance, which were the eyes of the cat watching him. If Shantae looked out of the window now, she wouldn't be able to see anything that was happening on the pavement.
Dumbledore slipped the Put-Outer back into his cloak and set off down the street towards the lighthouse belonging to Shantae, where he sat down on the wall beside the cat. He didn't look at it, but after a moment he spoke to it.
"Fancy to see you here, Professor McGonagall."
He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead, he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one. Her black hair was drawn into a tight bun. She looked distinctly ruffled.
"How did you know it was me?" she 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," retorted Professor McGonagall, bitterness in her words.
"All day? I'd have thought you of all people would be out celebrating? I must've passed at least a dozen feasts and parties on my way here."
Professor McGonagall sniffed angrily.
"Oh yes, everyone's celebrating, all right," she said impatiently. "You would think that they would be more careful, but no! Even the Muggles have noticed something's going on, It was on their news," She jerked his head at Shantae's 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 Pyke - I'll bet that was Dedalus Diggle. He never had much sense."
"You can't blame them," said Dumbledore, more gently than he had spoken to Professor McGonagall ever before. "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,"
She threw a sharp, sideways glance at Dumbledore here, as though hoping Dumbledore would tell him something, but he didn't, so he went on: "A fine thing it would be if, on the very day he 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 Professor Dumbledore, "We have much to be thankful for. Would you care for a sherbet lemon?"
"A sherbet lemon. They're a kind of Muggle sweet that I've found myself rather fond of."
"No, thank you," said McGonagall coldly, as though she didn't think this was the moment for sherbet lemons. "Now, even if You-Know-Who has gone -"
"My dear Professor. Surely someone so sensible, 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 sherbet lemons, seemed not to notice. "It all gets so confusing if we keep saying 'You-Know-Who'. I have never seen any reason to be afraid of saying Voldemort's name."
"I know you haven't!" said McGonagall, sounding half-exasperated, half-admiring, "But you're different. And everyone knows you're the only one You-Know - oh, all right, Voldemort, was frightened of."
"You flatter me," said Professor Dumbledore calmly. " Voldemort had powers I will never have."
"Only because you're - forgive me for saying this - too noble to use them."
"It's lucky it's dark. I haven't blushed so much since Madame Pomfrey told me she liked my new earmuffs."
McGonagall shot a sharp look at Dumbledore and said, "The owls are nothing next to the rumors that are flying around. Do you know what everyone's saying? About why he's disappeared? What finally stopped him?"
It seemed that Professor McGonagall had reached the point she was most anxious to discuss, the real reason she had been waiting on a cold, hard wall all day, for neither as a cat nor as a woman had she fixed Dumbledore with such a piercing stare as she did now. It was plain that whatever "everyone" was saying, she was not going to believe it until Dumbledore told her it was true. Dumbledore, however, was choosing another sherbert lemon and did not answer.
"What they're saying," she pressed on, "is that last night Voldemort turned up in Godric's Hollow. He went to find the Potters. The rumor is that Lily and James Potter are — are — that they're — dead?"
Dumbledore bowed his head. Professor McGonagall gasped.
"Lily and James? I can't believe it, I didn't want to believe it! Oh, Albus..."
Dumbledore reached out and patted her on the shoulder. "I know... I know..." he said heavily.
Professor McGonagall's voice trembled as she went on. "That's not all. They're saying he tried to kill the Potter's son, Harry. But - he couldn't. He couldn't kill that little boy. No one knows why, or how, but they're saying that when he couldn't kill Harry Potter, Voldemort's power somehow broke - and that's why he's gone."
Dumbledore nodded glumly.
"It's — It's true?" Professor McGonagall repeated, shocked, "After all he has done... and all of the people he has killed. He couldn't kill a little boy? It's just astounding ... of all the things to have stopped him. But how in the name of Heaven did Harry survive?" "We can only guess," Dumbledore replied,
"We may never know."
Professor McGonagall pulled out a lace handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes beneath her spectacles. Dumbledore gave a great sniff as he took a golden watch from his 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've made sense to Dumbledore, though, because he put it back into his pocket and said, "Hagrid's late. I suppose it was he who told you I would 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 have come to bring Harry to Shantae. She wrote to me and said she was willing to take him in upon hearing the news."
"You don't mean - you can't mean girl who lives here?" questioned Professor McGonagall, pointing at the lighthouse. "Albus, are you sure this is safe? I've been watching her all day, you couldn't find two people who are less like us. And she's not even an adult, in between jobs. I saw her fending off a horde of nasty bandits just off the beach, led by this savage pirate! Harry Potter come and live here? He will be famous – I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future – there will be books written about Harry. There won't be a child in our world who doesn't know his name!"
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over the top of his half-moon glasses. "He's far better off growing up away from all that... until he is ready to take it."
Professor McGonagall opened her mouth, changed her mind, swallowed, and then said, "Yes — yes, you're right, of course. But how is the boy getting here, Dumbledore?" She eyed his cloak suddenly as though she thought he might be hiding Harry underneath it.
"Hagrid is bringing him."
"You think it wise to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"
"Ah, Professor, I would trust Hagrid with my life," said Dumbledore.
Professor McGonagall began to reply but was interrupted by a low rumbling sound that 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 motorbike fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them.
If the motorbike was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild — long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of dustbin lids, and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins. In his vast, muscular arms he was holding a bundle of blankets.
"Hagrid," said Dumbledore, sounding relieved. "At last. And where did you get that motorbike?"
"I borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir." Explained the giant, climbing carefully off the motorbike as he spoke. "Young Sirius Black lent it to me."
"No problems, I trust, Hagrid?"
"No, sir. House was almost destroyed but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' around. Little tyke fell asleep when we was flyin' over Bristol."
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bent forward over the bundle of blankets. Inside, just about visible, was a baby boy, fast asleep. Under a curl of jet black hair that rested over his forehead was a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lighting. "Is that where - ?" Wondered Professor McGonagall, aloud.
"Yes," said Dumbledore, "He'll have that scar forever."
"Couldn't you do something about it, Dumbledore?"
"Even if I could, I wouldn't. Scars can come in useful. I have one myself above my left knee which is a perfect map of the London Underground."
"Try not ter wake him," Hagrid said, just about to lend Harry to Dumbledore. "Here yeh go."
Dumbledore then took Harry into his arms and turned towards Shantae's lighthouse.
"Could I — could I say good-bye to him, sir?" asked Hagrid. He bent his great, shaggy head over Harry and gave him what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss. Then, suddenly, Hagrid let out a great sniff and a quiet sob.
"There, there, Hagrid, it's not really goodbye, after all," said Dumbledore. Hagrid nodded as Dumbledore approached the front door. He laid Harry gently on the doorstep, took out a letter from his cloak, tucked it inside Harry'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," Dumbledore said finally, "That's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and enjoy the celebrations,"
"Yeah," said Hagrid. "I'll be takin' Sirius his bike back. G'night, Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore, Sir."
Wiping his streaming eyes on his jacket sleeve, Hagrid swung himself onto the motorbike 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 his colleague. Professor McGonagall blew her nose in reply. Dumbledore turned and walked down the street. On the corner, he stopped and took out the silver Put-Outer. He clicked it once and twelve balls of light sped back to their street torches so that the street glowed suddenly orange and he could make out a tabby cat slinking around the corner at the other end of the street. He could just see the bundle of blankets on the step of Shantae's home.
"Good luck, Harry Potter," he murmured. He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak, he was gone.
A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of the street, which lay silent and tidy beneath the inky sky, in the place you would expect astonishing things to occur. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing that he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours time by Shantae's coos of affection as she opened the front door to pick up the papers, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being raised by a Half-Genie. He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the world were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: "To Harry Potter - The Boy Who Lived!"