Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: You might recognize the name of the woman who adopts Harry in this story – never fear, I know the real Aurilia and have her permission to use her as a character in my story. Actually, she was even my beta! Most of her personality remains true to who she really is, though her history and much of her life as I've relayed it is nothing more than poetic license on my part.
Raising Harry, Book One
La Vida Muggle
There are theories that exist which try to explain how the universe is put together in all its infinite variety. One such theory states that for every major choice faced by humankind, an entirely new universe is formed, exploring what would have happened if the other choice had been taken. The most poetic expression of this theory is found in Robert Frost's 'The Road Less Traveled,' wherein the poet ends with the line, "and I, I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." What difference this made is left to the interpretation of the reader, as all good poems allow their readers some analytical outlet. This tale is an exploration of the difference a single choice can make in the world; an ultimate expression of the question 'what-if?' Read it if you will, but do keep in mind that repercussions of even the simplest choices can have far-reaching consequences.
Chapter One: Aurilia Westlake
In the year 1978, Aurilia Westlake's life began to change. Her father, a professor of folk-culture at Iowa State University, was killed in a car accident that Christmas Eve; the accident caused by too much holiday cheer on the part of a middle-aged woman. Aurilia's mother followed a scant three months later; and years later, Aurilia still had nightmares about finding her mom in a bathtub filled with blood. At the time, she was nineteen and just finishing her sophomore year at the same university where her father had taught for over fifteen years. When the school year drew to a close, Aurilia decided to put her schooling on hold whilst she used some time figuring out what to do with her life; she had spent the majority of her life doing what her parents had asked and expected of her, and with them gone, she was more than just a little lost. She took a portion of her father's life-insurance money and disappeared to Europe.
It wasn't as hard as most would have assumed for her to leave her previous life behind. She had no friends and no remaining family. It was always easier for her to find company in books than people, and those few people who shared her affinity for the written word were invariably driven off by her open admittance of her faith. Though she lived in one of the most populous Christian regions of the US, she and her parents were Wiccan. By the time she packed a backpack and left Ames, Iowa, she took a perverse pleasure in telling people she was a witch and watching them become uneasy, or, taken to the extreme, inform her she would be spending her afterlife in a hell in which she did not believe. She found it deliciously funny.
Once in Europe, she spent most of the summer in Spain; having lived six years of her life in one Spanish course or another, she felt it was a good place to start. By the time that August drew to a close, she was fully fluent in the language, and had learned all the curses and oaths that her teachers had refused to share. The fall of 1979 was spent touring the cathedrals of Germany and France. She managed to get slightly airsick on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, and was escorted to the ground level by a handsome Frenchman that didn't speak a word of English or Spanish. Winter was spent along the French Riviera, and by the time 1980 dawned, she finally knew enough French to get along, though her accent was horrible – which drew no few dirty looks in her direction – and she was nowhere near fluent; at least she was able to order food, obtain a hotel room, and find the bathroom without too much difficulty. Spring found her in Western Germany, and she spent Beltane – May first – in Berlin, drinking German beer and getting her picture taken in front of the Berlin Wall. By the start of summer, she figured it was about time to investigate Amsterdam, and, upon looking back on it years later, she was unable to remember much beyond the first afternoon and her first experience with a pot-laced-brownie and cup of coffee strong enough to crawl out of the cup and dance a jig out the door – or so she recalled. She did remember, though, that as August faded into September, she found herself on a ferry to Great Britain, vague notions of spending Halloween – Samhain – at Stonehenge.
It was a complete shock to her, however, that she was still in the UK a full year later. She found that she loved the country more than any other place she'd visited. It also intrigued her that most people weren't as put off by her faith as they were in the US. She knew in her heart, though, that Iowa was her home, and she would return… eventually. On the afternoon of November first, 1981, Aurilia woke up with a moderate hangover – a lingering remnant of the festivities of the night before. That year she hadn't spent the holiday at Stonehenge, though. She held a private ceremony in her small hotel room, and then proceeded to get completely plastered at the hotel bar. The hotel in which she was staying was on the far outskirts of London, in an area where all the houses were identical and sat in identical yards on identical streets, with only the odd tree, business, or gas station breaking the monotony. Knowing that little else worked for her hangovers, she bundled herself into her fluffy white coat and stepped outside to take a walk. She let her mind wander over her travels as her feet led her wherever they may.
It was nearing midnight, and getting quite chilly, when the last vestiges of her headache finally disappeared. She shook her head and tucked a stray lock of curly auburn hair behind her ear. She pushed her glasses further up her nose and looked around, trying to remember just how she got to where she was. A street sign proclaimed her to be on Privet Drive, at the corner of Wisteria Walk. That was good – her hotel was on Wisteria Walk – so she wasn't too far from where she needed to be. She was just about to head back to the hotel when a noise caught her attention. It seemed to be coming from a couple of houses down the block. Wondering if anyone was hurt – the noise had sounded like a faint whimper – she hurried down the street, pausing every now and then to hear if another noise would draw her any closer to her goal. Now, this is where the earlier discussion of choice comes into play, for in another world, Aurilia hadn't turned down this street in the early morning hours of November second; instead, she decided she'd been imagining things and had returned to her hotel for a shower and some hot coffee. In this world, though, she pursued the faint whimpers down the street, eventually locating the source as a bundle of blankets on the front stoop of a house with a large brass number four on its brown brick wall.
Carefully, she crept up the walk, unable to imagine what could be making those pathetic little noises. You can imagine her supreme shock when she hesitantly unwrapped a corner of the blanket to see a small child, shivering slightly in the chilly, damp air of the night. "Goddess bless!" She whispered, "Who on Earth would leave a baby out in this? It feels like it could snow, for the love of Gaia!" In the faint light from a distant streetlight, she saw that the child was clutching a letter in his sleep. She also noticed a nasty cut on the baby's forehead. Immediately concerned, she picked up the child, blankets and all, and hurried closer to one of the street lights. The cut had obviously been wiped clean, but she doubted that it had really been cleaned. She wondered what had happened to the child for it to have such a wound, and if it might not have other injuries, hidden by clothes and blankets. She wrapped the toddler tightly in the blankets, tucking the letter into her pocket in the process, and hurried to her hotel. Nodding a greeting to the night clerk, she slipped up the stairs to her room.
Once in her room, Aurilia unwrapped the toddler very carefully. She didn't know if it was injured any place other than the forehead, and she didn't want to aggravate any hidden injuries. She noticed while removing the child from the nest of blankets that the diaper the poor thing was wearing had been soiled. She sighed. She needed some supplies, and she should also call the police. She rang the desk clerk, though, and explained that she needed a few items immediately. The clerk informed her of a store in London that was open twenty-four hours which would be able to address her needs, and offered to call a cab for her. She accepted, and the clerk stated that he would ring her room when the taxi arrived.
For the time being, Aurilia searched through her bags – though she had started her travels with but a single backpack, she now had several suitcases and bags, most filled with various souvenirs and trinkets. She located a clean t-shirt and used the scissors from her mending kit to cut it into a suitable substitution for a diaper. Turning back to the sleeping child, she carefully undressed it, and found that 'it' was actually a boy. She also found no further evidence of any injuries. Using a damp cloth from the bathroom, she cleaned the boy and dressed him in the makeshift diaper. She wrinkled her nose at the three blankets in which he had been bundled. They were filthy. She shrugged and re-wrapped the boy in a soft wool throw that she'd purchased in a small village market in Spain. Just as she was finishing, the phone in her room rang. It was the clerk, informing her that the taxi had arrived. She grabbed her purse and the boy and went down to the lobby. She handed the clerk a ten-pound note with her thanks and stepped out to the taxi.
The cabbie was unusually silent on the drive to the store. In Aurilia's experience, taxi drivers were usually a chatty bunch. He must just be the exception that proves the rule. Another ten-pound note bought her a half-hour in the store while the cabbie waited. An acne-spotted stock boy earned a couple of quid for helping her locate some antibacterial cream, bandages, hydrogen peroxide, diapers (and all the peripherals of a diaper-wearing baby, including bag and wipes), some clothes for the child, and a blue plush teddy-bear. Aurilia had no idea if the boy was old enough for solid food, so she delayed getting any until he woke up. Thanks to the stock boy, the entire excursion into the store took a mere twenty minutes. After arriving back at her hotel, with a proper diaper on the boy and his wound cleaned and dressed, she tucked him into her bed and was in the process of changing into some clean clothes herself, when she located the note she'd found with the child. She had completely forgotten about it in her concern over the boy.
She broke the wax seal and unfolded the thick parchment, setting aside a couple of smaller documents that had fallen out. Decoding handwriting was not her strong suit, and it took her some time to wade through the spiky, stylized script. What she read, though, had her heart aching in sympathy for the boy.
I fear that I must be the one to inform you of your sister's untimely passing. Lily and James Potter were killed late in the evening of October 31. It is with a heavy heart that I must ask you to take care of your nephew – Merlin knows, we would all rather his parents were still with us to do so, but that is not the case. Take him into your heart and home, Mrs. Dursley, I fear he will need your love and support in the future. Lord Voldemort was the cause of the death of your sister and her husband, and though he seems to have disappeared, I am certain he will resurface and come for the boy.
I realize you have your own son – around Harry's age, if I recall correctly – and I further realize that this is not what you would have wished for your family, but I cannot stress the importance of Harry needing your protection at this critical time in all our lives.
For your convenience, I have also sent along his birth certificate and his immunization records.
With deepest sympathy,
Now, in another world, one where Petunia Dursley had opened her front door to locate a baby Harry Potter on her front stoop, she had immediately written back to Dumbledore, insisting that she couldn't possibly take her nephew in, and had received a detailed account in return concerning one Dark Lord and the two-way blood protections that came into play with Lily Potter's selfless sacrifice. In this world, however, Aurilia stared at the letter for a full hour, unable to even think. When she finally absorbed all the information in the letter, she turned to the other two pieces of parchment that accompanied the letter. The birth certificate, though different in format from her own, was obviously an official document – it was certified with an embossed, golden seal. From it, she learned that little Harry's full name was Harold James Potter, and that he had obviously inherited the middle name from his father. It also revealed that he was fifteen months old. The immunization record may as well have been written in Greek, though. She'd never had cause to see one before, and as such, was unable to decipher the many abbreviations it contained.
She tucked the letter and both documents into her purse. The police would, no doubt, want to see all of it. She spent the remainder of the night deep in thought. Though not yet noticeable to anyone, actions had now been set into motion that would change the world forevermore.
At eight o'clock on the dot, little Harry began to stir. Aurilia hurried to the boy's side. He blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes with a chubby fist. Aurilia was shocked at his eyes. They were just like hers. Not completely impossible. I'm sure a lot of people have green eyes, and my ancestors are from Scotland… The boy peered at her, "Mama?"
Aurilia shook her head, "No, Harry. I'm Aurilia. I'm a friend."
"Really-ah?" The boy tried his best with the unfamiliar name.
"Close enough," she smiled. "Are you hungry?"
He nodded, unconsciously tightening his grip on the blue plush bear. "Cerill?"
It took a moment for Aurilia to realize he wanted cereal. "Sure, little luz. Anything you want." Aurilia picked him up and checked his diaper. It didn't need changed just yet, but she gathered the diaper bag and the spare set of clothes she'd purchased for him. Throwing her purse over her shoulder, she picked up the boy and headed back towards the front desk.
The clerk from the night before had obviously been relieved of his shift, and the day clerk was there. "Good morning, Miss Westlake. I trust you slept well?" the middle-aged woman with graying blonde hair asked.
Aurilia nodded, "Sure did. Your bed has got to be one of the more comfortable ones I've slept on in a long time."
The clerk grinned at the praise, "Why thank you, miss." She noticed Harry. "And who is this little cutie?"
"This is Harry, I'm watching him for a while."
Harry blinked solemnly at the older woman. "Hungwy," was all he said.
The woman laughed. "How old is he, may I ask?"
"Fifteen months. You wouldn't happen to know of a decent place to grab some breakfast, would you?" Aurilia repositioned Harry on her hip.
The clerk smiled wistfully, "I remember my littles being that young… And there's a nice diner just down the street, miss. Can't miss it."
Aurilia smiled, "Thanks."
"Not a problem," the clerk waived her hand in a dismissing gesture. "Anytime."
Aurilia hurried out the door and down the street. It wasn't raining, though it looked as it might at any moment. True to the clerk's word, she found the café without any problems, and just in time, too. As the door shut behind her, the skies opened up and rain poured down. Harry had his cereal, the majority of which seemed to have been smeared over his clothes, his hair, and his face. But, when she asked, he confirmed he was no longer hungry. After paying, she carried him into the bathroom and cleaned him up the best she could, then stopped by the cashier. Five pounds got him to call a cab for her, and twenty minutes later, both she and Harry were on their way to the nearest police station.
Upon reaching their destination, Aurilia was starting to feel a touch anxious. She wasn't sure how situations like this were handled. Nevertheless, she swallowed her nervousness and strode purposefully into the large brick building. After explaining her situation with the officer at the front desk, she was shortly escorted to a cluttered office, where she proceeded to describe how she located Harry. The detective was a kindly gentleman, likely nearing retirement, in Aurilia's opinion, and took copious notes. He made photocopies of the letter, birth certificate, and the immunization record Aurilia had found with Harry. All while Aurilia and the officer were talking, Harry was playing with his stuffed bear. When the interview concluded, the officer stood and showed Aurilia to the door. "Excuse me, sir, but what about Harry?" Aurilia asked.
The detective smiled, "Do you mind looking after him until we can sort this mess out? If it's any trouble, we can have someone from Social Services here in about an hour, maybe less if they've someone in the area."
Aurilia looked at Harry and allowed a small smile to form. In the short time she'd been with the boy, she knew she didn't want to be separated from him. He was a charming child. "No, I don't mind," she returned her gaze to the grandfatherly investigator. "I don't know what your Social Services is like, but I've heard a lot of horror stories about the US version. I don't think I could chance that, in any case."
The detective nodded, "I've heard similar stories, I'm sure. And, in any case, I've your number at the hotel. This shouldn't take long to check out. We'll be in touch."
The following week passed in a blur for Aurilia. By the end of that week, Harry possessed nearly fifteen outfits, a cunning little snowsuit, some coloring books and crayons, six plush toys, and his very own miniature umbrella. During that week, Harry had also asked where his parents were. It was the single most heart-wrenching discussion in which Aurilia had ever been made to take part. "They're with Gaia, honey."
"She's… The Mother of everything, Harry. She's a goddess."
"Why mama and daddy wif her?"
Aurilia ran a hand through her hair. This wasn't going at all the way she'd hoped. "They're dead, honey. When people die, they return to Gaia's side."
"When I see dem? Miss mama and daddy."
Aurilia swallowed back tears, "Oh, little luz, not for a very, very long time. They aren't here anymore. They're in heaven."
"Want mama and daddy!" Harry, for the first time in the days he'd been with Aurilia, began to cry.
All Aurilia could do was gather the boy into her arms and hold him close until his tears had run their course, and he was deeply asleep. Just how do you explain death to someone so young?
The call from the detective came when she and Harry were watching a children's program on the television several days later. Despite his much smaller stature, he managed to beat Aurilia to the phone. "'Lo?" Aurilia chuckled and shook her head at him. "Fer you, Rilya." He held out the receiver.
"Thank you, Harry. Why don't you finish watching that cartoon while I talk, all right?" He nodded and crawled back across the bed to where his blue bear sat. "Hello?" Aurilia said into the phone.
"Good afternoon, Miss Westlake. This is Inspector York."
"Hi, sir. I assume you've figured everything out?"
"Yes, miss, I have."
"Unfortunately, we were unable to locate any information on anyone by the name of 'Dumbledore,' nor were we able to locate information on the 'James Potter' mentioned in the letter. However, we did locate a woman by the name of Petunia Dursley who refused any knowledge of anyone by the name of 'Potter,' 'Dumbledore,' 'Harry,' or 'Lily.' I don't know how little Harry ended up on her doorstep, but she was quite adamant about not even having a sister, let alone a nephew. It looks like the little one will end up going to an orphanage…"
Aurilia's throat closed up at the suggestion. She didn't want that to happen! That was partially why she'd agreed to take care of Harry until the detective had finished his work. With a single sentence, she cemented the path her life had begun to take when a woman crossed the center line after too many holiday eggnogs and killed Professor Westlake. "No need, detective. How would I go about adopting him?"
So it came to pass that three months later, a judge signed paperwork finalizing the adoption of Harold James Potter to one Aurilia Leanne Westlake.
A/N2: And that's chapter one. I hope everyone liked it and will continue to read. I know, more-or-less, where I'm going with most of the story arc for this fic, but if there's something in particular you want to see, let me know, and if it fits in, I might include it.