Victoria Elizabeth Holmes sat in a tree across from Number 4 Privet Drive, watching the sun rise on the suburban muggle street, her heart pounding. She let out a shrill hoot in an attempt to relieve her anxiety, but it did nothing to calm her. Ruffling her feathers, she forced her mind to drift from what was encased in her letter, but it only went so far as to think of what she would be telling him mere weeks from now. That is, if he said 'yes'.
She ruffled her feathers again, and wondered vaguely why she had bothered to come so early. It wasn't as if she expected a teenage boy on summer holiday to get up early. Especially on his birthday. But, of course, she could answer her own question.
She was nervous. Nervous of what he would do when he read her letter.
Would he tear it up? Burn it? Would he even make it past the, 'Dearest Harry'?
Dare she allow herself the dream that he would answer with a yes?
Harry Potter woke up early on his fourteenth birthday feeling especially unenthusiastic. He knew that his aunt and uncle would completely ignore his birthday.
Sighing, he rolled out of bed and looked over at his snowy owl Hedwig's empty cage. He had let her out the morning before, and she had not returned since. He guessed she was off collecting gifts from his best friends, Ron and Hermione, and maybe even his godfather Sirius, or the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid. That, at least, was something he could look forward to today.
With that almost uplifting thought, he quickly changed out of his pyjamas, and walked down to the kitchen for breakfast.
'…here you are, Diddykins,' Aunt Petunia chirped, setting down a piece of sliced apple in front of her son and husband.
'Is this it?' Uncle Vernon grunted, looking over his paper.
Aunt Petunia only pursed her lips in reply.
Harry looked down at his own plate, and saw an especially small, already browning piece of apple sitting there, almost pathetically. Making a mental note to thank his friends profusely for the snacks he had hidden under the highly useful loose floorboards in his room, he picked up his slice, and started munching.
After breakfast (if something so pitiful could be called breakfast), he cleared the table, and headed back up to his room to wait for Hedwig's imminent arrival. But when he opened his door, it was not his snowy owl that was waiting for him.
Though the bird on his chair was a snowy owl, it certainly was not Hedwig. In its talons was a scroll of parchment, sealed with indigo and gold wax; from what he could see, the seal was a curly letter H entwined in roses and vines.
As he approached, the owl turned its head to face him. Its eyes were the same deep, almost brown gold as the wax, with the same indigo spots. It greeted him with a gentle hoot, and it ruffled its feathers in what Harry could have sworn was impatience.
Taking the hint, he took the scroll, and broke the seal.
Before I begin, I must ask that you do not rip this letter up before you finish reading. I assure you that I am not a Death Eater, nor am I from the Ministry, nor the Daily Prophet. I know this is odd, but now that you've found out about your godfather, I have been granted permission by Albus Dumbledore and the Ministry to contact you.
I'm certain you don't remember me, but I was a dear friend of your mother and father's. Now, I don't expect you to trust a letter; I certainly wouldn't. And I won't say all I want to here. This is simply an invitation. Now, as you know, your friend Ron Weasley will be inviting you to the Quidditch World Cup later in the summer and from what I've heard there is no question that you will be accepting the invitation. I will be attending as well, and I wanted to ask you if you would meet with me on neutral grounds. I know you are well protected, and would undoubtedly be advised against meeting with someone you met in a letter. I am in the exact same circumstance. I have already spoken to the Weasleys, as they are good friends of mine, and they have agreed to be our liaisons. If you are willing to meet with me, please send a reply back with my owl, and she will bring it to them.
I'm sure you have many questions for me, and I am willing to answer all of them with as much sincerity as I possibly can. But remember that there is much to be said for simply listening.
Happy fourteenth birthday, Harry.
Miss Victoria Elizabeth Holmes
PS. Harry, it's ok, Molly and I know Miss Holmes very well; you'll want to meet her. Arthur Weasley.
Harry stood in shock for a moment. Here was a link to his parents. A real live link. Sure, Hagrid had sung praises about them; Dumbledore had told him of their goodness; Snape had insulted them; but here was someone who had been a friend of them, who wasinviting him to ask questions about them. Who was this Holmes woman? And what did she mean by there was 'much to be said by listening'?
He replied with two letters as the golden-eyed owl seemed to read over his shoulder.
The day Harry was to be picked up by the Weasleys, his stomach was churning with nervousness. Would she be there? What would she be like? What did she have to tell him?
When the Weasleys arrived to pick him up, his mind was still on Victoria Elizabeth Holmes. The name kept running through his head, over and over, until he felt he knew her.
A part of him thought he had loved her.
While they set the table, Harry talked about his impending meeting of the mysterious Miss Holmes with Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Bill, and Charlie.
'… and then there's you dad's message at the end. It's odd, though. The more I think about it, the more I think I remember her. But that's not possible, is it? I mean, I was only a year old when Voldemort killed my parents. I can barely remember them, never mind a friend of theirs I probably only met a couple of times.'
After everyone got over hearing Voldemort's name, Bill said, 'Sure it's possible. She was a huge part of your life.'
'Have you met her, then?' Harry asked, setting down napkins.
'She went to school with us,' Charlie answered.
'Went to school with you? But – that means she's only –'
'She's twenty-one. A year younger than me,' Charlie nodded, 'but she started at Hogwarts a year early. She was in the same year as me, actually. Gryffindor.'
'So… she was friends with my parents when she was only... eight?'
'Yeah, and started classes when she was ten,' Bill confirmed, 'but we can't really discuss that.' He shot a warning look at his younger brother. 'Right, Charlie?'
'Right.' Charlie said, looking away from the group. 'I'll go check to make sure mum doesn't need anything else.'
'What was that?' Ron said, taking his place at the table.
'He's sweet on her,' Bill told him, grinning. 'Take a seat everyone. I'll go pry Perce away from his precious cauldrons.'
As Fred, George, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Harry sat down, Mrs Weasley walked out of the kitchen, levitating a banquet of food towards them saying, 'Alright, everybody, tuck in!'
That night, as they were getting ready for bed, Harry asked Fred and George about Elizabeth.
'She's gorgeous,' Fred said, sitting on his cot.
'Stunner if I ever saw one,' George added, jumping into the one beside him.
'She's five years older than us,' Fred continued.
'But she spent a lot of time with us.'
'Because she spent a lot of time with Charlie.'
'If you know what we mean.' George sat up in his cot and grinned absurdly.
'What's she like?' Harry asked, pulling his covers on.
'She's funny –' Fred said.
'– smart–' George added.
'–did we mention stunning? –'
'–and terribly mysterious.'
'We heard once that she wanted to be a teacher.'
'She was really buddy-buddy with the teachers.'
'She's an orphan.'
'Or, at least, we've never seen or heard of her parents.'
'I heard she lives with Dumbledore.'
'That's why she was admitted to Hogwarts early.'
'That's basically it,' Fred finished, lying down.
'That we know of, anyways.' George, too, slid down deeper under the covers.
'Hm,' Harry said in response. 'Thanks, guys.'
The next morning, Molly woke them up before dawn, and they began walking to Stoatshead Hill. Before they left, though, Molly pulled him aside and told him, 'Harry, dear, promise me something.'
'What is it, Mrs Weasley?' Harry replied, stifling a yawn.
'Whatever Elizabeth tells you, promise me you'll listen to her.'
'Sure, Mrs Weasley,' Harry said, confused. 'I promise.' On the way, though, he ran up to join Mr Weasley. 'Mr Weasley… could you… tell me about Elizabeth?'
Mr Weasley looked straight ahead for a moment, and then replied slowly, 'What do you want to know?'
'Well… what's she like? And why did you say I would want to meet her?'
Again, he didn't reply for a moment. When he did, it was a cautious response. 'She… well, you just…' His ears began turning red, like Ron's when he was nervous. 'You two just have a lot of things to talk about. Hey everyone, there's the Hill just there.'
It was obvious Mr Weasley was uncomfortable with this topic, so Harry decided to drop it: he would be meeting her soon, anyways.
And his heart just wouldn't stop pounding in anticipation.