Curiosity Killed the Cat
James Sirius Potter sat lounging on the couch in the sitting room of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. He was getting restless. He shifted his leg to the right, snuggled a bit deeper into the couch to get more comfortable, and then began tapping his foot. His mother, Ginevra, who was reading by the fireplace, sighed.
“James, stop fidgeting,” she reprimanded her raven-haired son.
“But mum, it’s eight already and dad’s not home yet. I can’t wait for dinner any longer. Can’t we start?” James moaned, although he knew that he would not sit down to dinner without his father; he was just frustrated at his father’s lateness at coming back home from work.
“It’s high time you learned some patience, Jamie,” his younger sister, Lily, said in a marvellous imitation of their mother.
James scowled at his sister, who simply grinned mischievously.
“She is right, James. You know that your father is busy at the Ministry nowadays. He should be here anytime now, though, so you just have to wait,” Ginny said.
At that moment, the door opened, revealing a man with jet-black hair, vivid green eyes and a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead. His glasses were a little lopsided and he looked rather tired.
“Dad!” Lily ran forward and wrapped him in a tight embrace. Harry Potter’s face brightened.
“Hello, little Lilykins!” He kissed her lightly on the cheeks before turning to his wife, and giving her a quick peck.
“Dad, Lily isn’t exactly little, is she?” Albus chided, grinning. Lily was twelve, while Albus was fourteen and James sixteen. Harry chose to ignore this comment and merely smiled before promptly collapsing into an armchair.
“The Ministry giving you a hard time, Harry?” Ginny enquired, inspecting the tired face of her husband.
“Oh, no. Lots of work to be done, that’s all. Everyone is freaking out, what with the huge array to reports to submit.”
“What’s that? Something from the Ministry?” Ginny asked suddenly. Harry had a wrapped parcel tucked under his arm.
“Oh, it’s – er, I’ll tell you later,” he said evasively, his eyes darting towards his three children. Ginny understood and nodded, before calling them to dinner. James’ interest was fired, however. He silently vowed to find out what was inside the package. Finding out things that he was not supposed to was, after all, a challenge to James Potter.
After dinner, Ginny ushered them to their respective bedrooms.
“Goodnight, children,” she said, and went downstairs.
As soon as the sound of her footsteps had faded away, James silently crept out of bed and slipped downstairs. He paused outside his parents’ bedroom, which was locked from inside. He fished out from his pocket a flesh-coloured string. It was an Extendable Ear, which he had received from his Uncle George. He put one end to his ear, and pressed the other against the door. A second later, his mother’s voice floated to his ears.
“You look really tired, Harry. Are you sure you don’t want to take a day or two off?”
“Oh no, Gin, that isn’t really necessary. After all, everyone is working hard.” There was a small pause before Harry spoke again. “Although,” James could practically hear the grin that he knew his father was wearing, “A bit of affection from my lovely wife might be welcome.”
“I am sure I’d be glad to be of use to you, Mr. Potter,” Ginny replied cheekily.
A moment later, definite sounds of passionate kissing issued through James’ extendable ear. He cringed; he certainly did not want to lose his sleep to witness a display of affection between his parents. His patience, however, was rewarded a few minutes later.
“So, Harry, what is the thing that you brought home from the office?” Ginny asked.
“It’s the latest make of the Unspeakables,” Harry replied, admiration and excitement evident in his voice. “Kingsley gave it to me for safekeeping. Here, take a look.”
There was the sound of unwrapping of paper. Ginny let out a gasp of awe. “Sweet Merlin, is it...?”
But what it was James didn’t get to know, because at that moment the door opened, and he found himself looking into his father’s stern face, his Extendable Ear trailing hopelessly from his ear.
“James Sirius Potter,” Harry began, and James gulped. It was not often that his father got angry with him, and when he did, it was quite dangerous.
“How many times have I told you that you are not supposed to eavesdrop on other people’s business? Will you ever learn?”
“But dad...” James started.
“No, don’t start arguing, young man. Go back to you room, now. And don’t you dare repeat your actions.”
James sighed, and trudged back upstairs. He knew that he had blown up his chance. But he was too adamant to give up. The previous conversation between his parents had only fuelled his curiosity.
“I will find out what you’re hiding, dad,” he swore silently. “Someday I will.”
“James, are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” Ginny said for the umpteenth time.
The Potters were going to be away for the day visiting the Weasleys at The Burrow. James had calculated that it was the perfect chance for him to discover the ‘Secret Ministry Package’, as he had taken to calling it. So he had made up an excuse for staying at home.
“I have loads of homework to do,” he had said. It was a pretty lame one, but thankfully his parents had believed him. Thus, James Potter the Great (self-proclaimed title) had finally perfected the plan to achieve his purpose.
“No, mum, I’ll be fine. Bye,” he said, and ran off to his room. He heard the front door slam, and knew that he was finally alone.
“Now let us begin,” he said to himself, and wrenched the door open. What he saw, however, was not something he had prepared himself for. A redheaded girl, a head shorter than himself, was grinning at him.
“L-Lily!” he faltered. “What are you doing here? Didn’t you go with mum and dad and Al?”
Lily shook her head.
“Dad didn’t trust you alone in the house. So I offered to stay at home, and they agreed. Rather gladly, I think.” She added with another cheeky grin. James groaned internally. Trust his imp of a sister to come and ruin his plans. But nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to stop him now. He’d see to that.
“Er...so what are you planning to do?” he asked, trying to act normal. She shrugged.
“You do whatever you like. I’ll just... well, I don’t really know what I am going to do.” She turned and walked away from him.
Left alone, James began to ponder where the parcel might be.
“Let’s look into mum and dad’s room first,” he thought, and walked up a flight of stairs. But the thing he was after was not to be found so easily.
He decided to check his father’s study next. Climbing down a couple of floors, he came face to face with a closed door which read ‘Study’. He opened it and walked in. This was the place where Harry kept all his documents, papers and Ministry stuff. James began looking into the various cabinets and drawers. The first four of them contained papers and reports. At the fifth drawer, he met with success. Carefully placed on top of some files was the thing he was looking for. It was unwrapped, but could be recognised by its shape and size. James couldn’t believe his luck. He picked it up. It was an ornate brown box with a transparent cover. He took off the lid to find a small hourglass with a thin golden chain. Busy though he was in marvelling its beauty, he recognised it as a time turner. Beneath it was a card on which was written in elegant print:
Time Turner: Model 45
The latest creation of the age, this time turner holds the potential of transferring the user as far as 45 years to the past. Travelling so far into the past is extremely dangerous and difficult, and therefore the user will be transferred back to his/ her own time after three hours of using the time turner.
Warning: The user is recommended against trying to cause any major change in the timeline, as this might endanger the very existence of individuals in the present time.
James’ heart was beating at the double. A time turner! Should he use it? The past held so many charms for him. His father’s life, the days of war – he wanted to know about it all. The desire to use the little apparatus was extreme.
“It’s an once-in-a-lifetime chance, James,” he said to himself. “Just grab it.”
He didn’t what he was thinking, but on a sudden impulse, he went off to look for his sister. He checked in her room, Albus’ one, and even his own, but she was nowhere to be seen. He finally spotted her in Sirius’ bedroom, marvelling the picture of the Marauders for what, in James’ opinion, was perhaps the thousandth time. She looked at him, startled, as he burst into the room.
“James, what are you –”
“Lily, look what I’ve got here,” he gasped, out of breath from all the running.
Her eyes widened as she took in the fragile object in front of her.
“A time turner!” she breathed. “Is this what dad brought from the Ministry?”
“Wow. It’s beautiful” she said softly, carefully holding the precious artefact. Then she handed it over to her brother. Suddenly, a suspicious look passed over her face.
“You are not planning to use it, are you?” she asked. The shifty look on his features told her the truth. “James, you can’t!” she exclaimed. “Dad will be furious if he finds out.”
“But he won’t get to know,” James said earnestly. “I – we will be back in three hours and no one will be any wiser. Look.” He showed her the card that was supplied alongside.
She wasn’t convinced yet. “It is extremely dangerous to play with time, James. You might ruin everything by meddling with the past.”
“I don’t mean to change anything, Lily. I just want to go and take a look. And anyway, I just showed this to you because I want you to come with me. If you don’t aren’t interested, I’ll go alone.”
“But, James –”
“No, Lily. I am going. That is final. Do you want to come or not?”
Lily’s agitated expression softened to concern. She knew this version of James Sirius Potter. Once he had set out upon doing something, he was not going to back down easily.
“Is there no way I can stop you from going?” she pleaded.
James shook his head vigorously like a stubborn six year old. Lily sighed.
“Wait here.” She said, and walked out of the room. She came in a couple of minutes later, carrying a backpack which looked quite full.
“What are you doing?” James asked in confusion.
“Going with you, of course,” she replied briskly. “There’s no way I’m going to let you go off to Merlin knows where alone. I’ll stick to you and try to keep you out of trouble, and see that you don’t do something stupid.”
James was rather touched by his sister’s affection, but he didn’t say it out loud. Instead, he pointed to the backpack and asked, “What have you got in there?”
“Just a few things that might guide us in the past,” she said airily. “Now let’s go, we don’t have the entire day to waste.”
Her brother nodded, and put the fine golden chain around both their necks.
“How many turns?” he asked.
“It’s up to you,” Lily replied.
James began turning the tiny hourglass in its holder, and a few minutes later, the room which had just contained two children stood bare of any inhabitants.