The Girl Who Lived
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills. He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors. The Dursleys had a small daughter called Dot and in their opinion there was no finer girl anywhere.
The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that someone would discover it.
At night close to midnight. A cat sat on the wall outside number four, its eyes sleepless and unblinkable fixed on the far corner of Privet Drive. A man appeared on the corner the cat was staring at the cats tail twitched and its eyes narrowed. Nothing like this man had ever been seen on Privet Drive. He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by his silver hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled bucked 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 cloak, looking for something. But he did seem to realize he was being watched, because he looked up suddenly at the cat, which was still staring at him from the other end of the street. For some reason, the sight of the cat seemed to amuse him. He chuckled and muttered, "I should have known."
He 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 on the street were two tiny pinpricks in the distance, which were the eyes of the cat watching him. If anyone looked out of their window now, even beady-eyed Mrs. Dursley, they wouldn't be able to see anything that was happening down on the pavement. Dumbledore slipped the Put-Outer back inside his cloak and set off down the street toward number four, where he sat down on the wall next to the cat. He didn't look at it, but after a moment he spoke to it.
"Fancy seeing 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," said Professor McGonagall.
"All day? When you could have celebrated? I must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on my way here."
Professor McGonagall sniffed angrily. "Oh yes, everyone's celebrating, all right," she said impatiently. "You'd think they'd be a bit more careful, but no - even the Muggles have noticed something's going on. It was on their news." She jerked her head back at the Dursleys' dark 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 Kent - I'll bet that was Dedalus Diggle. He never had much sense."
"You can't blame them," said Dumbledore gently. "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 he was going to tell her something, but he didn't, so she went on. "A fine thing it would be if, on the very day You-Know-Who 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 Dumbledore. "We have much to be thankful for. Would you care for a lemon drop?"
"A lemon drop, they're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of"
"No, thank you," said Professor McGonagall coldly, as though she didn't think this was the moment for lemon drops. "As I say, even if You-Know-Who has gone -"
"My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like you can call him by his name? All this 'You- Know-Who' nonsense - for eleven years I have tried to persuade people to call him by his proper name: Voldemort." Professor McGonagall flinched, but Dumbledore, who was unsticking two lemon drops, seemed not to notice. "It all gets so confusing if we keep saying 'You-Know-Who.' I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Voldemort's name.
"I know you haven't" said Professor McGonagall, sounding half exasperated, half admiring. "But you're different. Everyone knows you're the only one You-Know-Who, all right, Voldemort was frightened of."
"You flatter me," said Dumbledore calmly. "Voldemort had powers I will never have."
"Only because you're too - well - noble to use them."
"It's lucky it's dark. I haven't blushed so much since Madam Pomfrey told me she liked my new earmuffs."
Professor McGonagall shot a sharp look at Dumbledore and said, "The owls are nothing next to the rumors that are flying around. You know what everyone's saying? About why he's disappeared? About what finally stopped him?" It seemed that Professor McGonagall had not reached the point she was most anxious to discuss, the real reason she had waited 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 lemon drop 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 daughter, Holly. But - he couldn't. He couldn't kill that little girl. No one knows why, or how, but they're saying that when he couldn't kill Holly Potter, Voldemort's power somehow broke - and that's why he's gone.
Dumbledore nodded glumly. "It's - it's true?" faltered Professor McGonagall. "After all he's done... all the people he's killed... he couldn't kill a little girl? It's just astounding... of all the things to stop him... but how in the name of heaven did Holly survive?"
"We can only guess," said Dumbledore. "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 have made sense to Dumbledore, though, because he put it back in his pocket and said, "Hagrid's late. I suppose it was he who told you I'd 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've come to bring Holly to her aunt and uncle. They're the only family she has left now."
"You don't mean - you mean the people who live here?" cried Professor McGonagall, jumping to her feet and pointing at number four. "Dumbledore - you can't. I've watched them all day. You couldn't find two people who are less like us. And they've got this daughter - I saw her kicking her mother all the way up the street, screaming for sweets. Holly Potter come and lives here!"
"It's the best place for her," said Dumbledore firmly. "Her aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to her when she's older. I've written them a letter."
"A letter?" repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. "Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand her! She'll be famous - a legend - I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Holly Potter day in the future - there will be books written about Holly- every child in our world will know her name!"
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over the top of his half-moon glasses. "It would be enough to turn any girl's head. Famous before she can walk and talk! Famous for something she won't even remember! Can't you see how much better off she'll be, growing up away from all that until she's 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 girl getting here, Dumbledore?" She eyed his cloak suddenly as though she thought he might be hiding Holly underneath it.
"Hagrid's bringing her."
"You think it - wise - to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"
"I would trust Hagrid with my life," said Dumbledore.
"I'm not saying his heart isn't in the right place," said Professor McGonagall grudgingly, "but you can't pretend he's not careless. He does tend to - what was that?"
A low rumbling sound 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 motorcycle fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them.
If the motorcycle 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 trash can 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 motorcycle?"
"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir," said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorcycle as he spoke. "Young Sirius Black lent it to me. I've got her, sir."
"No problems, were there?"
"No, sir - house was almost destroyed, but I got her out all right before the Muggles started swarming' around. She fell asleep as we was flying' over Bristol."
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bent forward over the bundle of blankets. Inside, just visible, was a baby girl, fast asleep. Under a tuft of jet-black hair over her forehead they could see a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lightning.
"Is that where -?" whispered Professor McGonagall.
"Yes," said Dumbledore. "She'll have that scar forever."
"Couldn't you do something about it, Dumbledore?"
"Even if I could, I wouldn't. Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground. Well - give her here, Hagrid - we'd better get this over with."
Dumbledore took Holly in his arms and turned toward the Dursleys' house.
"Could I - could I say good-bye to her, sir?" asked Hagrid. He bent his great, shaggy head over Holly and gave her what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss. Then, suddenly, Hagrid let out a howl like a wounded dog.
"Shah!" hissed Professor McGonagall, "you'll wake the Muggles!"
"S-s-sorry," sobbed Hagrid, taking out a large, spotted handkerchief and burying his face in it. "But I c-c-can't stand it - Lily an' James dead - an' poor little Holly off ter live with Muggles -"
"Yes, yes, it's all very sad, but get a grip on yourself, Hagrid, or we'll be found," Professor McGonagall whispered, patting Hagrid gingerly on the arm as Dumbledore stepped over the low garden wall and walked to the front door. He laid Holly gently on the doorstep, took a letter out of his cloak, tucked it inside Holly'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," said Dumbledore finally, "that's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and join the celebrations."
"Yeah," said Hagrid in a much muffled voice, "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 on to the motorcycle 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 her. Professor McGonagall blew her nose in reply.
Dumbledore turned and walked back 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 lamps so that Privet Drive 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 number four.
"Good luck, Holly," he murmured. He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak, he was gone.
A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Holly Potter rolled over inside her blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside her and she slept on, not knowing she was special, not knowing she was famous, not knowing she would be woken in a few hours' time by Mrs. Dursley's scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that she would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by her cousin Dot... She couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: "To Holly Potter - the girl who lived!"