The Girl Who Lived
"Up! Get up! Now!"
I woke with a start. My aunt’s shrill voice making the first noise of the day.
“Up!” She screeched again, rapping hard on the door. “Get a move on, I want you to look after the bacon. And don’t you dare let it burn, I want everything perfect on Duddy’s birthday.”
I groaned as I searched around for my glasses. A spider scuttled over my hand in fright.
“It’s okay, little one,” I whispered. “There’s enough room in here for the both of us.”
I was used to spiders - living in the cupboard under the stairs, there were plenty here. I liked to think of them as my friends. I didn’t have any real friends.
I didn’t have any parents either. All I had was my aunt and uncle who seemed to despise me. And my cousin, Dudley, took their cue in hating me. It was almost like they were angry at my parents for dying. I wished so much that I could remember them. I would often close my eyes tight and try with all my might to conjure up a memory - any memory. But there was nothing. Apparently, they died in a car crash when I was only one year old. Too young to remember ever being loved.
I got dressed in Dudley’s old clothes which were ridiculously too big for me. His large frame was no match to my painfully skinny one.
Making my way down the hall to the kitchen where Aunt Petunia was making a cooked breakfast, I caught a waft of bacon, the smell making my mouth water in hunger, although I did not dare hope that I would be allowed any.
My aunt stepped away from the frying pan pointedly, and I gingerly took over, prodding the bacon, trying not to drool all over it. My eyes roamed over to the large pile of presents that were laid out on the kitchen table for my fat, greedy cousin. He would undoubtedly be ungrateful about every single one.
And I was right.
“Thirty-six. That’s two less than last year.”
I discreetly rolled my eyes as my aunt and uncle tried to soothe their darling Duddikins.
As it turned out, I was to get to go to the zoo with them. A tiny thrill went through me. I had never been to a zoo before. I had never really been anywhere before.
And the trip was actually going well. That was until the end when it transpired that I could talk to snakes. Uncle Vernon was livid, as though it was my fault I had this awesome skill, and I was locked up in the cupboard for a week for that.
And then the letter arrived.
Miss H. Potter, The Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey
I fingered it curiously, wondering who on earth would write to me, when Uncle Vernon’s fat hand cruelly snatched it away.
His reaction that followed was completely over the top.
He was frightened. Of what, I couldn’t tell. Even Dudley shared my confusion in his behaviour. And more letters arrived, just like the first one. My uncle was determined I would not get hold of any, though. He even went as far as nailing wood to the letterbox.
I hungered for that letter. I was desperate to know who was trying to write to me. But no matter how much I screamed and yelled at my uncle, he refused to let me anywhere near it.
Then, on Sunday, as Uncle Vernon sat smugly in his armchair (there was no post on Sundays, you see), a single letter came flying out of the fireplace. I jumped up trying to get at it, but Uncle Vernon was quicker, which was surprising given his rather large measurements. And then, to my delight, thirty or forty more came flying out. That was when Uncle Vernon seized me around the waist and threw me out of the living room and into the car as I tried kicking and biting in protest.
We all went, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, Dudley, and me. We drove for hours and hours until we eventually ended up in a boat and then, finally, inside a little shack on a rock.
“Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Dudley sobbed to his mother.
For once, I agreed with him.
As I curled up on the freezing, dusty floor that night, trying hopelessly to get some sleep, I realised it was my eleventh birthday at midnight. Only five minutes to go. It was hard to get excited about it when I knew it would just be ignored just like every other birthday.
As I watched the hands on my watch reach twelve o’clock, I was startled by a loud crash at the door.
I watched in astonishment as a huge hairy man entered. I started shaking in fear, wondering what this giant wanted.
“Couldn’t make us a cup o’ tea, could yeh? It’s not been an easy journey...”
His voice, though gruff, was very friendly. I felt momentarily confused, not understanding why he wasn’t trying to eat me.
Instead, the giant strode over to me and sat heavily down on the floor.
“An’ here’s Henrietta!”
I just stared at him, open mouthed, as my aunt, uncle and cousin cowered in the corner.
“Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby. Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh’ve got yer mum’s eyes.”
My heart raced at the mention of my parents. This giant knew them.
“Who are you?” I barely whispered.
“Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. Yeh’ll know all about Hogwarts, o’course.”
“Er - no,” I replied, wondering what on earth this Hagrid person was going on about.
“WHAT?” Hagrid bellowed, turning furiously towards Uncle Vernon. “Do you mean ter tell me, that this girl - this girl! - knows nothin’ abou’ - about ANYTHING?”
Bit rude. I happened to know a lot of things.
Uncle Vernon just looked back at him in fear, his whole body shaking.
Hagrid turned back to me shaking his head sadly.
“Unbelievable,” He tutted. “I can’t believe they didn’t tell you about your parent’s world, your world.”
“My world?” I asked, furrowing my brow.
Hagrid leant forward, looking me straight in the eye.
“You’re a witch, Henrietta.”
Well, I’ll be damned.