Chapter 10 : All Hallows
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Halloween came around on the calendar and Harry started discussing what they could do.
“You are really into this holiday, Dad,” Arthur commented, feeling like he was a little old to get too excited.
“Major Wizard holiday, Arthur. We’ve had an invitation from Hermione and Roger to a party at their house. That sounds like fun to me.”
“Do I have to dress up?” Arthur asked cautiously.
“If you go like you are now, you will be--you’ll be a Muggle,” Harry teased.
“I guess I could wear something simple. Go as a dog or something,” Arthur said unenthusiastically.
“We’ll work something out,” Harry said happily.
The night of the party, Arthur got help from Allen’s older sister and by the time they were ready to leave he had floppy spotted ears, a black nose, and a lopsided brown ring around his left eye. He put on an old yellow workout suit he had painted spots on and a large red dog collar.
“You look so cute ” Alisha said as she stood in their hallway admiring him. Arthur kind of liked her, so he decided he could survive this night just on that. She looked beyond him and her eyes went wide. “Whoa, Mr. P,” she breathed.
Arthur turned and found his father standing in the hallway in a dark suit and cape, holding a pitchfork and wearing horns. His skin was the color of a very bad sunburn. He almost jumped despite himself. His dad’s eyes were even red and slitted like a cat’s.
“Nice make-up,” Alisha said in a very impressed voice. “Like the contacts for sure. And the horns.”
Arthur’s eyes went wide. The horns looked way too real. “We should get going, Dad,” he said quickly. “Thanks a lot, Alisha,” Arthur said, stepping to the door to let her out.
“Ready?” Harry asked when they were alone. He took Arthur’s arm and the house was replaced with the porch of the Davies’ residence.
The door opened immediately. Hermione, dressed as a cat with very realistic ears and whiskers, welcomed them both inside with hugs for each of them. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone you were, so there may be some craziness. More embarrassing, I think one of the kids came dressed AS you.”
Arthur made a sound of distress at that thought. Hermione laughed and led him in by the hand. “Have some punch,” she said when they reached a table laden with treats. She picked up a glass beside the bowl and the ladle automatically poured some in. Arthur accepted it. As she and Harry started talking, Arthur wandered into the living room, glad for the makeup--no one gave him a second glance.
In the corner there was a small boy of maybe eight, eating candy from a cauldron at his feet. He wore a cape, black-rimmed glasses with no lenses, and a lightening streak had been drawn on his forehead. Arthur didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sight. Doing nothing seemed strangely inappropriate. He wandered over that way, drawn to the boy a little unwillingly. Arthur stopped before the child who had to adjust his fake glasses to look up at him. “Harry Potter, I presume,” Arthur heard himself say. Of all the weird things that had happened to him in the last few months, this one felt the most strange.
The boy grinned widely. “Yep,” he said. “And who are you?”
“Just a dog, a mutt.” Arthur felt tenser as he spoke.
“Want a flubber?” the boy asked, holding out a sweet.
“Only if you eat one first,” Arthur said, remembering his dad’s stories about cursed sweets.
“As if,” the boy said. He took out another and popped it in his mouth and chewed. He had not finished the last piece and now his mouth was really full.
“Okay,” Arthur said and held out his hand. The boy laughed as he handed one over. Arthur chewed it down. It tasted salty, sweet, oily and a bit like cinnamon.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” the man beside the boy said. He held out his hand. “Bernie Weinstein,” he said.
“Fido,” Arthur said with a grin, hoping to get away with that.
The man smiled. “Haven’t seen you around this group,” he said, making conversation.
“I rarely manage to chew through my leash before my master notices,” he said, sticking with his theme since it felt much safer to. The boy held out another flubber for him and Arthur accepted it. “I guess Voldemort didn’t make it tonight,” he said to the boy, who looked shocked that he had said that. It took the child a moment to swallow to avoid choking.
“If he does, tell him I’m not here,” the boy said when he was able. Mr. Weinstein laughed beside him.
“Lawrence is a real jokester,” he explained proudly.
Arthur felt oddly numb. “Thanks for the sweets,” he said, sounding strange to his own ears. He stepped away before the feeling could overwhelm him. He wasn’t sure what would happen if it did. Trouble was, he didn’t have anyone to talk to at this party.
Cassandra came running over to him as he meandered around the room. She ran straight into him and gave him quick hug. “Did you see Harry Potter?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye. She pointed at the boy in the corner who looked up with a shining grin at the attention.
“Sure did,” Arthur replied levelly.
She giggled and ran off. Arthur checked to be certain he was not on fire. He needed more punch. Feeling dark, he stepped to the corner on his way. “Lawrence,” he interrupted the child, who was giving a tour of his sweets to his father. “Someone you should meet,” he said. He must have said it oddly, because Mr. Weinstein gave him a close look. “By the punch bowl,” he pointed at the back of his dad’s cape in the next room.
“Go ahead,” Mr. Weinstein urged his son.
“You should definitely come too. Otherwise the screaming will surely attract too much attention,” Arthur stated dryly, trying for a tone Snape might use.
The man stood up, looking highly doubtful. Arthur’s hand on the boy’s shoulder shook a little as he pushed him into the next room. When he reached his dad and Hermione, he said lightly, “Hey, Beelzebub. Someone you should meet.”
Harry turned around. His eyes dropped from Arthur to the boy, then became a trifle dark. He covered it in the next instant. “Well hello,” Harry said.
“Hi. Who are you?” the boy asked.
Arthur then realized how unrecognizable his father was. The horns and the eyes distracted greatly from his features and his scar was under his fringe. “Well,” he stood straighter. “I was supposed to be only an average demon from the fifth level of hell, but my son here has promoted me.”
“You aren’t so impressive,” the boy said, disappointed.
“I’m not?” Harry pounded the end of his pitchfork on the floor and a cloud of glowing red smoke puffed from around his feet. It startled Arthur far more than the boy. It even smelled of sulfur. Arthur coughed.
“I thought maybe you were He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named,” the boy said petulantly.
“You mean Voldemort?” Harry said, sounding dismayed. “You don’t dare name him?” he asked with a tone edged in demand and disappointment. “He’s dead; why not name him?” Arthur watched his father’s demeanor change, making his expression match his costume. The boy’s father stepped in front of his son and held out his hand. “We haven’t been introduced,” he said a little forcefully. “Bernie Weinstein.”
The man blinked and stared at him. Before he could recover, Harry added, “My son, Arthur,” as he gestured at him.
Mr. Weinstein looked to Hermione for help or confirmation. She stepped closer. “Harry and I are old friends from school.”
“Really?” the man said as though that would take some time to sink in. “Uh, my son, Lawrence.” He pulled his son over by the shoulder and bent over. “This is the real Harry Potter,” he said to the boy. Lawrence stopped mid-chew and gaped up at Harry.
When the man straightened up and seemed at a loss for words, Harry said, “Please teach your son that the only power a name has is what we give it by avoiding it.”
The man blinked at that. “Certainly,” he promised instantly, but his face was full of confusion.
“Nice to meet you, Lawrence,” Harry said graciously to the boy.
The boy didn’t move. “Are you really . . .?” he stammered.
Harry leaned forward and pulled his hair back. His red skin made his scar stand out more than normal. The boy took a step backward, then promptly grabbed his dad’s hand.
“Honored,” the man said unsteadily with a nod as they stepped back into the other room.
“Yes,” Harry said, ironically, “I am disguised as a demon to avoid scaring people.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him over,” Arthur suggested.
Harry waved him off. “It’s queering me out, as you tend to say, but that’s my problem.” Hermione gave him an apologetic look. “Don’t worry about it,” he said to her as he moved Arthur’s hand close enough to the punch bowl for the ladle to notice his empty glass.
“Thanks,” Arthur said. He glanced into the other room, where the small Harry was trying to convince another child of something with grand arm gestures.
“Maybe you can give me a hand in the kitchen, Harry,” Hermione said innocently.
Harry stepped to follow as did Arthur. Harry spun on him. “You know, that was your fault. Mind the punch bowl for a while as punishment.”
Arthur, too stunned to feel hurt, watched them turn the corner out of the room. Someone tugged on his sleeve moments later as he stared at the continuously moving poster of people flying on brooms over a mountain scape, which hung on the wall of the hallway.
“Excuse me,” a little girl, dressed as what might have been Gretel, said. “He insists Harry Potter is here.” Lawrence stood beside her, hands on his hips.
“He just was,” the boy insisted.
“He’s escaped to the bat cave,” Arthur said. “I’m sure he’ll be back later.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said to Lawrence. “You are fooling, as usual.”
“Ask Cassandra,” Arthur said, glad to pass her off.
The two of them stalked off. Arthur sampled some of the other food, assuming he had seen the last of them, but they returned presently, Cassandra in tow.
“Where’s your dad?” she asked Arthur.
“He’s chatting old times with your mum,” he explained.
“Ah, boring stuff,” she said knowingly. “Hey, let’s go scare Muggle children. You have a wand, right?” she asked Arthur. “This is the only night we can do it.”
“I am a Muggle. Just what were you planning?” he asked her stridently.
“Oh. Nothing much,” she said quickly while shrugging airily.
Mr. Weinstein came in. “Come on Lawrence--don’t make Arthur have to spell you to make you kids find something better to do.”
“He’s a Muggle, Dad. He can’t spell us,” Lawrence said as though everyone should have known it.
Mr. Weinstein looked at Arthur with a flicker of pity before leading his son away again, telling him that games were starting outside. Arthur swallowed with difficulty, the bite of muffin he had in his now too dry mouth. He hadn’t been faced with random pity in a long time and it made him feel unwell. I am a Muggle, he thought stubbornly, and I don’t care what any of them think of that.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen Hermione said to Harry, “You do the same things by hand that I do.”
Harry dried his hands on a towel and replied. “Seems easier and it breaks fewer dishes.”
“Tell that to Roger, will you?” She picked up a tube of orange frosting and outlined each of the cookies before her on the tray. “How are things going with you, anyway?”
“I’m still catching up. Arthur is adjusting slowly to the notion of magic. I feel bad because I don’t mean to frighten him, but I can’t predict what is going to disturb him.”
“For example?” she asked, now adding sprinkles.
“Apparating seemed cool, but healing a small cut on his hand scared him half to death.”
“Huh,” she said. “How does he do in school?”
“Very well, considering that he has been and still is doing it all on his own. I didn’t realize how very little I know about the Muggle world until I asked what he was working on one evening. I’m useless in science, history, politics . . . pretty much everything, even maths, frankly. Fortunately, he is used to working on his own or with his friend Roger, who is a topic all on his own.”
“Yes. But that doesn’t begin to cover it.” Harry checked the door. “He did fink on Arthur when it mattered, though, so I am soft on him at the moment.”
Hermione slid the cookies into a large bowl and started on the next tray, this time with black icing. “Do tell.”
“Arthur had an accident with a lighter, burned all the skin off his hand.”
Hermione gave him a long look. “Why did he have a lighter?”
“He uses them to refill his mobile battery.”
“You are sure about that?” Hermione asked him.
“I’ve seen him do it,” Harry insisted. “I’m sure I would have noticed what had happened eventually, but he’d already gone the whole day without saying anything to anyone. His skin was turning grey by the time I got him to St. Mungo’s” He shook his head.
Hermione put the icing down and stared at him. “You’re certain he’s a Squib?”
“Pretty certain. Why?”
“Firestarting, Harry. How many times has he burned himself?”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “Just the once.”
“Hm,” she said, returning to decorating. “If it happens again, don’t assume it’s an accident. Or let him insist that it was--get him tested for magic for real.”
Harry rubbed his hair back and then adjusted it back over his scar. “Sending him to Hogwarts would be tough,” he said.
“Why? You liked it there,” she said as she added silver sprinkles to the cookies.
“I like having him around, for one thing. More importantly, he sorted into Slytherin.”
Hermione dropped the jar of sprinkles and the little silver balls scattered over the counter and floor. “You had him sorted?”
“Minerva sorted him after we started arguing about what house he’d have been in. Apparently you can just drop that hat on anyone.” With a sweep of Hermione’s wand, the mess vanished. She slid the cookies into the bowl and picked it up. She was chuckling now. At the door to the kitchen Harry sighed. “Snape even seems to have taken a liking to him.”
“To Arthur?” she asked in shock.
“Yes. Can you imagine?”
As they stepped out and down the hallway, she said, “Clearly, he must be mellowing.”
Arthur was still beside the table, nibbling on the gold appearing, but actually chocolate, coins. He looked pensive. “How long are we staying?” he asked Harry.
“Not ready to go already?” Harry asked. “Come on, let’s find the games.”
“Back garden,” Hermione supplied helpfully.
Harry led Arthur through the house. Everyone in the living room looked up and followed them with their eyes. Outside on the grass a half barrel full of water was set up and children were bobbing for apples. A girl, with the encouragement of her peers dunked her head in. After a long moment she came up and took the fruit from her teeth. Smiling and shaking her hair out, she cracked the apple against the edge of the barrel. Inside the smashed pulp was a galleon. She held it up victoriously.
A boy followed eagerly. It took him a little longer and when he came up he was smiling, but the smile faded fast as blue spikes began to grow from his head. He put his hand up in alarm to feel them. Arthur gasped but the other children laughed uproariously.
“Want to skip this one?” Harry asked him with amusement.
“Yeah,” Arthur answered.
Roger stepped forward and cured the spike-headed boy with a tap of his wand, but this didn’t make Arthur feel much better.
“Mr. Potter, sir,” the little girl from earlier said as she tugged on Harry’s cloak.
“Hello,” Harry said amiably. “Where is your brother, Hansel?”
“He got eaten already,” she quipped. “Uh, my mum doesn’t believe you’re here. Can you come say hello to her?”
Harry gave Arthur a suffering glance that turned concerned. “We’ll go soon,” he said to him.
Arthur didn’t argue. He watched as Harry was led away to the far side of the garden where a group of witches, dressed as anything other than witches, were standing in a close circle. The little girl tugged on one of their sleeves and introduced Harry. Arthur couldn’t hear what they said from where he stood, but their cries of surprise carried over clearly. He found himself suddenly understanding his mum yelling at them all to leave them alone. At the moment it was all he wanted.
Harry wandered back over after a few minutes. “Let’s say our goodbyes to the host,” he said.
“If you want to stay longer, you can just take me home,” Arthur said.
Harry led him over to where Roger waited for the next child to snag an apple in his teeth. “Thank you for the evening.” He gestured at the house. “But we’re on our way out.”
“So soon?” Roger asked in concern.
“Arthur has another party to get to,” Harry lied smoothly.
“Well, thanks for coming,” Roger said as he shook Harry’s hand.
Inside, Hermione said roughly the same thing, though as she hugged Arthur she said to him, “We need to break you in a little slower, I think.” Arthur frowned and dropped his eyes. Hermione tweaked his chin. “You’ll get used to us, as insane as we all are.” She waved when Harry took Arthur’s arm and they Disapparated.
The quiet of the house sounded loud as Arthur dropped onto the couch. His head was spinning.
“I realized something tonight,” Harry said as he slipped his cloak off and tossed it over a chair before sitting down. A wave of his wand removed his skin color and his horns.
“What?” Arthur asked uneasily. “Eyes,” he pointed out.
Harry tapped the bridge of his nose with his wand while muttering something. “Took me a while to get that to work,” he commented. “When I finally got it, I thought of just going as Voldemort.”
“You’re as insane as they are,” Arthur muttered. Harry looked him over in silence a long time. Arthur finally prompted, “What did you realize?”
“Uncertainty bothers you. So does the unexpected.” Harry stood up and brought water back from the kitchen for both of them. “I think that is why magic makes you so uneasy.”
Arthur shook his head as he took a long drink. With a frown he set the glass down and stood up.
“Sit down,” Harry said easily.
Arthur debated with himself a moment before relenting. They stared at each other for a long time. Compared to how his dad had looked earlier, he looked downright ordinary now. But now he would not be able to walk down Diagon Alley without attracting a crowd. He shook his head as he considered all the different versions of his father.
“What?” Harry asked.
“They wanted to put you away . . . you know that? Right after you started sleeping for days at a time and Mum took you from one doctor’s to another. I hated them. They thought you were fascinating.” Arthur looked away as his eyes felt hot. “The other half of London effing worships you.” He shook his head to try to clear it.
Harry came over and sat beside him.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” Arthur asked.
“Yes. But the alternatives are still having Voldemort around or being dead.”
Arthur breathed out hard and closed his eyes. An arm slipped over his shoulder and pulled him over. He let his head rest on his dad’s shoulder. He wished he had the guts to tell him that he apparently had some kind of magic, but the unknown of the aftermath scared him silent, even if it would not include attending Hogwarts.
“Are your friends having a party you’d like to go to?” Harry asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Well, next year we can have a no magic allowed party and I’ll dress as Voldemort,” Harry said, patting Arthur’s shoulder. Arthur laughed despite himself. “We’ll be sure to invite the Weinsteins,” Harry went on with a smile in his voice.
“No one understands,” Arthur commented.
“No,” Harry agreed. “And they never did.”
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