In which Holly hides in a cupboard and takes an unexpected nap.

Holly took a deep breath. As silently as she could, she opened the door to Number Four, sneaked in and closed the door behind her. Careful, so as not to alert anyone to her presence.

Normally, she would have waited until it was dark and everyone was asleep, but (depending on how fast Uncle Vernon worked) by that time she might find herself in the shed and not be able to get into the house. No… if she was to have any hope of doing this, she had to do it now.

The car had still been gone when she came back home, so she knew Aunt Petunia was still out. From the living room she could hear dramatic music and vague sounds of gunfire; Dudley must have decided to watch one of his action movies again. She didn’t know if Uncle Vernon was out in the garden or not, and she didn’t dare to check; then she would have to move to the living room and risk being spotted by Dudley.

For the moment, nobody was calling out for her or asking what she was doing back already; that probably meant they hadn’t noticed.

She carefully took her shoes off, so she wouldn’t make any noise against the floor as she walked up to the cupboard. Because there, in plain sight, it was. The familiar closed door, the ever-present padlock. Now more than ever she could feel whatever it was inside calling out to her.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. The noises from the telly seemed to fade into the background; all she could hear was her own heartbeat and quickened breath as she reached out and touched the padlock. The metal was cold and heavy in her hand.

She pursed her lips and blew lightly. Once… twice… three times.

Nothing happened.

Holly could have screamed in frustration and disappointment, but she forced herself to stay calm. She couldn’t… she wouldn’t believe that Ronnie had lied to her. The girl had been completely honest when she talked about the trick. It’ll work, Ronnie had said, long as you believe it will.

All right, another attempt. She closed her eyes and believed.

Then, without opening her eyes she pursed her lips and blew lightly. Once… twice… and then, just as she was about to blow for the third time, a strange sense of calm filled her. It was a sensation not completely unlike what she had felt just before the lawnmower incident, but this time it was more like a gentle warmth than a burning fire. An absolute certainty. The lock would open for her; anything else was unnatural. Like water running upwards or Aunt Petunia’s ‘famous spice bread’ tasting nice.

She blew a third time. There was a slight click in her hand. When she opened her eyes again, she was thrilled but not at all surprised to see that the padlock was open.

The warm sensation faded. Holly quickly cast a glance towards the living room, half-expecting Uncle Vernon to come running to pull her away from the cupboard, but all that happened was that Dudley laughed at something silly on the television.

Her heart started pounding again. She unhooked the padlock from the latch and, taking care not to click it shut, held it in one hand while gingerly opening the door with the other.

And gasped in surprise as she looked into — not a fantastic, magical room, not a treasure chamber filled with gold and diamonds, but a very dusty, very dirty and very empty cupboard. The wall opposite the door held a couple of dusty and empty coat-hangers, which couldn’t have been used for years, the wall to her left held three dusty and empty shelves, the ceiling was just the underside of the stairs, covered with dust and cobwebs, and the floor was so dusty that…

Hang on. There was something else on the floor, just by the inner wall. Something small, almost covered in dust. It looked like a long, thin rod or stick of some sort.

Holly entered the cupboard. It was large enough that she could stand upright in it, even wide enough that she could probably lie down flat without problem. Almost absentmindedly, she placed the padlock down on one of the shelves before she crouched down, reached out and picked up the stick from the floor.

Dust fell off it as she held it up to her face, revealing that it was made out of some sort of pale wood, elaborately carved and polished to a smooth finish. It was quite long, longer than her forearm, it had several strange-looking knots on it, and one end was notably thicker than the other. It felt curiously warm in her hand, almost alive in a strange way.

“Hello,” said Holly softly to the stick. “So you’re what the Dursleys have been hiding in here all these years. Have you really been calling for me all this time? Or did I just imagine it?”

The stick didn’t answer, but somehow it didn’t feel silly to talk to it. It just felt right. Just like it felt right to hold it…

A noise from above made her start. Dust fell down from the stair-ceiling as the stairs began creaking. Years of living with the Dursleys had taught Holly to identify which of the three was currently walking up or down the stairs just by listening to the sound of the footfalls — and those firm, heavy steps were an unmistakable sign that Uncle Vernon was coming down the stairs.

He hadn’t been out in the garden, he’d been upstairs!

There was no time to get out of the cupboard. Holly just fell down onto her stomach, grabbed the door and pulled it towards herself, managing to close it just before the footfalls had reached the bottom of the stairs.

The door closed, everything was dark around her. Just a small stream of light came in from the underside of the door. Holly had never been afraid of the dark, but it really did not make the sound of Uncle Vernon’s footsteps any less foreboding.

She clutched the funny-looking stick to her chest. Please, she thought. Please, don’t let Uncle Vernon find me here! Please, don’t let him notice that the padlock is gone from the latch!

She held her breath. The small stream of light was disturbed by shadows; Uncle Vernon was walking past the cupboard… he was stopping outside it…

“Dudley?” came his voice from right outside the cupboard.

“Yeah, Dad?” Dudley’s voice sounded from the living room, a little annoyed because he never liked to be disturbed in the middle of his telly-watching.

“Your cousin didn’t show up while I was upstairs, did she?”

“Nah.” Dudley sounded rather uninterested. “I would’ve heard her if she had.”

“Good.” Uncle Vernon sounded satisfied. “Keep an ear out for her, son! I have a feeling she’ll go for the cupboard again, and if she does…”

Holly closed her eyes. This was it. He’d of course seen that the padlock was gone. Any second now, and he would tear the door open and haul her out. And this time there wouldn’t be any Mr Dumbledore to conveniently show up and spare her a spanking, because he was having company over and would be too busy…

Then, all of a sudden, the shadows vanished, and the stream of light was whole again. Uncle Vernon had moved away.

“Want a cup of tea, son?” he called. “I’m thinking of having one before I finish cleaning out the shed!”

“No!” Dudley called back. “Don’t we have any Coke?”

Moments later, Holly could hear the unmistakable sound of Uncle Vernon, moving about on the kitchen. He was turning on the tap, filling the kettle… and now came the familiar grumblings when he couldn’t find the tea bags.

She had to bite her lip to stifle the sound of disbelief that threatened to escape her throat. Uncle Vernon had been standing right outside the cupboard. He had been talking about the cupboard. He had probably been looking straight at the cupboard. And yet he hadn’t noticed that the padlock was missing. Her prayers had been answered! She didn’t dare exit the cupboard yet, not with Uncle Vernon in the kitchen… but it looked like she was safe for now.

She rolled over onto her back. Her clothes probably looked a sorry state after she’d been lying on this dusty floor, but she didn’t care about that just now. Instead, she held the stick up in front of her face. She could barely see it in the dark, of course, but she could let her fingers slide over the smooth wood.

It felt nice to touch.

Once more, a sense of calm and comfort seeped over her. It did feel right to hold the stick in her hand. It filled her with a vaguely pleasant sensation… a sensation that seemed oddly familiar, even if she couldn’t remember when she might have felt it before. Maybe it had been back when she was a baby… or maybe in a long-forgotten dream….

She stifled a yawn. All of a sudden, she felt very sleepy. Maybe not too strange; this had certainly been an eventful morning. First the mysterious Ronnie, then the padlock and the cupboard and the stick… But it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for her to fall asleep right here in the cupboard.

She’d just wait until Uncle Vernon was out of the kitchen, then she could try to sneak out… oh, and she couldn’t forget putting the padlock back. With any luck, maybe nobody would notice that she’d been here… Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon never opened this cupboard; that much was obvious. There was no way Aunt Petunia would have allowed so much dust and cobweb to gather otherwise.

She felt her eyes droop. She blinked several times to try and wake herself up. Lying down was probably a bad idea, she should sit up, at least…

She rolled over on her side. Idly toying with the stick….

Yes, the stick…

That was a stupid name for it… stick. Not the right word at all… It was more like a… like a… whatever those things were called. She could feel it in her hand, all warm and comforting…

She knew that there was a proper name for these things… she just couldn’t remember what it was. Did it begin with a W…? With an M, perhaps…?

…maybe it was something with an L, come to think of it…

Holly felt warm and heavy. Maybe… maybe just rest her eyes a little… not sleep… she wouldn’t even take her glasses off… she could never sleep when wearing her glasses…

…yes, that was a good idea… there was no way she was going to…

…she was going to…

…going… to…

By the time Uncle Vernon came back out of the kitchen with tea and Coke, and once again managed to pass by the cupboard without noticing the missing padlock, Holly was sound asleep on the dusty cupboard floor.

She opened her eyes and looked around.

She had no idea where she was or how she’d got there. Her surroundings looked… blurry, like she was seeing them through a foggy window or something. For a moment, she thought it was because she wasn’t wearing her glasses, but things were never this blurry and vague even when she wasn’t…

“Holly.” A soft, melodious voice caught her attention.

She sat up and turned her head to see a girl sitting next to her. Unlike everything else, this girl wasn’t blurry in the slightest. Holly had never seen this girl before, and yet she felt familiar. She was about Holly’s age, with kind green eyes and long auburn hair which flowed freely down her back. She was wearing a knee-length dress with a flower pattern and a pair of sandals.

The girl smiled. “Look at you,” she said. “My Holly.”

“Look at me?” Holly repeated. She looked down herself, and discovered to her surprise that she too was wearing dress with a similar flower pattern. There wasn’t anything particularly odd about this, but Holly couldn’t remember ever having owned a dress like this, much less put one on. For that matter, she couldn’t remember walking into a blurry landscape and lying down.

“I haven’t seen you since you were a baby,” said the girl. “And look at what a pretty girl you’ve grown up to be. You look more like your father than I thought you would… you have his hair and his build. You even wear glasses like him. But your eyes… your eyes are mine.”

Holly backed away slightly. “You can’t have my eyes! I’m still using them!”

The girl laughed. It wasn’t a cruel or mocking laugh. “Don’t be afraid, Holly! I just meant that your eyes look like mine!” She reached out and took Holly’s hand. ” I would never hurt you, Holly. My name is Lily, and I’m your mother.”

“No, you’re not!” Holly yanked her hand away.

“I promise you, I am.”

“My mother’s dead! And, and, you’re no older than me! Did you give birth when you were a baby or something?”

Again, Lily laughed. She had a nice laugh, and she seemed to use it rather a lot. “Of course I’m dead! And of course I didn’t give birth as a baby!” she giggled. “I didn’t look like this when I died. But I was rather cute when I was your age, don’t you think? I remember this pretty dress…” Lily looked down herself and ruffled her dress slightly before looking back at Holly. “I’m not completely sure, but I think I just look like I’m seven years old right now because I’m talking to you, and you’re seven years old.”

“I’m almost eight!” Holly protested automatically. “And that doesn’t make any sense!”

“Sorry, almost eight then,” said Lily. “It’s all right, Holly, love… you’re dreaming. Dreams don’t have to make sense! Or rather, they do, but they make sense in a very different way from the waking world.”

“Dreaming?” Holly repeated. “You mean I’m asleep?”

“Yes.” Lily nodded. “I’m sorry about that. But you’ll wake up long before anyone notices that you’re hiding in the cupboard, I promise.”

The word ‘cupboard’ triggered a memory. “Oh,” said Holly. “I was hiding in the cupboard under the stairs… I was holding the funny-looking stick, and then… then I don’t remember…”

“You fell asleep.” Lily looked apologetic. “Like I said, I’m sorry, and I promise I won’t make a habit out of knocking you out like that… But right now, I needed you to be asleep and dreaming.”

“Okay,” said Holly, uncertain of what to say about this. “Why?”

“Because I can only talk to you in your dreams.” Lily shifted and put her arms around Holly. “And I had to talk to you. It’s been so long. For seven years… seven long years… I’ve been in that cupboard. Calling out to you. Begging for you to come find me. And now you’re here. My darling daughter. All grown up…”

Holly felt herself melt into Lily’s hug. This was her second hug, and she was finding out she liked hugs. Ronnie’s hug had been quick, over in a second. This one lasted longer, and felt different. It felt a lot like Holly had always imagined being hugged by your mother must feel like. Even if said mother didn’t look any older than you. She was starting to believe that maybe Lily really could be…

“You were in the cupboard,” she said against Lily’s soft, auburn hair. “You’ve been calling for me for as long I can remember…”

“I have,” Lily confirmed. She hugged Holly a little tighter. “I missed you terribly. I’m so glad to finally be able to talk to you — really talk to you. I knew if I just kept calling, you would find a way to get into the cupboard.”

“So, you were that funny-looking stick?!”

Lilly laughed again and let go of Holly, looking at her with cheerful green eyes. “Technically, it’s a wand,” she said. “And I’m not literally the wand, but my spirit is tied to it. It’s like… mmm… you’ve heard of ghosts haunting houses or castles, right? Well, I’m like a ghost haunting a magic wand.”

“A ghost haunting a magic wand,” said Holly dubiously. “Is that true?”

“No, but as lies go it’s pretty close to the truth,” said Lily cheerfully.

“But Aunt Petunia says there’s no such thing as magic. Or ghosts.”

“Yes, she would say that, wouldn’t she…? I don’t even know why I’m surprised.” Lily sighed. “Poor Tuney, she always was good at denial. I think something broke inside her, back when we were children, and we found out that we really belonged to different worlds…”

“What do you mean?”

“Holly, love, magic is real. It’s just very good at hiding from people who don’t want to accept it. You would have grown up knowing all about it, except…” Lily hesitated and then said in a firmer voice: “But that’s a long story, and we probably don’t have time for it right now.”

“What story?”

“The… story of how your father and I… of how we died.”

Holly pondered. “Aunt Petunia told me you died in a car crash,” she said.

“Car crash,” Lily scoffed, suddenly offended.

“It wasn’t true?”

“Hah! I’d like to see the car crash that could kill your father or me!” Lilly crossed her arms, and then softened again. “No, love… it wasn’t a car crash.”

“What was it, then? How did you die?” said Holly. When Lily hesitated, she pressed on: “Please! You can’t just say that you didn’t die in a car crash and then not say how you did die!”

Lily sighed. “I’d have thought your aunt would have told you at least this much, but… we were murdered.”

“Murdered?” Holly gasped. “Who murdered you? Why?!”

“It was a man named Tom Riddle,” said Lily. “Well, I say he was a man. He was more like a monster, really. One who killed a lot of people and ruined a lot of lives. It happened when you were just a baby. He came to our house, and… he wanted something that we wouldn’t give him. We fought him, but he was much stronger than us. First, he… he killed your father… and then…” Her voice faltered. She swallowed, and blinked several times. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can talk about this right now. This was supposed to be a happy meeting. I’ve missed you so much, and…”

Holly felt bad. “I’m sorry!” she said. “I didn’t mean to make you cry! I just — I just don’t understand…”

“Sometimes, I’m not sure I understand.” Lily had managed to get her voice under control again now, and she placed her hands on Holly’s shoulders. “Holly, love… there’s so much I should tell you. So much you should know. But I don’t really know how much, because… I’m not really up-to-date on your life. Being locked in a cupboard for seven years means you don’t really get to take in a whole lot of what’s going on outside…”

“I’m sorry,” Holly repeated. “I didn’t know you were in there. I should have…”

“You came as soon as you could,” said Lily. “Besides, it wasn’t as terrible as it sounds. Being a spirit possessing a wand… it’s not like being a human. You don’t really get hungry or thirsty or bored or anything like that.”

“But you get lonely, don’t you?” said Holly.

Lily sighed. “Yes,” she admitted. “You do get lonely.”

“I’m —”

“Stop apologising, love. It’s all right. You have the wand now. Where it goes, I go. I’ll be with you as long as you carry the wand… and you have every right to do that. It’s your wand now.”

“Mine?” said Holly. She had felt an unmistakable connection to the sti— the wand, it was true, but…

Lily nodded. “It used to belong to me, back when I was alive. And you’re my daughter, so it’s yours by birthright. Didn’t you feel it, when you picked it up?”

“I…” Holly paused, remembering. “It felt like it was right. Like the stick — the wand, like it belonged to me. No, more than that. Like it was a part of me. Like… like there had been an emptiness inside me that I never knew about, which filled up when I held…” she trailed off, feeling silly.

But Lily didn’t seem to think it was silly. Now she was all smiles again, speaking in an eager voice. “See? II told you, it’s your wand! You and it belong together!”

For a moment, Holly felt slightly overwhelmed. She had a magic wand. “Can I…. can I use it for anything?”

“You can use it for practically everything,” said Lily. “But you have to learn how first. And that takes time. Getting really good with a wand takes years of study and practice.” She smiled mischievously. “I can help, a little. At least sometimes. I couldn’t do anything when I was alone and locked in the cupboard, but when you hold the wand in your hands… that’s different. I can do all sorts of things for you then.”

“Was that why Uncle Vernon didn’t notice that the padlock was gone?” said Holly. “You made him… not notice?”

“Actually, I think that was you,” said Lily, sounding proud. “You’ve got some willpower in you, love! I noticed when I tried to put you to sleep — you resisted for more than a minute! Most children would have been deep in dreamland after five seconds!”

“Er… sorry?”

“No, no, that’s a good thing!” Lily hugged her again. “It means you’re strong! You’ll make a great witch, Holly.”

Holly blinked. “I’ll make a great what?”

“A witch!” Lily repeated. “It’s not an insult, it’s what you are. Some girls are born with magic powers… they can do things other people can’t. And we call those girls ‘witches.’ You’re one of them, you proved that by willing your uncle not to notice that you were in the cupboard. I’ll bet you’ve made other things happen too, right? When you were angry or scared or frustrated, maybe?”

“I… yes,” said Holly. “Yesterday, when Aunt Petunia made me mow the lawn, the lawnmower came to life and did almost the entire lawn on its own. And today I opened the padlock by blowing on it…”

“See?” Lily beamed. “Only a witch could make those things happen! It certainly wouldn’t have worked if you were a Muggle!”

“Muggle?” There was that word again. “What is that?”

“Oh, sorry. A ‘Muggle’ is what we call someone who doesn’t have any magic. Someone who isn’t a witch.”

“Like Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon?”

“And like most of the human population on Earth, really,” said Lily. “Magic is pretty rare… most humans never get to use it, that’s why so many of them keep saying it doesn’t exist. But you, Holly… you’re like me. Magic is in your blood. And padlocks and lawnmowers are just the start. As you get older, you’ll learn all sorts of things! How to fly, how to conjure things out of thin air, how to turn invisible, how to disappear from one place and reappear in another… and so much more.”

Holly was flabbergasted. “How — where do I learn all that?”

“At a school of magic, of course,” said Lily. “At the school of magic. The one you’ve been down for ever since you were born. Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft!”

“Hogwarts?” Holly repeated. That was a word she recognized. “Does — does that mean Ronnie’s a witch too?”

“I don’t know,” said Lily. “Who’s Ronnie?”

“A girl I met, about my age… She said she’d meet me on the Hogwarts Express. And she said ‘Muggles’ were… people who weren’t like us.”

“Definitely a witch, then,” said Lily. “No doubt you will see her on the Hogwarts Express. If she’s your age, you’ll be in the same year at Hogwarts.”

“I’ll already know someone then!” Holly smiled. “By the way… what is the Hogwarts Express?”

“It’s the train that takes the students to the school at the start of every term. A beautiful scarlet steam train.” Lily almost sounded whistful. “I remember how great it was to ride that train… and in three years’ time, when you’re eleven, you’ll get to go to King’s Cross in London, take the Express to Hogwarts, and start your first year of magic school.”

“Three years… oh.” Holly tried to pretend she wasn’t disappointed. She’d hoped she could start at once.

Lily reached out and stroked her hair. “It won’t be so bad,” she said. “Now that you have your wand, I can keep an eye out for you. I can help make your life a little easier, maybe…” Then she changed her expression and tried to look as stern and motherly as her eight-year-old face would allow. “But, when you do get to Hogwarts, young lady, don’t expect me to do all your work for you! In classes you’re going to have to learn magic the hard way, just like everyone else!”

“I — didn’t even think of that!” Holly gasped.

“You would have thought of it. I know what it’s like to be a student.” Lily’s expression softened. “But I will be there for you when you need me. Starting now. As long as you have the wand, I will be there for you.”

Once more, they hugged. Holly could feel the warmth and comfort from Lily’s body. Everything just seemed to feel better when she was in the girl’s arms…

“You’ll have to think about waking up soon,” said Lily softly.

Holly clung to her. “Not yet.”

“You can stay asleep for a little while longer, but not too long. I’m sorry, but you can’t sleep in the cupboard for hours. Sooner or later, your aunt and uncle will notice.”

“I only just closed my eyes. And I want to know more! Tell me —” Holly grasped for the first topic she could think of. “Tell me about the lesbians!”

Lily blinked. “What lesbians?”

“The ones Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon talked about! After I’d made the lawnmower move on its own, they said I was turning into a lesbian freak.”

“Lesbian freak…” Lily took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Of course. Of course they would say that. They’re so frightened of everything even slightly out of the ordinary that they’ll take anything that’s not completely vanilla, and declare it to be bad and unnatural and freakish…”

“Vanilla?” said Holly, puzzled. “Like ice cream? What’s vanilla got to do with anything?”

“Oh. Er.” For the first time, Lily looked a little flustered. “Perhaps that’s something we should save for when you’re a little older.”


“Anyway, not all witches are lesbians. certainly wasn’t! I loved your very male father very much, thank you kindly! It’s just that…” Lily eased out of the hug. “Well, lesbianism is very accepted among witches. Encouraged, even.”


“Because of the lack of magical men. Nobody really knows why… or at least they didn’t when I was alive, they might have found out something in the last seven years… but magic seems to latch on to women a lot more easily than to men.”

“You mean… there aren’t any boy witches?” (Holly really didn’t think this was a huge loss. Most boys she knew were horrid creatures, especially Dudley and his gang.)

“Oh no, there are!” said Lily. “They’re called wizards. It’s just that they’re very rare. Even rarer than witches. I think there are about ten times as many witches as there are wizards. And so, for romance, witches either turn to each other, or they… share their men. They’re supposed to live in these large families called ‘covens,’ with one husband, and five or six wives… either that, or they go without men. Or if they want a man to themselves, they can find a Muggle…”

“Because there are a lot of Muggle boys!” said Holly, who was starting to understand.

“Right!” said Lily. “And it’s not like it’s forbidden for witches to marry Muggles. It’s just… we live in different worlds. It can be frustrating.” She looked proud. “I managed to beat the system, though. I didn’t want a Muggle, and I didn’t want to share a husband with four or five other witches. I’ve always been a one-lover kind of girl. And I was lucky enough to find a wizard who agreed to get married Muggle-style. One husband, one wife, no covens.” She smiled, somewhat sardonically. “I didn’t make myself very popular with that move.”

“Why not?”

“Because a lot of witches wanted to be in a coven with your father, Holly! He was very popular. And for a good reason. He was handsome, charming, kind… he was rich, too. A little immature at first, but all boys are. When he grew up… Half the girls in Hogwarts wanted to get with him. When they found out I wanted him to myself, and that he wasn’t taking any other wives, they got pretty angry with me. Called me selfish and mean and a lot of other things I don’t want to repeat.”

Holly frowned. All of a sudden, Hogwarts seemed a little less inviting than it once had.

Lily seemed to sense this. Her voice turned softer. “Don’t think too harshly about them, love. They weren’t bad people, on the whole. It’s just that to most witches… at least the ones who didn’t grow up in the Muggle world… the idea of what they call a ‘Muggle marriage’ is strange and unusual. To them, it’s all about the covens. Large families, you see. Nobody has to join a coven, but most of them grow up expecting to. So when someone like me takes a man completely off the market, they don’t know how to react.”

Holly thought about this.”I don’t think I want to join any covens,” she said eventually. “I don’t want to marry any boy, Muggle or wizard. I want to be a lesbian!”

Lily chuckled. “Wait a few years before you make a final decision,” she said. “But if you decide you don’t want to join a coven, nobody’s going to force you. Many Muggle-borns don’t like the idea of covens. It’s mostly the witch-borns… Oh, sorry,” she added, as if realising that she was using unfamiliar terms again. “A Muggle-born is a witch who has Muggle parents. Like me; my parents were both Muggles. Your father, on the other hand, was what we call a witch-born.”

“Because his mother was a witch?” Holly guessed.

“Right again! That is, he actually had six mothers. One birth-mother and five coven-mothers. And of course a wizard for a father.”

Holly tried to imagine life with six mothers. It was impossible; she could barely imagine life with one mother, let alone six. “Do covens have a lot of children?” she finally asked.

“Most of them do, yes,” said Lily. “Mostly daughters, of course.”

“Then I’ve seen a coven,” said Holly.


“Today, here at Privet Drive! Ronnie’s family! They were too many to count, but I could only see one man. The rest of them were either women or girls! Ronnie said she had eleven sisters!”

“Twelve daughters? That’s a respectable number,” said Lily. “Did you catch their name?”

“Er… Ronnie said her name was Weasley. Weasley of the… of the line of something.”

“Weasley!” Lily nodded. “That’s a familiar name! Her father must be Arthur Weasley.”

“You know Ronnie’s Dad? Or… knew Ronnie’s Dad?”

“I should say so! Well… I didn’t know him well, but I know who he is. Two of the girls I knew from Hogwarts joined his coven. Francine and Alice. Witch-borns, both of them, a few years older than me, but very nice. They were even among the witches who supported me when I wanted your father to myself. Said that it was our choice and we should do what made us happy.” Lily grinned. “If you see them again, maybe you could tell them I said… no, on second thought, that’s probably a bad idea. Even in the witching world, people usually aren’t prepared for casual messages from the dead. Forget I mentioned it. So, what were the Weasleys doing in privet Drive? Unless they’ve changed a lot over the years, I can’t imagine they would fit in well there.”

“Visiting our neighbour, Mr Dumbledore,” said Holly. “Ronnie told me he was helping them with something, but wouldn’t say what.”

“Dumbledore?” Lily suddenly grinned. “You mean Albus Dumbledore?”

“Er… I think so,” said Holly.

“He lives at Privet Drive?”

“Yes… at Number Seven-across-the-street, together with his housemate Hagrid.”

Lily’s grin got even wider. “Hah! They moved into Privet Drive? Well, that’s a lucky break! Or, knowing Albus, luck had nothing to do with it. When I asked him to keep an eye on you, he took it literally! And of course you don’t get Albus without Hagrid… Holly, this is great!”

“It is?” Holly felt her head spin.

“It certainly is! Listen, Holly… the next time you get out of the house and have the time, go to Number Seven and knock on the door. And tell Albus that Lily knows he let her win that duel. He’ll know what it means. “

“All right… wait, didn’t you just say that people didn’t want casual messages from the dead?” said Holly, confused.

“I did, but Albus Dumbledore isn’t just anyone! If anyone can handle it, he can! He’s the greatest wizard of our time!”

“Mr Dumbledore’s a wizard?!”

“Of course! I wouldn’t have dueled him if he wasn’t, would I?” Lily giggled. “Talk to Albus! He can tell you a lot more about the witching world than even I could. Besides, he was a very dear friend of mine when I was alive. Without him, I would never have managed to marry your father!”

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