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Alright, I'm back baby! While the East Coast wasn't as frigid as I anticipated, it was much colder than I'm used to, so I'm glad to be back.

As usual, I don't own Harry Potter.

Chapter 2 – Who’s That Man

Carla Dursley sniffled quietly as she huddled inside her cupboard under the stairs, nursing her bruised arm and clutching her favorite stuffed animal. Her grandfather Vernon had yelled at her for not making his bacon just right and hit her for wasting good food before sending her to her cupboard.

Ever since her grandmother died a month previous, Vernon had yelled and punished her for every little wrongdoing, and sometimes for things she didn’t even understand, but this was the first time that he had actually hit her. That morning she heard Vernon talk to someone on the phone about giving her away, and she was afraid that whoever he gave her to would hurt her more.

She gasped as she heard someone walking down the stairs. It was soft, but being directly underneath, you practically needed to float down the stairs for her not to hear it. She heard her grandfather scream loudly, and yell something about “freaks” and “heart attacks”, whatever those were. There was some hushed talking, and what sounded like a pen signing something on a board, then who she presumed was the second man said something that she couldn’t hear.

She heard the lock on the cupboard door slide off and the door opened to show a man in his late twenties. He was dressed in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and black over shirt, with messy black hair and bright green eyes. He seemed to have a sad, almost thoughtful look on his face when he saw her.

“What’s your name?” the man asked softly. Carla looked at the man, pulling her toy closer.

“Carla,” she murmured. The man gave a gentle, lopsided smile.

“Hi, Carla, my name’s Harry,” the man said. “I was a friend of your grandma’s. You looked cramped in there, why don’t you come out,” Harry said, stepping aside. Carefully, Carla crawled out of the cupboard. She tried to hide the bruise on her arm, but he must have seen it, because she saw his jaw clench.

“I heard Grandpa say something about giving me away,” Carla said, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “Are you going to hurt me?” Carla looked up, and she thought that she saw Harry’s eyes tearing up.

“No, sweetheart, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, bending down so he was eye level with her. “Were you hurt here?” Hesitantly, Carla nodded her head.

“Once,” she said, pointing at her bruised arm. Harry sighed when he saw it.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Harry repeated. “But I do have another child your age you could play with. Would you like that?” he continued. A smile began to grow on Carla’s face; she didn’t have many friends, and she hadn’t seen them at all for a month, so it’d be good to play with someone again, so she nodded vigorously. “Why don’t you go wait for me outside,” Harry said, and Carla ran out the door, so excited that she forgot her few meager clothes.

She was practically dancing with excitement when Harry came out the door a few minutes later. She looked around, and suddenly realized that there was no car in the driveway.

“How did you get here?” Carla asked. Harry simply smiled at her and waved his hand, as if hailing a taxi. She heard a loud bang, and looked around to see a large purple bus pull up in front of them. Where did the bus come from? She wondered to herself.

“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transportation for the stranded witch or wizard. My name is Karen, and I will be your conductor this morning,” a small woman read off of what looked like her grandmother’s recipe cards. Harry took her hand and pulled her onto the bus.

“The Burrow,” Harry said to the conductor, dropping a gold coin into the woman’s hand. “Keep the change.” Nodding, the woman shouted something to the driver, and she barely got into her seat when the bus lurched forward with a loud bang and almost knocked her down. But after she regained her balance, she started screaming with delight as the bus sped across the countryside. In her excitement, she didn’t notice the other occupants of the bus glaring at her, nor Harry’s innocent shrug.

When the bus lurched to a stop, Harry and Carla walked off the bus to see a tall house, its various levels bending out in all directions. Carla couldn’t help but laugh at how silly the house looked.

“What a funny looking house!” Carla giggled, pointing at the house. Harry chuckled softly.

“I think the designer was drunk,” Harry muttered. Carla didn’t know what “drunk” meant, so she just shrugged and held onto Harry’s hand while he walked to the front door and knocked. The door swung open to show a boy a little bit older than her with bright orange hair.

“Uncle Harry!” the boy shouted, wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist. Harry chuckled as he patted the boy’s head. Together, they walked to the fireplace, where a large fire was burning.

“Thanks for watching him, Molly!” Harry shouted into the house.

“You’re welcome, Harry, stop by any time!” a woman Carla guessed was “Molly” shouted from somewhere in the house. Harry reached over to a flower pot hanging next to the fireplace and threw a handful of powder into the flames, and the flames became green.

“Okay, Ted, you first,” Harry said. The boy walked confidently over to the flames and shouted, “Twelve Grimmauld Place!” before walking into the flames and disappearing.

“Where did he go?!” Carla gasped in terror. Where was the boy? Was he dead? Harry chuckled and patted her head softly.

“He’s okay, Carla, just hold onto me tightly,” he said. Carla immediately latched onto his waist. “Twelve Grimmauld Place!” he shouted before stumbling into the flames. Carla spun around and around, and when she thought she was going to throw up, they were thrown out of a different fireplace, and Carla was lying on top of Harry’s chest, both covered in soot. Carla climbed off and Harry stood up, dusting himself off. Carla looked up to see the boy Harry called “Ted” stroking a large white owl that was holding a letter in its beak.

“Ted, why don’t you show Carla your room while I take care of this?” Nodding, the boy took Carla’s hand and led her upstairs. About halfway up, though, they both realized that they didn’t know each others’ names.

“Umm, we’ve never been introduced,” the boy said shyly. “I’m Ted Lupin,” he said, holding out his hand.

“Carla Dursley,” Carla said, taking his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” she added, curtsying. Ted laughed awkwardly.

“Well, let me show you my room,” Ted said, and she followed him the rest of the way up the stairs and into a brightly decorated room. Carla gasped in amazement as the posters of people flying on broomsticks stopped briefly to wave at her before continuing whatever it was they were doing.

“What was that?” Carla asked, touching the poster to feel if it was actually paper. Ted looked at her strangely, his hand halfway to a small cage.

“Magic,” Ted said slowly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Carla looked at him as if he were insane.

“Magic doesn’t exist, silly boy,” Carla said, as if speaking to a simpleton.

“Yes it does,” Ted said, as if Carla were the simpleton. “Uncle Harry does it all the time, and all his friends do too.”

“Magic doesn’t exist,” Carla repeated firmly. Ted rolled his eyes and changed his hair color to blue. Carla gasped when she saw it.

“How did you do that?” she asked.

“Magic,” Ted said casually, before reaching into the cage and pulling out a small purple ball of fuzz and holding it out to her. “This is my pet Pygmy Puff, Tribble,” Ted said. Carla hesitantly reached out and gently stroked the fluffball, and it purred in contentment.

“What does it do?” she asked. Ted just shrugged.

“Just eat, sleep and look cute, I guess,” he said as he put Tribble back into its cage. “Auntie Mi gave it to me for my birthday a few months ago. Said that I needed to begin with a pet that was ‘low manintence,’ whatever that means.” They stood in silence for a moment, trying to think of something to say.

“So can you do magic?” Carla asked, breaking the silence. Ted shook his head.

“Other than the hair thing, no. Uncle Harry says I’m not old enough, but I can when I’m eleven.” Carla chewed her tongue to think of something else to say.

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” At this, Ted’s face grew sad, and his hair faded into a dark brown color.

“They died when I was little,” he said simply. Carla felt ashamed for asking such a question, and hung her head low.

“I’m sorry,” she said simply. Ted shook his head as he sat down on his bed and grabbed a picture of his parents from his night stand.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he said as he lightly ran his finger over the glass protecting the photograph of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks just standing around, laughing at something.

“Kids, lunch!” Harry yelled from downstairs. The two children immediately ran downstairs to see Harry waiting for them at the table with three sandwiches and three glasses of milk. About halfway through their meal, Carla looked up at Harry.

“Harry?” she asked. “I just realized that I have no extra clothes.” Harry stopped in mid-bite as he too realized this.

“That’s right, you don’t,” he said dumbly. “I have a friend coming in from a business trip tomorrow, and I think I can grovel at her enough to get her to take you shopping, so do you think you can last the night without changing?” Carla nodded, and Harry sighed with relief before they continued eating.

“Harry?” Carla asked again as she helped Harry clean the dishes. “Is magic real?”

“Yep,” Harry said simply. He turned to see that she had a skeptical look on her face, and laughed. “I didn’t believe it either, but trust me, it’s real.” After they finished cleaning the dishes, Harry sat her down and spent the rest of the day explaining magic and Hogwarts, even though he blatantly refused to answer her question about how children were sorted into the houses (“It’s tradition that I don’t tell you,” Harry would simply say before continuing). Finally, nighttime came and the children were starting to nod off, so he followed them to their rooms. First he tucked Ted in for the night, then he tucked Carla in in one of the spare bedrooms.

“Night, night,” Carla said as Harry began to walk away.

“Night, night,” Harry echoed as he closed the door and silently walked into his own bedroom before falling asleep himself.

My mispelling of maintenance was intentional. You have to remember that that's a big word for a seven-year-old.

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