Strange Charms: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Strange Charms: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

This is a great day for speculative fiction lovers everywhere. Today marks what would be Harry Potter’s 35th birthday if he were walking among us muggles somehow other than in cosplay. Why would we take the time to celebrate such a moment as this at Quantum Fairy Tales? First of all, we need very little excuse to make a cake and eat the whole thing around here. Second, it is pretty unanimously agreed that the Harry Potter rage started a title wave of Speculative Fiction rebirth; a sort of weird and wacky Renaissance that deserves celebrating every year.

So without any more blathering, we bring you our 12th issue full of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. And along with that, a chance to spend Harry’s birthday with him in the form of short story from one of America’s greatest Harry Potter fan fic writers: Elizabeth Larsen. Enjoy!

All the World’s a Stage

“Dad? Hey, Dad! C’mere a second!”

Harry Potter looked up when he heard his son’s voice calling for him, and smiled when he spotted James, his oldest child, standing in the doorway and frantically motioning for Harry to follow him.

“What?” Harry asked, putting his book, a birthday gift from Hermione, down on the table next to his large plush armchair before standing up and quickly following his excited son.

James flashed a cocky grin, his warm brown eyes twinkling as he skipped into the living room. “We’ve been working on our birthday present for you, and it’s finally ready!”

Harry smiled broadly. This would be fun.

“Oh? That’s exciting! What is it?” he asked as he entered the living room.

The room was a complete mess. The couches, missing their cushions, that had once sat in the center of the room were pushed against the walls. The two armchairs that had been on either side of the fireplace were now placed next to each other, facing what seemed to be a stage built out of the missing couch cushions. Several sheets – Harry didn’t know where they came from – were draped over a half-dozen objects in the center of the room, with a piece of paper lying on top of each. The papers were covered in the familiar scrawl of Albus’ unreadable handwriting, so Harry had no idea what his younger son could possibly have written on them.

Al stood in the center of all of these objects, looking immensely proud of himself as he placed his hands on his hips and asked, “Dad! Guess who I am?”

Harry chuckled at his appearance. Al was wearing an old Weasley jumper of Harry’s, a Gryffindor tie knotted and twisted around his neck, clearly tied by himself. One of Ginny’s black cloaks hung off his shoulders, the excess fabric gathered in a tangled mess at his feet. The look was completed with Harry’s spare pair of glasses perched – slightly askew – on Al’s nose. He’d even found a way to remove the lenses so that he could see through them.

Despite his purple Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes pajamas, Harry could tell that Al was dressed up as a younger version of himself.

Harry tilted his head to the side, as if scrutinizing the boy’s appearance, pretending to look confused as he scratched his head. “Well, I dunno Al. Who are you?”

“I’m you!” Al replied as he rolled his giant green eyes. Eyes that looked just like Harry’s. “Duh! See the glasses?”

Harry slapped his forehead. “Oh! I see it now!” He walked forward and kneeled down in front of Al. “You look great. You make a very convincing me. It’s almost like looking in the mirror.”

Al grinned broadly. “Okay Dad, now you have to sit here,” he motioned to one of the armchairs that faced the makeshift stage, “and Mum can sit here,” he finished, pointing at the chair to Harry’s right.

“Lily! Did you get Mum yet?” James yelled as he pulled out three fake wands from a box off to the side of the room, handing one to Al.

“Coming!” Lily called, dragging Ginny in behind her.

As Ginny entered the room, her confused expression quickly turned into a shocked one. She dug her heels in, pulling Lily to a stop. “What is going on in here?” she asked, looking around at the mess in despair.

Lily looked around the room nervously. “Uh… we’re putting on a play for Dad’s birthday?” She watched Ginny’s face carefully, checking to make sure that they weren’t going to get in trouble.

Ginny’s expression immediately softened. “Oh! That’s wonderful! What’s it about?” she asked as she allowed Lily to continue pulling her towards the armchair next to Harry.

“Can’t tell you,” Lily said wryly. “Spoilers.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “You’ve been watching too much muggle TV with Roxy and Robbie,” she said, speaking of Lily’s cousin and their friend, a muggle boy who lived across the street.

Lily ignored her mother, pushing her into the chair before running back to her brothers, the three instantly forming a huddle to prepare.

“Do you think anything is going to explode?” Ginny asked, eyeing the sheet covered objects nervously.

Harry snorted. “Would they be our children if something didn’t?”

“Touché,” Ginny conceded, smiling slightly. “Should I get the video camera?”

“Oh Merlin, yes!” Harry replied with a smirk. “I was just thinking that we didn’t have enough blackmail material the other day.”

“This should fix that then,” Ginny said as she exited the room.

“But I wanna be Dad! Why do I have to be the girl?” came Lily’s voice from the huddle. The redhead was shaking her head furiously, pigtails whipping back and forth and slapping the two boys’ shoulders.

“‘Cause I look just like Dad!” Al exclaimed proudly.

“‘Cause you’re the girl,” James stated, shrugging slightly.

“Well, can I at least be Vicky?” Lily asked, her deep brown eyes wide as she gave James her infamous puppy dog face.

Harry had to refrain from openly laughing. Both Al and James had a soft spot for their little sister. She just had to use her puppy dog eyes and they both crumbled within minutes.

“No,” James said sternly, turning his head in order to avoid looking at Lily.

She moved so that she was still in his line of vision. “Pleeeeeeaasseee?” she whined.

“I can’t be a girl!” James argued, his resolve clearly weakening.

“Yes, you can! Here, have my wig!” Lily turned and rummaged through the box of props that had held the fake wands, this time pulling out a long, blond wig. The hair was all knotted and ratty, with pink bows and butterfly clips tangled all along the strands.

“FINE!” James conceded, and Lily began to cheer loudly, dancing around as James removed his black jumper and fur-lined hat. Lily had removed her powder blue hoodie and tossed it to James before grabbing the jumper and hat and putting them on.

“But I still get to be Uncle Ron,” James said as he struggled to put on the much too small hoodie.

“Then who is going to be Aunt Hermione? Lily can’t play both her and Vicky in the same scene.” Al noted, picking up the brown and red wigs that Lily had tossed out of the box of props in her search for the blond one.

“I think you should be Aunt Hermione,” James said, grabbing the brown wig and putting it on Al’s head.

Al groaned, pulling the wig off and throwing it into the box. “Fine. Can we just start already?”

Lily nodded and dragged James off the stage, as he jammed the blond wig on his head, huffing loudly when Lily started rearranging the frizzy hair over his shoulders.

Ginny returned, fiddling with the screen of the small handheld video camera. She sat down, dragging the the coffee table closer to them and placed the camera on it, checking to make sure everything was framed correctly before pressing record.

Al, once satisfied that everyone was in their places, stepped to the center of the stage. “In honor of Dad’s birthday, we have put together a play, of the thrilling tale of the Triwizard Tournament! I will be playing Harry, obviously, with James as Aunt Fleur, and Lily as Viktor Krum. We will also be playing some other roles, while the rest will be played by Lily’s stuffed animal collection.” He gestured to a line of stuffed animals that were all dressed up in various costumes.

“Now,” he continued, “enjoy the show!”

The three kids all scurried around, James producing a large, fancy goblet that he had taken from Ginny’s nice set of dishes. Harry could hear her hiss under her breath as James placed the goblet on top of a pile of cushions, little slips of paper visible through the glass.

A colorful phoenix puppet, sporting a tiny beard and wizards hat, played Dumbledore, with the aid of James’ voice.

As the Champion’s names were drawn from the goblet, Harry noted that Cedric Diggory had been left out. “What about Cedric?” Harry asked as he leaned over and whispered in Ginny’s ear.

She looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. “Well, they only know the story because of the pieces that Ron, Fleur, and everyone else has told them from their memories. You’ve never told them the whole story, and given what happened to Cedric, I don’t think anyone wanted to bring that up. Especially with the kids.” Ginny smiled sadly. “Will you be okay?”

Harry’s face darkened as he recalled such a difficult time. He had to take several deep breaths in order to think clearly. After a few minutes, he realized that for now, they didn’t need to know the whole story. “Yeah, it’s okay. Let’s let them have this version for now. One day they’ll have to hear it all from me, though.”

Ginny nodded and squeezed his hand reassuringly as they turned their attention back to the show.

They had moved on, for Al had removed the paper, placing it on the table in front of Harry and Ginny, and the sheet that covered the first object that lay on the floor. With the piece of paper closer, Harry could finally decipher Al’s handwriting. It read “The First Task” in bright red letters. The sheet, once removed, revealed three “nests” made out of blankets, each full of eggs.

Real eggs.

One in each nest had been colored on in yellow marker, clearly marking it the golden egg the Champions were supposed to take.

Ginny buried her head in her hands at the sight of this, while Harry couldn’t help but chuckle.

“At least the dragons are going to be stuffed animals,” he whispered, looking at two of the nests, which already had the toy dragons perched on top of the eggs.

“Welcome to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament!” James called, moving the phoenix-Dumbledore puppet as he spoke. “For this task, you must fight a DRAGON!”

Lily and Al oohed and aahed, clapping loudly.

“Each of you will face a dragon and must retrieve the golden egg from their nest! You must try not to crush any of the eggs when you are fighting the dragon, or you will be deducted points. Okay, is everyone ready? We’ll start with Fleur, who will be fighting the Common Welsh Green!” James said excitedly, pointing to the stuffed green dragon sitting on the first nest that Charlie had given Lily on the day she was born.

Harry and Ginny joined with Lily and Al in cheering, as James put the phoenix-Dumbledore down.

James pranced towards the first nest, in a rather accurate impersonation of Fleur, and pulled out his fake wand.

Al, in a loud announcer voice, commentated as James reenacted Fleur’s encounter with the dragon twenty years earlier. “Fleur, the Champion from Beauxbatons, approaches the nest cautiously as she tries to figure out what to do. The Welsh Green, or “Charlie” as Lily has nicknamed her, eyes Jam- I mean, Fleur suspiciously.”

Lily reached out and grabbed Charlie the Dragon, moving the toy so that it looked as if it was staring at James.

“Did you know,” Al continued, “that the Welsh Green is known for its melodious roar, which is very distinct from other dragons’?”

“You’ve been reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them again, haven’t you?” Harry asked, a knowing smile forming on his face.

Al merely shrugged in response. “Oh! Look! Fleur has begun singing to the dragon, and is slowly putting it to sleep!”

James had begun to sing, quite badly, a lullaby in a ear-piercing falsetto voice, which made everyone in the room cringe. Lily moved Charlie the Dragon as if she was falling asleep, despite James’ terrible singing. As the dragon fell asleep, James crept around the nest and snagged the yellow egg from underneath the toy.

“Yes! Fleur sneaks by the sleeping Charlie the Dragon and grabs the golden egg without any- Watch out!” Al yelled to James.

James, who had been holding the egg above his head in victory, turned around just in time for Charlie the Dragon to hit his face. Lily had thrown the toy at him, exclaiming, “Oh no! Looks like Mummy isn’t happy about getting her egg stolen! She’s not happy!”

Lily jumped on James, hitting him over and over again with the stuffed animal as he tried to defend himself while still protecting the egg.

“Didn’t Fleur enchant the dragon, not sing to it?” Harry asked Ginny, struggling to remember what he’d been told, as he hadn’t seen the event himself.

Ginny nodded. “Yeah, I’m not totally sure where they got that from. Maybe George or Ron? Or Fleur? She always thought she had a nice singing voice.”

Harry cringed. “Don’t remind me.”

“The dragon never attacked her either, it just caught her skirt on fire when it snored,” she added, laughing at the kids’ antics. Lily and James were now wrestling, and Lily had James pinned to the floor, still attacking his face with the dragon.

“Alright! Good job Lily! You play an excellent dragon, but Fleur has actually got to win this one,” Al said as he pulled the two apart.

Lily looked slightly disappointed as she rolled off of James and put Charlie the Dragon back on her nest. James scrambled up off the floor and held the egg over his head, yelling, “Victory!”

Al took the egg and shushed him, telling him to go play Lily’s dragon. “Now, onto our second Champion, Viktor Krum, who will be fighting the Chinese Fireball!” Al gestured to the bright red dragon that sat on the second nest, a gift from Charlie on the day James was born. “Fun fact; the Chinese Fireball is more tolerant of other dragons, and is even willing to share territory with one or two others.”

James rolled his eyes, motioning to Al that he should continue. “Krum runs straight up to the dragon, it seems that he already knows exactly what he’s going to do, as he takes out his wand and- ouch! That’s gotta hurt!”

Lily had run straight up to the dragon and poked it in its eye with her fake wand. James, who was playing the dragon this time, made several strangling noises as he moved the dragon as if it were in extreme pain. Lily quickly reached in and snatched the yellow egg, but there was a loud CRUNCH! as she lost her balance, bringing her other hand to the ground in order to prevent her from falling. Her hand had landed on top of the nest, cracking several of the eggs open.

Ginny gasped, running forward to grab the pile of blankets before the egg could soak through them and onto the carpet. “Ugh! Come on Lily, you have to help clean this up. Next time, let’s use fake eggs instead of real ones, okay?”

Lily grumbled as she stood up, following Ginny out of the room.

Harry was torn between following his wife and watching his sons, who had continued the play as if nothing had happened. Figuring that someone should be watching the boys, he stayed, turning his attention to Al, who had gotten out an old toy broomstick that had been Lily’s before she was old enough to ride a full size broom. It barely hovered more than two feet above the ground, and was much too small for the nine year old, but Al was climbing on it nonetheless.

James disappeared for a moment, but when he returned, Harry realized that he’d spoken too soon when he’d figured that the dragons were just going to be stuffed animals.

“Since Al lost his Hungarian Horntail dragon that Uncle Charlie gave him, we decided that we had to use the next best thing for our dragon,” James said as he plopped Nox, the family cat, on the last nest. Nox instantly froze as she stood on the unsteady surface, her silky black fur spiked up as she arched her back, eyes wide as she stared at Harry, almost begging him for help.

“Whoa!” Harry said, standing up quickly and moving towards the nest. “Let’s NOT use the cat as a dragon, okay? We don’t want to-”

Before he could finish, Al had taken off and began flying back and forth over Nox’s head, instantly catching her attention. Without warning, she pounced, and Al had to swerve wildly in order to avoid her clawing up his leg. She missed, and fell back onto the nest.

In that moment, Harry realized that not all cats land on their feet. In fact, they might land on their backs, and in the process completely destroy nearly a dozen eggs before spitting and hissing loudly and running out of the room, leaving behind a trail of egg yolks and shells that had stuck to their fur.

Of course, the cherry on top would involve James slipping and falling into the third eggs nest, getting himself covered in the gooey, sticky mess before tearing through the house as he chased after the cat, leaving an even larger trail behind.

Harry buried his face in his hands before taking a deep breath. “Happy Birthday to me,” he muttered, running after James.

—————————————–

It took nearly an hour to catch and wash the cat, clean up the living room (and James), and for Ginny to stop yelling at the kids.

Of course, the kids had all begged to continue their play, so Ginny and Harry we forced to sit down and watch the second task.

This had ended as well as the first task. They had acted out a whole scene in which Ron had battled fifty heavily armed merpeople as they tried to subdue him in order to drag him down to the bottom of the lake for the second task.

It involved Ron using an Amplifying Charm on himself before falling asleep, effectively snoring them to death.

The actual task had also included a detailed description of how Ron had helped rescue Gabrielle, Fleur’s little sister.

“I think Ron’s been exaggerating his story again,” Harry had whispered to Ginny, who was laughing at James struggling to keep his red wig on while carrying Al.

Al, who was pretending to have fainted, kept wiggling his nose as a stray hair from the blond wig he was wearing tickled him. James was dramatically attempting to revive him as Lily, playing Fleur, wept beside them.

“Mmmm, I think it’s less exaggeration and more wild imagination at this point,” Ginny replied, causing Harry to snigger.

Once Al was revived, Lily leaned over and gave James a kiss on each cheek, who instantly fell to the floor in an apparent fainting.

“Oh! Looks like Hermione got in a word or two during that story.” Ginny laughed.

Harry nodded in agreement. “She probably added the bit about snoring the merpeople to death too.”

They’d moved onto the third task rather quickly, as the kids kept improvising bits where they’d forgotten or hadn’t heard the story.

The maze for the third task was built out of the couch cushions, the kids occasionally ducking behind a cushion, fake wands at the ready in order to fight any imaginary foes they could meet as they tried to get to the cup in the center.

At one point Al had reached a dead end, so he turned to one of the couch cushions and jabbed his wand at it, yelling “REDUCTO!”

With a loud bang, the cushion exploded, the white stuffing flying everywhere, covering the whole room like a layer of thick snow, as the room filled with the smell of burning fabric and hair.

It seemed that Al had managed to pick up Ginny’s wand instead of his fake one. Thankfully, between using someone else’s wand, and the fact that he hadn’t been trained in any kind of wandwork, the spell hadn’t been particularly powerful. It had only destroyed the one cushion, although it had caught on fire, as did Al’s hair.

Cleaning up that mess had taken much longer than the first one. So had Ginny’s lecture.

Yet, as Harry tucked his children in bed that night, he thanked them for their wonderful play. “It was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten,” he told them. And it was true. For the first time in twenty years, he could think of his year as a Triwizard Champion and smile.

—————————————–

It was nearly midnight by the time Harry returned to his study for the book he’d been reading that morning. His birthday was nearly over.

He was constantly amazed at how much had changed in his lifetime, and how much he had changed in those thirty-five years.

He stared at the title for a moment; The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Hermione’s new interests were always reflected in the presents she gave, and this year was no exception.

Picking up the book, Harry thumbed through it, finding the place he had stopped in order to mark it for the next time he had time to read. The first couple of lines on the page stuck out to him, searing themselves into his memory in an instant.

“All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
and one man in his time plays many parts.”

Harry had played many parts in his time- The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One, Triwizard Champion.

But now he played none of those parts. Now he was just a spectator, watching his past self filling those roles. Watching others reenact those stories.

Now he had a new role, a role he wanted, that he chose, and that he loved more than anything else in the world.

Now he was a parent, and that in itself was the best birthday present ever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *