Harry Potter had never gone on holiday before. He thought that he would have much preferred to have another holiday from the Dursleys instead. Even if it meant suffocating under cat hair and boredom in Mrs. Figg’s house for a week again, rather than be dragged along to America, just because Uncle Vernon had miraculously happened to greatly impress a very important American business partner of his drill firm, Grunnings. In Harry’s opinion, the only honestly impressive thing about Vernon Dursley was how incredibly impressive he honestly believed himself to be.
Ordinarily, the Dursleys wouldn’t have brought Harry along on a holiday, but Mrs. Figg had broken her hip, Aunt Marge had immovable plans to be in Australia, and Aunt Petunia’s friend Yvonne was in the middle of marriage troubles, and they didn’t dare leave Harry alone in their house. They were much too afraid Harry would blow up the street.
Uncle Vernon had also somehow accidentally let slip that he had a nephew staying with him - Aunt Petunia had been very angry with him over this, even though he had tried to assure her that he’d made it sound like a temporary arrangement - and the Very Important American, who had gotten his first job from his own maternal aunt’s husband, had invited Harry along and wouldn’t hear otherwise. Since the holiday was being paid for by Uncle Vernon’s firm, the Dursleys couldn’t even claim that they couldn’t afford to bring Harry with them to America. So, Aunt Petunia had begrudgingly taken Harry to get a passport, though she wouldn’t even let him look at it when it arrived, instead telling him that his hair looked very stupid in the picture.
When summer vacation finally came around, they all set out for America.
Any excitement that Harry had felt at leaving the country for the first time in his almost-ten years of life was quickly ruined by the actual experience. The airport was crowded and unclean, the airplane was cramped and smelly, and he had to sit next to Uncle Vernon and do nothing for the entire agonizingly boring flight. Uncle Vernon insisted on keeping the window shade down, so Harry couldn’t even look out at the clouds, and he insisted everything was fine every time the stewardess tried to offer Harry some juice or an extra snack.
When they finally arrived in America, Harry was exhausted and hungry, and he didn’t even get to see anything interesting on the way to the hotel. The roads were bigger, the signs were bigger, and all the cars were much bigger, but Harry had to dislike most of that on principle with how wowed Dudley was by all of it. (Dudley had sat next to Aunt Petunia during the flight while Aunt Petunia plied the stewardess for everything that Harry’s cousin wanted and some things that he didn’t.) Their two-bedroom hotel suite was nice in the same dull, pastel and floral way that Privet Drive itself was nice, but the Dursleys set Harry up on the itchy fold-out sofa with a thin blanket rather than make Dudley share a queen-sized bed. Harry spent most of the night shivering thanks to the overenthusiastic air-conditioner.
The jet-lag the next morning put Dudley in a terrible mood - Harry’s cousin threw a tantrum like he was two years old instead of ten - and they nearly missed the continental breakfast. Then Uncle Vernon spent nearly an hour arguing with the rental-car people and the next hour complaining heatedly about how Americans drove on the wrong side of the road. Aunt Petunia became increasingly frazzled as she tried to keep Dudley from ruining his suit, which Harry thought made his cousin look like a blond gorilla, while navigating them to the country club where they were meeting the Very Important American for lunch.
This was far from the first time Harry had the thought that holidays weren’t all they were chalked up to be, but after the exhausting flight and such a terrible morning, he could feel a hatred for holidays down to his bones. Holidays weren’t fun. They just meant being miserable somewhere exotic instead of being miserable somewhere familiar.
Mr. Very Important American was a tall man with very white teeth, a very shiny watch, very white clothing, and a very heavy golf club which he showed off to Uncle Vernon like it was something more than a metal stick. He shook Harry’s hand with too much energy, looked him over and laughingly called him “a fixer-upper, aren’t you”, then loudly told him to be more grateful to his uncle for “giving him a chance”. He congratulated Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia for generously taking Harry into their home, which made them preen, and Harry felt so much disbelief at this absurdity that he almost forgot to be furious beyond words as well.
Then Mr. Very Important American introduced them to his wife. Mrs. Very Important American was even blonder and taller and thinner than Aunt Petunia, dressed all in white from her pearls to her shoes. She immediately asked Harry what country he was from. Harry told her that he was from England, the same as his relatives, but all the adults exchanged some sort of look like they thought Harry was lying.
Mr. VIA talked about himself all through a very fancy lunch, bragging about his ability to “get one up” on all his business partners and raise money for his university fraternity house, while Mrs. VIA laughed at every sentence. He also spoke at length about how he himself - of all people - would have been nothing but a delinquent if not for his aunt and her husband. This consisted mostly of unfunny stories about his “wild youth”. He told stories about getting too much into “rock’n’roll” music, prompted apparently by some part of Harry’s appearance, and how he’d wrecked multiple cars as a teenager, much to Dudley’s awe.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia laughed nearly as much as Mrs. VIA, even though they usually viciously disparaged delinquents, hooligans, and drunk drivers at every opportunity.
Harry tried to sink into his seat and make himself as invisible as possible, but every now and then, Mr. VIA would turn to Harry and give him pieces of bizarre advice, while winking like his words were actually supposed to mean something. Shortly into lunch, Harry was pretty sure he hated these people. By the end of lunch, after Mr. VIA had invited Uncle Vernon to talk business with him on the very green golf course out back, Harry was absolutely sure he hated this man and his wife and every too shiny, too white thing about them.
His discomfort and dislike buzzed under his skin as they stood outside the country club, finally saying their goodbyes. It was swelteringly hot and somehow a set of very expensive golf clubs had appeared for Mr. VIA to show off one by one to Uncle Vernon, instead of calling his driver around already to take Aunt Petunia, Dudley, and Harry back to the hotel like he’d promised. Harry glared at the golf bag, feeling wretched and furious.
Then he saw something silvery dripping down the gleaming clubs. There were little gleaming droplets trickling down the sides and splattering over the hot pavement. It took Harry a few seconds, and one of the golf clubs drooping, to realize that they were melting.
Mrs. VIA screamed when she noticed what was happening. Mr. VIA’s eyes nearly popped out of his head at the silver puddle leaking out of his golf bag. Aunt Petunia went stark white and Uncle Vernon went tomato red. Harry’s cousin Dudley just frowned and asked his father if it was normal for golf clubs to melt like chocolate in a hot car.
While Mr. VIA scratched his head and Mrs. VIA shrieked for the country club staff, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia glared at Harry as though this was somehow all his fault. Eventually, Mr. VIA just cracked a joke about American summers and shrugged at this strange happenstance, because he apparently had at least three other bags worth of expensive golf clubs, and finally called the driver around. When the car arrived, Aunt Petunia took a stranglehold of Harry’s wrist and practically shoved him inside. Harry spent the whole way back to the hotel dreading how Aunt Petunia was going to punish him for something that couldn’t possibly have been his fault.
Harry spent the rest of the day sitting in the corner of the hotel room. He went to bed that night without supper, raiding Dudley’s suitcase for leftover snacks, while the Dursleys went out to enjoy some fancy American steak restaurant.
The next morning, Uncle Vernon had to go in to Mr. VIA’s place of work for special meetings, leaving Aunt Petunia to entertain Dudley and put up with Harry. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had some hushed argument in the other room, of which Harry only caught every fifth word but would have known was about him regardless, which ended in Aunt Petunia very reluctantly taking him with her and Dudley to the local zoo. Apparently they didn’t want him to do “anything funny” to the hotel room while they were out.
Before he left, Uncle Vernon warned Harry not to even think of pulling any more sort of funny business on this holiday.
“What funny business have I already pulled?” Harry said indignantly. It had been Dudley, not Harry, who had entertained himself yesterday by throwing trash out the window of their rental car.
“I’m warning you, boy,” Uncle Vernon answered lowly, which wasn’t really an answer, and then he slapped Harry upside the head for good measure.
Harry was still rubbing at the back of his head when they made it to the zoo, wishing for this holiday business to be over already. The sun was promising another sweltering day. While Aunt Petunia had brought along sunhats and sunglasses for herself and Dudley, she hadn’t brought anything for Harry. She’d also forcibly wrestled sunscreen onto Dudley’s pink face, before claiming that Harry wouldn’t need any and snatching it out of his hands. Harry didn’t have high hopes for Aunt Petunia buying him any bottled water or ice lollies later in the day.
Dudley had originally wanted to go to an American monster truck rally. Aunt Petunia’s desperate cooing that the zoo would be just as cool had convinced Harry’s cousin that animals in American zoos would be much larger and fiercer than the ones back home. Dudley was incredibly disappointed to find out that this was untrue. Much like the zoo animals back home, these American zoo animals also spent a lot of time sleeping in the corners of their enclosures, not budging no matter how much Dudley shouted or banged on the glass.
Hoping to see something exciting and preferably bloody at this American zoo, Dudley kept running off at every new sign, weaving without warning between all the other families and their oversized strollers and little wagons. Aunt Petunia chased unhappily but indulgently after him while snapping at Harry to keep up.
After some time looking at the lions, who were snoring comfortably away with their bellies to the sun, Harry looked up and realized that Dudley and Aunt Petunia had vanished on him. It was obvious was had happened. Harry duly wandered around in circles for a bit, looking for them, but after half-an-hour without any sign of his aunt and cousin, he gave up and decided to make the most of things before Aunt Petunia inevitably yelled at him for “wandering off”.
Instead of going to the information desk to report himself as a lost child, Harry strolled as he pleased, taking as much time as he liked to look at whatever animal caught his fancy. It felt incredibly luxurious to wander alone.
When it became too hot, Harry took shelter in the large, dark, and air-conditioned reptile house. Much to his delight, the building wasn’t just reptiles, but also colourful frogs, fat toads, and spiders that were easily the size of Harry’s hand. Harry thought they were very neat, these odd creatures with their smooth scales and strange tongues and webbed feet. They were exactly the sort of “vile” and “hideously ugly” creatures that Aunt Petunia couldn’t stand for long, so Harry liked these “slimy” animals who hadn’t done anything wrong on principle.
After a while, Harry rested himself in front of the enclosure of an Indian Cobra (scientific name: naja naja, according to a sign ), which was sleeping coiled up in the corner of its terrarium. It was one of the less spectacular snakes in the building, with brown and beige scales that camouflaged it well, so Harry was the only one looking at it.
“This says you’re one of the most venomous snakes in the world,” Harry murmured thoughtfully, tiredly, reading the sign that was telling him to beware of the sleeping creature, who mostly looked like a lump. “But Mrs. Figg says most animals are more scared of people than people are of them... and you never asked to be poison. You never even asked to be a snake. I bet you only bite annoying people who won’t leave you alone to your peace and quiet.”
As Harry spoke, the snake began to stir. Slowly, the Indian Cobra uncoiled itself and came to sit directly in front of Harry. It lifted its head so that it and Harry were eyes to wide eyes with each other, with only the glass between them.
“Uh, hi?” Harry said, after a long and bewildered silence. “Am I… annoying you?”
It was hard to tell, since snakes didn’t really have expressions. There was no real point in asking, Harry thought, feeling a little bit silly for talking to an animal like this, since the snake probably had no idea what he was saying.
Then the snake shook its head.
The snake very clearly, very deliberately shook its head.
Harry nearly toppled over from surprise, but instead just barely managed to hang on to the bar in front of the glass. He stared wondrously at the snake. Perhaps it had been a coincidence. Perhaps Harry had only been imagining something so strange. His freakish imagination was one of the things that Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia seemed to loathe about him the most, when he made the mistake of voicing any thoughts aloud.
“Did you just… understand me?”
The snake’s tongue flickered in and out, before it very clearly, very deliberately nodded.
“Oh, uh, alright,” Harry said, dazed, clinging to the bar in front of him for dear life. “Wow. That’s amazing. You’re amazing. You must be the smartest snake in the world.”
The snake seemed to think about it, then nodded again. Quite decisively.
“Is it… dull in there for you, then? It must get pretty boring, if you’re talking to me,” Harry said conversationally. The snake’s enclosure, this glass cage, was pretty large, but it couldn’t have been all that much bigger than the cupboard under the stairs where he slept. The enclosure didn’t have any stolen toy soldiers or books obviously hidden about.
The snake slumped against the glass. “Ssso boring,” it agreed.
Harry blinked. Maybe it was hotter outside than he’d thought if he was hallucinating a snake speaking to him. He’d stopped in the washrooms to splash his face with water and have a drink from the tap though, and he didn’t feel fuzzy. His feet hurt a bit from all the walking he’d been doing in his worn trainers, but he didn’t think that aching feet would make a person hallucinate talking snakes.
He looked around to see if anyone else had heard the snake speak, but the room was empty of other people, except for a girl around Harry’s age on the other side of the room. She was staring very intensely at one of the other animals, not paying Harry or his talking snake the slightest bit of attention.
Harry turned back to the snake and whispered, “What do you usually do all day?”
“Sssleep,” the snake answered, proving that the speaking hadn’t been a one-off flight of fancy. Harry was either having a conversation with a reptile or going mad.
“Dream,” the snake said, now twisting around the glass.
“I didn’t know that snakes had dreams.”
“What do you dream about?” Harry asked curiously. “Do you dream about your home?”
“Where you came from originally.”
“Sssometimesss. It hasss been a long time.”
“I know what you mean. Sometimes I have dreams about where I used to come from, you know, before, but they’re always really strange, so I think I might be making it all up,” Harry commiserated. His freakish imagination was probably at fault. “Did you have family? Do you miss them?”
“I do not remember,” said the snake.
“Yeah, me neither. Do you think you can miss something you don’t remember?”
“Isss that not desssiring what you do not have?”
“...I guess it is.”
Harry let the conversation trail off after that, wondering what he was really doing. Maybe there wasn’t a snake. Maybe he was only talking to thin air. Some very strange things had happened to Harry Potter over the years, things that he could never properly explain, but a conversation with a snake was really something else.
“Can you do that?” said the snake.
The snake pointed with its head, looking over Harry’s shoulder. Harry turned around to see what the snake was looking at and nearly toppled over all over again.
The only other person in this room of the building with him, the girl who looked to be around his own age, had somehow managed to open one of the glass cages. She had taken the other snake out of that enclosure. She was holding the other snake with her bare hands, holding it up to her face and squinting at it unhappily, as though inspecting it.
Harry hadn’t known that you were allowed to do that.
He didn’t think that people were generally allowed to do that in zoos.
Hardly an expert on the matter, Harry watched, stunned speechless, as the girl put the other snake back and closed the glass cage again. She didn’t bother to lock the enclosure behind her as she moved on to the next exhibit.
At the next glass cage, the girl pulled some long metal tools out of the wide pockets of her plain black dress, then carefully stuck them in the lock and began wriggling the tools around. In a couple of minutes, the girl popped that cage open too. The girl then dropped her tools back into her pocket and reached into the cage. Harry stared as the girl let a scorpion the size of her hand slowly crawl onto her pale wrist.
“Can you do that?” said the snake behind Harry. “Pleassse?”
“I don’t know… how to? Uh, sorry.”
The snake hissed. Harry thought it sounded disappointed.
Harry watched the scorpion crawl over the girl’s arm, leg by leg, for a long, silent, and deathly bewildered minute. The reptile house wasn’t particularly busy, but surely someone would eventually walk in and put a stop to this. The zookeepers surely wouldn’t hold for a little girls just going around opening the enclosures of highly dangerous animals.
Harry wasn’t prepared for the girl to look up and notice his staring. He looked back into her eyes for several seconds before he realized. She stared back unblinkingly.
He hadn’t paid much attention to her before she had started opening cages, for both the obvious reason of the talking snake and the obvious reason that she hadn’t been opening cages before. But Harry now decided that she was perhaps the strangest girl he had ever seen. She was incredibly pale, even her lips were nearly white, and her pitch-black, oil-sleek hair was tied in two painfully tight braids that went down past her shoulders. Her plain, long-sleeved dress had black lace trim. The dress itself was even blacker. The girl’s tights were black. Her dress shoes were black. Even her eyes were black.
“Uh, are… you allowed to be doing that?” Harry said finally.
“Yes,” the girl said.
She spoke flatly and without hesitation. She switched the scorpion to her other hand, as it tried to crawl up onto her shoulder, still staring unblinkingly at Harry all the while.
“Do you work here?” Harry said.
“But the zoo just… the zookeepers said you’re allowed to do that?”
“Not the zookeepers.”
Harry was feeling increasingly unbalanced, like he had stepped into another world without noticing it, one where snakes spoke and little girls played with scorpions.
“Is that… safe?”
“Well, obviously not for you,” Harry agreed sharply, since it was a scorpion and that was a bit of a stupid question. He was still quite certain, whatever the girl said, that she was probably not supposed to be doing what she was doing. “For the animals, I mean? You could hurt them.”
The girl tilted her head, ever so slightly, with new consideration. “Yes,” she agreed, and looked away to put the scorpion back into its enclosure. “I could.”
“Asssk her to let me out, pleassse,” said the snake behind Harry.
Harry was caught off-guard by this request, he had so intently been watching the girl return the scorpion, again not bothering to lock the cage behind her. He felt like he leaped a foot in the air at hearing the snake speak again.
He was becoming increasingly convinced that he had, in fact, passed out due to the heat and was now having some bizarre dream. If he was dreaming, he supposed, then it wouldn’t really matter if he asked some strange girl to let a cobra out of its cage.
“Pleassse,” the snake said again. “I want out.”
It sounded desperate.
It had never occurred to Harry that snakes could be desperate before.
It had never occurred to Harry that snakes would say “please”.
“Er, this snake would like to be let out of its cage too, if you don’t mind,” Harry called to the strange girl. He decided that it was only fair, since he wouldn’t want to be kept in a cage either, and that it technically wouldn’t be his fault. It would be the girl who had let it out, so she’d be the one to get in trouble for it.
The girl’s head snapped around with a frightening crack. The rest of her turned too, but not nearly so quickly. There was a split-second in which Harry thought she’d broken her neck.
“Sssay pleassse,” said the snake, impatiently.
“Please,” Harry echoed. “The snake says please.”
The girl looked between them several times, before focusing on Harry again.
“You’re a witch,” she said.
“I’m a what?”
“You’re a witch,” she repeated, matter-of-factly, though there was a gleam of something sharp to her expression now. “You speak Parseltongue. That makes you a witch.”
“You understand the snake too?” Harry asked. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or even more horrified. “You speak… uh… Parseltongue?”
“No,” the girl answered unhappily. “Mother is fluent. I’m still learning.”
“Oh. Is… your mother a witch?”
“Are… you a witch?”
The girl certainly looked like one, Harry thought.
“I thought witches were always girls,” he said, for lack of anything else to say.
The girl rolled her eyes at him. “If there was only one kind of witch, everyone would have to make their baby witches the unnatural way,” she said, clearly unimpressed.
“The unnatural way?”
“In a cauldron.”
“Oh,” said Harry, feeling more confused than ever. “What’s the natural way?”
“Sex,” said the girl, looking even more unimpressed with him.
Harry could feel a flush of embarrassment crawling up his neck and pooling in his face. Behind him, thankfully, the snake interrupted them by bumping its head against the glass.
“Isss ssshe sssaying yesss? Sssay pleassse again,” demanded the snake. “I want out.”
“Alright, alright! Uh, the snake says please again. It really wants out.”
“Fine,” said the girl.
Harry jumped out of her way as she marched over, pulling her lock-picking tools out of her dress pocket, and got to work on the Indian Cobra’s cage. He stood awkwardly next to her as she worked, of half a mind that this was going to end with him waking up in bed, and of half a mind that this was going to end with him going to prison.
A family came into the room. Harry’s heart leapt to his throat, while the girl neither flinched nor stopped poking at the lock. But the family, a mother and a father pushing a baby in a stroller, walked through the room without even looking at Harry or the girl beside him. They didn’t even notice the glass cage across the room, belonging to the first snake the girl had freed, that was slowly sliding open again.
After a couple minutes that felt like hours, the lock clicked and the girl was pulling the glass cage open for the excited snake. The girl reached for the snake, but the snake lunged instead for Harry. Harry fumbled to catch the Indian Cobra, which was quite heavy, being several feet long, and then he stood deathly still as the deadly snake happily wound itself ‘round and ‘round his shoulders and chest.
In the end, it was a little like wearing a heavy, living, scaly backpack.
It was also quite terrifying.
The girl watched this happen to Harry without helping one way or the other, with an expression that wasn’t quite there. Then she stuck out her hand for him to shake.
“My name is Wednesday Addams,” she said.
“Er, Harry,” Harry answered, gingerly reaching out to shake her hand, having accepted that either he was dreaming or soon to be in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, the deadly snake didn’t seem to mind when he moved, though the muscled ropes of its scaly body were a little restricting. “My name is Harry Potter.”
“Do you live in the area?”
“No, um, I’m on holiday for the week. From England.”
“Would you like to come over to my house for dinner tonight?”
The girl, Wednesday Addams, looked at him with frowning expectancy. She looked like she would only accept one answer from him. It was the most impersonal invitation to supper that Harry had ever received. It was also, sadly, the only invitation to supper that he, Harry Potter, had ever received.
Harry sort of wanted to say yes. He’d never been to a witch’s house before.
“Do you have parents?” the girl asked.
“Er, no? What’s that-? Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be allowed to just walk out with one of their snakes,” Harry said dazedly.
Wednesday Addams stared at him, unknowable thoughts behind her black eyes, and then she took his hand in hers and began pulling him out of the reptile house. She was surprisingly strong. Her grip was ice-cold and incredibly tight. Harry followed her, with a four-foot snake still wrapped contentedly around his torso, and all he could decide for certain was that he really didn’t want to make any more decisions right now. Which was possibly the least helpful thing his brain had ever offered him in any situation.
He wanted to wake up. If this wasn’t all some dream from his freakish imagination, he was going to get into so much trouble with the Durlseys for this.
Someone behind them, in the next room over, screamed very shrilly.
“MY GOD, THE CAGES ARE OPEN!” a man yelled.
There was a loud crash.
Then the screaming started in earnest.
Wednesday pulled Harry out of the reptile house, back into the summer heat, apparently deaf to the chaos behind her. Several people, including a couple zoo employees, ran past them towards the screaming. None of them seemed to notice the snake.
Harry didn’t know whether to be relieved or dismayed that zookeepers were apparently not very good at spotting their own animals. Camouflaged as a backpack or not, he thought they ought to have noticed the snake riding him to freedom.
“Where are we going?” Harry asked.
“We’re going to see my mother,” Wednesday said, in a tone that did not allow for arguing.
“Alright,” Harry said.
They walked through the zoo, back over to the lions again, and still no one seemed to notice the snake wrapped around Harry’s torso. Well, some people noticed the snake, but none of them seemed to notice that it was a real snake.
One little boy looked at Harry, then tugged on his mother’s shirt and said, “Mommy, I want a big snake toy like that one.”
His mother barely glanced at Harry and said, “We’ll see when we get to the gift shop, sweetheart.”
“Er, how are you doing?” Harry murmured to the Indian Cobra.
“Very well, thanksss,” said the happy snake.
“There she is,” Wednesday said finally, sounding a little put-upon. “Mother!”
Harry looked ahead to see who could have possibly raised a girl like Wednesday Addams, who apparently went around the zoo letting dangerous animals out of their cages for fun. He didn’t have to ask Wednesday which person looking at the lions was her mother, the witch, because it was obvious. It would have been painfully obvious even if the woman hadn’t turned around at the sound of Wednesday’s voice.
Wednesday’s mother was a tall and terribly thin woman, with skin so white it seemed almost translucent, and she had the same pitch-black, oil-sleek hair dripping loosely down her back. Her facial features were all sharp edges. Her welcoming smile between her blood-red lips was even sharper.
“Wednesday, dear, you left your hat behind,” this strange woman said fondly, as she pulled a pointed black hat from the blood-red purse over her arm. She fixed the hat on Wednesday’s head immediately and affectionately. “You know how the sun disagrees with your skin. The weather is so bright today.”
She made “bright” sound like the worst thing the weather could be. Wednesday harrumphed, but she didn’t immediately take off the wide-brimmed witch’s hat that her mother had put on her head.
Wednesday’s mother was also wearing a black and pointed hat, which matched her long black dress and the black sun-umbrella she was holding over her head. Besides the blood-red purse and the blood-red lipstick, Wednesday’s mother also wore shiny sunglasses with a reddish tint and perfectly round lenses. On one of her long fingers, the one that meant she was married, Wednesday’s mother wore a golden ring with an enormous, sparkling red stone.
Even if Wednesday hadn’t said that her mother was a witch, Harry was fairly certain that he would have known this woman was a witch. Even if she hadn’t been wearing the hat, Harry thought he would have known.
This woman looked like she ate other, lesser witches for breakfast.
“Wednesday, dear, who’s your new friend?”
“This is Harry Potter,” Wednesday answered, pulling Harry forward. “He’s on holiday from England. I met him in the reptile house and I invited him to dinner. He’s a Parselmouth.”
“Oh? A Parselmouth? How wonderful,” Wednesday’s mother said delightedly. “What a wonderful opportunity for you to practice your conversational Parseltongue.” She leaned over (and Harry wondered if this was what flies felt when the spider came by) and scratched the Indian Cobra’s head with one long, blood-red fingernail. “What a beautiful lady. Is she yours?”
“She is now,” Wednesday said, on Harry’s behalf. “We removed her from the reptile house. She asked to please come with us.”
Wednesday’s mother nodded, as though stealing deadly snakes from the zoo was a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and kept petting the snake wrapped around Harry’s torso as though it was harmless and lovely. When she finally stood up again, Harry tried not to be obvious about his relieved exhale.
“She looks as though she may be the descendant of a familiar,” Wednesday’s mother said. “I wonder how she ended up in a zoo like this. Does she have a name yet? Do you have a name, you beautiful little lady?”
“No,” said the snake. “What for?”
Wednesday’s mother laughed. It was really more of a cackle.
“Er, I think her name might be Naja?” Harry said, trying to remember what the sign beside the Indian Cobra’s cage had said. He was so confused by what was happening that he couldn’t rightly recall if there had been a name there.
I just helped break a zoo snake out of its cage and now I’m holding hands with a witch girl, Harry would think while trying to think it all through. But then his brain would stop him and think uselessly: Wait, that can’t be right. This can’t be happening. Go think it over again and come back with something that makes proper sense, please.
“What a beautiful name,” Wednesday’s mother said. “Very descriptive.”
“Mother,” Wednesday said impatiently. “Can Harry come over for dinner?”
“It would be a pleasure to have him over. Do you have parents here we should be inviting as well or shall we send them a ransom note afterwards?”
“He doesn’t have any,” Wednesday said.
“Well, I did have parents,” Harry objected. “They’re just dead now.”
Wednesday’s mother raised her eyebrows at him. “...And?” she said, as though she didn’t know what that had to do with anything. Harry had no idea what to make of it.
“I’m here with my aunt and cousin,” he said instead. “She’s… My aunt’s probably not going to let me come over for supper though, sorry. She’s, er, probably not going to let me keep a snake either. Could, um, you take her? Could you take her home? I can’t… and she doesn’t want to go back to her cage.”
“No more cagesss,” the snake agreed.
“...We could,” Wednesday’s mother said. “But you won’t know until you ask her.”
Harry did know without asking, actually, that Aunt Petunia was not going to let him keep a four-foot Indian Cobra in his cupboard. Even in the extremely unlikely event that she did let him keep an extremely deadly snake, when Harry was already such a burden on them, even if they somehow managed to take the snake through the airport and onto the airplane with them, there are hardly any room in Harry’s cupboard for another living creature. It wouldn’t be fair to the snake to have to stay there.
“Come, let’s find your aunt and speak with her,” Wednesday’s mother said, taking Wednesday’s other hand. “It’s been so long since the children had a fellow magical child to play with and Grandmama will be so excited to meet a young Parselmouth.”
Wednesday’s mother led them away, Wednesday obediently following, Harry being dragged along after Wednesday. People stared at them as they went by, Harry and the two witches, and Harry couldn’t blame them. They had to be the strangest sight in the entire zoo.
“Mother,” Wednesday said, “where’s Pugsley?”
“Oh, he’s looking at the lions, dear.”
Someone behind them screamed very shrilly.
“MY GOD, THERE’S A BOY IN WITH THE LIONS!” yelled a man.
There was a loud roar.
Then the screaming started in earnest.
“I want to look at the lions,” Wednesday complained.
“You wandered off to go look at the reptiles, dear,” Wednesday’s mother said immovably. “Maybe we’ll have time to go back before we leave. Now, Harry, what does your aunt look like?”
Harry, apparently being kidnapped by witches who wanted to take him home for supper, described Aunt Petunia and his cousin Dudley for them. Wednesday’s mother was looking at him so expectantly that he didn’t know what else to do.
Nor did he know what to do when Wednesday’s mother suddenly stopped, pursed her bloody lips, and reached into her purse yet again. This time, she stuck her entire arm inside the blood-red bag, which frankly shouldn’t have been able to fit an entire arm, and pulled out yet another pointed black hat. Wednesday’s mother set this hat very gently on Harry’s head. This hat shouldn’t have been able to fit inside the purse anymore than Wednesday’s hat, Harry thought in bewilderment, there shouldn’t have been any room in there.
“There, much better,” Wednesday’s mother said.
The hat was a cool and welcome relief from squinting helplessly into the sun. Harry felt extraordinarily strange wearing a witch’s hat in June. He felt extraordinarily strange wearing a witch’s hat regardless of the month actually, since the Dursley’s seethingly despised fantastical costumes and dressing-up as things that didn’t exist. He had never worn anything resembling a costume before.
“Er, thanks, but I’m… I’m not actually a witch though,” Harry said finally, after they’d started walking again. It felt very important to note that he wasn’t actually a witch.
“What should we call you then?” Wednesday’s mother said. “A wizard? A sorcerer? A magician?”
“None of those. I’m not magic.”
Wednesday and her mother both stopped to look at him again.
“But you’re a Parselmouth,” Wednesday said.
“I don’t actually know what that means,” Harry confessed.
“It means someone who can talk to snakes.”
“It’s a magical language,” Wednesday’s mother agreed, and she came over to gracefully crouch down in front of Harry so that they were face to face. Her balance seemed precarious, but she was perfectly still. Once again, Harry felt much like a fly in front of a spider. He had no idea what she was thinking behind those red-tinted round sunglasses of hers.
“You need at least a little bit of magic to speak Parseltongue,” Wednesday’s mother said. “You only need the littlest bit of magic to be a real witch and dance wildly under the full moon, no matter what anyone says. With some hard work or a demonic contract, anyone can be magical. Witchcraft is far more in the doing than the being. Has someone been telling you that you’re not magical enough to be a witch?”
No one in Harry’s life had called him magical before today.
“Is it your aunt?” Wednesday asked.
“No, my aunt’s not a witch,” Harry said, thinking that Aunt Petunia would faint if anyone accused her of being a freak. “No one in my family is magical because magic’s not real.”
He said this last bit more uncertainly than he would have said it yesterday. After all that had happened since meeting Wednesday Addams, many of the inexplicable things that had happened to Harry Potter over the years were becoming very suspect. Things like regrowing his hair overnight, shrinking ugly clothing before Aunt Petunia could shove it over his head, and finding himself on a rooftop in the blink of an eye… those were only a handful of the strange things that had been happening to Harry Potter for as long as he could remember.
He’d never really been allowed to consider witchcraft as the explanation behind everything before. They’d all just been… freak accidents. Like Mr. Very Important American’s golf clubs melting into a silver puddle yesterday.
Wednesday’s mother didn’t move. Wednesday glanced at her.
“...Did your aunt tell you that?” Wednesday asked Harry finally, flatly.
“Yes,” Harry said.
Aunt Petunia had told him often enough there was no such thing as magic.
Wednesday’s mother reached into her purse again, this time withdrawing a thin black stick that was just over a foot long. It took Harry a moment to realize that it was a wand. There was a witch in front of him holding a wand. He stood very, very still as Wednesday’s mother gently tapped the wand against the bridge of his glasses.
The tape that had been holding Harry’s glasses together unwrapped itself in a hurry, then vanished into thin air with a puff of smoke. When Harry took his glasses off to look at them, they were fixed as though Dudley had never broken them in the first place. Harry looked up at Wednesday’s mother with wide eyes, but she was a blurred black and white shape. When he put his glasses back on, very carefully, he saw that Wednesday’s mother was smiling even more sharply than before.
“My name is Morticia Addams,” she said, “and I am a witch.”
“Oh,” said Harry.
“And I am very real,” she told him, and it sounded like a promise.
“Alright,” said Harry quietly.
Morticia Addams then stood up, returned her wand to her purse, switched her umbrella to her other hand, and took Harry’s free hand in her own. Her grip was even colder than her daughter’s, though much more gentle. Harry could have easily pulled away from her, though shaking Wednesday off seemed impossible, and there was no way he was getting free of the Indian Cobra wrapped around his torso unless it uncoiled itself voluntarily.
He felt as though his entire world had turned on its head without his noticing.
“Let’s go find your aunt,” Wednesday’s mother said, “and talk about this. I am curious to know what sort of people the English are letting raise their young witches these days.”
That sounded like a promise too.
“Are we going to act like Aunt Lissome today, mother?” Wednesday asked.
“Perhaps,” Morticia answered.
Harry was of half a mind that it would be the best thing he had ever seen to introduce Aunt Petunia to people who claimed they were witches and could do strange tricks they insisted was real magic. The other half of his magic insisted this was going to be a terrible mistake.
They didn’t wander very far before the loudspeakers all around the zoo crackled on and a zoo employee informed them that the zoo was now closing. They apologized profusely and politely asked all visitors, sounding on the verge of desperately begging all visitors, to immediately make their way to the zoo’s front exit. Morticia Addams sighed heavily, but began leading Harry and Wednesday in the direction of the zoo’s front exit.
“Are we leaving Pugsley behind?” Wednesday said. She sounded sort of excited about it.
“Your brother knows where he’s supposed to meet us at the end of the day,” Wednesday’s mother answered, which Harry noticed was neither a yes nor a no. At least he now knew that a “Pugsley” was Wednesday’s brother, who was probably also a witch.
The front exit of the zoo was very crowded, filled with crying children and unhappy parents looking to claim refunds for having their outing ruined. Harry hunched in on himself, sure that someone was going to notice the live snake clinging to his chest, but still no one screamed or even looked twice at him. Morticia and Wednesday sailed out the exit as though everything was perfectly normal and they weren’t stealing a snake from the zoo. The frazzled zoo employees at the ticket booth didn’t have the time to give them a first glance.
“Ah, that must be her,” Wednesday’s mother said.
Harry looked ahead of them again and wanted to crumpled into a ball. Near the parking lot, Aunt Petunia was trying to placate a red-faced Dudley clearly on the edge of another tantrum, but her face was deeply pinched with fury. Harry wanted to turn right back around and admit to the zoo that he’d stolen one of their snakes rather than face her.
“You must be Harry’s aunt,” Wednesday’s mother said, almost sweetly.
“Yes, have you found the b-?”
Aunt Petunia immediately cut herself off when she turned around to see the woman who had come up to her. Harry’s aunt went dreadfully pale, though she was still not nearly as pale as Wednesday or Morticia Addams. Aunt Petunia looked Wednesday’s mother up and down several times, her mother opening and closing like a fish at the sight of the witch.
It would have been funny, if Harry wasn’t so nervous.
“What’s with those stupid hats?!” Dudley demanded, looking at Harry.
“What is with your stupid question?” Wednesday said flatly.
Dudley’s surprise was kind of hilarious.
“I am Morticia Addams,” Wednesday’s mother said, ignoring the exchange between the children. “My daughter and your nephew have become friends and we would dearly love to have Harry over for dinner tonight.”
Aunt Petunia was still gaping, but then the words seemed to register and she drew herself up to her full height. “No,” she said. “No, he won’t be going anywhere with you, you are obviously ins-!”
“I am not asking your permission,” Morticia Addams said.
“You don’t have it-!”
“I am not asking your forgiveness either. It is Harry we have invited. I simply wished to meet the guardian of a young witch who would inform him that magic is not real.”
“Magic is not real!” Aunt Petunia insisted shrilly. “Harry, come away from those fr-”
“I am a witch and I am very real,” Morticia Addams interrupted again, and this too sounded like a promise. Or a piece of friendly advice perhaps. “I can see by the look in your eye that you know this. Magic and I are both real, Petunia Dursley, without your permission or your forgiveness. Mind yourself.”
This last bit was said like a goodbye as much as a warning.
Dudley, whose head had been going back and forth without understanding, squinted at the living creature still coiled around Harry’s torso. “Is that a snake?”
“Yes,” Wednesday said flatly. “Do you want to pet it?”
Dudley’s jealousy was clear on his face and he reached out, to poke the snake that had decided to make Harry her new home. Perhaps he even wanted to take the snake from Harry. Harry had never really had anything that Dudley wasn’t allowed to take and they both knew it.
But as soon as Dudley raised his hand, the Indian Cobra raised its head. The snake hissed at Harry’s cousin, hood flared, and said something that sounded very rude indeed.
Aunt Petunia yanked Dudley back before the snake could bite. Then she pulled him several steps back for good measure, like she thought the snake might somehow leap several metres. Harry almost, to his own surprise, laughed at how frightened they both looked. The deadly snake settled back around his shoulders, unnervingly strong and strange, but there was something reassuring about it too. No one could touch him like this.
Harry liked that feeling.
“We will be going now,” Wednesday’s mother announced. She let go of Harry’s hand to fish inside her blood-red purse and pulled out a black calling card, which she flicked towards Aunt Petunia. The card bobbed in the air in front of Harry’s aunt, waiting to be taken, but Aunt Petunia only stared at the little magical thing in horror.
Aunt Petunia then turned her horrified look on Harry. In that look, Harry understood that his aunt wanted him to get rid of the snake immediately and get away from these witches. But Harry could also see that he would surely be punished for talking to witches at all and for stealing the snake, whether he went to supper with these Addamses or not. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. He had years ahead of him to be miserable at Privet Drive, he thought, but how often would he be invited to a witch’s house for supper?
Wednesday’s mother offered Harry her hand again and, looking his Aunt Petunia in the eye, he took it. If he didn’t go with the Addamses now, then magic might never be anything more than a word he wasn’t even allowed to think. Instead of something that made snakes speak and glasses fix themselves and calling cards float in the air.
“Isn’t it always a pleasure to meet new people? We’ll be in touch,” Wednesday’s mother said, with a smile that was her sharpest yet. ”If we return him, it will be in one piece.”
Morticia Addams then led Harry and her daughter away from his aunt and cousin. The Indian Cobra settled back around Harry’s neck made it tricky to look behind himself if he dared and Harry didn’t dare look back at his family.
“People like that have no business raising witches,” Wednesday’s mother declared.
“People like that have no business raising anyone,” Wednesday said.
Wednesday’s mother led through the car lot to a long black car which looked very old-fashioned. The residents of Privet Drive were always boasting the newest automobiles in their spotless driveways, but the Addams’ old-fashioned car looked shinier and speedier than all of them. Morticia opened the rear trunk, putting her hat and umbrella inside, and Wednesday did the same with her hat and the hat they’d lent to Harry.
Wednesday then led Harry to the back seats, placing Harry behind the passenger seat. Harry sat down very gingerly, not wanting to accidentally crush the Indian Cobra, which slowly unwound itself to sit in his lap instead. Once the snake was settled, Harry buckled in with an ancient seatbelt he didn’t entirely understand. Once he was settled, Harry stopped for a moment and wondered again what on earth he was doing.
Magic was real.
Witches were real.
And he, apparently, was a witch.
It didn’t make any sense, some part of him, which sounded very Dursley-ish, thought. Except then Harry thought again of all the strange things that had happened to him over the years, when he’d been angry or scared, which neither he nor the Dursleys could adequately explain. He was magical. He was a witch. It made all the sense in the world.
Wednesday’s mother got behind the wheel and adjusted the rearview mirrors, before she turned around to look at Harry. “Harry, do you have any preferences for dinner? Grandmama is a wonderful cook and as our guest, you do get to pick your poison.”
“Um, anything’s fine?”
“Ratsss,” said the Indian Cobra in Harry’s lap.
“Of courssse, we have plenty of ratsss for all our guesssts,” Wednesday’s mother said. “Our butler, Lurch, and his assistant, Thing, will be able to provide for all your and your familiar’s needs. Grandmama and I will be able to guide you through feeding her.”
“Uh, alright. I don’t… I don’t eat rats though.”
“How picky,” Wednesday said.
“Now, dear, don’t be rude to your guest,” Wednesday’s mother said.
The front passenger-side door opened then and a pudgy boy in a white t-shirt with black stripes dropped into the seat beside Wednesday’s mother. He looked to be slightly older than Harry, maybe a year or so. He was also extremely pale, with closely cropped white hair, and when he turned around he blinked at Harry with electric violet eyes. Harry noticed a red liquid stain all down the front of the boy’s shirt.
Wednesday slumped back in her seat and sighed despondently.
“Oh, Pugsley, what did you do to your shirt?” Wednesday’s mother said, tsking in disappointment. “Those stains will never come out!”
“Sorry, mum,” the boy said unabashedly. “Who’s this?”
“This is Wednesday’s new friend Harry. He’s coming over for dinner.”
“Cool,” the boy said. “Nice snake.”
“Want to touch it?” Wednesday asked.
“Yeah! May I?” the boy asked, looking expectantly at Harry.
“Er, better not,” Harry said.
Wednesday made an audible sound of disappointment.
“It’s his first familiar,” Wednesday’s mother explained. “She just chose him today.”
“Oh, cool. Congratulations.”
“Sit down properly, Pugsley,” Wednesday’s mother said. Then she adjusted the mirror one last time, started the car, and pulled carefully out of their parking space.
“...What’s a familiar?” Harry asked uncertainly. The snake in his lap was coiling herself around his hands, her scales smooth and her grip gentle but firm. He still wasn’t sure whether he’d stolen her. He was beginning to think that she’d maybe stolen him.
“A pet,” said Pugsley.
“A tool,” said Wednesday.
“A partner,” their mother corrected. “You look after each other.”
And then Morticia Addams stepped on the gas pedal and their car went tearing out of the zoo car lot at speeds that Harry might have thought too fast for a racetrack. In the front seat, Pugsley whooped. Beside him, Wednesday grinned widely as she rolled down her window. Meanwhile, Harry pressed back against his seat as though this would somehow keep him from dying if something went terribly wrong. He hadn’t the foggiest how they managed to get out of the parking lot without crashing into anything or hitting anyone.
Getting onto the road wasn’t much better. At one point, Harry could have sworn that the car squeezed between two cars ahead of them and popped out the other side. At another point, Harry could have sworn they hopped the hedge and briefly flew to get onto the proper highway, instead of taking an exit or anything normal.
“Calm down,” said the snake in Harry’s lap.
“Do you know how to stop a car crash?” Harry asked it in a breathless whisper.
“You are the witch here.”
“I don’t know how to keep a car from crashing,” Harry told the snake desperately, bent over his lap to keep everyone else from hearing this conversation and to keep from watching the scenery whizz by far too quickly. “I’m probably not a very good witch, you know, since I didn’t even know I was a witch until half-an-hour ago, so you should probably choose someone else.”
The snake let out a hiss like it was thinking about it.
“No,” said the snake finally.
“What a wonderful learning opportunity,” Morticia declared from the driver’s seat, over the whipping wind that Wednesday had let into the car. “Oh, I remember my first familiar like it was only yesterday. I still have the scar from the very first bite she gave me.”
“Please don’t bite me,” Harry said to the snake.
He hadn’t said it yet, he’d just realized, so he wanted to make it very clear that he didn’t want to be bitten. Just in case, he wanted the snake to know he didn’t want to be bitten. He was fairly certain that if he was bitten, he’d die.
“I wasss not going to,” said the snake.
“When will we get our first familiars, Mother?” Pugsley asked.
“When they choose you, of course,” Morticia answered simply. “Now, be a dear, Pugsley, and put on some music, would you?”
Pugsley fiddled with the radio, getting mostly static, until suddenly music was ringing loudly and clearly through the car. Harry didn’t know what sort of music it was, only that it was the sort of “loud nonsense” Dursleys would have disapproved of immensely. It was energetic and strange and it made the wild speed of the car a little more bearable when Harry sat up again, daring to try and enjoy the wind through his hair. The music wailed and shrieked and the wind howled, while the engine roared, and Harry thought people could probably hear the Addamses coming from miles away like this.
People were probably glad for that, Harry supposed.
He was a witch, apparently, and he’d stolen a snake from the zoo and he’d been sort-of-maybe kidnapped by witches, but the music was good and the wind was nice, so everything maybe could have been a lot worse too. If this was a dream, which it felt far too real to be, it was a pretty good dream actually. Strange, of course, but not entirely bad.
How long they drove for, Harry couldn’t have told anyone, he was sure it must have been for quite awhile, but the time seemed to fly by.
He learned that Morticia was a witch and had gone to a very peculiar finishing school for it, but that Wednesday and Pugsley attended a normal, non-magical school. Wednesday and Pugsley were home-schooled in magic by Morticia and her mother. Morticia’s husband, Gomez Addams, came from a magical family and had attended a magical school, but he couldn’t use a wand like his wife because his magic didn’t manifest in that way.
“...Is he still a witch then?” Harry asked.
“He prefers to be called an Addams first,” Morticia said fondly.
“Being an Addams is better than being a witch,” Pugsley said proudly.
“Your parents must have been witches,” Wednesday told Harry. “At least one of them.”
“Do you think so?” Harry asked.
“Non-magical people can have magical children, Wednesday,” Morticia said lightly, a little chiding. “Some non-magical people - some of your cousins, in fact - are the most lovely, loving parents imaginable to their magical children. Others… are not.”
The more Harry thought about it, the more it made sense to him that Lily or James Potter had been a witch. He liked the idea that he was a witch from a family of witches. That would explain why Aunt Petunia hated her late sister so much. That would explain why the Dursleys, who were determinedly as ordinary and conventional as it was possible to be, never spoke about Harry’s “good-for-nothing” parents if they could help it.
Harry wondered if Aunt Petunia had known about witches all along. She had certainly turned very pale when confronted with Morticia Addams. He quickly cast those thoughts away however. He was going to have to return to the Dursleys sooner or later, but at the moment he wanted to leave those dreadful thoughts for later.
Eventually, the Addams car went into a turn and then a twist, and then many more twists and turns, and they were flying through a neighborhood that was full of impressive-looking mansions with impossibly enormous lawns. They were the sort of houses which Harry was sure belonged to millionaires much like the snooty, self-important Mr. and Mrs. Very Important American.
Before Harry could ask if the Addamses were rich, they drove up to an extremely tall pair of black, wrought-iron gates, and he decided that they must be quite wealthy indeed.
Beyond the tall gates, at the top of a towering hill, was a frightening-looking mansion which might have been handsome when it was first built. Or perhaps not, because even then it would have had its tall, dark roofs and monstrous gargoyles on every eave. Right now, the gloomy mansion look half-abandoned and half-haunted. The garden looked all-dead. Somehow, the once-sunny weather had turned overcast without Harry noticing it. Clouds in every shade of grey swirled above the Addams mansion like they were threatening a thunderstorm, which made the weathered mansion look even darker.
It was exactly the sort of place where Harry might have expected a family of witches to live.
“Home sweet home,” Morticia said fondly, as the gates creaked painfully open for them.
The car went inside and up the hill, pulling around a circular driveway at the top and screeching to a stop next to the steps of the front entrance. Waiting for them beside these tall, dark doors stood an extraordinarily large man, perhaps the largest man Harry had ever seen, who was at least half-again the height of an ordinary person. The giant man wore a black suit with white gloves, and his skin was a sickly colour, almost green, with several visible scars.
“Hi, Lurch!” Pugsley greeted, the first to let himself out of the car.
The giant grunted a sound that might have been happy and grimaced widely at them.
It was not a pretty sight.
Wednesday and Morticia let themselves out of the car as well. Harry did so more slowly, unbuckling himself carefully, making sure that the Indian Cobra was secure on his shoulders before he moved. Pugsley opened the car door for him and offered him a hand for balance, which Harry quickly accepted when the snake unbalanced him more than expected and it turned out that her weight on her lap had left his legs partly numb.
“My little gentleman,” Morticia cooed at her son, from where she was fetching their things from the trunk. She handed hats, a picnic basket, and her purse and her sunglasses to the giant, Lurch, whom Harry now remembered was the Addams Family’s trusted butler.
Pugsley beamed at his mother and shut the car door behind Harry. Harry was still trying not to think about the now brown stain all down the front of Pugsley’s shirt.
“Thanks,” Harry said awkwardly.
Lurch, well, lurched forward to get the door for them. Morticia led the way through the dark doors into the darker mansion, Wednesday and Pugsley following, and Harry came nervously last. Well, last except for Lurch, who followed Harry in and closed the front door behind them, then lurched off to do something with everything that Morticia had handed him.
“MY DARLING!” cried an unfamiliar voice.
“My dearest!” Morticia cried back.
Harry followed her gaze to the top of a grand staircase. The foyer of the Addams mansion was enormous and slightly grim, but it was grand, with all sorts of fancy, mostly black furniture, an ominous chandelier, shadowy but huge paintings, and a grand marble staircase that was frankly unnecessarily large. At the top of the tall stairs stood a man who could have only been Morticia’s husband, Gomez Addams.
Gomez Addams was a short man with a very round face and a proud belly. He was dressed in an extremely snazzy black suit and had a very slick hairstyle and moustache. His hair was black, his skin a pale brown, and any more than that, Harry missed, because Gomez Addams promptly dove down the staircase like other people jumped into swimming pools.
Recklessly, but with spectacular grace.
The man thankfully rolled across the floor, rather than going splat, and smoothly popped up in front of his wife and swept Morticia off her feet. Morticia’s husband dipped her like a dancer, then kissed her so passionately and indecently that Harry had to quickly look away out of embarrassment.
“My darling, my dearest, my love,” Gomez murmured desperately. “Cara mia, Tish, I have missed you woefully…” A kissing sound. “...wretchedly…” Another kissing sound. “...wrathfully.” A third kissing sound. “Without you, I have been despondent, deplorable, despicable...”
“Oh, Gomez,” Morticia said. “Tell me more.”
Wednesday and Pugsley had somehow relocated to either side of Harry, who was trying to figure out how to keep his hands in front of his face without being rude. The Dursleys didn’t hold with Inappropriate Public Displays of Affection. Morticia and Gomez Addams, while holding each other, clearly held very different ideas. Harry had never seen two people kiss like they were trying to eat each other’s faces before.
“Do you know when they last saw each other?” Pugsley whispered to Harry.
“Uh, no?” Harry said.
“This morning,” Wednesday informed him flatly.
“What happens-?” Harry cut himself off before he could ask how Wednesday and Pugsley’s parents acted when they hadn’t seen each other for a week or longer, because if it was worse, he definitely didn’t want to know.
Eventually, there was a final wet kissing sound, and Morticia said, “Gomez, dearest, this is Wednesday’s new friend, Harry Potter. He’s a Parselmouth on holiday from England. They met at the reptile house at the zoo today and Harry found his first familiar.”
“A first familiar? Congratulations!” Gomez cried, and Harry’s next sight was Morticia’s husband lunging forward to shake his hand. “What a wonder! What a milestone! What a cause for celebration! Felicitaciones! And a Parselmouth? Grandmama will be ecstatic! Wednesday and Pugsley can practice their conversational Parseltongue over dinner.”
“That’s what I said,” Morticia said fondly, pulling her husband and all his enthusiasm back. They stood with their arms around each other’s waists, the happiest and most loving and by far the strangest couple that Harry had ever seen.
Something grabbed Harry’s leg then and he looked down.
“Oh, Thing,” Pugsley said.
There was a disembodied human hand holding onto Harry’s ankle. Harry was too surprised to scream. No one else seemed surprised by the human hand holding on to his ankle, so this must have been normal for a house of witches, but Harry still kind of wanted to kick it off.
“Thing,” Morticia scolded.
“He gets so excited when we have people over,” Gomez told Harry cheerfully.
Without warning, the Indian Cobra on Harry’s stiff shoulders lunged for the hand clinging to ankles. The hand let go and backed off immediately, then scampered urgently off down the nearest hallway as the snake thumped to the floor and slithered intently after it. Harry looked to Morticia and Gomez for a reaction to this, but Morticia was smiling and Gomez was chortling happily, even when the snake circled back around and wound her way back up Harry’s leg.
“New familiars,” Morticia said to her husband. “So protective.”
“I still have that first bite yours gave me when we met, Tish,” Gomez reminisced.
“I still have that first bite you did,” Morticia murmured.
Gomez growled and pulled her closer.
“Can we give Harry a tour of the house?” Wednesday interrupted.
“Oh, of course!” Gomez said, from where he’d been kissing along his wife’s arm. “We will have to tell Grandmama that we have a new friend and his new familiar with us for dinner tonight! She will be ever so excited! Oh, Pugsley, son, you’re a mess. Whatever did you do to your shirt? Change first, you little rascal, then give Harry the tour.”
“Be gentle with him, dears,” Morticia said. “Remember that he’s new to all this.”
“We will,” Wednesday promised, taking Harry by the hand.
The Addams mansion was everything that its foyer and exterior promised and more. There didn’t seem to be an end to the rooms that Wednesday led Harry through. Harry could have sworn, in fact, that there wasn’t enough physical space inside the mansion he’d seen outside to fit all these incredible rooms inside of it. It had to be magic.
Just for starters, there was the guest parlour, the family parlour, the nice guest parlour, the mortal enemies parlour, the sitting room, the no-sun room, the family living room, and the games room. Wednesday’s ancestors had been incredibly particular about atmosphere.
The guest parlour made Harry nervous. The nice guest parlour made him anxious. Both rooms were filled with expensive-looking antique furniture and gruesome curiosities, like taxidermied animals Harry had never seen before with roaming glass eyes, large skeletons belonging to creatures he wasn’t sure existed, and dangerous medieval weaponry which gleamed down dangerously at them from the walls. The bearskin rug in the family parlour chuffed and grumbled when Harry stepped on it.
The portraits in the games room and the family parlour moved and spoke, like painted television sets. Harry gaped at them with wide eyes and an open mouth, while Wednesday held a conversation with a portrait of a woman holding her own decapitated head.
There appeared to be a woman in the yellowish wallpaper of the no-sun room and she waved at them as they walked by.
Next, they went to go see the library, where the books flapped around the room like birds and butterflies. Some of the larger books peered down at them like hungry vultures. Other books lay innocently open on the shelves, displaying illuminated illustrations, and Harry found himself drawn to them, before Wednesday intervened. She told the books off sharply and they flapped hastily away like they’d been caught doing something wrong.
In the family library, which was next-door and which had all the same creaking shelves and rickety metal ladders, some of the books roamed around freely, but others shook violently where they were heavily chained to the shelves. A cushy armchair creeped up behind Harry, trying to get him to sit in it the same way that tigers tried to get deer into their mouths, but Wednesday stomped on its clawed feet and it scampered off again.
They didn’t go into the forbidden library, the tall doors of which were barricaded and chained, and which was deathly silent as they passed it holding their breath.
Harry learned from Wednesday’s complaints that Gomez and Morticia both had their own private studies upstairs, which apparently contained some special family spellbooks for which people had allegedly died and killed to get their hands on. Wednesday was very keen to inherit them. Pugsley had also been given a private laboratory for his last birthday, but that Wednesday was still stuck in the children’s playroom for her own activities. Wednesday bemoaned her inability to plot against her brother when she had to share a creative space.
“You should tell Naja to bite Pugsley when he’s not looking,” said Wednesday, before Pugsley rejoined them with a clean shirt.
“Naja-? Oh, right.” Harry looked down at the deadly Indian Cobra still wrapped contentedly around his torso, a weight he was becoming disturbingly used to, and then looked up at Wednesday again in horror. “I’m not going to tell her to do that!”
“I doubt she would mind,” Wednesday said.
“Are you ssspeaking about me?” the snake now named Naja said.
“She wants you to bite her brother,” Harry informed her. “I told her no.”
“I would not mind,” Naja said.
“He could die,” Harry said, then looked up at Wednesday. “Your brother could die.”
“Yes,” Wednesday replied. “I know.”
Suddenly Harry was seeing Wednesday asking Dudley and Pugsley if they wanted to pet the snake in a brand new light. Maybe deadly snake bites weren’t a big deal with witches. Harry had seen Wednesday handle an enormous scorpion without worry and he was pretty sure that Pugsley had let himself into the lion enclosure - and Morticia had obviously known and wasn’t apparently concerned in the slightest. Still, Harry didn’t want to risk it. He might have been very new at being a witch - a witch who knew he was a witch, at least - but he was still pretty sure killing one of your hosts was probably bad manners even among witches.
“Hang on, did you invite me over so I could convince a snake to bite your brother?”
Wednesday stared at him unblinkingly and didn’t answer.
Her silence sounded like a yes.
“...I’m not going to tell Naja to bite anyone,” Harry said finally, firmly.
“Spoilsport,” Wednesday said.
They went on with the tour and Pugsley joined them shortly after that, though Harry had no idea how the older boy found them in the labyrinth of the Addams mansion.
They were also being followed by the disembodied hand called Thing. Harry frequently saw it scuttling out from underneath the furniture out of the corner of his eye. Naja hissed whenever the disembodied hand, walking about on its fingertips, got too close. Harry didn’t tell the snake to bite the disembodied hand called Thing, but he also didn’t tell her not to bite the disembodied hand called Thing if she got the chance.
There seemed to be countless cupboards and infinite closets in the Addams mansion. Probably to accommodate the many secret passages through the house, which the disembodied hand was probably using to follow them, and all the interesting stuff that the Addamses and ther many eccentric ancestors had collected over the years. The Addamses didn’t seem to throw anything away. Instead, they packed everything up and put it aside to be repurposed at some later date, or to delight or frighten their future descendants.
Wednesday and Pugsley led Harry through a shortcut with an entrance that was in an upstairs broom cupboard. After five rooms of assorted marvellous coats and shoes, they somehow ended up in the front foyer again, even though there hadn’t been any stairs down.
The longer Harry spent being shown the Addams mansion, the more magical the house seemed to become, even though it had begun quite magical already.
In the family portrait and sculpture hall, an enormous room which looked like it should have been part of a museum, skulls chattered and busts grinned down at them. Various Addams ancestors, painted at their most frightening, moved in and out of each other’s frames and heckled each other from across the hall. Harry could have swore that he saw one portrait, one of a young girl in a white dress, reach out of her painting and snag a knick-knack off the fireplace mantel beneath her frame. He hadn’t known they could do that.
In the mansion’s observatory, there was an enormous bronze telescope, but the room was also filled with clicking-clacking automatons. A mechanical witch tied to a stake grinned dangerously, surrounded by twirling copper flames. Strange instruments steamed and whirred. Bizarre artefacts glowed and misted for unknown purposes.
Every room was a revelation. The dribbling candles in their ornate holders and old yellow lamps under spiderweb-patterned shades flickered on when they entered rooms, they flickered out again when they left. The threads of rugs and tapestries crawled through each other, constantly forming new and frightening shapes, like there was something trapped inside them. Shadowy creatures of indeterminates shapes and sizes crawled in and out of the creaking woodwork, only to cower and flee when the disembodied hand Thing came charging in.
The mansion was also filled with flower arrangement in gruesome vases, which Harry found very strange when the garden outside had looked so desolate. Wednesday explained that the flowers were from their greenhouses. They had at least two, Harry surmised, one for Morticia and one for Grandmama. The flowers, at least the ones that weren’t already dead, snapped and hissed and dribbled and glowed, not much like flowers at all. Pugsley kept one of these flowers from biting Harry’s ear off in the dining room.
Harry couldn’t imagine why anyone would need a dining room, a family dining room, and a formal dining room, but the Addamses had all of them. There was even a grand ballroom with high ceilings and dark chandeliers covered in cobwebs - and the less said about the cracked mirrors along the walls, the better. The ballroom was so large that their footsteps echoed across the marble floors.
There seemed to be a room for absolutely everything.
“How many guest rooms are there?” Harry asked, when Pugsley related a long list of Addams cousins with absurd names who apparently came to visit them in hordes and filled up this spectacular, gloomy ballroom on holidays. All the Addamses apparently had their own bedrooms, except Morticia and Gomez, who shared.
“However many we need,” Wednesday answered, like this was obvious.
Harry did another slow turn of the ballroom, trying to imagine it full of Addamses and witches and Addams witches. He tried to imagine a party of extraordinary people delighted to be as weird as it was possible to be.
“I can’t believe you get to live here,” he said finally.
The Addams Family mansion was frightening, of course, but it was also wonderful. Wonderful things could be frightening, Harry had found today. His heart had been jumping from his stomach to his throat from the very beginning of the tour, but that seemed a small price to pay to be a guest in a magic house. For once in his life, Harry wasn’t a freak.
Here, Harry was practically normal.
He was a witch among much stranger, much scarier witches.
“It’s pretty nice,” Pugsley agreed, looking around. “What’s left, Wednesday?”
Wednesday began to list off the many rooms of the mansion they somehow still hadn’t seen. “The greenhouses, the studies, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the attic, the basements, the dungeon, the garage, the kitchen-”
“Let’s show him the kitchen. We can introduce him to Grandmama.”
So, Wednesday and Pugsley led Harry to the kitchen. To get there, they went through a secret passage behind a blood-speckled suit of armour, past an indoor swimming pool full of bright green and bubbling liquid, and down some winding stone steps. Their kitchen at first glance resembled more of a large cavern, or maybe a dungeon, a wide but dimly lit space.
It was also full of rats. In all sizes and colours, rats scampered over the floor and tables of the kitchens, but they carried jars and utensils and vegetables about with great purpose. Rats grating cheese and managing saucepans wasn’t the strangest thing he’d seen today, but the way the crowds of rodents moved around each other in their tasks like a very efficient army was as fascinating as it was nauseating. Wednesday and Pugsley walked forward without bothering to look down, the rats skittering easily around them or even hopping over their shoes.
Harry wasn’t quite as comfortable wading into a sea of rats, but Naja had perked up and was curling around his shoulders with great interest. So, when Harry dared lift his foot off the bottom stair in preparation to step down, the crowd of rats parted immediately. They left a circle of empty space five feet across for him and his cobra. He gingerly stepped down. The rats maintained this circle of avoidance as Harry shuffled awkwardly across the kitchen, with one hand on Naja to keep her from trying to eat the Addamses’s chefs, determinedly not wondering if this is what Morticia had meant when she said they had plenty of rats for all their guests.
Wednesday and Pugsley were standing next to a hunched figure who was roughly their height. The figure from the back looked like a pile of ragged blankets had grown feet and spindly arms. They were standing in front of an enormous black cauldron, their arms moving like the conductor of an orchestra in the eye of a storm. Rats scampered in and out from underneath the figure’s dress, clambered up and down the figure’s spiderweb shawl, handing her herbs and vials and bottles to be used in her potion or tossed aside.
“Grandmama,” Wednesday said. “This is our guest, Harry.”
The figure tossed aside a wine bottle for the rats to catch and spun on her heel. Wednesday and Pugsley’s Grandmama had a shock of frizzy white hair and a face made of wrinkles. She grinned widely as she tottered forward, her teeth yellowed and pointed.
“The guest we’re having over for dinner, not for dinner, I remember!” Grandmama declared, cackling a little to herself. She had an accent, a strange turn to her words, that Harry couldn’t begin to place. “The Parselmouth, ohhh, it’s been too long since I last met a natural Parselmouth! What a lovely sssnake you have there, my child.”
“Thanksss?” Harry said, and for the first time heard the hiss in his words.
Oh. He really was speaking another language.
Grandmama reached forward to run her long nails along the cobra’s scales, before she approvingly and gently patted Naja and then Harry on the head. Then, with one spindly finger, she lifted Harry’s bangs and peered down at his forehead. She wasn’t actually much taller than Harry, so they were almost eye to eye.
“My, my, what a handsome scar you have there. Someone tried to kill you, my child.”
Harry stepped back, clapping a hand to his forehead. “What?”
“That’s a curse scar if I’ve ever seen one! Someone tried a death curse on you! Looks like it didn’t take! What doesn’t kill you had better start running, eh, my child?” Grandmama winked at him, as though this was something to wink about.
Wednesday looked intrigued. Pugsley looked impressed.
“I’ve had this scar since I was a baby,” Harry said, stunned.
The lightning-bolt scar was one of the few things he genuinely liked about his physical appearance and he couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t been there. He’d never been able to figure out what might cause a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt, especially when he had no other scars like it. He’d never considered magic.
That made a lot of sense, actually, though Harry didn’t want to believe it.
“Wow,” said Pugsley, looking even more impressed.
“Ohhh, my old friend Lavenza would give someone’s arm for a look at a curse scar like that,” Grandmama cackled delightedly, tottering back to her cauldron and rubbing her wrinkled hands together with glee. “She'll be so jealous when I write her! Death magic is her favourite sort of magic. Interesting death magic is scarce on the ground these days!”
Harry stared after her, feeling like he could feel his mind chugging slowly away beneath his hand. If Harry had gotten his scar before he'd come to the Dursleys, that meant that someone had tried to kill him when he'd still lived with his parents. The Dursleys had always told him that Lily and James Potter had died in a car crash. Could... someone have tried to kill him after his parents had died in the crash? Could there never have been a car crash at all?
“Someone really tried to kill me?” Harry repeated. “Why?”
“Why not?” Grandmama answered.
“Witches are always trying to kill other witches,” Pugsley offered with a shrug.
“It's what they do,” Wednesday said.
This was far from the first hint Harry had gotten that the Addamses might be even scarier than they appeared on the surface, which was already plenty scary. He still didn't know what to make of it. Were they only kidding? Were they completely serious? There was no real way for him to know the truth.
“There's magic for that sort of thing?” Harry asked instead.
“There's magic for every sort of thing!” Grandmama declared, now back in front of her cauldron, the rats once again scrabbling up her clothes to hand her glowing vials and hissing jars. “Magic is more than waving a sparkly wand around! It’s not just pretty words.”
Grandmama tossed a vial, glass and all, into her cauldron. There was a frightening whoomph and a bright blue mushroom cloud rose out of the bubbling liquid inside. Grandmama leaned in and inhaled deeply. Harry caught a whiff and wanted to slap a hand over his nose, because he thought her creation smelled like something had died.
Wednesday appeared unbothered. Pugsley reached into the cauldron, like he meant to taste this terrible brew, but Grandmama slapped his hand away without looking.
“All you need to make magic is a thought and a way to point it,” Grandmama croaked. She continued, sounding almost mocking: “Some people make their magic out of happy thoughts – out of love and generosity and joy for the world.”
Grandmama then disgustedly tossed in what looked like a dried creature into the cauldron, which gave a deep gurgle and suddenly began overflowing with vibrant yellow mist, which dissipated upon the unbothered swarm of rats below.
“And other people take their most vile, wretched, nasty, hateful, violent, and murderous thoughts,” Grandmama crooned, growing more delighted with ever wicked word, “and make their magic from them. All it takes is a thought – just the smallest, cruellest, most selfish, thoughtless little thought – and anything can happen.”
Then she tossed in what looked like a shrivelled heart covered in hair and there was a lightning-like flash of green light, which sent Harry a quick step and breathless back. He stared at the sickly emerald potion, which now held all the Addamses's attentions and cast an eerie glow over their pale faces, and he felt something in him turn over. Grandmama's words had been upsetting enough, the rats still scurrying around them were upsetting enough, but the green light echoed beneath Harry's eyelids like something from an old nightmare.
Harry clung tight to Naja, who clung tight to him, and finally felt unsafe in a way he had not felt before. He jumped when the door to the kitchen interrupted them with a BANG!
“Children! Here you all are!” cried the backlit man at the top of the stairs, Gomez Addams, with his hands on his hips. “I should have known! Look at you scamps, bothering Grandmama when she is busy making our dinner! Come away at once and leave Grandmama to her work!”
“We weren't bothering her; we were introducing her to Harry,” Wednesday said.
“There is time for that later! Grandmama does not need any more mischievous creatures underfoot while she toils away for us over a hot cauldron! Why are you children in the kitchen when the weather is worsening and there is a closet full of brooms to be riding?!”
Wednesday and Pugsley hopped away from the cauldron immediately.
“Really?” said Pugsley excitedly.
“Of course! We have a young witch who has never ridden a broomstick and the means to correct that immediately! Come along, children, and leave Grandmama in this dark, infested dungeon of hers! Besides, you have your own!”
Harry didn't have to be told twice to leave Grandmama, her swarming rats, her bubbling potion, and her dark dungeon of a kitchen behind. He hurried up the stairs after Wednesday and Pugsley, and he didn't look back until the door creaked loudly shut behind them.
He still felt unsettled all the way down the hall, then all the way down the hall after that, then through the next seven rooms. Harry still felt upset as Gomez finally threw open a pair of double doors, which had window frames apparently made out of bones, and trotted them all outside. Whatever had turned over in him didn’t seem to have turned back into place yet.
Harry shook his head and refocused on his new surroundings. It appeared that they had come out the other grim side of the Addams Family mansion, which by a quick look over Harry's shoulder, still didn't look as though it was large enough to contain all the fabulous and frightening rooms he had seen. They were now standing on a bone-white patio full of pitch-black chairs, which oversaw a large yellowed lawn surrounded by tall, spidery trees. The sky above was even greyer than before and an oddly chilly wind rustled past.
“Oh, my dearest, you found them.”
“I did indeed, my love, exactly as I promised!”
Morticia was lounging in one of the chairs of the patio, where the disembodied hand Thing was pouring her a glass of red wine (or, at least, what Harry really, really hoped was wine). She lifted the other arm so that her husband could launch himself forward and press quick kisses from her hand to her shoulder.
Gomez finished with a peck against her lips, then pulled away, bouncing on his heels and waving. “Lurch! Over here, my good fellow!”
There was a low grunt behind Harry, who startled and whirled. The monstrous Addams butler was standing just behind them, holding a pile of broomsticks in his enormous, scarred hands, staring blankly down at Harry. It took Harry a paralysed second to realize that he was in Lurch's way. As soon as he stepped aside, Lurch limped forward onto the yellowed lawn and at Gomez's direction began setting out the broomsticks with painful movements.
“I'm not flying today, thank you, Lurch,” Morticia called out, raising her wine glass slightly before the disembodied hand could overfill it. “Harry, why don't you leave that beautiful lady with me here on the ground? Unless Naja prefers to make like her winged cousins?”
Harry looked down at the snake wrapped around his chest, who seemed to have perked up enough to realize they were talking about her. “What isss happening?”
“...I think we are going to fly, ” Harry answered, a little nervously.
“I want to ssstay with the mother witch, pleassse,” Naja decided immediately, clearly not a fan of the idea. So, Harry obligingly went over to Morticia, who still had an arm outstretched, and Naja stretched out and wrapped herself around Morticia's limbs with a slightly displeased hiss at the coldness of Morticia’s skin.
Though it was relieving to be free of Naja's weight on his shoulders, Harry found that he missed her pretty much as soon as her tail slithered off the tips of his fingers. He felt surprisingly naked without her. No matter what scary furniture, creepy creatures, or magical objects Harry had encountered in the Addamses's home, he had still had one of the deadliest snakes in the world wrapped around his chest. A snake determined only to bite monsters out to get him wasn't very scary at all in Harry’s opinion.
The butler Lurch had set four broomsticks onto the yellowed lawn, standing back with two yet remaining in his arms. Wednesday and Pugsley each went to one of them, a sleek black broomstick and a heftier broomstick with strange mechanical attachments respectively. Wednesday's broomstick leaped up into her hand with but two snaps of her fingers. Pugsley knelt beside his broomstick and apparently started some sort of engine, which began to smoke like a coal fire, but puttered dutifully into the air when Pugsley stood up with a satisfied expression.
Gomez led Harry gently to the remaining brooms, gesturing at the much smaller one. “Harry, my boy, you may borrow one of my dear brother Fester's childhood broomsticks.”
“He won't mind?”
“He has been mysteriously missing for years now! I would be inconsolably grateful should my dear lost brother return to mind the borrowing of an unwanted broomstick that no longer fit him even when he tragically vanished all those years ago!” Gomez promised sincerely, then whipped out of a handkerchief to dab at his eyes. “Go ahead, my boy! Go ahead!”
Harry very gingerly went ahead. Some part of him was very leery of taking to the grey skies on nothing but a piece of wood with a tail of twigs, but it was greatly outvoted by the part of him that felt like it had been dreaming of flying all his life. The dreams he had of flying were Harry's favourite dreams by far. He didn't think he could forgive himself if he gave up the chance to fly. So, Harry went ahead and stood eagerly beside the old, dark broomstick, as Gomez Addams did the same beside the longer, adult-sized broomstick beside it.
“Lurch, my good fellow, you may take Morticia and Grandmama's broomsticks back to the closet,” Gomez ordered offhandedly. “Wednesday, Pugsley, you are being surprisingly patient today! I would have expected you to already be making yourselves terrors of the sky!”
“I'm waiting for Harry,” Wednesday said.
“I'm not,” Pugsley declared, having already swung a leg over his smoking broomstick. Without another word, he kicked off into the air, and Harry watched in amazement as the boy flew.
Well, Harry had to wave a bit of smoke aside first, but then he watched in amazement. Wednesday seemed altogether unimpressed with her brother and Gomez just looked amused, as though a boy jetting through the air on a broomstick was an ordinary sight for them. It looked like there should have been strings or wires holding Pugsley up. There had been many highly convincing things in the Addams Family mansion, but still the sight of flying broomsticks was still positively magical.
“Impatient rascal,” Gomez said fondly. “Now, Harry! The way to begin is to stick your hand over the broomstick and call it to you.”
“Er, how? By snapping my fingers?”
“If you like! You may snap your fingers, you may speak, or you may think very loudly! The important thing is that you and the broomstick knows which of you is at the reins! Fortunately, this fellow here should be quite gentle. He was far too much so for my dear brother's tastes!”
At an encouraging gesture, Harry snapped his fingers twice over the broomstick, having decided this was probably the least embarrassing method if he failed. He was very determined not to fail, however, and he didn't snap his fingers with any hesitation. Harry let out a soft exclamation when the broomstick leaped into his hand on his second snap, humming and wriggling against his palm almost like a living thing.
The broomstick seemed to catch the breeze under invisible wings.
“Well done, Harry!” Gomez cried, clearly impressed. “You are a natural! Either that or I am thinking that you must have flown sometime before!”
“I think I'd remember that,” Harry said, unable to tear his eyes away from the incredible flying broomstick straining against his fingers. Still, some part of him wondered if he had flown sometime before, thinking of all his best dreams again.
Gomez directed him to mount the broom and kick off from the ground. Wednesday graciously demonstrated for them, taking off as easily as other children might ride a favourite bicycle. Soon, she was hovering in the air above them beside Pugsley, watching expectantly as Harry swung a leg over his broomstick and mentally prepared himself to take flight.
But nothing could have prepared him for it.
Harry kicked off the ground and waited to come down again, but he never did, and instead he soared up into the sky on that thin broomstick humming beneath his hands. It was wonderful. A warm breeze brushed over every edge of his face, every inch of bare skin, and curled encouragingly through his hair. A rush of excitement thrummed through his throat. Higher. Higher. There was so much great empty space beneath his feet. So much open air. It was a long fall down, and the fall grew longer and longer as Harry’s broomstick rose higher and higher above the yellowed lawn. Except Harry didn’t fall. He was flying.
His heart and his breath didn’t seem to catch up to him again until he was thirty feet in the air, by which point he had trouble holding on to them. He was hanging in the air, the world beneath his feet. He was flying.
“I’m flying,” Harry murmured to himself, giddy with disbelief.
“Oh, well done, Harry!” cried Gomez.
Pugsley suddenly looked to his younger sister floating beside him and shoved her without warning. Wednesday didn’t fall off her broom, but she did spin in the air, so that she was upside-down. Wednesday’s scowl towards her elder brother was ferocious.
“Tag! You’re it!” Pugsley cried.
Pugsley took off and Wednesday took off after him, still upside-down. Harry watched them zoom and loop through the sky in amazement, just trying to stay balanced on his broomstick. All those wild dives and grabs looked leagues beyond him.
“Ah, to be young again!” said a fond voice just beside Harry.
Harry startled, but managed to keep from falling off his broomstick. Gomez was floating on his broomstick just beside Harry now, having come up while Harry’s attention was elsewhere. He looked effortlessly comfortable. He only had one hand on his broomstick, while dabbing at his gleaming eyes with his handkerchief again. He sniffled.
“My brother and I spent many happy days out here in our youth, making ourselves the terrors of the skies,” Gomez explained, tucking his handkerchief away in his pocket again. “I get so sentimental when I see my own children like this!”
Harry didn’t know what to say. “I don’t have any siblings.”
“Ah, my congratulations and my condolences! Have you been an only child all your life or is that a recent tragic development in your family?”
“Er, all my life?”
“Yes, Pugsley?” Gomez called back.
Pugsley was barrelling towards them at top speed. He smacked his father’s shoulder and then flew off again. “YOU’RE IT!”
“Oho! Attacked by my own son! My own flesh and blood! I see that we are playing our dear Cousin It’s favorite game today!” Gomez said, not sounding at all upset by this turn of events. He turned grinningly on Harry beside him and raised a hand warningly. “My boy, it appears that I am ‘it’.”
Harry understood him immediately.
Gomez reached for Harry and Harry flew away, heart racing, and he could hear Gomez’s laughter following him. Harry dove and turned sharply, holding on to his broomstick for dear life! He wasn’t going to be caught if he could help it! He didn’t want to be ‘it’!
When Harry had flown for long enough and dared to look over his shoulder again, he saw that he had clearly evaded Gomez. The laughing man was far behind him and tagging his daughter ‘it’ instead.
Wednesday shrieked in displeasure and Pugsley cackled at her. While Wednesday glared at her brother, she set her sights on Harry instead. Wednesday shot straight for him and the chase was on again! Harry’s heart had no time to slow down!
Harry, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Gomez played tag without time on their minds. Harry looped and dodged with happy abandon. I’m flying, he would think giddily every now and again. I’m flying. I’m flying. I’m flying! It was wonderful. It was even more wonderful than he had imagined flying might be, because it was so much more real. Even when Wednesday managed to tag him, Harry rather quickly managed to pass the status of ‘it’ off to Pugsley again. Harry didn’t notice the worsening weather at all.
They flew until Harry’s arms were aching and his middle hurt from laughter. It was Gomez who called them to a halt, pointing out Morticia waving at them from below. Wednesday and Pugsley descended easily, bickering over which one of them had won the game.
Harry descended feeling, oddly enough, like someone was behind him. All the Addamses were in front of him, so he didn’t know where the feeling came from, but the impression that someone was laughing just behind him, that hands were reaching for him, remained with him. He couldn’t hear anything but the wind, but even so.
It wasn’t a frightening feeling. It wasn’t a happy or a sad feeling. It was just there. It felt like he was desperately trying to remember something that he’d long since forgotten.
I’ll never feel like this again, Harry thought suddenly.
And just as suddenly, with that thought, Harry felt sadder than he ever had in his life, coming down from the sky again. Unlike the formless memory he couldn’t quite reach, this was a sharp thought which he couldn’t manage to keep out of his head. It was too true. He would never feel like this again - so thrilled with terrific things - when he went back to Little Whinging. When he went back to Privet Drive, there would be no more magic, no more talk of witches, and no more flying. The Dursleys would never let him run off like this again.
He would be a freak again and not a happy one.
Not like the Addamses.
I’ll never know this feeling again once I leave, Harry thought miserably. Because how could he be? How was he supposed to go back to “normal” now that he knew what else was out there? It had been a lot easier being miserable when he hadn’t really known what it was like, for this one brief hour, to really be so completely, thoughtlessly, terrifically happy.
So, Harry touched ground again with a heavy heart.
“Dinner is ready!” Gomez announced, collecting the broomsticks from everyone and handing them off to the monstrous Addams butler. “Lurch, my good fellow, would you take our broomsticks and put them away? Thank you! Children, we must clean ourselves up for Grandmama’s dinner! Harry, let me show you to a washroom.”
“One moment, Harry, Naja would like to return to you,” Morticia said.
“Oh, right. Um, thanks for looking after her?”
“It was my pleasure, dear,” Morticia assured him. “She ate while you were flying.”
Morticia crouched down and held out an arm, letting Naja slither onto Harry’s shoulders arm. Scales against his skin was still a strange sensation, but the weight of the snake felt like comforting familiarity after the loss of the broomstick. Naja settled herself practically radiating contentment and Harry felt badly knowing that he was going to have to leave her behind eventually, since there really was no way he’d be able to keep a stolen zoo snake.
They went back inside the Addams mansion. Morticia led her children away upstairs to prepare for dinner, while Gomez showed Harry to a downstairs washroom. Gomez promised that someone would come by shortly to show Harry to the family dining room, then excused himself to freshen up as well.
Harry closed the door and stood alone in the small washroom, staring at himself in the mirror. His usually unruly hair was disastrously windswept after flying, so Harry wet his hands and did his best to flatten it again, although he didn’t succeed in actually taming it by any means. His hand-me-down clothes were beyond improvement, but Harry tucked his shirt in anyway. It felt like a rather pathetic effort.
No matter what he did here, even if he’d had all the time in the world, he was still going to be himself at the end of it. Nothing was ever going to change that. Not even magic.
He lifted his bangs to get another look at his lightning-bolt scar. Had someone really tried to kill him? Had they killed his parents? Could there still be witches out there who wanted him dead? Harry had no way of knowing and no way of protecting himself from killer witches. He was a witch terribly far out of his depths and there were sharks in the waters.
“What isss wrong?” Naja asked him.
“Your heart is going very fassst for nothing.”
It was beating very quickly, Harry noticed, and he took a deep breath to calm it.
“I can’t stay here,” he said.
“I don’t live here! This isn’t my house!”
“It could be.”
“No, it couldn’t! Besides, I don’t know anything about magic!”
“You can learn.”
“From who? I have to go back to England!”
“What isss that?”
“It’s where I live. It’s very far from here.”
“Why do you have to go back?”
“I live there! I’m supposed to go back.”
“You ssshould live here,” Naja said dismissively, like everything was really that simple. “They have ratsss here. There are other witchesss here. Asssk them to ssstay.”
“I can’t do that!”
“I can’t just ask to join someone else’s family!”
“I just can’t!” Harry insisted, unable to explain it all to a snake.
“That isss not a reassson,” Naja said mulishly.
“Yes, it is!”
“Your heart isss too fassst ssstill.”
Harry took another breath, then another, and then one more for good measure.
He had to go back to the Dursleys at the end of this. He was going to get into so much trouble. It was probably going to be worth it, Harry still wouldn’t change his decision to go to dinner with the Addamses, but he was going to be miserable afterwards. The Dursleys liked nothing more than making him miserable for no reason.
“Why do you wisssh to leave?” Naja asked him.
“I don’t want to leave,” Harry said quietly.
“It’s not that simple!”
“I will asssk for you,” Naja decided.
“Please, don’t. Though… you need to stay here anyway. I need to ask about that.”
“Why musst I ssstay while you cannot?”
“I can’t take you home with me. You wouldn’t be allowed on the plane and then my relatives would have a fit if I tried to keep a snake in my cupboard. You wouldn’t want to live there anyway. It’s cramped and boring. Even worse than your cage at the zoo.”
“Then you ssshould not go back.”
“I don’t have a choice.”
“Yesss, you do. Ssso do I. I choossse to ssstay with you.”
“I… what? I already told you that you can’t do that,” Harry said firmly.
“I want to ssstay with you.”
“I want to ssstay with you.”
“That’s not a reason,” Harry protested.
“Yesss, it isss. It isss the only reassson that mattersss.”
“I’m a terrible witch,” Harry argued, determined to make this silly creature see sense. “I can’t do any magic on purpose. I don’t even know how to look after a snake!”
“That isss fine. I do not know how to look after a boy.”
“We will have to learn together.”
Harry felt like he was running around in circles or like he was repeatedly bashing his head against a brick wall. It was completely pointless and stupid besides. Maybe Wednesday or Morticia would be able to explain things to the snake. If the snake had any sense, it would realize what a crummy witch Harry was by comparison and choose to live here instead.
“The Addamses are better witches than I am,” Harry pressed.
“The big onesss are already grown up. They will have bad habitsss that they will not want to ssstop doing,” Naja answered, with an annoyed tone. “I do not like them. I like you.”
“Er, why? Because I’m a Par- Parsel- person who can talk to snakes?”
“Yesss, and alssso becaussse you lisssten to me.”
“Because I can understand you?”
“Anyone can ssspeak, but lissstening is much rarer. I like you. You need me.”
Harry couldn’t remember being told by anyone, in all his life, that they liked him. The Dursleys certainly had never said such a thing to him, nor had anyone on Privet Drive, and Harry had never had any friends from among the rotating cast of other children at school. Harry might have doubted that it was even possible to so sincerely and simply like him like this. But here was a snake that had ridden him out of a zoo and apparently decided Harry was so worth liking that it was currently arguing with him about it.
Then there were the Addamses, who also all seemed to like Harry well enough. At least, Gomez and Morticia and Pugsley had been very friendly, as well as Wednesday in her own way, and no one in the household seemed to actively dislike him. Would they keep Naja if Harry asked them to look after her?
Would they go so far as to let him stay if he just asked them if he could stay?
“I like you too,” Harry told Naja. “But I still can’t keep you.”
“I will keep you for usss,” Naja answered, stubborn to the end, “and we ssshall sssee.”
Harry finished washing up and left the washroom as presentable as he would probably ever be. Unfortunately, there was no one waiting in the hallway when he stepped outside. Harry had no idea how to get back to the proper dining room. He looked left and saw only a vase of dead flowers. He looked right and saw only a bench that appeared to have teeth.
Naja then hissed, in a fashion that was becoming familiar, and Harry felt something tap twice against the toe of his shoe. Harry looked down to again see the disembodied hand, Thing, which was a servant of some sort here in the manor.
He put a hand on Naja to make sure she didn’t try to eat it or something.
“Er, are you here to escort me to dinner?” Harry asked.
The hand had its pointer finger raised, while the other three fingers and the thumb acted as its legs. The pointer finger appeared to nod vigorously. Harry wished that the Addamses had sent anyone else to bring him to dinner.
Although Naja might have just gone ahead and eaten one of Grandmama’s rats.
Thing scurried off down the hallway, then looked back expectantly. At least, Thing appeared to be looking back expectantly, even though the hand had no eyes. Having no eyes hadn’t stopped Harry from feeling Thing had been watching him during his tour.
Harry reluctantly followed Thing to the family dining room, which was much smaller and much more intimate than their more formal dining rooms. Harry had been a little worried about eating at one of those tables that appeared to stretch on forever. This room was just cozy enough that one could reasonably ask someone at the other end of the table to pass the salt.
The Addamses were all already inside and the family dining table had been transformed for the meal, draped with a new red tablecloth, decorated with roses so red that they looked wet with blood, and set with nice-looking silver dishes, cups, and cutlery. Gomez Addams was wearing a new suit jacket and Morticia was in a different, even fancier black dress, which made Harry feel somewhat underdressed, but Pugsley only seemed to have washed off the soot from his broomstick and Wednesday only appeared to have rebraided her hair after flying. None of the Addamses made disapproving expressions at the sight of him.
“Harry!” Gomez cried upon his entrance, delightedly, as though it had been years since they’d last seen each other. “Thank you for bringing him, Thing! Harry, please come in and join us, we have a special place for you at our table here. You and your new familiar will be sitting beside Wednesday and Pugsley tonight.”
They all sat down. Harry was on one side of the table with the other children, in the middle, while Morticia and Gomez took their seats on the other side of the table. There was still one seat beside Gomez that was empty, however. Thing scurried over the tabletop to pour Morticia, Gomez, and the empty seat new glasses of wine, while the butler, Lurch, lurched determinedly over to open the doors on the other side of the room.
The doors opened to reveal Grandmama. She had charged her ratty layers in favor of layers that were slightly less ratty, her spiderweb shawls glittering slightly when they caught the light, and she had a crooked-yet-shiny black walking stick in her gnarled hand.
“Dinner,” Grandmama called hoarsely, “is served!”
Silver serving platters and dishes floated into the room, over her head, and began laying themselves on the table. Harry hadn’t known what to expect from a meal cooked by rats that had initially smelled like something had died in the cauldron, but everything now smelled and looked unexpectedly mouth-watering, rich with color and spices. The silver serving spoons began serving him without his asking and the rumble of his stomach interrupted any objections he might have had about it.
By the time Grandmama had seated herself, everyone had been served. The serving dishes had settled into holders the waiting buffet table, where little flames sparked to life underneath and silver lids settled overtop to keep the food warm.
“Thank you for cooking, Grandmama,” Morticia said, with a pointed look at her children.
“Thank you, Grandmama,” Wednesday and Pugsley chorused.
“Thanks,” Harry agreed awkwardly.
“Grandmama, you are as much a gift to your friends as you are a scourge to all your enemies!” Gomez declared, before he beamed around the table. “Well, what are we waiting for? Dig in, you ravenous little beasts, before you turn on the rest of us! Let us eat!”
Pugsley and Wednesday dug in like they were starving. Harry was so hungry that he cast his eyes to the ceiling, swallowed any lingering disgust at eating a meal cooked by rats, and then closed his eyes and forced himself to take the first bite. Fortunately, the food was even better than it smelled, which was saying something. Happily not thinking about what he was eating or what had cooked it, Harry ate his fill of good food for the first time in what felt like forever. When his, Wednesday, and Pugsley’s plates were clean, Grandmama snapped her fingers twice and the silver serving dishes floated back over to serve them seconds.
“Ah, children,” Gomez said fondly.
“Growing witches have monstrous appetites,” Grandmama declared. “I remember when I was a young girl, casting wicked spell after wicked spell that each wanted more than to devour me whole! I was eating anything I could get my hands on!”
“Cousin Devourie Addams’s daughter, young Gorgina, is nearly eating them out of house and home, according to her last letter,” Morticia said conversationally. “Dear Cousin Devourie called Gorgie’s figurative and literal appetites practically ‘demonic’.”
“Good for her!” Grandmama said.
“An appetite for life is essential for any successful witch,” Morticia agreed.
“Ah, to be young again, eh, Tish? To taste everything once, to take a bite out of the world, before coming back to your favorites for more,” Gomez said. “What a journey it is to find the things in this life of which you simply cannot get enough.”
Harry ate until it felt like his belly was straining with food, then sat back in satisfaction. He begged Grandmama not to serve him for a fourth time, while she peered at him suspiciously and Wednesday and Pugsley kept eating. They hadn’t even had dessert yet and already Harry thought he hadn’t eaten so well in all his life. Was this how witches ate every day? If Harry actually knew how to do magic, he’d make sure to eat like this every single day.
“So, Harry, you are from ‘across the pond’, as they say,” Gomez said.
“Do you like it there?”
Harry didn’t mind England, he supposed, now asked to think about it. He’d never really had anything to which to compare it before this holiday. He wasn’t all that keen on Surrey, though. He quite actively disliked Little Whinging, however. And, come to think of it, he outright hated Privet Drive. And the house that was labelled Number Four on that miserable stretch of pavement called Privet Drive? Well, if the stirring dread in his chest was anything to go by, he had very strong feelings on that particular house indeed.
“I understand that you live with your relatives who aren’t magical?” Gomez said.
“I don’t think I’d like to live in a house without magic,” Pugsley pronounced.
“It’s not anything like this,” Harry told him. “I’d love to live in a house like yours.”
Naja prodded Harry’s neck with her nose and hissed pointedly.
Harry ignored her.
“Cousin Austery Addams once swore an oath to live without any magic whatsoever for ten years,” Morticia said thoughtfully. “She unfortunately only lasted nine years, nine months, and nine days. Grandmama, do you recall why she did that? I believe it had something to do with Aunt Eshewa.”
“It was a curse by Eshewa’s sister Audacia, wasn’t it?” Gomez said. “Oho! Those girls always were up to the most wicked dares!”
“Eshewa didn’t invite Audacia to Austery’s Baby-Staring Party,” Grandmama said.
“Is Austery Cousin Imprudence’s mother?” Wednesday asked.
“Cousin Impy is great,” Pugsley told Harry.
After that, the Addamses were off! They talked about their family endlessly, with great affection, telling Harry all about the strange happenings that had happened to their equally strange relations. It wasn’t at all clear in the slightest how any of these people were related to the Addamses. Some of the aunts and uncles were in stages of “great” and others appeared to be cousins whose relation was so nebulous, it was simply easier just to call them “Auntie” Callousa and “Uncle” Perny (short for Pernicious).
For example, Harry learned that Cousin Harshful Addams was known for braving parts of the world that were widely considered completely utterly inhospitable, even if that meant suffering insects larger than a man’s hand or winds so strong that they forced local trees to grow sideways. They occasionally worked for a nature magazine, describing the different sorts of natural pains that could by experienced around the world. Most lately, Cousin Harshful was eagerly photographing some of the darkest and deepest caves in the world, and all the fascinating magical creatures who lived where sunlight never reached.
For another example, Harry learned that Uncle Dismali Addams was a world-renowned stuntman, who performed with a travelling magical circus and had nearly been declared dead a record-breaking forty-nine times. He was also apparently another “wandless wizard”, in that he couldn’t perform the classical magic with a wand.
For a third example, Harry learned that Aunt Lissome Addams had just lost her seventh spouse and now had nineteen beloved stepchildren to look after all on her own. Thank goodness, Morticia said, for her partner, dear Nanny Hawksworth. Among Aunt Lissome’s children, there were apparently now at least four werewolves, one vampire, two part-vampires, one part-giant, two part-goblins, one shape-shifter, and five children who were mysteriously but quite definitely not entirely human. The remaining three children were still “surprises”.
“There are so many wonderful witches out there in the world,” Morticia said wistfully. “Writing letters to old girlfriends is nice, but I do miss being able to attend all the usual midnight gatherings… tossing aside your clothing… dancing around the fire… howling at the moon…”
Grandmama cackled. “I told you having children would mean adjustments!”
“Mom, I want to do those things,” Pugsley said. “That sounds fun.”
“Maybe when you’re a little older, son,” Gomez said.
“Are all witches like your family?” Harry asked amazedly. If all witches were like this, then it was no wonder Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon hated them, because the Addamses were as extraordinary and un-ordinary as it was possible to be.
Gomez threw back his head and laughed heartily at Harry’s question. “My boy,” he said, “there is no one like my family!”
Harry believed him wholeheartedly.
The Addamses had to be the most freakish people he had ever met.
They ate dessert, which was also delicious, and Wednesday and Pugsley tried to practice their Parseltongue on Harry and Naja. They weren’t very good at it, their hisses were a little lopsided and the words were mixed around, but they tried, Naja humoured them, and the adults literally applauded their efforts. Then, satisfied with the meal and the conversation, the Addamses all left the table to clear itself and the dishes to go clean themselves.
How convenient! Harry thought wondrously.
The Addamses and Harry retired to the family parlour, where the disembodied hand called Thing scurried to put on a record in an enormous record-player. Music filled the room, sweeping and upbeat, and Morticia fell immediately into her husband’s arms.
Gomez caught her readily. “Oh, Tish. How long has it been since we last waltzed?”
Morticia turned around in his arms, putting one hand on his shoulder and slowly taking the other in her own. “Oh, Gomez,” she said, looking at him like he was the most handsome man in the world. “It’s been hours.”
Despite the fact that they had to be full from the delicious meal, Gomez and Morticia fell into dancing like they were old film stars. All the furniture in the room scrambled out of their graceful path, even with Harry, Grandmama, and the Addams children sitting on it. Gomez and Morticia didn’t bother to look to make sure the sofa or the ottoman shuffled out of their way, as though they’d done this a thousand times before. They only had eyes for each other as they spun around the room to the music.
Beside Harry, Pugsley and Wednesday both sighed softly.
“I want to waltz with someone like that someday,” Pugsley said.
Wednesday nodded, staring at her parents hungrily.
The Addamses liked each other, Harry realized. They all liked each other. They were freakish and happy about it. They were freakish and they liked each other for it. They were witches and weird and Harry wanted to be like them more than he had ever wanted anything.
Morticia and Gomez waltzed until the end of the song. After they were finished, they separated and bowed to their audience. Pugsley, Wednesday, and Grandmama all clapped for them. As did the butler, Lurch, painfully, from by the door. The disembodied hand called Thing banged enthusiastically against a table, not having another hand to clap against.
“Harry, my boy, have you ever learned to waltz?” Gomez asked.
“Would you like to learn?”
“Um, I’m alright, I think,” Harry hedged.
“Nonsense! Come learn to dance!”
“I’ll probably be awful at it.”
“We all must start somewhere! You can only improve at everything you do!” Gomez insisted. “Come! Come! There is no feeling in the world like moving to music! It is truly a magic beyond anything else we can do.”
Wednesday took Harry’s hand and pulled him up. “Come on.”
“Should I put Naja down?”
“You don’t have to,” Wednesday said, as though she didn’t care. She led Harry out to the middle of the floor, matter-of-factly putting his hand on her shoulder and her hand on his waist. “I’ll lead for now,” she told him. “Then later, we’ll switch.”
“Alright,” Harry said gratefully.
“Hey, Grandmama, do you want to dance too?” Pugsley asked.
Grandmama cackled and hopped to her feet again. “Just try to keep up with me, child!”
Pugsley escorted his grandmother out onto the floor beside his parents and Harry and Wednesday. Morticia and Gomez beamed at them. Pugsley and Grandmama got into the dancing position, then Gomez turned his wide grin towards the record player.
“Thing! If you would oblige us!”
The disembodied hand called Thing started the music again and Wednesday started pushing Harry around the room. Grandmama and Pugsley rocked wildly around them. Morticia and Gomez swirled around them like they were barely touching the ground, calling out tips on how Harry ought to move his feet in a waltz. By the end of the song, Harry rather felt like the clumsiest person in the world.
“Well done, Harry!” Gomez said, slapping him on the back.
“Wonderfully done for your first try,” Morticia agreed.
“Let us keep practicing! Someday, perhaps, my dearest, we shall be perfect at this.”
“By all means, let us keep trying, my love.”
Harry had to stop in the middle of the second song to put Naja down on the sofa, since she had decided she didn’t like dancing after all. By the end of the third song, Harry thought he sort of knew what he was doing. By the fourth song, Wednesday tried to let him lead, but she was very bad at it, so Harry felt like a clumsy mess again.
Morticia offered to be his partner, but she was far too tall for him, so Harry danced with Grandmama, who was only a little taller than him. Wednesday and Pugsley refused to dance with each other, so Pugsley danced with his mother and Wednesday danced with her father. It didn’t seem to matter to any of the Addamses that their heights were greatly mismatched; Morticia and Gomez whirled their children around the floor like professional dancers again, until Wednesday and Pugsley were giggling. Harry listened attentively as Grandmama told him what to do with his feet and let him push her awkwardly around the room.
Harry took a break after that, while Gomez danced with Grandmama, Morticia danced with Wednesday, and Pugsley dragged Lurch out onto the floor. Lurch couldn’t manage more than rocking back and forth, but nobody commented on his inclusion or inability.
Eventually, all this dancing turned again into everyone watching Morticia and Gomez dance around the room on their own. Wednesday and Pugsley took a “break” and sat down beside Harry again. As Morticia and Gomez waltzed, the other Addamses eyelids drooped, until Wednesday fell asleep against the arm of the sofa and Pugsley had turned sideways and started drooling on the cushions. Even Grandmama’s chin had fallen against her chest and she snored softly in her armchair.
Grandmama’s armchair was the first to leave, walking out of the room with Grandmama on it, Lurch opening the doors for it to carry her out. Lurch then picked up Wednesday and carried her away. Five minutes later, Lurch came back for Pugsley and took him away too.
And still Morticia and Gomez waltzed around the room, to quieter and perhaps sadder music, as though they were in a world entirely of their own.
When the last note of the last song died out, after everyone else had left, the disembodied hand called Thing stopped the record player. Morticia and Gomez stood there in silence, simply holding each other, before they kissed softly and drew apart.
“Today was a busy day,” Morticia said.
“To many more just like it, my darling, ” Gomez said, smiling at his wife. He then looked at Harry and his smile widened again, “Harry, my boy, we have kept you up late. We have kept you longer than perhaps expected, but not nearly long enough to know you to satisfaction. Would you like to stay the night? We have plenty of bedrooms.”
Harry looked at the clock in the mantlepiece, at the skeletal hands, and those numbers did look quite late. He looked out the window and saw that the world had turned pitch black without his really noticing. How had the hours gone by so quickly?
“I… I should probably go back,” Harry said unenthusiastically.
“Do you wish to go back, Harry?”
“Do you wish to go back?” Gomez repeated.
“No, he doesss not,” Naja said.
Harry tried to shush her, but Morticia clearly heard and understood.
“Forgive me, Harry, but dear Thing is a terrible eavesdropper and a horrible gossip,” Gomez said. “He heard your conversation with your familiar in the washroom, and told us over dinner. It was behind your head, I’m afraid. It was terribly, terribly rude.”
“Oh,” Harry said, embarrassed.
“There is no place for a witch among people who hate magic,” Morticia said.
“And there is always a place for people who do not otherwise have a place among the Addamses,” Gomez said. “If you would like to stay with us, we have more than enough room.”
“If you do not wish to stay with us in particular, but are still searching for a new home and a new family, Aunt Lissome Addams will always welcome new children,” Morticia said, more to Gomez than to Harry. “If we write to her now, Nanny Hawksworth can have a bedroom for a twentieth child set up by the time we arrive tomorrow.”
“True! True! Do you remember how Cousin Squatter Addams joined the family, my love? They just moved into Uncle Bastion’s castle! It took him nine months to notice!”
“There was also Great-Aunt Willow who appeared in a widow’s veil to weep at Great-Uncle Draconiar’s funeral. Cousin Hoary simply took her home with them.”
“Cousin Consanguine had a baby, little Cousin Quindred, and then woke up one morning and there were two of them! Cousin Changeling Addams has been with us ever since!” Gomez said cheerfully, before looking at Harry again. “Our family grows in unusual ways all the time, Harry! But you could also stay with us just as a guest, while you decide whether you wish to go back. You could stay as a guest of the Addamses forever if you liked! A companion! We have many friends of the family!”
Harry was too overwhelmed to speak.
“Sssay yesss,” Naja said.
“There is more than enough room for Naja as well,” Morticia promised him.
“He sssaysss yesss,” Naja said eagerly.
“I am afraid we will have to hear that from him,” Morticia answered.
“You may leave at any time you wish, to go wherever you may please,” Gomez said. “That is also an Addams tradition! My dear, beloved brother Fester Addams vanished under mysterious circumstances years ago. We searched tirelessly, but we could not find a trace of him! I miss him wretchedly to this day!”
“One day, Cousin Phlee Addams stood up in the middle of a game of cards, walked into the woods near their house, and never returned,” Morticia said. “Her younger sister, Abscondia, flew a plane into a mountain while eloping and was never found.”
“Aunt Ebb Addams has since birth suffered from an incurable Invisibility Curse,” Gomez continued sadly. “It took her twenty years to vanish completely. She still lives with the family - last year, she and her wife, Wainn, welcomed another beautiful baby Addams into their family, little Evanish - but we don’t see her anymore.”
“You hardly know me,” Harry protested.
“And we would like to get to know you better,” Gomez told him.
Harry was tired and completely baffled by the idea of inviting someone into your family or your home just to get to know them better. Even if he was a witch, even if he was a Parselmouth, that didn’t really make him any less… him. What about him could the Addamses possibly like? Naja was a snake who didn’t know any better, but the Addamses should have seen right through him and exactly how dull he really was.
“I’m not a good witch,” Harry said. “I don’t know anything about magic.”
“You’re a child,” Gomez said. “That’s expected!”
“You don’t have to decide this today,” Morticia intervened. “It’s late. Let us put you and Naja up for the night in a guest room. Grandmama will cook us a delicious breakfast. In the morning, if you would prefer to leave us, one of us can call your guardians and drive you back to their hotel.”
“...Alright,” Harry said reluctantly.
Some part of him wanted to say yes immediately, to tell the Addamses that he would indeed like to live with them forever. But he had just met them, said another part of him, and this probably wasn’t the sort of decision to make in a single night.
Hopefully, in the morning, he would be well-rested and know exactly what to do.
Hopefully, in the morning, everything would make sense.
“You ssshould ssstay here,” Naja said.
“Will you please shush already,” Harry whispered.
Morticia and Gomez led Harry upstairs to one of the guest bedrooms, which had an attached washroom and spare clothing in the dresser. The bedroom was nice, as big as the biggest bedroom in the Dursleys’ house, with a four-poster bed with curtains and a mountain of pillows. Harry could barely believe that he was going to be allowed to sleep here.
“This will be yours for as long as you wish to stay,” Gomez told him.
Harry looked back at Morticia and Gomez in the doorway. Their house was terrifying, but exhilarating, and also somehow homey. He did not feel safe here, not exactly, among these strange Addamses, but he did not feel like a freak. Among Addamses, he didn't feel so bored and disliked and lonely that he sometimes thought he might die of the pain of it.
Had his parents been witches like them? He wondered helplessly.
“Why are you doing this?” Harry asked them.
“Because people who are different ought to look out for each other,” Gomez said. “Because people who are too much for other people must keep company with each other! Because there is precious little magic in this world! Because there are few curses worse in this world than to be alone. And to be alone in a crowd full of people? It is a fate so cruel that I would wish it only on my worst enemy.”
“Good night, Harry,” Morticia said kindly.
She closed the door, leaving Harry and Naja in the nicest bedroom Harry had ever been given. He still couldn’t believe it. The Addamses must have thought he was someone that he absolutely couldn’t be. Though… Harry supposed… if he ever had a house this large and this wonderful, if he had friends, he too would probably try to share it with them. A house this large was probably very lonely if you lived here on your own.
“Are you going to ssstay?” Naja asked him.
“I don’t know,” Harry replied, frustrated, and sat on the bed. It creaked dangerously under his weight, but it was much softer than his bed under the cupboard. “I’m going to go to sleep and decide everything in the morning.”
But he thought he already knew what his choice would be.
He wanted to stay. He wanted to stay so badly.
“You are ssstubborn,” Naja observed. “You will be difficult to look after.”
“Well, so’re you,” Harry told her.
Harry let Naja down on the bed, then brushed his teeth and changed into the pyjamas he found in the dresser (by the stripes, he supposed they must have once belonged to Pugsley). When turned off the lights, put his glasses on the bedside stand, and climbed into bed, Naja quickly settled beside him and a little on top of him. Harry didn’t really see the point in telling her to get off, since she clearly wasn’t inclined to listen to him when she’d made up her mind on something. Besides, she was familiar by this point and her weight was comforting.
The Addams mansion wasn’t quiet at night. Outside, the wind beat against the windows, and inside, the house creaked and moaned. Harry thought he heard the squeak and scrabble of little creatures in the walls. The house settled endlessly around him.
It was a little unsettling.
“Go to sssleep,” Naja promised. “I will bite everything that comesss near.”
So, yeah, it was kind of comforting to have a deadly snake on top of him. No one could touch him without his permission when he had Naja looking after him. If he was allowed, he’d probably be happy to carry her everywhere for the rest of his life.
Harry stared up at the dark ceiling blindly.
Today had been strange.
Tomorrow was going to be strange too.
He was a witch who had been kind-of kidnapped by witches via an invitation to dinner, and now they wanted him to live with them. They were quite scary witches, but they were also quite kind in their own way and apparently adopted random people all the time. They were strangers, but still Harry liked them more than he had ever liked the Dursleys, and strangest of all, they all seemed to like him too. If he lived with them, they would let him fly on broomsticks, keep a deadly cobra as a pet, and learn magic. Life with the Addamses would probably be scary and strange, most likely odd and exciting, and almost certainly magical and happy.
“Harry Addams,” he tried aloud. “Do you think it’s got a ring to it?”