Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Lucy Weasley’s eleventh birthday was meant to be perfect. She was meant to get her Hogwarts letter, and her presents, and Molly was meant to come back from school for her birthday tea, and Dad was meant to finish work early, and it was meant to be special and happy, the best day of the year, because it was February 22nd and nothing bad ever happened on February 22nd.
Maybe now that she was older, the universe wasn’t being as kind to her. Maybe it was making up for ten years of perfect February 22nds, or maybe there had been something wrong with each of her birthdays but she’d been too little to notice it.
She’d gotten her Hogwarts letter three days ago, when her parents were both at work and Molly was away at Hogwarts, and she had to wait for hours before her parents finally came home and she could show them. They didn’t share her enthusiasm, though. “That’s great, sweetheart,” her mum had said tiredly, collapsing on the sofa and summoning a bottle of wine to her. “Well done, love,” her dad had said, barely pausing as he helped himself to the leftovers of the dinner he’d been too late for. It was as if it didn’t matter at all. When Molly got her letter, her mum and dad had cried and hugged each other, and her mum took Molly off to Diagon Alley the very next day to buy her a new wand and a kitten and all her textbooks.
“We haven’t even gotten your book list yet, Lucy!” her mother had shouted the second time she’d asked to go to Diagon Alley. “I told you that last time!”
She hadn’t, actually. She’d just said ‘maybe later.’ And ‘maybe later’ was Mum-speak for anywhere between half an hour and three years, like the time Lucy had asked her where babies came from.
But it wasn’t even that which had made Lucy’s birthday so awful this year. Molly was Head Girl, of course, and had her NEWTs coming up, and had sent an owl earlier in the week saying she was terribly sorry that she wouldn’t be making it to Lucy’s birthday tea, but that she sent her love and hoped Lucy had the best birthday, and she would send a present, which hadn’t arrived yet.
And then her dad came home late, so late that her mum had given up waiting for him and they’d had tea, just the pair of them sitting at the vast table, and Lucy had seen tears glistening in her mother’s eyes. Then when her dad finally did come home, after her mum had brought out the cake and sang happy birthday to her and she was halfway through opening her presents, her dad had walked in the door.
“So sorry, darling, I had a lot of work to do—” he had begun to say to her mum, and then he saw Lucy sitting there, surrounded by wrapping paper and the remains of the cake on the table, and his face just sort of fell and Lucy realised he’d forgotten her birthday completely.
And then her mum and dad were arguing, like they did a lot these days, ever since Molly had gone away to school. As if they hadn’t wanted Molly to see them fighting, but forgot that Lucy was still there, watching and listening. They forgot Lucy a lot, her mum and dad. They’d only planned to have one baby, Molly had told her once when they were fighting. They hadn’t wanted Lucy. It explained a lot.
They were so busy arguing that neither of them noticed Lucy leave the house. Or maybe they did, but didn’t stop her because she was eleven and would be going to Hogwarts soon, and she was old enough to look after herself. That made her feel a little better, but not much.
She had hidden herself in the bushes that grew along the side of the park down the end of her street. She could see the front door of her house, if she sat in the right place. She watched the front door, waiting for someone to come out, wondering where she’d got to, and call her name, but neither of them did. Finally, when the moon was high in the sky and even the teenagers who sat drinking on the swingset had gone off home, she saw the front door open and her dad come out, but he wasn’t calling her name.
“There shouldn’t be much of a difference then, should there, Audrey? If I leave properly?”
“There’ll be no difference at all!” her mother yelled from inside the house. “That’s how much you’ve contributed to this family, Percy!”
Her dad was carrying a suitcase, but before Lucy could run up to him, he’d Disapparated. The door was still open, and Lucy could hear her mother calling up the hallway with a shaking voice – “Lucy, going out for a bit, don’t eat any more of your birthday cake, you’ve had plenty!”
And then her mother Disapparated as well, and with a sinking feeling Lucy realised her mother thought she was in her room upstairs, and she was now locked outside.
It was very cold, and even though Lucy had her coat she was still shivering. The park was a dangerous place to be at night – full of unruly Muggles and lowlifes, and even some shady Dark wizards who knew this was where the Minister for Magic lived, and even though Lucy had been slightly afraid of the drunk teenagers, she’d felt safer with them around. They never did anything worse than swear loudly and occasionally fight each other – or the boys, at least.
She felt hot tears welling up, spilling down her face and chilling almost immediately in the freezing air. She was choking up, but she didn’t want to sob or sniffle in case there were people lurking, unseen by her, in the park. Her breath formed clouds in front of her, and she tried to hide that as well. She could hear a loud, unfamiliar sound coming from the darkness – she didn’t know how far away it was or what was making it, but she drew herself into a tighter ball, wishing she was just a little bit older or her mum had taken her to Diagon Alley to get a wand, because what was the point of being a witch when you came up against a scary Muggle if you couldn’t use magic?
Maybe she should go back to her house and sit on the front doorstep, but then anyone would be able to see her – the house only had an anti-Apparition jinx on it, nothing else – something about her dad wanting the place to seem approachable. At least here, hidden in the bushes, nobody would know she was there unless they heard her. But she was terrified, and cold, and knew enough about the world to know that her dad was unlikely to come home, he might even divorce her mum – she couldn’t remember the last time they had acted like they were in love around her…
She was sobbing in earnest now, and the knowledge that she shouldn’t be only made her cry harder. She took a shuddering breath, forcing herself to be quiet, and in the silence that followed she heard footsteps. She wondered what would be better – to be discovered, lurking, in the bushes, or to come out and face the mystery person so at least she’d be on her feet and the neighbours, if she screamed, would be able to look out their windows and see her. With this in mind, wishing once again that she had a wand, she pushed back the branches and stood.
Her first thought when she saw the strange man was that he didn’t seem that frightening. He had a friendly, young sort of face, and he walked with his hands in his pockets, knees bent as if he didn’t quite know how to walk. He wore nice pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and a bow tie that Lucy had seen Muggles wear in old-fashioned photographs.
“Oh, hello,” the man said in a surprised voice, as if he hadn’t expected to see her – but something told Lucy he’d heard her crying in the bushes and came to investigate.
“Hello,” Lucy said cautiously.
“I’m the Doctor.” He gave her a thin sort of smile, like you do when you’re upset about something but don’t want anyone else to see that you’re upset. Lucy knew what that felt like.
“I’m Lucy,” she told him. “Lucy Weasley.”
It was a sort of test; if this man was a wizard, he would recognise the name Weasley – even if her dad wasn’t Minister for Magic, there was her uncle George’s joke shop, and her uncle Ron helped defeat Voldemort, and her aunt had played for the Holyhead Harpies before she married Harry Potter, and her uncle Charlie was the most famous dragonologist in Europe…
“Nice to meet you, Lucy,” the man said, and she knew he wasn’t a wizard because he hadn’t reacted to her name at all. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, thank you,” she said, nodding firmly.
“What are you doing out here all alone? Where are your mum and dad?”
“I don’t know,” she said, and to her embarrassment she burst into tears like a little kid. “I don’t know where they went, I think Dad’s leaving Mum for good, and it’s my birthday but Dad didn’t even remember and I think that’s why Mum’s so mad at him, and what if it’s my fault that he left—”
The man crouched down beside her. “No,” he said softly. “Your dad didn’t leave because of you. Sometimes mums and dads just have problems, and sometimes they have terrible timing and one of them might leave on your birthday, but that doesn’t mean it’s your fault. All right?”
“How do you know that?” she sniffled.
“Because I’m a very clever man.”
“Are you a Muggle?”
“A Muggle?” the man repeated. “No, I don’t think I am. I’m a Time Lord. Do you know what a Time Lord is?”
“Can you travel in time?”
“Yes. I have a special ship that can travel anywhere in time and space.”
The Doctor was evidently expecting her to be more impressed. Seeing Lucy’s unaffected face, he continued, “Bet you can’t do that.”
“No, not yet,” she said sadly. “I’m not seventeen yet, and I don’t have a wand. Besides, the Ministry hasn’t gotten round to remaking all the Time Turners yet.”
The Doctor looked bewildered for a moment, then his eyes widened. “Blimey, you’re a witch.”
“Yes. What’s a Time Lord?”
“I’m an alien from another planet.”
“You look like a human to me.”
“No, you look Time Lord.”
Lucy frowned. “How do I know you’re an alien?”
The man reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a strange-looking object which made a loud buzzing, whirring sound when he pressed a button on the side of it. It had a green light on the end, and was unlike anything Lucy had ever seen.
“Sonic screwdriver,” he explained.
“How does it work?” Lucy asked, fascinated.
“Press the button. Point and think. It may take a bit of getting used to…”
There was a loud rattling sound as Lucy pointed the sonic screwdriver at the swingset. One of the chains holding up the swing broke, and Lucy smiled as she handed it back to the Doctor. “It works like magic.”
“It’s science, actually, not magic – ” he paused, realising he was talking to someone who could actually use magic. “Well, yes, I suppose it does. Same processes. Thought energy. You said you don’t have a wand. When are you allowed those? Eleven? Twelve?”
“When we start Hogwarts,” Lucy told him. “I’m eleven now, but Mum won’t make me to get my wand until I actually go to school.”
She didn’t know if that was entirely true, but it seemed accurate enough.
“It’s changed a bit since I last saw wizards,” the Doctor said conversationally. “I met Merlin, you know. When he was younger. Lovely bloke. Big ears.”
Lucy’s eyes widened. “How old are you?”
“Twelve hundred and something.” The Doctor waved his hand. “I stopped counting, counting’s boring. But I have a time machine,” he added. “That helps.”
“Twelve hundred,” Lucy echoed.
“Yes. Now. You said your mum and dad are out. That doesn’t explain why you’re sitting out here in the cold rather than being all tucked up in your warm house.”
“I’m locked out,” Lucy said morosely. “I can’t get back in, I don’t have a wand and they always lock the door magically.”
“Let’s see if we can’t get in using the old sonic, eh?” The Doctor suggested, holding it up. “Which one is yours?”
Lucy lead the man to her front door, hoping he wasn’t some psycho who was very good at acting – she didn’t know what her mother would say if she knew Lucy had brought a strange man to their house, but that didn’t really bear dwelling on, and she stepped aside as the Doctor pointed his screwdriver at the door.
“Got it!” he said triumphantly as the lock clicked; he pushed the door open and Lucy stepped inside.
“Will you stay here?” she asked.
“Better not,” the Doctor told her, and Lucy’s face fell a bit. “Don’t want to be here when your mum gets back, she might turn me into a donkey or something. Wouldn’t be the first time,” he added, looking as if the very memory surprised and confused him.
Lucy giggled. “She was never very good at Transfiguration.”
“Well, that makes it all right then,” the Doctor replied. “Big scary witch with a wand and all I’d have is a sonic screwdriver. It’s a bit useless, really,” he added, examining it critically. “Compared with your magic wands.”
“Are you leaving now?”
“Yes, I’d better be off. Places to go, people to see, all that.” He smiled again. “I left my wife on a distant planet and she’s probably gotten herself into terrible trouble.” He sighed. “She hasn’t learned that some species view human flirting techniques as hostile behaviour.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Oh yes. If you want me to.”
“I would like that,” she told him earnestly.
“When you’re older,” he promised. “And you have your own wand and you’ve learned all the magic you can learn at school. I’ll come back for you, Lucy Weasley, and show you the stars.”
As he walked away, the Doctor remembered the last time he promised a lonely young girl he would be back to show her the stars. He tried to ignore the lump rising in his throat, wondering what had possessed him to make the same promise to Lucy Weasley. But the answer was there, in the words Amelia Pond had spoken to him years ago: “You couldn’t stand there and watch children cry.”
A/N: The summary quote and the quote "No, you look Time Lord" are taken from Doctor Who episode 5.02: The Beast Below.