Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, June 1991
Minerva McGonagall peered at the address that had appeared on the enchanted envelope as soon as she’d written the name Harry Potter, and blinked.
That couldn’t be right.
“The Cupboard Under the Stairs?”
Minerva was no stranger to seeing bizarrely exact addresses on acceptance letters. She’d seen everything from “The North Wing” to “The Smallest Tent.” Hogwarts didn’t rely on tuition fees, so it was able to admit any student who showed a propensity for magic, and thus Minerva typically never batted an eye when it came to her students’ housing situations. Discretion was the better part of valor, after all.
But for Harry Potter....James and Lily’s son...to be living in a cupboard under the stairs?
Surely there must be a mistake. Perhaps the boy simply had a strange habit of spending time in the cupboard. It didn’t mean he was actually forced to live there, much less sleep there every night. Surely…
The image of Petunia Dursley dragging a small blond child up the drive, tutting ineffectively at him while he screamed at the top of his lungs, sprung to mind. Minerva still remembered how his mother had called him “Diddy” and promised him “sweeties” once they were inside the house. Perhaps she had shown Harry the same short-sighted indulgence as well.
Minerva shuddered at the thought of James and Lily’s son being a spoiled, tantrum-throwing child like the Dursleys’ own son. Merlin forbid!
Still, there was nothing to be done about it now. The letter had to go out at once. Whatever sort of child showed up at school at the start of the term would be her student, and she would simply have to deal with him.
She placed the acceptance letter in the envelope and sealed it.
Minerva’s mouth was all but non-existent as she sent out no less than seven owls, all with envelopes addressed to a boy who was still living in a cupboard under the stairs in a house in Surrey, a week after receiving no answer from Harry himself or either Petunia or Vernon Dursley.
She was beginning to think that her first instinct had been correct--Harry Potter was indeed spending the better part of his days in a cupboard. Her blood positively boiled to think of it.
To be absolutely sure, she sent a letter off to Arabella Figg to inquire about the living conditions of the boy. The missive she received back nearly sent her into a fit. Ill-fitting hand-me-down clothes! Skinny and underfed! Shouted at by his brutish uncle! Constantly being chased by Dudley Dursley and his school friends all around the neighborhood!
She burst into Albus’ office and demanded that they remove the boy from these unacceptable conditions at once.
“Lily and James would never have wanted this for him, Albus!” she shouted, startling many of the portraits. “The boy is treated like a common house-elf! By his own family!”
He looked at her with considerable sadness, but also--unbelievably--resignation.
“I am aware of Harry’s plight, Minerva,” he said with a deep sigh. “I do regret that his guardians have treated him this way. I expected more from the sister of Lily Evans. Perhaps that was naive of me.”
Naive, indeed! You’re over a hundred! Minerva thought furiously, but that was quite beside the point.
“We must remedy the situation,” she said briskly. “I will go and fetch the boy myself, and--”
She paused. In all her years of working with Albus Dumbledore, she knew him well enough to know when his tone meant he would brook no argument. As unexpected as it was, he was using that tone right now.
“I have taken steps to ensure Harry’s continued safety while he lives with his Muggle relatives,” Albus went on gravely. “One condition is that he must live under the same roof as his mother’s sister for eleven years, and for at least two months in the summer once he is a student at this school. He is welcome to spend time with other wizarding families--with the Weasleys, perhaps, since they have a son his age--but he must not be permanently removed from his Muggle home before the age of seventeen.”
Minerva’s jaw dropped.
“Albus…” she gaped, her entire being shaking with indignation. “The way they treat him...that lout of an uncle, and that unfeeling, callous woman...that spoiled, awful son of theirs! Someone has to make sure Harry is cared for!”
“Arabella Figg has earned his trust and reports to me regularly as to Harry’s well-being,” Albus states. “If I believed the boy was in any sort of peril, Minerva, I would intercede. You have my word on that.”
Minerva’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a few moments while she processed what he had just said. In other words, the Potter boy was being left to fend for himself at the hands of his putrid relatives, and Albus was not inclined to do anything about it unless the child’s life was in danger.
She could still take matters into her own hands. She could Apparate to Little Whinging under some disguise, Confund the living daylights out of the Dursley parents, and sequester Harry at Arabella’s home until his safe passage to Hogwarts could be arranged. It would only take a day at most--
“And Minerva,” Albus spoke up again as she turned to leave. “If the boy has no responded to his acceptance letter by his birthday, Hagrid has volunteered to go and fetch him personally. No need to do anything...rash.”
Damn him, Minerva thought, fists clenching at her sides. He knows me too well.
A thought does occur to her on the way back to her office, concerning the issue of the acceptance letters. It seems the Dursleys are determined to ignore them, and probably won’t even let Harry open a single one.
Well. She can’t be having with that.
Later that evening, Minerva actually had a good chuckle over her nightly cup of tea. She’d outdone herself as far as the Post Spell that she cast on the last letter she’d sent to Privet Drive.
Owls are useful, but the school only has so many to spare for just one student. So Minerva had made sure that Number 4 Privet Drive would be positively imbued with letters every single day, all addressed to Harry, all welcoming him to Hogwarts, from now until July 31st. It won’t even matter if the family go on holiday and believe taking Harry with them will end the problem--the Post Spell will ensure that a letter finds its’ way to him no matter where he goes.
She sipped her tea and smiled.