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Harry Potter and the Scottish Childhood

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It is the deepest of night when the first owl finds Minerva.

Merlin be praised, it’s over.

It can’t possibly mean what she thinks it does initially. But within a quarter of an hour, she’s received another missive: James and Lily are dead, but so is the Dark Lord. The Potter boy survives.

If it’s true, the war is over. If it’s true, there is one more orphan today, but so many children who will grow up with happier lives, with hope, because of it.

It takes a few minutes for the deep relief to wash through her, and even then it feels like she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. The source is credible, but it’s almost too good to believe that the Dark Lord is truly gone.

And then she remembers Lily and James, and Minerva—dear, steadfast, uptight (if her students are to be believed) Minerva—allows herself to cry. It is two more casualties of war, but once again, those casualties are dear friends of hers, and students before that. She sees James in her mind’s eye, still sixteen but performing a brilliant bit of magic to entertain his friends when he thinks no one is looking. Sees Lily, smile bright upon her face and deep red hair hanging loose as she laughs at something Marlene McKinnon said, and then throws out her own harmless hex which catches James and makes the rest of the table erupt with laughter, even him. She remembers their wedding, magic and light even in a time of desperate dark, and catches upon the first and only time she met their son, Harry, at an Order meeting just before they went into hiding permanently.

So just this once, Minerva lets herself sob, and a quarter of an hour later, never one for undue hysterics, she pulls herself together.

Lily had a Muggle sister, she remembers, and knowing Dumbledore, that’s exactly where Harry will end up by some time tomorrow. Her thoughts are confirmed when a letter from Hagrid arrives, hastily scrawled: Dumbledore’s asked me teh bring Harry teh his aunt’n uncle’s tomorrow. And suddenly, Minerva knows exactly what she has to do.

It’s just before dawn when there’s an almost inaudible pop at the end of Privet Drive, and a tall, straight-backed women materializes out of nowhere. There is no one there to see but a few songbirds, still drowsy in their nests. Minerva McGonagall sweeps silently down the street, where she arrives at Number 4—an address surprisingly easy to find, once she put her mind to it. No lights have yet flicked on in the house. Minerva sighs, and between one moment and the next, a cat with heavy markings ‘round its eyes has appeared on the wall in the spot where moments ago, the woman had sat. Only a bunny one garden over is present to see this transformation. When the cat does not appear interested in it, it goes back to chewing on the remnants of the lawn.

Three quarters of an hour pass before there is any activity in the house. The wails of a child come first, and then the grumbling of his parents. Minerva does not move.

The parents shuffle around for a bit, loud and obnoxious, before Minerva finally gets a look at any of them through the front window. The woman is blond and pinched, hair in rollers. She looks nothing like the Lily Evans that Minerva knew. The man is large and beefy, and she thinks she remembers James characterizing him as a walrus. The description is apt.

By the time their breakfast routine is over, Minerva cannot help but think that they are horrible people, but tries not to pass judgement. It is, after all, very early in the morning.

The man—Vernon, as was said very loudly by his wife several times—leaves for work with a peck on the cheek. Minerva shifts slightly to make it look as if the cat is not observing the house. Instead she inspects the little street sign and neighborhood map that sits at the corner, just a ways away. There is not much to read, but she reads it anyways while Vernon pulls out of the drive and heads to work.

She shifts once more, and eyes up the mother and son in the kitchen.

By noon, she is more convinced than ever that Harry Potter, the undoubtedly sweet child of Lily and James, should not be subjected to this particular family, Muggle and blood ties be damned. Dudley (or Dudders, Sweetums, and a number of other nicknames) spends all morning fussing and throwing tantrums. He spends a large portion of this time shouting the word “won’t!” to everything but candies. Petunia spends the downtime craning her neck over the back garden wall trying to nose in on the other neighbors, and eventually telephones some friend or another to swap gossip.

The family is no less horrible over dinner, when Vernon decides to expound on the “bloody immigrants and foreigners ruining the country”. Minerva almost returns to personhood right then and there, to give him a piece of her mind.

The true nail in the coffin comes after dinner, long after Vernon has arrived home again. He tries to ask Petunia something about her sister, and the air in the room turns frigid. It becomes abundantly clear that they are the least magical type of people possible, and that Petunia’s extreme attitudes towards Lily’s magic have not changed. Vernon seems even worse, if that’s possible, muttering about the strange blighters he saw today.

Minerva balks at it all.

Harry Potter—the savior of the Wizarding World, if it’s all true—cannot be allowed to live with these close-minded bigots.

Just as she suspected, Albus Dumbledore shows up late into the night, after the inhabitants of Privet Drive have long since gone to bed. There’s another faint pop, and suddenly, a tall man with a truly impressive silvery beard is strolling down the street towards her, clicking what Minerva knows to be a Deluminator as he goes. The streetlights around them go out. Moments later, he sees her, even in the now-shadowy lane, and Minerva tilts her head, as if in greeting. A small smile adorns the man’s face.

“I should have known. Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall.”

Minerva chooses that moment to return to her human body. She rolls her shoulders once to get rid of the cricks, and then narrows her eyes slightly at Dumbledore.

“How did you know it was me?”

“My dear Professor, I have never seen a cat sit so stiffly,” is his reply.

Rather annoyed and more than vaguely sore, Minerva snaps back, “You’d be stiff too if you’d been sitting on a brick wall all day.”

They exchange news, at which time Minerva’s fears—and a number of hopes—are confirmed. Voldemort (she still shudders to say the name, but is doing her best not to) really is gone, and he really was defeated by little Harry Potter. Dumbledore really does intend to leave Harry here, of all places.

“You can’t mean the people who live here!” she exclaims. “Dumbledore, you can’t! I’ve been watching them all day. You couldn’t find two people who are less like us. Harry Potter come and live here!”

Perhaps her outburst is a little more emotional than she’d like to be in front of another person, but the situation most certainly warrants it. A poor little boy, come and live here, in this horrible home where the son spends the day screaming for sweets and the parents refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit in their boring little ideal of a normal, white-picket-fence lifestyle? It’s ridiculous, and she’s angry at Dumbledore, angrier at him than perhaps she’s ever been in their acquaintance, because all of a sudden, she can only see her day, but worse, being every single day of poor Harry’s life. The boy who defeated Voldemort, for heaven’s sake!

These thoughts consume her, and she only just catches Dumbledore’s drivel about leaving a letter.

“A letter?” she repeats back, faintly, really trying to comprehend the insanity of this particular plan. (She thinks Dumbledore is brilliant, of course, but he’s missed the mark with this one.) “Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him!” She can’t help but add that he’ll be the most famous child of their world.

Dumbledore, of course, doesn’t want the boy to grow a big head. Minerva almost snorts. He wouldn’t be growing anything in this house, because these people are dreadful. But Dumbledore has that sort of look in his eye that says he won’t back down, and so Minerva acquiesces, at least for the moment. She knows how to pick her battles.

When it doesn’t seem like Dumbledore is convinced by her sudden departure from the topic, she makes a point of questioning his choice in Hagrid, which raises his hackles slightly, just as she hoped it would, and suddenly he’s lecturing her about Hagrid’s trustworthiness instead of questioning her motives.

And then a rumble fills the air, and there is Hagrid, with tiny baby Harry, possessing a scar that flares out like lightning across his forehead.

The conversation that follows is quick, but Minerva has to shush them—after all, the Muggles don’t have access to silencing charms—and then all of a sudden, Dumbledore is leaving Harry on the doorstep with that blasted letter, and it’s time to go.

As Hagrid roars off on his motorbike, and Dumbledore strolls back down the street, re-illuminating the street, Minerva transforms back into a cat and walks the opposite direction, as if she’s about to leave.

She waits for the faint pop of Dumbledore’s apparition, and immediately trots back to where baby Harry lays, bundled up on the doorstep. It’s November for goodness sake, and no place to leave a child.

She holds him close to her for several hours as he sleeps, adding a small bubble of a warming charm so the poor boy doesn’t freeze, and when the very first rays of light appear, she curls up next to him as a cat instead.

When she hears the first sounds of people moving in the house, she slinks behind a bush to keep watch. She’ll go along with Dumbledore’s harebrained scheme, but she’s going to make sure that Harry is alright, first. (Maybe they’ll prove to have a deeper goodness than she realizes. Maybe yesterday was an off sort of day.)

(She doubts it.) 

Minutes later, Petunia opens the door to put the milk bottles out. A piercing scream breaks the air when she sees the babe.

Put Harry Potter with these Muggles, indeed.

Vernon Dursley spends the next twenty minutes blubbering various iterations of “ABSOLUTELY NOT” from the moment that the letter is plucked out of Harry’s bundle. Various segments of it are read aloud in a variety of tones of disbelief and anger, spluttered with still more protests.

It seems for a brief moment that Petunia might argue—she gets as far as saying something about him being their nephew, and the blood magic that will protect Harry (even if it is in a disgusted, frigid tone)—when Vernon shouts something asking if she really wants the “bloody neighbors to know about their bloody strange, dead relations!” 

From her vantage, Minerva sees Petunia whiten even more, if possible.

“Right. Well, we’ll just have to drop him off at a hospital somewhere,” Petunia says, face hardening. “They can’t expect us to take care of another child. We’ve already got one.”

Vernon seems far more pleased than he has been all morning.

“Absolutely bloody right!” he spits. “The damn boy doesn’t even look like either of us.”

With what might be another hiss of foreigners (Minerva isn’t quite sure because it’s the first thing he’s said at a reasonable decibel all morning), he stalks off to get dressed.

Within half an hour, Vernon is loading baby Harry into the car, while Petunia remains to care for Dudley.

“I’ll go straight to work from there, and I’ll see you tonight, when all of this is behind us,” he says as he returns to the door to peck Petunia on the cheek.

Minerva manages to Disillusion herself and get into the car during this time period, so that she can stay with Harry.

A plan is already forming in her mind.

It has been years since Minerva has even entertained the idea of having children, and it’s not even something she thought about a great deal. She supposed that she thought about it with Dougal, but only briefly, and Elphinstone was rather old by the time they’d married. After her husband died, she’d disregarded the idea all together: love had not been particularly kind to her, and perhaps it was a sign from the universe that she wasn’t meant to have a child of her own, not that she’d ever had the burning inclination that she knew some women did.

And besides, she had her students. It wasn’t the same, of course, but she was still responsible of shaping the minds and educations of the entirety of the Hogwarts student population, at least until 6th year. She got to mentor students and have an impact on their lives, and in many ways, it was just as rewarding as being a mother.

Today, for the first time, Minerva starts to consider what motherhood might look like for her. She likes children, after all, and has always enjoyed watching her nieces and nephews.

Dumbledore had said that he didn’t want the boy growing up with an ego, that he wanted him to be part of a normal family and not be a celebrity from this moment on. Well, she couldn’t guarantee that would happen in any other Wizarding household—would bet, in fact, that many of them would treat him as the Savior—but she does know that she could control how she might raise Harry.

It was an absolutely insane idea, but one that grows steadily in her mind as the car barrels towards Vernon’s destination.

She is strict, everyone thinks so at Hogwarts, and she’s already the Head of Gryffindor House. She knows the basics of looking after children, and knows how to discipline strictly but fairly, and above all else, she knows how to educate. She could raise Harry to know Wizarding society while instilling proper values and making sure that he’s a good wizard as well as a great one.

And she could honor Lily and James’ memories by loving their son. She hadn’t known Lily quite as well as James, who had always had a proclivity for Transfiguration, but if Harry is anything like either of them, he would be exceptional. And in the five hours that she’d held him, waiting for the world to wake up, she’d watched his tiny features and soft baby gurgles and known that she could love this tiny boy.

And if his blood relatives were giving him up, going against even the great Dumbledore’s plans, well—why shouldn’t she? She has a lovely little cottage in Scotland, and she could raise him there, and she could send him to Muggle primary school until it was time to go to Hogwarts, and that would allow him to know both his Muggle and magical roots.

Yes, Minerva decides. This is what she’ll do.

Vernon drops baby Harry off with the same script he and Petunia discussed.

“Some vagrant left this baby on our doorstep last night, and we really can’t take another right now. We have our own, almost the same age, and it would just be too much for my wife and me.”

The hospital does a bit of paperwork, but doesn’t question him too thoroughly (shocking, thinks Minerva), but he’s on his way shortly, and will probably still be on time to work.

Minerva approaches the hospital clerk promptly.

“I’m interested in adopting a baby, and I’m wondering if you could direct me to the proper channels,” her voice is crisp, despite the fact that she’s barely used it in the past two days.

The clerk eyes her suspiciously, but it’s nothing that a well-placed Confundus charm doesn’t solve. It only takes a few more, with several different personnel, in order for her to achieve custody of baby Harry, and then a couple to fudge the paperwork and make it seem like no baby fitting Harry’s description ever arrived into the Muggle system. Minerva knows that there are still sympathizers of Voldemort running about, and doesn’t want to risk any record of Harry Potter anywhere that could pose a danger. She knows that with some careful planning, she can later obtain copies of Harry’s wizarding documentation.

And so it is that a mere two hours later, Minerva McGonagall is walking out of the hospital with a baby in her arms that has, for the sake of Muggle documentation, become legally hers. (The Wizarding world rarely deals with adoptions or custody—and of course she’s decided not to inform anyone of that end, anyways—so she’s all set.) Harry Potter has been an unreasonably quiet baby so far, crying a grand total of once, and stopping when a nurse arranged a bottle for him.

Minerva holds him close, and Disapperates, and the two vanish from the alleyway without anyone noticing.

A moment later, they reappear halfway across the country at the front walk of a small stone cottage on a windswept hill, just a kilometer away from a mostly-Muggle Scottish town.

Harry smiles up at her and babbles, and she briskly takes them up the front path and through the side door to the kitchen, so that she can prepare something for Harry.

They spend the rest of the day preparing her second room into something of a nursery for Harry, and by the end of the day, she’s discovered that Harry is particularly entertained by puffs of multicolored smoke. She discovers this when he accidentally gets ahold of her wand and manages to produce them on his own. (Great Merlin, she’s in for it; the boy is only just gone one.)

The smoke, however, is both a blessing and a curse. It makes Harry look around and start calling for aba. It only takes a few moments for Minerva’s heart to sink and realize that Harry is looking for James. She coos to him, and tries to explain (though she knows he won’t understand) that it’s just her now, his parents are gone.

This leads to tears from both parties, and cries for ami and aba and even, at one point, pa’foo who she can’t really place. (Peter, perhaps? Or a nickname for someone else whose name Harry can’t pronounce?)

Eventually, though, he settles down to sleep, and Minerva has time to make a list of all the things that she needs to do: the materials she needs to acquire in order to raise a child, the food she needs to buy, the house-proofing she needs to do, and the fact that she needs to find a childminder, and quickly.

Classes may be cancelled at Hogwarts for the rest of the week, but she’s going to have to go back to teaching eventually, and she’ll need someone to watch baby Harry, because she certainly won’t be bringing him to the castle.

(She doesn’t trust Dumbledore’s judgment on this one. He was very clearly mistaken, but she imagines that he’s stubborn enough, convinced enough of his own intellect, that he would try again, with even more disastrous results, and Minerva won’t abide by it. It’s been a long war, and this poor child clearly just needs someone to love him. It’s settled: she won’t be telling Dumbledore something important, for what may be the very first time in her life.)

She falls asleep exhausted, but satisfied in her day’s work.

It’s honestly quite a learning curve.

Harry is still an exceptionally good baby, but he’s gone through quite a trauma, and it shows in the next few days.

Her heart breaks every time he calls out for someone who is no longer there, and he cries quite a bit around bedtime, and she finds she can’t wear her black cloak (only the black one) without upsetting him.

But he seems to like her, and he usually quiets down so long as he’s being held, and she finds that overall, it isn’t too different from the times she’s cared for her brothers’ children—it’s just more permanent.

She takes an ad out in the local Muggle paper, inquiring about weekday childminders, and spends the end of the week and the weekend interviewing candidates, Harry by her side.

There are several ones that seem like they might be appropriate, but in the end, she chooses an older woman named Sadia, not only because she’s raised five children and been a child-minder for years, but because she speaks Urdu and Punjabi as well as English.

Minerva knew Euphemia, and knew that she spoke Urdu, something she passed on to James. She remembers him using it mumble things under his breath that he didn’t want people to understand, and more impressively, she remembers that he spent a lot of time reading about how magic was used in other cultures. Euphemia clearly taught him some wandwork along with the language, because she remembers some very impressive spells that were most certainly not part of Hogwarts curriculum, nor derived from English or Latin. She feels certain that James would have passed this on to Harry—likely had already started, if Harry’s babbling is anything to go by—and she desperately wants him to have this connection to his father, his heritage. She wants this other avenue of magic for him, even if she can’t be the one to teach it to him. She knows what it feels like to grow up stifled, to feel as though you’re keeping a secret, and she never wants that to be Harry’s experience.

Minerva hires Sadia on the spot, on the condition that she’ll speak pretty much exclusively to Harry in Urdu (even if it’s not quite the exact dialect Euphemia and James might’ve known), and feels incredibly satisfied that she’ll be able to go back to school the next day, Monday, with someone to look after Harry.

The days after that pass quickly.

Minerva settles back into her routine at Hogwarts, while simultaneously adjusting to her routine as a mother. Because of Voldemort’s defeat, there’s an air of lightness and hope at the school that she hasn’t seen in a long time, and it gives her an energy she might otherwise lack.

She continues to not mention her new situation to Dumbledore, and if he’s guessed that something is different—that she has a baby at home, that she’s looking more tired lately due to said baby at home, etc.—he hasn’t mentioned it.

As the months progress, it gets easier, even if she is constantly exhausted. After all, she does have twelve classes worth of students, and therefore hundreds of educations, to look after during the day, on top of a 16-month old. Her nights are filled with finding something that a fussy Harry will eat, and getting him to take a bath (often with the help of a light show and a number of animated bath toys), and reading him stories. Sometimes, when her work load is extremely heavy, she switches out The Tales of Beetle the Bard for her students’ essays and reads them out loud to Harry as she corrects them.

On one such night, it is her sixth year’s essays on the advanced mechanics of becoming Animagi.  “—and due to this lunar property, the witch or wizard must hold the sliver of Mandrake root under his or her tongue for the duration of a full month, whereby—”

She’s interrupted by a gurgle from Harry, and then the word “no”, quietly. She can’t help but smile.

“Very good, Harry, you’re absolutely right. It is not a Mandrake root, but rather a Mandrake leaf that the Animagus hopeful must carry under their tongue. Mr. Appleby will have to try just a smidge harder. I would hate to see the results of holding a slice of Mandrake root under one’s tongue.” She shudders slightly, and Harry babbles again. “Yes, I suppose it is a run-on to boot. Although I’m rather more concerned with the magical theory.”

Harry goes back to toddling ‘round the room, looking for Elvendork.

(It goes like this: About two weeks after she first collected Harry, she goes through some of her correspondence with James, and realizes that the Potters had a cat, which James had called “Elvendork”—she remembers grimacing at the name the first time she read the letter. She asks Sadia to stay a bit later that Friday, and Apparates to Godric’s Hollow, where she approaches the Potter’s house—or what’s left of it. Already, there is graffiti on the gate, leaving messages of encouragement for Harry. Someday, there will be a plaque there too, but she doesn’t know that yet. The top floor of the house itself has been blown to smithereens—where the curse rebounded off of Harry, she realizes—but the bottom remains largely intact. She is able to enter the house—she’s unsure if it is because she is an Order member, or if it no longer holds any protective spells—and finds a number of remnants of the former inhabitants.

Minerva realizes that she should have come sooner. She searches the house for every single picture she can find—and there are quite a few—as well as Harry’s toys, baby blankets, clothes—anything that she thinks he might find comfort in now, as well as mementos he might someday like, such as books owned by his parents, and their correspondence tucked away in desks. Lily and James were buried with their wands, otherwise she’d look for those, too. In the end, she has to put an Undetectable Extension Charm on a bag to fit everything, because James and Lily had made the house a rather comfortable one, and Minerva is overcome—just this once—by sentimentality.

She has been in the house a little over an hour when she hears what she realizes she initially came for: the mewl of a cat that has slunk out of the kitchen.

“Elvendork?” she asks crisply. The cat tilts its head for a moment, as if considering her, and then slinks forward to butt its head against her leg. “Right. Come along then.”

Elvendork allows herself to be picked up, and Minerva promptly takes one last look around the place, and then Apparates back to Briar Cottage.

Elvendork, needless to say, is Very Upset at the Apparition, but seems thrilled to see Harry, who immediately squirms in Sadia’s arms trying to reach her. “E’fnd!” he says happily, and toddles over to run his chubby hand carefully over her head.

“It seems we have a new pet,” Minerva says wryly to Sadia, who smiles and hugs Harry before she leaves.)

By Yuletide, Minerva has firmly settled into her routine, and while Harry still very clearly misses his parents (and can identify their pictures as ami and aba), he has very much warmed up to her. He now comes looking for hugs (the first time he did so, Minerva felt her heart warm dramatically), and will settle down with some soothing words from her when he falls and hurts himself. He asks her to read to him (well, sort of), and they enjoy some lovely afternoons out in the snow.

Their first Christmas together is bittersweet for Minerva, who knows what Harry should’ve had, but she puts up a tree, and takes him for walks in the village to see the twinkling lights, and later Harry delights in the shiny baubles and small assortment of packages on Christmas day. (He’s more enthralled with the wrapping paper than the gifts themselves, which are entirely comprised of a few books and some of the old toys she’d found in Godric’s Hollow, but it’s a happy moment nonetheless.)

It’s just after New Year’s when Harry, for the first time, snuggles into her arms one evening when she’s grading papers and has forgotten the time, says “mama, up”. She almost cries, and spends some extra time tucking Harry in, unsure of how to react. (She knows it’s not what he called Lily, which makes her feel slightly better, and it’s certainly not how she’s been referring to herself…it must have been Sadia’s doing. Ultimately, she can’t say that she isn’t pleased.)

Their lives continue to go surprisingly smoothly. Minerva almost forgets that she’s keeping the rather enormous secret that Harry Potter, Savior Of The Wizarding World, is now her son.

By the time summer rolls around, he’s speaking in almost-complete sentences in both English and Urdu (although he’s remarkably good at only speaking Urdu to Sadia, and only speaking English to Minerva, knowing intuitively when he’s supposed to use what), and Minerva very much enjoys when term ends and she can spend more time at home, even if she has a dreadful amount of curriculum and lesson planning to accomplish before the summer is over. Despite the fact that she’s more consistently at home, she keeps Sadia on her weekly basis over the summer, mostly because she doesn’t want to lose her when the school year rolls around, and partly because Sadia is wonderful company. She’s horribly interesting, and the two swap stories over tea and scones while they watch Harry dash about the highlands on mostly-steady feet, while Elvendork lounges in the sun.

That is not to say life is sun-soaked. Harry has the sort of tantrums any two-year-old might have, and Minerva is living up to her promise to herself that she will be a strict mother and make sure his head doesn’t inflate. His bedtime is set, he isn’t allowed sweets on a regular basis, and even at a young age, she makes sure he has some manners (which mostly just include “please” and “thank you” at this point). She’s still exhausted, and she constantly questions whether she is doing right by Lily and James’ son. Minerva thinks they would approve, and from what she knew of Lily’s personal life, she thinks Lily wouldn’t have wanted Harry with Petunia anyways.

Other than the moments when Harry manages to get ahold of Minerva’s wand, his first accidental magic comes that summer in two forms: the first is when he refuses to put down a handful of daisies before bed. She tries to pry them from his hands, insisting that flowers are for the outside only, and not for bedtime, when they start to replicate like mad, and soon daisies are spilling out of both their hands onto the bedroom floor.

Harry starts to giggle, awash in daisies—an astonishing facsimile of the Gemino charm—and Minerva works hard not to smile, because she always appreciates impressive magic, and it is rather impressive accidental magic, to be sure.

She scolds him gently, and they compromise (well, sort of; he is two and doesn’t really know the meaning of compromise) on a single vase of daisies on the dresser. They can be in his room, so long as they are not on his bed. She cleans the rest of the flowers up, and makes a number of bundles, several of which she’ll give to Sadia.

The second form of accidental magic is when she finds Harry in the garden one Sunday afternoon with half a dozen garter snakes sitting around him. It almost looks like he’s holding court; they’ve all lifted their heads, as though they’re actually focused on him, and he’s chatting happily at them, except that it’s not words so much as hisses.

And that is how Minerva finds out that Harry is also a Parselmouth.

It frightens her, momentarily, but Harry is so gentle with his new friends, and after a bit, they all slither off, and Harry sees her, smiles and runs over to hug her knees. She reads up on it later, and decides that it’s not much of a problem, even though it’s rare, so long as Harry remains gentle and kind. After all, she remembers her own mother telling her how she always had an affinity for cats, that she communicated with their own cat long before she could talk. It’s just another animal, and Harry didn’t have a chance to interact with them before the weather got warm.

As summer draws to a close, she finds out that Dumbledore has finally decided that Harry Potter (who is presumably still with his aunt and uncle in Surrey) needs more surveillance. He mentions casually to Minerva one day just before term starts that Arabella Figg will be moving to Privet Drive shortly to keep an eye on Harry.

Minerva nods, but doesn’t say much more.

It takes several months for Arabella to move in, and several more for her to determine that not only do the Dursleys not have two children but, according to neighbors, they never have. Harry Potter, it seems, has disappeared off the face of the Earth. Arabella spends quite a lot of time prying and spying (so much so that for that singular period, she nearly takes Petunia’s title as Privet Drive’s busybody), and then when that yields nothing, she digs through Muggle records, looking for where he could have possibly disappeared to.

But Minerva has done her job well, and no real paper trail exists. No one remembers a thing, and there is no record of any boy matching Harry’s description in any Muggle system or office.

It’s just past the New Year, and she’s had Harry for about 14 months (nearly as long, she realizes, as James and Lily ever got to have with him), when she happens upon the aftermath of the Harry-Potter-Is-Missing disaster.

She’d been summoned to Albus’s office, and she enters just as the torso of Cornelius Fudge finishes yelling at Dumbledore from the fireplace, brandishing this morning's newspaper (which bears the headline Boy-Who-Lived Dead?).

“I was assured the boy would be safe there, Dumbledore, instead of with a proper, suitable Wizarding family! This is a public relations disaster! I want the boy found!”

As Fudge’s face flicks out, Minerva is struck by how extremely old Dumbledore looks in this moment. The look on his face vanishes when he sees Minerva, and he strives for the usual twinkle in his eye.

“I see the Minister is not pleased,” is what Minerva decides on.

“No, I should think not. It seems Petunia disregarded my note and the protection that Lily’s sacrifice afforded, and discarded the boy. And no Muggle Office seems to hold any paperwork, no record of any boy fitting Harry’s description.”

“What a shame,” says Minerva curtly.

“I must note that you do not seem particularly upset for someone who was right, my dear Professor.”

Now, Minerva decides, is the time to come clean. As much as she’d like to keep living with Harry in their own little bubble, she can’t very well cause a national magical crisis for Dumbledore and Fudge. And her son’s protection is very much important. If she plays it right, she might be able to get an ally in Dumbledore, which will mean no trouble from the Ministry.

“Well, it certainly helps that Harry has been living with me for more than a year now,” she says briskly.

Dumbledore, for once, looks well and truly surprised. He also very much looks like he wants to say something, but Minerva cuts him off with a sharp look. “And that’s where he’ll be staying.”

Her words brook no arguments, and she quite think she’s never looked quite as stern and severe as she does in this moment.

“Very well,” says Dumbledore slowly. “He will stay with you. But you’re going to need to fill me in on rather a lot of this story, Minerva.”

With a raise of her eyebrow, she responds, “There’s no time like the present, Albus.”

It’s a long story, of course, but she’ll be able to tell it in time to get back for afternoon tea with Harry and Sadia.