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Dear Minnie

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For a full minute the three of them stood and looked at the little bundle; Hagrid's shoulders shook, Professor McGonagall blinked furiously and the twinkling light that usually shone from Dumbledore's eyes seemed to have gone out. J. K. Rowling: The Philosopher's Stone, p. 17

Excerpts from letters written by Professor Minerva McGonagall to Mrs Deneb Sowerbutts:

...and that's when I knew I just couldn't leave him there. Not because they were Muggles, you see, but because they were those Muggles. They couldn't even raise their own child, how could we entrust them with this one? Surely we owe him more than that.

At first Dumbledore asked me if I was volunteering, as a jest, you understand, and then when he saw I was serious he just asked me 'Are you sure, Minerva?' and I was not, of course I was not, but at the same time I was.

So he is here now, at Hogwarts, in my quarters. I cannot take time off now as the semester is in full swing but everyone has been very helpful. Hagrid perhaps more helpful than one might wish but at least the end result is that baby Harry has a crib now. And, despite everything, it is a nice crib. Very... secure.

We decided to keep his origins hidden so I ask you to not tell anyone about him. He is a son of a distant relative whom I am fostering. Dumbledore chose not to heal the scar on his forehead but did not object to me hiding it with a glamour. His eyes are Lily's, the greenest you could imagine, and the black tuft of hair all James Potter but I don't want to cause too much confusion to the child by glamouring everything so for now, cutting it will have to suffice...

*

… My rooms are much different now, more suitable for a child. The little one can stand, after all, and is going to be a menace after he learns to walk. I have read every book on child rearing I have found, even some Muggle books but they don't seem to be of much use.

Harry is an easy baby, although he cries for his parents a lot, and sometimes taking my feline form and cuddling up to him is the only way to bring him any comfort. Dumbledore sneaking him sugared sweeties cannot be good either...

*

...and so he calls me 'Minnie' now, r sound proving too much for him. Professor Dumbledore is “Dumbo” which seemed to amuse him greatly, and he said something about a flying elephant. I sincerely wish that is not something he is going to gift the child with...

*

...and thus our first year at Hogwarts together comes to an end. I do not know what to do after he grows too big to keep contained in my rooms anymore. Our school is no place for a toddler, that is certain, and the one time he managed to escape as far as the corridor still gives me nightmares. What if the stairs had moved? He is too little to even balance on stairs on his own! Thank Merlin for the vigilance of the paintings!

For the summer, I am not returning to Caithness after all, but will take a cottage in Hogsmeade, and my brothers' children can come and meet their little cousin there. If this proves a good environment for little Harry, maybe I will keep it after summer as well. It could be possible to find someone to look after Harry while I am in school...

*

… Well, I am back at Hogwarts for another school year but have decided to keep the cottage. Harry enjoys the garden very much, and Madam Rosmerta found us a girl to look after him while I am away at work. Tenebra took her N.E.W.T.s last spring but wishes to stay with her ailing mother for now, and was happy to accept the position. Harry seems to like her, and she can keep up with him, which is more than I can sometimes say.

To think I was anxious for him to learn to walk! Now I am anxious for him to learn to sit down...

*

...and of course it turns out he's a natural on a broom. Madam Hooch has offered to train him, but I kindly reminded her that I played Quidditch for quite many years myself, and can surely remember how to mount a broomstick.

Do you think a Nimbus would be too much for a Yule present? He does enjoy the sport so.

I told him about his father's successes in the Quidditch pitch, and found some more pictures of James and Lily and all the others when they were young. I try my best to keep them real for the boy, to remind him that he has a mother and a father, as well as a Minnie...

*

...And do you know what I found the boy doing last week? He was in the garden, talking to a snake! You read correctly: my little charge is a parseltongue. So what could I do but force poor Severus Snape into teaching him about snakes so that he wouldn't carelessly engage all of them in conversation!

You must remember Severus, he is still as surly as ever, and seems to know who Harry is well enough, if his hostile glares are any indication. He never did care for young James Potter. Still, who can remain cold against those pleading bright eyes of his son? Yesterday Snape actually asked if I thought Harry would care for a snake of his own, as he seems to be expecting hatchlings. Well, not him personally, I'm sure, but a snake in his menagerie.

First year students aren't allowed snakes, but there are good many years for that, so maybe a snake would be all right. Maybe it would stop him inviting the others in.

*

...For this summer, Arthur and Molly Weasley have invited us to join them for a few weeks. Their youngest boy is the same age as Harry, so I have accepted. As exhausting as I find their brood of rambunctious boys, I appreciate that it is a lonely life for Harry to not be around others his age. Hogsmeade is small, and our students all so much older that they are not interested in him nor he in them.

*

...and that is why Harry is still a red head. It is a surprisingly strong enchantment for someone so young as the Weasley twins but at least it means they wanted to claim Harry as a brother.

However, I admit to some trepidation as the twins start at Hogwarts this year. No doubt they will be Gryffindors as their older brothers, which means they will be my headache very soon.

I heard a curious Muggle saying the other day (from Arthur Weasley, naturally, so one might have to take it with a pinch of salt). When faced with tedious circumstances and people, one is invited to remember that it is 'not their circus, not their monkeys.' What is one to do when one knows very well it is one's circus, and very much their monkeys?

Harry has broken his spectacles again. I am tempted to hand him a roll of tape and tell him to take it as an encouragement to work on his charms. Then I remember I am a law-abiding member of the wizarding community, he is under age, and that I am really very fond of him, and fix the darn things for the tenth time this summer.

*

...this Yule was so different from our last: in addition to the customary sweets from Dumbo and something snake-related from Snape – who still tries to conceal the fact he is giving presents to the boy – Harry received a knitted sweater from Molly Weasley, and something smelly and explosive from the Weasley twins. Still, as usual, the less said about Hagrid's present the better. (To think I complained about the snakes!)

*

...I was a little more prepared for what seems to turn into an annual visit to the Weasleys. We even made time to visit the other families in the village, and Harry seemed to develop a little case of hero worship for the Diggory boy, Cedric. I hope that he will be a good influence once he starts school.

And at least this time he still has his natural hair colour...

*

...I also made the mistake of taking Harry to meet his Muggle relatives, the Dursleys. The less said about the visit the better. It just confirmed to me – yet again – that I made the right decision all those years ago.

*

I remember my mother crying when I got my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. I understood it too, for I was entering a world she had lost. So tell me, Denny, why did my own eyes moisten when we received that owl?

*

...Hagrid's present surprised me with its appropriateness. Not that it being an animal is a surprise, but instead of something wildly dangerous, it was the most beautiful snowy owl you could imagine. Luckily she gets along with Sir Slither. And luckily Harry wasn't allowed to name her...

*

...so we decided that Harry should travel by train with the rest of the students. It will be bad enough for him to be who he is – we have decided to stop hiding the scar, and I will not ask him to lie about his name – without everyone knowing he is the ward of a professor.

It will be difficult enough for the both of us as it is. What if he is sorted into Gryffindor? Will I have to stand down as Head of the House? Will he remember to refer to me and Dumbo as “Professor”?

The Weasleys have agreed to give him a ride with their own bunch, after all, four of their own are joining us again this year. I sincerely hope Ronald Weasley is more like his elder siblings than his immediate seniors. George and Fred are quite enough for any house. Or school.

*

...the intense pride I felt when the Sorting hat called out “Gryffindor!”...

*

...and of course he smuggled the snake into the dormitory.

*

...I swear, one of these days my boy will manage a tailless tea cup. But that day was not today, nor will it be anytime soon I fear...

*

...Snape tries so hard to act like he never knew Harry as an earnest four-year-old, like he didn't spent hours and hours of his own time teaching him about snakes. If only Harry wasn't so attentive in his classes, so eager to help and learn, maybe he could get away with his pretence.

But I saw him smile yesterday as Flitwick recounted a tale of what had happened in his Charms class earlier that day, and just for a moment, he looked proud...

*

...and apparently the Muggle-born girl told Harry about a Muggle tradition of a 'Mother's Day.' He had even painstakingly charmed the card to sing, and you know how he struggles with his charms...

*

...Tonight, Harry asked me how I would feel about him trying to become an animagus. He said he couldn't imagine his own childhood without the cat, and he wants to... He wants to... He said, he knows I am not his mother, and his parents have always been around, in the photos and the stories Dumbo and me and Haggy have told him, but he says... he says he knows I am his parent, too, that I didn't need to take him in, and he wants to do something to show me that he is my child, as well, that as he inherited his mother's eyes and his father's hair, he wants to show he inherited something from me, too.

So I firmly told him he is not to attempt any magic of that sort until he is at least ten years older and then I hugged him so hard he will probably be misshapen until Yule next year.

*

(Many years later Minerva “Minnie” McGonagall couldn't tell which of the following made her the proudest: Harry making her a grandmother, Harry becoming an Auror, or Harry registering as an official animagus—something his father never did—and that his form was not a stag, but a lynx, with wild tufts of black hair on his ears.)