Actions

Work Header

A Lord in the Shadows

Chapter Text

The end of the war had been a mess, as many who had been freed hadn’t deserved it, neither had those wrongly imprisoned. Through it all, the question of where Harry Potter was to go after the death of his young parents was settled and answered long before the Potters had been betrayed. Though her duty wasn't to raise Harry Potter, Minerva McGonagall watched over him. She felt it was her duty to protect her student’s son when she herself failed them. Through reports from Ms Figg and daytime snooping in her Animagus form, Minerva had come to the realization she could do truly do nothing about Harry’s situation. If anyone had the power to remove Harry from the Dursley’s custody, it was Albus Dumbledore.

Dumbledore looked up from his papers as if he had been expecting her the whole time. "Ah, Minerva, I am glad to see you. What seems to be the issue?" He waved to a chair. He glanced at a painting on the wall of Cornelius Fudge who was nervously twiddling his thumbs. Dumbledore frowned and flicked his finger. A black curtain fell over Fudge’s face and was silenced before Fudge could react. The curtained portrait had sunk into the wall now, there was no way Fudge could overhear their conversation now.

McGonagall sat down after the portrait had been dealt with.  “We need to get him out, Albus. Harry Potter must leave the Dursleys.”

“How will you try it? I have given you my answer before.”

“This can't go on Albus. You know just as well as I do that the boy has been abused since the day he arrived. I have enough for a case here, more than I did a year ago. You could bring it up, or maybe Doge or Augusta…”

Dumbledore glanced at her before taking the thick manila folder. He fingered through the journal entries, the photographs through the bushes, all of it.

“The Aurors? They know about this?”

“You said not to.  I know in regular circumstances this wouldn’t hold up in court, but as it is, Albus…”

Dumbledore took off his glasses and folded his hands on the long desk. “I cannot help you, as I could not help you before or indeed as I want to help you. This information is simply not valid.

“If I were seen as a more conservatively-minded figure, it would be easy for me to sway some to vote in favor of moving a future peer from a Muggle household to a Wizarding one. If I were, for lack of a better phrase, less honorable, I would be able to coerce my constituency. However, as neither are feasible, the Wizengamot cannot help us.”

McGonagall stood. “Then I shall do it myself without your help, but first I’ll need the counter-charm to reverse-”

Dumbledore raised a hand. “Steady, Minerva. As you said,” he gestured to the evidence, “circumstances such as these force me to realize that it was a mistake to trust Petunia’s judgement or the idea of her stopping her husband. You are right, it cannot wait any longer.”

Minerva was relieved. But how was it that she had been so easy to sway him, when it had been nearly impossible before?

“Before you ask, yes. This is to do with the protections we spoke about. He is indeed still protected, but now that he is of schooling age, I am more confident in the plan.”

“And Fudge?”

“As always, will know nothing.”

“If he did somehow find out though about this however...”

“Then it’ll make our work somewhat of a triviality in the great game. Mr Potter must be moved from the Dursleys and Petunia returned to her proper self before… it becomes inconvenient.”

It’s always inconveniences that he’s worried about , Minerva thought. Dumbledore smiled and nodded as if he heard every word. They could hear Fudge’s portrait shuffle irritably beneath the black curtain, though of course he could neither hear nor interact with the outside world. “Do Floo when you decide to come for tea.”

“Ah yes, I shall.” Dumbledore winked. He waved open the black curtain and hastily put back on the ring. As Minerva was leaving, Dumbledore took a bright red envelope from one of the drawers and began to write an address. He folded his hands as he sent the message by his owl. Soon Fudge’s letter would arrive, and he wanted to get this out of the way before he forced himself to answer it.

 

Harry padded into the Dursley’s immaculate kitchen early that July morning, wiping the sleep out of the corners of his eyes. “The post’s here, Aunt Petunia,” he murmured.

He placed the letters on the side of the island before shuffling over to the coffee pot. It was as ritual as any that Petunia reviewed the mail, for sorting catalogues from magazines, personal letters from Vernon’s Grunning’s reports. Vernon sniffed and turned the page of the paper as his cup was filled with coffee. Thankless as ever, Vernon tapped his foot, waiting for his daily rashers. Dudley tripped Harry on his way to the table, though Harry had caught himself on the polished countertop by the door.

The rest of the morning went much the same, with Harry avoiding Dudley and Vernon ho-humming at the morning paper’s editorials on Terry Field’s imprisonment. He snapped his fingers as soon as Harry cleaned off the excess grease. Petunia handed Vernon his post, looking at the strange, square red letter addressed to her, attached to a letter addressed to her nephew.

“None of that boy, just bring them here!” Vernon roared. Harry fought off sleep as he brought the sausages. His hand shook, the tip of the grease-covered cloth brushing on Vernon’s morning suit. Vernon looked at the invisible mar of uncleanliness, unordinary fifth that his nephew had seen fit to give him, and immediately tore into him.

Petunia picked up the letter idly as she tried to ignore Vernon. She knew he was like that, and better Harry than Dudley or her. As soon as her unpolished nails touched the wax, the small scarlet letter rose into the air and contorted itself into a set of eyes and a mouth. Instead of screaming, as this particular letter ought to have been doing, it simply smiled and whispered into Petunia’s ear before disintegrating.

 

Not far away, underneath the London Underground, Mafalda Hopkirk of the Improper Use of Magic Office was in dire need of a day off. For the past eleven years, wizarding families had loosened their standards when it came to casting magic in sensitive areas of Britain and so she had to send out many notices. Many repeated notices. Her left hand quaked and tremored some days from overuse. She believed she was suffering from carpal tunnel. All she really could do was grit her teeth and try to bear the daily grind.

As she looked at the monitors that survey magical homes (ones with Floo connections), Mafalda saw a bright burst of red light somewhere in Surrey. She shook herself awake and tapped her wand against the monitor to make it replay. Mafalda rose from the chair quickly and went to search the records. Something was wrong.

 

“-lazy, no good nephew!” Vernon was continuing his tirade. He stopped as he heard the red envelope disintegrating, watching it fall into a heap on the counter. “What on earth was that?”

Aunt Petunia had closed her eyes, clutching empty air where her fingers had been touching wax and scarlet paper. Her next three words were so mind-numbingly unusual that it bear not even repeating.

"Vernon. Stop it."

“What?” Vernon said.

Petunia’s mouth was pursed. “Potter, Dudley, to your room.”

“Aunt Petunia-”

Now ,” Petunia seethed, still looking at her husband with crossed arms. Harry bolted to the door, with Dudley scrambling after him. Petunia closed the door after Dudley’s foot crossed the sill.

"What was that, woman? Say that again," Vernon said, turning to his wife. Unfortunately for Vernon, inconsistencies with his world-order seemed to be needed to be explained to him, even as they might be quite rational. Vernon himself was astonished that Petunia’s pea sized brain would think of such disgusting rebellion against her husband.

 

“Richards!” Mafalda Hopkirk yelled from her monitors. The blustering intern came in, seeing that his boss was bothered. She was known to be quite persnickety when she wasn’t happy. She put down a folder and swerved to her desk.

“Ma’am?” Richards rattled in fear.

“There’s been a sudden reappearance of Petunia Evans’ magical signature. Privet Drive, Surrey. I want a squad out tomorrow-”

The door opened. Albus Dumbledore smiled, smoothing his ruffled orange robes and tilting his glasses. Richards and Mafalda looked on in shock as Dumbledore took a seat in a conjured chair. Richards dropped the tea set he had been carrying. Dumbledore smiled at him sympathetically before waving his wand and setting it to rights.

“Chief Warlock, I-”

“Do not worry, Mafalda,” Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eye. “I am not here officially, though I would like to call in that favour, if I may please.”

“C-certainly, sir,” Mafalda said, straightening herself in her chair. Dumbledore smiled and took a letter from an inside pocket.

“Thank you. I trust you will be discreet, Ms Hopkirk.”

“Yes, sir. Good day, sir.” Mafalda said.

Dumbledore smiled again, “Might I use your Floo?”

“Oh, of course. Powder’s behind the statue…”

Dumbledore found the small pot. He threw in a handful of powder and winked at Mafalda and Richards before disappearing in a ball of green flames.

“Ma’am, I-”

“Shh, Richards…” Mafalda said in a near whisper. She dismissed him, and opened the letter, reading carefully.

 

“Move!” Dudley hissed. He kicked Harry over and took his place in front of the keyhole.

"Stop tormenting him, Vernon," Petunia continued.

"And why should I?" Vernon said, "He's a freak! No better than Margaret Thatcher!" He gestured madly with his hands. “You said so yourself!”

"Because, Vernon, we agreed to take care of the boy! To give him a home!" Petunia screeched. “When they will find out about what we've done, what I've done…”

"You put him there as soon as he could walk," Vernon pointed out. “In that cupboard there.”

"And it was wrong ."

"We did what we wished, isn’t that the way with parenting? He deserved it, the little freak-".

"Get out of my house.”

"- probably was sent here to curse us ever since we let him in- wait, what?"

"Get out," Petunia repeated.

"How dare you!" Vernon said as he ground his teeth, "I helped raise our son! I paid for this house!"

"I will not have my child raised by a monster," Petunia said, throwing off her wedding ring.

Vernon puffed his way over to the counter. Petunia opened a locked drawer and took out a small wand, aiming it at Vernon's chest.

"You... you're a freak," he said, ashen faced.

"Hawthorn and phoenix feather, 9 ½ inches, stiff," Petunia said, ignoring Vernon’s last statement. She flicked her wand and Vernon's fat legs started to dance their way towards the door. Dudley and Harry screamed, jumping out of the way as Vernon catapulted through the closed kitchen door. Petunia jabbed her wand, a stream of sparks wrenching open the front door.

Vernon was gripping onto the banister, trying not to dance out of Number Four. Petunia steepened the angle of her wand. Vernon gasped as his weight disappeared like a great cloud of smoke, his face exploding in wrinkles and moles, hair growing shaggy and mangy, suit into faded rags. Dudley screamed as his father literally turned into a stranger before his eyes.

"I'll telephone to tell them you've quit your job, Vernon," Petunia said nonchalantly, checking her nails while still having her wand pointed at Vernon, "And you already did sign those papers, so that would be the last I’d see of you."

"You can't do this to me, woman ! I own you!" Vernon shrieked in a far different voice.

"I'm afraid I can," she said. Another shower of sparks sent a very different Vernon shooting out of the door and into the street of Little Whinging. Petunia closed the door before turning around, seeing her very frightened nephew and son.

“Mum, why-”

“Daddy and I had a bit of a disagreement, Popkin,” Petunia said with a small smile. She knew she was exaggerating. He knew she was exaggerating. “If I could talk to Harry for just a few minutes, that would be great.”

Dudley spared time to look at his mother fearfully before bolting up the stairs. Petunia pursed her lips, knowing full well she would have to sort that out sooner than later. For now, she had bigger problems. She felt a uniquely powerful headache coming on. Her wand clattered to the floor as she slumped on the cupboard. Her vision turned black as Harry came yelling for her.

 

Mafalda put down her letter, her objective clear and plain as the purple lettering on the parchment. She rose and tapped one of the runes on the side of the monitor. The data from the last ten minutes on the all-seeing device was erased. She took her grey file and slid it into the compartment in the mantle of her fireplace. She was very nervous as what she was doing was illegal and morally irresponsible in every sense yet she knew in her heart it was right. It took her a while to get back to work, her eyes darting at the thin office door separating her from the rest of the office.

 

As far as Ophelia Hall of Number Five, Privet Drive was concerned, life in Little Whinging had been thus far normal, thank you for asking. However as she was putting down her knitting to call her neighbour about a strange man wandering outside Number Four, she saw a wickedly fast ambulance with a grey M on the hood slide to and fro on the driveway. She clutched her chest as she saw Petunia being carried out on stretchers.

Ophelia reached for her phone, to call strange old Arabella at Wisteria Walk, when she saw that not only was Petunia being carried out by four nuns into a white ambulance, but that her stretcher wasn’t being wheeled out of the drive way at all- it was being supported by itself! She clasped her opal rosary.

Ophelia saw Petunia’s strange nephew and lovely Dudley climb into the boot of the ambulance with Petunia and two of the nuns, Dudley looking around to see if anyone was watching. A nun flicked a small stick, Ophelia not sure if it was a ruler or a conductor’s baton, and the door to Number Four had shut as well as the door to the ambulance. They drove off at breakneck speed, disappearing in a mirage. Ophelia clasped her chest and collapsed in her chair. She couldn’t wait to tell Number Six about this!

 

Harry sat across from Dudley, who was numbly silent next to Petunia’s seemingly lifeless body. A Healer sat next to each boy, the one by Dudley trying to cheer him up by making bauble animals with her wand. Everytime he looked over, he flinched at the small display of magic. The one by Harry was silent as he was. She checked Petunia’s vitals once more before sitting back down. The van lurched as it entered the roundabout.

“Just about there,” the older Healer said.

“Is Aunt Petunia going to be okay?” Harry asked.

“She’ll be fine. A few days in St Mungo’s and she’ll be fine.”

Harry had never heard of St Mungo’s before. He looked out the window and saw that they were on the motorway going towards London. Harry stared as the van sped up to an impossible speed. The six lanes, trees, powerlines, everything disappeared into a blue fog. Harry shot up from his seat but was thrown back down as the ambulance skidded to a stop. Dudley looked green.

The Healers checked Petunia again before waving their wands and lifting the stretcher. The door opened into a large courtyard within an underground building. Workers in blue jumpsuits drove the car into the lot as more Healers rushed to help Petunia, Harry, and Dudley.

 

They were helped into a separate room. Dudley was left with Petunia and given a Calming Draught. He fought off a Healer who tried to pull him away from his mother’s side. They let him be, and instead asked Harry to come with them. He looked for a moment at Petunia and Dudley before coming with the three Healers.

 

“Mr Potter, these are representatives to Hogwarts. They requested to speak to you as soon as they were notified you were here.”

“Hello, Harry. Might I call you that?” an old man in a pink robe said, smiling through his beard. Harry nodded. “I’m Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School, and this is Professor McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress.” He gestured to a stiff looking witch who smiled briefly when Harry recognized her. “That will be all, Lucy.”

“Call if you need anything, Professor,” Lucy the Healer said. She left the room and closed the door.

“This must come as a great shock to you, Mr Potter,” Professor McGonagall said. “Why you are here, why we’re here for you.”

“It’s quite simple, if you’ll take a seat-”

“Am I in trouble? Are you taking me away?” Harry asked as he sat down.

“Oh heavens no,” McGonagall said quickly. “We merely wanted to give you your letter.”

“Letter?”

“Indeed. A letter was sent to Number Four just this morning from Hogwarts about the coming term,” McGonagall replied. “When we had been notified that Ms Dursley was… incapacitated, we thought it best if we delivered it ourselves.” She handed Harry a letter in a parchment envelope, a purple seal on the back of it.

“And to answer any questions you may have, of course.”

“I don’t understand,” Harry said, putting down the letter. “Why were you notified?”

“Why us of all people?” Dumbledore asked with a hint of amusement. “Why indeed. It seems you have had a rough time in the Muggle world, as far as schooling goes-”

“-Get to the point,” Minerva said sharply. Dumbledore looked over at her before acquiescing.

“As it stands Harry,” Dumbledore continued, “if Aunt Petunia happened to be incapable of taking care of you, it is a law of our Ministry that either they or the school you are set to attend will provide care for you.

“As it happens, I am quite fond of the school you are set to attend, as well as quite influential within it, not to mention the Ministry’s lack of… personal expenditures, shall we say.”

“But I don’t even know about Hogwarts, I don’t know why I’m here, or how-”

“Hogwarts is a school of magic. Your parents went there, the healers attending to your aunt went there, even we went to Hogwarts.”

“With varying degrees of success,” Dumbledore said. McGonagall looked at him sharply.

"Am I magical? Do I have magic?" Harry asked hopefully.

“You do indeed, Harry,” Dumbledore said, “As does your cousin.”

“Dudley?”

“Indeed,” Dumbledore nodded, “However, it was agreed he would attend a different school, given that your aunt attended a different school than your mother. Legacy is the name of the game when it comes to admissions, Mr Potter.”   

“Now that we’ve explained why we are here,” McGonagall said, “If you wouldn’t mind me asking why- Why is your aunt in St Mungo’s today, Mr Potter?”

“We only wish to get the full story,” Dumbledore said reassuringly, “Only tell us what you’re comfortable telling us.”

“Where do I begin?”

“How about starting with breakfast this morning?”

He told the two professors what happened at Number Four from breakfast that morning to up to when the nurses arrived. They listened attentively, as if Harry were the only thing that mattered in the universe. Harry stammered under the scrutiny, but seemed to relax as Dumbledore hummed and nodded with every turn of his story. He had their attention: he couldn’t have been crazy. All of this was real, right?

“The circumstances of you coming here, would you say, were agitated?”

“I suppose. I’d never seen anything like that between them. She’d been angry before, livid even. But nothing like this.”

“Do you know the current whereabouts of Vernon Dursley?” McGonagall asked.

“No,” Harry said curtly. A look passed between the two professor at his tone. Dumbledore nodded.

“Very well,” Dumbledore said. “You are taking this remarkably well, may I say.”

Harry shrugged. “I’ve been through stranger things.”

 

The professors introduced Harry to the magical world by explaining Hogwarts, St. Mungo’s, the Ministry, and the wizarding world in general, as well as a few magic tricks. By the time Professor McGonagall had to leave, they were halfway through a box of shortbread, with empty tea cups and a plate with bread crumbs. Dumbledore continued to play Exploding Snap with Harry until Harry began to win. He held up his hands in defeat.

“Ah,” Dumbledore exclaimed as he wiped the soot off his orange robe. “Well, I thank you for a most wonderful evening, Harry.”

“You have to go too?” Harry asked.

“Unfortunately. Not everyone thinks spending time with young people is very productive. I say different, but I am not in charge it seems.” Dumbledore said. Harry smiled and nodded. Dumbledore patted him on the shoulder before leading him down the hall. Harry’s smile faded as he realised he was nearing Aunt Petunia’s room, back to a life that he didn’t want to live. Dumbledore smiled reassuringly and turned to face Harry in front of the door.

“You will be alright, yes?”

“I guess so...”

Dumbledore smiled. “Good. Professor McGonagall will see you tomorrow to pick up your school supplies. Farewell, Mr Potter.”

“Goodbye, sir,” Harry said. He watched Dumbledore leave for a moment before reaching to open the door.

When he entered, he saw Dudley sleeping next to Aunt Petunia. The wand she used to get rid of Uncle Vernon sat innocently on the nightstand, the equine hilt of it glinting in the lamplight. Harry sat awkwardly in the still room, holding an old copy of Witch Weekly in his hand, unwilling to believe still, after all that just happened, that the world he was now in existed.

“He got a Sleeping Draught from one of the healers,” Petunia said. Harry dropped his magazine and looked towards the bed. Petunia had stirred and looked very, very tired yet somehow not from lack of sleep.

“Oh, I-okay…”

“I’m sorry about- well,” Petunia fumbled with her words, pursing her lips as she tried to come up with an excuse. “I have something to tell you.”

“I know,” Harry said softly. “The Professors told me everything.”

Petunia was still. “You know?”

“Yes. You have magic, I have magic, Dudley-. But they also said that you weren’t you. All those years and-”

I didn’t know my Aunt Petunia.

Petunia frowned.

“What happens to you and Dudley?” Harry continued, “Now that Uncle Vernon-”

“We’ll still be in Number Four,”Petunia said, “at least for a little while. I’ll have to see if I can get Dudley into Kasteel.”

“That’s where you went, the Dutch school?” Harry asked.

“Yeah.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry-”

“It’s fine. It wasn’t you. It was…”

“Someone else,” Petunia finished. Another pause. “I hope you enjoy yourself, at Hogwarts.”

“Will you be alright?”

“I’ll be fine, Harry, I’ll be-”

“Mr Potter, your bed’s ready,” a Healer said. They jumped in surprise. Harry looked back at Petunia, who nodded slowly.

“Good night,” Harry said awkwardly. Petunia just nodded again.

Harry followed the Healer into the other room. She bade him goodnight and closed the door softly. Harry turned on the lamp and saw that a large pair of pyjamas and a separate change of clothes, as well as a few books and a long box of Honeydukes’ chocolate had been left for him beneath a small purple-papered letter. Harry picked up the envelope and read the note inside.

 

Dear Harry,

 

I thought you would enjoy a bit of chocolate before bed. Professor McGonagall provided the clothing- she told me that you would admire the fit of it.

Tomorrow, Professor McGonagall will take you to the Longbottom’s home. Your aunt Petunia has agreed to you staying at their house for the rest of the holiday and until she is better. As I have mentioned, you will be staying with Lady Augusta, an old friend of mine, and her grandson Neville, who is exactly a day younger than you are. Professor McGonagall will be escorting you to Diagon Alley in the next few weeks to arrange your school supplies for the coming term.

All will be fine.

 

Good night ,

Professor Dumbledore


Harry put the letter down and smiled. He put the letter on top of the box and onto the nightstand before changing into the pyjamas. Before his very eyes, it shrank until it was comfortably fitting. Harry climbed into the bed without a second thought, opening the box of chocolate and flipping to the first page of The Tales of Beedle the Bard .

Chapter Text

Harry was tossing and turning, shutting his eyes to try and go back to sleep. Someone in the Dragon Pox ward, someone very loud and very sick, had been coughing for the last ten minutes. With a final groan of disapproval, Harry put the book of fairy tales that Professor Dumbledore had given him on his dresser. He swung his legs over the bed, finding his glasses underneath the blankets.
Harry did not have a good night’s rest. He had dreamed the same dream he had had for eleven years, down to the last flash: a rushing column of green, a scream, a woman falling to the floor, over and over again. Yet even in the waking world things were becoming more strange for Harry.
Harry slipped on one of his new trainers right as a young Healer knocked on the door.
“Professor McGonagall is here to see you,” the Healer announced, peeking in from the hall.
“Come in, please,” Harry said. He sat on his bed as McGonagall entered. The Healer left silently.
“Good morning, Mr Potter,” greeted Professor McGonagall.
“Good morning, Professor,” Harry replied. She reminded Harry strongly of his third year maths teacher who had always been unrelenting in her steadfastness to the rules, even such a minor one as sock length, down to the very bobby pin. Professor McGonagall gave off the same aura yet she wasn’t nearly as unfair, as far as Harry could tell.
“What is it that you need to pack?”
“Only these books, and my clothes-”
Professor McGonagall pointed her wand at the small array of items around the bed.“Pack!” she said before throwing a small tartan bag toward it like she was giving a bone to a rabid dog. The box, the books, and Harry’s clothes disappeared into the bag, which snapped closed as soon as Harry’s old, beat up trainers had wiggled into it.
“Thank you,” Harry said.
She gave him the bag and turned abruptly towards the door. “If you would follow me, I’ll take you to the Longbottoms.”

Harry picked up his bag and walked with the professor down the hall. They stopped briefly when a large dodo streaked through the Accidental Transfigurative Magic Ward and upset a large china cabinet one of the patients had asked for. The patient in question chased the dodo, firing hexes in the nude and evading the nurses trying to coax him back into the Special Accidents Ward. Harry laughed at the scene, and McGonagall smiled, if ever so briefly.
“Today, Mr Potter,” Professor McGonagall said as she continued to walk, “We’ll be travelling by Floo. Now remember, throw the powder into the flames, yell your destination, and walk into the fireplace. Walk, not stand. Walk. You’ll have much better success that way.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
They eventually passed the front desk. The Healer nodded and smiled when she saw Professor McGonagall and Harry. They walked through the side doors into a large room with several fireplaces. McGonagall paused to pass her hand over a small bronze plaque before dispensing the Floo from a receptacle in the corner. She handed Harry the small bag of powder, from which he poured the green substance into his hand, looking at the professor for confirmation. She nodded.
“Longbottom Manor!” Harry yelled, throwing the powder into the grate. McGonagall followed him soon after.

Harry entered a large room. The ceilings were painted white, with wood panels and a pleasant yellow wallpaper on the walls. Harry walked forward, onto a large crest of a standing bear holding a pawful of wands. The small bag transfigured itself into a suitcase on the floor. Harry looked behind him to see a cheery fireplace in the grate, illuminated by the window behind him. The room itself was very grand, but very empty. He wondered silently if he had the right house, but was almost sure he said it right.
“Excuse me? Hello?” Harry called, “Is anyone here? I’m Harry, Harry-”
“Mr Potter!” a voice exclaimed. The side door opened. Harry’s first thought was that Professor McGonagall somehow got into the house another way. Yet while McGonagall was tall, at least taller than Harry was, this woman was about his height and wore a smart grey robe instead of McGonagall’s bottle green and black. A fox ermine was around her shoulders, and a large vulture was peering over the brim of her gray hat. This was indeed not Professor McGonagall. She was behind him.
“I’m Harry Potter, I-”
“Yes, yes, dear, I know who you are,” the woman said with a smattering of impatience. She patted Harry’s shoulder. “I’m Lady Longbottom. Charmed.”
“I’m sure you introduce yourself as Lady Longbottom to everyone.”
“Only to important people. Naturally I wasn’t a Lady when I met you, so your ego is quite safe.”
“Married into nobility, born a princess,” McGonagall remarked. Lady Longbottom looked up sharply.
“Farewell, Mr Potter.”
Professor McGonagall waved goodbye to Harry before entering the Floo, disappearing into the Network again. Lady Longbottom smiled at the fireplace as the green flames dimmed.
“Now, come and meet my grandson, won’t you, Mr Potter?” She moved with an almost superhuman speed into the next room. Harry followed her, his new suitcase slapping against his knee. Lady Longbottom moved through several lavishly decorated rooms and halls into a spacious living room. A house elf in tails looked over his shoulder, squeaked, and disappeared with a pop when he saw her, the chess piece he was holding clattering to the floor. A chubby boy wearing a vest and nice trousers looked up gloomily at his grandmother.
“Olvar didn’t remind you then of our appointment?” Lady Longbottom said. Neville sighed and shook his head. She pursed her lips and all but pushed Harry in front of Neville, who had gotten up to get a closer look. “Neville, this is Harry Potter. He will be staying with you for a while. Do enjoy yourselves and do not play with the house elves.”
“Yes, Gran,” Neville said. Lady Longbottom nodded, in much the same way as Professor McGonagall did, and left briskly. Neville closed his eyes and shook his head before opening his eyes and smiling at Harry uncomfortably.
“Hi there,” Neville said awkwardly. He extended his hand shakily,” My name’s… Neville Longbottom. I-I’m so glad to meet you, H-Harry.”
“Are you alright?” Harry asked abruptly. He hadn’t seen anyone quite as uncomfortable since Uncle Vernon had drunkenly slipped a poorly timed joke about a client’s political leanings. Neville sighed and shrugged.
“I’m sorry about Gran,” Neville said. “She’s not exactly the personable type. She means well, she just-” He looked down at his chessboard, “Doesn’t know how to say it.”
“Don’t worry,” Harry said carefully, “I’ve not had much luck with my guardians either. My Uncle Vernon used to snap at me if I didn’t get his coffee the right temperature.”
Neville seemed to cheer up a bit. “Gran’s never done that before. ”
Harry looked around at the large room. Posters of Blackpool Banshee Quidditch players zooming past in their striped yellow and black robes, a white bird on their chest and indominatible smiles all around. His eyes fell to Neville’s chess set. “Is that wizard’s chess?”
“Yeah. I don’t suppose you’ve played before?”
“Just a few times with Professor Dumbledore,” Harry said.
Neville’s eyes widened. “Professor Dumbledore was a Wizard’s Chess Grandmaster at Hogwarts, he has a cup and everything!”
“He certainly was better than me,” Harry said. “Would you like to play a round?”
“Oh would I!” Neville said giddily. He sat back down and reset the pieces.
There was silence as Neville continued to set up the pieces. At last, Neville spoke. “I usually play with Olvar, but Gran…”
Harry whispered a command to the black knight, a woman side saddling a broomstick on a wave, holding a trident. He noticed the room had a very nautical feel to it from top to bottom: wicker under the blue and white striped cushions of the furniture, the mother-of-pearl insets on the wood panelling, the shining light of the shimmering quartz nets on the chandelier above them, even the blue green shade of the carpets. The living room windows were shut, though Harry could somehow smell the saltiness of the sea.
“This was Dad’s favorite room,” Neville said, noticing Harry looking around. “He loved the waves, according to Olvar.”
“Do you play with him often?” Harry said.
Neville smiled. “Yeah. I usually spend time with the house elves. They’re so nice. And Gran’s on business usually, so…”
That took Harry by surprise. Why would Neville choose to anger his gran by playing with the elves if he had his dad to play with? Was there something else going on? Harry couldn’t ask him: it’d be too rude of him. He shifted on the cushion he was sitting on while trying to come up with a reply.
“I suppose you have a lot of responsibilities around here, being her grandson.”
Neville shrugged. “Not really. She expects me to be prim and proper but I never bought into it.”
Harry laughed. Neville grinned. The next hour was filled with good-natured competition, Neville beating Harry soundly at wizard’s chess. A house elf brought in sandwiches, disappearing as soon as she had come in. Neville stood up too quickly, his foot catching on the low chess table and sending him crashing into Harry.
Harry groaned, but looked up to see Neville on top of him.
“I’m so sorry,” Neville said, rolling off of Harry and getting up. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Harry said. “You?”
“Just embarrassed,” Neville said.
“Or very hungry.”
“Or that, yeah.” Neville laughed.

The past day had been one of the best of Harry’s life, not that it had much competition. Neville introduced Harry to the house elves in the kitchen, waded with him on the rocky seaside outside Longbottom Manor, and played hide and seek with him until dinner.
“Neville,” Lady Longbottom said primly, “I am going to the Bones Residence next afternoon. I expect I won’t be back until after you’ve gone to bed.”
The sun had sunk low by then, the eerie green glow of late twilight settling over the shoreline. Harry, Neville, and his gran were sitting in a large dining room, too large to be considered comfortable. She had sat at a chair nearest the head of the table, as no one was yet allowed to sit there until Neville came of age. Harry and Neville sat opposite her.
“Ministry business,” Neville whispered to Harry. Lady Longbottom quirked her eyebrow. “Just… telling Harry.”
“Of course. And have you enjoyed yourself, Mr Potter?”
“Oh very much, ma’am.” Harry bobbed his head.
“Good,” Lady Longbottom said. She tapped the table before sliding her chair back. Neville immediately shot up, as did Harry a little later. “Good night, Mr Potter. Good night, Neville.”
Neville bowed his head as his gran exited the dining room without another word.
“Right on the hour,” Harry remarked, looking at the clock. Indeed, Augusta Longbottom was not one to be kept waiting for anyone or anything, including herself.
Harry walked with Neville upstairs, to where the house elves had cleaned a room for him, next to Neville’s. Harry put on his pyjamas and walked into his room. He played chess with Neville for a little while longer until Neville began to nod off in one of the study’s armchairs. After one of the house elves roused Neville, Harry said goodnight softly and went up to bed, his own feet beginning to drag on the floors.
Harry knew, as he slept without any sort of bad dream at all, that he had gained a friend for life.

The next morning, Harry sat with Neville at breakfast. Lady Longbottom, as she had said the night before, was absent. Neville took Harry on a walk through the gardens to a long, very long greenhouse.
“Don’t tell Gran, she’ll kill me,” Neville said as he began to step carefully into what appeared to be a jungle of different and wildly different magical plants. Harry noticed bright, pulsing bulbs of orange liquid in a large pot in the far corner of the greenhouse , which Neville dubbed ‘Erumpent Hornflowers’, that lay precariously by Spiked Gumsucklers, the ones with large purple barbs. Harry noticed Neville putzing around the plants as if he were in his true habitat, like a little bird cleaning the teeth of a large crocodile. He remained in the doorway, not knowing if it were safe to come in or not.
“I don’t know what half of these are,” Neville said with awe. He stumbled on a large root of one of them and immediately righted himself. “I love plants, but Gran only lets me see the ones at the front.” Harry noticed that indeed the ones at the front of the greenhouse around him were just plain boring compared to the Cackling Dandelions or Jazzbell Sweetums that Neville was showing him.
“So you like plants?” Harry said automatically. He groaned internally that he had said something so obvious.
“Don’t know,” Neville shrugged, “Never had it. Professor Sprout’s my godmother but I don’t think she’ll go easy on me. I want to do it when I grow up: be a Herbologist like Professor Sprout…”
Harry smiled. That was a nice, yet terrifying thought. He could see Neville, if a little more self aware and older than he was now, teaching kids. It made Harry think about what he wanted to do: he couldn’t very well be an Exploding Snap player for the rest of his life, could he? And what made Neville so gloomy? He had a lovely dream, but why did it sound like he’d never achieve it? Was it his grandmother? His clumsiness?
“I suppose we should get back,” Neville said, “Thanks for coming out here with me.”
“No problem. “
He put up his gloves and left the greenhouse with Harry. The two boys walked back to the house.
“Master Neville!” Olvar shouted, running up to him. Neville noticed a stream of mud behind him on the wooden floor. “Mistress Augusta has been asking for you for ages!”
“Oh no…” Neville moaned. Olvar quickly took off Neville’s shoes, took care of the dirt on the floor and Neville’s clothes with a snap of his fingers, and ushered Neville into the upstairs study.
“I’ll meet you in the library,” Neville assured Harry over his shoulder. “I’ll meet you there!”

Neville walked quickly into the library. Augusta turned around and nodded at him. “I’m leaving. I thought you’d like to know.”
“Goodbye, Gran. Have fun at the Boneses.”
She sniffed. “No, I think this trip is not for pleasure- I hear Minister Fudge will make an appearance. No matter- why is there dirt on your hand?”
Neville looked at his hand. “I-I fell,” he said.
“Fell? And yet nothing else is dirty? Surprisingly tidy as well. Very well, Neville. Do try to be more poised, your future as a Longbottom in this changing world will depend on it.”
“Yes, Gran,” Neville said. His hand tingled slightly as a Scrubbing Charm was applied a bit too roughly. Neville watched his grandmother leave through the floo, waited a moment, then bolted back to Harry.

 

“She just wanted to say goodbye,” Neville said to Harry. Harry sat in one of the straight-backed armchairs, one of his bed pillows supporting his back as he continued to read from Dumbledore’s fairy stories.
“Where did you find that? Gran took away the fairy stories last summer.”
“Dumbledore gave it to me when I was at St. Mungo’s.”
“Oh right, it was your aunt, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded. He put the book down. “Neville, are all wizarding houses like this? I mean, not to be rude about your house, but I imagined a wizarding house to be more like a shack with potions and all, and this is... “
“Empty?” Neville said.
“No, Neville. Just lots of space.”
“Not all of them, no,” Neville said, “My family is part of the wizarding aristocracy. That’s why we have so many elves. Nowadays, most houses have only one elf and we have ten.”
“So you and your Gran?”
“Yeah, and Great Uncle Algie. But he doesn’t come around unless it’s Christmas.”
“I live with my aunt now,” Harry said, “Or at least I did, I don’t know now. Everything’s so different. Because before I wasn’t special and now I’m here, with house elves and wizard fairy books and plants that can explode. And I’m famous for something I don’t remember, but now I know how my parents died and-”
“It was strange to see you walking through the door, if I’m honest,” Neville said. “Gran talked loads about you and your parents, how they were proper Potters who faced their end with dignity. Granted she talks loads about everyone famous and impressionable, but you and Dumbledore were almost godlike. I’ve never seen Dumbledore in person before.”
“He’s odd, but I like him,” Harry confided in him. “He said he was proud of me, taking in all of this so well and all.”
“See?” Neville said. “I could never say that about someone like Dumbledore. Or you. People kept whispering how much of a magical genius you’d be, how handsome, wise and wonderful Harry Potter must be because he defeated the Dark Lord as a baby. And now, you’re just Harry to me. And I think you’re my friend.”
“Just me,” Harry affirmed. “And I am, I am your friend.”
Neville smiled. “Never had a friend before.”
“Me neither.”
“Well, friend. What do you want to get up to today?”
Harry thought for a moment. Neville and him had this whole, too-large-for-two house to themselves- besides the house elves of course, but they didn’t seem to come out of the kitchen very often.
“Let’s go back to the greenhouse,” Harry said. Neville’s smile broadened. The two shot up from their seats and jogged towards the garden, racing each other to the large greenhouse.

By nightfall, Neville was entranced by Harry’s stories of muggle primary school. He had never heard of a class solely dedicated to maths or a school without a library with magical textbooks, or indeed Muggle photographs. Harry was intrigued by Neville’s relatively quiet childhood- at least compared to Harry. He had had a governess, after all, who taught him French and Gobbledegook by rote (which Neville admitted he was quite fond of), maths, wizarding history, dancing, and of course manners and etiquette.
“I bet she beat me over the head with Fogarty’s Guide to Lordly Warlocks’ Proper Etiquette more times than is considered healthy,” Neville had said.
Neville also had something like a playdate with the other politicians’ children every few weeks when his gran had to go to a particularly long or important session at the Wizengamot, the wizarding Parliament. Neville said most of the children made fun of him. Harry could relate to that. He told him about Dudley before he changed, and his gang.
“I didn’t even know you had an aunt. My Gran has your family’s genealogy going back ten generations and there was nothing-”
“She’s my mother’s sister,” Harry explained. “Does she have… a picture of my mum?”
Neville went over to a nearby bookshelf. He pulled out a heavy book bound in red and gold checkered fabric. He put it on a lectern and turned quickly to the back. As if he were handling microinch thin glass, he took out an old photograph.
“This was my mum’s. It’s the Order of the Phoenix, of course, but there are your parents there,” Neville said, pointing to them. “Right behind them are Peter Pettigrew, a war hero, and the man who killed him, Sirius Black. He’s in jail now for betraying your parents.”
Harry stared at the two people he desperately wanted to meet. He went along the row, matching faces to names- Dedalus Diggle, Remus Lupin, the Prewett twins. He stopped at Neville’s parents, looking at them smiling at the camera.
“What happened to your parents, Neville?”
Neville frowned. “They, uh… they were attacked, by Sirius Black’s cousins and… they’re in St. Mungo’s.”
“I’m so sorry…” Harry said. Neville looked terrible.
“It’s fine, Harry. I-I’ll see you in the morning.” He left without another word.
Harry stared at the photograph at Neville’s parents, his heart filled with shame. He had to say something stupid at some point, didn’t he? He’d only been there two weeks and he was going to go back to the Dursleys faster than he could say rice pudding. Harry hung his head and wondered when Lady Longbottom would tell him to pack his bags and go.

Breakfast came and went, and Lady Longbottom didn’t say anything about the picture. She didn’t say anything to them, as she was furiously writing letters to someone. A house elf dropped a letter each at Harry and Neville’s places. Harry opened his without a second thought, watching in horror as a large book ripped open the envelope. He quickly put his plate and goblet away from the expanding book.
“Oh not at the- oh no,” Augusta said, looking over. The book had grown to twice its original size and was about the size of an unabridged dictionary. Harry was quickly moving dishes and plates in case it got any larger. It didn’t. Augusta’s face was frozen in a scowl, but she didn’t say anything.
“It’s your rulebook,” Neville declared, “Everyone gets one.”
Neville was right: it was a rulebook. Harry flipped through the schedules, the Student Handbook… No wonder his father got in so much trouble: there were hundreds of miniscule rules and regulations to follow! Harry hoisted the book and handed it to Olvar, who had appeared behind him to collect it.
“Neville,” Augusta said, “Do not open yours at the table.”
“I wasn’t planning on it…” Neville murmured. Augusta seemed to have heard him. Harry froze, expecting something that never came. She smiled briefly before going back into her letters, seeming pleased for once.
“Are you going to take Harry into the village?” Augusta asked Neville.
“I was planning on it, yes.”
Augusta took a swig of pumpkin juice. “Very well. Be back by lunch.”
Neville smiled. He got up from the chair and handed Olvar his letter before leaving the hall.
Augusta looked up from her letter, “Do watch him, won’t you? Lord knows he’ll trip over himself somehow.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Good, have fun in the village.”
Harry left the dining hall and found Neville by the entrance hall door.

Neville and Harry walked down the hill into the sprawling village of Gaspard Sound that curved away from the house and toward the gravelly beaches that surrounded the Longbottom house on three sides.
“You’re not mad at me, about the photo?” Harry asked Neville as they walked down the stairs.
“No,” Neville said quickly. “Just sad. I always visit them at Christmas, but they just.. you know…”
“No, I wouldn’t,” Harry said. He silently wondered if he or Neville had it worse off: Neville’s parents were alive but had been in St Mungo’s for years if the photo was anything to go by, yet Harry never knew anything about his, never got to see them alive. He saw the pain in Neville’s eyes, but was it better that his were dry any time his parents were brought up? Had Harry accepted it, that he was alone and Neville wasn’t truly?
Harry sighed. He looked at the fat seagulls wheeling overhead before lazily flying alongside them into the village. Neville shook a few Sickles out of his pocket into a machine by the roadside. Notes shot out of the machine and into Neville’s hand.
“Good thing Gringotts has an extension office here; I forgot my money in the library…”
Harry cracked a grin and forgot about his moral conundrums for at least a little while longer. He walked with Neville through the street, the sun beating down on their necks as they walked through the square and to a small obelisk inside the fountain.
As they got closer, the obelisk transformed into two figures, a wizard and a witch side by side, wands raised against an unseen foe.
“War veterans,” Neville explained. “There’s a lot of wizards and witches who live here who lost family members during the war. On both sides.”
They stopped for a moment before they moved on and into a cafe. Harry noticed that some people were less secretive than others, as mingled in with people who were obviously Muggles were figures with purple robes and green top hats, shiny golden shoes with silver buckles, and all sorts of hilariously mismatched costume pieces. They left before people could notice Harry- or more importantly, the scar hidden under his fringe. They bought ice cream
After a few hours of window shopping and tourism, Neville and Harry went back up to the Manor for lunch.
“Where do you think you’ll go?” Neville asked Harry.
“Hogwarts House?” Harry asked. Neville nodded. “I don’t know, probably Gryffindor I’d imagine. Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad either though.”
“I’ll end up in Hufflepuff,” Neville said gloomily, “I’m not smart enough for Ravenclaw or ambitious enough for Slytherin- plus, most of the Death Eaters were from Slytherin.”
“Except for Sirius Black,” Harry reminded him.
“Oh yeah,” Neville said, “But still, the vast majority of them were in Slytherin.”
Harry felt he couldn’t argue with that. Dumbledore had mentioned that most of the Death Eaters were in Slytherin, but it seemed to matter less to Dumbledore than it did to Neville.

The holiday had to come to an end sometime and it came with yet another letter from Hogwarts, containing a simple purple-lettered message from Dumbledore saying Professor McGonagall would be at Longbottom Manor at 9 to pick him up and take him to Diagon Alley. Harry groaned as he read the last part: he wouldn’t be staying at the Longbottoms’ afterwards, he was going back to Number Four. Apparently Aunt Petunia had recovered enough from her injuries to leave the hospital.
Harry told Neville and Lady Longbottom at lunch. Neville seemed to be distraught, but didn’t want either Harry or his grandmother to know that he was, while Augusta seemed surprised.
“Didn’t you say she’d be out for a good while?”
“That’s what Dumbledore told me, yes,” Harry said, “But he just he wrote to me saying she was fine.”
“Magical exhaustion is a curious thing,” Augusta said. She sighed. “I suppose you’d better get on and pack if you’re ever going to get there.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Harry said. He left with Neville to go upstairs to their rooms.
“Oh but I don’t want you to leave now,” Neville said. “We only have a week until school, why not stay here?”
“Because your gran only let me come until Aunt Petunia was well again, I guess,” Harry said, “I don’t want to go back.”
Neville sighed. He grabbed Harry’s trunk from the closet and picked up a sock. “Is this mine or yours?”

In the morning, the house elves were in rows around the Floo. Lady Longbottom stood in front of the fireplace just as Professor McGonagall, her light blue robes engulfed in emerald green flames clearly visible from the back of the hall. Harry walked beside Neville as they moved towards them.
“Goodbye, Master Harry.” Olvar said, giving Harry a large sandwich and a pat on the wrist. The house elves nodded at him as he went further down the line. Neville smiled and waved
“Goodbye Harry,” Neville said. “I’ll see you on the train, won’t I?”
“Of course you will.” Harry replied. .
“Well, Mr Potter, until we meet again,” Augusta said with a careful gaze.
Harry shook her hand and stepped towards McGonagall.
“Did you have a good time?” McGonagall said.
“Yes, Professor, a very good time.”
Professor McGonagall shared a final look with Augusta before leaving through the open Floo connection. Harry followed her with a final wave to the Longbottoms.

Chapter Text

Harry appeared in a narrow corridor of a rather cramped inn. McGonagall moved quickly out of the way, allowing Harry to peer further into the Leaky Cauldron. A group of kids his age were waiting with a dumpy little witch with flyaway hair and a small, cornucopia like hat.
“This way children!” said McGonagall. She strode effortlessly through the crowd into the back of the pub. Harry had been hailed by many customers but he moved past them, struggling to not lose sight of Professor McGonagall. Eventually he was with her once more behind the bar in a small alleyway with a brick wall and dustbin. She tapped a certain pattern of those cracked, almost crumbling bricks and a wide archway appeared. Several witches smiled in thanks as they moved back through to the pub past Harry and the other children
“Welcome to Diagon Alley,” McGonagall said to the gathered group, “We’ll be getting your money first at Gringotts, the wizard bank. Then Professor Sprout-which most of you have met, will be taking you to Madam Malkin’s. Do you all have your lists?”
“Yes, Professor,” said Harry. The other kids nodded, holding their lists in their hands. Harry took the list out of his bag, shifting the heavy rulebook to get to it.
“Excellent. Shall we proceed?”
Harry noticed that the other kids were all wearing Muggle clothes, and most were almost spinning to see everything, as if they hadn’t seen magic at all, or a small dragon roasting cashews outside of an apothecary, or a stack of cauldrons nearly ten meters high. Harry was amazed too at how packed yet how spacious the alley was.
Harry and the other children followed Professor McGonagall down the long street to Gringotts Bank, a tall, bent structure that seemed to be made almost entirely out of marble on the outside. A small goblin opened the door for them all. Harry smiled and thanked the goblin. The other children were impressed, and some even followed Harry’s example. The goblin looked simply baffled. Inside was a marvellous room full of goblins weighing silver and gold by the troy ounce, rubies the size of Harry’s fist, and inspecting carvings of petrified wandwood all at different counters.
McGonagall charged past the group to the Head Goblin while Professor Sprout led them to an aisle of tellers. Harry was confused, watching a particularly bushy-haired girl take pound notes out of her pocket. Was he supposed to bring Muggle money? Was it like the extension office in Neville’s village? The goblin at his teller was wearing a rather smart red velvet coat with tails, three Gringotts buttons on either side of his lapels.
“Do you have sufficient currency?” said the teller. He looked up at Harry boredly.
“I...I-”
“Oh, I’m sorry dear,” said Professor Sprout, hurrying to get over to Harry. “I forgot to give you this!” She blushed and handed Harry a small bronze key. Harry looked confused. “It’s for your vault, dear.”
Harry looked at the key. He had a vault?
“Key please,” the goblin said testily. Harry quickly handed it over to him. The other children watched in amazement. Not only was Harry talking to the strange little creatures, but he also had an account in their bank!
Harry noticed that the goblin seemed very annoyed about something, but Harry didn’t know what. Did he miss his lunch break? Was he generally in a bad mood? Or were all goblins like that, bearing those frowns whenever they saw a human approach their countertops? The goblin took Harry’s key with a single talon, weighing it in his hand before handing it back to him with a nod.
"Mr Griphook will see your business carried out. Have a pleasant day.” the goblin said, returning to his ledgers. Harry felt a tug on his shirt. He whipped around to see a small goblin.
"This way, please," Griphook said.
McGonagall was waiting by the tunnel entrance.
“I do apologize ma’am, but we seem to only be running one track today,” Griphook apologized to McGonagall.
“It is perfectly alright,” McGonagall said. “Mr Potter, how are you?”
“Good, thank you Professor.” Harry said. “Are the other children coming?”
“I’m afraid I wasn’t forthcoming,” she said as she climbed into the cart. “The other children are Muggleborns. They’re bringing money to exchange for galleons.”
“You can do that?” Harry asked Griphook. He nodded as if Harry were the most inept human he had come across. Harry decided he didn’t much care for the goblins if they weren’t going to be pleasant. Griphook mounted the little seat in the front of the minecart train and they were off into the inky dark below. Harry felt sick, clutching his knees to his chest and praying he wouldn’t fall out. McGonagall was clutching her hat in her hand but otherwise was sitting as still as she had when she got into the cart.
As it grew colder, Harry could hear roars in the deep. He wonder quietly if dragons lived in Gringotts, but didn’t think they would: how on earth would they get down there with all of London above them?
The cart came to a sudden, screeching stop.
They stepped out of the mine cart and went over to the vault, extracting several handfuls of bright and shiny gold coins for Harry. Harry thanked Griphook for his help. A second goblin was on a different level, who escorted McGonagall to Vault 687 while Harry and Griphook went back to the surface.
When they reached the surface, Griphook rushed over to the Head Goblin's desk and started whispering in an unknown language to the attendant. A toothy smile came over the Head Goblin's face until all of his sharp teeth shone in the chandelier.

Harry walked out of the bank to Madam Malkin’s a few doors down, unknowing of the goblins’ reaction to his visit. It was a seamstress' emporium and clothing shop lined with robes for, as the sign said, all occasions; bolts of cloth, piles of long needles and small needles, draped invisibility cloak (priced at 30 galleons a yard), and even knitting supplies and yards of string. Harry sat down as Madam Malkin herself noted his measurements with a magic tape measure.
“Arm up, please dear,” Malkin murmured. Harry did as he was told. By this time, Harry saw McGonagall waiting patiently outside of the room through a small mirror, holding onto her small bag with unnecessary force, and Professor Sprout with the other children in a line outside a black-panelled shop with a large almost empty display window.
A pale haired boy watched Harry intently, his measurements taken by another witch. “Hogwarts?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. The boy’s face flushed when he realised who he was.
“I’m Draco,” the boy said.
“Harry,” he replied.
“What house do you think you’ll be in, Harry?” Draco asked, “Most of my family’s been in Slytherin since about the beginning of the school, but who knows- Hopefully I’m in Slytherin.”
Harry remembered Neville asked a similar question. Why were they obsessed with houses? It’s not like they mattered much really. “Gryffindor, I guess. My mum and dad were Gryffindors.”
Malkin made a noise and smiled at Harry. Draco looked lost.
“But you’re wearing Muggle clothes…”
“Don’t you?” Harry asked.
“Not usually.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Harry remarked. Draco shrugged.
“There you are dear, all done,” Malkin said.
“I hope to see you around, Harry,” Draco said. He stuck out a hand. Harry shook it and left with Malkin to ring up his robes. McGonagall stood up and walked Harry out, holding his packages before shrinking them back into the bag.
“I’m sorry to keep them waiting,” Harry said.
“I’ve told them to go on ahead, if that’s alright. I’ll tell Professor Sprout that you’re in Flourish and Blotts.”
Harry entered Flourish and Blotts with Professor McGonagall, the tiny shop bell ringing through the stacks and piles of books. People milled about aimlessly. Harry gravitated towards the children’s book, looking for a copy of Dumbledore’s strange book so Harry could return his. He didn’t find it but soon heard other children coming in, their excited chattering echoing through the large store.
Harry felt a presence behind him and saw two of them, whispering. Harry ducked into the next aisle, immediately finding a convenient stack of first year Hogwarts books on a table wrapped in white ribbon. He quickly picked it up as he felt more eyes on him as he walked to the counter. He read the label, slapped down some a few galleons and sickles, and bolted out of the store without looking back. He watched the bushy haired girl leave the wand shop with a long green box separate from the rest of her purchases. McGonagall beckoned him to enter just as a dark-skinned boy left with his yellow box.

Harry stepped into the black-panelled building, seeing the wand on the faded purple cushion as the only thing in the display window. As soon as he entered he realised why all the children were in a row outside, there simply wasn’t any free space other than a bare patch of ground with two stools and a thin opening in the boxes to behind the large countertop, and into the stacks of boxes forming a barrier of thin pieces of wood against the moving world outside. A man wearing a particularly tasteful color of brown in his waistcoat was picking up forgotten boxes and putting them on the shelves closest to them, as if he thought they were old friends who’d often call back just to make their presence known.
McGonagall sat down on the aged bench underneath the display window while Harry stepped forward.
The man took his time, but stopped the humming that had wandered through the shop since Harry arrived. The old wandmaker Ollivander looked up, his eyes tired but his smile just as all-encompassing as the range of hums and hrms that filled his shop.
"Ah, Mr Potter,” he said in a thick rasp. “A pleasure indeed. Please, do take a seat," Ollivander said, gesturing to a stool away from the window that emerged from the shrinking pile of wands.
“It has been quite a long time since one of the Potters sat in this establishment,” Mr Ollivander continued, "My, it has had to have been about twenty years shy… No matter.” He took out a measuring tape and began to measure Harry’s arm and his body, making silent notes in his head.
“Are you familiar with the basics of wandlore, Mr Potter?” Ollivander asked as he continued.
“Not particularly.”
“Yes, well, I half expected that. Each wand is as unique as the person who bears it. Oftentimes wands that are on my shelves are awaiting a particular person in mind. They will sit here for ages and ages gathering dust until that one person comes.” Ollivander turned away to grab a box and read the label.
“It is quite a remarkable occurrence. Don’t worry if you don’t come to the wand: the wand will come to you. As I have said many times-” He handed Harry a wand. Harry flicked it and a cabinet exploded.
“The wand… chooses the wizard.” Ollivander snatched the wand and gave Harry another one, the chase to find the perfect match had begun.
Ollivander’s old favorites, the ones around the benches moments ago, shrank away into the depths of the shop while more kept coming out the woodwork. Clearly beginning to be frustrated, Mr Ollivander took a dusty box from the back of the backroom. Ollivander frowned and looked pensively at the box. He returned to the parlor with the box in hand.
“Holly and phoenix feather, 11 inches, nice and supple.” Ollivander handed this wand to Harry
Sparks of red and green flew out of the tip and Harry felt a warmth in his fingers. Ollivander looked between Harry and the wand. McGonagall looked up, feeling a change in the air. After a long moment, Ollivander shook his head sadly and went behind the counter. "Seven galleons, Mr Potter," he said. McGonagall looked on quizzically at the wandmaker’s change in mood. His silver eyes pierced Harry’s aura as he and McGonagall bowed out of the shop.
Harry and McGonagall went then, as a last stop, to Eeyop's Magical Menagerie, finding a snowy white owl Harry named Hedwig among the barn and great-horned owls. Thinking it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to shrink an owl, he carried it along with his still-light suitcase before entering the pub through the archway.

McGonagall led him into a side room, where the other children were sitting around, chattering excitedly. All except one girl, the one with bushy hair. Everyone went quiet when Harry entered. He smiled at them all before sitting next to the bushy haired girl, who didn’t look up from her book. Harry was alright with that.
“Alright, students,” McGonagall said, coming to the front of the table. Hermione put the book down, “Next week at nine o’clock, be at King’s Cross with your ticket. Do not lose it or you will not be able to board the train. No exceptions…”
Harry settled into lunch, which was a steak in the shape of a trout with some chips. He met Hermione Granger, whose parents were dentists; Dean Thomas, whose mum worked at a grocery; Justin Finch-Fletchley, whose parents were the owners of a large packaging corporation that Harry had heard Uncle Vernon talk about once; as well as Kira Entwhistle, Roger Faulkland, and Emma Petersen, daughters and son of contractors, doctors, and bankers respectively. Afterwards, he stayed behind with McGonagall while Professor Sprout escorted the Muggleborns one by one into the Floo to go back home.
“Ready?” she asked.
Harry gathered his bags from the corner and walked to the floo.
“Write myself or Professor Dumbledore if anything should happen. I shall see you in a week’s time.”
Harry stopped in front of the grate, slowly turning to McGonagall.
“Is anything the matter?” said Professor McGonagall.
“No, but-” Harry swallowed. “I was wondering if I could stay with Neville until school starts.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” McGonagall said. “Wait here.”
Harry sat back down. McGonagall waved her wand and exclaimed, “The Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts!”

She entered the office. Dumbledore looked up, putting his quill down.
“I daresay I am surprised to see you back so soon, Minerva. Might I be of assistance?”
“Har-Mr. Potter asked if he might be able to stay-”
“-I’ve checked with Augusta, she’s fine with it so long as we can provide transport for Neville to King’s Cross.”
“But… how…” Minerva said. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Nevermind. So, it’s settled then?”
“When you get back, we should discuss living arrangements,” Dumbledore remarked. He looked up serenely at the portrait of Fudge, a protective glass bubble over it in case Dumbledore tried to silence it again. McGonagall nodded, and went back to the Leaky Cauldron.

Chapter Text

Professor Dumbledore ambled up the street in broad daylight, his tasteful bottle green suit and bright orange shoes garnering many curious stares as he past by the rows of houses in Little Whinging. He rounded the corner, coming near the sign to Privet Drive. He stopped to compliment Number Eight’s begonias before moving on to his true destination, Number Four.

He knocked twice on the door, checking his pocket watch. He heard Petunia coming to the door and opening it.

“Good, you must have the cauldron I-” Petunia started. Her eyes widened in shock. “You.”

“Ah, Petunia. I apologise for the late notice, however it was necessary for a personal visit. Might I come in?”

Petunia’s mouth tightened to a white line, but she stepped aside with a simple, “Come in.”

“I must say you have done wonders with the interior decorating,” Dumbledore remarked. Gone were the shag carpets in the living room and tacky wallpapers in the foyer and in their place were tasteful shades of dark green and moulding on the walls and lovely carpets over hardwood floors. Silently, Petunia led Dumbledore into the living room. Thankfully, Dudley was over at the Polkiss’ house for the afternoon: he would not have to see or hear what would happen today.
“I thought we agreed after… it happened that we would cease contact. Why have you brought me back?”

“We felt it would be necessary to give you time to adjust, rather than when it was too late,” Dumbledore said vaguely.

“I’d rather be her than to not know anything about being a witch. I see the way Dudley looks at me. He’s right to think that I’m not his mother because I’m not. Not really. I’m not that Petunia anymore. All because of you both Harry and Dudley don’t have her to rely on. So why the hell did you risk that?”

“We believed it would be safer for Dudley’s magical abilities to be fostered in a more accepting home.”

“And Harry? What about him?”

“Given your history, would it not be best for him to live elsewhere? Given his station-”

“-What bloody station would matter to an eleven year old boy? Groom him if you must, but Lily wanted this, wanted me to take care of Harry.”

“Something went wrong with the wipe, Petunia,” Dumbledore said. “You changed, and not for the better.”

“And you only fixed it now?”

“Dudley and Harry only turned eleven just this year, if we had let it off earlier they would’ve had nowhere to go if something were to happen to you in the process. You may not realise this, Petunia, but your life was in more danger than you may have expected once the charm had been broken.”

“Then I’ll ask again, why break it?”

“If you had not been awoken, you would be in a Muggle jail. As you know, it is terribly difficult for us to reach someone-”

“Why reach me? Why feel the need?”

Dumbledore sighed. “If you had just let me finish, perhaps I would have enlightened you sooner.”

Petunia rubbed her temples. “Fine. Fine . Go on.”

“As I have said, you would be placed in jail. You would not be able to protect Harry as you had promised, neither would you be able to care for Dudley. The charm placed on Number Four would fade, and Harry would lose the last ounce of protective measures against Voldemort. As he is now eleven, Hogwarts is willing to- shall we say, take the job you were not delighted to have been given. Revealing your true nature is the catalyst that will allow Harry to fulfill his destiny. That is why we have blown your cover and why you are here now.”

“So I won’t be taking care of Harry?”

“No,” Dumbledore said, shaking his head. “He will not stay here. Though you are different, you are only slightly different from the other Petunia. The charm altered the plan, I am afraid.”

“I can’t do it,” Petunia said. She pursed her lips. “For her, I-”

“Think of what is best for Harry, Petunia,” Dumbledore said. “You know he cannot stay with you.”

Petunia looked in the mirror, up at her own scowling face, her Muggle clothes and her ugly, jagged haircut. She certainly seemed to be different, this Muggle Petunia. How far did it go? She rubbed her frown-lines absentmindedly. Twelve years of not looking at a mirror through her own eyes at her own face, at her own surroundings in her own home-

She broke her gaze and looked like she was about to cry, but instead stood and paced about the room, her arms crossed and her brow furrowed. Dumbledore looked worried, but didn’t dare rise from his seat. Petunia walked over to the outdoor patio door. Through the glass she could see a bed of petunias, their red and purple heads swaying in the mid-afternoon breeze. She imagined them replaced with lilies, the crowned peaks of those white flowers letting off a pleasant smell, while her own flowers gave off nothing, lying low while those trumpeted lilies soared…

Petunia blinked and turned away from the garden and faced Dumbledore’s worried expression.

“He must know. One day, he must know all of it.”

“I will be sure of the telling,” Dumbledore said softly. Petunia crossed the kitchen and opened the front door. Dumbledore walked through to the top step, turning to see Petunia shedding a single tear.

“Go.” she said. “And don’t come back here.”

The door to Number Four closed.

 

Dumbledore turned to see the bright August sun overlooking the street. He looked at his feet, almost seeing the tiny bundle he left on that November night eleven years ago, and felt how much pain he had wrought on Harry and Petunia both for what he had been asked to do. He sighed and turned on his heel, briefly facing the white door again before disappearing entirely with a little pop .

Chapter Text

It had only been a few days since Harry had left the Manor yet Neville felt alone more so than he had in a long time. Neville noticed the way Harry had looked as he was packing to go back to the Dursleys: as though he’d rather take an irate Manticore head on rather than to step into Number Four. Yet there was nothing that Neville could’ve done. So he said goodbye, and hoped that he’d see Harry again soon.

 

Neville put down his arm as the tailor commissioned by his grandmother was finished fitting Neville’s uniform. Neville sat back down in his chair, arms sore and prodded from the endless poking of needles, the cinching measuring tapes, and the long, uncomfortable periods where he couldn’t move his arm. He thought it was as  good a time as any for a quick nap before his Gran or anyone else chose to disturb him. His eyes slowly shut, he was getting closer and closer to sleep’s warm embrace…

RRRRRRIIIINNNGGG!

 

Neville groaned. Someone was trapped in the entrance hall floo and was ringing for entrance. He got up, his tender arms sighing in stress. He walked down into the hall, pulling the little rope to open the channel, and waited. To his surprise, he saw the emerald flames reveal not his grandmother or Lady Bones, but the tall form of Professor McGonagall and  then none other than Harry Potter himself. Neville was both elated and terribly confused. Hadn’t Harry said he was going back? Before Harry or Neville could say anything to eachother, Madam Longbottom had entered full speed into the entrance hall.

“Ah, Minerva, I- Oh, Mr Potter, but why-” said Augusta, looking quite befuddled.

“There has been a change in plans,” McGonagall said to her. “I hope that you don’t mind, of course.”

Augusta nodded. “Please, do come in the library a moment, Minerva,” she said. The two witches left.

“Well, I’m back,” said Harry after the two witches had left. He wasn’t sure if a hug was appropriate, it wasn’t as if he’d been off to fight in the Great War after all, it had only been a day.

“How did you manage it?” Neville asked.

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I told McGonagall I’d rather be here- Never expected I’d actually get here!”

“Well I’m glad you are. At least for a little bit. But where was McGonagall taking you to? Gran never said.”

“Diagon Alley. I think I was with the Muggleborns and Professor Sprout. And I met this boy in the shop and- oh , I have a vault…”

“Wish I could’ve gone,” Neville said morosely. “ Gran already ordered my things.” Neville said. He rubbed his arm, still sore from the tailor’s poking and prodding. “And the tailor just left.”

“What about your wand?” asked Harry. “That doesn’t  seem like something you can just get off a catalogue.”

Neville took out a wand from a long box in his robe. The wand itself looked as if it had through hell and back, with small pits and charring on the wood. Harry wondered how Neville had managed to rough it up in so little time.

“It’s my dad’s,” Neville said, twisting the wand in his hands. His grip was awkward on it, as if he were told to hold someone’s plastic flamingo by the supports in a large shopping mall while waiting for the bathroom. “Gran’s convinced that if I’m worth my salt it should work fine for me, dad being, well, dad and all.”

“The wand chooses the wizard,” Harry said, glad he had something of substance to say.

“Let’s hope it chooses me then,” Neville said morosely. He quickly put the wand away as Professor McGonagall and Lady Augusta both stormed into the room, fuming yet still put together.

Lady Augusta stepped right up to Harry, who flinched slightly at the near contact. “Well then,” she said primly, “I suppose you know your way around, Mr Potter? Now that you’ve been here before, I doubt there’ll be a need to show you around again, unless of course I am mistaken?”

“No ma’am,” said Harry. “I’m sorry if I’ve caused trouble for you.”

“Don’t apologise,” Augusta said sharply, “ it’s very middle class.”

 

McGonagall could not stay for dinner, as she had a meeting with the other Heads of Houses about the upcoming year, so she left after saying goodbye to Harry. Instead of eating in the dining room as Harry had come to expect while living in Longbottom Manor, the lady sent them onto their rooms, having Olvar prepare them sandwiches.

The next few days, Lady Longbottom could not be found in one place for a moment longer than she felt necessary, regardless of Harry or Neville’s needs. The boys spent their time well however, playing Wizard’s Chess or Exploding Snap, practising handwriting with quills or reading one of their textbooks (though admittedly these were less frequent than Exploding Snap or chess). On the day that Harry was supposed to leave by Floo for the station, there was an abrupt knock on the door, startling Lady Augusta and the house from their well-planned routine once more. Lady Augusta herself opened the door, revealing none other than Professor Dumbledore, clad in vibrant plum and violet patterned robes that rustled slightly in the early morning breeze.

“Albus, what a surprise.” Augusta said, her head bowing momentarily in respect. “Do come in.”

“I’m afraid I can’t stay for long. The drive is rather long from here to King’s Cross.”

“Drive?” Augusta spluttered. “I would appreciate if you-”

Dumbledore smiled. “You do understand of course?”

Augusta clicked her jaw shut. “Of course. What choice have I? Olvar!”

“Yes, mistress?”

“Fetch Mr Potter from the library,” said Augusta. “Tell him Professor Dumbledore is taking him to the station.”

Harry and Neville were both sitting in front of a large desk. Crumpled, inky parchment surrounded them in a wave as Neville tried to help Harry with his penmanship, not that he was much better, really. Olvar appeared behind them with a crack . Harry jumped, the quill’s inked nib splattering and  obscuring his work.

“Master Harry, Professor Dumbledore is waiting for you.” Olvar said. “He wants to take you to the station. I’ve gotten your pack for you, sir, and the owl.”

“Thank you,” Harry said. “I’ll see you, Neville.”

“Yeah,” said Neville. “See you in a bit.”

Harry left the library with Olvar, seeing Professor Dumbledore standing with Lady Augusta by the door.

“Goodbye, Mr. Potter.” Lady Augusta said. She nodded briefly before leaving for some unseen duty.

“Are you ready, Harry?” asked Professor Dumbledore.

“Yes sir,” Harry said, holding his bag up for a brief inspection. Harry’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“Ah yes,” Dumbledore nodded. “ You must be wondering why I have called for you. Well as you know, plans often change, even if we don’t realise. I found myself once at a house in Colchester waiting for a party that, though my invitation said took place that very evening in that very house, was held three months prior and in Leadworth. No matter.”

The two of them stepped out of Longbottom Manor. In the driveway was a most unusual car. It was an electric purple,  old fashioned Rolls-Royce with sweeping black mudguards, chrome radiator, and a small kiteshield as a car mascot. Dumbledore opened the boot and Harry put in his bag down into it. Hedwig was put in the front passenger’s seat.

Harry ducked into the car, and marvelled at the spacious interior inside. The ceilings were padded with purple velvet cushions while a delicate, spindly tea set sat in between the seats. Dumbledore sat next to Harry, and pulled a small lever in front of the divide. The doors and boot closed and the car began to roll down the gravel path. Harry looked forward to see that the car was driving itself.

“Would you pass the scones and jam, Harry?” Dumbledore asked. Harry looked down to see a small plate of jam and scones facing him on a small silver plate.

“Sir, where did you find the car?” Harry asked after passing the plate of scones and the bowl of jam.

“It is on loan to me from Alphard Greengrass. It took some negotiating to procure, but when he heard who was to occupy it, well-”

“Do most wizards use cars?” Harry asked.

“It is unusual for wizards to own a car,” Dumbledore replied,”as there is very good public transportation which I hear you have gotten quite familiar with.”

“The Floo?”

“Indeed. However, Lord Greengrass owns Knight Transportation, which provides all sorts of wizarding transport alternatives: cruises, bus routes, flying carpet tours, even the odd taxi.”

“Flying carpets?”

“Quite. They were banned in Britain, unfortunately. However, there is something much closer to home than carpets that Mr Greengrass helps to operate. Something much more invaluable to us all. I trust you have your ticket with you?”

Harry took the small ticket from out of his pocket. Dumbledore put it on the table and pointed to the small kiteshield on the back."The Hogwarts Express, operated by Knight Transportation,” it read. Dumbledore continued, “And curiously their only non-purple land vehicle.”

 

In about forty minutes, the car rolled into King’s Cross Station’s parking garage. Harry dusted the crumbs off himself, and found that there was a little bit of jam on his shirt. Dumbledore opened the boot, Harry got out his trunk and retrieved Hedwig from the front seat. Dumbledore waved his wand over himself, turning his purple robes into a smart suit. He tucked his wand back into his shortened robes. Harry blinked as he saw Dumbledore’s hair and beard shrink to a more normal length.

“After you,” Dumbledore said, opening the door to the stairwell. He followed Harry upwards, past the terminals. Hedwig hooted at the Muggles as Harry waded through the crowd. Dumbledore was behind him, his cane clicking on the station floors. He led Harry to the wall in between Platform 9 and 10.

“I’m afraid this is where I leave you, young Harry,” said Dumbledore with a hint of sadness."I shall see you again at the feast. Simply run through the wall and you’ll be on the other side.”

“Goodbye, Professor,” said Harry. Dumbledore waved once and faded into the crowd. Harry turned to the wall, which seemed much more imposing than it looked at first. Shrugging, Harry ran towards the wall, flying into a different station with a red engine waiting for him  on a crowded platform.

He watched mothers bend down and kiss their children, fathers waving them off before they boarded. Harry felt truly alone then. He slumped his shoulders as he came to the loading platform, utterly alone, unmistakably forgotten.

“Harry!” a voice behind him shouted. Harry turned around to see Neville with his grandmother. She hastily kissed Neville goodbye on the forehead before letting him leave with Harry.

 

The conductor took their tickets and punched holes in them before loading Neville’s trunk into the cargo hold. Harry and Neville sat in an empty car, as they were both a little early. They unpacked their uniforms and changed in the lavatory, coming back to the car which remained as empty as they had come into it, but that was alright by them. Soon after they had sat down, the whistle blew. The train peeled off and zoomed out of the station. Neville opened a book, and Harry took out his writing journal and quill set. A few minutes later, a witch with a candy trolley opened the door to the car.

“Anything for you, dears?” she said kindly. Harry got up.He couldn't recognise any of the candies. Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans reminded him somewhat of jelly beans, but he couldn't be sure. The candy witch waved her wand and two bags of everything floated into their car. Harry fished out the galleons for the sweets from his pocket, smiled in thanks, and closed the door.

“Hungry?” Neville quipped.

“Starving.”

"Am I right to thinking that there's a real frog in there?" Harry said, looking at the chocolate frog case.

"Yes, a little one, made of chocolate," Neville said.

"What sort of chocolate?" Harry asked rhetorically. Neville picked up the purple packaging.

"'We use only the finest enchanted chocolate,” he read from the back label, “due picked and flown from Trinidad, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly sedated, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose.'"

"That's as may be, it's still a frog," Harry said. He decided instead to have a candy rope.

Neville looked at the chocolate frogs and seemed to remember something, his eyes widening marginally. “I didn’t get Trevor.”

“Trevor? Your toad?”

“Yeah. I left him in the room. Oh, Gran’s going to kill me…”

Harry doubted that very much. Though Lady Augusta could sometimes be ungenerous and strict, she could never be described as someone capable of murder. As far as Harry knew, of course. The door opened once more, startling Harry from his thoughts, and a girl with frizzy hair peered into the car.

“Do you mind if I sit with you two?” she asked. “Everywhere else is full.”

“Not at all,” Harry said. Neville scooted over, as Harry was next to the pile of candy.

“I’m Harry, that’s Neville, and-”

"I'm Hermione Granger," she said. “Charmed. I do believe we saw each other at Flourish and Blotts.”

“Didn’t everyone go gaga at Flourish and Blotts?” Neville asked Harry. Harry rewarded his contribution with a deathly stare.

“I’ve read all about you, of course.” Hermione said, “At least what I could get my hands on. You’re a legend, a true hero, positively a celebrity if there ever was one in the wizarding world.”

"Well, if it's all the same to you,. I'm content just being Harry for the moment," Harry said, scratching his arm nervously.

"Hungry?" Hermione said, peering at the pile of sweets.

"A bit, yeah. Go ahead and have some if you want," Harry said, slightly wary. Neville picked up a pack of Droobles and Hermione took a licorice wand.

"So what house do you think you'll get into?" Hermione asked Harry.

 

The door to the car opened, revealing the boy from Madam Malkin's. Harry was now a titch annoyed at the constant interruptions."I saw you- Diagon Alley, I saw you!” the boy exclaimed. He was pointing at Harry. "You never said you were Harry Potter!”

"That's me," Harry said, raising his hands sheepishly. That seemed to take the wind out of the other boy’s sails.

“It’s ever so good to meet you,” the boy said pompously. “Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.”

“Er,” Harry said, shaking the boy’s hand. “that’s Hermione, there’s-”

"Ah, Longbottom. I met him at tea once, yes. " Draco said, puffing his chest out slightly. He hadn’t heard of the Grangers, which meant that Hermione must’ve been a Muggleborn. Ah well. “Mind if I join you, Potter?”

Harry looked at Hermione and Neville for confirmation. They shrugged slightly. Draco sat by Harry.

The cabin door opened. A small boy with straw hair and a rather expensive looking over robe. flanked by two beefy looking boys with cropped hair leaned into the apartment. He brushed his robes with his fingernails and looked at them haughtily.

You’re bloody kidding me… ” Harry thought to himself.

A stony look from Draco told Harry that these three weren’t good news.

“Well, well, well. The Kneazle reveals its spots. A Malfoy with blood traitors, half bloods, and even… Mudbloods. I can’t wait to see your father’s face when I tell him that his son was sitting next to the Boy Wonder.”

“Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott,” Draco whispered to Harry. Neville shifted in his chair.

“Have something to say, Wrinklebottom?” Nott said.

“I can’t wait to hear what your father would think about your new face once I’ve rearranged it.” Neville said, getting up. Crabbe forced Neville’s shoulder down, making him sit.

“As if you could hold a wand properly,” Theodore drawled," I heard that you make rather a fool of yourself at those tea parties your old grandmother seems all too happy to throw. Can’t even get through a simple tea, how do you hope to be a wizard?”

Neville sighed and shrank into himself. Theodore laughed nastily before turning on Harry.

“As for you. Well, I have no doubt that you would find Slytherin rather difficult now that I’m here to run it. There’s no place for Wonder Boys, no matter how much Dumbledore would pamper you.”

“Leave him alone,” Hermione said, her eyes narrowing.

“Oh we won’t, but I daresay this cabin is giving me quite the headache. Crabbe, Goyle.” Theodore said. He flung his cape into Draco and Harry’s faces before leaving the cab with a slam of the door.

“What a foul person,” Hermione said. The boys nodded in agreement. Even if Harry and Draco hadn’t had the best introduction, they could at least agree on that.

“Of course it’ll be me, you know. In charge of Slytherin,” Draco said.

“I bet,” Harry said half-heartedly.. Draco seemed to brighten.

The cab went silent, and they could hear voices from the other cabin

"Oh, come off it George, that spell is rubbish," a voice said.

"Your lack of faith in us-" another, older voice said.

"-disturbs us, dear brother," another, almost exact copy of the second voice said.

Someone cleared their throat. The cabin suddenly shook and they heard a yelp from next door. They all dropped their candy and raced to the other cabin. Opening the door, Harry could see a disheveled, portly, and otherwise disgusting looking man wrestling with a first year with red hair, trying desperately to grab the boy’s wand.

"Gerroff me! Help!" the first year cried, looking sideways at Harry.The two other occupants of the cart, both with orange hair and who had to be twins, quickly took out their wands.

" Petrificus Totalus !" they yelled. The man crashed to the ground.

"Thanks," the student said, brushing himself off."I’m Ron, Ron Weasley.”

"Who the devil is that?!" Draco screeched. The alarm went off on the train. The red and black engine grinded to a halt and people poured out of their cabins to see what was the problem.

A stern and thin man wearing pinstriped overalls and a matching hat soon strode in, his mustache nearly whirled in fury."Magic in the cabi-" he began. His purple face, which Harry thought resembled Uncle Vernon's photo on the mantelpiece, turned white with fear.

"Conductor, this man was my family rat... he just... appeared... I cast a spell and then-" the student sputtered.

"Is that so?" he said. The conductor strode to the man, as if to search him. He checked the man's wrist to find a faint scar on it. On closer examination, it was a tattoo of a skull, a snake coiling out of its mouth. "I'll go find the guard," he said. He peeled out the doorway and ran towards the front of the train.

The student introduced himself as Ron Weasley. Draco sniffed disdainfully.

"And we are, Fred-" a twin said.

"-and George, Weasley," the other twin said.

The conductor soon returned with a grim looking man in all white, a black 'M' on his hat. He carried a baton and a rather spindly wand on his belt. The guard took one solid look at the man's arm and turned white with fear.

"We must load everyone off. I trust we aren't near a Muggle village?" he said, wringing his hands.

"Oh no, this route is completely hidden," the conductor said.

The guard pressed his wand against his throat and began to speak once more in a booming quality: "Attention, students and faculty. Due to a disturbance in one of the cabins, we must unload the train. Do not bring your luggages with you. Take only your animal, if you have one, and file out in order so that we may inspect your animals. Thank you for your time."

Draco, Neville, Hermione, and Harry filed out with the rest of them. All the animals were treated with the same spell that Ron had mistakenly cast at Scabbers.

" Did you live with Muggles?" Hermione suddenly said, looking at Harry.

"Yeah. They were horrible," he replied, scratching the back of his head."They're not all that bad as far as I know, just my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Well, mostly my uncle."

"I couldn't stand to live with them, Muggles," Draco said. “Or, at least as I’ve heard them described.”

"My parents are Muggles," Hermione said quietly. The four of them fell into an awkward silence.

"The Express thanks you for your cooperation," the conductor called again."However, due to timing constraints, we ask the Professors, as well as any licensed persons present to Apparate the students to Hogsmeade. Your luggage will arrive with the train. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

Several cracking noises could be heard as the older students and some other teachers Disapparated. McGonagall, Quirrell, and Charity Burbage came to the four of them. Those five Disapparated, leaving McGonagall with Harry.

"Potter," McGonagall called, offering her arm to him. Harry took it and instantly felt a tugging at all parts of his body. The black and scarlet train in the heather field disappeared in a whirl of feathery smoke.

The wind was whipping around the witch and Harry, who felt like he was stuck inside a very narrow tube. He tried to steady his already butterflied gut as a village of closely packed houses and shops appeared around him.

"Excuse me, but who was that man?"

"I don't know him," McGonagall said. "Not anymore."

Silently, Peter Pettigrew slipped out of the guard’s cuffs. A rat scurried out into the woods and by the time the guards reacted, it was gone.

Once the second through seventh year students sat down, the hat was brought in. The entire hall later clapped in respect for the Sorting Hat's delightful tune, and postured themselves for their new arrivals. Hermione and Neville were sorted into Gryffindor, as well as Harry.

Unfortunately for Ronald Weasley, the boy from the train, he was sorted into Hufflepuff rather than Gryffindor, though the rest of the hall did not know why. His ears were pink as he stonily sat next to Ernie Macmillan. After the sorting was finished, the Headmaster stood up and said a few words then promptly sat back down. Everyone clapped and cheered, and Harry joined it with vigor.

Percy the Prefect clucked his tongue and gestured at the table. Harry looked down at the table. The empty plates, goblets, and pitchers were filled with food and drinks. Harry looked around in wonder and amazement at all the food that had just… appeared! He dug into the food on the table as if he hadn’t eaten since last year (which wasn't entirely false), starting to forget about the disappointed Slytherin behind him, who had barely even touched his kidney pie.

He could see a ghost in the corner of the room, clothed in a silvery bloodstained tabard, white transparent chains wrapping around his neck, wrists, and chest.

"Why's he covered in blood?" Harry asked Percy. Percy looked as if he had asked at some point and didn't like the answer.

Fred and George, the boys from the train, usurped the seats next to Harry and put an arm around both of his shoulders.

"Don’t mind our brother, Harry-”

“He’s not that bright-”

“Or as bright as he thinks he is, Gred-”

“Taking about ourselves now, Forge?”

“Oh will you two just go away?” Percy asked exasperatedly. Gred and Forge gave themselves long-suffering looks before stage-falling off of the bench and rolling back to where they sat before.

A large man lifted himself from the staff table and walked towards Harry. A large knot formed in Harry’s stomach as he wondered what he had done. The man smiled kindly at Harry underneath his wiry black beard.

“Rubeus Hagrid, Gamekeeper,” he introduced himself, extending his hand.

“H-how do you do?” Harry said. His hand was engulfed entirely by Hagrid’s hand as he shook it rather vigorously.

“Oh, fine me. Jus’ wanted to say hello an’ all. Knew yer mum an’ dad when they came along. Say, why don’ you come round the hut fer tea one day. I’m sure Fang’d love ter met yeh. He’s my boarhound, see. Great big mess of a dog, mind ye, but mine all th’same. What’d yeh say?”

“Of course,” said Harry. Hagrid smiled and shook Harry’s hand again before lumbering back to the table.

“Don’t think too much about his looks,” said an older boy a few people down. "Hagrid’s about the friendliest person there is.” Harry shot him a look as if to say that he hadn’t even considered Hagrid’s looks.

The desserts appeared shortly after Hagrid had left. Neville and Hermione split a giant danish while Harry tasted the treacle tart, the golden goo sticking to the roof of his mouth. He decided, after scraping his mouth clean of the treacle that it had been the most delightful and intriguing experience he’d had with food ever. After the desserts were finished, Dumbledore again rose to the podium.

"Before you are off to bed, I would like make a few announcements. The Hogwarts Express would like to extend its apologies for the delay in your arrival, and the unscheduled train stops will not be regular,” Dumbledore said. He continued to talk about last-minute schedule changes and warned new students not to go into the Forbidden Forest.

They all rose after he finished his speech. Percy led them to the topmost floor, where, after shouting ‘Fortuna Major!’ at the stubborn lady in the portrait, entered into the warm Gryffindor common room.

The walls were a grey stone, tightly covered in red tapestries and portraits of past Gryffindors. Red-coloured, glass-covered oil lamps sat on tables in the large entrance room, giving the lion motifs a more lifelike appearance. The stone tiles were covered with red and gold rugs while maroon seats and oak wood furnishings filled the room. Harry followed Neville to the far wall, up the left hand stairs.

"Never go up the right-hand stairs, Harry, it's jinxed for boys," Neville warned.

“But why?” Hermione said."I mean, what if someone wasn’t particularly interested in girls? Why isn’t there one on the boy’s side?”

“I’m not sure, ask the architect,” Harry said sarcastically.

“The architect is long dead, and-”

“Merely joking,” Harry said. She seemed to lose her train of thought and walked calmly up to her dormitory.

Harry followed as Neville entered a door marked with a silver 1 over the door.The room was octagonal, seven beds and seven chests lining the walls, red drapes on the oak bed frames. Harry closed the door and nearly tripped over Neville's trunk. He steadied himself and went over to one of the beds, next to Neville. The rest of the boys were still downstairs, enjoying the squashy armchairs and games of Muggle backgammon that Dean had brought with him on the train.

"Home sweet home." Harry sighed, slumping into the bed.

“You must’ve been shocked, being forced to sit next to Draco.”

“He was alright in Malkin’s. I have no idea what got into him today.”

Neville shrugged. “Sure, he didn’t seem all to bad, but his family Harry. They were Death Eaters.”

“You told me that doesn’t mean that they’re that bad,” Harry replied.

Neville shook his head. “Well, they didn’t think too highly of me when they went for one of Gran’s teas- Well, the only time they went, really.”

"He’ll be fine, I promise. Goodnight, Neville."

"Good night, Harry," Neville said..

He was glad to have a new friend. Friends, he should say; Hermione was nice, if a bit of a know-it-all. He hoped Draco still liked him. Harry had the distinct feeling that Draco hadn’t been happy one minute on the train before he’d walked in on him.  He faded off to sleep wondering how he got so lucky to get away from the hell he’d lived, and in so little time too.

 

And the world as he knew it, so small and cramped to the dimensions of a windowless cupboard under the stairs, was forever shattered. The Boy Who Lived in three years continued to come into his own: In first year he defeated Voldemort’s spectre in the Forbidden Forest, discovered Flamel in the Room of Requirement, and was put under the protection of McGonagall. That summer, he travelled with her abroad to see the world, meeting the Delacours for the first time.

In Second Year, in addition to helping Draco overcome Riddle’s diary,  slaying Slytherin’s basilisk with the help of Neville and McGonagall, he along with the rest of the school prepared for the Merlin trials that would take place in two years time with a pen pal program that ended with Harry returning to Delacour Manor and swiftly falling in love with Fleur Delacour.

Third year began with the All-School Common Room, second floor on the righthand side behind the portrait of Amycus the Addled, being reopened as a way to encourage intra-House unity. Harry reunited with his godfather Remus Lupin and his dogfather , Sirius Black. Amelia Bones, along with the Marauder’s Map, locates and secures Peter Pettigrew who had evaded the Ministry for years, finally bringing Sirius into his rightful place as the Lord of a newly reborn House Black, sending Harry on a journey to discover his true place in the world as a future Lord Potter. Third year ended with Fudge being ousted from his office by the Wizengamot’s vote of no confidence and the subsequent election, seeing Lady Bones inducted as the Minister for Magic, campaigning on a platform of criminal justice reform and anti-corruption laws. Her narrow victory would mark a turning point in the history of the wars to come.


And they wouldn’t wait to come, either.

Chapter Text

And they were off! The Irish and Bulgarian teams circled around the massive pitch. Harry cheered and roared with the crowd, Neville twirled his noisemaker, and both Hermione and Draco were decked out in red in support for the Bulgarian team. Harry himself felt invincible, high above the world with not a care in the world.

Sirius, sitting stiffly in an uncharacteristically dour suit, smiled placidly at the action below. He envied the crowd really, able to see the good in these uncertain times. Even the Cup didn’t seem all that exciting, considering his last was in the summer after Third Year, all before…

Sirius rubbed his wrists subconsciously. He reminded himself that he was free. He was his own man now. He may not’ve James or Lily, Peter may be a dead traitor, hell, he may not even be himself as he was twelve years ago, but he still has Remus. He still has Harry. And that seemed fulfilling enough.

Near the Black Box was the Minister herself, the recently elected and incredibly popular Lady Bones who sat next to her niece, dressed in a similar green robe. Only three weeks in office and she was as cool as the cucumber silks she wore while the foreign dignitaries and politicians who surrounded her constantly whispered of espionage, trouble in Albania...

“Oh cheer up, Padfoot,” Lupin grinned, whispering in his ear. Sirius jumped.   “I doubt Amelia will sneak away and join the circus if you allow yourself to have some fun.”

“It’s as likely as me being able to do this, dear. To be here. Don’t count your Galleons before the Goblins mint them.”

Remus smiled and pecked Lord Black on the cheek. Sirius eyed him, grinned, and quickly tore off the somber suit, revealing the red and black chequered uniform that he had bought from the Bulgarian team. Harry looked startled as his dogfather, previously as still as a statue, whooped and hollered like the best of them just as Bulgaria scored a goal a few blistering seconds before the half. Everyone in the Black box sat nearly at the same time as the vendor fairies made their rounds. All eyes were on Sirius even minutes after his display.

Oh yes, Sirius knew what being invincible felt like. He had felt it at school, during the war, even moments before his life took a turn for the worse and he went after Pettigrew. But now, Sirius Orion Black could only be described as feeling godlike .

 

“I forgot to ask,” said Sirius as he walked away from the pitch with the gaggle of people who came with him to the Cup, “How’s Minnie holding up?”

“She’s fine,” Harry said, shrugging. “She’s worried about- you know.”

“What?” Sirius grinned. “McGonagall? Afraid of a sixteen year old French girl?”

“She is nice, it’s just that Minerva doesn’t want her taking her darling Harry-boy.”

“She doesn’t- and don’t call me-”

“Oh Harry boy,” Fred Weasley crooned. He had snuck around the two Marauders and was now singing Harry’s name.

“-Oh Harry boy…” supplied George. They put a hand on either of their shoulders and pushed onwards, clad in all green. The two of them continued to sing a slightly modified, yet very recognizable tune, all the way down to the large tent. Sirius and Remus smiled, continuing to walk away from the stadium as they had. Neville and Hermione had lagged behind to talk with the rest of the Weasleys, which allowed Sirius and Remus some much needed space.

“Long day?” asked Remus.

“You have no idea,” Sirius said. He drew his arms around himself: the night had gone a bit cold for just wearing a training suit. “Dumbledore thought I was good at security after Pease Pottage, yet Shack and Moody never cease to prove me wrong.”

As if to prove his point, a lamp suddenly bent to shine its ire onto the two of them. In the lantern was a very familiar electric blue eye: Moody was watching everything.

That is ridiculous,” Sirius said, gesturing to the now-normal lamppost behind them. Remus eyed Sirius’ uniform, but didn’t say another word.

“But I’m here now, with you,” he continued. “And Harry. The rest of them too. And that’s all that counts.”

“Where would we be without Harry’s darling dogfather?” Remus quipped.

“Now don’t you start on that,” Sirius grumbled. Only Harry got to call him that. Remus made a pouty face which was instantly remedied by Sirius drawing him closer. Draco caught sight of his mother and father waiting for him by a large silver and black tent on a hill above the mismatched, noticeably smaller tents.  He slipped away to join them.

 

The tent was a similar size to Sirius’, though it seemed to be more like a house with a cover over it rather than a real tent. Draco noticed long black couches, wooden doors, and a large stone fireplace. He wondered why the hell his parents had suspended an exact, full sized copy of the crystal chandelier from the Malfoy dining room of all things. They even bothered to bring family portraits- was this a tent or a second manor?

“Sit,” Lucius said, gesturing to a couch. Draco sat down stiffly.

“Your father and I don’t like your choice of companions.,” Narcissa said as an opening line. She sat down next to her husband on a couch. “You know that.”

Yeah, Draco thought. What else was new? “I am sorry to have disappointed you, Mother.”

“That is not all,” Lucius said. He shifted his grip on the chair.  “Given… recent events, it’s clear to me that you are endangered by accompanying Potter’s group. If you had stayed within your own house as planned, learned to gravitate those around-”

“I couldn’t.” Draco said. His hands began to tremble in anger though his face was still passive. His nails dug into the couch.

“Could not,” Narcissa said slowly, “or would not?”

Draco felt his face begin to tighten. He felt his disbelief that his parents were so oblivious to what his reality was. His mask was slipping, he could feel it sliding off of him like a viscous fluid. Damn those Gryffindors for making him rusty at this old game, his favorite game even. “Neither.”

Lucius stared at Draco. “Narcissa, leave us.” She gave him a look that said quite clearly ‘I am not moving until I am moved, and good luck with that’.

“Please,” Draco said, looking at his mother. His face was neutral once more. She left the room, seemingly satisfied that she broke him.

“Draco,” Lucius said. He closed his eyes and calmed himself. Lucius held out a hand, which was soon filled with a glass of firewhiskey from an itinerant house elf. Identical eyes met each other. “You know we want what’s best for you.”

“Do you?” Draco scoffed. “I don’t think we have the same idea of what’s best for me, Father. I am perfectly happy, more than happy even- to have the friends I have who accept me, who love me-”

‘Your mother and I want you safe.”

“And you think becoming a Death Eater will be safe for me?”

“The Dark Lord is powerful-”

“Was,” Draco corrected. “Harry killed him.”

“Mm,” Lucius said. “There is power in legacy, Draco. How do you think Lady Bones would manage to sway over half the Wizengamot to her camp if not for Pettigrew being found mere days before the election?”

“Pettigrew was a traitor to his friends,” Draco said. “The Dark Lord should not have kept him alive.”

“Yes,” Lucius said. He swirled the firewhiskey around in his glass. “As a reward, surely, for bringing the Potters to him was Pettigrew allowed to live. Magical merit or personal charisma were not what decided his fate. But it doesn’t matter now.

“What does is that I keep you safe. Unlike Granger or the Longbottoms, you are more than a pawn of Dumbledore’s. You are my son, my heir, my legacy.”

“Which is more important to you? I fuck some pureblood cow-”

“Language!” Lucius said.

Draco closed his eyes, compartmentalising his rage using his innate skills of Occlumency. He reached in his mind for a large tome, a manifestation of a trove of memories and drew out one of a picnic in the Wiltshire countryside with his parents when he was younger. He projected that memory onto his face, and was calmed. For a moment. His father’s barely hidden look of disappointment made that calmness implode on itself.

“I have chosen my path,” Draco said.

“So be it,” Lucius murmured. Draco left abruptly, the tent flap snapping shut behind him.

Lucius’ spirit shattered. His own son, his own darling Draco, chose the Gryffindors over his family. Surely he could see he wasn’t safe? But were any of them safe, really? Lucius didn’t have to think hard to remember a flash of insanity in his old master. Whatever ritual they might’ve planned to bring the Dark Lord to flesh again would surely exacerbate the issue if Lucius’ research in soul magic was anything to go on.  A soul cannot return from the dead without… side effects: mood swings, tiredness, all were recorded by Herpo the Foul in his chronicles. No one was safe.

Lucius’ Dark Mark itched. He knew what must be done, but it was too risky. There must be a small attack on the campsite to stir fear, but with increased security measures as a result of Pettigrew’s resurfacing, well... it would outweigh the shock value of a return of the Mark to have Death Eaters be captured by the Aurors.  Lucius called off the attack when he was updated on the security measures as a courtesy: he’d been sacked from his advisorial position by the new administration not but a day later.

It had been left up to Macnair, summoned by the psychic connection the Dark Lord seemed to have over his Marked allies, amplified through an animal Macnair was about to murder, to find him. Macnair had returned to Britain, the Dark Lord in a rudimentary body of his own design. Lucius of course hadn’t come in contact with his master since the 1980’s, however Macnair was most descriptive, as he usually was, in his account of the Dark Lord’s slitted eyes and slimy white body.

Lucius rubbed his hands, he was truly at a loss. It was his own actions that led to his son being possessed by an old diary and the subsequent destruction of an item that his lord held dearly. He had allowed, foolishly, for Nott to allow his son to walk all over his own, trouncing both the Malfoy ideal of supremacy over all, even purebloods, but also the tenuous alliances Draco would’ve enjoyed had he remained in Slytherin House. Lucius wasn’t a fool: Draco had chosen his path, but how would Lucius play his hand? He could never bring himself- no. Never. He could never be ordered to murder his child.

Lucius covered his eyes with his hands and scowled. This was not a situation where Lucius held all the cards. Everything would change, everything had changed, all because Pettigrew had been caught. Years of planning and waiting, plans within plans, all had been changed.

And no one was safe. Not even Draco.

 

Draco came back to the Black tent later in the evening, looking shaky and out of his mind. “I apologize for-”

“Where were you?” Hermione said shrilly, “Harry was worried sick.”

“I wasn’t, Hermione. Draco can take care of himself.”

“Apparently not,” Ernie Macmillan snickered. He clapped Ron on the back and took him into another room. Harry and Neville glared at them both.

“My parents wanted to talk,” Draco said shortly. He plopped down next to Harry, who handed him a glass of butterbeer.

“And?” Hermione egged on.

“No,” Draco said. He gulped down about half of it at once.

Silence.

Neville broke it. “How about that Wronski Feint by Krum in the final minutes?”

“Oh, Neville- But Draco… are you alright?”

“Fine. Yes, I am fine.” Draco said. Hermione remained unconvinced, but didn’t press on. “And you all?”

“Ecstatic,” Neville said. It was true, he could hardly sit down. In fact, he looked like a humanoid version of Pigwidgeon, Ginny’s little owl. It may have been the gigglewater Sirius had put in the punch not so surreptitiously, or perhaps that Neville had won a large bet against Ludo Bagman although he had yet to be paid.

“What about Fleur?” Draco asked.

“She’s fine- oh damn I forgot to owl her…” Harry said. He rose. Hermione grabbed his wrist.

“It’s nearly midnight, Hedwig’s tired and there’s no way she’s up now.”

“You’re right,” Harry said. He slumped. “I’ll floo her when we get back to Auntie’s.”

 

Since first year, Harry had been staying with McGonagall at her cottage in Hogsmeade, as she was his guardian until he turned seventeen. The arrangement had worked out splendidly for everyone: Harry got to live with someone who knew his parents and was willing to tell him all she knew about them, though she left out some of the more graphic stories until Harry was old enough and McGonagall was delighted at Harry’s innate curiosity for learning, even if it wasn’t for her own subject of Transfiguration per se, as well as the fact that he was all around a golden-hearted, well-mannered, and charming young man after her own heart, though she was hard pressed to admit it to anyone but herself. But she had allowed herself to be called Auntie, at least when she wasn’t teaching him.

 

The four of them, Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Draco talked into the early morning hours. It was only when a tired Arthur stumbled through the tent to tell them to go to bed that they finally did, though Neville by then had already fallen asleep in Hermione’s lap. Her cheeks turned a light pink as she woke him up.

 

In the morning, Sirius and Remus packed up the tent fairly quickly before once again Apparating to the Burrow to drop off the Weasleys. Arthur, the twins and Ginny waved goodbye, but Ronald and Ernie were already in the house by the time Harry’s portkey to Hogsmeade had activated.

“Are you sure you won’t stay, Sirius dear?” Molly asked as Sirius strode to the apparition point.

“I’m afraid the cub and I have a date with the Goblins. Perhaps when we get settled in- come next Saturday, perhaps?”

“Of course,” Molly said. “I suppose Ginny-”

Sirius turned to Molly with a look of concern. “Stop. Harry’s been with Fleur for a year now. Give it a rest.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “I was only joking dear. Anyhow, she’s seeing that Thomas boy. So Saturday?”

“Yes, that’d be best.”

“Good,” Molly said. She hugged Sirius. “Take care of yourself, dear. We’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Goodbye Molly,” Sirius said.

He turned on the spot and Apparated on the top step of Grimmauld Place. His heart was filled with immediate fear at seeing the serpentine knocker, the door in black paint. He saw flashes of a younger self sneaking out in the middle of the night with only silk pajamas and a rucksack to his name… Sirius gripped his chest and held the door frame, his eyes face to face with the door knocker. Sirius gulped for air. His feelings of dread melted away, and he could no longer hear his pulse. He was safe. He was the lord of the house now. It was just a house. His house. His and Remus’ house. Their home.

Sirius pushed open the door, feeling the locks and bolts sliding away. The door opened into the same long hallway, though the molded carpet and peeling wallpaper had been exchanged for polished hardwood and a cheery cherry red paint. The new light sconces were lit, casting a pleasant glow down the hall. Sirius let out a sigh of relief.

“Moony, can we get rid of that damned door already?” Sirius called into the kitchen.

“Of course dear,” Remus said. “It’s your house after all.” Sirius heard Remus sniff and turn the page in his book.

Sirius closed the door, the charms on it preventing it from slamming. The portraits of his uncle Alphard, grandfather Arcturus, and parents Fleamont and Euphemia, greeted him as he made his way to the sitting room. Remus put down his book and joined Sirius, taking their cat off of the seat next to him.

“A house,” Remus continued in a whisper, “whose every room we cleaned, refurbished… and christened.”

“Naughty,” Sirius said, slapping him playfully on the shoulder.

Remus’ grin widened. “Maybe we have time to-”

Sirius chuckled. “We’ve got a party to go to. Harry’s birthday.”

Remus bit back the instinct, and instead cuddled with Sirius.

“There we are…” Sirius purred.

“You’re impossible, you know that?” Remus said. Sirius barked with laughter, sending pleasant vibrations through Remus’ body. They both smiled at eachother.

“You know who I saw today?”

“Hmm?”

“McGonagall.”
“Which one?”

The McGonagall. Malcolm McGonagall. The one on my ‘trial’.”

“And how did you dig him up?”

Sirius breathed through his nose. “He stopped me on my way to the Chamber. Congratulated me on my freedom and all.”

“Well… I suppose… that’s good?”

“No,” Sirius said. He shook his head. “Looked like the man was under a trance during my trial, like he wanted me to suffer simply because I could be a Death Eater and not to hear me out. I heard after the session how he was sometimes worse than Crouch in imprisoning people like me. You know that Rosier kid?”

“Evan Rosier?”

“No, no, the other one. What was his name… Harold? No, Hector. Hector . Anyway, Hector-used to go to school with us, a Ravenclaw- was brought in for questioning because of his cousin Evan. Eventually it came out that he the last time Hector talked to his dear cousin, Evan was already a Marked Death Eater. So they imprisoned Hector on conspiracy charges. Turns out that they were just talking about what to do with Evan’s child if and when he was killed. Rosier wanted Hector to take care of his baby girl when he died, and Hector got imprisoned for it.”

“That’s horrible, even if it was Evan Rosier. What happened to Hector, and the girl?”

“Hector died in Azkaban. I remember the guards talking about it the day I escaped. The girl- well, I don’t know. I suppose she went to live with Old Lady Rosier.”

“Poor girl,” Remus said, shaking his head.

“McGonagall is responsible for Hector, for that little girl, and for my fate. Possibly countless others. Why he’s walking free-”

Remus put a finger on Sirius’ lips and scooted closer to him. “We’ll never really understand what happened, dear. One day soon, once you really get your sea legs, we can fix all of this. Now, I think what the important thing is is looking towards Harry and our futures.”

“He knows what he’ll become.”

“But we need to be there to help him, Sirius. You can’t make enemies you can’t fend off.”

Sirius smiled at him. “Are you sure you were put into the right house?”

Remus smiled indulgently, but didn’t say anything more.

 

Remus and Sirius Apparated into Minerva’s small front yard, the newly-painted white gate opening to a charming cottage overlooking Hogsmeade Village. The front was decorated in fairy-lights and the rose bushes were trimmed into perfect pillars flanking the red door. Sirius knocked, and was greeted with the sight of Minerva McGonagall in a simple green sundress.

“Do come in.”

Remus entered first, noting how organized the cottage was. It seems there were all hands on deck in the kitchen, with Molly looming large over a small fleet of magicked pots and knives.

“Hello dears,” Molly said. “Good to see you. I’m afraid Arthur and I were late to arriving, so I didn’t get the start I’m used to.”

“Fine, fine. I’m sure it’ll be well worth the wait,” Remus said. Sirius smiled.

Minerva guided them into the living room, where the four friends were all playing some form of Exploding Snap. Fred and George were in a corner plotting, Arthur was looking at the Muggle knick-knacks on the mantelpiece with an equally curious Luna, and Ginny was listening to music on some Muggle contraption that looked similar to Lily’s walkman with her boyfriend Dean.

“Harry, your godfathers have arrived,” Minerva said. Harry looked up and positively beamed. He hugged Remus and Sirius both.

“Ah! Release me, o’ young one!” Sirius writhed, as if trying to escape. “How your grasp withers my old bones so!” Harry rolled his eyes but released his dog-fathers after a moment longer.

Minerva went back to talking with Arthur. The party settled into a gentle rhythm. In a few hours, the party had moved to Minerva’s living room with everyone sitting around, except for Molly (she didn’t approve), Ginny, Luna and Dean,  exchanging stories.

“...Draco found this room, right? The Room of Hidden Things?”

Draco nodded. “First year, Christmas break. We found information on Flamel after break.”

That explains everything , Minerva thought.  

“What about Nott’s father?”

“Well as Remus put it...” Sirius leaned in. “Old Tarquinius held some Muggles captive for the length of the war for Voldemort’s potion masters to experiment on.”

“How many did he have? Captives, that is.”

Sirius and Arthur exchanged looks. Arthur paled and licked his lips. “Ten at a time, refreshed them.”

“How do you know all this?” Hermione asked. “And why hadn’t Nott been convicted?”

“James and I went on a raid of Nott Manor with the Prewett Twins and old Diggle, that’s how. As for his freedom, it was the same reason Luc- I mean, same way that many got away,” Remus said. “Nott said he was under the Imperius, flashed some gold, and got away scot-free.”

Minerva snorted in disgust.

“What about you, Minnie? Any stories to share?”

She gave Remus a heavy look at the mention of her ill-advised nickname the Marauders used. She adjusted her glasses before speaking.

“I doubt it would be a surprise that in addition to being a member of the Order that I would have a yet more pressing problem present itself to me… presently.

She looked at the two Marauders.

“However, beyond school, I rarely went on missions-’

“And when you did you were fucking-”

“Language, Harry!” Both Hermione and Minerva said loudly.

-bloody amazing.”

“Who told you that?” Minerva said, turning to Harry.

“Well, they weren’t lying,” Remus said, nudging Sirius. Lord Black winked surreptitiously at Minerva.

Minerva sniffed. “Besides-”

“-delighting in the company of-” Minerva’s eye widened in warning. Hermione stifled a giggle.

“Besides… tolerating your dear godfather and your father’s antics, I participated in a few more secretive missions with Alastor.”

“What she means,” Arthur said, “Is that she snuck up on Death Eaters as a cat, with Moody, and Stunned them before they could pull out their wands. One time they ambushed Rosier, Gibbon, and some others as they were going to a bar. That’s when Moody killed Rosier, one of their few deaths.”

“You’re kidding!” Neville said in awe. Minerva smiled wryly and sipped her water. She rubbed her fingers over a small medallion she always wore around her neck of St. Andrew’s Cross surrounded by laurel leaves. She told Harry once that it was a gift from her mother before the War, and had never mentioned it again.

“Would I make up such a thrilling tale?” she asked.

Harry grinned.

 

At around midnight, the three Weasleys, very tired and full of cake, left with Luna and Dean to the portkey waiting for them at the edge of the lawn. Hermione had already gone to bed, Neville and Draco were playing with Harry’s new Wizard’s Chess set from a man named Horace Slughorn, and Minerva was reading next to Harry.

After their third round, Draco slunk off to the guest bedroom, utterly exhausted from the day. Neville talked with Harry and McGonagall for a little while longer before excusing himself. A few minutes after Neville left, a curious clock on the middle shelf rang out softly.

“Happy birthday, Harry,” Minerva said. She smiled and hugged his shoulder. “Tea?”

Minerva knew Harry wouldn’t get any sleep tonight as his girlfriend was coming over from France early to see him and she would be getting here early. At Harry’s nod, she rose, stretched, and left for the kitchen.

Harry of course was overcome with excitement. He had had an excellent birthday party thanks to Minerva and Mrs. Weasley, and was delighted to see his friends again, even if he did get to see them often: it was still thrilling to him that he had real friends. Harry counted each day with Minerva and the gang as a blessing, and Fleur- Harry blushed just thinking about her. Harry had met her through a penpal program Dumbledore had introduced in second year.  Harry had no idea why he’d been paired with someone three years his senior, but soon found that he and Fleur were alike in more ways than Harry thought possible: both were constantly thrown into the center of attention, isolated from their peers simply because of what their births gave them, and inevitably distrusted their friends because so many others wanted their friendships for all the wrong reasons. But their differences, age being least of all, is what made their relationship truly special. Fleur was calm where Harry was rash, Harry was humble where Fleur was proud. Each and every opposite and similarity they had fit together like a glove, making them all but one being when they were together. Not to mention the Delacours were incredibly sweet and hospitable people. He wished tomorrow was now just for the chance to see them all again.

Harry heard the porcelain teapot shatter. He got up and whipped out his wand, walking towards the kitchen. Inside, Minerva was frozen in shock at something she saw outside.

“Minerva, what is it?” Harry said.

She stepped aside silently, allowing Harry to see a man in a dark suit on the edge of the property. Harry could see his narrow face, as well as his short silver hair and deep-set grimace. He seemed to have seen Harry, and unlatched the door. Harry gripped his wand and backed the shell-shocked Minerva away from the window. The man walked forward, but was stopped by a barrier that flashed scarlet when he bounced into it.

“Friend or foe?” the wards of Minerva’s cottage rang out in what Minerva had said was the voice of her husband Elphinstone.

“Inevitably both.” the man yelled back “I mean them no harm.”

The wards, sensing the truth, yielded. Harry opened the door and pointed his wand at the man.

“Mr Potter,” the man said. “A very happy birthday to you.”

“It was yesterday, thanks. Wand, please.”

“As I have said,” the man said. “ I mean you no harm.” He did not hand over his wand.

“And how do I know that?”

“Has Minerva ever told you about her family, or indeed about her younger brother? Step aside, Mr Potter. I do not mean anyone harm.”

Harry lowered his wand and squinted. The man now seemed rather familiar. Had he seen him before?

“Who are you?”

“I will repeat myself-”

“Who. are. you?” Harry repeated.

The man raised his hands from out of his pockets, dangling a small medallion from a silver chain. It was identical to the one around Minerva’s neck.

“I am Malcolm McGonagall. I wish to speak to you and to my sister.”