In the early morning light, smoke was rising from the hill above the village. For several years, the villagers had wondered about the new goings-on in the neighboring mansion. Several times a flustered Ministry wizard had shown up to check on the purchasing agreement, trying much too hard to be incognito. Still, it wasn't as if much ever happened. At least, not until the mansion was gone.

It wasn't even really the most noteworthy thing about the day. There was, as characterized many of the days of the Wizarding War, a string of tragedies—accidents, murders, probably at least one mob killing of a suspected Death-Eater. Or the other way around, as the days lengthened, the war got worse, and it seemed as any day might be the final triumph of the Dark Lord. But that day, the mansion on the top of the hill burned down.

It must have been attacked in the night, silently and without much fuss, perhaps with protective spells up to keep anyone from noticing. By the time any of the villagers realized what had happened, it was morning, and nothing remained but a pile of smoking rubble. Most people were inclined to sigh and shrug it off, but a young woman whom the villagers much later discovered had been Hermione Granger, stopping by the little village to purchase supplies, pointed out that it would only make things more difficult for investigators later on, so at some time after nine in the morning, a little procession from the village wound its way up the hill. There wasn't much left, just a collapsed muddle of smoking timbers and charred foundation stones, but the villagers began to sort through it anyway

It was Hermione who found the boy.

She had been following a faint, wispy thread of enchantment that didn't seem to have wholly dissipated, when she came around the corner of one of the larger pieces of wall that had survived, and saw him. He was very small, perhaps four or five years old, hunched over in the lee of the stone with his chin tucked on top of his knees. Who was he, she wondered—there had been no suggestion of a family living here as far as she knew.

Before she could speculate any further, the child spoke. "I don't know," he said, his voice ragged and close to tears.

"What?" Hermione asked, moving slowly closer to him, her hand held out as if he was a dog she was trying not to scare.

"I don't know who I am," the little boy said, which confused her, because she hadn't asked—"Yes, you did," he protested. "You just did." Then he pressed his hands over his ears, tears welling up in his eyes. "Why is it so loud?" he sobbed.