Chapter Seven

"What. Were. You. Thinking." Every person in the room flinched away from the steel in Amelia Bones's voice - all except for Albus Dumbledore, anyway, though even he seemed to deflate ever so slightly.

"My dear, I'm sure you of all people won't disparage the tradition of next of kin taking in young orphans-"

"I won't disparage it in general, Albus, but I damn well can disagree with it when the next of kin in question are muggles who continuously and unashamedly insulted my Aurors over their magic when they investigated the home." Amelia stepped further into the meeting room, closing in on Dumbledore and lowering her voice to a growl at the same time. "Did you actually place any monitoring wards on that house when you apparently dumped Harry Potter on the doorstep eight years ago? Anything at all in the way of keeping an eye on his well-being? Or just something to let you know when he left the area for more than a week's time?"

The old wizard deflated a bit more.

"There'll be time enough to lay blame in its due corners later, Director," Professor McGonagall said quietly, taking a few steps forward to stand beside the pair. "What matters at the moment is locating Harry before any irreversible harm befalls him."

Dumbledore started to open his mouth, ostensibly to offer a suggestion, but he hastily reversed course at the dire glare his deputy shot him.

"Now that, Minerva, I won't argue with. Scrimegour, Shacklebolt! I want both of you to call in teams to start searching the area around Surrey - I don't care where you get them from, even if the force looking for Black gets depleted. There's a pensieve in Briefing Room Three with memories from Potter's relatives about him, make sure everyone sent out looking goes there first. I also want an expert from Magical Beast Control here as soon as possible, in case that dog is more than it appears."

"Dog?"

Amelia sighed irritably at the inevitable question. "Just, go review the memories. I don't think I could adequately explain it."

That order worked for her subordinates and the volunteer searchers, but there was one person she did have to explain it to - a rather distressed man with a lime green bowler hat, to whom Amelia had to report to less than an hour later in his office.

"What do you mean, Harry Potter ran away from his relatives over the life of a dog?" Cornelius Fudge demanded. "And who in Merlin's name approved his being placed with muggles in the first place?!"

"It's a long story, Minister," Amelia sighed. "To be brief, Albus Dumbledore took the infant Mister Potter straight to his aunt's home in Surrey after You-Know-Who's defeat. From our initial investigations, it has become abundantly clear that he did not properly inspect her family beforehand, or maintain a proper watch afterward, and the lack of accountability meant that they, well... For all intents and purposes, Potter has been their house elf for the last several years."

Fudge paled.

"As far as we can tell, this stray dog was the first creature to befriend Potter, and when it snuck into the Dursley home nine nights ago, causing the muggles to panic, the pair ran off together. Since then, neither one has been seen in the neighborhood - we can only assume they've gone somewhere together where they can hide amongst a homeless muggle population."

"But, but surely if he were that willing to leave his home, Potter would come to the wizarding world-!"

"That's a problem in its own right, Minister. The Dursleys never told him anything about it; Harry Potter has no idea he's a wizard, that magic is real, or that there are any number of people from our world who would jump at the chance to either help or kill him."

-HP-

"So, what's the difference if you stir it the wrong way?"

"It's all in the magical energy you're imparting into the potion - if you stir one way or the other, it affects whether your magic bonds positively or negatively with the power already inherent in the ingredients. So if you do the opposite of what the recipe calls for..."

"Then, the ingredients react the opposite of what you want them to do?"

"Or something to that effect - at any rate, the potion certainly does not do what you intended."

Nodding, Harry resumed concentrating on chopping up the ingredients Regulus needed. The man himself was carefully monitoring the green-colored liquid in his cauldron, calling periodically for one thing or another. From time to time, Sirius would poke his nose into the room, sigh disparagingly, and disappear again. Kreacher, too, would check on them, though he did it under the pretense of trundling into the laboratory to clean something or another.

All in all, it was a very peaceful way to spend the day - more so than when Sirius dragged him into a 'pranking lesson,' at least...

"Have you put any more though into how you want to decorate your bedroom?" Regulus asked at one point. Harry bit his lip.

"Well... I don't mind leaving the walls brown, but painting them something brighter would be nice too."

Regulus gave him a flat look, prompting the boy to take a deep breath.

"Uncle Reg, would it be alright if we changed the walls of my room to a brighter color?"

"Of course it's alright, Harry. I'll bring in some paint cards for you to take a look at this afternoon - it'll be good practice of the Color Changing Charm until you find something you like, and then we'll make it permanent. How does that sound?"

"Brilliant!"

He ended up picking a cheery blue just a shade or two darker than the noonday sky, and also swapped out the cream colored curtains for a grassy green. When Sirius saw the changes, he laughed, congratulating Harry on finally asserting himself a bit and offering to put up some Quidditch-style decorations.

"Maybe," the boy said quietly. "I mean, you've explained it, and it sounds great, but I don't really think we ought to waste money on that sort of thing until after I know whether I'm a fan, yeah?"

"It wouldn't be a waste of money, kiddo, but I see your point. It's perfectly alright to want to wait - I do have another idea you might like, though..."

That night, when Harry laid down to go to bed, he smiled up at his ceiling, where the blue paint had been darkened and decorated with thousands of pinprick lights, softly glowing in all different colors.