After much deliberating, I've decided to continue with this original version of my HP story 'The Burdens Of Childhood' then go back and complete the Buffy version I wrote. I'm sorry it took me so long to update, I've been messing about with some of my 'JAG' and 'The West Wing' stories I'm writing but I've gotten back to Harry Potter (or rather, our Sev!), especially since the new book is coming up. Anyway, I hope you haven't forgotten about this story and I've added two new chapters, which I hope you enjoy. Hopefully by the next chapter, they'll be back Hogwarts where wee Sev will wreak havoc!


Title:
The Burdens Of Childhood
Author: Melissa Jooty (e-mail me at cosmic_quest@yahoo.com)
Disclaimer: The characters of 'Harry Potter' are the property of JK Rowling and no profit has been made by my utilizing them in my story. All other characters are my creation and therefore belong to me.
Rating: PG-13
Summery: What connection is there between a missing Potions Master and a prodigious child found wandering the Mojave Desert? The answer will lead Dumbledore and his staff on a quest to protect Voldemort's chosen heir from falling into the hands of darkness...
Archiving: As long as you ask first, it should be okay.


PROLOGUE- Little Boy Lost


It was past midnight and Jordan Cordell was preparing to close his late-night store and gas station before turning in for the night. It had been a quiet evening, expected for a place situated on an isolated desert road, yet it kept the ageing man busy enough now that he approached his twilight years. He was not as young as he used to be and hardly up to managing a bustling business in the city where crime was rife and the threat of armed robbery a daily worry.

No, this suited Cordell fine. Far enough into the Mojave Desert where all he had to concern himself over was a few tourists and the occasional red-necks but reasonably close enough to his home town of Ridgecrest. His little store was secluded and he could count on the quiet life. Nothing happened out here and that was the way he liked it.

After securing the store, the old man made his way outside into the warm night and towards his truck. Cordell was unlocking the vehicle door, intent on returning home to his inviting bed, when he found himself frozen, riveted to the spot. He wasn't alone...something was watching him.

The humming of the nearby generator and the chirping of the night insects muted into the background and every thud of his heart resonated hard in his ears. The old man swallowed his gasp when he heard soft rustling behind the rocks and forced forth his courage, fuelled by his protectiveness towards his property, as he moved slowly to the formation.

Hefting the baseball bat up that was lying on the front seat of his truck, he cleared his throat. "Come on out if you know what's good for you..." Oddly, Cordell couldn't help but be grateful he didn't sound like some squeaky pre-pubescent boy.

For a moment, there was silence. Then shadow stepped out from behind the rocks, as it hesitantly stepped closer Cordell inhaled in surprised at its features became distinguished in the light. It was child, a little boy whose skin was bleached white and his raven hair limply falling over his eyes.

"What the hell...?" the stunned man murmured, glancing around.

Surely this child could not be alone; he couldn't be much older than four or five years old. Cordell couldn't understand where the kid came from; there weren't any houses or other service stations nearby so he couldn't see how a small boy would manage to find himself in the middle of the desert. And what the hell was the kid wearing? He was dressed in a huge black robe, which trailed the ground as he staggered forward, and the sleeves of his jacket were far too long with his arms swamped by the black material and his trousers had been rolled up to accommodate his small legs. He looked like he was playing dress-up in an over-sized Dracula costume.

The boy halted a few feet from Cordell, watching him through glazed dark eyes that the old man found he couldn't tear away from. He had never seen such a captivating, intense stare on such a young face, it was as if those opal orbs had seen a great many terrifying and terrific events in a lifetime that, in reality, could be no more than a handful of years.

A soft, plaintive whimper jolted Cordell's attention back to the youngster's sickly condition and the way he wavered before him, his skinny little legs having difficulty supporting him.

"It's okay, boy, I'm not going to hurt you," Cordell reassured as he carefully drew closer to the terrified boy. "We're gonna get you some help and get you back to your folks."

Suddenly the child's waning strength gave way and Cordell had just enough time to dive for him before he crumpled into the shopkeeper's waiting arms. Readjusting his precious load onto his lap, cradling his dark head in the crock of his arm, the greying man couldn't help but be astonish by the sheer lightweight that the boy was. As a father himself, admittedly it had been some years since his pair were children, he remembered his sons were no-where near so fragile at this age. Mild-mannered though he was, Cordell was grateful whoever had abused the poor child in this way was not around lest they feel the full-force anger of the former Vietnam vet.

"What's your name, son?" he asked, injecting as much kindness into his tone as he could. He carefully brushed back the boy's soft hair. "Where's your Mom and Dad?"

The child managed to murmur something that could vaguely sounded like 'sever' or 'seven' before his dark eyes fluttered shut and his tiny frame went limp against the old man's chest.

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"He is just a boy! An INFANT! And you couldn't even be trusted to restrain him."

Lucius Malfoy just winced as he gazed down at the floor, the draft of the broken window shattered by the force of the Dark Lord's rage chilling the room. Moaning nearby lay the incompetent fool who had allowed the child to wandlessly stupefy him before Apparating away. Malfoy couldn't help but reflect the low-class wizard was no doubt now sorry he hadn't joined in the boy's escape, or he probably would have been thinking that had his mind not been ravaged by the Cruciatus Curse.

For his part, Malfoy had never seen his master as enraged as he was now and he damned himself for underestimating the stupidity of leaving a minion servant to retrieve the boy and, more so, for not truly considering the child's magical dexterity despite the handicap of his young age. Obviously, his former friend had been concealing the extent of his abilities; there was but a few who could perform wandless magic, particularly amongst those undisciplined in magic.

"I'm starting to wonder if I can trust you with anything," Voldemort sighed, his voice reproaching as if he was talking to a rebellious child rather than a wizard from one of the most regarded families within the Wizarding World. "Perhaps, you are becoming sympathetic to Dumbledore's side; maybe you need a little punishment like I did to our dear Severus."

"No, please, Master, I will do better," Malfoy pleaded, meekly.

There were many times it disgusted him to hear himself sound so pathetic when there was so many who yielded to him, when his only son worshipped him. But he knew better than to be anything but submissive in the Dark Lord's presence. He only had to think of Severus Snape to learn that lesson well and quench whatever rebellion he still carried. Besides, his obedience would pay when the Dark Lord rose to power and all those who followed him reigned over both the Magic and Muggle realms.

Voldemort sneered at him. "Yes, yes, you will..."

There was silence for a moment before Malfoy found the courage to speak up again. "What are we going to do now? Shall I start attempting to trace the child?"

"Yes..." The Dark Lord paused in thought before he continued with an amused craftiness that was enough to set even Malfoy's teeth on edge. "But do not retrieve him straightaway."

"Master?"

"We made a mistake last time, we forced our issues too soon and we lost him. This time..." he smirked, "this time, we will reel him in carefully until he sees everything from our perspective. When you find him, I want you to befriend him, make yourself appealing to him. It shall be easy enough now he is alone with the Muggles and his now latent powers and knowledge will be itching for a mentor."

"What of Dumbledore?" asked Malfoy, not foolish enough to entirely discount the elderly wizard's power.

"The boy is far enough away for Dumbledore not to make the connection yet nor will he be thinking of looking for the child. No, we should have some leeway for now." He scowled darkly. "But I *will* not rest until that boy is standing willingly by my side, he will be mine and you had better see to it he comes to acknowledge me as his Master...and as his father."

End of PROLOGUE- Little Boy Lost

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