Disclaimer: I swear, I think all of you have read enough of these to know that I do not own Harry Potter or any of his little friends, no matter how much I wish I did. Good enough for you?

I had to start writing this simply because I need a small break from my other story "Family Issues". Just a little something to write to work through writer's block, so don't expect it to be updated often.

Oh, there will be a few spoilers from the fifth book, but this will be AU considering I won't be taking anything other than a few creatures, structures, and other such bits.

Thoughts for now shal be like this: \this is a thought/.

Chapter 1: The Beginning

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Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, was currently walking around the grounds of his beloved school. With the outbreak of the war almost seven years ago and its continued ferocity, he almost never found time to do things like this anymore. No, he was usually piled under Order reports and sightings, news of attacks from across the country from his undercover agents, and everyday brought its fair share of deaths and bodies to be sorted out, from both the Dark and Light sides.

He frowned slightly, turning off the normal path by the lake and followed along the gates that surrounded the school for the most part, taking his leisurely time before having to go back up to the castle. He could almost hear the wards snapping with energy as he passed so closely by. If anyone who shouldn't be getting in should try to, the consequences would be severe. The thought of those Muggle bug zappers came to mind, though even the thought of that wonderful excursion with some of his muggle-born friends couldn't break his current mood as he watched large rainclouds rolling in which would definitely be hitting the school that night.

No, something very large was bothering him. Two weeks ago, he had sent his best agent out into the field for a routine mission to stop a widespread Dementor strike that would be occurring in a little town just north of Hogwarts. Harry Potter never came back.

He remembered telling Sirius and Remus the news just this afternoon. After Remus restrained Sirius from throttling the headmaster, both had rounded on him for not telling them sooner that Harry was missing. But Dumbledore wasn't completely in the wrong. After all, Harry was supposed to be gone for about a week with strict orders to not attempt communication back as it would be too risky; no one became suspicious until after that time period had passed. By the time a team of trained Order members got out there, it was clear Mister Potter had gone missing in action, and from some signs around the outlying areas, one could clearly see an ambush had been planned and, unfortunately, executed.

He shook his head sadly. The looks on Sirius' and Remus' faces seemed to say that their world had just been snatched away from them once the anger receded and their grief sank in. As far as Albus knew, both were still in his office even though it had been quite a few hours. He couldn't bear the thought of forcing them out of there, so he decided to leave them for a while.

"Harry, what happened? Where are you?" he sighed, coming to a stop and looking up at the clouds again. Lost in his thoughts, they had come in quite fast and the thunder overhead and the rain that was starting seemed to tell anyone with sense to get inside. But remembering he didn't have much sense and not wanting to go back yet, he paused yet again in light of all his overwhelming thoughts, letting the rain start to fall down upon him unheeded.

He hadn't yet contacted Hermione and Ron about the missing state of their dear friend.. He knew they were busy at the moment, with Ron in the Order and rushing about, and poor Hermione left with just little Stella to look after. That four year old could be a match for one of the Weasley twins when she grew up, with her flaming red hair back in two braids and little brown eyes glinting mischieviously. Professor Hermione Weasley had already had to apologize to Severus for pranks played on him by the child, though it was common knowledge among the members of the Order of the Phoenix that Uncles Sirius and Remus helped her out. The thought of their Potions professor brought him out of his thoughts of the family. Snape was currently layed up in the Hospital Wing from a previous attack's injuries, or else he would have already known what had happened.

It worried him that Harry had gotten taken by ambush. That shouldn't have been an issue now. Yes, when he was just out of seventh year without so much as a clue as to how to go about things, Harry had often gone with a team in their fights. Now, however, 23 year- old Harry could have dealt with any number of Deatheaters and made it out of it fine. He had finally hit his magical maturity, and the boy was a force to be reckoned with when push came to shove.

Albus, and anyone close to the boy really, had noticed that the battles had not agreed with him in the long run, though. The boy was more drawn in, less likely to have conversations and more likely to draw into the shadows and subconsciously try to hide himself in lieu of his training. He was leaner, more pressing, and once Albus had heard an Order member say, "Wow, Potter has grown so cold to the way he used to be at school! It's like he's a whole new person, and if I had the choice, I'd take the old Harry back."

He wished Mr Potter had not needed to get involved in this war. He wished any number of people did not have to. So many students who would have been of great use had turned to the Dark side. Draco Malfoy appeared in his mind instantly, and he shook his head sadly. That poor boy. The headmaster remembered that fifth year, the year after the Dark Lord rose again, the boy had become quite quiet and had even stopped bothering Harry in their usual rivalry. Reports were that he ran away from the platform at the beginning of the summer holidays, and if his contacts that summer were any clue, Draco Malfoy seemed to have hidden himself in muggle London for the entire summer. He was discovered sometime before sixth year started, however, and no one heard from him again till two years ago, when he showed up at a Deatheater meeting with his father. According to Severus, the boy seemed not even a shadow of who he used to be. Incredibly more pale, wraithlike in appearance, and when he spoke, it was very softly and with no hint of his old confidence. The boy's spirit appeared to have finally been broken by his father. His father who, after having a few drinks after one of the Deatheater rallies, admitted to Severus that he had kept young Malfoy a prisoner in his own home and had apparently beat the spirit out of him. The boy was broken, and he did as he was told. Always.

So many had been lost from both sides. Almost all of Gryffindor house had been wiped out in one of the earlier sweeps of the war with Lord Voldemort. Everyone in Harry's year in particular except for Ron an Harry himself died their seventh year in an attack at Hogsmeade. Ravenclaw numbers were beginning to dwindle amongst their ranks as these brave scholars were picked off to decrease intelligence reports on their side. Hufflepuffs, loyal to their families first, had mostly fled the country, heading for neutral countries.

A surprising number of Slytherins had stayed loyal to the Light side, however, mostly the ones who came to school under Mr Potter and Mr Malfoy. He had once passed by the young Malfoy when he was telling the young ones not to go to Lord Voldemort when the time came, that they should be their own masters and bow to no one. It was one of the last times he saw that Malfoy smirk and attitude. Now the boy was... well, the boy could have been such a good addition to their side, which was now starting to waver in light of Voldemort's endless supporters.

Crack! That thunder clap had been particularly close, noted Albus, now looking down at himself. He was thoroughly drenched from walking in the rain that was coming down with much force now, and the wind that was picking up made him pull his drenched robes around him ever more tightly. It was just then as he was starting to turn back towards the castle that he noticed a figure outside the entry gate. Looking more closely, the person seemed to be staggering and barely able to move under their own steam. Lighting his wand and preparing for battle, he decided to intercept the person before they made the grievious error of trying to get through the wards.

"Who are you and what are you in need of?" he called loudly, trying to raise his voice over the rain and wind. The thunder and lightning overhead performed a dangerous dance across the heavens.

The figure continued to work its way forward, as though not hearing Albus, and finally seemed to stumble and fall head first into the mud. Dumbledore noted with odd curiousity the way they twisted their body mid-fall to land with a loud squelch in the mud on their back, as though afraid of falling on their front. They were not having much luck trying to get up.

At this point, Albus sighed and opened the gates, intending to go over and help the poor thing up if they'd let him. Both of them were going to be lucky if they just got bad colds from walking around in this weather. How Poppy would scold him...

He held his wand out in front of him so as to shine the light with greater intensity of the figure's face. And he nearly dropped his wand as he instantly (and rather painfully) dropped to his knees to relieve the young man of his burden.

It was young Malfoy, and looking at the mud dried onto his robes and hair, he guessed this was not the first time he had fallen. His robes were barely more than tatters and clung to his wraith frame, showing it in its full atrocity. No wonder the boy was having trouble walking. In his condition, it was a miracle he had been able to at all, and with the burden of carrying something, no less!

Albus reached down to relieve the young man of this heavy thing. However, his hand was stalled almost instinctively as the boy drew his wand out and pointed it right between the man's eyes, obviously not recognizing the headmaster and clinging a protective arm ever more tightly around his bundle that he held to his chest. His grey eyes were wild and searching and yet not seeing. He seemed to be murmuring something, and Albus leaned his ear in so as to hear.

"Must reach... Dumbledore... important.... news... must... ..."

And then the boy, energy finally spent, fainted, head falling back into the mud outside the gates again. Albus, deciding not to upset the boy's condition any further, left the bundle with him, summoned a stretcher and, hovering the boy and bundle onto it, marched it back to Hogwarts. Passing through the corridors, he was suddenly grateful that it was summer and that only a few permanent teachers and faculty were here. His current state and the boy on the stretcher certainly would have caused a commotion, not that he wasn't about to in the Hospital Wing.

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"Madam, I do NOT need your help!"

"Show a bit more gratitude, Severus Snape, or I'll see to it that the headmaster makes you stay longer!" Poppy screeched, and bustled off to her office.

Snape growled as he gathered his things together from the bedside table and placed them in a box he had conjured. He had been stuck in the Hospital Wing for much longer than had been needed, and he wanted out damnit! He didn't care if his muscles were still sore and his left arm was still heavily bandaged as he lifted the heavy box of books he had used to pass the time; he wanted to get out while he still could, and heaven save the nurse if she tried to stop him.

With this last thought and a little nod to his head as though to empower it, he made his way down the long corridor towards the entrance and exit, mind solely on getting back to his Potions lab. Getting knocked over just as he reached the door was not what he had been expecting in the least, and he overbalanced, toppling to the floor. Rubbing the back of his head gingerly after recovering, he watched as a stretcher and the headmaster rushed passed him and towards the nearest bed.

\Now who could that be?/ thought Snape, and picking himself up off the stone floor, box forgotten, he made his way over to the victim as Dumbledore ran off for Poppy. What he saw shocked him.

\Malfoy?! What is he doing here? hhmmm... Better yet, what happened while I was out?/

He scowled as he tried to remember what had occurred, barely registering the nurse checking the boy for injury. For what he had been told, he had been in a state of unconsciousness for the past three or so weeks until he had awoken quite suddenly and violently almost three days ago. All he could recall was a large amount of pain in his head and left arm, but Poppy couldn't locate the source of the problem. She waved them off as part of the concussion he had suffered along with the numerous severe burns that covered the arm that had come into contact with the enchanted fire.

His attention was called back to reality when the headmaster had gently moved him off to the side so he and Poppy could have better access to Mister Malfoy. Now that he looked closely, both Albus and Draco were completely soaked and covered with some degree of mud. Had he found Malfoy outside, and if so, why did he bring the boy inside, knowing this boy was Voldemort's main attack force?

\Probably has to do with Albus' Gryffindor tendencies/, Severus scoffed.

"Severus, would you be so kind?" asked Albus, holding up a large bundle of some sort. Snap glared but took the thing from the old man anyway, laying it down on the bed nearest by. He swore he felt moving from inside it. \Odd/, he thought, one eyebrow arched. Looking behind him to see that the nurse and headmaster were busy with the boy, he began to unfold what Draco had been carrying. The object inside seemed to shift more as he got closer to the centre. What he reached made both his eyebrows almost touch his hairline.

A young boy, probably no older than six, was uncurling from where he had obviously been sleeping. There was something the professor knew he should recognize about this child, but he couldn't place it... not until the child opened his eyes, revealing a startled emerald gaze as he looked around him, and then at the potion's master himself.

"Whe- where am I? First Aunt 'Tunia's yelling, then a blonde mister is there, a-and I fell asleep..." The obviously confused child looked on the verge of tears if those glistening emerald eyes were any indicator.

"Dumbledore, you might want to look at this..." Snape said. When the headmaster didn't respond, Snape, not daring to take his eyes off of the child, reached behind him and pulled on the older man's robe sleeve.

"Severus, I'm afraid I'm busy," he started, turning around, "I do not... what on earth?"

This had attracted Poppy's attention and looking up from her patient and pausing in cleaning the mud from the blonde hair, she gave a startled cry at the sight of the boy and rushed over to the other side.

"...Harry?" said Dumbledore, and was shocked when the little boy, who'd had his head hung, slightly sniffling, looked up at his query.

"H-huh?" and then the child's eyes seemed to try and focus. "My glasses- I left t-them... oh, Aunt 'Tunia's going to be so mad..." the young Harry Potter said, looking around in the large bundle of robes in which he'd been sitting, trying to find them.

Maybe it went unnoticed by the other two, so obviously enthralled in the boy's condition, but Severus quickly spotted it.

"Potter, what's that on your cheek?" The two others now noticed it and wondered appallingly how they hadn't before. A large bruise in the shape of a handprint was placed firmly across the small child's cheekbone. The boy quickly looked around, green eyes darting from one to the other before he quietly said, "It's my fault... shoulda not done the M word... I didn't mean to..."

"The M word?" Severus mouthed, but Poppy, clearly noticing the child's stress, just said, "There now, dear. We're not mad. It will be all sorted out. Just lay down and get some sleep okay? There you are." The boy, who seemed to only be wearing a generic shirt and pants easily gave in and crawled under the covers while the nurse took away the robes left behind. Albus noticed the shocked and now happy look on young Harry's face as he snuggled deeper into the warm sheets to escape the cool air inside the Hospital Wing, quickly dozing off.

"Well, Albus," started the matron, clearly switching back to her usual briskness, "Young Malfoy here will recover. He seems to have suffered from several deep cuts and from severe starvation, but besides the obvious needs of good food and plenty of rest, he will recover physically. As for Mr Potter, well, perhaps we should wait for both of them to wake up before pressing onward."

Albus nodded, and both watched the nurse head back to her office to most likely pull up her new patients' files.

Looking back now, Severus noticed that Draco was now in hospital pajamas and sleeping as well. Evidently Poppy had done much while he had been investigating Malfoy's bundle. If anything, he had more questions after finding young Potter. Potter and Malfoy had been the main forces fighting against eachother for the past few years, ever since Draco had resurfaced as a mindless puppet. What was going on?

Dumbledore, suing that maddening ability of his, stated, "I suppose we'll have to wait for Mister Malfoy to wake up before we can answer that. I have to go tell two distraught Marauders that Harry has quite unexpectedly turned up."

Snape quickly left the Hospital Wing after locating his box. Goodness knows he wasn't willing to deal with THOSE two right now while giving a small grimace. He was glad of his decision when he heard a loud yell of glee in the direction of the headmaster's office and hurried footsteps reverberating off the stone walls. He quickly set off for his dungeons.

(April 7-8, 2004)