Year One: Return to Youth

By: WretchedMongrel

Disclaimer: I don't own anything that J.K. Rowling does. No profits or other benefits will be accepted for this work.

Summary: GoF AU. The summer after Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry finds Harry back once again at number four Privet Drive. A more calculating Albus Dumbledore realizes that in light of the events of his previous four years, a new plan is needed. Harry isn't ready to face Voldemort, and through a devious plan he is hidden abroad to continue his training for the eventual confrontation. Return to Youth is the beginning. Where the end is remains to be seen.

Spoilers: PS/SS, CS, PA, GoF

Prologue

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The great stone cauldron immediately took my attention. The clear liquid lapped too solidly inside the cauldron to be water. There is Peter heating it now. Hmm, yes… the bubbles' purple sheen… it is heating so very quickly… what is that moving within those waters? Ah Tom, how desperate must you be to resort to this? Mercury and Unicorn blood; I wonder what else you've found to put in there.

I've always known Tom to have a nearly indomitable strength of will, but managing to survive as he has chills me. How will young Harry defeat something so powerfully stubborn?

"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!" As expected, the Grondablin Ritual of Reanimation. "Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master." I sigh as I hear the screams. It is such a pity that Peter's Gryffindor courage should manifest in such a dreadful manner. What will he not do to please his master? Hearing Harry's cries chills my blood. Dear child, at least Peter didn't kill you there and then.

The bubbles and steam are rising from the brew, it won't be long now. There, something is moving, it is him. Tall and rail-thin… here he comes now. Some of Nagini's venom must have found its way into the potion. Tom's face is greatly changed from what it was before his first defeat. With his serpentine facial features, emaciated form, and those spider-like hands, he will never be the charmer that he used to be. Hmm, the hand appears to be vaguely arachnid… Did he add acromantula blood in an attempt to increase his longevity?

Voldemort (I can hardly call this construct 'Tom' any longer) is as cruel as ever. His regaling of his unfortunate youth reminds me once more of Harry's suffering. I wonder… does Voldemort appreciate the similarities between Harry's upbringing and his own? Is he even aware of them? Here come the Death Eaters now. Just as Harry said, Lucius Malfoy is there. So too are misters Crabbe, Goyle, Avery, Nott, and Macnair. It is good to know that all that Voldemort expected have been accounted for. Voldemort's flair for the dramatic remains unchanged. He is ever the glory seeker that Severus misguidedly sees in young Harry.

I recognize the triumph Voldemort's eyes and am unsurprised when he begins to gloat. "You know my goal - to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked ... for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it." Ah, so he does not know. We are fortunate that Voldemort does not seek to understand the nature of magic at its most fundamental, but rather seeks to understand how it can be used to further his own power. Indeed, Voldemort indubitably knew each and every affect, be it positive or adverse, in each of his procedures, as well as possibly a few of the combined effects of one with someone who had undergone one of his other transformations. Every reminder of my own blindness in regards to Quirinius is disheartening. If I cannot sense Voldemort when he is a pace away from me, what else have I missed?

Voldemort is handing back Harry's wand now, a mistake I dearly hope will be his undoing. I wince each time one of the Unforgivable curses hits Harry. My heart clenches painfully as his screams ring in my ears. Dear, young Harry, you never cease to amaze me. I could never doubt your house assignment. You would undoubtedly have been one of Godric's favorites. The way Harry stood up to Voldemort and the wonder that was the Priori Incantatem helps assuage my fears somewhat. As I observe the specters of Voldemort's victims moving about the golden cage, I can't help but wonder whether they share a connection with their respective spirits.

Little more can be gleaned from viewing the memories and I promptly lift my head out of the pensive. I drum my fingers atop the aged cover of Forbidden Dark Rituals: How to, When to, and Why Not to. If only there had been more time. Harry is obviously not ready. The poor wreck of a boy who will be leaving upon the Hogwarts Express within the hour was lucky enough to get away in the first place. Something needs to change. Three of these past four years Voldemort has managed to get to Harry in one form or another. If things stay as they are, I have little doubt that young Harry will be dead long before he sits his N.E.W.T.s. Somehow he needs to disappear…

A sharp knock on my door stirs me from my dark ponderings. It opens at my call. "Please come in, Professor McGonagall." My transfiguration teacher spares no moment as she briskly crosses my office and sits in the armchair before my desk. I proffer my usual favor: "Lemon drop?" I take one myself and sink back into my chair as the calming draught infusion sets to work.

She immediately waves off my offer. "Severus has returned, Albus," she reports. She continues in a more concerned vein, almost babbling, "I am very worried that You-Know-Who will kill him sooner rather than later. This is so very much to ask of him. I hope you have a plan to keep him as well as possible?"

At her words, concern wells in my chest. "He is with Poppy, no doubt?" I ask with raised eyebrows and white-knuckled hands. I take a deep breath before continuing, "Unfortunately, very few will escape what is coming unscathed Professor."

I can see tears well in her eyes. She blinks rapidly for a moment and none fall. With a strong nod she changes the topic. "The children are away in the carriages and we are ready to begin preparations for the summer." She turns to face my Hogsmeade window. "I assume we will be reverting to the old summer plan we followed during You-Know-Who's last uprising?"

I steeple my hands over my desk and look back at her, pausing momentarily before I continue. "That and more. I daresay we will not be alone in our toil this summer. Young Harry will find that he need see to a great deal of work himself." Ending that carefully crafted statement, I stare into Minerva's eyes and lightly look upon her thoughts. Her concern and affection for Harry will serve well; I expected no less.

Her eyes narrow. She couldn't have felt that… "What do you have planned for him, Albus?"

"Only what he needs to do. Would you mind spending a few days with Harry, Minerva? I fear any other company he is like to find will be unsympathetic, perhaps even hostile. Experiencing what he did and then being thrown to the dogs is pouring fat on fire, and we both want young Harry to remain as undamaged as possible."

She bites her bottom lip for a moment before replying, "'Only what he needs to do,' indeed! I have always been concerned about those-those Muggles you've left him with. I will pack after the afternoon staff meeting and leave after dinner."

I stand up with a glance at the whirling ward monitor on number four before looking up and smiling at her. "Excellent. I will be along in a few days, three at most. If things are too terrible for him, perhaps you could entertain him with an Animagus detection spell?"

She rises as well. "Oh, you and your twinkling eyes! Well, I'll be off, then. I will see you at the staff meeting, Albus." Twinkling indeed, but I can see I am not the only one who is most curious about Harry's form.

As she leaves I make my way to Fawkes' perch and absently feed him a handful of his favorite hazelnuts as I examine the whirling ward monitors one at a time before lightly petting Fawkes atop the head and walking to the Hogsmeade window.

Before my eyes is a vast panorama of the surrounding country, with Hogsmeade station directly in the foreground. I pick up my looking glass and look down upon the students. Harry must already be on the train. I rest my elbows on the window sill and watch until the train disappears in the distance. There is so much to be done. Harry must be made safe. Fudge must not be allowed to wreck us. There is so much to do and so little time. With a sigh I turn to my desk and get down to work.

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AN: Quirinius refers to Quirinius Quirrel – the first year Defense Professor.

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This chapter was beta'd by Lisa and Fuzzbutt. Please make sure to thank them in your reviews, for without their efforts my work wouldn't be as great as it is.