Vernon and Petunia Durslely were sound asleep in their beds. They were currently dreaming; seeing only nice, normal, peaceful things. They were completely unaware of the fact that, at that very moment, three wizards were standing outside of number Four, waiting to deliver their orphaned nephew to their care. Vernon's snores reverberated throughout the entire house, even as he dreamt entirely ordinary dreams regarding drills and contracts and business meetings. In point of fact, the only extraordinary thing to ever enter his dreams regarded money; and the only extraordinary thing about the money was the amount he sought to obtain. Petunia wasn't quite so boring – or, from her perspective, "lucky". Every now and again her dreams were interrupted by startling bits of fantasy. Bits that often involved the magic of darkness, and she loathed them with all her might.
But it wasn't the dark curses, remembrances of the night her parents died, that bothered her the most. The most troubling dreams were the ones where she saw the unicorns again, just as she had seen them at Hogwarts, the day after her parents' death. The day she was brought to the school to retrieve her sister for the funeral. When she got, for just one day, a taste of the beautiful world her sister got to be a part of, and realized why even the risk of her and her families' lives was worth it. And yet, that same world had denied Petunia entrance; she hadn't even been allowed to stay the night with her sister. Shunted off to unwilling relatives, she'd been left with next to nothing. And, over the years, she'd let it make her bitter.
So a young Harry Potter, deposited on the doorstep of number Four Privet Drive, would be a disaster waiting to happen. His Aunt could only ever hate him, hate the magical world he was a part of, and despise him for being thrust upon her. She would have taken revenge on her sister and her sisters' world by treating the boy exactly as Petunia herself had been treated by her unwilling guardians. Considering she had been fifteen at the time, the same punishments, doled out to a much younger and thus needier child, would have had a thousand times the affect.
I say would have, of course, because it didn't happen that way. Oh, it almost did, for sure, but the three wizards who dropped the boy off, despite their good intentions, had been called to a last minute legal proceeding, and hadn't checked their information quite thoroughly enough. The cause of the entire misunderstanding was a single, well-timed stunner, which might otherwise have been a second too late to catch the elusive Lucius Malfoy. In the excitement that followed, as well as the endless bits of legality that were to come, Harry James Potter had been deposited upon the doorstep of one Kate Wentworth, resident of number Four Private Drive – a full fifty miles from the nearest city, and a very long way from Harry's intended location.
The old house that stood on Private drive was almost as odd as the one on Privet drive was ordinary. It was comfortably nestled in the woods, shielded from the road by a thick line of trees, shrubs, and un-tamed brush. It was rather worn, though well looked-after; painted a gentle enough sort of brown that one might miss it if they didn't know it was there. To the wizards, of course, it looked perfectly ordinary – it was, of course, a great deal more ordinary than any of their homes. And so, they didn't think a thing of it, beyond their duty to their leader, and to the boy that was now nestled in a basket, upon the doorstep.
Had they had a clue about such things, they would have realized that muggles couldn't create pockets of wilderness in the middle of London at their choosing. Had a one of them been born to a muggle family, or even taken Muggle studies in school, they might have known from the start that their present location wasn't in a London suburb. Truly, if they'd even been the persons intended to drop the poor boy off, they would have stood a decent chance of recognizing any of this. But Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore were entirely too important to the current proceedings to be dashing about the country; even for such an errand as this.
Instead, Frank Longbottom, and Gideon and Fabian Prewett, stood a dozen paces from the door step where the boy lay, erecting wards of their own, to protect him until the blood-ward Dumbledore had told them about was activated. This wasn't all they did, however; the three had been good friends of the Potters', considering them family, and, with the sort of care they would give any member of their family, had determined some precautions of their own. In the only act of planned, calculated defiance against Dumbledore's orders ever committed by the three, they performed the Fidelus Subtratus charm, preventing any magical means from finding the boy, while not changing the perceptions of any Muggles in the least. There was, of course, no danger in this; with Voldemort gone, if anyone ever needed to reach the boy, the secret-keeper could simply reveal him. As he began the final line of the incantation, the Prewetts nodded to him and apparated away; Frank Longbottom was to be the secret keeper.
Satisfied at the blue glow that appeared after he finished the last line, he crossed the grass once more to kneel beside the small boy. A small, sad smile graced his face, and he couldn't help but fuss a moment with the blanket, tucking letter more carefully away from the child's grasp. He couldn't help but stare at his friend's son, the pain of loss battling the comfort of knowing he'd never have to leave his own small boy in such a way. Gently, he kissed two fingers, and pressed them to the young savior's forehead, before slowly rising. With one last look, he apparated away.
The pop of apparation unsettled young Harry Potter, and he cried out; his cries became louder as he realized that it was dark, it was quite cold, he was alone, and he didn't recognize where he was.
Kate Wentworth's first thought, upon awakening, was that she'd gone mad. Completely, totally, and utterly 'round the twist. Too many late nights on the computer, coupled with too many early mornings in her garden, alongside too many failed attempts at home remedies. Perhaps too many years living alone, as well. After all, that certainly couldn't be a baby she heard crying.
Her second thought was that, if she was going crazy, she was doing it whole-heartedly, because that sound was awfully realistic. Grumbling, and figuring it was probably some injured baby animal, she slipped from the bed, found her night-slippers, and pulled her flannel robe onto her shoulders.
Not bothering with switching on a light, it didn't take long to cross to the door, even at night. Her living room made up the majority of the house, and the tiny hallway off to the right was only large enough for four doors; on the right, the doors to both bedrooms, on the left, the door to the linen closet, and in the middle, to door to the bathroom. The only thing between her bedroom door and the front of the house was the couch, and she hadn't moved that in all the years she'd lived there; nearly twenty of them, now, since she'd come here at fourteen to help care for her aging grandmother.
She was, however, batted in the face by one of the many bundles of herbs hanging from her ceiling. But in Kate's life this was such an ordinary occurrence that she hardly bothered to notice. Peering cautiously past the velvety, heavy, deep blue curtain, out the rather large front window, she was almost shocked to discover, upon her doorstep, something that looked very much like it actually was a crying baby.
Overcoming her surprise, she hurried for the door, flinging it open to pick up the child, pulling it to her. She couldn't believe that anyone would leave their infant upon someone else's doorstep, and especially not in the middle of the woods, in the dead of night, in the freezing cold. It was the end of October, for pity's sake. November, really, but the exact month had no bearing on the fact that it was too cold to be out without a coat, let alone to leave a tiny child with a lightweight blanket out in.
Nudging the basket inside the house with her foot, she cuddled the child to her, using her hip to shut the door behind her. Oddly, the infant didn't seem very cold, and he'd already stopped crying. He was staring at her curiously, as though evaluating, and she couldn't help but evaluate him in return – for it was most likely a boy, if the blue blankets were any suggestion.
He surprised her, then, for he simply leaned toward her once more, resting against her shoulder.
Kate wasn't exactly an expert on babies, and hadn't been around one almost at all in the last several years – not since she'd arrived here, really. But, as a young girl, she'd been around enough of them in the form of her younger brothers and sisters, to have something of an idea of normal baby behavior. She'd been the oldest, and the only child of her mother's first marriage. Her next youngest sibling was six years younger, and there had been four more after him. She'd been more than glad at the offer to live with her gran at fourteen – helping one old woman around the house, after all, had to be a great deal better than playing nanny to four much younger siblings – especially as her mother paid little attention to her, other than to make sure that her younger children were looked after.
It had brought about a rather determined sort of independence in Kate, as well as a dislike of crowds and a mistrust of people. Her mother, after all, presented the very picture of the loving, caring, sweet home-maker, and her step-father was the perfect parental compliment. To outsiders – but never to her. It gave her, from a young age, a very keen ability to see through the illusions people tried to pass off as themselves.
Her upbringing, however, had also given her somewhat of an understanding of children. And this child was acting very little like he should. He should be crying, if not from the cold, than from the simple fact of being held by an utter stranger. From the absence of his mother. From… hunger, or discomfort, or… something. Anything. One does not simply pick up a baby from one's doorstep, and have it immediately find itself comfortable.
However, Kate was willing to give the child the benefit of the doubt, and consider that all the screaming she remembered of her siblings might have to do with disposition, or, perhaps, the way they'd been spoiled.
If this child was content to be quiet, all the better for her sanity. At least while she sorted this out, of course – she had no intent whatsoever of keeping him. Which is why she eagerly snatched up the letter from the basket, and settled herself at the scrubbed kitchen table to sort the whole thing out. With a little luck, she could find a relative of the boy to leave him with by morning. She loathed the idea of leaving him with the authorities, but, if she must, she must.
The letter, despite being in a rather ordinary envelope, was rather oddly sealed. She couldn't remember seeing a wax seal on more than a dozen letters in her whole life, and most of those had been wedding invitations. The seal was rather intricate, even, and she couldn't help but wonder who would go fuss with the seal on a letter when they were intending to give up their child.
Impatient, and tired of having more questions than answers, she cracked the seal and began to read, ignoring the heading and the crest atop the page.
The child before you is Harry James Potter – your nephew (though I realize you may not know of him). His mother has died, to the great sorrow of many, by circumstances that have also been a great gift to our entire world. I speak, of course, of the Wizarding world, which you no doubt know as little of as was possible. I realize that this comes as a surprise to you, and that you haven't been in contact with Lilly, but circumstances require that her son be placed with you.
And if that wasn't the oddest paragraph Kate had read in her entire life, she didn't know what was. It began simply enough, of course; one of her many siblings or step-siblings had a child, had died, and had left him to her (she was obviously right, the child was male). It wasn't really odd that she didn't know he existed before now, she wouldn't have known of any of it; her family hadn't so much as sent her a post-card since she'd left to live with Gran. It was truly odd, though, that one of them would leave their child to her.
Odder still was the rest of the paragraph – great sorrows and gifts she'd leave for sorting out later, but Wizarding of all things? And yet, this fellow seemed to know that she'd never heard of such a thing, not outside of a novel, at least. He seemed to expect her to be surprised. And the bit about Lilly… stranger still. Had one of her real father's children been a "Lilly"? Kate couldn't remember, and her mind refused to function properly, in the middle of the night like it was. Shaking her head to try and clear away some of the fuzz and cobwebs, she returned to her perusal of the letter.
Mrs. Potter died defending her son from an individual going by the name Voldemort, that sought to rule the world using whatever means were within his power. It is her death, however, and her love for her son, that brought about the end of Voldemort's reign of terror. Because she died in such a way, Mrs. Potter's sacrifice provides a certain protection for her son, in that he cannot be harmed while he is with one of her blood relatives. You are the only remaining such relative, to our knowledge. It is necessary that the boy be brought up under your care for this reason; while Voldemort himself is dead, there is no guarantee that we have eliminated all of his followers, and young Harry must be protected until such time as he can defend himself.
Well, she certainly wouldn't surrender the boy to that. If he really needed this protection, and she was the only one that could give it, there were no two ways about it.
Wards have also been erected around your home, to otherwise ensure your safety. No-one will be able to trespass upon your property, nor be able to enter your home with intent to harm.
Interesting and beneficial as such was, Kate was inclined to dismiss it as only minorly important compared to the rest of the letter. No doubt, it would be far more fascinating tomorrow, when she could consider all the rest of the implications of this. At least she wouldn't have to worry that the madman would come after them in their sleep.
There is very little else I can tell you, except that, upon your acceptance of his guardianship, all the necessary papers, as well as whatever else Lilly intended, will be delivered to you. I feel reasonably certain that Lilly will have left adequate information regarding our world, however, should you ever need to contact me, I can receive mail addressed by your normal post to Hogwarts School, with the location as listed above; it will find its way to me.
To be absolutely certain that all is in effect, and to complete the wards, I will, unfortunately, need a drop of your blood. Simply prick a finger, and press that finger onto the grayish colored seal at the bottom. Once the magic verifies your relation to Harry, the seal will turn silver. A few moments later the seal should turn gold, signifying both your acceptance of Harry and the magical contract's acceptance of you as his guardian. Very shortly thereafter, the documents Lilly left to you will appear in place of this letter, and the wards will go up.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Perhaps, if it hadn't been three in the morning, Kate might have stared at the document, dismissed the entire thing, and proceeded to attempt to find the boy some… more appropriate… guardians. Perhaps, had it all not happened so quickly, and so oddly, she might have taken the time to consider the thing in full, and realize the true absurdity of a man claiming to be a wizard. Unfortunately, or, perhaps, fortunately, her sleep-clouded mind was inclined to believe every word she read, and to accept the boy as her own at once, before whomever-it-was came to get him (and her as well). The only suggestion her brain offered that something was amiss was the tiniest niggling of doubt, and a somewhat larger feeling of curiosity. These, of course, were rather overshadowed by fear for herself and her young charge.
And so, not entirely certain if it was the right thing, but willing to try and see what would happen, Kate found a needle, pricked her thumb, and pressed it into the space at the bottom of the letter.
The seal turned silver. Not just the color silver, but it rose up out of the paper, as though someone were pouring a silver into an invisible seal-shaped mold before her. A long, odd moment later, the silver seal became gold.
A thousand miles away, Albus Dumbledore received confirmation that the blood protection ward was completed. Smiling, he tucked the gold-sealed letter back into his pocket, and returned his attention to the room full of witches and wizards celebrating the demise of the Dark Lord, and discussing the upcoming trial of Lucius Malfoy. He wouldn't think on it again for six full years.
By which, of course, Headmaster Dumbledore meant Petunia Dursley. Unfortunately, the Headmaster was in the habit, due to the war, of never writing the name of the addressee atop a letter, for fear it would fall into the wrong hands. Thus, letters to females began "My dear" and letters to males "My dear boy", and Kate Wentworth had no real chance at realizing the letter was intended for Petunia Dursley, and never meant to come into her hands.
A/N: I need a beta.