Disclaimer – JKR owns the world and all the characters from the books. I'm just building a few castles in her sandbox.
The old man frowned as he walked down the sterile corridor. He was thinking of another time, decades ago, and the similarities were disturbing. The Manchester Child Protective Services placement center had a fancier name, but it was a home for orphans and displaced children nonetheless.
It disturbed him to see how Muggles sometimes treated their children, and he knew of at least one occasion where that neglect had enormous consequences. He shook his head and he reached for the doorknob of room fifteen. It does not do to dwell overlong upon the past, his brother had told him more than once.
The door opened into a small room with two metal-framed beds and a cracked tile floor. A pair of large cabinets rounded out the furnishings. The walls were painted in what might have once been off-white. Now, they were faded into grey dinginess. One of the beds was occupied, and a pair of dark eyes locked onto his.
The eyes belonged to a smallish boy wearing grey sweatpants and a faded Manchester United tee-shirt. A pair of battered fatigue boots leaned against the foot of the bed.
The boy frowned in puzzlement and the old man was struck by just how young he looked. With his wiry build he could pass for eleven, rather than fourteen. That was at least one thing working in their favor.
"Good afternoon, Malcolm."
The boy nodded warily, eyes alight with curiosity. "Good afternoon. Are you one of the social workers?" he asked curiously, eying the old man's polyester leisure suit.
"No Malcolm, I am not. I understand that they are still attempting to locate your relatives."
The boy shrugged. "Da never mentioned any brothers and sisters. I never really heard much from my mum's side of the family."
"I see." The boy's voice wasn't cold, but he didn't seem that broken up either. Is he that self-sufficient, or does he simply not care? The old man wondered, again feeling distinctly uneasy. "Do you have any immediate plans for your future?"
The boy shrugged again. "I still have a few years before I can enlist. Other than that, not really." His voice was flat and the old man felt a twinge of pity. It is one thing to be careful, and it is another to make a worse mistake out of caution.
"Malcolm, I believe I can offer you an alternative for your education," Dumbledore said, with a twinkle returning to his bright blue eyes.
At first, Malcolm thought his visitor was an escapee from a lunatic asylum.
When the old man started nattering on about wizard and witches, he thought maybe this was some sort of elaborate prank. He didn't think he was too well liked by the other wards of the state, but he couldn't imagine any of them going to the trouble of hiring a professional actor to make a fool out of him.
When the old man in his ridiculous clothes started in about him being a wizard, he refused to give the prankster any satisfaction, and merely raised one eyebrow. Nigel had always told him "Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut." Thinking about Nigel started a dull ache in the pit of his stomach, and Malcom found it easier to keep a stony countenance.
When the old man frowned and closed the door behind himself, Malcolm wondered if his visitor was some kind of sick git. He tensed up and was wishing he'd left his boots on when the old codger pulled a long wooden stick out of his jacket. A stream of butterflies flew out of the end of the wand, and Malcolm felt his jaw drop. They swirled around the room and he could feel their wings brushing his face and his hair.
The old man smiled and he noticed how oddly the eyes twinkled behind the half-moon reading glasses. "Yes, Malcolm, it's all real. Magic is all around us. My name is Albus Dumbledore, and I'm the headmaster at Hogwarts, a school where we teach young wizards and witches."
The boy's eyes were darting nervously, following the rainbow of wings, until he dismissed them with a twitch of his wand. He blinked and focused on his visitor again. "Uh, what does that have to do with me?"
The old man grinned, and beard or not, he seemed to have lost two or three decades as his eyes twinkled mischievously. "Well, I've come to offer you a position in the fall term."
Malcolm's mouth twisted sourly. "Right, I'm about as magical as a fried egg sandwich."
Dumbledore smiled faintly. "I daresay there is a good bit of magic in a well made sandwich, but I digress. Have you ever noticed anything… unusual… happen around yourself? Especially when you were upset or angry?"
Malcolm thought back to his days at the embassy. He started to shake his head, but a thought occurred to him. "There have been a couple of times people when looking for me, but had trouble finding me…" he shook his head. "Maybe."
Dumbledore nodded. "It's not unusual for an untrained wizard to engage in bouts of 'Accidental Magic', when their talents respond to need and emotion, rather than under conscious control. When you have begun your education, that energy will be channeled in a more controlled fashion."
The boy frowned again and sighed. "How much does this school cost? After plane fare back to England I don't have a lot-"
The old man waved his hand. "Your tuition is covered," he said. He produced a leather bag from inside his jacket. "We have a fund to purchase robes and school supplies for those who require assistance." He handed the bag to Malcolm.
"Thanks," he said as the sense of unreality crept over him again. Maybe I'm going to wake up and find out I've been sick with a fever…
The old man smiled. "You can purchase what you need at Diagon Alley. I am prepared to take you there this afternoon, but there are a few things we must discuss first."
Malcolm frowned again. I knew there had to be a catch.
The old man adjusted his glasses for a moment before speaking again. "Normally in Britain, a potential student receives a letter from Hogwarts just prior to their eleventh birthday, when it becomes clear that they have the potential to become a witch or wizard. As I understand, your name appeared in the Ministry of Magic's census, and you were sent a letter. However, at the time you were in, I believe it was…"
"Yes, that's right. While you were technically still a British muggle citizen, when the owl did not return it was thought that you had opted to attend one of the local wizarding schools. A query was sent to the Pollaburk Institute, but they were somewhat slow in responding. The message that you were not on their rolls was misdirected within the ministry, and by the time it was all sorted out, we find you here."
"Three years?" Malcolm's eyes widened. "Bugger me," he muttered under his breath.
"Yes," Dumbledore smiled faintly, "the workings of our government are often as obscure as the ones you are familiar with."
Malcolm's eyes narrowed. "You know what my father did for a living." It was not a question.
"Yes, Mr. Smith. Our queries sparked some interest within the muggle Foreign Ministry. The… security… surrounding you and your father was also a factor in the delay. On the other hand, you have also demonstrated a degree of discretion that may serve you well."
Malcolm didn't say a word.
The old man smiled a little more openly. "it took some doing to correlate between the Ministry and the muggle records to search for your relatives. It seems that your father changed his name at a young age. However, once I read the documents I understood his reticence. You see, even as muggle parents may have a magical child, even in the oldest wizarding families, there will occasionally be born children with little or no magic. The common term for these is a 'squib'. Depending on the family, I'm afraid they may not be looked upon with a kindly eye… and this particular family would, I am afraid, be worse than many."
The boy struggled not to let his face show any change. In some way this explained some of his father's behavior… but he would think about this later. "Which family are we talking about? What name?"
The old man sighed. "LeStrange."
Okay, taking a stab with a new story, taking place during Harry's 3rd year. Going to try and do this with mostly O/C and secondary characters (a pack of Slytherin's anyone?), some peripheral involvement of the mains. (If you've read the Star Trek novels Dreadnought and Battlestations you'll have an idea of what I'm trying to do.) More plot exposition coming next, as I sort the details on my outline. Please let me know what you think!