Summary: Welcome to Hogwarts' own Day Care Centre. Please take a seat, and I'll be with you as soon as I've stopped Severus and Albus throwing blocks. Poppy, sand isn't a food, and Minerva, nor is paint. No, I don't think Sybill likes the taste either …
Rating: PG but may go up
Warnings: Mild language, but other than that I don't know yet
Disclaimer: All characters belong to JKR, and the last time I saw a lawyer I was in bed for weeks after my allergic reaction … and I only met them for five seconds. Any longer and I may die. So don't set any on me, okay?
Author's Notes: This fic's going to be quite short, probably between not much more than 10 chapters long. I could write a sequel, but at the moment I'm not a hundred per cent sure how this one's going to end, so I don't know. Don't expect regular updates on this one, I just wrote this first chapter to get rid of writer's block – the next may not be out for months.
Kiddie Kare for Hogwarts Teachers
Chapter One: The Discovery
"Harry, wake up!"
Hermione dug her elbow into him. "Wake up, sleepy-head. The meeting's over."
"It is?" Harry rubbed his eyes and looked round at the empty room, then down at the minutes on her lap, ignoring her glare. "What was decided?"
"Nothing new, apart from the school funds. Professor Lupin is concerned about how the money's being spent: there isn't enough to keep school equipment supplied. But apart from that, nothing."
"Right." Harry flicked briefly through Hermione's records, pausing at the list of those present. "None of the other teachers were here? That's odd."
"According to Professor Lupin, all classes were cancelled because they've all come down with something. There were some iffy mushrooms in last night's omelette. It's strange though, because none of the students appear to be ill."
"Really?" Harry yawned. "How odd. Shall we go, then?"
Hermione sniffed at him and stood, gathering her belongings. "I wish you wouldn't sleep through the meetings, Harry. You'll get your Head Boy badge taken if you go on like this."
"Sorry," Harry said, stifling a second yawn. "But I'm not taking History of Magic anymore."
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"I'm not sleeping well, and I don't have Binns' class to catch up with my sleep in."
"Oh. Why don't you go to Madam Pomfrey for a sleeping potion?"
"I would, but you can get addicted to them if you use them too much. Besides, if the whole staff's ill, I don't want to go near them at the moment. Did you say all the classes are cancelled?"
"Great. Think I'll have a kip in the dormitory. See you later, Hermione."
Hermione glared at his retreating back, but it was a softer one this time.
Ron was waiting back in the common room, building a card castle with his Exploding Snap set. He'd never been able to complete it without singeing his eyebrows, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
"How was the meeting, then?"
Hermione sighed. "Harry slept right through it, again."
"Is it just me or do I detect a slight lack of hostility in that sentence?"
She raised her eyebrows at him, till he continued, "Normally you come back spitting blood."
Hermione snorted. "I think that's an exaggeration, but you're right: Harry's just told me he hasn't been sleeping well."
"Nightmares?" Ron sat up, knocking his castle flying, which exploded. "Damn. Visions?"
"I don't know; he didn't say." Hermione frowned. "Did he come through here?"
Ron shook his head, rubbing his eyebrows. "No, I haven't seen him. Why?"
"He said he was going to his dormitory." Hermione frowned to herself. "Maybe he's gone to the kitchens."
"Why would he go there? Apart from food. Or visiting Dobby."
Hermione stood. "There was something funny about last night's omelettes. I bet you anything Harry's gone to find out what."
"Where are you going?"
"To find Harry. The kitchens."
Ron shrugged, turned back to his smouldering castle ruin, and sighed.
"So, about these mushrooms, Dobby?" Harry pressed, politely refusing the plate of blueberry muffins another house-elf was trying to press into his hands.
"I isn't knowing much, Harry Potter, sir. Someone is leaving an extra bag as a present, with a note saying these for the wonderful Hogwarts staff. Dobby isn't knowing where they is coming from."
"Were they very different from the ones served to the students?"
"They is special mushrooms, sir, coming from magical farms. They is usually only served at formal occasions; Dobby's old masters are having some sometimes. They is very expensive, Harry Potter, sir, they is being special present."
"And you've absolutely no idea who sent them?"
"None, Harry Potter, sir, nor is any of the house-elves."
Harry sighed. "Are there any left over?"
"There is some, but Dobby is not knowing where they is being put. The house-elf in charge is visiting relatives and won't be back for a fortnight, sir."
"Could you look for them?" Harry asked. "And what about the note?"
"The note is being with the mushrooms, Harry Potter, sir; but Dobby can look for them."
"Thanks, Dobby. Come and tell me when you do, okay?"
"Thank you Harry Potter, sir, Dobby is honoured he is given the privilege -"
"Harry? Are you there?"
"Hermione! What are you doing here?"
A small smile curled at the corner of her mouth. "A kip in the dormitory, eh?"
Harry shrugged, a sheepish grin on his face. "What can I say? You peaked my curiosity." Quickly he filled her in on what Dobby had told him about the mushrooms, the elf beaming happily in the background.
Hermione chewed her lip thoughtfully. "I don't like this. An anonymous present to the Hogwarts staff? That could have been from anyone. A Death Eater could have sent it and no-one would be any the wiser."
"I don't think it was a Death Eater," Harry shook his head. "Or at least not one acting on Voldemort's orders: it doesn't sound like him. This isn't his style."
"That doesn't comfort me. It could be a junior Death Eater trying to get into his good books. It could be someone in the school for all we know."
Harry sighed. "Do you think we should talk to Professor Dumbledore?"
Hermione stared at him. "Of course we should! Why would you think otherwise?"
"The entire staff ate those mushrooms, Professor Lupin aside. I'm not sure I want to know exactly how ill they are."
"Don't be stupid." Hermione took hold of Harry's arm and started dragging him towards the door. "Bye Dobby, thanks for all your help!"
"Miss is most welcome!" Dobby called happily after them. "Goodbye, Harry Potter, sir!"
Harry pulled his arm out of Hermione's grip as they entered the Entrance Hall. "Are you sure about this, Hermione?"
"Of course I am. From what it sounds like, no-one apart from us have thought to question the house-elves. We ought to tell Professor Dumbledore what we've found out."
"He probably already knows."
"We don't know that -"
Hermione looked round at Harry, who had paused in the middle of the hall. "What?"
He put his finger to his lips. "Can you hear that?"
She frowned. "I can't hear -" She stopped abruptly as the noise came again: crying.
"Where's it coming from?" she asked, looking around.
Harry was walking unsurely towards the dungeon steps. "This way, I think."
"Are you sure? I don't fancy encountering an ill and hacked-off Snape."
"If he's ill he'll be in the Hospital Wing or in his rooms. Come on." Harry took her hand and pulled her down the steps.
The crying grew louder as they reached the bottom. Harry hesitated, listening hard. The sound was coming from behind one of the doors. He and Hermione looked at each other, silently agreeing, and pushed it open.
A small boy no older than two or three was curled up in a corner, wailing quietly into his clothes, which consisted of a grey nightshirt big enough to be adult size and a cloak just as big. His eyes were closed, but his hair was thick and dark and all over the place, sticking to his wet face.
Harry crept over and laid a tender hand on the boy's shoulder. The reaction was unexpected: he flinched violently, his eyes snapping open, recoiling back from Harry. He had big dark eyes, like coals.
"Sorry," Harry said quietly, taking his hand back and kneeling down by the child. "What's your name?"
The boy's lip trembled as he surveyed Harry for a moment, obviously sizing him up, before he murmured, "Sev."
"What are you doing here, Sev?" Hermione said gently, sitting next to Harry.
Sev's eyes flickered back and forth between them. "I-I don't know."
"How did you get here?"
"I-I don't know; I was asleep."
"We should take him to Dumbledore," Harry muttered in Hermione's ear. She nodded and held out her hand to the boy, who took it warily.
"Here we go, Sev. We're going to take you to someone who'll help you, okay?"
He nodded slowly, and clasped Hermione's hand tightly as she led him to the door.
"Right, now we have two things to talk to him about," Harry muttered, thinking. "Hermione, who do you reckon he is?" He nodded at Sev, who was staring straight ahead, appearing fascinated at the display of magic.
"I have no idea," Hermione said, "but what do you make of his clothes?"
Harry looked down. Sev was holding them up with his free hand, but he still kept tripping on them.
"They look like they were made for an adult. Why's he wearing them?"
"That's the answer I'm afraid of hearing."
They paused at the gargoyle to give the password (M&Ms) and Harry lifted Sev up in his arms so the kid's clothes wouldn't get caught in the spiral staircase. Hermione knocked at the door of the office.
There was a sharp squeal, a scuffle and the sound of something metal dropping, and silence. Hermione hesitated before pushing the door open.
The office looked a mess. The paperwork had been knocked off the desk in a mess over the floor and Fawkes had vanished, but the worst part was Dumbledore's collection of whirring contraptions. One was in pieces on the floor, and the others had been taken down and meddled with. It looked like someone had tried to work out how they worked and play at putting them together.
"What happened here?" Harry asked out loud, aghast. It looked almost as bad as it had when he'd thrown his tantrum after his fifth year. He still felt ashamed when he thought about that.
"Harry," Hermione muttered.
She pointed into a corner. Some of Dumbledore's papers had been taken, along with a bottle of ink. From the look of things, someone had been finger-painting with them. Drawing closer, Harry could make out a smiley face and an attempt at the alphabet.
"A child?" he murmured. He looked round at Sev, but he was staring round at the office with apparent fear on his face. Harry couldn't blame him: the mess was overwhelming, especially compared to its usual tidy state.
Hermione tiptoed soundlessly to the desk and pulled aside the chair.
"It wasn't me!"
All three started at the immediate reaction. Crouched on the floor was another child, about three or four years older than Sev. This one had a mass of red hair and ink all over his hands and face, and was dressed in huge dark blue pyjamas.
"Another one?" Harry gasped. This was getting weird.
Hermione stared back from Sev to the boy behind the desk, who was trembling as if expecting to be told off, with a thoughtful expression on her face. Finally she said, "What's your name?"
"A-Albus," he mumbled. "I didn't do it!"
"Of course you didn't." Hermione held out her hand and he took it gingerly, letting her guide him round to the others.
"Albus?" Harry asked in disbelief. "That's a coincidence."
Hermione gave him the look she usually reserved for when he was being exceptionally thick.
"Honestly, Harry, use your brain."
Harry considered. "Oh."
"Get it now?"
"Well … he could be his grandson or something."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You take Albus, I'll take Sev."
"Where are we going?"
"I think we should pay Professor McGonagall a visit."
"Shouldn't we knock?" Harry began, but stopped abruptly at the sight in the office.
A girl of about four was sitting up at Professor McGonagall's desk, reading a book. Her legs, too short for the chair, were swinging in mid-air, Professor McGonagall's own glasses on her nose, long black hair hanging loose. Like the others, she too was dressed in clothes too big for her – in this case, a white nightie and emerald-green dressing-gown.
"This," Harry said out loud, "is getting seriously weird."
Hermione burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"Well – it's not funny really – but Harry, don't you get what's happened?"
"I'm beginning to," he replied, dread beginning to sink in.
"Who are you?" the girl spoke up.
"Who are you?" Albus replied before Harry or Hermione could speak. The girl gave him a funny look.
"I'm Minerva McGonagall. Who are you?"
A/N: I know, very short, but will get longer. I laughed for hours when I thought up this idea. Please review, I live off them!