Summary When Albus finds Harry in a Muggle hospital miles from Little Winging, he tries to find out what happened. But Harry doesn't talk anymore. At all.
Disclaimer JKR owns all
Author's Notes Sorry for the long wait! Hope this chapter was worth it :) It's short but informative. Afraid we won't know what was in the boxes for a time … a long time. It should keep you lot hooked till then!
Poppy was dozing off on the sofa, her fingers crossed that she wouldn't lose her hot water for the rest of the summer, when the telephone rang, jerking her awake.
"What the -" She sleepily rubbed her eyes, trying to work out where the noise was coming from, then in a moment of realisation grabbed the receiver.
"Professor Albus Dumbledore?" said an unfamiliar voice on the other end.
"His secretary," she lied quickly, looking up at the ceiling. What were the chances of the police called when Albus was in the bath? Her bath, for that matter?
"Oh," the man said, obviously thrown. Poppy's mind raced. Did Muggle Professors have secretaries? And why was she thinking about exposure now?
"Is this about the missing child?" she asked, trying to keep her tone professional while searching for a quill.
"A boy fitting the description has been found at St Katherine's Hospital in Suffolk." Suffolk? "I really need to discuss this with the Professor, Ms …?"
"Pomfrey." Poppy found a quill and wedged the phone on her shoulder so she could unscrew the ink cap. Albus seemed to have used up all the Self-Inking Quills, blast him. "I'm afraid the Professor is … rather tied up at the moment …" She hoped not. Not in her bathroom, thank you!
"Ms Pomfrey, the child has sustained serious injuries and is at present unconscious, and there will be an investigation. I need to speak to the Professor, please."
"What sort of injuries?" she breathed, frozen. Please don't let it have been Death Eaters … No, on second thoughts, please may it be a couple of incompetent Death Eaters that will be rounded up soon, rather than something else …
"I need to speak to the Professor," the man said impatiently. Poppy inwardly sighed.
"I'll try and get hold of him, sir. If you could hold for a moment." She placed the phone on the table, covered it with a cushion and ran upstairs. Why me?
The steam in the bathroom was so thick that one could barely see three inches from their face. After three weeks with no news from either the Ministry or the Muggle police, Minerva had insisted the two relax for a while, and Poppy had let them use her new bath. Well, it wasn't so much a bath, as a small turquoise swimming-pool with a hot shower continually pouring on them. The only downside was that you couldn't use bubbles.
"I don't think I've seen you this relaxed in months," Minerva murmured, massaging soap into Albus' shoulders.
"Albus? You're not going to sleep, are you? I don't think Poppy will thank me for letting you drown in her bath."
"No," he replied, "just enjoying myself. When was the last time we did something like this?"
"I can't remember. My turn."
Albus turned over, picked up the shampoo from the side and squirted a blob straight on Minerva's hair. She yelped.
"Albus! That's cold!"
He chuckled and received a faceful of water in response. As he resurfaced, shaking it out of his ears, he thought he heard something.
"Minerva, can you hear that?"
"Hear what?" she replied, puzzled.
It came again. "ALBUS DUMBLEDORE, YOU HAD BETTER BE OUT AND DECENT IN TEN SECONDS OR I'M COMING IN!"
"Oh, it's Poppy."
Minerva switched off the water and Albus pulled himself out, grabbing a towel. "All right, I'm coming." He threw a second towel to Minerva, who had just followed him. "Where's the fire?"
"Is it safe for me to enter?"
"Yes," they replied after a pause.
Poppy opened the door, her eyes squinted, obviously prepared for the worst. She stopped in the doorway. "Phew, it's like a sauna in here!"
"There had better be a good reason for the interruption, Poppy," Minerva said harshly. "I had just got Albus relaxed for the first time in months and now he's all tense again."
Poppy flinched. "I don't want to know. And yes, there is a good reason – the police are on the phone – They think they've found Harry -"
"WHAT??" Albus charged out the door, nearly dropping his towel in his rush to get downstairs. "Why didn't you say so in the first place???"
Poppy and Minerva followed him into the living-room. Albus grabbed the phone off the table and pressed it to his wet ear, clutching his towel with his other hand. "Hello?"
"He hasn't come round yet," the nurse informed Albus over his shoulder. Albus barely heard her. All his attention was focused on the child in the bed.
A large bruise covered Harry's forehead so his scar was almost indistinguishable, and a smaller one on his chin. His face was deathly pale and he looked disturbingly still. Albus swallowed. It looked almost as if he were dead. According to the police, he nearly had been.
Stark white plaster casts were wrapped around his ankle and wrist, and Harry had also sustained concussion and several fractured ribs. On first inspection it had appeared that he'd been caught in a landslide in a disused quarry. On closer inspection, the police had found traces of explosives. The Dursleys had been question but they insisted Harry was supposed to have been staying at a friends' house. Albus didn't believe this for a moment but they had no evidence to prove they had something to do with Harry's 'accident'.
Albus took a deep breath. Harry would live, and when he woke up he could tell them what had happened. The accident was not work of Death Eaters, of that Albus as certain. The Muggles would put whichever Dursley – Albus strongly suspected Vernon – away and that would be that. Hopefully. And if Harry didn't want to talk right away, Albus would look after him till then, no matter how many Memory Charms he had to use on the Social Services.
Harry hurt everywhere. He whimpered slightly and slowly opened his eyes. Everywhere was white. Was he in heaven now? He was dead after all.
A voice called softly to him. "Harry?"
He didn't know the voice. He squinted through aching eyes. Something silvery was in front of him. It was a person – a man (he thought) with lots of hair. And glasses. The light reflected off them and he couldn't see the man's eyes. He instinctively tried to wriggle backwards and nearly cried out in pain.
"Careful," the man said gently. He reached out for Harry's hand but Harry snatched it away. His eyes, getting used to the light, travelled round the room. There were funny instruments and tubes and stuff. A hospital? He opened his mouth … but no sound came out. He swallowed and tried again but he couldn't get the question out.
"Easy now," the silver man said gently. "How are you feeling, Harry?"
Harry just stared at him. The look on his face seemed to tell him that he was hurting, because the man called for a nurse to top up his painkiller. It was a weird pump-thing wired into his arm. He watched with fascination as a liquid flowed down the see-through tube and into his arm. Suddenly he felt a bit giddy.
The nurse said something to the man – Harry heard the words "Social Services" and "police" and "investigation" and looked up, suddenly fearful though he didn't know why.
The silver man nodded and murmured a quiet reply to the nurse and she left. Harry studied the plaster casts and the sling. He only raised his head when the man spoke again, to him.
"Harry?" Now the light had changed and Harry could see his eyes. They were blue and looked friendly. Something in Harry warmed at the sight and he felt a lot more comfortable. "My name is Albus, and I'm going to look after you now."
ImSoMMAD: Yes, there will be romance. It's not the main plot obviously but it will be part of it. Yes, there will be older characters in it, and there will be much angst but then so do most of my fics (grins). It's not just the fandom flopping I fear, it's half my ideas being wasted if all the other sites stop accepting non-canon stories after DH is released. Although FFnet has the biggest readership for me I post on about 6 other sites as well.
Minerva Rose: I can't tell you what's in the boxes … But I can tell you it's not an animal or dead bodies. Does that satisfy you for now?
Satya: I love cliff-hangers. Be prepared. Yes, I am aware that my story starts when Harry is quite young – he's almost six at the time of the prologue. No, I can't tell you what's in the boxes (see my response to Minerva Rose). I can't tell you what happened with Vernon either. You will find out eventually but for now Harry and I are keeping quiet. Sorry! Also, please read the author's notes and don't write "update please" because it's pressurising. Thanks.
amanda burke: I appreciate your interest and enthusiasm but please do not write those words again.
Thanks also to Smurf-mad, Crazy Physco, PiER, AngelMoon Girl, Becca, Butler, Ragin' Fire, Rosygirl and Fk306 animelover for reviewing!