Summary: Harry's having an interesting summer. Even after visits from Dobby, falling ill, finding a family, moving house and being friendly to Snape of all people, it's nothing compared to what his second year of Hogwarts has in store for him. Who's opening the Chamber of Secrets this time around? What do his nightmares of falling out of windows mean? And is his brother really being too protective? Not a Severitus/Sevitus but inspired by some of the plots.

Disclaimer: JKR's. (sighs) Except the OCs.

Author's Notes: Only two people have worked out who Raunien is so far – that's two more than I expected! Keep guessing, people.
I am on holiday at the mo and intend to finish off the next EaGL chapter once I'm back on my own computer.
I am so glad I thought to bring my Tubular Bells CD on hols with me. It was responsible for EaGL's legendary 28-page chapter 5 and always helps the words flow.

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Chapter Three: Life, the Universe, and Everything

"A house-elf?" Dumbledore repeated, for the first time since Harry had known him looking surprised.

"Yep." Harry threw the old comic aside. "A real, live house-elf named Dobby. Bat ears, long nose, wears a pillowcase, has a nasty habit of banging his head against the wall. You know him?"

It was nearing five days since Dumbledore had first appeared in Number Four, and so far he hadn't shown any sign of leaving. Harry found he was grateful. The Dursleys had taken off somewhere – Dumbledore had refused to tell him what he did to make them go, and Harry had a suspicion it wasn't anything pleasant – and so it was just the two of them in the house. Still feeling ill most of the time, but not as much now, Harry was spending half the day in bed while Dumbledore took care of food, did paperwork, read his way through all the books in Harry's old bedroom and generally looked after him. He'd felt awkward about it at first – he'd really only spoken to Dumbledore properly twice before now – but found that he enjoyed his company. Even so, it had still taken him till now to tell him why he'd been locked in the smallest bedroom with a cat-flap in the door and bars on the window.

"The name rings a bell," Dumbledore said slowly, "but I'm pretty sure it's not a Hogwarts employee."

It was Harry's turn to be surprised. "Hogwarts has house-elves?" Dumbledore nodded. "I didn't know. Anyway, he doesn't work at Hogwarts, he told me he works for a family. Didn't say who though."

Dumbledore looked thoughtful. "It shouldn't be too difficult to find out who he works for. What exactly did he tell you?"

Harry recounted the tale of the violet pudding.

"He told you not to go back to Hogwarts?"

"He said I'd be in danger. He said – what was it? – terrible things were going to happen this year and I must not be there when they happen."

Dumbledore looked concerned. "Well, either his owners sent him to do this as a joke or trick – or …"

"Or I really am in danger? But Dobby said it was nothing to do with Voldemort."

Dumbledore paused. "What were his exact words?"

"'Not You-Know-Who'. He put emphasis on 'You-Know-Who'. As if it was some sort of hint."

"Did he now?" Suddenly Dumbledore looked worried. "Oh dear."

"What?"

"Well, he could have been referring to what Voldemort used to be known by …"

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Minerva lay down her towel on the edge of the lake and cast a glamour spell around the area. Any stray students walking by would just see Professor Kettleburn tending to the Giant Squid. Everyone knew to steer clear when that happened. She tested the water with her bare toe. It was cold, but not icy. Perfect. In one movement she disposed of her robes and slid into the water.

She often came down here alone, occasionally with Albus, but he was more of a land person. Being a feline Animagus, many people were surprised at the fact that she loved the water; but it was only natural to her – one of the many traits passed down to her from her ancestors. Minerva disliked most parts of her heritage, but being amphibious was something she couldn't imagine living without.

As she swam, she thought about life, the universe and everything. Harry was foremost in her mind: in just a year, he'd wormed his way into the hearts of most of the Hogwarts staff and she was anxious to think what arrangements Albus could come up with. He was such a sweet boy, always polite, with a distinct lack of self-confidence that was now explained. Minerva had spotted it right from the start, and it was that more than his talent that made her give him the Quidditch position. It had certainly proved to be good for him (besides Quirrell's attempt on his life, but thanks to Severus that hadn't turned out too badly). Harry's eyes – so much like Lily's – were visibly haunted and had touched her in a way she couldn't put into words. In a way, she wasn't surprised Severus behaved so badly towards him – the effect of those eyes combined with James' face must be so hard to endure.

That was a thought. Minerva paused. She hoped Albus wasn't thinking of sending Harry to live with Severus. It could work, she mused, but more likely than not it would end in disaster with Harry hurt and Severus withdrawing further from the world. If the two were ever to strike up a relationship it would have to be slow, not forced.

Who else was there? Perhaps Raunien. Minerva laughed out loud and accidentally swallowed a mouthful of water. Her head breaking the surface, she trod water for a moment. Albus would never agree to Raunien, but it was worth a try.

Minerva couldn't think of anyone else. All Lily's old friends were dead. Granted, Remus was alive and not imprisoned, but the law wouldn't let him be a legal guardian and with his condition, it wasn't a good idea. She sighed. Perhaps she could talk Albus into taking Harry in themselves, if there was nothing else. But as much as she liked him, she couldn't help that it would be awkward if he lived with them.

Her thoughts strayed from Harry to Raunien. He'd been acting so strange recently, as if there was something he wanted to tell but couldn't work up the courage to. He'd also taken to dropping into Hogwarts frequently … but not once since he'd moved into his old house again had he asked Albus if he wanted to go round. Minerva couldn't remember Aberforth ever mentioning having been there either. Was there something Raunien was hiding?

Oh, don't be silly! she scolded. Just because You-Know-Who managed to get into Hogwarts inside a colleague's head doesn't mean everyone is full of secrets.

She wondered how Raunien would take the news of their engagement. Albus had wanted to keep their relationship as far away from Raunien as possible, something that greatly frustrated Minerva. Raunien was family. If Albus had admitted the seriousness of their relationship to him before, he wouldn't have this problem now. Albus and Raunien's relationship was rocky enough without this inevitable row adding to the weight. For the hundredth time, Minerva wished her heritage was different.

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Harry was asleep again. Albus had read his way through all the books in the house. The Dursleys still had not returned. He amused himself for a while, thinking of all the things he could do to them if he allowed himself, but became bored after a while. He thought briefly about collecting some paperwork from downstairs, but dismissed it. Instead he ran his conversation with Harry through his head again.

He was worried, he admitted. Voldemort had got into the school undetected already last year; if Dobby was genuine then they had a huge problem coming up. On the plus side, at least he'd been forewarned.

Albus looked over at Harry's sleeping form and sighed. Perhaps he shouldn't have told him about Tom Riddle. The thought that Voldemort could again be infiltrating Hogwarts seemed to have disturbed him: although he wasn't restless, there was something close to anxiety on his face.

A sudden noise from downstairs made Albus jump a mile. Were the Dursleys back? His hand closed on his wand. If they'd managed to get rid of the fleas, there was no guarantee that they would not receive another well-earned 'gift' – perhaps wasps? Albus made his way slowly down the stairs, listening for voices, but none came. Entering the kitchen, he thought it was empty until he spotted a tabby cat sniffing at a box of spilt breakfast cereal under the sink.

"Oh, Minerva," he sighed, lowering his wand, "it's you."

The cat meowed and transformed back, hitting her head hard above her. "OUCH!"

Albus couldn't help but grin as he held out a hand and pulled her out from under the sink. "What are you doing here?"

Minerva rubbed her head with one hand, the other on her hip in a gesture Albus recognised as lecture preparation. "I want to talk to you. Harry -"

"Is upstairs asleep," Albus cut her off. "And yes, he's getting better. I need to talk to you, Minerva …" He quickly recounted what Harry had told him about Dobby's message. "What do you think?"

Minerva had paled considerably during the short explanation. For a moment she didn't speak. She turned to look unseeingly out of the window, thinking.

"Albus, remember a few months ago I was saying it was fifty years since I left school?"

"Yes …"

"Well … you remember what happened the year after I left, don't you?"

Albus remained silent.

"The Chamber of Secrets." Minerva turned back to him. "It's been fifty years. What if Tom … what if he found a way to open it later, without having to go back into the school?"

"But … why wait fifty years? I don't know … I agree with you, it can't be a coincidence …"

Five minutes later, Albus and Minerva, now sitting at the kitchen table, had lapsed into silence. Together they had agreed that the Chamber of Secrets was the most likely possibility but they had no idea how to progress from there. The idea of the Chamber reopening was a horror neither of them felt able to express in words. If it hadn't been for the unexpected interruption, the silence might have stretched a lot longer.

"Professor McGonagall?" a small, surprised voice said. "What are you doing here?"

Both of them jumped and looked up. Harry was standing in the hallway, pale and clutching the end of the banister, looking shaky on his feet. He was still in his oversized pyjamas and Albus reminded himself he was going to buy some new ones for him.

"Mr Potter." Minerva stood up quickly and Albus followed suit. "How are you feeling?"

Harry shrugged. "Not too bad." He coughed, swaying slightly, and Albus was by his side like a shot.

"Easy. Here." Albus guided Harry into the kitchen and sat him down at the table. "Professor McGonagall and I were discussing you future living arrangements."

Harry blinked. "Future what?"

"Living arrangements." Minerva had adopted her professional tone. Albus had to agree it would probably help Harry feel less uncomfortable. "Professor Dumbledore has informed me that he considers your – er – current residence less than satisfactory."

Harry seemed to squirm, but something resembling hope appeared in his eyes. "What does that mean, Professor?"

"It means, that – providing, of course, you have no objections -" Albus didn't think that would be a problem "- that you can be moved to another home."

There was no doubt about it this time – Harry's embarrassment about his home life seemed squashed by hope arising in his eyes.

"However -" Albus saw Harry's face fall "-with you, I'm afraid, things are a little more complicated … After last term, I'm sure you'll agree, that with You-Know-Who … well … you can't stay just anywhere, we need to take precautions."

Harry considered. "Couldn't I just stay at Hogwarts, Professor?"

Albus and Minerva exchanged glances. There were a hundred and one reasons why this would not be a good idea under the circumstances – under any circumstances – but now didn't seem like a good time to go into them. Besides the Chamber of Secrets needing looking into, rules about student boarding and staffing, there were the complications with the blood wards and the reluctance to let Harry bring himself up as opposed to a proper home with someone who cared for him. Right then, Harry looked ready to fall asleep on his feet, and was as pale as when Albus had rescued him from Quirrell and Voldemort last term.

"We'll see," Albus said finally. "But it still needs a lot of discussion; and what you need right now is sleep. We can talk about this later."

"I've just been sleeping."

That was true, but it didn't alter the fact that Harry was obviously still exhausted. After a lot of protests, Albus finally managed to convince him to go back upstairs and go back to bed. Minerva watched him go.

"Getting better, Albus?"

"Two days ago he could barely lift his head off the pillow," Albus said defensively. "Never let it be said that I didn't inherit Ada's Healing skills, even if his parenting ones left a lot to be desired."

"Albus."

"Yes?"

"About that … we need to talk."

Albus sighed. "Not now, Minerva. Can we save that until Harry's sorted out?"

"I was talking about him and Harry. Why don't you ask Raunien if he wants to let Harry stay with him? He was a close friend of Lily's, Harry would like it."

Albus sighed. "Ada's magic won't work on Harry … not unless there's something he didn't tell me about him and Lily …"

"Albus! You shouldn't joke about things like that!"

He laughed. "I know, I know; but still, can you imagine the look on his face?"

"Who, Raunien or Harry?"

"Either. And besides, Lily always said she and James were just friends …"

"Albus, rather than making light of a habit of Raunien's you normally condemn him for, can you please stick to the subject at hand? What are we going to do with Harry?"

Albus stopped chuckling. "Sorry. I'm being serious now." Minerva rolled her eyes. "Well, I could talk to Severus …"

"No."

"But -"

"No."

TBC …

Next chapter: We see the Weasleys again! And more Raunien/Ada

Review Responses

Rhetorical-Ducky: An original character. Obviously. You'll get a proper answer soon enough.

teddylonglong: The explanation will come … soon … two people have already got part of it …

adge9631: Well, I can't tell you who he is yet … Albus often bites his head off because, as I (or rather Minerva) said in this chapter, they have a very rocky relationship. And I can tell you he knows Lily from the old Order.

ChipmonkOnSpeed: That and the fact that he looks like Legolas. Well done for figuring the meaning of the word out. Now you can go through all the reasons why a person might be called "Father" and pick which you think is the most likely … And you'll have the answer … Good luck …