A.N. A small one-shot that crept up on me while I was attempting to write something for Return. Hopefully this will help break me out of my massive exam-induced hiatus of writing.
They say that history has a way of repeating itself. They say that time is a circle, spinning like a wheel, and that there is no escaping fate. Whoever "they" are, they obviously neglected to tell Albus Dumbledore.
Walking down a long suburban street in Surry with the midday sun on his face, Albus Dumbledore was having what he would call a very good day indeed. The Hogwarts letters had been sent off, and his dear friend Minerva was visiting the Muggleborns. His step slowed for a moment as he thought briefly of all the young witches and wizards around the country whose lives were about to be changed forever. A small smile crept across his wrinkled face as he turned off the road he was on, passing onto a smaller street – a street that announced itself to be named Privet Drive.
It was just as he remembered it. The houses were all replicas of each other, from the number of windows (double glazed) to the shape of the flowerbeds (neatly kept). Even the shiny executive cars parked outside the houses managed to look the same, despite their varying colours and brands. Dumbledore strode down the street at a quick pace, as if he were suddenly in a hurry – not such a surprising thought, considering the kind of comments the residents of Privet Drive might have made had they seen his dark blue robes, dancing with various stellar objects.
It was time for Albus Dumbledore to finish his last task for the day. He had considered sending Hagrid – hell, he'd considered sending a letter just like any other – but in the end he had decided that it was a job for the Headmaster. He was, after all, the one who had left the boy there in the first place.
It was not long until he was standing in front of Number Four, its white walls staring at him like very other house, nothing betraying the miracle within. He thought that he could hear a television playing inside. A group of birds started singing in the distance. Yes, it was definitely a good day.
Still, it couldn't hurt to make a nice impression. With a flick of the wrist, a piece of wood – a wand – appeared in Dumbledore's right hand, and he pointed it at himself. In a blink of an eye his magnificent robes had been replaced by a colourful and flamboyantly cut suit, much like the one he used to wear in the Forties when he introduced Muggleborns to the magical world. A bit dated perhaps, but the latest Muggle magazine Albus had read had told him that retro was making a comeback, and he took their advice to heart.
Feeling ready at last, he walked onto the drive of Number Four, and proceeded at a leisurely pace to the front door. Having arrived, he reached for the bell and rung it twice in quick succession: insistent, but not rude. He did not have to wait long before the door swung open to reveal a large, heavy-set man with an equally large moustache. He appeared to be perspiring heavily. Albus Dumbledore took him to be Vernon Dursley.
"Yes?" Vernon asked, and Dumbledore was surprised by the aggressiveness of his tone, as if he were somehow offended by having to answer the door.
"I apologise if I am interrupting something," Albus said, doubting it very much, "but if I may have a moment of your time, Mr. Dursley, I would be most grateful."
Vernon seemed to look over Dumbledore's suit and, if the frown on his face was anything to go by, he disapproved greatly. Nevertheless, he opened the door wider, and gestured for Dumbledore to enter.
"Come in then!" he said impatiently, turning his back on Dumbledore to walk further into the house. "We're not buying whatever you're selling though!"
Dumbledore merely smiled a generous smile and crossed the threshold of the house, passing into a corridor with cream walls. A staircase was to his left, under which was a small cupboard, and to his right were doors leading into the living room and kitchen. He noticed that, though the walls were covered with framed photographs, not one of them included a boy with bright green eyes. It was into the living room, where the television was still blaring, that Mr. Dursley walked, Dumbledore behind him.
The room was, like the rest of the house, thoroughly boring. It was square, once again with cream walls, once again covered with pictures. The edges of the room were lined with plush sofas, and taking centre stage was a television of respectable size, sitting in front of the windows looking out onto the front garden. Sitting on one of the sofas was a large, fat boy with small, beady, eyes fixed upon the screen.
The boy made a sound of indignation and protest when Vernon reached for the controller and turned the television off, but quickly became quiet when he saw that there was a visitor.
"Dudley, go to your room for a moment would you? And fetch your mother on your way too," Vernon said, sitting down into an armchair, which sagged by no small amount. Dudley left the room after giving Dumbledore a long look, while Dumbledore himself sat down on the couch Dudley vacated. Vernon looked at Dumbledore expectantly.
"Mr. Dursley, you have not met me, but we have corresponded, many years ago. My name is Albus Dumbledore."
As soon as Dumbledore mentioned his name, Vernon jumped up from his seat, his eye bulging and his face red with anger.
"You!" he shouted. "You! I can't believe I let one of – one of – you – into my home! Get out! Get out this instant!"
This was a reaction less than Dumbledore's had hoped. Still, he was not one unaccustomed to people ranting at him, and so he merely stayed sitting, comfortable as ever, as Vernon continued to shout. It was only when the angry man stopped for a breath that Dumbledore intervened.
"Mr. Dursley, I assure you that my visit is brief. I am here for Harry Potter, as we agreed upon ten years ago."
At the word, "brief", Vernon seemed to deflate a little, and though he scowled heavily when the boy was mentioned, he did not explode again. Of course, Dumbledore casting a calming charm on him surreptitiously didn't hurt either.
"Right. I'll go fetch the boy then. You, stay here, and don't…mess with anything."
Vernon left the room in a hurry and slammed the door, leaving Dumbledore alone. Albus did not miss, however, the very short distance that Vernon travelled to "find the boy", nor did he miss the sound of a latch being undone just outside the living room door, just where the cupboard under the stairs was. Dumbledore frowned.
He was quick to change his frown into a smile though when the door creaked open to reveal a boy with jet-black hair and bright green eyes. Harry Potter.
He was tall and thin for his age, and so pale that his skin seemed to glow. He had a long, handsome face with a thin nose and a sharp jaw. In short, he looked like his father, except there was a sharpness to his features that Dumbledore was sure could not have come from Lily. It was unsettling for some reason, but Dumbledore shook it off. This was Harry Potter after all.
"Harry," he said warmly, standing up as Harry moved closer towards him and holding out his hand, "how do you do?"
Harry gave Dumbledore a once-over, and he seemed to pass some sort of test, for Harry took Dumbledore's hand and shook it firmly. Interesting, Dumbledore thought. You could tell a lot about a person by their handshake. Harry's was firm and confidant, and Dumbledore began to doubt his conclusions about Harry's bedroom.
"My name is Professor Dumbledore," he said as he sat back down, indicating that Harry should do the same. Harry stayed standing.
"Professor? Like from a university?" Harry suddenly looked wary, and a stony look came across his face. "Whatever Vernon told you, it was a lie."
Dumbledore blinked in surprise. He had not expected this sort of hostility, and the unsettling feeling was returning. Somehow, this felt very familiar…
"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Harry," Dumbledore said slowly, "but I am not from a university. No, I'm from a school in Scotland: a school your parents intended you to attend before their deaths."
Harry looked doubtful.
"What's the school's name?" he asked, his eyes looking straight into Dumbledore's own.
Dumbledore always used to hate that question, and forty years had not reduced his reluctance to give the name one bit.
"It is called Hogwarts," he said, inwardly wincing when Harry's eyebrows shot up, quickly replaced by a piecing glare as he continued to look right into Dumbledore's eyes. It was beginning to get unnerving. The challenge was obvious, and Dumbledore started when a memory suddenly came back to him out of the fog of time, as vivid as ever.
Tell me the truth!
Dumbledore's heart sank when he realised what was making him so uncomfortable; the nagging familiarity of the situation became clear. Harry Potter reminded him of Tom Riddle. No matter, Dumbledore thought, the boy was Voldemort's vanquisher. It was only expected that he would possess many of the traits that Slytherin valued.
"An unusual name, for an unusual school," Dumbledore finally responded, trying to ease into the shock Harry was about to receive. "Hogwarts is a school of magic."
Silence reigned. Harry's face had gone blank: he was no longer glaring, no doubtful; in fact, there was nothing to read on Harry's face at all. Eventually, he whispered,
"Magic? What I do is magic?"
"It's…it's magic, what I can do?"
"Yes, Harry," said Dumbledore seriously. He had always loved this moment in the past, yet he could get no joy from this meeting. He didn't want to ask the inevitable question, but it was like he had no choice…
"And what is it that you can do?"
Harry looked back up at Dumbledore's face, now with a surprisingly innocent eagerness that made Dumbledore rethink his conclusions for a second time that day.
"All sorts of things, if I really want it," said Harry, now trying to show off. "I can make things move, I can make cuts go away, I can turn some things into other things, and" – Harry hesitated, a small smile growing on his face, a smile that seemed cold and vicious – "I can make bad thinks happen to Dudley."
A chill ran down Dumbledore's spine.
"I can make them hurt if I want to."
Dumbledore stopped smiling. He would not smile again that day.
"I knew I was special," said Harry, before Dumbledore could get a word in, "The Dursley's, they called me a freak, but now I know…how could I not have known? No one else could do what I can do."
"Yes, Harry, you are indeed special – a wizard. But you are not the only one with these abilities. As I said, Hogwarts is a school dedicated to finding people like you, and educating them."
Dumbledore now adopted a stern look, looking at Harry from over his half-moon glasses.
"You should know, Harry, that at Hogwarts we do not tolerate violence of any kind. Magic is a gift not to be misused, and what you have been doing – not knowing the consequences of your actions of course – to your cousin is against the rules."
"Of course, sir," said Harry, surprising Dumbledore with his sudden meekness. It seemed Harry was a boy of many surprises, for his strange and sudden mood changes were throwing Dumbledore's reading of the boy off. Despite the conversation they were having, Dumbledore did not feel he knew Harry Potter.
Deciding to move on with the proceedings, Dumbledore stood up, his tall figure looming over Harry.
"All then that remains is to go to Diagon Alley to fetch your supplies. I have the list with me. We can go up to London by bus, then catch the -"
"You're coming with me?" Harry asked, interrupting Dumbledore.
"It is traditional for those new to the Wizarding world to be accompanied by -"
"I can go myself, sir. I'm used to doing things by myself." He looked very opposed to the idea of anyone coming with him. Dumbledore frowned. All this was becoming very unsettling.
"I suppose if you are determined to go on your own, I cannot stop you. But I do advise, Harry, having someone accompany you, for it is a confusing time for any -"
"How do you get to Diagon Alley, sir?"
Dumbledore sighed. If the boy really did not want his company, then he could not impose himself. It was already an unusual circumstance for the Headmaster to be going to meet a new student. It looked like he'd just have to give Harry the directions and hope for the best. Not a very encouraging prospect.
"Very well Harry, if that is your wish. The entrance to Diagon Alley is through a pub named The Leaky Cauldon, on Charing Cross road, London. You should be able to find the way, or ask a policeman for directions."
Slightly disgruntled, Dumbledore took from his pocket an envelope and a key.
"This," he said, passing Harry the envelope, "is a list of instructions on how to get to Hogwarts, and what you will need to buy.
"And this," Dumbledore continued, passing over the large golden key, "is the key to your parents' vault. There should be more than enough money in there to last your years at Hogwarts."
Harry's face took on a greedy look as he took the key from Dumbledore, almost snatching it out of his hand.
Seeing Harry's expression, Dumbledore felt the need to add, "However, I would not test this. Best to spend your new-found riches sparingly, just in case."
Deciding that he had imparted all the information he needed to, Dumbledore held out his hand once more for Harry to shake. As Harry did so, he seemed to contemplate something, as if he was debating with himself. Dumbledore wondered if he was reconsidering his decision to go to London alone.
"I can speak to snakes, you know."
Dumbledore's heart stopped.
"I can speak to snakes. I found out when we've been to the country on trips – they find me, they whisper to me. Is that normal for a wizard?"
"They seem to actually try to find me so they can talk to me. Can other wizards do that?"
For a long time, Dumbledore stayed silent, searching Harry's face with his powerful eyes, as if he were looking for something. Harry fidgeted under the stare, and looked away. Slowly, very carefully, Dumbledore said,
"It is a rare gift, Harry, and one I would not advice you to advertise."
Harry nodded, and pulled back from the handshake. Dumbledore sighed.
"Goodbye then, Harry. I shall no doubt see you at Hogwarts."
And with that Dumbledore spun on the spot, and disappeared into thin air, leaving a stunned Harry Potter behind. Had he stayed, he would have seen another unnatural smile grow on Harry's face.
Hours later, back in his office at Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore sat at his desk, wondering just where he had gone wrong.
And deep under Hogwarts, something monstrous grew restless, awaiting the return of its master.