Summary: When Vernon Dursley dies in a car accident, Petunia refuses to have Harry back and the Hogwarts staff draw lots to see who will take him in for the summer.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Harry, Poppy etc belong to JKR.

Author's Notes: Why are there so few fics with Madam Pomfrey in? She's one of my favourite characters. I have loads of Albus-Minerva-Harry fics, so instead I'm doing a Poppy-Harry(and possibly Aberforth) fic. Don't worry ADMMers, our favourite couple will still play a part!

-----

The Short Straw

By Alexannah

Chapter One: Finding Dumbledore

Your Uncle Vernon was in an accident last Tuesday and died. Dudley and I are going to stay with Marge. Find somewhere else to stay, she doesn't want you around.

Aunt Petunia

Harry blinked. The bluntness of the note stunned him. His uncle was dead?

As far as he was concerned it was no great loss. If it had been his aunt he would have been a little more sympathetic, but not much. The Dursleys had never cared much for him and he was only grateful for keeping him alive long enough for him to find Hogwarts.

But now he couldn't go back to Privet Drive, and term ended tomorrow. What was he supposed to do?

"Think, Harry, think," he said to himself. He couldn't just impose himself on Ron or Hermione, though he knew they wouldn't object, but it would be rude and he hadn't even met Hermione's family or half of Ron's. But who else would take him?

Harry slid down the dormitory wall, trying to run a list of names and places in his head – but he couldn't think of anyone or anything, except perhaps Mrs Figg, which he decided would be a last resort.

I have to think realistically, he thought. What would anyone else do?

He sighed. Anyone else would go to a teacher for help. Harry had always prided himself on not relying on adults for anything – perhaps why he hadn't gone to anyone about the Philosopher's Stone till the last minute. He never trusted adults as a child, and now at Hogwarts he did warily, the only exceptions being Hagrid and Dumbledore – Hagrid had a sort of childlike lovability to him, and Dumbledore … well, Dumbledore was Dumbledore.

Harry pushed the crumpled letter into his pocket and slowly made his way out of Gryffindor Tower before realising he didn't know where Dumbledore's office was.

"Great," he muttered. At the end of term all the teachers would be busy. By the time he found someone who could direct him to the right place, the train would be leaving. He kicked the wall in frustration.

"Something bothering you, Mr Potter?"

He jumped and whirled round. "Professor! Could you help me?"

"With what?" Professor McGonagall looked tired and was carrying a huge stack of books. "Term ends tomorrow, Mr Potter, and I am very busy -"

Harry cut her off. "I know term ends tomorrow, I need to talk to Professor Dumbledore. It's urgent."

She raised an eyebrow. "Am I allowed to inquire why, or is it still 'sort of secret'?"

Harry flushed. "It's not secret, just important. Please, Professor!"

Professor McGonagall sighed. "I'll take you to his office."

Harry followed her to a large gargoyle and extremely ugly stone gargoyle. She barked "Acid Pops!", which was obviously a password, because it sprang to life and jumped aside, revealing a rotating spiral staircase. He followed her up it until they reached a heavy door with a brass knocker in the shape of a griffin. The room inside was beautiful, full of whirring contraptions and a large collection of portraits on the walls.

Professor McGonagall informed him Dumbledore would be with him shortly and left the room, leaving Harry on his own.

He took the opportunity to look around while waiting, and spotted the most beautiful bird he'd ever seen. It was red and gold with dark beady eyes and an intelligent – for a bird – face.

Harry moved forward. "Hello," he murmured. "Who are you then?"

To his great surprise it left its perch and settled on his shoulder. After a moment Harry reached out hesitantly to stroke the plumage. It trilled in delight.

"Harry?" Dumbledore's voice made Harry jump. The bird took flight in surprise, circled the office and settled again on its perch. Dumbledore had appeared from behind the magnificent desk, looking at him with a very strange expression on his face.

"How odd," he said, reaching out to pet the bird, who trilled in the same way it had when Harry stroked it. "Fawkes rarely lets anyone touch him. He must have taken to you strongly, Harry."

"What is he?" Harry breathed, staring at Fawkes.

"A phoenix." Harry's mouth fell open in awe. "Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing properties, and they make highly faithful pets." Dumbledore moved away from Fawkes' perch and sat down behind his desk. "Now, what brings you here, Harry? Is something the matter? Professor McGonagall said it was urgent -"

"It is." Now he was faced with asking, Harry felt very awkward. "Um …"

Dumbledore sat smiled encouragingly and offered him a sherbet lemon, which he refused politely, chewing over his question.

"I got this just now," he said finally, holding up the note so Dumbledore could see the handwriting but not the content. "It's from my aunt – my uncle died last week."

"Oh." Dumbledore suddenly looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry, Harry."

I'm not, Harry thought, before continuing, "They're staying with his sister, but she doesn't want me there, so I've got till tomorrow to find somewhere else to stay the summer."

"Ah." Dumbledore slowly removed his half-moon glasses from his crooked nose and began to polish them, apparently thinking hard. "And you don't have anywhere you could stay – no other relations of your uncle's, perhaps, or …"

Harry shook his head. "No-one."

"I see." Dumbledore placed his glasses back where they belonged. "I imagine you don't want to impose on your friends' families?"

He'd read his mind. "No, sir. Not unless I don't have another option."

"Understandable," Dumbledore nodded. "But that does make things rather difficult …"

"Please, sir, couldn't I stay here?" Harry suddenly blurted. At Dumbledore's hesitation, he continued hurriedly, "I wouldn't get in the way, I could just stay in Gryffindor Tower if I have to, and I'd get my homework done and everything and I could help the other teachers if you want me to be useful and -"

Dumbledore held up a hand to stop him. "Wouldn't you rather stay in a proper home?"

Harry just shrugged. Dumbledore sighed.

"I'm sorry Harry, but I can't let you stay here during the summer." When Harry was about to interrupt he held his hand up again. "It's the rules – hardly any of the staff are around during the summer holidays, three at the most, and I'm sure you would agree that in a place this size it would be very hard -"

"I wouldn't get in anyone's way," Harry said quickly, "and I'll stick to the common room -"

"I know you would, Harry, but these rules were not made to be bent on a case-by-case basis. Other students would not be as co-operative and the rules have to apply to everyone. You could stay at Hogwarts, but first I would have to prove to the Ministry there was absolutely no place else, and for your own safety you would have to have a member of staff in the same vicinity as you at all times, and at least two others around in case of emergencies. There would also be a lot of paperwork involved and by the time you were granted permission the holiday would be over. I'm sorry."

Harry slumped into a chair.

"But," Dumbledore continued, "I'm sure we can work something out. Give me two hours and I'll let you know."

Harry blinked at the abruptness. Two hours? That seemed very little time … but Dumbledore was already standing up.

"Don't worry, Harry," he said kindly. "You'll have an enjoyable summer, mark my words."

-----

"There had better be a good reason why you summoned us all here, Albus," Severus grumbled irritably. "I'm trying to get a potion finished before term ends."

"Well, Severus, as I am sure you will have absolutely no interest in the proposal I am about to make," Albus' eyes twinkled knowingly, "you may go." He waited.

Severus gritted his teeth. The man always had a way of peaking his curiosity.

"Well, then," Albus continued, looking round at the rest of the staff, "it seems we have a homeless student on our hands."

You could hear the interest piquing.

"Without going into detail," Albus continued, "Harry Potter is no longer able to stay with his guardians – at least, not this holiday. And so he needs a place to stay."

Severus settled back in his seat. This should be interesting.

"What do you suggest, Albus?" Minerva asked.

Albus' eyes twinkled. "I had a feeling that a number of us would be interested, and so I prepared these." He held up a handful of straws. "No cheating. Anyone like to go first?"

-----

Harry had packed. He couldn't think what else to do. If he wasn't staying at Hogwarts then he couldn't leave his things behind. He filled his trunk like everyone else but stayed in the dormitory rather than drag it down to the Hogwarts Express.

"Harry?" He looked up to see Ron and Hermione watching him. "Where've you been?"

"Talking with Dumbledore about alternative accommodation."

"Huh?" Ron.

"The Dursleys don't want me back so I needed to find somewhere to stay," Harry explained.

"Why can't you come over to mine?" Ron asked, sounding hurt. "I was going to invite you both over anyway."

"Dumbledore's already said he'll organise something," Harry replied. Ron's face fell. "But I'd love to come over later in the holiday," he added quickly and Ron brightened.

"Well, that's all right then."

"Where are you going?" Hermione asked curiously. Harry shrugged.

"I don't know. He said give him two hours and he'll have somewhere." Harry looked at his watch. "One left."

It was just as he said this that a knock sounded on the dormitory door. After exchanging puzzled glances, Harry said, "Come in."

"Ah, Harry." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as usual. "Er, Miss Granger, what are you doing here?"

Harry thought he could ask Dumbledore the same thing – he'd never seen him anywhere near the students' living quarters before.

"Oh," Hermione flushed. "Um, I was just saying goodbye. I'll just go," she said quickly and hurried out of the room.

"You've found somewhere for me to stay, Professor?" Harry said hopefully. Dumbledore smiled.

"I have. It's not far from here – actually, she lives in the village by the school, so you should feel right at home."

"Who am I staying with?" Harry asked nervously.

The answer took him by surprise. "Madam Pomfrey."

TBC …