"What if?"

A Harry Potter story (AU, set during HP-ATSS but with trickles here and there from years 2-6), started July 2007, just before the release of Book #7.

Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling; I do not own these canon characters, and I do not make money from these fictional adventures. Darnit.

Pairing: AD/MM

Spoilers: None

Author's notes: This was inspired by numerous ADMM fan-fics by "Lamenting Quill" and other talented authors at rating K for now (this won't be nearly as hot & bothered ;-) ). Please R&R. What if…?

Chapter 01/??Homecoming

The start-of-term banquet on Saturday night, celebrating the beginning of another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was coming to a close. Caught up as she was in quiet conversation with the diminutive Professor Flitwick, Minerva McGonagall didn't pay much attention when Hagrid came walking (surprisingly quiet and graceful afoot for his size) behind Headmaster Dumbledore and whispered in his ear. Albus Dumbledore nodded and smiled at the gamekeeper.

"Thank you, Hagrid. I'll take it from here," he replied softly. "Enjoy your meal; you must be famished from your travels." The tall headmaster stood and cleared his throat, preparing to address the entire school. "Ladies and gentlemen? A few words before we dismiss." There was a momentary pause as several hundred students quieted. Those seated at the staff table were also politely attentive.

"Rest well and get yourselves organized tomorrow. Classes will commence bright and early Monday morning," Dumbledore looked at each of the four house tables in turn, a slight smile on his face. "Prefects, you may escort your first years to their respective dormitories. Off you go, chop chop!" He clapped his hands once and the enchanted candles brightened as many dozens of dark-robed young witches and wizards pushed back from their benches at the four long wooden tables.

Organized chaos followed, accompanied by the excited chatter of students leaving the Great Hall. Dumbledore placed a light restraining hand on McGonagall's shoulder as she was preparing to stand and take one final sip of her herbal tea. "Minerva, would you come with me to the hospital wing? A late-arriving student requires our attention."

"Certainly, Headmaster. Nothing serious, I hope?" She noticed then that Madam Pomfrey, Hogwarts' head nurse had left the banquet early.

"Hagrid assured me that it was just minor injuries which the young man sustained outside Heathrow. Poppy is tending to him as we speak."

They walked together through the halls of the castle, nodding greetings to faculty and students whom they passed. Dumbledore paused briefly and held her arm again as they reached the entry door to Madam Pomfrey's hospital ward. He looked around before he spoke, making sure that none could hear, a bit furtively she thought. As Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress, their relationship was strictly collegial. It was considered normal that they would spend a lot of time in each other's company; running a school of this size took a great deal of organization and management.

As husband and wife of fifty years, however, their relationship was strictly secret. Only a handful of their closest friends even knew, loyal keepers of their secret for decades.

His bright blue eyes held hers. "Minerva, it's time. Brian is here, at Hogwarts," he whispered. He watched as her expressively beautiful face went swiftly through confusion, remembrance and then maternal concern.

"Brian is here? Oh, Albus…" She gasped and staggered into him, tears coming suddenly to her deep brown eyes. My son? Our son…thought Minerva. At that very moment, thundering herds of dragons could not have stopped her from rushing to his bedside, her green tartan robes flapping behind her.

The ward was completely empty except for Madam Pomfrey leaning over one young patient; he was already fast asleep. Minerva recognized the angelic face and tousled curly brown hair at once, even though she had last seen him as a tiny newborn infant, some forty-eight years before.

Poppy Pomfrey stood and nodded with satisfaction as she straightened a bandage and adjusted the corner of the bed sheet, smoothing out a miniscule wrinkle. She didn't startle when she noticed Dumbledore and McGonagall standing there; she'd heard them come in as her hearing was supernaturally acute.

"Headmaster. Professor," she said by way of greeting them, smiling slightly. "He'll be fine—just superficial cuts and bruises. The broken arm was from a fall, I'd imagine."

Dumbledore heaved a sigh. "Yes, the Muggles call it 'mugging' if I recall correctly. Ironic, really."

Pomfrey tutted softly, gathering her treatment tray and bottles. "Well, the poor dear didn't even need the Sleeping Draught I prepared, he was that exhausted when Hagrid brought him in from London. There's the extent of his belongings as well," she said, pointing to a wallet, jacket and pile of neatly folded Muggle clothing. "He had no trunk or school things that I could tell."

"That won't be a problem," Dumbledore told her. "I'll send Hagrid to Diagon Alley tomorrow. Three more late-arriving students are expected in the afternoon, but they'll have already been to the shops."

McGonagall still had not spoken, but drew up a chair to the side of the hospital bed and was holding the boy's uninjured hand, gently stroking his knuckles with her thumb. The Head nurse's eyes went wide as she finally understood who the youngster really was. She quickly drew the privacy curtains and Minerva placed her pointed hat on the floor beside her chair.

"Minnie, is it really he? How long has it been?" Pomfrey touched her old schoolmate's arm, silently offering her support and understanding.

The distraught mother nodded. "Brian was born 29th February, 1960," she said huskily, her voice breaking with emotion. "A leap day of a leap year." As a first year student-to-be at Hogwarts, Brian appeared as any other eleven year old youngster would.

"He'll be right as rain by tomorrow, I personally guarantee it," said Poppy. Her eyes grew moist with unshed tears as she recognized the rare and special privilege she had been granted by this particular family scene.

Albus Dumbledore gave her shoulder a fond squeeze. "Thank you, Poppy."

McGonagall tore her eyes away from her sleeping son and looked with gratitude at her dearest friend. "I'll stay here tonight."

The Head nurse beamed as she stepped around the curtain. "Gi'us a shout if you need owt." The sound of her blowing her nose into a handkerchief drifted faintly back to them.

Dumbledore chuckled and leaned down to kiss his wife's cheek. "What are you thinking, my love?" He stroked her upper back.

She wiped her eyes and smiled tearfully up at her husband. "He's glorious handsome, Albus." He knew at once that she didn't trust herself to speak much more.

Dumbledore chuckled again, and then winced as he gingerly pushed the boy's hair back from his forehead, revealing an angry bruise over one eyebrow. "That he is, thanks to his mother." Albus leaned closer to Brian's ear, whispering an obscure healing charm. The bruise cleared almost immediately; the boy smiled, wrinkling his nose at an imagined tickle and mumbled in his sleep, but did not awaken.

"There's a good lad," his father told him tenderly. He kissed his son and then he kissed his wife, giving her fingers a squeeze. "I'll see you two in the morning."

Next morning, Dumbledore arrived back at the hospital wing to find Brian sitting up in bed, attentively watching Madam Pomfrey removing the bandages from his right arm. He nodded affirmatively at something she told him, and flexed the fingers of his right hand. A tired but happy-looking Minerva McGonagall was coming in from the opposite direction, carrying a laden breakfast tray.

"Good morning, Mr. Rollins," called Dumbledore. "You are looking well."

Pomfrey smiled broadly at them both. "Good as new, professor."

"Excellent! We haven't met; I am Professor Albus Dumbledore," he continued, holding out his right hand to Brian. The boy's handshake was indeed, good as new. "I see you've already met Madam Pomfrey, our school nurse, and Professor McGonagall, our Deputy Headmistress."

"Thank you, yes sir, I have," Brian replied in a distinctive American tone. Dumbledore's eyes sparkled with amusement at this, even though he knew that his son had been adopted from an orphanage in Salem, Massachusetts. The boy seemed pleasant enough, curious and bursting with bonhomie; his accent certainly wasn't British though.

McGonagall placed the tray of porridge, tea and toast on the nightstand beside him and Brian quietly thanked her. Minerva returned to her seat, interested to see how her husband would handle this first meeting. To her proud surprise, it was her son who took the initiative.

"Professor Dumbledore, sir? Where am I?" It was a valid question.

Dumbledore took off his hat and rubbed his forehead and thinning hairline, chuckling. "Quite right, I do apologize. We are presently at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," he said. "It's in England."

Brian nodded, still puzzled. "I see. And what do you teach here?" he asked politely, fearlessly. Apart from the half-moon spectacles and flowing white beard, Rollins had the same sparkling blue eyes as Dumbledore, and his eyes creased the same way when he smiled. Minerva McGonagall could only watch and wonder, hoping that she wouldn't start to cry. She knew then that her heart was lost forever to the boy, again, and that it would be very, very difficult to keep the secret of the three of them.

But she would do it gladly; their survival against Voldemort and his Death Eaters depended on it. Brian could never know who she and Dumbledore really were.

"What do we teach?" echoed Albus. "Why magic, of course."

Brian Rollins considered this seriously for several heartbeats, his brow furrowed in concentration. They certainly didn't expect him to throw his head back, laughing with great abandon. He shook his head. "Magical? Me? Not possible, Professor. Not possible."

Poppy Pomfrey stifled a giggle at his completely unintentional reference to a Gilderoy Lockhart book title. "I'll check back on you a little later, Mr. Rollins," she said with a smile. She patted his leg and moved off down the ward. So far, Brian was her one and only patient.

McGonagall was also trying hard not to giggle. "Why ever not? Haven't you ever done anything, er…magical?" With considerable effort, she forced a serious expression onto her face and looked at him over the rims of her specs. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Dumbledore smiling mysteriously and looking rather pleased with himself.

He shook his head, chewing delicately on a fingernail as he began. "No ma'am. I grew up on a farm in Maine helping my father with the animals, and my mother with the gardens." Brian shrugged. "Well, my foster Mom and Dad. They adopted five of us when they lived in Salem; we moved up to Maine when I was about four years old, I guess."

Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Frank and Juliette Rollins." He cast a sideways glance to Minerva, who immediately understood. The Rollinses were Protectors: they had volunteered to raise the children of other witches and wizards, protecting them from Voldemort. They reared their adopted children as Muggles, but could contact any Ministry of Magic should the child start to show tendencies of wizardry. From that point, the biological parents, if known (some were after all, truly orphans) could be contacted to further his or her education. Given that Brian's parents were both extremely powerful in the magical world, and both respected educators of wizardry, it wasn't any surprise that he should end up at Hogwarts.

And here he was.

"But nothing ever happened that you couldn't explain, Brian?" pressed McGonagall. "Anything special with the plants or animals perhaps?"

When he didn't answer right away, they could literally see the wheels turning in his head as he thought about how best to answer the question. "Well," he began slowly, blushing all the way out to his ears. "For as long as I can remember, I liked to talk to the plants and animals. Mama would tell you that I pretty much did it all the time…cats, dogs, birds, flowers, and trees, whatever."

"And did any of them ever speak to you?" Dumbledore wanted to know.

"Speak? Not exactly, but communicate, yes. Well, responded to me is a better way to put it," Brian said modestly. "My folks called it my 'green fingers' since I could grow anything in the garden, no problem." He held up both hands and waggled all ten of his digits by way of illustration, grinning sheepishly.

"Hmpff, of course they responded to you, young man. They are living things, after all," came a kindly voice from down the ward. The trio looked up to see Professor Sprout hurrying along the central pathway, carrying a tray of healing herb plants. Her robes were covered with a dingy brown smock, and her well-used pointed hat was, as always, worn at a jaunty angle. "It amazes me how many people forget that."

"Pomona. Meet one of our new first year students: Mr. Brian Rollins, from America," said Dumbledore, introducing them. "Brian, this is Professor Sprout, our resident herbologist."

She nodded and smiled, trying not to get potting soil on Madam Pomfrey's spotless floors. "How do? I'm of the 'green fingers' lot as well, you could say," said Professor Sprout. "Which house are you?" Pomona Sprout was not only the professor of herbology, she was also the Head of Hufflepuff House.

Rollins shrugged. "I honestly don't know, ma'am." He looked to the Headmaster for an explanation.

"Mr. Rollins and our other late-arrivals will be Sorted at dinner this evening," Dumbledore commented helpfully. "Coincidentally, there are three more that will soon need to learn of their House assignments."

"Very good. You'd make an excellent Hufflepuff student, Mr. Rollins," she said, giving him a friendly wink. "Well, cheerio!" She continued down the corridor on her way to deliver the plants to Madam Pomfrey, some of the flowers were laying their heads lovingly upon her chest.

"You need to eat, or the matron here will have my head," McGonagall said as sternly as she could manage, placing the breakfast tray in his lap and giving Dumbledore a subtle nod toward the exit. Minerva reached down and replaced her hat upon her head, straightening it without looking out of many years habit.

"Yes, yes, we shouldn't keep you," added Dumbledore. "Madam Pomfrey is quite protective of her patients, as you will find out." He leaned to lightly take McGonagall's arm, helping her from around the bedside.

Brian took a sip of the tea and picked up a piece of buttered toast. He obviously had many questions left unanswered, but one more popped suddenly into his head. "Professors, before you go, please…?"

They turned as one back to him. "Yes, Brian?" asked the elder wizard.

"In which houses are you?"

"Before I became Headmaster of our school, I was Head of Gryffindor House for many, many years," Dumbledore answered, his eyes glittering with pride at this boy's sharp mind.

McGonagall smiled kindly. "And I am the present Head of Gryffindor, Mr. Rollins." She snaked her hand through the arm which Dumbledore offered.

Brian grinned, quickly swallowing the bite of toast he had been chewing. "Then I hope I am chosen for Gryffindor House, Professor McGonagall."

She winked at him and turned with Dumbledore to leave the hospital ward. Before they reached the main door, and out of Brian's earshot, she whispered to her husband: "So do I, Brian. So do I."

Albus Dumbledore squeezed her fingers discretely before disengaging her hand from his arm as they went out into a more public hallway. "We cannot bias the Sorting Hat, my dear. It is a trusted and revered magical object," he whispered back, nearly laughing out loud at the delightfully stubborn set to her jaw. It had attracted him to the gifted and beautiful witch more than fifty years before, and it still did to this day.

She didn't answer but gave him a knowing smirk as they parted, each heading to their own office to attend to school business before the start of the term on the following day. Yes I can, thought McGonagall. Oh, yes I can if I have to.