The Roaring Snake
Summary:The story is AU and starts with Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley. While it does follow the general outline of PS, it diverges from the canon considerably. This story features an attempt at credible Harry/Millicent. It will also feature a more pro-active Minerva who helps Harry within her limits, and a more intelligent, observant and socially active Harry, in place of the angsty and reclusive social-reject of the HP series. It will also feature attempts by many others, including Voldemort, and Lucius to manipulate Harry.
(Author's Note: It seems pretty unfair that the callous and unpleasant old coot, Dumbledore, gets monopoly rights over manipulating Harry. While I admit that the old man has had a head start and some nifty bonuses in that field, like full custody over Harry's person (be it covert or overt) and a submissive and apathetic staff at Hogwarts to help, it is rather a bitter testimony to the indifference of the whole 'Light' side that they all tolerate Dumbledore's tortures of poor Harry. In most of the fan-fictions I have read, it is usually the law which is on Harry's side and Dumbledore who is in violation of it. I am going to take the converse approach. Dumbledore is much too experienced and clever to leave legal loopholes for people to exploit. This is a story where the law (such as it is) is on Dumbledore's side, while it is Harry's friends who have to run rings round it to help poor Harry.
Warning to all Dumbledore, Snape and Malfoy lovers – just as in my other two stories, none of these characters will be particularly likeable – in fact, all three are fairly unpleasant.
As usual, all criticism is welcome.)
27th July 1991, Headmaster's office, Hogwarts
Dumbledore was seated in his chair, reading through a report, when a knock sounded on his door. "Enter", spoke the headmaster.
The door opened, ushering in the tall, stern figure of Minerva McGonagall. Dumbledore waved her into a seat before offering her a lemon-drop, which the Transfiguration professor declined. "So, tell me Minerva, how have the muggle-borns responded this year?", queried Dumbledore.
"Fairly well, Albus. Of the fourteen candidates to whom we sent invitations, nine have responded positively. We will have to take them to Diagon Alley soon. I think it is best if we split them into three groups of three each for the shopping trip."
Dumbledore nodded, "Yes, that will be fine. How do you wish to handle it?"
"Well, Albus, I can take them on three separate days, but I will be fairly busy myself. I will take one bunch in the next few days. I'll ask Pomona or Aurora to take the other two batches to Diagon Alley."
Dumbledore assented, "Yes, that will be perfect." Minerva continued, "However, we have had no answer from Mr. Potter. Judging from the lack of response, I must wonder if he is even receiving his letter."
Dumbledore looked pensive, "If we get no answer by the 30th, I will send someone to check on Harry on the 31st – it is his birthday, I believe."
"I can check on Harry, if you tell me how to reach him", returned McGonagall.
"No need, Minerva. I will send Hagrid if he does not reply."
"Hagrid! Albus, are you serious?!"
"I would trust Hagrid with my life", responded Dumbledore sternly.
"Albus, you cannot do that", spluttered Minerva in disbelief. "Those muggles – they would be outraged and terrified if Hagrid were to appear on their doorstep. And I'm not sure what Harry knows about our world. If the lack of response from Harry is any indication, I really wonder if they have told Harry anything about us – or even his parents."
"I'm sure it is not as bad as you depict it, Minerva", replied Dumbledore soothingly, before continuing, "Leave Harry to me – I will make arrangements for Harry to get his supplies."
"But, Albus", began Minerva, a protest forming on her lips, when Dumbledore cut her off. "Trust me, Minerva, I have Harry's best interests in mind."
"Very well, Albus, in that case, I will be off to see to the muggle-borns this year."
Minerva did not for a moment doubt that Dumbledore would make arrangements for Harry to arrive in Hogwarts. But she also had no doubts that Dumbledore intended to send Hagrid to collect Harry. And while Hagrid had his heart in the right place, he was not really qualified to tell Harry about the wizarding world. Minerva pursed her lips. She could not really deny that she was interested in Harry – like all the wizarding world, she had an interest in Harry Potter, but her interest went beyond the fact that he was the unwitting saviour of the said world. No, she had a more personal interest in him. Minerva sighed and drew her pensieve. Placing her wand to her temple, she drew a long silvery strand of memory – a memory of a conversation she had had with James Potter before he went into hiding – and placed it in her pensieve.
"You do not seem very sure about this course of action, James", remarked McGonagall softly.
The tall and dark-haired James Potter sighed wearily, "No, Minerva – I'm not at all sure about it. Lily and Albus insist that the Fidelius charm is unbreakable and we'll be safe, but I'm not convinced."
"Comfort yourself, James. The Fidelius has never been broken."
"It's not just that, Minerva. It's also the fact we're going into hiding. It goes against everything we've been fighting for. To hide from Voldemort is to let him win."
"Don't be ridiculous, James. It's folly not to recognise danger. And think of Harry – it is simply unfair to him to put him in danger."
James Potter nodded, "That's the only reason why I'm even agreeing to this plan of Albus. Min – if something happens to Lily and me, just ensure that Harry is properly cared for."
McGonagall had turned stern, "Stop it, James. Don't start turning all maudlin. You'll be fine and you and Lily will take care of Harry yourselves."
James smiled tightly, "I hope so, Minerva. But one never knows. Merlin knows I've no wish to get myself killed." Potter's looked earnestly and pleadingly at the older witch, "Just promise me you'll make sure Harry is happy if anything happens to us."
Minerva answered quietly, "I'll do everything I can, James. Now let's stop getting all worked up over something that hopefully will never happen." She put her hand on the younger man's shoulder, looking seriously into his eyes, as she continued quietly, "Keep safe, James. I'm sure we will all get through this nasty interlude."
"Thanks, Min. You're right. I guess this stress is getting to me.". The two sat quietly for a moment, and then James Potter rose, "Well, I'll be off, Min. I need to find Lily and see if she has finished talking to Dumbledore about that charm."
McGonagall nodded, as she accompanied the younger man to the door, "Goodbye, James, and good luck", she whispered as he left her office.
Prof. McGonagall emerged from the memory, and her eyes lacked their usual sternness. They were weary and sad. She had failed James Potter – she had promised him she would ensure Harry would be happy and well-cared for, but she had obeyed Albus and agreed to leave Harry with those horrid muggles. No matter what Dumbledore averred, Minerva was certain that those obnoxious muggles had never treated Harry properly, let alone concerning themselves about his happiness. She had met Petunia Dursley once and she was sure that the muggle woman hated magic. Judging from the lack of response from Harry, Minerva was now worried exactly how little, if at all anything, the boy knew about the magical world. Harry may have been safe from Death Eaters with those muggles, but McGonagall was sure that he had not been happy. "I am truly sorry, James. I have failed you", murmured Minerva. "I doubt Harry has had a single happy moment in his life thus far, but I promise you, I'll make it up to him", declared Minerva to the world, hoping the spirit of James Potter would hear her.
Besides Harry's happiness or lack thereof, in the wizarding world, expectations for Harry Potter were sky high, and if he came in completely ignorant about all wizarding customs and practices ... No, that would never do. Minerva smiled – Albus had given her one bit of information inadvertently – the knowledge when Harry was coming to Diagon Alley – never imagining that Minerva would circumvent his direct instructions. If she could not go to where Harry was living, she could ascertain that she would be on hand when Harry came to the Diagon Alley. A plan slowly began to form in her mind. She wanted Harry to learn about the wizarding world in general, and Hogwarts in particular. What better way of informing him about Hogwarts than showing him the best specimens of all four Houses? She just needed to find people for all the four Houses who were not under the Headmaster's thumb.
Minerva walked to her table, opened a drawer and took out a file. The names of all the coming academic year's freshers was on the file. Minerva smiled – except in the case of muggle-borns, she knew most of the parents of the students that would be appearing in Hogwarts and had taught them herself, in many cases. Rapidly cycling through the list of names, she circled a few names apiece for students whose parents were in Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Hufflepuff – yes, this would work fine. There was no need to look for anyone in Gryffindor – Minerva herself served as a superb example of a Gryffindor. No matter what House the children ended up in at Hogwarts, the parents or guardians were the among the finest of their Houses. It was likely she could persuade at least one from each House to come to Diagon Alley on the 31st. McGonagall knew some of the kids personally, and they would make good friends for Harry. It would do the boy – and the muggle-borns Minerva was bringing along – a world of good if they were with kids who knew the magical world. Hopefully, Harry would be able to make friends with some of them and these children, along with the muggle-borns whom Minerva was bringing along, would be good company for Harry. They could have lunch together in Diagon Alley and she would make sure Harry had a decent birthday for once.
Minerva had wondered for a moment if she should bring people from other Houses. She loved Harry dearly and wanted him in her House, but she wanted Harry there because he belonged there. She would put him in possession of information, and would let him make the choice. It was easy to prejudice him against the other houses, but all of Minerva's scruples rebelled against such a course of action. No – Harry would belong where he belonged and she would make sure he was happy wherever he was.
Minerva picked up her cloak, and wrapping it around herself, walked out of Hogwarts, and apparated to her Manor. She had to contact a few people.
Dumbledore smiled as he reclined in his chair. His plans were going very well. The muggles had outdone themselves in hating magic – and Harry, by extension. Harry was now timid, lacking in self confidence, doubtful of his own worth, and desperate for the smallest bit of praise, making it easy for Dumbledore to step in as the saviour. Best of all, Harry knew nothing about the magical world, and he was no better than a muggleborn at this stage. Dumbledore had always been amused by the wizarding world's disdain for the muggle-born witches and wizards. While many muggle-borns were equal in magical power and ability to their pureblood counterparts, they were also the easiest to manipulate. They knew nothing about the wizarding world, and consequently, by feeding them only 'approved' information, Dumbledore could indoctrinate them in his ideology without appearing to do so. Of course, unthinking obedience to Dumbledore was a small detail which was routinely drilled into the heads of the children. Hogwarts libraries contained only 'Ministry approved' books, but Dumbledore himself was on the committee for approving books and he would ensure the muggle-borns learnt only what he wanted them to learn. Some muggle-borns did wise up to the actual state of affairs in the wizarding world and chose to abandon Dumbledore, but it took them at least a decade after Hogwarts to become sufficiently disillusioned with the prejudices and intricacies of the wizarding world and Dumbledore's policies. There was a large enough inflow of muggle-borns every year and this more than compensated for any loss, allowing Dumbledore to have a steady, if not growing, support base. Now Harry, the icon of the wizarding world, was in the same state. It was perfect.
Dumbledore mused where Harry would be put in Hogwarts – whether it was Gryffindor, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, Dumbledore had his plans perfectly in place to control the Boy-Who-Lived. His friends would be 'Dumbledore approved' too and the information he got would be limited at best. It should not pose too serious a problem if he ended up in any of the three Houses. The only unpredictable case was if Harry was sorted into Slytherin. Dumbledore had considered this case, and believed it most unlikely. He had a good insight into Harry's character, and judging by it, Harry was not devious or ambitious enough to be a Slytherin. Still, it would not pay to take chances. So he would send Hagrid to retrieve Harry and feed him information about Hogwarts, his parents and the magical world. He could rely on Hagrid's strong prejudices against Slytherin to ensure against any – mishaps – during Harry's sorting. He picked up a lemon drop. Life was very good indeed.
"Quirinius, what have you discovered about my 'nemesis'?", asked the high cold voice of Lord Voldemort.
"He is coming to Hogwarts this year, my Lord. The Headmaster is sending Hagrid to collect the boy and bring him to Diagon Alley on the last day of this month to get his supplies", answered Quirrel in a timid voice.
"I see. Quirinius, I want you to go to Diagon Alley, and observe the boy for the day. Keep close to the oaf, and the boy, and report to me your insight about his nature."
"Will you be accompanying me there, my Lord."
"Of course not, you fool!", hissed Voldemort. "There is always risk of detection in Diagon Alley. I will join you at nightfall and we shall make our way to Gringotts."
"Certainly, my Lord."
"Quirinius, I want you to see if you can learn exactly why my curse against the boy failed. I have a few ideas, but I want to see if he knows anything himself. However, do not, on any account, show an unhealthy interest in the boy's history. It will not do to have you under suspicion."
"Of course, Master."
"Remember, Quirinius, this is just a recon mission. You are to ensure that no harm befalls the boy from anyone, especially over-ambitious fools of my former followers. You will guard the boy with your life. Woe betide you if aught happens to him – you shall answer for it, head for a head."
"As you command, my Lord. I will ensure nothing happens to him."
"Good. I will keep in touch with you soon."
---(End of the Chapter)---
(Author's Note: Try to guess the three muggle-borns and the three specimens of Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. I'll give you a clue – the Slytherin specimen is not one of the parents of Millicent.)