"Lines ever more unclear, Not sure I'm even here, The more I look the more I think that I'm starting to disappear.Oh, crystal ball, crystal ball, Save us all, tell me life is beautiful, Mirror, mirror on the wall. Oh, crystal ball, hear my song, I'm fading out, everything I know is wrong, So put me where I belong." Keane
Fawkes screeched loudly. For a moment Albus Dumbledore thought that the old bird was about to die again, and thought nothing of it until the bird screeched louder. Looking up the old wizard saw the bird ripping out his tail feathers and crying. The tears landed softly on the second disregarded feather.
Albus felt the lemon drop fall out of his open mouth. Quickly finding his voice he whispered, "Voldemort?"
"No" came the ancient voice, raw from the cry, "The muggles."
"Take me" Albus pleaded.
The red and gold bird swiftly flew down from his perch in the great office and once the old man had grabbed hold of his feet, the two of them vanished.
The Phoenix and the old man arrived in a flash in a small dark room. Looking around he noted there was no furniture, no sources of light, just a clump of rags in one corner. Turning to face the bird, he noticed the Phoenix staring at the rags, looking back over to that corner of the room he noticed them move.
"No, please no more," came the weak cry. Carefully the Headmaster walked over to the bundle. Gently, he reached down and moved the foul blanket away revealing a bruised and bloody Harry Potter.
Albus let out a sigh, "Oh my poor boy."
"Please." Harry begged as he moved himself into a tight ball. "I'll be good Uncle Vernon, honest.
Not knowing what to do, Albus spelled the young man asleep.
The next day passed in what only a tempest could call a fury. It had taken the powerful wizard three hours to stabilize Harry's condition. He finished as dawn lit the sky and the woman he had placed trust in holler for a boy who could not awake. It was only at hour number twenty three that Albus could allow himself to feel good in verbalizing the fact that the Dursley's were alive. Of course 'alive' meant that they were all sound asleep awaiting true loves kiss. Or a counter curse from his wand. They were going to have to hope for love. Not that any of them had any real idea of what that was. Eight more hours delivered him a plan and a place to protect Harry and see that his absence would not be questioned.
Harry's condition was deplorable by any normal wizards' standard, but the child would live, yet again. He had bruises and a few cuts. Those were the easiest to heal, and yet the ones that were present on his face were the hardest to look at. There were also some odd burns on his back that puzzled the headmaster but he healed them to the best of his abilities. They would scar without a potion or a mediwitch, but those were issues to be fixed later, when they returned to Hogwarts. To his surprise, only one rib was broken. Albus had healed it crudely. It was a battle fix, but it too would also have to do. Right now, The Headmaster was more afraid of facing Poppy than he was of Voldemort. All that was left now was to wake the boy. Swishing his wand over his sleeping charge, he brought him awake.
Harry awoke lazily, feeling soft and warm were not things he imagined existed in summer. Nor was the nice bed he was laying in something to be taken for granted. Not in summer. Then it hit him, this was summer. Quickly he opened his eyes and found Dumbledore staring down at him.
"Headmaster?" Harry asked quickly looking around, nothing seemed familiar. "Where are we?"
"In a snow globe, beneath a loose board in what I imagine was Dudley's second best room next to a rather handsome photo album."
"Oh" Harry said trying to make it sound like that was the most natural place in the world to be.
"No thank you Sir," Harry replied sitting up in bed. "Why a snow globe?"
"Well Harry, after last year, I was fearful in removing you from the Dursley's without adequate protection. To take you to Hogwarts would have alerted the Minister of Magic and Voldemort. Rest assured Harry, you will never be returning here after this summer. But I need time to formulate a plan of action so to speak, so I decided to keep us here as school will start in a few days. It will give you the benefit of the blood wards, and then a school year to plot the next summer. Understand my dear boy."
While Harry understood the idea, he still didn't know why the man chose a snow globe."
"Harry, my boy" The headmaster started, quite unsure of where he was going. How could he possibly apologize for the grievous trust in the idea of family? How was he ever going to make things right? Looking down at the small raven hair child he could not help but wish that tragic scar away. How he wanted to give the boy who never lived a normal life just that, a normal life. But no man could change his past. He needed to protect the child's future, and to do so would mean to hide him.
And then the Headmaster had a brilliant idea.
"Harry my boy," The headmaster started more confidently than before, "Do you know where the best place to hide someone is?"
Dull green eyes looked up at him and meekly shook his head.
"Why in plain site of course."
"Let's see," Dumbledore said, but it appeared he was really talking only to himself. "It has been a very long time since there was a student exchange program at Hogwarts. I think we should start it up anew this year. You will be going to Durmstrang for sixth year and I think we will ask Neil Cain to join us here."
At this Harry sat up straighter in his chair. The old man had finally lost it. "You're sending me to Durmstrang? But Sir it's a dark school."
"Yes Harry, I am. But never worry. Neil Cain will be at Hogwarts."
"I don't understand."
"You are Neil Cain, Harry. Of course we will have to make some changes. Dye your eyes for example. Change your hair as well, but all in all, easy things for an old warlock for me to do. This is splendid Neil. Why ever did we not think of it earlier?"
"What about Durmstrang Sir, won't people know I am not there?"
"True point Neil" The Headmaster nodded his head in thought. "Well Neil is from there, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Harry was exchanged there. I mean if several schools participated, we could always leave the school Harry is at purposefully blank. Of course," Dumbledore voice rose in excitement, "For Harry's safety!"
"But I am Harry." Harry said feeling rather confused.
"Of course you are, Never forget that Neil! We must always remember who we are. Think about this as a great adventure. You will be an average student. No one will suspect you, or try to hurt you."
No one to stare at my scar, Harry thought. It did sound rather nice. And he would still be with his friends.
"We have a less than a week to prepare." The Headmaster continued "I seem to remember you once telling me that the Sorting Hat was a little indecisive in which house you belonged."
"Gryffindor or Slytherin," Harry said softly suddenly dreading where this was going. "Is Neil going to be a Gryffindor?"
"No. I am sorry; this time around we will need you to be placed in Slytherin."
Harry stood up immediately, "There is no way Sir. Snape will be my head of house!"
"I am counting on it Neil." The Headmaster replied with the twinkle in his eye almost blinding, "I am counting on it."
"Now, now, it's Professor Snape Neil." Dumbledore clapped his hands and a house elf appeared. "Dinner I think and then plotting."
After dinner and the cakes with lemon icing eaten the Headmaster lead Harry down the hall. They arrived in a large marble bathroom, which Harry thought was twice the size of Dudley's second best room.
"First, I think we should spell you eyesight Neil, and then change their color."
Harry couldn't help but look himself in the mirror and see his mother's eyes.
"Don't worry child it isn't permanent. What color do you think, blue, silver, brown or black?"
"Brown Sir, I think a little more common the better."
"Yes, I agree brown hair as well then, and perhaps a little straighter?"
Harry nodded his head. He watched as Dumbledore raised his wand and swished it around his head. He felt the air grow hot, it was about to burn his face. His eyes stung watered at the heat and instinctively he clinched them shut. The air started to cool. Harry slowly opened his eyes and found everything a blur. He tried not to panic as he realized the old man had blinded him.
"Oh yes, how foolish of me," the Headmaster chuckled "we probably should have started with you removing your glasses first."
Harry reached up and touched the glasses on his face and slowly removed them.
He caught his reflection clearly in the mirror. He almost didn't recognize himself. His light brown hair lay neatly in a long crew cut. His eyes were warm brown, almost like Remus. Softly he touched his scar.
"We will need to hide that as well."
"I didn't think it could be removed."
"Removed no, but covered."
Harry turned to face the Headmaster two more time a flick of the old man's wrist and the scar was covered and a light covering of freckles found his nose.
"We will need to do this every day until you return to school Neil, the stronger the better. The charms are designed only to cover the part of you we wish to hide. So they are harder to discover. But if someone tries to remove the spells, they would have to remove the exact amount before the saw you."
Harry nodded his understanding. "Sir, don't you think while we are here you could call me Harry?"
"No child, I am afraid not. The sooner you get use to your new name the better. Now Mr. Cain let me see your writing hand."
Deftly Dumbledore took Harry's hand in his. Seeing the pencil like scars he leaned in closer, "I will not tell lies." He read, "Harry?"
"Umbridge, Sir in detention." Harry said softly not looking up.
"She used a blood quill in my school." Dumbledore seethed under his breath. Immediately Harry found himself shivering.
"I uh…thought you knew." Harry stammered quickly. Looking up he saw his Headmasters face fall at the statement. "I mean, I wasn't the only one."
Dumbledore sucked in his breath and dropped Harry's hand like it had been on fire. Quickly turning from the boy he whispered to himself, "What have I done."
"You didn't do anything Sir. It was Umbridge."
"No" Harry cried out grabbing hold of Dumbledore's hand, this wasn't the old mans fault. "It was Umbridge Sir, not you. We all know that she was deranged."
"Harry you don't understand, it is my responsibility. I have failed…"
But before the Headmaster could finish Harry cut off "Its Neil Sir, I am Neil. You can cover it like my scar right. I mean its okay Sir, not nearly as bad as Voldemort's."
That would be like covering the multitudes of my sins Albus thought darkly. "We will not be coving this, this which should never have been there." Closing his eyes, he took Harry's scarred hand and coved it in his.
Harry heard a stain of Latin leave his professors lips echoed by a faint hiss. He saw the words etch their way on to the old hand.
"Sir, you are bleeding…What did you do?"
"I took it for my own." The Headmaster said darkly. "The mark is now mine Harry."
Harry's eyes went wide at the sound of the despair\ in Dumbledore's voice. He had hurt the headmaster. It wasn't right; Dumbledore was too good to feel that kind of pain. Taking a deep breath of air he tried to get the old man's attention. "Its Neil sir," Harry said trying to steel his voice to sound convincing, trying hard to keep the tears away.
"So it is Neil," Dumbledore said with a little more light to his voice, "So it is. Now the spell I think." With a flick of the wand a strange warmth spread across Harry's hand. But the young man saw no change.
Sensing the boy's question he said, "You will not notice it until you write something. It will alter your handwriting enough to fool my most cunning professors."
"Sir what about my voice? My friends will recognize my voice."
"I have something in mind for that. Tomorrow. Now I think we could both use a bit of sleep."
Harry felt the next few days passed in what could only be called a wild manner. His voice and all the hiding spells were renewed at such a frequent manner that Harry himself was unsure the exact number of times the counter spell would need to be cast before he could be himself again. Dumbledore had taught him the spells and he had practiced but without seeing the results, Harry was unsure if they would work.
In addition to the spells, the Headmaster had also made him drink fortifying potions that helped rebalance his some of his nutritional deficits. Combined with three hearty meals the snow globe's house elf prepared, Harry was starting to feel bloated. But it seemed the old man had even taken that into consideration as well. On the second day in the globe, the Headmaster had left to gather some clothes for Harry, most of which were trimmed in fur, like the ones he had seen Victor Krum wore when he stayed at Hogwarts. He also had a new set of basic Hogwarts robes, with the school crest in place of the house. They all fit perfectly.
A plan had even been worked out so that Harry could keep in touch with Ron and Hermione. His friends would be giving Dumbledore letters that he would in turn let Harry read in his office. Then, he would allow Harry some time to respond, and deliver the letters a few days latter. That way, no owl would need to be sent, which would only deliver the letter to Neil. When Harry verbalized his concerns as to weather or not his friends would abide by this, Dumbledore decided he would tell them that failure to do so would alert Voldemort, since he would be sure Harry's mail would be watched. Additionally Dumbledore would be directing all of Harry's mail to his office.
Furthermore, Dumbledore had placed a spell on Harry that would make it "Rather difficult" to yell out his friends names. Harry was sure he saw Dumbledore sway just a bit when he asked if Sirius, Cedric and Uncle Vernon could be added as well.
To Harry, that only left one problem, Slytherin. There was no way in Harry's mind that he would survive the school year being sorted into the death eater's house. Harry tried to plead his case several times over the days, and each time he was shot down. It was only when he mentioned how protective Gryffindor was did he realize it was a loosing battle.
"Mr. Cain, I must impart on you that Gryffindor while a noble house is not the only house which views protection highly. This I must say is the last time that we will be having this discussion. I do not believe after all is said and done, that the hat will place you anywhere other than Slytherin especially after what has transpired these past five years. I hope you will trust me on this Neil, I know I have failed that trust too much to hope for it even now, but you will do well in Slytherin. Far better than if you were sorted say, into my office. Just remember, every house has a secret life that the other houses don't see. I know that you worry about Professor Snape, but remember, when you are sorted into his house; he will see you only as Neil Cain, a Slytherin. Have you ever seen him treat his Slytherin's less than kind?"
Harry had to agree that Snape did treat his Slytherins' well, and he would be just another student, not the boy who lived. Still it made him uneasy.
Then again, uneasy was a constant thing to feel in the snow globe. Since his arrival, Dumbledore would at times try to talk to Harry about what transpired at the Dursley's. Off handedly the old man would ask how he got the burns on his back, and every time the Headmaster's eyes would loose their sparkle and his voice sounded pained. Harry knew the idea of those burns scared the old man, he knew the Headmaster felt guilty and pained. While Harry was sure the Headmaster would understand the pain he felt in losing Sirius, he knew Dumbledore would never understand about the Dursley's. The world in which the Great Albus Dumbledore lived knew not of the things that happen to children who live under the stairs. Harry couldn't tell him. Instead he would softly reply, "Nothing, Nothing has ever happened to Neil."
To that Dumbledore could only sadly nod his head.
And so quickly, the day to leave for school arrived. With a pop, Dumbledore and a young boy named Neil Cain left the snow globe that lay hidden beneath a loose board in Dudley's second best bedroom. The headmaster shrunk all of Harry Potter's belongings and placed them securely in his pocket. In exchange the old man pulled out a small medal medallion and gave it to Neil.
"Wear this always. Once on, it will be invisible to all except those who know it exist. It will, in an emergency, take you directly to my office."
"Thank you Sir,"
"You are most welcome Mr. Cain. Now this ticket is a portkey to platform 9 ¾ , it will activate as soon as you say school. Are there any questions?"
"No Sir." Harry said shaking his head.
"Good. Well then," The Headmaster said taking one last look at the room. "Grab your trunk, and remember the plan. I will see you at the sorting."