Hi there. This is my first story. Be gentle, and all that. Reviews appreciated.
It was a normal summer morning in Little Whinging. Privet Drive was still as the sun rose, and the only thing to be heard was the repetitive clicks of lawn sprinklers and the gentle rain from them striking the sidewalks. A few cars started up and drivers began their commute. A door in need of an oiling squeaked open and closed quietly, doing its best to cause as little commotion as possible. The inhabitants of Privet Drive strived to do the same...
Cause as little commotion as possible.
It was a very normal neighborhood, and causing a commotion wasn't normal. As more front doors opened, neighbors waved hello and wished each other good morning.
Everything was calm and peaceful as the sky turned a light blue over Privet Drive. Everything was normal, usual and perfectly acceptable.
Inside number 4 Privet Drive, the same could be said. Birdsongs floated through the windows and the peacefulness of early morning seemed to soak into the walls. Pictures of a family of three hung on the walls. A large man with an equally large mustache stood behind a woman sitting in a chair in one picture. She was holding a pudgy child in her lap. The woman, who was quite thin, seemed to have pasted a smile on her face to cover what might have been a grimace. The man standing behind her looked into the camera with an expression of aggressive pride, almost challenging the photographer to make the picture anything but perfect.
On the second floor Dudley Dursley, now dangerously obese, was sleeping on his back, snoring lightly. His protruding stomach did not allow him to sleep in any other position, and this caused a slight snoring problem that his parents found quite endearing.
In a bedroom just down the hall, Petunia Dursley awoke with the sun shining in her face through a spectacularly clean window. Blinking slowly, she sat up in bed and rubbed her face. In the same bed Vernon Dursley slept on, his mouth open, breathing heavily. Petunia looked at him and smiled sickly.
Gently, she put her hand on her husband's arm and shook him awake. Vernon blinked his eyes slowly. It was five-thirty in the morning and he had a very important meeting at work in a few hours.
"Morning, love," his wife whispered in his ear. "It's time to wake up. You need to be at work by nine, isn't that right?"
Grumbling a bit, Vernon yawned. Looking at his wife he smiled and asked, "What do you feel like for breakfast?"
"Hmm," she thought a moment. "I believe...an omelet."
"An omelet, eh?"
She smiled at him, "Yes, dear. An omelet with ham and cheese would be wonderful this morning. And some juice as well."
Vernon grunted and stood up next to the bed, stretching. Placing his slippers and robe over his sleep-wear, he left the room and began to walk down the stairs.
Underneath those very stairs slept a small boy. As Vernon Dursley traveled over him, the boy was covered by a small amount of dust sprinkled over his face. His messy black hair was greasy and hadn't been washed in several days. The clothes he wore were much too large to fit his scrawny frame. His cousin had worn holes into the shirt and pants because of his bulk. To Harry Potter and his abnormally small build, they were much too large. Dudley was a ten year old going on fifteen. Harry looked at if he was seven years old and not the ten he truly was, as of today.
Today was Harry's 10th birthday, though he didn't know that. The Dursley's never let him read the newspaper or watch the television, but that's not why he had no idea of the date...
"BOY!" A booming crash woke Harry as Vernon banged on the door to the cupboard. Harry shot up in bed, flicking his wrist to grab ahold of his wand. Nothing happened. There was no wand.
Without thought, Harry turned his head and body in every direction, reaching out desperately, trying to locate his wand. His fingers slammed into the wall of the cupboard, bending backwards in a manner that was not meant to be. A shooting pain shot through his arm, and he jerked his hand back.
"What the hell...?" He wondered to himself, trying to calm his breathing and figure out what was going on.
"BOY! Get out here and make some breakfast! Your Aunt wants an omelet with ham and cheese and I need to leave for the office by eight."
BANG. Another kick to the door made Harry jump.
"If you're not done by the time I get out of the shower, you're not leaving that damn cupboard for a week!" Vernon Dursley had eaten the same thing for breakfast for the past week and knew the boy wouldn't change anything unless he was ordered otherwise. He walked back up the stairs to take his shower, stomping up the stairs to let loose a little bit of extra dust on his worthless nephew.
The menacing yell from nowhere had startled Harry as he was still trying to get his bearings and understand exactly where he was. This was not his home. He was definitely not in his study.
A slight glow from the floor showed a narrow opening, indicating a door. He patted himself down for his wand and, finding nothing, slowly reached around the small room.
As his hand he had jammed earlier came into contact with the ceiling just a few inches above his head, the pain made him realize that if this was a dream, it was a very involved and realistic one.
Harry used his other hand and felt around the easy to reach ceiling. A minute later he felt something tickle his wrist. Jerking back, he landed on something hard, a rod of some sort. Taking a few breaths, Harry slowly reached back up and tried to find what had just come into contact with his hand. He brushed something light, thin and a bit fuzzy. Wrapping his fingers around what seemed to be a piece of twine, Harry pulled down and was blinded by light.
Blinking for several seconds, Harry opened his eyes and looked up at what was a very low powered light bulb. Scanning his immediate surroundings, he stared open mouthed at the door he had seen light shining under a few minutes earlier. As his eyes rose, he let out a startled gasp and then quickly silenced himself.
Written above the short and filthy door on an old and worn piece of cardboard were two words, "HARRY'S ROOM". He was in his old cupboard at number 4 Privet Drive. The shouts from earlier finally wound their way into his consciousness.
"BOY!" "BREAKFAST!" "YOU'RE NOT LEAVING THAT DAMN CUPBOARD FOR A WEEK!"
No. No! There is no way that this was happening. It was impossible...
But as his thoughts trailed off, Harry realized that since he had been born he had done the impossible, whether he liked it or not. He usually didn't. Whether he meant to or not, over and over again he had defied the rules of magic and laws of the wizarding world. Was this a vision? Some sort of hallucinogen slipped to him in a drink? What sort of potion could do something like this?
Since leaving Hogwarts the year after the final battle, Harry had learned more about potions than he had in the six years he had studied them in school. He could think of nothing that would be able to create such a realistic hallucination.
Flexing his strained hand and fingers, he figured out that nothing was broken and slowly pushed outward. The light in the hallway was even more brilliant to his eyes than it had been in the cupboard and he had to squint and blink several times before being able to see clearly.
Even then, he realized things were still blurry and knew that he needed to find his glasses. His glasses...something he hadn't had need for since getting his vision corrected by some muggle doctors that he met through Hermione's parents.
As he turned back to the cupboard and picked up the black-frames held together with masking tape, several things hit him at once.
He was at the Dursley's, still needed his glasses and Vernon was alive! Bloody hell! What was going on here?
Harry hadn't been to number 4 Privet Drive since the night he left before his 7th year. After coming out of hiding at the end of the war, the Dursley's had been forced to move since most of Privet Drive had either been outright destroyed or heavily damaged. Out of guilt, Harry had offered to purchase them a new house wherever they wanted and at any cost. He had the money to spare between the Potter and Black fortunes, but Vernon would have nothing to do with it until Petunia had intervened and they had come to an agreement. Harry would match them and pay for half of whatever house they decided on.
So much had changed during the year they had been in hiding. Admittedly, Vernon hadn't, but Petunia and Dudley, having kept up with wizarding news during the year, were almost likable by the time they had been released from their safe-house. Or at least a bit more understanding.
Harry shook his head and suddenly felt dizzy. Putting his hand on the wall to steady himself, he felt blood rush to his head and closed his eyes waiting for it to pass. After a moment he was able to stand on his own and looked around.
Everything looked the way it had. It was the same house he had grown up in. The same perfectly manicured prison. The same family portraits lined the hallway, each year with Dudley looking bigger and fatter, while Petunia and Vernon stayed the same. No sign of Harry in any picture, and if he hadn't known better he wouldn't think he existed. It was exactly what the Dursley's wanted people to think.
He slowly shuffled down the hallway towards the foot of the stairs and front door. As he approached the door, he looked to his right and noticed the large mirror hanging on the wall. As he stared into it, he almost collapsed.
Staring back at him was Harry Potter, a small child. He was extremely thin, almost emaciated. His hair was greasy and clumped together. The shock awoke his sense of smell and he caught the scent of unwashed clothing soaked with sweat and what had to have been dried urine. Harry had trouble not retching right there in the hallway.
He turned towards the door, desperate to run outside and wake himself from this too real nightmare. Harry reached for the door but paused in thought for a moment. He needed to plan this. He couldn't go running around aimlessly and terrified like he actually was a young child. He was an auror. He had to act like one.
Slowly, Harry looked down at the floor and closed his eyes. Taking a long, calming breath through his mouth he could feel his muscles relaxing enough for him to think clearly. Opening his eyes, he realized he had no shoes. Quickly walking back to his cupboard, Harry searched and quickly found a pair of grubby trainers that were at least three sizes too big for his feet. Grabbing an extra pair of socks, he shoved them into the toes and then tightly laced them up so they wouldn't fall off if he needed to run anywhere.
Above his head, he could hear the shower turn on as Vernon began to bathe. The sound of a door opening and closing lightly alerted him to the fact that Petunia was awake, as well. Hearing her lightly pad across the upstairs hallway to Dudley's room, Harry crawled back out of the cupboard and crouched, waiting for what he remembered as the traditional 'Dudley wake up' routine that Petunia had gone through every morning that Harry could remember until he left for Hogwarts.
Hearing the light knocks on the bedroom door, Harry stayed motionless until Petunia walked into the room, "Duddikins...it's time to wake up..."
The sound of the bedroom door closing signaled his chance to escape. Gliding forward, Harry opened the front door as swiftly as he could and was rewarded with only a slight squeak of the hinges. He turned and closed it slowly, trying not to make a sound. An almost inaudible 'click' told him he had been successful, and hopefully the Dursley's would have no idea he had left until they realized that there would be no breakfast waiting.
Walking swiftly down the sidewalk, Harry's mind was spinning. It was warm outside, especially for being so early in the morning. The sun was not very high, and the dampness in the grass from the morning dew had yet to burn away. Most of the driveways were still filled with cars. As he passed by house after house he saw a few people walking out through their front doors. A couple of the neighbors gave him a glance and a look of disapproval mixed with something Harry thought must be pity.
Reflecting on that, he realized if he had seen himself walking down the street in hand-me-down rags several sizes too big in the filthy condition he was in, he might have had the same look on his face. If he was heartless and obsessed with appearances, he mused.
He needed to know the date. What year was it? It was obviously summer, too hot to be anything but. Vernon was alive and Harry had woken up in the cupboard under the stairs... He must be eleven years old or younger...
Merlin! Voldemort was still alive!
Harry stopped suddenly and barely avoided a car backing out of the driveway he had paused in. Dodging it quickly, he began walking quickly, thinking hard. His pace increased until he took off running as fast as he could. He missed the looks from several people who were staring after the filthy boy awkwardly running in his too-large shoes.
He stopped running as he reached the neighborhood park, a park he had spent quite a bit of time in as a child. A park he had hid in many times, hiding from Dudley and his gang. Hiding from the Dursley's and his miserable existence as a 'freak'. He stumbled over to a bench and had a bit of trouble getting situated on it, finally settling down and leaning against the back. His feet didn't touch the ground.
There he sat, still and quiet, eyes closed. Harry had no idea how much time had passed, but as he took deep calming breathes, he began to take control of the situation. At least in his own mind. Here he was in Little Whinging, Surrey. His childhood home.
Home? It had never felt like much of a home when he was a child...the only home he knew was Potter Manor. And Hogwarts.
Hogwarts! Harry realized that if Voldemort was still alive then so were countless others. People he hadn't seen in years. Albus Dumbledore was still alive. Sirius and Remus and Tonks and Fred and so many people he'd never thought he'd see again until it was his turn to go on the next great adventure.
Harry's breathing had begun to pick up speed again. The joy was almost overwhelming. Suddenly he stopped breathing all together.
Ginny! No... James and Albus and Lily. No...no, no, no!
He had to get back to them. He couldn't stay here, wherever here was. Or whenever. This was not real!
"This is not happening, this is not real. This is not real. Not real. Not real!"
He was muttering to himself out-loud, his soft whisper growing slightly in volume with each repetition. Harry began to hyperventilate. A tear escaped his tightly clenched eyes and rolled down his cheek.
"Hey kid, you alright?"
The voice shocked Harry out of his panic. He stopped breathing and held his breath while his eyes snapped open and sought out the source of the voice. Sitting to his left on the bench, a man sat holding a newspaper. He was wearing a loose fitting grey t-shirt and matching shorts. Sweat soaked the shirt he wore around his neck and shoulders. The man held a newspaper and a bottle of water in his lap, staring in concern at small boy next to him.
Harry looked up at his face and saw a confused, concerned look in the man's eyes. His light brown hair was damp with sweat, but his gaze was kind and considering. The man slowly reached his hand out to touch Harry on the shoulder, but as he began to move Harry moved away towards the end of the bench.
"Hey kid, I'm not going to hurt you. Relax."
Harry stood and took a step away from the man, frantically searching the park for anyone watching. Seeing no one, he looked back up at the man and stared at him. He regarded the man's face and searched his memories for anyone he knew that looked like this man. Especially Death Eaters.
The man sat calmly, not making a move after putting his hand back in his lap on top of the newspaper. Harry had a thought.
"Sir, do you know the time?" he asked in his best little boy voice.
The man stared at him for a second before looking at his wrist and then laughed quietly.
"Sorry kid, I leave my watch at home when I go running. When I left it was about seven, and I usually go for about an hour or so. It's probably around eight." The man had a smile on his face, but looked puzzled.
"Oh, thanks. Do you think I could see your newspaper, please?"
The newspaper would have the date.
Harry did his best to keep his hand from shaking as the man held out the paper to him and said, "Sure, kid," with a smile on his face.
Harry handled the paper carefully and raised it to his face, searching the corners for the date. When he found it, he almost dropped the paper on the ground.
July 31st, 1990.
"It's my birthday..." Harry mumbled, but the man heard him and smiled.
"Happy birthday!" said the man, "You doing anything for the special day?"
"Um...yeah. Yes I am. Thank you for the newspaper, sir."
He looked up and saw a smile on the man's face. He slowly edged towards the playground in the middle of the park and tried to keep his eye on the man. He stared at Harry curiously for a few seconds and then chuckled and opened his paper after taking a drink from his water bottle. Harry climbed into one of the wooden forts and sat down, barely controlling himself. The impact of the hard wood startled him out of his stupor, and he closed his eyes for a moment.
It was his birthday, and if the paper was to be believed, his tenth birthday. He was ten years old, sitting in a park in Little Whinging, and nothing was the way it should be.
He sat for several minutes, thinking. He would not be going back to the Dursley's. As much as he was able to defend himself against larger opponents, Harry had no desire to return to the house and deal with the confusion and wrath of his Aunt and Uncle. He had no wand with him to defend himself and there was no way to contact anyone he knew since he didn't have an owl.
In fact, none of the people Harry knew, knew him, he realized. He was a year away from getting his Hogwarts letter. A year away from Hagrid rescuing him from the Dursley's. A year away from meeting his friends. From meeting Ginny.
This could not be real.
He said it out loud to himself, "This can't be real!" he hissed, clenching his teeth.
Harry heard a noise and watched as the man he had spoken to on the bench had gotten to his feet and tossed his paper and bottle into a nearby rubbish bin. He jogged away from the park and Harry was alone once again. Looking through the wooden slats of the playground fort, Harry saw that the sun was a bit higher than when he had spoken to the man. With the realization that time was indeed passing, Harry made the decision to do something about his situation.
Going back to the Dursley's was not an option. He had to find someone who would be able to help him figure out what had happened, and the only name he could think was...
Dumbledore. He might know what happened. Even his portrait knew more about magic than most living wizards. But how he get to him?
Harry's animagus form of a Merlin Hawk was able to fly long distances, but his patience had been exhausted by the stress of the situation. He was tired and even though the last thing he could remember was eating a delicious meal prepared by the Manor house elf, his body felt as if it hadn't eaten in days. Remembering how he had been treated by his family at this point in his life, he realized that this was not completely outside the realm of possibility.
Just to make sure, Harry shut his eyes and cleared his mind. Concentrating on the feelings of flying and freedom, he quickly changed into his hawk form. He looked around, aware of everything inside his wooden fort. His vision was sharper and he noticed the spider webs at the top of the plastic ceiling that connected themselves to the wooden walls. Several small insects he hadn't noticed while he had been contemplating his situation skittered about.
He leaned over to the opening in the fort that passed as a door and surveyed the park. He was now very aware of all the other animals in the vicinity. Several small birds he couldn't identify sat in the trees at the edge of the park, chirping their happiness that daylight had come. On the ground, he spotted several squirrels running about, sprinting from tree to bush, searching for their breakfast.
Resisting the hawk's urge to swoop down and capture one of them for his own breakfast, Harry launched himself from the edge of the doorway and took to the sky. Soaring over the park in a lazy circle, Harry felt at ease for the first time since he had awoken to this strange new reality. His elation at the idea that he still contained all his knowledge and skills elated and calmed him. He let out a shriek of pleasure that startled the tree full of small birds who immediately took flight in the opposite direction, chirping in agitation. Soaring higher than necessary, Harry swooped downward and landed back in his wooden and plastic sanctuary.
Transforming back to human form, Harry closed his eyes and relaxed for a short time. Letting his heart slow back to its natural rhythm, he sat up and cautiously climbed back down the ladder to the earth. He realized the quickest way to get in touch with Albus Dumbledore was to disapparate. Knowing that the ministry was not as friendly to his cause as it had been in his normal time, especially with Fudge as minister, made Harry reconsider that course of action.
He didn't have an owl, and that would take too long, anyway. He couldn't fly. He was too tired. Disapparating would alert the Ministry, and probably the Death Eaters, to where he was and that he could disapparate.
Smacking himself in the head so fast he barely realized he was doing it, Harry berated himself in his mind.
Arabella! How could he have been so damned thick? He needed to start thinking and remembering who was who. It had been years since he'd seen her, but she was the only one nearby. And she was trustworthy.
Rubbing his forehead where he had hit himself harder than he had meant to, Harry started walking as quickly as possible without drawing attention to himself. As he approached Arabella's street, he spotted one of her cats who he hadn't seen since leaving Privet Drive. He recognized the attributes of a part-kneazle. Its size, mistaken by muggles as a large tomcat, and the spots on its legs and paws almost screamed kneazle. Wracking his memory, Harry attempted to remember the name of the familiar feline. Trying to recall his infrequent visits to Arabella both before and after he learned she was a squib, the names of the cats she had introduced him to and shown pictures of flitted through his mind.
Focusing on the paws that were large even for a part-kneazle, the memory of a similar cat jumping in his lap and knocking a cup of prune juice onto his shirt before kneading his stomach with those very paws, appeared in his mind. He had been about eight, and had been terrified that the Dursley's would punish him for staining the hand-me-down clothing. Arabella had taken the shirt into her laundry room and gotten rid of the stain. He had assumed that she had used some sort of detergent at the time but, after getting to know her after the war, knew that she must have used a stain-removing potion.
"Mr. Paws!" Mrs. Figg had shouted, "Get off of Harry this instant! You know what his Aunt would say if he came home with a stain like that on his shirt."
The cat had given Harry a look that almost seemed pitying. Jumping down off his lap, Mr. Paws had rubbed up against Harry's legs and purred strongly, calming him. The fear that he would be punished when Uncle Vernon returned that evening had left with the stain.
"Mr. Paws?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Meow!" the cat stared up at him. The gaze was intense for a moment before he began to purr and strolled up to Harry. The cat's bright yellow eyes searched his for a moment before it moved behind him. Mr. Paws then stood on his hind legs and pushed Harry's right leg forward towards Mrs. Figg's, seeming to know their destination.
His pace a bit more relaxed, Harry walked past the last few houses before reaching Arabella Figg's. Mr. Paws trotted next to him, head swiveling in every direction, seemingly on the lookout for danger.
Entering her yard, dead patches of grass caught Harry's eye. The house had a somewhat shabby, lived in appearance that reminded him a bit of The Burrow, only much smaller and lacking magic. Still, the connection was there, in his mind at least.
He reached the front door, Mr. Paws still at his side, and knocked. After almost a minute without hearing any noise to indicate someone would be opening the door, he knocked again with a bit more force. Mr. Paws was alternating between rubbing up against Harry's legs and scratching at the door and giving him meaningful looks. Harry looked down at the cat after waiting another minute and sighed.
"I guess Arabella went to buy you some dinner, eh Mr. Paws?"
Mr. Paws stopped his scratching and sat down directly in front of Harry on the front step before him. Slowly he blinked once and proceeded to begin cleaning one of his front paws.
"Don't suppose she leaves the door unlocked...?"
"Meow!" Mr. Paws stood and began scratching at the door in response to his rhetorical question.
Well, if the door was locked he could always wait for her in the backyard.
Harry reached for the doorknob and twisted. He felt the door open. Mr. Paws darted inside and ran towards a food bowl that contained a few stray pieces of dried cat food. Harry stared around the room for a second, memories flooding back from before his time at Hogwarts. He hadn't been in this house for over twenty years as Arabella had moved as far away from Surrey as she could after the wards at Number 4 had fallen after Harry's seventeenth birthday.
Mr. Paws finished the last of the cat food and stared at Harry yet again. Giving a plaintive "Meow," Harry could only laugh at the look on the cat's face.
"What makes you think I have any food with me? I'm just as hungry as you are."
With a barely audible snort, the cat sauntered into the living room. Harry followed, concentrating on his task to contact Albus Dumbledore and try to figure out what in the hell was going on, even to find out if he was totally insane.
The living room was cluttered. The smell of cats was almost overwhelming, but it was not filthy. A few cat toys littered the worn carpet and a couple of magazines lay on the scratched up coffee table in the middle of the room in front of a worn love-seat. A newspaper was laid out on the seat of a chair by the doorway.
A twitch caught Harry's eye, coming from the chair. Walking up to it, he realized the newspaper was actually the Daily Prophet. Picking it up, Harry read the headline and groaned.
New Minister Shows Confidence in Auror Numbers
Minister Fudge Claims 'No Need' to Increase Auror Recruitment
Knowing the story just from the headline, Harry dropped the Prophet carelessly back onto the chair. Of course Fudge was confident in the number of Aurors. He hadn't shown any ability or desire to increase their numbers after multiple appearances from Death Eaters and eventually Voldemort himself, so why would he at this point? It was almost a year before Quirrell would be possessed and five before Fudge would refuse to admit Voldemort himself had returned.
Would have refused. "I think I'll try doing something about it this time around," Harry said to himself. Something about Fudge and Voldemort.
The thought put a smile on Harry's face which was reinforced by the sight of the fireplace as he turned around. He looked around the shelves, searching for a container that would possibly hold floo-powder. There was little actually on the shelves other than a few photographs, most of them muggle. A couple of them seemed to move in the corner of his eye, but when Harry looked directly at them they stilled instantly.
Finally he found a short piece of what seemed to be clay pottery. Opening it, he discovered not floo-powder, but cat treats. Sighing, he started to gently place the lid back on but was distracted by Mr. Paws standing on his hind legs hugging Harry's knee. A small laugh escaped his lips and Harry grabbed a couple of treats out of the clay jar and sat down on the love seat. Mr. Paws jumped into the open seat next to him and looked on expectantly.
Harry placed the cat treats in the palm of his hand and held them out to Mr. Paws. The cat snatched the first one up and smacked on it in a way that strongly reminded Harry of Ron before Hermione had finally taught him to eat with his mouth closed. After the first treat was consumed, Mr. Paws nibbled the second one into his mouth and repeated the action, staring at Harry while he chewed.
Leaning back and closing his eyes, he thought about where Arabella could possibly have hidden the floo-powder. Obviously, she wouldn't leave it out on the off chance that she might have guests. Or if Harry was brought by while the Dursley's did something they felt was too important to have him around. It had to be in the living room, in case of emergency.
While he was contemplating the location of the floo-powder, Mr. Paws had hopped off the couch and strutted over to a small, faux-wood cabinet to the side of the chair where Harry had found the Prophet. A lamp with a tilted shade stood on top of it and Mr. Paws quickly curled into a ball to the left of the door and appeared to fall asleep. Harry alternated his stare between the cat and the cabinet for a moment before he saw Mr. Paws open one eye for a moment before wrapping his tail around his face and seemingly fall into a deep catnap.
Harry closed his eyes and shook his head.
As calmly as he could, trying to not disturb Mr. Paws, Harry stood and padded over to the cabinet. Opening the door without a sound, he found a small jar made of some sort of polished stone. Taking the jar out of the cabinet, he placed it on the coffee table and lifted the lid. A small amount of floo-powder sat inside. There was not enough to cover the bottom, but plenty to make a few trips or floo-calls.
Pinching just enough for a floo-call between his fingers, Harry strode to the fireplace and with a final calming breath tossed it in.
It was time to find out if he was crazy.
"Hogwarts, Headmaster's office!" he stated clearly as the green flames erupted in front of him. When they didn't die down immediately, Harry knew that it had worked and kneeled down and prepared to stick his head into the fire.
Inside the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore was enjoying a light lunch and reading a transfiguration journal. The day was going by slowly, but nothing of any importance had occurred since the week had begun, so he was doing his best to enjoy the summer holiday. Or at least as much of a holiday as the headmaster of Hogwarts could enjoy. The new Minister of Magic had just finished asking him for advice before lunch and Albus was trying to relax after a particularly vexing conversation. The new Minister seemed to enjoy the idea of getting advice from him but not actually putting his advice to use. Fawkes had appeared on his perch just after Fudge had stepped back into the fireplace and with a short song improved his mood enough that he had only sighed and requested one of the house elves bring him a tuna sandwich. On rye.
While he was in the middle of the last bite, his floo-chime dinged and he looked up while putting on his half-moon spectacles. Thinking it was the Minister yet again, Dumbledore quickly swallowed, vanished what remained of his lunch and placed the journal down on his desk. He stood, preparing to welcome Fudge and whatever entourage he had brought back with him, curious as to what advice was needed less than thirty minutes after their previous meeting.
However, no one stepped through the fireplace. The green flames flickered for a few seconds and Albus recognized that this was only a floo-call and not a visit. Walking over to the fireplace so that there would be no need for a shouted conversation, Albus saw a child's head appear and look around frantically before settling his eyes on the Headmaster with a look of relief so profound that it almost made Albus laugh outright. Instead, he controlled himself and settled for a slight grin.
"Hello, my boy. Is there something I can help you with this lovely summer's day?"
"Albus!" the child shouted with joy that would have made the grin on his face expand into a full-blown smile had the voice not been mixed with a sense of distress. That distress turned the grin into a set look of neutrality and the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry leaned in closer, searching the face with a growing sense of recognition. And dread.
The child seemed to collect himself. Disbelief began to grip Albus Dumbledore.
"Albus, thank Merlin! I felt like I was going insane all morning. Do you have any idea what exactly is going on?"
The use of his first name from a boy who looked to be seven or eight did not bother him half as much as the knowledge of who the boy might be. And that knowledge, while disturbing, was nowhere near as puzzling as to why the boy himself was using the floo to call him in the middle of the summer. Albus stared behind the boys head and saw a small portion of Arabella Figg's living room, as well as a large cat stretched out on the floor behind the boy in the fire. His pace paled.
Harry looked worried for a minute at the shock written all over his former headmaster's face. After a moment, he smiled a crooked grin.
"You don't seem all that pleased to see me. You do know who I am, don't you, Albus?"
A hand joined the face in the fireplace and reached towards the boy's forehead. Albus watched with fascination as the hand lifted the dark, filthy, matted hair up and exposed a lightning bolt shaped scar.