Fate's Mistake

Attributes: PG-13, Drama, A/U

Warnings: Violence (some references to child abuse)

Summary: What if there was a small mistake in 1981, causing things to not be what they really seemed at #4 Privet Drive? Would Harry be different when he showed up at Hogwarts? What if a few things were done differently when Harry went to school? Note, this is an H/G story; I'll also say that their "relationship time" is pretty minimal in this story; they mostly act as best friends.

((A/N: Some of you may have been wonder where I've been, since I released most of my stories one after the other for over a year. Well, I took a few months off to rest my brain from all the writing. I've also started working on an "epic sized" story, and the notes and other background work has taken a lot of time.

Also on my profile page is a status of what I'm doing, and I do update it from time to time. So if you want to know if what's in my writing queue, that's the place to go look.

I don't know that I'm good enough to write a satirical story, but if you can't easily give a solid definition to the word "lampoon", you should go look it up in the dictionary or google its definition. It will be a useful 30 seconds of your time. Also, to the "canon police", yes I have changed the time when Hagrid goes to see Harry about school, but history has already changed before then as well, and this timing works better for this story. :-)

This story will follow Harry's 7 years at Hogwarts, which will be in 9 parts over 3 "largish" chapters. When I first thought of this story, I envisioned a one-shot of 25K-30K words; it appears I'll hit nearly 78Kw. Sigh…I guess that's what it needed to be.

I definitely want to thank moshpit and Sovran for being pre-beta's, for being a sounding board and for giving me ideas to make this story better. Also, wolfscream did his usual excellent job in being my final beta. Thanks guys!

Enjoy! -- kb.))

(((Before Hogwarts)))

((A/N: The bold parts in this first little section are from "The Philosopher's Stone" by J.K.Rowling.))

Professor McGonagall watched Albus Dumbledore walk up to the Muggle house she had been watching all day in her cat form. They talked of the downfall of the Dark Lord for a few minutes before she asked, "And I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you're here, of all places?"

"I've come to bring Harry to his aunt and uncle. They're the only family he has left now."

"You don't mean -- you can't mean the people who live here?" cried Professor McGonagall, jumping to her feet and pointing at number four. "Dumbledore -- you can't. I've been watching them all day. You couldn't find two people who are less like us. They are the worst sort of Muggles I've ever seen. And they've got this son -- I saw him kicking his mother all the way up the street, screaming for sweets. Harry Potter come live here? You can't be serious?"

"It's the best place for him," said Dumbledore firmly. "His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter."

"A letter?" repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. "Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him! He'll be famous -- a legend -- I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in future -- there will be books written about Harry -- every child in our world will know his name!"

"Exactly," said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over the top of his half-moon glasses. "It would be enough to turn any boy's head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won't even remember! Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all that until he's ready to take it?"

Professor McGonagall opened her mouth, changed her mind, swallowed and then said, "Yes -- yes, you're right, of course. But how is the boy getting here, Dumbledore?" She eyed his cloak suddenly as though she thought he might be hiding Harry underneath it.

"Hagrid's bringing him."

"You think it -- wise -- to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"

"I would trust Hagrid with my life," said Dumbledore.

"I'm not saying his heart isn't in the right place," said Professor McGonagall grudgingly, "but you can't pretend he's not careless. He does tend to -- what was that?"

A flying motorbike appeared with Hagrid riding it and with a baby in his arms. Faster than Minerva would have expected, little Harry Potter was deposited on the doorstep with a letter and the three magical adults were leaving.

"I sincerely hope you're right about this, Albus," she murmured to herself as she Apparated away. Hagrid took the motorbike and flew off to his destination.

As Albus Dumbledore restored the lights to the street lights before he left, unbeknownst to him, a hand waved twice. The blood wards on the house behind him changed slightly but significantly. As the old wizard was about to leave, a new thought came to him and he came to a new decision. Pulling his wand out, he waved it at the boy, satisfied this was even better. As he left the Muggle neighborhood, one small item on Dumbledore's mental to-do list left his mind, not to be remembered for a long time.

Little Harry Potter was in his usual position for this time of day: curled up in the smallest ball he could make, on a blanket, on the floor, in the cupboard, under the stairs, in his aunt and uncle's house. His head of shaggy almost black hair lay at the door, which was latched on the outside, and he listened with his very acute hearing for any sounds that might come through the crack around the door. That position was also the coolest place to be, as he might catch a wisp of cool air that occasionally came under the door. Because it was the middle of summer and quite warm outside, he enjoyed the cool wisps on his face. One of his life's few pleasures, although he would not have expressed it that way.

A creak came from above him and he knew someone was up and he would have to be up soon. There was no set schedule, but there were very ingrained habits in this house. They would let him out of his "room" for one minute to go to the bathroom before he had to start making breakfast for everyone. If he got lucky, he would not hurt himself while he did so and he would get a little something to eat. If every day of his life had not been like this for as long as he could remember, he would have sighed or been angry; but this was normal for his life and he did not know any better, so he did not fight it -- at least not anymore.

Long ago, so long he could not place it in time, he had wished very hard he was somewhere else, or that he never had to endure this any more. He thought that the word death applied, but he was not totally sure. Harry had never left number four Privet Drive and his aunt had never taught him anything except for cooking and cleaning. He knew how to do many little things around the house, in addition to the few things he picked up by listening to his aunt and uncle, or by secretly listening to the telly. He knew just enough to realize that there were a great many things about the world and life that he did not know. He spared no thought about those unknown things. Knowing them would serve no purpose, nor would they keep him safe. The fact of the matter was, Harry did not care -- all curiosity had been forcefully removed from him years ago.

Footsteps came from overhead and to the side a bit, before they started coming down the stairs directly over him. It did not take more than a couple of steps before Harry knew it was his aunt coming down. She was normally the one to come down and let him out to start his work. Harry had never been able to decide who he preferred to let him out; each of his three relatives had their own drawbacks.

His aunt was the most strict and watched him the most carefully. He never liked her gaze on him. Fortunately, she usually only hit him with a long wooden spoon or a yardstick, or sent him back to his cupboard without dinner for his punishment. He supposed that if he had to pick one of them, he would say that his aunt was the easiest on him, but he would never admit that.

Then there was his darling cousin, as the fat boy was routinely called. He was not too bad, as he was so stupid and slow that Harry could usually hide from him or scurry away to avoid him, at least as long as his aunt or uncle were not around. But if they were, or Harry got unlucky and his cousin caught him anyway, well, there were worse things than a few bruises.

Finally, his uncle rounded out the last of his relatives, and rounded was the right term for the extremely large and stubborn man. His uncle did not pay that much attention to Harry, unless he needed something done, or some chore was not done to his varying standards. When that happened, then things got really bad. Running away from his uncle to hide only made it worse; Harry did not think about that if he could help it.

The footsteps finally made it to his door. Harry heard the latch being slid open before bright sunlight flooded into his little area and blinded him more than he was. Not that it mattered if he could see, as he normally could not see well anyway. He could tell it was her by her perfumey smell.

"Boy! Get up and go start breakfast. I better see you in the kitchen in one minute." She walked off and Harry crawled out of his little place and hurried for the bathroom to relieve himself. He felt fortunate that he could do so, he was not always let out in time. It gave his room its own unique smell.

After the bathroom, he quickly made his way to the kitchen and started pulling out things to make breakfast. This was not too hard as long as no one actively got in his way. He felt for the proper pans and put them on the stove. Next he headed for the refrigerator and felt for the food he needed to make the full breakfast his relatives liked. Here, his sense of smell served him well, though he had memorized a few pictures on the food packages, which he could see if he held them close enough to his face to see sort of clearly -- if he squinted just right.

As he finished breakfast, he took it in serving bowls to the table, barely missing the foot his cousin Dudley had stuck out. It was a common trick of the fat boy.

Harry scampered back to the safety of the kitchen, away from his relatives in the dining room. He made the noises of cleaning up while he hastily ate extra out of the pans he had cooked in. His aunt rarely came in the kitchen for breakfast anymore, so he could almost get one decent meal a day -- usually. She supervised his cooking of lunch and dinner much more closely.

He had barely finished washing the big pans by hand when he heard the mail slot open and then bang shut. Harry stepped down off the low stool that allowed him to reach the sink and went to the front door, drying his hands on the rags that covered him. It was not too hard to find the white fuzzy blobs of envelopes on the dark brown wood floor in the entryway. Picking them up, he took them to his aunt, since she was usually the safest one to approach. He never bothered to look at the mail to see who it was addressed to; after all, he could not read so it did not matter. Therefore, he never saw that one of the envelopes was addressed to "Harry Potter".

Again, it would not have matter because Harry did not know his last name, and if someone had asked him, he would have told them he was not really sure what his first name was. He assumed it was "Freak", since "boy" was a word that could apply to anyone his age, but he really did not know. He only knew that he had to answer to both words.

Ducking under a swinging fist from his cousin, which made just enough whooshing noise to be heard, Harry scurried back to the kitchen to finish his breakfast chores. He had barely made it back to the sink when he heard his aunt's voice come through the doorway.

"Vernon, it's happened."

"What dear?"

"A letter … from them." She sounded disgusted.

Harry did his best to listen from the other room. He did his best to always listen to what went on around him and how people spoke. Their voices told him how they were feeling, and clued him into how fast he would need to duck or cover up.

"Petunia, you're going to have to be more specific…" a slightly exasperated uncle said. A clink of a coffee cup on a saucer followed.

"You know," his aunt returned in an exasperated voice, "them! The school in the note from years ago, they say it's time for him to start."

The pause from the other room grew so long Harry was not sure if his uncle was having to think very hard, or if they had moved to the living room so he wouldn't hear. He was not sure why, but he thought he were not talking about Dudley. They had already been talking about his cousin starting a new school when he went back, so there was no need for yet another new one, or was there? His uncle's voice finally broke the long silence.

"Don't know why we'd want to ruin a good thing by sending him away. After all, he's never been to school before, why start now?"

Harry puzzled through that. Dudley had started going to school five years ago, or so he thought. Time had never been easy to figure out when he had nothing to reference. The novel thought that they might be talking about him finally occurred to him, but he doubted they really meant it. He did all the work for his aunt around the house, so school was not for him.

"True," his aunt's voice answered. "I'll just toss it in the bin. If we don't reply I would expect them to continue to leave us alone."

There was nothing more interesting said from the other room as Harry finished washing the cookware. Harry could not have cared less about his uncle's work. He would have loved to have heard that his aunt was taking his cousin out for the day. They would leave him lots of work to do in that case, but at least he would be by himself that way. Unfortunately, it sounded like both of them would be there today, and today was the day to change all the sheets on the beds upstairs. That almost guaranteed a problem when he did his cousin's bed.

Harry rinsed out the sink and put his stool away. He continued to be silent as he waited for his relatives to finish eating so he could retrieve those dishes to clean too, and maybe eat a few leftovers off their plates if he got lucky. That did not happen very often, but he was always watchful for when it did and no one was looking. His day continued on as normal, and by the end when he was locked up in his cupboard again, he felt lucky he only had two new bruises, thanks to his cousin, and small ones at that.

The next day started out like the last one, but the morning mail was very different today. In addition to a stiff ivory letter in the mail slot, another envelope just like it flew into the house and landed on the hearth of the fireplace. If Harry had not been in the entryway getting the normal mail, he would not have heard the special delivery envelope hit the stone in front of the small fireplace. But since he did, he went over and noticed the envelope there and picked it up. He took all the mail to his aunt and scampered away back to the kitchen.

As he was wiping the counters down, he heard his aunt exclaim. "Vernon! There's two of them now!" That got Harry's attention. She never raised her voice unless it was at him. He continued to move the rag around on the counter even though he was watching the doorway, watching for the shape of his aunt to come through it. If he was going to get punished, it was much better to be standing on the floor than on his little stool. Falling from there hurt a lot.

"You mean two letters?"

"Yes!" His aunt was still shouting. "I think they want a reply!"

Like yesterday, there was a long pause. "Just ignore them," his uncle finally said. "They'll stop soon."

Harry could hear his aunt huffing a bit, but she did not say anything else. Harry felt lucky he was not blamed for the two letters.

It was the end of the week, Friday, or so Harry reckoned it to be. Harry wondered if they would get any special letters today, whatever they were for. The letter had come for the last two days and for the first time in a very long time, Harry felt a spark of curiosity. They were kept so secret, he did begin to wonder if they were letters about him. Maybe someone wanted him to go live with them. Harry quickly squashed that thought. It would not do to get his hopes up. When he did, he always made a mistake in something and Uncle Vernon was never happy about that. His right hand was a vivid reminder never to make Uncle Vernon unhappy.

Still, there was a hope that would not quite die, that someday, Harry would be able go live somewhere else. He looked out the window and saw the neighbor's house, or the fuzzy blob that he knew must be their house. Even visiting there would be nice, he thought, but that never happened. Harry had never been out of the house he lived in. Whenever he had tried to go, or his relatives had tried to take him out, it was like an invisible hand was holding him in. He just could not pass through the front or back doors. He could, and did for hours, sit in front of open doors and windows staring out at all the colors, dreaming about anywhere else, but he could never go through the openings.

In the perfect dream world, Harry thought he would go find a place where he had a comfortable bed like his cousin's, and he did not have to cook or clean. Yes, no work would be wonderful. But most importantly of all, he would have someone who cared for him. Someone who would never hurt him, and who would hold him and make him feel safe. Maybe someone with … long red hair. Harry was not sure why that seemed comforting, but it did.

When the morning mail came this morning, Harry heard a strange noise coming from the front door, so he went to see what it was, while his relatives continued to eat breakfast. In the entryway under the little slot in the front door was a white pile halfway to his little knees. He could never carry it all. In his fear at failing, he uncharacteristically whimpered, something he had not done in a long time. That was bad because he heard the phrase that that struck fear into his heart.

"What have you done now, Freak?"

Harry turned around and saw his uncle's head peering through the open doorway of the dining room and looking in his direction. His uncle never liked to be disturbed while eating; the consequences were most severe. Doing his best to do what was expected of him, and hoping the punishment would not be too bad, Harry scooped up as many letters as he could in his small arms, using his damaged right hand to hold them to his little body, and walked towards his uncle. Because of his right hand, he left or dropped as many letters as he was carrying. As he reached his uncle, the letters were pulled from him and he was shoved back towards the front door hard enough that he fell on his bum.

"Well, get the rest you freak!" his uncle bellowed.

The little boy was relieved he had gotten off so light. As fast as he could, he picked up another armload of letters. Returning, he noticed his uncle was reading one of the letters, and he was turning red and continuing towards purple. Harry's eyes started darting around, looking for a place to hide if it got too bad. There were none, the Dursleys had eliminated them a long time ago; but Harry still looked for the best one left.

"That's it! I will not have one of them come to this house!" Harry cringed at the shout. "Petunia, be packed by the time I get home tonight."

"What is it, Vernon?"

"Those FREAKS say one of them will be here tomorrow morning to talk with us. I refuse to do that. I know a place we can go and they won't find us, so be ready to go when I get home."

"Yes dear," his aunt replied, but she was looking at him and Harry was afraid. He knew that look meant she blamed him.

Because he was looking towards her, he never saw the beefy hand coming toward him, but he felt it. Harry felt his head hit on the edge of the doorway as he was flung backwards. "Stupid, freaks; can't keep their noses out of other people's business." Harry barely heard the muttering of his uncle, but he did feel his hand being stepped on as his uncle left for work. It was only with the greatest of difficulty that he did not cry out from the pain. His only consolation was that it had been his right hand, which only half worked anyway.

He was still trying to clear his head and get his bearing after being knocked about when he felt a pointed shoe nudge him in the ribs. "Well, get up and get to work, boy!" his aunt commanded him. "And start by tossing all of those letters in the bin." Harry saw her pick up the one his uncle had been reading and walk away, talking to herself. As he slowly crawled back towards the front door to pick up more letters, he only thought was how glad he was that his cousin was still eating, and therefore, had left him alone -- at least for now.

When his aunt went upstairs and his cousin was still busy eating his fourth helping of breakfast, Harry took one of the letters and quickly hid it in his little cupboard. He knew he had no hope of reading it, and in fact, he was not even certain the letter was about him, but for some reason he could not name, he felt he should keep one, so he did. He also prayed that letter was never found; he did not want to think about what would happen if it was found.

Harry was finishing the vacuuming of the living room when his uncle came in. Because he was busy working, his uncle left him alone. That was a lesson Harry had learned long ago: look busy when his uncle was around. Even though Harry had quickly looked down, so it appeared he was looking at the rug he was working on, he had seen the long and thin box in his uncle's arms as he walked in the door. Harry wondered what was in the box, but only for a split second. He really only cared because he wondered if it was something he should be afraid of.

"Boy!" Harry heard his aunt calling him, so he turned off the vacuum and quickly went to find her in the kitchen. "Boy, take our food to the dining room. I've put your plate here for you eat when you're done." Harry saw it was maybe half of what he had eaten for breakfast, and it was mainly the part that had stuck to the pans. He did his best to not make any sound of disapproval as he took the bowls of savory food into the dining room for his relatives. Even his aunt would not put up with sounds from him.

When he had finished serving the food, Harry put the vacuum up and then ate his meager portion in the kitchen. Though he had no real feeling about it, in some ways he was satisfied. Many nights he got nothing at all, so even this little amount eaten while he was sitting on his little stool was considered good.

The moment Harry finished eating, he started washing the dishes. Then he had the dishes from the other room. His aunt was telling him to hurry, they had to go. Harry was wondering if he was going too. He really hoped so, but deep down he did not expect to as he had never been able to get out of the house before.

He had barely finished in the kitchen when his aunt thrust a grocery bag into his hands. "Take this and put your extra change of clothes in it. We'll see if you can come this time, because I really don't want to leave you here alone." Harry almost smiled as he felt wanted for the first time, but as his hopes started to rise, he heard the sneer in his aunt's voice. "There's no telling what you'd break if we left you here and you'd stink up the house if we left you locked in your cupboard all weekend, though you do deserve that."

Glad his fleeting hope had never been visible, Harry walked to his cupboard to get his one extra change of clothes. As he put his clothes in the bag, Harry discovered the bag had an extra piece of cardboard in the bottom. He did not know why it was there, but he did notice that it would come out. For reasons he knew not, Harry reached up above the little doorway to a hollow place in the wall only he knew about and pulled the letter down and hid it in the bottom of the bag under he cardboard. A part of Harry did not know if he would ever come back here, so he wanted to take it with him. He also shoved his thin light blue blanket into the bag too. Harry had had it for as long as he could remember. He had no idea why, but he drew comfort from it.

"Freak! Get out here and help us carry everything!" his uncle yelled.

Taking his paper bag with him, Harry came to the bottom of the stairs. "Grab those two suitcases and take them to the car and put them in the boot, Boy." Harry did as he was told, carrying the bags to the attached garage. It was a struggle to lift them into the back of the car because he was so short and the bags were so heavy, but he somehow managed, just like he did most other things, as the motivation to avoid punishment spurred him on.

Just as he got the two suitcases into the boot of the car, his uncle came out with one more suitcase and the long thin box. He shoved them into the boot of the car too. "Well, what are you standing there for, you freak, get in the car!"

Harry scrambled to where his uncle was pointing, into the boot of the car, his little bag in his hand; it was a tight fit with the three big suitcases. His uncle slammed the lid, not seeming to care if Harry had his head down or not.

He thought about all the other times the Dursleys had tried to drive away with him in the car. It had never worked before, something always happened. The keys would get lost, the car would not start, the garage door would not open. It was the strangest thing. And always, as soon as Harry would get out of the car, whatever had gone wrong, would suddenly work correctly. Walking out the garage door into the driveway was just as impossible as walking out the front door. So Harry wondered what would happen. Of course, he was not the only one. He could hear his aunt asking his same question to his uncle through the back seat.

To everyone's surprise, Vernon opened the garage door and backed the car out, closed and locked the garage door, returned to the car, and the four occupants of number four Privet Drive drove away for the first time ever. Harry was very surprised he was outside the house and did his best to enjoy the car ride. It was a bit stuffy and uncomfortable from the lack of padding, but he had dealt with worse. He did not care that it took nearly three hours to reach their destination, nor that Dudley started complaining about being bored after the first five minutes, Harry wondered what was in store for him at the end, but his imagination could come up with nothing.

When he was finally let out of the car, it was dark and the air smelled very different. He was told to haul the suitcases to something called a boat. Not knowing what it was, he followed his aunt, practically dragging the suitcases. It was very strange see so much water, but he decided he liked it and the boat. That was because of the air blowing over his face and through his hair as they travelled in said boat for ten minutes to a small island with a small cabin. Harry was amazed, though he took great pains to hide his amazement -- the first real bout of curiosity in Harry's life that he could remember. None of the chores or having to sleep on the couch by himself with only his thin blanket could stop his internal smile as his curiosity came out for the first time. Harry listened to the storm raging outside and almost enjoyed himself as he fell asleep for the first time outside of his cupboard.

Rubeus Hagrid went to the Headmaster's office before breakfast, as he had been requested the night before. "'Mornin' Headmaster Dumbledore, sir. You askt me to com' up 'bout now?"

"Yes, thank you Rubeus," the old wizard smiled at the large man with a twinkle in his eye as he gestured to a specially conjured extra large chair, "please have a seat. Tea?"

"Thank you, Headmaster, mighty kin' of ya, sir."

"No problem at all, Rubeus." He poured tea into a small tankard and handed it over, while Albus poured into a teacup for himself. "Well, now that we have this, I have a question for you. Do you remember the little Potter boy you rescued?" Albus had not thought of him at all in many years, but seeing the Potter name on the list of new student's roster had reminded him.

"Certainly, Headmaster. Fine parents they were too, James an' Lily."

"Yes they were, very fine. Well, since he won't answer the letter we've sent him, I believe it's time for someone to go tell Harry that he's a wizard, as well as to take him to Diagon Alley for his school supplies. Since I know you enjoyed taking him to his Aunt and Uncle's house, I thought you might like to pick him up too. You would also get to slowly reintroduce him to the Wizarding World."

A large toothy grin broke out in the middle of the bushy black beard on the gamekeeper's face. "Aye, I'd be 'onored to, Headmaster, sir."

"Excellent, Rubeus. Here are four Portkeys for you. This red one will take you to where Harry is. According to the magical register, he seems to have moved last night. I would suppose his aunt has taken him shopping for school clothes, but this will take you to within easy walking distance of him. This second one will take you to Diagon Alley. This Portkey will allow you to take Harry home. And this Portkey will bring you back to Hogwarts." The Headmaster handed four different colored handkerchiefs over. "Just make sure Harry is holding on and say 'Activate' when you need to use one."

"Aye, sir."

"Go out to the gates and take the first one to Harry. I have to run an errand to Diagon Alley to pick up something very important while you're gone," Dumbledore dismissed the man.

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir. I'll show you tha' you can trust me too."

Dumbledore smiled. "I know I can, Rubeus, that's why I'm sending you." It was also because he would be imposing in case anything went wrong, but Hagrid did not need to know that. "Oh, and here's Harry's Gringotts key. You'll need that when you take him to Diagon Alley. Since school doesn't start for nearly a week, take your time. In fact, take a couple of days off when you're finished with Harry. Just be back by the 31st. Good luck, Rubeus."

"Thank you, sir. I won' let you down, sir." The large man left.

Albus Dumbledore chuckled to himself as he picked up another Gringotts key and used the Floo in his office to travel to Gringotts. He had a very valuable item to pick. He had almost asked Hagrid to pick it up for him, but the item was really too valuable for anyone but him to take care of.

Standing just outside of the Hogwarts gate, Hagrid grabbed the red handkerchief and held it in both hands as he said, "Activate". He felt the pull and a couple of seconds later, he was standing on a rocky surface ten yards from a rock-walled cabin. Looking around, it appeared he was on a small island. It looked like a strange place to go shopping, but who knew how Muggles really lived.

Shrugging, the half-giant stuffed the handkerchief into a pocket on his coat and strode up to the door. With the friendliest smile that he could have on his large and hairy face, the giant of a man knocked on the front door. His three knocks seemed to knock a lot of dust into the air. Waving the dust away from his face, he waited for a short time, but no one opened the door. Not sure what to do, Hagrid knocked again, but this time a little louder.

Harry awoke to a terrible pounding on the front door to the cabin they were in. A place that had given him the best night's sleep ever. Sitting up, he looked at the door and wondered who it was. Hearing a noise from the stair area on his right, Harry turned to look and saw his Uncle Vernon in his pyjamas standing halfway down the stairs with a long metal tube in his hands.

A much louder knocking captured everyone's attention just as they had all come to grips with being rudely woken up. Uncle Vernon gave a small growl, while a squeak came from his aunt. Dudley was apparently hiding as he was not seen yet, although there was a second small squeak from upstairs.

As the knocks ended, Harry heard creaking and looked back at the door just in time to see it slowly fall inward and bang on the floor causing much dust to fly into the air. Framed in the doorway with the morning sun behind him was the largest man Harry had ever seen; he was even larger than his uncle, and that was saying something.

"Er, 'ello? Is 'Arry 'ere?"

The speech from "the thing" in the doorway unfroze everyone in the cabin. Harry had no idea why anyone would be looking for something called an "Arry", whatever that was. He looked over to his uncle to see what he would say and was not surprised to hear, "Whoever you are, go away! We don't want your kind here!"

"'Ey now, I'm sorry 'bout the door, but there's no need to be rude," the large man said as he ducked to walk through the doorway.

"I said we don't want your kind here; so leave, or you'll be sorry!" As his uncle shouted, Harry saw him raise the metal tube, a tube that had wood on the end that went on his uncle's shoulder. Harry was not scared as it was not pointed at him. He had no idea what the thing did, but as long as he was forgotten and not involved, Harry was just fine with it all.

The giant man took a couple more steps in and stepped over the door. As he did, he was now only a couple of arm's length from his uncle, and that was when Harry heard the loudest sound he had ever heard in his short life, which caused him to jump and his aunt to scream. The giant looked down at his chest, which was now starting to show lots of red, and wheezed, "Why di' ya do tha' for?" Then he slowly started to lean back before he loudly fell to the floor on top of the door.

Harry was shocked to see that. When he recovered, he noticed he had a ringing in his ears and hoped that would go away soon. He watched his uncle slowly walk over to the man on the floor and kick his boot. When nothing happened, a smile came to Vernon's face. "I guess I showed that freak." He laughed. That scared Harry, but he did not have time to dwell on it.

"Freak! Get over here and help me. Dudley? You come over here too." Harry obeyed as his uncle set the metal tube against the wall. "All right, search his coat to see what in it." The two boys and the fat man started looking.

Uncle Vernon pulled out a small pink parasol, and then he tossed it behind him. Harry pulled out another letter. His uncle snatched it away from him. Dudley found a little white box with a cake inside. At this find, Dudley stopped searching and proceeded to eat the cake.

When his uncle jerked his hand out of the coat like he'd been bitten, Harry found a small shiny object in another pocket. For some reason he could not name, Harry hid the pretty little thing in his hand and carefully slid it into his pants pocket while his uncle was checking out his hand. Eventually, they found that strange pocket contained a very small bird. His uncle was incensed and smashed the pocket with the bird still in it.

"Boy! Dudley! Help me drag this thing out of here." Vernon and Dudley each grabbed an arm while Harry struggled with his feet. The three of them dragged the body with the blood on a still chest down to the water. Since no one was in sight, Vernon Dursley had them pull it into the water. He then herded the boys back to the cabin. Harry heard him mutter something about "sharks taking care of it", whatever those were.

Harry watched his uncle stand the door to the cabin back up into its place and then had Harry start breakfast. That was much harder here since he had so much trouble seeing things and had no idea where everything was (how he coped at home). Therefore, he burned himself a few times and got hit several times for taking so long. Still, Harry decided it was OK in the long run. He was out of the house.

It all seemed even better when they stayed another night. Uncle Vernon was happy when no one showed up the next morning. Deciding the freaks had had enough, Vernon drove them home. The rest of the week was just as peaceful according to Vernon Dursley: no other freaks and no stupid letters. Harry did not agree, but then he was never consulted about anything.

As Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, sat down at his desk on the morning of the 31st, he realized that Hagrid had yet to return even though school was to start the next day. There really was no reason why Hagrid should not have been back by now. Still, he was only the gamekeeper, so there was no real harm if the man showed up one day late. With a smile on his face, Albus considered that perhaps the large man had found someone special and had merely forgotten the date because he was having a good time. Therefore, the old wizard decided that he would not worry unless his old friend was not back by the welcoming feast. If that happened, he would start searching the next day. To be prepared should Hagrid be late, he started thinking about who he should ask to help the first-years into the boats and across the lake.
On the morning of the 1st of September, Petunia was having a normal breakfast until the little freak tripped and spilt the plate of sausages on her new skirt. "Ah! Boy! Look what you've done!" she shrieked.

Harry looked up from his position on the floor and wondered what they would do to him now. That it was his cousin's fault that he had tripped would make no difference, so he did not even bother to point the problem out, even if his cousin was snickering at him.

"I swear Vernon, maybe we should get rid of him after all. I don't know if I'll ever get all the grease stains out of my new skirt. And look at the rug."

Then Harry saw his uncle do something he had never done before. In situations like this, every other time he had yelled and then hit Harry, usually multiple times; but this time, he just looked at Harry with a calculating stare. Eventually, he came out of his trance and an evil smile came upon him. Now Harry became really scared. He slowly rose up so he was on his knees, hoping he could run away to the back of his cupboard if it became too bad. That would cause them to lock him in for several days, but that might be preferable.

"You have a point, Petunia dear," the fat man said thoughtfully, at least thoughtfully for him. "As he gets older, he's eating more and it is getting harder to watch over him. And leaving him in the house alone is also getting to be more of a problem. Perhaps we should get rid of him."

Harry became even more afraid. They had threatened to kill him before, but his uncle was so calm, so calculating about it, it seemed more real to him. There was an edge to his voice that had never been there before.

"But Vernon, you know we've never be able to get him out of the house whenever we've tried to do that before," she complained, now ignoring the spots on her skirt and looking at her husband.

"True, very true; but do recall that we managed to leave the house with him for the first time last weekend. I'm wondering if those freaks did something now that his letter has come."

Harry tried to figure out what that meant and came up blank. However, it apparently meant something to his aunt as a smile slowly came to her face.

"Oh, Vernon, what a wonderful idea! We just have to take him down to the station and drop him off and then we're done with him forever. It can be just the three of us again, just as it always should have been."

"You never should have opened that damn letter, Petunia, then we wouldn't have had to take him in."

Try as he might, Harry could not figure out what it was about the letters that had arrived last week that was causing such a problem.

"I know, but what's done is done, except now we can finally fix it." His aunt returned her gaze to him and it was as cold as he had ever seen it. "Clean up the kitchen boy, every spot. You have one hour before your uncle takes you away and dumps you like the trash you are. Move!"

Harry quickly grabbed the plate he had dropped, picked up the sausages off the floor, and scurried into the kitchen. He knew he was in deep trouble, but the fact that it sounded like he was going to leave this house filled him with hope. It gave him the energy and motivation to work quickly for something other than punishment. He also got to eat more sausage that morning than ever before; he ate them as he cleaned the pans and dishes. He even had an extra in his pocket for later.

When his hour was up, Harry was done. He probably would have been done anyway, but this time he had a few extra minutes.

"Boy! Get your little bag with your extra clothes; you're going to need them," he heard his aunt command. He went into his cupboard and packed again -- everything he had. He had his clothes, his blanket, his letter was again hidden in the bottom of the bag, and a few other things, like the little shiny golden thing that he had found on the giant man and his one toy. Everything he could call his was with him. Those things in hand, he went back to find his aunt.

"Go, you little ingrate!" his aunt sneered at him. "I don't care what those freaks tell you, you are never to come back here again. This is no longer your home, not that it ever really was."

Though not using those words, he agreed with her. This was not a place he ever wanted to return to. He just hoped he could really leave.

"Well, what are you waiting on, Boy!" His uncle cuffed him, knocking him in the direction of the attached garage. Though Harry was now a little dizzy, he was pleased to find that he could get into the car, and that his uncle was able to find his keys. Instead of the boot, this time his uncle pointed to the front seat. "Get in and lay down on the floor." Harry complied. "Can't have anyone seeing you," his uncle muttered. A moment later, they were driving off to London.

What seemed like a long time later, his uncle stopped the car and turned to him with a big smile on his face. "Well Boy, this is it for you and good riddance. If it helps you any, that freaky letter said you should go to Platform 9 and ¾ to get to Hogwarts." The fat man started laughing, but Harry did not know why. When he finally calmed down, he looked at Harry one last time. "Well, go on with ya. Get out and like she said, don't ever come back."

With some difficulty, Harry got up and sat on the seat before struggling to open the door. He had barely gotten out and closed the door when his uncle sped off. Not knowing what else to do, Harry turned around and looked at the big house that was now in front of him, bigger than any house he had seen from the windows at his aunt's house. While everything was fuzzy, there were a lot people going into the big house. It was very scary, but he knew his old life had left with his uncle and this was the way things were now; he was alone and he was going to have to live with it.

Harry was not able to see the faces of all the people staring at him, so he had no idea the scene he was making by just standing there at the curb of the sidewalk in his dirty and unkempt clothes, and barefoot. Again not knowing what to do, he held his little bag to his chest with both arms and did his best to follow the other people into the building. It was not hard to follow the blobs that he saw walking, but he did not like the crowds and it was hard staying out of their way. Fortunately for him, not many people wanted to be near the little urchin in rags, especially one that had such a dirty face with long unkempt hair.

Doing his best to get out of the way of all the people hurrying around, Harry scampered over next to the wall and did his best to hurry from alcove to alcove, or to a trash bin, or anything else he could find to hide behind. That made coping with the crowd a little easier. Now that he was in the building his uncle had sent him to, he began to wonder how he would find this Platform 9 and ¾, or that Hogwhats place. Perhaps he could just live in this big building, he began to think; he did not know what else to do.

As he sat down on the floor next to a trash bin along the wall trying to decide what to do next, he heard a voice say, "Why can't I go to Hogwarts this year too?" His ears perked up. He could not see the person, but following the voice would not be hard; it was very distinctive. Screwing up his courage to brave the crowds again, he got up and did his loping run in the direction the voice had gone.

"Like I told you before, you can go next year."

"But what if I don't get my Hogwarts letter?" Harry turned slightly towards that voice and continued on. He did not want to lose it. He did not know why, but he felt he just had to go to this Hogwarts place.

"Don't you worry, dear, you will." The woman's voice sounded very sure of herself. It was the girl's aunt, he assumed.

A few minutes later, he heard the older aunt-like voice that had answered the younger voice say, "Now, all of you, go through the portal one at a time." Other voices argued with the older aunt voice, but surprisingly, she did not get mad at them. In fact, they were laughing. He was not sure what to think. If he had talked to his aunt like that, well, he did not want to think about what she would have done to him.

Even more amazingly, each of the red topped people he had been following walked towards a wall and then disappeared. That was not like any of the walls at his old home. Harry knew he could not see well, so he rubbed his eyes and watched some more. The next one disappeared too, and then each of the others. The aunt went last, and then he was all alone in the crowd again.

Just like when he walked into the train station a short time ago, Harry decided to be bold and he walked to the wall. Taking a deep breath, he walked forward and was very surprised to not hit the wall, but instead, he found himself in another room with lots of people. As before, he quickly moved to the side and did his best to hide next to the wall in a shadow. From across the way, came a loud noise; it almost hurt his ears. It looked like it came from a big reddish thing, but it was too fuzzy to make out what it was; just like most things were fuzzy to him.

"Hurry boys, get on the train before it leaves you behind," Harry heard the aunt say.

He had another decision to make. Did he stay here, or try to get on the train too, whatever a train was. It was kind of far away, but he thought he saw some of the red topped people walk to the big red thing that had made the noise. Deciding he had nothing to lose, he quickly made his way along the wall to the end of the big red thing. He found some black stairs there. With more boldness, he continued to clutch his bag to himself and he climbed up the four stairs to the little flat area at the top. It looked like there was a small door here, but Harry decided he should just stay where he was.

Another loud noise was sounded and then Harry felt the little platform he was sitting on jerk and then start to move. He watched with wide eyes as the place he had come from moved away, and he was scared that he had made the wrong decision; but it was too late to change now. He was stuck.

A few seconds later and from a growing distance, he barely heard that voice that led him here say, "Mum, what is that on the back of the train?" He never heard the answer as the train moved further away. In fear, he clung to the little metal rods at the end, closed his eyes, and hoped he lived. At the moment, he was not sure this was better than living with his aunt and uncle.

Harry had no idea how long he had been gripping the rods to hold on, but his hands were stiff and sore, and it had started getting dark as the thing he was on came to a stop. He was not sure if he should get off or not, so he did his best to listen to what was going on.

As the minutes went by, he heard more and more voices. He guessed people were getting off this thing he was on. He guessed he should get off too, but he just did not know. Still, he reasoned he could safely get off now if he wanted. It was dark enough it would be easy to hide in the shadows. He had easily moved around his aunt's house at night that way. It was the best way to avoid Dudley.

With care, he crept down the stairs. From what little he could see, it appeared that everyone was going the other way, so he made a little jump off the last stair on to the train platform and quickly made his way over to the nearest bush and squatted by it. Harry was very tempted to run the other way, away from everyone else, but his stomach was starting to tell him that he needed to think about food, and as it was dinner-time, those people should be going to food, too. Not knowing what else to do, as quietly as he could, he followed everyone else, keeping to the shadows the entire time. A few of the shortest people went off a different direction, but since it was only a few, he ignored them and followed the others.

After a short walk, he hid behind a tree and watched the others get up onto something before it moved away. It was hard to see from where he was. Not for the first time did he wish he could see things further away than his elbow. Staying behind the trees and bushes, he crept as close as he could. He could not understand nearly half the words some of the people were using. He also could not figure out what some of them were laughing about. Then again, the only thing he had ever had to laugh at had been the few times his cousin had fallen off his chair when he went to eat.

As the last of the people left, Harry noticed that there was one more of those things that the people had gotten into left, almost as if it was waiting for him. Deciding to be bold again, he all but ran to it. He tossed his little bag up onto the thing, and then climbed up. He had barely made it on when it began to move. More fear came to him as he wondered where he was being taken. Doing his best to ignore the fear, he held on to his bag and the thing he was riding. Again he screwed his eyes shut tightly so he could not see what was happening and wished to stay safe.

A few minutes later, the thing he was on stopped moving. With a great amount of fear, Harry slowly opened his eyes. And then he opened them as wide as they went. In front of him was the biggest thing he had ever seen, outlined by the white ball in the night sky. He had never seen a house that big before in his life. All he could think about was that maybe they had a kitchen he could stay in, eat, and that maybe he could hide there and not have to return to his aunt's house.

With his bag tightly clutched in his hand, Harry slowly climbed down from the wooden thing he had ridden. Very slowly, he made his way to towards the two lights on the house. He climbed up some stairs to get to them. When he got there, he found a door. Hopeful, he pushed on it and heard it creak as it opened. With trepidation, he snuck in through the door.

There was more light here on the inside, but he did not know what it was. He had never seen light like this before, and it gave off a soft noise, sort like the stove he used to cook on. Fortunately, the light did not seem to light up everywhere very well, so Harry quickly scampered over to the nearest shadow and tried to decide what to do.

He had no experience to base his decision on. Nothing, of what little he could see, looked normal to him. Other than a lot of muffled voices that were not too far away, it was fairly quiet. So he just sat there thinking. In fact, he sort of pretended it was his old cupboard and that he was sitting in the dark again. In there, he used to think and dream a lot. The problem was, he was not sure what to think about here.

Harry had no idea how long he had sat there before he heard a very clear voice right next to his left ear say, "Hello, who are you?" He jumped backward slightly against the wall and curled up with his arms over his head. It was the safest position when his uncle got mad.

"I think he's lost," another voice said.

"But how could he be? Everyone is at the Welcoming Feast," the first voice said.

"Not everyone," the second voice retorted, "or else we'd be there too."

The first voice sighed, "Don't be such a pompous arse, it's why you lost your head in the first place."

"I did not!" the second voice said angrily. "And I'll remind you not to bring that subject up again!"

Since he had not been hit yet, Harry moved his arms slightly so he could see who was there. He gasped as he saw two silvery figures before him.

At his sound, the two figures stopped looking at each other and looked back down at him. "Perhaps he's an intruder," the first said thoughtfully.

"He's too small for that," the other replied, "but you have a point that someone needs to know. I shall go inform Minerva. You watch him."

Harry saw one of the silvery men move away. He was not sure which was stranger, that he moved without walking, or that he seemed to go right through a wall. Deciding that his eyes had failed him yet again, Harry ignored him and ran a few feet to a rug that was hanging on the wall. Crawling under it as best he could, he turned back to look at the one that had stayed.

"What is your name, my child?"

Harry stared at the silvery man. He did not seem like he would hit Harry, but then maybe the man was just trying to get him to come closer so he could. Harry just sat in his squatting position with one eye looking out and stared.

"Surely you have a name, everyone has a name," the man said after some time. After Harry still did not answer, the man asked, "If you will not tell me who you are, then will you tell me why you are here?" Harry kept quiet. "Hmm," the man mused, "you're too small to be a student and none of the teachers have family your age. You must be magical or you could not have gotten in here. I don't think I've ever met anyone like you in my nearly seven hundred years here."

Harry continued to keep silent; he could not think of a sound or gesture that would help. Nothing the man said made any sense. As he was trying to decide if he should stay here or if he should run and hide, he heard the sound of a door being opened to his left and across the room. Running and hiding somewhere else was no longer an option. He tried to make himself just a little smaller and he clutched his bag a little tighter in fear.

As Albus said his strange words for the evening and sat down to eat, Minerva looked over at him and asked in a soft voice, "Do you know where our missing student and gamekeeper are?"

The Headmaster stabbed at a steak on the serving platter in front of him and pulled it to his plate. With a sigh, he answered her, "No, and I'm now concerned about Hagrid. I know he is sometimes forgetful, but I've never seen him miss the Welcoming Feast. He so loves to take the first years across the lake too."

"True, but I'm more concerned about Mr Potter. I did not get a reply back from him. Did you?"

The old wizard poured himself some water. "No, and the fact that Hagrid was supposed to take him to Diagon Alley, and then take him to the train station gives me even more concern."

"I should hope so," she all but chastised him. "We can not have students go missing. We are responsible for their safety."

She saw him give her a look that said 'he knew', but she felt no guilt in having said it. This was one of those times where she thought the man was too lax in his duties as Headmaster. True, he had a lot to do being Headmaster, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump, plus who knew what else he had a finger in. He was spread too thin in her opinion. "So what do you plan to do?"

He chewed a bite of green beans before he answered her. "I shall have to track him down tomorrow." At her look, he added, "Both hims. I'll start with Hagrid as I expect Mr Potter to still be at his aunt's house. Being Muggles, they probably just binned the letter and told Hagrid to leave."

"Why did you send Hagrid? He would have scared the poor Muggles, perhaps even caused them to do something rash. And Albus," she continued to take him to task, "he can't even use magic to help protect himself." She glanced at her house's table to make sure they were behaving themselves, especially some redheaded twins, before she looked back at her superior, waiting for his answer.

Dumbledore washed his food down and looked around the noisy hall too. "Because he was the one to rescue Harry, and he adored the Potters, so I felt he would like the honor of reintroducing the boy back into our world. Besides, what could hurt Hagrid?"

"I don't know, but I'm sure a lot of things could. You know that no matter how good his intentions are, that man is not the brightest torch in the castle," she reminded him. Another glance around the hall showed her the house ghost coming through the wall by himself. She smiled ever so slightly as she thought about the scare some of the first years were about to get. He always showed up for the Welcoming Feast.

To Minerva's surprise, Sir Nicholas headed towards her, not her house's table. "Madam Deputy Headmistress," he addressed her with a small bob. Sir Nick never bowed, that was problematic for the ghost.

"Sir Nicholas, how may I help you?" She noted the Headmaster raptly watching and listening.

"Madam, I must inform you that there is a visitor in the entryway. I would tell you that you seem to have lost one of your students, but he's far too small to be a student, and I've never known a student to skip the Welcoming Feast."

A completely illogical hope filled the woman -- could it be, she wondered. "I'll return shortly, Albus." She saw him nod to her as she gracefully rose. As she walked around the head table and headed for the doors, she noted a number of students watched her as she passed by. Minerva ignored their stares and their whispers. She continued to hope that the visitor was who she thought it was. If it was not, she was starting to considering rising early and leaving on an errand tomorrow morning, lest Albus delay too long.

The ghost preceded her by gliding through the door. Minerva had to pause to open it. Walking into the entryway a moment later, she saw Sir Nicholas and the Fat Friar standing in front of a tapestry along the wall that had a lump under it at the floor level. She could barely make out a pair of very dirty small feet poking out from underneath. At the side of the tapestry, she saw what looked like part of a face and some hair, but she was not sure.

As she took her first step in that direction, the hair and the eye disappeared completely under the tapestry. She was not sure what was there. She assumed it was a child based on its size, but she had never seen a child act like that. Minerva stopped a couple of yards away.

In as soft a voice as she could manage, Minerva asked, "Friar, who is that?"

The ghost turned to her. "I'm sorry, Madam Deputy Headmistress, but I do know not. He has not said a word, not even to answer any of my questions."

"It's a boy?"

"Yes, Madam Deputy Headmistress, a very young boy. I would guess he's seven or maybe eight."

Minerva considered the situation. He must be a wizard, the castle wards would not have let him in otherwise. Her hope that his was the Potter boy left her; Potter was eleven this year. Still in a soft voice she said, "Hello? If you'll come out from behind the tapestry, I'll help you find your mum and dad," she saw a head start to come back out, so she added, "then you can go home." The head quickly disappeared again and the lump seemed to move further under the tapestry. That was very strange, she thought; who would not want to go home?

The witch considered what to do. She could easily lift or banish the tapestry, she could even transfigure it into strings or anything else that was easy to see through or move. But she really should do none of that, it was obvious the boy was very scared. After a moment, she decided that maybe a reward would work. "If you'll come out and talk to me, I'll give you a biscuit. I promise I won't hurt you." The lump was very still. "Please come out, I want to help you." Still he did not move.

She pulled her wand out and conjured a goblet of water at the edge of the cloth. "If you'll lift up the tapestry and look by your feet, you'll see some water. You can drink it if you're thirsty." After a few seconds, she saw the tapestry move just slightly as he checked out the goblet. He did not take it, but he was obviously looking at it.

Waiting a full minute still produced no results. Minerva was losing her patience, and yet, she realized she could not. There was something strange happening and she needed to find out what it was. Perhaps another person could think of a better idea.

She stood back up and walked away to the other side of the entryway. As she got there, she saw the hair and eye come back out. It looked at her and then down at the water. Now that she was far away, a small bony hand slowly snaked its way out and grasped the goblet and pulled it in. The head disappeared; she assumed the liquid was being drunk.

"Sir Nicholas?" she softly called. The ghost glided over. "Please go tell the Headmaster not to let the students out of the Great Hall yet, and that I need him to join me here." The Gryffindor ghost acknowledged her request and went through the wall. A minute later, the door to the entryway was opened and the Headmaster joined her.

"What seems to be the problem, Minerva?" His voice seemed to boom in the empty and very quiet room.

"Ssh, as quietly as you can. We seem to have a very scared little wizard under that tapestry, and I can't get him to come out."

"Do you have any idea who he is?" he asked in a whisper. The wizard was hoping for the boy that had not shown up tonight.

"No, he seems to be quite young, maybe seven the Friar told me." The two ghosts were standing to the side watching to see what would happen. "When I mentioned helping him to go home, he retreated further under the tapestry. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he doesn't want to go home."

"Hmm, I've only known one student who's ever told me that, and that was nearly fifty years ago." The Headmaster considered the problem further. "I'm afraid we'll have to take action then. Why don't you levitate the tapestry and I'll stun him. We should then be able to take him to Poppy and figure out something from there."

"I was afraid it would come to that. I fear he won't trust us if we force him out."

"Understood, but I see no alternative if you can not coax him out." He watched and waited on her decision since she was so concerned.

"Very well, but I would suggest you just do it through the tapestry. I saw his hand and it's nothing but skin and bones. I'm afraid a full Stunning Spell would hurt him," she suggested.

"I see, then perhaps the milder Sleeping Spell would be better." Dumbledore pulled out his wand and cast "Quiesco". A light brown beam of magic came out of the wand and hit the bulge in the tapestry. They heard a clatter and then the bulge became shorter and more pronounced.

Minerva hurried over and pulled the edge away from the wall and looked in. Sure enough, there was a small child slumped over. Lifting the tapestry, she pulled him out and looked.

The child had dark longish hair that was just past his shoulders. Clothes, so old and frayed they were almost rags, covered his frail little body. When her search came to his arms, she gasped and almost dropped him. His right arm was very crooked and his right hand was very misshapened, almost deformed looking. Almost worse, both arms seemed to be covered in bruises and small scars.

"Sir Nicholas! Send Poppy!" she commanded.

With strength she did not realize she had, she picked up the boy, who was clutching a paper bag, and strode in angry steps towards the hospital wing. The fact that she hardly noticed his weight, he was so light, did not escape her. It merely fueled her anger more. When she found out who did these injuries to this child, heaven, the gods, and who knew who else would have to protect them from her. This was beyond criminal.

Entering the hospital wing, she saw Poppy Pomfrey waiting on her. Minerva assumed the school nurse had taken the Floo from a room near the Great Hall to her office in order to beat her there. Realizing this boy was going to need a lot of care, she continued on to one of the quarantine rooms in the back. The nurse followed after her.

"What does he have that you would bring him here?" the nurse asked as she also entered the little room.

Minerva gently laid the child on the bed. "I don't know what's wrong with him, except to say that he looks so mistreated I believe he will be here a long time and require a lot of rest." She put his paper bag on the table beside the bed.

The nurse nodded and pulled out her wand. "Where did he come from?"

"I have no idea. Sir Nicholas found him in the entryway a short time ago and notified me. Albus put a Sleeping Spell on him so we could get to him to bring here. He was acting more like a frightened animal than a boy."

A nod of acknowledgement was all Minerva got as the nurse started performing diagnostic spells -- many diagnostic spells -- far too many diagnostic spells Minerva realized. She watched the nurse and became more concerned as time went on. Poppy's face was becoming very angry looking. As she stopped the spells, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

"What's wrong with him?" McGonagall was lightly wringing her hands in worry, although she was not aware of it.

A very angry nurse turned to her. "What's not wrong would be a shorter list!" she hissed and then had to pause for control before she could go on. "I have never believed in executing criminals, but I'm willing to make an exception now."

"I understand, Poppy, I feel the same way. But most importantly for the moment, can you help him? Can you … fix him?" Minerva did not know what word worked best considering the boy's condition.

"Some of it, but I'm going to need help as some of his conditions are beyond me. I mean look at him. He's on the short side of four feet tall and he's skin and bones. Do you know how malnourished he must be? And look at his right arm. I can't even tell you how many times it's been broken; and the hand! I'll have to remove all the bones and regrow them. I'll probably have to do that for his arm too. That doesn't even begin to account for all of his other bones. I don't think a one of them has not been broken at least once. There's something wrong with his eyes too. I think, though I'm not positive, that he merely needs glasses; but I would bet he can't see more than shapes and colors. And his throat. He never spoke to you, did he?"

Minerva shook her head, she could not speak as the tears started to run down her face as she listened to all the injuries.

"I doubt he can talk. He's had severe injuries to his neck." She had to stop and take a deep breath. "But Minerva, the real tragedy is his head. Things aren't right there either. You tell me he's a wizard, and knowing the wards to the castle, I have to agree; but I can't find his magic."

"You mean he's a squib?" she asked in a whisper.

"No, he has the magical signature of a Muggle. I can find only the barest trace amount of magic in him at all, and yet the wards somehow let him in." The nurse sighed.

Minerva walked over to the child and swept his hair back from his face and gently stroked his forehead. She furiously tried to figure out what they were going to do. Besides doing their best to heal him, probably about all they could do was to contact the Aurors and file a missing, or a found, child report. She continued to caress his forehead absent mindedly as she thought. A gasp grabbed her attention and caused her to look up. Albus Dumbledore had slipped into the room unbeknownst to her, and he was wide-eyed as he looked at the boy. Looking down and really examining his face for the first time, she suddenly realized who this was. The lightening bolt scar over his right eye was all the identification they needed. Her fury returned full force and it now had a target.

"Albus Dumbledore! Do you realize what you've done?!" McGonagall raised her voice at him to a level not used in years as she stood to fully face him. The Headmaster blanched from the force of her anger and took a step backwards.

"Minerva, hush and don't make a sound," Poppy momentarily stopped the other witch's wrath. The nurse grabbed a vial from her pocket and hurried over to the boy. As quickly as she could, she poured the contents into him. When she finished, she explained, "He was starting to wake up and I'm afraid of what your fighting would have done to him."

"What did you give him?" Minerva asked contritely.

"I gave him a Dreamless Sleep Potion. He should be out for the rest of the night. Why don't you step outside and discuss this? It is possible that a loud enough noise could still wake him." The nurse glared at both of them. All three moved into the main room of the hospital wing.

The moment she was in the clear, Minerva sent off a message spell.

Poppy closed the door to the little room behind them all. "I shall return in a few minutes with some more help. I need to contact St Mungo's," the nurse informed them as she started to go.

"Poppy? Please don't, we need to take care of this ourselves," Albus told her. The nurse looked torn between following orders and doing what was best for her patient.

"Go ahead, Poppy," Minerva told the nurse. "Do your best for Mr Potter. I'm taking charge of him and a whole lot more." The nurse smiled slightly and moved towards her office and its Floo.

"Wait!" the Headmaster called after her, but the nurse did not stop.

"Albus! You will not interfere with Mr Potter's life again. I am ashamed of myself for not stopping you from your foolish action of leaving him with those Muggles many years ago. What did I tell you?" She did not give him time to answer her in her tirade. "I told you they weren't like us. I told you they were the worst sort of Muggles. I told you he shouldn't live there. I shan't make the mistake of ignoring his well-being again, no matter how good your intentions or what you tell me. His life will be better."

"You don't know what you're doing, Minerva…"

"I know full well what I'm doing, Albus! I'm making sure that little boy, who had his parents taken away from him and then was very obviously abused, has the best possible chance of recovery and a normal life from now on. I will do everything in my power to make that so."

"That's not possible…" he weakly said.

"Why not?"

He stopped talking and just looked at her with sadness in his eyes but an otherwise neutral face. As she was about to lay into him for withholding information, the hospital door opened and another teacher walked in.

"Filius, I'm glad you came. Would you seal and silence the doors please."

"Of course, Minerva," the Charms professor replied, and did the necessary charms. Albus looked like he was getting a major headache as the short man cast his spells.

"Minerva," Albus started his plea, "we need as few as possible in on this secret."

"For the short term, I would agree, Albus, but I'm planning for the long term now." She turned to her short colleague. "Filius, we have found young Mr Potter. Unfortunately, due to Albus's negligence," the Headmaster winced, "the boy is going to need extensive medical care. I surmise, and we will verify this soon, that the abuse was done by his Muggle relatives, as they were who he was left with years ago." Flitwick looked horrified, while Minerva looked suspiciously at Albus. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn those people were also responsible for our missing gamekeeper, who never should have been sent after Potter." She bristled for a second before looking back at Filius. "Therefore, I plan to take over guardianship for the young man and I would like to know if you would help me. I feel there must be accountability and oversight."

"Of course, Minerva, you can count on me to help Lily's child in any way I can." There was a fierceness from the short man that some might have found comical, but those did not know his capabilities.

"Thank you, Filius. Lily was a wonderful person, and I can say that James was too, after he grew up at any rate." She got a smile from the Charms professor.

"Minerva, Filius, I really can't let you do this," Albus started. "You don't understand everything that's going on."

The witch was about to lose it with her superior. As she was about to question him on his statement, Pomfrey and two witches in Healer green came out of her office.

Pomfrey held out an upturned hand towards her two guests. "I'd like to introduce Healer Phyllis Tofty, yes, she's related to Oliver Tofty who comes every spring to test; and you all probably already know Healer Delores Diggory."

"Healer Tofty, Healer Diggory," Minerva greeted them. "I'll let you work on your patient. Please do everything you can for him. I, or someone," her eyes flicked over to the Headmaster, "will cover every expense required to make him as fully healed as possible." The three Healers nodded and then went to see Harry.

As soon as it was only the three professors again, Minerva turned back to the Headmaster. "Albus, that's twice you've said that we don't understand about Harry. Exactly what do you mean by that?" She stared him straight in the eye, compelling him to answer her.

"I can't tell you as it's a closely guarded secret; and besides, with his godfather unavailable, I'm Harry's guardian in the Wizarding world, therefore, I…"

"Not for long," she angrily told him. "Nor will you be Headmaster for much longer either." He started to object but she overrode him in her tightly controlled anger. "When it becomes known what happened to the Boy-Who-Lived and who did it to him, and who put him there, you will not be able to survive the firestorm that will come down upon you. A firestorm led by me!"

"And me!" Filius all but squeaked as he forcefully spoke up.

Minerva nodded at him as he took his place as Harry's co-guardian. "I would suggest that you tell us everything there is to know about Harry and his parents, especially from ten years ago, and then pack your things and resign. Go play Supreme Mugwump and Chief Warlock, if that's what you want to do, since you seem to prefer scheming and playing political games, but it is plainly obvious to me that you do not care about all the students in the manner that you should, nor do you give them or the school the complete and undivided attention that they and it deserve."

"So you plan to take over?" Albus said with resignation in his voice.

"Yes, that will be one of the last things you do. You will convince the Board of Governors that I should succeed you, and that Filius should be the new Deputy. Give them whatever excuse you want for yourself leaving, but do those things and then never return to Hogwarts again." She watched Dumbledore think about it all; then his hand twitched slightly.

"Don't even think about it, Albus." She commanded him. "You should look at Filius first." The Headmaster looked to his right and saw the small man with his wand already pointed him. When he turned back, Minerva had hers out too.

Dumbledore sighed, defeat in his expression. "And you'll not press charges if I do as you say?"

She glanced at her accomplice and saw a quick nod. "Agreed, as long as you'll make an Unbreakable Vow to not harm Harry Potter again and to work to his advantage for as long as you shall live."

Albus paled. "An Unbreakable? For the rest of my life?"

The stern witch did not back down. "Yes, Albus. Considering the size of your transgression, I feel that nothing less is acceptable. You will make the Vow to me, with Filius to seal it, or we will make every detail of your transgressions in this matter publicly known." Her anger removed any inhibition she had about blackmailing the man.

"I never meant any harm to come to the lad…" he tried to excuse himself, but forgiveness never came from the other two as he looked back and forth between them. With a sigh, he agreed.

The speed at which Dumbledore accepted and moved to start the Vow concerned Minerva. She wondered what else they had yet to uncover. She accepted his hand and the Vow started.

"I, Albus Dumbledore, do swear to not knowingly harm Harry Potter, and to work to his advantage where I am able." He looked up at her for her acceptance.

She tilted her head slightly as she tacked on, "And you will not lie or cover up any information concerning this as you turn matters over to us."

He closed his blue eyes, which were without their customary twinkle, and took a deep breath as he added to his Vow. "And I will not lie or cover up any information concerning Harry Potter as I turn over matters and my position to Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick."

Minerva nodded at her accomplice and he sealed the Vow. They all watched the bands of magic dissipate as the Vow was sealed. There was complete silence as everyone let their hands fall to their sides and they looked at each other.

"We'll need to adjourn to my office for a while if I'm to explain about the Potters." Dumbledore looked tired, very tired.

Before Minerva could say anything, the door to the quarantine room burst open and three angry witches came out.

Healer Tofty stared at Dumbledore as she ground out, "Albus, where has he been living that this could happen to him?"

It was obvious to Minerva that he did not want to answer, as it was obvious Phyllis Tofty was going to get an answer out of him. His recent vow compelled him to answer. "I have yet to verify it, but he should have grown up with his Muggle aunt and her family."

"And whose idea was it to put him there?"

A sigh escaped him. "Mine."

Tofty continued her interrogation with a vengeance. "It appears he's been abused since he was an infant. So why was he never checked on?"

Minerva and everyone else watched Dumbledore place one hand next to his temple and start rubbing. "I simply forgot." He cringed at the shouts directed at him. "Please," he said to get their attention and quiet them down. "Please! I had a plan for an old friend of mine, a squib, to live a few houses down from him and to keep tabs on him. But she got sick at about that time, and by the time she had recovered, I had forgotten to ask her to help me out. I didn't want him abused or anything else bad to happen to him. I don't know why I forgot and I can see why you would think it criminal of me, but it was just a mistake…"

"Why you! I should…"

"Dee!" Minerva grabbed her hand, the one with the wand in it and stopped her from casting a spell. "Dee, I understand as I'd like to hex him too, but we've already agreed that he will resign from Hogwarts, his guardianship of Harry, and he will never come to the school again."

"That's not good enough!" Dee Diggory shouted before her voice started to break. "That's not good enough," she repeated, now with a trembling voice. "Do you know what's been done to him?"

Minerva was afraid to find out, but she needed to know. "What?" she gently asked.

"He's been so abused his entire life, I could not find a happy memory in him anywhere when I performed Legilimency on him to evaluate his mind. No where in eleven years. The closest thing I could find was a scared memory of relief when his uncle abandoned him at the train station this morning, when Harry realized he never had to go back home again." Dee could not stop the tears from coming down her face. "He doesn't even know what his real name is."

"That's not all," Phyllis added a moment later with great concern on her face. "He's had a magical block on him since he was a baby. It was so powerful that he had no magic available to him at all, not to heal himself, to protect himself, anything. I'm afraid to take it off as the backlash of all the pent up magic might kill him."

"Why?" Minerva stared Albus down, again demanding an answer for his actions -- an answer he was now magically bound to provide or suffer the fatal consequences.

"I knew he was going to be living with Muggles and he needed to fit in; he needed to appear normal to them."

Minerva just shook her head at the injustice. "What can we do?"

Phyllis Tofty took a deep breath. "I'm only aware of one option. We put a slightly smaller block on him and then release the larger block to let a little magic into his system. Assuming he survives that, then we do the same thing again and again with yet slightly smaller blocks, until over enough time, his system has gotten used to magic and we've removed the block entirely. However, that will be amongst the last things we do as his body could not presently handle the strain. Poppy and I must help him to get physically stronger before we can even begin to deal with the problem of his magic."

"And because he has no magic at the moment," Pomfrey added, "his healing will take longer. It will be at least a week and probably two before he's strong enough to even attempt that."

"We may need to do one other thing after we do all the healing," Dee told them. "It's possible that the best thing we can do for him would be to do a total Obliviation."

A gasp escaped Minerva. "Total?"

"I'm afraid so," the mind Healer answered. "He has so many bad memories, his behavior is almost not even human in many ways. He'll keep his basic motor functions, but other than that, I'll have to wipe everything else out. He'll be a new boy -- a new Harry Potter."

"What are the drawbacks?" Minerva was afraid to ask, fearing the worst, but again, she had to know.

"There's the obvious that he'll be missing eleven years of his life. That will cause him to start school later then his age group as he'll need a few years of very special and intensive help. Beyond that, there is the slight possibility that he might remember some of it later anyway because some memories escaped being erased. The mind is a very complex and tricky thing," Dee explained.

"And if that happens?" Filius asked when Minerva did not.

"At best, he would be a very … dedicated champion of those who are oppressed and downtrodden, in any form."

"And at worst?" Filius prompted.

Dee swallowed hard. "At worst he'll become like the one who abused him, except with the power of magic at his command." Everyone went silent. "That probably won't happen, the chances are very, very small; but that is the worst. There's only been a couple of dozen total Obliviations in recorded history, and only one person has acted in that worst case. Most went on to lead reasonably normal lives."

"Reasonably normal?" Minerva had found her voice again after her shock.

"Even relearning a childhood is not the same as having a normal childhood, and the longer the gap, the worse it is. There have been a few other cases of about ten year olds and they all worked out fine. The problems tend to only occur when we have to do this to a thirty or forty year old. I have every hope of Harry recovering and being as normal as any other wizard; but you did ask about possibilities."

"There is one other problem," Phyllis informed them, "but I'm not sure what it is. All I can say is that it's like there are two people in his head."

"What?" several people asked.

"It's hard to explain, because I'm not totally sure, but it's like he's possessed or something because he seems to have two souls or something. I'll do an exorcism on him to remove it." Phyllis noticed that everyone still looked surprised, except for Dumbledore, who looked very thoughtful although he did not say anything.

Minerva broke the silence after the last revelation. "So you know, Filius and I will take over guardianship for Harry. We'd like to ask you to keep this quiet, at least until he's healed and able to deal with the publicity this will almost certainly cause."

Phyllis smiled slightly. "This is going to be a real stunner if it gets out. We'll obviously respect the patient's privacy. That he's a minor should help him. I would also suggest that you keep him in that quarantine room for as long as you can. No students and no other professors should know."

Both Minerva and Filius agreed. "We'll let you return to helping Harry. Filius and I need to start Albus on his road to repentance and resignation."

"For what it's worth, Minerva, I don't think that's enough." Dee's look would have even scared Severus Snape.

"No, I'm quite sure it's not," the Headmistress-to-be replied, "but there really is no way to give Harry back what he's lost, is there?" No one answered as there was no real answer. Minerva pointed at the door and Filius unsealed it for the three of them to go to the Headmaster's office.

The three healers returned to Harry to start him on his road to recovery.

A defeated looking wizard, a determined looking wizard, and an angry looking witch entered the office of the Headmaster in complete silence. Out of habit more than anything, the defeated looking wizard grabbed his tea service and poured three cups. He set the tray down on the desk, around which they were all gathered, and each added sugar and a little milk to their drink. The defeated looking wizard bore the scrutiny of the other two while he considered where to start.

Breaking the silence, a tired voice started the story. "In the early summer of 1980, our own Sybil made a true prophecy." That simple statement earned him two snorts, which brought him a small smile for the first time since dinner hours ago. "I agree that sounds far-fetched, but it is true. It also might be the only real Divination she's ever done." He slowly stood and walked towards his cabinets.

"That's why you keep her here, isn't it?" Flitwick asked.

"Yes, for her own protection," Dumbledore stated as he returned to his desk with his Pensieve in his hands. "For you see, the first part of her prophecy was overheard by a Death Eater and told to Voldemort." He pulled the memory from his mind and played it for them. Above the Pensieve, a ghost-like version of Sybil Trelawney recited the prophecy. The two guardians of Harry Potter sat in shock.

"You mean…" Minerva started but could not finish.

"Yes," Albus answered, confident he understood her question.

She looked at Filius, who looked back at her and asked, "What is the power, Albus?" She thought that was a very good question.

"I can't say, and the tricky part about prophecies is you never really know how to interpret all parts of them until they're over. Some parts are quite clear: young Harry is the potential Vanquisher. Other parts are not so clear: what is the power and how does he use it, when does he do this, and who will win in the end."

"And who was this Death Eater?" Filius asked him.

Dumbledore did not want to answer that, but his magic compelled him. "It was Severus Snape." At their look of shock and anger, he hurried with an explanation. "Please understand that he has repented of his ways and acknowledged the follies of his past. I trust him and believe him in this situation. At great personal cost, he has already provided us with valuable information as a spy before Voldemort lost his fight at the Potters."

McGonagall was not sure whether that was the real truth or not, but she knew that was what he believed. "What else do we need to know?" she queried him.

Albus Dumbledore did his best to explain all that he knew about the fateful Halloween evening in 1981, including information about Sirius Black. The other two absorbed this thoughtfully. Then he surprised her with his next statement.

He smirked at her and part of his twinkle returned. "Now that you know everything that has been going on, are you sure you won't follow in my path of dealing with Hogwarts, the Wizengamot, the ICW, the Ministry, and the war all at once? Harry and the prophecy affect them all."

Minerva thought that was a low blow and rude, but she did not lower herself to reply in kind, at least not too much. "No, Albus. Filius and I will find a good home for Harry to relearn the basics in life so he can attend Hogwarts. Then we will help guide him through school, while focusing on the needs here. We shall leave the Ministry, the Wizengamot, and everything else up to you." He just nodded in acknowledgement. "Since you believe You-Know-Who is at least partially alive, do you know how He survived?"

Albus frowned. "No, not exactly. There are several ways, all of them quite Dark. I do have my suspicions though."

"I would suggest you help Harry by figuring that out and making sure it can not happen the next time those two meet." Filius agreed with her, and the oldest wizard nodded his acceptance of the task.

She went on with her directives. "The three of us will also dismantle that maze you have on the third floor, and we will watch you destroy that object. As I told you before, it does not belong in a school full of children, especially now that you've told me He may still be alive and will want to come after it."

"As you wish. I shall start on that and several other things tomorrow. If I may offer one suggestion before we adjourn for the night?" She nodded. "I'll need to call Severus in, there is a potion that may help Mr Potter greatly."

Filius looked at her and she returned his questioning look. "Albus," he said in his high voice, "you must not mention to Severus that this is for Mr Potter, nor must he know that Mr Potter is even in this castle."

Dumbledore did not look like he agreed, but he nodded to show he would comply. Walking to the Floo, he made a call to ask Severus to join them. A moment later, the Potions Master stepped out of the fireplace.

"You summoned me, Headmaster?" His voice was cool with disdain as he glanced over the other two occupants in the room.

"Severus, if I remember correctly, there is a potion that will repair damaged eyes and make it so the patient can see again. Am I correct?"

Snape nodded. "It destroys the inner parts of the eye and then rebuilds them as they originally were. It's normally only used in severe eye injuries though, and rarely at that, because it's extremely painful and very expensive, not to mention very hard, to make."

The old man took that in. "How much and how long?"

The Potions Master reviewed his memory. "I can make it, but the ingredients alone could easily run a couple of thousand Galleons because they are so rare, and it would take a week of constant work, so I could not make it anytime soon since school is now in session."

Albus reached into his desk and pulled out a large pouch. Handing it to Snape he told him, "Our need is great. Please start on the potion the first thing in the morning. If you need more money, please ask. I shall cover your classes while you are unavailable."

Severus's eyebrows lifted to the top of his forehead in surprise. "Are you sure that's … wise?" He appeared to realize what he had just blurted out as he quickly added on, "I'm sure you can control them Headmaster, but the potions in the NEWT classes are very difficult."

The Headmaster smiled. "Point taken, Severus. Where I am not completely confident, in those classes I will stick with the book and theory only until you can return and teach the practical portion. This task is very important, Severus." Snape acknowledged his order and left.

Minerva stood and Filius joined her. "We shall return tomorrow and help you pack your office, as well as to destroy the Stone. You can explain the other things we need to know about the school then." Albus gave her a small nod; it was obvious he understood her hidden meaning. She would get to the bottom of everything.

An hour before breakfast, Minerva McGonagall walked into the hospital wing and then into the special room that held her new charge. "How is he, Healer Tofty?" She was the only healer in the room at the moment.

"Doing a lot better than I expected actually. It seems that he does have just enough magic in his system that a Strengthening Potion will help him fairly quickly. So we've changed our plan and will start doing major reconstructive work on him tomorrow. When that is all done and any potential pain he will have to go through is over, we'll Obliviate him and go from there." Tofty still did not look happy, even with this rosier picture.

McGonagall nodded. "I have some good news for you." The healer looked up with hope on her face. "Albus has commissioned our potion master to create a sight restorative potion."

After a gasp, the healer begged her, "Please tell me you're not joking with me…"

"No, Albus has already given the money to Severus to start acquiring the ingredients. Severus says it will take about a week to brew once he has them. Then, he says, the potion will completely rebuild his eyes."

Letting out a large breath, the healer gave a large smile. "That's very good news as I was very concerned about this eyes. We don't keep that Potion at St Mungo's as it's so expensive very few people can afford it, well, and we don't have that many eye injuries that serious."

"I'm quite happy as well," Minerva told her with a small smile.

"Of course," much of the healer's concern returned to her, "we have to get past the magical block first. We'll probably start on that tomorrow and it will take a few days to totally remove it." Tofty paused for a moment before anger came over her as it had last night. "Curse that man!"

"We shall have to hope for the best." Spying the boy's little bag, she went over to it and picked it up. A small wave of motherly concern came over her, so she lightly caressed his forehead before she gently straightened the collar on his hospital pyjamas. "Thank you for your help, Healer Tofty. I shall return tomorrow. I would like to see the block removed."

"My pleasure, Professor. By the way, would you have Professor Flitwick come with you? I might want to have his help with this."

"Certainly, I'm sure he'd want to be here anyway. Good day and good luck!"

Minerva left the room and headed for the Headmaster's office. A few minutes later, she arrived to find the current Headmaster sorting through his things.

"'Morning Albus."

"Good morning, Minerva. May I assume you've checked on Mr Potter?"

She nodded. "He is doing well. Apparently his magical block is leaking just enough to allow potions to work, therefore they believe he'll be strong enough by tomorrow morning to start removing his magical block."

The old wizard gave a small smile. "That is good to hear. I've started going through my office to see what is here. I've binned a few things, as well as straightened up some things that belong to the school." He moved over to a shelf and picked up a paper bag. "And this is Mr Potter's. James had lent it to me years ago, so I suppose giving it to you is for the best."

The witch nodded and accepted the bag. "I have the boy's bag from last night; we can look at it in a moment." She opened the bigger bag from her colleague and pulled out an Invisibility Cloak. "My word! Where did this come from?"

"James said it was a family heirloom. It has been sitting on the shelf for the last ten years. What did you find in the boy's bag?" He looked at her calmly, though with a hint of curiosity.

She set the cloak down and looked in the little bag. The first thing she pulled out was some rags, which she quickly determined was really a set of children's clothes. With a bit of revulsion at the dirty things, she quickly tossed them in the bin. Next came a old tattered dirty smelly and frayed light blue blanket. She almost binned that too, but stopped herself at the last second as she recognized it from an old memory. For Harry's sake, she set it aside. Seeing a few small things in the bottom, she turned the bag upside down and dumped them all on the desk. They heard a small clink and several quiet thumps.

Looking, they found a Hogwarts invitation letter on top of a piece of cardboard; it was unopened. "Interesting, I'm not sure what to make of it though," the Headmaster commented. McGonagall set it aside.

The next thing she focused on a small something that looked like an old wrinkled sausage. She pulled out her wand and poked it, causing it to roll slightly. "That's disgusting," she muttered before she Vanished it. There was also a little green plastic man about two inches tall that held something in his hands; she set that on the old blanket. Finally, there was a little gold key, and this she recognized.

Albus recognized it too, having handled it a week ago. "Mr Potter's Gringotts key!" he exclaimed.

"How did he get that?" she wanted to know.

"I gave it to Hagrid to give to him. How could it be here?" Albus started scratching his beard.

"Obviously, Hagrid gave it to him," she said somewhat sarcastically.

"Perhaps, perhaps," he absently agreed without conviction. "Or, at least Mr Potter met Hagrid, but that does not explain where our gamekeeper went."

"I believe it is time to start an official search for Hagrid, as well as to have the Dursleys investigated." McGonagall's statement could only be taken as a command, the tone was so severe.

Dumbledore sighed. "I fear you are correct. I shall have Senior Aurors Alastor Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt look into the Dursleys and see what they can find. They can be discreet." He sighed again. "Well, shall we head to breakfast, Minerva? This is a class day."

"Plan on a late night tonight, Albus. I'll have Professor Kettleburn move Hagrid's 'pet' at midnight after the children are in bed, then we'll dismantle the setup you have on the third floor. We can also pack some more after dinner," she told him.

He nodded. "As you wish."

"Trixie!" A house-elf popped in and curtsied. "Trixie, please carefully wash this blanket and toy. Then put them and this letter in my quarters." The elf took the items and left. The key was safely in her pocket and she would have to find out what was in his vault so she could make sure he had enough money for his years in school.

Albus Dumbledore walked out of his office with his successor close behind him. It was going to be more than a long day; it was going to be a long week.

That evening, four professors approached a locked third floor door. The Headmaster unlocked the door and let Kettleburn enter. The large three headed dog growled loudly. With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore send a strong calming spell to the dog, who quickly relaxed.

"There you go, Karl. Now, if you would be so kind as to return him to the Forest?" the Headmaster said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

"Certainly, sir." A moment later, Kettleburn left the room for the front door of the castle with the large dog gently plodding along behind the man, the big chain around the beast's neck clanking with each step of the monster.

With the beast gone, Dumbledore transfigured the trapdoor in the floor back to its original state: a staircase down. That done, he went halfway down the stairs and removed the dangerous plants there with large fireball. In the next room, Flitwick removed his charms, grabbed the correct key, and unlocked the door. McGonagall took several minutes in the next room to remove the chess set. The next room was empty; the troll for it was not due to arrive until next week, and now never would. The succeeding room caused the Headmaster to break a sweat as he removed the Dark fire curse on the room. Finally they strode into the last room.

Albus just stood there for a moment and let them look around the apparently empty room.

"Where is it?" Minerva asked.

Flitwick had been silently doing a spell in the meantime. "Over in the left corner, there's a Disillusioned chest, correct?"

"Congratulations, Filius…"

"That's not very secure," she chastised Albus.

"At the moment, no. I have a magical artifact on order from a friend and I was going to use it to hide the Stone, but alas, the item was delayed in arriving. I suppose it does not matter now." Dumbledore pulled out his wand and canceled the Disillusionment and then he summoned the box to himself. "Well, I shall have to go procure a few drops of Basilisk venom as well as some Manticore venom. Shall we go visit Severus?" He turned and started walking out.

As they came to the "Chess Room", Filius spoke up. "Albus, are the rumors about the Stone true?"

"Which ones, Filius?"

"About it being able to turn lead into gold."

"Yes, quite true. Nicolas and Perenelle are quite wealthy. He has even given me a tidy sum for helping him," Dumbledore said modestly as they came to the stairs leading back up to the room Fluffy had lived in for a while.

"Then before we destroy it, I would like to suggest you create a 'tidy sum' for Mr Potter. Since we don't know exactly what his condition will be, he might not be able to work a normal job, and therefore he should not be penalized. Whatever is created should be put into a vault for him. What do you think, Minerva?" Flitwick looked up at her for her opinion.

She stopped at the door before they went out into the hallway. After a moment, she looked at her colleague, "I would suggest you work with Albus on that task; and I think 250,000 Galleons should allow Mr Potter to live without working -- if that's required.

"No rest for the weary, huh Albus?" Flitwick then laughed.

"Very good then." McGonagall held out her hand and Dumbledore gave her the small chest, which she handed to Flitwick. "We'll see you tomorrow morning at six in your office. I shall also announce that all Potion classes are cancelled to give you enough time to complete this latest task. I would like to destroy this tomorrow, since Nicolas seems to have no more use for it. Good-night."

She received two good-nights and they all went their own way. McGonagall still could not believe Dumbledore had brought the Philosopher's Stone into the Castle when You-Know-Who could still be alive.

A little after lunchtime the next day, a goblin came through the Headmaster's fireplace.

"Grithorn I presume?"

The goblin faced the oldest wizard there. "Albus Dumbledore. You said you had vital business?" He noticed a witch, whom he gave a nod to, and another wizard there, a wizard who must have had goblin blood in his ancestors. To the short wizard he bowed, and was given a bow in return.

"Yes, Grithorn. I have a large amount of gold dust that I need to sell and then deposit the profits. Will you act as our agent in this matter?" Dumbledore waved his arm as if he was introducing someone to point the goblin to small mountain of chests.

Grithorn raised an eyebrow in surprise and went over to inspect them. Pulling a small set of scales out of a pouch around his waist, he waved his hand over them while flicking his fingers and the scales expanded to the same size as the ones found in the bank itself. The wizards and witch waited several minutes as the goblin emptied and weighed the dust in one of the chests. That accomplished, he pulled out some parchment and a quill before he started scribbling madly. A minute or so later, he looked up at them.

"Assuming all the chests have the same amount of gold, by the time we sell them and then subtract our agent's fee, you should have approximately 251,000 Galleons." He watched Dumbledore look to the other two, who each gave him a nod.

"That will be most satisfactory," the Headmaster replied.

"Where would you like the profits deposited?" Grithorn inquired. The witch held out a bank key to him. Taking it from her, he held it for a moment and let his magic work. "Vault 649; that would be the Potter Trust vault?" The witch appeared so surprised at his knowing whose vault that was that she only nodded. "It will be few days before the transaction is complete. Do we have a deal?" He shrunk and put his scales away while he waited for an answer.

"We do," Dumbledore agreed and bowed.

"I shall send you a detailed statement when the work is done. If you will leave your Floo open to me for a few minutes, I shall transport the chests back to the bank so I can begin." Not waiting for an answer, Grithorn picked up the chest in front of him and left.

A couple of minutes later, he returned, opened up the Floo to "Gringotts Receiving Dock" and started sending the chests through the Floo. When Flitwick realized what was happening, he pulled out his wand and levitated the chests over to the goblin in front of the fireplace. With a grin showing many sharp and pointed teeth, Grithorn caught each chest and sent them through that much faster. At the end, he bowed to Flitwick and then stepped through himself.

McGonagall shook her head in amazement and to clear the sight she had just witnessed. Ready for the next step, she pulled two phials out of her robes and handed them to Dumbledore. Without a word, he pulled a gold cauldron off of his shelf before he took the Stone out of the small chest sitting on his desk and placed it in the cauldron. Finally, he picked up the phials, opened each of them, and them simultaneously poured them both over the Stone. It immediately started smoking. Albus stepped back and waited. A few minutes later after the smoke had cleared, he looked in the cauldron and saw only some red liquid. With his wand, he Vanished and cleaned the cauldron.

Minerva looked into the clean cauldron. "Very good. I believe you can announce at dinner that the left-hand side of third floor is no longer off limits."

"As you wish," Dumbledore calmly acquiesced. "When you visited Severus this morning, did he say what his progress was on acquiring the ingredients for the eye potion?"

"He said he had them all but one, and it should arrive in a couple of days. Since that ingredient was one of the last and there was some simmering time before it was needed, he said he planned to start tomorrow morning," she informed the other two.

Flitwick smiled. "Our plan is going well then. If you will excuse me, I have one last class this afternoon before dinner." He left with McGonagall following him.

That evening at dinner while everyone was eating, or at least all the professors and most of the students were there, Albus Dumbledore picked up his spoon and tapped it on his goblet three times and then stood. By the time he was standing gazing across the room, the room was totally silent and all eyes were on him. Many curious eyes as everyone was wondering what was going on.

"I hope everyone is having a pleasant evening. I have an announcement to make that should make your lives a little easier." He noticed a few students whispering to each other now, no doubt trying to guess what was coming. "I do realize this is only the third day of school this year, but there will be a slight change from a previous announcement."

"At the Welcoming Feast, I warned everyone to avoid the left-side of the third floor corridor, unless you wanted to suffer a most painful death. I am happy to say that you may now treat that part of the castle as you would any other part, although, I dare say you will now find it quite boring as it contains only a few unused rooms. We had been storing a precious magical artifact, but that artifact has now been destroyed and there is no more danger to anyone."

"Therefore, I thank everyone for withholding their curiosity for these last few days, and I hope you enjoy your pudding tonight. The custard looks very promising."

As he retook his seat, the talking immediately rose to a dull roar as the students began discussing what he had said. Turning to his left, he asked with a twinkle in his eye, "How long do you suppose it will take them to figure out what was destroyed?"

"Oh, I suspect someone on the staff will let it slip sometime in the next day. Although, since Hagrid is not here, it might take a little longer than it would otherwise." She took a drink and was about to continue on when she heard something off to her right. Bending forward and looking, she saw the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher suddenly stand with both hands on the side of his head, as if he was trying to either hold it on, or else trying to keep it from exploding. To her, and everyone else's surprise, he started yelling and ran from the Great Hall; his screaming echoing even after he had left.

She looked at Albus, who looked back at her, and they both immediately stood and started running after Quirrell. "Everyone stay in this room!" she yelled as she hurried to find out what was going on, one hand on her hat to hold it on and the other hand drawing her wand.

Despite being nearly eighty years older than her, the Headmaster beat her to the doors. He then proceeded towards the front door. Not seeing Quirrell anywhere, she followed Albus. As they cleared the doors to the castle, on the front steps they found the man they were seeking writhing on the ground still screaming and holding his head. She had just taken that sight in when he arched his back as he screamed one last time before going limp. As she was about to ask Albus what was going on, a specter came out of Quirrell's head and raced for the Forbidden Forrest.

"What was that?!"

Dumbledore slowly walked over to check the man on the ground. After a few seconds he stood back up. "He's dead. And to answer your question, I believe that was the spirit of Voldemort, who had attached himself to Quirrell. Obviously, he was here to steal the Stone."

"My word! How could we not have known?"

"He must have used some sort of Concealment spell on himself." He sighed. "I am sorry, but while I shall start the search, you will have to hire a new Defense teacher for the year."

"How many applicants did you have this year, Albus?"

Another sigh escaped the old wizard. "He was the only one who met the minimum qualifications."

"I see. I will start giving this some thought."

With a true smile on his face for the first time in several hours, Dumbledore looked at her and quipped, "Welcome to the role of Headmaster."

Minerva McGonagall turned to leave the little room where Harry Potter was again sleeping. She looked at Filius beside her and it looked like he was having as much trouble holding his breakfast down as she was. The last half hour had almost been traumatizing to watch, the little boy had been put through so much pain and agony. However, in the end, Healers Tofty and Diggory had successfully put a smaller block in place and then removed the large magical block on the little boy. Since he had survived that, they both assured the two professors that Harry would survive the rest of the procedures to completely remove the block -- the first was the trickiest and only potentially fatal step.

Leaving the little room and entering the main room of the hospital wing, she found two Aurors waiting for them. She was not totally surprised to see them.

"Good morning everyone," a stern witch only a few years younger then McGonagall herself greeted them.

"Good morning, Director Bones, Auror Shacklebolt," Dumbledore returned the greeting. "How may we be of assistance to you?"

"I understand a man died here last night, plus Auror Shacklebolt has already started an investigation on some Muggles abusing a little wizard boy. I thought that perhaps we all needed to have a chat. Things seem to be a little too lax here."

"Perhaps we should adjourn to the Headmaster's office?" McGonagall suggested. "I think that would be a more appropriate place for this discussion." Bones seemed surprised for the idea to come from McGonagall, but she nodded and followed the three professors.

Once in the office, McGonagall led them to the little sitting area, those without a chair conjured one for themselves.

"Which topic would you like to discuss first, Director?"

"Let's discuss the little boy," Bones directed.

"I'm sure Auror Shacklebolt has told you what happened the other evening," McGonagall started, Albus was staying quiet. "Since then, the healers have determined that he will live and they will be able to repair all of his physical problems over time. They will have to do a total Obliviation, however. Given that this all seemed to be caused by young Potter being placed in a Muggle home with no oversight, Filius and I have taken over the role to provide that oversight. Our plan is to find a nice Wizarding couple who can help Harry with his special needs and gently bring him back into Wizarding Society, still with our oversight, probably on a monthly basis."

Bones sat there for a moment and considered that. "Given the present political climate, I will give you my stamp of approval. There's no telling what shenanigans Fudge would try to pull if he got his hands on Mr Potter. However, I'm giving you warning now that my department will also be watching this case very closely."

"I understand. There is a way you can help us with this task, but we can address that at the end."

The head of the MLE raised an eyebrow, but continued on with the original topic. "Auror Shacklebolt has investigated the Dursleys. His report is not pretty. The short version is that we have found out what they did to Mr Potter and it is abhorrent. We have also found out that Mr Dursley killed Rubeus Hagrid with a gun…"

"Oh my!" McGonagall exclaimed.

"No!" Flitwick shouted.

Dumbledore merely closed his eyes and dropped his head, obviously considering his mistake of sending the man to the Muggles.

"I'm sorry, but it's true. Apparently Mr Dursley felt threatened by our world and by Mr Hagrid specifically when he showed up on their doorstep. A double-barrel shotgun blast to the chest at close range was the cause of death."

A very pale McGonagall hoarsely got out, "What's going to happen now?"

"We've planted enough evidence to show that a little boy was once in their home, that he was abused and then murdered; and we've made sure the Muggle authorities have investigated and found that evidence. While Mr Potter was not murdered, that scenario will make sense to the Muggles and covers all the crimes that the Dursleys should be charged with. At this time, it appears that the two adults will be spending a very long time in prison after they have a trial and the son will go to live with his aunt after a long treatment in one of their mental institutions," Bones concluded.

"That is all so horrible."

"Yes, Professor McGonagall, but then my job has shown me that humans are horrible at times. Unless you have other questions on that, I'd like to discuss the death here last night." Bones looked around and no one said anything.

"Very well," Bones continued, "I have read the report from last night and I have two problems with it. One, even in a world of magic, I find it very hard to believe that you think You-Know-Who was here; and two, if that is true, how did that happen and you didn't know it before then?" After a moment of silence, she noticed that two of the professors were looking at the Headmaster.

"Yes, well, I suppose that falls to me," Dumbledore finally spoke up. "It has always been my theory that young Mr Potter did not totally kill Voldemort ten years due to some form of necromancy that Voldemort performed to gain immortality. What we saw last night when his wrath escaped was the proof of that theory."

"Do you realize how incredible that sounds, Albus?"

"Yes, Director, I do. However, I will also submit that it is the complete truth."

Bones considered that for a moment. "And how do you explain how He came here and stayed here undetected?"

"It is my theory that he forced Quirrell to cast a Concealment charm on him so we would not detect his aura. Of course, after I announced that the Philosopher's Stone had been destroyed and was no longer here last night, Voldemort no longer needed Quirrell, as that path to regain a body was no longer available to him."

"I see…" The head of the MLE looked amongst the three professors for a moment before zeroing in on Dumbledore again. "And what will you do to prevent this from happening again?"

"Actually, that's what I would like to talk to you about, Director." McGonagall reentered the conversation. "We now need a new Defense teacher and we need a good one who has some real life experience. I was hoping to be able to convince you to loan us one of your Aurors for that teaching position. We would even reimburse you that salary."

The director was very surprised. "I'm not sure I have the staff, especially if I need to start ramping our numbers back up."

"I understand," McGonagall conceded. "However, I'm hoping you may have qualified personnel who are on leave of some type but who can still teach, or perhaps some of the retired staff you have on reserve."

"That might be workable." Bones considered that some more. "Since this affects my department, I'd like to know why you're asking instead of Albus. Although I think I can guess, I'd like to hear your version."

McGonagall smiled pleasantly. "Albus is about the hand the Headmaster job over to me so he can concentrate on the Wizengamot and other interests he has. This would also be to your advantage as he can help you at the Ministry to get more Aurors on staff."

Bones considered that for a moment, also looking to Shacklebolt who continued to just listen. "You've confirmed at least one of my thoughts. Another one is that there is more to this story than you're telling me."

"There were no laws broken that I'm aware of, Director," McGonagall assured her. "The rest is merely some internal school laundry that we'd rather clean ourselves."

Nodding slowly, Bone said, "I see." Turning to her employee, she asked with a slight smile, "I believe Thad Williamson was complaining the other day about getting too old to run around with the 'young ones'?"

"Yes, Director, I do believe those were his words," Shacklebolt agreed.

"Very well. Minerva, you may expect to have a new Defense teacher in the morning. We'll work out the accounting later."

"Thank you, Director. You are most helpful."

"You're welcome. And be careful with Mr Potter. We will be watching to make sure all the proprieties of the law are observed with him."

"We understand."

Filius was nodding his agreement with Minerva's statement. "Yes, Director, we would appreciate any help you, personally, might give us."

As the two Aurors left, Minerva looked at the other two. "I believe we all have classes shortly?" Without waiting for an answer, she turned and left what would be her new office soon. That reminded her that she was going to have to find a new Transfiguration teacher and a new head-of-house for Gryffindor soon. There were some other staffing changes she wanted to make, but they could wait a while.

As the second week of class ended, Severus Snape went over to his superior as dinner was ending. "Headmaster, the potion you requested has completed. If you will accompany me, I will give it to you." He notice Minerva seemed interested in this as well, but he ignored her.

"Certainly. I believe Minerva might like to come as well?" The Headmaster looked at her.

"Yes, thank you." She turned the other direction. "Filius? Would you come with us as well?"

"Oh, I'd be delighted," the little man said.

"Really," the potion master drawled. "There is no need for everyone."

"I don't see any problem," Minerva told him. "This is a very interesting potion I'm told. I'd like to hear about it." Flitwick agreed.

Seeing that the Headmaster was smiling and not saying anything, Snape spun on his heel and headed for his office. As he walked in silence, he considered what was happening around him. He had been very busy with this potion, but he still had seen Minerva spending a little more time in the Headmaster's office than what was usual. Also, Filius was spending a great deal of time around Minerva. Something was up; he would have to watch closely to see what he could do to benefit himself the most.

He opened his office and let everyone in, closing the door behind them all. Snape strode to his desk, his cape billowing behind him; he rather liked that effect, as well as the fact that his cloak helped to keep him a little warmer in the dungeons. On his desk was a small brown flask, which he pointed to. "Who will be administering this?"

"We will be giving it to a healer who has a patient with severe eye injuries," Albus calmly stated.

Snape nodded and he was relieved to hear that. This potion was potentially very dangerous. "Then he will know that there must be no other potions in the patient's system when you give them this, and it must be totally consumed in one minute or less."

The Headmaster nodded. "Anything else we need to pass along for safety?"

"No, Headmaster; other than you have seventy-one hours from now to administer the potion before it's worthless."

"How long will it take and what will it be like?" McGonagall asked.

He wanted to snap at her and tell her it was none of her business, but by the look on the Headmaster's face, apparently it was. "The patient will be in extreme pain for an hour while the eyes and optic nerves are destroyed. Then for the next eleven hours, there will be tingling, like Skele-Gro produces, as it's all rebuilt." He saw a horrified look on her face. "In the end, the patient will see as if he had perfect eyesight, their original shape and color too." Finally, a pleased look came over her at the very end. Flitwick continued to just stand there absorbing the information with a curious look on his face.

Snape watched Minerva pick up the brown bottle with great care, then she actually smiled at him, for the first time ever. "Thank you, Severus; I shall remember this." Fortunately for him, she had already turned around to leave, as had Flitwick, so it was only Dumbledore who saw his jaw drop.

Minerva sat in the hospital wing. She had no pressing duties at the moment, as it was a Saturday morning. She looked at Filius beside her and found comfort in the tear going down his check, one to match the multiple tears going down hers. The screaming had stopped a few minutes before, but that did not stop her from caring about the little boy who was in pain.

The door to the little quarantine room opened and Healers Tofty and Diggory came out.

"How did it go?" Flitwick asked.

Tofty smiled. "It appears to be working just fine. All the old damaged tissue is now gone and we can already detect the growth of new tissue. It will be another eleven hours before we can take the bandages off, but I believe his eyesight will be fully restored."

"Thank you," Minerva whispered before she suddenly shot out of her chair to give Tofty a hug. "Thank you so very much."

"Minerva?" the other healer asked in an unusually tentative voice.

"Yes, Dee?"

"What's going to happen to Harry now? Where will he go live?"

"We're going to find him a good home where he can be loved and raised to know who he really is. The hard part will be finding someone who can help him with his special needs. He's going to have to learn a lot very quickly before he can come to school here."

Dee nodded. "I, uh, well, Amos and I would like to apply for that. You see, we always wanted another child, but I couldn't have one for some reason…"

"That's very kind of you, but how will you handle working and Harry too? He will be a full-time job for someone."

"I would take a leave of absence." Dee saw her colleague give her a raised eyebrow; she had not mentioned this idea to anyone but Amos. "As a mind healer, I think I would have the best skills to help Harry. We really don't need my salary, and Amos would like another son too. Cedric is a wonderful son, but we have more love to give."

Minerva looked at Filius. The small man smiled at her before he looked at Dee. "Perhaps you and Amos could come talk to us tomorrow afternoon? I know only of good things about you two, and Cedric is a very well behaved young man, even if he is not in my house."

"Perhaps at two tomorrow afternoon?" Minerva suggested.

"Thank you, both of you." Dee Diggory looked very happy.

Minerva felt that little Harry's life was looking up at last. She could not imagine anyone more qualified to help him at the moment.

As September changed into October, so change swept through Hogwarts. On the first of October, all four heads-of-house made sure all of their students were at dinner. Other than an extra person sitting at the head table, everything else looked normal. The students were speculating on who the new person was.

When most people had finished dinner and were starting on the various pies and other dishes in the pudding course, Dumbledore tapped his glass three times and stood. A hush quickly descended on the Great Hall.

"May I have your attention," he said needlessly. "I have some announcements. I must inform you that I am sad to say that today is my last day as Headmaster at Hogwarts." Chaos reigned for nearly a full minute as everyone started talking and then shouting to their neighbor. To restore order, Dumbledore pulled out his wand and shot a large number of red sparks into the air; the crowd quieted.

"Thank you for your concern, but I have other things which I must do and now seems to be the right time to do them. However!" He dramatically paused, "You shall be lead very capably by Professor McGonagall, who will be the new Headmistress." Applause broke out from three of the tables, the fourth table made the motion of clapping, but no sound seemed to come from that direction.

Holding out his hand as if to introduce her, Dumbledore announced, "Professor Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts."

McGonagall stood at her place. She would move to the golden chair tomorrow, as Filius would take her present chair.

"Students and staff, I am honored to be elected the new Headmistress by the Hogwarts Board of Governors." She saw Draco Malfoy say something to the boy next to him and then silently chuckle. "All of the fine traditions and efforts that make Hogwarts the best magical school in Britain will continue." She received polite applause. "There will be a few changes, which I hope will be for the better. The first being Professor Filius Flitwick will become the Deputy Headmaster."

There was applause all around, although the loudest was from the Ravenclaw table. He was a popular teacher with everyone, even the Slytherins.

"As I step up, we will have a new Transfiguration teacher. Please welcome a friend from my school days, and also the new Gryffindor head-of-house, Professor Frances Washburn." She pointed to her left and to a witch that looked only slightly younger. The new professor stood and waved before retaking her seat.

"Other changes will undoubtedly occur over time, all hopefully for the better. I encourage each of you to do your best and to show why Hogwarts is such a wonderful place to learn. Enjoy your dessert and you may leave when you wish. Staff, please come to the staff lounge for a few minutes after dinner for a toast." Minerva sat back down, mostly pleased with her speech. After their initial reaction, the students seemed very accepting. Shortly, she would find out whether the staff was as accepting.

Fifteen minutes later, the staff was all together and glasses were being passed out. When she saw that everyone had one, she raised hers. "To Albus Dumbledore, thank you for your years of excellent service to Hogwarts. May your further adventures be good ones."

Everyone raised their glasses to the old wizard and murmured, "Here, here."

To start the ball rolling, she put her glass down and shook Albus's hand. "Thank you for your help, Albus," she told him sincerely. "I may call you from time to time with questions."

"You're welcome, Minerva. I can't think of a better person for the position, and I think you'll do a wonderful job."

She truly appreciated his blessing and that he had done so in front of the rest of the staff. Stepping back, she let everyone else come up to him to wish him good-bye. Some took quite a bit of time to say good-bye. She watched them all, waiting for one specific person. Near the end, he too wished the old Headmaster good-bye. When he turned to leave, she fell into step beside of him.

"Severus, would you spend a few minutes with me?" She saw the man blanch slightly before he recovered his normal expression and nodded. "I think my new office would give us the privacy to discuss a couple of things."

"Of course, Headmistress," he drawled, much more respectfully than normal.

No, he was not stupid, she thought as they walked side by side. She would give him one last chance to prove it to the school at large.

Entering her new office, which was a bit bare at the moment, her things not having been moved yet, she took a seat in the sitting area, hoping its more casual setting would help. She pulled out her wand and heated the teapot there before she started pouring. "A cup for you, Severus?"

"No thank you, Headmistress."

He sat very straight-backed she noticed. She took a sip before she launched into 'everything'.

"Severus, neither of us likes beating around the bush, so I'll just be blunt. Although your skills with potions is rivaled by few, I have never liked the way you have acted here. You're mean-spirited, biased, and I have an entire of drawer of complaints against you about your inability to teach and unfair actions." If it was possible, his sallow complexion seemed to pale even more.

"However, not long ago you performed a very good deed and I told you that I would remember that, so I am keeping that promise to you now. Perhaps against my best judgment, I will not sack you immediately. Instead, I will give you one last chance to redeem yourself. If you can turn over a new leaf and be respectful to all students, not just the Slytherins, and if you can teach everyone fairly, and I do mean teach, not just sneer and point them to their book, then you can continue here and I will forgive past actions. If you choose to leave, I'll be happy to write a glowing letter of reference extolling your ability as a Potions Master."

After she stopped talking, Snape looked at her, obviously thinking carefully. "Would I remain the Slytherin head-of-house?"

"If you can help them become normal members of the school, getting them to push away Death Eater-like actions, then yes. If you feel you can not do that, or refuse to do that, then I can give that position to someone else and you may concentrate only on teaching Potions. The choice is up to you."

"Respectfully, I believe you have an impossible goal."

"And respectfully, I disagree," she replied, doing her best to keep an even tone. "The school handbook allows me to suspend and expel those who act with disrespect and violence in the school. If that means I have to expel half of Slytherin house to have a peaceful and nurturing environment, I will."

Snape was so surprised he gasped.

"Before you say anything, know that I realize that many of the Slytherins are not bad. Many of them are neutral, and some are not inclined to do the wrong thing but are merely led astray, possibly forced into bad behavior by peer pressure of the few really bad ones. So probably, I would only have to expel about fifteen to twenty-five percent of them. But I don't want to do that, which is why we are having this conversation."

"I see…"

"Can you give me your answer now, or do you need a little time to think it over?" She patiently waited while he seemed to think about it.

Eventually, he told her, "I'll get back with you tomorrow, if you don't mind."

"As you wish. However, I do have one request of you for this evening." He raised one eyebrow briefly. "As I have asked Filius and Pomona, and Frances and I are about to do for the Gryffindors, please address your house and explain to them that they will be held to higher standards of conduct than in the past. That includes not using the term 'Mudblood' unless they are writing an essay in their History class about how our culture used to use that term and now it is considered inappropriate." As he started to open his mouth, she went on, not giving him the chance to interrupt. "And I don't care who anyone's father is. If they break the rules, I will document it and then take the appropriate action, regardless of their house. If anyone doesn't like it, they're welcome to withdraw from school; there are other children who would like to attend here that we had to turn away. They are to behave like Salazar Slytherin, who was a very noble man from what I've read. Behaving like junior Death Eaters will not be tolerated in any fashion."

He nodded. "I'll pass the message along." At her slow nod, he got up and left.

A very troubled Severus Snape slowly walked to the dungeons to deliver what he knew would be a very unpopular message to a significant fraction of his house.

The next morning, Headmistress McGonagall was bustling around her office trying to put her things in their place as fast as she could. She very briefly considered asking the house-elves to do it for her, but they would not know where to put anything. They had been very helpful in packing her things into boxes though.

As she put some of her favorite transfiguration awards on the wall, there was a knock at her door. Considering it was before breakfast, she was surprised. "Enter!" she called out.

She knew she should not have been, but she was surprised to see Severus Snape standing there, looking as he ever did, except for the bags under his eyes as if he had not slept last night. He also had a piece of parchment in his hand. "Severus? Do come in. Would you like something to drink?"

"No thank you, Headmistress."

This was one of few times she had ever seen him with an almost normal looking expression on his face. "What can I do for you this morning?"

He hesitated before he finally asked, "May I stay here until the end of this term? I would like to leave, but in all fairness to my Slytherin students, I need to delay my departure."

"Can you improve your teaching ability and demeanor until then?"

"I believe so, although I'm not sure about that in regards to the Weasley twins," a spark of his normal sneering self reasserted itself for a moment before it disappeared again under his new mask.

"Then you are welcome to stay until the end of the term. That might be best away." Yes, she thought, it might take a while to track down Horace Slughorn or someone else to fill his position. "If it makes you feel any better, I share your exasperation with the twins."

"Thank you," he softly and uncharacteristically told her. "As a peace offering, I'll give you this."

She took the parchment he held out. Looking it over, she saw nearly twenty names on it. "These are obviously all Slytherins, but why are they on this list?"

"Those are the students you will want to keep a close eye on. As you can see, some of them are from very prominent families, so your evidence to expel them will need to be very obvious and incontrovertible."

McGonagall graced him with a slight smile. "Thank you, Severus. I appreciate your help. If you decide that the new you likes it here, you are welcome to stay." He nodded and then left.

Pleased with where things stood with the Slytherin house, she walked over to her desk and put the list down. She would start monitoring the hallways very closely, in both her cat form and with an Invisibility Cloak she had recently purchased. Looking at her To-Do list, she was also pleased to see it growing smaller. In addition to the Slytherin problem, as she called it, she was going to get to cross the Harry Potter problem off tomorrow.

The boy had been awake for the last two weeks and had been improving greatly in health. He now had perfect eyesight and she was pleased to see Lily's green eyes in him. The injuries in his throat had indeed caused vocal problems, but the healers had been able to fix that too. The growth potions had helped him grow an inch a week for the last couple of weeks, and he would continue to take them until he was his proper size. All his bones had been fixed and most, but not all, of his scars had been removed. The rest of his scars, including the one on his forehead, were now very light and hard to see. Minerva and Dee had decided that, when he was old enough, the would tell Harry he had been in an accident and had received the scars that way. It was close enough to the truth, from Minerva's viewpoint, that she did not have a problem with the explanation.

Sadly, they had had to Obliviate him. He had been afraid of any adult that had walked into the room. Mentally, he was now like an infant, but he seemed to be picking things up quickly. He could now feed himself and walk around, so that was good. On the bad side, they had had to put nappies on him again. Dee had hoped to avoid that. There had been no magical outbursts yet, but that would probably be coming soon she guessed. He was to the point that medically, he could now go home. For at least the next year, he would be known as Harry Diggory.

Delores Diggory sat on her front porch, sprawled in a chair with her eyes closed, and thinking about her new son; she almost appeared to be asleep. If anyone had asked, she would say that she was taking a break; she knew that lately she felt like she always needed a break. She had no idea how much work it would be to take on the task to raise Harry Potter when she and her husband had volunteered nearly nine months ago.

To say that he was full of energy would be an understatement in the extreme; the boy hardly ever slowed down. He was also extremely curious, which was a dangerous thing when added to his energy level. About the only time she could get him to slow down was when he was reading, which he did just often enough for her to catch her breath. Fortunately, it was getting easier as he started acting older. She supposed it was harder on her because she had determined to document the whole thing, not only for his sake, but for medical history. She had worn out numerous dict-o-quills trying to keep up.

She and Amos had truly enjoyed having Harry in the house. The motherly instincts helped her to ignore most of the bad and concentrating on the good times. The bad had actually been quite minimal, mostly confined to Harry's ability to do accidental summoning. At the beginning of the Christmas holidays, Dee and her husband had sat down with Cedric and told him about the little boy who no longer had a family and that they were adopting. They also told them that their love for him had not changed at all. Cedric had been very accepting of the situation and of Harry when he met him.

At the moment, she was sitting on the front porch and watching Harry fly on his new broom. Amos had finally given him permission to use Cedric's old one. Harry had quickly outgrown the training broom they had bought him for Christmas. She smiled as she thought back to the holidays. Cedric had had a lot of fun teaching his new little brother to fly. According to Cedric, he was a natural.

Besides being a good flyer, Harry was also a quick learner. He learned so quickly it was like magic. He soaked up new information and quickly put it to use, sometimes in surprising ways. She was not sure if that was because of natural ability, or from something to do with his past, or because he had been Obliviated, or what. Still, it had its distinct advantages. He was acting like an eight year-old and she suspected that he would be ready for Hogwarts by this fall. That was both good and bad, depending on if she was thinking like a mind healer or a mother. She had enjoyed the time with him; he was a wonderful child.

Deciding she better go in and start lunch, she got up and just as she made it to the front door, the alarm on the Floo went off. An unauthorized person was trying to come through. Drawing her wand, while hoping she did not have to use it, she called to her son. "Harry! Come down!"

"Mum! I just got started!"

"Harry, come here immediately! Emergency!" True to his training, he immediately zoomed down to her, dismounting at the bottom of the porch steps right in front of her. 'Emergency' was their code word for danger and Harry was to do whatever they said without questions. In return, they had promised never to use it unless it really was an emergency.

"What's wrong, Mum?" he asked with both excitement and worry.

"It's the Floo alarm, dear. Come inside and stay by the front door," she ordered quickly. "If I tell you to run, you run through the front door and fly away like we've taught you. If I tell you to come, come running to me. Understand?"

"Yes, Mum," he agreed as he went into the house with her.

The Floo alarm changed to a softer buzz, indicating someone was trying to call her now.

Walking towards the Floo warily, she looked back to make sure her son was staying by the front door, in case this was an attack. The possibility of that was why they now had a restricted Floo. She waved her wand at the Floo to accept the call.

"Who is it?"

A face appeared in the fire and an emotion filled voice answered her. "Dee! I'm glad I found you. We need you here at the hospital."

"Trish? I can't, I'm on leave…"

"Dee, there's been a major explosion at the Ministry; multiple levels have collapsed and it's a disaster." The words were rushing out, seemingly without a breath being taken. "We need everyone with medical training. We have more injured people than we can handle. Phyllis told me to call you, and you haven't been answering. I even tried to come through to find you, but your Floo wouldn't let me. Please!" The desperation was very evident in her voice.

That explained the alarms, Dee thought. "I'm sorry, Trish, I can't. I have someone here who can't be left alone and I have to take care of…"

"Dee, people are dying. Can't you find someone to watch him or her? We really need you!"

"I …" She stopped to think. Getting a hold of Amos was normally an exercise in futility during the day, and if there was a major accident at the Ministry, she would never find him. That made her wonder if her husband was all right.

"Please?" Trish begged again.

"I'll try, Trish, but no promises."

"Thanks Dee! We'll see you soon!" The face left before Dee could say anything.

The mother sighed. Who was she going to get? Most of her family had died in the last war, and those that had not had left Britain. Amos had one sister, but she was a squib and could offer no real protection for Harry.

Suddenly an idea came to her. There was one person nearby whom she could trust. Grabbing some Floo powder, she tossed a pinch in. "The Burrow!" Leaning into the fire, she felt her head stretch and then move, seeing only a couple of grates go flashing by before she saw a different living room. "Molly? Molly Weasley?"

"Hello?" the voice called out before the body it belonged to walked into the room. "Who's there?"

"Molly, it's me, Dee Diggory."

"Dee, how are you doing? I've haven't talked to you in such a long time…"

"Molly, I'm sorry to be short, but St Mungo's has called me about an emergency and I need to go, but I can't because I'm watching someone. Could you help? Just for a few hours?"

"Of course, Dee, I'd be happy to. Who is it?"

"We, uh, adopted a boy."

"Oh, I'm so happy for you! Sure, just bring the little tyke over and I'll watch him for you. I'll even get my little one to help. She'll be happy to have something to relieve her boredom."

"Thanks, Molly! I'll be there in a few."

Pulling her head out of the fire, she smiled to herself. "Little tyke, Molly is going to be surprised. Harry!"

The boy came running in. "Is everything okay, Mum?"

"We're going to be fine, but your mother has to go help some people at the hospital. I'm going to take you to a neighbor's house, and you can stay there until I or your father can come to get you." She was doing her best not to think about the fact that Amos could be hurt if what Trish said was true. "Her name is Molly Weasley and she's a very nice lady. She even has a daughter about your age that you can play with."

"A girl? No way!" He started to back away and realized he still had his broom in his hand when he hit himself on the leg with it. Harry looked at it and then back at his mother. "Do you think she can fly?"

His mother smiled to herself. "I don't know, you'll have to ask her. Now, stand still a minute, I need to cover your scar."

"You mean like you do when we go out to shop?"

"Yes, Harry, just like that. I trust the Weasleys, but we still don't want anyone to know about you yet so we can keep you safe." With a swirl and a tap, she touched her wand to the boy's forehead and his faint lightening bolt scar disappeared and would remain that way for the next twenty-four hours.

Standing up, she walked to the doorway and shot a couple of spells at the front door. It closed and locked. Coming back to the fireplace, she held out her hand. Harry knew to take it and hold on; he still had his broom in his other hand. Dee threw a handful of Floo powder in and said, "The Burrow!" Stepping in with a firm hold on Harry, they both soon stepped out of the Weasley's fireplace.

Other than a strange room, the first thing Harry saw was a thin little redheaded girl about his height. She had a few freckles on her face and two pigtails of long red hair. The girl looked at him and then to her right. Harry saw a woman who was a little older than his mother, or so he thought. She had red hair too.

"Molly? This is Harry. He recently came to live with us. Harry, this is Mrs Weasley."

Harry saw the woman bend over a bit to get a good look at him. "Hi, Harry dear. It's nice of you to come over, although I must say you are a wee bit bigger than what I was expecting." For reasons he did not understand, the woman and his mother laughed. Reaching a hand out, she placed it on the shoulder of the girl. "This is my daughter, Ginny. Perhaps you two can play together this afternoon. Have you had lunch yet? We were about to have lunch."

"I have to run, but thank you so very much, Molly."

"What's the emergency? I haven't had the wireless on."

"Oh, I, uh," how do I tell her this, Dee thought. "Something happened at the Ministry is all I know."

"Arthur!" The woman turned very pale, Harry noticed.

"I'm sure it's not all that bad, and besides, I've heard Arthur is out of the office a lot, anyway," Dee tried to encourage her.

"Hopefully," Molly said. "You better go dear. Hopefully, nothing happened to Amos, too…"

His mother gave him a quick hug and then she was gone.

Mrs Weasley took a deep breath and then looked back down at the two children again. "Well, why don't both of you come with me into the kitchen and we'll find some lunch. Would you like a sandwich, Harry?"

"Yes, ma'am."

She smiled at him. "My, aren't you the polite one. I'll have to get you to teach Ginny's brother Ron that. He's about your age. Are you ten?"

They walked into the kitchen. Harry stood near Ginny so he was not in the way, but he was careful not to be too near her.

"No, I'm eleven. I'll be twelve this summer," he said proudly.

"Oh? Then why aren't you at school in Hogwarts?"

He watched her get some things out of the cold cabinet as she started making sandwiches. "Uh, I don't know. Mum said I wasn't ready. I had to learn how to read and write first, and I just did that right after Christmas. I got a broom at Christmas, then I got Cedric's old broom just last week." He held it out excitedly to show it off.

"That's wonderful, dear. You can set it over there by the door until you need it." There was something about the woman that made him wonder if she really meant it was wonderful. She looked more like his mother when she was puzzled by something. With a small shrug, he set his broom against the wall. With a few flicks of her wand, all the ingredients started flying together and a few seconds later there were three sandwiches. She put them all on plates and then handed two of them to the children. "Here you go, take these to the table. I'll bring drinks. Is pumpkin juice all right with you, Harry?"

"Yes, ma'am." He took his plate and followed Ginny. When she took a chair, he decided it was best to sit on the other side of the table from her. Cedric had said he had to be careful with girls; they could give boys cooties, whatever those were -- but they sounded bad.

Mrs Weasley brought in a plate for her, as well as three drinks and bag of crisps. Her food was just as good as his mother's.

"Do you like to fly, Harry?" she asked with a smile.

"Yes! It's the greatest thing ever. My brother says I'm a natural, whatever that is."

She chuckled. "He means that you learned to fly very easily. Ginny flies, too. Perhaps you two would like to fly together?"

He looked at the girl. "You can fly?"

"Of course!" She looked a little mad that he might think otherwise. "I've been flying for years. I bet I can fly better than you."

"Ginny?" Her mother spoke her name in a warning voice.

"Yes, Mum?" she asked innocently.

Her mother closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Be nice or you won't go flying with Harry."

"Yes, Mum," she said contritely.

"So, Harry, what else do you like to do besides fly?" Mrs Weasley asked him.

"Lots of things, whatever my mum wants. We play school most of the time. I've learned a lot of things. Most of the time, I read things and then we talk about them." He shrugged and finished up his sandwich before he grabbed a second handful of crisps.

"I see. Do you like to swim?"

He shrugged again. "I don't know; I've never done it."

"You've never gone swimming? It's one my most favoritest things to do," Ginny exclaimed.

"Ginny, that's most favorite," her mother corrected her automatically, still puzzling over something.

"Sorry, Mum, most favorite."

Harry watched the woman smile at her daughter; it was a lot like what his mother did. Noticing that the girl's sandwich was now gone as his was, he asked, "So, you wanna go fly?"

"Yeah, come on. I'll go get one of my brother's old brooms out of the shed."

As they stood and started racing across the room, Molly called out, "Be carefully you don't go too high!"

"Yes, Mum!"

"Yes, Mrs Weasley!" Harry grabbed his broom by the doorway as he left the house.

They were out the door in a flash. Harry mounted his broom and took off. A minute later, Ginny joined him in the air. Since he was lazily flying around waiting for her, it was easy for Ginny to catch up.

"Since there's only two of us, you want to play follow-the-leader?" Ginny suggested.

"Sure, who's the leader first?"

With a grin, Ginny shouted "Me!" and took off. Harry took off after her. Ten minutes later they slowed down again.

"Not bad, Ginny…"

"Not bad! What do you mean not bad?"

"I mean it wasn't that hard to keep up with you," he said with some smugness.

"What kind of broom do you have, anyway?" She looked at his. "Is that a Comet 260?"


"Oh, maybe that's why," she said a bit dejected. "I've only got a Comet 100."

"So, we weren't flying straight lines. Besides, I'll switch with you and be the leader and I bet you can't keep up with me," he challenged her.

She grew wide-eyed. "You'd switch?" He nodded. "Deal!" She quickly descended and he followed her.

They swapped brooms and Harry yelled over his shoulder, "Catch me if you can!" before he took off; Ginny was right behind him.

No matter how Harry turned and twisted, Ginny stayed up with him. It was frustrating for him. As he zipped around a tree and headed for the open paddock area, he decided to try something he had seen Cedric do. The problem was he had never tried it before. Oh well, showing Ginny he was better seemed like a good reason to do it.

As he got into the open area and Ginny started to catch up with his faster broom, Harry pulled up until was hanging upside down on his back and heading back the other way, heading right for Ginny but about six feet above her. She screamed and went straight for a moment, until she remembered to do a normal left "U" to follow back after him.

Harry laughed and did a half barrel roll to be sitting upright again. He also slowed way down to let her catch up. When she did, he taunted her, "When you play follow-the-leader, you have to do what the leader does, Ginny. So I win."

"But, but, I've never done that before," she protested.

"So, I haven't either. I've just seen Cedric do it. He showed it to me when I got my training broom at Christmas."

She looked surprised. "You mean you really just started flying this last Christmas?"


"Wow, you do learn fast; you're good."

"Thanks. So are you; you kept up with me until I did the fancy trick." She blushed slightly, but Harry could not figure out why.

They flew around a little more until her mother came out. "Ginny? Harry? Come down now, please"

Harry immediately flew to the ground near her mother, but Ginny continued to circle. "But Mum!"

"Ginny?! Come down right now, or you won't be flying for a week!"

"Yes, Mum!" She turned to head back, but she did not see the chimney as she did the sharp turn. Her broom hit the brick structure and she screamed as she fell off her broom and onto the roof. Unfortunately for her, it was the part that was the steepest and she rolled down the roof of the attic four stories up, then she fell off the edge.

"Ginny!" her mother cried and frantically dug in her apron for her wand, but her hand could not seem to even find the right pocket as her eyes were glued to her falling daughter.

"Ginny," Harry softly said and held out his arms, just his father did for him. As Ginny was halfway down and Molly's hand had finally found the right pocket that her wand was normally in, Ginny's fall slowed down to a gentle descent and she came floating the few feet over to Harry, since he had been almost under her to begin with. The lost broom fell to the side several seconds before Ginny softly fell into Harry's arms, just like his father used to cradle him. Since she was as big as he was, her weight caused him to fall over with him on the bottom. "Ooph!"

Molly had not been able to get her wand out, but she had stopped trying when she saw Ginny's fall slow. With amazement, she watched her daughter gently fall into the boy's arms before they both fell. She quickly knelt down. "Ginny? Are you hurt?

Ginny was a bit slow in getting up to her hands and knees, finally pulling back until she was kneeling on her knees. "I, I'm fine, Mum," she said as she pulled her hair back over her shoulders.

Molly shook her head at the close call. Looking over she saw the boy lying on the ground looking up at her. "Harry, dear, are you all right? Do you hurt anywhere?"

He shook his head. "Not too much, just my bum; I think I landed on it first." Ginny giggled.

Shaking her head, she helped both of them up. Each child grabbed a broom and they went inside.

"Ginny? Why don't you get one of your books and you and Harry can read together for the rest of the afternoon?"

"OK, Mum!"

When her daughter raced up the stairs, she turned back to the boy. "Harry, are you sure you're not hurt anywhere?"

"No, ma'am. I'm fine now, even my bum doesn't hurt any more."

A minute later, Ginny was back down and had a book about dragons that her brother had sent her. Molly noticed that Harry could not read as well as Ginny, but he did not do too badly. There were a number of things very puzzling about Harry Diggory.

As she was about to leave to go do some laundry, she suddenly realized that Ginny was watching Harry very closely now, much closer than before. She smiled to herself as she thought about telling Arthur about a case of hero-worship. Then she thought about Ginny's fall again and shuddered. She had not been able to get her wand out in time, but the boy had saved her little girl. That was the best case of accidental magic that she had ever witnessed, and she was exceedingly grateful for it.

That evening, Molly was ready to serve dinner and Arthur was not home yet. She was starting to get worried, so she did what she did best in these situations: she glanced at her family clock to see that Arthur's hand was pointing to work. She then walked over to the doorway to check on her kids to see them looking at a book and laughing, then she went back to the kitchen and worked on dinner. Of course, there were only so many times she could stir the stew for tonight. She had picked that because it was easy to keep warm when she was not sure when dinner needed to be ready.

She glanced at the clock again, to repeat the cycle, and saw her husband's hand was on traveling. With a smile, she wiped her hands on her apron to make sure they were dry and listened. A short moment later she heard the whoosh of the Floo and rushed to the living room.

"Oh, ho! What have we here? We seem to have sprouted an extra boy. Who might you be?" her husband asked. She stood in the doorway to see what happened.

"Hi, I'm Harry Diggory." He sounded only a little shy.

"You are? Why, I didn't know Amos had another and you're so big for a newborn baby," he said with an easy grin.

His joking was contagious and put everyone at ease because Harry started laughing and Ginny giggled. "No, I'm not a baby, I'm eleven," he practically boasted.

Her husband looked up and saw her and gave her the special smile that made her heart melt. Her heart wanted to melt in a different way when she saw that his clothes were torn slightly and very dirty, which caused her to wonder what his day had been like. He otherwise looked very normal … and safe! "What happened, dear?"

He walked over and put an arm around her waist while he gave her a quick kiss. "It's good to see you, Molly."

She heard a soft "Blech!" and looked over to see her daughter making a face. Harry was not making a face, but then he was looking at them like he had no idea why they would do that. She smiled to herself and hoped they stayed that way for a while. "What happened?" she repeated.

"Oh, it seems the Department of Mysteries did something a little too mysterious and caused a couple of levels above them to collapse."

"No!" she gasped.

"It wasn't as bad as it sounds, as it was only a small area not the whole floor, but the problem came from the fact that it was below a courtroom that was in use and the area above that was in use as well, so I helped rescue some of the trapped people," he explained.

Molly changed to a whisper because of the children. "Was anyone…?" She could not complete the sentence with the little ears present.

"Not that I'm aware of," he told her as he shook his head, aware of the real question, "there were just a lot of injuries." She saw him look down at the children and she suddenly realized why he was. "Harry, your dad is just fine. He wasn't hurt at all." The boys face became a lot happier. "Well, Mr Diggory, what brings you here today?"

"My mum had to go to the hospital to help."

"Right. That was helpful of her," the man nodded his approval. "What did you kids do today?"

"We went flying!" Harry excitedly told him. Ginny was smiling very big as well, and Molly saw her glance at Harry with a slight blush.

"Were you, now? Well, you'll fit in here just like a regular Weasley," he said with some pride.

"Harry did something very special today, Arthur," Molly softly told him. They were still standing close to one another after their kiss of greeting.

"Oh, what did you do today that was so special, Harry?"

"Besides flying?" Arthur nodded. "I caught Ginny," he said excitedly while Ginny blushed enough that her face almost matched her hair.

Arthur looked very surprised. "How did you catch Ginny? Were you chasing her?"

"I was earlier, but she also hit the chimney when she was flying and then fell off the roof. So I just held out my arms like my father does for me and caught her."

Molly saw her husband go wide-eyed and look at her for confirmation, so she slowly nodded. "I tried to get my wand out of my apron, but I couldn't do it fast enough. Harry produced the most amazing example of accidental magic I've ever seen by slowing her down and then floating her into his arms."

Her husband let go of her waist and leaned down in front of Harry. He put out his hand and Harry slowly put his out too. As Arthur shook the boy's hand, he told him, "Thank you very much, Mr Diggory. Our daughter is very precious to us, and you can save her any time you like."

Harry smiled at him and Molly noticed that Ginny again blushed deeply. It was very amusing to her that perhaps this real boy had finally displaced her crush on the storybook Boy-Who-Lived.

Their Floo roared to life and the green flames belched out a man.

"Amos!" Arthur greeted the man enthusiastically as he stood back up. Diggory had dirty robes as well, although his were not torn.

"Arthur, Molly, it's good to see you too. Harry, come here my boy." He held his arms open and Harry scrambled up and ran to him for a hug. "And who have you been spending the day with Harry?"

Harry blushed slightly and said, "Ginny, this is Ginny."

"Hello, Ginny, how are you?" She did not say anything, as though she went shy by blushing slightly and smiling back at him.

"Did you have a good day here, Harry?"

"Yes, Dad."

"Excellent!" Amos looked up at the other parents. "We've been thinking about trying to get him together to play with other children soon, so I suppose this worked out well after all. I do hope he behaved well for you, Molly."

Molly smiled grandly and gave a short chuckle. "Why yes, Amos. In fact, Harry was quite the hero today. Harry, tell your father what you did just before you came in the house after flying."

"I caught Ginny!" he proudly proclaimed.

"That's good son. Is she a good flyer?"

"Yes, Dad, but I also caught her when she fell out of the sky!"

"You what?!" His smiling look changed to one of questioning and amazement.

"Ginny turned too quickly when she came to land and hit the chimney. Then she bounced on the roof at the very top and fell off. I didn't want to see her hurt, so I caught her just like when you throw me in the air and catch me," Harry told him as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"Merlin's Beard! That's phenomenal! How did you do that Harry?"

"It was easy, Dad. I just held out my arms and made her come into them. I don't think I did it right though because I fell over when she came to me. You never fall over when you catch me."

Amos laughed, as did the other adults. "Well, son, that's probably because I'm a lot bigger than you are, but you are only a little bigger than Ginny. When you get bigger, I'm sure you'll be able to catch her without falling over one day." He ruffled his son's hair.

Molly saw their visitor suddenly get serious. "Arthur, Molly, I need to ask a rather large favor from you."

"Certainly, Amos. What can we do for you?" Arthur asked in a curious voice.

"I need you to not tell anyone that we have Harry, at least not until he goes to school. As we've told Harry, he had an accident when he was younger. By staying with us, we've given him a home where he can be safe. We'd like to keep him safe for as long as possible."

"Of course, Amos. We'll help in any way we can," Arthur told him.

Amos looked down at the little girl. "Ginny, can you keep Harry a secret too? It would really help Harry." She nodded vigorously. "Thank you, Ginny. Well, if you'll excuse us, we should be going home. Molly? Thank you so very much for helping us out on such short notice."

"You're quite welcome, Amos." She turned to her daughter. "Ginny? Would you like Harry to come back and play again?" Ginny smiled very big and nodded, still being shy for some reason. "Amos, tell Dee she's welcome to come visit and bring Harry over anytime we're here; and if she needs me to watch him someday, just let me know."

"Thank you, Molly. That's very kind of you. Well, Harry?" he lightly slapped his hand on his son's shoulder and squeezed. "Let's go home and surprise your mother with dinner. Tell your friend good-bye and Mrs Weasley thank you for having you over."

Harry turned to his minder for the afternoon. "Thank you for having me over and for lunch, Mrs Weasley. It was very good." He then turned to his new friend. "Bye, Ginny. I had fun with you today."

It a fit of boldness, Ginny stepped over to Harry and threw her arms around his shoulders for a second and squeezed before she stepped back. "Thank you for coming, Harry, and thank you for catching me." She again blushed a bright red. The adults all found it cute that Harry blushed too.

"Let's go, son." Amos led his son over to the fireplace, where Harry grabbed his broom that was leaning against the wall, and they were home a few seconds later.

When they arrived, Amos asked his son, "Harry, did you really enjoy playing with Ginny today?"

"Yeah, she was fun, even if she was a girl."

Amos smiled and had to work very hard to keep his laughter silent. He figured that in about three or four years, Harry would change "even if" to "because."

(A/N: There's the beginning and a little over one third of the entire story. Chapter 2 will come out in about a week. -- kb)