Chapter 1 Life in Surrey
A young child had just finished getting his first annual medical check-up, in a moderately sized house in Godric's Hollow, Wales. It was three months late, but there had been mitigating circumstances. His mother and the healer were discussing it, as the young child happily played in the corner of the room.
"Harry is a normal wizard baby in most respects," said Madam Pomfrey, a healer employed by Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry. "Wizard children get muscular control a bit earlier than most muggle kids, and I have seen muggle kids walk at 7 months old. I have even seen muggle kids in diapers jump off the end of a one-meter diving board and dog paddle, so it really isn't surprising wizard kids are quick."
"Harry was toddling at 6 months," said Lily Potter, the child's mother. " He was toilet trained shortly there after. At one year old, he could move pretty well, which keeps us on our toes now days, let me tell you. I can hardly believe his vocabulary. He understands a lot more than he can actually say."
"That is fairly quick," said the healer, "but still quite normal. You should hear some of the stories I have heard about the young Ravenclaw students, when they were young. There is one thing to watch, however."
"What do you mean?" asked the young mother quickly. "Is there a problem?"
"Harry was born with a powerful magical core," said the healer. "That in itself isn't unusual, even though he is in the top 5 percent, as far as power goes. What is unusual was that Harry's core is extremely sensitive to magic near him. Have you noticed this? Harry reacts to my examination, without his conscious control. Most of us are a bit sensitive to magic, but I have never seen such acuity in someone so young. Harry treats it like hearing, or the sense of touch, and for him ... it is normal."
"That is probably why he is such a happy, contented baby," replied Lily. "He can sense when James and I are nearby, and intuitively, Harry is comfortable. He knows when James leaves the house. I have never left the house, since I brought him home."
"Harry doesn't have any conscious access to his core, any more than he can control how he hears, or sees," said Madam Pomfrey, "but his core is very active, never the less. I want you to pay close attention for accidental magic. He could get himself into a situation, in a heart beat."
"Oh Poppy," said Lily, "he is rarely out of our sight. I never knew having children would be so enjoyable. I just wish we didn't have to hide here. There are so many places I would like to take him."
The night that sent Harry to Surrey was like about any other night, except out of the blue, Harry started crying. When Lily Potter picked him up, the wards rang in alarm. James was already moving. "Peter has betrayed us!" he yelled. "Take Harry and run."
Lily tried to apparate, and couldn't, so she ran upstairs with Harry, hoping help would arrive in time. That did not happen. Harry's core could feel the fight between his father and Voldemort. His father was in a panic, and it paralyzed the stricken child. There was a definitive surge of magic, and Harry's core could no longer touch his father's.
A short time later, his mother's magic was billowing. There was a stranger in Harry's room, and his mother was crying. "NOT HARRY!! Please, please, not Harry." The oppressive surge happened again. Harry's core could no longer touch his mother's. Harry was now in a full panic.
For the third time, that self-same surge built up, and started moving toward Harry. Accidental magic roared out of Harry's core to meet that surge, but there wasn't quite enough power to completely stop it before it met Harry. It left a bleeding, jagged cut on his forehead, and completely exhausted his core. Harry fell into a deep sleep, and it is just as well he did. When he woke up, he was in Surrey.
Petunia Dursley woke up much as she usually did, tired and irritated. Her 18-month-old son, Dudley, seldom slept through the night. Dudley had been what is known as a colicky baby, crying most of his first year. He didn't cry as much this year, but Dudley was still quite a lot to keep up with. Petunia had not known motherhood was so exhausting and maddening. Sometimes she just wanted to scream in frustration.
Petunia's husband, Vernon, was a junior executive for a tool factory, Grunnings, and he thought raising children was just not a man's job, period. That's not to say that his life wasn't stressful. His department was normally understaffed and overworked, but that meant little to the CEO. Production had to be maintained, regardless of the problems that came up. He didn't get up at night to take care of Dudley, but that isn't to say he slept well. There is something in human physiology that makes it impossible to sleep when children cry.
Petunia put on the coffee, and went out the back door to get the paper. Vernon was in the shower, getting ready for work. It was all she could do to keep from falling down, as she tried desperately to keep from tripping over a basket on the step. The basket had a blanket in it. She lifted the blanket, and received the worst shock she had had in an awfully long time. Inside, there was a sleeping child. Between the blanket and the side of the basket was a letter.
It couldn't really be called a letter. It was more of a note. This is what the note read:
James and Lily have been murdered. As you are Harry's next of kin, I have brought him to you. Albus Dumbledore.
Petunia sat down heavily. A gentle breeze could have blown her over. Lily, her sister, was dead. She didn't really know what to feel. She wasn't close to her sister. Her mind was spinning.
'No, no, no, no,' she thought. 'A baby. Another baby. Lily's child. A witch's child. This can't be happening. I can't take care of another baby. I'll lose my mind.'
She carried the basket into the kitchen as Vernon came down the stairs.
"Vernon. Come here!" said Petunia.
"What?" asked Vernon.
"My sister's been murdered, and her child has been dumped on us," she replied. "I was never close to my sister, and I can't believe she made us guardians for her son. Read this."
It didn't take much time before Vernon's face started to redden. "We don't need this!" he yelled. "Who do they think they are? How can they do this? We're busy as hell now. We aren't social services!"
About that time, Harry woke up and looked around. Nothing was familiar. He saw strange people. "Mum! Mummy! Muuuummmm! Da! Daaaaaa!" screamed Harry.
"Vernon, he's going to wake Dudley. He just went to sleep an hour ago," said Petunia.
"Don't worry Pet. I'll fix this," said Vernon.
Vernon carried Harry, basket and all, straight over to the cupboard under the stairs. It was a bit dark, but there was light coming under the door, and through the vent slats in the lower part of the door. At least it wasn't pitch black. Not many people know this, but kids in a greatly different environment get very quiet, with a blank look on their face. Harry was no different. It is a type of shock. Further yet, Harry's core could not sense any magic at all, and that had never happened before. This met Vernon's desires exactly.
"See Pet?" asked Vernon, with a flourish. "Problem solved. Now, who is this kid?"
"Remember that time my sister Lily came to visit with her boyfriend?" said Petunia. "I told her to leave, and never come back? Well, she must have gotten married. Remember how I told you how ... unnatural ... they are? It looks like they are dead, and those .... people .... have dropped off Lily's brat. What are we going to do Vernon? I am afraid of them. I have been since I found out they exist, and Lily was one. They can take your memories away. People can just disappear. What they can do isn't right. They can do what ever they want, and no one can stop them."
"Well, the boy looks about the same age as Dudley," said Vernon. "We will take care of him for a few days until they come back, and we will ask some questions."
As it turns out, no one ever came to Privet Drive in Surrey to talk about Harry Potter living with the Dursleys. Vernon and Petunia thought it was very convenient to let Harry stay in the cupboard under the stairs.
Albus Dumbledore wanted someone to watch over Harry. The young boy was critical to the future of the wizarding world, if Voldemort returned, as he expected. After exhausting every option he could think of, he floo called Arabella Figg.
"Arabella," he said, after contact was made, "you know the Potter's were murdered last week, when Voldemort was stopped. I sent young Harry to live with his mother's muggle sister, in a suburb of London, and warded the house quite heavily. Death eaters still managed to attack the Longbottoms, and I fear for Harry's life. I am not convinced we have seen the last of Voldemort, and we don't know how many loyal followers he had. There was no body, and I don't know what happened. All we have is Voldemort's scorched dragon hide robes. He appears to have spontaneously combusted."
"How is that possible, Albus?" she asked.
"I don't have enough information to make a guess. We do know the killing curse was used on his parents, as well as the boy. He is the only person known to have survived the killing curse, and that of itself, makes him very important. I wish there had been a way to keep the Ministry from announcing that Harry Potter had survived the killing curse, while killing Voldemort. They have made things unnecessarily complicated. I was barely able to keep the boy placed with his maternal aunt. Would you be willing to live near the boy, and keep an eye on him? I know your kneazles are some of the best guardians available."
"Of course I will," said Arabella. "His parents were members of the Order, and we take care of our own. I only wish that we Figgs were able to take the child. The Longbottoms would have been perfect foster parents for the child."
"I agree," said Albus, "but the Ministry would never approve your family, and the Longbottoms are in the hospital. The people the Ministry would choose ... well, that would be a problem. I will purchase property in the area, and let you know. Thank you, Arabella. I will rest better knowing you will be in the area."
The property was purchased, and Arabella moved in. She spent a lot of time in her yard taking care of flowers and ornaments, and generally became a well known figure in the neighborhood. She looked like everyone's grandmother, and happily would baby-sit for anyone at a moment's notice. The news spread like wildfire, and Mrs. Figg was popular with both parents and children.
Kneazles are sentient, magical cats. They were quite strong for their size and their endurance would let them travel for hours. Their magic made them very aware of their surroundings. It was absolutely impossible to sneak up on kneazles. They generally communicate by a type of awareness that is hard to describe. It isn't exactly language, and it isn't exactly emotion. They have a complex system of gestures we might call sign language that few humans are likely to be aware of. Kneazles need food, shelter, family, community, and little else. They didn't need wizards, so why did they stay with them? Wizards were interesting. Kneazles were safer when they lived and worked with wizards. Wizards were magical, and it felt right to be around that magic. They understand human language, well, a lot more than that. Human beings communicate by a lot more than just language. So how did they end up with Mrs. Figg? Mrs. Figg came from a large, extended family of wizards. Mrs. Arabella Figg had worked well with kneazles since she was a child, and the obvious leader of the pack had stayed with her all of those years. Kneazles lived a long time, and kittens are rare. Only one pair in the pride have kittens every few years.
15-month-old Harry became a quiet boy. No one in the house wanted to talk to him, or even hear him. It wasn't uncommon for wizard kids to read by age two, if they were so inclined, and Harry could have easily started. Wizard kids just matured fast. This caused more trouble for Harry, but of course he never understood that.
Dudley wasn't toilet trained, since he really didn't have control yet, and he was just starting to walk. Petunia deeply resented the idea that Harry was better than Dudley , and Vernon wasn't thrilled with it either, as it made Dudley appear ... developmentally challenged. Dudley was perfectly normal, but appearances were important for Petunia and Vernon. As the year went on, they over compensated by spoiling Dudley rotten, especially since it kept Dudley more quiet. Kids know a good thing when they see it.
Harry, on the other hand, was treated like a second-class citizen, because his Aunt and Uncle couldn't abide by the idea that Harry might learn faster than Dudley. At best, they ignored Harry.
Emotional starvation and deprivation was standard operating procedure for him. The few toys that he had were broken. He never was given cookies, candy, or ice cream ... which Dudley had about any time he whined for them. If Harry was playing with something, and Dudley wanted it, Dudley was allowed to just take it or whine to his parents to get it for him. If Harry became too noticeable, he was sent to his cupboard. Harry spent a lot of time in his cupboard.
Harry's cupboard started out as a kind of playpen, if not a bit heavy on the 'pen'. He wasn't in it all the time, but it wasn't unusual either. The Dursleys even installed a small hinged door for the cupboard when they wanted him out of sight, and out of mind. Finger food and a drink went through easily. As long as Harry was ... invisible so to speak, they left him alone.
There were times Harry preferred being in his cupboard, because then Dudley wouldn't harass Harry in there. There was a bare bulb light and a few discarded toys. The cupboard was safety from them. The cupboard was lonely.
Several months flew by with few changes.
In early May, on Dudley's 2nd birthday, with all the gifts and junk food he had, he ate something that didn't really agree with him, or he caught some sort of bug. Anyway, he got severe diarrhea, and had to be hospitalized for a few days. Petunia had to stay with Dudley in the hospital, and Petunia asked Mrs. Figg to take care of Harry while she was gone. There was no way Vernon would take time off of work.
Mrs. Figg had seen Harry from time to time, but had never been asked to baby sit for him before. She was finally going to spend some time with young Harry. It didn't take Arabella much time before she became concerned about Harry. Harry would just sit wherever Mrs. Figg suggested, and say nothing. She was trying hard to figure out how to get Harry to cheer up, since she figured Harry was homesick for his family. Wrong. She had several kneazles with her, and one of them had a litter of kittens. She decided to show Harry, and left Harry with the cats.
It just wasn't possible for Harry to resist being smitten with the kittens. The young cats were running, and jumping, and wrestling, and playing with string. The mother cat didn't let the kittens out of her sight. If they got too far away, a quick cough would bring them back in a hurry. The other cats kept watch as well, but not nearly so closely. Harry was absolutely thrilled with the cats. Mrs. Figg watched Harry with them for a while. When she was convinced Harry and the cats were getting along, she stepped into the next room to get her knitting.
Harry didn't know anything about magic. How could he? He barely knew his name. His magical core was interacting with the kneazles. Harry started to play with them. He was gentle, but the kittens weren't exactly fragile. The kittens enjoyed it about as much as Harry did. The older cats did as well, but they weren't quite as playful as the kittens. They could play a bit rougher, and Harry had a ball. He would run and they would chase him. Later, he would chase them. He couldn't remember having that much fun.
By the time Dudley was released 2 days later, Harry was quite familiar with the kneazles. He knew all of the cats, but the kittens were something else. They wore themselves out. More importantly, Harry's core was quite familiar with the kneazles.
Petunia stopped by Mrs. Figg's on the way back from the hospital, and Harry sadly followed her back home. Being back in his cupboard was just like being splashed with cold water. Harry wanted affection, needed affection. Harry needed companionship. Tears streamed down his face for the first time this year. This thought came to his mind:
"I wish I was a kitty."
Harry didn't know Mrs. Figg's cats were kneazles. He just wanted to be like them. Badly. He yearned to be a kitty. He had to be a kitty. And he was. His magical core took care of the matter.
Harry had fallen asleep early, and he hadn't noticed his transformation. He woke up and stretched as only a cat can stretch, and it felt ... invigorating. Several shocking changes in his senses were immediately apparent. His eyesight was much better. He had never seen his cupboard this clearly with the door closed. His cupboard was huge! His cot was enormous. There were new noises in the house. His relatives were really snoring. His paws were ... PAWS! He flexed his claws. Felt good. Something caught the edge of his vision. Something black and furry was moving. Cat's tail.
"MY TAIL!!!" Harry thought. "I am a kitty. I am a kitty. I am a kitty." Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy.
It was like a dream. Maybe it was a dream. This was a good dream.
Harry really didn't question how it happened. How would he know? He essentially lived the past several months under a rock. Who would he have told? What he did know was this, "I am going to where the cats are."
Harry jumped off the cot effortlessly and pushed the hinged door open that was near the bottom of the cupboard door. The house was his to explore. He went under the coffee table and on the couch. He ran up the stairs and down the stairs. He ran some more.
He was resting on the cool, tiled floor of the kitchen when Petunia came downstairs. The first thing she did was start the coffee, of course. Harry was watching her intently. Petunia headed toward the back door, and Harry silently followed. As she walked out to get the paper, Harry crept out, along the side of the house and hid under some bushes. The half asleep woman walked back in the house completely unaware of the kitten that cautiously headed south toward Mrs. Figg's house just down the street. The way to Mrs. Figg's house was still imprinted in Harry's memory.
Harry was lucky there really aren't any night time predators in Surrey. He was walking around in something of a daze. The kitten didn't notice the two cats watching his movement. Harry remembered where he wanted to go. Outside, his senses were going into overdrive. Smells were everywhere. Trees were not fuzzy green. Amazing is an understatement. Harry was in awe.
The big alpha male almost immediately had noticed the kitten leaving the house he had under watch. How unusual. A kneazle kitten alone, so far from any known prides. And this kitten had a strong aura of power. He hadn't seen any kneazles in the area. No matter, a kitten is a kitten, and he would go get it.
Harry heard the warning cough. He wasn't even aware that his belly was on the ground, head pointed toward the sound, body as still as a rock. Harry was completely a kneazle kitten, with their instincts. A large cat Harry recognized from yesterday was walking straight for him. It stopped in front of him and sniffed. Next thing Harry knew, he had been picked up by the skin on his neck and he couldn't move. He could sense curiosity coming from the large one, as well as protection. He was safe here. Oh, was he safe here. It felt warm, and bubbly.
The alpha male took the kitten to the mother, and dropped him at her feet. The feeling returned to his limbs, and he might have bolted if he hadn't been aware of the feelings of welcome and home he was receiving. He didn't move. The mother was the alpha female, the matriarch of the pride. She immediately began licking Harry's face. She didn't stop at his face either. He might have been irritated if it hadn't felt so good. When she was satisfied, she picked the kitten up and took him to her nest where the other 4 kittens were. They were sleepy piles of fur. Harry laid there drinking in all of the various emotions and other pieces of information he was getting. YES, this was where he wanted to be. He fell asleep too.
Later that morning, the nest started wiggling around, which woke Harry up. The ever-alert mother nudged the kittens on their feet, and they drifted over to where Arabella had food and water set out for them in a small room near the kitchen. Mrs. Figg was having her morning tea, and she noticed the extra kitten.
"Where did this sweet little thing come from?" asked Arabella Figg, to herself. "My, aren't you a cute one?
It wasn't unheard of for kneazles to bring home a kitten, but she thought it was a bit unusual in Surrey. Kneazles were rather wide ranging in their travels. She could only guess how the kitten could have gotten separated from its family, and been found while one of the older cats was out scouting. Kneazles could move rapidly when they wanted to and could travel quite some distance. She thought it was unlikely she would ever know where the kitten had came from.
It had been about a month since Arabella had seen Harry. That wasn't terribly unusual, but she was curious. Both kids usually stayed in the house, except to get in the car when the family left. She hadn't noticed them for a while, but she wasn't worried. Her kneazles were the second line of defense against wizards, powerful wards being the first. Arabella had kept pretty busy lately baby-sitting, since she was in high demand, and she charged practically nothing. That kept her in touch with the neighborhood. She was very attentive when baby-sitting, and her charges were always safe. All in all, this was a quiet, sleepy little suburb.
She noticed Petunia on her way to the mailbox, and thought she would say hello.
"Hi Petunia. How is the family?" asked Arabelle. "I trust Dudley has been well since his trip to the hospital."
"Hello Mrs. Figg," replied Petunia. "Dudley has been just fine. He goes for a check up next week."
"Well, if you need someone to watch Harry, I will be happy to," said Arabella, as warmly as she could.
"Oh, Harry is not here," said Petunia. "His people came and got him last month. Dudley! Get back here! Excuse me Mrs. Figg. Dudley has wondered too far."
Mrs. Figg was shocked. No one had told her Harry had been picked up. She walked back in the house, and went straight to the floo.
"Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts Castle," she said, into the fire.
"Ah yes, Arabella. How are you?" said the talking head.
"Albus, you didn't tell me you picked up Harry," huffed Mrs. Figg. "You really ..."
"WHAT!!! What do you mean I picked up Harry!?" yelled Dumbledore.
"I was just talking with Petunia," said Arabella. "She said Harry has been gone for a few weeks."
"I'll be right there," said Dumbledore.
Albus wasted no time coming through the floo, and transfigured his robes into a muggle business suit. He didn't break stride as he headed for the door. For an old man, he practically ran to 4 Privet Drive.
"Mrs. Dursley, I am Albus Dumbledore," he said, in a rush. "May I ask where Harry is?"
"What do you mean where is Harry?" asked Petunia. "You people came and got him. One day he just showed up, and let me tell you I don't appreciate that. You just dumped him on us. Then, one day he is just gone. You people have no courtesy what so ever!"
"Let me assure you, Mrs. Dursley, we did not get Harry," said Dumbledore. "I was going to have him stay with you until it was time for him to come to Hogwarts. Mrs. Dursley, please look at me."
It didn't take Dumbledore long at all to go through Petunia's memories of Harry. What he saw, he did not like. It was obvious that she believed what she had told him. It was also obvious they had shunned Harry, and treated him like a farm animal. They had not done much more than keep Harry alive. Dumbledore walked back to Mrs. Figg's a very shaken man. The wards were strong and hadn't been touched. Harry was missing, and he had no idea where he could be. It was inconceivable that a boy almost 2 years old would just walk away.
He had tea with Mrs. Figg, and discussed the problem at length. Mrs. Figg's kneazles hadn't been alarmed at all, and they would have let her know if any wizards came near. She reminded Dumbledore how difficult it is for wizards to sneak up on a kneazle. She couldn't exactly talk with the kneazles, but she knew they could understand much of what she said. For example, when she had assigned the task of watching number 4 Privet Drive to the older cats, they had nodded in understanding. Arabella would never in a million years have associated Harry Potter with the new kneazle kitten that had been picked up by her kneazles. The kneazles didn't associate Harry Potter with the new kitten either, not that there was a good way for them to have told her if they did. They didn't know Harry Potter from Adam. He had just been one of the kids visiting, a magical kid at that, but just a kid.
She stayed a few more weeks in Surrey, but when it became obvious there was no sign of Harry Potter, she returned to her families' compound in Ottery St. Catchpole, a very much beloved Aunt to the score of people who lived there. Harry and the kneazles, of course, went with her.
Harry would never again return to Privet Drive.