Chapter 1 - The King Arrives

Chapter 1 - The King Arrives

Richard Goodfellow, off-duty Healer, was seated by a bright lamp in a well-padded armchair, his feet up. He had a plate of biscuits on the small table next to him and was skimming through The Daily Prophet. Outside, the storm lashed at the windows, making the Comfortable Room feel all the more cozy. The room was part of the Community Building, where a number of Healers and their families lived, and the building was part of the complex of St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

He counted himself fortunate to be the Guardian of the Day (a fancy name for "baby-sitter") to a handful of pre-Hogwarts children, instead of attending a naming ceremony under a lake in Wales. Gillyweed did taste pretty awful, and he was not partial to the freezing temperatures in the wet air. Most of the other adults were at the ceremony, or at work. He, of course, wasn't a parent to any of the children, which was a definite bonus when it came his turn to supervise them.

The boys were sitting and kneeling at a low table, engaged in a tight game of Sticks. It was similar to the Muggle game of Jackstraws, only the sticks had to be pulled out without touching them, using wandless magic. Bruce was ahead, but Owen was catching up. Lenny was trying not to make himself look foolish as he kept slipping up. Wilf had given up, so he had taken one of his sticks and waved it around like a wand until his brother, Bruce, hissed at him to stop. Bruce was the boss, and was headed to Hogwarts on the next September's train. He was obeyed instantly, though begrudgingly.

Leia was five years old, the youngest child, the only girl, and the only one whose parents were not Healers. Her parents had dropped her off to play with her cousin, Owen, who promptly banished her to play by herself. Leia and Owen argued for a bit, but they didn't want to embarrass themselves in front of the others, so they kept the volume down. The fight ended with Owen muttering under his breath and her pouting until Richard's house-elf, Chaucer, showed up wearing a gold sparkling Regency-styled outfit, complete with shiny boots. (Richard wondered where his house-elf had "borrowed" it from but decided that if it made her happy he wasn't going to pry.)

Owen ignored him but Leia was delighted to play dress-up with the elf. She found a big puffy dress from the dress-up box in the children's play area and some sparkly plastic jewelry (including a tiara) and, after showing it off to Richard (she had a bit of a crush on him), she and the house-elf were silently puttering around. Richard suspected some under-age magic was the cause of the silence, but since everyone seemed satisfied and quietly busy (and leaving him alone), he wasn't going to bother enforcing any Ministry of Magic edicts, or any other inconvenient bans.

He was enjoying munching on what remained of the biscuits while working out a logic puzzle in the newspaper. The wind and the rain pounded louder on the windows, drowning out the boys' soft conversation.

"Hey, Healer G!" Lenny shouted at him.

Annoyed at the noise, Richard peered over to where the boys were sitting.

"There's an owl trying to get in." The boy pointed to an upper window.

A gold-colored owl was outside the glass. It's not time for the mail, Richard thought. The owl looked at him and ruffled its feathers. The grey sky was pouring rain, and the unfamiliar bird looked at him expectantly.

He decided to let it in. Maybe one of the parents forgot something, he reasoned to himself.

As soon as the window was opened, the bird flew in and transformed into a tall, thin blond man, dressed in very tight pants and shirt, with a high collared cape over the whole outfit; by wizard standards, the outfit was what one would wear to a garden party, if one was the grand over-dresser Gilderoy Lockhart. The man's eyebrows were not quite human, yet his eyes sparkled mischievously.

Oh, walnuts, Richard seethed, an Animagus. And a really freaky one at that. He reached for his wand.

The man smirked. "I see you, and you can't do a thing to me with that stick," he remarked in a musical voice, tilting his head to one side as he disdainfully looked at the Healer. "Cross-universe magic cancellation!"

--

"Thanks" to my beta Somigliana, and to jessicadamien for her help.