– PROLOGUE –
Unplottable Location, Somewhere in Britain
Friday, 31st July, 1998
It was over. A saga which had been developing for 74 years, 5 months and eighteen days had finally come to a conclusion, to the relief of the entire magical world.
In an Unplottable house in Oxford, two people were partaking of a particularly fine array of breakfast foods. One of them, a young lady, was thoroughly engrossed with a heavy tome, reading out the occasional nugget of knowledge that would garner her companion's attention.
The young gentleman was occupied by a newspaper, flicking through the irrelevant articles, until he actually came across something newsworthy.
It was when he got to the fourth page that there was something worth reading. "Hermione?"
The young lady, Hermione, looked up. "What's up, Harry?"
Harry Potter, the 'Boy-Who-Lived', the 'Chosen One' and most recently, the 'Man-Who-Won', smiled at his companion. "There's an 'invitation' to me and you to go to Hogwarts tomorrow."
"Oh?" Hermione replied casually. "And why would we want to do that? Haven't we done enough recently?"
"That appears to be what it's about." Harry said, passing over the paper, so she could see what had got his attention. "According to this, there's a big press conference tomorrow, in which 'Harry Potter and Hermione Granger will reveal the full story of their thrilling defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!' Funny... I don't recall agreeing to that."
Hermione snorted. "Well, if we weren't under the heaviest set of wards in Britain, we might have heard something about it." She quickly read through the article. "You're right, though. It really is arrogant presumption on their part. And look at this!" She pointed to the next page. "Percy Weasley's making an announcement about a series of new regulations that'll 'prevent this sort of atrocity happening again'."
Harry matched Hermione's snort. "Yeah, knowing Prickeval, that'll probably not be good for us. It's a good job we took care of things, isn't it?"
"Yeah... So, we're going?" She asked.
"We should, really." He paused. "You think we should invite your parents?
Hermione shook her head. "Wanna leave them out of this."
"Okay... are you gonna finish that bacon?"
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Saturday, 1st August, 1998
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Hogwarts had been the site of the Final Battle, people living, fighting, bleeding and dying in front of the bastion of light. It had been an all out war, death and destruction running rampant throughout the ancient stone walls. Now, sadness stalked the halls, infusing the air with it's stifling grip.
The Great Hall was packed with people. It had been scant days since the battle that had decided the fate of the free world had been fought, and only know were people beginning to realise the intense cost.
Of the survivors, the largest group were the Weasley family. Fortunately, the entire family had survived, although in one or two cases, that had been very close.
Fred Weasley had come within in inch of death, but quick action on the part of a certain 'Chosen One' had managed to stabilise him long enough to send him to St. Mungo's. After two gripping nights of anticipation, he'd been pronounced stable. He was still on a dozen potions to aid his recovery, but he would live.
George Weasley had made it through the final battle, hale and hearty. With the exception of his missing ear, courtesy of Severus Snape almost a year ago, he'd not picked up a serious injury. He'd been out of his mind with concern over Fred, but when the Healers at St. Mungo's had declared that he would live, he'd grabbed the matron and kissed her passionately. Blushing like a bride, he'd been chased out of the hospital by the matron's irate husband.
Ron Weasley had done his duty and helped to defeat the evil Dark Lord. Now, he was looking forward to his rewards. There would be fame, money and girls aplenty, but best of all, he'd finally snag the girl he really wanted; Hermione Granger. He'd been patient long enough. Courtesy of Fred and George, the book Twelve Fail Safe Ways to Charm Witches had led him closer and closer to his goal, and Hermione, like an idiot, had swallowed every cheesy line and compliment. She would be his. Oh, yes... she would be his.
Ginny Weasley had undergone a very stressful year at Hogwarts. She'd had to give up so much during that year. Nineteen young gentlemen had expressed an interest in her, and she'd had to turn down each and every one. Okay, so she shagged four of them, but that wasn't the point. She'd had to keep herself available for Harry. She knew that he'd come back, and when he did, he would be hers. Oh, yes... he would be hers.
Arthur Weasley was content with his lot. All his children had survived the war, and in 'his children' he included Harry and Hermione. They were good kids who'd been dealt a truly shitty hand, but passed through all the trouble and strife and come out the other end, smelling of roses. He was looking forward to rebuilding the damage that had been caused by the recent war, and making the magical world a good place for everyone.
Minerva McGonagall had actually faced Voldemort himself, here in the Great Hall, and managed to survive. She was grateful for that, really, both the survival, and the opportunity of facing him. It allowed her peace of mind to know that she'd stood and fought against the darkness. She was alive, Hogwarts was still standing, although damaged, and the Dark Lord was dead. Properly dead, this time.
Molly Weasley was a happy woman. Her family had survived the Blood War intact, and, apart from George's missing ear and Bill's scarred face, relatively unharmed. Everything was going well in her world. She still had two minor issues to sort out, that of arranging suitable matches for her youngest children, but that was well in hand. Once her plans came to their natural conclusion, everything would be right with the world.
As everyone had settled into their chairs, the two massive doors opened, landing against the walls with a 'thud', as two powerful and charismatic figures strode into the Hall. McGonagall leapt to her feet, wrapping them in tight hugs.
"Harry... damn, it's good to see you!" She said, before turning to Hermione. "And you, Hermione. Look at you... You get more beautiful everyday."
The two teens spent a moment basking under McGonagall's attention, before heading to a pair of empty chairs at the front of the hall, just in front of the Weasleys. While they were walking down, everyone was able to get a good look at the two. Each of them was wearing a pair of black jeans and boots, low heels for Hermione and good thick soles for Harry, while they wore a leather duster over the top, buttoned up to their chins. Each of them looked every inch the powerful warrior. With a fraction of a second's pause, Harry and Hermione sat in the chairs, their watches beginning to vibrate slightly.
Harry glanced at Hermione, raising an eyebrow slightly. She shook her head imperceptibly. He gave a tiny nod, before turning to the stage.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it's an honour to see you all here today." The interim-Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt boomed out. "I am pleased to announce that the Blood War against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Death Eaters has been won!" The crowd cheered loudly, enjoying the opportunity to roar their pleasure. Kingsley waited for the crowd to settle down.
"Much as I wish I could claim credit for this remarkable victory, or the Ministry itself, or the Auror corps, or the Unspeakables, I cannot. That would be dishonest, and I, for one, have had enough of dishonesty. The truth is, we would have lost, if it weren't for the actions of two people. Just two people. Harry Potter, the 'Man-Who-Won' and Hermione Granger, the 'Witch-Who-Was-With-Him'. They saved us all, and they're here today to tell us all about this remarkable victory."
Harry again glanced at Hermione, the eyebrow raising up. She gave him a small smile. The two hadn't needed words to communicate for such a long time, those tiny expressions held a wealth of meaning.
"So, Mr. Potter and Miss Granger, if you would like to come up here, we'll be able to hear the riveting tale!"
The youths in question stood up, and silently mounted the stage, standing close to each other at the podium. Kingsley quickly headed to one of their abandoned chairs on the front row. Before they spoke, Harry and Hermione took the opportunity to look around the hall, noting peoples' reactions. They'd agreed, before attending, to take a 'read' on the crowd.
Hermione was looking intently at each of the Weasleys, performing subtle Legilimency on them. She quickly checked out other targets, Rita Skeeter among them, along with several high-profile politicians. When she was finished, she held up her hands. "If you could just give us a minute." She flicked her wand, casting Muffliato around the pair, as they quickly began whispering to each other.
"Okay, Hermione, what you got?"
Hermione glanced into the crowd, before turning her back to face Harry. Whilst Lip-reading wasn't a common skill in the magical world, since there were so many other ways of magically eavesdropping, it wouldn't do to discount the possibility. "Ron's looking at us, wondering why we're standing so close. He thinks you're a twat and I'm his bitch, and he can't wait to have me under control and underneath him." She shivered slightly. "Creepy little shit."
Harry nodded slowly. "I saw the glares Ginny's sending your way. What did you get from her?"
"Apparently," Hermione chuckled, "I'm a filthy Mudblood bitch, and Ron will soon teach me my place. Also, I'm not to stand too close to you, because you belong to her. She's planning on spiking you, again, after your speech."
Harry held up his arm slightly, showing a slightly battered wrist watch. "Yeah, I guessed that. That's why this thing's been vibrating since we got here. What about Molly?"
"Pretty much the same." Hermione sighed. "She was thinking about all the things she can buy when Ginny gets your vaults, and she's looking forward to teaching me how to properly keep a home for her 'ickle Ronniekins." Quickly anticipating Harry's next question, she continued. "Arthur's happy we're alive, and he hopes we can find some happiness now the war's over. I always liked him."
With a slight chuckle, Harry nodded. Hermione carried on. "Bill's happy his family survived, and he also wants you to marry Ginny, since that'll make her happy. Apparently, Princess Ginnykins can do no wrong, and he's a bit pissed at you for leaving her behind last year."
Harry snorted. "Yeah, being stalked is such a pleasant pastime. Apart from the fact that she's borderline psychotic, she'd have been bloody useless on the Hunt. What about Charlie, and Percy?"
"Ah, Charlie's about the same as Bill. He wants to go home, Romania, not the Burrow, and tend to his dragons, but he also was the Princess to be happy, and if that means snagging you, then that's what he'll help them do. I'll leave Percy to the last, 'cause he's interesting-"
"Mr. Potter?" Shacklebolt's voice shouted from the audience. "We're waiting."
Harry lowered the Muffliato. "I understand, Minister, and I'll beg your indulgence for a few moments longer. We're just discussing the best way to disclose some of the information. It's... sensitive, and some will possibly have to be censured. Just a moment please, sir." He waited for Shacklebolt to nod, before recasting the charm. "Sorry, Hermione, you were saying?"
She smiled. "Fred and George... I'm afraid they're lost to us. As far as they're concerned, we belong to the Weasley family, and when we're married off, they can pick my brains for prank ideas and strategy, and dip into your vault for expansion and research. It's a shame, really... I liked them two."
"True... but then again, we took steps quite a while ago, didn't we?"
"Yeah... still a bit painful, though." Hermione nibbled her bottom lip for a moment, before straightening. "As I said, Percy's the most interesting. He's been drawing up plans so that all Muggleborns and half-bloods become registered. If the Ministry don't like them for some reason, they can be the subject of a ritual to transfer their magical core to a worthy pureblood, increasing their own powers. From what I can tell, you and I are at the absolute top of that list."
"Joy. We'll be safe enough, though." Harry sighed. "Anyone else?"
"Skeeter." Hermione hissed in a low voice. "The bitch is hoping to get another book out of us, something appropriately scandalous. Bloody tart."
"Fair enough." Harry gave a slight nod, which she returned, before dropping the charms.
"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen." Harry said politely. "There are some details about the last seven years that must remain confidential, for the Greater Good. Now, it's difficult to know where to begin our tale. Hmm... Hermione, any ideas?"
She grinned, and began unbuttoning her coat, revealing a black t-shirt with white writing, which quickly vanished as she turned round. Harry copied suit, undoing his coat, but facing forward.
McGonagall recognised the shirts straight away. After all, she'd given them to the teens in the first place, two years ago. She suppressed a grin as she realised that the shit was truly going to hit the fan today. She conjured a bowl of popcorn, passing some across to Filius on her left, and Vector on her right.
Harry pulled off his duster, draping it carefully across the chair behind him. On the front of his shirt, in bright white letters, was the legend, 'Boy-Who-Lived: Hogwarts Hero'. As Hermione draped her coat across the chair, she turned round, smiling widely, as her shirt revealed the legend, 'Girl-Who-Shagged-the-Boy-Who-Lived'.
Several people began to protest loudly, but through the use of a quick cannon-blast charm, order was restored. Harry cleared his throat. "Now, in order for us to tell you what happened, you'd better get comfortable, for it is a long, thrilling tale. And we won't be telling it alone. We'll have a couple of portraits helping us."
He turned and began to reach into the pockets of his jacket. While Harry was rooting round, Hermione smiled at McGonagall. "By the way, Professor McGonagall, thanks for these shirts. It's the first time we've worn them in public."
"It's truly my pleasure, Hermione." McGonagall called back, grinning at her ex-students. From her seat near the back, she could almost hear the seething indignation of the Weasley family.
Harry turned back to the stage, a miniature aluminium briefcase in his hand. "Can you conjure me up a couple of stands, Hermione?" While Hermione was flicking her wand, conjuring the items, he enlarged the briefcase to it's normal size, taking out a couple of small picture frames.
Quickly, the two worked on the stage, setting up five easels, onto each of which they placed one of the covered objects. An Engorgio restored the items to their normal size, that of three feet by two feet.
"Before we begin, I think we need to sound off." Harry called out, quite loudly.
From underneath the very left hand cover, a voice sounded. "Grandpappy Firebird!" The voice was very familiar to everyone in the Great Hall. After all, it was the voice of the most famous wizard in the world, and the one whom many considered to be the greatest wizard in the world.
The next painting was a voice that was similar to Harry's but just a touch different. "Prongs." Another voice sounded, feminine and musical. "Tiger-Lily." The next painting coughed. "Padfoot." The item on the next stand was a little different. It was far flatter than the others items, barely a quarter of an inch thick. "Moony." A second voice sounded. "ChamKlutz and Ripples."
There was silence for a moment. Harry cleared his throat loudly, staring at the fifth and final stand. Silence. Harry cleared his throat again.
"Fine. The Batman." A sulky, petulant voice called from the last painting.
"There we go." Harry said jovially, turning back to the crowd. With a flick of his wand, the cloths covering the painting vanished.
Headmaster portraits of Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, family portraits of James and Lily Potter, and Sirius Black, and finally, a large communications mirror, showing Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks.
"What?" Molly Weasley stood up, her eyes locking on the mirror. "You... you died!"
Moony sneered at her, since he knew what she really was, before deliberately turning away from her. "Your show, cub."
Harry faced the crowd. "The story of my life is well-publicised. Everyone 'knows' everything about me, my parents, my godfather... everything. You all 'know' things to be true." He gave them a little sneer. "It's time for me to come clean. You only know what we," He gestured to himself, Hermione and the portraits, "have allowed you to know.
"There are those who believe that Albus Dumbledore was the greatest wizard who ever lived, topped only by Merlin, and even then, only just. Others say that Albus Dumbledore was a chessmaster, a manipulative old man who used people like pawns. A scheming old bastard who planned every facet of my life, so that I would die heroically in battle against the armies of Lord Voldemort." Harry glared at Rita Skeeter, who flinched under the scrutiny of those emerald orbs. "There are others who say that Albus Dumbledore was a fraud and a liar, a Dark Arts user, and far worse."
He sighed, giving the group a hard stare. "And you're all right. And you're all wrong. Because, the image that all of you have of Dumbledore, whether Dark, Light, Grey or indifferent, is exactly what he allowed you all to see. And best of all, he had to do so little to promote that image." Harry turned round, looking at Snape, who was sneering at him from his frame. "Oh, stop it, you pillock. We're going to tell them everything. You might as well 'fess up now."
Snape's portrait frowned for a moment, before walking out of the side of his frame. Harry chuckled, turning back to the crowd. "Severus Tobias Snape. Murderer. Death Eater. Evil. Greasy Git. Again, none of you knew him. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I knew everything about him, but I'd be willing to be my entire family fortune I knew him better than you did."
In the portrait, Snape returned, a towel around his shoulders, his hair clean and damp. He'd gotten rid of his dour black robes, wearing a clean white t-shirt with the legend, 'Avada Kedavra: When you absolutely positively have to kill every Weasley in the room... accept no substitutes'. He sat in his chair, a warm smile on his face.
"The truth of Severus Tobias Snape... is something we shall be covering, for the 'greasy git', as far too many of you think of him, was a façade, a ploy to fool Death Eaters. And they were fooled... as were all of you. You all made assumptions and you were wrong."
Again, Ron lurched to his feet. "No, we weren't! He was an evil bastard! He killed Dumbledore! You saw him! You told us!"
Snape sneered from his portrait. "Again, Weasley, your stupidity is only matched by your short temper. When you admit, you pathetic child, that you know nothing, maybe... just maybe, there will be some hope for you."
"Come on, Sevvie." Padfoot called from his portrait. "Play nice with the idiot."
Snape sneered back. "You're fortunate to have had limited encounter with the dolt, Mutt. And behave, or I shall come across there with a rolled-up newspaper."
"Will you two play nice?" Harry said, his tone amused. "Good lord, do I have to separate you two?" He mock-glared at the portraits. "Again?"
With a snigger, Harry turned back to the audience. "Anyway, moving on. You were asking us for basically our life story. And what a story it is! Bugles, battles and bags of glory. Heroic deeds, and crushing betrayal. Life, love and the universe."
Harry turned to Hermione, who nodded, grinning widely. As one, the two reached up to their collars, pulling out a chain, with an object attached. The two casually snapped the chains, dropping them to the floor, before putting the items onto their hands. Harry and Hermione raised their left hands, clinking them together.
The rings they had just placed onto their fingers glowed brightly for a moment, before fading.
"What the bloody fuck's that, Potter!" Ron spat from the audience. Again, if looks could kill, both would drop dead on the spot.
Harry looked at Ron, as though he were mentally challenged. Which, if asked for an honest opinion, Harry would say he was. "It's a wedding ring, Ronald. I'm sure you've seen them before. Your Mum and Dad each wear one, don't they?"
"That's not the point, Potter!" Ron snapped. "They're married! Why the fuck are you wearing one?"
This time, Hermione gave him the mentally-challenged glare. "Because he's married too, you bloody idiot! Why the hell else would he wear a wedding ring?"
"Then why are you wearing one?" Ginny asked, her tone controlled, but everyone in the Great Hall could hear the barely-contained fury in her voice.
"Because I'm married, Ginevra." Hermione replied, not sparing the tiny redhead a second glance.
With gritted teeth, Ginny asked the question everyone wanted to know. "And who are you married to, Granger?"
Hermione looked at Harry. "Is she speaking to me, husband?"
Nodding slowly, Harry drawled, "I do believe she is, wife. I could be wrong, though. Did your parents come along after all? They're the only Grangers I know. Tucked away at the back, maybe?"
The rest of their conversation was cut off, as Molly Weasley began to loudly berate Ron. "Why couldn't you just follow your instructions, and stay with them while you were off on that damned fool crusade? Because you let your foolish pride get in the way, we've lost everything!"
Harry cleared his throat, regaining the Weasleys' attention. "I hate to disappoint you, Molly... actually, that's a lie. I don't hate to disappoint you at all. Secretly, I rather enjoy it. Hmm... anyway, Ron abandoning us during our mission over the last year didn't make a lick of difference to us. We were married before we left on the hunt. For more details... well, you'll have to wait."
"Harry?" Ginny spoke quietly, a tremor in her voice. "I thought you loved me." A single tear dropped out of her eyes, making it's way slowly down her cheek. "You said you had to break up with me... to keep me safe. You didn't want me hurt when you left."
Harry looked at Ginny with an expressionless gaze. "A masterful performance, Miss Weasley, but you're mistaken. Don't you remember me telling you all that what you think you know... you don't know? You all think what we wanted you to think. It was necessary." Harry turned to Dumbledore, who nodded. "It was, after all, for the Greater Good."
Dumbledore chuckled, reaching into the bowl in his painting for a lemon drop. "I'm sorry I can't offer one to you, Harry, but I seem to be a little stuck these days."
Hermione reached into her pocket, pulling out a small paper bag. She took a lemon drop and threw it into her mouth, then passed the bag to Harry, who took one. Harry looked at McGonagall, who nodded. The bag soared over the crowd, landing neatly in McGonagall's hand.
"Now, where to begin? Hmm... Ah, yes. Our fascinating tale probably begins in 1985..."
Flashback: #4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey
Sunday, 18th August, 1985
Flashback: #4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey
Five-year old Harry Potter was in abject agony. He'd been sat on his bed, clutching his newly-broken wrist, for what felt like days. Dudley had picked up the fireplace poker and hit him with it, breaking his wrist. Naturally, his uncle, annoyed with his crying, and forced him into his cupboard and slammed the door shut.
He wondered what would happen next. Would Uncle Vernon allow him to have his wrist fixed? Would it go bad and drop off? Would he still be made to do his chores? He was so lost in his musings that he didn't notice three figures enter the house, creeping past his cupboard door and into the living room. The 'thump' of three falling bodies, however, did catch his attention.
A loud, clear and powerful voice calling "Harry!" made him whimper. Was someone else coming to punish him for being a freak? A shadow formed underneath his door, revealing a figure stood in the hallway.
The door opened, revealing a tall man, clad in dark clothes. "Harry?"
He nodded slowly. "Y-Yes, sir."
The man held out his hand. "Would you come with me into the living room, Harry?" He asked politely. With a shaking hand, he held out his good arm, allowing the man to gently pull him to his feet, before leading him into the living room. Stacked in a haphazard pile in the corner were his relatives, while two other figures were sitting on the couch.
One of them could only be described as the oldest man Harry had ever seen. He certainly had the longest beard that Harry could remember seeing, and the man simply exuded power. "H-Hello, sir." Harry said timidly.
"Ah, Harry. It's nice to see you again, but you probably don't remember me, do you?"
"N-No, s-sir. I'm s-sorry. I don't." Harry apologised.
The man smiled. "Don't worry, Harry. You were only a baby when I saw you last. My name is Albus Dumbledore, this ravishing young lady is Minerva McGonagall and the gentleman next to you is Severus Snape. We are teachers at a special school, which you will have the option of attending when you're eleven years old."
"Hello." Harry said timidly, looking up at Snape. The man smiled, before kneeling down to Harry.
"Do you mind if I see your wrist, Harry? It looks like it's been hurt."
Harry automatically extended his arm, whimpering slightly as he jarred it. Snape gently took hold of Harry's forearm.
"This looks painful, Harry. Would you like me to heal it for you?" Snape asked kindly.
"Please, sir." Harry said. To Harry's amazement, the man pulled out a stick, waving it over the damaged joint. A jolt of pins of needles flooded his wrist for a few moments, making Harry hiss in pain, before a soothing numbness washed over him.
"Now, that'll be all better in the morning, Harry. Make sure you don't overextend the use of it, though." Snape said, gently guiding the boy to an armchair, before settling next to Mrs. McGonagall.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "We have come here tonight, Harry, because we detected that you'd been hurt, and we were worried about you."
"Worried about me, sir?" Harry asked. "Why, sir? My relatives have told me that I'm a useless freak, and nobody cares about me." He instantly got scared when a look of thunderous rage filtered over all three adults' faces, before it vanished.
"I'm sorry, Harry." Dumbledore said. "Truly sorry. I wish we could take you away from here. I really do."
"C-Can't you, sir?" Harry asked, a sniffle in his voice. "T-They... they don't like me."
McGonagall sniffed herself, wiping away tears on a hanky. Dumbledore looked to be a little misty-eyed himself, while Snape remained impassive. Harry could see a hint of something in his eyes. Was that compassion?
"Harry, have you heard of the law?" Dumbledore asked after a moment.
Harry cocked his head. "Like policemen, sir?"
"'Policemen'?" Mrs. McGonagall asked.
"Muggle Aurors." Dumbledore explained casually, before turning to Harry. "Not quite, Harry. Policemen are the people who enforce the law, but the Law itself is a series of rules that all people must obey."
"Oh. A list of rules. Okay, sir."
"Now, the law states that an orphan, like yourself, Harry, must be placed with family members, before they are allowed to be adopted. That is why you live with your... relatives." Dumbledore glanced over at the stacked Dursleys, a look of venom on his face. "Believe me, I wish I could take you home with me, or Minerva, or Severus... but alas, that would be breaking the law."
"And the policemen would come for you." Harry concluded, sadness permeating the room. "I understand, sir."
"Yes." Dumbledore said proudly. "Yes, you do. You're a very clever young man, Harry. Now, the law also states that we are not allowed to... to interfere in your home life. This would make us criminals."
"Oh..." Harry slumped a little. "Does that mean Dudley will hit me again?"
Severus gave a small snarl, and a very significant look at Dumbledore. "We can't break the law, Severus. You know this." He graced Snape with a small smile. "We can, however, bend it to suit our needs."
"Anti-Violence wards." McGonagall said, nodding at Dumbledore, before turning to Harry. "I knew your parents, Harry. I was their teacher when they were at school. Our time here tonight is limited, and we'll have to make sure it remains secret, but we will be able to come back and see you occasionally."
Harry gave them a warm smile, making all three adults' hearts melt in their chests. "Thank you for coming to see me." He said politely, before turning to Snape. "And thank you for healing my wrist, sir."
Snape nodded slowly. "You're more than welcome, Harry."
"There is one other thing, Harry." Dumbledore said. "In our world, you're very famous, and we've received a lot of letters and gifts for you. However, your... relatives, have decreed that we are not allowed to send these items to you. I have been keeping them for you at school, and will be able to pass them across when you arrive there."
Again, Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Now, Harry, it would be better for everyone if you were to... forget that you've seen us here this evening. Strictly speaking, we're not supposed to be here. So, with your permission, I'd like to hide this memory in your mind. You won't forget it, but you won't be able to recall it until later. Will that be okay?"
Harry looked at McGonagall's kindly face, and Snape's nice actions. "W-Will it hurt?"
"No, Harry." McGonagall said softly. "You just won't remember for a while, that's all. We promise."
"C-Can I hold your hand when you do it?"
Snape and McGonagall replied "Of course!" in unison, moving slightly apart so Harry could sit in between them, taking a hand of each of them.
Albus stood and kneeled in front of Harry, raising his wand, before hesitating... then lowering his wand.
"Albus?" McGonagall asked.
With a devilish wink, Dumbledore leaned in closer. "Harry, would you like to see something very special?"
Harry nodded. As if on cue, a burst of flame erupted just above Dumbledore's shoulder, a beautiful, fiery-red bird landing on Dumbledore's shoulder. "This is Fawkes, Harry. He's my... my pet."
With a childish smile of joy, Harry leaned forward, looking closely at Fawkes, who stared back, before letting out a short burst of song. Harry felt his heart lift in his chest. He felt really good!
"W-What kind of bird is he, sir?" Harry asked, not taking his eyes off Fawkes.
"He's a Phoenix, Harry. He's a magical bird... and he's my friend."
"A phoenix? A firebird, sir?"
"Yes." Dumbledore replied. "And he's a very special firebird, too. He'll be able to watch over you, and keep you safe. You won't see him, but he always be there."
Fawkes trilled soothingly, nodding at Dumbledore's words. Harry giggled at the funny picture.
"And now, Harry, the hour draws near. We must go, soon. Remember, Fawkes will watch over you."
"And be nice to any cats that you see, Harry." McGonagall added. "Cats can be great friends to you, too."
"I'll remember, ma'am." Harry replied solemnly. He glanced at the three of them. "Will I see you again?"
"Do you want to?" Snape asked, squeezing Harry's hand reassuringly.
"Then you shall, Harry." Snape said, his voice firm and even. "You shall see us again."
"And now, Harry, if you'd watch the stick, you shall fall asleep, and dream of Fawkes."
"Goodbye... Grandpappy Firebird." Harry said, keeping his eyes on the wand, which flashed red for a moment. He slumped back, the Obliviate sending him straight to sleep.
McGonagall burst out laughing at Dumbledore's expression at being called 'Grandpappy Firebird'. "Come on, Grandpappy. Time to put this young man back to bed, and set up those wards."
Snape carefully lifted Harry, carrying him back to the cupboard, before laying him on his bed. With a sigh, he closed the door. "I wish there was more we could do, Albus."
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "I know, old friend. I do, too. But, you know the law. We are not permitted to use magic against Muggles unless it is a life-threatening situation. The Wizengamot would surely declare this situation does not qualify. Unfortunately, our hands are tied in this matter. Arabella is living a few doors down, and will be able to watch over him. Fawkes will also monitor him, and we have the ward monitors."
"I hate this." McGonagall hissed, some of her more feline instincts rising to the surface. "James and Lily's son... are you sure there's no way, Albus?"
"You know the law as well as I do, Minerva. As long as he has a living relative, Harry is bound by Wizarding law to live with them. However hateful the Dursleys are, they have granted him houseroom, 'sealing the deal', as they say. If we interfere, we would be breaking the law." Dumbledore smiled at McGonagall. "Besides, I'm sure Mr. Potter will soon be seeing a rather fetching tabby cat roaming the neighbourhood."
"Aye." McGonagall agreed. "Let's set the wards and leave. I'm convinced that vile woman's decorating is making me itch."
With a few flicks of their wands, a new series of wards were set up over #4 Privet Drive, that would ensure no violence could be committed there, allowing Harry some relative safety. With a final sigh, the three vanished with a soft 'pop', while a young boy dreamed of a beautiful red bird.
Harry finished recounting the tale, taking a small sip of a hastily-conjured glass of water. The crowd was hanging on every single word.
"You know, I remember reading in a certain book by Rita Skeeter how she described Professor Dumbledore's relationship with me as 'unhealthy, even sinister'." Harry fixed an evil glare on said author. "Albus Dumbledore was like a grandfather to me. He watched over me as I was growing up, intervening here and there, to help keep me safe."
"Bullshit!" An incredulous Ron shouted from the audience. "Do you really expect us to believe that Snivellus could be nice to you?"
"You know," Snape drawled from his portrait, "it never ceases to amaze me how often a Weasley can put their foot into their mouths." Giving his patented Death Glare™ to Ron, Snape turned his attention to Harry. "As a five year old, you were adorable. What happened?"
"Hey!" Lily and Harry snapped in unison, the latter spinning on his heel. "I'm still adorable!" Harry continued, grinning at Snape, who crossed his eyes at him. Lily scowled at Severus.
"At least he has manners, Sev'. And he's right... he's still adorable." Lily smiled at her son, proud of the man he'd become.
Harry turned back to the audience. "I was watched over. Protected. Cared for. And then Hagrid came to get me from the Dursleys on my eleventh birthday. I went to Diagon Alley and got my supplies. On September 1st, I boarded the Hogwarts Express, meeting up with the Weasleys. Sorted into Gryffindor, and enjoyed the opening feast, not remembering what had happened six years earlier. But, I got a note from Professor Dumbledore, to report to his office after the feast.
"And during that meeting, I began the most... active and interesting Hogwarts education in the history of the school."