N.B. I will post all future chapters under my main account, Master Slytherin, which you can find linked on my profile. I have enjoyed this alias, but it is easier to manage all my stories from one account.
Summary: The basic premise is this: Fudge is struggling to keep his job and investigates every possible way of salvaging his career. So he adopts Harry. Just to quell any fears - Harry will NOT be an annoying, spoilt prince. We have Draco for that. I believe in having a clear, smooth, reasoned route from canon's characterisation to fandom characterisation. I don't believe in hiding behind the weak 'it's AU' argument. So no, Fudge won't be the father figure Harry craves, but he won't be evil either. The Malfoys will be as they are in canon, but from the perspective of a Harry who isn't as biased as canon Harry. Dumbledore will be Dumbledore, Snape will be Snape etc.
Now, the plot. The adoption of Harry (and obviously, the discovery that the Dursleys treated him like shit) will have significant cause-and-effect ramifications. So much so that there will only be minor, fleeting references to canon in this story. This isn't a 're-do' fic - I'm not interested in retracing Rowling's footsteps.
Finally, the romance. Simply put, it will be practically non-existent. And there won't be any slash because writing slash well would involve really exploring the issues around homosexuality and how they would apply in the context of magical Britain (not Harry shagging everyone). And, frankly, the issue of Muggle-born rights is more pertinent to this plot.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Very occasionally, I will use a passage or two from canon, particularly in the first few chapters – obviously anything you recognise is Rowling's. This disclaimer covers all chapters.
– CHAPTER ONE –
Saving Harry Potter
After a relentless, sticky day, Kingsley Shacklebolt was relieved to see the sun finally disappear behind the neat semi-detached skyline of Privet Drive. According to the brief, he and his partner were to wait until nightfall before entering number four, but Kingsley was disinclined to waste any more time.
'Explain why we're here again?'
Though he could not see Peter Savage through his Disillusionment Charm, Kingsley could tell that the man's rat-like face would be contorted into an irritated scowl.
'For the hundredth time,' said Kingsley, 'we're here because Robards told us to come here.'
'But what's the point?' Kingsley could almost imagine Savage stamping his feet like a spoiled child. Pure-bloods.
'Orders are orders,' said Kingsley, as though speaking to new recruit. 'We go in, make sure everything is normal and report back to Headquarters.'
'But we're Aurors, not bloody child-minders!'
'That's the Boy-Who-Lived in there, Savage.'
'Yeah...I guess...but still!'
Kingsley edged towards the front door and pressed his ear against the burnished wood. No sound.
With a soft click, the door inched inward. Careful not to make a sound, Kingsley slipped into the hallway. The barely audible closing of the door told him that Savage had done the same.
Lesson one in the Academy: evaluate your surroundings. The house appeared as ordinary on the inside as it was on the outside. Neat. Tidy. Middle class. Almost the exact opposite of the one-bedroom hovel Kingsley had grown up in. But he expected no better for the Boy-Who-Lived, the darling of the wizarding world.
The slightest brush on his right side told him that Savage was on his way upstairs. Secretly, Kingsley was glad he would not be forced to have his nose rubbed in the Potter boy's living quarters. After all, he had experienced enough of that during holiday visits to his former classmates' expansive manors and summer villas.
A golden glow bordered the door to his immediate left and the voices told him that the family were probably enjoying an evening meal, or perhaps watching television. He silently placed a Muggle-repelling charm on the door - after all, it did not matter if Potter found them; he would simply explain that they had been sent by the Ministry. His concentration was almost broken by a booming laugh coming from the other side of the door.
'...and anyway, even if Ripper does bite him, it'll teach him a life lesson!'
Kingsley checked the door beneath the stairs. Just a dark cupboard. The dining room, too, was clear and just as spotless as the rest of the house. It did not look like he would find any incriminating evidence, minor or major.
'Upstairs is clear,' whispered Savage. A lesser man may have jumped in surprise, but not Kingsley.
'Nothing at all?' said Kingsley.
'Well, I guess the boy's bedroom is a little barren. Looks more like an empty room at the Leaky Cauldron than somewhere somebody's actually living in.'
Kingsley frowned. It was worth reporting, but he was not going to waste any time investigating further himself. After all, they had pulled him off the Wade murder case for this. 'Anything else?'
'Well, there's no sign of any magic at all. I've checked every room, but it's almost as though this is truly a house full of Muggles. Do you think maybe the boy is a Squib?'
'Don't be ridiculous, Savage. He defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the age of one. He's definitely magical...'
'Perhaps we should have him tested just in case.'
'So you're volunteering to do the mountain of paperwork that comes with hauling in a child, Harry Potter no less, for testing?'
'I guess not. There was another strange thing, though. The parents have a family picture at their bedside table, and there is no sign of Harry Potter, only an extremely fat child who resembles his parents too much to be Potter.'
Had Potter been moved? It would explain why there was no evidence of the boy in the house. After all, it was hard to believe that after ten years or so, the child had made no impression on his own bedroom.
'Let's check the kitchen then report back,' said Kingsley.
The kitchen was unnaturally clean, even more than the other rooms. But, just as the other rooms, it seemed utterly ordinary. He was ready to call it a day when -
'Shacklebolt, I think you ought to see this.'
Kingsley, who had been casting a Revealing Charm on the cupboard under the sink, looked up. Savage, of course, was invisible. 'I can't see where you're pointing at,' said Kingsley, exasperated.
'Oh right, sorry. The garden...I think I might be dreaming...'
Kingsley peered out into the garden. Though night had well and truly fallen, he could make out the silhouette of a boy cowering in a tree with what appeared to be a bulldog at its base. The dog was growling and jumping. Surely not...
Kingsley Apparated into the garden and, before either the boy or dog could comprehend the situation, stunned the dog. Next he levitated the boy and placed him safely on the soft grass.
The boy's voice was quiet and cracked, as though it had not been used in a long while. Kingsley removed his Disillusionment Charm and lit his wand. The sight of the boy disgusted him. His painfully thin frame was accentuated by the over-sized, dirty jumper that seemed to engulf him. His glasses were held together by countless layers of sellotape and his messy hair looked as though it had not seen water in days. He had seen house-elves in better condition. His mind told him it could not possibly be Harry Potter, the last of the wealthy Potter line. But there, right above his right eye, was the mythical lightning-shaped scar.
Kingsley felt nothing but shock. This was a child who did not even look his age. The extent of the abuse and neglect inflicted upon him were there for all to see. The blistered feet, the bruised cheek, the knees bleeding through the trousers. He look back up to the boy's face and realised Potter was terrified.
'It's alright, son,' said Kingsley, trying to put on a reassuring tone, 'we're Aurors. We're here to help you.'
'We're Aurors,' repeated Kingsley. How could the boy not have heard of Aurors? 'From the Ministry of Magic,' he added, but that only heightened the look of confusion on Potter's face.
'Magic?' said the boy. 'There's no such thing.'
'Savage,' said Kingsley, not taking his eyes off Potter, 'get Robards. This is way over our heads.' With a crack, Savage was gone.
'H-He just disappeared,' stammered Potter.
Kingsley stifled a sigh; how could it be that the Boy-Who-Lived knew nothing? 'That is because he is a wizard,' said Kingsley. 'And so are you.'
The boy took a step back and stumbled over the stunned bulldog. 'I'm a wizard?'
Kingsley reached out and caught the boy before he completely lost his footing. 'Yes, and a rather special one at that. Let's go back inside and have a word with your relatives.'
To Kingsley's surprise, this suggestion was met with a look of abject fear on the young boy's face.
'I don't think Uncle Vernon wants to be disturbed,' muttered the boy. 'And Aunt Marge is here and she gets really scary when she's had too much -'
'I assure you that it will take a lot more than two drunk Muggles to get the best of me, Mr Potter.'
The boy tilted his head up towards Kingsley and said, 'Muggle?'
'A person who does not have magical ability.'
'If you don't mind, I'd really rather return to my cupboard and you can come back and talk to them tomorrow -'
Kingsley gripped the boy's shoulder. 'Your cupboard?'
'Why on earth would you want to go to the cupboard in your room?' asked Kingsley, dreading the answer.
Potter cocked his head, as though Kingsley had asked the most stupid question in the world. 'The cupboard is my room, sir.'
'I'm really not meant to let strangers -'
Kingsley took a breath and regained his composure. 'I'm not a stranger, Mr Potter. I come from the world you belong to, your parents' world.'
'My parents were wizards, too?'
'Yes. Well, technically speaking, your mother was a witch, and a very gifted one at that. Hang on, let me sort out those knees of yours.' To the boy's amazement, he healed the gashes and vanished the blood. 'Now show me your room.'
The boy pinched his knee, as if he could not believe that there was truly skin there. 'Alright, but we've got to be really quiet. Uncle Vernon gets angry if I make too much noise.'
'Your Uncle is locked in the living room, for all intents and purposes.' Kingsley could feel his anger at the Muggle relatives swell with every passing second. How dare they treat a child, a blood relation no less, with such contempt?
But nothing could have prepared him for Potter's living arrangements.
Potter was opening the cupboard Kingsley had examined minutes earlier. 'What are you doing?' he asked.
'You asked me to show you where I live, sir.'
Potter flicked a switch, but the dying lamp provided practically no light.
Cobwebs, broken toys, and a tiny bed. It was worse than a cell at Azkaban.
'Dear God...you sleep here?'
'It's not that bad,' said Potter defensively.
Kingsley's silent fuming was interrupted by the appearance of Savage and Robards.
'Shacklebolt, report,' barked Robards.
With some difficulty, he controlled his anger. 'These Muggles he has been placed with have inflicted significant abuse on the boy, both physical and mental. He knows nothing –'
'I do know some things!' piped Potter, his young face defiant. 'I'm pretty good at maths and stuff...' The boy trailed off, unable to continue while under Robards' intense gaze. Kingsley did not blame him, he had seen grown men cower under the Deputy's piercing stare. He shot the boy a sympathetic smile.
'This cupboard,' continued Kingsley, 'is where he lives. As Savage has probably informed you, we found him being attacked by a bulldog –'
'He didn't attack me,' muttered Potter.
'I admire courage, Potter,' snapped Robards, 'but do not interrupt Auror Shacklebolt again.'
'In short,' said Kingsley, 'we can mount a serious criminal case against these Muggles and whoever deemed them worthy of the Boy-Who-Lived.'
Robards smiled, but when he did he looked more like a tiger baring its teeth. 'Savage, bring Rita Skeeter; Shacklebolt, alert Scrimgeour, then the Minister. Looks like we have a good, old-fashioned scandal on our hands.'
Cornelius Fudge raised a glass of redcurrant rum and said, 'To Harry Potter.'
'To Harry Potter,' replied Dolores in her high, breathy voice.
He downed his drink in one and gazed over Rita Skeeter's latest concoction.
Muggles Torture Boy-Who-Lived, Dumbledore Implicated
Discussion over his 'questionable leadership ability' and 'mishandling of the People's Wand affair' were cast into centre-page obscurity. Mere days ago, the Wizengamot had given him a vote of no confidence and the various heads of department had been distancing themselves in an attempt to further their own ministerial ambitions.
'I rather think,' said Dolores, 'that you should proceed with phase two of the plan tomorrow. That gives the public a day to build on their outrage.'
'I quite agree.'
'I still think the adoption will be contested, Cornelius. After all, the Macmillans, Malfoys and Greengrasses all have closer blood ties than your family, and the law is quite clear where your wife is concerned. A serious appeal by any one of those families could undo all the good work we've done.'
'True,' said Fudge, 'but you're forgetting that those Muggles will allow me – us – to push through that anti-Muggle legislation all three of those families have been full-square behind.'
'Do you really think adopting Potter will make a diff –'
But she was interrupted by a swift knock on his door.
'Come in, Lucius,' called Fudge. Only Lucius Malfoy could have made it as far as his office without Fudge being notified.
Lucius swept into the room, snake-head cane and all, and fixed Fudge with his cold smile. 'Congratulations, Minister,' he said.
'Thank you, Lucius. Please, take a seat. Dolores, could you inform Margaret that I want courtroom ten ready for a full trial tomorrow.'
Dolores smiled sweetly, but Fudge knew that she was seething at her casual dismissal. After all, she foolishly believed herself to be the one holding the strings, a view shared across the Wizengamot.
'Would you like a drink, Lucius?' asked Fudge, pouring the man a generous amount of rum.
'Thank you, Cornelius. So I see Miss Skeeter has her sights on Dumbledore again.'
Fudge took another long sip, measuring his response in the meantime. He had a healthy respect for Dumbledore – after all, the man was a genius – but if it was a choice between Dumbledore and his own political career...
'Well,' said Fudge, 'if she got her facts right, I daresay he deserves to be brought in front of the Wizengamot.'
'I am having my lawyers scrutinise the Potters' will as we speak – after all, he was my cousin. Would you like a copy?'
'The MLE are already getting their teeth into it. I do wonder how that woman gets her information sometimes, not that I'm complaining.'
'Indeed,' said Lucius, setting down his empty glass. 'However, I have it on good authority that Lily Potter's relationship with her sister was non-existent. The chances of the Muggle having been allowed custody legally are slim at best.'
'In which case Dumbledore deserves what's coming to him,' said Fudge, pouring himself another glass of rum. 'I assume the board of governors will be looking for a replacement?'
'I would have thought so...do you have any recommendations?'
Fudge smiled; Lucius really was a political mastermind. He knew that Fudge would not suggest an unsuitable candidate. So if the board went with the Minister's recommendation, Lucius would feel as though he was owed a favour. Well, thought Fudge, I'm not stupid enough to fall for this.
'I'll support whoever the board decide on.'
'Excellent,' said Lucius. 'There is no precedent, of course, but I assume Minerva McGonagall will temporarily replace Dumbledore until we find a more suitable alternative.'
Fudge could feel Lucius' eyes on him as he took another healthy swig. 'Minerva is a fine choice,' said Fudge carefully, 'very fine indeed.'
'A question remains,' said Lucius delicately, 'over where the boy will live...'
Fudge set his cup down a little harder than he had intended. 'I am thinking of taking him.'
Lucius' smile faltered, and a pregnant silence fell between the two men. Fudge knew better than to break it first.
'Forgive me, Minister,' said Lucius. The renewed use of Fudge's title did not go unnoticed. 'But do you think that wise?'
'Certainly. We have the resources, we know he will not be harmed there and Nicole has always wanted a child, as you well know.'
'All good reasons, I am sure, but the boy should be with his blood.' Lucius leaned back and curled a hand around his snake head cane. 'His publicly acknowledged blood.'
'His blood locked him in a spider-filled cupboard, Lucius.'
The thin smile dropped from Lucius' face. 'Are you suggesting –'
'I am not suggesting anything,' snapped Fudge, but he knew he had gone too far. After all, Lucius had almost single-handedly funded every project Fudge had undertaken. 'Merely that Harry may prefer a home dynamic more tailored to him. After all, you and Narcissa already have your hands full with young Draco, and he may resent Harry's presence. And publicly acknowledged or not, Nicole has a legitimate right to Harry.'
'You surely have no time for a child and Nicole's extensive charity work –'
'Let us speak frankly, Lucius,' said Fudge, pouring himself another glass of rum. 'We both know this game. I need to adopt Harry; he is the key to my survival. I need to tie my name with his, so that the public adulation for him becomes adulation for me. The Wizengamot would not dare vote out the Minister who rescued Harry and then avenged him. It would be too damaging for them. This could make me untouchable.'
'I think you are rather oversimplifying –'
'You can have him over whenever you like, of course, but my name needs to be on those forms.' Lucius did not look any more convinced; they both knew he could simply appeal the adoption and win Harry on the blood card. Fudge would be a laughing stock, his political career would be all but over. He could see the headlines now: Fudge Attempts To Steal Harry Potter. 'I would be forever indebted to you if you grant me legal custody of Harry.'
Lucius slowly stood up, his lips pursed. For a wild moment, Fudge thought he was about to attack him.
'Very well, Minister. However, this is a very great favour I am granting you. It would not do to forget my generosity today, nor that the boy in your custody is my nephew. Should he be mistreated in any way...' His threatening smile bore into Fudge for what seemed like an eternity.
'He'll be treated like a prince,' said Fudge, also standing. 'I must be off; Harry and Nicole are waiting at home.'
Lucius nodded curtly and left the office, leaving Fudge to his thoughts. On one hand, he was beyond relieved that Lucius had allowed him custody of Harry – the other families would also back down, thinking the Malfoys knew something they did not. But on the other, he was further indebted to Lucius and, unlike the financial debt, he had no idea how this new, personal debt would be repaid.
He turned to the only portrait in the room, a frog-like little man in a dirty oil-painting practically hidden away in the far corner of the room.
'Charles, I would like you to inform the Muggle Prime Minister that two Muggle residents of Surrey will be disappearing from the Muggle world to stand trial. Their disappearances will be adequately covered.'
With a curt nod, the man in the painting disappeared.
Fudge glanced longingly at the half-finished bottle of rum before Disapparating.