Author's Note: This is an AU, in which many characters will be portrayed in another way than is strictly canon. Please see all warnings, etc. Recognizable characters and magical items and locations, sadly, do not belong to me, but to their creator, J.K. Rowling. However, all original characters, magical items, and locations do in fact belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended. I write out of the respect for the original work. ~ RK
The ghostly man traveled with urgency away from the doorstep, a question haunting his conscience with every passing instant: "Have I done the right thing?"
The wind of the very early morning hour twisted his dark locks in a manner similar to the rage of a scorned lover. His long hair retaliated against the wind only resulting in whipping against his pale skin leaving a lingering sting. His clothing danced in the violent air as he continued away, blending in with the night. The only part clearly visible of the man was one hand gripping a smooth, wooden handle so tightly that it was difficult to see if he were desperately afraid to release it or if it were in fact the true tone of his skin. Once any observer could see his face, if they dared leave the comfort of a warm bed that cold night, it was noticeable that his face was pale, his features were as pronounced as the agony of his emotions. His dark eyes were dark as night reflected in a tormented lake.
He drew back the breast of his outer clothing to look beneath the heavy cloth. It was in that instant that the first of the sky's tears struck him allowing his own to release. His tears raced down his angular face at the same frantic pace as his flight to shelter. He clutched the fabric around the priceless treasure cradled against his chest, shielding it securely against the wind's sting, the night's cold, and the rain's grief.
At last he saw the house, looking ominous in its shadowy silhouette, the pale beginnings of morning behind it. He descended upon the house like a raven, gracefully and silently. Still shielding his treasure he entered the dark house, disappearing from the sight of the horrible night, and from any prying or curious eyes.
Later, as he fell into his nightmares he repeated in his mind a final time: "Have I done the right thing?"
Chapter One – Of Unknown Locations
It was a dreary morning, even by the lowest standards. A blanket of dark grey clouds smothered the sunlight, making it seem closer to twilight than mid-morning. It was even rare to hear the song of a bird breaking the gloom of that morning. There was no breeze and thus, consequently, no applause from the fallen leaves or baring branches. Not only was it silent and dark, but it was cold. It was November the second and the stagnant air chilled the person who left the warmth of their home. If the men decided they could not delay their morning commute any longer, they braved the unexpected chill to their cars and drove to work.
Such was the case for one such household in a uniform neighborhood.
A small family was in their dining room having just finished their breakfast. The man of the family stubbornly delayed his morning drive to work as he alternated between shifting his now cold eggs across his plate and pretending to read the newspaper. He was dressed for work with the exception of his blazer which was draped over the back of his chair. He was clothed in a white, long sleeved button down shirt with a properly fashioned brown necktie. At the insistence of his wife, he had donned his new knit argyle pull on vest. To his dismay, the colors of the vest were maroon, black, and a dark purple that resembled the hue of his face when his temper flared. He also wore brown trousers and shoes that matched his necktie.
The man was not a rotund man, or even overweight by any means. He was simply of a large bone structure that was in good health, coloring, and a moderate living style. His sandy-colored hair was parted neatly and fixed to keep it in place. His moustache was carefully trimmed and well kept resembling a horse grooming brush.
Finally, he folded up his newspaper and set it on the table near his plate of rearranged breakfast. In an instant, his wife leaped from her chair between her husband and child, snatching his plate and setting. She disposed of the remaining food and returned primly to her chair.
She was a thin woman, not particularly pretty and not particularly homely either. She was a mixture of the two extremes with some of her features balancing out her unappealing qualities. She was very conscious of her dress and appearance, more so than even a child who carefully dresses her dolls. She wore a simple lilac dress with short puffy sleeves. The skirt went down to her knees, exposing her stocking-clad legs and white heels. On top of her dress was an obnoxiously ruffled apron, giving the appearance of a chicken fluffing their feathers out in order to look fuller and more attractive for her mate.
At last, the man rose from his chair. He turned and picked up his blazer, slid his arms through and fastened the buttons. He walked to his wife, who had risen from her chair as he stood.
"Have a good day at work, dear," she said, in a cheery voice. The same thing every single morning of the work week. He took hold of his wife's shoulders and leaned into her, touching his lips to her cheek, like every morning. They separated and he turned to face his gurgling son who had his food smeared all over himself. The young child smiled at his approaching father, baring his very few teeth proudly. He reached his arms to the man squealing loudly.
"And now, be a good boy for mummy!" He caught himself before risking a hug to his son, which would inevitably result in getting the food currently all over the boy all over himself in the process. Instead, he merely patted his son's fuzzy head, who smiled back at him in a lopsided grin.
He walked out of the kitchen toward the front door, stooping down at the foot of the stairs to grab his suitcase. At the very moment his hand closed around the doorknob there were three firm knocks from the other side of the door. The man froze before cautiously opening the door. The sight that greeted him made the hairs on the nape of his neck stand in alarm.
On his pristine doorstep was a very weird looking man. He had pale but healthy skin with a rosy coloring to his cheeks. His eyes held captive a bright twinkle, a cheerful glitter like the sun reflecting on the bluest sea. Upon his crooked nose rested a pair of half-moon spectacles. That object first raised the alarm to the opposite man. As he eyed him further his eyes grew rounder, his moustache began to bristle, and his body began to tremble – whether from fear or anger the man outside the house could not tell. The man on the doorstep was dressed in what looked like a giant and strategically arranged piece of drapery that was so long that his shoes were not even visible. On his head was what looked to be a long and ancient sleeping cap. But the most alarming feature of the man was his long, straggly white beard.
After several moments of speechless tension, a soft, frail voice was heard in inquiry. "Mr. Dursley?"
It was the voice of the stranger! How could such a soft voice come from this…weird looking person? Shouldn't they also have weird voices to match their weird looks? The man inside the house could not fathom this. He nodded, unable yet to find his own voice. Who was this person on his doorstep? What in the world did he want? In his inability to figure out the answers to any of these questions, he simply stared at the other man.
The bearded man stepped calmly and seriously over the threshold of the house. "I suppose I should come in, before the neighbors notice this rather tense meeting on your doorstep." He walked calmly into the foyer of the house, right past Mr. Dursley, before realizing the man was not following him and turning to face him again.
Mr. Dursley, meanwhile, was beginning to turn a frightening shade of red. How dare this person march right into his house! Who does he think he is? His moustache began to twitch in offense, his hand tightened on his briefcase. With a quick exhaling huff, he slammed the door shut before walking right up to this stranger. "Now, listen, you—"
"Oh, forgive me, Mr. Dursley. I am Albus Dumbledore." The old man held out his hand, but Mr. Dursley was not about to touch the man if he could help it. Awkwardly, the older man lowered his hand after a moment. "I simply came to check on young Harry. Is he doing well?"
Mr. Dursley sputtered for a moment, trying to understand what this man was saying. When he next spoke, spit caught in his bristling moustache. "Who in the bloody hell is Harry?"
Dumbledore's eyes instantly lost their twinkle. Before he could answer, a woman's voice joined the conversation. "Vernon? Who is this?"
"He says his name's Albus Dumbledore. Crackpot, he is, Petunia!"
Dumbledore turned his back to Mr. Dursley and instead now faced the young woman now in the doorway to the kitchen. She was holding her now clean son in her arms, supporting his weight with her hips. "Mrs. Dursley, how is young Harry doing?"
"My sister's son?" Her expression, where it was curious moments ago, became twisted in confusion and resentment. "Why should I know about her son?" she asked, spitting out the words as though poison.
"Because he was left here last night. On your doorstep." Dumbledore's eyes were narrowing and his posture now tense. His eyes bore into the woman, clutching her son to her now in anger and fear of this unusual man.
"There was no one left here," Mr. Dursley said, trying to take the man's focus off of his wife and son.
Dumbledore turned to him then. "Late last night your nephew, Harry Potter, was left at your door with a note explaining what had happened and the circumstances to his being at your home. The importance of taking him into your care was explicitly expressed." He looked closely at the two adults before continuing. "It is of utmost importance. Where is Harry Potter?"
"How should we know?" Petunia all but shrieked. Her son began to wail in her arms, causing her to suddenly retreat into the dining room again. She placed him back in his high chair and tried to soothe the child. Unfortunately, she did not see that the old man had followed her to the doorway of the dining room, looking at her intently. He successfully blocked the entrance from her husband. She turned around and jumped at seeing the old man blocking her way.
"He must be found, Petunia," the old man said, in a low voice.
Her face hardened, her expression stony, her eyes dark. She turned back to the table and began to occupy herself with the dirty dishes. "And why aren't his…parents looking for him? Why do I need to do it?"
Dumbledore's face softened. If they did not read the note, then she did not yet know. "Lily and James were killed two nights ago." He continued even after Petunia dropped one of the plates, and knelt to pick up the pieces, her back still facing him. "You are Harry's only relative. There was nowhere else for him to go."
Petunia, still on her knees, whispered in a stilted voice, "And…how did they die?" Before the old man could respond, Mr. Dursley managed to speak loud enough to get her attention. She rose to her feet before heading towards Dumbledore, muttering an "excuse me" as she passed him. She met her husband in the hallway.
"Go on, Vernon. It's alright. He means no harm here."
Mr. Dursley examined his wife for a moment before seeing a strange shadow in her expression and a stiffness in her features. "Are you alright? You're pale as a ghost."
"I'm fine." Mr. Dursley huffed in disagreement of leaving this strange man in the house alone with his wife and his son, but he nodded and acquiesced to his wife's wish. He kissed her cheek again, turned and strode out of the house.
Petunia stood for a moment in the hallway, collecting herself. She took several breaths before facing the doorway of the kitchen and dining room again. With determined and heavy steps she entered the room, prepared to continue cleaning the ruined plate. To her surprise, she found the old man putting a strange looking stick back into his sleeve. She went to the place where the remnants of the plate were, only to find them gone. She looked on the table, nothing. Then, she looked in the sink. There were three plates. Three? But one broke, how could there be three now? She looked back at the old man and made a connection in her mind. She knew what he was, but she did not need to ask him that. There was something more important. "How did…they die?"
The old man faced her, his expression kind. "They were murdered. By Lord Voldemort. He was after your nephew that night, but never got there. He killed James, then he went for Harry. Your sister, Lily, was with him." He paused here, in thought. "Voldemort was about to kill her son, and she put herself in the path of the curse that was intended for Harry. Because she gave her life for her son, she gave him protection. Voldemort cursed Harry as well, but with Lily's protection, it rebounded and killed Voldemort." He took a deep breath. "Lily gave her son blood protection. In order for this type of safety to remain intact, a relative must accept Harry into their care. You are his only relative left, his aunt. You can give him the protection he still needs from Voldemort's followers, who, no doubt, are trying to locate Harry to finish what their master started on Halloween."
During this, Petunia sat herself in one of the dining room chairs, staring ahead. She was completely confused. Who was Voldemort? Killed by a curse? Blood Protection? What did all of this mean? She looked up at the man, her eyes slightly misty, her mouth barely open in confusion. She looked up at Dumbledore, pleading for answers, answers she could understand. "I don't understand."
Dumbledore sighed. "Lily and James are dead. You must take Harry in or he will also be killed by the followers of the…man…that killed your sister and her husband."
"But I don't know where he is," she spoke in a voice barely a whisper. She stared at the old man.
"It seems that no one does, even though he was here only hours ago," he said, not exactly to her, and not exactly to himself. He seemed lost in thought, as though trying to mentally figure out a puzzle. After several minutes of silence, even from the young child, Dumbledore spoke again. "When we find him again, will you take him in as your own? Will you offer the protection Lily died to give?"
Petunia got to her feet and went to her own son, picking him up again. She faced away from the old man then, and whispered her reply, "I don't know." She let a choked sound escape her, a strangled sob. She waited a moment before she turned around again, only to find that the man had disappeared. He was there a moment ago, but he had disappeared silently. Vanished, as though he were nothing more than smoke that blended in with the air around it.
It was several hours later that Mr. Dursley came home from Grunnings Drill Company. He arrived to find the house silent. In only a few moments he discovered his wife sitting in the parlor, a saucer in one hand and the cup of tea in the other. She was staring ahead. This alarmed Mr. Dursley, having never seen her like this. "Petunia," he tried cautiously, "what happened?"
After a few moments, she shifted her eyes to her husband. "Lily and James are dead."
"Your sister?" She nodded, looking away and slowly taking a sip of her tea. "How?" he asked, his hand naturally moving to rest comfortingly on her bony shoulder.
Petunia seemed to hesitate for a moment, before again meeting her husband's eyes. "A car crash."
Chapter Notes: Reviewing is kind. As other authors have stated, it is how we get paid. Please leave some feedback. Thank you! – RK