Title: Whispers in the Dark

Summary: In the summer before Harry's second year, it's discovered that Lily didn't die, but was instead held prisoner for several years.

Disclaimer: I do not own "Harry Potter" or any of the characters from it. I am not making any money from the writing of this story.

Author's Note: I've been working on this story idea for a good two years now, but have only now felt fully prepared enough to begin posting it. It is expected to be quite lengthy and slow-paced, but the updates will be regular.

Beta: SocksForDobby

Chapter One: The Stranger

Severus Snape cursed under his breath and yanked his hand back.

A large bird sat on a perch in a metal cage and squawked at him as if to say, 'Try that again and see what happens!'

"Oh, you must be more careful, Severus," a voice came from behind. "Patrick doesn't care much for men. You know that."

Severus bit back a nasty remark and turned to face his long-time, elderly neighbour in the rocking chair behind him. If you asked anyone on the street, they would tell you that dear Irma Reed, with her wispy white hair and her old calico dresses, was a peculiar lady, but always kind.

Severus would add a few choice words to that.

"Perhaps you could have Patrick moved to another cage," he suggested, keeping his tone even. "It would be far simpler than to mend the bars in this one."

She lowered the shawl she was knitting and gazed at him over the tops of her bifocals.

"If it were that simple, I would have done so already. Instead, I have to worry he'll get his poor head stuck between those two bars. I don't know what I would even do if that happened. Would paramedics even respond to a bird emergency?"

"I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that." Severus rubbed a hand across his forehead. "Do you not have a second cage, Mrs. Reed?"

"This is my only one."

Severus didn't push the issue. Over the years he had learned to read the woman and he could tell when she didn't want to discuss something.

She was not going to budge on this issue.

He turned back to the slightly rusty looking bird cage. It was old; there was no doubt about that. He suspected the relic held some important memory attached to it and that was why the woman still had it. He knew that she took great care to keep it clean and in good shape, but one of the tiny bars on it had finally become corroded enough and broken off completely. It was not an expensive cage by any means, but it had lasted a very long time. She'd had it as long as Severus could remember. If only she would get a new one, it would surely save a lot of trouble.

But he knew, as he gazed warily at the haughty parrot inside, that she would have him mend every bar on the cage before she settled for a new one.

Severus reached out slowly for the broken bar; hoping Patrick would relax for just a few minutes, just long enough for him to untie the piece of yarn that was holding it in place.

He was just pulling the last of the string away when the ill-tempered bird lunged forward with an angry screech. Instantly he felt a sharp pain in his right index finger.

"Damn!" He yanked his hand back, taking the broken piece of metal with him.

Mrs. Reed looked up with a start. "Are you okay, dear?"

"Your bird just attacked me!" He held up his finger to examine it. Bright red blood seeped from an inch long cut on his finger.

"I told you to be more careful." She wagged a bony finger at him. "You know that."

Severus clenched the metal piece and yarn tightly in his uninjured hand, and took a deep breath. "I believe I have some things at home that I can use to mend this. If you'll excuse me for a short time, I'll go see what I can do."

"That's just fine." She didn't even look up this time. Her focus was clearly back on her project.

He moved to the front door. "I'll return shortly."

"Take your time, dear. It'll give poor Patrick some time to recover."

Poor Patrick? The bird is fine!

Fuming, Severus hurried back across the cobbled street to his own house. It was his finger that was bleeding. He was the one in pain; not the damn bird.

But if he was going to fix the cage with magic, without the interference of his neighbour, then he was going to have to do it quickly. The woman never let him disappear long from a project before she came looking for him, almost as if she thought he simply wouldn't come back and finish. That was, of course, absurd because Severus Snape always finished what he started.

Once home, he went immediately to the small kitchen in the rear of the house and turned on the tap. He stuck his finger under the cool stream of water and, after a moment, pulled it back out for a second look. He cast a simple stitching charm at the wound, watching to see that the skin pulled together properly, however unprofessional the method.

Satisfied that there was at least no more blood, Severus stooped down to look for some bandages in the cupboard beneath the sink. But he'd only just moved aside the bottle of dish soap when he heard a sharp knock on the front door.

"You're supposed to be dead."

Those were the first words that caught Harry's attention. The Dursleys were very normal people. Boringly normal, really. So normal, Harry sometimes thought it wasn't very normal at all. It just made them weird.

So for Aunt Petunia to say something so completely un-ordinary, something even a bit strange, made Harry's ears perk right up as he stood on his tip-toes in front of the kitchen sink.

"Who are you, anyway?" Aunt Petunia hissed next, her voice coming from the front hall.

An inaudible voice said something in response, but the voice was much too quiet for Harry to make out what they said.

Harry leaned forward, turned on the cold water, and stuck an empty glass beneath the tap.

He was supposed to be outside, working in the garden. Before Uncle Vernon had left for work, he told Aunt Petunia not to let Harry back inside the house until he'd finished pulling all the weeds. Every single one. The weeds weren't all pulled yet, but it was so hot outside, and besides, Uncle Vernon wasn't even here. Just Dudley and Aunt Petunia, and they were both a bit preoccupied.

"Oh, I know you, I just don't believe you. Don't give me that sob-story. Do I look like I care? I don't, not at all," said Aunt Petunia next, her voice getting a bit shriller. "I don't believe you're who you say you are for a second. This is a trick and I refuse to fall for it."

Harry took a sip from his water, and then looked up towards the ceiling as heavy footsteps sounded on the floor above. Dudley must have gotten up from his new video game. That had been one of the many gifts he'd received for his birthday the day before, and Harry was very glad, because it had kept Dudley out of his hair for most of time since.

Then something Aunt Petunia said brought Harry's attention abruptly back to the front hall.

"A shock is right! You magical people all think you're so intelligent and we're all so stupid. Well, we're not and if I actually had any good feelings for my sister, I would say this was a cruel joke. But I hated my sister by the end, so I can only see this as irritating."

This was definitely not normal. Aunt Petunia never talked about magic and she never talked about her sister, either. Harry's mum, and especially his dad, was practically a banned topic in the Dursleys' house.

Harry put his glass in the sink and crept closer to the door, so that he could hear more easily.

"I know you don't mean that," a softer voice said.

"Yes, I do and I'm not letting you stay here. I won't have any more of this foolishness in my life than I have to. I had to live with it growing up, and then my sister runs off and dies. Now I've had to put up with it for ten years with that boy of hers."

"Mum, I need a snack!" Dudley called out, coming down the stairs.

Harry dashed back to the sink. He'd just lifted his glass back to his lips when his cousin came waddling into the kitchen.

The bigger boy glared at him. "What're you doing in here, little baby? Mum said you were gonna be outside all day."

"Shut up. Who's at the door?"

Dudley started digging through the fridge. "Some homeless person or something, I think. I don't know."

"I don't think it's a homeless person, Dudley. It's someone who knows about magic."

Dudley pulled a pudding cup from the fridge and shut the door. "Dad said you weren't allowed to talk about that freaky stuff."


"So I'm gonna tell him when he gets home."

"Go ahead, you great big snitch. I don't care."

"You will when he gets here." Dudley pointed towards Harry with his chocolate covered spoon.

He was right. Uncle Vernon was sure to be angry and Harry really did hate it when his uncle was angry. He didn't ever hurt him, not usually. Mostly he just yelled a lot until his face got sort of purplish. Then he'd usually lock Harry in his cupboard around that time and stop yelling soon after. Harry only got knocked around sometimes. It wasn't like it happened every day or anything. Just days when he'd been especially bothersome or if Uncle Vernon had had a particularly bad day at work. But he wasn't afraid of the man. Well, maybe he was just a little. But he wasn't about to let Dudley know that.

Harry rolled his eyes. "You're finished with your pudding. Go see who's at the door."

"I'm not done." Dudley tossed his spoon into the sink. "Leave me alone. Besides, if you want to know so bad, why don't you go see for yourself?"

"Because I'll get in trouble, you know that. Why don't you?"

"Because I don't care," said Dudley, his voice careful and deliberate, as if Harry was too stupid to understand.

Harry was inching back over to the door when Aunt Petunia called his name, surprising him so much he felt like he might have jumped right out of his skin.

He glanced back at Dudley who had found a bag of salty crisps and was munching noisily on a mouthful of them. But he did grin wickedly at Harry, crumbs stuck to his teeth, as if to say, 'See, you're in trouble already."

"Harry, I know you're inside. Get in here!" Aunt Petunia called out for him again, in not a nice tone at all. It was the tone of voice she usually reserved for him when she wanted him to do something she found unpleasant, but knew he might enjoy and hated that he might be happy. Like running down to the supermarket for her or raking the leaves in the morning before it got too hot outside.

Harry waited just a moment, to pretend he was coming from further away than simply the other side of the wall. Then he stepped through the kitchen door and into the hallway.

"Yes, Aunt Petunia?" he asked, careful to keep his tone polite.

His aunt turned to him, her face set and grim looking. "There is someone here to collect you."

She stepped aside so that he could see who was standing just inside the front door and Harry couldn't help but let out a gasp at what he found.

It was a lady with long, dull red hair and a tired face. She didn't look old exactly. She looked younger than Aunt Petunia. But what struck Harry the most was that he instantly recognized the strange lady's eyes.

They were his eyes. His mum's eyes. But that was impossible, wasn't it? This couldn't be his mother. It just couldn't. She'd died years ago. Dumbledore had said so and Dumbledore knew just about everything.

But Harry had seen pictures of his parents now, thanks to Hagrid. There was no doubt about it, if this lady wasn't his mother; she certainly looked exactly like her. Just like her. So much, in fact, that Harry found it hard to speak. He simply didn't know what to say.

It seemed that the red-haired lady was in a similar predicament. She just stood there and stared at him, obvious shock written all over her face.

"So... it is true," the lady murmured, seemingly to no one in particular. "He's alive. I'd always known it. I'd seen the papers... but I never let myself believe it. Not until I saw you for myself."

Lost, Harry broke his gaze and turned to look at his aunt for any sense of what was going on.

Thankfully, Aunt Petunia spoke up.

"Harry, this woman claims to be your mother and... and my sister," she added, glancing in her direction. "I find the whole story quite unlikely and would sooner believe that this is all a hoax. But truth or not, you are leaving. I'm going upstairs to collect your things and both of you will then be out of my house immediately."

Aunt Petunia turned and swept past Harry, disappearing up the staircase.

When she was gone, Harry turned back to look at the lady who was supposedly his mother. His... dead mother? Or, that was how he had thought it to be anyway.

He watched as the stranger took a step toward him, and he quickly took two steps back.

The lady stopped in her tracks.

"Who are you?" he blurted out.

"I'm Lily. I'm your mother." The lady's voice was quiet, and just slightly hoarse, like she didn't use it all that often. But to her credit, she stayed where she was at, just inside the closed front door.

"You're... you can't be. My mum died when I was a baby. An evil wizard killed her," Harry found himself explaining. He took another step backwards, so that his back was to the wall. He didn't take his eyes off of the stranger, who was shaking her head.

"I understand that's what you think, but it's just not true."

Harry felt anger boiling deep in his stomach. She was a liar. He didn't know how or why, but he felt sure that she was.

"It is true! Dumbledore told me so! And Hagrid too! Hagrid's my friend. He would never lie."

The lady's face looked sad, like she understood Harry's confusion. "Of course he wouldn't lie to you. Hagrid is a great friend. I know that he'd never try to hurt you."

"You know Hagrid?"

"He's one of the nicest people I've ever known, Harry. I'm glad he's your friend. But when he told you that your dad and I... that I had died that night, he was wrong. But I'm sure he thought he was telling you the truth."

"But Dumbledore said so too," he reminded her.

"Ah, Dumbledore." She smiled, like she was amused, and this irritated Harry.

"Dumbledore knows everything," he said, defending the old wizard. "You can't be my mother. It's impossible. I don't know how you got her face, but I do know magic can do lots of things... things like this."

"Things you don't even understand yet, am I right?" the lady prodded.

"I didn't even know about magic till I went to Hogwarts last year," admitted Harry. "I'm still learning."

Her brow furrowed. "Your aunt and uncle didn't explain to you earlier?"

"They didn't tell me anything, except that you– that my mum and dad died in a car crash when I was a baby."

"A car crash?" Now the lady just looked angry, not unlike Hagrid had when he'd heard the story.

"That's how they told me I got this too." Harry pushed up his fringe to reveal his scar, and then let it fall back down onto his forehead. He added, a little quieter, "They don't really care much for magic."

"Yes, I know." She pursed her lips, her eyes moving briefly towards the ceiling. Then they moved back to Harry, as if to study him.

Realizing his anger had subsided a bit while he'd been distracted, Harry brought his defences back up in a hurry.

"I still don't believe you. I think you're a liar." He considered stamping his foot, then thought better of it. He settled for crossing his arms over his chest and turning his face up towards the ceiling, avoiding her gaze.

"What can I do? How can I make you believe me, Harry? I know this comes as a shock. Believe me, I'm shocked too. Even though I've known it was true, I could never truly believe you were still alive."

"Well, I am! I've been right here all along! If you're my mum, then where've you been?" He demanded, meeting her soft gaze with his own accusatory eyes. "You left me!"

"No. No, sweetheart, I didn't." She took two steps closer to him again before stopping. "It wasn't in my control. I've been locked away all these years. I was alone in a house I couldn't escape, but I don't know how I got there. I spent years there, with no way out. It was maddening. Trust me when I say I'm just as confused as you are. If there was any way I could have come and got you, I would have."

Harry didn't say anything. What could he say? He was out of arguments. Every reason he brought up why she should be lying, the lady was able to deflect somehow. She made it sound so convincing that he found himself desperately tempted to believe her. He'd wished for so many years that his parents were still alive, but he'd never let himself seriously entertain the idea. You didn't come walking in the front door ten years after dying in a car crash. That was just impossible. But if somebody thought you had died from something magical, might it be possible that there was a chance you hadn't? Of course, that would also mean that Dumbledore had been mistaken and Harry found that even less likely.

"You have to go to Dumbledore. He'll know what to do. If he says you're really my mum, then I'll believe it," he said, hoping he sounded surer than he felt. "If anybody can figure out what happened, then he can. I know he can."

Aunt Petunia was came down the stairs then, a bundle of clothes under one arm, and dragging Hedwig's padlocked cage behind her. Hedwig was squawking indignantly at the handling she was receiving.

Harry frowned. "She doesn't like that. You've gotta be more gentle with her."

"Here, then you come take her," Aunt Petunia snapped at him and Harry hurried forward to take the cage. "I don't really care whether she likes it or not. This bird is leaving with you and I'll be glad to have you both out of my house."

Harry set the heavy cage down on the ground and looked back up at his aunt. "But Aunt Petunia, you can't send me away."

"Oh and why is that?" she asked him, moving both her hands to rest on her bony hips. "This is my house, don't you forget."

"But I live here!"

Aunt Petunia scoffed. "As if you'll miss us. Now that your 'mother' is here to rescue you, I'm sure you'll be much happier with her."

Harry looked wildly between his aunt and the lady claiming to be his mother. His gaze settled on his aunt and he took a step closer to her.

"You can't just send me away with a stranger. That's not what adults do," he reasoned, trying to keep his voice steady. "And you can't really think she's my mum. If you did, you'd hug her and you'd have her in for tea like you do for your book club ladies. Then maybe even tell her she can stay for awhile and sleep in the guest room, like Aunt Marge. You'd treat her really good, because you thought she'd died, and you'd miss her and be happy she was here."

"And why would you think such a thing?" Aunt Petunia wrinkled up her nose in disgust as she glared down at him.

"Well, um, because," Harry faltered, well aware of the two pairs of eyes on him, "Just because if I had a sister... well, I know that's what I'd do."

"That's sweet, Harry," said the lady claiming to be his mother.

But Aunt Petunia didn't appear to be moved at all, except for perhaps a little angrier. She stormed over to the cupboard under the stairs and pulled a small key from her pocket. Unlocking the door, she dragged out Harry's school trunk and tossed the bundle of clothes inside. Then she came back and removed the padlock from Hedwig's cage.

"We don't run this household based on your morality," Aunt Petunia said, lifting her pointy chin. She looked at her supposed sister. "I don't care who you are, but you're not welcome here. Not as Lily Potter, and certainly not as an impostor. But as long as you claim to be my sister, then the boy is your responsibility. Lord knows, we've had about as much as we can stand of him. Take him with you."

The stranger looked crestfallen, but determined. "How can you even say such a thing? We're family, you and me. Harry, too. Don't get me wrong, I want him with me very much. But, how can you treat him so?"

Aunt Petunia waved the question off. "He's only here because Dumbledore insisted on it. We didn't ask for him. He's only been a burden that all of us will be all to glad to get rid of."

Harry watched as anger began to overtake the strange lady's features again while she first took in Aunt Petunia's words, and then turned her eyes to him. He wondered if maybe she was looking for signs of hurt or disappointment, maybe even some tears. But if she was, she wouldn't find any. These were words he was all too used to hearing. They used to bother him, a long time ago, when he was younger. But he'd hardened himself to them now. He let the harsh, cruel words wash over him in the loveless rush they came in, and pretended he just didn't hear them. They weren't nearly so bothersome that way.

"I thought maybe you'd have changed over the last ten years, Petunia." The lady turned back to his aunt, her face hardened. "I thought maybe you would have grown up some, and become more compassionate, more loving. But you haven't. You've just become colder."

"Yes, because perfect little Lily is such a wonderful judge of character, I forgot," Aunt Petunia hissed back. "The boy must have received his morality from you."

"Did you ever hurt my son? Tell me the truth." The stranger took a step closer to Aunt Petunia, but Aunt Petunia said nothing.

The lady's green eyes flashed dangerously. "You may not have loved him, but you better have taken care of him. I'm taking him with me, and if find out that you ever hurt him, so help me, I will make sure you regret it."

Aunt Petunia stepped forward so there was only a foot or so between the two women. "What are you going to do then? Point your stupid little wand at me and turn me into something horrible?"

At that moment, Dudley stepped into the room, still holding his bag of crisps. He took in the sight of the two furious looking women with wide eyes.

"Blimey. What'd I miss?"

"Go back and finish your snack, Duddy," Aunt Petunia told him sweetly. Then she turned back to the stranger and her voice was cold again. "Well?"

"No." The lady exhaled deeply. She pushed a strand of red hair behind her ear. "That's not really an option right now. But you forget I didn't do all my growing up as a witch. I've never depended on it, not ever, and can hold my own quite well. I know you know that too."

Aunt Petunia had apparently had enough though and marched to the front door. She pulled it open. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm not afraid of you."

"Hopefully that means you have no reason to be," said the stranger. She grabbed the handle of Harry's trunk and looked to him. "Come on, Harry. Take your owl and come with me."

"Where's he going?"

Harry glanced back at where Dudley continued to stand.

"Is he leaving?" the bigger boy pressed.

Aunt Petunia gave him a stiff nod. "Yes."

"For good?"

"Yes, Duddy, for good."

Dudley grinned. "Excellent."

"Now, out. Both of you," Aunt Petunia demanded.

Harry held his hand over Hedwig's cage and hesitated.

"It'll be okay, sweetheart," the stranger coaxed, "I promise."

"I don't believe you. I can't."

"You don't have to. Just come with me, and we'll work something out, all right?"

Harry turned to his aunt. "Do I have a choice?"

"No," said Aunt Petunia, her voice going up a notch. She pulled the door open a few more inches. "Go on now, both of you! I don't want to see either of you again."

The stranger took up Harry's trunk and started her way out the front door. As she passed through, she paused. "I wish things could have been different." The lady's voice was soft again, and her face had gone from angry to sad. Almost apologetic.

"Yes, well, so do I," said Aunt Petunia and for just a split second, Harry caught what might have been some remorse in his aunt's eyes, but then they were back to cold and distant and he thought he must have imagined it.

Then the stranger was out the door and Aunt Petunia was looking at him with impatient expectancy. She was waiting on him. She really was going to toss him out of her house with some strange lady. She was serious.

He was hoping she hadn't been.

Seeing no other choice, Harry grasped the handle of Hedwig's cage and lugged it over to the door. He could see the lady standing out on the pavement, waiting for him.

He peered up at his aunt. "This might not be such a good idea, you know."

Aunt Petunia's eyes flitted quickly over to where the stranger was waiting, and then she shook her head. "Nonsense, you'll be fine."

Harry opened his mouth to argue with her and ask her 'how did she know that?', but an idea dawned on him. It made his insides squirm with apprehension and excitement.

"You think it's her, don't you? You actually do think she's my mum, even though you're not letting her stay." But when Aunt Petunia shrugged, he pressed on earnestly. "You do. I can tell you do. If you thought it was a trick, if you really thought that for real, you'd have locked the door, maybe called Uncle Vernon. You would've been more scared. But you're not. You let her in the house and talked to her, and now you're sending me away with her. You think it's my mum!"

Aunt Petunia stooped down so that she was on eye level with him.

"Fine," she said, and her tone came out biting. "You're right; I do think it's her. I don't know why and I don't know how, and to tell you the truth, I don't care. Stranger things have happened. But as long as she's here, she can have you and if Dumbledore comes to complain, then he can work out this mess."

"Dumbledore?" Harry took a step back, his eyes wide. "You know Dumbledore?"

She stood straight again and looked disgusted. "Yes, of course I know him."


"That's none of your business," she snapped and gave him a slight shove in the back. "Now get out of here. I told you, I don't want to see you here again."

But that was all right. Harry didn't want to see her again, either. He'd dreamed of leaving the Dursleys for years, and here was his chance. They'd go to Hogwarts and if this strange lady really was his mum, then things would turn out better than he would ever have dared to imagine. But if it turned out that it wasn't her, that it really was some terrible trick, then he would find someplace else to live. Maybe Dumbledore would let him stay at Hogwarts. No matter what, things would be better away from Privet Drive. They'd have to be.

He nodded, more to himself rather than his aunt, and opened his mouth, but then realized he didn't know what to say. What do you say to somebody who never really cared about you? Somebody why was kicking you out of the house with a lady who was supposed to be dead and when you're only just a kid.

"G'bye, Aunt Petunia," he muttered.

He didn't hug her, didn't even think about it. She never touched him unless it was to shove him up the stairs or push him into the cupboard or something like that.

He took a hand off the cage and gave her a small wave.

She responded to the gesture with another shove and then slammed the door on his back.

He stumbled from the force and gripped Hedwig's heavy metal cage harder. Biting his lower lip, his eyes found the red haired lady still standing on the pavement. She was waiting on him.

Trying to balance the weight of the bird and the cage, he made his way down the front steps over to where she stood. Once nearer, he could see that she was looking at him with sympathetic eyes.

"She should never treat you like that, Harry. You know that, don't you?"

Harry set the cage down and flexed his fingers. His aunt and uncle hadn't asked to take care of him. He knew that because they reminded him of the fact quite often. They hadn't ever wanted him.

Glancing back up at the lady, he shrugged his shoulders.

She shook her head. "She shouldn't."

Yeah. Harry shifted and lowered his eyes to his worn trainers. Maybe. The whole conversation was making him uncomfortable. He sucked in a breath and looked down the street, then back down at his shoes.

"So, am I really going with you?" he asked, deliberately changing the subject.

"After ten years without you, Harry, there's no way I would ever leave you here," she vowed, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "We just need to figure out where to go from here."

Alarmed, Harry's head shot up. "I thought we were going to talk to Dumbledore!"

"We were... or, we will." The lady looked uncomfortable now and bit down on her bottom lip. "But, sweetheart, I can't go to Hogwarts. Not yet."

"What? Why not?"

"It wouldn't be safe. Everyone thinks I'm dead, Harry. I can't just go walking into a wizarding village. Not until I talk to Dumbledore."

"So you do want to talk to him?" This made Harry feel a little better. As long as they got to Hogwarts, if they could talk to Dumbledore, everything would be okay. "I wasn't sure you liked Dumbledore."

"I definitely want to see Dumbledore. And I do like him, Harry. I do." The lady smiled and reached a hand out towards him. "It was just cute to see you defend him like that."

Harry rolled his eyes and ducked his head out of reach. "But we can't go now. Right?"

"Right," she said, dropping her arm.

Harry exhaled loudly and dropped down onto the kerb. He glared up at her. "So what're we gonna do then? We can't sit here all day, you know. We're making a scene and when Uncle Vernon finds out, he'll be angry."

As if reminded of the Dursleys, she looked over at their house and frowned. "I was really hoping that I'd get some help here."

Harry's eyebrows shot up. "From Aunt Petunia?"

The lady nodded

"But Aunt Petunia hates magic!"

"I know. I guess that was wishful thinking." She smiled down at him. "But I found you, didn't I?"

"Was that in your plan?"

"Sort of," she said, lowering herself to sit next to him. "I didn't know where you were at, but I was hoping your aunt might. I only just got out of that horrid house this morning, and finding you was one of the first things I wanted to do."

"What were the other things?"

She gave him a grim look. "Find Dumbledore."

Harry crossed his arms across his chest. This conversation was completely useless. He might as well come up with some sort of plan himself.

"Yeah, yeah. I know. That's not going so well, is it?" she asked.

"You're the grown-up. I'm the kid," he huffed and looked away from her. Then he added, softer, "They never do like they're supposed to."

He could feel the lady's eyes boring into him from behind, but she didn't say anything and Harry had nothing else to add. They both remained quiet for a few short minutes and Harry was just about to suggest that they get off the Dursleys' property, when the lady stood up.

"I have an idea," she announced.

"To get to Dumbledore?"

"No. But there's an old friend I used to have, back before you were born. I don't know if he still lives there, but it's worth a try. I can't think of anyone else available."

"Will he help us?"

"I don't even know if he'll want to see me," she admitted. "But if anybody can help us out, I know he can. We'll go see if we can find him."

Harry gave her a sceptical look and reluctantly pushed himself to his feet. "I sure hope you know what you're doing."

"Yes," she murmured, her eyes flickering with apprehension. "So do I."