Giving up someone you love is never easy... Giving up your own child feels as if you're ripping out your own soul. The pain of labor was bearable compared to what came after. But it had to be done. Her dear sweetheart could never know. It would break his heart, and she could not have that stress burdening him. One night of adultery would not ruin her marriage to the man she loved.
Unable to even look at it, as the doctors checked its vitals and carted it away, she stared blankly at the ceiling as her own health was seen to. Being catholic, she could not have had it aborted, but she had arranged to put it up for adoption. The nice lady from child services had informed her that they already had a couple lined up over seas. How exciting! It would be well cared for, she was sure, and would get to see more of the world than she ever had.
Forcing such further distressing thoughts from her mind, she heaved a dreamy sigh. In just a week she would be back with her beloved. Of course she would make him her peach pie to make up for how long she had been away. She felt just terrible lying to him about her 'sick mother'. It had to be done, though. He would not be cross with her over something he did not know about.
Numbness encompassed him as he stared at the body, eyes trailing over her beautiful face. She looked tranquil, despite the blood spatter. The shock of red across her pale features caused his eyes to drift to his own hands, and the bloody knife clutched there. She had not died... not right away... Not until her eyes turned black, and the man broke through the door shouting in a strange language...
What had he done?
Grim and steady-handed, he stared down his friend, a cool rage simmering in his gut. How dare he? He swore after she died, that he would never go in that room again. Here John was trying to convince him to torch her things. Indecision warred with anger at the very notion. The upstart hunter in front of him had no clue... He blinked rapidly to clear moisture from his eyes, some logic returning. Oh... John knew... but he did not have to live with the guilt of murdering his own wife.
The one room in the whole house that still held traces of her... No. It stayed, along with all of her stuff. His voice was tightly controlled as he growled, "Get out of here. And if you step foot on my property again, I'll kill ya."
Heart heavy, he wiped a stray tear away as he carted the last box from the room. He felt a fool for having held on for so long. Nothing but a ghost created by his own mind... John had been right. Loosing an exhausted sigh, he made his way out to his truck, stacking the box beside the rest in the bed. She had always been a giving woman... he felt it only right to donate it all, instead of burning it. A fitting tribute to the type of wife she'd been. He had never treated her as good as she had him.
Taking a deep breath, he closed the tailgate, cursing quietly at one of the boxes tipped and spilled open with the force. Climbing up, he began carelessly scooping the odds and ends back in, his skin tingling unpleasantly at being forced to touch the reminders of his own failure. Most of it were the knick knacks she had loved to collect. Cutesy animals, flowers... others were empty photo albums. He had burnt most of the pictures from them. It hurt too much to look at them for long.
Moving to toss one of the books back in, he paused as a thick sheaf of papers fell loose from the empty pages. He stared at it oddly before slowly stooping to pick it up. It must have been tucked between the cardboard reinforcing the covers. The notion of simply tossing it aside crossed his mind, weariness already long settling into a deep depression. He was not sure he wanted to read whatever it was. It held some obvious importance if Karen hid it so.
The very thought spurred him to glance at the header of the top paper. The words caused a feeling like ice to course down his back. Why did Karen have documents from child services?
The summer heat scorched Privet Drive, creating a desert effect even among the vainly kept lawns of the middle class suburban neighborhood. No one wished to be outside of their air conditioned homes during the 'dog days' of summer. Least of all the boy bent over tending the flower beds outside number four.
Sweat poured down his face, stinging his eyes, and exacerbating the beginnings of a nasty sunburn. He did not seem to notice or care. Intently focused on pulling weeds, he paid no mind to his surroundings, save when a shadow fell over his hunched form. Haunted green eyes blinked up at the older gentleman standing over him. Twinkling blue eyes met his own, though the normally jovial look had dimmed considerably from memory.
The old headmaster wore a plain business suit, his beard trimmed short and neat. Harry nearly did not recognize him at first. Sitting up, he glanced around to see if anyone had noticed the unnatural arrival yet.
"Harry, my boy, it is good to see you. Though, dear me, we should get you out of the sun! Come along!"
Confused, he none the less followed the professor's urging. Climbing to his feet, he followed the tall figure to the front door of his aunt and uncle's house. He chaffed at the thought of going back inside. Dudley had taken to taunting him about Cedric... Harry had woken the house more than once from nightmares of the events from the last trial. Vernon had nearly pitched him back into the cupboard under the stairs, until Harry had reminded him that people could be watching.
Startling as Dumbledore rapped smartly on the door, the teen fidgeted uncomfortably, mind racing with possibilities as to why he was here. Perhaps something had happened? He somewhat doubted that even Dumbledore would remain so calm and placid if something had happened to Sirius or one of his friends. So he waited impatiently for his aunt to open the door.
When she did, an ugly look crossed her face as she caught sight of Harry. He figured she had not meant to react in such a way in front of company, by her apologetic frown at the older wizard. She schooled her expression to one of mild curiosity.
"May I help you, sir? If my nephew has been causing trouble in the neighborhood again, I do so apologize."
Dumbledore waved her off with a grandfatherly smile. "Oh, not at all. Allow me to introduce myself, Mrs. Dursley. My name is Brian Wulfric, and I am from child protective services."
Harry felt shock course through him at that, though hope prickled in his gut. Maybe...? Petunia's expression dimmed, friendly smile slipping for a moment before cementing in place.
"Mr... Wulfric, I am sorry, but there must be a mistake."
The twinkle returned to Dumbledore's eyes, though Harry thought it was distinctly unfriendly. Perhaps it was simply his imagination, as the elderly wizard's smile brightened to match. He shook his head, withdrawing some folded papers from the inside pocket of his jacket. He offered them to Petunia before politely shouldering his way inside. Harry followed silently, far too interested in the turn of events to mind his Aunt's ferocious glare.
"I am afraid not, Mrs. Dursley. You see, we have received some complaints from the neighborhood regarding your son, as well as concern for the welfare of one Mr. Harry Potter... I am assuming that this is Mr. Potter?"
He directed a questioning glance at Harry, for Mrs. Durlsey's benefit. She spluttered a moment, at a loss for words as she read over the papers. Dumbledore winked once her gaze was averted. The hope grew, as did his curiosity.
"Now, we can do this quietly, or I can call for police assistance..."
"NO!" Petunia colored and cleared her throat at her own outburst, lowering the papers. Her knuckles were white as she clutched them, nearly tearing them in some places. "No... I apologize. This is simply unexpected."
Dumbledore hummed politely, glancing up from his idle perusal of the family portraits. They held a distinct lack of Harry in them. "Well, that is why they call it a 'surprise inspection'. All of the details are in that order. I am to be given free access to your home, to inspect living conditions and ensure the well being of all children housed here. If I am opposed in any way, I can have you arrested."
Ignoring Mrs. Durlsey's shaking form, he turned his full attention to Harry, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder and guiding him towards the stairs. "Harry, why don't you show me to your room? We can have a private chat there. Don't be afraid to tell me anything at all if you feel it's relevant."
Harry felt as if he were walking on a cloud as he heard his aunt choke on thin air. Repressing a grin, he nodded solemnly, leading the way up to his door. The locks and cat flap were still firmly in place. He nearly wished Dumbledore were a real agent, though it might have been just as well, by the dark frown the headmaster directed at the devices. Likewise for Dudley's old, broken toys shoved in the corner. He had made efforts to tidy the place up, but the great whale had thrown a fit when he discovered Harry tossing the ruined things from the window.
The bars from when he was twelve had not been replaced, but the new window had been nailed shut with painstaking care. It had taken Harry the better part of a month to pry it open without alerting his relatives. All in all, any real agent would have whisked him from the property in a heartbeat had they seen. Dumbledore did not look happy with the conditions, but he did seem sincere in his wish to talk.
Withdrawing his wand from his jacket pocket, the headmaster uttered a spell, causing purple light to shoot out and cover the door and window. Seeing Harry's curious expression, he explained lightly, "A silencing spell. Your aunt would no doubt love to eavesdrop. Though I fear it is not a conversation for her ears."
Taking a seat in the wobbly desk chair, he motioned for Harry to likewise sit, looking serious and grim. The expression made Harry nervous, but he complied, happy feeling at his aunt's fright dissipating as he claimed a seat on the edge of his bed. The older wizard scrutinized him, and he fidgeted. He knew he did not look good. Far too thin, the sunburn only served to highlight the pasty skin not touched by the scorching orb outside, and the bruises beneath his eyes telling of his lack of sleep.
Finally, Dumbledore sighed heavily. "I am sorry, my dear boy. I should not have sent you back here after last years events."
Shrugging, Harry picked at a loose thread on the comforter. In all honesty he was almost glad he had been sent back. He did not think he could stand Molly Weasley's pitying looks and nagging if he had been sent with Ron. He quietly stated such, causing Dumbledore's frown to deepen.
"There are always options... One of which is why I am here. I had been intending to have you brought to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix later in the summer, however plans have changed, and new information has been brought to light."
"How so?" Harry's voice was rough from disuse, causing him to wince. Peering at him over his glasses, the older wizard conjured two bottles of butterbeer, handing one to Harry. Accepting it gratefully, he closed his eyes in bliss at the first taste. Despite hours spent outside in the heat, his aunt had refused him water from the tap, forcing him to drink from the garden hose. Even that had gotten him a berating, and he had been left parched and nearly heat-stroked after she shut off the water.
The headmaster waited patiently for him to finish his drink before explaining himself. Perhaps for good reason, as Harry choked on his own spittle. "It seems that I was wrong, when I told you that your only living relations were the Dursleys."
Harry sat forward, eager to hear the answer. Maybe this mysterious relative could take him! Almost anything would be better than the Dursleys. As if reading his mind, Dumbledore raised his hands in a placating manner.
"The matter is a confusing one. Yes, even for me... Did you know that some witches chose to use concealment charms to hide their pregnancies?"
Harry frowned deeply at the seemingly irrelevant question. Seeing the skepticism, Dumbledore pressed on. "Some do so for vanity, others to hide an infidelity... however during the war, it was not uncommon to do so, to protect both mother and child. It was not particularly shocking for Lily to simply show up one day with a baby in arm, without having ever shown signs of being pregnant."
Pausing to give Harry time to digest the information, the wizard took a small sip of his own butterbeer. Squinting at him through his glasses, Harry's mind worked furiously. He felt a nagging sense of suspicion over Dumbledore's wording, though he dare not think it just yet. Shifting his weight impatiently, he stared. At last the headmaster took pity, setting the bottle aside.
"The strange circumstances begin, when not a trace of a birth record could be found at Saint Mungo's. Even home births are magically recorded. Rather in the fashion of the Hogwarts student list, actually. During the time the discrepancy was noted, you and your parents were already under the effects of the Fidelus Charm. It was assumed that because of your age, the powerful magic actually erased the records."
He sighed, gathering his thoughts. "Such unexpected happenings are not so unexpected when dealing with such strong magic. At times the intent is so strong that it manifests itself strangely... But I digress. It was not until very recently that an alternate possibility presented itself."
Peering at Harry carefully over his own glasses, the twinkle in his eyes brightened before dimming a bit. Leaning forward, Harry scowled slightly, impatience warring with respect. Sensing this, Dumbledore hurried to his next point.
"As you have no doubt noticed, I have posted guards to watch over you while you are here... However it is not simply in this aspect that we keep an eye over your safety... Despite their hatred for muggles, the possibility exists that the death eaters may attempt to get to you through mundane means. I have a squibb friend keeping an eye out for your name in muggle records.
"There is no delicate way to put this, Harry, and for that I am sorry... They discovered your birth record through... oh... what is the term?" He frowned, reaching up to pet his beard. "Axing? No... Hax? Ah! Hacking. Yes. Illegal, but effective. The records certainly filled in a lot of missing information as to your birth. Harry, your mother and father adopted you when you were mere weeks old."
With all of the stalling on the Headmaster's part, Harry was nearly expecting it, though the shock was by no means lessened. His mind had connected the dots, but refused to process the possibility until Dumbledore stated it. It worried him that he did not feel anything in particular about the information. Surely it was no joke, as the headmaster was not known to be cruel.
Mulling it over, he ignored the worried look directed at him for his silence. What did he feel? Surprised... That was all. Perhaps a very mild inkling of hope. Perhaps he should feel cheated and angry? But no. Those emotions did not seem to fit. In his mind, Lily and James Potter were his parents. They obviously loved him enough to sacrifice their lives for him, despite not being his parents by blood. The new information certainly did not change the fact that they were dead, or that Voldemort was out for his hide.
It really did not change anything at all. At least not until he thought upon the headmaster's previous words. Perhaps his birth parents were still alive, then? That thought caused a bundle of nerves to grow in his stomach. He glanced up at Dumbledore searchingly.
"You're here to ask if I want to meet my birth parents?"
The older wizard sighed, removing his glasses and rubbing a hand over his eyes. It struck Harry that he looked exhausted, and more his real age. He had been too focused on the image of Dumbledore he knew, to see the heavy lines around his eyes, and the seeming frailty of his hands. He felt almost guilty, though he did not know why. He had a suspicion that he was the indirect cause for the old man's current condition. He grew distracted again as an answer was at last forthcoming.
"In a way... There was only one name listed on the adoption contract... 'Karen Singer'. She is deceased. The documentation indicated that she was unmarried, with no father listed. With some digging, we have discovered that she was indeed married." He hesitated a moment before pressing on.
"I believe that she lied due to an indiscretion... Her husband likely had no clue as to her actions, or was against it, by the lack of his involvement in the process. The only reason I propose a meeting, is that he has recently begun hounding child services regarding the issue."
The news inspired the urge to laugh, though Harry repressed it. The Dursleys were right about him being a bastard, for all the wrong reasons.
Note: Sooooooo. Yeah. New plot bunny ate my soul while I was trying to update Guarding Death and Death's Visage. This is going to be a shorter one (I hope), and better updated for its duration (I hope). Let me know what you think, and how I'm doing. This is my first attempt at a story like this.