The boy with the long, messy black hair and green eyes walked down the sidewalk, staring at his feet that were shielded by dirty ratty trainers, the tops peeling off. He had taped them together, but it was still very cold even with his holey socks and his shoes, but he shouldn't be ungrateful. He wouldn't be ungrateful. He barely deserved what he got.
He hammered this thought into his mind as his feet sank into the piles of snow as he walked. Aunt Petunia had shoved him out the door and told him to go walk for 'a while', so he assumed she meant 'for an hour or two'. That's what she usually meant.
It wasn't that bad. The cold wasn't numbing his nose or making him feel like his toes were frostbitten or that his tongue would probably stick to that pole over there because it was so cold-
And Aunt Petunia had given him a jacket. That had to count for something, right?
The seven year old boy turned the corner and kept walking, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He couldn't feel his hands, either. He didn't have any gloves. He stopped very abruptly when he saw an old man with the longest beard and hair he had ever seen wearing a bright purple. .
. . dress?
It was a dress. It had to be. He was sure of it. He guessed that would be what Uncle Vernon would call a 'hippie', but he looked nice enough and Harry was very really tired of walking, so he sat down, curled his knees to his chest on the bench next to the man and tugged his arms through his sleeves, zipping the jacket around him so that his arms were enclosed in it.
The man looked up from unsticking what looked like little yellow candies and stared at him for a moment. There was a flash of shock in his eyes before he smiled.
"Hello, my boy. How are you doing?"
He looked very harmless. He had seen on the TV and heard from his uncle and aunt telling Dudley that he shouldn't talk to strangers, but he looked really harmless and he wasn't touching Harry or anything, so he wiggled his toes in his dirty shoes and shrugged.
"I'm okay, sir. How are you?" he asked, nonetheless warily.
There was a moment of silence. The man tugged a blanket from what looked to be out of thin air and handed it to him. He stared at him, shocked, for a moment. The blanket was fuzzy and bright yellow and purple and it sort of hurt his eyes looking at it, but it was warm. He stood to wrap it around him like a cocoon and curled up in it. "Thank you, sir," he said shyly, toeing the pile of snow on the sidewalk in front of them.
The man did not answer. "Why are you out here by yourself, alone, my boy?" he asked finally with a frown.
"Aunt 'Tunia let me out to walk around. I'm not supposed to go back until a little later." he explained.
He had always been warned by his aunt and uncle that if he ever told anyone bad things about them he would 'be in a world of pain forever, boy', but he figured that, if his teachers didn't help when he told him and the other school kids didn't help when he told them and their parents didn't help when he told them, he supposed this man wouldn't help if he told him, either. The only one who had tried to help was Mr. Snyder, the first one he had told, but the next day Mr. Snyder was gone. He never asked; he shouldn't and he wouldn't.
The frown deepened on the old man's face. It looked out of place. This man looked like a cheerful man, not an unhappy man and Harry almost felt bad for telling him and making him sad.
"That's okay. Aunt Marge is staying over the night, and I don't really like her anyways. She has a big old mean stinky bulldog, and I really do like dogs, sir, but that one's mean," he reassured. The smile reappeared but the twinkle in his eyes behind his half-moon glasses stayed away.
"I do not approve of your family's . . methods, my boy," he murmured. "I am sorry."
"Why are you sorry? You didn't do anything to me."
The smile disappeared again, and Harry almost sighed out loud. Oh no! He had upset the man again.
"More than you know, my boy. More than you know."
Harry and him sat in silence for a few minutes, then something occurred to him.
"Uhm, if you don't mind me asking, sir, what's your name?"
"Albus Dumbledore, my boy."
He seemed awfully fond of calling him his boy. It wasn't as weird as it should have been, Harry thought to himself. He almost sort of liked the endearment, although he bet Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon wouldn't.
"Harry Potter," he introduced himself. He never really had anyone to introduce himself to. All of the kids stayed away from him because they were threatened repeatedly by Dudley, and nobody wanted to get on Dudley's bad side, because it was a really really bad side.
There was another few minutes of silence.
Harry was now rather warm. He figured it was dark enough and late enough he could go back in, be really really quiet and go into his cupboard and not wake anyone up.
He looked longingly at the blanket. If only he could keep it.
But no. That was selfish, and rude and a stupid little boy like him didn't deserve such nice things. He unwrapped himself from his makeshift cocoon and stood, handing it back to the man. "Here."
He was very very confused when the man smiled and pushed it back to him. "It's yours."
"Really?" he gasped.
"Really," the man assured him. "I have no need for it. I've got plenty of blankets at H- back home."
He wondered briefly what the man was going to say, but then he realized he would probably never meet the man again and he wouldn't be nosy and stupid like he always was.
"Thanks, sir!" he said cheerily, and before he realized what he was doing, he bent down, hugged the man and then sped off back home.
He never remembered that meeting, and Albus Dumbledore never said anything.