The first thing that came to Harry's mind as he woke up was how late it was. He pulled himself up in bed groggily, thinking about the night before. Of course he'd fallen asleep to more nightmares – it was practically a daily occurrence now. Only a few months had passed since the death of Cedric Diggory, a fellow pupil and friend. It may not have been so bad had Harry not been the cause of his death – or the witness for that matter. A burst of red flashed in front of his eyes and he looked up to see Ron Weasley, his best friend, pulling the hangings away from his bed. Apparently he too had woken up late. "Morning," Harry said, muffling a yawn and getting out of his bed.
Ron didn't reply, but he let out a grunt that Harry supposed was his greeting. He let out a mighty yawn and then turned back to Harry, rubbing his eyes. "D'you know what time it is?" he said in a sleepy voice. Harry shrugged, "Dunno, but late most likely. Everybody is gone to breakfast."
"Right," said Ron, slowly becoming more awake. "Seamus woke me up this morning going down to breakfast," he said. "I guess he figured I would want to come," he said awkwardly as Harry stiffened. "You know . . . to get breakfast . . ."
Harry shook his head, "Don't fool yourself," he said in a cold voice that he automatically regretted as Ron winced. "Sorry," he added. "I'm not mad at you."
"I know," Ron said, looking slightly relieved. "He'll come around mate, just watch."
Harry didn't answer him. The day he believed that Seamus would call him a friend again, would be the day that Snape started handing out sweets. If it were to happen, it would not be for a very long time. "You alright?"
"Fine," said Harry shortly. "I'm not really that hungry though . . . why don't you go down? I'll catch up later."
"No," said Ron, trying to keep the uncertainty out of his voice. "No, I'm not hungry either."
As soon as the words slipped out of his mouth, Ron's stomach gave a mighty roar. Harry sighed, "No Ron, go. I'll catch up."
Ron looked as though he was going to object at first, but then his hunger got the better of him. "All right, I'd better see you down there," he added. Harry nodded in response and sat back down on his bed, looking up at the hangings. As soon as Ron went downstairs, Harry heard the voice of his other best friend, Hermione Granger. Though he couldn't make out their exact words, he knew exactly who and what they were discussing. Though it was kind of them to care, Harry also felt a bit of irritation towards his friends. He knew how to take care of himself, they didn't need to baby him.
He blinked and stared in front of him. What he really wanted to do was talk to Dumbledore, but for some reason, the Headmaster seemed to be avoiding him – perhaps he'd heard of Harry's rant over at the Burrow, or maybe he had other reasons, but one thing was for certain: he was definitely ignoring Harry.
Almost as soon as the thought struck him he heard a loud 'BANG'. Taking Harry by surprise, he fell out of his bed. He heard the pounding of footsteps and then both Ron and Hermione were in the dormitory. Hermione's hair seemed bushier than usual, and Ron's eyes were wide. "What was that?"
"I don't know," Harry said grimly, pulling himself up from the ground. "Probably nothing –"
Just as soon as the words left his mouth there was another BANG! Hermione let out a startled cry and grabbed Ron's arm, who was leaning against his bedpost for support. Harry meanwhile had fallen back down on the ground. "What –"
Another BANG, and then a flash of light – he could hear Hermione screaming and Ron letting out a small yell in the background as the light engulfed them. Then Harry was floating; the wooden floor had disappeared, leaving only empty air. Though the thought of falling made his heart skip a few beats, he couldn't deny that he enjoyed the feeling of floating. It was like he was on a broomstick – the wind was whipping past his hair, the weightlessness was overbearing. He tried calling out to Ron and Hermione, but he seemed to have lost his voice.
Harry let out a huff as he hit the floor. He gasped and sat upright. He was no longer in the dormitory, or anywhere that he recognized off of the top of his head. He heard a gasp and a moan from next to him, and looked over to see both Ron and Hermione lying on the ground. Dust was covering all three of them, smearing their faces and robes. Hermione's hair was spilling onto the floor in great waves, while Ron was turning over and rubbing a hand on his side. "Blimey," he choked out. "What just happened?"
"Wands out," Harry said quickly, and all of them whipped out their wands. If there was one thing that they all knew, it was that as soon as Harry's voice took on the urgent tone, they had to listen to him. He only took the tone when they were in some sort of trouble.
"What is this?" Ron whispered so that only Harry and Hermione could hear, but neither of them had an answer. "Follow me," Harry whispered back, getting to his feet. A shuffling behind him told him that Hermione and Ron were doing the same. Keeping his wand held in front of him, he tried squinting in the darkness. "Lumos."
All three of them stiffened. None of them had cast the charm, which only meant that they weren't alone.
A bright light emerged from the left of them and they all shrank back in the shadows. This, however, seemed to do no good. "I can hear you," a woman's deep voice sounded, "You may as well come out. I mean you no harm."
The trio exchanged looks. They couldn't quite believe that this stranger meant them no harm. They all held a hand up to their eyes as the bright light turned towards them, nearly blinding the three of them. Through the cracks of his fingers, looking beyond the light, Harry could make out a very pale witch. Her hair blended with the darkness, and he couldn't make out her features, but she seemed very intimidating.
Spotting them, the woman came closer and closer until finally Hermione had the sense to cast a shield over the three of them. This stopped the woman in her tracks, and she cocked her head to the side. "You should be in your dormitories," she scolded them. Harry blinked.
This was the last thing he'd expected to hear from her.
"What?" Ron blurted out, and the woman turned to him. "Your dormitories, I'll excuse you just this one time if you promise to never walk our corridors this late at night again."
"Who are you?" Harry snapped suddenly, cutting the woman off. She seemed to swell with indignation, but answered formally: "I am Rowena Ravenclaw."
Then Harry burst out laughing. Hermione and Ron threw him an anxious look, but he couldn't stop laughing. Who was this woman to claim she was a Founder of Hogwarts? One who lived a thousand years ago. "Right," he choked out finally, a grin on his face. "That's a good one."
"Um, mate," Ron muttered to him as the woman's eyes flashed. "I think she's serious."
Harry threw him an incredulous look, but Hermione was shaking her head slightly. Harry took this as a sign to shut up. "Come with me," the woman snapped. "Now!" she added in a stern voice, and Harry was reminded of McGonagall. He glanced at Ron and Hermione, gave a shrug, and followed him. He could practically hear Hermione's brain whizzing from behind him, wondering what he was up to. Harry would never follow somebody without a good reason. Ron meanwhile, just looked stumped.
The woman led them out of the dark room and into a very familiar place. The astronomy tower – Harry was surprised to see stars in the sky. He'd known he'd woken up late, but not that late.
Harry turned back to the woman, who was bathed in the moonlight. It seemed to shine off of her skin, casting an eerie glow on her. He could finally make out her features – her eyes were dark, very dark. Her hair was just as dark, and flowed over her blue cloak, which was pinned at the top with a bronze raven. She didn't look very friendly, but she didn't look particularly mean either. One thing was certain – this was not a witch he would want to cross. There was a nagging thought at the back of his mind, but he couldn't surface it until he saw Hermione's eyes widen with awe and excitement.
She too had recognized the face. She too knew that this was the Gray Lady's mother. She too knew that they were staring into the face of Rowena Ravenclaw herself.
Rowena rose a single eyebrow as she studied them. For a moment there was absolute silence, in which Harry sat stunned. His mind had gone completely blank, and the only thought in his head was that he was actually meeting one of the Founders of Hogwarts.
"You don't attend this school," Rowena's deep but stern voice broke the silence, and Harry felt his stomach drop. Had it been too much to hope that she would believe he just belonged to a different House? Then he thought about her characteristics, and how she was valued most for her excessive brilliance and genius mind. Perhaps it had been too much to hope for.
None of them answered her straight away, but Hermione started to talk in a very squeaky voice. "You see, Professor Ravenclaw, we just um . . . we were um . . ."
Harry sent an irritated look her way. Though brilliant, Hermione was never good in a panic situation.
"Where did you get those robes?" Rowena cut her off, staring at the three of them. Harry didn't trust himself to speak, so he just continued to stare at her.
Rowena let out a sigh at their incompetence and ushered them forward, "You are wearing Gryffindor robes. He should remember you, and if not . . . we'll decide what to do with you when we cross that bridge."
The three exchanged nervous looks but followed Rowena all the same. Harry was shaking by the time they reached the chamber she had been leading them to; he completely missed the different hallways she had led them through. She knocked once on the door and started to speak again. "Sir Godric – we have a slight problem."
Harry raised both eyebrows. Sir Godric?
For a moment Harry was certain that Godric wasn't going to answer, but he found that he was mistaken when the chamber door opened. Harry felt his jaw drop as he stared his House's namesake in the face. He had red hair, like Ron, and green eyes rather like his own. He appeared to be tired. "Lady Rowena, what is wrong? Why have you arrived at this late hour?"
Rowena pointed at Harry, Ron and Hermione. "Are these three your students?"
Godric stifled a yawn and turned to look at them. His green eyes narrowed as he studied the three of them carefully, and Harry almost squirmed at the look he was giving him. "No," he said, his voice suddenly taking on a cold tone, "they are not, and these –" he walked forward and grabbed Ron gently by the robes, who let out a rather startled yelp. "Gerroff –"
"Are not the robes I assigned," Godric continued coldly, as though there had not been an interruption. He let go of the Ron's robes and Ron stumbled backward, just missing stepping on Harry's foot. He glared at the three of them, though as of yet there was no real heat in his eyes, "It appears we have some imposters in Hogwarts."
Harry felt himself start to shake. Imposters? He dared to glance at his friends and saw that they both looked just as horrified as he was, though Hermione appeared to be trying desperately to keep her fear under control.
He swallowed and looked at the two Founders, who were looming over them. There was complete silence, until finally Godric spoke again. "Rowena, go and get Salazar and Helga. They need to be informed."
Rowena nodded, and before they could even blink she had vanished. If they were hoping to get a break from the tension, Godric wasn't going to give it to them. He eyed all of them, before saying, "you three must be either very stupid or very courageous to try and break into our security. Tell me, who sent you? Or have you decided to send yourselves?"
Harry felt his neck burn as both Hermione and Ron looked at him for an answer. Harry wanted to shout at them to make up their own story – he could barely remember his own name, much less make a whole story. Godric took in their silence and sighed warily, muttering something under his breath. Just as quick as Rowena had disappeared, Salazar Slytherin and Helga Hufflepuff had appeared, Rowena following soon after. Salazar had black hair, which he kept tucked behind his ears. His eyes were a cold grey, and narrowed dangerously as he observed the three of them. Helga looked a lot friendlier, with her light carrot red hair pulled up in a soft ponytail, but even she seemed intimidating somehow. It was then that Harry noticed Godric, Salazar, and Helga were wearing cloaks similar to Rowena's, although with their own House colors and symbols. Salazar and Godric were sharing dark looks, while Helga stared them down. It was in these tense moments that Rowena finally spoke. "I found some books."
"Well that's just grand," said Salazar in a breezy tone. "In case you haven't noticed, we have three children posing as Hogwarts students."
The accusation was so uncalled for that Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ron stomped on his foot hard. "Don't," he muttered in Harry's ear, who tried not to look too mad.
"This is important Salazar," said Rowena in a cold tone. "They weren't in our library before."
Helga perked slightly at this, but Salazar and Godric barely acknowledged this piece of information. "Which means," Rowena said in a slow voice, as though talking to a toddler, "that they must have somehow put it there," she sent a sharp glance over at the trio as she said it.
She frowned, however, at the completely bemused looks that they sent her. She glanced at each of them then her eyes shot to Harry. For a moment she studied him, and Harry fidgeted slightly at the attention, then she looked straight in his eyes. "You are Harry Potter."
"Harry who?" Godric asked, seemingly interested now.
Rowena ignored him, "would you care to explain why your name is on seven books in our library?"
"Erhm . . . ."
Rowena narrowed her eyes, "You really don't know, do you?"
All three of them shook their heads. Rowena sighed and turned to the other Founders. "I believe," she said in a low tone that Harry barely made out. He was clearly not meant to hear this. "That we have time-travelers on our hands."
Salazar raised one eyebrow incredulously, and Godric laughed outright (which quickly subsided after the glare Rowena sent him), only Helga seemed willing to accept this. "How did you come to that conclusion, Rowena? Does it have to do with your research?"
"Yes," Rowena nodded, "Precisely. You know how long I've been studying time-travel my friends, if any person were to know I would."
Salazar still looked slightly skeptical, but didn't voice his opinion on the matter. Godric turned back to the time-travelers and sighed. "Where are these books being held now?"
"In the abandoned wing on the left upstairs."
Godric nodded, his eyes still on the three, and then started talking. "Very well, you three," he shot at Harry, Ron and Hermione, "you are coming with us."
"With us?" Helga piped up, "Where ever are you bringing them, Godric?"
Godric grimaced, "We're going to the abandoned wing."
Seemingly reluctant, he held an arm out to Ron, "grab my arm," he said quietly, and with a quick and startled glance at Harry, did as he was told. Within seconds they were both gone, with Hermione and Harry staring at the spot they had disappeared. None of the other Founders seemed to be affected by it, and Harry barely noticed when Helga held out her arm to him. "I'm going to take you, and Rowena will take the girl," she said in a soft, kind voice. "No harm shall befall you in my care."
Harry frowned slightly, but didn't answer her as he too took her arm.
It was nothing like he had ever imagined. He felt like he was blending in to his surroundings, rather dreamlike. Before he could make sense of it he was already standing in an abandoned room, Ron and Godric already occupying it. A moment later Hermione and Rowena appeared, with Salazar in tow. Harry looked at both of his friends, but none of them seemed hurt. A little pale perhaps, but could he blame them? He was quite certain that he resembled a sheet of paper he was so pale. Or perhaps Rowena Ravenclaw, who seemed pale regardless.
"Where did you put it?" Godric asked her, a thin note of curiosity in his voice. Rowena pointed to a china desk and Godric raced towards it. Harry's attention was drawn to the other Founders, who looked simply bored. It confused Harry a bit – after all, he didn't think that they had time-travelers pop into existence every other day – but then he noticed that they were putting on a demeanor. He was unsure of how they were really feeling, but they were far from bored.
Harry caught Salazar's eye, and noted that they bored holes into his own, before Godric returned with the books. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," he said in an important voice, ignoring Salazar rolling his eyes at the tone. "You are Harry Potter?" he shot Harry's way, who nodded mutely.
"Should we read them?" Helga asked, and Rowena breathed a small "Yes"
Salazar and Harry, however, were both far from thrilled. "I did not come all this way to read," said Salazar crossly while at the same time Harry exclaimed "What! No!"
The two looked at each other for a moment, before Harry tore his eyes away to look at the other Founders. "I'm for it," said Helga, looking apologetically at Harry, "though I will take your decision into account young one," she said gently. Harry frowned at her odd choice in wording, then realized that he was 1000 years in the past. The thought struck him like a blow, and for a moment he could barely breathe. Godric snapped him out of his stupor, "I am as well. Salazar?"
Salazar narrowed his grey eyes at all of them, "Blast it," he hissed under his breath, and Harry was surprised to see the other Founders looking confused, as though they hadn't quite understood what he said. He glanced at his friend's to also see confusion on their faces. He frowned, was he the only one who could understand him?
"Fine," Salazar said, "but if it does not catch my interest I will not hesitate to leave."
Godric grinned, "could we expect different?"
Salazar either didn't hear him or decided to ignore him, because he just glared at the book. Rowena picked it up, as though to read it, when Harry lost his temper. "I don't want to read that!" he exclaimed angrily. "That's not for anybody to know!"
"Mate," Ron said quietly, "You do know you're in about a hundred books? This is probably just another one, like Lockhart or something."
"Great," Harry scowled, "just what I need. Lockhart to talk about me in his books."
Ron hid a smirk, while Hermione just glanced at them all uncertainly. "So . . . are we reading?"
"Yes," they all said, while at the same time Harry shouted: "No!"
Godric looked at him with something akin to respect and amusement in his eye. "You're outvoted young one, I apologize." He didn't look very sorry at all. It took all Harry had not to jump up and storm out of there on the spot.
"Fine," he snarled, sitting down on one of the seats. Taking this as a queue, everybody else did as well. Rowena cleared her throat and opened the book, skipping to the first chapter. "The Boy-Who-Lived"
Harry and Ron both groaned, and the Founders raised their eyebrows. "Something wrong?"
"Just . . . you'll see," Harry said with a sigh.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Private Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
"Does that mean that they are muggles?" Salazar asked through narrowed eyes. Harry nodded, though he wasn't sure if Salazar had caught it or not.
They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense. Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.
"What's a drill?" Godric wondered aloud. Both Harry and Hermione started to explain it at the same time, while Rowena continued.
He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.
The Founders exchanged looks, but did not comment.
The Dursleys had a small son named Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.
The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn't think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.
"There's nothing wrong with the Potters!" Ron said angrily, and Hermione nodded vehemently. Rowena was still looking down at the book, as was Helga, but Godric and Salazar both looked at them curiously.
Mrs. Potter was Mrs. Dursley's sister, but they hadn't met for several years; in fact, Mrs. Dursley pretended that she didn't have a sister,
because her sister and her good-for-nothing husband were as unDursleyish as it was possible to be. The Dursley's shuddered to think what the neighbors would say if the Potters arrived in the street. The Dursley's knew that the Potters had a small son, too, but they had never even seen him.
"That doesn't last long," Harry murmured, as Ron and Hermione threw him sympathetic glances.
The boy was another good reason for keeping the Potters away; they didn't want Dudley mixing with a child like that.
"A child like what, exactly?" Salazar said in a cold voice, and Harry kept his gaze trailed on the ground.
When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening all over the country. Mr. Dursley hummed as he picked out his most boring tie for work, and Mrs. Dursley gossiped away happily as she wrestled a screaming Dudley into his high chair.
"What a brat!" Ron exclaimed. The Founders looked at him curiously. "Brat?"
"Oh er – it means someone unpleasant."
"Ah," Godric nodded and Rowena continued to read.
None of them noticed a large, tawny owl flutter past the window. At half past eight, Mr. Dursley picked up his briefcase, pecked Mrs. Dursley on the cheek, and tried to kiss Dudley good-bye but missed, because Dudley was now having a tantrum and throwing his cereal at the walls. "Little tyke," chortled Mr. Dursley as he left the house. He got into his car and backed out of number four's drive.
It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something peculiar – a cat reading a map. For a second, Mr. Dursley didn't realize what he had seen – then he jerked his head around to look again. There was a tabby cat standing on the corner of Private Drive, but there wasn't a map in sight. What could he be thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light.
"Trick of the light my a—" Ron started, but he was shushed by six different voices. Rowena fixed him with a stern glare, and Ron's ears turned red.
Mr. Dursley blinked and stared at the cat, it stared back. As Mr. Dursley drove around the corner and up the road, he watched the cat in his mirror. It was now reading the sign that said Private Drive – no, looking at the sign; cats couldn't read maps or signs.
"An animagus can," Helga interrupted. The other Founders nodded in agreement.
Mr. Dursley gave himself a little shake and put the cat out of his mind. As he drove toward the town he thought of nothing except a large order of drills he was hoping to get that day.
But on the edge of town, drills were driven out of his mind by something else. As he sat in the usual morning traffic jam, he couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of strangely dressed people about. People in cloaks.
"What is wrong with that?" Rowena cut herself off this time, looking at the time-travelers curiously. "Oh, well um, in the muggle world where we come from they don't dress in cloaks." Salazar narrowed his eyes and studied the girl who had spoken more carefully – she seemed to know an awful lot about muggles.
Mr. Dursley couldn't bear people who dressed in funny clothes – the getups you saw on young people! He supposed this was some stupid new fashion. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and his eyes fell on a huddle of these weirdos standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mr. Dursley was enraged to see that a couple of them weren't young at all; why, that man had to be older than he was, and wearing an emerald green cloak! The nerve of him!
Salazar smirked at the mention of emerald green, while Godric rolled his eyes.
But then it struck Mr. Dursley that this was probably some silly stunt – these people were obviously collecting for something . . . yes, that would be it. The traffic moved on and a few minutes later, Mr. Dursley arrived in the Grunnings parking lot, his mind back on drills.
Mr. Dursley always sat with his back to the window in his office on the ninth floor. If he hadn't, he might have found it harder to concentrate on drills that morning. He didn't see the owls swooping past in broad daylight, though people down in the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as owl after owl sped overhead.
"What happened that so many people were sending each other mail of that quantity?" Helga wondered aloud.
Most of them had never seen an owl even at nighttime. Mr. Dursley, however, had a perfectly normal, owl-free morning. He yelled at five different people.
"Git," muttered Ron.
He made several important phone calls, and shouted a bit more. He was in a very good mood, until lunchtime, when he thought he'd stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself a bun from the bakery.
"Oh no!" Hermione and Helga whispered, alarms ringing in their heads. The guys just figured it must be a girl thing; none of them got any 'danger' senses.
He'd forgotten all about the people in cloaks until he passed a group of them next to the baker's. He eyes them angrily as he passed. He didn't know why, but they made him uneasy. This bunch were whispering excitedly, too, and he couldn't see a single colleting tin. It was on his way back past them, clutching a large doughnut in a bag, that he caught a few of the words they were saying.
"The Potters, that's right, that's what I heard –"
"Woah! Who said that?" Hermione squeaked.
Rowena's eyes lit up. "Oh of course! It's the book, since it's . . . no, it HAS to be a prophecy, it has real voices in it. I'm only narrating it, in a sense. Alas, it won't work if one is not reading it aloud." She responded, though the thought didn't seem to dismay her. It seemed that Rowena was the only person that was absolutely okay with this though, because everybody in the room was sending each other startled and (in some cases) worried looks.
"- Yes, there son, Harry – "
Mr. Dursley stopped dead. Fear flooded him. He looked back at the whisperers as if he wanted to say something to them, but thought better of it.
He dashed back across the road, hurried up to his office, snapped at his secretary not to disturb him, seized his telephone,
Hermione quickly explained what a telephone was, and Rowena nodded.
and had almost finished dialing his home number when he changed his mind. He put the receiver back down and stroked his mustache, thinking . . . no, he was being stupid. Potter wasn't such an unusual name.
The trio exchanged grim looks.
He was sure there were lots of people called Potter who had a son called Harry. Come to think of it, he wasn't even sure his nephew was called Harry. He'd never even seen the boy. It might have been Harvey. Or Harold.
"That git doesn't even know his own nephew's name?" Salazar spoke for the first time. His eyes widened and he looked surprised with himself, even as everyone stared at him with the same emotion. They all shook out of their trance as Rowena spoke again.
There was no point in worrying Mrs. Dursley; she always got so upset at any mention of her sister. He didn't blame her – if he'd had a sister like that
Salazar hissed something else, but this time even Harry didn't catch what he said.
. . . but all the same, those people in cloaks . . .
He found it a lot harder to concentrate on drills that afternoon and when he left the building at five o'clock, he was still so worried that he walked straight into someone just outside the door.
"Sorry," he grunted as the tiny old man stumbled and almost fell. It was a few seconds before Mr. Dursley realized that this man was wearing a violet cloak. He didn't seem at all upset at being almost knocked to the ground. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smile and he said in a squeaky voice that made passerby's stare, "Don't be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating this happy, happy day!"And the old man hugged Mr. Dursley around the middle and walked off.
"You-Know-Who?" asked Godric, sounding rather amused at the title. He glanced at the time-travelers, who looked anything but amused. The grin slid from his face as he studied their demeanor – perhaps laughing at the name hadn't been the best idea.
Mr. Dursley stood rooted to the spot. He had been hugged by a complete stranger. He also thought he had been called a Muggle, whatever that was.
"A foolish, barbaric no good-" Salazar was cut off as Rowena started reading again, knowing just how heated Salazar could get when it came to muggles.
He was rattled. He hurried to his car and set off for home, hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped for before, because he didn't approve of imagination.
Godric looked horrified.
As he pulled into the driveway of number four, the first thing he saw – and it didn't improve his mood – was the tabby cat he'd spotted that morning. It was now sitting on his garden wall. He was sure it was the same one; it had the same markings around its eyes.
Ron, Harry and Hermione all smiled as they glanced at each other. There was one word ringing in their minds: McGonagall!
"Shoo!"said Mr. Dursley loudly. The cat didn't move, it just gave him a stern look. Was this normal cat behavior? Mr. Dursley wondered. Trying to pull himself together, he let himself into the house. He was still determined not to mention anything to his wife.
"That's a healthy relationship." Godric snorted, "I wonder what else he's been keeping from her?"
"She probably deserves it." Rowena snarled, as the others turned to look at her in wonder. She simply looked away, but Harry could tell something was bothering her. Salazar particularly looked a bit glum.
Mrs. Dursley had a nice, normal day. She told him over dinner all about Mrs. Next Door's problems with her daughter and how Dudley had learned a new word ("Won't!"). Mr. Dursley tried to act normally. When Dudley had been put to bed, he went into the living room in time to catch the last report on the evening news:
"And finally, bird-watchers everywhere have reported that the nation's owls have been behaving very unusually today. Although owls normally hunt at night and are hardly ever seen in daylight, there have been hundreds of sighting of these birds flying in every direction since sunrise. Experts are unable to say why the owls have suddenly stopped changing their sleeping pattern." The newscaster allowed a grin. "Most mysterious. And now, over to Jim McGruffin with the weather. Going to be any more showers of owls tonight, Jim?"
"McGruffin? But a McGruffin goes to school here! He's in my House!" Godric exclaimed.
"He may be acting as a spy!" Ron said enthusiastically.
"Yeah, maybe the Muggles are making a weapon against us wizards," Salazar scowled.
"Or maybe he's on a special mission for us," Helga put in gently, "which has nothing to do with muggle weapons."
"Or maybe you should listen to Professor Ravenclaw, as she's the one telling the story," snapped Hermione.
That quieted them all.
"Well Ted," said the weatherman,"I don't know about that, but it's not only the owls that have been acting oddly today. Viewers as far apart as Kent, Yorkshire, and Dundee have been phoning in to tell me that instead of the rain I promised yesterday, they've had a downpour of shooting stars! Perhaps people have been celebrating Bonfire Night early – it's not until next week, folks! But I can promise a wet night tonight."
"Oh, why have we become so reckless!" Helga demanded.
Mr. Dursley sat frozen in his armchair. Shooting stars all over Britain? Owls flying by daylight? Mysterious people in cloaks all over the place? And a whisper, a whisper about the Potters . . .
Mrs. Dursley came into the living room carrying two cups of tea. It was no good. He'd have to say something to her. He cleared his throat nervously. "Er – Petunia – dear – you haven't heard from your sister lately, have you?"
As he had expected, Mrs. Dursley looked shocked and angry. After all, they normally pretended she didn't have a sister.
Salazar opened his mouth, but Rowena glared at him. This quieted Salazar rather quickly and he avoided her eyes.
"No,"she said sharply, "Why?"
"Funny stuff on the news,"Mr. Dursley mumbled. "Owls . . . shooting stars . . . and there were a lot of funny-looking people in town today . . ."
"So?" snapped Mrs. Dursley.
"Well I just thought . . . maybe . . . it had something to do with . . . you know . . . her crowd."
"Her crowd," Godric muttered angrily.
Mrs. Dursley sipped her tea through pursed lips. Mr. Dursley wondered whether he dared tell her he'd heard the name "Potter." He decided he didn't dare.
"Coward," this surprisingly came from Hermione. Ron raised an eyebrow, clearly impressed, and Hermione ducked away, embarrassed.
Instead he said, as casually as he could, "Their son – he'd be about Dudley's age now, wouldn't he?"
"I suppose so,"said Mrs. Dursley stiffly.
"What's his name again? Howard, isn't it?"
"Harry. Nasty, common name, if you ask me."
"It's not a nasty name!" Helga said, looking kindly at Harry, who smiled faintly.
"Oh, yes,"said Mr. Dursley, his heart sinking horribly. "Yes I quite agree."He didn't say another word on the subject as they went upstairs to bed. While Mrs. Dursley was in the bathroom, Mr. Dursley crept to the bedroom window and peered down into the front garden. The cat was still there. It was staring down Private Drive as though it were waiting for something.
Was he imagining things? Could all this have anything to do with the Potters? If it did . . . if it got out that they were related to a pair of – well, he didn't think he could bear it.
The Dursley's got into bed. Mrs. Dursley fell asleep quickly, but Mr. Dursley lay awake, turning it all over in his mind. His last, comforting thought before he fell asleep was that even if the Potters were involved, there was no reason for them to come near him and Mrs. Dursley. The Potters knew what he and Petunia thought about their kind. . . . He couldn't see how he and Petunia could get mixed up in anything that might be going on – he yawned and turned over – it couldn't affect them. . .
How very wrong he was.
"What! Why should this affect them at all?" growled Godric. "So far all we've heard is that they're –"
"Prats?" Ron suggested. Godric thought about it, "I suppose that is one word for it."
Mr. Dursley might have been drifting into an uneasy sleep, but the cat on the wall outside was showing no sign of sleepiness. It was sitting still as a statue, its eyes fixed unblinkingly on the far corner of Private Drive. It didn't so much as quiver when a car door slammed on the next street, nor when two owls swooped overhead. In fact, it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all.
A man appeared on the corner where the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he'd just popped out of the ground. The cat's tail twitched and its eyes narrowed.
Nothing like this man had ever been seen on Private Drive. He was tall, thin and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt.
"Professor Dumbledore!" The time-travelers exclaimed.
"Who?" asked Godric curiously.
"The best Headmaster there was at Hogwarts – er, not including you of course," Ron said quickly, but none of the Founders appeared put off. In fact, they all looked thrilled, Salazar included. "I'm glad that someone has kept our school grand."
He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice. This man's name was Albus Dumbledore.
Albus Dumbledore didn't seem to realize that he had just arrived in a street where everything from his name to his boots was unwelcome.
"Oh he did," Harry said, while Ron hid back a smirk.
He was busy rummaging through his cloak, looking for something. But he did seem to realize he was being watched, because he looked up suddenly at the cat which was still staring at him from the other end of the street. For some reason, the sight of the cat seemed to amuse him. He chuckled and muttered, "I should have known."
He found what he was looking for inside his pocket. It seemed to be a silver cigarette lighter. He flicked it open, held it up in the air, and clicked it. The nearest street light went out with a little pop. He clicked it again – the next lamp flickered into darkness. Twelve times he clicked the Put-Outer, until the only lights left on the whole street were two tiny pinpricks in the distance, which were the eyes of the cat watching him.
"Woah! I want one of those!" Ron exclaimed, "Think Dumbledore would give me one?" he asked Harry, who shrugged. "How should I know?" he asked in a rather bitter voice, "He isn't talking to me, remember?"
Ron looked away quickly. "Sorry mate."
Harry didn't answer him.
If anyone looked out their window now, even the beady-eyed Mrs. Dursley, they wouldn't be able to see anything that was happening down on the pavement. Dumbledore slipped the Put-Outer back inside his cloak and set off down the street toward number four, where he saw down on the wall next to the cat. He didn't look at it, but after a moment he spoke to it.
"Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall."He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one.
Salazar perked up, "She might be a Slytherin!"
Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged looks.
Her black hair was drawn into a tight bun. She looked distinctly ruffled.
"How did you know it was me?"she asked.
"My dear Professor, I've never seen a cat sit so stiffly."
"You'd be stiff if you'd been sitting on a brick wall all day,"said Professor McGonagall.
"All day? When you could have been celebrating? I must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on my way here."
Professor McGonagall sniffled angrily. "Oh yes, everyone's celebrating, all right,"she said impatiently, "You'd think they'd be more careful, but no – even the Muggles have noticed something's going on. It was on their news."She jerked her head back at the Dursleys' dark living-room window. "I heard it. Flocks of owls . . . shooting stars . . . Well, they're not completely stupid."
"Yes they are," Ron said, and Harry laughed. Hermione (being Muggleborn) glared in front of her, trying her best to ignore him. But something akin to a smile was lighting her features.
"They were bound to notice something. Shooting stars down in Kent – I'll bet that was Dedalus Diggle. He never had much sense."
"He's a good man," Harry said with a slight smile, "though she is right, he doesn't have much sense."
"You can't blame them,"Dumbledore said gently. "We've had precious little to celebrate for eleven years."
The Founders looked up at the time-travelers again. "Eleven years? That's a long time."
"No celebration?" Godric added, looking slightly less than horrified.
"Not that I know of," Harry said with a shrug. "We hadn't been born yet."
"I know that,"said Professor McGonagall irritably. "But that's no reason to lose our heads. People are being downright careless, out on the streets in broad daylight, not even messed in Muggle clothes, swapping rumors."
She threw a sharp, side-ways glance at Dumbledore here, as though hoping he was going to tell her something, but he didn't, so she went on. "A fine thing that would be if, on the very day You-Know-Who seems to have disappeared at last, the Muggles found out about us all. I suppose he really has gone Dumbledore?"
"It certainly seems so,"said Dumbledore, "We have much to be thankful for. Would you care for a lemon drop?"
"A lemon drop. They're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of."
Salazar bit back a sharp retort – he wasn't liking how much muggle things the witches and wizards of the future knew.
"No thank you,"said Professor McGonagall coldly, as though she didn't think this was the moment for lemon drops.
There were a few chuckles around the room, but Harry was looking grim.
"As I say, even if You-Know-Who has gone –"
"My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like yourself can call him by his name? All this 'You-Know-Who' nonsense – for eleven years I have been trying to persuade people to call him by his proper name: Voldemort."
Professor McGonagall flinched,
"What's wrong with his name?" Salazar demanded. "Voldemort?"
Ron flinched, and Hermione's hand twitched. Only Harry seemed unaffected. "It's a long story, should be explained somewhere in here."
but Dumbledore, who was unsticking two lemon drops, seemed not to have noticed. "It all gets so confusing if we keep saying 'You-Know-Who.' I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Voldemort's name."
"I know you haven't,"said Professor McGonagall, sounding half exasperated, half admiring. "But you're different. Everyone knows you're the only one You-Know- oh all right, Voldemort, was frightened of."
The Founders all looked a bit proud at this.
"You flatter me,"said Dumbledore calmly, "Voldemort had powers I will never have."
"Only because you're too – well – noble to use them."
"What's wrong with Dark Magic?" Salazar suddenly demanded, and the time-travelers all gaped at him. "Wrong?" Ron repeated, looking shocked.
"Every Dark Wizard in our history has used Dark Magic – for hurting others!" Hermione added. Harry added, "it's true."
Salazar's eyes narrowed, "I use it, Rowena uses it, does that make us Dark Wizards?"
"Of course not!" Hermione said in a quick voice, "it's just what we're taught."
"Well I don't like what you're taught."
Hermione looked down, while Harry and Ron exchanged looks yet again.
"It's lucky it's dark. I haven't blushed so much since Madam Pomfrey told me she liked my new earmuffs."
Ron rose an eyebrow at this, and Harry sighed. "That is . . . not a very odd thing for him to say," he said, his expression completely serious.
Professor McGonagall shot a sharp look at Dumbledore and said, "The owls are nothing next to the rumors that are flying around. You know what everyone is saying? About why he's disappeared? About what finally stopped him?"
It seemed that Professor McGonagall had reached the point she was most anxious to discuss, the real reason she had been waiting on a cold, hard wall all day, for neither as a cat nor as a woman had she fixed Dumbledore with such a piercing stare as she did now. It was plain that whatever "everyone" was saying, she was not going to believe it until Dumbledore told her it was true. Dumbledore, however, was choosing another lemon drop and did not answer.
"What they're saying," she pressed on, "is that last night Voldemort turned up in Godric's Hollow."
"Yes, it was named after you. It's where I was born," said Harry quietly. Godric, not noticing his foul mood, grinned broadly. "And here I was thinking I wasn't the best wizard out of all of us."
Salazar however, was ignoring the jab from Godric and studying Harry carefully. He had picked up on the foul mood.
"He went to find the Potters."
Everyone sat stiffly on the end of their seats, waiting for what was to come.
"The rumor is that Lily and James Potter are – are – that they're dead."
Godric's smile slid off of his face and he looked up at Harry, who had went back to staring at the ground. "Were those your parents?"
Harry didn't trust himself to speak, so he just nodded mutely.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," Helga said, looking saddened.
Dumbledore bowed his head. Professor McGonagall gasped. "Lily and James . . . I can't believe it . . . I don't want to believe it . . . Oh, Albus . . ."
Dumbledore reached out and patted her on the shoulder. "I know . . . I know . . ." he said heavily.
Professor McGonagall's voice trembled as she went on. "That's not all."
The Founders (minus Rowena, who was reading) looked up at this, wondering what else could go wrong.
"They're saying that he tried to kill the Potter's son, Harry."
Harry felt his face turn red as every face in the room turned to stare at him – Salazar's eyes had gone back to boring holes into his, and Harry had the sudden thought that Salazar knew Legilimency.
"But – he couldn't. He couldn't kill that little boy. No one knows why, or how, but they're saying that when he couldn't kill Harry Potter, Voldemort's power somehow broke – and that's why he's gone."
Rowena cut off there, and looked up at Harry. She was about to ask him if it was true, but seeing the look on his face she decided to continue.
Dumbledore nodded glumly.
"It's – it's true?" faltered Professor McGonagall. "After all he's done . . . all the people he's killed . . . he couldn't kill a little boy? It's just astounding . . . of all the things to stop him . . . but how in the name of heaven did Harry survive?"
Apparently the same question was on everyone else's mind, because nobody made a sound. Even Hermione and Ron, who already knew the story, were on the edge of their seats.
"We can only guess," said Dumbledore. "We may never know."
Professor McGonagall pulled out a lace handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes beneath her spectacles. Dumbledore gave a great sniff as he took a golden watch from his pocket and examined it. It was a very odd watch. It had twelve hands but no numbers; instead, little planets were moving around the edge. It must have made sense to Dumbledore, though, because he put it back in his pocket and said, "Hagrid's late. I suppose it was he who told you I'd be here by the way?"
"Yes,"said Professor McGonagall, "And I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you're here, of all places?"
"I've come to bring Harry to his aunt and uncle. They're the only family he has left now."
"Absolutely not!" Salazar exclaimed heatedly, and Harry threw him a rather startled glance. He hadn't expected this reaction from Salazar of all people, but there was no mistaking the blaze in his eyes. "Wizards should not mix with muggles!"
At this Hermione looked away – something Godric was quick to pick up on. "Salazar," he said in a warning tone. Salazar looked on the verge of snapping back, but managed to quiet himself, which looked as though it took a lot of work.
"You don't mean – you can't mean the people who live here?" cried Professor McGonagall, jumping to her feet and pointing at number four. "Dumbledore, you can't! I've been watching them all day. You couldn't find two people who are less like us. And they've got this son – I saw him kicking his mother all the way up the street, screaming for sweets. Harry Potter…come and live….here?"
"Exactly! This witch talks sense!" Salazar had apparently gained his both his voice and his bad temper back. "He deserves to – sorry, you deserve to live with a Wizarding family!"
Harry threw a glance at the other Founders, but they looked as though this reaction from Salazar was to be expected.
"Salazar!" Godric repeated in that same tone, and after a moment of intense staring, Salazar fell quiet again.
"It's the best place for him,"said Dumbledore firmly, "His aunt and uncle will explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter."
Helga's eyes widened, "He thinks he can write all of this in a letter?"
"These muggles will never understand him," Rowena said, her dark eyes glinting. They seemed to have forgotten that 'him' was sitting right there. Harry didn't mind though – it was more like they were aiming this at the book and not at him.
"A letter?" repeated professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. "Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him!
"She thinks like McGonagall," Hermione whispered to Ron and Harry, who both smiled slightly.
He'll be famous – a legend – I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!"
"NO," Harry said suddenly, causing them all to jump. "If that had happened, I would have died." Rowena raised an eyebrow, "Isn't that going a bit far?"
Ron shook his head, "With Harry, nothing is ever going too far."
Harry glared at Ron, but didn't say anything back.
"Exactly,"said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over to top of his half-moon glasses. "It would be enough to turn any boy's head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won't even remember! Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all that until he's ready to take it?"
Professor McGonagall opened her mouth, changed her mind, swallowed, and then said, "Yes – Yes you're right, of course. But how is the boy getting here, Dumbledore?" She eyed his cloak suddenly as though she thought he might be hiding Harry underneath it.
"Hagrid's bringing him."
"You think it – wise – to trust Hagrid with something as important as this?"
Harry and Ron frowned, but Hermione seemed to agree with McGonagall.
"I would trust Hagrid with my life,"said Dumbledore.
At this all of the time-travelers beamed.
"I'm not saying his heart isn't in the right place," said Professor McGonagall grudgingly, "but you can't pretend he's not careless. He does tend to – what was that?"
A low rumbling sound had broken the silence around them. It grew steadily louder as they looked up and down the street for some sign of a headlight; it swelled to a roar as they both looked up at the sky – and a huge motorcycle fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them.
"What's a –"
Before Rowena could even finish her sentence Hermione was off, listing all of it's properties and even going as far as comparing it to a car.
"I didn't know we were coming here for a Muggles Studies lesson," Ron whispered to Harry, who nodded in agreement.
If the motorcycle was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big he be allowed, and so wild – long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of trash can lids, and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins. In his vast, muscular arms he was holding a bundle of blankets.
"Hagrid,"said Dumbledore, sounding relieved. "At last. And where did you get that motorcycle?"
"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir,"said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorcycle as he spoke. "Young Sirius Black lent it to me. I've got him, sir."
"Sirius," Harry said with a smile.
"Ah, a Black!" Salazar said approvingly. "They're the best Slytherins in my year."
The trio exchanged looks – what would he think if his precious Black air went into Gryffindor?
"No problems, were there?"
"No sir – house was almost destroyed, but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' aroun'.
Salazar scoffed. "It's none of their business anyway!"
He fell asleep as we was flyin' over Bristol."
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bent forward over the bundle of blankets. Inside, just visible, was a baby boy, fast asleep. Under a tuft of jet-black hair over his forehead, they could see a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lightning.
At this the Founders looked up at Harry, who for once decided that he needn't cover his scar with his bangs. "Can I look at it later?" Rowena asked him, though the question didn't offend Harry. It rather startled him, but he nodded all the same, "Yeah, sure if you'd like."
"Is that where -?" whispered Professor McGonagall.
"Yes,"said Dumbledore. "He'll have that scar forever."
"Couldn't you do something about it, Dumbledore?"
Harry perked up at this, but then realized that nothing would be able to get rid of a curse scar – something that Hermione had been quick to point out in his second year when everyone wouldn't stop staring at him.
"Even if I could, I wouldn't. Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground. Well – give him here Hagrid – we'd better get this over with."
Dumbledore took Harry in his arms and turned towards the Dursley's house.
"Could I – could I say good-bye to him sir?"asked Hagrid. He bent his great, shaggy head over Harry and gave him what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss. Then, suddenly, Hagrid let out a howl like a wounded dog.
"Shhhh!" hissed Professor McGonagall, "you'll wake the Muggles!"
"S-s-sorry,"sobbed Hagrid, taking out a large spotted handkerchief and burying his face in it. "But I c-c-can't stand it – Lily an' James dead – an' poor little Harry off ter live with Muggles –"
"Yes, yes, it's all very sad, but get a grip on yourself, Hagrid,
"Remind me not to go to her when I need comforting," Ron said and Harry snorted.
or we'll be found," Professor McGonagall whispered, patting Hagrid gingerly on the arm as Dumbledore stepped over the low garden wall and walked to the front door. He laid Harry gently on the doorstep, took a letter out of his cloak, tucked it inside Harry's blankets, and then came back to the other two. For a full minute the three of them stood and looked at the little bundle; Hagrid's shoulders shook, Professor McGonagall blinked furiously, and the twinkling light that usually shone from Dumbledore's eyes seemed to have gone out.
"That's it?" Salazar sounded outraged. "He just left him there!"
Harry looked grudgingly up at Salazar. "I don't think they would have taken me any other way."
Godric frowned, but didn't comment as Rowena continued reading.
"Well,"said Dumbledore finally, "That's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and join the celebrations."
Harry's eyes hardened at Dumbledore's words. Ron and Hermione threw him worried glances, which he ignored.
"Yeah,"said Hagrid in a very muffled voice, "I'll be takin' Sirius his bike back. G'night, Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore sir."Wiping his streaming eyes on his jacket sleeve, Hagrid swung himself onto the motorcycle and kicked the engine into life; with a roar it rose into the air and off into the night.
"I shall see you soon, I expect, Professor McGonagall,"said Dumbledore, nodding to her. Professor McGonagall blew her nose in reply.
Dumbledore turned and walked back down the street. On the corner he stopped and took out the silver Put-Outer. He clicked it once, and twelve balls of light sped back to their street lamps so that Private Drive glowed suddenly orange and he could make out a tabby cat slinking around the corner at the other end of the street. He could just see the bundle of blankets on the step of number four.
"Good luck Harry,"he murmured. He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak, he was gone.
A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Private Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours' time by Mrs. Dursley's scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley. . . . He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: "To Harry Potter – the boy who lived."
As Rowena finished, the Founders took in everything they had read in that chapter. Even Ron and Hermione had seemed slightly interested in it. A sinking feeling rose in Harry's chest as he realized that since they'd brought the Dursleys in, they'd most likely bring in Harry's childhood. How would they respond to the fact that Harry had been locked in a cupboard most of his life? Especially since he never told him half of what went on in that dreadful house.
"I want to read," said Godric suddenly, and Salazar couldn't stop a smirk from coming on to his face. "I think the world might be ending. Godric Gryffindor, wanting to read?"
Godric glared at him and snatched the book from Rowena.
"The Vanishing Glass"