Harry looked around the alley that he, Ron, and Hermione found themselves in with Professor Dumbledore. It was grimy, the bricks were sweating, and the ground was thick with debris - splotched with the cast-offs of the sick. Harry wrinkled his nose. The smell was ghastly. Looking around, Harry spotted a hunched form hidden by shadows and the overflowing garbage cans. He stiffened as his eyes penetrated the darkness to reveal that the creature was looking at them. His keen ears picked out some muttering and the word hallucinations before the thing seemed to fall backward as if it had passed out. Harry grabbed hold of Hermione's hand and quickly led her out of the alley and onto a street, Ron and Professor Dumbledore close on their heels. There was a crowded group hanging out just down the road in front of a door. Someone must have said something funny because they were suddenly laughing loudly. A shout from an apartment somewhere above them began a yelling match of crude insults and vulgar comments. A biker passed them by on the road and a car horn ripped through the air somewhere in the direction he had gone. The street wasn't quiet. No peaceful neighborhood for the grandson of Voldemort, apparently.
"This is where he lives?" Ron asked as he stared at the group down the road.
"Yes, Mr. Weasley," Professor Dumbledore said consulting a piece of paper. "It's this way."
Hermione gripped Harry's arm as they followed Professor Dumbledore down the street towards the rowdy group. There were a few catcalls and Ron glared at them while Harry put his arm around Hermione and she ducked into his shoulder as if she could hide there. "Gross," she muttered. Professor Dumbledore seemed undisturbed by this and simply continued down the street without even seeming to notice the group as they passed. They were about a block away from the loud group when Professor Dumbledore stopped to consult his paper again. He looked over to the building across the street and back at the paper, nodded, and then refolded it and put it back into a pocket in his robes.
"That's the building there," he said beginning to cross the street. A large white passenger van sped around the corner forcing them to pause on their side of the street until it passed. The van, however, came to stop across from them and Harry was able to read the wording on the side - Olympian Strawberries, and it was followed with a number underneath.
The van door slammed open and laughter filled the air from inside. "Bye Percy!" someone shouted. "Love you, Seaweed Brain," a girls voice said and it was followed by an echo of awes or gagging. The van door slammed shut again, cutting off the noise and it sped away revealing a boy standing at the curb with black hair and a bag at his feet. He stared after it until it disappeared around the corner and then with a heavy sigh that Harry could hear from across the street he picked up the bag and jogged up the stoop into the apartment building.
"Isn't the boy were looking for named Percy?" Hermione asked looking at Professor Dumbledore.
"As a matter of fact," he nodded. "I believe that was him, Miss. Granger. Come along."
The trio followed Professor Dumbledore into the building and up to the second floor. The building was clean and Harry didn't feel as though he could open any apartment and find a drug addict. It was a typical middle class apartment building.
"Mom," someone grumbled from down the hall. "You can let go now."
Harry saw that there was a door open at the far end and assumed that it was the boy they had just seen out in the street.
"You've been gone for a year Perseus Jackson," a woman snapped. "forgive me for wanting to hold onto my son."
"I promise I'm fine, you can let go," Percy snickered.
"Shouldn't have said that," a man mumbled.
"Fine? FINE?" The woman cried. "You may be fine, Perseus Jackson, but I assure you that I am not! You disappear for a year and I get one phone call, ONE! You could have IM'd me, but did you? Oh no, too busy to think about what your poor mother was going through while you were off the gods only know where."
"All right, I'm sorry, I really am," Percy apologized. "I should have been more concerned with what you were going through and I was insensitive. I'm sorry."
The woman sighed, "Just as long as your okay. I want to hear all about it."
"Can I change first?" Percy laughed.
"Go put your things away," she said softly.
There was a soft click as the door shut and then silence in the hallways. Harry, Ron and Hermione shared a look of uncertainty. Professor Dumbledore, hesitated for a moment and then headed down the hall. Percy answered the door when they knocked in sweats and a t-shirt. He leaned against the door, balancing on one foot. As Harry had noted earlier he had black hair that was not so unlike his own, he had tan skin that was stretched over lithe muscles, and his eyes reminded Harry of the pictures he had seen of the tropical oceans- pure and bright sea-green.
"Can I help you?" he asked in a bored tone.
"We are looking for a Mr. Perseus Jackson," Professor Dumbledore announced.
The effect those few words had were immediate and completely unexpected. Percy straightened up his balance shifting to the balls of his feet his hand slipping into his pocket.
"Percy? Who's at the door?" the woman's voice called out from down the hall.
"Girl scouts," He shouted over his shoulder and then he stepped out into the hall forcing Professor Dumbledore to take a step back and slamming the door behind him. It was odd, Harry thought, how such a spacious hallway seemed to shrink with his sudden appearance in it.
"Who are you?" Percy growled.
Professor Dumbledore didn't seem disturbed by the boys behavior at all, but Harry, Ron and Hermione all exchanged a look. "I am Professor Albus Dumbledore and this is Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger. I was hoping to talk to you and your mother, is she here?"
"Why?" Percy demanded leaning back against the door and ignoring Dumbledore's question.
"Well, really I need to speak with your mother first," Professor Dumbledore said kindly, smiling at Percy who was slightly taller than the older man.
"Why?" Percy asked again.
Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "I need to speak with your mother first," He repeated.
Percy studied him for a moment and then nodded. "What are you a Professor of?"
Professor Dumbledore smiled at him and again shook his head. "Once again, I need to speak with your mother first."
"All right," Percy nodded and then opened the door and backing into the apartment. "Come on in," he said with a glare.
"Thank you," Professor Dumbledore nodded and the whisked into the apartment unconcerned, Harry, Ron and Hermione following a bit more hesitantly.
Percy led the way into the apartment kitchen where they found a middle-aged woman and a man kissing over a bowl of ice cream.
Percy leaned up against the frame of the threshold and coughed into his hands. "Come back to Earth love birds before you suffocate from lack of air," Percy smirked. The couple jumped apart in their seats. The woman blushed as she looked toward the group and the man leaned back in his seat with a look of male satisfaction on his face as he scooped up the bowl of ice cream on the table.
"Percy, who are these people?" The woman asked. "They aren't more cousins are they?"
"No," Percy started, standing up straight. "I, uh, I don't know any of these people."
"Mrs. Jackson," Dumbledore began.
"Blofis," the woman interrupted. "It's Sally Blofis now."
"My apologies Mrs. Blofis," Dumbledore acknowledged, bowing his head. He reached into the inside of his robes and pulled out a thick piece of parchment. "This is for you."
Mrs. Blofis took the envelope uncertainly and stared at it for a moment in confusion. Harry had some idea what she was thinking. As a muggle, it seemed odd to receive anything on parchment. She opened it slowly with a questioning glance to her husband and then began to read. Her face paled with the passing of each line, which she read twice. Harry didn't miss the dark look that Percy was sending Professor Dumbledore's way. Mrs. Blofis handed the letter to her husband who had been trying to read it over her shoulder. He gripped her hand tightly and nodded.
"He can handle it Sally," the man said as he studied his wife.
"Your right," she breathed. Mrs. Blofis turned back to Professor Dumbledore. "I agree that he should know. If you guys could give us some privacy?"
"We will be in the next room should you need us," Professor Dumbledore agreed and then turned around and led Harry, Ron and Hermione into what looked like the living room. They heard a lot of mumbling coming from the next room, some of which sounded angry, but they could never make out any of the words. It was almost an hour before Percy came into the living room to get them. He through himself into an arm chair and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Percy, be nice," Mrs. Blofis said as she passed through the room followed by her husband.
"I'm always nice," Percy glowered.
"Yes, so that's what your father meant when he said your mouth was going to get you killed one day, it's because it has a propensity to emit so much kindness," Mrs. Blofis shouted from down the hall. Her statement was followed by the click of a door shutting, putting an end to the conversation.
"Anyone want something to drink or eat?" Percy asked.
"Thank you, but we had dinner before we came, something to drink however would not be unwelcome," Professor Dumbledore explained.
"Water or something else?" Percy asked as he stood up.
"Water will be fine," Dumbledore agreed. "Thank you."
Percy nodded and left the room again. He came back a few moments later followed by his step father each carrying glasses of water in their hands. "I'm going to go check on your mother. Holler if you need me," Mr. Blofis said as he disappeared in the direction his wife had. His exit was met with an uncomfortable silence.
"That letter said I have a grandfather," Percy began.
"That's right, he goes by the name of Voldemort, his real name, however, is Tom Riddle," Dumbledore expounded.
"It also said he was dangerous," Percy stated, seeking confirmation of the letters contents.
"Yes," Dumbledore nodded.
"And you want my mother to go into hiding and me to attend some school…"
"Hogwarts," Hermione politely informed him.
Percy crinkled his nose and, with a choking sound, repeated the word. "Hogwarts. Why?"
"Voldemort's only interest, Percy, has been self-preservation and power," Dumbledore said in a mournful tone. "He will do anything to avoid death."
"People really need to stop doing that," Percy grumbled.
"if there was a way to gain immortality, would you not take it?" Dumbledore asked.
"No." Percy was glaring at Dumbledore leaving no doubt in the truth of his response. Percy would welcome death before he would welcome immortality.
"And why not?" Dumbledore asked in a surprised tone clearly not having expected this response.
"I have my reasons," Percy replied evasively. "I'm still waiting to hear why my grandfather is looking for me."
"Awe, yes, well, we aren't entirely certain of that," Dumbledore confessed. "Voldemort has been keeping information regarding you and his intentions very close to his chest. My spies have been unable to learn anything."
Percy's eyes narrowed on the older man in suspicion. "you have ideas though," he guessed.
Dumbledore hesitated in acknowledging the fact, but in the end he nodded. "Yes, I do. Voldemort has become, I think, very interested in Blood Magic. How he intends to use this I do not know."
"So my grandfather, for reason's unknown, is after me and you believe it's for less than familial interests. You think I will be safest at this place called Hogwarts, while my mom and Paul hide in some safe house. Is that it?" Percy summed up.
"That's the simple version," Dumbledore agreed.
"it's the only version," Percy said rolling his eyes. "When are we leaving?"
"As soon as possible," Dumbledore said.
"Tomorrow in the morning?" Percy suggested, though it was less of a suggestion and more of an order.
"That will be fine, yes," Dumbledore agreed sensing as Harry did that Percy would not be swayed on the matter. "If you do not mind us making ourselves comfortable in your living room?"
Percy shrugged, "I'll get blankets."
"Just for these three I think," Dumbledore said before Percy could leave the room. "Since we aren't leaving till tomorrow, I have other business I would like to take care of while we are here. I'll return in the morning," Dumbledore said as he strode out of the room giving Percy no time to argue the matter.
Percy stared after the professor for a moment and then turned back to the trio. He looked as if he were going to say something, but he shook his head and disappeared down the hall reappearing a moment later with a stack of folded blankets. "Bathroom is the second door on the left if you need anything," Percy said. "Mine's the first. Is there anything you guys need?"
The trio exchanged a look. "I think we'll be alright," Harry announced for the group.
"Your taking this all rather well," Hermione noted.
"Well most people have panic attacks when they find out unless you were raised in a wizarding family," Hermione explained.
Percy snorted out what could only be interpreted as a cynical laugh. "If you'll excuse me, I have some phone calls to make. See you guys in the morning."
They waited until he had left before moving to sort out their sleeping arrangements. "It's a bit odd don't you think? He's taking this so well."
"I didn't freak out when Hagrid told me," Harry pointed out.
"Yes, but you still doubted it at first," Hermione pointed out. "He didn't even question it, and neither did his mother. He was just told that he's a wizard and the grandson of the darkest wizard of the century and he just sat there and shrugged."
Harry had to admit that when Hermione put it like that, she had a point. "But we didn't see him when he was in the kitchen talking with his mom. He could have argued it then."
"I still think he's a death eater," Ron grumbled as he laid out his blanket and kicked off his shoes. "Voldemorts probably already gotten to him."
Hermione looked at him apprehensively. "I don't know, he didn't really seem like the other death eaters we know and his step-father is a muggle and his mother is a squib."
Harry laid out his blanket and climbed into it. "I say we wait till tomorrow to try and figure it out. Maybe we will get more clues."
"Your right Harry," Hermione sighed as she crawled beneath her own blanket. "Good night Ron, night Harry."
"Good night," the boys chorused. Silence reigned in the little New York apartment as one by one it's occupants fell to sleep some fitful, some blissfully peaceful.