Minerva McGonagall paced anxiously back and forth across her cosy office, stopping every so often to peer out of the window. Night had fallen, and a fierce storm was raging above Hogwarts Castle of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Had she been in one of her rare moments of good humour, Minerva may have permitted herself an acerbic comment on the appropriateness of the weather, but her face was drawn and tense, with no trace of humour about it.
As the room was lit up briefly by a dazzling bolt of lightning, she stopped in her tracks, sensing a familiar presence entering the room. “Albus,” she stated calmly.
“Minvera,” came the equally placid reply.
Forcing herself to turn slowly in order to maintain the controlled façade she prided herself upon, her eyes settled on the tall, thin wizard at her door. Albus Dumbledore’s normally twinkling eyes were usually cloudy tonight, and from long familiarity she easily detected the tell-tale traces of disquiet in his lined face.
“Is he – here?” Minerva asked, a faint quiver in the last word betraying her true feelings. Nodding silently, Dumbledore sank down into a heavily upholstered chair, staring intently into the flickering flames of the fire. Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Minerva crossed to the facing chair and sat down, eyes fixed on the Headmaster.
After a long moment, Dumbledore sighed, speaking absently as he remained lost in thought. “I fear, Minerva, we may have been wiser leaving him with his relatives all those years ago.”
She snorted. “You can’t be serious Albus – I told you they were the worst kind of Muggle.”
Dumbledore nodded, but remained silent. Feeling her temper rise, McGonagall added heatedly. “If we had left him with them,” she spat out the last word, “who knows what would have happened to him? For all we know, he might have spent the last eleven years locked in a cupboard!”
Albus glanced up at his colleague’s impassioned face. “You’re quite right, Minvera – that is, after all, why we chose not to do so. But still…” He trailed off into silence, eyes fixed back on the fire.
McGonagall leaned forward, casting aside her normal reserve. “Has he been - mistreated?” Her voice remained calm, but her fists clenched tightly at her sides, her muscles stiff and tense.
Dumbledore shook his head. “No, the Unspeakables-” he broke off to cast a wary look around him, even though there was virtually no chance of anyone being able to suprise the powerful wizard.
“The Unspeakables have, in many ways, done an admirable job. He is, as Professor Sprout might say, a fine specimen – fit, strong and perfectly healthy.”
Minerva watched narrowly, not speaking. She knew by now that it was often what Albus didn’t say that mattered the most. The elderly wizard sighed again, nudging a half-burnt log deeper into the fire with his foot.
“It appears though, that the Unspeakables have taken the instructions I gave them rather too literally. I wanted them to keep him safe, make him strong, teach him how to defend himself. What they have done is – well, perhaps you had better see for yourself.”
Dumbledore rose heavily from his chair and walked slowly toward the door, McGonagall following obediently in his wake. Outwardly composed, her mind was whirling. What had they done to him?
Like Albus, she had grave misgivings about entrusting the care of the most important wizard alive to the shadowy embrace of the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries. After all, what did anyone really know about them? Ironically, this had been the deciding factor. The child needed to be raised away from the public eye, kept safe and prepared for his destiny. After watching his relatives for a while, it became apparent that they would simply not suffice, and Dumbledore had reluctantly suggested this compromise.
For eleven years, they had heard nothing, save from the brief yearly reports sent from an undisclosed location. If the reports were to be believed, the boy had achieved a remarkable level of magical skill for one so young. If it were not for those skills, in fact, they would not have requested him for the task at hand.
Shaking the dark thoughts aside, McGonagall hurried after the tall wizard, climbing the stairs to his lonely office. Dumbledore paused at the door, turning to Minerva.
“Perhaps it might be better for me to pre-warn him of your visit. I’ve learnt that he doesn’t respond well to – surprises.” Dumbledore winced slightly, rubbing a large bruise on his right hand.
McGonagall’s eyes widened. He did that? There were only a handful of wizards alive who could have got anywhere near Albus Dumbledore, let alone manage to inflict an injury. “You make the boy sound like some kind of – dangerous animal, Albus,” she retorted, trying to inject a note of reality to an increasingly bizarre conversation.
Dumbledore stared back unblinkingly, bright blue eyes fixed on her sceptical face. “Yes, I do, don’t I?” Knocking firmly on the door, he slipped inside, pulling the door closed behind him.
Minerva stood rooted to the spot, filled with apprehension. What on earth had this boy become, to make Albus Dumbledore knock on the door of his own office? She could hear the low exchange of voices on the other side of the door, and flinched as the door was suddenly opened.
Dumbledore gestured her in, opening the door wider. Tentatively, she entered the room, eyes fixed on the dark-haired figure stood in the centre of the office. Closing the door firmly, Dumbledore turned, eyes once again twinkling with some suppressed emotion.
“Minvera, I would like to introduce you to our newest student – Harry Potter.”
The young wizard stood facing the two Professors, eyes fixed on them. Minerva let out an involuntary gasp as she took in his features. Of course, she could have guessed, having taught both his parents, but still-
“Harry, you look just like your father.” She turned excitedly towards Dumbledore, all propriety cast aside. “Doesn’t he Albus? Except his eyes – he has-”
“His mother’s eyes – yes Minerva,” Dumbledore concurred quietly. McGonagall turned back to Harry, who stared back blankly.
“Harry – are you okay? Harry?”
The young man showed no hint of recognition at his name, and McGonagall turned in confusion back to Dumbledore. “Albus?” To her disbelief, Dumbledore looked – embarrassed. He flushed, clearing his throat and leafing frantically through a neat package of documents.
“Ah, yes, Minerva. It appears that the Unspeakables chose, for security reasons, to address Harry by a code name.”
McGonagall’s mouth dropped open as she silently repeated Dumbledore’s words. Dumbledore paled slightly as her face flushed with anger.
“Do you mean to tell me that this child does not even know his real name?” Her voice was thin and laced with barely suppressed fury. Dumbledore took a step backward, wary of her sudden rage. Holding out a placating hand, he spoke soothingly. “Now, Minvera, from their point of view it does make a kind of-”
His voice trailed off as McGonagall shot him a withering look. Clearing his throat again, he cast his eyes down to the paperwork. “Harry has been trained to respond to the code name, umm-” He flicked through a couple of pages, then looked directly at the young man still stood to attention in the office.
Harry’s eyes shifted towards Dumbledore’s, and he spoke for the first time. “Sir?” His voice was low, but carried clearly, his tone clipped and precise.
Dumbledore took Minerva by the arm, and gently led her towards Harry. “I wish you to meet your Transfiguration Professor while you are here – Professor McGonagall.”
Standing, if possible, even more rigidly to attention, Harry stiffly extended a hand. “Pleased to meet you, Professor.” His tone was polite and deferential, but there was an underlying hardness which made Minerva shudder slightly. Suddenly, she could fully understand the need not to take this disciplined young man by surprise.
“The pleasure is all mine, Ph – Harry,” she replied, taking his hand in hers and enjoying the look of exasperation on Dumbledore’s face at her deliberate use of Harry’s given name.
A brief look of something similar to curiosity passed fleetingly across Harry’s face. He shook her hand firmly, then released it, arm swinging naturally back into precise alignment with his side, fingers outstretched.
“Is that to be my cover name, Professor Dumbledore?” he enquired quietly. Minerva shook her head in disbelief, taking a quick step toward him, arms reaching out to grasp his shoulders. Eyes narrowing, Harry took three quick steps backwards, crouching slightly as he moved instantly to a pose of readiness.
McGonagall froze as Dumbledore made a warning noise in his throat. Lowering her hands, she spoke softly, not wanting to alarm him further. “It is not your cover name, Harry – it is your name. Harry James Potter, son of James and Lilly Potter. Surely you knew that?”
Harry’s face flickered in momentary confusion, then smoothed out almost instantly. If the two Professors had not been watching him so closely, it would have been easy to miss the momentary lapse of concentration.
“Biographical details are not relevant to my training or my mission, Professor.” Harry’s voice was remote and unconcerned.
Dumbledore stepped forward, frowning, as he placed a restraining hand on Minerva’s shoulder. “And what is your mission, Ha – Phoenix?”
Harry snapped to attention again, the words spilling out in a well-practised monotone. “My mission is to develop the skills and abilities necessary to defeat Dark Wizards in preparation for the return of the wizard known as Voldemort, Sir!”
Albus glanced at Minerva incredulously, mouth open. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, she could almost have enjoyed seeing him so discomforted. Clearing her throat, she took up the questioning. “And why is this your mission – specifically?”
“The Prophecy states that only I can defeat Voldemort, or die in the attempt, Ma’am!”
This time Minerva was quite sure that her mouth hung even lower than Dumbledore’s. They stared at each other in shock. Never had it occurred to them that the Unspeakables would see fit to share the full contents of the Prophecy with him at such a young age. A hot, murderous anger was churning in Minerva’s stomach as she considered the life – no, the existence, that Harry had had instead of a normal childhood. We made a terrible mistake Albus, she thought. Forgive us James. Forgive me Lilly.
“Sir, may I pose a question?” Harry’s calm voice interrupted their bitter musings. Dumbledore started, then walked unsteadily to his desk, settling himself in his seat. Clasping his trembling hands in front of him, he nodded mutely at Harry.
“May I have the details of my current assignment, Professor?”
Looking shakily at McGonagall, Dumbledore fixed her with a glance that clearly said later, then nodded again. “Professor McGonagall?”
Minerva sat down in one of the two chairs facing Dumbledore’s desk, taking a moment to compose herself. Harry swivelled round to face them both, still stiffly at attention.
“Er, Phoenix,” she deliberately stressed the name, “won’t you please sit down?”
“No thank you, Ma’am,” replied Harry politely.
Minerva let out an exasperated sigh. “Well, err – at ease?” she offered, drawing upon her knowledge of Muggle military terms. Harry nodded his head slightly and stood with his legs further apart, hands clasped behind his back. Rubbing her head to dispel the beginnings of a dull ache, Minerva paused for a moment, taking a good look at Harry for the first time.
Albus had been correct, she mused – Harry was in excellent physical condition. She remembered that James Potter had been rather small for his age when he had started Hogwarts, but, whatever else they had failed in, the Unspeakables had clearly fed him well. Harry was well-formed and muscular, tall for a twelve year-old boy. His face was lean and angular, testament to many hours of intense physical training, and his hair was close-cropped to his skull. There were other differences too – James had always worn glasses, but Harry had clearly inherited his mother’s eye sight as well as colour. Either that, or the Unspeakables had performed some sight-correction magic at an early age. Poor eyesight is probably considered a tactical disadvantage, she thought bitterly. Without glasses to obscure them, his large green eyes blazed out at the world with a fierce intensity, and Minerva found the effect mesmerizing.
She had no doubt that, coupled with his height, build and dark good looks, his eyes would wreak an equally mesmerizing effect on much younger witches than herself. Not that such superfluous social fraternizations featured heavily on the Unspeakables’ training regime.
Despite his near-adult height and air of quiet self-sufficiency, Minerva detected an air of vulnerability which made her heart ache. This boy may have been raised to be a weapon in the fight against Dark magic, but he was still a boy, and in need of a mother’s love.
Rousing herself from her worryingly maternal thoughts, Minerva concentrated on – what did he call it – the assignment.
“Well – Phoenix,” she stated briskly, “the situation is this. As you may have been briefed, there have been some troubling events at Hogwarts this year, all connected with the Chamber of Secrets, reputed to have been reopened by the Heir of Slytherin…”
While she outlined the disturbing signs and Petrifications that had occurred over the Autumn term, Harry’s eyes remained fixed and unblinking on hers as he impassively took in every word.
When she had finished, Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Thank you for the background, Professor. And to my mission?”
McGonagall glanced at Dumbledore, raising an eyebrow incredulously. That was all the reaction it merited? The old wizard shrugged his shoulders, eyes twinkling with merriment for the first time. Muttering under her breath, she turned back to the young man still stood silently in front of her.
“Yes, well, the staff are doing their best to protect the students, but what we need is someone to work from within the student body to find and stop whoever is responsible from carrying out any more attacks. That will be your job.”
She pulled out a sheaf of documents from inside her robes and handed them over to Harry. “Your cover identity. As your real identity is somewhat well known in the magical world – apologies for the irrelevant biographical details – you will take on the identity of an exchange student from The Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning by the name of Viktor Krum.”
She paused, fixing the young wizard with a challenging look. “You are, I take it, familiar with the Bulgarian language?”
The barest flicker of amusement crossed Harry’s composed features. “Iskate li da tancuvame?”
Minerva scowled uncomprehendingly, whilst from behind his desk Dumbledore snorted in amusement, before interjecting for the first time.
“Yes, well Phoenix, I believe that there has been enough dancing around for now – perhaps you wish to review the material and rest following your journey.”
Harry turned to Dumblefore and nodded his head slightly. “As you wish, Professor.” Dumbledore smiled broadly, then clicked his fingers and a house-elf appeared.
“Ah, Tinky, isn’t it? Please will you show our new exchange student, Mr Krum, to his guest quarters? He will be staying in the Second Year dormitory in Griffindor Tower.”
Harry turned and nodded to McGonagall. “Professor.” Following the house-elf, he strode out of the office without a backwards glance.
Minerva let out an explosive sigh. “Well, Albus, what are we going to do about that young man?”
Dumbledore gazed back benignly. “Do, Minerva? I don’t intend to do anything?”
“You’re surely not going to let him go through his life like that, are you?” Minerva snapped incredulously.
Dumbledore chuckled, but the mirth didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Minerva, we have done that man a great wrong these past eleven years. The best course of treatment for him, in my opinion, is a good dose of normal Hogwarts life.”
Minerva narrowed her eyes at the Headmaster and made an inarticulate noise in her throat. “I hope so Albus,” she sighed, turning to look at the empty office door. “Something tells me that Harry’s life is going to be far from normal.”
A/N Iskate li da tancuvame = would you like to dance?
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