Chapter One: Rescued by a Lioness
In the perfectly normal muggle town of Little Whinging, Surrey, a heated argument was taking place on Privet Drive in the dead of night. The street lights had been snuffed out and two very strangely dressed adults stood before house number four. The woman was practically spitting nails, hands waving in every direction as she tried to make a point. The elderly man she directed her raving towards watched her serenely, as if he had expected the outburst.
"You don't mean - you can't mean the people who live here!" the woman cried, jumping to her feet and pointing at number four. "Albus - 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!"
"It's the best place for him," said the man she had called Albus firmly, "His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter."
"A letter?" she hissed angrily, proving yet again that Minerva McGonagall was a woman to be reckoned with. "Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter?" Albus winced at the tone she used calling him by his last name. "These people will never understand him!" she continued vehemently, "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!"
"Exactly," said Albus, looking very seriously over the 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 is ready to take it?"
Eyes burning furiously she looked away, trying to calm her buzzing nerves before she said something she knew she would eventually regret. Finally, she quietly replied, "Yes - yes, you're right of course." They stood in silence, waiting for the child to seemingly fall from the sky. A loud roar filled the air, heralding the arrival of baby Harry Potter. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts gingerly hopped off a stylish motorcycle and greeted the two teachers, gently handing Dumbledore a small figure swathed in a soft blue blanket.
Minerva leaned towards the baby, stretching out a hand to smooth the soft black locks off of his forehead. "Is that where - ?" she whispered, tracing the cruel lightening shaped scar with a gentle finger.
"Yes, he'll have that scar forever," replied Dumbledore. He walked away, forcing the child's head to abandon Minerva's hand in mid-air. Stooping to place the child on the doorstep, he heard Minerva come up beside him. Straightening, he tore his gaze away from the small bundle on the doorstep, looked into his deputy headmistress' face, and was startled at what he found. Gaze fixed on the baby in front of her, her eyes were brimming with tears, her lips pressed into a thin line, but twitching all the same. Her hands trembled at her side. Knowing she would not thank him for noticing her distress, he turned and spoke to Hagrid.
Minerva fought valiantly to keep her heartbroken sobs silent, but a few unauthorized tears made their way down her cheeks.
"Well," she heard Dumbledore say, "that's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and join the celebrations."
She barely recognized the sounds of Hagrid leaving, waging a serious battle in her own head. Try as she might, she could not shake the feeling that this was a very bad idea. So caught up in her thoughts, she jumped when Dumbledore addressed her.
"I shall see you soon, I expect, Professor McGonagall," he said. Not turning, she nodded weakly, forcefully scrubbing the unbidden tears off her cheeks.
The man reached out as if to touch her shoulder, but changed his mind, turning and walking away from the scene. He pulled a shiny object out of his robes and clicked it once, returning the lights back to their respective lamps.
As soon as the street was light again, Minerva transformed into her animagus form, a tabby cat, and ran off around the corner. Albus watched her go, his heart heavy in his chest, as he silently pleaded for any deity to assure him that he was doing the right thing. Then, because he could not stand the situation any longer, he turned on heel and disappeared with a faint pop.
The tabby waited until she was sure the man was gone before she crept back to the sleeping baby. Sitting down next to it, she took in the tuft of black hair that was so like his father's and the offending scar on his forehead. The boy stirred, and she lowered her head to rub against his. Settling back with a quiet giggle, the boy drifted back into a deep slumber. Grinning to herself, Minerva lipped his nose gently and settled herself down next to him.
Minerva realized she must have dozed off, because the next sound she heard was a high-pitched wail from within the house. Opening one eye sleepily, she noticed that it was a little after dawn and that the neighborhood was beginning to awake. Getting up slowly, she stretched and turned her head slightly to regard the baby beside her. His eyes were wide open and staring fearfully around at his surroundings, but as soon as he caught sight of the tabby, he giggled and reached toward her. Minerva obliged and gave the boy her paw to entertain himself with as she sat down beside him once more.
'I'll just wait and see what happens,' she thought to herself, as she wrestled her paw away from the youngster and gently batted him on the nose. He giggled yet again and reached for her as she smiled and thought, 'I'll give it one day. I'm probably worried over nothing.'
The clink of milk bottles reached her through the closed door and she nuzzled Harry a quick good-bye. Minerva dived into the bushes to the side of the steps just as the door opened. A tall, gangly woman appeared. She stooped to put the bottles on the doorstep and froze, staring wide eyed at the green-eyed baby staring back at her. Slowly lowering the bottles onto the step, she reached for the letter beside the bundle.
'This cannot be Lily's sister,' Minerva thought savagely, 'She's far too horse-like. And why, pray tell, did she not pick up the baby first?'
For what seemed like ages, the woman stood there, her face paling by the second as she read the letter from Albus Dumbledore line by line. As she neared the end of the letter, a large, very fat baby crawled, or slid on his stomach, over to her. Seeing the strange new baby on his front doorstep, he reached a rough hand out to touch it. Noticing her son out of the corner of her eye, the woman reached down and swooped him up into her arms with a hateful glare at the baby on the ground.
"Duddy, dearest," she said in her annoyingly nasal voice, "you mustn't touch that thing." Minerva bristled and growled quietly. "You don't know where it's been." She reached down and grabbed a fistful of the blanket the child was in, holding the whole bundle out in front of her like it was a disease. Minerva scrambled up the steps as the woman kicked the door shut and poked a paw through the mail slot to see where the wench went. She peered into the muggle dwelling quietly and saw the woman disappear into a room at the back of the house.
Leaping off the steps, Minerva darted around the house to the back. She jumped up onto the windowsill, not caring if she was seen, and glared into the kitchen where the woman plopped the baby onto the table in front of the blob of a man who was her husband.
"Vernon," she began quietly as she gently placed her own son in his high chair, "This baby was on our front porch this morning."
Her husband looked up sharply, taking in the child with a shrew glance. "Why?" he asked bluntly, regarding the baby boy as if he was a piece of garbage that had found its way onto his kitchen table.
"It's Lily's baby," the woman replied neutrally, and continued nonchalantly, "She's dead and they want us to take care of it."
"WHAT?" Vernon thundered. "I am not having some freeloading infant dropped on our laps! I won't stand for this, Petunia! You write back to them and tell them they can bloody well take care of the thing themselves."
"Me?" she shrieked, "Why me? It's not my fault I was cursed with a freak for a sister. Besides," she continued maliciously, "They won't listen to reason, they have their own freakish way of doing things and I'll bet this child is going to grow up to be one of them."
As they went off, back and forth, ranting and raving about freaks and what should be done with them, Minerva watched from the window, her heart breaking for the little boy who was unceremoniously plopped onto the table by his last remaining blood relative. Her last reserves of patience were wearing thin when Petunia finallly ended the verbal bashing of the wizardring world with a prudent statement.
"Well, we'll have to keep it for today, we're having company over and there's no time to deal with this now."
"Quite right, quite right," Vernon replied, his moustache twitching fearfully as he thought of what his boss would say about all of this. "What should we do with it, then?"
Petunia thought for a moment before replying, "The cupboard under the stairs should do fine. I mean, we can't have it staying in Dudley's room, and the spare bedroom is for the rest of his toys and clothes."
"Yes," Vernon agreed. "And the guest bedroom is for guests not freeloaders," he stated, glaring, yet again, at the helpless baby on his table. "And he's certainly not staying in our room. Yes, the cupboard would be fine," he finished.
Over the course of this exchange, the tabby's mouth had dropped open and was now hanging weakly in a very un-cat-like manner. Minerva was convinced she must have misheard, for the glass windowpanes could distort the words coming through, but she was proved wrong as Petunia grabbed the blanket again and strode over to the cupboard under the stairs. Opening the thin door, she roughly placed the child inside and quickly shut the door again.
Fighting back a vengeful scream of rage, Minerva tried to force herself to sit quietly on the window and wait for the group to leave the kitchen. 'Forget waiting a day,' she fumed, 'that boy is not staying here a minute longer.' She pushed off the window ledge and ran around to the far side of the house. Finding a large rock about the size of a human fist, she transformed and flung it through the window of their living room, where there was a solid wall hiding the cupboard door from view.
Not waiting to see if they had reacted, she transformed back and darted around to the back door. Transforming again, she whispered an unlocking charm and hurried inside to the cupboard, ignoring the bellows of rage coming from the living room. She opened the door and stooped to enter. Baby Harry was curled up in a tiny ball beneath the lower stairs, his vivid green eyes clearly showing he was scared out of his mind. Cobwebs were now stuck in his hair as he had pushed himself into the tiniest corner he could find. His breath came in slow hiccups and his quiet sobs slowed as he regarded the woman staring down at him
Cursing the muggles under her breath, Minerva went down on her hands and knees and reached for the boy. He cringed as her hand drew closer and she stopped. Transforming into the tabby he had seen that morning, she trotted up to him. A small smile formed from beneath his dirty face and his tear-filled eyes lit up as she lipped him on the nose. She slowly sank her teeth into the sleeve of his now dust-covered shirt and tugged him out of the corner.
As soon as she was clear of the lower stairs, she transformed back and cracked her head on the ceiling. Biting back a shrill curse, she glanced down at the giggling baby at her feet. Grinning wryly to herself, she bent down and gathered up Harry and the blanket he had kicked out of. She stepped out of the closet cradling the child to her with one hand while shaking out the filthy blanket with the other.
The Dursleys had relocated to the kitchen where Petunia was on the phone with the police about the rock through her window. Luckily, her back was to the hallway as Minerva emerged. The witch made her way to the front door, putting the blanket over her shoulder as she proceeded to dust off the boy in her arms. Realizing that this was a futile task, she pulled out her wand and whispered a quick cleaning charm. Then she transfigured her outfit to muggle clothing: a long, thick gray woolen skirt, a white, button down shirt, and a black overcoat. She made her hat another blanket for Harry and wrapped him in both. By the time she reached the front door, she could pass as a muggle woman with her baby.
Looking over her shoulder, she saw the muggle woman fussing over her own chilid yet again while her husband reread the paper. She opened the door quietly, as to not draw attention, and shut it just as quietly behind her. From there, she apparated to the gates of Hogwarts. Only when she was halfway up the sloping drive to the castle did she stop dead and fully realize her actions. She had directly defied Albus Dumbledore.
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