Harry Potter and Love's Changes by ScubaDoc3

Summary: After Harry is injured protecting the philosopher's stone, Minerva McGonnagall promises herself that she will do a better job looking after him. That promise will eventually lead to large changes in Harry's life. This will ultimately be Harry/Ginny, but since it starts at the end of Harry's first year, it will take a while for any romantic relationships to develop.

This is my first fanfic and I have no idea how long it will be or how long it will take me to post.
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarstar
Categories: Pre-OotP
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2017.06.24
Updated: 2017.08.08


Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Minerva's Promise
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Summer Revelations
Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Minerva's Mission
Chapter 4: Chapter 4: August 31
Chapter 5: Chapter 5: A Conspicuous Arrival
Chapter 6: Chapter 6: A Difficult Discussion
Chapter 7: Chapter 7: A First Step
Chapter 8: Chapter 8: A Ray of Hope

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Minerva's Promise

Author's Notes: This is my first real attempt at creative writing. I have read a ton of fan fiction over the last year or so and really wanted a story featuring the Harry/Ginny relationship as well as a more active guardian type role for Minerva McGonnagall. I will also forewarn you that I am not a fan of Albus Dumbledore or Severus Snape. I won't write Dumbledore as evil, but he will be manipulative and only focused on the "greater good" rather than what is best for Harry. As for Snape, I honestly haven't decided what I am going to do about him. In my opinion, his unrequited love for Lily doesn't give him the right to be the terribly mean and petty person he was throughout the story.

The lullaby in the story is Brahm's Lullaby as performed by Jewel - just like Harry Potter, I don't own it either.

Sitting in the straight-backed wooden chair she had conjured in the hospital wing, Minerva McGonagall was nearly overcome by her feelings of guilt. As she looked down at Harry, she flashed back to just a few hours before when she had summarily dismissed his warning that someone was going to try to steal the stone. Why didn’t she believe him? Why didn’t she at least let him explain? She was so lost in thought that she didn’t even realize that Poppy had walked up behind her.

“Minerva, are you okay?” asked Poppy. Still staring at Harry, Minerva failed to respond. Poppy hadn’t seen Minerva this out of sorts since the Potters were murdered and He-who-must-not-be-made had disappeared all those years ago. Poppy reached out to placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder to try to comfort her. Upon contact, Minerva was startled and jumped in her seat. “I’m sorry I frightened you Minerva, but I wanted to ask if you were okay.” Poppy said as she looked down at her friend with compassion.

“I’m fine Poppy, it is not me who is injured here.” Minerva snapped in reply. Poppy glared at her friend. They had known each other since they were students at Hogwarts and Poppy knew that Minerva was far from being fine as she had claimed.

“He is going to be okay,” Poppy said softly as she squeezed Minerva’s shoulder in support. “Unfortunately, he will remain unconscious for quite a while longer, but I see no reason as to why he won’t make a full recovery.”

Minerva winced at Poppy’s calm reply. She knew that she was being unfair and rude, but she couldn’t bring herself to apologize. Albus had already explained that Harry had almost died in his endeavor to protect the stone. Lying so still in his hospital bed, he looked extremely pale and small and his scar seemed to be more red and inflamed than normal. Minerva felt moisture building in her eyes as she continued to watch him. She leaned forward and gently ran her fingers through his hair. “It’s all my fault,” she choked out as she looked back up at Poppy. “He’s hurt, and it is all my fault.”

Poppy’s breath hitched in her chest at the pain she saw in Minerva’s eyes, but she didn’t understand why Minerva would feel responsible. “What do you mean, Minerva? It was Quirrell and You-know-who that hurt Harry. You had nothing to do with it.”

Minerva slumped in her chair and placed her head in her hands. “They came to me before they went after the stone. I ignored their concerns and told them to go outside. I didn’t even give them a chance to explain. They came to me for help, and I didn’t listen. Harry almost died, and it was because I ignored him. James and Lily’s son was almost killed and it is all my fault.”

Poppy wasn’t really sure how to respond. She knew having Harry at Hogwarts had been particularly hard on Minerva this year. Poppy was one of the few people who knew the extent of Minerva’s relationship with the Potters. She knew that Fleamont and Euphemia Potter had named Minerva godmother to James all those years ago. Since she had never had children of her own, Minerva cherished her role in James’ life. Minerva had previously confided in Poppy that she had been extremely concerned about Harry’s placement with the Dursleys. She had anguished over her decision to trust Albus and allow him to be placed there instead of taking him in herself. After all, James and Lily had always referred to Minerva as “Gran” in Harry’s presence so that Harry would grow up considering Minerva his grandmother. Unfortunately, Minerva had no legal claim over Harry and she trusted that Albus would make sure he was well cared for. When Harry had arrived at Hogwarts, Minerva had told Poppy about her fear that Harry wouldn’t want her to be more than just his professor since Albus had convinced her to stay away from Harry for those 10 long years before he re-entered the wizarding world.

“Min, you couldn’t have known something like this would happen. After all, if those kids had listened to you, none of them would have been injured.” Poppy hoped her words would break through the cloud of guilt she could feel wrapped around her dear friend. In that moment, Poppy decided she couldn’t tell Minerva what she had originally planned to say. She couldn’t add to Minerva’s guilt about Harry by telling her about the results of her full medical examination of the boy. She couldn’t let her know about the older injuries and scars that covered his little body. She couldn’t bear to tell her that it was clear that Harry had suffered years of consistent physical abuse that obviously included both beatings and near starvation. In that moment, Poppy thought it would be best not to tell Minerva about the boy’s plight because Poppy truly believed that Albus Dumbledore would keep his promise to her when she had divulged her findings to him earlier that evening.

“Thank you for letting me know about this Poppy,” Dumbledore had said. “I’ll take care of things with Harry. He is best protected from the followers of Voldemort while he stays with his relatives, but I will take steps to ensure that he is better protected there.” Loathe as it was to even think about Harry returning back to an abusive home, Poppy knew that Albus was technically Harry’s magical guardian in addition to his various high-ranking titles throughout the wizarding world. She knew that there was no one who could overrule Albus’s decision about Harry’s placement and had only considered telling Minerva because she knew that despite the distance she had kept from him, Minerva loved Harry as if he were her own. Poppy trusted that Albus Dumbledore as the leader of the light and most powerful wizard around would ensure that Harry’s life improved.

“Poppy, while it may be true that if they had listened to me that they wouldn’t have been injured, it is also true that if I had listened to them, I could have prevented this. I was so worried about being accused of favoritism and scared that I might let my affection for him show that I didn’t even give him the courtesy I would have given any other student in this school. When James was here, I could easily avoid showing favoritism and treat him like anyone else because he knew I cared for him and that he could come to me alone if he ever needed me. Harry doesn’t know anything about me. To Harry, I’m just his stern, unapproachable head of house that looks at him like I do every other student. He must hate me now for refusing to listen. He’ll never know that I have loved him since the day James and Lily told me they were going to have a child.” Minerva’s voice broke and she sobbed at the last sentence.

As she cried, Minerva was overcome by her memories of James, Lily, and Harry during the short period they were a happy family. Their time together had been too brief and Minerva had only seen Harry for a few short months before the Potters moved away from Potter manor to the cottage they bought in Godric’s Hollow that was placed under the fidelius charm. James had offered to include Minerva in on the secret of their whereabouts, but Minerva told him that he could find her if necessary but she felt it would be safer if she didn’t know where they were. Minerva was, after all, on the front lines for the Order and she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness in order to make James, Lily, and Harry just a little bit more insulated and therefore safer.

A knock on the door of the hospital wing pulled Minerva’s thoughts back into the present. Minerva started wiping her eyes and began to stand, but Poppy moved to stop her and said, “It’s okay, Min. Stay where you are. I’ll go see who it is.” Poppy quickly waved her wand and set privacy curtains around Harry’s bed so that neither he nor Minerva could be seen from the door to the wing. Then she walked over to the door and opened it slightly.

“Is Harry okay?” Minerva heard the very familiar voice of Hermione Granger ask.

“Harry will be fine Ms. Granger. He is still unconscious and will be for quite a while longer. I know you are worried about him, but I assure you, he will be okay.” Looking at Hermione’s worried face, she took pity on the girl and continued, “How about you come back in the morning. Harry won’t be awake yet, but I will let you sit with him for a little while so you can see him for yourself.”

“Can I see him tonight? I won’t do anything at all, I just want to see that he is okay.”

“I understand you are worried Ms. Granger, but it is well past visiting hours. I assure you I will let you see him in the morning. I promise you he will be okay. Please go back to your dormitory and I will see you tomorrow.”

Hermione’s head dropped and her shoulders slumped as she realized she was being sent away. She knew Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t lie to her about Harry’s health and she knew that the matron had made sure Ron was so well taken care of that he had already been allowed to return to Gryffindor tower. Hermione wasn’t the type to argue with an authority figure so she turned around and headed back toward the tower.

Closing the door, Poppy walked back over to Harry’s bed. “Minerva, are you planning on staying much longer?” When Minerva failed to reply, Poppy continued, “I have monitoring charms set up so that if he stirs at all, I will be able to check on him.”

“I’ll stay a little while longer. I know you are here, but I just can’t make myself leave yet.”

Poppy nodded in reply and walked into her office which led to her sleeping quarters. Now alone in the wing with only Harry, Minerva stood by his bed and placed one hand on his hand and the other with her fingers in his hair as she gently rubbed the back of his hand and his forehead with her thumbs. With no one watching, Minerva allowed the tears to fall unchecked down her cheeks. Regaining her composure, Minerva began to sing softly:

Lullaby, and good night, in the skies stars are bright.
May the moon's silvery beams bring you sweet dreams.
Close your eyes now and rest, may these hours be blessed.
'Til the sky's bright with dawn, when you wake with a yawn.

Lullaby, and good night, you are mother's delight.
I'll protect you from harm, and you'll wake in my arms.

Sleepyhead, close your eyes, for I'm right beside you.
Guardian angels are near, so sleep without fear.
Lullaby, and good night, with roses bedight.
Lilies o'er head, lay thee down in thy bed.

Lullaby, and good night, you are mother's delight.
I'll protect you from harm, and you'll wake in my arms.

Ending the song, Minerva continued to stand by Harry’s unmoving side and between sniffles spoke, “Harry, I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through so much in your short life. Your mother used to sing that song to you and I quickly learned it so that I could put you down to sleep whenever I watched after you. I wish you could have known them. Lily and James would have been here by your side in an instant if they were still alive and knew you were hurt. I promise I will do a better job caring for you and listen to you in the future.” Leaning down, Minerva gently kissed Harry’s forehead on his scar and whispered, “I love you, Harry,” and then with a final wipe of her tears, she walked away. Unfortunately, Minerva had no idea that if Harry had been awake, it would have been the first and only time he would remember anyone telling him that he was loved.

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Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Summer Revelations

Author's Notes: I have already had a couple of reviewers express concern regarding the timing of the Harry/Ginny relationship. I hope to bring them together after the chamber, but I am making this up as I go. I don't plan on having Harry or Ginny date anyone else before they get together, but the relationship will probably start more as a friendship since they are so young in the beginning of this story. I actually still haven't ruled out a soul bond to bring them together earlier, but I haven't made that decision yet.

Chapter 2: Summer Revelations

Harry Potter was not happy to be heading home for the summer. Staring unseeing out the window of the Hogwart’s Express, Harry kept returning to the one question that Professor Dumbledore had told him to put out of his mind. He couldn’t just let it go; it was impossible not to wonder why Voldemort had tried to kill him all those years ago. Sighing, he knew that he had no way of finding out until Dumbledore deemed it appropriate to tell him.

“Harry are you okay?” asked Hermione. She was really worried about her friend since he hadn’t been acting like himself since the incident with the stone.

“I’m fine, Hermione.” Harry responded with a sigh. He had already explained that his mood was due to the fact that he didn’t want to return to his relatives, but he couldn’t bring himself to elaborate on what his life at home was really like. He had told them that his relatives didn’t like him and really hated magic so he didn’t feel the need to explain the physical results of the Dursleys' ire. He also didn’t want Hermione and Ron to know about the fact that he was clearly more than just an incidental target for Voldemort on that Halloween night so many years ago. Harry hated pity and his past experience told him that making others aware of his home life only served to make things worse for him.

“Mate are you sure everything is okay?” Ron joined the conversation to ask. Ron was pretty thick sometimes, but even he could tell that his best friend wasn’t in a good mood.

“Like I told you both before, I’m just not looking forward to spending time with my relatives. Other than that I am fine.” Harry didn’t notice the look of disbelief shared between Hermione and Ron because he had already turned to look back out the window. All too soon, the train had arrived and he was back on Privet drive.

Weeks later on the morning of his birthday, Harry was once again disappointed by the lack of letters or cards from his friends. He was shocked that his friends had never bothered to write and was beginning to believe that what his aunt and uncle had always said about him was true. He was starting to believe that no one could possibly care for a freak like him. True, he had learned that his parents really did love him, but perhaps he didn’t deserve any more love after his mother had been killed because of him. At least his aunt and uncle had only made him work on chores so far this summer. They still seemed to be afraid to touch him and to Harry, a lack of physical contact was definitely a very good thing.

“Boy! Get down here!” Uncle Vernon roared from the living room. Knowing it was better to respond quickly, Harry immediately ran down the stairs to meet his uncle. Harry then listened as his uncle went over the plans for his business dinner and Harry promised, once again, to be quiet and pretend that he didn’t exist. Upon returning to his room, Harry was shocked to see that his room was occupied by a very peculiar looking visitor.

The very next morning, Harry groaned and winced as he sat up in his bed. If not for the residual aches and pains from the beating he had received from his uncle, he might have been able to convince himself that his entire experience with Dobby and the warning he received from the ministry for using magic had all been a nightmare. However, the evidence on his body was overwhelming as his uncle had relished in the fact that Harry couldn’t use magic to defend himself. Thankfully, Harry was pretty sure that the damage only consisted of some bruises and some swelling. He was glad that there didn’t seem to be any broken bones this time. Despite his disappointment that Dobby would not allow him to read them, Harry was extremely glad to know that his friends had bothered to write him over the last several weeks. He just hoped that they would forgive him for not writing back.

That afternoon, as Harry watched the installation of the locks on his doors and the bars on his window, he began to wonder if he would ever again get back to Hogwarts. He knew that if Uncle Vernon had his way, Harry would never be allowed to leave Privet Drive again, but he wasn’t sure if his uncle would be able to accomplish that goal.

After two weeks of being locked in his room with barely any food, Harry was beginning to worry he wouldn’t make it much longer. He felt weak and faint from the lack of food. He was giving half of his rations to Hedwig and even that was barely enough to keep the little owl healthy so it was nowhere near enough to sustain a 12 year old boy. Harry knew that it was now the middle of August and his only hope came from the fact that he believed someone might come looking for him if he didn’t make it to the Hogwarts Express on September 1st.

While Harry was hoping September 1st would come sooner, Minerva McGonagall was doing everything in her power to get things prepared for the upcoming term. She had received the final numbers of students that would be attending as well as OWL results and was working on making class schedules for all of the students. Focusing on her work, she was surprised when an owl hooted to get her attention. Taking the letter from the owl, she noticed the wax seal indicated it was from the Ministry for Magic. Minerva’s brow furrowed in concern as she read the notice which told her that Harry Potter had been issued a warning for underage magic on July 31st. As Deputy Headmistress, it was standard for her to receive this type of notification from the Ministry, but the bureaucracy always caused her to receive notification well after the warning was issued. After considering her next steps for a few moments, Minerva got up and walked out of her office towards the office of the Headmaster.

“Albus, are you aware of the warning Mr. Potter received this summer?” Minerva asked ignoring any pleasantries upon entering his office.

Albus did not react outwardly, but he sighed internally at Minerva’s concern for the boy. Throughout the years he had constantly reassured her that Harry was safe and well protected at the Dursleys. Albus had put the blood wards up himself and took great pains to make sure that Harry was placed within the protection of those wards. Several of the devices in his office were specifically set to monitor those wards and he would be notified immediately if they were ever compromised. Yes, he was concerned about what Poppy had revealed to him after Harry’s most recent ordeal, but a quick legillimens spell on Harry revealed that the Dursleys had started to treat him better once the Hogwarts letter had arrived. Sure they were still verbally abusive, but Albus was comfortable allowing that to continue since the physical abuse had ended. He decided not to interfere with the Dursleys because it would put Harry at a great risk if he could not return to the protection born of his mother’s sacrifice, and Albus knew that it would be easy for Vernon and Petunia to decide the funds they were receiving for Harry’s care were no longer worth the trouble. Perhaps he should take another look at the amount being pulled out of the Potter vault each month and consider increasing the stipend being sent to Petunia. He decided he would worry about that next year.

“Yes, I happened to be at the ministry for a Wizengamot meeting and Mafalda thought it prudent to make me aware of the situation when it occurred. I assure you that there have been no further incidents and the wards protecting Harry are still solidly in place.”

“I’m glad to hear that he is safe, but what reason did Harry give for using magic? Did he feel - “

Albus cut off Minerva’s question and replied, “Harry was never questioned about the incident. As I have told you when I was explaining why it would be best for you not to visit Harry as a child, the Dursleys do not appreciate any wizarding interference in their lives so I explained to Mafalda that it would be best to just let the warning stand and skip any investigation since the intrusion would not be appreciated. Mafalda agreed on that course of action since Harry has obviously heeded the warning he received and has not used any more magic at home.”

Minerva’s concern increased as she listened to Albus’s response. Surely now that Harry was in school the Dursleys would be expected to have some interaction with other wizards? However, after years of conversations regarding Harry’s wellbeing, Minerva knew that bringing up her doubts and concerns would be pointless. Albus was adamant that Harry needed the protection of the blood wards and was not willing to consider any alternatives. Learning from her failure to listen to Harry about the stone, Minerva decided that it was only right that Harry be allowed to explain himself.

“I appreciate you making sure that he is alright. I should be getting back to work. I have some things to take care of at home over the next few weeks so while I will be here to work during the day, I may not always be in the castle in the evenings and at night. Thanks again for checking on Harry.”

“You are very welcome, Minerva.” Albus’s blue eyes twinkled as he spoke, “It is the least I could do. Please let me know if you come across any problems in your work getting ready for the upcoming term.”

“I will. Good evening, Albus.” Minerva then turned and walked out of the office and directly towards the front doors of the school. She had determined she would no longer ignore her concerns for Harry and decided that she would go check on him herself. It should be easy to have a look around in her animagus form without alerting either Harry or the Dursleys to her presence in the area. With that thought in mind, she apparated to Privet Drive as soon as she got past the wards around the school.

It was already dark outside when she arrived in Surrey so Minerva transformed into her cat animagus and headed for number 4 Privet Drive. Despite the fact it had been nearly eleven years since she had been there, Minerva recognized the area and was easily able to find the house in which she knew Harry dwelled. Minerva circled the house trying to decide how she was going to go about her investigation of Harry Potter. She noticed that one of the house’s windows was outfitted with what looked like prison bars and with a sinking feeling she decided that it was likely that anomaly had something to do with Harry. Therefore, she decided to settle in the bushes under that window and use her powerful feline hearing to try to discern any noises that might come from the house.

A couple hours into her vigil, Minerva found herself blinking and shaking her head to make sure she hadn’t accidentally fallen asleep. She thought maybe she was dreaming when she saw a car come flying through the sky and park itself beside the barred window. However, once she heard the voices of several of the Weasley boys she knew she was awake and witnessing the effects of Gryffindor courage mixed with childish decision making. Since she didn’t want anyone to know that she was there, Minerva knew she couldn’t intervene with the situation as much as the teacher in her was screaming for her to step in and put a stop to all this nonsense. Instead, Minerva sat very still and stained to hear every word that was being exchanged by the Weasleys and Harry Potter.

After hearing Harry say that he didn’t do magic in front of muggles as well as his description of being locked in his room with his school things locked somewhere else in the house, Minerva felt her anger build at the unfairness of Harry’s situation. She also began to doubt whatever methods Albus was using to monitor Harry. In that moment, Minerva decided she had a lot of work to do if she was going to keep the promise she had made to take better care of Harry. After watching the car fly off in the distance, Minerva moved away from the house, transformed, and then apparated back to Hogwarts.

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Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Minerva's Mission

Author's Notes: Hi everyone! It is day 3 of writing this story and I am posting the third chapter. Iím not sure if Iíll be able to keep the frenetic pace of posting a chapter a day (especially on weekdays since I work), but I hope to keep things going fairly quickly. Honestly, as crazy as it sounds I keep writing because Iím really curious what is going to happen next (I really am taking this one chapter at a time). Thank you so much to all of you who have reviewed, followed, and favorited this story! It is really encouraging to know that many of you are taking the time to read this and apparently getting some enjoyment out of it.

This chapter completely focuses on Minerva and her reaction to seeing Harry at the Dursleys. I promise you (especially my concerned SIYE readers) that Harry and Ginny will both become the focus of this story in addition to Minerva. Right now, Minerva is the only character whose actions are not congruent with cannon so most of the focus is going to be on her. I personally believe that Ginnyís experience with Tom and and the Chamber of Secrets is a big reason that she is such a perfect match for Harry, so I wonít be changing much of the year 2 plot except for showing Minerva working behind the scenes and perhaps adding a few conversations between her and Harry. I also hope to delve into more of Ginnyís experience and perspective than JKR did in the book.


Chapter 3: Minerva’s Mission

Poppy was sitting at her desk going over some paperwork and checking her supply inventory before the beginning of the new term. BANG! Poppy jumped out of her seat and drew her wand in reaction to the door slamming open. Once her brain caught up with her body, she realized she was now standing behind her desk with her wand trained on none other than her best friend, Minerva McGonagall.

“Minerva! What is going on? Are you okay? You frightened me terribly by storming in here like you did.” Poppy asked as she shakily lowered her wand and started to move toward her friend. Minerva didn’t even seem to notice that Poppy was in the room. She was still near the entrance to the wing pacing back and forth. Minerva looked uncharacteristically frazzled. Her clothes were rumpled and many pieces of her hair had fallen away from her normally tight bun. Trying again to break through Minerva’s distracted state, Poppy yelled, “MINERVA!”

Finally hearing her friend, Minerva stopped pacing and looked at Poppy. She noticed Poppy’s look of concern and was surprised that her friend had moved so close to her without her even noticing. Minerva forced herself to take a deep breath and exhaled slowly in order to calm herself down. “I’m sorry. I’m a little upset at the moment.”

Poppy tried to hold back, but she burst out laughing. “A little upset?” Poppy laughed. “You call this a little upset? What happened to you?”

“I went to check on Harry.” Minerva said seriously.

Poppy’s mirth immediately disappeared and her stomach dropped upon the mention of Harry Potter. Knowing what she knew about the abuse Harry had suffered in his past, she was afraid to hear what Minerva was about to tell her. She was terrified that she had doomed the poor boy to suffering by trusting Albus Dumbledore when he said it would be best to send him back to his relatives. Looking now at Minerva, Poppy realized that if she continued to withhold the information she knew about Harry’s past and Minerva learned that Poppy had kept it from her, it could end a decades long friendship.

“Why did you check on him? Is he okay? Does he need medical attention? Do you need my help?” Poppy asked quickly without giving Minerva the chance to reply. She also started walking toward the corner of her office where she kept her supply bag that held the potions she might need in an emergency.

“No, he doesn’t need medical attention as far as I could see. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you worked up as well. I came to you because I just need to vent and I need you to be the voice of reason because I know I am upset and I need to make sure I am making rational decisions right now.”

“Okay, I can do that for you. Goodness knows you’ve done it plenty of times for me, the least I can do is return the favor. Please have a seat and we will talk.” Poppy motioned to one of the chairs in her office and then moved to sit in the chair across from it. With a wave of her wand, Poppy shut the door and waited for Minerva to start speaking. When Minerva waved her own wand and placed privacy wards on the room, Poppy raised her eyebrow, but continued to say nothing and waited for her friend to speak.

“I went to check on Harry because I received notification that he had been sent a warning from the Ministry for Magic for using magic in the presence of muggles.” Minerva began. “After hearing directly from Albus that in order to appease those horrid muggles he placed Harry with, he had prevented any sort of investigation into the incident, I decided I should personally ensure that Harry had the chance to tell his story.” Looking down at her hands in shame she continued, “After not listening to Harry about the stone, I wanted to try to make it up to him. I wanted to give him the opportunity to explain since denying him that opportunity in the past produced such disastrous results.”

“Min, you’ve got to stop beating yourself up about that.” Poppy said. “You couldn’t have known what was going to happen. When are you going to forgive yourself?”

Sighing Minerva looked back up at her friend, “I don’t know if I can forgive myself. Especially after what I heard and saw last night.” Minerva then explained to her friend how she had heard Harry tell the Weasley boys that he wasn’t guilty of performing magic in front of muggles. As Minerva was explaining the bars on Harry’s window and what she overheard about the locks on Harry’s door as well as Vernon’s reaction to Harry’s “escape”, Poppy’s head dropped and she stared at the floor. In a tell-tell sign of stress, Poppy started fidgeting with the bracelet she always wore on her right wrist. Poppy’s actions reminded Minerva of the time Poppy had made a mistake and almost lost a patient during healer training. Minerva began to wonder why Poppy was acting in such a manner so she asked, “Poppy, what is it? What aren’t you telling me?”

Poppy looked up with tears in her eyes and a pleading look on her face as she stared back at her friend. “I’m so sorry, Minerva, but I just couldn’t bear to tell you before. Albus said he would take care of things so I didn’t see the point in making you worry.”

“Make me worry? What are you talking about?” Minerva asked, confused.

Taking a deep breath, Poppy replied, “I didn’t tell you about my findings when Harry was here in the hospital wing at the end of the term. You already felt so guilty about the fact that he was hurt and I know you still agonized over not doing more to prevent him from being placed with his relatives. I decided it was best for you if you didn’t know. I didn’t want to have to tell you that Harry is an abused child.” Ashamed at this proclamation, Poppy looked down at the floor and could no longer meet Minerva’s eyes.

Minerva felt dizzy as all the air seemed to rush out of her lungs. She felt shaky and all she could hear was the sound of her own heart pounding in her chest. Her hand reflexively moved over her heart as she tried to force herself to breathe. She was hoping she had somehow misheard because she knew Poppy wasn’t one to use a term like “abuse” if it wasn’t true.

“Min, I am so sorry I didn’t tell you and I am even more sorry that I failed that boy by not doing so. I wasn’t happy when Albus said he had to go back, but I trusted him to make sure Harry would be protected.” Poppy then looked at her friend and realized that Minerva’s hand was on her chest and she had become deathly pale. Her eyes looking toward the ceiling, Minerva didn’t even appear to be hearing what Poppy was saying. Poppy rushed over to Minerva and grabbed the hand that wasn’t clutched to her chest. Poppy felt Minerva’s pulse in her wrist and noticed that her heart was racing as well as the fact that Minerva barely seemed to be breathing.

“Minerva, look at me! Minerva, you have to take deep breaths.” Poppy said in a commanding tone. Minerva’s panic filled eyes finally locked on Poppy’s and she took a shaky breath. “Min, I need you to keep breathing. I’m going to get you a calming draft to help you, okay?”

Hearing Poppy’s concerned words, Minerva nodded as she struggled to calm herself. It felt like she was breathing through a thick blanket, but she struggled to do so as Poppy had ordered. With Poppy helping hold her hand steady, she managed to drink the potion Poppy handed her and immediately felt her heart begin to slow. Her chest seemed to loosen and she was finally able to take a deep, full breath. Poppy was kneeling in front of her and had once again grabbed her hand. As Minerva calmed down, she was moved by the look of compassion and concern she was receiving from Poppy.

Noticing that Minerva’s pallor had begun to return to normal and the potion had taken effect, Poppy spoke, “I am so sorry.” Her voice trembled and tears began to fall as she continued, “I truly thought Albus would take care of things. You felt so guilty and were so down on yourself that I thought it best not to tell you.” Poppy continued to ramble about her reasoning and her guilt over Harry’s experience.

“Poppy, stop. As much as I would like to be, I can't be angry with you right now. I am angry at myself and I am outraged at Albus bloody Dumbledore, but I can't be mad at you for doing the same thing I have done for eleven years. I can't fault you for trusting Albus to do the right thing.” Minerva then reached out and hugged her good friend. Stepping back, Minerva looked at Poppy with a burning look of determination and said, “I have to make this right. I must get Harry away from those people and I am going to have to make it happen right under Albus’s damn nose.”

“What do you need from me?” Poppy asked mirroring her friend’s look of determination.

“The first thing I need is to see your records for Harry. I need to know what has happened to the poor child.”

Poppy walked over to her filing cabinet and grabbed a thick folder. As she handed it to Minerva she cautioned, “This is his medical record. It is going to be difficult for you to read. Harry has had a very difficult life.”

Minerva opened the folder and was both saddened and shocked by the amount of information it contained. Poppy had recorded multiple broken bones that had occurred as early as age 3. She had also noted that it was unlikely he received any medical attention for his injuries since many had healed improperly even to muggle standards. Poppy had also documented that a history of malnourishment was responsible for Harry's small stature. To combat this, Poppy had recommended a regimen of nutrient potions and strengthening potions until Harry achieved a proper weight and height for his age. “Did Albus read all of this?” Minerva asked as she finally finished going through the catalogue of injuries.

“Yes, I showed it to him as soon as I had finished writing it. Harry was still in the hospital wing at the time.”

“Did he ask you to provide these potions you recommended?”

“No, I just assumed he asked Severus to provide them.”

“Is there any way you will be able to check and see if Harry received those potions over the summer? Would you be able to determine if Harry received any further injuries while away form school?”

“The easiest way would be to simply ask Harry.” Upon seeing Minerva’s skeptical look, Poppy continued, “There are some diagnostic spells that will show me any injuries that occurred within the last three months, but I would have to do another complete medical examination for anything to be conclusive. I assume you are trying to keep this from Albus so I am not sure what pretense we can use for me to have Harry overnight in the hospital wing again.”

“We will figure something out. You are correct that I don’t want Albus to know what is going on. If he realizes we are trying to prove how neglectful he has been as Harry’s magical guardian, he may take steps to prevent us from interfering.” Minerva replied. Minerva then stood and started pacing again. Talking mainly to herself she said, “It shocks me that James didn’t leave other provisions in his will for Harry’s care in the event Sirius couldn’t care for him. I know James never expected to be betrayed, but he also knew that it was a dangerous time for everyone. Lily avoided even talking about her sister so I can’t imagine she would have chosen her to raise Harry. I need to start researching to see what legal options we might have if we can show everyone the poor decisions Albus has made. Perhaps I should contact Madam Amelia Bones. Even when she was a student she had a strong drive to do what was right and protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. With her position as the head of the DMLE and as a member of the Wizengamot, she should be able to help get things done without Albus’s involvement.”

As she continued to pace, Minerva realized Poppy was still listening to her. Looking up at her friend she said, “Harry Potter is now my number one priority. He deserves someone who will fight for him and it is time I finally started doing that. Thank you for listening to me and telling me what you know. I’m going to go start doing some research and make a few floo calls.” Then with a flourish of her wand she cancelled the privacy spells as she walked out the door.

Poppy sat back down at her desk and smiled as she thought about how Harry’s life was going to change since he now had Minerva McGonagall on a mission to take care of him.

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Chapter 4: Chapter 4: August 31

Chapter 4: August 31st

Ginny Weasley was frantically pacing around her room trying to make sure she had everything packed. It was August 31st and Ginny was extremely excited about the fact that she was finally getting to go to Hogwarts. For as long as she could remember, she had gone to King’s Cross station on September 1st and been forced to stay behind as she watched one or more of her brothers board the Hogwart’s Express and leave without her. Last year had been the hardest of all because she was the only one left behind since Ron left too.

It was also a difficult year for her because of the mysterious boy she had seen on the platform. When she first caught sight of him, Ginny felt concerned because he seemed so scared and alone. His emerald green eyes had met hers only for a moment, but Ginny had felt something that she really couldn’t describe or explain when they did. When her brothers came back from putting their trunks on the train and told her that the boy she had seen was in fact Harry Potter, Ginny was nearly overcome with her desire to go speak with him. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to do so.

Ginny had always loved having her dad tell her the story of the boy-who-lived. No one really knew what happened to Harry Potter after his parents died. She thought it was sad he had to lose his parents, but she always imagined he had overcome those tragic circumstances and lived a great life. She had imaged what Harry might look like and after seeing Harry in person, she couldn’t help but laugh at herself when she realized how different the boy she imagined was from the boy who currently inhabited her house. After listening to Ron and the twins talk about what it was like at Harry’s house, Ginny realized that her dream Harry with his dream life never existed. At first, Ginny had thought Ron, Fred, and George had exaggerated about Harry being locked up and starved in order to try to keep themselves out of trouble, but when Ginny overheard the twins in their room still talking about it, she knew it must be true. Ginny became enraged at the idea of someone being mistreated, but since she knew the boys had already told her mom about it, there didn’t seem to be anything else for her to do.

As Ginny sat on her bed, she realized that her thoughts of Harry Potter had once again completely derailed her from the task she was trying to achieve. She felt her face burn as she recalled the way she had acted around him the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, things with Harry had started off badly because no one had told her that he had arrived so she came down to breakfast in her pajamas. It was one thing for her family to see her looking disheveled and sleepy in the morning, but she was mortified when Harry saw her that way.

Much as she would like to, Ginny really couldn’t blame her actions around Harry on being surprised because things didn’t improve after their initial encounter. She had never before felt so shy and out of control of her actions. Ginny’s desire to be near Harry and stare into his eyes confused her so much that she found it best just to avoid him. She could observe him from a distance, but every time circumstances forced them together and their eyes met Ginny felt a flutter in her stomach and a nearly overwhelming draw towards him. She just couldn’t figure out how she could have opposite feelings at exactly the same time. Ginny wanted to be near Harry, but she also wanted to run away from him. She honestly wasn’t sure which she feared more - being close or being distant. When she learned that whenever she was in close proximity to Harry her mouth would dry out and her vocal cords would freeze, she decided that keeping her distance was the best option.

It depressed Ginny to think about what Harry must think of her. He must think her completely barmy the way she acted around him. Why did he have to see that she put her elbow in the butter dish? Why did she have to blush so profusely that her face matched her hair anytime he was close to her? Why couldn’t she just talk to him? Ginny was amazed by the fact that Harry had never once laughed at her despite the fact that she must have appeared to be completely crazy and skittish. Sure, he would looked puzzled whenever she caught him looking at her, but he didn’t make fun of her or say anything negative at all. Ginny was sure that any other 12 year old boy would have at least taken the mickey by now, but Harry was different. In her extensive observation of Harry (from a distance), Ginny had learned a lot about him over the last couple of weeks and she was even more impressed by Harry than by the boy-who-lived she created in her mind all those years ago.

Shaking her head to try to clear it of her thoughts of Harry Potter, Ginny noticed the diary her mom had gotten her lying on her desk. She went over and picked it up intending to place it in her trunk to pack for school; however, as soon as she grabbed it, she felt an overwhelming compulsion to write in it. An hour later, she put her quill down and crawled into bed.

Lying on the cot that he occupied in Ron’s room at the Burrow, Harry felt like he was floating on a cloud. Harry knew he should really be sleeping like Ron was, but his brain refused to turn off and allow him to rest. The last couple of weeks since Fred, George, and Ron had rescued him from the Dursleys had been the best of Harry’s life. He had greatly enjoyed Mrs. Weasley mothering him and making sure that he always had enough food. He also appreciated the conversations he had with Mr. Weasley about muggles. Spending time with Ron and the twins had been so brilliant that he almost wished the summer holiday would last a little while longer.

Smiling to himself, Harry thought about everything that had happened over the last couple of weeks. He almost couldn’t believe that he had flown all the way from Surrey in a Ford Anglia and chuckled to himself as he thought about the look on the Dursleys faces when they saw him leaving. Harry was grateful that Mrs. Weasley mistook his initial weakness from lack of food for weariness from sleep deprivation and travel. Harry had nearly panicked when his rescuers told Mrs. Weasley about the bars on his windows and him being starved, but thankfully Mrs. Weasley only acknowledged that he was way too skinny. To Harry’s great relief she had refrained from asking him any potentially embarrassing questions so he didn’t have to come up with an answer she might accept. Harry was deeply ashamed by his life at home and was grateful that he at least had managed to keep the Weasley family fooled that he was worthwhile as company. He wondered how long it would be before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley realized that Harry was a freak and wasn’t a worthy houseguest. After all, his aunt and uncle made it very clear over the years that they had been forced to take him in because no one else would possible want him. Harry was pretty sure he had managed to keep all the Weasleys fooled that he wasn’t a freak - all of them except Ginny of course.

While they had only made brief eye contact a couple of times, Harry knew instinctively that when her warm brown eyes locked onto his that Ginny saw the real him. Harry felt his stomach plummet to his feet when he thought about Ginny’s reactions to him. She had been rigorously avoiding him so it was obvious she knew the truth. Ginny didn’t even bother to pretend that he was normal and try to speak to him. Instead, he would see her watching him from a distance. When she was forced to be near him, she acted like she wanted nothing more than to run away.

Harry was completely bewildered by Ginny Weasley. How had she figured him out so quickly? What had he done that she could see his freakishness in just a single glance? Harry realized that since Ginny was able to figure it out so quickly it was likely only a matter of time before others realized it too. In fact, Harry wondered why Ginny hadn’t said anything to her family. After all, it would only take a few words from her and the others would know and ask him to leave. He imaged that the Weasleys would all be angry at him for tricking them into letting him come visit and spend time at their house, but he decided that even temporary happiness was worth risking their anger. They would hate him once they really knew him anyway so why not allow himself to enjoy this while he could?

Sighing Harry concentrated on trying to relax and go to sleep. He turned to look at the clock and saw it was officially September 1st. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply as he thought about Ginny Weasley and his upcoming term at Hogwarts.

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5: A Conspicuous Arrival

Chapter 5: A Conspicuous Arrival

September 1st was always a hectic day for the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After years in that position, Minerva had a well established routine that she followed in order to get all the necessary last minute preparations completed before students arrived in the evening. However, when she received a message from the conductor of the Hogwarts Express explaining that Ms. Granger had reported that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were not on the train, Minerva’s plans for the day completely fell apart.

Minerva’s first action was to floo Molly and Arthur Weasley to make sure the boys were with them since they had somehow managed to miss the train. She knew that the Weasleys were notorious for arriving on the platform at the last second so she figured they just hadn’t quite made it in time to get all the kids on board. When Minerva reached Molly, she immediately began to worry when she saw the look on Molly’s face. Molly looked like she was panicking so Minerva asked to come through so they could talk.

Upon entering The Burrow, Minerva was appalled to hear that Molly had no idea where Ron and Harry were and that the Weasley’s car was missing. Arthur had been called into work because a flying car had been spotted so Molly was terrified that Arthur might lose his job and that additional anxiety was compounded by her fear for her son’s safety now that she had been informed he was missing. Minerva managed to hide her own panic and worry about the boys behind her usual stern mask. She talked to Molly and had her take a calming draft. Minerva left an hour later which was the soonest she felt comfortable leaving Molly.

When she returned to her office, Minerva found herself nearly overwhelmed by her feelings of worry for and anger at Harry Potter. She was furious at his idiocy in trying to fly a car to Hogwarts. Even James hadn’t pulled such an idiotic prank during his school days. Minerva was also terrified that Harry and Ron might end up injured. She knew that there was no guarantee that the enchantments on the car would be powerful enough for the boys to make it all the way to their intended destination. Every few seconds she kept imagining different ways the car could crash and the boys could be injured or killed. Her stomach rolled and she felt sick as she allowed herself to worry. She racked her brain trying discover a way to find the boys and make sure they were okay, but she couldn’t think of any way to track them. She absolutely hated the fact that all she could do was wait and hope for their safety.

Unable to truly focus on anything else, Minerva picked up the letter she had recently received from Amelia Bones. Minerva had read it several times before, but she read it again just to try to keep her mind somewhat occupied. She read:


I was deeply disturbed by what you shared with me about Harry Potter. I can’t imagine what that poor boy has been through and I want to help make sure he is cared for like he deserves. I feel guilty that I never really thought about his wellbeing beyond the tragedy of losing James and Lily so young - I only felt grateful to him for ending a war he was too young to understand or even remember.

To answer your question, it should not be a problem to remove Mr. Potter from his aunt and uncle’s home with the evidence of abuse Poppy can provide. I know that you are worried about Albus interfering and trying to maintain his status as magical guardian and continue to control things and I agree with your concerns. I think the evidence we have is definitely enough to override any authority Albus tries to assert, but my concern is what happens when Mr. Potter’s situation becomes a matter of public record. With any other child, a change of custody hearing would be public record, but pretty much ignored. I fear that with both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore involved any proceedings in this case could turn into a media circus. I imagine that this would create an uproar in our community and that many people will try to step in and bid for guardianship of Mr. Potter in hopes of influencing him or to gain influence in his name.

In order to try to avoid the necessity of a public hearing, I did some research here at the ministry. I tried to find the record of James and Lily’s will to see if they had listed anyone other than Lily’s sister as a potential guardian, but there doesn’t seem to be a record of any will. From what I can tell, the entire Potter estate was transferred to Harry with Albus Dumbledore acting as the guardian of the estate and magical guardian and Petunia Dursley acting as Harry’s physical guardian. It seems that Albus was able to use emergency war time powers to push everything through within 24 hours of James and Lily’s deaths. It would not have been questioned at the time because there was no will and it was critical that Harry Potter remained safe.

I’m truly sorry I don’t have a better answer for your at the moment, but the only way I can see to both keep things quiet and to ensure that you would be named as Mr. Potter’s guardian would be for Albus to sign it over to you. Of course, you and I both know that he wouldn’t be willing to do so. I will continue to search for a better option for you and Mr. Potter as I am sure you will be doing as well. Regardless of the options we discover, I am confident that Mr. Potter will not have to go back to an abusive home at the end of the school year.


Amelia Bones

Just like the first time she read it, Minerva couldn’t believe that a will wasn’t filed with the Ministry. James and Lily both knew that they were in danger and Minerva knew that they would have taken all necessary and responsible steps to make sure Harry was well cared for should they die. Minerva strongly suspected that Albus had something to do with the missing will, but she couldn’t figure out what to do about it. Could the Potters have left a will in another location? Would there be one hidden in the ruins of their home in Godric’s Hollow or could there be a record of a will somewhere inside of Potter Manor? How could she get inside to look for one?

Unfortunately, Minerva still had many more questions than answers. She knew that Albus would have to be completely backed into a corner before he would willingly sign over custody, but that seemed like the best option. Perhaps the threat of his neglect of Harry becoming public knowledge would be enough to persuade him to keep things quiet and just agree with Minerva’s demands. How else could she go about making sure that she received guardianship of Harry? What did she have to do in order to fulfill the promise she had made to take care of him? Minerva sighed and leaned forward in her chair rubbing her temples to try to ease the headache she was experiencing from the tension and stress that came with loving Harry Potter.

Minerva still had a little time before students were to arrive at the castle so while hiding behind closed doors, she finally allowed a few tears to fall. She only allowed herself a couple minutes before she steeled herself and stood up. She couldn’t just sit around. She had to do something. Since it was nearly time for the train to arrive in Hogsmead, Minerva sought out Filius Flitwick to arrange for him to meet the first years prior to the sorting ceremony. She regretted not being the one to greet the new students as they entered Hogwarts, but she knew that Filius was more than up to the task and felt that Harry should be her priority. After arranging things with Filius, Minerva headed out of the castle and towards the gates. She had decided to head into Hogsmead itself and wait until the train arrived. Then if there was still no sign of Harry and Ron, she would apparate to London to visit the Ministry and the Daily Prophet in order to discover where the flying car had last been spotted so she could begin her search.

Upon arriving to the train station in Hogsmead, Minerva decided to transform to her animagus form so that she would be less conspicuous on the platform. She didn’t want the students worrying because she was there since it was completely out of the ordinary for her to be at the station when the train arrived. She watched as the Express came closer and her heart fell at the thought that Harry would not be getting off that train. As the train came to a stop, Minerva saw something that nearly made her heart stop. High in the sky, she discerned two points of light that were coming nearer. Minerva knew that the muggle repelling charms around the town of Hogsmead kept airplanes from ever passing overhead so she knew that she must be seeing the Weasley’s flying car. What worried her was that the car seemed to be descending and was weaving as if it were driverless. Frozen in terror, she stood transfixed as the car flew overhead going in the direction of the school.

Now gazing at taillights, Minerva finally unfroze and began running back toward the gates of the school. Even in her animagus form, it took several minutes to get back to the school and she had been greatly outpaced by the car. Unfortunately, she had lost sight of it as the car dropped, but her keen feline ears picked up the sound of crashing in the distance. Her stomach plummeted as she considered what the force of the crash must have been to be so loud. After a couple seconds of silence, Minerva heard several more loud bangs and the frightened screams of two boys. Feeling simultaneously worried about why the boys might be screaming and relieved by the fact the boys were obviously conscious and able to scream, Minerva continued to run to the castle.

Arriving at the castle, Minerva strained her ears to try to discern where the boys might now be. She circled the grounds and did not see either the car or Harry and Ron. She decided she would head to the great hall since that seemed the most likely place for Harry and Ron to go. In the time it took her to circle the grounds, the carriages had already arrived and the sorting was about to begin. Remaining in her feline form, Minerva entered the castle still listening as hard as she could. She then heard the distinctive voice of Severus Snape and three sets of footsteps heading toward the dungeon. Listening she heard Severus saying, “Completely arrogant, just like your father. I’ll have you expelled this time, Potter.” Minerva bristled at Snape’s comments. Yes, it was true that some of James’s pranks crossed the line, but it was completely hypocritical for Severus Snape to judge his actions. Minerva knew that Snape was responsible for bullying many students during his days as a budding death eater. James might have been somewhat arrogant and thoughtless in his early teens, but Severus Snape was downright cruel and evil well into adulthood.

Once she was within about 30 feet of Snape and the boys, Minerva changed back to her human form and continued to follow. Watching keenly, she noticed that Harry had a nearly indiscernible limp and that it appeared Ron was bleeding. She then realized that Snape was leading the boys to the dungeons rather than to the hospital wing so she spoke, “Professor Snape, may I ask where you are going with Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley?” Both boys had jumped, startled upon hearing her speak, but Snape simply turned around and glared at her.

“Professor Dumbledore asked me to see to them since they arrived by completely inappropriate means. I am taking them to my office to await their punishment for their gross misconduct and flaunting of wizarding law. There must be serious repercussions for their deeds tonight.” replied Snape silkily.

Minerva struggled to maintain her neutral expression and managed not to roll her eyes at the younger professor. Her lips thinned as she felt anger at Albus for sending Severus Snape of all people after Harry and Ron rather than speaking with her or at least sending someone who didn’t have a completely childish grudge against Harry. While Harry had never once complained, Minerva was aware of the rumors that Snape regularly picked on him during class. Minerva responded, “While I agree punishment will be necessary for Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley’s imprudent behavior, I am wondering why you are not taking them to the hospital wing since they are obviously injured.”

“The do not appear to be severely injured, so my office would be an appropriate place for us to go to discuss their punishment.” replied Snape through gritted teeth.

“Since I am their head of house and ultimately responsible to seeing to their wellbeing in addition to any punishments for their behavior, I will take them from here. You may go, Professor Snape. I am sure you would like to attend the rest of the feast and observe the new Slytherins that have joined your house. Please tell Professor Dumbledore that we will be in the hospital wing if he wishes to speak with the boys regarding their behavior tonight.” Recognizing the dismissal, Snape angrily turned on his heal and with robes billowing walked back toward the great hall. Now addressing Harry and Ron, Minerva kept her tone harsh to show her anger and stated, “Let’s go to the hospital wing to get you checked out. Then we shall discuss suitable punishment for your atrocious actions today.”

With his head hung down and shoulders slumped, Harry responded quietly, “We are fine Professor. We don’t need the hospital wing. You can go ahead and decide how to punish us now.”

“Yeah Professor, we aren’t injured very badly.” Ron stated and broke eye contact to look at the floor as he continued, “We can just go get our things now, no need to delay with a trip to the hospital wing.”

“Go get your things, Mr Weasley? What do you mean by that?” asked Minerva.

Looking back up at her Ron responded, “Well, I assumed you would be expelling us. That’s what Professor Snape said would happen.”

“Mr. Weasley, I have not yet decided on your punishment because I do not even know what happened today. Also, despite both of your assertions that you are not injured, I want you checked out by Madam Pomfrey since you just experienced a high speed collision. Come, we will go there now.” As Minerva led the boys back to the hospital wing, she shook her head as she thought about what might be an appropriate punishment for their conspicuous arrival to school, but part of her was just glad that they were present and well enough to be disciplined for their actions.

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Chapter 6: Chapter 6: A Difficult Discussion

Chapter 6: A Difficult Discussion

Minerva McGonagall sat curled up in the fetal position and rocked back and forth on her bed. Sleep had completely eluded her. She rested her forehead on her knees and forced herself to breathe deeply to try to regain her composure. She felt like she didn’t have any more tears to cry. Part of her was surprised that last night’s events had hit her so hard since she was already aware that Harry had suffered abuse during his childhood; however, actually seeing the scars on his small body was exponentially worse than reading about his injuries on a medical report.

Last night, Poppy had used the excuse of not wanting Harry to put any weight on his healing ankle to keep him in the hospital wing overnight so that she could run a complete diagnostic on him. Thankfully, Albus had believed the excuse and left immediately after Harry and Ron’s punishment was decided. Minerva had left with Albus to check in with Filius and thank him for covering for her during the feast. After healing both boys and allowing them to eat, Poppy dismissed Ron from the wing and gave Harry some potions which included a sleeping draught.

Once Harry had fallen asleep and Minerva had returned, Poppy began working. With a wave of her wand, Poppy transfigured Harry’s clothes so that he was wearing only shorts and moved him so that he was lying on his stomach. Minerva was horrified when she saw the scars on Harry’s back. Poppy then explained to Minerva that she had put Harry to sleep because the diagnostic spell she was going to use was a visual diagnostic that would recreate any injuries sustained over the past 3 months. Poppy assured Minerva that there would be no pain, but that any injuries would look real and fresh so it was best that Harry slept so that he didn’t know what was happening. Minerva and Poppy had hoped that nothing would show up with the diagnostic; they hoped that Albus had kept his word and ensured Harry was not abused anymore by the Dursleys. Unfortunately, with quick wave of Poppy’s wand, their hopes were dashed as dark purple bruises formed along Harry’s back and legs. Upon seeing the damage, Minerva sobbed and collapsed onto the chair next to Harry’s bed.

The consummate professional, Poppy had continued working. The only indication of Poppy’s emotional distress was an infinitesimal quiver of her hand as she documented the injuries Harry had sustained in what could only be described as a beating. Poppy ran further tests to determine Harry’s diet and nutrition levels over the summer. She sighed as she found that Harry had not taken the potions she had prescribed at the end of the previous term. She also ascertained that Harry had experienced malnutrition and a period of near starvation over the summer, the timeframe of which matched that of when he had received the physical injuries. Despite eating well for the past couple of weeks, Harry’s weight was lower than it had been when he left school two months ago.

Finished with the examination, Poppy had conjured a chair and sat down next to Minerva. No longer working, Poppy allowed her calm facade to vanish and her face crumpled with emotion. It took a long time before either she or Minerva was able to speak.

Thinking back to last night, Minerva was still somewhat torn over the decision she and Poppy had made. They had decided that Minerva would not be there when Poppy talked to Harry about his situation at home. They knew that Poppy would have to discuss at least some of her findings when she explained to Harry that he would be expected to take potions for an extended period of time. Poppy and Minerva both knew Harry was too intelligent to fool into thinking the potions were for his ankle injury, so Poppy would need to discuss the evidence of malnutrition. It was sure to be a very difficult conversation, but Poppy was prepared to do it.

Minerva rationalized the decision to allow Poppy to handle the discussion by telling herself that she didn’t want Harry to feel overwhelmed by the fact that both she and Poppy were aware of the abuse. Minerva knew that abused children often felt ashamed and considering Harry had never complained or mentioned anything to the staff, she assumed Harry did not want anyone to know about his life at home. While her rationalization made sense, Minerva was torn because she knew that she was partly avoiding the conversation with Harry because she felt she had lost the opportunity to be a confidant for him. She felt like she needed to earn his trust before she could approach him about anything personal. As a healer, Poppy was more neutral so it made sense that she handle it until Minerva developed a better relationship with Harry.

Sighing, Minerva stood up from her position on her bed and began to get herself ready for the first day of classes. In that moment, Minerva decided that she had to move forward instead of constantly berating herself for her past decisions. Looking up at the ceiling she spoke, “James, Lily, I’m so sorry.” Her voice wavered as she continued, “I promise you that I will figure all this out. I don’t know how yet, but every moment I’m not teaching I will be working to figure this out. I promise you that I will protect him.” She had a lot of work to do to if she was going to make things right.

At the same time Minerva stepped into the shower, Harry Potter awoke confused. With a furrowed brow, he looked around the room and it took him a moment to remember he was back at Hogwarts, but in the hospital wing. Glancing at the windows, he saw that it was still quite dark outside so he knew it must be very early in the morning. He was alone in the wing as Ron had been allowed to return to Gryffindor tower last night and Madam Pomfrey was not yet up and about for the day.

Harry rotated his foot experimentally and discovered there was no longer any pain when he moved it. It was the first time since Uncle Vernon had grabbed his foot to try to keep him from escaping Privet Drive that Harry felt absolutely no pain from his ankle. It had almost completely healed over the last couple of weeks, but yesterday’s crash into the whomping willow had reaggravated the injury. Harry had thought he was hiding the pain well, after all, nobody at the Burrow had noticed him favoring his ankle in the weeks he stayed there so he was shocked last night when he heard Professor McGonagall tell Madam Pomfrey to make sure she checked his leg as it had clearly been injured. While he was somewhat annoyed that Madam Pomfrey had insisted he stay overnight in the hospital wing, Harry had to admit that she had done a brilliant job healing him.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath Harry felt himself smile. He was back home at Hogwarts and couldn’t help but feel joyful about that. Thinking about yesterday, the smile slid off of his face as he remembered the sickening guilt he felt when he saw Professor McGonagall look at him in disappointment. Thankful that she was actually giving him a chance to explain, Harry had told Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore, who happened to walk into the room while Harry was speaking, about the barrier onto Platform 9 3/4 sealing which prevented he and Ron from making the train. He described their worry that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley might not be able to get through to help them so they decided to take the car. When McGonagall mentioned the option of using Hedwig to notify the school of their situation instead of stealing the Weasleys’ car, Harry felt terrible. How could he have been so stupid? Harry was deeply ashamed of his actions and hated the fact that he had disappointed both Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall.

Nearly overwhelmed with guilt, Harry had been stunned when Professor McGonagall meted out punishment. He felt he deserved something much more severe than just detention, and was astonished that McGonagall had agreed not to take any house points. Not for the first time, Harry was grateful that he had argued with the sorting hat and kept it from putting him in Slytherin; he was sure that if things had been left up to Snape, Harry would have been expelled. Lying on his back with his hands clasped behind his head, Harry contemplated the upcoming school year. He hoped it would be a good year and that he might stay out of trouble since Professor Dumbledore made it clear that more trouble would lead to expulsion. Harry watched the window as the sky lightened with the rays of dawn. He then heard someone approach his bed and sat up to greet her.

“Mr Potter, how are you feeling this morning?”

“I feel great Madam Pomfrey.” Harry smiled, “Thank you for healing my ankle.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Potter.” Poppy then waved her wand over Harry muttering diagnostic charms as she did so. “Yes, Mr. Potter your ankle has completely healed so you will be able to walk on it normally from now on.” Poppy then shocked Harry by sitting down in the chair next to his bed letting her wand rest across her thighs. Harry had never seen the matron sitting with a patient, and the serious look on her face unnerved him. Taking a deep breath and focusing on not allowing her voice to shake as she did so, Poppy spoke compassionately, “Mr. Potter, you and I need to chat for a moment.”

Harry was bewildered by Madam Pomfrey’s sudden change in tone and behavior. He found that he could no longer hold eye contact and stared at his own feet as he responded. “I’m sorry Madam Pomfrey. I know I shouldn’t have taken the car, we should have owled for help. It was stupid. I’m so so sorry.”

Poppy leaned forward to touch Harry on the arm to try to help calm him. Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, Harry flinched violently and leaned away. Holding back her own tears and emotions, Poppy continued to slowly move her hand toward Harry and with extreme gentleness placed her hand on his forearm squeezing softly. The unfamiliar touch caused Harry’s head to jerk up and he looked at Madam Pomfrey in surprise.

Relieved by the eye contact, Poppy spoke again, “Harry, I’m not upset at you.” Harry’s eyebrows lifted and his eyes opened wider at the use of his given name. Poppy continued, “You have already been assigned your punishment for yesterday’s actions. That isn’t what I want to discuss with you.” Keeping her tone gentle to make sure she didn’t sound accusatory, Poppy asked, “My first question is why didn’t you take the potions I prescribed to you over the summer?”

Harry looked completely bewildered and responded, “I’m sorry Madam Pomfrey, what potions? I’m really sorry. I must have forgotten you telling me about them. I’ll do better from now on.”

“Harry.” Poppy said gently, but he didn’t respond as he continued to apologize over and over. “Harry!” Poppy said a little more loudly but tried to keep her tone gentle as she did so. Ignoring his wince, Poppy gently placed a hand under Harry’s chin and moved his head so that he was looking at her once more. “Harry, I already told you that I’m not upset at you. It is me that should be apologizing to you. I didn’t personally tell you about the potions so you didn’t do anything wrong. I had explained things to Professor Dumbledore and I think we both assumed that the other had told you and given them to you.” Poppy knew that this was not the case, but she didn’t feel comfortable telling the truth about Albus breaking his promise to take care of things.

Relieved that he apparently wasn’t in trouble, Harry responded, “What kind of potions, Madam Pomfrey? Is there something wrong with me? Did Voldemort do something to me?”

Wincing at Voldemort’s name, Poppy responded, “No, he-who-must-not-be-named didn’t do anything to you. The reason you need to take potions is that you are malnourished. I assume that you have noticed that you are smaller than the majority of your classmates?”

Harry slumped and lowered his eyes. Madam Pomfrey allowed his chin to fall away from her hand, but she reached out and grabbed his hand instead. “Harry, it’s okay. This isn’t your fault. I have prescribed a regiment of strengthening and nutrient potions for you. I’m afraid they won’t taste very good, but they will help you grow and gain weight. I’m sure meals in the great hall will help a great deal as well.” Poppy watched as Harry seemed to fold in on himself. The boy that had moments ago smiled and thanked her for healing him seemed to disappear completely. Poppy’s heart wrenched as she thought about everything he had been through. She wasn’t sure how to proceed. Should she mention the scars and the physical abuse? Harry was already closed off, wouldn’t that just make it worse?

Sitting in silence, Harry didn’t know what to say or what to do. Yes, he knew he was smaller than others and he knew that he often had to go hungry at home, but how could he explain things to Madam Pomfrey? How could he tell her that no matter how hard he tried he was always a freak and freaks don’t deserve to eat with decent people. If there was one thing he had learned from Uncle Vernon, it was that silence was usually the best answer. So Harry remained quiet and waited.

Poppy broke the silence, “Harry, I want you to know that I am here for you if you ever want to talk. You won’t get in trouble for anything you say to me. My goal is to make sure you are okay. I want you to be both healthy and happy. Please know that you can come to me if you need anything.”

Harry continued to avoid eye contact with Madam Pomfrey. Sure he had heard what she said, but he just didn’t want to talk to her. Why couldn’t he just go to class like everyone else? Why couldn’t he just blend in to the crowd?

Realizing that Harry wasn’t going to say anything, Poppy decided not to push any further. “Mr. Potter, here are today’s potions. I have arranged for a house elf to leave each day’s potions by your bed each morning. That way, no one else will know that you are taking them unless you want them to. Please just take them the very first thing each day. Don’t be surprised if you get a note asking you to come to the hospital wing in a few weeks. I will need to check how well the potions are working. There is a change of clothes for you and some toiletries here so you can go straight to the great hall for breakfast if you would like. I’m sure you would like to see your friends as soon as possible.” Squeezing Harry’s hand once more, Poppy turned and walked away.

Harry was immensely relieved as he watched her go. He was thankful that she didn’t ask a lot of questions. He was determined to be as inconspicuous as possible this year. He couldn’t afford to get into trouble. He didn’t think he could handle being kicked out of Hogwarts. With that in mind, Harry got up to get ready for his first day of class.

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Chapter 7: Chapter 7: A First Step

Author's Notes: Sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. On the bright side, it is a bit longer than the previous chapters. Thank you to all of those who have taken the time to review this story so far. I do read them all even if I don't respond to them individually.

Chapter 7: A First Step

Watching Harry leave his office, Professor Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard. He was a little disappointed that Harry had chosen not to confide in him, but the meeting was beneficial nonetheless. While questioning Harry, Dumbledore had cast a silent, wandless legilimens spell to check in on Harry and see what he knew. It surprised him to learn that Harry had actually been hearing the monster as it traveled throughout the castle. That piece of information confirmed Dumbledore’s theory that the “monster” was in fact a basilisk.

Dumbledore had suspected that Slytherin’s monster may be a basilisk since the time Tom opened the chamber fifty years ago. A basilisk simply made the most sense considering both Salazar Slytherin and Tom Riddle were Parselmouths and would have been able to use that skill to control the monster. Dumbledore was also aware of the roosters being killed and had noticed the spiders behaving oddly. Now that Dumbledore had figured that out, he just needed to decipher how Tom was managing to open the chamber again. Unlike last year when he knew that it was Quirrell acting under Voldemort’s orders, he wasn’t really sure who might be to blame this time. Dumbledore knew it was risky to keep the school open while a basilisk was on the loose, but he felt it was necessary that he find out how Tom was orchestrating everything. Thankfully, no one had died during the attacks as of yet, so Dumbledore had more time to try to figure things out before the Board of Governors forced his hand and closed the school.

As Harry left Professor Dumbledore's office, he shook his head as he wondered how his plan to be inconspicuous this year had gone so badly. The activities of the last three months had pretty much made him the most talked about person within the halls of Hogwarts. Unfortunately, after speaking Parseltongue in front of the entire school during dueling club, Harry was suspected to be the heir of Slytherin and therefore the most reviled person in the school. What's worse, he was the one who just discovered that Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly Headless Nick had been petrified. What were the chances that he would be alone in the corridor and happen to discover them? Why did it have to be him? Why did it have to happen to Justin when so many people knew that Harry had been looking for him?

Thankfully, Dumbledore had told Harry that he didn't think he was guilty, but the way Dumbledore looked at him when he asked if Harry had something to say still kind of creeped Harry out. Luckily it didn’t last very long and Harry still wondered if he should have said something about the voice he had been hearing, but Hermione had told him hearing voices wasn’t a good thing and he believed and trusted Hermione.

Harry glanced down at his watch and sighed as he realized he was already late for transfiguration. Since McGonagall was the one who had taken him to Dumbledore’s office, he wasn't worried about getting in trouble for being late, but he hated the idea of walking in when class had already started. Didn't people already have enough reasons to stare at him? Deciding he really didn't have a choice, Harry took a deep breath and walked into the Transfiguration classroom.

As Harry walked into her classroom, Minerva McGonagall paused her lecture and said, “Mr. Potter, thank you for joining us, please see me after class.” Harry nodded and sat down in his usual spot next to Ron and Hermione. Ron and Hermione both gave Harry curious looks, but Harry just shook his head and stared back up at McGonagall trying to listen to her lecture. Before he knew it, class was over.

“I’ll meet you guys later,” said Harry to Hermione and Ron as they left the room. Still sitting at his desk, Harry looked up and Professor McGonagall and waited for her to speak.

While she had hid it from all of her pupils, Minerva’s thoughts had been in turmoil since she discovered Harry with the most recent victims of Slytherin’s monster. She had remained outwardly calm as she took control of the situation and ensured that both Finch-Fletchley and Gryffindor’s ghost were properly taken care of. Her heart grieved for Finch-Fletchley as she thought about the fear he must have felt before he was petrified. She wasn’t sure who or what had caused it, but she knew it must have been a terrifying experience. She knew that student morale was already diminished so it had been especially crucial that she keep her stoic and stern persona intact while dealing with the students and events related to the Chamber of Secrets.

Minerva was worried about the fact that it might become necessary to close Hogwarts. She didn’t want the school to have to close especially since Dumbledore and Petunia Dursley were still Harry’s legal guardians and she didn’t fancy being forced to kidnap Harry in order to keep her promise that she would never allow Harry to return to an abusive home. Despite her need for more time to get Harry’s legal situation squared away, Minerva was beginning to believe that perhaps the school should be closed to protect the students. She was thankful that all of the damage done so far would be reversible, but she was beginning to question the sanity of letting things continue to escalate. Lately her stomach constantly churned with the worry she had for all of her students. Could she live with herself if another student was injured? And Merlin forbid, what if that student was Harry?

Harry already had too much to deal with considering all the things he went through at home and once again, school had become the opposite of a safe haven for him. Minerva had hated not being able to comfort Harry as she had walked him to the headmaster’s office earlier this afternoon. She was not blind to the fact that poor Harry had already been ostracized by the rest of the school and she could only imagine how hard it must be for him. She had scolded both Macmillan and Peeves when they started to accuse Harry of being the one responsible for opening the Chamber, but she knew it would do little to help Harry’s social status. Minerva’s heart nearly broke for Harry when she was forced to take him to Albus’s office instead of talking to him on her own. Unfortunately, Albus had made his wishes clear that he was to do any questioning of students that may have any information about the Chamber of Secrets including those accused of being the heir. Since there were so many other witnesses to the fact that Harry was with the victims when they were discovered, she had no choice but to follow Albus’s directive. Just as she had told Harry, it was truly out of her hands.

However, after leaving Harry in the headmaster’s office, Minerva began to consider what she should do for Harry once Albus had finished questioning him. Minerva knew that Albus was very confident that Harry had nothing to do with the Chamber of Secrets since he had been quite adamant on that fact to Severus during the staff meeting. At least she didn’t have to worry about Harry receiving any kind of punishment for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Minerva decided the best she could do for Harry would be to have discussion with him as his Head of House. She knew in her heart with absolute certainty that Harry was innocent and she wanted him to know that. She wanted him to know that more than just Albus, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger had faith in him. She had asked Harry to remain after class, and now it was time to speak with him. In an unusual move for her, instead of sitting at her desk, she turned the chair around on the desk that was directly in front of Harry’s and sat with only a small student desk separating them.

“Mr. Potter, do you remember when I spoke about the house system last year before everyone was to be sorted?”

“Yes, Professor.” As he responded, Harry was worried. Did she know that the hat really wanted to put him in Slytherin? Was she about to say that the hat made a mistake putting him in Gryffindor? Harry felt his palms begin to sweat and his heart rate rise as he became more and more worried.

Minerva noticed that Harry seemed to be getting more and more nervous with this discussion, but she continued, “Do you remember what I said about the houses, Mr. Potter?”

“Yes, you told us about the traits of each house and that they were named for the founders of Hogwarts.” Harry was doing his best not to fidget as he responded, but he was having trouble because she made him nervous. He was trying to keep eye contact with her, but he found it difficult and could only maintain it for a couple seconds at a time before looking somewhere, anywhere else. Why was she asking him about houses? Why did she keep him here at all? Dumbledore had let him leave his office without any punishment, was he about to get in trouble now?

“You are correct Mr. Potter, but you missed one key point I made that night.” Minerva waited in silence until Harry brought his eyes back around to look at hers and then continued, “Harry, you missed the part where I said that your house would be like your family while you were here.”

Harry’s eyes had widened when Professor McGonagall used his first name. He was absolutely shocked. He had never heard her address anyone informally before. He was still looking at her and he began to notice that she looked a little different than she usually did. He couldn’t really pinpoint it, but she looked softer somehow. He didn’t realize that his jaw had dropped and his brow was somewhat furrowed in confusion as he continued to try to figure out why she was telling him this.

Minerva chuckled slightly as she took in Harry’s reaction. “Yes, Harry. I do know your first name in case you were wondering. I thought for this conversation it would be better to be a bit less formal. I want you to feel comfortable. Would you prefer that I not call you Harry?”

“Harry is fine Professor.” Harry finally managed to croak out. He was confused and a bit overwhelmed, but as awkward as it felt, it was much less intimidating for her to call him Harry rather than Mr. Potter. At least she wasn’t calling him “my boy” like Professor Dumbledore tended to call him. He hated that because Uncle Vernon often called him “boy”, plus it would have been way too weird to hear Professor McGonagall call him something like that.

“Okay Harry, thank you for allowing me to address you in such a manner. Back to what I was saying before, your house is like your family which by default makes your Head of House like a parent while you are here at school. Harry, I know this year can’t have been easy for you and I asked you to stay so that I could talk to you about that.”

Minerva watched as Harry’s shoulders slumped and he went back to staring at the top of his desk. She was doing her best to reach out to him, but he was already closing himself off. Keeping his head bowed, Harry mumbled, “I’m sorry professor.”

Minerva’s eyebrows knit together as she heard him. Why was he apologizing? “Harry, why are you sorry? Have you done something wrong?”

Harry continued to stare at the desk and responded, “I’m sorry, I really tried to stay out of trouble. I don’t want to be expelled and I tried to just blend in with everyone else, but I just couldn’t do it. I promise it wasn’t me that petrified those people. I know everyone thinks I did, but I really didn’t. I swear. Professor Dumbledore says he believes me, please don’t expel me.” Harry’s breathing became harsher as he spoke and at his last words he looked up at Minerva and she could see the fear and pleading in his eyes.

Upon seeing him look at her like that, something within Minerva broke. Her careful plan to stay somewhat removed from Harry to avoid any scrutiny or suspicion from Albus shattered as she looked back at him. Without even thinking about it, Minerva reached toward Harry to grab the hand that was lying on the desk between them. Her heart clinched when Harry flinched away from the contact and bowed his head, but she was still determined to provide him some form of comfort. Very slowly, with her palm facing upward she reached out and placed her hand just below his chin and applied gentle pressure until he relented and looked back up at her. She kept her hand in place as she spoke gently, “Harry, you are not in trouble. I am not going to expel you. I never thought you had anything to do with the attacks that have happened. Its just been rather unfortunate that you have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Minerva watched as some of the tension bled off of Harry at her proclamation that he wasn’t in trouble and she believed him. She moved her hand slowly away from his face and she was gratified when he didn’t flinch as she placed her hand on top of his. He still looked a little worried, but she continued. She didn’t quite feel like she had gained his trust so she said, “Harry, if I tell you something, do you think you could keep it a secret?”

Now Harry was really confused. A secret? From a professor? What kind of secret would he need to keep for a professor? “Yes, professor, I can keep a secret.”

Thinking hard about how she needed to start to build a relationship with him and gain his trust if she was ever going to take care of him, Minerva said, “Harry, I want it to be clear that this should remain a secret for your sake, not for mine. I am actually quite proud of what I am about to tell you, but if it became public knowledge here at school it will very likely make things even more difficult for you.” Harry nodded so Minerva continued, “Give me just a moment and I am going to grab something from my office to show you.”

A few seconds later, Minerva returned to the classroom with a picture frame in her hand. Harry was quite perplexed at the turn of events especially when he noticed that Professor McGonagall actually seemed to be a bit nervous as she walked back toward him. He had never seen her look nervous! What was going on? She looked almost fragile as she sat back down in front of him. Then she handed him the picture. His reaction was immediate. His jaw dropped and all thoughts seemed to fly from his head and then converge back in on him all at once. He couldn’t think straight. He had so many questions, but couldn’t get his mouth to move. His hands shook so violently as he held the picture that he could barely see the images anymore. He then realized that it wasn’t the shaking that was making the image blurry, but the tears in his eyes. Embarrassed, he sat the picture down and with an angry swipe of his hands removed the evidence that he had almost cried. Seeing this, Minerva reached back out and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. She waited for him to regain his composure before speaking again.

“As you just saw, Harry, I knew you before you started Hogwarts last year. That picture was taken shortly after you were born. It is my favorite photograph of all that I own.”

Harry continued to look at the photograph that was now lying on the desk. His eyes flitted between the three adults and the baby that were the subjects of the photo. His mom and dad were both standing and had huge smiles on their faces as they looked at each other, the baby, and back out of the frame toward Harry. He had seen several pictures of his parents, but seeing Professor McGonagall holding a baby (no holding him!) with a look of such happiness and awe was completely alien to him. It was obvious she was enamored because she never once looked away from the baby (no him!) that she was holding. He was also surprised to see that baby Harry held her gaze and didn’t look away from her either. Finally, breaking his gaze away from the photo, he looked back up at Professor McGonagall.

If there was one thing Harry understood, it was pain and he could see the pain in Professor McGonagall’s eyes as she stared back at him. He had no doubt that the tears he saw running down her cheeks were genuine, but Harry didn’t know what to feel. It had been almost a year and a half since he started Hogwarts so why was Professor McGonagall showing this to him now? If she cared for him when he was a baby, why hadn’t she visited? Why had she never given a single indication before now? As the questions continued to swirl in his head, Harry began to feel angry. He would never forget how his first letter from Hogwarts was addressed. That told him all he needed to know about Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. Sure he had always respected the Tranfiguration professor, but she had still addressed a letter to him in “the cupboard under the stairs” and never once asked about it or checked on him. Despite the emotion she was showing now and the fact that she had been close to his parents, he knew he couldn’t trust her to be different than any of the teachers he had in the muggle world. They would all act concerned when they saw Harry moving slowly or when they watched Dudley pick on him, but they never changed a thing. Harry knew deep down that the only person he could really and truly count on was himself. Everyone else was destined to desert him.

Keeping that in mind, Harry finally broke the silence and asked, “May I be excused, Professor?”

Harry saw Professor McGonagall sag at his question. He could almost feel the hurt emanating from her as she leaned back until she was sitting up straight in her chair again. “Of course you may be excused Harry, but before you go please let me say a little more to you.” Harry nodded so she continued, “I can feel that you are angry at me, and I believe that you are justified in feeling that way. I want you to know that I am sorry that I have failed you in the past. Part of the reason I didn’t have this conversation with you last year was because I was afraid. I know I am a Gryffindor, but I was a coward. I’m sorry that my actions have hurt you. I want you to know that I do care for you a great deal. I can see in your eyes that you don’t believe me when I say that, but I hope to prove it to you someday soon. If you ever feel the need to talk to someone please know that I am here. Even if you just want to hear some of my stories about your parents, please come and talk to me. I will happy to share that with you. Good day to you, Mr. Potter.”

Recognizing her switching back into addressing him formally as a dismissal, Harry got up and walked out of the room. He scratched his head as he walked toward Gryffindor tower. He clearly had a lot to think about.

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Chapter 8: Chapter 8: A Ray of Hope

Chapter 8: A Ray of Hope

Poppy Pomfrey had been somewhat reclusive since poor Colin Creevey had been petrified. While she knew that there was absolutely nothing she could do for the boy until the mandrakes were prepared, she still did not feel right leaving the hospital wing unattended while he was there. Because of this, she almost never left the immediate proximity of the hospital wing. She even took her meals in her quarters instead of joining the rest of the staff and students in the great hall. She barely saw any of the staff anymore and only had contact with the sick or injured students who would come into the wing for healing.

On Christmas day, Poppy felt the same reluctance to leave the wing as usual, but Rolanda Hooch had convinced her that even if the students (now there were two with both Creevey and Finch-Fletchley petrified) were awake, they wouldn’t begrudge her going to the Christmas feast. In an effort to keep her promise to Rolanda, Poppy summoned Mimsie, her favorite house-elf, and asked her to attend to the wing while she was gone. She then headed to the Great Hall to join the few students and staff that had not gone home for the holiday.

When Poppy sat down, she noticed that there were very few students remaining at school this Christmas. There were only a handful of Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws still at school. Gryffindor had the most students remaining with all five Weasleys plus Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.

“Poppy, I am so glad you actually decided to join us. I wasn’t sure if you would keep your promise or not.” Rolanda Hooch said with a smile as Poppy sat down next to her.

“I still hate leaving the wing.” Poppy sighed. “I just hate to think of those poor kids laying there petrified and alone.”

“That is why you are the perfect person for this job. These kids are lucky to have you, but please try to take a bit of time for yourself today. I know you are struggling with it, but you have to give yourself some time off or I’m afraid the stress might become too much for you.” replied Rolanda as she reached out and patted Poppy’s arm.

“I will do my best to take your advice, Rolanda. I’m looking forward to this meal.”

As Rolanda and Poppy continued to chat, Albus Dumbledore opened the Christmas feast as per tradition and all the sumptuous food prepared by the elves of Hogwarts appeared on the tables. Most of the conversations became much more muted and segmented as the attendees started to eat. As she was eating, Poppy was looking around and noticed something odd. Her eyes fell on Minerva and Poppy became concerned as she watched her friend. While Minerva didn’t look much different than she normally did, Poppy was concerned by the looks that Minerva was giving Harry Potter. When Poppy caught Harry glancing nervously at Minerva as well, she could only wonder what was causing the tension between the two.

After dinner was over, Poppy pulled her friend aside. “Minerva, I really want to get back to the hospital wing as soon as possible, but would you mind stopping by as soon as you get a chance so that we can chat?”

“I have a few things I need to do right now, but you can expect me within the next hour or two.” Minerva replied.

Two hours passed rather quickly as Poppy tasked herself with checking her inventory of potions and making a list of things she might need in the near future. Before she knew it, Minerva walked into the wing. Bypassing the wing itself, Minerva walked right by Poppy and took a seat in Poppy’s office. Poppy chuckled as she followed her friend and closed the door to the office behind her. Poppy knew that Minerva’s actions meant that she had a lot to say so she simply sat down and looked at her friend expectantly.

After waiving her wand to set the privacy charms, Minerva began to tell Poppy about the conversation she had with Harry Potter in which she admitted to knowing him as a baby. Tears fell as Minerva described Harry’s response. “I knew he would hate me,” continued Minerva, “but I didn’t realize it would be so hard to have him look at me like that. I didn’t fully realize how much it would hurt to have him walk out of the room like that. What am I supposed to do now? How do I prove to him how much I care?”

“What makes you think that he hates you? Think about what we know about him. As far as we know, he has never had an adult in his life that he could count on. We also know that Harry has extremely low self-esteem. For Merlin’s sake, the child has gone from being practically worshipped to completely shunned by his peers in a very short period of time. Imagine how that must seem to him. How could he possibly understand that someone might genuinely care for him? Especially when he must feel like he was abandoned all those years ago to a life of hardship and pain. I think you did the right thing to approach him like you did, but I also think you need to do much more before you actually take custody of the boy. You need to find a way to earn his trust. Think about it, what promise can you give him that will both show him how much you care as well as prove to him that you can be trusted?”

“I can promise him that he will never have to go back to the Dursleys. Even if I can’t get custody like I want to right away, I can at least promise him that he won’t go back to live with those horrible people.”

“Exactly. Now we just need to make sure that you and he are able to have another conversation in which you can make that promise to him. Harry is still under my treatment for his malnourishment. The last time I checked on him was when that idiot Lockhart removed his bones when he botched healing the boy after his quidditch injury. I swear that man should be prosecuted for assault instead of allowed to continue to teach here. It is time that Harry has another check-up with me, and as difficult as it will be, it is also time that we speak to him about the physical abuse he has suffered. I didn’t bring it up last time he was here because that was the same night poor Mr. Creevey was petrified, and I hate to admit I haven’t checked on Harry since then.”

Minerva slumped in her seat as she felt the weight of responsibility crash down on her. It was difficult enough just to admit to Harry that she had known him as a child, how was she going to manage conversing with him about the fact he was abused? Minerva knew Harry had nearly shut down completely when Poppy spoke to him about the malnourishment and she was having trouble imagining how Harry would react to the more difficult conversation ahead.

“You are right, we definitely need to talk to him. Let’s wait just a little bit longer to let him enjoy his holidays and we will talk to him before the rest of the students return to school. Plus, I think he could use that time to try to come to terms with our previous conversation.”

A week passed by and just after the New Year, Harry nervously approached the hospital wing. He had been down several times over the last several days to visit Hermione since she was still stuck with a tail after the debacle with the cat hair in her polyjuice potion. However, this time was different since Madam Pomfrey had asked him to come back for a check up regarding the potions she had him taking every day. Harry tried his best to convince her that he felt better than he ever had before and had noticed he had a lot more energy these days, but Madam Pomfrey still insisted he come in for an appointment with her.

Harry took a deep breath and steeled himself as he walked into the wing. Madam Pomfrey immediately noticed his entrance and waived him over.

“Mr. Potter, I believe that we will be best served to meet in my office today. There is no need to have you dirty one of my beds since you are just here for a check up. Please follow me.”

Harry nodded and followed as she walked into her office. However, when he saw the other occupant of the room, he stopped dead in his tracks. Ever since she had shown him that picture, Harry felt extremely awkward around Professor McGonagall. Thankfully she had not acted any differently in the few classes he had with her before the term ended, but he still wasn’t sure what to think or how to act in her presence. Harry felt ambushed and overwhelmed.

Minerva watched as Harry stood frozen in the doorway. It was obvious he didn’t know what to do so she spoke, “Mr. Potter,” softening her voice she continued, “Harry, will you please come in and have a seat? Madam Pomfrey and I would both appreciate the opportunity to speak with you if that is okay.”

Harry was somewhat confused. Professor McGonagall made it sound like he actually had an option. Unlike most of the time when a professor or adult had “asked” him to do something, this actually sounded like a request and not a veiled demand. A little more at ease by the request, Harry entered the room and sat in the seat Professor McGonagall indicated. He gulped as looked at the two formidable women sitting with him. He had never been comfortable directly addressing figures of authority and he wasn’t really sure what Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey expected of him. Unable to hold eye contact with either one, Harry simply sat in his chair and stared at his hands lying on his lap.

“Harry,” began Poppy, “Professor McGonagall and I both wanted to check in on you and see how you are doing. You have been taking the nutrient potions for four months now and we wanted to talk to you about that and check on things. Would it be okay if I run a quick diagnostic spell on you?”

After seeing Harry nod his consent, Poppy waived her wand and smiled as she began to speak, “Harry, I’m glad that you have done such a great job taking the potions I had prescribed. Of course, I had checked you when you were here in October with your injured arm, but I can see that you have continued to follow my instructions over the last couple of months as well. I’m happy to let you know that your weight and muscle mass is nearly normal for someone your age. As I am sure you have noticed, you are still shorter than most of your classmates, but I have confidence that you will catch up with them over the next year or so. As long as you promise to eat at least three meals a day, you shouldn’t have to continue taking the potions. I’ll need to check you again in about a month to make sure that you are eating enough to maintain the progress you have already made. Now that your nutrition and muscle mass is at normal levels, how are you feeling, Harry? Any problems with getting tired or low energy?”

“No, Madam Pomfrey, I haven't had any problems.” Harry mumbled, “I have actually felt really good and I have noticed that I don’t get nearly as tired walking around the school. I really do feel better than I can ever remember feeling. Thank you very much for your help.” Harry smiled and looked up at Madam Pomfrey briefly, but he dropped his gaze after only a few moments.

“You are very welcome, Harry. Thank you for being such a wonderful patient, but Professor McGonagall and I both have something more we would like you to do for us.” Harry was bewildered by the idea of a request from Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall, but when he nodded, Madam Pomfrey continued, “Harry, would you please allow us to help you more?”

Looking up from his hands, Harry’s eyebrows were knit in confusion as he looked back and forth between the two ladies. Both of them were looking at him with compassion. He was wary and not entirely sure how he was supposed to respond. He was afraid to question them so he simply said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean.”

“Harry, although you are still angry at me for not showing you sooner, I really do care for you and I want to be here for you. I know I haven’t earned your trust yet Harry, and that is okay, but I still want to help you.” Minerva said as she watched Harry’s continued look of confusion.

“I’m not angry at you Professor. I wasn’t sure what to think or feel when you showed me that picture, but I’ve thought about it a lot since then. I know you had more important things to do than worry about me. I’m not angry. I’m just not sure what you want me to do.”

Harry didn’t know it, but he had probably said the one thing that hurt Minerva more than anything else. She could handle him being angry at her, but the idea that he obviously felt that he wasn’t worth her worry or time crushed her. “Oh Harry!” Minerva cried, “that is completely untrue. You are more important that anything else. I have worried about you since the very day your dad and mum told me they were going to have a baby. I worried about you for ten years while you were with your relatives, but I had convinced myself that things would be easier and better for you if I stayed away. I worried about you when I found you after facing a mountain troll last year. I worried about you as I sat next to you while you recovered from your injuries from your encounter with Professor Quirrell. I worried about you when you flew here in an enchanted car and then managed to crash it into the whomping willow. I worried about you being hit with a bludger during your quidditch match only to have another professor injure you more by vanishing your bones. I am worried about you because most of the school is treating your poorly due to this whole heir of Slytherin debacle, and I am worried that you might get hurt by whatever has hurt Messrs. Creevey and Finch-Fletchley.” Her tears were flowing freely as Minerva described several of Harry’s more harrowing experiences, but Harry continued to simply stare at his hands and fidget slightly in his chair. It wasn’t until she paused, that she heard him.

“I’m sorry.” Quieter than a whisper, Harry’s voice was barely audible. It wasn’t clear if he even realized that he was speaking out load as he continued to repeat his apologies.

Realizing that Harry was probably afraid she was angry with him for all the things she mentioned about his past, Minerva moved in front of Harry and knelt down so that she was looking up at him from her position in front of his chair. Despite her attempt to move as slowly and gently as possible, Harry still flinched slightly as she carefully placed her open palm on his knee. “Harry. Harry, please look at me.”

Keeping his head bowed, Harry raised his eyes slightly to look at his professor. “I’m sorry.” He said more loudly as he made eye contact with the formidable witch.

Minerva reached up and took both of Harry’s hands in her own. “Harry, please listen to me for a moment.” Minerva said softly. “Please stop apologizing. I didn’t say all those things to upset you and I’m not angry with you. I only said all of that so you would know that nothing is more important to me than you.” She gently squeezed his hands in encouragement as he continued to look at her.

“But why?” Harry asked meekly. “I’ve caused so much trouble.”

“Harry, I love you and that won’t change no matter how much trouble you cause young man.” She smiled through her tears as she mentioned him causing trouble.

Minerva watched as torrent of emotion seemed to swirl behind Harry’s eyes. His mouth was agape and he seemed frozen in place. Seconds that seemed like hours crawled by as Minerva quietly waited for some sort of response from Harry. Minerva reached a hand up and stroked it through his hair as she spoke, “Harry? Love, are you okay?”

A single tear escaped the corner of Harry’s eye at the unfamiliar words and touch of Minerva McGonagall. He had heard the words “I love you” many times before in his past, but he had never once heard them addressed to him. He looked into the eyes of his Transfiguration professor and saw no sign of deception. Her light green eyes were soft, kind, compassionate, and full of love as she stared back into his bright emerald orbs. Suddenly, Harry sobbed as tears began to freely fall down his cheeks. He had learned at an early age that crying did no good and only made things worse, but his professor’s words and touch had shattered the dam that held back his pain. Unlike most children, he did not lean forward to seek comfort from the adult in front of him, but began to shrink back into his chair. He tried to draw his legs up to his chest, but firm pressure from Professor McGonagall’s hands pushed them back down.

Watching Harry try to collapse into himself, Minerva used Harry’s legs as leverage as she rose up from her kneeling position and sat straight up on her knees. Her new position put her at eye level with Harry and she reached out and grabbed him in a tight hug. She felt him tense up at the unfamiliar contact, but after a few agonizing moments he relaxed and then latched on to her. He sobbed into her shoulder. Despite the fact he was completely distraught, his sobs were nearly silent as he trembled in her arms. She ignored the building pain in her knees as she held him with one hand while she ran the fingers of her other hand through his hair. She kissed his temple and whispered in his ear, “Oh love, it will be okay. I promise, whatever it is, it will be okay.” Minutes passed as she continued to to whisper nonsense and do her best to comfort him. She was so focused on Harry that Minerva never even noticed Poppy leaving the room.

Finally, Harry’s sobs slowed and his breathing became more regular. He released his grip on Minerva and sat back up in his chair. He was mortified that he had broken down like that. How was he ever going to look at Professor McGonagall in the eye again after crying like a baby on her shoulder? How embarrassing! He leaned back in his chair trying to get as far away as he could from her and bowed his head low in order to avoid looking at her.

Saddened by Harry’s retreat, Minerva reached up and gently lifted his chin. She wasn’t sure how to ask her next question so she thought directly would be her best option. “Harry, its okay. Can you tell me what caused you to be so upset? Whatever it is, its okay. I already told you, I just want to help you. What happened?”

Despite Minerva’s hand on his chin, Harry managed to avoid eye contact by moving his eyes to look straight down. His voice was rough and shaky as he answered quietly, “No one has ever said that to me before.”

It took a couple heartbeats for Minerva to figure out what Harry meant, but then the realization crashed down on her when she remembered what she had said before Harry’s breakdown. Unable to stop herself, she pulled Harry back into a hug as she responded, “I’m so sorry, love. You should have heard that from me every single day of your life. I know your parents told you that they loved you all the time. They were so smitten by you that their joy seemed to bubble up all around them. We were in the middle of a war, but I had never seen two people happier than your parents were whenever they were with you.”

“You captured my heart as well, Harry. I’ve loved you since before you were even born. Your dad was my godson and I loved him the same as if I were his actual mother. That same love goes to you as well Harry. I know I’ve failed you in the past, but I really do love you as if you were my flesh and blood grandson or son. I’m so sorry I didn’t show you that when you were younger. I honestly thought you would be better off in the muggle world with your Aunt Petunia. Love, we are eventually going to have to talk about how your aunt and uncle have treated you, but that can wait a little while longer. That is what Poppy and I were talking about when we said that we want to help you more. We want to help you see that how you have been treated in the past is wrong, Harry.”

Minerva watched as Harry seemed to be searching for something in her eyes. His eyes moved back and forth looking from one eye to the other as he stared at her. She wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but she hoped that he would find it. She hoped he could see the truth in what she was saying. “Harry, the main reason I wanted to speak with you this afternoon was so that I could make you a promise. I promise you that no matter what else happens, I won’t allow you to go back to stay with your relatives. I promise you will never have to live with them again. You deserve better, Harry, and I promise that you will get it.”

Upon hearing Professor McGonagall’s promise, Harry felt an inkling of something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He started to feel a little bit of hope. He tried to quash it back down. He tried to tell himself that he couldn’t trust her; he’d been lied to before. But a small ray of hope simply refused to relinquish its hold over him. A few minutes later, as Harry was walking back to Gryffindor tower, he noticed that he had a smile on his face.

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