Dawn and Harry sat in a private parlour at the Leaky Cauldron with Hagrid, both very full from their ice creams, sipping slowly on a fantastically refreshing cold drink that Hagrid said was called Fellip Nectar.
The newly christened Hedwig sat on a perch that Tom, the hunchbacked barman, had brought in for her, while Dawn’s as yet unnamed kitten was curled in her lap.
The fire in the wall suddenly flared green, startling the twins. Harry stood up so fast he knocked his chair over backwards, and Dawn almost dumped her still unnamed kitten onto the floor as she caught him and stopped him from following it down.
“It’s a’right,” Hagrid reassured them, his expression apologetic. “Tha’s just ‘ow we travel, sometimes. Sorry, I should’a warned ya.” He turned to face the figure who had stepped out of the fireplace with a broad smile. “Professor Dumbledore, sir, thank you fer comin’,” he greeted the man.
“Of course, Hagrid. Harry, Dawn…it is a pleasure to meet you at last.”
As Hagrid stepped aside, Harry and Dawn found that they had been proven wrong in their assumption that no one could look as odd as the gigantic, bushy bearded man.
The man who had stepped out of the fireplace was tall, although not compared to Hagrid. He was dressed in bright purple robes with stars and moons embroidered on them in gold thread, and had long white hair and a beard that reached almost to his knees. He was smiling at the two of them, his eyes twinkling benevolently in his creased face.
“Please, Harry, Dawn, sit down. I am Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And I will admit, I am slightly confused as to why I am here,” he added, turning to look at Hagrid and raising a querying eyebrow.
“Uh…yeh…abou’ tha’, Professor Dumbledore, sir, if I could jus’ speak to yeh out ‘ere for a minute,” Hagrid said, glancing at the children and jerking his head towards the corridor.
Harry and Dawn were left looking at the door, then at each other, slightly nonplussed.
In the corridor, Hagrid spoke softly to avoid being overheard. “Those two are ‘alf starved, Headmaster, and ‘ave more than a passing acquaintance with sharing a bed. I ‘eard Dursley admit to beatin’ ‘em wi’ me own ears…I wanted to give ‘im a thrashin’, so ‘elp me I did. I will no’ take those two back to tha’ house,” Hagrid declared vehemently.
“Of course not, Hagrid. I would never have placed them there had I believed they would be in any peril,” replied Dumbledore, looking horrified. “I merely wanted them to grow up with…being revered. I wanted them to have a balanced view of the world, not to be abused and mistreated.” He sighed, one hand rising to pinch the bridge of his nose as he attempted to stave off a rising headache.
“The problem is that they cannot go just anywhere. The weaker the blood relation, the harder the wards are to set,” Dumbledore said, frowning in concern. “That was the other reason why the Muggles were preferable as guardians – the direct blood link between the twins and their aunt made for the strongest possible blood wards.”
“There’re others tha’ are related by blood,” pointed out Hagrid. “Mos’ all pure bloods can claim some relationship to the ‘ouse of Potter, same as they can to every other ‘ouse. Surely there’s someone as can lay close enough claim to them for it to work.”
“Oh, there are several…the only question is whether we can trust any of them. For now, we will have to bring them back to Hogwarts…I will look into who is the best to take them from there.”
Dawn and Harry sat together, waiting for the two adults to return.
“What do you think?” Harry asked Dawn, who frowned thoughtfully.
“We need to be careful. I like Hagrid, so maybe we can trust him. He’s taken good care of us today, and he didn’t like Uncle Vernon at all.”
Harry nodded slowly. He found himself wanting to trust the friendly giant, but knew from painful experience that this wasn’t always the best course of action. They would wait, and not invest hope or trust in anyone until they were sure it was well placed. This was, after all, the best way to avoid disappointment.
The door to the room reopened, Dawn and Harry swiveling to see who was entering. Hagrid came in first, followed by the Professor.
“You will not be returning to your aunt and uncle’s house,” the professor told them as he and Hagrid sat at the table. Dawn relaxed minutely at that, but still sat tensely, ready to leap to Harry’s defense if the man suggested anything that could potentially hurt them, like splitting them up.
“For now, you’ll be coming to the school. We’ll work something out from there, find a more distant relative you can stay with. I want to apologize to you both for what happened to you, for what those people did to you. That was never my intention, I saw how they treated their own child and believed they would care for you, also. Do you have all of your things?”
“Jus’ have to collec’ their wands from Ollivanders,” Hagrid said, gesturing to the rest of the bags. An’ we’ll need to stop by that house, get their things,” he added, mostly just wanting to see exactly how the two had been living so that he would know what to expect from them.
“Well, then, why don’t we see about doing that. And who is this?” he spotted Dawn’s kneazle and smiled gently, stretching out a hand which it sniffed cautiously before licking his finger.
“He doesn’t have a name yet,” Dawn admitted, ducking her head slightly.
“Sometimes it takes time to come up with the right one,” he told her reassuringly. “Is this everything, Hagrid? Well, then, if we just do this,” he produced his wand and, with a complicated gesture, shrunk the twins shopping, sans animals, down until it fitted comfortably in Harry’s pockets, “we can go to Mr. Ollivanders and retrieve your wands, then we will fetch whatever belongings you care for from your former home.”
The twins felt each other’s nervousness, Dawn apprehensive at how fast everything was happening and uncertain if they could or even should trust these virtual strangers, and Harry nervous to go back to their relative’s house, certain that if they did something would change and they would end up stuck there again.
“A’righ’ then, you two, lets go,” Hagrid grinned reassuringly at them, and Dawn felt herself relax slightly. “’s gonna be alright,” he told them softly as they followed behind Dumbledore, who made an effort to ignore the conversation. “We’re gonna take care of ya’s now, no one’s gonna hurt you again. I promise.”
Dawn felt the words settle into her heart, the depth and weight of them heavy and at the same time comforting. She squeezed Harry’s hand and sent him a wave of comfort, trying to ignore her own unease. If nothing else, they wouldn’t be giving them back to the Dursleys, which she knew Harry feared, and nothing they could do to them could be as bad as what their so called relatives had already done.
They made their way back down Diagon Alley, the twins keeping up an internal ‘conversation’ that basically consisted of bursts of emotion: nerves, comfort, excitement, happiness and love going back and forth in equal measure, both attempting to reassure the other that it would be alright, and that whatever happened they would always have each other.
They collected their wands from Mr. Ollivander, after he had them demonstrate that the blood tuning had worked and their wands now only worked for themselves, then followed Hagrid and Dumbledore back outside.
“Let’s take the shorter route, shall we?” Dumbledore said, smiling around. He reached into a pocket and brought out an oddly large pocket watch and pointed his wand at it for a moment. “Now, if both of you will touch this, you too or course, Hagrid. Now, children, this is a portkey. It will take us where we need to go right…now.”
The twins felt the oddest sensation, as though a crochet hook had caught them through their navels and tugged them forward, then they were spiraling through…somewhere. They stumbled as their feet hit the ground again, almost falling before Hagrid caught them each by an elbow…or a whole arm, really.
“A’righ’, you two?” he released their arms as soon as they were steady on their feet, and they turned to face the house that had been their place of torment for ten long years.
Uncle Vernon’s car was back in the driveway, so clearly the Dursleys had found their way off the island where they had left them. Dawn’s stomach quivered at the thought of entering the house willingly, but she followed Dumbledore up the steps, Harry now on the supportive end of their link.
Dumbledore stopped on the top step and rang the bell. The twins heard the footsteps approaching and knew who was behind the door before their uncle opened it, scowling ferociously at Dumbledore.
“What do you want? Who do you think you are, showing up here looking like…like that!” the man snarled, staring at Dumbledore as though he was some kind of extremely noxious pond scum.
“I am Professor Dumbledore, and we are here to collect the children’s things,” the professor said, his tones cool and just barely on the right side of polite.
“Why should we let them take anything out of our house? Our own money went into feeding and clothing them, don’t think for an instant that we’re giving them anything,” the large man snarled, attempting to block the door, fairly successfully, with his large bulk.
“Move or I will move you,” the professor stated calmly, staring at Vernon with an oddly cheerful expression, but an implacability in his eyes that dared him to try and bar the way any longer.
Vernon growled and grumbled but shifted as little out of the way as he could while still allowing them into the house.
“Where are your things, children?” asked Dumbledore, and Harry and Dawn led the way upstairs to their room. Dumbledore tried not to show his shock at the single bed, but Hagrid felt no such compulsion, growling angrily as he looked around the pokey bedroom. They waited until the twins had collected their few possessions, then Dumbledore spoke. “I’ll pack these for you,” he told them, pulling out his wand and giving it an idle seeming wave, the things quickly gathering themselves together and the blanket on the bed reforming itself into a suitcase that swallowed them then zipped itself up.
“Now, lets get out of here,” Dumbledore said, smiling, as Hagrid took the bag and turned to lead the way back downstairs, since no one could pass him in the door or the hallway.