Another chapter, another disclaimer: I own neither of the universes here.
December 3rd: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Headmaster’s office.
Fudge glared angrily at Dumbledore, as if the way things were was the old headmaster’s fault. His personally selected, Ministry approved High Inquisitor and Senior Undersecretary, Madame Delores Umbridge had failed to deal with the problems coming from Hogwarts. The small woman had spent the last few months trying to destroy the support that Potter and Dumbledore both still had. Even without being there, it seemed that the boy’s very essence or spirit had remained at the school to challenge her. He had nearly been tempted to send for an exorcist to ensure that wasn’t the case. Every move she made had been countered by Dumbledore or the students until the woman could barely do anything but shout and watch as she was ignored. She was stopped dead in the water, her supposed power over Hogwarts and its students meaning nothing. Even with the loss of their protector.
The year had started out so well too, with Dumbledore marginalized and Potter expelled and out of sight. Fudge himself had gladly snapped the holly wood wand himself. An act that was turning into a somewhat bittersweet memory for him, what with everything that had happened in the last couple of days. It had all fallen apart late last night when Dumbledore and his band of followers had stopped You-Know-Who from taking something from the Department of Mysteries. The Dark Lord and the Headmaster had, in fact, been interrupted in a battle in the atrium of the Ministry. The fact that the entire Auror force, and most of the Department Heads had seen the Dark Lord had not helped either. Now that he had seen the truth, he was being forced to do something about it by the masses. He needed something that would calm the people down, and the old man sitting across from him was no longer the answer. The people wanted the hero that had stopped him last time. They wanted the Boy-Who-Lived; they wanted Harry-Bloody-James-Sodding-Potter back.
"I don't care what has to be done just get Potter back in Hogwarts where he needs to be Dumbledore. If he doesn't return by the New Year I will probably lose my position in the Ministry. The people need Potter here for hope now that You-Know-Who is back. He stopped him once, maybe we'll get lucky and he'll do it again," Fudge said somewhat hopefully.
Dumbledore nodded in agreement with the Minister as he looked him over from his half-moon spectacles. "I am very well aware of this Cornelius; although I don't think that stopping Voldemort will be anywhere near as easy as it was last time. You should also keep in mind that it was your court that expelled Harry from Hogwarts," he pointed out to the man.
"That doesn't matter right now," Fudge said, waving that little detail aside as unimportant. "What does matter right now is that we need to get Potter back here as soon as possible, preferably before someone tries to make a run at my job."
"Unfortunately Cornelius, Harry is going to be much more difficult to find than you may believe him to be." Dumbledore said, looking somewhat discouraged.
"What do you mean Albus? Just bring him back from his relatives, or whatever little hiding place that you have him secreted away at now," Fudge demanded of the older wizard. “I’ll even ignore the fact you’ve probably had someone teaching him as well. We can say that he was receiving special training and that the whole trial was something we cooked up so no one would notice Potter being gone from Hogwarts.” He began to plan how he would present everything to the people. “Yes, we’ll just say that we were trying to draw Him out,” he said, as he schemed on how best to meet his challengers.
"And that is where our problems begin Cornelius; I simply have no idea where Mr. Potter might be,” Dumbledore explained to the scheming politician. “The truth of the matter is, I haven't seen him since the day of his hearing. His magical guardian took him one night to places unknown."
"Then where is he?" Fudge whined, as he saw his one chance of political survival disappear, his plans falling apart before they could even be used.
"I really wish I knew the answer to that Minister, but I have no idea what the answer may be. Most of my searches have been through Great Britain, Scotland, France, and Ireland, all of which have turned up nothing. He has had three months to disappear though, he could literally be anywhere in the world by now and we would not know."
"We need that boy Albus, without him we'll be lost." Fudge said angrily. "I'll pull all available Aurors off of their current duties and have them begin searching for the boy."
“You can certainly try, however I have no idea just where he is, nor do his friends Mr. Weasley or Miss Granger. I have questioned them both extensively, and they have no idea whatsoever as to what it is that has happened to Harry. They both have done their best trying to determine where he might go and ask me about the status of the search at least twice a day. The closeness of those three’s friendship sometimes astounds me. It will be nice having more people helping out in the search, but we are for the moment constrained by the lack of knowledge of where to search.”
The headmaster hadn’t been kidding when he said that the pair were always asking about their missing friend. The pair it seemed had been ready to drop their classes and help in any way that they could with the search. When they had been forbidden, Hermione had retreated to the libraries and begun researching every locater spell she could find. Trying to find ways to extend the spells effectiveness and range beyond what they were if she couldn’t find anything new. Dumbledore had been laying some of his own personal books on such subjects out for her to find, figuring that using the girl for his own means was fine. The quest for Harry meant that letting some of the knowledge that he usually kept back from others had to be released. Ron Weasley, on the other hand, had thrown himself into fighting for Harry, becoming his friend’s champion. The usually volatile redhead was a cauldron of simmering rage that no one wanted to get to close to for fear that he would attack them. McGonagall had dragged him into her office several times to cool him down and threatened to remove his prefect badge if he couldn’t control himself. Ron had merely told her to give it to Neville and resort him into Hufflepuff if she didn’t want him to stand up for his friend. McGonagall had released him after that with stern warnings, unsure of what else to do. What was bad about this though was that there was no one doing the same for Dumbledore. None of his supporters had been so open in working for him. Sure there were those that were helpful to him, but none of them had ever shown the amount of loyalty that those two showed to Harry. It was somewhat discouraging to the old wizard who remembered a time that the people would have flocked to him in support, but now even the ones that supported him were afraid to actually say anything out loud. Minerva and Hagrid were actually the few exceptions and even he wasn’t sure where they stood if it came down between himself and Harry. In order to truly gtt the people behid him in the war again he needed Harry.
“The wizarding world needs Potter now more than ever,” Fudge complained, interrupting the headmaster’s thoughts.
“I agree, and after I find him I shall do my best to see to it that he is brought to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore assured the portly man.
“Yes, give him whatever he wants; just get him back here Albus.” Fudge ordered. “As of this moment, I’m putting you in charge of the search for the boy.”
“I am gratified to know that your faith in me has changed so much,” the old wizard said with a smirk.
“Yes, I’ll also be sending over someone else to teach your DADA courses. I, unfortunately, am going to have more immediate concerns for Senior Undersecretary Umbridge to deal with, now that we are on the verge of war and she cannot be in both places at once. I’m sure that Amelia will pick out a suitable replacement for her. Perhaps she can send Rufus Scrimgeour to do it,” he suggested as he knew the auror was looking to promote himself in these times.
“A most regrettable action, but it is important that one knows ones limits after all. I am sure that the students will all be there to see that she gets a decent send off. I’m sure that her replacement will strive to become a part of the Hogwarts teaching staff. I shall see if I cannot get the other professors to help with the class until an appropriate replacement can be found,” Dumbledore said politely as his eyes twinkled at the Minister.
“Er yes,” Fudge said blushing slightly.
It had taken nearly three weeks with the combined efforts of the Ministry and Dumbledore to locate Harry. Alastor Moody, Nymphadora Tonks, Amelia Bones, and Percy Weasley had combined their skills and talents to locate the missing Boy-Who-Lived. While Moody and Tonks had followed the physical trail, Percy had followed the paper trail and Amelia had coordinated all of them together into an effective search team. They had followed every lead and scrap of evidence, and it had only been when Percy had traced Remus Lupin’s past that he managed to find what they needed. To make it somewhat embarrassing for the group though, it had actually been Hermione Granger that had suggested that particular angle. Most of them had shrugged the werewolf off as unimportant member of the group, until they had been reminded how desperate they were for clues. The werewolf had spent three years in the States after the deaths of the Potters. Never staying in the same area more than three months, but sticking to the werewolf communities. Percy theorized that it was possible that Lupin was doing the same thing again, at least during nights of the full moon. Moody and Tonks had entered various werewolf communities, waved some gold around and had eventually found out all that they needed to know. Werewolves being the untrusting type, had seen and followed Remus to a large house on several nights. Reports of a boy that matched Harry Potter’s description had also been reported and Moody had even gotten close enough to see the house and had confirmed that Potter was there.
Now that they knew where he was, they could retrieve their missing hero from his exile and prepare him to defeat the darkest wizard of the Age. Dumbledore and Fudge led a group of Aurors, a pair of Hogwarts students and Hagrid to the house that Harry had been traced to. The entire group stared up at the impressive house that had wards as strong, if not stronger, than the ones that guarded Hogwarts itself. Though they were of a different style of magic than what the headmaster was used to. It was Dumbledore’s hope that by having Harry’s nearest and dearest there to try and convince him, that their task would be that much easier to accomplish. They had tried to get the Americans support but, when it became clear that it was in New York, the Americans had pulled back saying they were welcome to try but that city was a hot spot that wizards simply did not enter. No amount of blustering or urging by Fudge or Dumbledore had convinced them to come, and the group had been forced to have only their own members come.
The group was greeted at the door by a bald Asian man who acted the part of a servant. "Good day, my dear man. We are representatives from Britain and were hoping that you could take us to Mr. Potter. We have some rather pressing business that we need to discuss with him," Dumbledore said, before Fudge could say anything that would anger the residents of this house.
Wong nodded as he listened to the old wizard, he easily recognized a majority of the group as he had been told about them from Harry, or he had seen their pictures in the wizard newspaper that Remus read. He led the group into the library before leaving them. "I shall see if young Harry can see you now."
"Yes, you do that, we have a busy schedule after all," Fudge said pompously, his mind on the speech he would give when they returned home after they had retrieved Potter. He was already planning some of the campaigns that he would try once the boy was back. Once he was known as the man who brought Potter back, the people would forget that Potter had left because of him in the first place.
Wong ignored the portly Minister and turned to the Hogwarts part of the retrieval group. "Be careful of some of the books in here, for not all are as innocent looking as they may appear. Particularly yourself Miss Granger, young Potter has warned us of your devotion to learning. The Master would hate for something to happen to any of his guests, particularly friends." Hermione blushed at this while the Ministry personal impatiently, tapping their wands against their legs. Dumbledore chuckled at the obvious light hearted joke; Ron looked over at the man hopefully. "And you Mr. Weasley were also mentioned, often for both your temper and your loyalty once you are convinced of something." Ron beamed at this description from his friend.
They were interrupted from anything else though as the two teens heard a familiar sound. Spinning around the pair saw a familiar creature. “Hedwig!” They cried out in relief at seeing the animal before them. The snowy white owl turned to see the pair before gliding over to them and then bounced off Ron’s head and landed in front of Hermione. The two teens quickly began petting the preening owl.
This stopped though as Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and Harry Potter entered the library. "Black," Fudge growled while his two aurors raised their wands at the escapee.
“Remus, Sirius, Harry.” Dumbledore greeted politely, nodding toward the trio of runaways. Their disappearance had caused him a number of problems, and he had been forced to cash in a number of favors into finally getting here. If they had only been patient then everything would have turned out alright. He only hoped that they hadn’t caused too much damage to his plans for the coming war.
“Headmaster,” Remus and Harry greeted respectfully. There was a hint of wariness behind their eyes though that troubled the headmaster.
"Fudge," Sirius greeted with mock joy, "I must admit this is a much more enjoyable way to meet up than last time. Of course, back then there was a set of prison bars keeping us away from each other. On the bright side I can now offer you a place to sit down and even a newspaper this time around." He flashed the minister a mocking grin as he offered a copy of the Daily Prophet.
Dumbledore observed the Marauders and their heir, and had to admit that he was somewhat impressed. All three looked well rested and were all well-dressed. The marauders were dressed as muggles, having traded their robes for jeans and shirts. Harry was dressed in a combination of wizard and muggle clothing. His shirt appeared to be of oriental design though, and surprisingly he seemed to be wearing his father’s invisibility cloak. With the hood down and it being open the boy appeared to be wearing a multi colored cloak. He wondered idly if he could find a way to copy the look into his own clothes and have some robes made up to look like that. The sparkle in all of their eyes let the aging wizard know that they were happy here. He was almost sad that he would be forced to take them away. The needs of the many people of England far outweighed the group’s wants though. It was for the Greater Good that they returned with them.
Fudge shivered at the comments made by Sirius before remembering that he had two aurors, Hagrid, and Dumbledore on his side of the room while Black only had himself, Potter, and Lupin. Since Potter likely didn’t have a wand, it would mainly be a fight between the adults. "You men, seize him!" The Minister commanded his people.
"I think not," Dr. Strange said as he entered the room and summoned the aurors wands to him. "Mr. Black is a guest here, and you have no right to go blasting away at things or people in my home without permission." He said from his position in the doorway.”
Sirius smiled at the man in thanks, while Hermione gaped in shock and awe as she recognized the figure that stood before all of them. Only an elbow to the ribs by Harry stopped her from saying anything to them.
"But he's a convicted killer, and you all heard him threaten me." Fudge blustered at the unknown figure.
Strange just gave the man an amused look. "Really? Then you won't mind supplying us with the court records from his trial then. We asked the goblins, but they couldn't find them, which is a cause of great concern. Once other countries learned of this, the majority of them called off their hunts for Black. Though the United Kingdom, and her neighboring countries have not done the same. The lawyers that we have retained to deal with this problem are very good at what they do though and have been continuously applying for the right to represent Mr. Black. Your Undersecretary, a Madame Umbridge has been most forceful in her denying them the chance to present their case though."
"Not to mention that Jessica is a great kisser, although Matt's dry sense of humor is amusing as well,” Sirius piped up.
"Sirius," Remus groaned at his friend.
"What, it's true. Besides I seem to recall hearing a similar conversation about you and Rahne not too long ago," the dark haired man smirked, to his friend’s embarrassment.
"Crouch, and Bagshot" Fudge complained quickly picking someone to blame for this newest problem that came with Potter. "Look Harry," he tried hoping that the boy would accept blaming the old administration for the problems of his godfather.
"That's Mr. Potter to you, Minister. I recall that was how you insisted on addressing me during that trial a while ago," Harry replied to the Minister as he looked up from the rather forceful hug that Hermione was giving him. Ron settled with giving him a one armed hug. No one had really been paying attention to the reunion of friends while they had all been focused on the confrontation between Sirius and Fudge.
Fudge twirled his bowler hat nervously as he began to realize how many bridges he had burned with this boy. "Er, yes, nasty business that was. The court recently went over the information again and cleared you of all charges though," he explained with a hopeful smile.
"Well you must have had plenty of time in the legal department to do that since you lot weren't getting anything else done," Sirius shot at the man. "Or were they all that busy looking for me? Please tell me that there were a lot of beautiful female Aurors looking for me." The faraway look and lecherous grin he wore let everyone know just what he was thinking about.
Fudge glared at the wizard, wanting to do nothing more than to wring the dark haired pureblood’s neck. The man forced himself to face the Potter boy as he had to contain himself. "Anyways Mr. Potter, on behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I wish to offer you our apologies, a full Ministry pardon, reinstate you back into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and of course, an agreement to replace your wand."
"Yes, and I happen to have your acceptance letter here," Dumbledore said brightly, as he dug into his robe and pulled out a letter for the boy with the Hogwarts crest on it. “The Ministry has even agreed to give you an exemption for the summer so that you may catch up with the rest of your year mates and take O.W.L’s during the first month of summer.”
Harry looked sorrowfully at the letter being offered to him. "I wish I could accept that letter headmaster but I can't." Harry said as he turned the acceptance letter down, handing it back to the man.
Hermione frowned at her friend. “Harry?” She questioned while grabbing her friend in a tight embrace.
“Mate?” Ron questioned, looking worried. “Come on Harry, this is Hogwarts that we’re talking about.” He pleaded with his friend.
"What?" Fudge questioned in shock dropping his bowler to the ground ignoring the group of friends as they were having a contest of wills. "Unacceptable boy, you need to rejoin the wizarding world. It needs you. Tell him how he needs to be at Hogwarts Dumbledore. Tell him how important his, ah, education is now."
Dumbledore nodded with the Minister, "He's right my boy, you need to let go of this grudge that you have and finish your education. Now is the time that we must all band together and not allow our differences get in the way."
Harry shook his head at the man, "Part of me wishes that I could headmaster but I can't. I'm under an apprenticeship agreement. I can't exactly leave, now can I?"
Dumbledore shoulders sagged at this as he realized the truth of what the boy said. It would appear, for the moment, he had lost Harry but there was a chance of luring his Master into teaching at Hogwarts. Then Harry would be back at school where he belonged and he could keep an eye on the boy and what he was doing. ‘If the DADA curse was given some help the boy might even find himself without a master by the end of the year as well.’ He mused to himself.
"Dumbledore," Fudge complained to his companion, as he saw his last chance for political redemption being destroyed before his very eyes.
Dumbledore shook his head sadly towards the man. "Unfortunately I can do nothing about this Minister. You shall have to ‘learn to live with it,’ as the younger generations say. An apprenticeship merely requires an agreement between the two parties and it is perfectly legal and binding."
“Indeed it is.” Dr. Strange said in agreement with the headmaster.
“Just who are you anyways, and what business is this of yours?” Fudge growled in anger. This man was becoming an annoyance with the way he kept interfering in Ministry business.
“I am Dr. Stephen Strange, and this happens to be my house,” the man returned to him. “I have also taken the boy under my tutelage,” he added to the group.
Dumbledore and Fudge looked up at the man with renewed interest at this. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of an understanding then,” the Minister said hopefully. “The people of Britain need Harry to once more be there for them in their time of need. As the Minister of Magic I can offer you a house of your own, near Hogwarts even.”
“Perhaps, if you were interested, I could even offer you a position within Hogwarts itself,” Dumbledore offered the man. “With the recent proclamation that we are in a state of war once again, members of my staff that had double duty within the Ministry, have been recalled and I find myself burdened with the task of trying to refill the DADA position over the Christmas Holidays.”
“A capital idea,” Fudge said happily, as he realized that this would cost him much less this way.
Dr. Strange shook his head at the duo. “I am afraid I must decline your most generous offer headmaster. I am simply much too busy with my work and responsibilities here in New York to take the time to go and teach at a school on the other side of the world.”
Dumbledore frowned, the mage before him was an American so he was less enamored with the Dumbledore name and myth. This meant that he had to work harder to convince the man that his way was right. “Surely there must be someone that can do these other duties for at least the remaining school year?” He said hopefully while sending a mental probe at the man trying to find what he might want in exchange. He was somewhat surprised when the man deflected his probe so casually and didn’t even seem to try. He had thought that he was a master in the mental arts yet this man treated his probe like it was nothing. He wished he had more time to learn about this Stephen Strange. “As the magical guardian of Harry Potter I think that I should have some say in where he is taught.” He tried.
“You never had that right headmaster,” Dr. Strange informed the man sagely. “Sirius Black has always been the magical guardian to the boy. Despite his illegal imprisonment, it has always been Black. The goblins have confirmed it for us, and you have accepted it. As he is now my apprentice though, I am now his magical guardian.”
Dumbledore frowned. The man obviously did not like being told no and rarely heard it. “Perhaps we can make a deal,” he suggested. “A minor little duel to decide the fate of young Harry. The stakes shall be his magical guardianship.”
“You wish to challenge me for the right to teach him headmaster?” Dr. Strange questioned in amusement.
“If it is the only way to ensure that he returns to our world, then I shall do so.” Dumbledore replied to the man.
“Very well, if you win you get the boy, if I win though you agree to leave him alone and do not contact him through any means until Harry allows you to,” Strange returned to him.
Dumbledore nodded his head in agreement confident in his abilities with a wand. Fudge merely beamed, seeming to approve of the idea of the battle between the two.
“Harry, Wong. Go prepare the training room for wand combat.” Strange commanded the pair.
“At once Master.” Wong said bowing to the man before he walked out of the room followed by the trio of friends. Ron and Hermione were not about to let Harry out of their sight, afraid that he would disappear on them again. The others followed the trio a moment later to a large room. The two duelers each took a side of the room and faced each other. Dumbledore drew his wand and waited while Strange accepted a golden looking wand from Wong. The fight was unexpectedly short as Strange crafted a shield to absorb the attacks and then returned the blasts back at the headmaster.
The others all watched in awe as Dumbledore fell to the ground tied up in several red bands of magical energy. Strange held his hand out and Dumbledore’s wand flew into his hand. He held the wand for a moment and seemed to be studying it before he turned to look at the downed wizard. “This wand is a powerful creation of Elder magic headmaster. However, despite all of its potential power the wand is a cursed one. I would recommend using a different wand as this one could be your downfall someday. He then released the bindings on Dumbledore and returned his wand to him.
Dumbledore sighed as he rose to his feet. He had lost, and until Harry allowed for the two of them to speak there was nothing he could do. To add to his troubles while he may still possess the Elder Wand, he was no longer its Master. This change would make battling Tom all the more difficult should he choose to fight him once again. “Very well, I shall leave you then.” Dumbledore said with a heavy heart, as he was led out of the room by Wong with the Ministry people following behind him. He was surprised when Harry didn’t defend him or say anything to him. If the silence continued, he would have to find a way to inform Molly about what had happened. The woman would be sure to write a letter or possibly even a Howler in his defense and order the boy to start communicating with him. The silence would not be all that long at least.
“You haven’t heard the end of this,” Fudge promised them as he stalked out of the room. “I’ll get the I.C.W involved in this. Potter is a British subject and is needed by his country.”
“Until then Minister Fudge,” said Strange, impatiently motioning towards the doors. “When the meeting is called, perhaps we can bring up Sirius Black and his illegal incarceration as well.” Fudge swallowed nervously at the statement before fleeing from the building.
Hagrid looked sadly at Harry. “Ogwarts jest won’t be dhe same witout ch’ya Arry,” the Half-Giant said sadly.
Harry smiled sadly at the large man. “I know Hagrid, but there are things that I have to do and this is one of them. I’ll always remember you as the man that saved me, brought me into the magical world, and introduced me to Hedwig though,” he said, nodding to the owl that had returned to her perch in the corner.
Hagrid wiped away a tear even as he puffed up. No one was sure if it was because of what he had done for Harry, or because Harry had so casually called him a man. “Yer a good kid Arry Potter and yer going tah be a great wizard when ya grow up.” He sniffled once more before walking out the door.
The trio were the only ones left for the moment as Strange, Sirius, and Remus were all gone as well. “I’m going to miss you mate,” Ron said uncomfortably, as he gave his friend a hug. “I’ll do my best to write to you. You realize that you’ll have to start taking care of yourself now Harry? We won’t be there to back you up when something happens.” Ron’s weak joke was even worse because of the anguish on his face, as he didn’t want to not back his best friend up. Ron had flashbacks of last year and realized he had really screwed things up by being mad at his friend for something not his fault. He was really lucky that his friend was so willing to forgive him for his prat like attitude.
“Yeah,” Harry said thickly, not sure what else to say.
Hermione sniffed one more time before she caught both boys into one of her bruising hugs. “Why are you both so stupid?” She questioned the pair of them. The boys each reached over with one arm and brought her in smiling at their emotional friend.
“Mental she is,” the two said with grins.
A few moments later the group separated and three watery-eyed friends headed for the door. Harry watched his friends as they walked out. Hermione turned around once and gave him another hug. “I promise I’ll write to you and send copies of all of my notes and try to convince my parents to let me visit at least once,” the witch assured him. “In return you can explain to me how you met THE
Dr. Strange though.”
“Hedwig will be worn out by the time you’re done with school then,” Harry teased the witch with a smile. “As for how we met it’s not really much of a story all things considered. Kind of like the one where the three of us became friends.” The girl gave him an incredulous look as she very well remembered the circumstances that had formed their original friendship. Shaking her head she gave Harry a quick peck on the cheek and Ron gave him a punch on the shoulder before they returned to the people they came with. Harry smiled as he watched his friends disappear with the group.
“Come, Harry. We have had enough interruptions for today, and there is still much work to do,” Dr. Strange told the young man.
“Of course, Dr. Strange,” Harry agreed as he followed the mystic back inside the house.