Harry moaned as the lights of the Hospital Wing seemed to burn his eyes when he opened them, squeezing them shut as they threatened to restart the migraine that he barely remembered having. Gabriel was worryingly silent in his mind.
In his mind? Harry wondered, blinking. That wasn't right. He was Gabriel, wasn't he? The Messenger of God with three older siblings.
That wasn't right either. He wasn't Gabriel, Harry remembered. Not completely, not yet. He was still currently Harry but he remembered being Gabriel. He remembered Heaven before the birth of the seraphs and the principalities and the cupids and the cherubim. 'We reached the end of your human lives, didn't we?' Harry asked his memories, searching out the voice that was somewhat muted in the back of his mind.
'We did,' the memories of Gabriel said, sounding more like he had in the beginning when they had first met. 'The Dementors reacted strongly to us and our proximity to them brought the worst of our memories in our human lives forward until they were all bombarding us at once. Add to that the fact that they were attempting to kill us and we ended up free falling miles from the ground while we tried to use our wings to save us, our Grace and soul reacted by working together to keep us alive. Our soul weaved itself into our Grace, powering it so that our wings grew until they were long distance flight ready and our Grace kept most of the memories at bay so that we could focus on motor control. Unfortunately, once we were safe on the ground the forced melding they did nearly killed us.'
'So in saving our life, we nearly died?' Harry asked incredulously.
'Worse,' Gabriel said, his voice still softer than he was used to but easier to hear than it was when he'd first woken up. It seemed to be stronger the more he explained. 'Our heart stopped. Because our soul and magical core are so closely combined, when our soul and Grace began trying to reject each other, our magic started trying to counteract the adverse effects it was having on our body in effort to keep us alive. The potions and spells they were trying to use to stabilize use was interfering with our own magic and it nearly killed us and stopped our heart. Luckily, Diggory knew CPR and got our heart beating again and our magic got with the program and starting using the potions and Pomfrey's spells to help it stabilize us instead of trying to fight them as well.'
Harry knew that what he was hearing should have been horrifying but he could process it. 'Is that why I was seeing those memories?'
'Yes,' Gabriel told him. 'Our Grace stopped holding them back and you got sucked into them while everything else was busy. Honestly, it was probably for the best.'
That he could agree with. It didn't sound like it would have been pleasant to remember any of that and he was rather happy that regaining all those memories had prevented it from becoming a problem. It sounded like he had been in a lot of pain, honestly.
Something crashed to the floor across the room. Harry forced himself to sit up and came face to face with an ecstatic Madame Pomfrey. "Mr. Potter," She breathed as she pushed him back down onto the bed. "How long have you been awake?"
"A few minutes," he croaked, his voice dry and raspy from disuse. "What happened?" he asked because he knew that was what was expected from him.
"Do you remember the Dementors?" she asked hesitantly. Harry pretended to pause before nodding slightly. "Good, you don't seem to have any memory loss then. Mr. Diggory managed to land you both safely and Hagrid brought you up to the infirmary while Mr. and Mr. Weasley helped Mr. Diggory here. You had an adverse reaction to the presence of the Dementors and you went into shock and began seizing. Mr. Diggory performed CPR when magic proved not to be working and we managed to stabilize you."
She was leaving a lot out but Harry didn't blame her. Telling a thirteen year old he'd been dead wasn't something you did right away. He obediently opened his mouth as she poured a potion down his throat. Swallowing, he felt the ache in his limbs that had been there since he'd woken up fade. "How long was I out?" he rasped.
"Two weeks," she told him bluntly. "I was beginning to consider sending you to St. Mungos."
"T-two weeks?!" Harry stuttered, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. He'd been out for two entire weeks? He knew, intellectually, that it would've taken time for Grace to stabilize and the memories to assimilate into his mind but two weeks? Fuck, he'd missed two weeks of classes! He knew exactly what two weeks of backed up homework looked like and he was not looking forward to having to make it up.
Madame Pomfrey gave him a gentle smile. "Best not worry about school just yet," she advised knowingly. "You still have a little while to go before you'll be allowed back to the dorm with the others just yet, Mr. Potter."
Harry groaned, knowing that she would make sure that he was here for at least another three days. He'd been in the infirmary enough to know that Madame Pomfrey was the master of the Hospital Wing; the only way he would be getting out of here early was if she had decided that he was fit enough to return to school.
Another potion appeared in front of his face. Harry tipped his head back with a sigh and tried not to choke at the awful taste that accompanied it.
This was going to be a long few days.
One Week Earlier
Albus Dumbledore didn't know where things had gone so wrong.
The school year had started out with an aura of despair, his students having been subjected to the presence of Dementors on their way to the castle. Albus was already upset that the Dementors were going to be on school ground but to have his train searched when there were already teachers on board to protect the students should the need be? The Minister was threatening his patience in this matter.
Yet there had been no major incidents with the horrible creatures afterwards. The ghosts kept themselves hidden from the soul-sucking monsters and life continued as it always had, though Peeves kept himself just as scarce as the other Hogwarts ghosts. The first years would be in for a rather rude surprise the next year when the poltergeist was free to make himself known again.
Albus chuckled but sobered quickly as he remembered the events that lead up to his current trip.
Never in his life had he seen Dementors act in such a way. The creatures were usually only ever interested in the soul of their victims but with Harry, and then Cedric after he caught the falling Gryffindor, the Dementors had been actually attacking them! For some reason, the foul monsters wanted young Harry dead and they were perfectly happy to lose a potential victim to see to it that it happened. Frankly, Albus wasn't sure what to make of it.
Harry's reaction to the Dementor's after effects was even more concerning than the Dementor's wish to see Harry dead. The boy had literally begun seizing, his entire body failing. Albus didn't know if it was because of his mother's protection or if it was caused by young Harry himself but he didn't know that Harry had almost died. The boy had been dead and would have stayed that way if Mr. Diggory hadn't acted when he did.
Muggles had such useful inventions, he thought fondly as he remembered young Cedric telling him all he knew about CPR. Madame Pomfrey, he knew, would be seeking out those muggle lessons that the young Hufflepuff had talked about. This would likely not be the last time they ran across a patient that had adverse affects to magical means of stabilizing. It was pure luck that Mr. Potter had never had need for such techniques in the past otherwise his visit would a much more sour one than it was already going to be.
He needed to inform Harry's family of their nephew's current state. It had already been nearly a week and Mr. Potter didn't show any signs of awakening anytime soon. It was likely the boy had entered into a healing coma from the shock his system had endured.
The only good thing that was coming out of this was the fact that Cornelius had agreed to remove the Dementors. The monsters weren't doing anything to keep Sirius out and they had nearly killed two of his students. Albus had no doubt that even if Cornelius had wanted to, he wouldn't have been allowed to keep the Dementors in place. Albus was more than prepared to bring the matter up to the Board of Directors as well as the Wizengamot. One way or another those creatures were going to be gone from his school.
Number Four Privet Drive was just as he remembered it had been, little having changed over the past twelve years. It was quite amusing to see the myriad of neighbors peeking out at him from behind their curtains.
But he digresses. He wasn't here on happy terms and he wouldn't allow himself to forget the reason for his visit.
Walking up to the fourth house, clearly labeled 4 quite boldly, Albus braced himself for the coming conversation. There was no doubt in his mind that the Dursley's would be distraught when they learned what had happened to their nephew. Knocking on the door, it didn't take long before he was faced with a grown Petunia Evans, her eyes narrowed in a way that he had never seen before.
The woman balked at the sight of him, nearly slamming the door into his face. Well.
"Mrs. Dursley," he began kindly. "I need to talk to you about your nephew, Harry?"
Petunia paused in her attempt to close the door in his face, studying him closely before recognition set in. He was older than when he had last seen her and in the muggle clothing that Severus had helped him pick out he no doubt looked even more different than he had when appearing to her as a child. "Come in," she all but snapped at him.
Really. She was such a polite child too, he lamented as he followed the girl that had loved her sister so much she had tried to follow her to school just so they could stay together. He couldn't figure out what had changed that bright, loving girl into the bitter and stern woman he saw before him. Somehow he got the feeling he wasn't going to like what he learned here and his feeling rarely ever let him down.
Yet she was Harry's aunt and Albus doubted that family would ever be able to hurt each other in such a way. He might not get along with his own brother, Aberforth, yet he knew that his brother loved him just as he loved his brother. They were all each other had left after their sister had died.
"What do you want?" The voice did not come from the skinny woman in front of him and Albus turned to look at a rather large muggle man that he assumed to be Vernon Dursley. "What has the boy done?"
"Done?" Albus asked in bewilderment. "I'm afraid you're mistake, Mr. Dursley. It is not Harry's doing that I am here but the mistakes made by the Ministry. I'm afraid that due to the break out of Sirius Black, the Minister of Magic decided to use the prison guards to protect the school."
That was an interesting shade of purple the man was turing. Truly, Albus had never seen such a shade on the face of a human before. He wondered if the plump man knew that he was doing it?
"What does that have to do with us?" The shrill voice of Petunia Dursley asked, her eyes glinting in a way that spoke of only anger. Albus felt the bad feeling in his chest grow.
Surely he was wrong? Surely Minerva had not been right, all those year ago when they stood on the porch of this very home. Family was everything, in the Wizarding World. The muggles couldn't be so different in that regard.
"I'm afraid that the guard went rogue and attacked your nephew and another student," he told them gravely. "Mr. Potter is currently in a coma in our Hospital Wing. As his closest family, it is my duty to let you know."
"So the boy got himself hurt did he?" the muggle man sneered in a way the reminded Albus of many of the pureblood children in his school. "It isn't our problem! The freak probably got what he deserved."
Freak?! Albus felt anger boil in his stomach and his magic flared against his skin. He turned to Petunia, looking for the girl he remembered in the older, more bitter face. The sister of Lily Evans, just as sweet as Lily herself was.
He could find nothing other than cold disdain, not even a shred of worry or love for her injured nephew.
How could he have misjudged them so badly? How had that sweet girl turned into this hardened, cruel woman? It was Sirius Black and Severus Snape all over again only this time he had blinded himself to the truth and had condemned a child to an unloving childhood.
He felt old, terribly old in that moment but steel himself and focused, looking into the mind of a girl he had once known.
Abuse. He saw abuse in her mind, a child no younger than five cooking at a stove that was taller than he was, burning himself as she attempted to guide him, a stifled fondness. He saw a woman being him, one three month pregnant with child and a beefy man standing over her. He saw what she saw as the child became and scapegoat, used to redirect the anger of her husband onto a new target.
He pulled out, whirling around to perform the same on the man, the object of his current anger.
He was only in there a few seconds at most before he pulled out in disgust, forcing his anger down lest he do something he regret. This...this thing was not worth his anger or wrath. He was not worth the lengthy list of spell that Albus itched to cast. He was not worth the effort it would bring to take him down a peg.
"Acio Harry Potter belongings," Albus rasped with a flick of his wand. There was a rustle of movement in the cupboard not far from them and he closed his eyes in grief as only a handful of objects floated out to him.
A blanket that he remembered being wrapped around an orphaned baby, a school bag that was tattered and filled with old school assignments, pens and pencils, a handful of broken toy soldiers and a teddy bear that had seen better days. This was what he had let young Harry grow up with? This is what he condemned a newly orphaned boy to, despite the warnings of his own colleague?
It said much about Harry as a person that he had turned out as he did. Albus had known that Harry wasn't treated as well as Dudley Dursley but never had he suspected neglect on this level or abuse like he had found.
Harry would not be returning here. Albus didn't know with whom Harry would live and he didn't know how taking him from this home would affect the protection that Lily had left her son. He didn't know to tell Minerva of what he had found. He hadn't the slightest idea how he would ever make this up to Harry himself.
He just knew that he didn't care at the moment, knew that leaving Harry here may cause a fate worse than death, knew that he couldn't watch as another child turned into Arianna before his eyes.
Not again. Never again.
"Harry will not be returning here." Albus told them gravely. "I believed, twelve years ago when I left him in your care, that you were kind people. That you would raise him right. I ignored warnings as to the nature of your family in my belief that family couldn't possibly raise a hand against another. I find myself corrected."
He looked at Petunia Dursley, for there was no sign of the Petunia Evans he'd known in her face. "Lily would be ashamed of you, for how you treated her son."
Ignoring the flash of emotion across the Dursley woman's face, he turned with the object in his hand and walked out of the door. The wards around the house broke as he left, having cut the anchor that he had tied them to in light of his discoveries.
He may never be able to make up for his mistakes in regard to Harry Potter but he would try.
It was all he could do.
Albus was grim when he returned to the school, Minerva noted. He was carrying the most battered and tattered objects she'd ever seen with him, his magic filling the air as he approached.
She had never seen Albus like this before. She had never seen the twinkle from his eye gone and the expression of a man so tired in his features before. She had seen him furious, enraged to the point of violence, and protective. She'd seen him joyful and with a spring in his step and she had seen him grieving many times for those they'd lost in the war year before.
Now she could only see an old man, weary and tired of life and that in itself frightened her on a level she had never been before. For what could put that look on the face of Albus Dumbledore, who had seen two Wizarding Wars and watched the rise of two Dark Lords during his hundred years of life?
She had wondered what had called her up to Albus' office before he even returned and now she had her answer.
"Albus?" she didn't need to ask anymore, knowing that he would know what she wanted, what she was asking. It was a companionship that had been year in the making and had been perfected over decades of knowing each other.
"Oh Minerva," the man said, setting down his load on his desk as he slumped into his chair. "How could I have been so wrong?"
"You are not all knowing, Albus," she told him, still uncertain as to what had happened to leave him in such a state. "You cannot know everything. Whatever it was, I'm sure-"
"You were right about the Dursley family." He told her, cutting her sentence off and making her pause as the implications attempted to set in. "Other than what Mr. Potter has already brought with him, these were the only items that belonged to him in that entire house."
These were Harry's? Looking at them, she did see the blanket that they had left him in among the pile of objects, thread thin and tattered looking that it was. "Did they fall into poverty?" she wondered for she remembered a rather beautiful house that spoke of wealth and objects of largely good quality for their child to play with spread around a round baby boy. It certainly would explain why the clothing that Mr. Potter appeared to wear was sometimes far too big for him and rather worn.
"No," he told her, eyes grim and sad. "They did not."
The worst kind of muggles, she remembered grimly. Hogwarts was not known for letting students stay in bad situations, the case of Tom Riddle having motivated the Board to take part in removing children from unstable and unhealthy homes.
But this was Harry Potter, the third year student that got into more trouble during the time he'd been here than his father and friends had ever managed in their seven years. The boy that was kind and had a moral code that put even her own to shame. She even recalled quite well that Hagrid had been boasting about the resident unicorn herd's fondness of young Harry during a staff meeting only a few weeks ago. She looked at Albus, her face just as grim.
"The Board must know," she told him, ignoring the emotions that swelled within her stomach at the thought of telling a Board that was made of mostly dark families that the Boy-Who-Lived was being abused by his muggle relatives. If this got out, if people found out, it would send muggle rights back nearly eighty years.
All because a family of less than human muggles had thought to mistreat their orphaned nephew.
"No they don't." Albus shook his head. "I have been Mr. Potter's magical guardian since he was first orphaned, as stipulated by Lily and James' will if his godparents were not options. This matter is mine to deal with."
"Who will he live with, Albus?" She demanded. "You don't own a house and students leave for the summer for a reason. The wards cannot be tuned if he is still in the castle."
"I'm sure I know of at least two families who would be glad to take him for the summer," he told her, the twinkle entering his eyes as she huffed. There was nothing they could do about the past for now but they could make sure that the future was much brighter. "Why I do believe Molly would hex me if I even tried considering anyone else first."
They had made a mistake, Minerva acknowledged in her mind. She was just as guilty for leaving Harry with those people as Albus was and she knew it. They would make up for that mistake to Harry for years to come but for now all they could do was give him the home with the family he deserved.
It was not the best possible ending. It was not the perfect solution to a problem that had been over a decade in the making.
The past could not be changed but the future...
Well, that was a different story, wasn't it?