Unofficial Portkey Archive

The Perils of Innocence by puck_nc

The Perils of Innocence


Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

This is something of a filler chapter, giving half of the reason that no alarm was raised at Privet Drive when Harry was no longer there. We'll get the other half in a few more chapters.


Summer 1986

Arabella Figg was beginning to wonder. Usually the Dursleys got in touch about her keeping Harry for them at the beginning of June. She babysat Harry every year during Dudley's birthday. But here it was, June half gone, and she hadn't heard from them yet.

She debated whether to go to them and ask. Dumbledore had been firm about her keeping as low a profile as possible; if she did anything that made the Dursleys suspect her knowledge of the wizarding world, they might forbid all contact and then she'd lose the toehold she had. She worried over the problem as she shuffled back from marketing, her little cart full of cat food and a few groceries.

She was startled out of her thoughts when a few boys ran out of the garden at number twelve Wisteria Walk and across her path. She recognized one of them as Dudley Dursley and seized her chance.

"Dudley! Dudley, hold a tic!"

The boys stopped and sneered at her, taking in her housecoat and tartan carpet slippers. She ignored them and asked, "Dudley, your parents haven't let me know about watching Harry during your birthday this year. Do you know if they need me?"

A brief flash of panic showed on Dudley's face before he recovered and said, "You'll have to ring Mum, I don't know." Before she could ask anything else, he took off and the rest of his little gang followed, jeering at him for speaking to the batty old lady.

Mrs Figg debated the rest of the way home. She could call; it would be the neighbourly thing to do. But on the other hand, the Dursleys didn't do neighbourly unless they wanted something. They might be suspicious of her asking after Harry.

Perhaps if she had Tibbles slip over and listen in, she might learn something. On the other hand if they had that dreadful sister of Vernon's visiting, that would mean that she would have that awful dog of hers, and Tibbles wasn't getting any younger.

One thing she wouldn't do was contact Dumbledore. She'd made such a fool of herself that time she'd reported him missing when she saw Dudley and the other children playing in the park without Harry and it turned out Petunia had kept him home. Dumbledore had been furious over her fuss about nothing, so she never called Dumbledore again. He owled her on quarter-days for updates and she always gave him the same descriptions, emphasizing how small and thin and unkempt Harry looked. He never seemed to do anything with that information.

As she put away her groceries she decided. She would wait. If the opportunity to speak to Vernon or Petunia came up, she would ask then. In the meantime she would keep her low profile, as ordered.


Spring 1987

Mrs Figg was standing in the aisle of the grocer's, debating on whether she wanted bacon or ham, when she was suddenly jostled.

"I've got the sausages, Mum!" Dudley Dursley loaded his arms with packages and turned to dump them in the already-full cart being pushed by his mother. Mrs Figg brightened.

"Hello, Mrs Dursley! I hope all is well with you. I missed seeing Harry last summer."

Petunia Dursley's face had gone ashy, but she managed a smile. "How pleasant to run into you. Yes, well, we ended up taking Harry with us. Seems he's finally learned to behave himself somewhat in public."

Mrs Figg smiled broadly. That was good news. "I am very glad to hear that. But should you ever need someone to watch him for any reason, please don't hesitate to call."

Petunia was playing nervously with her pearls and actually jumped, startled, when Dudley dumped three tubs of ice cream into the cart. "We will, we will. Must dash now!"

Mrs Figg finished her shopping, humming happily to herself. It seemed the Dursleys were finally accepting Harry into the family. Took the idiot Muggles long enough!


Winter 1988

She ran into Vernon Dursley at the hardware store. He was looking over snow shovels as Dudley had broken the old one, forgetting about the hydrant sign under the snowdrift as he swung the shovel through it. She needed a new flex for her fairy lights as Tibbles had naughtily chewed through the old one.

"Happy Christmas, Mr Dursley! How are you?"

He jumped and his face turned rosy as he recognised her. "Oh…er…happy Christmas to you, Mrs Figg. How are you?"

"I'm getting on, thanks. Are the boys enjoying their holiday?"

Vernon flushed even darker. "Yes, of course. Counting the days until Father Christmas visits, of course!"

"If it's not too much trouble, do tell Harry I wouldn't mind a little visit. It's been ever so long since I've seen him and he was such good company when I had him over before."

"Yes, I'll…ah…I'll tell him. Can't say for sure, though. You know how today's kids are, always busy with their own lives. Don't bother with the likes of us if they don't have to."

"True, true. Just tell him he's welcome anytime and wish him a happy Christmas for me!"

Vernon nodded, grabbed a shovel at random, and fled for the tills.


Autumn 1990

Mrs Figg was worried. She had had Tibbles carefully patrol the neighbourhood several times over the summer and there had not been a single sighting of Harry. He wasn't outside at number four Privet Drive. He wasn't to be found at the park or play area. He hadn't been seen at the shops.

Quarter-day was coming soon and she would have to report to Dumbledore. She was still reluctant to voice her concerns to him even after being ignored for so long. However it was worrisome that she hadn't laid eyes on Harry for years now.

She decided on a plan of action. With Tibbles' help, she timed her shopping trip to coincide with Petunia's one Tuesday morning. She fell into step beside her and trapped Petunia into walking and conversing with her or being abominably rude. To prime the pump, Mrs Figg opened the conversation with a bit of gossip.

"I wonder who that young woman is that's been staying with Mr Prentice this week?" She knew perfectly well it was his niece, stopping for a few days as her flat was repainted. But perhaps Petunia didn't know.

"Really? How young? I should have guessed. He never paid attention to his wife when she was alive, poor thing."

After a few minutes of shredding Mr Prentice's character, Mrs Figg seized her chance. "Seems I haven't seen young Harry in ages. Dudley's always out and about playing with his friends, but not Harry."

Petunia hesitated very briefly before replying. "Oh, Harry has turned into quite the bookworm. He's always inside, nose stuck in a book or playing on the computer. He'll grow up to be one of those brilliant computer geniuses the way he's going."

Waves of relief washed over Mrs Figg. It was a perfectly reasonable explanation and yet more evidence that the Dursleys had changed their ways and were taking good care of their nephew.

"That's lovely that he's found such productive hobbies. I rather miss him. Do tell him I'd love to have him for tea sometime."

"I'll tell him, but you know boys. He'll forget in an instant." Petunia's eyes suddenly brightened. "And he's studying so hard - he's trying for a place at a public school, one where his parents went. He'll need the best grades possible for it."

Mrs Figg brightened as well, immediately guessing that Petunia was carefully referring to Hogwarts. "That's wonderful for him. Tell him best of luck for me, do."

Petunia smiled back and led the conversation into the goings on with her next door neighbour.


24 July 1991

The witch stepped into the small room that housed the Hogwarts Quill and picked up the List. She moved through the immensely long scroll until she found the first date after 1 September 1979.

19 September 1979 - Hermione Jane Granger (Robert and Viola Granger)

She skimmed the List until she found the last entry before 31 August 1980, noting that this was the year that Harry Potter would arrive, and used her wand to copy the section onto a new parchment. One quick tap of the copy reassembled the names alphabetically by the surnames. She carried the parchment over to the enchanted desk, pulled out a list of the required supplies for first years, and summoned stacks of fresh parchment and new envelopes. Once everything was arranged on the desk, she tapped it with her wand. When the desk began to glow a rosy pink, she stated in a slow, clear voice, "Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress."

The glow deepened to a rich red and she watched admiringly as the year's Hogwarts letters began to assemble themselves. As long as she had been teaching here, Professor McGonagall had never quite got over her awe of the power and creativity of the Founders and previous headmasters in developing this system of enrolling magical children in the school. Bright green ink appeared on each page, correctly addressing each envelope for the whereabouts of the child, writing each letter and supply list, inserting the papers in the envelopes and sealing them, then instantly vanishing them to reappear in the home of the child-or in the case of the Muggleborns, in the post since the early days of the Royal Mail.

Around the Ns, she moved to return the Master Scroll to its proper position, with the Quill ready to note the next magical birth. By the time she returned to the desk, it was finishing with Ronald Weasley (Heavens, another one? Please don't let him take after the twins!) and Blaise Zabini.

She tapped the desk a final time and a shorter list appeared on a fresh parchment. These were the students for whom neither parent was recognized as previously being on the List. She glanced over it, seeing half-a-dozen names on it. She carried the list to Dumbledore's office.

"Good morning, Minerva! That time of year, is it?"

"Yes, all the letters went off without a hitch. We have several Muggleborn students this year, four boys and two girls."

Dumbledore raised his bushy brows. "That's more than usual. Can you manage all of them?"

She nodded. "I believe so. I'll start with the girls and then do the boys."

"Are you sure? I can have Severus help you."

Minerva shuddered inwardly at the thought of a Muggleborn's first contact with Hogwarts being the unfriendly Potions professor. "No need. I'll handle the first visits and then turn the names over to the Muggle Liaison Office for organizing the trip to Diagon Alley and King's Cross."

"Very well, Minerva. Let me know if I can help in any way."


31 July 1991

They were so caught up in preparing for the next day that Harry had ignored his birthday. The staff had greeted him with a cake, the Grangers had sent a card and another gift certificate, Hermione and Dean had wished him a happy birthday and admitted to having no idea what to buy him, given that they were all apparently going to some magical boarding school in a few weeks. He had nodded in understanding, too keyed up to be bothered.

Now they were all gathered in the formal conference room, almost like a council of war. Dr Aymler was at the head of the table with Harry, Hermione and Dean in a queue on his right. On his left was Dr Greene, then the Grangers, then Dean's parents. His siblings were currently being watched at home by his grandmother, in for a visit from Liverpool. Both sets of parents had been given rooms in the little-used guest area upstairs to be available tomorrow.

Dr Aymler adjusted his glasses and looked around the room. "I suggest that we all eat an early breakfast and plan on being in here starting at nine. That's when our official visiting hours begin and I would expect this representative to not do anything to attract attention to herself by showing up at the break of dawn. I've posted her name at reception with instructions to lead her here immediately. Dr Greene and I have cleared our schedules completely tomorrow and we'll have lunch brought in if necessary."

Andrea Thomas was re-reading the letter addressed to Dean. "I still can't believe it. Magic! Real, actual magic and nobody knows about it!"

"Nobody is right," Robert Granger replied. "I've dug as deep as I can through every connection I've got from colleagues and patients and no one has ever heard of a boarding school named Hogwarts anywhere. It simply doesn't exist, except on this paper."

Dr Greene was looking at the letters to Harry and Hermione. "What I'd like to know is why Hermione's is different from the boys'. Hers is the only one that says this McGonagall person will be here tomorrow. The other two say they want an owl by today. What in the world does that mean?"

Hermione wrinkled her brow. "Maybe she uses an owl to communicate somehow. After all her name is 'Minerva' and the owl was one of the goddess Minerva's symbols."

"Maybe, but I see Dr Greene's point. The letters suggest that the Grangers wouldn't know about this magical school but that the boys would. And that makes no sense." Dr Aymler rubbed one hand over his head in confusion.

Geoff Thomas leaned over to his wife and quietly asked her, "Do you think-"

She shook her head at him. "Not here." He looked puzzled, but obeyed her.

Harry looked around the table. "Well, one way or another we'll know tomorrow."


1 August 1991

Professor McGonagall took one more look at the Muggle map before folding it up and stowing it in the purse she carried. It was a bothersome thing, always in the way. Nice cloak pockets, charmed to be extra-deep, were certainly more convenient.

She looked down and smoothed the green tweed set she was wearing and shifted her feet in the uncomfortable brogues, wishing she dared glamour-charm her boots instead. But during these first visits to new Muggleborn students, it was vital to appear completely Muggle, without magic. One never knew what one would find.

She hesitated one more moment, considering the strange address. It wouldn't be the first time she had visited a manor or country house, but the reference to a room number puzzled her. Why on earth do these Muggles number their rooms?

Shrugging, she stepped out of the gates and outside of Hogwarts' wards. She concentrated and Apparated, appearing at the front door of a rather large country house. The neat brass plaque to the side read:

Esperança House Facility for Youth

Deliveries to the Right, Please

Visiting Hours 9:00-4:00 Daily

Professor McGonagall squared her shoulders and opened the door. The foyer was spacious, with hallways leading three ways and a pleasant sitting area. A high counter and two desks were arranged under the helpful sign "Reception". She went to the red-haired woman at the counter.

"My name is Minerva McGonagall. I'm here to see Hermione Granger."

The young woman's eyes narrowed slightly, but she gestured down the centre hallway. "Right this way. She's expecting you."

McGonagall followed her. The woman knocked on a door, then opened it, saying, "She's here." She stood aside and let the professor enter, closing the door behind her.

Minerva McGonagall stopped short, taken aback at the number of people sitting around a large table. They were all staring at her and the adults looked especially angry. The man at the head of the table stood and spoke.

"Ms McGonagall, thank you for being so prompt. Now, would you care to explain the letters that three of my patients received last week?"


Author's Note: Thanks as always for reading!