The first time he met the boy, the rain was coming down so fiercely that he hydroplaned twice on the way home.

It was pure chance that he noticed the boy at all. Though he'd wanted nothing more than to go inside and get out of the thunderstorm, someone had to bring the trash cans in, and he grudgingly admitted to himself that it would be better to get it over with. He was just about to pull both trash cans into the garage when he saw a small, huddled figure pressed into the corner made by the porch and the side of the house.

The child's sorry state was easily accounted for considering the weather, and his rain-sodden clothing and hair clung to him as he looked up at Hotch's approach. His eyes, a brilliant green that stood out even in the heavy rain between them, watched him closely as he approached.

Hotch crouched in front of him, careful to keep space between them so the boy wouldn't feel caged in. "Are you lost?" he asked. Most of the gentleness of his tone was negated by how loudly he had to shout to be heard over the rain. The boy frowned at him – he hadn't heard.

He pulled his wallet out and showed the boy his badge briefly, long enough for him to recognize it. He held out his hand, but before he could even ask for the boy to come with him, a hesitant hand was reaching towards him, hovering a moment over Hotch's before clasping it tightly. Hotch squeezed reassuringly, then stood up and pulled the child to his feet.

Leaving the trash cans where they were, he and the boy walked up the front steps, and Hotch fished around in his pocket for his key. One hand was still holding onto the boy while he unlocked the door and nudged it open with his foot.

"Aaron?" Haley's puzzled voice came from upstairs when she heard the front door instead of the garage door. Hotch shut the door behind him. The boy stood where he was, dripping water while he inspected their house. "I thought you were bringing the trash cans in."

"Haley, I need you down here," he called back, calm but urgent.

She appeared at the top of the stairs, then blinked a couple of times when she saw who had accompanied him in. "Who's this?"

"Not sure. He was outside the house. Can you get some towels?" Haley nodded and vanished down the hall, audibly rifling through their closet. Hotch knelt beside the boy, who was still holding onto his hand. "Hey," he said quietly, calmly. "Are you lost?" The boy shook his head, but Hotch had no clue if that was a good sign or not. "Do you know where your parents are?"

"They're dead," the boy said quietly, looking down.

"I'm sorry. Who's taking care of you?"

"Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon." His tone sounded just as depressed at the mention of their names as it had when he reported the state of his parents.

"Do they know where you are?" The boy shook his head. Droplets fell off his hair as he did. "Okay. Is there a way I can contact them? Do you know their phone number?" Another head shake. Haley came down the stairs, holding at least four towels in her arms. "That's fine. What's your name?"

"Harry," he said, glancing back up at him again. "Harry Potter."

Hotch smiled at him in a friendly manner. "My name's Aaron Hotchner," he said soothingly. Haley had reached them, and she handed Hotch a towel and set the rest on the stairs, then snagged one off the top to wrap Harry up in it. "This is Haley."

"Here's let get everyone into the kitchen," she said, and ushered the two of them to the next room. She grabbed the towels as she passed and got Harry settled on one of the kitchen counter chairs so she could wrap another one around him. "I think we've got some hot chocolate in the cupboard," she told Hotch.

He filled the teapot with water and turned on the stove while Haley fussed over Harry behind him, drying his hair with the remaining towel as best as she could. He looked even smaller under all the towels, and Hotch changed his estimate of the boy's age from six to five.

He glanced at the clock. Garcia had probably gotten home by this time. "Harry," he said, getting his attention, "do you remember your address?"

Harry nodded. "Number Four Privet Drive. Little Whinging."

"I'm going to call a friend, and she's going to figure out how to get you home, okay?"

Harry nodded again, looking just as enthusiastic about that prospect as he had when he'd spoken about his relatives. Hotch had a bad feeling about where this was going to go if he investigated a little further. "When was the last time you saw your family?"

"Ten minutes ago."

He stepped out of the room to call Garcia, and was informed that the address he'd been given did in fact exist, and the owners' first names were Petunia and Vernon. So far, so good. Then a long pause on the other end of the line. And finally, the bombshell - "They're in England. But the Dursleys haven't purchased a ticket to get here. I don't think they left the country. There's a kid living with them, a Harry Potter like you said, but he hasn't taken a plane trip ever and he was just in school yesterday."

"Send me a picture," Hotch said. She did. The boy in the picture was sitting in his kitchen. What the hell was going on?

Garcia promised to keep looking and Hotch went back to the kitchen. Quietly, while Harry was focused on the hot chocolate Haley had finished making for him, Hotch pulled his wife aside and explained what he had just been told.

"He can stay here, until we figure out what's going on," she said.

Hotch nodded. "I'm going to call the police, just in case someone contacts them. They might want to come take him, though, for safety reasons."

He did. The police, however, defied his expectations – flooding was causing a problem twenty miles south, and everyone was being pulled in to help. No one cared about a single lost child right now, not when one of the two people keeping an eye on him was an FBI agent.

No adult, Dursley or anyone else, showed up to look for Harry, and the Hotchners resigned themselves to taking care of him. Within two hours, they had him showered and in dry, clean clothes with dinner in him. Still no word about someone coming to get him.

Harry's solemn expression slowly faded as the evening past, and by the end of dinner they had him smiling. He was the easiest child Hotch thought he'd ever taken care of or would ever know, mostly since the boy seemed more eager to please them than the other way around. Haley was slowly falling in love with him, and Hotch had to admit that he had taken more than a small liking to the kid.

It started to get late, and they set up the guest bedroom for Harry as it became clear that they were in for a long wait. Hotch, used to long hours and with paperwork he had brought from the office, waved Haley upstairs to bed and stayed in the living room, working, in case someone knocked on the door. It was three in the morning before he surrendered the cause, deciding no one was going to be coming past that point.

So that's how Harry Potter spent the night at the Hotchner home.

The first time.


"Aaron, Aaron!" He woke with a start, eyes focusing on Haley as she leaned over him. "He's gone!"


"He's gone!" She leaned back as he quickly sat up, throwing the covers off. "I went to go check on him when I woke up, and he wasn't in bed and he's not in the house."

"What about the yard?"

"Not as far as I could see."

"Take the keys and drive around the block. I don't think he would have gone far. I'll look on foot."

By the end of the day, they had to concede defeat. Harry was nowhere to be found. Hotch called the police department, but they said no one had contacted them about a missing child, so Harry had probably just found his way home. Hotch doubted Harry had navigated the Atlantic Ocean in the four hours between him going to sleep and being woken by Haley.


The next time Hotch met Harry, the situation wasn't nearly as dramatic. The weather was clear, for one thing, and he'd just gotten back from the grocery store rather than a pile of paperwork about a serial killer in Topeka.

Harry was sitting on the couch in the living room with Haley, watching a movie. Rather, Haley was watching the movie while Harry dozed, mouth slightly open. Hotch blinked a couple of times, arms filled with groceries. Haley gave him a look of complete incredulity, raising her arms widely in the general "Don't ask me, I don't have a clue" gesture.

Harry had, apparently, just been sitting on the front porch watching a pair of birds in the lawn when Haley had spotted him and brought him in. She had tried to get an explanation from him about where he had gone two weeks ago, but Harry just told her that he had went home. And why had he come back?

A small frown, and, "Aunt Petunia told me to get out of the house. So I came here." A pleading look, guilty. "Is that okay?"

So now Harry was spending the day with them again, but Hotch still didn't have the faintest idea how Harry – if this really was Harry Potter, though it was looking like it considering the British accent and similarity to the pictures he'd seen of the Little Whinging boy – was here in America. Harry didn't have an explanation for that either, in fact; he'd blinked in confusion when they had asked how he'd gotten there, and told them that he hadn't actually known he was in America until they'd said so.

The bizarre situation got stranger the next morning. Once again, the boy was gone. Bed made but obviously slept in, all doors locked, no sign of him at all. Somehow, he'd vanished right under their noses.


As if like clockwork, they saw him again in another two weeks. He knocked on the door, but no one was home, so he'd sat quietly on the porch for an hour before Haley came back from running errands. Both were engaged in a board game when Hotch arrived, back early, having responded to the text Haley had sent him.

Hotch spent most of that afternoon deciding he was going to settle this once and for all. He described the situation to the police, CPS, and Interpol. Someone called the Dursley home, and the Dursleys told them that they'd just seen Harry so there was no way he was in America. No other Harry Potters had the sort of background Harry had described to him.

In the morning, CPS said, they'd come get him and figure it out. In the morning, Hotch said, Harry would probably be gone.

In the morning, Hotch was right. He was filled with a dissatisfied frustration as he stared at the empty bed, arms crossed over his chest, and reminded himself that he was nowhere closer to figuring out the Harry mystery than he had been the morning before.


There wasn't a two week disappearance next time. They saw him again the next day, but it wasn't quite the cause for celebration like it had been before.

This time, Haley called him to say Harry was back, and she told him to come immediately, no excuses unless a shooter entered the building. When he got home, he found the first aid kit open on the kitchen, and his heart sank as he moved down the hall to the guest room Harry had been staying in. Haley was sitting on the edge of the bed, running her fingers gently through the hair of the sleeping boy. Hotch walked in further until he could see them both better, then closed his eyes with a dismal sigh.

Harry had a large black eye and a split lip. On one side, his cheek was swelling.

"He said his uncle hit him for being a freak," she said quietly, fingers not ceasing their motion. Her eyes were wide, haunted, but somehow, Hotch knew it wasn't just because of the words that had just come out of her mouth. The next statement confirmed that. "Aaron, he said his uncle was upset that he'd had to pay for an international call because people from America claimed they had seen him."

Hotch's blood ran cold.

"What the hell is going on?" he muttered, as much to himself as to her, as he sank down on the bed beside her.

"When he wakes up, can you take a look at his wrist?" Hotch glanced at her, hoping she wouldn't say what he thought she was going to say. She did. "I think his uncle sprained it."

"How badly is he hurt?"

"All over. It was..." She swallowed. "It was a pretty extensive beating."

"We should probably take him to the hospital," Hotch said.

"And say what? Explain this situation again? We don't even know what's going on! I checked his stomach for swelling, and there's nothing so I don't think there's internal damage. He's breathing fine and he says he's just sore. No broken bones. A hospital can't do anymore for him than we can."

Hotch nodded, simultaneously relieved that she was right and regretful that he couldn't try to get more people involved in this. Maybe if others looked at it, the situation would suddenly make sense to them. It sure wasn't at all logical to him.

Harry woke up a couple hours later, reserved and downcast. Haley did the only thing that could be done to rectify the domestic abuse. She baked brownies. With the bounce-back powers of a five-year-old, Harry immediately perked up, and he was downright happy by the time they put him to bed that night.

"I'm following him when he leaves," Hotch said. Once more, he'd brought work home, and now he waited in the living room for Harry to sneak out. He really wanted to know how he'd been getting out, especially since it would have meant Harry unlocking and then relocking the doors.

Eight o'clock came around after a grueling night of no sleep. Harry had never made an appearance. Hotch frowned and walked to Harry's room. He knocked, but no answer. He entered.

Harry was gone.

He stared for a long moment. The door to this room was in sight of the living room. It didn't have a window.


After a week of turning the information over in his mind, he finally went to Gideon's office and laid out the whole problem. Gideon stared with increasing confusion until he finished.

"It has to be a different boy," Gideon finally said.

"Of course, but who? And that still doesn't explain how he's getting out of the house."

"Try setting up video cameras."

Hotch grimaced. "We were planning on it. Something tells me it's not going to help. I just hope he's going to come back again."

"Do you think he will?"

"I think so, yes." He paused. "I get the feeling this is the only place he's been accepted in his life."

Harry showed up that evening, as a matter of fact, during dinner. The bruise on the side of his face had faded to a mottled appearance of ugly colors, but it didn't look so painful anymore. He was chirpier, ecstatic to be back, and looked at the food like it was a meal from a five star restaurant.

There were borrowed video cameras around the house waiting for morning. They had been turned on before any of them had gone to bed, in case Harry had been leaving earlier than they thought he had. It didn't make a difference. None of the footage gave them any explanation, and Harry was still gone in the morning.


Before Hotch knew it, he was regularly expecting Harry to show up. Almost shyly, the frequency of his visits increased until he was coming at least once a week, sometimes twice or even three times. He stayed over longer, coming earlier and leaving later – they caught him asleep in the mornings a couple of times, even getting him to stay for breakfast, but he always vanished right after that. The local police knew about the situation, as did CPS, and both had sent representatives but they could make no more sense of what was going on than the Hotchners could.

One time, CPS had come to visit Harry in an afternoon. They had planned to get him settled into an orphanage by that night, thinking breaking him off from the Hotchners would be better if done quickly. CPS called them about an hour later saying Harry had vanished and asking if they knew where he might have gone. Another CPS official actually stayed at their house one night, planning on following Harry out of the house to see where he was going. That official was sorely disappointed.

Half a year had passed, and Harry was a regular fixture in their family. He appeared and disappeared with incredible talent, sometimes covered in injuries and sometimes perfectly healthy except for the constant famished state he was kept in by his family. The longer the situation went on, the harder it became to watch him come with the physical and mental pain that his home life inflicted on him and then vanish right back to that horrible place he came from.

As Haley said one time, "I'm afraid he's going to come back, because that means he had to escape home again and I'll bet they hurt him again; but I'm afraid he's never going to come back, because that means he couldn't."

Hotch woke up in the middle of the night, frowning. A storm, one almost as bad as there had been on the night Hotch had met Harry, was raging outside. Haley was sitting up beside him, pushing off the covers. "I'm going to go check on him," she whispered as she saw him watching.

If Harry tried to leave in this, it would be incredibly dangerous. Hotch nodded, laying back down and listening to her footsteps pad across the hallway, the stairs, and then to Harry's room. He couldn't hear past that over the storm, but a couple of minutes later, there were two pairs of footsteps returning. He reached over and lifted up the edge of the comforter, and Harry slipped in quickly and quietly crawling across the mattress until he was lying a couple of inches from Hotch. Haley followed after, tucking the blanket in around herself and Harry.

The young one didn't seem to know what to do, lying still but awkwardly in between the couple as the minutes passed. He was uncomfortable enough that Hotch couldn't sleep, and he was a bit surprised Harry had consented to coming upstairs. Then lightning struck, within a mile of them, and Harry shuddered violently. Hotch and Haley both instinctively reached out, each wrapping an arm around him, and after a hesitant moment, he relaxed into their touch.

Haley met Hotch's eyes over Harry's head, and she gave him a small smile. He returned it, and then went back to listening to Harry's breath as it slowly grew softer and slower.

Harry stayed for four days. Then he vanished suddenly and was gone for three weeks. When he came back, they only realized he was there because they heard him crying in his room. He was severely malnourished and had cuts and bruises all over his body, some old and some new. Someone hadn't been happy that he hadn't shown up to cook breakfast, from what they were able to gather. He slept with them again that night even though there was no storm, and when he left in the morning, it was with a heaviness that they understood it was more dangerous for him to stay longer.


"Family meeting."

Hotch set his briefcase down. His shoes weren't even off yet.

"There are only two of us," he said lightly, smiling. Her offhanded phrase meant this couldn't be that serious.

"I want three of us," she responded firmly. He paused. "Aaron, I want him."

It sounded like she was picking a dog out of a pet store. Only it was really more like the dog had followed them home and, after a bit of contemplation, she decided she wanted to keep it.

There were a million and one things he could say, and they would all be right. They both worked. They weren't ready to raise him. His identity was a mystery. It might not be legally possible. There could be charges against them for kidnapping or something later on. They didn't know his full history. This would be a rescue case and they didn't have the training to handle something like that.

All of that lined up on the tip of his tongue. What came out was, "I'll see what we need to do."


Harry showed up a few days later, but he didn't leave in the morning. Nor the next day. Nor the day after that. Hotch came home at one point and realized Harry hadn't left in a full week. Then the week dragged into two, and then Harry had been there for three.

"Harry," Haley said curiously one day, "have you gone home recently?"

Harry looked up at her from where he was playing with a puzzle on the floor. Hotch knew they hadn't had that puzzle two months ago. "No," he said honestly.

Haley paused awkwardly. "Are you going to go back?"

Harry shook his head and lightly said, "No." Pause. "They told me not to come back."

Haley made a sympathetic noise, but Hotch knew she was hiding pleasure at the opportunity. "Why?"

"They told me that they didn't want to take care of me and I should just go back to wherever I was staying since it was away from them." He turned back to his puzzle, shrugging. "I can go back when they forget they said that, and if they didn't forget then they'll tell me."

Haley glanced Hotch, giving him one last chance to say no. With the same look, she practically dared him to do anything to get in the way of this. Hotch nodded slightly.

"Harry, how would you feel about staying here forever?" Haley asked him.

He looked at her in confusion. "Huh?"

"What if you didn't go back? What if you just stayed here?"

"I wouldn't ever see the Dursleys again?"

Haley shook her head. "This would be your home."


No matter how many times he had come with injuries and no matter how badly he had been hurt, Hotch had never seen Harry cry. Now his eyes filled with tears, and he nodded so slightly Hotch almost missed it.

They played a board game, and it was almost like nothing had happened, except Harry was tamping down hysteria the whole time. Hotch worried about how Haley was going to take the less-than-exuberant response. There had never been a solid acceptance of the offer, though to be fair, Haley hadn't really given one that was understandable to a five-year-old. It was hard to explain to someone that young what Haley was trying to ask him.

Finally, Hotch took Harry to the guest room that night, but Harry paused outside of the room, confused. Hotch glanced at him. "Harry?"

"I- I thought..." He bit his lip. Hotch turned to face him a bit more, showing he was listening. "At home I sleep in the cupboard, so...?"

It took a moment for Hotch to realize what he was saying, but when it finally sank in, it took everything he had not to let the horror show on his face. "No, this will always be your room. Like before, except it's permanent."

"I have my own room?" Harry whispered.

"You'll always have a room here."

Harry's hands shot to his face, covering it even as his shoulders shook. Hotch dropped down beside him, wrapping his arms around the young child. Harry's arms darted out, moving to wrap around Hotch's neck, and a wet face burrowed into Hotch's neck. Hotch clutched him tighter, running a comforting up and down Harry's back while he murmured softly to him.

"I don't understand," Haley said when he made it upstairs. She was sitting despondently on the bed. "I thought he'd be happy." Her eyes landed on the tear stains on Hotch's shirt. "I thought he'd accept it."

"He just doesn't know how to handle your offer," he told her. "No matter how horrible the Dursleys were, that's all he knows. But I don't think he's going to leave. I'll take a sick day tomorrow and start looking at how to adopt someone without an identity. Do you want to look at schools?"


Within a week, they had Harry settled in. Hotch thought a part of themselves must have already been planning this from how efficiently it happened. The adoption papers took a long time to work out, and they wouldn't be finalized for months, if not a year, but he was living with them. CPS showed up, remembered the trauma it had endured last time because of the strangeness of the situation, and promptly gave the Hotchners approval and left. They got Harry enrolled in school, started filing information with the IRS and anyone else who needed to know about a new life under their roof.

It took a while to get used to calling Harry their son. It didn't take too long, though.

Garcia came to his office a little while after the paperwork got started. "Hotch," she said hesitantly, a folder in her arms. "I just thought you should know..." She set the folder down in front of him. "In England, Harry Potter hasn't shown up to school for four weeks."

Hotch opened the folder and looked at the information. Potter's disappearance had started the day after Harry had accepted the Hotchner's proposition.

"That's odd," he said calmly. Garcia grinned at him and went back to her office.


Hotch was gone often, and it was harder on Haley now that she had someone else to take care of. Still, he thought they were making it work. Harry wasn't happy about it, obviously, but he faked it well enough that Hotch sat him down one time and made sure he understood that Hotch wasn't going to be angry if Harry ever got upset.

A couple years passed. Harry thrived, practically glowing the first weeks he was there and then settling into a content lifestyle. He was easy to raise, compared to most children, and often helped Haley out with taking care of the house without being asked. There were problems from the home he'd been in before, even though he tried to hide it because his childish instincts told him they didn't like it. That led to more conversations, and within a couple months, Hotch thought they had it mostly worked out.

Life with Harry was entertaining – he soon showed a quick wit and a wicked sense of humor stemming from an intelligent mind – but the oddities that had first presented themselves when Harry arrived didn't entirely go away. Sometimes things just happened around him. A plate audibly broke in the kitchen one time, but when Hotch came in to see if everything was okay, the plate was rolling to a stop on the floor with a crack in it. Another time, Harry got a gaudy winter hat from Haley's color blind father, but the next day it was a reasonable green and blue.

Haley and Hotch were no closer to figuring out what was going on with any of that. CPS gave up, exasperated, and helped them get the adoption papers through because they wanted him out of the abusive home he had come from, wherever that was.

The years passed, and the time finally came when Hotch felt like he was as on top of handling the Harry situation as he would ever be. He didn't think any parent would ever really be in control, but Harry was tragically easy to please and a good kid. Just as that happened, there was a bombing and then Jason Gideon left the BAU and Hotch had to put the stragglers of the team back together, fumbling with empty slots and working overtime to account for understaffing. He was holding on, not really thriving but keeping the BAU from sliding downhill, when Gideon returned and they picked up Elle, letting the team smooth back into its normal state.

Then one day Haley called, and she was practically falling apart over the phone.

"Slow down – what happened?"

"Someone came, he- he- he took Harry!"

"Who did?" He was grabbing his badge and gun, hurrying out the door.

"I don't know!"

Morgan intercepted him before he made it to the elevator. "Woah, man, what's wrong?"

"Someone went to the house and took Harry," Hotch said, trying to slide past him.

Morgan's eyes widened. He'd never met Harry, but Hotch knew that he and Garcia lovingly referred to him as Hotch's 'one and only kidnapping.' "I'll be right behind you," he said sharply, and when Hotch pulled into his driveway a half hour later the rest of the team was there too.

No sign of him. They hadn't left on foot, and no traffic light video cameras gave them an idea of what had happened. The pair was just gone, and that tore at Hotch worse than anything else. It was so similar to how Harry used to appear and disappear when he was little, but this felt much more permanent. This wasn't willing. He wasn't coming back.

The BAU worked with the police and searched for weeks before admitting there were no leads. Hotch forced the rest of the team to officially drop the case. He kept looking in every spare moment, desperate for some sign that Harry was at least out there somewhere. They could get him back if they just had time, but he needed Harry to be alive.

And then, while they were still reeling from the shock, Haley found out she was pregnant.

They were talking seriously over it in the kitchen, unconsciously lowering their voices out of courtesy for Harry, when the very absent boy they were trying not to disturb walked right in, as calm as could be, and hugged both of them.

"I'm sorry I didn't get back sooner," he said, voice muffled against Haley's shirt.

Reality set in and they both jumped up, pulling him closer to them and shouting excitedly, alternatively saying how grateful they were he was back and how upset they'd been he was gone. He just stood there, listening to and beaming at them, practically vibrating with energy. The two of them finally let him step back, and Hotch froze. His fingers slowly raised until they brushed just above Harry's eyebrow, where a line of caked blood began that ran down almost to his eye.

"Harry, where were you?" he asked, already knowing the answer but too horrified to accept it.

Harry grimaced. "Back at the Dursleys'," he said. "I wasn't supposed to leave." He paused, looking like he was going to say something, then thought better of it and shut his mouth.

"Who took you? How did you get back?"

"This man..." Harry frowned. He was ten, but far more mature for his age than Hotch would have thought possible, and it showed through as he recalled the situation. "Snape? I think that was his name. They were keeping an eye on me at the Dursleys', years ago, and they either just figured out I was gone or where I had gone to. He left me there, and the Dursleys were trying to stay away from me because... I'm not sure. They kept calling me a freak, though. There was something they knew that they wouldn't tell me... But I got back, the same way I did when I first was coming here."

Harry didn't often talk about his life back with the Dursleys. Neither Hotchner was willing to push him, knowing the memory of his family turning him away was even more horrendous in comparison to what he had now.

"How was that?" Hotch asked, frowning. The downside to never talking about it was that they had never answered that question.

Harry's mouth opened and shut a few times. "I don't know," he finally said. He was lying. Haley could see it too. But Harry was clearly still upset, even if he was trying to hide it, and the two of them silently decided to press later.

Hotch thought they had done the right thing, until it was midnight and he was going downstairs to check on Harry and had a heart-stopping moment in which he found the door to Harry's room empty.

Then, from behind him, came a soft, "Dad?" Hotch turned. Harry was curled on the couch, body turned to look out through the window at the lamp-lit street. "Is everything okay?"

Hotch walked over and sat down beside him, slowly calming back down as relief pushed back the surge of fright that had risen. "I was just coming to check on you," he said. "Are you all right?" Harry nodded, but this time, Hotch called him on it. "You look scared."

Harry looked down. He was a horrible liar and knew it. "What if... What if there was something you learned about me...and it made you... What if there was something scary about me?"

Hotch frowned. "What are you talking about?"

Harry's fingers knotted themselves together and unknotted, creating complicated patterns and releasing them moments later. "What if I had the ability to turn into something frightening?"

Hotch wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Harry leaned against him, the obvious fear in his words a paradox to the comfort he now sought. "We all have that ability. That doesn't matter. What's important is whether we decide to become the kind of person who scares others, or if we try to be someone who shows others there's no reason to be afraid anymore."

Harry nodded against his shoulder, quiet.

"We love you. Nothing's going to change that." The question tore itself out of him before he could hold it back, but it came out in a whisper instead of a desperate shout. "Harry, what aren't you telling us?"

Harry just tucked himself closer, and though Hotch wanted to push and push, find out what was wrong so he could fix it, he resigned himself to wrapping his arms around Harry and resting his chin on his head.


It took two weeks of Harry's sudden silences and intermittent mournful and stricken looks before he finally cracked. Haley stepped back despite her instincts, letting Hotch spend that time wearing him down.

"He's going to come again," Harry told them after dinner.

"Who?" Haley asked, curious, as she did the dishes. Hotch was helping Harry unload the dishwasher.

"Snape. He's going to take me back again."

Haley dropped a glass and it shattered in the sink.

"What?" Hotch demanded. "How do you know? Did he say he was going to come?"

Harry shook his head quickly. "No, but he found out where I was before because they tried to send mail to me but it didn't go to somewhere in England so they knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be."

"Mail goes to an address, not a person's location," Haley said. "They won't know you're not there."

"This kind of mail doesn't. It addressed itself to Virginia instead of Surrey."

"You can't have lived in Surrey," Haley argued, starting to panic. There was an odd noise, that of scratching glass, from the sink. "You were coming here almost every day – you couldn't have been flying back and forth!"

They'd spent too long ignoring the obvious. Hotch knew that, just like he knew this was going to bite them badly now that they had to face it. He also knew it just wasn't something they could accept.

Harry's breaths were starting to come faster as Haley's voice rose, and he hadn't moved since the glass had broken. Hotch set down the silverware he was holding, but the clinking noise on the counter startled Harry and he glanced over his shoulder. Hotch watched him, concerned, but he whipped back around quickly to look at his adoptive mother.

"I did live in Surrey, though, I just wasn't using a plane to get back and forth."

"Harry, that's not possible," she protested, and she knew she was freaking out just like Hotch and Harry knew it but she couldn't stop it. "We don't know where you came from, but it wasn't England."

"It wasn't a plane, it was a portkey," Harry said, obviously regretting the words even as they came out of his mouth. "I accidentally made it when I was little."

"That doesn't make sense!"

Hotch put his hand on Harry's shoulder and felt the preteen jump at the sudden touch. "Just calm down," he said, speaking to both of them. "Harry, start from the beginning. What's going on? What did he tell you?"

Still shaking, Harry turned his head towards the sink. After a long, hesitant moment, Haley looked down. The reaction was immediate and she staggered back as if she'd seen a rat there. Harry flinched back, almost tearing Hotch's hand from his shoulder as he did so.

"Haley?" Hotch asked.

Haley forced herself forward again and reached into the sink. She pulled out an unbroken glass.

"He told me I have magic," Harry said quietly, shakily, as he violently shook under Hotch's hand.

Haley and Hotch looked at each other.

"I believe you," Hotch said, because there was nothing else to say.

Haley stepped forward so quickly that Harry tried to rapidly back up, but Hotch's grip turned to iron and he held Harry in place to Haley could sweep him up in her arms. After a shuddering moment, Harry relaxed into the grip and clutched at her like she was a lifeline.

Hotch should have known raising Harry had been too easy so far.


Harry told them that Snape had said he was from a school in Scotland called Hogwarts. The letter they had tried to send to him had addressed itself here, and Snape had been sent to collect him and take him back to the Dursleys, where for some reason unbeknownst to any of them he was supposedly safer. The letter was his acceptance into Hogwarts, and it included a list of items he needed for school. Snape had informed the Dursleys they would need to take him to a place called Diagon Alley to get everything, and then had promptly left.

Snape had demanded to know how Harry had ended up in America, and the boy had told him, truthfully, that one day he'd been wishing very hard to get as far from here as he could while holding a small garden stone. In the next moment, he had been sitting in America in the rain. The stone had allowed him to go between America and England so quickly, he'd said as he held it out to them. There was nothing special about it in appearance. Snape had told him – muttered to himself, really – that he had created a portkey with accidental magic when he was very young.

Hotch and Haley argued over the matter for days. Neither of them had a clue what to do, but the brainstorming didn't get them any closer to a solution. They tried to keep their uncertainty from Harry, though he obviously knew about it, and they finally sat him down and took in input on it.

"Do you want to go to this magic school?" Haley asked.

"I'll learn how to control this," Harry said. "I don't want things to just suddenly happen anymore. Besides," he continued, not quite meeting their eyes, "I've never really fit in at school here. There's always been something different. Maybe this is it."

So, despite every parental instinct, they agreed to let him go to the school. As the date closed in on when the beginning of school, they made plans to take a flight to England with Harry. Using the instructions Snape had given Harry on how to get there, they went to Diagon Alley, which was surely the most bizarre experience Hotch had ever had, and collected his school supplies. It didn't take them long, since they were extremely eager to get away from the witches and wizards who alternatively picked at the Hotchners' muggle clothing and fawned over the "Boy-Who-Lived."

A couple of days later, they were standing at King's Cross, wondering if the magical world was just completely insane or not. No Platform 9 ¾ existed.

Then a clan of redheads hurried past, someone mentioning muggles, and the Hotchners quickly followed after. Harry walked straight up to the matriarch and quietly asked for help. After three of her children drove themselves into the wall, heads first like they were looking for a bloody and rather inefficient suicide, and passed straight through, she lined up Harry and sent him through. No screaming or gore. He was just gone.

When the last of her children had gone through and it was just the woman and her daughter left, the Hotchners sidled closer.

"Excuse me," Haley said, and the portly woman blinked at them. "We're muggles," she continued, using terminology they had heard in Diagon Alley, "but we have a son who just got accepted into Hogwarts, and I'm afraid the whole situation is rather strange to us. Can you explain what they just did?"

"Oh surely, dear! There's a platform on the other side of the wall that the children access by running through. They have to get up to speed or they won't pass through."

Hotch glanced around, but no one else was watching as another two children ran through. "How does no one notice?"

"There's a Notice-Me-Not charm on the barrier, designed for muggles. Say, my husband works in the Muggle Department at the Ministry. Why don't you stay for dinner, and we can answer your questions and you can answer his?"

So while Harry was making friends on the train to Scotland, his parents sat down with the Weasley family. The conversation was just as illuminating as it was befuddling. Finally, though, the strangest part came.

"I daresay you have American accents," Molly said. "Did you just move here?"

"No, we still live in America."

Arthur frowned. "There's an American wizarding school. They should have sent you a letter instead. Who's your son? I think it's too late to fix it now, but I can at least right them and say they made a mistake."

"Harry Potter," Haley said and the Weasleys looked like they were about to faint.

"What?" they both demanded, so the Hotchners explained the whole situation as they understood it about how Harry had come to live with them. In return, the Weasleys explained that everyone in the magical world knew who Harry was.

"Well, he can hardly be separated from his family to go live with those monsters," Molly said, sniffing in disdain at the Dursleys.

Arthur nodded in agreement. "We won't tell anyone, but if you want, we can help you out."

And so they did. Harry sent his letters with Ron's, and the Weasleys sent them on to the Hotchners, as well as vice versa. The strange contents of the letter were, at times, completely odd and almost incomprehensible without context, but they could ask the Weasleys questions and they thought they were slowly learning to figure out what was going on in the magical world.

That didn't steady their nerves in the slightest, since there was apparently a giant Cerberus being kept in a school and the most common sport involved sprinting across the sky on a piece of wood to smack dense and fast balls at each other. A game that almost killed Harry when someone sabotaged his broom. A troll in the girls' bathroom. And then there was a dragon in the gamekeeper's hut, and a detention that was so terrifying a centaur had to come rescue their son.

Haley flew to England to pick Harry up after the end of the first semester, and he came home with her to America. He told them about everything that hadn't fit into his letters, excited despite all the bits he told them that would have shocked any reasonable person into silence. The separation from home had clearly taken its toll on him, though, and while he obviously loved Hogwarts, it was hard for him to leave to go back to school, especially when he saw that the pregnancy was starting to take a toll on his mother. The Weasleys, who had come back from a vacation to meet one of their sons for Christmas, used something called the Floo network to come to America and collect Harry, and they took him back to England for the Hotchners.

Harry came back home for Easter, even though he was overburdened with homework. Haley was due in another month, but he wanted to be around to help for as long as he could be. Harry tried to keep quiet about what had happened during the school year, but it was getting more and more worrisome. The dangers hadn't quite ended from last semester, and Harry and his friends were positive now that Snape was trying to get the Stone. Considering Snape also knew where the Hotchners lived, that wasn't good.

Jack came out earlier than expected, and Harry and Hotch were both there when the nurses handed him to his parents for the first time. Harry was excited to be a big brother, but before it could really settle in, he had to go back to Hogwarts. If it had been another child, his departure might have spared them more work, but instead it meant Haley wasn't going to have as much help around the house.

There was a brief pause in which nothing drastic happened at Harry's magical school.

And then he and his friends worked a couple of things out, and Molly sent him a letter saying she had heard from her son that Harry was in the infirmary after a fight with the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Harry sent a letter when he was able to, explaining what had happened, but it did little to assuage the Hotchners' racing hearts. His explanation was long and complicated, fitting with everything he had mentioned before and filling in holes that had been niggling at Hotch's mind since the beginning.

"Snape saved your life in the first match," Hotch said in a letter. "Did you already thank him?"

If Harry had been older, he might have been at risk for a stroke at the very notion. "I don't think he'd appreciate that. He really hates me," Harry pointed out.

"It's not about whether he's going to care or not. It's about doing the right thing. You can't control his actions, but you can give him the choice to accept your gratitude."

So Harry went and thanked the sneering potions master. From his description of how it happened, it sounded like Harry wasn't the only one at risk for sudden heart failure.

The BAU's upcoming vacation time overlapped perfectly with Harry's return. Hotch's son's first day home was the same day he was off work, and the entire time was spent doting over all the members of his family. Haley was ecstatic, from the attention and having her family around her. Somehow, the terrifying events of Harry's summer hadn't dimmed his bright eyes in the slightest, and he jumped back into working in the house with his parents.

The break lasted a whole day and a half. Then Hotch got a call in the middle of the night, the sort he'd never wanted to get. The next morning, he was flying to get Elle released from police custody, and then the whole team was back in Quantico less than a half week after they had left swearing to see neither hide nor hair of each other or the office.

One of the letters included what was, to Hotch, the worst news. A key piece of information was missing, and all that they knew was that Merlin would deliver it to them. That was the job, after all, of the wizard overseer of Arthur's court. Not long after, Haley brought their sons, adopted and blood, to Quantico, and Harry gave him a letter that had been handed to him specifically by someone who had come to their door.

When Reid cracked the case open, it was much more relieving for Hotch than the others. Reid had mentioned the oddities of Hotch's son's situation to his mother, and the Unsub listening to her stories had claimed it was like magic. No one knew, and Harry's secret was safe. But it wasn't as much of a relief as it should have been when Elle was still recovering in the hospital and Hotch was scrubbing blood off the walls of her home. The Unsub had still known too much about Hotch's people.


One day, the Hotchners woke up and Harry was just gone. Like all the other times he had vanished. A look at the calendar showed it was almost the same date as he had vanished last time, and when he didn't show up immediately, Hotch got Garcia to get him the Dursleys phone number and he called their house.

Yes, the bloody freak was there, what did he want with the brat?

Hotch bullied Dursley into handing the phone over to Harry. "I think they're still keeping an eye on the house," he said. "But I'll come back once I think they're not paying attention."

Hotch asked him to call every day. Three days later, the calls stopped, and the Hotchners were officially in panic mode by the fifth day when the Dursleys wouldn't answer their calls. What could they do, call British authorities and claim their son had been kidnapped by a couple who hadn't even left the country?

A week later, when both were straining at the bit to go somewhere and do something to get Harry back, they called the Weasleys again to see if they had the slightest idea what to do. Like before, they still weren't sure how to go looking for him without tipping off the wrong people, but the conversation was cut short because they had to usher one of their eavesdropping children away. The next day, Harry suddenly walked into the house. Once again, the Hotchners took a while to settle themselves down to listen to the story once he had assured them that he was safe.

Apparently, a house elf had shown up telling him it was too dangerous to go back to Hogwarts that year. When he had refused to listen to reason, the house elf had sabotaged the work dinner the Dursleys were having, and Harry had been blamed for it by the magical authorities and the Dursleys. He'd been locked in his room, unable to use magic or break out any other way, until a flying car had shown up outside his window. The twins and Ron, who had overheard his parents talking to the Hotchners about the disappearance, had driven it to rescue him. He'd spent the night at the Burrow, the Weasley family home, then used the portkey to get home.

None of that explained what the house elf had been talking about, but the Weasleys were sure he must have just gone senile with age.

The Hotchners went to England soon after, using the floo system with the help of the Weasleys to save money, and took Harry for school shopping at Diagon Alley, accompanied by the redheaded clan and the Grangers. It was a bit relieving to talk to Hermione's parents and learn they weren't the only ones who felt completely out of their comfort zone.

Harry went back to school. Or tried to, rather, but he and Ron got stuck on the wrong side of the barrier for some reason, and then Harry was sending a contrite letter explaining he and his friend might have accidentally damaged a really old tree on the school grounds after they stole the Weasley's flying car and were seen by a couple of muggles in London. Hotch wanted to know why the kids hadn't just waited for someone to get back to help them figure out how to get to school safely. Haley was curious about the murderous tree on property frequented by children.

The first match of Quidditch was just as dangerous as last year's. A wild bludger tried to kill Harry, but he managed to get out of it with only a boneless arm, inflicted by the useless DADA teacher who had replaced Voldemort's conspirator from last year. The house elf showed up again, but there was still no sign of what danger he was talking about.

That danger showed up at Halloween with the first petrification. By Christmas break, there were students in the hospital wing, and Hotch was pressuring Harry to come back even though he wanted to stay and try to figure out what was going on. Hotch stayed stern. He didn't quite say that Harry was going to come home willingly or Hotch was going to drag him home forcefully, but it was close. In the end, his tone made Harry cave, and he spent Christmas with them.

Before Hotch knew it, and before Hotch wanted it, Harry was gone again, back at that dangerous school where nothing seemed safe or sane or kind, and where Harry's curiosity – so innocent and often harmless at home – continuously pushed him closer and closer to the edge of a dangerous precipice that Hotch couldn't see.

The letters came like usual, but they were steadily more fearful as the infirmary slowed gained new occupants. Harry and his friends had ruled out their main suspect, leaving them entirely clueless as to the cause of all the harm.

Then Hermione was in the infirmary.

Not long after, the Weasleys were sending him letters before Harry could to send their appreciation for Harry saving their daughter.

Hotch had not known Harry was in the infirmary. He hadn't known that Harry had been injured at all. He hadn't known the Chamber of Secrets was real, or that basilisks actually existed, or that his son was in danger from one. He hadn't known that a diary could contain a part of someone's soul, or that it could bring itself to full life with a murder.

Aaron Hotchner did not like not knowing.

When Harry came home that summer, elated to be back and missing Hogwarts, Hotch swore to himself that it would be different next year. Harry wouldn't get into any danger, not if he could help it. Haley was just as resolute, and though they were fighting – quietly, so as not to alert either son – this was something they came together on without wavering.

Before Harry even got his letter from Hogwarts, the Weasleys sent the Hotchners a message warning them about Sirius Black. Hotch thought he might kill the man if he ever met him, for putting Harry in such a terrible situation with the Dursleys but also for destroying Harry's chances of a peaceful year.

Hotch and Haley argued. Hotch said it was too dangerous. Haley said he would never forgive them if they didn't let him go back. Finally, Hotch talked to Harry about it, and Harry told him it was the second place that had accepted him so easily. So reluctantly, Hotch let Harry slip through his fingers and go back to that twice-damned school.

Harry hadn't arrived at Hogwarts before he was hurt, passing out from the Azkaban guards who had been released onto school grounds. Hotch bit back any retort to Haley, knowing it was too little too late to say anything to stop Harry from going to Scotland. Then Black broke into the school, and Hotch angrily turned to his work when he couldn't do anything, profiling with a vengeance because he was going to take someone down whether they were the source of his ire or not.

When Harry came home for Christmas, Hotch made a genuine effort to try to get him to stay. He couldn't watch Harry leave again, not knowing if he was going to come back or not. He said so, and he pushed even until Harry was on the verge of tears because he was caught between homes that had cared for him. The division tore them apart, and it was the worst Christmas Harry had ever spent with them.

In the end, Harry left anyway. He probably wasn't ever going to forgive Hotch for what he'd done, and Haley for sure wouldn't. She followed Harry out the door, taking Jack with her, and Hotch was suddenly without a family. He knew where Harry would be going when he came home.

There were more Black sightings. They'd already learned of his traitorous behavior towards the Potters and his status as godfather, and Hotch just wanted him gone. Hermione and Ron were standing by Harry, and the school's staff was keeping a close eye on him, but it wasn't enough. Not when Hotch wasn't in charge of protecting him, and any help he could send would be hours too late.

Hotch kept sending Harry letters, trying not to be dissuaded by short and taciturn responses, and he used the regular if reluctant replies to affirm to himself that Harry was doing okay. The Weasleys contacted him as often as they contacted Haley, thankfully, keeping him updated, but they regularly tried to convince him that Hogwarts really was the safest place for Harry to be. Hotch bit his tongue on that matter, not wanting to alienate his best resources for information.

Then once case took all his attention, for once completely distracting him from Harry. A series of killings in New York, precursor to a terrorist attack. He was sending everyone to get rest, standing outside the van beside Kate, and-

He woke up and got to his feet, and he listened to nothing and watched burning pieces of wreckage around him. The memory of Kate jolted him into action, and she was bleeding when he found her. He was bleeding too but he couldn't feel his injuries, not yet, so he crouched in her blood and-

Morgan was beside him, telling him something important, where had that man gone -

Everything snapped into focus, and he was holding Kate's blood in her and helping Morgan carry her to the ambulance. They separated all of them at the hospital, drawing Hotch away, and now his ears were ringing painfully and someone was taking him to a hospital bed and filling out forms for him. He waited no longer than an hour, then discharged himself. He had work to do, and not the hospital staff nor the advice of his own team would stop him.

It was morning, and a second bomb had gone off but no one was hurt and the case was over.

He went back to the hospital to check on Kate. She was dead. He was sitting in the hallway quietly when the doctor he had been assigned to approached him.

"Someone's here to visit you."

Hotch stood. "My team's here. One of them?"

But the doctor was shaking his head. "This kid isn't an FBI agent."

"He looks young, I know." Reid always drew those comments.

A firmer shake of the head. "No, a kid. Maybe fourteen at the oldest. Dark hair, green eyes?"

Hotch had not expected to see his son over the summer, but he couldn't bring himself to regret trying to keep him out of harm. And Harry and Haley knew that too, so there was no chance of Harry, the small boy in soaked hand-me-down clothes who had adopted himself into the Hotchner family when his relatives hadn't wanted him, would come see him again, not after Hotch had tried to separate him from one of the special things he had been granted in life.

Harry was waiting impatiently in the emergency ward, where Hotch had first been admitted. His pacing stopped when he saw Hotch, and he stared quietly, stricken and terrified, as his adoptive father approached.

"Are you injured?" Harry asked. His eyes flickered over the blood, dreading the answer.

Hotch sighed. "It's fine. What are you doing here?"

"Mom sent me an emergency owl through the Weasleys..." His eyes were still raking over him. "What happened?"

"I can't talk about it," Hotch said, regretting every word that pushed Harry further from him, and regretting even more what he had to insist next. "Does anyone know you came here? Did you just leave without telling anyone?"

"I had to!" Harry insisted. "She said they didn't know who'd been hurt but there was a bomb..."

Hotch wanted nothing more than to drag Harry home with him instead of letting him go back. But- "Harry, you decided to stay under protection at Hogwarts rather than here." And if said that hadn't hurt, he was lying. "You can't bounce between locations; it's not safe. They're probably looking for you right now."

Harry glared at him, affronted. "I came to see if you were alive and you– Deal with your choices and get out of here, is that all you have to say?"

Hotch had no comfort for him, not when he was barely standing and the death of his friend was a raw wound. "You need to get back to Hogwarts. Send me a message as soon as you arrive to tell me you got there safely."

The only response was Harry's labored breathing, furious and passionate. He whipped around, stalking off without so much as a goodbye, and Hotch wanted to call after him but his words were just as dried as the blood on his face.

He turned around slowly and walked the other way, back to where had had come from earlier. Before he'd made it around the corner, a hand snatched frantically at his arm. He lifted it in surprise and Harry ducked under, grabbing him in a tight, desperate hug. Shivers shook his son's frame, and despite Hotch's resolution, he clutched at him just as tightly as the fear of losing – a friend, his family, the fight, his life, the trust his son placed in him – took over.

Hotch led Harry back to the bed, and he knew something was wrong. Harry didn't just break down, not like this, and he certainly didn't come running back. "Talk to me – what's going on?" And he knew his voice was too coaxing and he shouldn't be asking questions like that, but Harry was hurting and he couldn't just leave him.

The story came out, the whole thing that Harry hadn't told Hotch because of their fight. Ron's and Hermione's arguments over their pets, the Grim his professor kept predicting and its appearances out his window, the dementors at the Quidditch game, Buckbeak and his trial, and finally what had happened earlier that night – Sirius Black and the truth about the murder of the Potters. But most importantly, to Hotch -

"He told me... He told me he was my godfather, before Professor Lupin turned into a wolf and everything went wrong," Harry said. "He asked if I wanted to come live with him."

Hotch nodded slowly. "If you want to, I'm sure he and Haley could work something out-"

Harry snatched the pillow at the head of the bed beside him and smacked him with it. Hotch recoiled and broke off his words, staring in utter shock.

"I don't want to trade off between Mom and Sirius!" Harry snapped. "You idiot! He's not my father!"


"I talked to Mom," Harry said, "and I got her to agree to let me stay with you half the summer. I'll just be there when you're not out of state. If- If you want me there, that is."

"What do you mean, 'if I want you there'?" Hotch demanded.

"You and Mom did break up because of me," Harry muttered.

"Stop. First, we haven't signed any papers, so nothing's set in stone right now. Second, there were a lot of reasons things weren't working. Third, we were fighting about how to best take care of you. Neither of us fought because we didn't care about you."

He'd said too much and Harry knew it as well as he did. "Then stop making yourself the bad guy in this," Harry said, and Hotch fought a wince. "Don't push me towards Mom and away from you, just because you think it's going to be easier for me in the long run, or because you think she's the better parent for me to stay with. I need you just as much as I need her."

Hotch opened his mouth, but Harry was resolute so he simply nodded instead. "So, Buckbeak's a hippogriff, you said? They've got feathers?"

Harry looked at him curiously. "Yeah, why?"

Hotch plucked a the blue feather that had gotten caught in Harry's collar, the one he had been puzzling over since he'd first seen Harry. "It explains how you got here so fast when the portkey takes you to D.C."

Harry grinned sheepishly. "I dropped Sirius off at his old family home then brought Buckbeak and myself here. I was around Buckbeak a lot this year and I think he's gotten rather attached to me."

"And by rather attached, you mean...?"

Harry shuffled his weight. "I have a new pet?"

Hotch tried to suppress the small smile that crept onto his face but didn't quite manage it. "So you chose us as your parents, and your pet choose you as his owner. Fitting." He patted Harry's shoulder, then gave it a brief squeeze. "You do need to get back to Hogwarts," he said, grimacing. Harry nodded in understanding. "I need to get back to work, but I'll walk you to wherever you hid Buckbeak, and you can introduce us."

He thought it was odd that no one from his team had come to see him while he was talking to Harry, but after he learned how to greet a hippogriff – bowing, they only responded positively to respect – and saw Harry off, he found Rossi back by the operation room that hadn't managed to save his friend that night.

"Who was the boy?" Rossi asked, confused once Hotch settled beside him. Hotch tilted his head, frowning. "The one who came to visit you. And how did he get up here so fast?"

"I forgot you didn't meet him," Hotch admitted. "Everyone but you and Prentiss did. Harry's my adopted son." Rossi's eyebrows shot up and Hotch found himself explaining the whole story, minus the obvious recent parts that he couldn't talk about. "He was staying up here with some friends, and he heard something about what happened," Hotch finished with a lie.

The letter Harry sent didn't immediately arrive. The wrap-up for the case kept Hotch busy, but he couldn't quite keep his mind off his son, but the letter finally arrived in the evening. Harry had made it back quickly, but because the Ministry was investigating the escape of Black and Harry had disappeared about the same time, they had detained him until Harry managed to convince them that he'd just gone after Black in revenge for the murderer betraying his parents. The Ministry had accepted the excuse.

Harry also told him that he had already thanked Snape this time, since the potions master had gotten in between him, Ron, and Hermione and Lupin in his werewolf form. The potions master had given him an extensive rant on the benefits of self-preservation and keeping one's nose out of other people's business, but Harry thought it was a good sign that the man hadn't just given him a detention. After the events of the year, he was sure that professor's hatred of him was a grudge left over from his father.


"Don't hurt him," Haley warned, and that was honestly the most hurtful thing she could have said, implying that he might do so accidentally. "He doesn't deserve it."

"I won't," Hotch promised. Harry came home the next day. He was going straight to stay with Hotch. "I care about him too."

Haley grimaced slightly. "But not enough to just let him go to Hogwarts without trying to interfere."

"We are talking about the school that, for three years running, has endangered his life," Hotch pointed out, trying to keep his tone neutral and failing.

Harry spent a week with him before work called and he went to Montana. It was the one time Hotch seriously considered claiming sickness and not going, after everything that had happened to Harry the last couple of months.

"Go," Harry told him.

"Where?" Hotch said, confused.

"I know you got a call."

Hotch frowned. Harry hadn't been awake when he'd gotten it.

"Abuse victim, remember? I read emotions quicker, and yours aren't hard to interpret in this case."

"My profiling has rubbed off on you too much."

Harry smiled slightly. "I'll get my stuff." Hotch opened his mouth to protest. "It's your job and it's important to you. I can come back when you do."

He did, true to his word, without any grudging behavior over having to move between homes so much. The second time Hotch got a call, a month later, he thought his son might forcefully throw him out the door if he didn't willingly leave.

Hotch didn't know where Buckbeak was staying. Harry didn't either, but Buckbeak would regularly come visit him whenever he went to a park near Hotch's apartment. The two often went flying when Hotch was at work, and Hotch worried about them doing something like that without supervision but Harry waved off his concerns. To be fair, he'd never been injured so far and Buckbeak could probably catch him if he fell. That didn't stop Hotch from nagging – and yes, he was nagging – about being careful.

The months passed, with Harry making the irregular and probably stressful trips between houses without complaint. Hotch overheard him talking to his mother once over the phone, one of the times Hotch knew she called to try to get Harry to come back to her house, just as Harry said, "The difference is that you thought he'd be different than this and I never did. I expect him to travel a lot. I really don't mind it."

"I'm sorry," Hotch said when Harry was off the phone a couple of minutes later, because he knew Harry knew that he had heard.

Harry shrugged. "It's a part of you. I don't want you to give that up."

"Maybe we should set up a regular schedule and, if I'm gone during my time, you would just stay with your mother." He hated that idea.

So did Harry. "Then I wouldn't get to see you."

He couldn't shake the feeling that Haley would probably be happy with that. From Harry's expression, neither could he. "She's afraid you'll think this is normal and you'll do the same thing I do," Hotch said. "She wants you to have a normal life, outside the danger you've been having and that I get into."

Harry smiled slightly. "I'm a wizard who everyone thinks killed the last Dark Lord. I think we're out of luck there."

Hotch didn't want Harry going back to Hogwarts. True, he hadn't really been in danger last year, but the idea of the dementors and someone being able to break into Hogwarts grated on Hotch's nerves. Harry was patient with him, letting him voice his concerns and try to convince him to stay, but it was obvious that he had made up his mind, and Hotch finally decided that he would rather Harry go to school with his support than the alternative.

There was a tournament at the school that year, but Harry was too young to participate and he didn't think it sounded like any fun. Life's ironic humor decided that was stupid, and Harry sent a letter warning him that his name had somehow been pulled from the goblet anyway. Hotch asked him to come back. Harry said that even if he wanted to, he couldn't because the tournament bound him to compete.

A dragon was the first task. Harry wrote a letter to both his parents right after the task, and it still smelled smoky when Hotch got it. The dragon hadn't hurt him, and the task had actually dispersed the negative attitude towards him when people saw what he was up against.

Then there was the Yule Ball, which was like it's own task, and Harry regretfully had to tell them that he wouldn't be able to come home that break. It was the first Christmas and New Year's he'd spent away from them, and it was hard to tell which of the three of them hated that the most. Meanwhile, the divorce papers were finalized, and Hotch and Haley were talking about how to break the news to him that his parents definitely weren't going to be getting back together.

The second task was underwater. Harry figured that out, but didn't have a clue how to go about breathing without oxygen long enough to do whatever he needed to do. A friend, Neville Longbottom, told him to try gillyweed, but neither of them had a clue where they could get that.

"What's Gillyweed?" Hotch asked in a letter.

"It's some sort of plant," Harry replied, "but I tried asking Professor Sprout if she had some and she said she was out."

"If it's a plant, is there a chance Professor Snape might use it in a potion?" Hotch asked, figuring it was a pointless question but it was the only thing he could think of to ask. The Weasleys had told him that they could order some but it wouldn't arrive until a week after the second task.

The next letter was awed. Harry's bending of his own pride first and third year in thanking the professor had evidently paid off, because Snape handed over a clump of gillyweed – amidst insults about not being able to figure out some sort of alternative and a heavy toll because he would now have to replace it, but still. Harry had it, and he wasn't going to drown.

He was in first place by the end of the competition, but Hotch didn't care if his son won the cup. He just wanted him to get back from it all safely. There was someone in the school who had put Harry in danger and they didn't have a clue who it was, not to mention that there were Death Eater stirrings. It all put him on edge and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. This summer, he promised himself, he would push harder, and he would convince Harry not to go back. He couldn't do this again, not a fifth time, not another ten months of fear and worry.

And then there was the third task.

Family was supposed to come, but the Weasleys had to go in place of the Hotchners. At least someone was there for him, even if Hotch would rather have been there himself though there was nothing he could do about the situation with his presence.

Harry survived the task. One of the other boys didn't. And someone who had been on the very brink of life and death was now very much alive.

Harry's handwriting, usually legible if a bit rough, was now a harsh scribble as he tried to explain what had happened. Hotch knew he wasn't getting the full story but decided to wait to push until Harry was home again, safe and comforted. Voldemort was back and the Ministry didn't believe him. The Hotchners would look after him instead.

He came home to Haley that time, but he called Hotch to say he'd arrived home, and Hotch could hear the weary and lost tone, and he wanted nothing more for things to be like they had been, when the problem was simple and he and Haley could just curl up around Harry and protect him from the harsh world that hated him. It wasn't like that anymore, and it wouldn't be again. But he could do a little bit, even if it was only to ease his problems for a summer, and Harry arranged to come stay with him when he got back from his last case.

It was a terrible one, and Hotch was tempted to postpone Harry's arrival so Harry wouldn't see him trying to hide what had happened. In the end, he was so caught up with the end of the case that by the time they landed in Virginia he knew it was too late and he was just going to have to make it work.

He got home late, and he wanted nothing more than to get to bed so he could be ready for when Haley dropped off Harry in the morning. Life, as cruelly amused as it was by Harry's pain and his own, had other plans, and within five minutes of shutting the door behind him, he was staring down George Foyet with a gun on him.

If Foyet killed him, Harry was going to be the one to find the body.

So Hotch fought with everything he had, throwing all his weight into the punches and struggling like he'd never had to before. Foyet was taken off guard by the sudden, unexplainable ferocity, but Hotch couldn't let him know why it was important – why tonight of all nights he had to make it out of this alive. Finally, Foyet stepped back, bleeding from a cut where he'd hit his head on a wall and struggling to get his breath back.

"To be honest," he panted, grinning and flashing bloodied teeth, "I thought I would have won by now." He probably would have if he'd been a bit younger.

Hotch's gun was too far away. Before he could reach the edge of the couch and get it out of its holster, Foyet would reach him. So he braced himself, and when Foyet came towards him again, he threw back a solid enough punch that he was sure he'd disoriented the murderer enough that he could overpower him.

Foyet wasn't unarmed, even though Hotch had knocked away his gun early on. The knife slid in between his ribs before he realized what was happening, and a couple of moments later, he was on the floor and he wasn't sure how he'd gotten there. The knife was still in him, but he thought it had been on his left side, not in the center and further down. Then the knife was up higher, and he finally understood as he started to adjust to the pain that he'd been stabbed more than once and hadn't even realized it.

Foyet was talking to him, saying something, and Hotch didn't have a damn clue what the words coming out of his mouth meant. His thoughts were too loud, raging through his mind – YOU FAILED.

At least Foyet would be gone by the time Harry got here tomorrow.

And then Foyet wasn't watching him anymore, looking up at the door in surprise. There was a long pause, and Hotch dimly registered that there wasn't any sound.

In a burst of motion, Foyet snatched his knife out of Hotch and scrambled off him, moving forward quickly. Somewhere over Hotch's head, someone else was moving too, and Foyet skidded to a halt just as he was about to leave Hotch's periphery, hands slowly raising, mockingly, in the gesture of surrender.

"Get back."


"Get back!" he screamed again.

"Going to shoot me?" Foyet said calmly. "Become a murderer, right in your dad's home? All right. You do that. Don't think I won't come back, because I'll haunt your dreams until the day you die. Over and over again, I'm what you'll see when you close your eyes." He stepped forward, edging slowly towards Harry.

Hotch got one arm moving and started trying to push himself up, fighting back the waves of agony. But Harry was in danger and he didn't have an option. He pressed his other arm against one of his injuries, gritting his teeth.

Foyet was moving closer to his son. Harry had made it to Hotch's gun and was holding it on Foyet, but it was clear that he didn't know how to use one beside the basic aim and shoot, and Foyet could cross the distance quickly enough if he tried.

"Put the gun down," Foyet told him. "I'll let you live. Tell you what – I'll even get Daddy Dearest to a hospital."

Then Foyet darted forward and Harry pulled the trigger.

Foyet staggered back but he wasn't down, injured but not mortally, checked but not beaten. He ducked behind a wall, putting a barrier between him and Harry, and Hotch scanned the floor for Foyet's gun. Harry would have to come too close to the wall to reach him and hand over his own.

But before Hotch could make a move for it, they heard a window breaking, and there were steps on the fire escape, and Hotch knew Foyet was gone. He must have calculated his chances, taking his injuries into consideration with his acute knowledge of anatomy, and decided to live to fight another day.

Harry dropped the gun on the couch and hurried to Hotch. Despite his efforts, Hotch couldn't help but slump against him as Harry started to get him to his feet. "I can't carry you," he said, voice breaking. "Please, you have to..."

So Hotch stood as well as he could, and he was too disoriented to know what was going on besides Harry leading him out the door. They reached the elevators, and then they were going up, not down, and at some point Hotch realized he was standing on the roof and he didn't know how he'd gotten there. Harry pointed his wand at the sky and a bluish-white spark shot from it.

A shape emerged from the dark sky above them and came to a running stop on the roof, wings curling in, tail flashing, and hooves cracking against the cement. Buckbeak nuzzled Harry's shoulder and Harry told him something, voice cracking painfully. As if understanding him – and maybe he really did – Buckbeak knelt down on the roof, bending first his front legs and then curling his hind legs under him, getting low enough that Harry could get Hotch onto him. Once Hotch was sitting on Buckbeak's back, about to collapse, Harry held him steady while Buckbeak got back onto his feet and then climbed up behind him, wrapping his arms around his father and telling him to hold onto Buckbeak's neck.

Buckbeak started running before they were settled and it was grab on or die, and they were over the edge of the roof in the next instant and wings were spreading on either side of him, pushing them up into the air.

Before he slipped away, he thought to himself that flying really was a rather enjoyable experience on the back of a hippogriff.


Waking up to reality was much harder than staying asleep.

The rest of his team was trying to figure out how the neighbors heard gunshots at ten twelve and called the police, and yet Harry had gotten Hotch to the hospital within six minutes of the first phone call. The medical staff wanted to know why they'd pulled a blue feather out of one of his stab wounds. The marshals needed to take Haley and both her sons, but Harry was refusing to leave with them.

Oh, Harry.

The world put too much on that boy's shoulders.

Hotch thought he might get smacked with another hospital pillow when he was finally alone with Harry, but the boy just sat there quietly, listening to Hotch apologize and try to convince him – futilely, he knew, he could never convince Harry once he'd set his mind to something – to go with the marshals.

"Is it me?" Harry finally asked after Hotch had gone silent a minute ago, exhaustion wearing him down. "Is there something wrong with me, that everyone around me keeps getting hurt?"

Hotch sat up, and he knew he wasn't supposed to be doing that when he'd just gotten out of his final surgery three days ago, but he couldn't do anything else for his son. Harry took the offer, gently so as not to hurt him, and buried his face into Hotch's shoulder, crying quietly, in that way he had learned at the Dursleys so no one would hear him.

Hotch renewed his efforts. If he went with the marshals, he would also be safer from the Death Eaters. It would calm Jack down because Harry was with him. He wouldn't constantly be going between houses. Foyet couldn't find him and use him against Hotch. He would get to see his mother more.

He wouldn't have to deal with the consequences if Hotch's work followed him home again.

Harry said no. And he didn't give his reasons, but Hotch knew what they were. Harry was afraid that if he left Hotch he wouldn't be able to come back to him.

The next day, with Harry still in the hospital to the utter frustration of the marshals, the hospital went into lockdown.

"What's going on?" Hotch demanded as Rossi came in.

Rossi's gaze flickered to Harry, who was sitting by Hotch's bed, then back to Hotch. It was so fast Hotch almost thought he'd imagined it. "Someone got in who wasn't supposed to. Sounds like he's looking for someone." He tilted his head slightly. "The hospital accepted our offer, and we're helping security try to get him."

A half hour later, the situation was still bad, and for some reason they just couldn't corner the intruder and trap him. He kept escaping.

"He's apparating," Harry whispered, horrified, when Rossi left after delivering the newest information. "He's after me."

"Get under the bed," Hotch ordered. Harry shook his head immediately. "Harry, do it. If he hasn't gotten to this room yet, it's because he doesn't know where you are."

But it did mean that someone knew to look for Hotch to get to Harry, so he yanked out the IV and the heart monitor and climbed out of bed, grabbing every piece of information around the room with his name on it or any sign that someone was occupying the room. Harry tapped the bed and muttered something and the bed made itself, just as Hotch was shoving all the papers into the bottom of a drawer. He then went to the computer and worked his way out of his personal information and into the general database, so someone looking briefly at it wouldn't be able to see whose file was up.

"Under the bed," Hotch ordered again, and his injuries might have weakened him but he had strength enough for this. "Do not make me put you under there myself."

Harry snapped his mouth shut before he could argue, because one look at Hotch's face showed he was dead serious about this. He got under the bed.

"Stay here until I come get you, or if I send one of my team," Hotch told him, and then he walked out of the room, occasionally putting out a hand against the wall to steady himself. One of his injuries was stretching, tearing at the stitches, and he put his other hand to it for support.

When he walked up to the rest of his team, he thought Morgan would make good on his own threat to Harry and forcibly drag him back to his room. "They're looking for me to find Harry," he said quietly, to stop anyone but them from hearing. "It's a long story and we don't have the time, but essentially an old terrorist from a decade and a half ago hates his family for interfering with his plans. Harry got involved in one of his most recent attempts to get back some of his power just a month ago, and things didn't go as planned."

The team took a moment to process that. "Why didn't you mention this sooner?" Prentiss asked, baffled.

"I couldn't," mostly because he would have to explain magic, "but I don't think keeping this part a secret is going to matter much right now when someone's clearly after him." He nodded towards the doors to this wing, which had been locked tightly. "Is that the way you think he's coming in?"

"He's been working his way in this direction, but he can't get through those doors without the override password and key. Or a bazooka, I suppose."

There was a shadow on the other side of the small plane of glass in the door, and then the doors clicked open quietly and swung inward before someone would have even had a chance to get their key out of their pocket.

Three guns immediately shot up towards the intruder, a pale man with dark, lanky hair and a sallow complexion. He kept walking in, heedless of the weapons and sneering at their attempt to keep him out.

"You won't find him here," Hotch said, and that, rather than the guns, made him come to a halt and finally focus his attention on him.

"You don't even know who I'm looking for," the man snapped, but he'd stopped, clearly out of concern that maybe they did.

"You're looking for Harry Potter. If you'd been here an hour earlier, you would have known the marshals took him." And a team of them had left about the same time the man had arrived, so it was quite possible he had seen some of them leave. He scored with that hope when he saw a flicker of frustration cross the man's face.

"And where did the marshals take him?"

"I'm not telling you that," Hotch scoffed. "You won't find him."

"That's not an option," the man replied, irritation written across each of his features. His gaze flickered over the rest of his team and Hotch sighed. He quietly dismissed them, and they backed away reluctantly around the nearest corner, out of sight.

"Of course it is. Just tell everyone you can't find him. He fled the fight. People are keeping him safe instead of letting him face Voldemort again. I'm sure you can use that to your advantage."

The wizard's head tilted sharply and Hotch realized, horrified, that he'd gotten something wrong. There was too much keen interest in those dark eyes, not enough consideration for the suggestion. There was something he didn't know, something throwing off his profiling.

Someone was striding into view behind the man, casting a striking image with his limp, electric blue eye, and numerous scars, let alone his rough clothing that set him as a man more interested in a fight than anything else. "What's the hold up?" the new wizard barked.

The first man glanced at him irritably then turned back to Hotch. "You're injured."

"Very astute."

"Why are you here?" In a tone that wasn't concerned or derogatory, but rather curious, he continued, "You should be resting."

The man beside him suddenly vanished with a cracking noise of displaced air. A reverberating crack echoed down the hall behind him, and Hotch turned to see him looking into a room briefly before moving on.

He said to the first wizard, "You know you can't find him, not on your own, if you brought someone else. But he's not here. The only thing you're doing is risking the Statute now, and you need to keep as quiet as possible."

The wizard walked closer. "This would go a lot faster if the damn boy would stop getting into trouble," the man snapped, walking past them towards the reception area. He paused in the middle of taking something out of his pocket. "Damn technology," he muttered, shoving it back in.

A light bulb dinged in Hotch's head. Too much magic around technology would cause things to go haywire, and in a hospital, especially the ICU, that could be deadly for several people. The most the wizards could do was apparate because the spell lasted so briefly. But something else snapped into focus too. "Dumbledore sent you," he said, and the wizard turned sharply towards him.

"What do you know about-" He stopped and his eyes narrowed. "You're Aaron Hotchner."


He gave the fiercest sneer yet. "I should have known that if he was in America he would have gone crawling back to you. Where is he?"


The man stepped forward rapidly, and Hotch could easily see how the motion would have appeared dramatic and frightening to school children if he were wearing robes. "You're so injured that your wounds are tearing simply from being on your feet," he snapped, gesturing to a couple of the bandages dripping in fresh blood that were peeking out from under the jacket he had hastily thrown on, "and you think you can stop me from finding that blasted boy?"

He took a gamble. "Yes, Professor," he said and Snape's eyes narrowed further. "Unless you give me a damned good reason, you won't see him again."

Snape stared at him, meeting his eyes, and Hotch had an uncomfortable sensation at the back of his head. Before he could think more on what was being done, the pressure was gone, and Snape was tilting his head slightly. "You really do plan to stop me from taking him."

"I don't trust you."

"You think you can protect him from the Dark Lord?" Snape sneered. "Better than Dumbledore? Ridiculous."

"Dumbledore, the headmaster of the school where Harry has almost been killed midair twice, almost eaten by an enormous dog, put into a detention so dangerous a centaur had to come rescue him, attacked by a dark lord, forced to go after a dangerous object before a murderer did, severely hurt by a tree, almost eaten by spiders, framed for attempted murders, chased by a basilisk, nearly slaughtered by a werewolf, almost lost his soul to dementors, accused of assisting the man who supposedly got his parents murdered go free, put into a deadly competition, faced a dragon, almost drowned by merfolk, and then almost killed by Voldemort because the tournament had been a set up by an imposter professor to get him to the cemetery at the end of the year? That headmaster?"

There was a very, very long silence.

"The wizarding governments' attempts to protect him would be pathetic in comparison," Snape finally said.

"That sounds horrifying. Now, if my concerns about sending him away with you seem inadequate, please say why."

"Your concerns are valid," Snape said, "but without protection under certain wards, the Dark Lord will find him. You don't have access to the kinds of protection we can give him, and any danger he may be put in at school this upcoming year would be far less severe than what he would risk by remaining outside the castle walls."

"School doesn't start for another month and a half. Why are you here now?"

"We're moving him to a safer location," Snape said.

"Hm. How much was the gillyweed?"

Snape's eyes flashed in something like approval at Hotch's attempt to confirm his identity. "I got it for three galleons. I charged Potter for seven."

"Who's your friend?"

"The real Moody," Snape said, which Hotch had gathered from Harry's description. "We do need to collect Potter. You may be able to stop me, but you can't expect to stop the Dark Lord's army."



Snape and Hotch dropped their standstill and hurried down the hall towards the room Hotch had been assigned to. Just as they got there, Harry was getting up from underneath the bed.

"Did you hide him?" Moody asked, one eye looking at Hotch, who nodded. Moody grunted in something like approval. "My eye can see through anything, otherwise I would have walked past this room." He glanced between Snape, Hotch, Harry, and the rest of the BAU, who had followed at the sound of shouting and for once had been utterly stunned into silence. "Some serious explanations are in order."

But they very well couldn't do that in the middle of the hospital, so Snape went to get some potions for Hotch to ensure he wouldn't bleed out and Rossi sorted the intruder situation into some sort of bullshit to explain why no arrest was made. Hotch knew the BAU hated that they weren't going to be getting an explanation, but Hotch knew he had no case for getting them accepted into the magical who-knows group and telling someone they'd seen anything would surely get them obliviated.

"I wouldn't have expected the Weasleys to be able to keep this quiet so well," Moody commented in a tone that said he would be rethinking his view of them. They were all in the BAU's conference room, where American magical authorities had gathered after hearing there were British wizards in a New York hospital. The Americans had been caught up on what had happened ten minutes ago.

"What happens now?" Harry asked.

Hotch did not like the answer, but he had to admit that he couldn't put up a magical defense to protect Harry. So back to England his son went, mostly because Snape practically manhandled him into a floo.

Before Snape did that, Hotch dragged him aside, and snarled, "You keep him safe, or I will find you."

Snape didn't lean away. But he regarded Hotch carefully and said, "I have an excellent record of saving his hide, as you well know." Like he was trying to reassure one of them.


Fifth year wasn't better.

At first, the new DADA professor just sounded like a horrible person. Then Harry's writing started getting sloppier and then there was blood on his parchment, and Hotch demanded answers until Harry got angry that he was pushing so hard and Hotch threatened to get someone else to look into the matter. Harry didn't back down.

Hotch didn't either. He sent a letter to the Weasleys and asked them to deliver it to Snape.

There was no response from the potions master, but the next letter from Harry included a furious tirade on how Snape had found out about the detentions and Umbridge had blamed him for it so she'd given him even more. Snape had tried to stop her – stop what, Harry didn't explain – but she'd gotten a new educational decree past and now it didn't matter.

Hotch contacted the Weasleys for help, and they asked Ron if he knew what was going on.

The answer made Hotch want to fly to Scotland immediately and drag Harry from school.

A surge of Death Eaters broke out of prison. Arthur was attacked at the Ministry, so Hotch and Haley had a talk and they flew to England, both to help the Weasley family and to be there during the holidays since there was no way Harry would be allowed to go home to America without more protection.

The first people they met were Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. Lupin greeted them cordially. Black gave the impression that he would have rather seen them drop dead.

"He knows you're the reason Harry didn't accept his offer," Lupin ("Call me Remus") said. "He's made it his reason to get his name cleared, so Harry can come live with him like his parents wanted." He winced. "His parents, as in the Potters. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply..."

Harry showed up a day later when break started. After a short discussion, it became clear that there was definitely something wrong with him beyond everything else that had been going on. Harry was clearly trying to restrain his temper the whole time and nothing Hotch did could suitably quell the rage in him.

"I told you," Harry said, equal parts desperate and mad, "there's something wrong with me."

Hotch didn't have a way to prove he was wrong – there was clearly something the matter, especially if he had managed to see Arthur Weasley be attacked through a snake's eyes – so Hotch ambushed Snape the next time he came over.

"Harry has a connection to Voldemort," he said shortly. "What's being done about it?"

Snape stared at him like he'd just handed him a goblin and told him to put it on the mantle piece. "How in Merlin's name did you work that out?"

"I decided to apply logic to the situation."

Snape turned away a heartbeat too late to be convincing. "Your muggle brain is addled, then."

"Hey," Hotch snapped, sharply enough that Snape looked back at him. "He's my charge. I will find out what exactly is wrong, but it'll be faster if you tell me what you already know. I'm a profiler. I can help him if I just know what's going on."

"Here's how to help him – get out of his life before he gets hurt trying to protect you."

"The next time Harry's in danger, he won't go for help. He'll do it on his own, because he's acting impulsively without thinking anything through. I can help. This is literally my job."

"If I tell you, you must swear to secrecy," Snape warned him. "It will not allow you to break your vow."

Hotch nodded. Snape told him. He felt vaguely nauseous.

"Does Voldemort know?"

"No. And we need to keep it that way."

The day before Harry was to go back to Hogwarts, Hotch caught up to him in the room he had been sharing with Ron. He was sitting quietly on the bed, staring at the floor, when Hotch sat down next to him.

"You weren't responsible for this," Hotch said.


"If you could have stopped it, you would have," Hotch said firmly. "You're not a bad person just because bad things keep happening around you. And you're not going to become a bad person, not when you're so afraid of that and you care so much about the people you love. Arthur didn't get hurt because of you. He got hurt because this is a war, one you didn't start. It's Voldemort's fault, not yours."

Harry looked up at him, dim hope sparking in his eyes, and Hotch wrapped an arm around him. "Even if you don't believe in yourself," he finished, "I still believe in you. Nothing's going to change that."



"Did you really threaten to incinerate Dumbledore's wand if he tried to keep me from going home?"

"...I might have said something to that effect, yes."

Harry smiled against his shoulder.


For once, the year didn't end in a catastrophe.

Snape came right out and admitted he thought it was because of Hotchner's intervention, both in solidifying a neutral if not slightly, grudgingly positive relationship between Snape and Harry, and taking enough care of Harry's mental state to force him to come up with the best solution when confronted with a problem instead of just reacting. As a result, Harry had trusted Snape when he'd tried to tell him that Black was in danger, and Snape had caught up to Harry and the rest of the DA after they'd disposed of Umbridge in the forest.

After Snape had warned Harry that Black was definitely in Grimmauld Place, not the Order, and alerted Dumbledore to the situation. A team from the Order went to the Ministry to check on the situation, alerting the aurors as they did so that they had reason to believe there had been a break-in, and found a host of Death Eaters lying in wait for Harry and whoever else would have come with him. There were quite a few arrests that day, and even Lucius Malfoy didn't avoid Azkaban this time. The Minister reluctantly came out and said that, after reviewing the information in front of him, there was a good chance Voldemort had come back.

Harry came home that summer, and he'd just be staying with Hotch since Haley and Jack were still on the run. The dwindling safety of that preyed heavily on Hotch, but as the school year came to an end, he didn't see an alternative that didn't put anyone at risk. At the very least, the Death Eaters would have trouble finding him at a different house.

Hotch forgot about all of that when Foyet got close to his family.

"Aaron? You're okay?" Her voice was stunned, shocked he'd been able to answer the phone.

"I'm fine," he said. He couldn't be too late, not this time, not in this case, not when these people mattered to him more than anything.

She breathed out a sigh of relief. "But then-" Haley started and then stopped. "Oh..." The calm before the storm lasted for all of one breath, and then, panicked, she said, "Aaron, I just called Harry, he's meeting us here."

"Ah," Foyet said in the background, "yes, the prodigal son. I really have to thank you for delivering him to me, both of you. I was worried I wouldn't see him again before this was all over. I've got a conversation I want to have with him about respecting one's elders, and how to properly hold a gun."

"Aaron, is- Is Sam-"

"He's fine."

"Liar, liar, pants on fire," Foyet sang. "I have his phone right here. They sent out a mass text about his death. Did you even tell her what this was about? About the deal?"

"He's just trying to make you angry," Hotch said futilely.

"Well, she should be. She's going to-" His voice dropped to a whisper for a moment, and Hotch knew Jack was there "-D-I-E because of your inflated ego." Then he perked up as he heard a door slam shut. "Ah, Harry! Just the person I wanted to see."

Harry made a sound that was less scared and more frustrated.

"Now, don't be like that."

"What deal?" Haley interrupted, and it wasn't clear if she was trying to distract Foyet from Harry or genuinely wanted an answer.

"All he had to do was stop looking for me. And you wouldn't be in this mess."

"Hey, Jack?" Harry said. "Buckbeak's going to take us away, all right?"

"Okay," Jack said quietly. "Is Mom coming too?"

"Yeah, we'll be there in a minute." There was an odd note to Harry's voice, part tense and part frantic. But he had an idea, that much was obvious. "We just need to talk to this man for a little bit first. Can you go watch Buckbeak for me?"

"Mmmhmm," Jack said, and Hotch heard small footsteps leaving the room.

"I'm going to find him," Foyet pointed out.

"You're going to have bigger problems in a minute," Harry said darkly.

"Ah, yes, because dear Dad's about to show up, is he? Hate to break it to you, but your dad's- What, five, ten minutes out? He's not nearly close enough to save you now."

"Is this the part where you threaten me, tell me how badly you're going to hurt me?" Harry snapped.

"No. But I can save you for last, and you'll see what happens to the rest of your family before you."

"Yeah. Sure."

Foyet gave a snort of laughter. "Harry, Harry – I'm a mass murderer. This is what I do. I've never had a victim escape from me, and I plan on killing you before four in the afternoon so I can go get dinner downtown."

Harry gave his own snort. "Yeah? Get in line." Quickly, with stressed excitement in his voice, he said, "Dad, can you stay quiet for a moment?"

"Yes. Are you going to break the Statute?"

There was a grim smile in Harry's voice. "No, I'm going to leave that to someone else. Don't come to the house. We'll have to meet you somewhere else."

"What? Why?"

"There's not enough time. Give me a couple minutes."

There was a ruffling sound, one of the phone being dropped into Harry's pockets. "Mom, go with Jack. I need to talk to Foyet about something."

"Your mother's not leaving the room," Foyet said lightly.

"Maybe I am breaking the Statute after all."

"Harry, if you're not back there in two minutes," Haley warned.

"I'll be there. Hurry."

Then Haley was leaving the room, and there was a gunshot at the same time Harry snapped, "Depulsio!"

"Shit!" Foyet shouted as his gun clattered against something. "What the hell?"

"So sorry, Dad," Harry said, in the most sarcastic and darkest tone Hotch had ever heard his adoptive son use. "Sometimes things just happen, you know? And-"

The phone cut off, and Hotch pulled the car over. He had a suspicion of what had happened, but getting closer to the house now would help him. His heart thudded in his chest, and he reminded himself that the use of magic must have interrupted the phone's signal.

Across the sky, he saw dark streaks coming from the east in the direction of his home. He swore and switched the call on his phone back to his team. "Call everyone back," he ordered. "They'll walk into a massacre."

"Hotch, what?" Morgan asked, bewildered.

"I don't have time to explain. But they're expecting to meet Foyet there, not these people. Tell them anything you have to if it keeps them from the house."


His phone rang again. "Hold on." He switched calls. "Harry?"

It sounded like he was driving somewhere with the window down. "Okay, we're out of the neighborhood. Remember where we usually went?"

"Yes. I can get there in fifteen minutes. What happened to Foyet?"

"They believed me. They took him."

Hotch paused. "Did they really believe Foyet was me?"

"We're not the brightest community... Though, to be fair, they don't know what you look like either..."

"Harry, is this safe?" Haley asked, worriedly.

"Uh, usually," Harry replied, but it wasn't very reassuring. Buckbeak squawked beneath him. Then, worried, he said, "There's a lot of them in the skies..."

"I can see them from where I'm at," Hotch agreed, watching a few more dark stripes. "I thought the Ministry caught a lot of them."

"A lot, but not all, and some of the worst escaped. I'm so sorry, I didn't realize they had followed me until it was too late."

"Considering what just happened, I'd be incredibly hypocritical to blame you," Hotch pointed out, and he turned the car back out into traffic and started towards the park Buckbeak often landed in. He didn't think he wanted to know if they'd taken any precautions to make sure the hippogriff hadn't been spotted landing behind the neighborhood house.

On his way to the park, he heard sirens heading towards the house, and he reluctantly told Harry to wait a moment while he switched lines. "I thought you were keeping them away from the house."

"It's a different group, but they were there before we tried to stop them. A bomb went off, Hotch – the whole house is gone."

It hadn't been a bomb.

Hotch blew out his breath. "I expected something like that. Are they at the scene?"

"Yeah. If there was anyone there, they're gone. We're just about to pull up."

Hotch weighed his instincts and against his logic and finally said, "You might see some suspicious figures around. Don't approach them, and don't even let them know you've seen them." With a grimace, he finished, "We're not ready here for a fight against them."

"Who are they?" JJ asked.

"I can't tell you yet. Call me if anything happens, but I need to make sure my family's okay first."

He hung up as he pulled up at the park and got out. Harry would have landed near the back of the park, so he left the parking lot and started running down the paths in that direction until he had left the green lawns to the natural woods. Within a couple of minutes, he heard voices, and he found the human trio and hippogriff standing in a clearing. Jack was scratching Buckbeak's lowered head, grinning as Buckbeak's feathers ruffled and settled back down.

Harry beamed the moment he saw him, but Haley understandably looked less than enthusiastic. Before Harry could say anything, Haley was storming towards her ex-husband, and Harry's expression dimmed until he was turning away from the angry sight.

The slap was, in retrospect, entirely expected and rather deserved.

"You put all of us in danger!" she shrieked at him. Jack had looked up at the sharp sound of the slap but Harry had moved to block his line of sight. "This wasn't because he just wanted to hurt you through us – you abandoned us to him!"


"If you hadn't been so reckless and eager to prove your worth, this wouldn't have happened! No one would have been after us, and we wouldn't have had to leave home! We wouldn't be in danger right now!"


"No, I am going to court about this and I'm going to ensure you never have custody of either-"

"Haley," he hissed urgently and glanced quickly at Harry. Haley followed his gaze, head snapping over her shoulder fast enough that she caught Harry's pained look and wince before he turned his face away from them, ostensibly to examine Buckbeak.

Haley came to a dead halt, words freezing in her mouth as she realized that a lot of what she had just said pertained to two members of her family at the moment.

"We'll talk about this later," she furiously muttered to him, then stomped away from him until she forced herself to approach Buckbeak and her two sons more calmly.

"I need to get all of you to Quantico for now," Hotch said. A lot of people were going to want to talk to them, and what had just happened was definitely going to be investigated. With the destruction of their house, he also didn't know where else they could go that would be safe. "But Buckbeak..."

"He can find me later. I don't know how, but he's done it before," Harry quickly said.

True, he must have, since when Harry went back to England each time Buckbeak always managed to follow him.

"What's going to happen now?" Harry asked.


It was worse than Hotch had thought it would be.

The investigation took an unexpected turn as Strauss took the only route conceivable to her with all the limited information she had – Harry must have set a bomb under the house.

The BAU's loud silence was that this was a completely ludicrous idea, which was made very clear in her interviews of them. But there were gaps, things that the BAU couldn't explain about Hotch and his relationship with his son: where Harry had been for school this whole time (which was not helped by a complete lack of school records after age ten), why Hotch rarely mentioned Harry (Prentiss hadn't even known he had a second son), how Hotch had even found Harry (CPS at least corroborated Hotch's bizarre story in this case), and how Harry had managed to get everyone out of the house (this was not helped at all by any evidence).

And Hotch knew what she was thinking, knew that it was even starting to impact his team, and everything came to a head when the Dursleys showed up, summoned by Strauss to get answers about Harry's past.

"He's a freak."

"He tried to kill us."

"Dangerous, is what he is. I don't know what that family was thinking, taking him in."

"We tried everything. We just couldn't help him."

"Blew up a house? Sounds like him."

"I wouldn't be surprised if, when you find that man's body, you'll discover that the boy killed him."

Harry was being held at Quantico under suspicion of numerous charges. Hotch couldn't talk to him to figure out how to get them all out of this, and Harry couldn't contact anyone in England to figure out what was going on. He'd also given his wand to Hotch, just to make sure no one else got a hold of it or started asking questions.

The team sent Morgan to Hotch as a spokesperson. "I know I don't have any right to talk about this," Morgan said, "but man, you have to tell them something of the truth. Harry can't have done any of this, but I can't help but see that you definitely know what did happen."

"If we tell, we'll all be thrown in prison," Hotch said grimly. "It's much more complicated than it looks."

"We just have to hold out until August," Haley pointed out to him later. She had spent more time at Quantico than not, trying to figure out a way to get Harry released. She was also spending time blaming Hotch for all of this, which...while not entirely inaccurate, was untrue just enough to be a tad unfair. He hadn't had anything to do with the Death Eaters, even if Foyet was definitely his fault. "If he doesn't show up, they'll know something's wrong back there. And then they'll explain things."

They did not show up in August. Just as everything was heating up, Harry vanished from the place they were keeping him – as did his wand from Hotch's desk – and then suspicion turned to the Hotchners, who had been at Quantico at the time of his disappearance.

They had no explanation as to how he had gotten out or why he had run, but there was no proof that they had done it, so while Strauss clearly had her opinion on what had happened, she had to let the two of them go too.

Harry sent a letter when he could. Dumbledore had needed his help with something, and under the circumstances, Harry thought it better not to refuse since the favor required him in England and not a holding cell at Quantico. There had been talk of sending someone to America to work everything out, but doing so could draw attention to the fact that Hotch was still alive.

"Foyet's dead," Harry wrote. "It sounds like they tortured him before they killed him, but there's no reason for them to believe that he wasn't you."

Regret. Harry wouldn't have mentioned the torture if he hadn't wished he hadn't sold Foyet out as his father, if he weren't hoping for some sort of condemnation from Hotch's side about giving anyone to the Death Eaters. Hotch couldn't do that, not after what Foyet had put them all through.

The win against Foyet, no matter how sullied it had been by the aftereffects, was their last consolation as the war spet into full swing. Now that everyone knew he was back, Voldemort was forced to rapidly consolidate his followers and send them against the public, hoping to scare more into fighting with him rather than against him. Even at Hogwarts, it was clear the situation wasn't as safe as it was. Harry was positive someone – Malfoy – was trying to kill Dumbledore.

Hotch told him a little about what was going on back home, but he really didn't want Harry worrying about any of it. Still, Harry read the subtext, and he gently said he wouldn't be able to come back to America for a while. He didn't know how long that 'while' would be.

Christmas passed without him, and it was dreary. Haley was still angry with him, but she must have had some sort of change of heart – probably due to Harry's similar situation – about Hotch seeing either of their children because he got to visit Jack. Despite what had happened between Hotch and Haley, she invited him over for a couple of meals one month, and then they found that they were meeting up at least weekly. Their relationship wasn't repairing itself, and none of the romance was back. They were just looking for consolation over what was happening to Harry.

That slow, awkward, almost emotionless relationship was the only thing holding them together when Harry sent them a message at the end of the year saying that Dumbledore was dead, right before he completely stopped sending letters and the deadline for when he should have come home, if he was going to at all, flew past.

They tried to get a hold of the Weasleys. Nothing.

Hotch had Garcia look into the Dursleys. Murdered, all of them.

Then they turned to British news, and England was falling under terrorists.

Before August, though, they saw Harry again. It wasn't the way that Hotch had expected to be reunited with him after almost a year of missing him.

No, Harry showed up quietly, with a male redhead and a female brunette, and Hotch knew something was off the instant he heard them sneaking quietly into his apartment with wands out. He was out the door, knowing he was outmatched against magic, and he told himself they were probably polyjuiced as he rushed out of the building into the pouring rain.

They caught up to him on the streets and he heard spells shouted his way, and he just managed to avoid getting hit by dodging behind obstacles and running from them as quickly as he could. When it was obvious they weren't going to be able to get him by just shouting spells, they started throwing obstacles in his way, and he barely kept his balance as he kept himself from tripping over anything. He tried to call his team on his phone, but the flying magic prevented him from getting much more than a moment of clear connection.

When he finally gave up and tried to shove his phone away, he looked down for the briefest of moments and missed something flying towards him. Later, when he was at the spot and no longer in danger, he realized one of them must have pulled a tree branch down as he passed under an oak, smacking him in the head. He staggered from the blow, but he didn't have time to recover so he just pushed on, blood streaking down his face.

It took an hour, and police had been called because of the wreckage the trio was causing, when Hotch finally managed to get himself hidden behind a dumpster while they went past. The three searched the area for another hour, until he saw Harry stop in the middle of a street, head tilted up to the sky. Maybe it was Hotch's imagination, but something in that pose struck him, but it was only after Harry vanished that he realized what it was.

He looked exactly like he had when Hotch had first met him. Shaking. Pathetic. Cold. Miserable. Alone. A lost child, a kicked dog, a small spark of hope that could be too easily extinguished.

It had been Harry.

The team showed up, and he knew what he had to do, even as it tore at every part of him like a wild animal. "He just appeared in my apartment and attacked me," he said, like he utterly believed that was all there was to the story.

When Strauss heard about it, she had a field day. She immediately tried to get him pulled from the FBI, claiming he had raised an Unsub, but the BAU jumped in and said that the Dursleys' interviews had shown that it was likely an inborn problem that had developed inevitably over time. They tried not to let him see their pitying looks, but they were so frequent that it was hard not to notice them.

Haley showed up, escorted by agents, before he could call her. She hadn't been attacked, and she looked furiously at Hotch when she heard that he had sold out Harry. Thankfully, she managed to wait until they were alone in his office before she launched viciously at him.

"Go along with it," he quietly pleaded with her. "I'll tell you what's going on later."

So, grudgingly, she dragged lies out of herself, and she also told the investigators that it was entirely possible Harry had finally snapped.

That night, at Haley's house with Jack put to bed, Hotch laid down everything that had happened to him in the last twenty-four hours. He ended with, "Before the police showed up, I thought I knew what was going on, but I called the Grangers first, to check."

"The Grangers... Hermione's parents?"

"Yes. When I asked them if they had seen their daughter, they told me they didn't have one."

Haley intook a sharp breath. "You think..."

"They came to obliviate us, to erase any memory of Harry. He must have thought I would know something was up if he tried to talk to me first. And then once they failed to obliviate me, they knew I would warn you, and they just left."

"But why bother at all?"

Hotch grimaced. "It sounds like it's too dangerous for them to go back. They're probably trying to sever ties with all of their family so the Death Eaters don't have a reason to go after us. Ron might have done something similar, since we couldn't get a response from the Weasleys either."

"What do we do?"

"There's nothing we can do. If we do anything that could get us attention and someone sees us, they could use us against Harry."

Haley opened her mouth to argue, but she took another look at Hotch's grieving face and said nothing instead.


Months passed as the situation in Great Britain gradually turned from bad to worse, until other allied countries started growing considerably concerned about the terrorism moving to their own borders. The Hotchners paid attention raptly, hoping for any change in the situation, just so they could feel safe enough to get a hold of their few contacts in England and try to find out what was happening.

Bodies were found everyday, victims of the terrorism, and a few stray reports leaked out that they were having trouble identifying quite a surprising number of the bodies and that the same number had never been reported missing or had family show up. The violence was growing, with the regular government slowly losing control as it was unable to provide any sort of explanation to its people about what was going on, or any method to stop it.

Finally, Hotch found himself standing in Garcia's office, and he steeled himself for what he knew he had to do.

"Garcia," he said, and she was looking at him, serious for once when she saw how visibly distressed he was. "I need help with something, but this could potentially put you in danger if things get more out of hand. I can't even tell you everything without endangering you, and you won't have a lot of information to work off of, or reason to help me with this besides my word. I'll understand if you don't want to do it."

"Anything, just say the word," she replied immediately.

"This is the more dangerous than going after some of our worst Unsubs," Hotch warned, but he could see Garcia growing firmer in her resolve.

"If this is that important, I'll do it."

He took the seat across from her. "You can't tell anyone about this, not even the rest of the team," he said. She hesitated at the notion, confused, but nodded. "There's a select group of people who know about the organization behind Britain's terrorism attacks. It's a small community, and a portion of them got out of control. The rest of the community isn't strong enough to stop them right now. Harry is a part of that community."

"He's one of the ones trying to stop the terrorists," Garcia said, understanding dawning. Hotch paused, surprised she'd caught on so fast. "Well, I could hardly believe he'd grown up under you and done anything like that. So, what do you need me to do?"

"We lost contact with him. I..." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "The bodies, the unidentified ones showing up in Britain. There's a chance that he might be eventually recognized if he's one of them, but there's also a chance he wouldn't be."

Horror swept over her expression. "You want me to go through British records and find out if he's been killed," she whispered. "Do you think he's...?"

He shook his head. "Not yet." If he were killed, there was a good chance the situation would get a lot worse very quickly. But it was only a chance, and maybe others were still fighting. "I've got reason to believe he's still alive. But he had two friends with him, and if either of them were caught, I... I don't think he has a lot of time left."

"I'll start looking," she told him quietly. "Hotch, the terrorists, is someone going to stop them?"

"Someone stopped them once before," he said, "but this time... I don't know."

She didn't find Harry or Hermione after she used pictures of them she found from databases. Ron wouldn't have been in any so he didn't bother asking for her to check for him. He just hoped the three were all still alive and on the run.

Then he got proof that they were.

Strauss called him into her office to report to him that she had gotten word that Britain had sent out a warning about three fugitives. The one of most concern was Harry. The other two were Hermione and Ron. Strauss said they wanted to call the BAU in to assist, since they knew one of them.

"Tell them we have too much of a bias in this matter," he said. "We won't be able to help like usual."

Strauss nodded in agreement. "That's what I was planning on telling them, but I wanted to hear what you thought." She paused. "Agent Hotchner... I think it's obvious by now that I don't like you and I don't approve of your methods." A longer pause. "But for what it's worth, I don't think you deserved this."

Within a week, Hotch was aware that he was being watched. He couldn't see who it was, but some instinct just told him that he needed to run. When he saw her, Haley said the same. The bodiless gaze followed him out of D.C. on his next case to Oregon, then back home, and then to Texas a couple of weeks later. Just when he was beginning to think that maybe he and Haley were getting paranoid, he overheard Reid and Prentiss muttering at the crime scene that they were sure someone was observing them.

Someone was waiting for them when they returned from Texas in Hotch's office. Strauss was at the elevator doors, and she quickly dismissed the rest of the team and said that someone from England had come to speak with him about Harry. They thought they had a lead and were hoping to catch him soon.

She was excited at the notion, even if she tried not to show it. A bad guy caught and behind bars was always a good day for law enforcement.

Hotch nodded calmly. "I'll be right there," he said, and when she was far enough away, he walked over to Morgan's desk and quietly told him, "Please call Haley; tell her to take Jack and run."

Morgan froze, horrified, and his gaze flickered to Hotch's office.

Hotch turned. He could see someone with their back to him sitting on the couch.

"Hotch, what's going on?" Morgan asked.

He glanced back at the office, and the wizard waiting for him in there caught his gaze.

He dropped just as the window shattered and a spell passed over his head, destroying the desk behind him. The rest of the room erupted into shouts of alarm as people scrambled for their weapons. Hotch, having moved to draw his as soon as he saw the wizard moving, moved up briefly and fired.

The wizard staggered backwards, surprised, and Hotch fired again, dropping him this time. A spell arced over his shoulder, barely missing him, and he rolled behind a desk to avoid getting hit by another one.

"Hey, did you know Voldemort's father was a muggle?" Hotch shouted over the sound of spells being shot through the air and agents trying to return fire. There was a pause behind him and he used the lull to duck around the desk and hit the witch with a shot.

He looked up to the office. No one in that room could defend themselves, he realized, horrified, and no one was close to them. For that matter, Rossi was also practically a sitting duck, even if he did have a gun, but it was him against all the Death Eaters that were moving towards the stairs.

Before they could get close to the offices, something like a curtain was pushed aside and Harry and two others suddenly appeared by the door to Hotch's office. "Protego maximus!" he shouted at the same time a wave of spells flew at him. They all bounced harmlessly off a large shield. Behind him, Hermione hurled a spell at the ceiling, and metal ventilation ducts and drywall came crashing down on the heads of the Death Eaters who had been coming near them. Ron aimed his wand in the opposite way, throwing back a couple.

The three moved down off the stairs, frantically trying to hold off the Death Eaters without letting anyone behind them get hurt, and Hotch called for all the agents to push back to meet the three of them so they could hold a solid line. It took some scrambling, and he saw a few agents go down, but within a few minutes it was a row of FBI agents and three teenagers against masked individuals across the room from them.

"Come on, Harry," a voice near the center of the other line said. "Turn yourself in. No one needs to get hurt."

"What the hell is going on?" Hotch heard Strauss ask Rossi behind him.

There was a moment of silence, and Hotch said sharply without turning his head or lowering his gun, "Harry, don't even think about it."

"All we need to do is wait," the voice continued. "You can't hold out forever, not on your own, but we can. And we can also call in whoever we need to win."

"You're at Quantico," Strauss snapped. "This building is packed with FBI agents. Do you really think you're walking out of this?"

"No one can come save you, if that's what you're hoping," the voice jeered. "They can't get into here, whereas we can leave whenever we want."

Hotch's gaze flickered over the line. One boy down at the right end had to be Draco Malfoy, if the description was anything to go by. Even with the mask, his blond hair and stature almost ensured his identity, as did the presence of a similar-looking man beside him who was likely Lucius Malfoy. In the middle, he thought he could identify the fathers of Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.

"What's the point of this?" Hotch demanded, annoyed. "So you take Harry, just so Voldemort-"

"Do not speak his name!" someone hissed at him. He ignored them.

"-can kill him. He hasn't even been fighting in this war. You've been wasting all this energy on killing a teenager, but you're still going to have to fight for at least months more until you've completely destroyed the resistance. What's he going to have you go after next, just for his own ego? The only other person who came close to beating him, his muggle father?"

That caused the entire row of masks to look at him, and he forced himself not to be disconcerted by that.

"The Dark Lord had no muggle father," the elder Malfoy spat out.

"You're saying he was a pureblood, then."

"Of course!"

"So which pureblood family was he from?"

Dead silence.

"If he had such an impressive lineage, don't you think you would have known about it? He's so angry at muggles because his father was an abusive asshole."

Hotch didn't know that, but the relationship with his father couldn't have been good, and even if it was abusive Voldemort wouldn't be able to tell his followers anything but a lie to avoid giving them the wretched truth, and a lie would just make the abuse seem likely.

"You are making the presumption that the Dark Lord was abused," a witch sneered.

"Of course he was. It's documented."

"Where?" Malfoy demanded.

"Muggle papers, though I doubt you would have bothered to search through those."

"Prove it," someone demanded snidely, expecting a quick retreat.

"All right." He lowered one hand from his gun and pulled out his phone, then dialed Garcia's number. "I'm putting you on speakerphone," he warned her, then did so. "Harry, what was Voldemort's real name?"

"Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr. He was born in 1926."

"Need me to look that name up?" Garcia asked. From the lack of excitement in her voice, she must have heard from someone that there was some sort of fight going on in the BAU bullpen.


There was a pause. "Parents are Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle. Is this the right person?"

"Yes," Harry said.

"What am I looking for?"

To the row of Death Eaters, he said, "If his parents went to Hogwarts, they would vanished once they turned eleven years old during the school year from our records. Do we all agree on that?" Slowly, he got a couple of tight nods. To the phone, he said, "Check their school records."

"Tom Riddle got an excellent education in Little Hangleton, spent his entire life there. No disappearances. Merope Gaunt, however, dropped off records after her eleventh birthday, until a marriage certificate shows up between her and Tom. Not long after, there were two reports from neighbors about domestic abuse filed on her behalf, but nothing was done... There was a child, but Riddle soon left."

More silence. A couple of the Death Eaters were shifting awkwardly.

"She could be making that up," someone snapped.

"So check your own records," Hotch said immediately. "You have control of the Ministry and all the records in it. As you said, you can leave whenever you want, and no one will think it's suspicious that you're looking in the records unless you tell them why."

"Muffliato." Hotch didn't see who cast the spell, but the next few moments of discussion amongst the Death Eaters went entirely unheard until someone lowered the spell just as a Death Eater vanished with a cracking noise.

"How do you know this?" Malfoy asked suspiciously.

"Considering he's been sending people after my family, it made sense to know more about him," Hotch dryly replied. "I did some researching." He glanced over the group. "I didn't do enough research on you, though. I didn't have to."

"What do you mean?" Malfoy demanded.

"Voldemort thinks everyone under him is so whole-heartedly in support of him. He's wrong. You have a lot of leaks, and I know I'm not even aware of all of them."

"He's lying," Goyle snapped.

"You don't like your son. You think he's not independent enough to make his own decisions, and he's too dim-witted to see when someone's playing him, so you think he's going to get your whole family in trouble one day when he does something stupid and brings Voldemort's wrath down on all of you. But your wife likes him, so you haven't said anything about it."

Goyle opened his mouth slightly then closed it. "That's not true." The people around him were looking at him in astonishment, both from the statements they had just heard and how wretched his lie had been.

"So you've got one leak," Crabbe said, rolling his eyes.

Hotch had suspected he would be the next to speak up, considering it was likely the fathers were close if the sons were. If he could get Malfoy to speak next, he had this in the bag.

"You're not that upset with your son. He goes out of his way to make a stand as the son of a Death Eater, and whenever you hear news from him you always hear that he's used the Cruciatus on someone or tortured them another way. He told you that he's been rather impatient, that he wasn't happy that it took this long for them to be able to use that kind of magic in school against the people who weren't worthy of becoming Death Eaters. You think he's going to do well the older he gets, so long as he keeps behaving like this. No one's told you yet that a lot of the things he claimed to have done in previous years were exaggerated or just things he took credit for."

Goyle looked at the people on either side of him sharply. More than a few looked away, telling Hotch who had children about Goyle's age who would have known that his son was lying whenever he shared a story his son had told him.

"How do you know his yearmates weren't lying instead?" one to the right said.

"Nott, don't you know your son well enough to believe him?"

Nott started at the use of his name. Any Death Eater who hadn't been edgy before was definitely restless now.

A wild range of spells punctured the air, and only a few Death Eaters had time to throw up barriers as they were hit from all sides. Some vanished, apparating away from the building entirely, but others apparated closer to the agents, like they were planning on taking hostages. One appeared directly in front of Strauss, but before he could utter a spell, a large dog tackled him to the ground, and when it rolled off, Sirius Black was standing in its place, sending a Stupefy down at his opponent.

Harry and his friends kept their shields up, protecting the agents from friendly fire as well as the Death Eaters, until the room went silent and the only ones standing weren't shooting at each other or the FBI agents. One, however, a stocky man with a roving blue eyeball and a limp from an amputated limp, stalked over to Harry until he was close enough to smack him upside the head.

"Idiot boy!" he snarled. It was the man who had been with Snape in the hospital. "What in the blazes did you think you were doing, coming here? Didn't you know it was a trap?"

"What was I supposed to do?" Harry demanded, scowling. "Not do anything, and just wait until Voldemort had hostages?"

"Hey, let's take care of all these guys first," Black said, pointing at the ground at all the unconscious Death Eaters. "Looks like a couple biggies came."

"He sent people Harry would recognize, since he'd be more likely to go with someone who he knew – even if he only knew them as an enemy – rather than a complete stranger who he'd never met before," Hotch pointed out.

Moody, the one who could only be Moody from what description Hotch had had of him, stared at him for a long moment. "He has a point," Moody finally said.

There were a couple more cracks, and more wizards and witches were standing among them. They weren't Death Eaters, but they weren't Order either if the odd looks they were getting were any indication. The new group looked around for a moment, a bit confused.

"Looks like you have everything under control, then," one eventually said.

"We don't have access to our prison at the moment," Moody bluntly said, then jerked his head roughly at the Death Eaters. "You want them for now?"

"Are you Mad-Eye Moody?" a different one demanded and Moody sharply nodded. "Uh." He glanced around, and after spluttering for a few moments, said, "Why is the entire Light resistance leadership here?" With another moment of looking, he added, "Are you Harry Potter?"

Harry sighed quietly.

"What the hell is going on?" Strauss asked.

None of the magical folk said anything, until Hotch, exasperated, demanded, "Are you breaking the Statute or not? Because at this point, you're endangering everyone by not telling them what's going on, since obviously Voldemort's people don't care about revealing themselves anymore."

"I thought you were dead," Black said, frowning in confusion.

"It was someone else," Harry muttered.

"Statute?" Hotch pressed.

A half hour later, most of the agents were being inoculated into magic by one of the American witches while the Order helped the rest of the magical Americans prepare the Death Eaters for transport to a prison. The Death Eater who had left to check the records returned in the middle of all of that and was quickly caught and put with the others. Hotch took the opportunity to grab Harry and his two friends and drag them into his office, where Jack and Haley were waiting.

"Dad, I-" Harry winced even as he said the words, then pushed himself to continue. "About a couple of months ago, I – we – didn't want to- to- to attack you, but-" Hotch tried interrupting, but Harry was rambling, pushing on without noticing, "-if anyone came, and you couldn't remember me, they wouldn't know if it was really you, and-"

Hotch reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "I know," he said firmly, finally managing to cut him off.

"No, I mean, we were just trying to-"

"Make your mother and Jack and I less of targets, yes." Harry finally paused. "I've known you long enough that I knew you weren't really going to attack me," he said and Harry flushed.

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

"While we're talking about things you know," Hermione said, "how did you know all of that about Crabbe and Goyle? Harry didn't know it, so he couldn't have told you."

"This is the kind of thing I usually do in my job," Hotch said, rather than go through a complete explanation, and Hermione stared at him, astonished, for a long moment.

"So, wait," Hermione said urgently, "you were making assumptions about his parents based on what we knew about the kids?"

Harry separated himself from them and went over to his mother and Jack. Out of the corner of his eye, Hotch could see them quietly talking. Harry looked like he was reassuring them. "I was making assumptions about what the children would have told their parents," he corrected and Hermione's face lit up in understanding.

"But what about You-Know-Who?" Ron asked.

"Oh!" Hermione said suddenly, before Hotch could say anything. "No one would have told you! There's a Taboo Curse on his name right now. If you say...what we usually call him, he know where you are. We figure he did that since the only people who would have used that name would be people against him."

Hotch nodded. To the side, Harry was hugging Jack and Haley, and he couldn't help but notice how desperate the motion was, like he was never going to see them again. "I'll keep that in mind."

"But back to what happened earlier –"

Harry stepped up beside her, and she glanced at his face and paused. He turned to Hotch and asked, "Can I talk to you?"

Hotch nodded and led him out of his office to Rossi's. Behind them, the remaining Hotchners and Harry's friends started talking, presumably sharing information. When the office door was closed behind them, Hotch asked, "What's going on?"

The whole story came out. Dumbledore knew how to kill Voldemort and had been instructing Harry on how to do it throughout the year. He'd also told him Voldemort's history – an orphanage, not an abusive blood family, but Harry was still impressed he'd gotten so close to his true situation with so little to go on – and what he had done previously to stay alive when many others would have died.

After an attack on a wedding, Harry and his friends had gone on the run, sometimes using Buckbeak to get around but other times just moving from place to place by apparation. They had already made some headway in taking down Voldemort, but they weren't close enough yet to make a final move. How they had been managing to chip away at Voldemort's invulnerability when none had even come closer before, Harry wouldn't say, and the longer he talked, the more cut off his sentences became, until he wasn't even bothering trying to be subtle about hiding something from Hotch.

"Sorry, I just..." He scrubbed a hand over his face. "I can't... Moody can probably explain it, when he gets back."

"Explain what?"

Harry grimaced. "...Nevermind."

"What's the point of telling me all this if you can't tell me why?"

Harry looked at him desperately, and Hotch knew. Harry didn't need to receive or give aid – he just wanted to tell someone what was going on so they could tell him it was going to be okay.

Some idea startled Harry and he checked the clock in the bullpen by leaning towards the window for a brief moment. "I don't have long," he said, and to Hotch's surprise, his voice became choked. "Dad, I... I don't know how to say this... I have to... I have to leave again."

"You want to finish taking him down."

"I have to. No one else can, because..." He bit his lip. "I didn't want to tell you, because there was nothing you could do about it... There was a prophecy, about him and me. That's why he's so eager to kill me. The prophecy says that one of us has to kill the other." Before that could fully settle in, Harry continued, "But there's something else... Dumbledore didn't want him to, but Snape told me something... Something Dumbledore told him, and I..." He closed his eyes tightly, and his breath shook. "I haven't even told Ron and Hermione, because I know they'll try and stop me."

"Whatever it is," Hotch warned, "just... Don't be reckless. Just...outlive this war. Please, please, make it home."

Harry didn't meet his gaze, and his shoulders crumpled as Hotch watched. Whatever he'd been going to say, he didn't say it now. Instead, he moved forward and hugged him tightly, and Hotch held him close for the time he was given. Harry was trembling against him, like he would fall apart if Hotch let him go.

"Thank you, for everything," Harry mumbled against him, and Hotch had a sinking feeling in his heart. Then Harry pulled away from him, and he vanished with the accompanying crack of apparation.

The other two were gone by the time he got to his office, having left just as abruptly as Harry had. Hotch found Moody immediately, and the man tilted his head in approval when he heard what had happened.

"Bet those kids are worried about someone being polyjuiced," he said. "If they stayed here, they'd be in danger of falling into another trap. They did the smartest thing they could." He stared at Hotch for a long moment, who was steadily growing more frustrated. "A healthy dose of worry for them is fine. But if anyone can do this, they can."

The Hotchners went to the room where everyone else was being introduced to magic. The American officials were still working their way through an explanation of magic itself, not having even made it to discussing the current problems. Hotch and Haley sat through another five tedious minutes of it in the back of the room, learning nothing new but having nowhere better to be.

Finally, an impatient Strauss pushed the matter along. "What does any of this have to do with what just happened?"

"Dark Lords appear often, especially in Europe," the official said. "They usually have one enemy who's destined to fight them. In this case... His opponent is Harry Potter. If Potter dies, the war's over and the dark wins."

Hotch was aware of more than a few pairs of eyes on him and Haley.

"Why is the government claiming he's a threat to society, then?"

"The dark has taken over the Ministry. They're sending out that information, not the actual government that was in charge before."

"So they came here to try to force Harry to surrender himself, by going after his family," Morgan said.

The official nodded, then looked to the back of the room to the Hotchners. "You should know... When Harry attacked you a couple of months ago, he wasn't trying to-"

"We know," Hotch interrupted, and the official blinked. "When he realized he probably wasn't going to be able to obliviate us, he made the attack look badly enough that he didn't think he'd ever be able to return, so the Death Eaters wouldn't have a reason to come after us when he had already destroyed his chances of coming home when the war was over."

The ones in the room who had pushed Harry's conviction for a bombing and attempted murder were slowly sinking down in their seats as they slumped.

"How did you...?" Black asked from one side of the room, staring.

Hotch looked at him. "I'm a profiler, and I've known Harry for years. It wasn't that hard to put together."

One of the American officials came up to Hotch later. "We can help Harry, if we just know what's going on," she said. "Did he tell you anything?"

"No," Hotch said honestly, and he knew why Harry had refused to give him any details. It robbed him of the choice between trying to decide whether someone was a potential leak to Voldemort or not. "Are the Americans doing anything to help the situation right now?"

"We're taking in refugees. That's about all we can do."


Harry and his friends dropped off the grid again, but the government was still out for their blood, which meant they had to still be alive. The Americans had severed all ties with the dark-controlled Ministry, who was now asking to have some of its prominent individuals returned to them after the Americans had 'wrongfully' arrested them. They also wanted the Americans to send the Hotchners over to discuss what had happened, so that maybe they could all come to an agreement about what was going on. The Americans brushed them off, keeping the Death Eaters they had captured and the Hotchners.

Something good did come of the attack, besides Hotch getting to see Harry again. He pushed to be able to visit some of the Death Eaters, and started slowly working on the ones he thought he could wear down, like Draco Malfoy and Nott's father. Within a week, Moody or someone else from the Order was dropping by regularly to see if he had learned anything else from the captured Death Eaters that could possibly help them.

The Malfoy boy wasn't hard to wear down. He just seemed so hopeless, in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't sort of way. There were few good options left to him, and serving under Voldemort had clearly taken a toll on him. Giving in to something, even to a muggle's pressing for answers, took a burden off his shoulders. It was so much like giving up entirely that the boy was practically fading away.

Boy. He was seventeen, like Harry. In wizarding law, they were adults.

Not to Hotch. He still saw Harry as the little one he had met over ten years ago, young and full of potential, and he couldn't help but hope that his schoolmate could be the same.

Sometimes, when an Order member stopped by, he heard news of what was happening in Britain. Harry showed up only once, when there was a sudden breakout from Gringotts and the trio was spotted fleeing the scene on a dragon. No one had a clue how that had come to pass.

Then, months later, more news about Harry. He'd been sighted. Not just sighted, but located and surrounded by Death Eaters.

At Hogwarts, where this had all began.

"We don't know what's going on," one of the American officials told him. "He might just be there because of the atrocities that have been committed at the school recently. But there will be a fight if he doesn't leave, and I doubt McGonagall will let him."

Several prominent leaders of the American magical government gathered in the BAU conference room. There were a few analysts that came along as well, and then some other societal heads, and finally the number had grown so large that Strauss sent everyone in the BAU area home to clear out the bullpen room. The BAU refused to leave, and Haley showed up with Jack not long later.

"What are all of them doing here?" Strauss asked Hotch, bewildered. "Shouldn't they be in their own building?"

Hotch shook his head, uncertain, but the liaison to the wizard they had sent to Hogwarts looked up from where he was sitting beside them. "If Potter loses tonight, if he dies... The war's over in Britain, and we have to make decisions about defending our own country. Agent Hotchner is going to be the first to find out his fate, so everyone is gathering here."

Hours later, and the battle had begun. An American wizard had gone to help the light and to report back about what was going on, but the situation was so hectic that it was hard to tell what was going on. Night passed, until- until-

The wizard who had gone to Hogwarts stumbled in, soaked in blood and covered in injuries, tearing streaming down his face and half in hysterics. Rossi and Morgan pushed people back to give him enough space to sit down, and he buried his face in his hands, shaking.

"What happened?" the American wizarding president demanded.

Through choked words and shudders, the wizard managed to push out the story. They had been holding ground, even though the Death Eaters had entirely gotten into the school, but they were losing a lot of people, including teenagers who had stayed to protect the school. Finally, Voldemort had called back all his forces and given the light one hour to treat their wounded and care for their dead, but the fight would resume after that point if Potter didn't turn himself in.

"We all tried to stop him, and he said he wasn't going to do it, and his friends were keeping an eye on him so- We thought he wouldn't make it- but- but-" The wizard violently shook his head. "There were so many dead children, covering the floor of the Great Hall, and we couldn't win... He... He..."

Haley hid her face behind her hands, stifling her sobs. Hotch reached out and pulled her close, and she lowered her hands and huddled closer to the inadequate offer of comfort. Behind him, he could hear some of the witches and wizards crying as reality settled in. This was there war now.

"I'm so sorry," the wizard said, finally looking up at Hotch with a tear-streaked face. "I didn't think he'd do it, I wasn't watching him, I thought... I thought if we could just hold out long enough... But Granger and Weasley said that he'd gone to the Great Hall...and there were just so many bodies...and he didn't think he was worth any more lives..."

"What do we do?" one of the president's aides whispered. "With Dumbledore and Potter dead..."

"And Moody," the wizard choked out. "He... He was ambushed in the first couple of hours, ten to one. He took over half of them with him, but..."

Hotch didn't care. He had only had one hope for this war, and it was gone.

Had they caused this? If they had let Harry stay with the Dursleys, would the blood protections have kept him safe? Would he still be alive?

"Stupid boy," someone hissed. "Voldemort's going to kill even more people now, with him gone..." Hotch turned his head in that direction, and the witch recoiled, backtracking quickly as the blood drained from her face when she realized who had heard her. "I- I'm sorry, that was insensitive."

"No," he said slowly, "you're right. That's why he never turned himself in before, even when most of the country was under attack."

Harry had been looking for a way to kill Voldemort, permanently. He and his friends had been getting close, so close, that much was obvious from how far they had come the last time Hotch had seen them and the breakout from Gringotts. But the last time he had seen Harry, his son hadn't seemed hopeful. Rather the opposite, like he hadn't thought he was going to make it, especially because of something Snape had told him.

But Snape had told Hotch something, too.

Hotch closed his eyes, breathing out an exhausted sigh. "I don't know exactly what he was planning, or what he and Hermione and Ron were doing this last year," he admitted, "but I think... He might have made Voldemort mortal today. We can kill him now, forever."

The room went silent at that pronouncement. The president blinked a few times, then said, "How can you possibly know that?"

"The last time he saw me, he acted like he knew he wasn't going to survive the war. Not like he thought Voldemort was going to get him, but like he knew he couldn't make it out. Like he already knew he had to turn himself in. And someone once told me that the reason Voldemort had been able to come back again was because of a connection to Harry. With that severed, with Harry... If Voldemort dies again, he can't return."

"Who else knows this?" the president demanded.

"One other, whose identity I can't release," not while Snape was acting as a spy, "and Dumbledore knew before he died. Voldemort didn't even know, last I heard."

"You don't have to go back," the liaison said, getting to his feet as he spoke to the wizard who had gone to Hogwarts, "but I'm going to. Granger and Weasley were planning something with him, before he died. They've got the best chance at beating Voldemort, and if they don't know about this, then they need to hear it."

"I'm coming with you," the witch who had scolded Harry's actions earlier said immediately. "This is not a child's war, and it should never have been fought as one. They need more adults."

"Me too," another witch said, coming forward, and within a minute, all of the aides and analysts without critical government positions were offering their assistance.

The wizard who had already been to the battle wiped his eyes and stood, tearfully nodding. "I'll show you how to get back, but I'll stay. I can't just leave everyone who's still fighting."

"There are supposed to be anti-muggle wards around the school, aren't there?" Hotch asked, and the wizard nodded. "But all the wards are probably down or at least damaged after the assault, right?"

"If you come," the witch from before said hesitantly, "you probably won't make it back."

"I know more about what happened than any of you, and if you really want Harry's friends to have all the information they need, then our best chance is for me to directly tell them what I know."


"He stopped a group of Death Eaters from attacking here without magic," the liaison pointed out. "He should be fine, if someone stays with him and we end this quickly."

Haley gripped his arm tightly as the group started to organize itself to leave. "You come back," she ordered fiercely. "Understand?" Hotch nodded. "And if you're going, Voldemort damn well better not make it out of this. Not after what he's done."

Hotch nodded again, firmly. "I'll be back," he said confidently, and a couple of minutes later, he found himself in London, transported along with the witch who had apparently decided to take him under her wing after her faux pas. Not long after, they were on the outskirts of Hogwarts, and then, as the sun was rising, they were entering the ruins of the castle itself.

The structure, had it been in all its glory, would have been everything Harry had described and more. It wasn't hard to understand how the place had captured a part of Harry's heart and called him back each year, no matter how dangerous the last term had gotten. With all its majesty and inherent magic, the castle would have been as inspiring and welcoming as the home Harry had brought himself into one rainy day over a decade ago.

Hotch just wished he had been able to understand the lure back to this magical realm with Harry. It was too late now.

"They must have entirely surrendered," the witch by his side murmured. "It's too quiet."

"There," the wizard who had been here before said, pointing. Someone was standing in the courtyard ahead of them, looking down at something long sprawled on the cobblestones. "Neville!"

The person glanced up at his name. Blood was running down his neck from a head injury. "Padilla! I thought you left."

As they hurried closer, Padilla said, "I had to tell our government what happened, so they could start getting ready."

Neville nodded in understanding. "Oh. Is everyone here to help with the repairs?" His gaze flickered over Hotch briefly, clearly confused about the muggle clothing.

"Voldemort left the castle?" Padilla asked, frowning. "I was sure he would just keep pressing..."

Neville stared at him for a long moment, then perked up as he realized the source of confusion. "Oh, you left right after he showed up at the hour mark, didn't you?" He nodded to himself. "You should have waited a few more minutes. We started fighting again, and, well... I suppose your government's going to want a better explanation, and I don't know everything, so you should probably go to the Great Hall and look for... Hm, he'd be hard to find... Look for either McGonagall or the Weasleys. They probably know what happened."

"Is that Nagini?" Padilla asked, gesturing to the snake.

Neville grinned. "I killed it with the sword of Gryffindor, right after you left. That pissed Voldemort off like you wouldn't believe."

Padilla led the group to the castle. Hotch glanced behind them just as he was about to enter the castle walls, and he saw Neville raise his wand and cast a spell on the snake. In seconds, the reptile was encased in flames, and Neville watched it burn calmly, satisfied.

Turning back ahead, Hotch followed the rest of the group inside. There were no sounds of a fight, making it seem more and more likely that it had ended. There were blood stains and charred stones all around them, on the walls and the floors, and the wreckage inside was just as extensive as it looked outside. Again, Hotch couldn't help but feel nostalgic for the wonders this place must have held, even though he had only heard about them through Harry's letters.

Padilla kept walking, leading them through what must have been the Entrance Hall until they were on the verge of the Great Hall. Before they could enter, an figure approaching from the corridor to Hotch's left caught his eye.

"You're here," Black said, surprised, and the group paused at suddenly being addressed. Black ignored all of them but Hotch, walking up to the agent. He looked like he needed about a week of sleep and some serious Tylenol. His eyes were weary when he smiled, but the expression wasn't forced. "To be honest... I'm glad you're here. He... He needs you more than he needs me." He glanced at the rest of them, as if just remembering they were there too. "Go find McGonagall, and she can tell you what you need to know."

The rest of the group continued to the Great Hall, but the witch stuck with Hotch. "I'm supposed to make sure he gets back alive," she said bluntly, eyes narrowed as she dared him to challenge her.

Black grinned slightly, holding his hands up to show he wasn't a threat. "Fair enough."

He led them into the hall, and immediately the smell hit them like a potent wave. Death, blood, burnt flesh. The voices in the room were equal parts relieved and grieving, and bodies were laid out across the Hall. A good portion of them were Harry's age or younger. Many weren't couldn't have been over twenty-five.

Black skirted around those, keeping to the edge of the room. While Padilla led his group to the other side, towards a woman who was directing two older students, Black brought them to a huddle of redheads in one corner. They were clustered around a few people on the floor, and Hotch could really only make out a couple of the ones who were standing. As they approached, Molly looked up, smiling slightly when she saw Black, and then standing as her expression softened when she spotted Hotch.

Instead of saying anything, she moved aside two steps, opening the Weasley circle and allowing Hotch to see the ones inside. A Weasley twin was on a mat, bleeding but joking with his twin over him, while Harry's two friends and one more very recognizable teen.

"Harry," he breathed.

And the boy who'd made his place with the Hotchners looked up, too far away to hear the words but instinctively sensing something had changed, and turned towards the gap Molly had just made.

"Dad," he said, eyes widening, and then he scrambled to his feet and started sprinting at the same time Hotch broke into a run. He collided into him halfway, and Hotch embraced him quickly, feeling the warm, breathing body against his as the grief that had only been held back for the last hour by overwhelming anger faded away.

"Dad, what happened?" Harry asked, pulling back as he felt Hotch shaking with emotion. "What's wrong?"

"They said you died..."

Harry glanced away.


"I'm sorry," he said softly, and Hotch sighed, hugging him again. "I had to..."


"I killed him. It's over. It's all over – we've won." Hotch released him again so they could properly talk. "That's what we were doing this whole time, making him mortal, and...that's why I had to die."

"I thought so."

Harry smiled. "Maybe we should have asked you to help from the beginning. I imagine you would have figured this all out a lot sooner than we did."

"Don't shortchange yourself," Hotch said.

Black and the witch came up on their side, and the two of them turned to look at them. "Sorry, I tried to keep her back," Black said. "But not much stops her."

Another witch walked up from behind Hotch, the one Padilla's group had met with earlier. "You have a group of Death Eaters," she said. "The Ministry is likely going to be wanting them back eventually, but can the Americans hold onto them until then?"

Hotch nodded. "They haven't expressed anything otherwise. You're Professor McGonagall, aren't you?"

She smiled slightly. "Yes. I think you've heard more about me than I've heard about you." She held out her hand and Hotch shook it. "A pleasure to finally meet you. I truly must commend you for a remarkable job raising Harry, and I believe an expressive thanks are in order for taking him in."

The relief still pumping through his veins made him smile without even realizing it. "To be fair, the opposite would be a truer statement – he took us in." He was aware that Harry was blushing furiously beside him. "Thank you for helping him throughout the years."

McGonagall started to say something, then let out an exasperated sigh as she spotted something over Hotch's shoulder. "Oh dear."

"An overabundance of Gryffindor egotism, pride, lack of forethought, inconsideration, disproportional blatant luck, moronic use of logic, crude use of sensitive knowledge..." Snape continued ranting, as the group turned to face him, glaring heatedly at Harry and spilling out every single applicable insult he could think of. Hotch had to admit that the list was rather impressive impromptu. " the only reason you are still breathing, you foolish, clueless, dim-witted boy!"

Harry grinned at him. "I was worried about you too, Professor."

Snape growled back. Hotch thought he saw McGonagall biting back a smirk.

"Severus," McGonagall said before Snape could start off onto another spiel. "It would seem we have some notable openings in our staff this year, once again. Do you still find appeal in maintaining your post as head of the school?"

"Take the blasted position," Snape demanded. "The only thing worse than suffering blundering students thrice a day in a potions laboratory is suffering a round-the-clock agony of insolence and brainlessness."

"What about suffering blundering students thrice a day in a defense-oriented classroom?" McGonagall asked innocently. "I suppose, since the post is open once again, I have to keep in mind the pain that any applicants for the post may endure when I am preparing to make my decision about who to appoint..."

"I will hex any of your other applicants," Snape hissed and stalked off. "The post is mine without that bloody curse in place anymore," they heard him snap furiously to himself as he left.

"Well," Harry said, "at least that's one problem taken care of."

"I should make him deputy headmaster," McGonagall said smugly. "Just to see him greet the first-years off the boat annually."

Harry fought back a strangled laugh at the image. Black grinned widely.

McGonagall smiled again at Hotch. "I hope to be in contact with you soon, but you'll have to excuse me for now. I have some matters that need tending to."

Hotch nodded. "I understand."

She left, and Black glanced at Harry. "Mind if I borrow him for a moment?" Black asked casually, and Harry blinked in confusion but Hotch knew where this was going. Harry went back to the Weasleys after extracting a promise that the two would join them there. "He'll come back in one piece," Black told the witch, who, scowling reluctantly retreated in the direction Harry had gone.

Black moved them away from anyone who might overhear them, towards one of the walls but keeping them in sight of the Weasley group. "So... By now you must surely know that I'm Harry's godfather."


"Okay. Right. Ah. So, uh..." He scratched the back of his head. "I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like an arrogant jerk, but I want to be clear about it so I need to say it anyway." Hotch forced himself not to snap at the man for trying to take away his son again, especially so soon after the war. "I meant what I said earlier. I think he needs you more than he needs me."

Hotch paused, surprised by the admission.

"I'd love for him to stay with me, but... He likes me, but I'm He doesn't have long before he leaves school forever and is off on his own, but for the remainder of that time, I don't think he should be staying with some random person he's met a couple of times. I know it sounds bad, me giving you approval like this, but I just wanted you to know that... I think it's the best thing, now that I've had time to think about it."

"You are still important to him," Hotch said. "You're one of the only ties he has to his real parents. He knows that, even if he grew up with Haley and me."

Black smiled faintly. "Yeah, probably for the best he stays with you. If our positions were reversed, I probably would have said something really insensitive right about now in relief." He paused. "I didn't get to mention this earlier, but the...profiling thing you do, what you did back at Quantico with it... That's pretty impressive. How do you do it?"

"Magic," Hotch said immediately and walked away. Black let out a bark of laughter behind him.


Harry was able to come back to America soon. The only reason they stayed any longer was to help with the repairs, but it was soon obvious that it was going to take such a long time that Harry could leave whenever and come back and the difference wouldn't be much.

Anyone who was still sitting in the bullpen area shot to their feet when they saw who was entering, and Haley sprinted across the distance to grab Harry, nearly knocking him backwards with the force of her hug. Padilla and the others – including the witch, who had eventually introduced herself as Rolanda Yew – went to their respective units to explain what had happened. The BAU gave the Hotchners a couple of minutes and then gravitated closer, curious about Harry's return.

"It's nice to finally meet you," Rossi said politely when Hotchner tilted his head at the group to let them know it was okay to approach. "We've heard so much about you."

Harry snickered. "No, you haven't."

The rest of the group broke into surprised laughs at the sight of Hotch's son calling Rossi on his lie. Rossi paused for a moment, taken off guard, then gave an amused, conceding nod.

"I hope we'll be seeing a lot more of you," Prentiss said. "I feel a bit bad that the whole time I've known you has been spent questioning your potential psychopathic tendencies."

"Well, that wasn't your fault."

"Speaking of which," Morgan said in an undertone, "expect the most awkward apology you've ever received from Strauss later. She's been working up to one ever since your dad left."

"It can't be worse than Percy Weasley's apology for not believing the rest of his family and me when we said Voldemort was back..."

About twenty minutes later, after Strauss had managed to pull him away and he returned, he said, "All right, that was much worse than Percy. Much, much worse."

Hours later, when the wizards and witches had finally left and Strauss had separately apologized to Hotch and Haley as well and the BAU had left to give them some more privacy again, Hotch turned to Harry and asked, "Ready to go home?"

Harry nodded eagerly, then paused awkwardly. "Uh."

Hotch winced internally, realizing the dilemma, and glanced at Haley to show he hadn't meant the statement to point out the division that still existed between his two separate homes. Haley just raised an eyebrow at him, chiding him silently for being an idiot, then told Harry without having previously discussed it with Hotch, "We'll all be going back to my house, but I'd rather no one bring home mass murderers this time because I don't want to go house shopping again."

"Haley..." Hotch said quietly while Harry went to go get Jack from JJ, where he had been waiting while the older three Hotchners had been discussing more serious topics.

"Let's try and make this work for one more year," she said before he could continue. "Just until he graduates. Let's give him that stability."

Hotch nodded, smiling faintly. "I think we can manage that."

Harry was so exhausted that he fell asleep during the car ride home. Haley tried to wake him up but he wouldn't stir, so Hotch opened the door and picked him up. It was surprisingly easy after the lifestyle Harry had suffered through while on the run.

He put Harry down in the bed he had always used at Haley's house, and as he stood up and looked around the room, he paused. Haley, leaning against the door jam and watching him, asked, "What?"

"He never settled here," he said, looking around at the sparsely decorated room. He stopped immediately, wincing – one of the major reasons for their separation had been her hatred of him never shifting out of profiler mode.

"Of course not," she said, confused. "He settled in at your place. That's where he really felt at home, because of you."

Hotch shook his head slowly. "He didn't settle at the apartment either. I thought... Well, I figured he must have blamed me for what happened so he made this his primary residence."

They were both silent for a moment.

"I guess it just wasn't home without both of us," Hotch finally said.

The pair left his room quietly and went into the living room. Jack had already gone upstairs, and they settled on the couch.

"You know... When Strauss took you aside, I asked Harry something, in case he gave you a different answer when you asked him... I wanted to know why he risked it, turning himself in to Voldemort when he thought it was likely he wouldn't make it out alive. He said he didn't want to be the reason others were scared. By making Voldemort mortal, he wanted to be the reason they didn't have to be afraid."

It took a moment for the words to sink in, but when they did, Hotch remembered them with sudden force, said differently a small lifetime ago in a living room not unlike this one.

But she wasn't done. "And I just thought... That doesn't sound like something Harry would say. He would have just told me that he knew it was what had to be done to protect everyone. I thought... That sounded like something Aaron would say."

She looked at him, appealing for an answer to her unspoken question.

"He's always been so afraid of becoming something terrible," Hotch murmured. "The one time someone actually told him that to his face... It was Strauss. She called him all sorts of things, trying to get him to confess to the bomb she thought had been planted. I can't imagine how badly that must have hurt him, to hear that again and again when he had no way to defend himself and those who knew the truth...wouldn't speak up for him."

It had been necessary. Harry knew that, just as well as Hotch did. That didn't make it hurt any less.

He blew out his breath. "Magic was the reason the Dursleys called him a freak, so when Snape told him he had magic, he confirmed that the Dursleys had a reason to treat him as someone different. Harry was scared that meant he could be a freak, that he could be someone who deserved to be ostracized by society. Before he admitted that he had magic, he all but confessed that he was worried we would kick him out when we realized the Dursleys had a reason to be scared. So, I told him..."

"That everyone had potential to be someone who scared others or someone who told them not to be scared anymore," Haley said, smiling faintly. "I thought so." She let out a content sigh then said, amused, "Think raising Jack will be half as hectic?"

Hotch winced painfully at the very thought. "Let's just hope we make it through Harry," he said, almost groaned, and Haley laughed. "I'll bet there won't be any trouble if he goes back to complete his seventh year, though."

Haley grinned. "I'll take that bet." Lighter, she said, "Think of it this way. It could have been worse."

He stared at her for a long moment. "How?" he asked and she laughed harder.


Author's note: Okay, so this was freakishly long, but it felt really strange to break it up into multiple chapters and I didn't want to go through each year individually and do a full length story.

Why, you ask, would I not want to do a full length story with this? Because I already did. At the beginning of last semester, I started writing a story (inspired by ROSSELLA1's Resurrected) about how Hotch was actually Harry's biological father. I thought it would be less than twenty chapters with eight thousand words or so per chapter. At the moment, it is fifty-eight chapters long with eight to twelve thousand words or so per chapter. I'm not done editing and I think there might be one or two more chapters added.

So I figured maybe this didn't have to be a full length story, considering how out of control that one got.

Where is this story? Still being edited, because it apparently takes a long time to edit that kind of massive hunk of a story. I wanted to get this posted out so something exists right now, and I had some ideas that I wanted to play with that I couldn't put in the other story because they didn't make sense with Hotch actually being Harry's father.

Please keep an eye out for that other story, which should be posted within the next two months. It answers Hotch's question of how could it possibly have been worse in a not-very-succinct manner.

Reasons why: family adorableness, Dark Lord jokes, Hotch as a BA, really the whole team as BA, almost no OCs, actual plot, fluffy and adorable dark creatures, Harry's sass, more of Snape's I-hate-this-family, a shit ton more of angst (blanket apology to every character: sorry, y'all are going to be traumatized by the end of this), Draco Malfoy learning how to hack a computer, patronuses gone nuts, Jack's actually involved, inter-house cooperation, Foyet's Really Bad Day, snakes on a plane – I mean castle, total nerdiness from the author, well-intentioned scheming, and more angst with more actual plot surrounded by more family feels because Hotch is 315% done with everyone trying to kill his kids.