OOC: Alright then, let's get this started. So first off, I want to make it very clear that his is an SI, with all that entails. Much like with my other SI I tried to write a while ago, I will be trying to keep this as realistic as possible, but fully admit that my own perceptions may be somewhat skewed. If you think I'm being unreasonably vain, feel free to voice your concerns and I'll do what I can to lay them to rest. I don't want to brag, but there's quite a few things about my life that would probably come out that way, and I'm not going to purposefully downplay what I am capable of for the sake of avoiding Gary Stue accusations. If you're really concerned about it, look at it this way. If I can come up with it to put in a story, I can probably come up with it in real life. Other character's reactions are, of course, subjective, but I'm willing to offer debate when the subject comes up as long as you're respectful and do the same.

Second off, this is also a crossover. A pretty big crossover, in fact, with several different settings taking place. The reason for that is two-fold. One, I want a little wiggle room for what is possible with magic, and while I could probably get away with my main plans, any little thing helps. Two, Harry Potter is simply too easy to solve for an SI. Gather the Horcruxes, either get yourself killed or-if you want to be particularly paranoid-wait for Voldemort to revive so he can do it to be sure, then gank both him and them. It really shouldn't take longer than fourth year, fifth year at the latest. This way Harry, while still having some advantages, can still be thrown off-guard and won't be able to just steamroller his way through everything. Some things, yes. Everything, no. I can also warn you that the crossover elements won't really make an appearance for a couple chapters, but they're there. Just be patient. The Sorting should be the first point they become apparent.

Third, there will be a timeskip after this Prologue, and the first true chapter will shift into our SI's perspective. This is just to set the stage. Enjoy, and don't forget to Review! Ciao!

XXX

Petunia had never liked her nephew, not since the moment he was first dumped on her doorstep. The boy was strange, even considering that he had doubtless inherited his parents' unnaturalness. Unlike many babies, he never seemed to cry, but nor did he smile either. Instead, the boy simply watched, eyes deep and inquisitive as they took in the world around him. Even when Dudley would borrow his toys or try to play with him, Harry simply ignored him. And as the boy grew older, things only got worse.

Harry Potter was extraordinarily intelligent for his age, reading almost as soon as he could pick up a book and answering questions swiftly and easily. He never disobeyed orders, or complained about the work Petunia often assigned him, and learned it quickly, but there was something about the way he was unfailingly polite that grated on Petunia's nerves. Even the few times they locked him in his cupboard as punishment for careless mistakes, he never spoke up, simply acknowledging the treatment with simple acceptance. If it weren't for Petunia's memories of her sister and the way she would come home from that horrible school spouting blasphemy and spilling unnaturalness with every step, she would almost think the boy was as normal as her. And yet, there were the eyes; so like Lily's, and yet not, with a judgemental and discerning edge that reminded Petunia just how strange her nephew was, for all his efforts at hiding it. So when she came down the stairs on his eighth birthday to find the boy sitting at the dining room table with breakfast unmade, she knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.

"Boy? Where's our breakfast?" Vernon, her husband, grumbled from where he stood beside her, walking forward to loom over the table and Harry in turn. And yet there was no flinch in the eight-year-old's demeanor as he met his uncle's beady gaze, merely the slightest tugging of lips.

"Apologies, Uncle, but you'll have to be making your own breakfast today, and every other day from now on. Or rather, make Petunia do it, since god knows you would starve before learning how to feed yourself." Petunia flinched at the quiet, cutting tone of Harry's voice. He'd always had a way of speaking that sounded so eloquent, but never had she heard it turned to viciousness, let alone against his own family. At the same moment, she felt a shard of anger burst to life in her chest. How dare the child speak that way to her husband? Didn't he know who put food on the table for him, who provided everything he needed in life? She stepped forward, features creasing into a deep scowl.

"You will not talk to your Uncle like that Boy, and fulfill your duties. Get to it, now, before I have to find a way to… motivate you." Normally, even the slightest threat would have Harry submissive, quickly and easily bowing his head and uttering apologies. Not today, it seemed, as instead her Nephew merely turned a smirk her way, one dark eyebrow quirking in amusement.

"I would love to see you try, Aunt Petunia," He stated, near-laughter coloring his tone, "But now is not the time to test wills. There are greater matters to discuss." Petunia felt her scowl deepen and she made to take another step forward, intending to discipline the suddenly rebellious child, but Vernon beat her there first. Clenching his meaty fists tight and reddening to a deep scarlet, her husband slammed them down on the table as a dark snarl crossed his face.

"Did you not hear her boy!? Now, i don't know what foolish fancy has gotten into your head, but you will not speak to us that way! I am going to beat you so hard you'll-" As quickly as it started, Vernon's rant ended in sudden silence, as it appeared he had swallowed his tongue. Harry, on the other hand, blinked down at the finger he had suddenly waved in his Uncle's direction.

"Huh, I didn't actually expect that to work. Brilliant." Petunia, for her part, stared in disbelief. He-he had just used magic. But that was impossible! How could the boy possibly have learned anything about it, after they'd done their best to exterminate any concept of the word in their house?

"But-but that's impossible." she stuttered, earning a sidelong glance from Harry.

"Is it, Petunia? you know just as well as I that magic exists." She flinched, before looking back over to where Vernon was. he didn't appear to be choking, but his face had very quickly gone from red to white and he was staring at their nephew starkly now. When she looked back to Harry, his smirk had widened.

"What do you want?" She asked quietly, despairing that Vernon wouldn't be teaching the boy a lesson any time soon. Her husband was a brave man, and noble, but he knew just as well as she the dangers of magic's unnatural abilities. Unarmed and unprepared, there would be no disciplining her nephew. Surprisingly, however, Harry let out a heavy sigh, his expression falling down into a frown.

"Well I had hoped to do this civilly, but I suppose threatening will have to do." The boy was short-considering he was still an under-fed eight-year-old-but still Petunia and Vernon flinched when he stood up and fixed them both with a piercing stare. "I will put this simply, so we may all return to our likely busy lives. You don't want me here, I know for a fact, and I don't want to be here. To remedy this, I propose a deal. You drive me to the village of Ottery st. Catchpole, and I shall never darken your doorstep again."

Petunia blinked in surprise, then blinked again when Harry's gaze remained unwavering.

"That's it" She said, a hint of incredulousness making itself known in her tone. "You expect us to just drop you off at a random village and be done with it all? What do you think would happen if Child Services were to catch wind of it? Or our neighbors?" The boy was insane, utterly insane. She'd never even heard of this Ottery St. Catchpole, so how had he? And why would the little monster want to go there? In response, however, he just shrugged, utterly uncompromising.

"I could care less, honestly, but none of that is my concern. Now, if you'd like the government to hear about how I live in a literal cupboard beneath the stairs and am required to do what could politely be termed 'excessive' chores, then I'll happily arrange." This time, Petunia didn't flinch. Instead, she took a full step backwards, horror dawning on her features as she realised she'd been played. The boy was never accepting of his position, merely biding his time. Now that, for whatever reason, he was ready to leave their house and go do whatever madness had gripped him, he was striking as hard and fast as possible.

"Y-you can't!" She cried, desperation taking her as she digested the information. "We'd be ruined!" Again, the boy shrugged, cruel and merciless as he stared at her with those deep green eyes.

"Not my problem. I would happily see you all thrown in jail if necessary, but it's much easier to simply ignore your sad and pitiful existences. Revenge is a fruitless pursuit that would simply leave both of us bleeding." Those words, at least, brought a small blossom of hope to Petunia's heart. If that was what he wanted then fine. She'd never wanted the boy anyways, and if it meant not getting their lives and livelihoods destroyed, she would happily comply. The mad fool could get himself killed wandering the countryside for all she cared. Still, that wouldn't stop her from throwing one last bit of spite at the child for humiliating her dear husband the way he did. The tall woman drew herself up and put on as vicious a sneer as she could.

"Fine, boy. Get in the car."

XXX

"Ron, tugging your sister's hair is not okay, and Fred, you know better than to put itching powder into your siblings' food! George, stop stealing Percy's quills. Charlie, can you- oh, hold on, there's someone at the door!" Molly Weasley breathed a small sigh of relief as she broke away from the gaggle of her children while they ate lunch to go answer whoever had rung their barely-functioning bell. She loved them all, but dealing with their antics together like that was always a difficult balancing act. She had no doubt that by the time she had returned there would be utter chaos, yet the break was entirely welcome. She was surprised, however, when finding a small black-haired boy on her doorstep instead of an adult from the village or some other acquaintance of hers. "Well hello, dear. Are you lost?"

"Mrs. Weasley, correct?" The boy asked in lieu of an answer, observing her curiously with his sharp green eyes. He looked little older than seven, eight at the most, but there was something terribly mature about them, as if she were being examined by someone who had seen much in their life. At her nod, he broke into a small smile, making him seem even older. "Brilliant. I wish to ask a favour or two, if that's all right."

"Oh of course, of course!" Moly exclaimed, beaming widely at him. The boy was ever so polite, unlike far too many children these days. "May I ask your name? And where are your parents? It's not safe for someone your age to be wandering around alone."

"I got directions from one of the villagers, actually." The boy corrected, an expression of bemusement claiming his features. "And my parents happen to have passed away while I was young. As for my name, well…" he paused here, smirking slightly and holding out a hand. "I'm Harry Potter. It's a pleasure to meet you, Ma'm."

Molly froze, blinking down at the boy as her brain suddenly lurched in surprise. Had he said Harry Potter? There was the black hair, and green eyes, and he certainly looked the proper age… but she had seen fake Harry Potter's before, often trying to convince the goblins at Gringotts that they should be let into his vault. So her eyes narrowed on his covered forehead suspiciously.

"Harry Potter, dear? Are you sure?" Molly had no idea why someone would try to pretend to be the Wizarding World's savior to her, but the War had only been over for eight years. Some of the paranoia from that time was still buried in her psyche. Thankfully, the boy didn't seem to take offense at her suspicion, merely smirking after following where her gaze had landed.

"I do believe I'd remember my own name, Ma'm, but if you're really concerned…" Almost nonchalantly he raised a hand to run through his hair-in the process pulling it far enough back to reveal he did indeed have the famed lightning bolt scar where it was said Voldemort's final spell had struck him. "I'm afraid I don't have any more compelling evidence on me, but I'm sure there are ways to do so if you'd like."

"Oh no, that won't be necessary." Molly said quickly, shaking her head as her fears were laid to rest. It was still entirely possible that the child was lying, but now that she looked she could see the clear resemblance to Lily and James Potter in his features, and she wasn't that paranoid. "Please, come in and get settled."

"Gladly." He replied and followed her into the small but cozy sitting room. As Harry settled down onto a plush red couch, Molly left him for a moment to re-enter the dining room where her children were still finishing their meal.

"Ah, Bill, I'll be entertaining a guest for the next short while. Would you mind watching your siblings for a time?" She asked, addressing her oldest where he was already attempting to catch Ginny as she crawled under the table.

"Yeah Mum, I've got them!" He shouted to be heard over the racket of half a dozen voices. "I've got them! Get over here, Gin!" Molly nodded, before sweeping one last glance over the table to ensure there wasn't anything else she needed to do that Bill couldn't. Assured nothing was too out of hand, the red-headed woman returned to her guest with a satisfied expression.

"Anything I can help with?" Harry asked with a cocked eyebrow, obviously having heard the noise, but Molly shook her head.

"Oh no, just children being children. I've asked my eldest to watch the rest for the time being." She replied, and he made a small noise of acknowledgement. After a moment, Molly took a seat across from him in her favorite armchair. "Now, you said you had a favor to ask, dear? I'll admit, I am confused as to why you don't just ask your family if you needed something." At this Harry smiled with chagrin.

"Well, I would say it's because they're narcissistic and abusive monsters, but in all honesty it's just that the problem is rather particular to you and your household." Molly blinked, then blinked again. Wait, what?

I'm sorry, but It sounded like you said your family was abusing you," the woman said shakily, eyes wide as she stared at the young boy, "But that can't possibly be correct, can it?" In response, Harry simply shrugged.

"Well I was rather cooperative most of the time, so they never really escalated too badly, but I still lived in the cupboard and had an excessive amount of housework. They also called me a lot of insulting names before realizing I didn't react to them and dropped it." Molly gaped, but Harry didn't seem particularly concerned by what he was saying. Slowly, her face softened as she felt a terrible amount of pity start to eat at her chest. Oh, the poor boy doesn't even realize just how badly he has it. She thought, struggling against the motherly urge to just glomp him and be done with it. If she was correct, he might not appreciate such blatant affection, at least not this soon.

"Well, dear, I'll be happy to help you however you need. And you're welcome to stay here in the meantime for as long as you like." She offered instead with a warm smile, one that grew deeper still as Harry grinned back.

"Brilliant. I might take you up on that offer as well, if my plans take longer than expected to work out. Chances are fair I'll be waiting a couple days at least before I find a home."The dark-haired child replied, nodding. A moment later, however, the cheerful expression died and was replaced with one far more serious. "Now, to business. I would request two things of you: one is that you contact Professor McGonagall of Hogwarts and inform her that the third Marauder still lives and we may yet see justice done if her hunting instincts are still sharp. The other is that you gather your son Percy's pet rat and make sure it is caged in a place that it cannot escape from." Again, the Weasley matriarch blinked, but this time from confusion rather than disbelief.

"Those are… very strange requests, dear. Are you certain?" Not that she didn't believe he knew what he was doing. It was far too specific for that, and she had no idea how the young Potter would know about her son's rat unless it was actually important. But the instructions were just so vague and strange, she couldn't help but wonder what the meaning of it was. Harry, for his part, merely looked her dead in the eye with all the seriousness an eight-year-old boy could muster.

"I assure you, Mrs. Weasley, I am very certain. If all goes well, and it should, we could save an innocent man from Azkaban and capture a mass-murderer in hiding." That shocked Molly, perhaps more than anything else she had heard today, and she nodded dumbly in response. Then Harry smiled.

"Lovely. Let's get to work then."

XXX

Minerva McGonagall was right in the middle of scheduling her lesson plan when the Floo flared to life. Glancing upwards, she blinked in surprise, before standing and making her way over to see who it was. After getting there, however, she was forced to blink once again.

"Molly Weasley? To what do I owe the pleasure?" She asked, barely withholding the shock she felt. The Weasley matriarch was a woman she well remembered from days when she was still a student, and her name Prewitt, but they had little relation outside of school functions. Even the fact that all the woman's children-and there were a lot of them-were in McGonagall's own house was mostly a matter of discipline. Calls such as these were highly unusual, and even more so during the summer.

"Professor McGonagall! I'm glad to have caught you." Molly greeted as warmly as she did everybody, excepting those of her children who had gotten into some sort of mischief. Minerva answered it with a small, tight smile of her own.

"Of course, Molly, I was just preparing for the next school year. Is there something I can help with?" She asked once again.

"Oh yes. You see, I was asked to deliver a message to you. 'The third Marauder still lives, and we may yet see justice done if your hunting instincts are still sharp'. Does any of that mean something to you?" There was now a frown on Molly Weasley's face as she said this, but it was nothing compared to the one that grew in the wake of her words as shock and disbelief struck Minerva like a lightning bolt.

"It-it does, but that's impossible. The Marauders was the name Sirius Black, James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew called themselves, but two of them are dead and one's in Askaban. There couldn't be a third marauder." Surprisingly, Molly made a noise of recognition at this, understanding dawning across her face.

"Well that makes some sense, I suppose. The message was given to me by James Potter's son. He also claimed we could save an innocent man tonight." McGonagall jerked back in shock, her mouth gaping wide.

"Harry Potter? You've spoken to him?" She asked, and Molly nodded.

"He's actually right here, if you'd like to come over. I believe that was his intent in the first place." And indeed, as soon as she said that there was a noise from the other side causing Molly to smile again, before disappearing from the fire. Minerva, taking this as the invitation it was, straightened and stepped into the fire, letting it whisk her away. A few seconds later, she was striding out onto the carpet of the Weasley's semi-famous Burrow. The first thing her eyes locked onto, however, was the head of unruly black hair that she couldn't have mistaken anywhere in the world as belonging to someone not a Potter.

"Merlin, you really do look like your father." She breathed, staring at the young boy of eight. She wasn't exaggerating; It was like looking at a carbon copy of James at a younger age, with deep green eyes as the only difference.

"But with my mother's eyes, I presume?" The boy quipped back almost instantly, a boyish grin stretching his lips. The expression took McGonagall aback. It looked almost exactly like the one James used to wear, except just a touch sharper and with the dim light of knowing humor in his eyes. Still, she had enough presence of mind to shake her head slightly.

"Not quite," She admitted truthfully.. "They're very similar, but yours look just a little deeper than hers." Harry cocked an eyebrow in surprise, but then shrugged his shoulders as he turned towards, strangely, a small cage with a large rat unconscious inside.

"Well since you're here we might as well take advantage of the situation. Tell me, Professor, do you remember the nicknames my father and his friends called each other during their school years?"

"If I recall correctly, it was Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs." She answered, before frowning. "May I ask why, Mr. Potter?"

"I'll get to that in a moment." He said, waving her question away while continuing to observe the rat studiously. "But did you ever wonder why they called each other those names in particular?" At this, Minerva's eyes narrowed, and she looked back down at the rat as well. She had considered the thought, once upon a time, and throwing her mind back to when they first began provided many clues. Remus Lupin's, of course, had been obvious; all the staff were made aware of his status as a Werewolf and the correlation to the full moon was hard to miss. But the others… It was just after they had spent nearly an entire year putting extraordinary effort towards their Transfiguration and reading advanced books-books she recalled from her own attempts at what she still considered to be one of her greatest skills.

"I suspected." She answered carefully, noting the way Molly Weasley's attention bounced between the two of them from where she stood off to the side. The woman had yet to comment on their conversation, but she certainly seemed interested in it. Minerva found herself wondering just what her part in all of this was before her attention was pulled away by Harry opening the cage and pulling its occupant out by the tail-a very worm-like tail, she noted with a distinct sense of shock.

"Well then," He said, holding the rat up. "You'll understand why I'd like you to cast an animagus reversal charm on this rat then." Suddenly, both Mrs. Weasley and Minerva focused completely on the black-haired boy with distinct expressions of incredulousness.

"You think that rat is Pettigrew?" Minerva said disbelievingly, even at the same time Molly spoke in a far higher tone of voice.

"My son's been sleeping with a grown man in his bed!?" Both women stopped, glancing at each other in surprise while Harry observed them both with bemusement. After several seconds of awkward silence-in which the rat surprisingly did not wake up-he sighed.

"To put it simply, yes, for both of you. I can explain the rest in a moment," He said quickly, holding up a hand to stop them when their mouths opened to protest again, "But first can you please change him back? It's rather important for the next step of the process." Minerva gulped, the consequences of Harry being correct suddenly a very large concern in her mind, but made to comply, raising her wand and focusing on the spell. It took a moment to remember, not having had to cast it in a long time, but soon she had it, and as soon as she waved her wand she knew it was the right choice.

Within moments, it had become clear the rat was not a rat as it did indeed suddenly grow, enlarging until there was a man on the spot Harry had dropped him. He remained unconscious-Minerva was starting to suspect a stunner or something similar- but the Transfiguration professor recognised him all the same. The man was what would generously be called large, but in all honesty fit the word fat perfectly, and looked distinctly rat-like, with small beady eyes currently closed and dirty brown hair that matted filthily. It was, without a doubt, Peter Pettigrew.

"Oh Merlin," Molly exclaimed softly, looking as if she was about to faint. Harry gave her a sympathetic look, but still shook his head.

"That's not the important part." he said, before stepping over to the man and picking up his left arm. Then, carefully, the boy drew back his sleeve to reveal something that had haunted the nightmares of all Wizarding Britain eight years ago. The Dark Mark.

That was about when Minerva lost her ability to stand.

XXX

Albus Dumbledore sighed gustily as he set aside yet another pile of paperwork, reaching a hand upwards to pinch his nose. The last few days had been an absolute mess for him, ever since his deputy-headmistress had come into his office yelling about an abused Boy-Who-Lived, Sirius Black's innocence, and the apparent revival of Peter Pettigrew, who was also a Death Eater. Things only got worse from there.

It had taken some doing, but eventually Albus managed to calm Minerva down enough to get the full story. Harry Potter, it seemed, had taken it upon himself to leave his aunt's abode-permanently, if his check on the now collapsed blood wards was any indication-and travel to the Burrow, whereupon he revealed to Molly Weasley that her son Percy's pet rat was in fact the animagus Peter Pettigrew, famed for having died at the hand of Sirius Black. He also called for Minerva's help to prove this fact by casting an animagus reversal charm, which explained why it was she who had come to him and not Molly Weasley herself.

Within minutes Albus had been made to feel his age as he felt the weight of several old mistakes falling upon his head. The realization that he had allowed an innocent man to lounge in prison for almost seven years was one thing, but that the Potter's actual killer was still free for most of that time, and that his plan to place their son with his last few living relatives had backfired spectacularly only multiplied the guilt. Even spending the last few days doing everything he could to expedite the trial and Sirius's release had done little to lighten the burden.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Albus glanced up at the sound of a small hand knocking on his door, lips twitching into a bitter smile before he smoothed it away.

"Enter." He called in his usual manner, and a few seconds later the door opened to reveal a sight both heartening and painful. Harry Potter, to a casual observer, could easily be said to resemble his father with the addendum of having his mother's eyes. To Albus, however, a man who had lived through two wars and nearly a century of politics, there was far more to the boy than merely his legacy. His eyes, while the correct shape and color, had depth to them uncommon for children his age, and the expression of casual scrutiny he wore as his eyes swiveled about the room with something like half-remembered recognition was far too scholarly a thing for James Potter to have ever possessed.

"Ah, Harry, my boy. It is good to see you after so long." The ancient headmaster greeted, snapping his visitor's attention to him. "Please, have a seat. Lemon Drop?" Harry cocked a curious eyebrow at the offer, but waved it away as he took the proffered seat.

"And you as well, Professor. To be honest, I was expecting you to meet me a few days ago." Albus smiled at the comment, even as he felt once again that stab of guilt. He had, in fact, considered going to meet the boy almost as soon as he received news young Harry had appeared, but both his work and a measure of uncertainty stayed his hand. Even putting aside his efforts in Sirius's trial, there was much to make up for.

"I'm afraid I have been rather busy recently." The old Headmaster stated, tilting his head pointedly at the boy. "Something I can thank you for."

"I would say I'm sorry, but I pride myself on never lying." Harry responded easily, lips twitching with quiet humour. "I could never apologize for freeing an innocent man from what I can politely call a hell-hole."

"And what of Peter Pettigrew? Is his fate not a concern?" Albus questioned, one wrinkled brow rising in curiosity. He somehow doubted it had been left out of the pronouncement on accident. Harry, unsurprisingly, loosed a quiet snort and shook his head.

"That is, admittedly, a plus, though given the choice I would not condemn even he to a citadel full of soul-sucking horrors. Justice served is justice enough, I think." He replied, tilting his head right back, and in the same moment making Albus's eyes twinkle with relief. He had feared the boy might be more heavily scarred by his time under the Dursley's iron fists, but it seemed that was not to be. Albus remembered far too well how a similar boy with similar origins would have lacked such mercy.

"I agree, but it is outside my control, I'm afraid." Albus admitted after a moment, before smiling slightly and moving to change the subject. "But enough of are other matters to concern ourselves with today, I'm afraid."

"Such as the Blood Wards, I presume?" Harry asked easily, surprising the headmaster just a touch. "I imagine they've fallen to dust by now, and they can't be easy to replace. I wouldn't accept it regardless." There, Albus thought, was a strange edge to the boy's voice when he said that. Not wariness, not quite, but it was close enough to have him shaking his head and smiling gently in an attempt to ease his concerns.

"You are correct in your presumptions, though not my intent. Placing you with your Aunt and Uncle was undoubtedly a grave error on my part, and one I apologize for wholeheartedly." The headmaster replied, earning a curious eyebrow in return. It was unsettling how mature Harry acted, but Albus had seen much in his old age, and for all that most children would react very differently to this situation, he could easily accept that The Boy Who Lived was not most children. If his suspicions were true, then the differences were quite mild, in fact.

"Hmm," The boy hummed after a moment's thought, eyes piercing deeply into Albus as he contemplated the apology. "I must say, that was unexpected. Encouraging, certainly, but unexpected." This time it was Albus's turn to raise an eyebrow, his smile growing just a touch.

"Did you think me a monster to leave a child in plight?" He questioned with a tone of humour, earning a smile in return.

"It was a possibility." The boy replied, just as humorously, and yet with the same half-wary edge. "I must admit, Professor, you are one of the few people I was unsure of. You could have gone several different ways." Albus could not deny that the assertion hurt, but he pushed it aside. The boy had just given him an opening to ask something else, actually, and he didn't want to waste it.

"Is that so?" The old wizard started, for the first time leaning back in his chair. He raised a hand to stroke his beard as he gazed at the boy who, seemingly sensing his sudden shift of tone, stiffened slightly. "That actually brings up another of my questions, Mr. Potter. How do you know so much of the Wizarding World, despite being raised so far from anything magical?" There was a pause, as Harry blinked in seeming surprise, before he smiled and let loose a huff of laughter.

"Ah, that." The boy said, shrugging a shoulder. "I'm afraid the answer is the same as anything else I know. I learned." There was a smile playing at his lips as he spoke, one that left a sharp light in his eyes. Albus frowned, but without finding even a hint of compromise in Harry's gaze, he knew it would be hopeless to ask more than that. He had his suspicions, of course, but he would not force the boy to speak. That would only drive him further away, and after all Albus had done to harm him inadvertently, such cruelty would be inexcusable. Instead he let out a heavy sigh.

"Very well. We are all entitled to our secrets, I suppose. I can only hope you come to trust me enough to share them, one day." He nodded to Harry, who smiled back. A beat passed, and then he sighed again. The conversation, it seemed, had dried up, and there was only so much time Albus could devote with all his other responsibilities. Wearily, he held out one wrinkled hand, smiling as he looked deep into Harry's eyes. "It has been a pleasure speaking to you Mr. Potter."

"And you," The dark-haired boy replied, nodding even as he kept his gaze steady and took the hand. Then he stood from his seat and, without another word, left. Albus watched him go, thoughts swirling wildly as he considered the enigma of Harry Potter. It would, he decided, be interesting to watch him grow even more than he already had. Perhaps Trelawney would even have an apprentice, given a few years time.

It was not until several minutes later that Albus realized that for all the time he had spent studying the boy's gaze, not once had Harry met his eyes in return.

XXX

When Sirius first saw his godson after finally being released from Azkaban, it was not at all how he had imagined. The Marauder expected, if anything, a carbon copy of James-with allowances for the eyes, of course-smiling and laughing with boyish exuberance as he rushed to hug the man who should have been keeping him safe all the time, or perhaps A fury like Lily's at his failure to do so. What he got instead was not joy or rage, not even judgement of any kind, but instead the quiet creature seated before him in the Hogwarts Headmaster's Office-kindly loaned to them by Dumbledore-calmly sipping at his cup of tea as those too-deep eyes scrutinized every inch of Sirius Black they could find.

"So, uh," Sirius began after a long silence in which the two had done nothing but stare at each other." I guess I should start by asking how you've been. You know, since…" And here he trailed off, not quite sure what he had even been meaning to say in the first place. How had he been since Sirius ran off to hunt Pettigrew and his eventual arrest, leaving Harry to the not-so-tender mercies of his magic-hating relatives. Oh, Sirius remembered Petunia Dursley well enough, though they had only met once or twice, and he recognized the spite that seemed to make up her very being. He could only imagine what thye had done to his precious godson during the last seven years.

"I'm alive." Harry picked up the slack swiftly, a sardonic humor more reminiscent of Lily than James in his voice as he shrugged. "It could always be worse." That was a relief, Sirius decided, and for more than just the words. There was no bitterness in his voice, a least none that Sirius's admittedly less-than stellar social prowess could detect. If there had been, he might have been worried. Still, he pressed, determined to know just how badly he had failed.

"And your Aunt and Uncle? Did they treat you right?" Sirius asked, just a hint of his desperation spilling into his cocked an eyebrow in response, before snorting and shaking his head.

"Not in the slightest."The boy replied, and if Sirius was not too busy listening to the shattering of his heart, he might have wondered about Harry's tone. Just like before, there was no bitterness, no pain. It was as if he had simply stated a fact about some long last ancient piece of history, something that had absolutely nothing to do with him. There was just something so incongruous about it all, a complete shock that he could not even begin reacting too.

"H-harry, I-I-" Sirius started to mumble, knowing he had to say something, but not quite sure what. Where could you even start with something like that? How do you apologize about having apparently screwed up so badly your godson takes domestic abuse as nothing more than a minor nuisance? As something to laugh about?Thankfully, the boy seemed to notice his hesitation, pausing as he took a sip before his green eyes narrowed. Slowly, Harry aborted the sip, setting his cup down with a quiet clink and folding his hands over his lap. Then, he met the still stuttering Sirius's eyes with complete and utter calm, backed by a frigid seriousness that froze the Marauder in his tracks.

"Sirius," He said, the one word cutting off his godfather instantaneously. Then he paused, a bare instant of hesitation, before continuing. "Sirius, there is something you need to know, before any of this goes further. Well, a lot of somethings, actually, but one in particular. Everything else can come after, if you're still here." And didn't that just send a chill down his spine. What was it this broken creature could consider so terrible he might abandon the pup he had only just found, when even abuse was but a caustic joke? And more importantly, what had those monsters done to his godson to make him this way?

"What? What is it Pup? What did they do to you?" Sirius asked, no, begged from the boy, meeting his deep green eyes desperately and searching for some hint of the child he had once rocked to sleep. But there was nothing there, nothing but a cold, calculating gaze.

"The Dursley's haven't touched me, Sirius. I complied with their wishes and kept my head down for the entire time I was with them." Harry replied easily, not an assurance it seemed, but simple fact. If anything, Sirius thought he saw a flicker of annoyance at having to explain pass through his expression, but it was gone faster than he could blink, leaving only a smooth serenity. The boy shook his head a moment later, lips twitching downwards as he glanced towards his tea, before dismissing it casually with a flick of his eyes. Sirius, unable to believe this, shook his own head.

"Then what is it, Pup? What's got you so worked up?" There was the desperation again, no longer a simple edge but rather the entirety of his tone. Again, Harry paused, his entire body going still before finally he slumped, eyes closing and one hand going up to hold his head as he sighed heavily.

"Fuck it, there's no way I'm going to manage to put this nicely." The dark-haired boy muttered quietly, so low Sirius might not have heard it had it not for the partially enhanced sense his Animagus from granted even while human, and no wonder. It sounded almost as if an entirely different person had been speaking, words rough and caustic where before they had been polite and cultured. He had also, oddly enough, slipped into an american accent, or something halfway there at least. Before Sirius could even begin to make sense of the change, however, Harry had once again straightened, and when next he spoke it was with the same voice as usula, albeit forgoing formalities. "Look, Sirius, I'm going to just say this and get it out of the way. I'm not Harry Potter. Or rather, I'm not the Harry Potter you knew before Azkaban."

For a moment, silence reigned after that statement. Then Sirius blinked. Then he blinked again. And then a third time, before finally the man found his voice.

"I'm sorry, what?" He asked, because really, what else was there to say to that? Sirius was still trying to process the knowledge that his godson was horribly traumatized by his experiences with his relatives, there wasn't much brainpower left to consider this new, ridiculous twist the eight-yea-old boy had thrown his way. Harry, seeming to notice the blank stare as his godfather froze up, sighed again.

"I said I'm not Harry Potter. Not originally at least." He grinned at that for a moment, before frowning as Sirius failed to react. After a moment, however, he just shrugged, visibly moving on. "This is certainly Harry Potter's body, of that I have no doubt, but the soul? That's a different matter." Here he tapped his head for some reason, a small sardonic smile on hs face. Sirius, on the other hand, simply stared, until finally some stray spark managed to escape the blockade of his thoughts, and he spoke.

"Huh?" He uttered, perhaps not the most eloquent possiblity, but at least it was something. Harry seemed amused by the reaction, lips quirking just a touch before he paused and sighed again, shaking his head.

"Look, I get why you're confused. It sounds mad, even to me. But you deserve to know the truth, mad or not. I am not Harry Potter." Harry sighed again. "I'll admit, I'm not quite sure what I am. A wandering soul perhaps, sucked into the void left after Voldemort severed his, or perhaps the victim of some prankster deity's idea of a good joke. Whatever the case, I know too much, have too many memories of another person, another life to be the same child that once owned this body." This time, the silence that descended lasted for a lot longer than one moment. A minute passed, and then another as Sirius struggled to comprehend what he was being told, everything that had been said. He sat there, staring at the dark-haired, green-eyed boy who simply returned his gaze, occasionally taking another sip of his tea as the quiet stretched on. Finally, Sirrius reached one, irrefutable conclusion.

"You're mad." It wasn't surprising, really. Not after what he must have gone through, the horrors Sirius knew hatred could drive a person to inflict even upon their own family. The Witch Trials, too, were well remembered by the Wizarding Community, and though they had long ago left those dark and barbaric days behind, they were eminent proof of what a Muggle would be willing to do to Magicals when they hated and feared them as much as Petunia had always seemed to. It made perfect sense now that he truly thought about it. Harry, funnily enough, did not even seem offended by the statement, merely smiling slyly and taking another sip.

"Of course I am," The boy replied much to Sirius's surprise. "There's no such thing as sanity after all. The question, Sirius, is not whether I am mad, but how much, and in what way." Here he paused, looking over the rim of his cup in a way that Lily would have been proud of. His lips pursed, and he tapped a finger against the ceramic impatiently as he seemed to contemplate something. Then his smile widened even more, and he raised a dark eyebrow. "Are you going to turn me into the Mind Healers? There's nothing I can do to stop you." This time, it was Sirius's turn to pause. That… might not be a bad idea, he thought. Harry certainly seemed like he needed it. There was only one problem.

"It would never work." The man said, shaking his head and frowning fiercely. He was, after all, not entirely balanced himself. Seven years of Azkaban was a lot on the psyche of anyone, and while he had stayed mostly sane thanks to his Padfoot form and the singular purpose of revenge, nobody could have come out of that intact. Hell, the only reason they were allowed to have this meeting before the Healers cleared him was because Harry himself had requested it. Nobody would believe a man just out of prison that The-Boy-Who-Lived, who also happened to be the one to free him after catching the true culprit of his supposed crimes, was insane. Judging from the knowing smile Harry sent him after his statement, he knew it too.

"Well then." The boy said, smile widening with every word. "I suppose you'll just have to watch over me yourself, won't you. There's a nice big house I could stay in, If I recall correctly. Grimmauld Place, wasn't it?" And damn him, but Sirius couldn't find it in him to disagree. He wanted to, wanted to drag the boy to a Healer right that instant and get them to fix… whatever this was. But he couldn't. And if he didn't fulfill his responsibilities as Godfather one way, he would do it another. So he would take Harry into his home, as he had meant to in the first place. He would watch over him, care for him, and, as soon as Wizardly possible, get somebody to fix this goddamn mess. Even if it took him years, Sirius wouldn't fail. Not again.

At least he could start once he was cleared for public by making sure those monstrous Dursleys went to prison and stayed there, for their entire natural lives if he could help it. They wouldn't get away with what they had done, no matter what.

XXX

OOC: P.S. Before I go: Funnily enough, that last scene isn't something I completely made up. Something similar has actually happened to me, except they actually did try to drag me to an asylum. Granted, it was my stepmother who could probably be considered relatively insane herself, doing so for very different reasons, and my dad was thankfully there to stop it, but still. It was really interesting to write because of that. I think I was even about the same age.