Disclaimer: The Prisoner and Harry Potter do not belong to me.
Author's Note: Much thanks to the members of the Caer Azkaban yahoo group, who have provided feedback and concrit throughout my writing process for this.
Privet Drive, 1989
The man once given the designation of Number 6, but more commonly known as John Drake, sneered with mild disgust as he entered his new neighborhood. His beloved Roadster, now no longer the height of fashion, but ever still his pride and joy, looked completely out of place here. The houses on Privet Drive, located in Little Whinging, Surrey, looked exactly alike, nothing to distinguish one house from the other save for the presence of a fence, or lack thereof. Even now, some thirty years after his experience in the Village, he got hives when he saw such uniformity. He thought it all rather unnatural.
But needs must and it had been time to move on once again. He frowned in distaste as he inadvertently reminded himself of why he never remained in one place for long. Though he had not seen hide nor hair of those responsible for the Village since its destruction he did not believe they had truly disappeared. And so, he moved, reestablishing himself every few years in a different city, a different country. When he had to decide where he was to live this time, he had opted to return to the country of his birth, the first time in over twenty years. He had used an estate agent and acceded to her suggestion of a lovely two bedroom located in the heart of suburbia. With a sense of the absurd, he had agreed that Number 6, Privet Drive was the most suitable home she had located for him. Viewing it now, he rather thought that he would not remain here for too long and instead "retire" to a warmer clime within a few years.
And so, with some reluctance, John Drake arrived at his new residence on Privet Drive. Little did he know that instead of moving as soon as possible, he would remain, in this neighborhood of cookie cutter homes for more years than he expected and all because of a little boy named Harry Potter.
In his short life, Harry Potter had learned that no one on Privet Drive, or the surrounding streets, or really anywhere he tended to ramble, ever had anything to say to him. His aunt and uncle had ensured that no adult believed him to be anything but a troublesome young boy; Dudley had taken care of the neighborhood children. Although he did not know why his family hated him, young Harry had come to accept his lot in life, quietly completing the chores his aunt foisted on him and trying to avoid his cousin and uncle.
To say he was surprised when the man who had moved into Number 6 Privet Drive that past Saturday deigned to greet him as Harry scurried past him, intent on getting home so that he could finish his chores as quickly as possible, would be an understatement. He came to a halt and gaped at the man, dressed in black trousers with a black blazer edged in white over a black shirt.
"Hello sir," he replied in greeting, his green eyes blinking myopically from his ill-fitted glasses. Perhaps the other neighbors hadn't yet had a chance to warn him of the disreputable scalawag that lived at Number 4 by the good grace of his suffering aunt and uncle. Harry could not conceive of any other reason for the man to speak to him.
His new neighbor smiled, lifting a hand to his head in a modified salute, his thumb and forefinger forming an "o" as he moved aside to allow Harry to pass him on the sidewalk. "Be seeing you," he commented as Harry smiled hesitantly in return. While his new neighbor had piqued his curiosity, he really did need to get home before Aunt Petunia decided to add more chores to his list in punishment. As he entered the door of Number 4, he glanced back at his new neighbor, who it seemed, was heading to the park. He seemed nice, Harry thought, though soon afterwards any thoughts of Mr. Drake were driven out of his mind as Aunt Petunia demanded to know why he had not started preparing Dudley's snack as of yet. As he set to work, he couldn't help but think it unlikely he would ever receive such a polite greeting from his new neighbor again. It saddened him, as he would have liked to have someone speak kindly to him.
He might never have been a parent, or ever had the desire to involve himself in his neighbors' affairs, but even Drake knew that the manner, in which the residents of Privet Drive and the surrounding streets treated one Harry Potter, did not constitute normal behavior. The boy seemed nice enough, politely greeting him when he passed him on the street. However, Drake had also noticed the half-hidden surprise in the child's eyes whenever he greeted him on the street. He surmised that the young Mr. Potter did not expect such ordinary politeness as a simple "hello" or "good day."
His suspicions were further roused, when he spotted the young boy weeding the garden in front of No. 4, whilst his cousin mocked him, proving to be more of a hindrance than help with that chore. From what he could tell, the boy's aunt and uncle did nothing to stop such behavior. Indeed, as his neighbor at No. 3 related to him in appropriately hushed terms, the boy was nothing but trouble, a young hoodlum, who, despite Mr. and Mrs. Dursleys' best efforts, refused to behave like a proper young gentleman. He, himself, did not pretend to understand this line of thought, and it did not take long for him to decide to help the poor child.
Of course, deciding his course of action was one thing; it still required a great deal of planning. After all, he could scarcely go up to Mr. Dursley and question his attitude and behavior towards his own ward. Instead, Drake carefully observed his neighbors, treating it as he had one of his assignments in years past.
The Dursleys seemed to take a ridiculous amount of time ensuring they presented the proper image that reflected their perceived standing within the neighborhood. Mrs. Dursley loved to gossip, even as she blithely ignored the rumblings about her son. Mr. Dursley liked the appearance of normality, of the socially upward man he acted. The son ran around with a gang of like-minded children, who tormented those smaller than they, vandalized the park and in general, acted like the little bullies they were. Which left Mr. Potter. As near as Drake could tell, Mr. Potter did not deserve the reputation he seemed to have gained. Indeed, he appeared a hard worker, and despite the manner in which he was treated, a kind young man.
Approximately a week after Drake began his observations, he had outlined the bare bones of his plan. As he had learned long ago, it was best to go simple, rather than complicated. And so, he approached Mr. Dursley about hiring his nephew to do some of the chores around his own home. Not that he needed the help, but Mr. Dursley did not need to know that.
"I'll pay of course," he stated indifferently. "I just don't have the patience to work on the gardens."
"Quite understandable," Mr. Dursley nodded his head. "Of course Potter learned all he knows from my wife, Petunia. Oh, but Petunia certainly loves her garden."
"Indeed." Drake did not let any of his disbelief enter his voice. She apparently enjoyed it so much, that she never went out there, unless it was to scream at the boy. "I'm certain he shall do just fine. I don't want anything fancy, just something simple."
"Tomorrow morning, then?"
"Yes, that will be fine. Let's say ten o'clock."
Mr. Dursley could not agree fast enough. He escorted Drake out of the house, pasting a smile on his face. Drake, for his part, hurried home, intent on readying the next part of his plan. In truth, his gardens did not need a lot of work, just a bit of weed picking, a bit of a trimming of the verge. Just enough for a small boy to do in one day, without overworking him.
Uncle Vernon instructed him – well, roared at him really – to arrive on time at Mr. Drake's house. "Don't you do anything… freakish, Boy!" his uncle had coldly ordered. Harry had frantically assured he would not, while feeling helpless at the same time. He did not know why strange things happened around him, but they did, and he had no control over it. He just hoped that nothing bad would happen today. Uncle Vernon would not be happy if it did.
"Hello, Mr. Drake," he greeted quietly as the man opened his door.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. You're here exactly on time. Come in." Harry followed his neighbor into his house, and saw it looked quite similar to No. 4. "Have you eaten breakfast?"
Harry did not know what to say. Aunt Petunia had given him the heels of the bread and a piece of cheese for breakfast. He was still hungry, but Aunt Petunia would not like it if Mr. Drake did not think she fed him. He chewed his lip and he tried to figure out the best way to answer.
"Well, no matter. You can join me. I am having a late breakfast," Mr. Drake decided for him.
"Thank you, sir."
Breakfast consisted of eggs, oatmeal, and milk. Despite his protests, Mr. Drake had filled his plate with the food. "You're a growing boy. I remember when I was your age. I ate everything in sight." Harry could do nothing else but thank the man. "Now, then. I don't have too much for you to do today. But I will need help around the house, in general. So if you and your uncle are amenable, you can come here every week."
Harry nodded. He hoped Mr. Drake liked his work today. Uncle Vernon would not be happy if Mr. Drake complained. And getting out of the house, even if it was just one day a week, would be nice. When the Dursleys did not have any work for him to do, they locked him in his cupboard.
Drake watched as the young boy devoured the food placed before him. The young boy was extraordinarily polite, and helped with the dishes before Drake showed him what he wanted done. "Take all the time you need," he cautioned. "And make sure you drink enough water." No need for the boy to become dehydrated.
He watched as the child carefully weeded and took care of the garden, and contemplated his next move. As near as he could tell, the Dursleys were only guilty of neglect and indifference. For that, Drake was glad. It meant he did not have to involve the police. He did not wish to bring attention of the police onto him. As far as he knew, the people who ran the Village did not look for him any longer, but he did not wish to take any chances. No, instead he could do his best to help the boy. He figured that the aunt and uncle would not want anyone to know that the life they presented to the world was merely a façade, so would likely agree to whatever Drake set up with them.
As he discovered two weeks later, his suppositions were correct. Drake did not take full custody of Harry, but the boy stayed and slept over at No. 6 Privet Drive three to four nights during the week. All it took was overhearing a comment by the Dursley's son about Harry sleeping in a cupboard - a conversation he had engineered though he had not expected to hear something as damning as that. Drake had promptly gone to No. 4 to ask the Dursleys about it, and "accidentally" found Harry in his cupboard. A short and clipped conversation later, the Dursleys agreed with Drake's suggestion that perhaps their nephew should spend time with him – and that their son should perhaps clean out his "second bedroom" for Harry to have. The Dursleys grabbed at the chance to keep up appearance of normality, and did not give him any trouble.
Harry did not quite understand why Mr. Drake had taken such an interest in him, but he did not mind, not when it meant he had his own room (two, if he counted the room in No. 6 as well – which he did), and an adult that looked out for him. Of course, Uncle Vernon had threatened him if he did anything freakish enough for Mr. Drake to notice, or question the Dursleys about it, or decide he wanted nothing to do with Harry. Aunt Petunia had explained with a sniff, that as long as Mr. Drake wanted the Freak, he could have him. Harry didn't mind. His neighbor treated him better than his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, and moreover, because of his interest, the Dursleys had taken to ignoring him on the days he did spend with them.
From Mr. Drake, Harry learned what it meant to have a role model in his life, one who expressed interest in his daily life, and who wanted to see Harry succeed. Most surprisingly of all, Mr. Drake took it upon himself to teach Harry skills he would not gain at school.
"When I was young, sports were an important part of our schooling. Not so much these days," Mr. Drake commented. "Football is all well and good, but you should know how to protect yourself." And so, in the afternoons, Mr. Drake brought him down to the basement of No. 6 and started teaching him boxing and fencing. Not wanting to have to return to the Dursleys, Harry awkwardly copied the stances and movements he was shown. Mr. Drake always complimented him, even if Harry felt like he was falling over his feet.
Mr. Drake's lessons did not just extend to the physical. "Harry, the most important tool you have is your brain. Learn what you can, when you can. Always question everything around you." He took to quizzing Harry about his surroundings, about the people they met on the street or in the store. Or he would ask Harry to make connections between the various topics he studied at school. He also insisted that Harry read the newspaper and that he understood the reasons behind current events.
Slowly, under Mr. Drake's tutelage, Harry began to blossom, a fact picked up on by the residents of Privet Drive. No longer did housewives of Privet Drive scold Harry for every perceived infraction. Instead, they looked on him with something akin to approval. If asked, Mr. Drake laid the change on the shoulders of the Dursleys, merely stating that he had advised the couple of some new methods he had learned whilst abroad, on how to get a recalcitrant child to behave. If no one precisely believed him – after all they had seen that Harry seemed to live at least a portion of the week with Drake – they did not mention it within the hearing of the Dursleys. This new attitude towards Harry also meant that Dudley and his gang did not have the opportunity to bother him, as Mr. Drake continued to look out for him.
By the time school broke for the summer, Harry had a vastly different life than the one he had once had. He didn't know why Mr. Drake had opted to interfere with his life, but he was more than happy he had.
July 1, 1991
Life on Privet Drive had continued as it had since John Drake involved himself in one Harry Potter's life and well-being. The boy spent all but two or three days with Drake, and in return, the former secret agent gave him the foundations to succeed in life. Much to his astonishment, teaching Harry the various skills he himself had learned as a youngster, had not lost its appeal. His young neighbor soaked up all the attention and learning Drake gave to him, and in return, kept him company, or did some small chores around No. 6. It had come as a small surprise for Drake to realize that, despite his initial misgivings, he rather enjoyed living here, and he canceled his tentative plans to relocate. He figured he would remain in Little Whinging until Harry left for university. Unlike his cousin, Harry would be attending the local comprehensive, and would return home each day. And while the Dursleys had improved in their attitude towards their nephew since Drake had moved to Privet Drive and taken Harry under his wing, he suspected it was due, in part, to Harry living with Drake for a good portion of the week. He didn't wish for them to revert to their original behavior, something he knew would happen if he left Privet Drive.
Unbeknownst to Drake, however, their quiet life in Little Whinging was about to change. Harry sat at the breakfast table, quietly reading the newspaper in preparation for the upcoming quiz Drake would give him after the meal. Drake calmly finished his tea, the latest edition of The Economist before him. All in all, it was a typical morning for the two of them, which was why the owl that arrived with a letter surprised them both.
"Is this for me?" Harry asked, as he examined the letter dropped by his plate. The owl looked at Harry, before nodding its head. It stole a bit of bacon from his plate, before winging away. Harry turned to his mentor, wondering if the man had an answer.
"What is it, Harry?"
Harry turned it around in his hands, fingers touching and learning the feel of the heavy parchment. He frowned, with some degree of concentration, at the green ink that spelled out his name and Drake's address. Turning it over, he saw a seal covering the flap. "Well, whoever sent this seemed to know I would be staying with you today," he ventured. Drake frowned with concern. Normally, Harry would be with the Dursleys; however, they were currently visiting Marge Dursley and Drake had offered to watch Harry while they were away.
"And what might that mean?" he encouraged. He wondered who watched them; he had not seen any signs of it, but what else could explain the address?
"That we're… no – I'm being watched."
"Very good, Harry," Drake praised. "What else?" he asked, curious to see what other observations the boy would make.
"They used some sort of funny-feeling paper, and an owl to deliver it. Maybe it's a joke? But why use an owl?"
"A very good question, Harry," Drake nodded with approval. "Let me take a look at it, before we open it. Can't be too careful."
It was as Harry had told him. Most troublesome of all, the letter even identified the room in which they sat. He frowned, not liking what all that indicated. He felt a frisson of paranoia down his spine, and wondered if perhaps he had lingered too long. Maybe he should move, leave the country and go underground again. He could probably convince the Dursleys to give him custody over Harry.
And yet… something about the parchment and owl triggered the feeling of familiarity within Drake, as if he had once seen something like this in the past. He frowned in thought as he turned the parchment over and saw the stylized seal. Interesting he thought. Again, the familiarity tugged at his mind.
"You may open it, Harry," he finally said, holding the letter out to his charge. Harry accepted it with his own frown, before very carefully break the seal and unfolding the parchment. Drake watched as Harry's eyes grew wider and wider, filled with an incredulous light.
"Mr. Drake! It… It's from a school!" He handed over the contents without Drake needing to ask. "It must be a joke. There is no such thing as witches and wizards!"
Drake raised an eyebrow at this. He looked over the letter, his own eyes widening at the information contained within. A memory teased at him, and he closed his eyes, trying to bring it to the forefront of his mind. Harry remained quiet, letting him think. Slowly, he remembered; not much, just a carelessly dropped comment during a mission he got pulled from in Romania. Something about the mission being better suited to the wandwavers and not proper agents. It wasn't a lot to go on, but perhaps it wasn't a code word, as he had assumed at the time, but an actual description.
"You might be right, Harry," he finally said. "But remember, we never make conclusions until we have all the facts. So, you will pen a polite reply to the school, and ask for more information."
Harry nodded in understanding, but Drake could read the skepticism that practically radiated off of him. Still, he obeyed Drake's instructions. "But how will I get this to them? They did not leave a return address?" he queried.
"Did the letter not say that they away your owl?" Drake asked. Even as he completed the sentence, the very same owl that had delivered the letter winged to the table. They looked at it with no small degree of suspicion before Harry shrugged and attached his reply to the outstretched leg. As soon as he finished, the owl flew away.
"Finish with breakfast, Harry. We still have work to do today," Drake instructed. Harry nodded his agreement and returned his attention to the newspaper.
A week later, a stranger rang the doorbell to No. 4 Privet Drive. Harry opened the door to find a rather stern looking woman before him.
"Hello, I am looking for Mr. Harry Potter. I am Minerva McGonagall, one of the teachers at Hogwarts. Mr. Potter indicated he wished to know more about our offer," she introduced herself.
"Please come in, Miss McGonagell," Harry politely greeted. "I will just let my aunt and uncle know you are here." He left her in the living room, before finding his relatives. He almost wished that the teacher had visited on a day when he stayed at Mr. Drake's. However, Mr. Drake had explained that it would be better if the school dealt with his aunt and uncle, mostly because they were his legal guardians. That was why they had to wait until the Dursley's had returned from visiting Aunt Marge.
"Who is it, boy?" a gruff male voice asked from the kitchen.
"It is one of the teachers from Hogwarts," he informed them. His uncle merely grunted, while Aunt Petunia got a pinched look on her face.
"Humph. Suppose you want us to go and speak to her?" his uncle grumbled.
Aunt Petunia rose to her feet with great reluctance. "I'll go, Vernon. You stay here."
She followed him into the living room and limply held out a hand in greeting to the other woman. "Hello. Are you here to tell…" a barely noticed pause, before she continued "Harry about the… magical world?"
"Yes. My name is Minerva McGonagall. I am one of the teachers at Hogwarts," the teacher introduced herself.
"How… lovely," Aunt Petunia replied, looking faintly ill at having shook the other's hand. "I will leave you to explain things to him, then." She retreated back to the kitchen as quickly as she could, but not before giving Harry a look. One that Harry interpreted to mean as not doing anything… freakish to the furniture.
"Thank you for coming to answer some questions for me," Harry finally said, interrupting the uncomfortable silence that had descended after his aunt's departure.
"Your aunt and uncle do not want to sit in while I explain?" she asked.
"Oh, no," Harry said, forcing a smile to his lips. As if they would be interested in anything that had to do with him. "They trust that I will let them know anything they need to know." Harry felt quite skeptical about magic. Not even his relative's assertion that magic was real, that his parents had been a witch and a wizard, assured him of its existence. But, as Mr. Drake constantly lectured, one did not simply make a decision without all the information. Miss McGonagall would now have the opportunity to convince him magic existed. Even then, he would wait to see what Mr. Drake thought, before agreeing to attend Hogwarts.
The teacher nodded uncertainly. "I see. Well, Mr. Potter, you certainly have the look of your father."
Harry's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You knew my father?"
"Oh, yes. Your mother too. I was their teacher when they went to Hogwarts."
"So, they were witches and wizards?" He guessed the Dursleys had not lied about that.
"Among the finest of their year," McGonagall related with a small smile. "Now, then. Your letter indicated you had several questions you wanted to ask?" she prompted.
"Yes, I did. My aunt and uncle have not told me anything about magic. Can you please demonstrate an example of it?" He tried to keep his skepticism from his voice. A part of him willingly believed that she spoke the truth about magic as it explained so much about the Dursley's behavior towards him. However, he had never heard of or seen anything that proved the existence of magic. Under Mr. Drake's tutelage, he had stopped simply accepting anything put before him. He liked to collect as much information as possible, solicit opinions of others, and then make up his mind. It was a skill Mr. Drake actively encouraged.
Miss McGonagall demonstrated magic, turning a table into a pig, floating a biro that had formerly laid still on an end table, and lastly, turning herself into a cat and back again. Whilst logic would dictate that magic did not exist, her actions implied quite strongly that it did. He felt that even Mr. Drake could not deny that she showed him magic – or at least something that greatly resembled it.
She patiently answered each and every question Harry posed to her, ranging in topic from the subjects taught at Hogwarts, to the tuition, to job possibilities after graduation. Finally, he felt that he had received as much information as he possibly could, carefully penning it into the notebook he had gotten specifically for this occasion. Mr. Drake would be proud of him.
"Are you ready, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked, as Harry finally seemed to run out of questions.
"Yep!" Harry chirped enthusiastically. "I'll just let my aunt and uncle know that we are leaving."
"Are you sure they do not want to accompany us?" she asked.
"Oh no," Harry responded. "They're far too busy to come with us." They also had made it more than clear that they wanted nothing to do with such "freakish nonsense" unless they absolutely must. Harry did not want to strain their tolerance. He smiled a bit disarmingly at her, before running off to tell his relatives he was leaving. They barely acknowledged him, but that was okay with Harry. He didn't actually expect them to care.