Chapter 2

Investigating Harry Potter

The tall, thin, Armani-clad form of Sebastian Delacour stood silently on the walkway in front of Number Four, Privet Drive, simply taking everything in. His jet black hair had acquired an edge of grey over the years, and made him look quite distinguished among the would-be royalty of Little Whinging, Surrey. His brown eyes scanned the scene with a keen intelligence that tended to frighten anyone who ended up in his political sights.

The investigation that led him to this place was fraught with dead ends. As a celebrity, there was no shortage of information available about Harry James Potter, but there was also no mistaking the multitude of contradictions amongst the sources. If he didn't know better, he would say that every last story about him was a complete and utter fabrication.

And standing here in this austere neighborhood, he began to truly believe that.

One thing the stories all had in common was that they started with the boy growing up in either a magical castle that bore a suspicious resemblance to Hogwarts, or an enormous manor house with hundreds of servants to cater to his every whim. His records at the Ministry of Magic, however, told a very different story: his home was in a Muggle neighborhood, and his guardians were Muggles themselves. It had taken quite a lot of effort to retrieve that information, but Sebastian was certain of his facts.

Those same records painted an unusual and troublesome picture, too. For one, while he lived with the Dursley family in Little Whinging, his finances were controlled by Albus Dumbledore himself. Having those responsibilities separated in such a way was virtually unheard of in their world, so it raised an immediate red flag.

For another, guessing that the Potter Will would explain the division, he had immediately looked it up – only to find that it was sealed, again, by Albus Dumbledore. No amount of wrangling could get that document released. It shouldn't have even been legal, but there it was, certified by the Chief Warlock himself!

And finally, there was a tiny note from the British Department of Mysteries: Harry Potter was the subject of an active Prophecy, no additional information available.

Apart from his average Hogwarts grades, there was nothing further in the Ministry files, which was strange in and of itself. Most children had at least one warning for accidental magic, and there should have been Social Services inspections for his safety, but none of those things existed. To say that it was bizarre was a huge understatement: something was rotten, and he was a good enough politician to know that it went all the way to the top!

Since he couldn't obtain anything particularly useful from the Wizarding records, he next turned to the Muggle world – and there the story took a decidedly darker turn. While there were no complaints recorded against the Dursleys, the number of times their nephew visited the hospital was beyond suspicious. Digging in further, he discovered that the visits were never for illness, but rather for violent injuries like broken arms, broken legs, broken ribs, and concussions.

Either Harry Potter was an unthinkably accident-prone child, or something awful was happening in that house.

His school grades were interesting as well. At first they were quite impressive for his age, but then, at the beginning of the second quarter of his first year at school, they fell dramatically. There was no explanation given, but the reviews from his teachers changed from glowing to derisive, virtually overnight! He could only guess why it happened, and was certain that the reason was nothing good.

The Dursleys themselves were much less interesting, at lest according to their records. The family consisted of Petunia, a housewife; Vernon, the managing Director of a Muggle power tool manufacturer; and Dudley, the son, who by all rights was as dim as Harry's grades made him appear to be. They hadn't so much as a parking ticket on their records, and they were quite well off financially.

Again, the lack of blemishes was a blemish in and of itself. Everyone had at least a late credit card payment or something of the sort, or some other thing that would count against them in some small way! There was nothing where the Dursleys were concerned, and that caused him to wonder if there had been some sort of intervention by Wizards.

And once again, there were no Social Services inspections.

Sebastian did not yet have a complete picture, but the pieces he had so far clearly indicated that it would be a highly disturbing one. The tone of his investigation changed quickly: he was now working not only to ensure his daughter's safety, but Harry's as well. Regardless of anything else, the boy had saved his daughter's life, and without any expectations whatsoever of receiving a reward of any kind. It was the only way a life debt could form!

Looking up again at the startlingly plain house that stood in front of him, he had a disturbing feeling that he was about to find the missing pieces.

A two-story affair in typical Muggle style, the house would probably have been quite nice in the care of the right family. Instead, it was devoid of personality: from the bright white paint, to the white picket fence that surrounded the yard, to the perfectly-spaced roses under the windowsill, it looked like it was inhabited by machines who had no concept of art or beauty. Even the silver Mercedes that stood in the drive was perfectly parked, positioned like something out of an architectural magazine for the rich and famous!

The rest of the neighborhood was only marginally better, as though they were trying to keep up with the Dursleys. Hints of life shone thorough in various places, but only just. They were also apparently quite nosy: women had peeped out at him from the windows of at least four different houses in the first thirty seconds alone.

Realizing that he looked rather strange standing there on the sidewalk, he turned and made his way calmly up to the front door, his professional mask automatically slipping down over his emotions. He already had suspicions about these people, but it simply would not do for them to know, at least not yet. He would play it straight with them, and react accordingly.

After taking stock of himself and making sure that all of his preparations were in place, he casually reached out and pressed the buzzer.

The door was opened by a tall, sickly-thin, horse-faced woman, whose nose was stuck firmly in the air, her attitude perfectly matching her environment. She wore a bad copy of a designer dress, and a gaudy gold chain hung around her neck, with a ghastly-looking heart-shaped pendant hanging in the valley between her sagging breasts. Her high heels added an inch or two to her height, but again they were bad knock-offs.

As a man who spent considerable time around full-blooded Veela, he would know: they certainly talked about their fashions enough!

"Yes?" she asked snootily.

"Petunia Dursley?" he queried.

"What do you want?" she snapped back.

"I am Seigneur Sebastian Delacour," he told her smoothly. "If you 'ave a few moments, I 'ave important business with you and your 'usband."

When he saw her eyes travel down from the clouds and over his well-dressed form, he was very glad that he'd thought ahead. From their finances he guessed that they might be impressed by money – and if they weren't, it wouldn't matter – and so he put on his best Muggle attire, which was far better than the vast majority could afford. And unlike the woman in front of him, his clothing was the real deal!

And sure enough, her eyes turned calculating as she studied him, probably trying to figure out how she could best take advantage of his presence. He didn't really care; as long as he got inside, he would gain the information he wanted. He just had to get off the street first.

"Very well," she said finally. "You can wait in the living room, and I'll get Vernon."

"Merci."

The inside of the house was just as sterile and lifeless as the outside. Only a few portraits lined the bright white walls, each showing a family of three. Nowhere in those images was Harry, which began to confirm his suspicions. The husband and son were disgustingly large, too, as though gluttony was their favorite hobby.

Petunia's heels beat a staccato rhythm on the spotless hardwood floor as she led him to a living room that was just as immaculate as everywhere else. And again, the only pictures present were of the Dursley family, no Harry. His hackles were starting to rise; it was quite clear that these people had no love of their nephew from that one clue alone!

Depositing himself on a sagging sofa – apparently ruined by the average weight of her family – he waited patiently for her return, images of hospital forms floating through his brain. He wanted to tie these people down and feed them Veritaserum, but it wasn't yet time for that. Caution was warranted so nobody could claim that he had done something wrong.

Finally Petunia returned with her husband, and Sebastian rose respectfully from his chair to greet the man. He badly wanted to act like he owned them – which he did if he so chose – but he pushed that impulse down. He had met people like this before, and they would make their bed soon enough.

Vernon was even more disgusting in person than in the pictures. He was dressed in an absolutely horrid gray suit, and the sport coat left a two-foot gap that his enormous stomach hung in. The white dress shirt was over-starched and looked like it was made of cardboard, and worse, there were a multitude of food stains on it! His large tie was bright orange, and scalded the eyes.

He had to ruthlessly suppress a disgusted grimace as he held out a hand.

"Bonjour, Mr. Dursley," he offered. "Seigneur Sebastian Delacour. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me."

Dursley grunted and shook his hand, all the while eying his expensive Armani suit. Clearly this was a man who judged others by their means, rather than their motives. Not someone that Sebastian would willingly associate with to be sure.

"I'll get the drinks," simpered Petunia. "Please, Sebastian, do make yourself comfortable."

He was unable to prevent the very slight narrowing of his eyes at the rudeness of her form of address. In the circles he ran in, one did not use one's given name without permission! He said nothing, however, instead nodding and retaking his seat. Let them think they had the upper hand; they were in for quite a surprise.

It took almost the entire time Petunia was gone for Vernon to wedge himself into an easy chair. The man was four hundred pounds if he was an ounce, and barely fit! That alone would have had Social Services up in arms, especially since his son was just as bad! Sebastian had no illusions of it being a medical condition: the man was just plain lazy, and liked his food too much.

Petunia bustled back in carrying a tray of elegant faux-crystal glasses and a bottle of wine. He hoped she wasn't planning on impressing him with it: he could see from where he was that the bottle was indeed from a famous winemaker, but it was a particularly awful vintage. That batch had almost destroyed the business utterly, and had been sold off at an extremely steep discount.

He waited patiently while Petunia passed out the glasses and took her seat, noting that the woman didn't even know how to properly serve wine! Sebastian was not a snob by any means, but as a politician he knew his stuff – and to see such a pathetic attempt at impressing him was actually rather sad. And they didn't even know yet why he was here!

"So what's this about?" asked Vernon gruffly, taking a rather large swig from his glass.

Stretching the moment, Sebastian slowly took a sip, and had to suppress a shudder at the taste. No matter, though, it served its purpose: he was in control of this meeting, and they could wait. Finally he set the glass on the table, hoping never to see it again.

"I am 'ere to speak with you on a matter of much importance to my family, Mr. Dursley," he said with utmost seriousness. "Your nephew, –" their eyes bulged at the reference "– and my daughter have experienced something that will 'ave grave repercussions for both of them."

Sebastian had chosen his words carefully, and was curious to see the reaction – but what he got was far worse than he expected!

Petunia went white, and Vernon's face purpled instantly, and he surged up from his chair, disgusting ripples rolling through his great girth. "WE'RE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT FREAK!" he roared abruptly. "WHATEVER HE DID IS ON HIS OWN HEAD! CALL THE POLICE! TAKE HIM AWAY FOR ALL I–"

"SILENCE!" interrupted Sebastian harshly.

Silence fell, and Sebastian rose slowly to his feet, allowing his disgust for these people to show for the first time as he moved to face Vernon. He couldn't help it; to essentially disown the boy at the drop of a hat over a perceived slight, and with no investigation? It was appalling!

"Your nephew saved my daughter's life, Mr. Dursley," he growled slowly.

Vernon paled at the revelation, and slowly backed off to sink into his seat again, apparently having seen something in Sebastian's eyes that had frightened him to the core. Petunia, on the other hand, was just getting started: her face pinched like she was smelling something rotten, and when she spoke, her voice grated on his nerves.

"I'm quite sure you are mistaken," she spat. "That boy tells all manner of lies! You would be better off making sure he doesn't corrupt your daughter with his freakishness!"

Sebastian's eyes narrowed further as he turned to study the woman, and a disturbing suspicion formed in his mind. In contrast to his feelings, he allowed a puzzled expression to appear on his face; he needed to get to the bottom of this, and fast! Once again he chose his words carefully.

"Freakishness?" he asked without venom. "What do you mean by this? Is my daughter in danger from 'im?"

"He's unnatural!" said Petunia shrilly. "You wouldn't understand, but mark my words, he will bring you nothing but trouble!"

As she spoke, Sebastian did something that he only rarely did: he extended his mind to cull her surface thoughts. He was a Master Legilimens, trained by the best the French Auror Corp had to offer, and it showed in his subtlety. He hated the skill – it was a violation of the highest order – but under the circumstances, he didn't see a choice.

The things he saw in her thoughts brought a sick feeling to his stomach.

The "freakishness" and "unnaturalness" she was referring to were, quite simply, magic! They were bigots of the worst kind! The poor boy had been raised by people who hated him for his very existence, and from her thoughts, she had known of it the entire time! It begged the question: who in their right mind placed him with these monsters?

"I see," he said slowly, giving away nothing of his thoughts. He sat back down in his chair, keeping a steady gaze on Petunia while Vernon watched him warily. "If 'e is so troublesome," he continued, "then why did you take 'im in? I am led to understand that 'e is an orphan."

Petunia snorted, and her eyes narrowed in anger, vitriolic thoughts flowing so freely through her head that he barely needed his skills to sense them. "You think we have him by choice?" she asked disgustedly. "He was left on our doorstep, and we can't escape his kind! They would find out!"

"His kind?" asked Sebastian skeptically, just to twist the knife.

"The freaks like him!" spat Vernon, finally having regained enough courage to actually speak. "They're a blight on our society! Bunch of useless beggars, the lot of them!"

Petunia shot him a quelling glare for his outburst, and Sebastian suppressed a smirk. As much as he hadn't wanted to believe the implications behind the Muggle hospital records, he had prepared for it! All he had to do was enact his plan, and the poor boy would never see these people again. And once that was done, he could find out how far it really went and decide what their punishment would be...

Sebastian Delacour would not abide child abuse!

A shark-like smile appeared on his face as he leaned forward in his seat, pinning Petunia with his stare. "What if I could make 'im go away?" he asked seductively, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Would that work for you?"

Petunia narrowed her eyes at him, but her interest in the concept shone through. "I thought he saved your daughter?" she asked suspiciously.

"If 'e is a danger to 'er, then I must take steps to mitigate that danger," he said easily. "I am a man of many secrets, Mrs. Dursley, and one more will not 'urt."

Petunia stared at him for a long moment, and Sebastian congratulated himself on his quick thinking. He hadn't intended to portray the outcome this way, but there was no turning back now! This would seal their fates quite handily, even in the Muggle courts. It was an unexpected bonus!

Fleur was a good judge of character – she did little but observe thanks to her social issues – and she would have known if Harry was the type of boy to deserve this sort of treatment, which he clearly was not. There was no question in Sebastian's mind that it was in his best interests to get him away from here!

Vernon was wide-eyed, and the hope in his eyes was truly disgusting. Petunia, meanwhile, was developing a slow, cruel smile, her vindictive glee visible a mile off. His stomach churned that much more for it.

"Are you sure you can do it?" she asked conspiratorially. "They're tricky blighters!"

"I assure you, it will be no trouble," he replied honestly. Then he reached into his pocket and drew out a roll of parchment and a jet black quill. "You see, I am aware of what he is," he admitted, "and I know 'ow to deal with 'is kind. Just sign this form, and 'e will disappear forever. They can't touch you."

Petunia's eyes widened when she saw the quill, and then narrowed again as she listened to what he was saying. It was mark of how truly shallow they were that they took him at his word: they never even considered that he might be a Wizard! Apparently they didn't think Wizards could blend in!

She grabbed up the form and read it, and as she did, her vindictive smile returned. Then she turned and handed it to her husband, who was equally as taken by the prospect of 'getting rid of' their nephew. "He's right, Vernon!" she breathed. "He gets custody and it's his problem! And if he gets rid of the freak, they won't have any reason to come after us!"

Vernon's smile slowly mirrored his wife's. "Yes," he nodded slowly. "Yes, I think that might be just what we need, and Dudley can have his second bedroom back!" Turning back to Sebastian, he added, "Where do we sign?"

And just like that, they signed the document, not once even complaining about the use of a Blood Quill! Sebastian was appalled! These people had just given up custody of their nephew based on the word of a man they had never met before, and worse, with the apparent assumption that he would be killed! It was only years of experience in politics that kept his rage off his face!

And then they grabbed their glasses and raised a toast.

"Now that that is out of the way," said Sebastian politely, "there is just one more matter to deal with." As he spoke he drew his wand, and the Muggles paled as he smiled a cruel smile, not the least bit sorry for giving them what they deserved. "Now we find out exactly 'ow you 'ave treated your nephew!"


A/N: You know, I never used to understand why people beg for reviews. Now I know better (though the begging? not so much).

So, first of all, let me say thank you. Where I expected loads of one-liners if anything, a number of you have left some very thoughtful reviews, and I greatly appreciate it. The only downside is that I suspect that this story will severely disappoint several of you. That said, I am already considering writing another one in this genre with much more in-depth plot and character development (and slower pacing; I've revealed an awful lot in this chapter alone!), so if you're very lucky, that might turn up sooner or later.

I really wasn't lying when I said this is a heavily-clichéd romp, even though some of the chapters turned out (IMHO) brilliantly, like that first one. :-)

Fact of the matter is, I've written 110,000 words (not counting stuff I scraped) in the last 9 days (and yes, I type disturbingly quickly when I'm on a roll). Probably about 20% of those will need to be replaced, and I still have to write the last seven or eight chapters (which are on hold while I fix a few relatively minor things). I currently have... let's see... 33 chappies, some of which are great, and some of which aren't worth the pixels they're printed on, but may get posted anyway if I get lazy.

Unfortunately, this means that while this has its moments, it has not been thought through as anything more than a romp in the park.

But it's still fun for me, and I hope it'll be fun for you. :-)

This chapter is posted early as a thank you for those who wanted more and told me so. I know I personally hate waiting for the next chapter, especially in fics with monthly updates (if you're lucky). You can likely expect chapters every 2-3 days after this, unless I get on a serious roll and finish the fixes faster. Any more than that and I risk becoming a monthly updater when I run out of ready-to-post chapters (I only have the first few completely edited)...

PS: The fact that I cannot post greater-than and less-than characters properly really annoys me.