Harry escapes the summer before his fifth year, and comes back with a different attitude.
Dumbledore blinked in confusion, and then demanded, "What do you mean Harry is missing?"
Moody shrugged tiredly. He had a long way to go to recover from his recent ordeal, which was why he had agreed to take an occasional turn checking up on the Potter boy. "The boy is gone, and his trunk and owl with him. I would have checked with the Muggles except for two things."
"And what are those?"
Moody smiled grimly. "First of all, you said I was just to look after him, and not to interfere unless he was attacked by Death Eaters. Wasn't easy not stepping in last week when his uncle slapped him around a bit."
Dumbledore winced; he had never intended for Harry to suffer (at least to such a degree), but he felt trapped by his previous decisions. "Yes, well, what was the other reason?"
"They weren't there. Had Figg ask around, and none of them have been seen since last Friday night."
"Four days ago. . . ."
"Exactly. Potter hasn't been seen since last Tuesday, when his uncle. . . ."
"Yes, yes, I know, you told me." Dumbledore frowned again and reluctantly made a decision."Come, Alastor, let us see what is going on."
"Exactly where're we apparating to?" Moody demanded.
Dumbledore fished a knut out of his pocket and made it into a portkey for the pair of them rather than answering. A few seconds later, the pair disappeared.
The pair appeared in what had been Harry's bedroom. The two noted the signs of a rapid departure, as well as various splotches of dried blood. "There're at least three different sets here,"Moody said. "Last week was not the first time. . . ." Moody's moving eye had stopped, angling down and to the outside of his face.
"What is it?"
"Follow me," Moody stated.
Moody led Dumbledore down into the kitchen. "I couldn't see this from the outside," Moody muttered.
"See what?" Dumbledore demanded, not happy about being left in the dark.
Moody cast the bubble-head charm on himself. "Check the rubbish bin. Under the sink."
Dumbledore quickly cast the same charm on himself and peeked into the bin in the cabinet under the sink, but just as quickly dropped the lid and slammed the door.
"Potter's owl, I take?"
Dumbledore could merely nod. Hedwig had been torn apart.
"They killed his familiar," Moody growled. Dumbledore could only nod. "Are you at all surprised the boy ran?" Moody demanded. "This on top of the abuse and what the lad endured during the TriWizard?"
"We must find him," Dumbledore stated, but then he frowned in confusion.
"What is it?"
"The tracking instruments in my office . . . they did not show any trauma, and show him to still be under his family's protection."
"When was the last time you calibrated them? Did they ever show his injuries at school?"
Dumbledore flushed. "I never checked them at school, because I knew his condition."
"Then they are likely useless to us, although you might as well check them." Moody frowned."We need to find the Muggles. . . . Albus! There are three Muggle police cars pulling up!"
The two wizards disillusioned themselves, and went to discover what was going on.
Two pairs of police officers started to canvas the neighborhood while two officers and a pair of plain clothes detectives unlocked the front door of the Dursleys. As soon as the front door closed, Dumbledore enchanted the quartet. He and Moody separated them into two pairs, quickly questioned them, did a light memory charm on each, and then left them to their investigations, taking the return portkey back to Hogwarts.
"What did you get?" Dumbledore asked as he sat down.
"The constables didn't know much," Moody snapped. "Tell me what the detectives knew."
"The Dursleys' died in an auto accident, and from their description, I do not think magic was involved. The police are interested because there was ample evidence that Vernon Dursley was escaping the country with a large amount of money, and a quick check at his employment revealed a recent major theft, as well as possible long-term small-scale embezzlement."
"So, they killed the boy's owl, he threatened them and ran away, and then his relatives did a bunk just in case he could carry through?"
"On the surface at least, that seems the most likely story," Dumbledore agreed.
"I'll talk to Shack," Moody said. "He's worked with the Muggles before this." Dumbledore nodded. "Still, that leaves the main question."
"Indeed. Where has Harry gone?"
"So, Harry was SAFE with Petunia and her walruses?" Sirius sneered the next afternoon. Dumbledore had just finished giving Sirius, Remus, and Molly Weasley a fairly expurgated summary of what had transpired. "Tell me, o mighty leader of the light, how abused was Harry really?"
Molly had about to scold Sirius for disrespecting the leader of Light Magic (at least in the considered opinion of many in Britain) when her brain finally made some connections, making the color drain from her usually florid face.
"What is it, Molly?" Remus asked.
"What the boys said that summer . . . it must have been true!"
"What did which boys say what summer?" Sirius demanded.
"The twins said that . . . that they hadn't just picked Harry up. . . . They claimed they rescued him . . . that . . . that they had had to pull those bars off of his window to free him. . . ."
"They actually had the bars and you didn't believe them!" Sirius shouted.
"The twins are a lot like we were," Remus pointed out. "We would have picked up some to give verisimilitude to an otherwise. . . ."
"Shut it!" Sirius commanded. "You always resented Harry for taking up Lily's time. . . ."
"No more than you resented Lily and Harry for taking up James'," Remus retorted. "It was part of growing up on all our parts that was torn apart by Peter and Voldemort."
Molly looked at the pair with disgust, forgetting how she had felt years before, before she had transferred most of her energy into controlling her children.
Sirius ignored them both and turned to Dumbledore. "What are you doing to find Harry?"
"Alastor should be here any minute," Dumbledore said. "However, the instruments I thought were tracking Harry apparently went out of order when he came to Hogwarts his proximity to them seems to have overwhelmed them, and they just have repeatedly reported the same information they did at the time he was physically well and in a place where he was supposed to be."
Before Sirius could continue, the quartet heard Moody's peg-leg out in the corridor. He came into the kitchen of Grimmauld Place and sat down heavily. "No news?" Dumbledore asked.
"Some, but none immediately useful," Moody replied. "First of all, we confirmed that Potter was not in the vehicle with the Dursleys. Shack checked the car, and there was no magical tampering with it." Moody looked up. "However, according to the Muggle experts, it seems as if someone who knew cars had tampered with it. Not sure myself how the things work, but something called break lines' had been fixed to fail, and when they failed, Dursley couldn't stop the car. Kept going right into an intersection and were rammed by a pair of lorries, one from each direction. Crushed everything."
"I don't see how Harry could have had anything to do with that," Dumbledore stated.
"Don't see it myself," Moody admitted, which was a relief to the others. "Shack said the Muggle police examiners know their job, and they said it was done by experts, which Potter certainly isn't. It's possible Dursley had his fingers into some other dirty pies besides theft and mid-level embezzlement. It's also possible young Dursley was the cause."
Moody nodded. "You may or may not know that the Muggles have been having problems over the last few decades with illicit drugs. Opium, hemp, and other substances. They are, to Muggles, addicting, just like tobacco is to them. The boy's luggage was filled with over a pound of processed hemp and several bags of pills and powdered cocaine. The police are pretty excited, as those amounts show that the Dursley boy was either selling the drugs, or possibly had stolen the drugs from someone who was. In those amounts, it's possible someone was after him, even if he was only what one officer called a mule'."
"A what?" Molly asked before anyone else could.
"A mule is a pack animal. In the drug trade it apparently means the same thing; a low-level agent who carries the drugs, so that the more important people won't get caught actually in possession of illegal drugs."
"From what Harry has said, Dudley seemed like he could be the low-level muscle type," Sirius mused. "If he was supposed to be delivering those drugs when his parents forced him to join them in running for whatever reason. . . ."
"Someone might have had them tracked down and eliminated," Moody agreed. "The total amount was worth well-over two thousand Galleons when sold." The amount made even Dumbledore blink.
"Yes, that was a fine family you placed Harry with," Sirius sneered. This time, Molly joined him and even Remus looked faintly disapproving.
"In any case, the Dursleys seem to be a washout as far as Potter's current whereabouts are concerned," Moody went on. "The police were going to put out an alert for him as a possible suspect. Did you know that the Dursleys told the neighbors that Harry Potter was a congenital criminal who spent most of the year in a facility for delinquent adolescents!" All four were glaring at Dumbledore now.
Moody went on, "Shack talked to his contacts, and the boy is now listed as a run-away and the neighbors are being told that it was actually the Dursley boy who was the delinquent. They are collecting a lot of stories of bullying and worse from the younger children of the district, and putting together quite a case against the Dursley boy's gang. Still, that's none of our concern. The important thing is, if Potter is hiding in the Muggle world, the police should find him, and when they do, they'll contact Shacklebolt."
Dumbledore nodded. "Harry might try to contact his friends. Molly, you'll see to things if he contacts your sons?" She nodded. He turned to Lupin and Moody. "After the Weasleys, Granger is the next most likely. Remus, see her as soon as possible. I'll give you the addresses of the other boys in his year and his Quidditch teammates. I really don't think there is anyone else he might contact."
Dumbledore turned to Sirius, who glared back and said, "I'll see to Harry if he comes to me. Imight send you a note."
Dumbledore decided not to press the issue. Finding the Chosen One was the most important thing. Deciding how to handle him afterwards could wait upon events.
Despite competent, if at best moderately intense, searches by the Muggle authorities, and intense if fairly incompetent searches by the Order of the Phoenix, nearly a month passed without any sign that Harry Potter still existed. One Monday morning early in August, however, a standard post owl for hire appeared at the Burrow and presented its leg to Ron Weasley. Ron took the letter and exclaimed, "Hey, it's from Harry!" as the owl flew off, obviously instructed not to wait for a reply.
Molly Weasley reached over and took the envelope from his hands. "This could be important, Ron. I shall take it to the Headmaster immediately."
"But. . . ." Ron started to protest.
"But nothing, young man!" his mother corrected him. "Make certain you wash and stack the dishes and cutlery." She hurried to the fireplace and soon flooed away.
The five Weasley children simply sat, shocked. When one finally started to say something, Fred snapped, "Don't say anything, Percy."
"Mum may have had to report the letter to Dumbledore, but it was Ron's letter," George agreed."He at least should have been allowed to read it before she grabbed it."
"That was odd," Percy allowed, and then shrugged and went back to his porridge.
Hermione Granger was home alone, as she often was during the summer vacation. Some days, she went with her parents to answer the phones, allowing the receptionist some time off, but usually only once or twice a week. The rest of the time, she stayed home and read, both magical tomes and to catch up on Muggle technology and other advances. Her parents did not want her to lose touch with the regular world.
When the mail came through the flap, therefore, she moved slowly through the house, reading abook on html mostly thinking about ways she might be able to incorporate the basic ideas into amagical book with internal links.
She picked up the mail and took it to the kitchen to sort. Only when in front of the little table her parents used to sort mail and pay household bills did she carefully mark her place in the book and flip through the mail, muttering, "Electricity, circular, circular, Mum's romance book catalogue. .. . Harry!" Hermione dropped the rest of the mail and stared for a moment at the plain envelope, but she, even more than Ron, recognized Harry's scrawling handwriting.
Hermione was startled by a loud POP' behind her. Swirling around, she saw a woman she did not recognize grab the envelope and say, "Right, I'll give this to the Headmaster." With another POP', the woman disappeared.
To say Hermione was outraged was putting it mildly. She had a natural inclination for authority, but in this case the clear violation of her legal rights easily put this agent of the Headmaster's into the wrong. It also made her wonder if the Headmaster might not be as light' as she had been lead to believe.
That evening, Dumbledore showed up at Grimmauld Place. "Where is it?" he demanded.
"Where is what?" Sirius asked mildly, which told the Headmaster much of what he wanted to know.
"You know what! The letter from Harry!"
"I can assure you, to my knowledge, there is no letter here for you from Harry," Sirius replied.
"You know perfectly well I mean the letter Harry sent you!"
"What concern is of yours?" Sirius asked.
"I demand you turn that letter over! We need to find Harry!"
"Is that what you told the Weasley boy and the girl?" Sirius demanded. "Did you even give them a chance to read their own, PRIVATE, letters? You didn't, did you?"
"Give me that letter!"
"Or what?" Sirius shouted back. "You'll put me back in Azkaban, like you did before?"
"I had nothing to do with your being sent to Azkaban!"
"Oh, you had nothing directly to do with it," Sirius sneered. "You looked over every transcript of every trial and questioning session of every accused Death Eater several times`, looking for information, didn't you? Don't lie, you had to sign them out, and I had someone take a look. You never questioned why I was never given a trial, let alone never questioned, unlike every other accused Death Eater! You may not have known I was innocent, but you never really knew I was guilty, either!" Sirius stood and faced Dumbledore nose to nose. "You were happy I was in Azkaban, so that YOU could illegally throw Harry into prison with those Dursleys."
"How dare you!"
"How dare I what?" Sirius suddenly sat down. "Here's what you are going to do. First, you going to stop trying to read my mind I built up some mental defenses against dementors; mere Legilimency is nothing. Second, you're going to let me read the other two letters, and then you will return them to their rightful owners with apologies. And only then will I show you my letter." Sirius smiled. "And if you're thinking of using your wand, you should think again."
"Why?" Dumbledore asked coldly.
"Because there are three witnesses, and two of us already have our wands drawn," Moody said from behind Dumbledore.
Dumbledore turned and saw Moody, Lupin, and Arthur Weasley. "If you all trust me so little, it will be difficult to work together.
"We've never worked with you, we've worked for you," Moody responded. "Someone has to be in charge, and that is you. Never think we have the kind of loyalty to you that Voldemort demands from his people, though."
Dumbledore was shocked. "You . . . you think I am Dark?"
"That Dark? Of course not," Arthur responded. "However, was it necessary to break a Muggle law?"
"Stealing mail is an offense," Arthur pointed out.
"Most of our interactions with Muggles would be considered illegal, unethical, or both, to them,"Dumbledore pointed out.
"Molly will not be stealing our children's mail for you again," Arthur said simply. "Well, not before they had a chance to read it at least."
"And yes," Sirius stated, "your actions today were Dark. I know Darkness; I grew up surrounded by it. It starts by putting yourself higher than common decency, to think your goals serve the common good. . . ."
"I believe he calls it the Greater Good'," Remus broke in.
"Fine, Greater Good, then," Sirius retorted. "It may or may not, but every time you break common decency, you should regret it, and make amends, even if what you did turned out to be right."
"Like your treatment of your elf?" Dumbledore asked mildly.
"So, we're all sinners," Remus pointed out. "Do our sins excuse yours? You never answered Sirius' statements."
"I did not ignore his plight because it served my ends!"
The four men glared at the Headmaster, who glared back for a moment, but then sheepishly admitted, ashamed, "I did not knowingly ignore his plight because it served my ends. I . . . it may be possible that there is some truth to the idea in that I should have investigated, and did not."
"And since the letters did not lead you to Harry. . . ?" Arthur demanded.
"I shall have them returned," Dumbledore agreed. He sighed and pulled the two letters out and laid them on the table.
Arthur picked up the letter to Ron and read, " Dear Ron. You may have heard that I ran away from the damn Dursleys. Well, I would say that I escaped from them. They were worse this summer than usual. They murdered Hedwig because a neighbor saw her fly to my window, and they were worse to me before than they had been at time other than after second year you remember, when they had me locked in my room 23 hours a day and you had to rescue me. I had more than enough and left. I've since heard on the Muggle wireless that they died in a car crash. I wish I could say I was sorry to hear it, but I can't. Considering the hell the Headmaster put me in when they were alive, I hate to think what kind of prison he will put me in if I ever put myself under his full control again. Sorry I can't tell you more, your parents would certainly find out and tell Dumbledore. I don't know if I'll be at school next year or not. If so, I will likely not see you or be able to contact before the train leaves'." Arthur looked up. "It's just signed Harry'."
"You may as well hear mine then," Sirius said. He pulled out the letter. "It's almost exactly the same. Dear Sirius. You may have heard from the people Dumbledore had spying on me that Iran away from the damn Dursleys." Sirius looked at Dumbledore. "Obviously your guards weren't as competent as they thought."
"Unless Potter somehow found out since," Moody pointed out.
"Possible, but unlikely," Sirius agreed. He went back to the letter. " Well, I would say that Iescaped from them. They were worse this summer than usual. They murdered Hedwig because aneighbor saw her fly to my window, and they were worse to me before than they had been other than after second year when the Weasley brothers had to rescue me. I had more than enough and left. I've since heard on the Muggle wireless that they died in a car crash. I wish I could say Iwas sorry to hear it, but I can't. Considering the hell the Headmaster put me in when they were alive, I hate to think what kind of prison he will put me in if I ever put myself under his full control again. About the only thing worse than Dursleys would be Snape, especially if the stories of what he has his Slytherins do for him and to him have any truth to them'." Sirius glared at Dumbledore. "If Snivellus touches Harry, especially that way, I'll kill him and then you."
Dumbledore flushed and stated, "I can assure you that Severus does NOT have inappropriate contact with students!"
"I noticed that you let a great deal of what should be considered intolerable behavior slide by when it was Severus doing it," Remus remarked. "Don't be so certain he isn't doing things you are unaware of. And I really don't think Harry would make such a story up. They may or may not be true, but there are obviously rumors of some sort."
"I shall make certain they are false then," Dumbledore ground out.
Sirius went back to the letter. " You're my god father. Even if you're on the run, can't you do anything? Don't put yourself in danger to do it, but does Dumbledore respect your authority or not."
"Seems to be a very open question," Remus muttered.
"Sorry I can't tell you more right now. I don't know if I'll be at school next year or not. If so, Iwill likely not see you before Christmas, unless Dumbledore interferes then , too. Your god son, Harry'."
Dumbledore said nothing but reached towards Hermione's letter. Remus snatched it first, and handed it to Moody.
" Dear Hermione. I am sure have heard by now that I ran away from the Dursleys, from the media if not from Dumbledore's people, since he has had people spying on me but not helping me. I would say that I escaped from them. They were worse this summer than usual. They murdered Hedwig because a neighbor saw her fly to my window, and they were worse to me before than they had been other than after second year you remember, when they had me locked in my room 23 hours a day and Ron and the twins had to rescue me. I had more than enough and left. I've since heard on the telly that they died in a car crash. I wish I could say I was sorry to hear it, but I can't. Considering the hell the Headmaster put me in when they were alive, I hate to think what kind of prison he will put me in if I ever put myself under his full control again. Sorry I can't tell you more, but you do seem to respect authority figures, especially Dumbledore, until you can be shown why they can't be trusted, and I can't take the risk right now. I don't know if I'll be at school next year or not. If so, I will likely not see you or be able to contact before the train leaves. Your friend always, Harry'."
"Not really worth offending so many people for, were they?" Remus asked mildly.
"Not a clue on any of them," Moody snarled. He handed Remus Hermione's letter.
Lupin nodded and turned to Dumbledore. "Who confiscated it, and was it before or after Hermione knew it was delivered?"
"Miss Vance.. . ." Dumbledore started, but couldn't finish.
"She ripped out of the girl's hands before she could open it," Moody said, shaking his head.
"Oh, dear," Remus said.
That Friday, Hermione sat at the kitchen table, looking at the remains of a tuna sandwich, while Crookshanks contented himself with licking the tin clean. She was slightly startled by the telephone; the Grangers got few calls at home during the day.
"Hello, the Granger residence."
"Don't say my name," Harry warned.
"Keith! How nice to hear from you!" Hermione responded. "I was starting to wonder if I would hear from you this summer!"
"Didn't you get my letter?"
"Yes, well, there were some problems, I have to say, but they weren't my fault."
"One of Dumbledore's people took it from you?"
"Like taking candy from a baby," Hermione admitted. "Still, it was interesting when I finally saw it."
"Okay, first let me say that I am perfectly safe."
"That's good. I hope you're eating healthily for once in your life."
"I am, and I am getting lots of exercise. You wouldn't know how to get in touch with Professor Lupin, would you? I mean, without the Headmaster's other people finding out."
"Probably, but you know how parents are. They seem to have eyes everywhere. I'll probably have to call, if that's not a problem."
"I understand," Harry said. "You have a phone number?"
"If you can, phone him from your parents' office and tell him that a package will be delivered for him and Sirius there sometime late next week. It will be addressed to you care of your parents'office."
"All right, that seems easy enough, but where does that leave me?"
There was silence for a moment, and then Harry said, "I am sure you can imagine there were a lot of people who hated what Voldemort did."
"And that are lots of people who don't trust our Ministry."
"After the story you told me about the man in the cabin, I can understand that," Hermione answered, meaning the story of Fudge and Hagrid during their second year.
"Exactly. Well, there lots of people who also don't really trust the Headmaster, or at least his ways of doing things either."
"Believe me, I understand that now!"
"I didn't know it, but the Headmaster had his spies watching me, and so did the Death Eaters, although they couldn't really get close to me. There were at least two other groups watching me, maybe more. When I made my break, one covered me from the Headmaster's watchdog, while the other took out the Death Eater. They almost fought over me, but decided to work together. That's all I can say about where I am and who I'm being trained by. I don't know if I will be back or not. If not, well, I miss you."
"I'd miss you, too, Keith, so you'd better stay in better touch!"
"I'll do my best. Bye!"
"Goodbye . . . Keith."
When the phone went silent, Hermione went to her bedroom to have a good cry. The watcher shrugged and never bothered to report the incident to the Headmaster.