In which Veritaserum is used
"For the last time Dursley!" Moody shouted, "Where was the last place that you saw Harry Potter?"
Tonks sighed, rubbing a hand over her tired eyes in an attempt to wake herself up. They had been at this for hours and were getting nowhere! She, Severus and Moody had been taking turns trying to get information, any information, out of the Dursleys using every method they could think of that didn't include pain or Veritaserum but they all remained tight-lipped.
"YOU LOT HAVE NO BLOODY RIGHT TO BE QUESTIONING US LIKE THIS! WE'RE NORMAL! WE DON'T FALL UNDER ANY OF YOUR FREAKY RULES! NO BLOODY RIGHT, D'YOU HEAR ME!"
Well, maybe not tight lipped, but they still weren't co-operating. So much for Auror training then. They had taken Vernon, Petunia and Dudley back to Hogwarts, after modifying Marge's memory of course, to begin their questioning and were now entering the fourth or fifth hour, still with no luck. Tonks looked unenthusiastically over to where they had been forced to bind the three remaining Dursleys to their chairs to keep them from becoming violent. Vernon's face, its folds of fat shaking in his rage, was a very deep plum colour and bits of spit were flying out of his mouth. Merlin's beard! How on earth did Harry stand it?
"That's it!" Moody growled, pulling out his wand and hitting all three of them with a full body bind before Tonks could blink. "I've had it! I'm going to get clearance from Dumbledore to use the serum, because if I get one more glob of that fat pigs spit in my face there won't be any of him left to question!" Tonks gave an affirmative nod to his retreating back as he clunked out of the Room of requirement to go locate the leader of the Order.
Severus stalked over to the Dursleys, sneering down into their wide and frightened eyes. "It is at times like this," he kept his voice low and smooth "That I wish I still had a predilection for muggle torture." Tonks frowned, but didn't speak up. She couldn't very well tell him off for that, Merlin knew that the thought had passed through her mind often enough today. She was as far from taking the Dark Mark as anyone could be, but it was seriously irritating her that these stupid muggles weren't talking!
"They have to be hiding something." She said, not really expecting a response. "But why they aren't helping us find Harry is beyond me!" Tonks sighed again, crossing her arms and leaning a bit more onto the wall beside her. She had spoken with Harry quite a few times that past summer, and he seemed to be such a sweet kid... but then why did his family seem to dislike him so much? It didn't make sense. It was just probably just their fear of magic, but shouldn't Petunia at least have been used to it? After all, her sister had been a witch....
The silence stretched, neither she nor Severus bothering to break it as they watched the muggle family in front of them struggle against the spell they were under. Tonks let her mind drift, but it was preoccupied with thoughts of the scrawny green-eyed boy that all of this fuss was about; the one that the entire Weasley family refused to believe was dead.
Explaining everything that had happened up until now to the family had fallen on the shoulders of Molly, Bill and Dumbledore. From what Tonks had heard, no one had taken it very well. They all were very close to Harry and Tonks could only imagine just how franticly worried they were. Bill had told her after an Order meeting once that Harry was sort of considered to be the eighth Weasley, saying that if anything ever happened to his Aunt and Uncle, they'd be more than happy to take him in.
Tonks found herself frowning, thinking that the Weasleys might just be getting that opportunity if the Dursleys continued to act like this.
That, and if they found Harry alive... which they would, of course. He had survived Voldemort; a little thing like a stabbing wouldn't do him in.
The familiar sound of Moody's wooden leg clunking along the corridor followed by many other sets of footsteps brightened her mood considerably, the sound of them would indicate that Moody had gotten clearance for Severus to use the Veritaserum on the Dursleys and that Dumbledore had finally been dragged away from Number Four Privet Drive where he hadn't left since he discovering Harry's disappearance. The other footfalls were probably some other members of the Order or the Weasleys who weren't needed for the investigation at the house.
The door opened and Tonks smiled a bit when her guess was correct. Moody and Dumbledore came into the room, followed closely by Molly, Charlie, Ron, Hermione, Remus, Kingsley and Minerva. Dumbledore looked horrible, with huge bags under his usually lively eyes and just a real air of desperation, Minerva looked desperate for information as well. Remus, good old sweet tempered Remus, looked ready to pull his wand on the next thing that crossed him and Hermione looked as if she could be knocked down with a feather.
"With your leave, Headmaster?" Severus asked silkily, producing a phial of clear liquid from his robes.
Dumbledore nodded "Petunia first, if you would Severus."
Deftly Severus swooped down on the rather stringy looking woman and pointed his wand at her mouth, muttering a low incantation that made it moveable, but uncontrolled by her. He opened her mouth and skilfully let three drops of the Veritaserum fall in before closing it and waiting for a moment while it took effect, making her non-descript eyes glaze over. Dumbledore released the body bind on her but her body remained still.
"Can you hear me?" Dumbledore began.
"Yes." Petunias' normally shrieking voice was now a low monotone.
"What is your name?"
"Petunia Anne Dursley."
"What is the name of your son?"
"Dudley Walter Dursley."
"What was your sisters' name?"
Dumbledore gave a brief nod of satisfaction and Tonks adjusted her position on the wall, moving so that the stone was no longer hurting her shoulder.
"Petunia, where were you last night?" Dumbledore began again.
"At home." Came the monotonous reply "Then we drove to Vernon's sisters home."
"Did you take Harry with you?"
"No." This time the reply seemed to be slightly crisp, almost sharp in tone.
Tonks watched Dumbledore frown "Why didn't you take Harry with you?"
A bead of sweat formed on Petunia Dursleys temple "We didn't want to. W- Marge hates the boy."
The frown on Dumbledore's face deepened and Tonks saw Minerva's expression tighten. Dumbledore took a deep breath and continued, apparently wanting to try and go in a different direction.
"Why are there no pictures of Harry in your home?"
"We never took any." Tonks was a bit taken aback. They never took any pictures of Harry? None? What kind of family were they? It was painfully obvious that they could use a camera, so why had they only taken pictures of Dudley and not of both boys?
Moody growled, "Albus this is getting nowhere! None of this is helping us find Potter." with three clunking steps he had come up, almost nose to- well, almost nose, with Petunia "Petunia Dursley," he ground out "Where was the last place that you saw Harry Potter?"
"In the living room." Tonks's sigh was echoed throughout the room. Truthful, yes, but not at all helpful.
"Was he alive?" Dumbledore asked
"Yes..." Everyone frowned at that statement, it seemed that Petunia was unsure for some reason.
"What was he doing?" Moody pressed
"Lying down." Well, at least that was something!
"Why was he lying down? Was he feeling sick?" Dumbledore cut in, blue eyes flashing.
"No, his leg was broken."
Silence. Harry had broken his leg? The pit of her stomach fell out with guilt, Merlin be damned! She had been on duty that day! Had she missed this? Merlin, Agrippa and Circe this was probably all her fault...
"How did his leg break Petunia?" Dumbledore asked slowly.
It took a few moments before she answered, the potion obviously wearing off. "He was kicked."
Dumbledore lowered his face so that he
could look her in the eye and Tonks wouldn't want to be in Petunia's position for all the Galleons in Gringotts, to be on the receiving end of Dumbledore's wrath was terrifying. And there was no doubt in the room that he was royally pissed.
"Who kicked him?" Dumbledore demanded.
Petunia, gaining more control over her body with every passing second pressed her lips together tightly and closed her eyes. However, there was no way that she could resist forever and the answer burst forth from her, her entire face bathed in a sheen of sweat.
"Vernon." She whispered, her eyes no longer glazed, however they weren't teary or full of remorse either. They were blank, like she had just whispered an item off of her grocery list.
The silence that gripped the room was heavy, choking; it felt like a lead weight had been dropped on top of her head. His uncle had broken his leg? Why hadn't they taken Harry to the muggle hospital? Better yet, why had Vernon kicked him in the first place?
A flick of his wrist later and Dumbledore had put Petunia back under the full body bind, turning away from the family. His shoulders were tense, his hands in clenched fists by his side. "It appears that there is more to this than meets the eye." He said, but the calm tone of voice that he was using was less than comforting.
"The Dursleys are to remain here for further questioning, Minerva and Alastor will come back here to do so tomorrow, Minerva you will administer the Veritaserum. Severus, you will give them all of the Veritaserum in your stores and if they should need more, you will brew it. Minerva, Alastor get as much information concerning Harry's life on Privet Drive out of them as you can tomorrow and record your findings. We shall hold a meeting here then to discuss what we know after the questioning. Remus, Severus and I will join the rest of the Order at Harry's home to continue the search, as far as I am concerned, Harry is still alive. The rest of you..." he raised very tired blue eyes to look at them all. "All I can ask you to do is go home and hope for the best. I will call you if you are needed."
"That's all we can do? Just hope?" Tonks asked, her feelings of guilt for not hearing something, not noticing that Harry was in trouble, coming back in full force.
"My child, when you are surrounded with nothing but the darkest of outcomes, there is nothing wrong with hope. Sometimes, it is all we can do." Said Dumbledore, turning and walking out of the room, Severus and Remus following behind with stony expressions.
Hope. Tonks was going to have to work on that, then. If she couldn't do anything else for the boy she failed, she could at least work on this whole hope thing. It might not be such a bad idea.
"But I'm itchy!"
"Deal with it then, I'm not taking it off." Maria smirked at her exasperated boyfriend who glared at her from across the kitchen table. "You know, that glare works much better when you don't have your Glamour on. You look far too cute to be intimidating right now." She commented, making Harry glare more.
"Well then take it off of me!" Harry exclaimed, Maria nearly laughing at how different his voice was as well under the Glamour "You know it starts to itch like a bastard if I'm under it for too long, and I can only handle it for so long Maria!"
Maria frowned, looking objectively at the boy across from her. He did look somewhat frantic, and the fact that he was holding onto the oak table between them so tightly that his knuckles turned white was probably testament to how he was restraining himself from scratching at his skin. She sighed, damn, she was caving in. "There could be side effects because of the Tissue-Restorative you took-" she began but Harry's whoop of excitement cut her off.
Maria rolled her eyes, pretending to be the perfect Gryffindor had obviously addled his brain, or maybe the lion in him was just deciding to roar a little louder. Who knew? Maria sighed, well she couldn't blame Harry... she had similar problems balancing her Slytherin and Gryffindor tendencies sometimes.
Maria focused on her magic and felt her Focus begin to heat up as the power flowed through it before she snapped her fingers and the blue fire engulfed her left hand as it always did. Maria was quite thankful for the shape that her Focus had taken, a belly-button piercing in the shape of a Celtic knot, as it was practically impossible to lose and Harry thought it looked as sexy as hell. Her Focus had every opportunity of being something quite cumbersome, like a phone booth, or a ballpoint pen, so Maria thanked Merlin for the practicality of hers.
"Ready?" Maria asked with a small smirk.
"Merlin, yes!" The throaty groan that irrupted from Harry made Maria's stomach clench and her mind fill with very different scenario's in which Harry could be saying that phrase, but she shook off her fantasies and snapped her fingers again, focusing on breaking the complex pattern that she had woven last summer.
The boy in front of her seemed to melt away. Scruffy black hair was replaced by far tamer hair and round wire-rimmed glasses were changed into sleeker silver rectangular frames. Harry's boyish facial structure, an identical copy of his fathers, faded for a moment before revealing more defined features with a longer nose, chiselled chin and sharper cheekbones. More of his mother shone through in him. The green eyes behind the glasses also changed, moving from the younger emerald green to the intense green of the curse that had robbed Harry of his family all those years ago.
His body changed as well, growing quite a few inches in height to rest at a respectable 5'11", broader shoulders and far much more muscle appeared as well. Harry Potter no longer had the traditional slim build of a seeker, although he still was lean, but had bulked up considerably from the half starved boy he seemed to be during the school year. Maria smiled proudly at her work; it was incredibly difficult to create a Glamour like that. Not only did it have to last for an exceedingly long amount of time, but also it had to be almost impossible to break and completely immune to magical detection of any kind. Frankly, it was a work of art.
"Thank you." Harry sighed; throwing his head back and relaxing tensed shoulders. His voice had been disguised under the Glamour as well, making it sound a little bit higher and more nasally. Now, though, it returned to the smooth baritone that Maria was used to.
"Your welcome." Maria said, taking another sip of her lemonade and looking out one of the large windows of the kitchen. The sun had set about an hour ago and the stars were beginning to come out over Little Winging. "Do you want to go out for that walk now?" she asked. "We can walk around the grounds for a while and I can bring you up to date about our projects if you like."
Harry seemed to think for a minute "I need to go back to Privet Drive." He said, nearly
making Maria choke on the last of her drink.
"You what?" she questioned, frowning "Why the hell do you need to back there? You said they all left for a while to get an alibi, you don't have to go back yet! You shouldn't have to go back at all!" she pointed out.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose "Vernon buried the Map in the backyard when it wouldn't burn. I want it back. It's the only thing of my parents that I have left, Maria. And, if I can, I want to get Hedwig's body so we can bury it properly."
"Ok." Maria said quietly, taking his hand in hers from across the table and holding it tightly. Her heart broke a little bit for Harry, and she understood why he would want to go back. Peach still hadn't come out of hiding after hearing about her friend's murder but maybe getting the body to bury would be a helping step for both her and Harry. "We'll go do that soon, but it's too far to walk tonight. Can we stay inside the grounds for now? I've been working on the gardens a lot, I want to see what you think." Harry nodded and they both got up from the table, not bothering to clear the dishes, as Marta would do that as soon as they left.
They both slipped on their shoes and quietly walked out of the house, wary of making too much noise in case the dogs decided to ambush them and come along on the walk. Merlin knew that she loved them all, but taking seven dogs on a walk at a time could only spell disaster. All of her animals were useful, particularly when it came to working long, complicated spells that required both concentration and power. Changing weather patterns, renewing the wards and charms on the house, intercontinental Apparation... 20 animals working together could channel a lot of magic, but to explain it all to a muggle or wizard would be practically impossible as neither could tap into the natural magic reserve on demand, so Maria just put it to Harry in as simple terms as she could manage.
"Our businesses are doing pretty well." Maria said, breaking the silence as they closed the door and made their way to the side of the house where a large flagstone path began to lead them into the garden. "We made about $300, 000 this year on our $100, 000 investment in about 5 different stocks. Peach pulled us off of an American motor company just before it went belly up, so we didn't lose anything to that. Our two production companies did fairly well this year, they're still the underdogs but the one in Toronto is gaining ground in the theatre scene. The London one is putting on The Nutcracker this year and I'm thinking of auditioning. Anyway, our two galleries got good reviews and a private collector is asking about our Warhol's."
"Sounds good." Harry said thoughtfully, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. She could see him taking stock of the flora around him, nodding in approval toward the towering cedar trees that she had planted. "What's going on with the nightclubs? Is the one in Madrid open yet?"
Maria nodded, snuggling into his torso. "It opened last month, good reviews, lots of buzz, very fun. You'll like it. Paris and New York are doing well too; I keep getting requests for private parties. People can't wait to see you back on stage and me on the floor." They walked down across the huge sloping green lawn, which needed cutting Maria noted, and further down the expanse of grass toward a demanding structure made entirely of glass and filled with tropical plants. There was a decent sized garden beside it, to the left and she and Harry followed the flagstone path alongside it. "I'm making huge breakthroughs with poison cures, our other projects and supplying the ingredients to the Apothecaries out of the lab, our greenhouse and the garden. The one in Knockturn Alley ordered almost all of our Peruvian Nightshade a few weeks ago, so we made a pretty penny with that and I've sent a sample of our work to Hogwarts to see if they'd be interested in buying directly instead of going though the stores. I offered a discount for bulk purchases."
Maria sighed as Harry rubbed her shoulder gently with his hand around her; his palms were slightly callused from Quidditch and felt wonderful on her bare skin. "And the animal conservations?" his voice was low, relaxing her as they walked further along. The stable and small paddock was coming up in the distance.
"Doing really well." She replied with a murmur "Africa's still got problems with poachers so I'm going to have to put up some slight wards. South America is speeding up the repopulation process of everything and there were two baby tigers born 3 months ago in our India reserve. Oh!" she said, the thought popping into her head as they passed a flyer "And sales are through the roof with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. They're leaving Zonko's in the dust."
Harry chuckled, the vibrations through his chest making their way to her. "Fred and George should be happy then. Maybe Mrs Weasley will be able to forgive me once she sees how well her boys are doing."
"You should suggest a line of Marauder products, you know." Suggested Maria "To keep the name alive, since you don't indulge yourself to prank people while you're at Hogwarts." She held onto him a little tighter when she felt him stiffen. "It'll be a way for you to honour Sirius and your dad. I'm sure that they would have loved it." She said softly. She was worried for a minute when Harry didn't respond, maybe she had crossed that bridge too soon, but Harry needed to deal with the fact that Sirius was gone, whether it was now or in a month.
"I just wish that Sirius could've met you." Harry said finally, stopping on the sidewalk and looking down at her with a sad expression. "He would have loved you.'
Maria opened her mouth to reply but just found herself breathing out and taking his hand in hers, and leading him onward. What was she supposed to say to that? Yes Harry, I'm sure that your godfather would have loved me, but oops! It's too late for that because now he's dead isn't he? Sometimes life was just too bloody hard.
The rest of their trip was made in silence, walking hand in hand down the path. Crickets and fireflies were active all around them and a small breeze wound its way through the surrounding trees. They walked down to the stable but wordlessly decided to leave visiting the horses for another day, moving on to survey the vegetable patch and soon-to-be rose garden. The charms on the house also applied to the grounds, making it incredibly easy to have spectacular landscaping without any effort, but in Maria's eyes that was cheating. It made her far happier to have things that she had worked hard enough to get for herself.
They didn't head into the wooded portion of the grounds, although it was more than safe to do so and they had camped out there a few times before, but chose instead to take the left fork in the flagstone path and go around a bit more of the house. They passed by the Thorne family plot, small, carved headstones covered with ivy dotting the grass, Maria had stumbled upon it, literally, and had been scared witless. Dead things were not her specialty. She pointed out the Koi pond to Harry and they stopped for a moment to look at the large fish she had put in, watching the reflection of the sky in the water. It was only when they began to yawn every few minutes that they finally made their way back up to the house.
"Bed?" Maria found herself asking Harry through a yawn, toeing her shoes off on the mat. She was exhausted, both mentally and physically from healing him over the past 48 hours and anxiously losing sleep for days beforehand, and wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with him and just sleep.
His nod was immediate, pulling himself up from where he sat on the stairs and putting his shoes by the door as well before tugging on her hand to communicate that he wanted her to follow. "I think I should send a letter to the Order tomorrow," said Harry slowly "You know, let them know that they shouldn't worry about me, that I'm ok and they shouldn't be surprised if they don't see me outside of the house for the rest of the summer..."
Maria winced, hating that she would have to bring it up, but it had to be done. "Harry, who's going to deliver it? Peach is too suspicious and Hedwig-"
"Is dead. I know." Harry's voice was flat and he wouldn't meet her eyes. "I'll do it the muggle way and send it to Hermione through express. I'll tell her that Dudley tripped on something, knocked her cage over and broke her wing so she can't fly." They made it to the dark carved wood door of Harry's room and stepped in.
"And when you go to Hogwarts next year?" she pressed, wanting him not to have an answer so that he would be forced to see that he couldn't keep this double life going for ever. "Vernon must have burnt your booklist and summer work as well, you can't go back without at least part of it done, teachers will ask questions."
They turned down the sheets that Marta must have made back up after Harry got up and Maria snapped her fingers, changing their casual clothes into a pair of black sweatpants for Harry and a dark blue t-shirt and shorts for her. "I'll say that she caught some sort of disease from eating a bad mouse and died that way." Harry said, obviously pained "As for the homework, I'm sure that I can lie and say that I lost the list. Hermione will be more than happy to scold me and give me the list again to make sure that I don't fail."
They climbed into the bed and Maria wasn't the least bit offended when Harry reached out and pulled her close to him, fitting her back securely against his chest and twining their legs together. "Ok," Maria sighed, snuggling further into the warm body at her back, loving the ghosting of his breath across the back of her ear "You win for now."
Maria fell into the gentle arms of sleep within a few minutes, completely unaware of the activity going on at number four Privet Drive as she dreamt of a future where she wouldn't have to hide her powers, where Harry wouldn't have to hide his life away from his friends, and where neither of them had to be afraid of trusting the adults around them.
Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, entrusted with hundreds of children's lives on a yearly basis, acclaimed to be one of the most intelligent and observant wizards in the world, and yet unable to make heads or tails of the situation that presented itself to him.
Albus raised his eyes from where they had been resting on a large patch of newly dug earth in the Dursleys yard. His mind had been focusing on nothing, drifting slowly, only giving solid ideas the barest of touches before moving on. Remus's voice, however, brought him out of his musings and made him turn to face the werewolf.
"Yes, Remus?" he asked. Merlin he felt old, so very old and stupid.
"Bill and Arthur have returned from the
perimeter search." Remus said, moving tiredly from the back door of number four down the steps to join him on the perfectly manicured lawn. His shabby brown jumper and slacks seeming even more so with Albus's bad mood. "They've done a 5 mile radius sweep and can't find any trace of Harry. There is some magical activity in an old abandoned house near here but it's slight, not nearly enough to be a person, even if they were injured," he swallowed "or dead. Bill thinks that it's just a lay-line collecting some of the residual magic from the wards you set up." Remus took a heavy breath and Albus watched as he turned his eyes to the night sky above them "I don't know what I'll do if he's not alright Albus." He said heavily.
"Simple, wolf." Severus's voice carried out from the door even before he emerged, standing on Albus's other side. "You will continue to live, just as you did when Potter died, and then when your mutt did. You will live, you will fight against the Dark Lord, and you will probably declare revenge for all of them in a decidedly Gryffindor manner which will undoubtedly make me nauseous." The darker man sneered. Albus turned his head to get a better look at the Potions Master, but frowned when a small noise caught his ear from the bushes beside the house. However, when a quiet birds whistle met his ears, he let it go.
"Have you found anything new Severus?" Albus asked.
Severus shook his head, dark eyes staring out into the yard. "I have found nothing Headmaster. Absolutely nothing that would prove that Potter even lived in the house, much less where he was taken to from it." Albus closed his eyes, willing away the headache that hadn't seemed to go away for the past 24 hours. "I have searched all of the bedrooms and other main areas of the house and there is nothing." The man seemed frustrated "Absolutely nothing..."
"Do Alastor and Minerva need any more Veritaserum?" Albus didn't have to look at him to see Severus shake his head.
"You think that the Dursleys have something to do with this." Arthur Weasley said, coming with his eldest son to join the three other men on the lawn. "I always did think that the Dursleys were a funny sort." He shook his head sadly.
Bill crossed his arms over his chest "Yeah, but not funny ha ha. Funny strange, if you get my meaning." The youngest member of the party sighed "Well, in any case you'll get your answers from them tonight if you keep the Veritaserum coming..." the redhead frowned deeply, moving away from his father and standing over the patch of earth that Albus realized he had been staring at before. "What's this?" he asked.
Severus rolled his eyes "Probably that fool muggle woman attempting to garden." He sneered, but moved forward none the less.
"No, there's magic coming from there." Bill said, squatting beside the brown earth and taking out his wand. "I can feel it seeping up. It's like in Egypt when they put a decoy mummy in the sarcophagus, but buried the real body..."
All five men froze for the space of a breath before a faint noise caused them all to spring into action. It would not be Harry that they found, Albus tried to assure himself, it would not be Harry's dead body. It would not be Harry. Immediately Remus, Arthur and surprisingly Severus all moved to the area of dirt and began to dig, scooping out handfuls at time. Albus stood as an observer, mentally chanting to himself that Harry was not dead, that the next handful of earth removed would not reveal unruly black hair or a Quidditch callused hand.
A soft cry from Remus made Albus close his eyes in almost physical pain. He opened them, though, after a few moments. He had to see for himself.
No untidy black hair.
No pale skin.
No body at all.
It was a piece of blank parchment that was cradled in the werewolf's hands. "The Marauders Map." Remus said, his voice cracking audibly.
Albus exhaled, both relieved and frightened beyond belief at the same time. "Thank Merlin." He said. His heart pounded in his chest, thundering in his ears. "Oh thank Merlin."
"I thought it was going to be him." Arthur muttered, getting up off of his knees and wiping a sleeve over his eyes "I thought my boy was going to be down there."
"Your boy?" Severus asked, also getting up but not showing any outward sign of relief.
Arthur's face set in a determined expression "Harry is part of the Weasley family in every way that counts, so yes he is my boy, as much as he is any of ours." He said.
Severus snorted. "Unless his personality and looks undergo some major changes and enhancement, there is no chance in all of the seven hells of Potter joining my family." Another animal in the bush at the side of the house made a noise, Mother Nature sending a sign that the world still turned while they stood there, Albus mused. Severus looked livid, but that was no surprise, he had always guarded his family life quite ferociously.
"Harry wouldn't bury this." Remus said, getting up. "He would keep it on him no matter what, I know he would. He wouldn't let it out of his hands unless he was forced. Maybe whoever got to Harry was the one who buried it. Whatever happened, the Map hasn't been underground for too long."
Albus made no move to break the silence that fell around them all. He needed time to think about all of this, but unfortunately time was one of the things that they did not have nearly enough of. Every moment that they did not spend searching for Harry could mean the difference between finding the boy dead or alive.
"I want to get back to searching." Bill said, wiping dirty hands on his trousers "We must be missing something here. Harry's a clever kid when push comes to shove, he must have left behind some clues."
"All Potter left behind was half of his body's blood supply, a dead owl and sickeningly muggle relatives who refuse to speak with anyone without the aid of Veritaserum." Severus said bitingly "Nothing even remotely useful in determining his location or state of life."
Albus frowned; something about what Severus had just said wormed its way into his brain and began a speedy thought process. "There are no clues..." he said, "Remus, if Harry was taken against his will and wished to be found, do you have any doubt that he would have left us something to use in finding him?"
"Harry would have left us something, anything, I'm sure of it." Remus said, frowning "Where are you going with this Albus?"
Albus ignored him for the moment, swept up in his own thoughts "So, the fact that there are no clues, that Voldemort was not involved, that a muggle could not come into possession of a portkey and that Harry has not yet been found leads me to only two possible outcomes." He said "One, Harry is dead, killed before he could leave us any signs, his killer either a muggleborn witch or wizard and they porkeyed away with Harry's body for their own sick purposes." Merlin, just saying it made him feel ill. "Or, and this is the option that I hope is true, Harry was attacked by a muggle but saved with the use of a portkey and does not wish to be found."
"Doesn't want to be found?" Arthur asked, "Why wouldn't he want to be found? We're here to protect him!"
Severus sneered, "Yes, and look how well that has gone so far. The boy was almost fatally attacked under that very same 'protection' that you speak of. The decision to cut himself off from us is so immensely thick-headed that I would be surprised if Potter didn't do just that."
"Severus, enough." Albus made sure that his voice was sharp enough to startle the Potions Master "You are a grown man and no matter how much you dislike Harry, for whatever petty reasons that you can justify to yourself, he is still one of your students and is still in jeopardy of his life." He said sternly "You will treat this with the seriousness that it deserves."
"Yes, Headmaster." Severus muttered, looking away in a faint sign of apology.
"Good." Albus sighed, "Now, we will continue to search and glean any possible information from the Dursleys that we may not know already. Even if Harry does not wish to be found, we will do so if only to make sure that he is safe and happy. Should we find him, we will bring him back to Hogwarts and question him ourselves." Albus looked up to the starry sky "Merlin may tell that there are quite a few questions that need to be answered and I do not feel that we will like the answers that we hear."
How are you doing? I'm sorry if I haven't sounded quite like myself in my letters lately, but I've been going through a bit of a hard time losing Snuffles. I don't think that I'll ever really get over it, but I think that I'm willing to at least move on now. Anyway, enough of that, I'm sad enough as it is. I'm sending you this through the regular post instead of having Hedwig deliver it because she's broken her wing, Dudley was as big of a whale as he could ever have been and knocked her cage over. She'll recover, but she can't fly for a while. How long do you think it will take to heal?
Can you deliver this to the old crowd as well? I'm not going to be able to send out letters to them directly unless they send me one first because of the whole Hedwig-thing and I'd rather not risk the wrath of my Uncle if Tonks or Moody suddenly showed up demanding to see me because I didn't write. I've got to go, my Aunt is screaming at me to make dinner for them so I'd best not keep her waiting, I don't want to get on her bad side this summer... you know how loud she can get. Oh! Would you be able to give me a copy of the summer homework list? I can't find mine and I might actually be getting some time to work on it here.
I'll see you soon, please tell the old crowd to send a letter if they're going to pick me up this year, my Aunt and Uncle weren't to happy about finding me gone without a trace. Tell Ron that he needs to send me the Quidditch scores with the next letter; I'm falling behind the times. Oh, and if you could ask Mrs Weasley to send some more of those delicious meat pies she makes that would be great. Hedwig and I are feeling a bit peckish and the loose floorboard under my bed is looking decidedly empty. Stupid Dudley and his stupid diet... Hardly my fault that he's the size of a walrus!
Tell everybody I miss them and please try and tell Professor Snape that I'm sorry. He'll know what for. Tell him that he was right, he never lied to me about anyone and that it was wrong of me to do what I did, but also tell him that no matter what, people can and will change and he should try to let it go. I'm letting go of a lot of ideas that I have and I think I'm better for it.
I won't be outside much, I have to make sure that Hedwig is ok and that Dudley doesn't try anything while she can't fly away. I don't trust him as far as I can throw him, and seeing as how I would need a forklift just to pick him up... well you get the idea.
"Well, good enough. Now let's send it, I want your help on an idea for our Lycanthropy-cure. Should it be powdered moonstone base with 3 or 8 milligrams of crystallized rose hips? If it's 3 then the...."