Harry escapes from Privet Drive.
(Author's note: Sorry for the long delay in updating the story. I was busy with my PhD thesis proposal and defending it. I am back to writing the story in earnest again.
This chapter has my version of Harry's escape from Privet Drive. It strikes me as a bit clichÃ© that he simply walks/flies away, talks his relatives into helping, hides in uncle's car, or gets a portkey from someone without the Order knowing. I think that Dumbledore would have provided for all these contingencies - the old coot is a clever manipulator. Hopefully, this escape will have some novelty. I have assumed that potions affect Muggles as well. Hey, if spells can affect muggles, I see no reason potions should not!)
--- (Beginning of the Chapter) ---
The night before Aunt Marge's arrival, Harry sat up late in his room, making all the preparations he needed. His work complete, he walked to his table, and scribbled a couple of lines on a piece of parchment, which read,
How are you? I am back with the Muggles and while they still don't like me, the warning your Dad and the others gave them has been very useful. They are treating me okay. However, my uncle seems furious with Hedwig, so I am sending her to you. Just care for her for the next few weeks, will you? We'll meet as soon as possible, until then, I will keep my head down, and bear my `loving relatives'.
Thank your dad for the warning to my uncle. Say hello to Fred, George, and Ginny for me.
Finishing his letter, he looked up Hedwig, "Hello, old girl! Had a nice night of hunting?"
The big, snowy owl looked at him with her amber eyes, and hooted softly. Harry gently ruffled her feathers and spoke, "Take this note to Ron, and stay with him till next weekend."
The owl's eyes held reproach, and Harry sighed, "Hedwig, don't look at me like that. A lot is going to happen in the next few days, and I want you safe."
The owl hooted again, and when Harry had finished fastening the note to her leg, she flew out into the sleeping countryside.
Harry watched Hedwig as long as he could see her and once she had disappeared from view, opened his trunk and brought out half a dozen vials. His lips curled into a cold smile, and he muttered, "Let the games begin!"
Monday dawned clear and bright and the birds chirping outside Harry's window reflected the summer spirit. The golden rays of the sun beat down upon his room, awakening Harry from his slumber. The sunlight made him squint and shield his eyes. He rose, stretched his limbs, brushed his teeth and went down to breakfast.
The breakfast was a quiet affair, and what with Dudley's diet still the order of the day, Harry ended up getting a small piece of grapefruit and a few carrots for his breakfast. Dudley was mad with the diet regime, but for once in her life, Petunia had been stubborn enough to make Dudley adhere to the rabbit food' meals, as Vernon called them. Finally, the breakfast was over and Vernon spoke, "Marge is getting here in less than an hour. Is everything ready, Petunia?"
Petunia nodded, and Vernon added to Harry, "You, boy, will be in your room and will not come out unless you are called. Do you understand?"
Harry nodded, his eyes on the ground, as Uncle Vernon continued, glaring suspiciously at Harry, "No funny business while Marge is here, or there will be trouble."
Harry nodded again as Vernon turned to Dudley and queried, "Dudders, want to come along for the ride?" Dudley shook his head in refusal, and Vernon went to prepare himself to get Marjorie Dursley.
Returning upstairs to his room, Dudley was aghast to see Harry calmly eating a piece of white chocolate in the corridor. "You .. you!!", Dudley's outrage precluded coherent speech. Harry seemed terrified, his attitude that of a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar, as he hissed, "Quiet!"
Dudley finally found his tongue, "Got your freak friends to send you this, did you?! Or did you pick dad's pocket to buy it? Mum'll kick you out for this!"
Harry seemed to waver between fear and annoyance, and finally the former won out, "Shut up, Dudley! Yes, my friends sent me this. You can have some if you keep your mouth shut."
Dudley seemed torn at this. On one hand, seeing Harry bullied by his parents was an excellent form of entertainment. On the other, the chocolate was tempting and to squeal on Harry would be to ruin any hope of getting his hands on it. He took a step towards Harry, but he froze as another suspicion struck him, "Is it y-your freak stuff?"
Harry could almost read Dudley's mind. In response, he broke off a piece of the chocolate he was eating and held it out to Dudley. "Look, I am eating the same thing. It won't hurt you, I promise."
Greed conquered suspicion, and Dudley took the piece Harry had held out, and popped it into his mouth.
A few minutes later, Dudley emerged downstairs just as Vernon was getting into his car. "Dad, d'you think Aunt Marge'll be more pleased if I come with you to welcome her?"
"Marge'll be happy to see you, no matter what, Dudders."
Dudley scratched his head, "Maybe I'll get a better present if I meet her first."
Vernon laughed at that. "Want your money's worth, do you? Very well, come along."
Dudley hopped into the car, and they drove towards the station. As Dudley watched Privet Drive disappear, he felt something was going right at last.
It was late in the afternoon, when floo in the Hogwarts Headmaster's office flared into life. "Albus, we have a problem!", came Hestia Jones's panicked voice.
Dumbledore's eyebrows went up at that. "What is it, Hestia?", he queried calmly.
"What?! How did this happen?"
"We're not sure, Dumbledore. Apparently, today morning, Harry's aunt arrived. Vernon and Dudley went down to the rail station to meet her. However, at the railway station, Dudley disappeared. Vernon and his sister waited for sometime at the station for him to turn up, and then searched everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. Finally, they returned home and Petunia went to Harry's room to check if he had seen Dudley. Dudley was found asleep there. He seems to be under the influence of some sleeping potion. Harry, however, is missing."
"How did you find out?"
"Seeing the commotion in the Dursley household, I disillusioned myself and went in to investigate. I saw the muggle boy asleep in Harry's room, but Harry himself is nowhere to be found."
"What do the Dursleys say?"
"They saw Harry at breakfast and apparently, he went to his room after that. They have not seen him since."
"What about his room?"
"Nothing seems to be moved, and there are certainly no signs of a struggle."
Dumbledore stood up quickly and spoke, "I am coming there. Does anyone else know?"
"No, Albus. I contacted you first, as soon as I could find no sign of Harry."
"Good. I will join you in a few minutes with Severus. Call Alastor - he should be at home today."
It was late in the evening when many members of the Order of the Phoenix were gathered in Hogwarts for an emergency meeting. Minerva, Severus, Arthur, and Bill were there, as were Nymphadora, Remus, and Mad-Eye Moody. Surveying the gathering, Dumbledore muttered to himself, "Good thing Molly is not here. She would have raised Cain over this." Minerva cleared her throat, "Have you discovered anything, Albus?"
Dumbledore appeared deep in thought as he replied, "A few things have indeed come to light, Minerva. For one thing, we can be almost certain that Harry left his relatives' home of his own volition. He was not kidnapped."
"How can you be so sure?"
"His clothes and books are still in his old room and there is no sign of any violence. However, his wand and invisibility cloak are gone."
"But how .."
"From interrogating Harry's cousin, I was able to glean that, after breakfast, he went upstairs and saw Harry eating a cream chocolate. As Dudley is still on diet, he was outraged that Harry was eating what was impermissible to him. Harry offered him a bit of the chocolate if he kept his mouth shut. Apparently, Dudley agreed and accepted the bribe. He remembers eating it and then nothing until he woke up in Harry's room."
Dumbledore's lips thinned as he continued, "Examining Dudley, we found that his hair had been cropped in one place."
"But why would Harry - or anyone else - need Dudley's hair?", queried Hestia.
Snape took up the story at that point. "Polyjuice potion", he spat. "In a dustbin in Potter's room, we found a vial which had once contained polyjuice potion. Judging from the quality of the potion, I should almost certainly say it was from my own stores."
There was a shocked silence, as Snape continued, "There was still a bit of the chocolate left on Potter's desk. Examining it, I was able to see that it was spiked with a simple sleeping draught."
"But if Harry ate the same chocolate ...", began Arthur Weasley.
"Potter drank the antidote to the sleeping potion before eating the drugged chocolate. We found a phial of the antidote among Potter's effects."
Alastor Moody cut in at this point, "Even if he disguised himself with polyjuice, the tracking charm on him should have triggered the alarms when he left the wards."
Professor McGonagall interrupted, "What tracking charms?"
"For Harry's safety, Minerva, we put a tracking charm on him. Especially after last year's incident with the Dementors, it is imperative that he remain within the wards in Privet Drive. So we altered the wards to alert us if he left the place, of his own will or otherwise."
"So how did he get past them, then?"
"/Magic suppression/ potion!", spat Snape disgustedly. "We found its container in the same dustbin. This he apparently filched from Poppy's stores. Poppy keeps a small supply of the potion in case someone's magical core is damaged or becomes unstable. She has reported her stocks missing."
"You see", explained Dumbledore, "all tracking charms attune to the magical core of the object being tracked and track the signature everywhere. The magic suppression potion would suppress the magical core and prevent if from being accessed by anyone."
"But that means ..", began Bill in a horrified voice.
"Exactly", returned Dumbledore, answering the uncompleted question. "Harry cannot perform magic as long as he is under the influence of the potion."
"How long would the potion last?"
"About four and twenty hours."
"Okay", growled Moody. "So he left his relatives' home disguised as his cousin, tricked the wards and got to the railway station. Where would he go?"
"I talked to Ron and Ginny", spoke up Arthur. "They have heard nothing from Harry, except for a letter which suggests that he intended to stay with his relatives. He simply asked them to take care of Hedwig until the next meeting."
"What about the Know-It-All Granger girl?", sneered Snape.
"The Granger home is deserted. Inquiries at her parents' dental practice suggests that they have gone on a vacation. That is what their colleague asserted", answered Kingsley.
"I have been making inquiries at the railway station where Harry went missing", began Tonks, with a discreet cough. "The clerk at the counter knows Dudley by sight, and she swears she never saw him today. However, the railway station is a not a large one, and most of the local people are known to each other. So I persuaded her to recall if anyone she did not know had bought tickets around the time of Harry's disappearance. She remembers that a `bushy haired teenage girl' she had never seen before purchased two tickets to Victoria station."
McGonagall's mouth fell open, "Hermione helped Harry to escape? They are in London then?"
"They could be anywhere, Minerva, if indeed it is Ms. Granger who purchased the tickets", sighed Dumbledore.
"What about Diagon Alley?", asked Arthur.
Moody sighed, "We checked there. He hasn't been seen there."
Snape cut in, "He needs money - he would go first to Gringotts."
"Well ...", began Bill hesitantly.
"What is it? Come on, it doesn't matter if it is a false lead", encouraged Dumbledore.
"Harry's account has had no transactions since last summer. But I discovered one thing. I don't know if this has anything to do with Harry ...; anyway, here it is. Mrs. Chang and her assistant had come to meet Sniplock, the Black family account manager. I don't know what transpired between them, but the public reading of Sirius' will is scheduled for the 24th of this month."
Dumbledore looked old and tired, "Try to check what happened between them, Bill. We will need to be on the guard against any surprises."
He turned to Moody, "Remove all our records from Grimmauld Place. If the house is inherited by either Bellatrix or Narcissa ...", his voice trailed away.
"Arthur, keep a close watch - he may turn up at the Ministry if he wants anything. I will keep an eye on the tracking charm and see if he can be found. Minerva, check at the Grangers' and see if anything can be found. Severus, make discreet enquiries if any of Tom's supporters know anything about Harry. Nymphadora, Alastor, make another thorough search of both the Diagon and Knockturn alleys. Remus - discreetly make inquiries with Harry's other Gryffindor classmates. We will meet tomorrow."