Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor will I ever. It's owned by JK Rowling and Warner Bros. All I own is whatever AU information I shove in here and the voices in my head demanding I write.
Chapter 1: Missing
Albus Dumbledore was tired. Exhausted. School had ended but the problems that had arisen from the past year hadn't. They piled up, higher and higher, problems compounding upon problems. It was getting so bad that Dumbledore rarely got any sleep these days. He must have stayed up at least three nights this past week.
His problems all started with the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore, much like young Harry, had not believed the chamber to have truly been opened. His reasoning differed from the young Potter heir's, however.
After the incident that took place in Harry Potter's first year, Dumbledore had gone to great lengths to ensure Voldemort would not be able to pass through the wards, even if he used the magic signature of another to mask his own presence. So, he knew for a fact that the dark lord had not been at school this last year.
Voldemort was the only one who could open the Chamber of Secrets, to the best of Dumbledore's knowledge. There were no other heirs of Slytherin out there. Certainly none of his current students were capable of tracing their lineage back to Salazar. From the many hours he'd spent researching the chamber, Dumbledore came to the conclusion that only an heir to Slytherin, someone with Salazar's blood flowing through their veins could have opened the chamber. Without anyone meeting that criteria at Hogwarts, he had come to the conclusion that the chamber had not been opened and someone was using scare tactics to terrorize the students, though for what purpose remained unknown. Harry Potter's insight only confirmed what he'd already suspected.
Unfortunately, they had both been wrong. He didn't know how, but somehow, the Chamber of Secrets had indeed been opened. The situation had quickly devolved after this discovery had been made near the end of last year when Miss Granger had been killed and Miss Weasley taken into the chamber itself. Even now, he was still at a loss on how to explain what happened. The only clue he had was something young Ginerva Weasley had told him.
"I… I had a diary. I found it in my book bag after our family went shopping at Flourish and Blotts. It, well, I-I wrote in it and it wrote back. The words they—it was like they just appeared on the page. The diary spoke to me. He—it called itself Tom, and he was so understanding and kind that I—well, he became like my best friend. And so I wrote in the diary all summer and into the school year. I didn't think there was anything wrong it, but over time I began blacking out. I'd be in my bedroom writing and the next minute I'd be wandering the halls. This one time I-I woke up with b-b-blood all over me and I couldn't remember—I didn't know how it happened! It kept getting worse and worse! I thought I was going mad and I—everything just became hazy after that. I tried throwing the diary away, because I thought it had something to do with this but—but—"
Miss Weasley had become incoherent after that, but it had given him something to go on. The diary. Tom. Voldemort. The diary must have been something of Voldemort's, an enchanted diary that could unlock the Chamber of Secrets without his presence. Dumbledore hadn't missed the irony of that. He had been so sure that Harry was right, that he was right, that they were right in thinking that the Chamber of Secrets was simply being used as a mask for someone to use a powerful dark artifact in order to terrorize the school.
In a way, they were right. Someone had used a dark artifact to terrorize the school. It just wasn't in the way they thought.
Hermione Granger's death and the opening of the chamber caused him a lot of problems and even more heartache, but then an even bigger problem had arrived on his doorstep. Harry Potter had gone missing. Minerva had been the first to notice that Harry was no longer in the castle. They had checked anyway, just to be on the safe side. It would not be hard for him to find a place to secrete himself, isolate himself from everyone else. Hogwarts was large, the grounds more so. It didn't matter in the end, Harry hadn't been found anywhere. Not in the castle. Not on the grounds. It was as if he'd disappeared.
That's when Dumbledore began to worry.
That worry only increased when he sent Severus to check up on the Dursley's. If Harry wasn't in the castle, logic dictated that he would be at his relatives. That had been his assumption, at least.
It turned out that Harry had been at the Dursley's residence, or someone had been there at some point in time. Severus had come back and told him that the Dursleys, all three of them, had their minds wiped clean of Harry Potter. Even Petunia Dursley. What's more, whoever had done the mind wipe had been thorough. Petunia remembered everything about the magical world. She remembered her sister, she remembered Severus, she remembered James Potter. However, she did not remember that James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans had a son, or that their son had lived with her for around 12 years now. It was as if Harry Potter had vanished from the mind's of Petnunia, Vernon and Dudley. None of them ever remembered a Harry James Potter.
Slumping in his chair, the aging headmaster took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They were getting sore. His vision, much like everything else, wasn't what it used to be.
A trill to his left made the old man look up. He gave a tired smile to Fawkes, his brilliant and beautiful Phoenix familiar. The ancient and powerful firebird sat upon his perch, staring at him with intelligent eyes. He trilled some more and images flooded Dumbledore's mind.
"Yes, I am fine, Fawkes. There is no need to worry."
Fawkes trilled again. This time he looked reproachful. Dumbledore grimaced.
"Yes, I suppose I am not being entirely truthful." Dumbledore's smile was just a tad bitter. "You always could see right through me, couldn't you, old friend?" The aging headmaster leaned back in his chair, his body weary and aching. How long had he been sitting here? Ten hours? Twelve?
A series of trills that sounded more like music than any known language came from Fawke's beak. Images filled Dumbledore's mind and a warmth spread through his chest, allowing the negative emotions fraying at the edges of his weary mind to be beaten back, if only temporarily.
"Thank you, Fawkes."
The wards flaring to life within his mind caused Dumbledore to snap out of his reverie. He straightened his posture and tried to present a strong image. It wouldn't do if those on the other side of the door knew how tired he felt.
"Come in, Minerva, Amelia."
There was a pause at the door before it opened. Minerva walked in, followed by Amelia. They moved over to stand in front of his desk.
"One day, Dumbledore, I am going to find out how you managed to know when someone is at your door and who it is."
Dumbledore gave Minerva a congenial smile. "Perhaps one day you shall find out, but not today, I'm afraid." His expression turning hopeful along with his mind, the headmaster turned to Amelia. "If you are here, does that mean you've found a lead on Harry's whereabouts?"
"I am afraid not." Dumbledore slumped. "I am here on other business."
"I see." He tried not to sigh. "In that case, I believe I should ask whether you are here as Amelia Bones or acting as the head of the DMLE?"
"I suppose you could say it's a bit of both," Amelia admitted. "Things are getting bad, Dumbledore. Have you read this morning's Daily Prophet?"
Dumbledore grimaced, his eyes instinctively flickering to a newspaper hidden underneath several documents. "I have."
"The public is going mad. Harry Potter missing? Everyone is frantic. People are demanding that we find him. The Minister's office, the DMLE, even the Department of International Cooperation has been flooded with letters." Amelia stared at Dumbledore, looking just as tired as he felt. "Things are getting out of hand."
"I am aware of that."
Dumbledore felt the ache in his bones return. With it came the regret, the second guessing. He should have been more attentive to what was happening in his school. He should have done more when the chamber had been opened. He could have avoided this disaster if he'd just been more thorough in his investigation.
Why was it that whenever a problem came around, he was useless to solve it? How much more failure would he have to shoulder? Hadn't his failure to stop his sister from dying, his best friend from falling, his inability to mend the wounds brother been enough? When would all this end?
"Yes, yes, I am here." Dumbledore waved a hand in the air. "I wish I could help you. I've currently got Severus, Filius and Hagrid searching for him in the mundane world. I have also asked everyone I know to keep an eye out for him and report to me should they see him." Dumbledore didn't mention that if Harry really was responsible for wiping out his relatives memories, chances were good no one would find him unless he wanted to be found.
Amelia frowned and raised an eyebrow at the same time. "Why the non-magical world?"
"Because if Harry was going to hide anywhere, it would be where nobody is searching for him," Dumbledore declared. "Harry Potter is a very logically thinking child. He knows that, beyond a few wizards trained specifically for the task of interacting with muggles, very few know how the mundane world works."
"The mundane world?" Amelia raised an eyebrow. "I see you have been talking to Mr. Potter before he… vanished."
"Yes." Dumbledore felt his mouth quirk into a sad smile. "I did indeed. He is an incredibly bright young man. His thoughts, beliefs and ideals are all well-thought out." He looked down at his desk. "Now he's gone and it appears that all of the work he put in, all the inroads he made in spite of his young age, may very well crumble. Without him present, I fear people like Lucius Malfoy and Endymion Nott will use his absence as proof that he is too young for his station."
"Do you really think they'd be capable of that?" Amelia seemed skeptical.
"If Harry isn't found before the start of the new year, they will likely claim that he cracked under pressure and ran from his duties."
Dumbledore felt shame return full force. All of this was his fault. As the headmaster, it was his duty to protect the children within these hallowed halls and keep them safe. Yet twice now Harry Potter and his friends had been put in danger. Twice now Harry had been the one to solve what should have been his problem. And this time, it had cost Harry a very dear friend. What kind of headmaster was he to let a student do what he and the staff should have done all along?
"We won't let that happen." Amelia's voice snapped him out of his funk. He looked up to see the woman standing before him, her eyes blazing in a way he'd not seen since the war. "We won't let that happen," she repeated. "Myself and the Dowager Longbottom will not let that happen. We'll run interference until Mr. Potter can be found." A grimace crossed her face. "I'm sure even Celestina will agree to help, though the Augusta may be adverse to working with her."
Dumbledore felt a small smile cross his face. His spirit, troubled and weathered, lifted, if only a bit. It seemed as if Harry Potter had made some strong allies. He knew he had no right to, but he couldn't help but feel proud of the young man.
Now if only they could find out where he'd hidden himself.
Susan Bones sat in her room. Right leg resting against the window sill, left leg dangling off the edge, she thought about all that had happened this last year; Harry's scary behavior toward Draco on the train; the many things she'd learned at school; the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. More than anything else, she thought about the loss of her two friends.
Hermione Granger was dead and Harry Potter was missing. She didn't even know how it happened, how either of those happened. It had all been so sudden. One moment they were all having a blast, enjoying the post-Quidditch tournament party; the next moment Hermione was dead, Harry was missing, and she and the others were returning home early. School had ended.
A knock on her door alerted her to the presence outside. Curious, she opened the door to discover something that pierced the darkness gathering in her mind.
"Hannah!" She squealed, embracing her friend who released a similar squeal. "Oh, I've missed you so much! I'm so glad you're hear I… I was…"
"It's okay." Hannah embraced her friend tighter. "I feel the same way."
"I thought you might like having a familiar face around to keep you company," Auntie Amelia said. The stern woman stood behind the two, her eyes tired and her shoulders hunched. She still somehow managed a smile despite her clear exhaustion. "With everything that's happened, I don't think it's good for you girls to be left alone to your thoughts."
Susan didn't need to be a genus to know she was talking about Harry and Hermione. She sent her auntie a grateful smile. "Thank you."
As her auntie left, Susan and Hannah went into her room and sat on the bed. They spoke for a while, not talking about anything serious, simply expressing how happy they were to see each other. Susan learned that Hannah's dad was off somewhere again, Rome. Apparently something went wrong with one of the vineyards there and he'd had to rush across the sea. Her mum was staying at home.
"What have you been up to since school ended?" Susan asked, leaning against several pillows she'd propped against the headboard. Hannah lay on her stomach near the foot of the bed, her feet kicking back and forth through the air.
"Not much, really." Hannah sighed. "There really isn't that much to do right now, and with… with all the stuff that's happened, I haven't really felt up to doing anything lately."
"I know what you mean." Susan tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. "All I've done for the past week was sit around, eat and sleep. I'm just to…"
The two girls trailed off. Conversation ceased. Tension, awkward and thick, hung in the air, a cloud of stormy emotions causing what should have been a beautiful reunion to turn sour.
Susan Bones frowned. This wasn't how it should be. She and Hannah and all of their friends, they shouldn't be like this. They should be helping each other, leaning on each other for support. Hadn't that been what Headmaster Dumbledore told them at the end of the year? That they should be supporting each other during times like this?
"In dark times such as these, we must learn to rely on each other. When things become too tough to face on your own, do not hesitate to lean on your friends, for they will never let you down."
Yes, those had been his words. That they should learn to rely on each other; that they shouldn't hesitate to use their friends for support. That's what they needed to do. Not sit around in bed all day moping. They should be with their friends, helping each other.
Susan's determination hardened as she came to a decision.
"Susan?" Hannah asked, startled when Susan climbed off the bed.
Susan grabbed Hannah's right hand, pulled her off the bed and out of the room.
"Where are we going?"
"To see Auntie Amelia."
They found auntie Amelia in her office. The office, a large study with white carpet, beige walls and a roof of the same color, held the spartan appearance her auntie favored. Her auntie had never been one for ostentatious appearances, something about not liking her work space becoming cluttered. A desk sat in the back, a book case off to the side. Before the desk were two chairs and in the center of the room sat two leather sofas with a coffee table in between.
Her auntie sat behind her desk, writing something in a muggle notebook with a muggle pen. Susan almost smiled. Harry had been the one to suggest using muggle writing supplies over quills and parchment; something about muggle-made artifacts being more efficient and less costly, which made sense as a single quill cost five galleons while a muggle pen cost less than a pound.
"Just a minute, Susan," her auntie said, not looking up from her work. Susan and Hannah shared a look, before silently moving to the couch.
"She looks busy," Hannah whispered, "what do you suppose she's working on?"
"She's been manning the search for…" Susan hesitated. "For Harry."
"I-I see." She offered her friend an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."
Susan shook her head. "You don't need to apologize. We're all worried about him." Hannah nodded, but still looked upset at herself.
Several minutes later, Auntie Amelia finished whatever she'd been working on. She set her pen aside and propped her elbows on the desk.
"I'm sorry for ignoring you two," she said, her smile tired. Susan could see bags forming under her auntie's eyes.
"Mm mm. Don't worry about it, Auntie Amelia." Susan shook her head as she and Hannah moved from the sofa to the chairs in front of the desk. "I know you're really busy with work."
"Have you found Harry yet?" Hannah blurted out. Seconds later the blond girl slapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. "S-sorry. That just sort of came out."
"It's fine." Auntie Amelia sighed. She leaned back in her desk, her face truly showing how weary she felt. Susan wondered if her auntie was getting enough sleep. "I know how worried you are about Mr. Potter. I'm pretty worried as well." Her auntie rubbed her temple with her right hand. "Unfortunately, we have not found any leads on Mr. Potter's whereabouts. We checked his relatives and it seems someone wiped their memories of Mr. Potter clean from their minds."
"Obliviation?" Susan asked, eyes widening.
"They were indeed Obliviated, and quite skillfully, too." Auntie Amelia rubbed her jaw. "Whoever wiped their minds did a masterful job. They don't remember anything about Mr. Potter. We also checked with Mr. Potter's muggle friend, Lisa Crawft. She appears to have all her memories intact, but doesn't know anything as to his possible whereabouts either."
"Auntie?" Susan grew worried upon seeing the grimace on her aunt's face.
"It's nothing." Auntie Amelia dismissed her concern. "So then, as you can unfortunately see, we haven't managed to scrap together even a hint of where Mr. Potter might have gone." She gave them a wry smile. "But that's not what you came to talk to me about, is it?"
Susan shook her head. "No, I—we were wondering if we could get all of our friends together, like some kind of gathering, or something."
"Susan?" Hannah asked.
Auntie Amelia leaned back in her chair, visibly surprised. "You want to get your friends together?" Susan nodded. "All of them?"
"All of them," Susan confirmed.
Since the start of summer Tracey Davis and Lisa Turpin had spent almost every waking minute together. Out of all those who were considered "Harry's inner circle," they'd been hurt the most by the loss of their friend. Hermione had been closer to them than anyone else, the third member of their trinity. Her passing had left a gap in their hearts that simply couldn't be filled.
Tracey had spent much of her time not with Lisa crying. When she and Lisa were together they cried together, or reminisced about moments they'd shared with Hermione. They supported one another. Tracey knew that without Lisa she'd be even more of a wreck than she already was.
The two were currently sitting within Tracey's room, on the lightly colored carpet. Before them lay several dozen pictures, standard non-magical photos. They'd been taken by Hermione's mum when their friend invited them over to her house. She and Lisa had been quite shocked when they realized these pictures did not move. They'd been even more shocked when Hermione had introduced them to muggle television.
"Do you remember this time?" Tracey asked, pointing at one photo in particular. It was an image of the three of them in a small booth. Lisa's face dominated most of the screen, her wide eyes staring at them as if searching for something only she could see. "You were so shocked by the small camera in the booth that you stuck your face into the lens and this was the picture that came out." Tracey's chuckle was laced with sadness. "You were so fascinated with mugg—mundane technology that you always made a complete fool of yourself."
Lisa sniffled. Her tears had already dried, but the desire to continue shedding them still existed. Still, she tried for her friend to appear cheerful, just like Tracey did for her. "Yeah, well, you weren't much better. I still remember that one time we went to the movie theater and you flipped out."
"Hey!" Tracey pouted, crossing her arms under her chest. "Anyone who saw something like that Beast fellow would've freaked out too."
"Yes you did. I saw you grabbing onto Hermione when he appeared."
A knock on the door precluded the entrance of Mrs. Davis. She peered at the two, her head poking into the room.
"Tracey, Lisa, I've got some lunch ready for you."
"Yes, thank you."
Tracey's mother came in bearing a tray of sandwiches. She set them down to the side on the floor, smiling sadly when she noticed the pictures laying between them.
"How are you two feeling?"
Mrs. Davis sighed. Tracey knew her mother didn't believe them, and she couldn't blame her. Neither she nor Lisa had been in good shape. Even now, Tracey knew that, were she to look in a mirror, bags would be hanging under bloodshot eyes. Her friend looked much the same.
"You know I just received a floo call from Madam Bones a little while ago." The two youngsters perked up, causing Mrs. Davis' smile to brighten. "She's apparently planning a get together for her niece and asked if you two would like to come over."
Tracey's eyes widened. A get together? With Susan? Did that mean the others would be going as well? She hadn't spoken to any of them since returning home, having been too busy moping and crying to even think about her other friends.
Tracey swore to herself. How could she be so insensitive? Surely, she and Lisa weren't the only ones suffering. They'd all lost someone dear when Hermione died.
"We'd love to!" Tracey said before Lisa could get a word in edgewise.
Mrs. Davis smiled. "I'm glad to hear that. I'll let Madam Bones know that you would like to come over."
"Did she tell you who all was going to be there?" Lisa asked.
The smile on Mrs. Davis' face widened. "Why, all of your friends are going to be there, of course."
Susan had been waiting in anticipation of this day, the day she'd finally see her friends again. The thought of meeting them once more thrilled her. Not even her sorrow at the loss of Hermione and the missing Harry could keep that small ray of sunshine from entering her heart. It was her hope that by having her friends around, all supporting each other, that they could eventually destroy the bleakness no doubt surrounding them all.
Hannah had been with her since that day she'd first spoken to her auntie. She'd spent the night and they stayed up talking about the latest in wizarding fashion and listening to the Weird Sisters on the wireless. It had been fun, much more fun than when she'd been alone and drowning in sorrow. She could only hope this get together would help both her and her friends get through this.
The first to arrive was Blaise. He came in through the floo with his mother, looking far different now that he wasn't wearing robes. He'd donned much more casual clothes, slacks and a plain silk shirt. His mother was dressed to the nines, however, with a silk gown that shimmered in variations of red, constantly shifting whenever she walked. Her choice of attire played a sharp contrast to Blaise's clothing.
"Susan, Hannah." Blaise nodded to them both. Susan thought she saw a smile on his face, but couldn't be sure due to his haggard appearance. He looked tired, red eyes with slight bags underneath. Susan imagined he'd been having it just as bad as her. "It's good to see you two. I hope you've been doing well."
"About as well as can be expected." Susan smiled, and Blaise grimaced.
"Yes." He sighed, running a tired hand through his hair. The gesture was uncharacteristic of him. Susan wondered if he'd picked it up recently. "I imagine so, considering everything that's happened."
"And how've you been, Blaise?" asked Hannah.
"I've been better," Blaise admitted. Hannah flinched, but he offset the somewhat brittle words by gracing her with a more genuine smile. "Though I will admit that seeing you two has really brightened my week. It hasn't been easy, this past week."
"I can imagine," Susan said.
While the three young people spoke, Madam Bones and Celestina also exchanged pleasantries.
"I really do have to thank you for inviting my son over," Celestina's words were surprisingly sincere. Rare were the times when she spoke without her tone containing a hint of mocking condescension. "Blaise has not been himself since this years end—not that I can blame him, of course. Losing a friend is never easy and he's just lost two in the span of a few days. I had honestly been thinking about doing something similar to this but, well." She gave Amelia a slightly edgy smile. "Not all of the families my son has befriended like me very much."
Amelia observed the other woman with sharp, keen eyes. Slowly, she nodded. "Yes, I can see how that would be a problem. You are not well-liked among certain circles." The steel lacing her eyes spoke volumes of the stern woman's own thoughts. "However, you really have no one but yourself to blame for that. Perhaps if you weren't so keen on taking amusement from the suffering of others, people would enjoy your company more."
"And just where would I find my amusement, then?" Celestina's smile was wicked, more so than her eyes, which gleamed with an almost malicious light. "I must find my entertainment somewhere, and if the piping fools who enjoy puffing their own chests offer themselves so willingly to my clutches, then who am I to deny them?"
Amelia just sighed. "That sharp tongue of yours will get you into a lot of trouble some day."
"Perhaps, but the thrilling possibility of finding trouble is half the fun."
The group began to expand soon. Lisa and Tracey joined minutes after Blaise. The pair showed a remarkable difference in personality than Susan remembered. Tracey no longer shoved her foot in her mouth—in fact, she hardly spoke at all. Lisa didn't smile as much, and when she did they were filled with melancholy. It hurt, seeing her two friends like this.
"How've you two been?" Susan asked after exchanging hugs with the two girls. It wasn't something she'd done before, but she wanted to give them support. Hugs helped her when she felt down. Surely they'd help her friends, too. "I hope... well, I hope you haven't been, you know..."
"Crying our eyes out?" Tracey's smile reminded Susan of peanut brittle, sweet and flavorful, but easily broken. "We've done plenty of that already, so you don't have to worry about any waterworks from us... at least not right now."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."
"Don't be." Tracey shook her head. "This is hard on all of us."
The group continue speaking in hushed tones. Mrs. Davis didn't stay for long, just enough to speak with Susan's aunt and Celestina before taking off.
Terry was the next to arrive. The subdued man greeted them all with a curt nod before remaining mostly quiet, only speaking when directly spoken to. Susan thought it seemed almost wrong how Tracey and Terry didn't get up to their usual arguing.
The last of their group to arrive was Neville. He appeared with his grandmother, the Dowager Longbottom. While Neville walked toward his friends, the Dowager moved to greet Susan's aunt. Her nose wrinkled, however, when she saw who stood with her.
"Madam Bones," she said, her voice strained, but not enough that anyone except a skilled politician would notice. "It is good to see you again. You don't know how pleased I was to hear that you planned on throwing a small get together for the children."
"I thought it might do them some good," Amelia said, nodding toward the group of kids. "Susan and Hannah have been very distraught ever since returning home from school, and I believe that having their friends come over would help take away some of their pain."
"Indeed, my Neville has been much the same. Granted, he has always been a quiet, shy boy, but he hasn't spoken more than several sentences since school ended and has clammed himself in the green house." Dowager Longbottom sighed. "It's truly a tragedy, what happened this year: the opening of the Chamber, the petrifications, the loss of that girl... Hermione, I think her name was. Not to mention the disappearance of Mr. Potter." She turned to give the younger woman a freezing gaze. "You have not found him yet, have you?"
"No." Madam Bones sighed. "Though we have put much of our efforts into searching for him, we have not been able to locate him yet. We've even begun searching mundane London."
The Dowager raised an eyebrow. "Mundane? You have been listening to Mr. Potter's thoughts on muggle society, I see."
"Mr. Potter brought up many good points when I spoke with him on this. While innately superior due to our magic, that does not necessarily equate to us being better. He has given me much material on how mundane people work and think, and of the technology they have. Some of the things I already knew of; cars, airplanes and basic household appliances, but there are a few things I've learned that is truly astounding. Muggle Television, the internet—I've actually requested the Department of Mysteries to study that and see if they can't reverse engineer that—and the rocket ship."
"A vessel shaped like a cylinder that is propelled by multiple rockets, which are sort of like large engines, and launches them into space. I hear Mundanes have even taken trips to the moon."
"Surely you jest."
"They have pictures."
"You know it's awfully rude of you to speak with another, even the host, without at least first greeting the other person in the room," Celestina said, and though her voice remained mild, it contained a razors edge. "It's quite disappointing to see where your manners have gone, Dowager Longbottom."
"And it's quite disappointing to see you're still here," Dowager Longbottom retorted. "However, I put up with your presence because Amelia has allowed you into her manor, and it would be remiss of me to argue with you while I am a guest here."
Celestina crossed her arms under her prominent bust. "Hmph, you're no fun."
While the adults talked amongst themselves, the children moved several feet away and had their own conversation.
"It... really does feel like we're missing something without Harry and Hermione, doesn't it?" Terry was the first person to bring up the two elephants in the room. The others flinched. "It just seems to strange being together like this without them."
"Yeah..." Neville looked at the others. "I keep thinking all of this was just some kind of bad dream and that I'll wake up from it eventually."
"But you haven't, right?" Tracey's smile trembled, as if she might cry any second. "You keep on going to bed every night, hoping that this is all just a dream and that tomorrow you'll wake up in your bed at Hogwarts, go to breakfast and be greeted by your friends." Her shoulders shook. "Only it never does, does it? You always wake up the next morning and realize that this is real; that Hermione is gone and she's never coming back, and that nothing you do can change that."
Lisa wrapped an arm around Tracey's shoulder, pulling the other girl into a comforting embrace. The others all looked at each other, vaguely uncomfortable at seeing a girl who used to be so upbeat and perky nearly in tears.
Susan's eyes hardened in determination. She moved to Tracey's other side and followed Lisa's example. While Tracey tried to stifle the flood of tears, Lisa sent the redhead a truly grateful look, to which Susan replied with a smile.
Conversation eventually became less painful. The group tried avoiding subjects that involved Hermione. No one wanted to see Tracey break down in tears. They spoke of Quidditch and fashion and hobbies, things that were as far from their friend as possible.
"Gran got me this new plant for my green house," Neville was saying with faux enthusiasm. Susan could hear how forced the words sounded, as if he were simply saying them to keep from thinking darker thoughts. "It's called a Fanged Geranium, a magical flower with sharp teeth. It's kinda difficult to take care of because it keeps trying to bite me, but it's a very useful potion ingredients."
"I've used it in potions before," Blaise said, nodding his head.
"Something wrong, Tracey?" Lisa asked when she noticed her friend frowning.
"I'm just wondering where Harry is," Tracey confessed. "I'd expect him to be here for something like this. Did he just not get the memo or something?"
Silence descended upon the group. Susan and Hannah shared a look, before Susan turned to Tracey. "You mean you haven't heard?"
Tracy frowned at her. "Heard what?"
"Tracey, Harry's been missing since school ended. No one knows where he is."
The room was dark; barely any light managed to penetrate the darkness. The windows were open, but the curtains had been closed, blocking out the sunlight.
The room was spartan, bare of all but the essentials. A bed sat against the wall furthest from the door, an owl stand next to the window, and a dresser and night stand stood in a corner.
A heady scent filled the air, fumes from a boiling cauldron in the center of the room. Situated on the cauldron's left was a table filled with numerous papers, scrolls of parchment, several notebooks filled to bursting with notes and a plain-looking diary with a hole through its center and dried ink like blood spreading across the cover.
Harry Potter stood in front of the cauldron. His right index finger made counterclockwise motions, his magic caused the mixer to stir the liquid at precisely timed intervals. Fumes rose from the cauldron, vapid and thick. Mist-like tendrils roiled outwards several times as the ingredients puffed and sputtered. The liquid inside, a thick yellow substance began turning a light green. Nodding to himself, he grabbed the diary and unhesitatingly cut a piece off to cast into the cauldron, which puffed before shifting in the color spectrum once again.
Taking out a small sample with a spoon, he brought the liquid over to the table where he'd laid out a blank piece of parchment and poured the liquid onto the parchment. He watched, eyes narrowed as the liquid splashed against the rough surface before being absorbed and turning the parchment green.
Nodding to himself, Harry waved his hand at several vials, which filled themselves with the rest of the potion. He then cleaned up his workspace with another hand wave before moving over to his desk and getting out more notes.
After obliviating his relatives, Harry Potter had gone into mundane London and rented out a small flat near Regent Square. It was within walking distance from the British Library, which he enjoyed, and was relatively quiet, with few other residents to bother him, allowing him to practice his magic and experiments unobstructed.
So far most of his experiments had been trying to determine the magic used to create Tom Riddle's diary. Even a little over a week after he destroyed it, dark magic still surrounded the diary, a remnant of the terrible power it once possessed. He wanted to find out what this magic was. How could someone preserve their memory into a diary like that? What's more, he wanted to know how a memory could gain a form through leeching off another's magic. More importantly, he wanted to find out who Tom Riddle was; find out if he was still alive, and if so, kill him.
But that was for later. The potion would take a while to do its job deciphering the dark magic signature, probably a few days at least. In the meantime, he would start working on some of his other projects.
Harry hadn't given up on learning more alchemy. He'd been steadily working toward his goal. Given a bit more time, he was sure he'd be able to create the perfect sparring partner—or the body for his perfect sparring partner, at least.
He looked at the large sheet of paper on his desk. It contained a transmutation circle, the most complex one he'd drawn thus far. A circle with two five-pointed stars with each triangle point containing alchemical symbols: power, durability, life and death. It wasn't complete; some symbols were still missing, but he was positive he'd be ready to start testing his circle soon. He just needed to do some shopping for supplies...
Harry blinked when the curtains to his room burst open and Hedwig swooped in.
"Where you have you been, Hedwig?"
A trill. Hedwig dropped a newspaper onto his desk and swooped back out.
Harry frowned as she disappeared into the distance. He couldn't understand anything she'd just said. Why couldn't he understand her? Why wasn't his ability to send and receive images via telepathy working?
In the end he shrugged. His strange disconnection with Hedwig was the least of his worries right now.
He looked at the newspaper she'd dropped on his desk and picked it up, reading the front headline news.
HARRY POTTER MISSING!
By Rita Skeeter
Yes dear readers, you've heard right. It has officially been revealed to us that one of our greatest celebrities, the young heir Harry Potter, age 10, has gone missing. According to report, heir Potter disappeared almost immediately after muggle friend, Herminish Granger, was tragically murdered at Hogwarts. The Aurors have begun a frantic investigation into his whereabouts, but it looks like, once again, they are proving to be as incompetent as always.
One must ask themselves why heir Potter has chosen to disappear from the public eye. Was he grief-stricken over the death of his friend? Or is there something more sinister going on in the works here. Having been given the chance to speak with some of heir Potter's companions at school, this reporter was able to learn much.
"Potter's always been a bit of a bigot," upstanding pureblood, Draco Malfoy, said. "All you have to do is listen to the way he talks down to people to know he's egotistical; always giving lectures, always belittling others in class. I actually tried befriending him once, but after seeing the way he treated others, retracted my hand of friendship."
For the past two years now, heir Potter has come off as an upstanding young man, a paragon of nobility and everything we've come to expect from a celebrity of his stature. But what if all of that's a lie? What if his amiable personality is merely a smokescreen hiding the monster within it?And how does Harry Potter's disappearance coincide with Harmony Granger's death? This writer doesn't know, but you can be sure she's willing to do what it takes to find out.
For more information on Harry Potter, see page 4.
For more information on Hermione Granger, see page 8.
Harry tossed the newspaper into the trash. He knew he should be angry by the article, but all he felt was a sense of apathy. What did he care if those people thought him a monster? They didn't matter, did they? Just a bunch of sheep following the herd. A little good will and a few coins placed in the right hand would cure any ill feelings people had toward him. It worked well enough for Lucius Malfoy; it would work just fine for him.
Sitting back down at his desk, Harry got back to work.
First off, I would like to thank everyone who's been reading this story. Thank you and I hope you have a Merry Christmas... unless you don't celebrate Christmas, in which case I wish you a happy holidays.
Second, I have an announcement to make and two favors to ask. Starting today and ending on Thursday, December 25th, my book, A Fox's Love, will be free to download on Amazon Kindle. This is a limited time deal that I can only afford to do once, and only for this book. I'd like to ask that all of you who enjoy reading my stories and haven't gotten this book, please go onto Amazon, download it, give it a read and, if you like it, please leave a review on my books Amazon page (or goodreads if you've got an account there), letting everyone know what you liked about it. Consequently, if you thought it was crap, I would love to personally pick your brain. Please send me a message so I might be able to figure out where you feel I went wrong and do better next time.
If you don't have a Kindle, do not worry, you can download a Kindle application onto your computer and/or mobile phone for free. I myself don't have a Kindle, but I do have an android, which is where I read my ebooks.
For those of you who are patiently waiting for the next installment, I ask for just a little more patience. I'm having manga illustrations done to go with Book 2, so it's taking a bit more time than I initially suspected. My hope is to have it ready to launch sometime next Spring.
Thanks again, and I hope you all have a great holiday.