Disclaimer: I am merely making these puppets dance to another tune.

Born of a Black sea, Chapter 1.

***

When it was first discovered that Harry Potter had ran away from Number 4 Privet Drive, the Dursleys had thrown an awful fit, although not out of any concern for the child. For days, Petunia Dursley had complained about having to do housework, now that the boy was gone. Even Dudley had complained, although he knew his mum would never actually make her little Dudlykins do work; he never stated that it was because he needed someone to do his homework for him. Vernon Dursley himself had gone lived with rage when he noticed his money was gone, almost calling the police over it; he didn't calm down until his wife brought up the fact that if the police caught the boy, they would most likely have to deal with him again.

Now, however, the Dursleys had quieted down as it finally sunk in that, if they were lucky, they would never have to deal with Harry Potter again.

At first, Vernon Dursley had been as overjoyed upon this revelation as the rest of his family, but now his mind had moved on to the consequences of the boy's inconsiderate actions. The school year at Saint Brutus's Institute for Incurably Criminal Boys, where they had been planning to send Harry, started soon. If they had enrolled him in any other school, they could say that he had transferred somewhere else, but St. Brutus's did not allow transfers; once you were enrolled there, you would stay there until graduation. Eventually, the school would wonder where their young criminal charge was, and when they found out the boy wasn't here, there would be trouble, big trouble; Vernon could lose his job over it. It was with that objectionable thought in mind that Vernon made his announcement during the family dinner.

"I think we should report the boy's running away to the police."

The reaction to this statement was nothing less than complete silence. His wife had paused, spoonful of soup halfway towards her lips, staring at him as if he had just calmly stated that he was starting a campaign of genocide against African Swallows. Even Dudley had stopped chewing on the rather large turkey leg that was his dinner, turning disbelieving eyes towards his father. The silence was broken only when Petunia had managed to gather her wits.

"What do you mean, report him to the police? They'll want to ask all sorts of questions," Petunia paused here, before an even more dreadful idea occurred to her. "And do you realize what the neighbors would think if they saw police at our house?"

"I know, I know," Vernon placated, "but we have to. The school will ask questions when they realize he is gone. St. Brutus's does not like to lose its charges." At this, Vernon's face took what he thought was an evil grin, but made him look more like he had a toothache than anything else. Vernon was firmly hoping that if the boy did end up back, the school would decide to keep him as a year round border, in light of his criminal activities.

A thoughtful look crossed Petunia's face, although it was more reminiscent of a wire clothes hanger, rather than anything remotely intelligent. "Perhaps we could tell them he is staying with relatives?"

"Won't work." Vernon replied, in the voice of one who had already considered all the possibilities. "You know he has none surviving, and they'd want to transfer his papers."

"Well, surely there is something else we can do?" Petunia pleaded, although she was already fairly sure she would not like the answer.

"We can't really do anything besides report him to the police, at least, not unless you'd rather we take it up directly with St. Brutus," He frowned deeply at the thought of what the consequences of that action would be. "The inquiry would probably cause me to lose my job."

Noticing that his mother seemed to be reluctantly conceding, Dudley broke in with a petulant voice. "I don't want Harry back. He always breaks my toys."

"I know, Dudlykins, but there isn't anything else we can do." Petunia soothed, making placating gestures towards her whale of a child. "I'm sure the St. Brutus people will keep him nice and locked up, far away from us; at least for most of the year."

At this statement, Vernon Dursley's face took on a proud smile. "We don't have to even bother with that, dear. I have a plan." He paused here, waiting for someone to ask about the plan.

"What is it," Dudley perked up. "Will we ever have to deal with Harry again?"

"Not if we do it right. Here's what we do," Vernon elaborated. "We report him missing, but we give the police an old black-and-white image of Dudley, and say it's the most up to date image we've got." Vernon's grin broadened at the thought of his genius. "With them looking for someone as handsome as our Dudley, except with green eyes, they would never notice if they spotted the real Harry."

"But what if they call us in for questioning?" Petunia didn't even bother asking if the police would be able to tell that the photo of their child wasn't Harry; after all, there were no photos of him for them to compare.

Vernon had thought of that, too. "We tell them that the boy was enrolled in St Brutus's, and they'll leave us alone." He let out a ruddy chuckle. "It isn't rare for students there to attempt to run away."

"It's wonderful," Petunia exclaimed, "We'll never have to deal with that brat again!" She beamed a loving smile at her husband. "What would I do without you, dear?"

*** Harry worked his way through the crowd, keeping an eye on the rich gentleman who was his target. He slipped past a rather large brunette with two screaming children, ignoring the easy target her open purse provided. The fact that he had to steal to survive didn't mean he had to take from those who needed it; he stole only what was necessary. Besides, it was less risky to take one or two pounds from someone who had hundreds, and was less likely to miss a few.

He hadn't exactly wanted to start stealing money, but it was better than starving, and starving was definitely better than going back to the Dursleys. There was just no other way to live; No one in their right minds would hire a barely eleven year old orphan, at least, not for any job Harry would ever consider. Stealing was his only option.

He had moved around quite a bit when he first ran out of money, forced out of different suburbs by several run-ins with irate storekeepers or angry shoppers. Still, harsh experience had made a quick teacher, and Harry had ended up in London with enough skill to get by, for now at least. For the most part, Harry was just biding his time, waiting for some more viable options to pop up.

He slid a bit closer to his target, eyeing the man's cane warily; the cane made things difficult should he be caught, but it was obvious that the blond haired man was the richest among this crowd of English middle class; besides, the black pouch he had hung from his side jingled with the sound of many coins clinking together.

Of course, the man himself was a mystery to Harry. Not many of the gentry came to this area of London, and by the way the man was sneering at those around him, this particular gentleman was more of a rich snob than the type of philanthropist that occasionally dropped by to socialize with the commoners.

It was perhaps because of that sneering attitude that the crowd seemed to give him plenty of room, and normally this space around the blond haired man would have made stealing a few coins all but impossible. Impossible, that is, if it weren't for the path the man was taking. The man was walking with the relaxed pace of one who had just finished some rather unpleasant but unfortunately important business, and his path seemed headed straight for a rather strange-looking pub. Of course, it didn't matter where the man was headed to Harry, as long as he had to open a door to get there.

Harry crept closer forward, knowing his only chance would be right when the man opened the pub door. He was close, now, separated from his target by only one or two people. The man reached for the door, and Harry slid forward quickly. Experience had taught him that if he timed it just right, the man's attention would be focused on the inside of the building, and his pouch would be angled just. Perfect! Harry slipped three fingers inside, grabbing a few of the heavier coins. His eyes caught a quick glimpse of strange people wearing funny hats, and then he was gone around the corner before the man had time to realize anything had even happened.

Catching his breath in a small alley, Harry finally took the chance to see what he had grabbed. His eyes opened in wonder as he saw what looked like some form of gold doubloon sparkling up at him. He was rich! He'd never have to steal again. Then the dismay set in. The wealth he held in his hands was worse than worthless to him. There was nowhere he could pawn these off without raising suspicions, and what was worse, they were probably part of some form of collection or something. There was no way the blond haired man could fail to notice the missing gold coins, not unless he was considerably richer than Harry had first thought.

Still, it was no big deal. He could drop the damn things and still have enough coins from earlier to pay for a meal or two. There was something about the coins that made him reluctant to see them go, but he knew it wasn't worth going to jail over. Reluctantly, Harry dropped the gold coins in a garbage heap and left, headed for the small corner alley that he currently called home.

*** The Dursleys had been quick to implement their plan. They had no trouble at all in convincing the police about Harry, and really didn't expect to be bothered by the boy any more. Life at Number 4, Privet Drive, had once more settled into routine, and the Dursleys had managed to put young Harry Potter completely out of their mind.

This was, unfortunately, not to last. A tall, bearded half-giant was on his way to Privet Drive, looking for the small child he had last seen as a baby.

The giant, as groundskeeper of Hogwarts, had been notified along with the rest of the staff when the boy had first gone missing, and like the others, he was dismayed at the thought of Harry alone in the world. Dumbledore had been quick in taking volunteers and assigning them to search different areas, and Hagrid had been assigned to question the Dursleys.

This explained what Hagrid was doing, standing on the front stoop of Number 4, knocking urgently. Or at least, what he considered urgently; to those inside, it sounded as if someone had taken a battering ram to the front door.

The Dursleys were cowering in the living room, where they had been watching the telly together before they were interrupted by the loud booming at their door. Dudley Dursley, a porcine beast of a child, stood huddled against his mum's side, where Petunia attempted to calm him despite her own fears, while begging her husband to do something about the maniac at the door. Vernon Dursley, being a man of good sense and little courage, sat in his armchair and did nothing.

This was the scene that greeted Hagrid as his pounding accidentally broke the door of its hinges, sending it crashing inwards towards the family inside. "Oops, Sorry `bout that." He muttered, before remembering his reason for being here. "Where is he?" Hagrid rounded on Vernon Dursley, booming. "What 'ave you done to him?"

Vernon Dursley was so startled by the giant's appearance that he actually responded to the strange man. "D-done to Who?" He felt pride that he was able to keep most of the stutter out of his voice; after all, it isn't every day one is questioned by a potentially violent maniac.

Hagrid frowned at the man before him, incidentally causing Vernon to quiver more intensely. "'Arry Potter, of course. You muggles were supposed to look after 'im"

Vernon's face twisted into a mask of hatred as he realized that the giant was obviously one of his nephew's kind. "Get out! Get out of my house! We don't want him or any of you other freaks here!" He waved an accusing finger at Hagrid, quivering with his anger.

Hagrid's voice rose in anger at the way this Muggle acted, treating Harry Potter and all of wizardry as something freakish. "I'm not leaving till I find what you've done with 'Arry!"

"We didn't do anything to him," Vernon snarled. "The boy ran away, and good riddance, too!"

Hagrid took a step forward, livid. "I can see how 'e ran away, with relations like you." He rounded upon Petunia and the cowering Dudley. "You aren't even worthy of calling 'im family!"

Seeing that the giant had yet to physically attack her husband, Petunia finally gained the courage to interject her opinion. "If any more of you, you monsters, step a foot within my house, I'll call the police! And I never want to see that freak of a child here again!"

"Freak o' a child!" Hagrid shouted indignantly, "That chil' saved us and all you Muggles, and you treat 'im like a freak. You're the ones that shoul' be arrested!"

Vernon started towards the kitchen, but his way was blocked by the giant standing in front of him. "You let me through, now! I'm calling the police!"

"To do what?" Hagrid snorted, "Arrest me for tryin' to find a missing child?"

Vernon's face purpled, before he all but shouted, "The boy's stolen fifteen pounds! I'll have him arrested for stealing, and you arrested for breaking into my house and terrorizing my family!"

"I can see I won't be getting anymore help from the likes of yeh, but this isn't the end of it, Dursley," Hagrid boomed, heading towards the door. "Dumbledore'll be wanting to talk to you!"

Hagrid left through the broken doorway, apparating to Hogsmeade as soon as he reached the empty street. He had quite a bit to report once he reached Hogwarts, and the sooner he got there the better.

*** Harry sat within the darkened niche in the abandoned alley he was currently using as a home, concentrating on the energy gathered before him. The time he could snatch for practicing was one of the few things that kept him sane, and he treasured it far more than the scraps of meat or bread he hoarded for his meals.

He had begun studying in-depth his ability for magic as soon as he had escaped the Dursley's house, spending whatever time he wasn't busy sleeping or surviving on manipulating that which he now felt within him. He knew that he could make these energies work for him, had made them work for him before, but the results were exhausting and mostly fruitless. He was almost beginning to feel disheartened at his slow progress, but the very fact that he was doing magic at all was often enough to keep his spirits up.

He had no trouble at all with the magic when he was angry, or fearful; it came to him with such ease that he was all the more frustrated by his lack of success when calmed. It was as if he instinctually knew how to work magic, but could only access that knowledge when he was under great stress, and could not be sure of what would happen. There had to be some way to control his magic when not under duress.

He concentrated on the light, willing it brighter, trying to force it into a light bright enough that he could use it to read by. The glow surrounding his hand intensified, but with it so had the feeling of exhaustion. He stopped before the exhaustion overtook him, letting only the barest hint of energy go to his hand. This was not the way to accomplish his goal; the light drew from within him, tiring him out more and more each minute. A revelation hit him at that thought, and so he looked deeper into what he was doing. It was almost as if... Yes!

He was beginning to sense the flow, the patterns within the energy, and he realized now what he had spent so much time on doing. The soft glow he could form was a blurry tangle of dissipating power, merely the after- effect of trying to wield his energy; by focusing on creating the light, he was in fact forcing the energy away from him. No wonder it was so exhausting!

If he drew the tangle of dissipating energy together, however, formed it softly, he might be able to slow the dissipation dramatically. Harry concentrated on the energy he was forming through his hands, using his mind and a few twisting motions to gather the loose strands together. The light brightened considerably. Carefully, Carefully, he knotted the ends together, shaping the energy into a rough ball, feeling the pull upon his energies dwindle. Now would come the true test of whether or not he had succeeded.

With a single severing motion, Harry cut the lines that fed energy to his little nightlight.

And it continued to glow.

Perfect! It was all beginning to come together. For now, all he could do was create a light, something he could have done just as easily with a candle and some matches, but he knew this was only scratching the surface of his abilities. Once he had reached a sufficient level of understanding, he would be able to do his trick of unlocking doors at will, and maybe even use his magic to slip silently beyond people's range of vision. Perhaps, with enough work, he mightn't even need to steal to survive, instead using his magic to get a job, or even conjure food from thin air... why stop there, even? He had power, and he could use it. Magic opened up a lot of opportunities for him.

He let that thought trail off, content that he had finally made major breakthroughs. Satisfied, Harry let his weariness overtake him, leaning his back against the brick wall and settling down to sleep.

***

Albus Dumbledore gave a soft sigh, letting a trace of his weariness come over him. The sun had been down for a good two hours, and still he sat in his office, worrying.

The fact that Harry Potter had disappeared from his home early this month was in itself disconcerting, but the wards surrounding his house had shown no sign of Death Eater activity. In fact, Hagrid had recently reported that the boy had apparently decided to leave on his own, most likely due to an argument of some sort with his family; there was therefore little reason to believe Harry was already within the enemy's clutches.

Still, Albus worried.

The news Hagrid had brought back, that the boy had run away apparently of his own will, served as both a relief and a reason to hurry. It was a stroke of luck that the Death Eaters had not yet realized the boy was out in the world, but it was only a matter of time before his spy, Severus Snape, came back from one of the Death Eater meetings reporting a sighting. Furthermore, Harry had been on his own for close to a month now, and had doubtless spent the paltry sum his Uncle had reported missing; the world outside was a harsh place, especially so for one so young.

Things were looking dire if Harry wasn't found soon. He would have to lower the wards and pray for the best soon, but he wanted to give his staff a few more days to find the boy. Hopefully the child would turn up soon - if not, well, he'd face that problem if he had to.

Of course, He knew that if he had to, he could locate Harry in an instant. The tracing wards he had placed upon the boy were of the highest quality; the only drawback to their use was that they required the dropping of the Untraceable Charm that protected Harry from detection by those who would do him harm. He realized now the lack of foresight that went into that measure; he had always assumed that if Harry was missing, then the enemy would most likely be responsible, and therefore revealing his position would not be a problem. A situation like this had never crossed his mind.

There were less drastic measures than the tracing charms, of course, but he already implemented them. His entire staff was on the look-out for the boy, along with several of his more trusted associates, and most of those involved had gone as far as to spend copious portions of their own personal time looking for Harry. He himself had already been out several times, and would not of have returned to the school if it weren't for his responsibilities there.

Albus reached for a lemon drop, setting it gently upon his tongue and letting the Muggle candy raise his spirits. Tomorrow would be a new day, and with it would come the reports of his staff; surely, once they had pooled their knowledge, some form of trail was bound to appear. They would be able to recover Harry before Voldemort's allies got a hold of him; after all, the child was hiding somewhere out in the Muggle world, a place no self-respecting Death Eater would linger in.

The Death Eaters were hardly the only problem, however. There were other people out there who the boy could fall prey to, and even something as simple as the elements could spell the boy's doom. The weather right now wasn't cold enough to freeze, but it was getting close; perhaps he should take the untraceable charms down? He had a simple charm that would notify him if Harry's health started failing, but hypothermia could take affect within a matter of hours... There were so many things to consider in his decision.

Still, Albus had always prided himself as a man of action. He would go searching for Harry himself, tomorrow morning. If he found the boy, he would no longer have to worry; if not, there was always hope that something might come up in the staff meeting later. The best course of action right now, then, would be to get some rest. There was no use in staying up worrying all night, when it would only detract from his efficiency tomorrow.

Plan set firmly in his mind, Albus Dumbledore headed towards his quarters

Authors Notes: The title of this fic has been changed from 'Ramble On' to 'Born of a Black Sea', mainly because the latter title sounds cooler. I'm hoping to turn this into a major au, but... we'll see.