It had to have been the neighborhood that had made PC Givens so utterly careless. Aside from the occasional bit of childish mischief, crime was rare in Little Whinging. So rare, that the police that served the Greater Whinging area which included Little Whinging were almost never called out here. Givens had been called out to Privet Drive this evening though to deal with a domestic dispute which had interrupted his evening snack. Not even bothering to pull the keys out of the ignition or shut the door to his patrol car since he was certain that nobody would bother it in the short time he was sure he'd be here mediating in the argument that was disturbing the usually quiet neighborhood, Givens headed to the house from which the loud yelling and the crashes that could be heard two streets away were coming. Givens' partner who had managed to shut his door before following Givens up the walk to the less than harmonious home never called him on his lackadaisical behavior. This would later prove to be either a massive mistake or a fortuitous error depending on your point of view, considering what came after.
Harry had just finished weeding the front garden when the police car had pulled up less than a block away from the Dursley family home and been left unattended by a pair of careless constables who had gone inside a home where the crashes had stopped but the screaming continued. If someone tells you you are something long and often enough, you often start believing it on some level. Harry, who had been told he was a Juvenile Delinquent by his relatives, his teachers, his neighbors, the local vicar and even the police on the one or two times he'd encountered them had often done his utmost to prove that he was in fact a Good Boy and that the moniker had been completely undeserved. There were times however when Harry was sorely tempted to give into impulses that everybody had obviously seen considering what he was constantly called and be the Juvenile Delinquent that everybody said he was. This time was one of them.
The police car was just sitting there begging him to touch it. Begging him to hop in and try out the siren and explore everything that could be found in all of its mysterious nooks and crannies.
Even though he knew it was wrong, Harry went up to the car and hesitantly touched it rather than heading straight inside, reporting the completion of the weeding, and receiving yet another chore from his aunt for his troubles. When nothing happened and nobody had yelled at him, Harry moved to the driver's side door and poked his head inside, fully expecting to be chased away. While in some ways, the interior was somewhat disappointing since it just looked like a car interior for the most part and not something that was mysteriously policey, there were a few extra buttons and switches and a radio that most cars didn't have which stirred Harry's curiosity.
When Harry heard a nearby door open, he dove into the only nearby hiding spot he could find in hopes that he wouldn't be spotted being where he wasn't supposed to by a neighbor who would report him to his relatives. The door that Harry heard open soon closed as the inhabitant of the house that was a block away from #4 had only opened it in order to shoo out one of Mrs. Figg's cats who had somehow made its way inside their home. It was nearly a full minute after the neighbors' door had closed that Harry calmed down enough to realize that he was laying fully across the driver's and front passenger's seat of the police car he'd been examining.
As he started to scoot out of the car, he found himself tempted to sit in the driver's seat just this once, only for a little bit, to see what it was like. Instead of backing out of the car, Harry straightened himself up so he was sitting in the driver's seat. Sitting as far back as he was, his little arms could barely reach the steering wheel. Knowing he really shouldn't have, Harry adjusted the seat so he was more properly positioned, so it was like he was driving.
As he sat there with his hands on the wheel, Harry found himself sorely tempted to see what it would be like to really drive a police car. Under normal circumstances, Harry would've squashed that bit of temptation down with the firm knowledge that doing so would be Very Bad and that he would be severely punished, punished worse than he usually was for things he didn't mean to do or things that weren't his fault, if he did what he was tempted to do. These weren't normal circumstances. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Harry knew it.
Slowly, hesitantly, almost chickening out at the last instant, Harry reached forward and turned the key in the ignition. The car purred to life. Having seen Vernon drive enough times over the years as the man hauled him off to the barber's just about every week for yet another haircut, Harry followed what he'd seen his uncle do, releasing the hand brake, putting the car in drive, and pressing his small foot down on the gas.
Harry's heart leapt in his chest as the car gave a lurch forward. When nobody ran up to stop him and pull him out of the car and yell at him or worse, Harry put his foot more firmly down on the gas pedal while turning the steering wheel to pull the car out onto the road, struggling to see over the dash so he could see where he was going and hopefully not hit anything as he did so.
Fear and Excitement caused Harry's heart to practically leap out of his chest as adrenaline flooded his system. However long this would last, this was already the most amazing adventure he'd had in his ten short years.
Inside the house where Givens was trying to get something approaching a coherent timeline of events from a shouting couple that Givens was sorely tempted to arrest in order to get some peace and quiet, Givens' partner repeatedly tried to get his attention.
"Giv! Giv! Giv!" Givens' partner PC Miller said when grabbing the man's shoulder and shaking it had only resulted in his hand being shrugged away.
"What!" Givens snapped.
"The car's driving away!"
Turning as one, all four, Givens, Miller, and the formerly arguing residents of the house turned to stare out the window as a seemingly driverless patrol car lurched down Privet Drive, the only clue as to how this was even possible being a barely visible tuft of messy black hair that could just be seen from the side window of the departing patrol car.
It being the dawn of the final decade of the Twentieth Century, PC Givens and PC Miller didn't have to risk their lives or their already very badly damaged dignity chasing after a car they knew they wouldn't catch when the car stopped lurching, started moving more smoothly, picked up speed and went screeching around the corner at the end of Privet Drive with the siren wailing. All they had to do was grab their walkie talkies and radio in an APB for a missing patrol car. Harry was stopped with a textbook perfect Pit maneuver shortly before he made it onto the motorway. When it was determined that the small boy was uninjured, he was placed into the back of another patrol car, brought down to the station located in Greater Whinging, and placed in a cell.
Two hours after Harry Potter's arrest, Albus Dumbledore had found himself contemplating things he'd never thought he'd find himself contemplating since, by all accounts, Harry Potter was normally a well-behaved boy who didn't do things that could potentially get himself into major trouble or call his reputation into serious question. In a moment of childish tomfoolery that Dumbledore would've more expected from Tom Riddle than Harry Potter, Harry had placed himself in a precarious position that fortunately wasn't nearly as severe as it would've been back when Dumbledore himself had been a boy.
There were two things that kept Dumbledore from letting the Potter boy suffer the full consequences of his actions when he heard what had happened from Mrs. Figg. The first being the knowledge that the theft of something that was as valuable as an automobile surely carried a penalty that could result in years of detention in whatever had replaced the Borstal schools that he'd heard had closed in recent years, which would keep Harry away from his home for those years, which would consequently negate the protections on both boy and home. The second thing that kept Dumbledore from letting Harry learn his lesson was the hit that the reputation of the Boy-Who-Lived would take when knowledge of the boy's deed became known. A reputation that Harry would need as close to good and intact as possible in later years when Voldemort finally reappeared.
Sighing, Dumbledore went out to deal with the problem before it hit the general public and balooned into a mess that even he couldn't deal with. Fifteen minutes later, a major crisis was averted. Or so Dumbledore thought.
Confundusing the police into believing that the patrol car belonged to Harry because Harry was an officer of the law and that the confiscation of said car until Harry could drive more responsibly was a just punishment for his reckless driving was supposed to be a temporary measure that got Harry released and the whole incident forgotten about. Unfortunately for Dumbledore's plan for the whole situation to just disappear, one of the major aspects of the Protection around Harry and his family was a large area enchantment that kept people from asking too many questions or noticing things that were too far out of the ordinary in order to prevent the family from being split up or the exact location of the house being given away to those who didn't know exactly where it was or weren't clued into where it was by someone who did know.
For the vast majority of Harry's ten years, the enchantment which had not only protected Harry, but his relatives as well had worked against Harry. It had been the reason that people were willing to believe that there the Dursleys had given Harry new clothing which he'd destroyed despite the fact that nobody had ever seen said clothing. It was the reason why people were willing to believe a toddler was a delinquent despite the fact that there were few if any crimes a toddler could understand, much less commit. In short, it was the reason everybody overlooked and nobody had reported the abuse and neglect Harry had suffered at the hands of his relatives.
That day, less than a week after Harry's 10th birthday, the enchantment that kept everyone for miles around from questioning things related to Harry started working for him rather than against him.
As little Harry Potter sat curled up in the corner of his cell with his arms wrapped around his knees imagining the increasingly more horrible things that would happen to him when he was finally released and sent home, the cell door opened and an officer scowled down at him. Fearing what would be coming next considering all the things his uncle had told him about what the police did to criminals, Harry tried to make himself as invisible as possible. It didn't seem to work though, since the officer was still glaring down at him. Since he was awaiting a blow of some sort, whether it be a kick or a punch, Harry was understandably surprised when the constable said "Potter! What the hell are you doing in that cell? You're supposed to be on duty!".