Blame the people on Discord for this one :D
"What do you mean, they've vanished?"
"Just what I said, Headmaster. Without a trace. We have no idea how they disappeared, or where they went, or who was responsible, but they're gone."
"We had watchers outside the house constantly for months! The wards are still up too! I can't see any possible way someone could have made off with the Dursleys. Neither can I envisage how they could have left on their own accord. Why would they even want to abandon their home in the first place?"
"Sorry, sir, I can't answer any of those questions. We've checked, they're definitely gone. There's a completely new family living there, who claim they've been there for years. Frankly, if I didn't know that wasn't true, I'd probably believe them. But as you say the wards are still intact, there's no trace of a struggle, no obvious death eater involvement, nothing we can discover at all to show how the Dursleys were spirited away."
"That could only be done with appallingly powerful magic. Dark skills the likes of which we seldom learn."
"Well, we do know who would most likely be able to pull that off, don't we, Albus?"
"And I've been telling you for years that Harry should never have been placed there. Thank Merlin that he wasn't home when whatever happened to those appalling people happened. We could have lost him as well. But now we have nowhere for the poor boy to live."
"Don't Minerva me, Albus. This is probably your fault somehow."
"Of course! If you weren't so insistent that Harry be forced to live with people he doesn't like or trust, that feeling being entirely mutual I can assure you, we could have long found a much better family to look after the lad. A good wizarding family, the Weasleys for example, or for that matter even a sensible and honorable Muggle one, such as the Grangers. The Dursleys were the worst possible choice, only marginally better than the Malfoys."
"She's got you there, Albus. Never liked them myself."
"Yes, thank you, Alastor, we all know your opinion on the Dursleys. None of this gets us any closer to working out the mysterious disappearance of those poor people though."
"Poor people. Don't make me laugh. Better off missing…"
"Albus, stop glaring at him and think. How do we solve this problem? Harry is safe where he is for now, but we need to come up with a better solution than him staying in that inn. Tom is a wonderful person but Harry is only fifteen, after all. It must have been a terrible shock for the boy to find that his adoptive family had been mysteriously spirited away when he got home."
"Bet he danced a jig."
"Not helping, Alastor."
"Matter of opinion, Minnie."
"Enough bickering. I shall investigate this personally."
"What was that?"
"Oh, good, I said. With someone of your skill and intelligence on the case I'm sure we'll have an answer momentarily."
"But just in case you can't instantly solve the conundrum, I shall make inquiries of a few possible alternatives. Purely as a precaution, of course. In these uncertain times we need to always have a backup plan."
"That is excellent thinking, Minerva, but hopefully unnecessary. Proceed even so. I shall collect Harry and be off to the Dursley home immediately."
"Why take the boy?"
"He knows the situation best, he may well notice something I would miss."
"Ah. Fair enough."
"As soon as I have an answer, I shall contact both of you."
McGonagall and Moody exchanged glances as the Headmaster stepped into the floo fire and vanished, shook their heads simultaneously, and went about their business.
Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Was-Done-With-This-Shit, sighed inaudibly as he heard a cheerful voice from behind him. "Ah, there you are, Harry, my boy. And Miss Granger too! How unexpected."
Hermione met his eyes, showing a look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking, then looked past his shoulder. "Hello, Headmaster. I was visiting with Harry after shopping for more books," she said, lifting the bag next to her chair slightly and showing the Flourish and Blotts logo. Both of them were sitting at a table in the downstairs bar of the Leaky Cauldron, having just had lunch. Harry himself turned to look at the elderly wizard who was beaming at them through his beard, his eyes twinkling in a manner that the teenager decided he really needed to learn just because it would be hilarious.
"What are you doing here, sir?" he queried as the man stopped next to the table, carefully not looking directly into Harry's eyes, something he'd been doing for quite a while now and which puzzled the young man.
"I am on my way to your house to determine the truth behind this bizarre turn of events, my boy," Dumbledore replied, sounding rather pleased with himself. "It's nice to be able to exercise the mind on a puzzle now and then, and this one is certainly a stumper, isn't it? Not to mention worrying."
Harry glanced at Hermione, the girl looking back without changing her expression, then nodded. "I have been trying to work it out myself for several days, sir," he replied calmly. "Although I can't deny that it's been fun staying here."
Patting his shoulder, the much older man replied consolingly, "A stiff upper lip, well done, my boy. No sense giving into despair, after all! That's only playing into the hand of those on the Dark side. Now, let's be off, there is a mystery to solve!"
"You… want me to come with you?" he asked slowly.
"Of course. No one but you has such an intimate knowledge of your family! I shall require your ability to point out things I might miss, not having the background information required to notice such a tiny clue. Intelligence is nothing without data, you realize." Dumbledore smiled down at him as Harry tried not to let his own feelings show. With a tiny shrug he ate the last carrot on his plate, swigged back the final swallow of water, and stood up. Hermione did the same, causing Dumbledore to look at her with a raised eyebrow.
"I should probably come too, Headmaster, as I'm fairly observant and you might need another point of view," she said to the unasked question, smiling at the man. "And Harry could do with the companionship at this difficult time. I can easily make my way home afterwards via the Knight Bus."
"Aha! Excellent thinking, Miss Granger, excellent thinking indeed," Dumbledore nodded, looking pleased. "Five points to Gryffindor for using your mind to help a friend and giving moral support. Now, each of you grab an arm and we'll be on our way."
The two teenagers put their hands on his arms, he lifted his wand slightly, and the trio vanished with a faint pop. Everyone else in the bar who had been mostly subtly watching turned to each other and started eagerly discussing the latest adventure of Harry Potter.
Hermione watched, standing next to Harry, as the Headmaster mumbled to himself while waving his wand in obscure patterns, an occasional flash of light appearing briefly. She did her best to identify the spells he was using and memorizing the ones she couldn't, for later research. After some ten minutes, he lowered his wand with a puzzled expression. Stroking his beard in a contemplative manner, he murmured, "How utterly fascinating."
"Do you know what happened, Sir?" Harry asked politely. The wizard stared at the Dursley house from where they were standing on the pavement outside, covered by a notice-me-not spell he'd cast the moment they arrived, then turned to look at the pair.
"Unfortunately, no, Harry. All the wards appear completely intact and don't seem to have been tampered with at all. It strongly implies someone with a truly remarkable knowledge of ward-breaking was involved, as it would take some extremely esoteric spells to remove and recast the wards without leaving a sign that it had happened." He slowly shook his head, seeming impressed. "Such a pity that a mind like that would go Dark," he added almost under his breath.
Neither teenager said anything, they just waited as he thought for a little longer, before nodding to himself. "I shall have to research how it was done later. For now, this appears to be a dead end, so we shall proceed to a more direct approach. Let's see what the inhabitants have to say about what's going on." Striding forward he walked up the path to the front door with Harry and Hermione in his wake, reached out one long finger, and firmly pressed the doorbell. All three could hear a fairly twee electronic tune play inside. After about thirty seconds, the door opened and the person inside the house looked at them with a curious expression, from behind dark glasses.
"Yes? Can I help you?" she asked, sounding a little impatient as if she'd been interrupted half-way through the vacuuming.
"Good afternoon, my dear," Dumbledore said grandly, nodding to her. As he'd transfigured his robes into a nice three piece suit that only suffered from being a cut that wouldn't have been out of place in a Pathé newsreel from the thirties, and also being a rather subdued violet color, he fondly thought he was entirely blending in, Hermione mused with inner glee. The woman at the door didn't seem to completely believe this but said nothing about it. "My name is Albus Dumbledore. I was hoping to discuss the Dursleys with you."
"Dursleys?" the woman snorted, her rather horse-like appearance being enhanced by how her nostrils flared. "There are no Dursleys here my good man. As I've told the last lot who came looking for them. Bill collectors, I assume, or from Inland Revenue. We don't know anything about these Dursleys of yours. Now, if you don't mind, I have the ironing to get back to." She started to close the door, but Dumbledore put his hand on it, which made her glare at him.
"My apologies, Ma'am, but it's very important that I track down the Dursley family. I don't want to waste your time, although any information you might have would be very helpful indeed. Possibly even things you aren't aware that you know would help."
The woman sighed heavily, running a hand through deep red hair that was, to Hermione, obviously a very good wig. "How annoying. All right, I will allow you five minutes, no more. My husband will be home very soon and I have a lot of work to do."
"Very kind of you, Miss," the Headmaster replied, smiling broadly, as she stood aside and allowed him inside. Hermione and Harry followed. She shut the door and led them into the living room. Looking around, Dumbledore nodded. "Excellent décor, if I may say so."
"Thank you," the woman replied, looking momentarily pleased. "We came into some money recently and redecorated. I'm very happy with it myself."
Taking a seat on the rather nice leather sofa, Dumbledore leaned back, smiling again. "Oh, this is very nice. I may have to get one myself. Now, onto the issue before us. What if anything can you tell us that might help me locate the Dursleys? They lived here until very recently, as I know well."
"I'm afraid, as I said, both to you and to those other people, I simply can't help you," the woman replied immediately, sitting opposite him. Harry and Hermione stood to one side and just watched like they were at a tennis match. "My family has lived here for years and we know nothing of these Dursley people."
"May I ask your name?" Dumbledore commented after thinking for a moment. "In all the excitement of seeing this lovely room it slipped my mind. Very rude of me."
"That's all right, Mr Dumbledore," the woman said with a small and slightly pinched smile, as if she was doing her best to be polite. "My name is Pursley. Bergenia Pursley."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mrs Pursley." The old wizard nodded agreeably. "Now, to business." He looked around, then back to her. "To the best of my knowledge, there was indeed a family by the name of Dursley living here until very recently. Vernon, Petunia, Dudley, and then young Harry over there, who has been staying with them since he was a baby. Petunia was his aunt, you see." He waved to Harry, who looked back with a faint smile visible.
Bergenia Pursley peered at him, then shook her head. "I've never seen that boy before in my life, or the girl either. And I still have never heard of the Dursleys. No matter how much you ask, I can't help you."
With a disappointed expression, Dumbledore sighed. "You cannot think of any mention of them? No mail addressed to them, no one else asking after them…?"
"No, I'm afraid not, Mr Dumbledore," Mrs Pursley replied immediately and sharply. "Aside from your people, assuming that's who they were. Until very recently we've never had any trouble here. This is a perfectly respectable neighborhood and not the sort of place that welcomes people like these Dursleys sound to be." She cast a pointed look at her watch.
"How unfortunate. And mysterious, I have to confess," Dumbledore responded, stroking his beard again. "Most annoying. Would you mind if I just satisfied myself that there is no trace of the missing Dursleys?"
"I would mind, yes, Mr Dumbledore," Bergenia snapped. "I am busy and you are becoming somewhat irritating. For that matter, who precisely are you? What department are you from?"
"Department?" he echoed, looking mildly puzzled.
"I assume you're from the government?" she replied with a frown. "Who else would be asking after a family that doesn't exist? Presumably they are suspected of some crime or something of that nature?"
"Ah, I understand, Mrs Pursley," he smiled. "Yes, we are investigating them for… classified reasons."
She looked dubiously at him, then the two teenagers. "And you bring children on your investigations? Is that normal? It seems rather irresponsible at best."
"Harry is merely a witness with some information that might prove helpful and Miss Granger is along for moral support," the wizard replied, waving a hand dismissively. "Pay no attention to them."
"I would prefer to pay no attention to any of you, as I have work to be getting back to," the woman said with a sigh and a look of annoyance. "Your five minutes are up." She stood, causing Dumbledore to seem disappointed but to do the same.
"May I trouble you for a glass of water before we leave?" he asked cheerfully. She sighed but nodded, moving into the kitchen and leaving them alone. Quickly turning to Harry, he whispered, "Does anything here look familiar? Do you recognize the interior of the house?"
Harry shook his head, leaning back through the door to point at the staircase. "No, sir, none of this is right," he said equally quietly. "Look, even the cupboard under the stairs I remember isn't there, it's all open plan. And I've never seen that woman before a week ago when I came home to find the Dursleys gone."
"We need to get you upstairs so you can check your bedroom," the much older man said in a low voice. "Just to be completely sure that Oh, thank you Mrs Pursley." He smiled and accepted the glass of water from the red-haired woman as she came back into the room. "Young Harry here was just saying he would appreciate a visit to the facilities, if you wouldn't mind."
She sighed, but nodded, gesturing to the stairs. "Help yourself, boy."
"Thank you, Mrs Pursley," Harry replied politely, with a glance at Dumbledore, who winked at him. Hermione said nothing, simply watching with interest. Harry went upstairs, they all stood around looking at each other for a little while with Dumbledore sipping the water, until there was a sound of the toilet flushing followed a few seconds later by Harry returning. Dumbledore looked at him with a raised eyebrow, getting a small shake of the head back, which made him look disappointed for a moment.
"Thank you for your time, Mrs Pursley," he said, turning to the woman. Putting a hand in his pocket he removed a business card and handed it to her. "Should you at any point remember anything that might shed light on this peculiar case, I would much appreciate it if you could drop me a note at this address." She accepted the card with a mild look of distaste, but inspected it for a moment before putting it in her apron pocket with a nod.
"I shall do that, Mr Dumbledore, but don't expect miracles. We know nothing about these Dursley people."
"In that case we shall take our leave," the old wizard replied, smiling at her. He turned to the front door, which picked that moment to open, revealing a very large and rather corpulent man with a magnificent dark beard and a long mustache, his ebony curls styled to the sides of his head. He was also wearing a pair of dark glasses, through which eyes inspected them closely.
"Visitors, love?" he said as he closed the door and took off his greatcoat, which he hung on the hook on the wall beside the portal. "I didn't know we were expecting anyone."
"They were just going, Bertram," Mrs Pursley stated. "Another lot asking after the Dursleys."
"Again? Those miscreants must be quite the criminals to attract so much interest," Bertram commented with a deep laugh. "Proper blighters, it sounds like. Well, I'm sure Bergie told you we have no idea who they are or where they went. Not a clue, never heard of them until your people turned up a few days ago asking silly questions."
"So your wife said, Mr Pursley. A pity, but we shall plod on in our investigations," Dumbledore replied, smiling at the other man. "I have given her my contact details just in case anything does occur to you. We shall be on our way."
"Good luck with your inquiries," the large man said as he opened the door and stood aside to let them squeeze past. "Hopefully you'll find what you're looking for."
"That is also my hope," Dumbledore smiled, standing on the path. He nodded to the other man, looking like he wished he had a hat to tip, then turned around and headed for the pavement. Behind him, Harry and Hermione exchanged a look, then glanced at Bertram Pursley, who adjusted his own wig. Their eyes met.
Harry nodded back.
Hermione hid a smile, and followed her best friend as he went after the headmaster.
As they walked down the pavement, they heard Mr Pursley call, "Cary, where have you been? Dinner will be ready soon and you're covered in mud!"
Looking back, Hermione saw a heavyset boy with long blond hair in a ponytail jog up to the house, not giving them a glance. He was wearing rugby clothes and was indeed very muddy. "Sorry, Dad, got tackled really badly," he responded, going into the house. The door shut behind them and all was silent.
Catching up to Dumbledore who was strolling along thinking hard, his head bowed and his lips moving slightly, she asked, "Are you any closer to solving the mystery, Headmaster?"
He glanced at her, then sighed. "Unfortunately, no, this visit was less successful than I hoped for. There's simply no sign of the poor Dursleys, and the fact that the wards are fully intact proves beyond doubt that whoever took them is a fearsomely clever and learned opponent. There are few choices as to who that could be, as I'm sure you're aware. But never mind, I shall continue to cogitate on the problem and I'm sure that eventually I will work out a solution. Until then, my dear boy, chin up and best face forward!" He patted Harry's shoulder, the boy nodding in response. "I know you're upset about your missing family but with luck they are unharmed and we can locate and retrieve them. I won't give up."
"Thank you, Sir," he replied, looking at the old man. "I know I can trust you to do the best thing."
"Of course, my boy, of course. Unfortunately we still have the minor issue of where you are to stay until such time as I can find your wayward family."
"My dad said he'd be all right with Harry staying with us," Hermione put in immediately. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, looking at her. "I asked him before I went shopping. He knows Harry and likes him. And I was thinking… It's unlikely you-know-who would think to look in a muggle household for Harry, isn't it? Hiding him in plain sight might be a plan so cunning he'll never see through it."
"That is… an intriguing thought, Miss Granger," Dumbledore nodded after a few seconds. "An intriguing thought indeed. The loss of the wards is awkward, but perhaps we could… Yes, yes, that might well work. Placing him with the Weasleys or another light family is just what he'd be expecting us to do, after all." He stopped walking and turned to them, smiling widely. "Magnificent, Miss Granger. Another five points to Gryffindor for thinking well outside the box, as I believe the muggle saying has it! We shall have to work out some minor details, but you can leave that to me." He beamed at them both. "For now, though, I will return you to the Cauldron, Harry, while we sort things out. Miss Granger, would you like a lift to your house?"
"If it's not too much trouble, Headmaster, although I can get the Knight Bus easily enough."
"Nonsense, I can easily apparate you there, no reason to pay for a ride!" He held out his hands, both teenagers grabbing hold. "What's the point in being a wizard if you can't help out here and there, after all?" he added cheerfully, before the trio vanished again.
"I still can't believe that actually worked."
"I told you it would. The hardest part was getting them to go along with it, but it turns out enough money works a magic of its own."
"So it would seem. Still, it's ridiculous."
"It's completely daft, but so are most wizards. What was it you said? Not got the common sense of a teaspoon?"
"Yes. I'm almost disappointed, but pleased too. And I have never in my life had so much trouble not laughing like a lunatic."
"I was about to explode by the end too. That might have been the funniest thing I've ever seen. The expressions!"
"They should have been actors."
"Yeah. Oh well, that's given us at least a few weeks, hopefully. It might last much longer."
"To be honest I'd put money on them never working it out."
"We'll see, I suppose. Until then, is this my room?"
"It is. I'll help you set everything up."
Harry and Hermione grinned at each other, finished moving his things into the spare room, and went off to find lunch.