Rating/warnings: M for off-screen violence/torture, injury detail
Author's Notes: Thanks to Star Polaris for letting me use one of her excellent plot points.
See No Evil, Speak No Evil
Chapter One: The Calm Before the Storm
Albus Dumbledore had learnt a long time ago that, when Voldemort was around, you could pretty much kiss any plans for your day goodbye. Whilst he had nothing set in stone, he had had a list of Order things that needed doing, a couple of people in mind for whom he wished to have a friendly, encouraging chat, and a hope that today would be the first day in over a week that he would have time to play some chess with his deputy. So when the emergency Patronus came, he was disappointed, but not really surprised.
Kingsley's message was short and to the point. It was really a miracle he had been able to send it at all. For several long seconds Albus stood frozen, his morning tea still in his hand, his mind whirling away at possibilities.
This was bad. This was very bad. And he had less than half an hour to put a plan into action.
There was no time for delegating. Albus would have to act, and act quickly. With very controlled calmness, he set the tea on the table and headed to his study—the only windowless room on this floor. He opened up the concealed entrance to his basement and ventured forth, closed it up again and Apparated.
Harry had got into a nice little routine after term had ended to keep his mind off … other things. First, Aunt Petunia woke him up by banging on the door. He would go downstairs, make Dudley breakfast, eat his own, wash up, study till lunchtime, then after lunch do whatever chores the Dursleys set him until dinner, after which he studied in bed before falling asleep.
Just before the summer, Voldemort had returned by using Harry's own blood in a ritual, and Cedric Diggory had been killed in front of him. Harry found that whenever he had nothing to do, depressing and dark thoughts found their way into his head, visions of Cedric and Wormtail and Voldemort, and every regret Harry could possibly have about the previous year. So he kept himself busy to keep his mind occupied.
Today he was assigned the job of getting the milk and paper from the corner shop. Normally he would have argued, not wanting to leave the house unless necessary, but he was so tired after umpteen nights of bad dreams he didn't bother, just decided to be quick.
Harry hardly noticed his surroundings as he walked as quickly as he could to the shop. He would just be in and out, he determined, and wouldn't stay to chat with the ever-talkative woman behind the counter. For all he knew she could be a Death Eater in disguise.
He shook his head, half-amused. Maybe the paranoia was coming from Moody – no, Crouch Jr.'s – Constant Vigilances.
The cool air from the fridge and the fan was a relief on his face after the hot sun streaming down on him all the way to the shop. He hesitated, letting it wash over him before paying and having to go back outside.
Standing in the queue, Harry was watching a fly buzzing round the light, his right hand absent-mindedly fondling his wand in his pocket, when a stranger entered, dressed in a long coat with a hat pulled over his eyes. Harry barely had time to register the fact that the poor guy must be roasting before he strode over to the counter and pulled out a gun.
The whole shop froze.
"Good …" The man checked his watch. "Afternoon. This is a robbery."
Really, I wouldn't have guessed, Harry thought sarcastically.
"If you all could kindly put your hands where I can see them. Thank you very much."
Harry swallowed. He was concealed behind a woman with a buggy and twin toddlers. If he could get out his wand without the man seeing …
"Ma'am," the man addressed the student behind the counter, "if you could be so generous as to empty the contents of your till into this bag." He passed her a small sack with his free hand.
If he used magic – especially in a public place – he would be in huge trouble with the Ministry, and that was the last thing he needed. But suppose the man used the gun on someone?
The girl's hands were shaking as she filled the bag with the contents of the till. "That's it," she said nervously, nearly dropping it as she handed it over. "It's not much …"
The stranger took it and pocketed it, then moved backwards towards the doorway, keeping his gun trained on them.
Maybe if he used a Trip Jinx surreptitiously …
Too late. The man gave a little bow at the door ("Have a nice day; the pleasure was all mine") and scarpered.
Harry sighed and slumped against the wall as the student lunged for the phone, the twins in front of him started wailing, and the whole shop was thrown into chaos. He left his goods behind, hurrying out of the shop as the girl behind the counter was trying to tell the police what happened at the same time as apologising to the twins' mother that she didn't have the correct change.
There was no sign of the robber outside. He had vanished into thin air.
When Harry arrived back at Privet Drive, he was startled to find a police car parked outside and a cop on the doorstep talking to Uncle Vernon, both of whom looked around when Harry approached.
"Boy, what have you done now?" Vernon growled, but the police officer spoke over him.
"Mr Harry Potter?"
Harry nodded. "Er, is this about the robbery at the shop?"
The first thing that struck Harry as slightly odd was that the policeman was in uniform. Wouldn't they have a plain-clothes detective on this sort of case? He decided he'd been watching too many of the crime dramas on after the news over the summer and that he was being paranoid.
"Yes, it is," replied the police officer, showing Harry his identification. "DI Bourdon. I'm afraid you're going to have to come with me to the station, where you will have to give a statement."
"What, right now?"
Harry frowned slightly. Why couldn't he just be questioned there and have done with it? Something wasn't quite right. But even though he'd been paranoid ever since the Third Task, he didn't think this man was a Death Eater …
His hand twitched towards his wand even so. "All right," he agreed, trying to keep the wariness out of his tone.
Something was definitely not quite right, Harry thought, as he was escorted into the policeman's car. This was too serious for a simple stick-em-up. Even homicide investigations could be dealt with in the home, if Midsomer Murders was anything to go by. So why was Harry going along with what was clearly a plan to kidnap him?
As they turned the corner away from Privet Drive, DI Bourdon seemed to relax. "Mission accomplished." He looked sideways at Harry. "Relax Harry, I'm not a Death Eater."
"Who are you then?" Harry asked nervously, his hand tightening on his wand.
"Someone who never gets socks at Christmas."
Harry nearly fainted with relief. "Professor Dumbledore?"
"The very same," the man said in a different, familiar voice. "Sorry if I scared you."
"How did you know about the robbery? Where are we going? Why couldn't you just have asked the Dursleys if -"
"Slow down, one question at a time!" Dumbledore exclaimed. "I knew about the robbery because I committed it."
"I've sent the money back anonymously – with interest as compensation for their trouble."
"To get you out of Privet Drive without alerting anyone."
"So you went to all this trouble just to … Wait, I've left my stuff behind! My school things, everything -"
"Sorry," Dumbledore said quietly. "I didn't have a choice."
"What do you mean?"
"Harry, if you'd stayed at your aunt's house any longer you would have been in danger. I had to get you out of there without letting people know it was me, because then that would put me in a dangerous position too -" Dumbledore swerved to avoid a speeding silver car and pressed on the horn.
"Is Voldemort trying to kidnap me again? I thought you said I'd be safe there? Relatively safe, anyway -"
"Not Voldemort. Worse. This will be much harder to deal with."
"The Ministry. They want you for murder."