Chapter 1 – Harry Potter is Missing!
No one in the room remembered seeing Albus Dumbledore this visibly upset in recent memory. His normally genial face was grave, the warm eyes were unfocused and his shoulders had a distinct slump as if falling under a heavy weight as he unthinkingly stroked Fawkes, his phoenix familiar. Even when Order members were slain in the line of duty, his response was usually carefully controlled grief tinged by his aura of crackling power.
The elderly wizard was the Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and was widely recognized as the most powerful wizard of his time. He was as well-known for his unruffled good humor as for his garish apparel and rarely permitted others to see him as anything other than pleasant, optimistic and determined. As he listened to the soothing trill of the phoenix, his grim expression caused the other members of the Order of the Phoenix to become increasingly apprehensive.
Severus Snape stormed into the tension-filled room, his black robe billowing behind him and an expression of distaste on his sallow face. He inclined his head slightly to those present, then gave his attention to the Headmaster. "Albus, what has the brat done now that required me to put my potion in stasis at a critical point in the brewing?"
The Headmaster turned and nodded to the tall taciturn Potions Master without his normal smile of welcome. That alone caused the latecomer to pause in sudden uncertainty. "Thank you for joining us Severus. I wouldn't have summoned you if it weren't important. Harry Potter is missing."
"Missing?" Obsidian eyes narrowed. "For how long? I thought he wasn't allowed to leave his relative's yard."
"No one has seen him for nearly a week."
"Who interviewed his relatives?"
Nymphadora Tonks, the young metamorphmagus Auror, spoke up. "Moody and I spoke to them this morning after I realized that no one had seen him outside all week. Considering how Harry performs all their yard work, we should have seen him every few days. The Dursleys were reluctant to speak to us at first, but Moody…uh…persuaded them it would be in their best interest to answer our questions." She paused to send a half-hearted grin towards the older and scarred former Auror as she remembered the scene.
The huge Muggle man had blustered indignantly at the two Order members on his front step and attempted to slam the door in their face after declaring that he had no desire to speak with "freaks". Moody forced his artificial right leg into the door to prevent it from closing and then pushed his way into the house, drawing his wand smoothly as he moved. His magical artificial left eye was spinning as he scanned the house and directed the Muggles into their immaculate but nondescript living room. Tonks had to admit that Moody fully earned his nickname "Mad Eye" when he pinned the family with his intimidating glare.
The fat teenaged cousin of Harry tried to hide behind his horse-faced mother while his red-faced and hefty father spit out "Now see here! This is MY house and I will not tolerate…"
His tirade wound down abruptly when Moody fixed the spinning eye on him and raised his wand towards the other man's throat. His voice was dangerously quiet as he hissed "I will ask only once. Where is Harry Potter?"
Shifting his eyes down to the wand, the Muggle answered "The ungrateful whelp left a note on the kitchen table one morning and disappeared before we were up. He left his chores unfinished and…"
Moody stabbed the wand at him and the Muggle found himself silenced. Tonks questioned Harry's Aunt. "Do you still have the note? What day did he leave?"
Petunia Dursley nodded her head towards her imitation Victorian escritoire. "I put it in the middle drawer. I knew someone would show up eventually after the unappreciative brat disappeared. He couldn't even be bothered to explain his absence himself to you…people…himself."
Tonks quickly walked to the desk, preferring to leave Moody to hold the family in check. A folded parchment was in the desk, wrinkled as if it had been crumpled into a ball and then smoothed out again.
I am leaving for the rest of the summer and taking my things with me. Although I sent a note to my friends, if anyone comes looking for me, please let them know that I am safe and will return to Hogwarts for the start of the term.
Moody picked up after Tonks finished her narrative to Snape. "We examined his room. There was no residual magic, dark or otherwise in his room or elsewhere in the house. The note had Potter's aura on it, so he did write it. Whether under duress or not is unknown. Essentially, he's disappeared without a trace."
The Potions Master scowled his displeasure. "That arrogant idiot! Has anyone spoken with Granger or the younger Weasleys to see if he gave them any information?" He glared at the older red-headed Weasley twins who had only recently joined the Order.
The Headmaster spoke up as the twins vehemently shook their heads. "Molly returned to the Burrow to talk to young Ron. She should be back momentarily."
Even as he finished speaking there was a whoosh at the fireplace and the auburn-haired matriarch of the Weasley clan stepped out. Brushing off the soot with one hand, she held up a note with the other. "Harry's owl delivered a note to Ron five days ago. It says only that he's going to be away for the remainder of the summer, will be safe and looks forward to seeing them for the start of the new term. He also asks Ron to please take care of Hedwig until he returns."
Mad Eye Moody growled "Should have had a tether spell on the boy, Albus. I know the young folks mock me for advocating 'constant vigilance', but attention and watchfulness might have prevented this."
Molly turned to glare at Moody, as fierce in her defense of the missing boy as if he was one of her own. "Harry was not a prisoner, Alastor! Now I don't know why he decided to leave his Muggle home, but to forcibly bind him there? That's outrageous!" Moody shrugged at her.
George and Fred Weasley looked at each other and shared a silent message. Predictably, their mother noticed the exchanged glance and the nearly imperceptible head movements. "Did you boys know about this? Why didn't you say something?"
George spoke up first. "No Mum, we didn't know."
Fred added "But we certainly aren't surprised." The twins began speaking quickly, finishing the other's sentences.
"You say you don't know why he decided to leave…"
"…but why is anyone surprised? It's not like he was ever happy there…."
"…nearly starved, worked like a house elf…"
"…locks on his bedroom door, bars on his bedroom window…"
"…called a freak and a waste of space…"
"…left alone to deal with his grief over his godfather's death…."
"…would you have left one of your children alone to cope after witnessing a loved one's death, Mum?"
Molly Weasley's irate expression dropped as her tender heart melted. "No, I would have been happy to have Harry at the Burrow all summer. He shouldn't have been left to mourn alone. He needed support and comfort, not more abuse." She turned to glower at Albus Dumbledore, but paused at the distressed expression on the elderly wizard's face.
Albus sat down heavily in his chair and sighed deeply. "We'll have to do what we can to find him without alerting Voldemort that he's no longer under the protection of the blood wards. Alastor, please work with Kingsley and Tonks to develop a covert search strategy. Severus, let us know if Voldemort gives any indication that he's aware Harry is absent. If we don't find him before the end of the summer, we'll just have to hope that he is indeed safe and able to return to Hogwarts as he stated for the start of the term."
After a brief discussion, the Order members left the room leaving the Headmaster and Fawkes alone. The phoenix trilled a question to the Headmaster. The elderly wizard's voice was deep with regret. "I did what I thought was best. I thought he was handling Sirius' death. After all, Harry hadn't known him that long. I thought he understood how important the blood wards were. But I forgot that I was dealing with a sixteen year old boy. They have a hard enough time at that age without all the trials Harry has endured." The Headmaster shook his head in remorse and resumed stroking his familiar, giving them both comfort. He dearly hoped that Harry was safe.