Harry Potter and the Power of Paranoia
Note: While this chapter may read like a bashing story in parts, you can assume that all characters, apart from Harry, are as per canon.
Harry Potter was exceptionally angry. After a particularly difficult year in which he had been forced to participate in the Triwizard tournament and which ended up with him witnessing the death of Cedric Diggory and the rebirth of Voldemort he now found himself back at Privet Drive. Not only was he forced to live once again with the Dursleys but none of his friends were telling him anything. He had been unable to get any information about what was happening in the magical world and it was driving him crazy. The fact that not one of his friends had responded to his requests for information was exceptionally infuriating to the young wizard.
"We can't say much about you-know-what, obviously… We've been told not to say anything important in case our letters go astray… We're quite busy but I can't give you details here… There's a fair amount going on, we'll tell you everything when we see you… "
But when were they going to see him? Nobody seemed too bothered with a precise date. Hermione had scribbled "I expect we'll be seeing you quite soon" inside his birthday card, but how soon was soon?
Even Sirius had been absolutely useless. "I know this must be frustrating for you… Keep your nose clean and everything will be OK… Be careful and don't do anything rash…" It was quite galling to be told not to be rash by a man who had served twelve years in the wizard prison, Azkaban, escaped, attempted to commit the murder he had been convicted for in the first place, then gone on the run with a stolen Hippogriff.
He was currently moping around in his room wondering whom he could request to give him some news. Unfortunately for him in his four years at Hogwarts he had yet to make any real friends apart from Ron and Hermione and both of them had already stated they were unable to give him any news. He had gotten so frustrated that he had finally written back and told them that if they weren't going to tell him anything then he didn't see any point in writing to them at all. After that he had refused to send them a single owl. Oh, they had sent a few letters after that, but Harry had not bothered to reply and after seeing that they still weren't giving him any information had started throwing them away unopened.
"To hell with them all," thought Harry, "I should have expected it from Ron after the way he behaved last year, hell he didn't even tell me about the dragon even though he would have found out about it from his brother much before I did, but Hermione, somehow I expected better from her. But then, come to think of it, she's always kept her secrets from me. Funny how she expects me to tell her everything but doesn't bother to reciprocate. She kept the time turner a secret for an entire year, then there was the time she went behind my back to McGonagall over the broom. She even figured out that Remus was a werewolf and never said a word, and this was after the two DADA professors before Lupin had both attacked me. Oh no, why bother to inform Harry about a potentially dangerous DADA professor. It's not like there's any precedent whatsoever for the DADA professor to attack him." Harry was getting angrier as he thought about the actions of the girl that till just a month ago he would have called one of his closest friends.
"Hell, she never even told me she was going to the ball with Krum. Why? I wasn't the one to insult her with a poorly worded invitation to the ball. That was Ron. If she doesn't trust me enough to tell me anything then why on earth should I trust her? And now, once again she's not telling me anything. Guess she's just like the rest of the idiots at Hogwarts, probably doesn't want to have anything to do with me now that Voldemort's back. Forget her. And Sirius, like it would be too much trouble for him to send me some news, no-no, probably too busy doing whatever the hell an escapee from Azkaban does. Forget them all, they don't see the need to tell me anything, well bugger them, I don't need them either. Growing up with the Dursleys I knew I couldn't depend on anyone but myself. I grew up without any friends and family to speak off. I was fine taking care of myself then, I sure as hell don't need anyone now."
Harry racked his brains trying to think of who else he could ask for help. He didn't feel comfortable asking Neville, Seamus or Dean for anything in-spite of sharing a dorm with them for the last 4 years. He cursed himself yet again for spending all off his time with Ron and Hermione instead of cultivating better friendships with the other students at Hogwarts.
He considered contacting Remus for a brief moment but discarded the idea almost as soon as he had it, Remus was a werewolf after all, and Harry knew that he had difficulty holding down a job in the magical world due to his disability, as such he probably wasn't the best source of information Harry figured. On top of that, Remus had never looked him up in all the years he had spent living at Privet Drive. For someone who had claimed to be so close to his parents to never even make a phone call to check on him was bloody inexcusable. For that matter where had he been all of last year? Sirius was on the run and he had still managed to maintain contact. Where had Remus been? The more Harry thought about it the angrier he got. He could almost excuse Dumbledore for never checking up on him. Almost being the operative word. After all apparation and portkeys were both nearly instantaneous, so if travel time wasn't an issue how long would it have really taken to stop by a house and speak to a kid to make sure he's all right. Still, after all Dumbledore had to be a busy man, what with his multiple positions in both the wizengamut, the ICW and Hogwarts, but what excuse did Remus have? Just that he was a werewolf?
Come to think of it, there were a lot of things about Remus that were extremely fishy. Take the events of third year. First of all, until the incident at the Shrieking Shack the man had never mentioned how close he supposedly was to Harry's father. He had, in fact, barely mentioned him at all. Plus he never told anyone that Sirius was an animagus. At that time, Sirius was thought to be a psychotic mass murderer out to kill Harry, and Remus Lupin never told anyone about the one piece of information that could have explained how Sirius was sneaking into the school. Why?
All he had given was some kind of piss poor excuse that he had not wanted to disappoint Dumbledore. Wasn't Harry's life and safety more important than disappointing Dumbledore? Obviously not to Lupin.
Then the man very conveniently forgot to take his potion at the worst time possible. He was in a school full of children and he forgot to take his Wolfsbane potion. Either he was incredibly stupid, which Harry knew he was not, or there was something more sinister at work. Suppose, just suppose that he had known about Pettigrew all along. Not only known, but suppose he was working with Pettigrew and Voldemort. Pretending that he had forgotten his Wolfsbane had certainly provided the perfect distraction for Pettigrew to escape.
Snape had been there as well. Harry knew Snape had been a Death Eater. As such he should have known that Pettigrew and not Sirius was the traitor. Yet he had kept quiet all this time. Harry thought back to what had happened when Snape had shown up in the Shrieking Shack.
Snape was slightly breathless, but his face was full of suppressed triumph. "You're wondering, perhaps, how I knew you were here?" he said, his eyes glittering. "I've just been to your office, Lupin. You forgot to take your potion tonight, so I took a gobletful along. And very lucky I did... lucky for me, I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight."**
Had that been true? Had Remus forgotten his Potion? Or had Snape been giving Remus a hint? When Snape told Remus that he forgot to take his potion, had he really been ordering Remus to pretend that he had not taken it?
Harry was appalled. "Could it be true?" he wondered. "Was Remus not what he seemed?" Even if it wasn't and Remus was not a traitor - According to Sirius's story his parents had not trusted anyone else with the knowledge that Pettigrew and not Sirius was the secret keeper. That certainly indicated that not only did they not trust Remus, BUT it also meant that they had clearly not trusted Dumbledore either. If his parents had not seen fit to trust Remus and Dumbledore, why on earth should he? After all they had known the two men far better than he. True, Sirius had explained that they had been wrong not to trust Remus, but could he really believe that? No, he could not afford to. After all, it probably was some sort of a logical fallacy to assume that Remus was innocent just because Pettigrew turned out to be a spy. What, after all, would have stopped Voldemort from having more than one spy? Nothing!
Harry wondered what would have happened that night if he had not stopped Sirius from killing Pettigrew. Would Remus have turned his wand on Sirius at the last moment? Probably! He had been kicking himself for saving Pettigrew as the man had escaped just moments later when Lupin transformed, but now it looked like he had actually saved Sirius from dying at Lupin's hands.
Wait, hadn't Dumbledore sent Sirius to live with Remus at the end of last year? That meant that he couldn't contact Sirius at all. Sirius trusted Remus and that meant that anything told to Sirius would be as good as told to Remus. So that meant he couldn't tell Sirius anything either even if he was talking to him, which in any case Harry was in no mood to do at the current time.
"I wish I could get a hold of the newspapers at least," thought Harry, wishing yet again that he had had the foresight to arrange for a subscription. * As things stood the only place he knew of to get a hold of a copy was Diagon Alley and he was stuck at Privet Drive totally unable to go there.
Suddenly an unlikely name popped into his head - "Dobby, Dobby could get me a copy, after all he was willing to help me out with the gillyweed during the competion, I hope he's still willing to help out."
He quickly scribbled a note on a spare bit of parchment and let Hedwig out of her cage.
"Hi girl, could you please take this to Dobby."
"Master Harry Potter Sir called for Dobby," shouted a elf as he suddenly appeared at Harry's side causing Harry to fall over in shock.
"Dobby," said Harry, "How did you get here? I was just about to send you an owl."
"Master Harry Potter does not need to send Dobby an owl, Master Harry Potter Sir simply needs to call Dobby and Dobby will come."
"Really, that's great," said Harry. "Dobby I need some help and was hoping you could help me out."
"Of course, Dobby is always very happy to help out the great Harry Potter," said Dobby almost hyperventilating in his eagerness to serve his favorite wizard.
"Thanks Dobby, I really appreciate it. Now I've been stuck here without any news since the beginning of summer and I really need to find out what's happening. Do you think you'd be able to go to Diagon Alley and fetch me some newspapers?"
"Yes, Harry Potter sir, Dobby would be happy to go get you as many newspapers as you want," said Dobby popping away immediately.
"Damn, he didn't even wait for me to give him some money," thought Harry. "Oh well, I can always pay him once he gets back."
Five minutes later Dobby was back, his diminutive body dwarfed by a large pile of newspapers.
"Here you go Master Harry Potter Sir, Dobby do be getting you all the newspapers printed since the beginning of summer."
"Wow Dobby, that's way more than I was expecting," said Harry in shock. "I wish I'd thought of contacting you earlier, this is exactly what I need. How much do I owe you?"
"Oh no, Harry Potter Sir, Dobby is owing Harry Potter Sir for freeing him from wicked master, Dobby want to help you."
"Thanks Dobby, but I can't let you spend your money on me, I insist on paying you back. And no I won't hear another word about it, now how much did you spend."
"Dobby spent 5 Sickles and 4 knuts," said Dobby in a sulky voice.
"Here's 5 Galleons Dobby, could you keep the change in case I need you to fetch me something else?"
"Dobby would be happy to fetch anything that Harry Potter wants."
With that Harry hunkered down and began to read the papers from cover to cover. It was not long before he had to stop due to the increasing amount of rage he was feeling at the contents of the newspapers. He quickly skimmed through the rest of the papers and found that the rest of them were the same. He was being portrayed as a delusional attention seeking brat in more articles than he wanted to count.
"I don't believe this, Dobby," said Harry. "I mean, I knew Fudge didn't want to believe that Voldemort is back, but this is ridiculous. He's obviously behind this - this abomination. What is he thinking? Is he insane? It's one thing not to believe me, but this... What sense does it make for him to attack me this way? He can't be that certain that I'm wrong. Can he? Any sensible person would at least allow for the possibility that I was right and investigate what I said about Voldemort being back. This attack on me makes no sense at all."
Suddenly with a dawning sense of horror, Harry came to the only conclusion that the information he possessed allowed him.
"He's in league with Voldemort," whispered Harry. "That's the only way this would make any sense. Obviously Voldemort's not ready to announce his return, and is using Fudge and the Prophet to discredit me so that no one will believe me when I say he's back."
"This changes everything," thought Harry, furiously pacing within the confines of the smallest bedroom at Privet Drive.
"Obviously I can't rely on anyone else to protect me from Voldemort, and if the last 4 years are anything to go by, he's going to be coming for me sooner rather than later. No place is safe. If Fudge is in his pocket how hard would it be for him to find out where I live?" thought Harry with an increasing sense of horror and fear.
"He's more than proven himself of being able to attack me at Hogwarts, hell the bugger waltzed in there right under Dumbledore's nose back in first year. Last year Barty Crouch Jr. was there the entire year without anyone being the wiser. God alone knows how many years Peter Pettigrew was hiding there as well. Death Eaters have proven themselves to be able to move freely in and out of Hogwarts and Dumbledores too bloody incompetent to stop them. Lucius Malfoy could walk in and Avada Kedavra me in the great hall at breakfast and Dumbledore would probably have been the one to happily invite him in - the incompetent old goat. And Snape - everyone knows he used to be a Death Eater, and yet he's still allowed to teach us even with his blatant favouritism and total inability to teach. What's to stop him from arranging a little potions accident? God knows there have been more than enough of them in his class. Come to think of it when Voldemort called the Death Eaters to the cemetery Snape must have been called as well. He could have informed Dumbledore immediately but Dumbledore didn't know that anything had happened until I got back to Hogwarts with Cedric's body. If he had told him, then they could have come to the cemetery and at least have prevented Voldemort from using the cruciatus on me and forcing me to duel him. That's one more piece of evidence that suggests that Snape is still a Death Eater. There's no way I can go back to Hogwarts. Safest place in Britain my ass," thought Harry thinking back to how Hogwarts had once been described to him by Hagrid.
"What do I do then? I can't stay here; I can't go back to Hogwarts. What do I do?" thought Harry as he threw himself heavily onto his bed.
After half an hour of a monumental sulk session in which Harry felt thoroughly sorry for himself, he finally roused himself and started thinking about his next step. He knew he couldn't continue to live at Privet Drive. Since he believed the Ministry to now be completely in Voldemort's pocket it stood to reason that Voldemort would find it only to easy to find out his location from them. He didn't want to go to the Burrow as he refused to trust Ron and by extension Ron's family, no matter how much he liked them. He didn't know where Hermione lived and after her refusal to communicate with him, really didn't want to bother with her either. Sirius was out of the question as he was supposed to be with Lupin. He refused to even consider going to Dumbledore for help, thinking back to all the times that Dumbledore had failed him. That left him without anyone he could go and stay with. This led him to a rather horrible realisation.
"I have to find a way to stay on my own, far away from anyplace that Voldemort can get to."
He considered his options, thanks to his parents, he had a considerable amount of galleons at his disposal, however he was unable to access them while he was stuck at Privet Drive. The main obstacle was that he was still underage and this severely limited his options.
"I could just run away and find a place to stay on my own, but what if they find me; they'll just send me back here. So what I need to do is figure out a way so that they'll never be able to send me back or even better find me."
He briefly contemplated blowing the house up and faking his own death. "Shouldn't be that hard to do" he thought. "Wait till everyone's out of the house, sever the gas line, leave a candle burning somewhere and when the house fills with gas - BOOM. No more house, everyone thinks I'm dead, Voldemort stops coming from me, and I can finally live life on my own terms."
He spent a few blissful minutes imagining the faces of the Dursleys when they came back to their home to find it nothing but a smoking hole in the ground. "Serve them right, treating me the way they do. Would do them good to rough it for a while. He he he."
Unfortunately he soon found several flaws with the plan. "What if Petunia or Dudley came back home early? I don't know how long it'll take for the house to blow up after all, could take hours for the gas to build up. Even if it blows up correctly, they could find out I've taken money from my vault, then they'll probably get suspicious. Probably toss me in Azkaban as well. I'll have to come up with a better plan. Pity, I really - really wanted to blow up this damn house."
The faintest outline of a plan glimmering in his mind he called out to Dobby. "Dobby if I give you my key - can you make a withdrawal from Gringotts for me?"
"Of course Master Harry, Dobby be fetching things from Gringotts all the time for bad former master."
"Excellent, so could you just hop over to Gringotts, get some money - say a hundred galleons, then go over to Flourish and Bott's. Tell them to give you any book that covers American and European wizard towns, settlements or places like Diagon Alley. They probably have something in the travel section. Make sure you don't let on that you're buying it for me okay."
"Of course Harry Potter Sir, Dobby be doing that right away," said Dobby as he vanished with a cracking sound.
The next morning Harry was poring over the guidebooks that Dobby had heard from him. Just then he heard a loud, echoing crack which broke the sleepy silence just like a gunshot. Harry had become very familiar with that sound. It was exactly the same sound that Dobby made when he was apparating. He would have assumed it was Dobby, but Dobby was even now pottering around Harry's room putting stuff away and cleaning up. This meant that it had to be another wizard who was apparating close by. Harry wondered who it could be, when he felt a chill run down his spine. It could not be any of the people he knew, since they would surely have informed him before coming over and he hadn't received any letters in days. That left him with only one conclusion -
The Death Eaters had come for him.
*Yes in canon Harry was being delivered the Daily Prophet, but at the same time we are expected to believe that he somehow missed the fact that it had been slandering him. For someone who was so desperate for news that he hid outside the window so that he could listen to it on television, it strikes me as a bit unbelievable that he never actually read the paper except for the headlines.
**Excerpt from Prisoner of Azkaban