Disclaimer: If one could buy Harry Potter, I would be the very first in line. I would stand there and stare, shake my head, and start to stammer. J.K Rowling would look at me, maybe smiling patiently, maybe with an annoyed twitch of her eyebrow. After I – stammering – indicated my interest, she would ask me what I offered. And then I would blush and run…
A.N.: Don't know enough about geography in the UK to be able to make the actual locations realistic. Thus, just imagine that Little Whinging is quite close to Cokeworth – location of Spinners' End (Severus Snape's childhood home) AND location of the hotel the Dursley's spend the night with Harry on the Wild-Letter-Escapade from the Philosopher's Stone (with Vernon driving so erratically, they could actually have been quite close to their actual home) – close enough, anyway, that the following scene could have happened. Don't bug me about the logistics, okay?
Also, if the police here don't follow proper procedure, well that's their own fault – you could report them to their superiors, if you'd like, but I'd prefer you'd not.
A.N.: I just wanted to thank all the amazing people that reviewed, followed, and 'favourited' this story. I always felt so guilty when I put new drabbles and one shots up, but I didn't forget this story, not at all! I have plans, so many plans *Muhahaha..* - just kidding. But truth is, I was thinking about COASM a lot, and for my long-term project, I think it is best if – in the beginning – I just let the ideas stew a little, so that the good ones become clearer, and the bad ones will be forgotten. If you read some of my drabbles, you noticed that the quality varied a lot. (Which is bad.) I really don't want that for this story.
Interlude: Policewoman's POV
When I heard about the allegations made against this family today morning, I was a bit sceptical at first. Or rather, I wanted to be. Not that the case seemed to be all that severe in the beginning:
A few days before, during my indoors shift, a middle aged man had been directed to my office. His claim had been that there was a school-aged child that did not attend school living a few doors from his home.
I winced, that was a common problem in the neighbourhood. But I pulled myself together, offered him a seat, and made to take his details.
Boy, was I in for a surprise! I took his details, and was quite surprised to notice that he was not from Cokeworth, but from an adjoining district in the neighbouring county Surrey. So, what was he doing here of all places?
Was this supposed to be a bad joke?
I looked at him: "Not to be rude, Sir, but this is not exactly our business, is it? We could give you directions to the local police station, if you'd like that. I'm sure they could help you."
As I spoke, I could see his expression first becoming disappointed, then even more determined.
"Pardon officer, but that is regrettably not an option." His grey eyes were kind, but hard.
And then he started to talk. And his words seemed to become more ludicrous with every sentence that he spoke: uncaring neighbours, never–investigated complaints to the police, corrupt head teachers, and in the midst of it all, one lonely boy who, would it not have been for his gender, could be seen as a modern Cinderella.
It sounded fantastical, like a badly written play or like the newest conspiracy theory read right off The Sun's title page. I made not much effort to hide my patronizing tone:
"Are you certain that the boy doesn't just like playing in the dirt – that's how children at that age are. And maybe he is even still too young for school – he could be big for his age!"
The man gave a mirthless laugh.
"Big? Big? You haven't seen the boy, he is skin and bones!"
The man was panting slightly and his voice was rising steadily.
"He has the height of a four–year–old, and I know that he must be at least six because he and his cousin, who is overweight, are supposed to be close in age. The neighbours do talk about them; it is just that whenever the boy is concerned, they see the devil in disguise." He visibly forced himself to calm down.
I blankly looked at him, feeling horrified, but still not sure what to believe. He did not avoid my searching eyes, but met my stare head on. I could discern that for him, at least, this was not a joke.
"Very well," I hesitated and examined him once more "We will investigate this promptly, I assure you of that."
He said nothing, but after some scrutinizing, I had apparently passed his inspection. Obviously feeling satisfied with his findings, he nodded once and stood up from his chair.
"Thank you officer, I really appreciate it." He shook my hand and made to walk through the door.
"Sir…" He paused at my words, his hand already on the door handle and looked at me expressionlessly.
"Sir, if you are right in your suspicions..." I stopped this train of thoughts. I didn't want him to be right.
"You are a good person, Sir."
His lips widened into a short, pained smile.
Then he was gone.
Today, when my partner Jess and I first rang the doorbell at number four, no one opened, although we knew the woman to be home. This made the underlying bad feeling I had had since the man's visit to my office come back in full force, before 'Mrs Dursley' had even opened the door.
We had spent the last few days doing preliminary investigation. We checked directories and asked nursery schools, primary schools, hospitals, and doctors in close proximity, but the child was not registered to ever have visited any of those, which was rare in itself. Children were supposed to get vaccinations, they were prone to stomach-aches, the flu … there were childhood diseases that needed to be tested for. Besides, the other boy, the child's cousin, had been to nursery school and the doctor's. He had gotten all his vaccinations and had been to the hospital, twice, and was still remembered as the 'boy with the overbearing hysterical mother'.
"Another one, you say?" The nurse scrunched her nose thoughtfully and looked to her colleague. "Not that I noticed… and if there had been another one we would have remembered for sure, with that kind of guardians…"
The signs were all there, but I still hoped that there was some kind of reasonable explanation for all this.
But all through our "talk" with Mrs Dursley, the rest of the house was utterly completely ominously silent. Five to seven year old boys were not that silent. Or if they were, the parent or guardian in question would be worried enough to check up on them immediately, to avoid them setting the house on fire. (My Tommy tried burning our tablecloths once, when he was five, because he didn't like how they "hid the table", and it nearly gave me a heart-attack.) No, there was something wrong here.
If the boy was not in the house, where was he?
The woman was totally relaxed in our company by then.
'Which proves just how vapid and foul she really is', I thought vindictively. 'Time to find out what is truly going on here…'
Jess seemed to sense my rapidly declining mood. Normally he was the short tempered one, but when it comes to children, my patience always runs out quickly. After so many years of working together, he knew that about me very well. He caught my eye for a short moment, and gave a tiny discrete nod before quickly returning to complement our 'host' – I snorted inwardly – on her "Darling Dudley's" childish scratchy paintings, which were 'adorning' all the walls of the living room.
Trying to sound dispassionate, yet empathetic, I asked the crucial question:
"It must be difficult to raise two boys so close in age; does your son get along well with your nephew?"
And her damning answer: "Why with that good–for–nothing freak?"
We had her. She knew that as well. It surprised me that she noticed her mistake that quickly, but I guess that she had practice from years and years of covering up on that front. And the suspicions of the man and our own findings seemed to make frightening sense, which alarmed me greatly.
When Jess used his no-nonsense voice on her, she nearly succumbed. Of course, afterwards she tried to talk herself out of it anyway, though without much luck.
Jess is good like that.
I normally love to see him work, though with the situation being so severe, I remained completely serious and focused.
Where is the child? Is he alright? Hurry, Jess, hurry! I've got a very bad feeling…
Outwardly I showed no expression, though my heart was beating fast. I hated cases such as these, where children were involved.
Jess had finally started to shout.
"Where is your nephew, Mrs Dursley? He lives with you. He is neither in school nor in any nursery, so he must be here. Why has he not made any noise so far and where is his room?"
A nearly inaudible whimper reached my ears. Mrs Dursley winced, though Jess appeared not to have noticed anything in his agitated state.
"Wait!" I hissed: "Shhh… Did you hear that?"
I completely ignored Mrs Dursley who seemed to try to make herself as small as possible. Just as she summed up the courage and was about to speak again, probably to divert our attentions, there was another sound:
A groan, coming from the direction of the hallway.
Jess and I jumped up immediately, taking no notice of the by now frantic Mrs Dursley.
Jess is faster than me, but he stayed rooted once in the hallway. I made a shushing motion to Mrs Dursley with my hands, when she again tried to raise our attention. This was no time for games anymore. Our not so quiet sprint seemed to have reached the ears of the up-to-then unknown observer, because soon after we could hear a series of "no's", steadily increasing in volume.
Jess ran up the stairs, but came back down immediately and shook his head. I checked the kitchen, even throwing open all the cabinets and sideboards in my worry.
"Honestly, do you people have a search-warrant?" The screeching voice of Mrs Dursley in the background "When my husband hears of this…" – But I had noticed something, finally.
Two of them. In front of the Cupboard under the stairs, which was normally always used for shoes, cleaning supplies and waterproofs, if not jackets and anoraks for everyday use. This house was otherwise set-up and furnished in a typical English suburban style. Mrs Dursley had seemed like the most fanatically 'normal' housewife. So why was that cupboard locked?
"The key" I said frostily. "Mrs Dursley, 'please' open the cupboard for us." My voice made no secret that this was not a suggestion.
After some more drama that went from threats to wanting to see our 'search warrant' to this being a 'free country' to me exerting an astonishing amount of self-control… and finally ended with me trying all the keys that were conveniently placed on the key hooks by the entrance.
"You do not have the right!" Mrs Dursley shrieked. "What are you doing?" She seemed long past caring that her actions were only making us even more suspicious, but by then I had finally managed to find the right key and the padlock sprang open.
I hurried to pry the door open, my hands trembling with suppressed emotion.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sight inside.
When Police Officer Sarah Kingston opened the door to the Cupboard Under The Stairs in Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, she never could have imagined what effect this outwardly small action would have on the fate of the world even years and years in the future.
But she couldn't have known anything neither could her partner Jess, Mrs Dursley, or even anyone else – muggles and wizards alike.
Only three people had even a hint of an idea. The first was a girl with waiflike golden blond hair. She was sitting in midst a valley of beautiful flowers humming softly in a peculiar language, when she suddenly opened her eyes, jumped up and danced in circles, her laughter pealing like silvery bells.
The second, an old man with long beard in a tower up north all of a sudden had the feeling as if something was fundamentally different in the world, but he didn't know what had changed. He looked to his steady companion, a red-golden fiery bird as old as Magic herself. The phoenix looked calmly back at the old wizard and let out a contented thrill. After throwing a fleeting glance at the numerous instruments in the circular office, the man set his quill down and quickly exited the room through the fireplace.
The third, a woman in a small cottage in the wilderness in a country up north took a step back from the highly ornamented shining silver basin that looked so out of place in the simple cottage. Her milky-white eyes fixed on nothing particular she stood by the window letting a breeze of wind blow over her expressionless face. She knew what was coming, and thus she would wait.
When Officer Sarah Kingston opened the door of the Cupboard Under The Stairs,
Harry Potter went silent,
A whole shelf of silvery delicate looking instruments in the now empty circular office worked in a frenzy before becoming motionless again,
And a small, unassuming practically transparent glass ball positioned on one of countless nearly identical shelves in a room on the ninth level of the British Ministry of Magic, went black.
No one would notice any of this for several years.
A.N.: Oh-oh this chapter was supposed to lead up much further – Harry was supposed to be the main character in this chappie already. Fear not, from hereon it will mostly be Harry's and the other main character's POV (OC) who will be introduced in chapter 4. This story will be slow paced – there will be many chapters before Harry is eleven.
A.N.2: Please, R & R, suggestions are welcome! :)