Moon: This idea's been nagging at me for the longest time. You can thank arekay's excellent fic Harry Potter and the Power of Paranoia, which I highly recommend, for giving the idea, though I plan to execute it differently. Well, I hope you all enjoy it as much as Runaway and Trouble. I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter 1: Death
Harry Potter had gotten as low as he thought he could be.
He had just had an exceptionally difficult year. He'd been forced to participate in the potentially fatal Tri-Wizard Tournament, which had ended with him being kidnapped, forced to witness Cedric Diggory's murder and the revival of Voldemort, forced to duel him and endure a bout of Crucio before finally escaping by the skin of his teeth, only to be sent back to the Dursley house without a word of comfort.
So they he lay, day after day trying to process the guilt of the older boy's death with absolutely no outside help when his grief unravelled some memories that had been repressed by a charm.
Ron and Hermione had believed that he had put his name in the Goblet, but Ginny and the Greengrass sisters, Daphne and Astoria, hadn't. They had helped him through the various tasks, and he had gotten very close to all three of them, but then right before the Third Task someone had Obliviated him and most likely the girls too, making him believe that Ron and Hermione had helped him instead.
Harry wasn't sure who had cast the spell and why, but he wasn't thinking about that right now. Though the removal of their presence certainly made things more difficult for him.
What he was thinking about was the fact that no one was telling him anything, or saying anything that might help him.
All his friend's letters were prattling on about school and the Chudley Cannons and anything but the elephant in the room. They didn't tell him anything about what the Order was doing or what Voldemort was up to.
He'd begged for news, for help, anything, but even Sirius had said that they couldn't, and to just hold on until they saw each other next. This only made Harry feel even worse. Now someone had died just for being near him at the wrong time.
Even Petunia was noticing how down he was. In her single display of kindness towards Harry for as long as he could remember, she said that he didn't have to do all the chores until he had more energy.
Harry sat on his bed, shut up in his room, staring at the wall, tears rolling down his cheeks. He'd just woken from another nightmare about Cedric's death. It wasn't fair...Cedric had deserved better than that. He was the real Hogwarts champion...he shouldn't have been dragged into Harry's hellish, deadly life. Dead at seventeen.
He ran his fingers through his tangled black hair. Voldemort was back. It was an inescapable fact. Who would die next? What if it was Daphne or Ginny or Sirius? What if the Burrow was attacked next, or Hogwarts? And despite what Dumbledore always said Harry didn't believe that Hogwarts was very safe; he'd nearly died there several times over the past few years. And there were so many other students in that building...would they all die?
Voldemort would never stop until he was dead...it had never occurred to Harry exactly what that might mean before. Now he did. Even if he lost all his followers and all his limbs Voldemort would still drag his way towards Harry out of pure spite.
No one would ever be safe around him, until Harry was dead, or Riddle was.
The sheer weight of this thought crushed all the air out of his lungs. Merlin, he wasn't ready for this. He could barely defend himself, let alone others. How could he do this? How? He'd barely survived each of his encounters with Riddle...he had been very lucky, but luck always runs out.
Harry curled up in the far corner of his bed and let himself, slowly, painfully, cry.
A few hours later when he'd finally run out of tears Harry decided to think carefully about the position he was in.
"I can't rely on any of my friends...that would put them in danger. Besides, they aren't telling me a single damn thing, despite the very real fact my life is on the line. Damn it. I expected this kind of behaviour from Ron after how he reacted to my name being called from the cup but somehow I figured Hermione wouldn't do that. I guess I didn't know my friends as well as I thought I did. Well, I guess that leaves just me."
"Well, each time Riddle has made a strike at Hogwarts or anywhere else is because he's trying to get at me. Maybe I should leave the country. Does the wizarding world have witness protection? Somehow I don't think so." Harry watched his shoes. "I wonder how far he's gotten, rebuilding his forces...how much time do I have?"
"Damn it...Riddle has almost seventy years of experience on him. No matter how much I train unless I have years there's no way we'd be even near even-footing. There was mum's protection, but now that Voldemort used my blood to resurrect himself that can't protect me the way it used to."
"There's the Order, but how big is it? Dumbledore was the only man Voldemort ever feared, but every single time I've faced Voldemort I've done it alone. Maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe he can't help me for some reason. And if that's true..." Harry shook his head. He didn't like where that thought process was going and stopped it.
Harry looked over at the table where he had stacked a pile of the summer Prophet editions. He'd looked at the Headlines for news, but when nothing had sprung out at him he hadn't read past the cover. But maybe...
Maybe there's more minor news that I've missed. After all, there's more than just the cover stories.
Harry collected his newspapers and decided to read through them, story by story.
A few hours later Harry threw the last newspaper down, no longer sad but angry. After everything he'd been through he was being called a delusional attention-seeking liar. This was conveniently ignoring the fact that he'd been very outspoken about how much he hated his fame! This was ridiculous. Insane. Why would he lie about something this important?
Harry was pacing in his room now. Lucius...Lucius Malfoy probably had something to do with this, Fudge listened to him...yeah, that made sense. Now no one would believe him when he said that Voldemort was back.
And with his friends and family not telling him anything, that meant he was completely on his own.
He was dead meat.
Harry halted his pacing, forcing himself to think of an alternative – any alternative. Because if he was alone against Voldemort and his death eaters, he was going to die. Slowly. Painfully.
And then one came to him.
I could die.
Not literally. Voldemort would never stop hunting him so long as he lived. But if he thought he was dead...well, you couldn't hunt a dead person. After all, they were dead. That would be perfect.
Harry James Potter was going to fake his death.
He resumed his pacing, mind whirling as he considered this monumental task.
There were a lot of things he would have to set up to make his death convincing enough to fool not just the muggle authorities, but the magical ones as well. It wouldn't be simple, but Harry figured he could pull it off if he covered everything.
First, he was going to need a body. His first thought was just to transfigure a log into a lookalike for himself, but a magical autopsy could reveal that in no time. It would have to appear close to human. He'd have to destroy it beyond recognition, but with just enough evidence left over for them to identify it as him. He'd need DNA samples, fake hair, glasses. He'd dress it in his old clothes and buy himself some new ones. It would have to be human, and his size and weight, give or take maybe a few pounds. It would have to give the smell of burnt flesh. Maybe...maybe the goblins could help. He'd owl them.
Second, he'd need a method of death, something very final and complete. Maybe he could be bludgeoned to death? Perhaps...no, he needed something a bit more conclusive. Hit by a truck? But that may not batter the fake body enough, and imagine the reaction of the poor driver. Fire? Yeah. That would do it. He would set the body in his room and burn number 4 Privet Drive to the ground. He could wait until his three relatives were out of the house and gab the three propane tanks Vernon kept in the basement. It would be easy enough.
Then there was the question of any magical tracking. He called Dobby and consulted with him for a few minutes. Apparently, the Trace was just a story parents told their kids to keep them from using magic near muggles. What actually happened was that the Ministry put monitoring spells around the houses where muggleborns and halfbloods lived to make sure they didn't use magic. So as soon as he was out of the house they couldn't follow him. That was a relief.
There was also the matter of his estate. Being the last heir to the Potter fortune, he was entitled to will it to anyone he wished should something bad happen to him. He'd have to write a will first, and for that he'd need a listing of exactly what he owned. Another reason to go to Gringotts. It was high time he found out exactly what belonged to him anyway.
He would set up a place/false person/charity of some sort where he'd send most of his money, for himself to live on wherever he went. The rest would go to his friends.
His friends...he couldn't tell them about what he was going to do. They could give it away, and then he might as well have done nothing. Harry felt a twinge when he thought about what it would most likely do to Sirius, Remus and the girls if he were to die...
...Perhaps he should build in a backdoor for them to visit when it was safe. It was simple fact that they had a much better chance of winning this war without being targeted because of him. It hurt to know how much this would hurt them, but he didn't see any other choice at this point.
Speaking of the circumstances of his death. What should he go for? Tragic accident? Homicide? Robbery gone wrong? Heroic last stand, dying after being attacked by a Death Eater?
He'd have to provide another body for that...or maybe just a mask and some blood. Yeah. That would do it. He liked that plan; made the most sense for a young wizard to go out that way than in a confrontation with a muggle. Just enough evidence to make the scene clear.
Harry was aware that he represented something to the wizarding world. If he, the boy who lived, was murdered by a death eater...maybe Dumbledore could use his death as a rallying point. Knowing the old man, that's probably exactly what he'd do. Hell, maybe he even had that in mind, having given Harry so little training, refusing to tell him anything important. Harry pushed the thought aside and continued to plan.
Where would he go after this? Not within Britain itself, there was a good chance he could be discovered...somewhere close? France? Germany? Italy? He had always wanted to visit Italy, but it was still close to Britain, and Voldemort had gone to the countries around Britain to collect allies before. No, perhaps he should go overseas. The USA? Canada?
Canada. It was a fairly inconspicuous country, had a steady economy, and Harry doubted that someone would think, boy who lived faked his death? Let's check out Canada! So Canada it was.
Now. What about his stuff? He should probably leave his trunk and most of its contents here to burn; it would be suspicious if he was attacked and none of his school supplies were in the house. He could buy more later. How about Hedwig? He could take her with him; after all he often sent her out on flights for a few days. Definitely; he didn't want to be separated from his companion.
Name. He'd need a new name and a new history when he got to his new country. If he lived muggle it would be easy to conjure up the documents necessary. So, what was his name going to be? Should it be close to his real name? No. That might be a giveaway...what to call himself...and suddenly, a name came to him.
"Matthew. Matthew Winter." He decided. He liked the sound of that.
Did that cover everything?
Harry got to his feet and looked around his room. He'd have to make it look like there had been a struggle here, too. Break a few things, pull some wallpaper down. He should also put a few days between his visit to Gringotts and his 'demise' by the fire. Now he needed to set up.
Harry had a hood over his head when he walked through Gringotts to speak with his account manager. He didn't want anyone to see him; there was an air of urgency to him as he walked through the building and into the room where he would write his will.
"Your request will be easy enough to grant, Mr. Potter." Griphook said, handing Harry the sheets he'd need to write his will. "This isn't the first time a vault owner has asked for this kind of assistance."
"I'm glad to hear it." Harry said, his eyes skimming the documents that showed the Potter estate. Frankly, he was amazed. He had no idea the Potters had this kind of money and property. He had known his family was an old one, but wow.
He took the quill and began writing, making measures of what to send to who. He had a fairly good idea of what to do, so it wasn't that difficult. He spent an hour completing it before turning his attention back to Griphook. "Can I set up a vault in Canada to access when I get there?"
"Of course, Mr. Potter. We'll file the transfer right away."
Harry nodded. "Thank you, noble goblin. Now, I need to exchange some gallons for muggle money."
Booking airport tickets ahead of time had been easy enough; he simply booted up Dudley's desktop computer and looked at his options. There was a nine oclock flight to Canada tonight. There was a section of the plane for pets; it was more expensive than he was expecting, but he could still manage it. If he pushed it, he could make it. He printed his tickets.
Hedwig watched him in confusion as he darted in and out of the different rooms, coming back with a backpack of Dudley's that he had never used.
Harry put the body the goblins had given him on the bed. It was uncanny how much it resembled him; Harry shuddered and avoided looking at it as much as possible. He put his glasses on it and put in his contacts. He double-checked his timetable – Vernon was still at work, Petunia was out at her bridge club and Dudley was visiting Piers. They wouldn't be home for two hours.
Harry then pulled out the cracked Death Eater masks and stared at them for a second. A symbol of the nightmare his life had become. With luck, this would be the last time he ever saw one. He dropped them on the floor near the fake body.
With his bag packed, Harry ran down into the basement and collected the propane tanks. He set all three of them in his room, and poured gasoline along the floor and down the hall like a fuse line.
Grabbing Hedwig and his invisibility cloak, Harry gave one last look at the house that had been his prison for all his life. Then walked over to the stairs, lit a match, and dropped it on the end of the gasoline line.
Harry bolted down the hall, Hedwig flapping in protest as her cage swung about. He had just launched himself out of the door when the house exploded into flame.
Harry watched the house burn for three seconds before turning and running down the street, the shouting of the neighbours sounding behind him.
Eventually, the smoke and fire faded into the distance. Harry's feet hurt from running, but his heart was pounding.
He'd done it; Harry James Potter was dead. The goblins would make sure of it. Soon, the whole wizarding world would know he was gone.
He was free. Completely and utterly free.
This knowledge made Harry giddy like a schoolgirl. He jumped onto the bus to the airport, paid his fare and sat down, putting Hedwig's cage on his knees. The bus drove off into the early evening.
It took hours for him to get through customs; Harry had almost forgotten what it was like to travel the muggle way. Hedwig didn't look too thrilled at the thought of travelling by plane; Harry would have to make it up to her with treats when they reached their destination.
When the plane took off Harry thought, again, of his friends. He'd set up the backdoor for them to find him when it was safe to; hopefully it wouldn't be too long from now.
Good luck, he thought.
Okay, this is the last we'll see of Harry for a little, mainly I want to focus on how this affects Britain. It's a bit short, but the next few chapters will be longer. So how do you like it?
Read and Review please!