Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Title: Salazar Comes to Slytherin
NB: While this multi-chapter fan-fic is a stand-alone work, it can be considered to be a run-on from the two chapter short-story, "Of Pride and Prejudice," which can be found in this same Nifty Archive at:
I recommend reading that short-story as a Preface to "Salazar Comes to Slytherin," as it will help shed light on the motives and behaviour of a number of characters in this story.
Rating: PG(not!), G(NOT!), R, AO, NC-17, & A, B, C, & X, Y, Zed& whatever!
Warnings: Hot, torrid slash (that's Gay sex, kiddies!), angst, occasional coarse language, drug use, graphic violence and murder& and absolutely no respect for authority ... so why do you need a fucking rating!
Pairings: Harry/Sals/Draco [an eternal triangle of sorts], other implied `ships.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry or Draco, I'm just playing in JKR's sandpit; but if I did own them&
As Hogwarts assembles for the Welcoming Feast, everyone is talking about Harry Potter. He is on the run from the Ministry of Magic, for using two Unforgivable curses on a Muggle, his own uncle, no less!
The Daily Prophet broke the story on the first day of the summer hols; but now, for the first time in nine weeks, the students have the chance to discuss it among themselves.
Rumours abound: Harry is in Azkaban Prison; he's hiding in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid; some even have him dead.
The new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, has declared: "One Dark Lord is enough! This latest upstart, the-would-be-Lord Potter, is going to have his wings clipped. I intend to nip this rogue miscreant's nefarious ambitions in the bud!"
"Nobody," according to today's Prophet, "has seen Potter since he murdered his Muggle uncle& " and& "no student has seen him since they departed King's Cross Station, earlier that same day."
However, the three students who should be most interested in Harry's fate have a more pressing issue on their minds: for the Great Hall is also abuzz with talk of a new arrival.
His existence was first rumoured as far back as last Easter, almost six months ago, by that notorious gossip, Rita Skeeter, who claimed to have seen him in Knockturn Alley.
The trio has already met him, and each has a different take on the situation. Ironically, Draco Malfoy, rather than Ron Weasley, has more in common with Hermione Granger on this matter.
In fact Hermione and Ron are not even on speaking terms. With Harry gone, the remainder of the Golden Trio seems to have fractured.
The new boy is about to be sorted into one of the four houses in the Sixth, and his name is causing an uproar. But more intriguing than his identity is this mysterious individual's history.
Where do his true allegiances lie? More important still: where is Harry Potter& and can he ever return to Hogwarts?
Chapter One ... Wild Magic
Harry Potter lay sprawled over the sweaty mattress; he sweltered in the humidity. The young wizard was exhausted, and his breathing was ragged. He was naked, except for his pants, Muggle briefs, that pooled around his ankles. They were NOT hand-me-downs from his disgusting cousin, Dudley, unlike most of the rest of his clothes.
One of the first things Harry had done, when he'd snuck out of the Leaky Cauldron, way back at the beginning of Third Year, was to buy some pants of his own.
For the three years since then, whenever he'd had the chance, he had bought his own underwear. They were the one item of clothing that Harry absolutely refused to share with that fat git. Just the thought of it made him shudder.
A deep sigh escaped Harry's lips, a mixture of sated sexual frustration and listlessness. He flicked the pants off his feet and caught them in mid-air, with his Seeker's lightening reflex. He lifted them to his face and inhaled deeply.
The sweet odour of Harry's own pheromones re-stimulated his memories of Cedric and Sirius. But his sexual arousal had already been slaked, and their memories merely stirred the pain of loss that he'd only just erased, momentarily, with recollections of past carnal pleasures.
Harry reached down to his flat, hard stomach, with the shorts still in his hand, and wiped the remnants of his release from his silky-smooth skin, taking particular care to soak up the tiny pool that always seemed to gravitate to his navel.
When was the last time he'd done this? Harry couldn't remember& but it was before the disaster at the Ministry of Magic, of that much he was certain.
Sexual arousal had been the furthest thing from his mind over the past week. In fact, Harry wasn't even sure why it had been one of the first things he'd done as soon as he'd walked into the room and flopped down onto that lumpy, uncomfortable bed.
Harry stuffed the soiled shorts between his pillow and the wall, rolled off the bed, sauntered listlessly to the open window, then leaned on the sill.
He dropped his head low and sighed again; his warm breath brought a hint of relief to his sweaty chest, as the evaporation cooled his skin.
There was not the faintest breath of breeze.
The exhausted young wizard knew he would not get to sleep any time soon. He was tempted to have a quick, cold shower, but feared that would only invoke the wrath of Uncle Vernon. So he merely flopped back down onto his bed. He was spent, but it was still light outside and he didn't really feel sleepy: this was a mental fatigue; Harry felt edgy.
Sirius was dead: another wizard, whom Harry had come to know and love, cut down in his prime. Harry was on the very edge of hysteria& he was the common denominator& he was the cause of all the deaths of all those with whom he had been intimate& from his parents to his lovers. He did not think he could take any more.
In the week that had elapsed since the fiasco at the Ministry, Harry had not come to terms with any of it. It had taken him the best part of the last twelve months to try to accept Cedric's death, and now he was facing it all over again, only this time it was Sirius.
Harry did not think he could survive the four weeks and five days until his birthday. That was how long Dumbledore had said he would have to stay at Privet Drive.
Living with the Dursleys was hell on earth. Harry hated it; Dumbledore insisted on it.
They had only been back there an hour, and they'd already had three arguments. First it had been Uncle Vernon throwing his weight around...like the bully he was, once Remus, Mr Weasley, Mad-Eye and Tonks had ceased to pose a visible threat to him.
Uncle Vernon hadn't taken kindly to being put in his place by the quartet, in public, like that. They'd set him straight about how he was expected to treat Harry.
Mad-Eye could frighten Merlin, if he put his mind to it. So Harry had assumed that things might be a little more pleasant, since Uncle Vernon had been so clearly intimidated by Mad-Eye's antics.
But, to Harry's great disappointment, once they'd been out of sight of King's Cross Station, Uncle Vernon had started. He'd ranted and raved throughout the entire drive back to Surrey.
Sadly, once they were back at number four Privet Drive, and inside the Dursleys' house, the pushing and shoving had begun. That had really tested Harry's tolerance to the limit, and he'd begun to fear that he might not be able to control his anger.
The last thing Harry wanted was more attention from the Ministry of Magic and that pathetic little man, Fudge, the Minister for Magic. So Harry had simply bitten his tongue, and gone straight up to his room, as quickly and quietly as possible.
That, then, was how and why the last half-hour had passed in restless, but blessedly uneventful, misery. Well, most of it& if you ignored Harry's all-too-brief moment of frenzied self-abuse.
Harry closed his eyes, heaved a deep sigh, and let his mind drift aimlessly back over the past seven days&
He had barely slept one wink through that terrible last week at Hogwarts. Even when he had, it had never been anything more than a fitful snooze, just enough to unleash the nightmares that plagued the dark places of his mind. That would inevitably end with Harry waking the entire dorm with one of his blood-curdling screams.
The last few nights had gone from bad to worse: the dreams had stopped, only to be replaced by visions. Voldemort had invaded his sleep without any serious resistance. But Harry had been adamant that he would not go to Dumbledore for help, he'd still been too angry with the old man.
As for Snape& well that bastard could rot in Hell. Harry wouldn't have gone back to him for anything. He would prefer that foul creature, Voldemort, in his head every night, rather than endure that greasy git ferreting around in his mind, sneering as he did so. What was more, Harry would never be able to forgive Snape for the part he'd played in Sirius's murder.
On his way down to breakfast, yesterday morning, Harry had begun to fear that the visions would come during the day, in class, or the Great Hall, in front of the whole school. Far too many people already thought he was dangerous and not quite sane.
Thankfully, he'd been spared that fate, as the last day of Hogwarts had passed relatively quietly. But last night& the visions, and the pain from his scar that always accompanied them, had more than obliterated his brief relief&
A bitter scowl creased Harry's lips, as he clawed at his sweaty bed sheet, and contemplated his shit of a life. He fought back tears, for whatever reason he was not sure&
No!... that was bollocks: Harry knew why he didn't want to cry, not even there, alone in his room& it was totally naff& and a sign of weakness; and that was a luxury he couldn't afford.
Harry thumped the lumpy mattress, and thought about Sirius, Cedric and his parents. A tear teetered on the edge of his eyelid; he flicked it away angrily. His anger at the tear then turned to anger where anger belonged: at the feet of that vile monster, the source of all Harry's woes, Voldemort!
Harry ground his teeth furiously, as he recalled last week's encounter at the Ministry. Echoes of his own physical pain, at that monster's hand, began to torment him again.
With grim determination, Harry shrugged off the sensations, by evoking the memory of Sirius falling, and his rage flared again; but this time it was directed at Bellatrix Lestrange.
Once again Harry began to transfer his anger, this time to Pettigrew, the rat. Harry could hear Voldemort's cold, high voice& "kill the spare!" & and then, in his own mind's eye, Cedric fell once more. Another tear threatened&
Suddenly the bed began to vibrate, and the light began to flicker& on, then off& at irregular intervals. Hedwig screeched loudly and rattled the bars of her cage with her beak.
Harry recalled the incident from three years ago, with his Wild Magic and Aunt Marge. The last thing he wanted, right now, was more run-ins with the Ministry. He braced himself and attempted to rein in his raging anger.
A loud scream, unmistakably that of Aunt Petunia, snapped Harry out of his wallow in self-pity. That scream could mean only one thing for Harry Potter& trouble.
Sure enough, Uncle Vernon began to thunder up towards Harry's room.
"BOY!" he roared from somewhere on the stairs, "GET DOWN HERE! THIS INSTANT!& DO YOU HEAR ME!"
Harry sauntered into the lounge-room, trying his best to suppress his fury. At the same time he was trying to hide his guilt, at almost being caught naked in his room. He'd hurriedly thrown on a clean pair of pants, his shorts and a T-shirt. His trainers had no laces.
Uncle Vernon's complexion was somewhere between purple and puce.
"Took your ruddy time!" he bellowed, as he waved a letter in the air.
The official-looking document was written on wizard's parchment; and the sight of several owl feathers, scattered around the room, confirmed Harry's suspicion: he had been sent an owl, from the Ministry of Magic.
Harry's anger began to rise again. He was furious to think that the Ministry would punish him, merely for rattling his bed and buggering the lighting.
"It was Wild Magic, for Merlin's sake!" Harry argued to himself, on the absurdity of the situation.
He thought back to last year, and Fudge's attempt to convict him over the Dementor attack.
The lights flickered once more; Aunt Petunia screamed.
Harry's hair stood on end, flaring in waves, as his Wild Magic continued to charge the room. He closed his eyes and tried to suppress his emotions.
But Uncle Vernon was not about to let that happen.
"You look at me when I'm speaking to you, boy. You've been lying to us!" he roared.
Before Harry could deny it, Uncle Vernon was moving towards him, with fire in his eyes.
"This Bumblebore," he ranted at Harry, then he shook the parchment menacingly in the young wizard's face, "or whatever he calls himself, tells us that this godfather of yours, your wanted criminal, is dead! & Thought you'd keep that little fact from us, did you?"
"HE'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" roared Harry angrily, and the lights flickered more intensely.
Aunt Petunia screamed again and threw her arms around Dudley, who looked nervously from Harry to his father and back again.
"Well, you're right there, boy!" sneered Uncle Vernon nastily. "We have no business with any of your kind. He's dead& and good riddance, I say!"
Uncle Vernon seemed to enjoy that.
The lights began to flicker wildly, as the air cooled and swirled around the room. The glass covers in every framed photograph of Dudley shattered in unison; shards littered the floor.
Aunt Petunia gave another short sharp scream, then gripped Dudley, who was now far more terrified than his mother. They huddled together in the corner, too traumatised to even think of trying to flee.
The lights started to make a shrill noise, as they brightened to a blinding intensity. They were flickering so violently that it looked like lightening.
"Screw you!" cried Harry in anger.
Uncle Vernon's eyes flared wildly at Harry's defiance.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Uncle Vernon roared above the noise of the wind that now whistled around the room.
Harry's uncle was surprisingly focused and aggressive, despite the erupting chaos. He seemed oblivious to the danger unfolding around him.
Like some lunatic armed with only a stick, he continued to poke the Gryffindor lion cub with his vitriolic tongue.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME?" he roared again at Harry.
"SCREW YOU!" Harry screamed.
Uncle Vernon lunged forward and slapped Harry hard across the face.
The boy wizard had been so distracted by the effects of his Wild Magic, that Uncle Vernon had caught him by surprise. He soon had Harry pinned to the wall by his massive frame, and grinned manically, as he grabbed Harry by the throat.
"Gerroff!" cried Harry in anger, "I've had enough of ya!"
In a blinding flash of light, Uncle Vernon was thrown across the room, where he hit the opposite wall with a sickening thud. But even this did not stop the man, it merely seemed to enrage him further.
Harry's uncle pushed himself up and off the wall. He staggered towards Harry, and a look of manic rage distorted his face.
"Why& you& " Uncle Vernon cried.
He lumbered across the room, with his arms outstretched menacingly towards Harry. It was just like the old Frankenstein's monster on the telly, only far more frightening& this was real!
Uncle Vernon had almost reached Harry, who held up his hands, palms out, facing his uncle. That stance felt as if he was preparing to push Uncle Vernon back away from him.
But what happened next would change the course of Wizard history&
Tendrils of lightening flew out of the tips of Harry's fingers and flickered wildly around Vernon Dursley, who was still a good three feet away.
Then Uncle Vernon screamed, as his massive frame convulsed violently in the agonising throes of death.
Harry was horrified by what was happening, but he couldn't bring it under control. Every fibre of his body told him that this was coming from him; or, rather, that he was channelling these powerful natural elements. But it was fatally out of control.
From the tips of Harry's fingers the bolts of lightning intensified. Ten wild arcs of near-blinding light danced and wriggled erratically through the air, from each of Harry's digits, to the decade of relatively static points of contact on Vernon's writhing body.
Harry struggled to bring his own rigid body, and his Wild Magic, under control. Gradually the wind that eddied violently around the room, with Harry at its centre, began to abate.
The torn scraps of Dudley's pics, which had been ripped from their shattered frames, littered the floor. The doilies, flower petals and strips of paper, tattered remnants of Aunt Petunia's Hello and OK magazines, all began to flutter down onto the carpet. The glassware ceased its rattling, and the house lights stopped stuttering.
The room fell eerily quiet, as Harry's lightening abated. An occasional neon-blue spark trickled from his fingertips, then fizzled into thin air with a gentle buzz and hiss. His mop of dark hair gradually settled back down, as the highly charged atmosphere began to dissipate.
Vernon Dursley's massive frame tottered in mid-stride, his wide eyes stark but lifeless. His ugly face was frozen in a grotesque expression of agony. Thin wisps of blue-grey smoke drifted up from the various parts of his clothing that were charred and smouldering.
Darker, thicker smoke issued from Vernon's gaping mouth, nostrils and ears. Harry felt nauseous at the sight; he might have hated the man, but this was a fate&
Harry baulked then gagged, as the odour of burnt flesh assaulted his nostrils.
Suddenly Vernon Dursley's massive hulk crashed to the floor, shattering the coffee table in its way.
Harry bolted for the kitchen, out the back door, and threw-up in the garden.
When he returned, Aunt Petunia and Dudley had not moved; they were still huddled against each other in the far corner of the room. Their stark stares were grim evidence of their shared mental trauma.
Harry sat listlessly on the swing at the end of Magnolia Road. He dragged his feet, to bring himself to a halt. Twilight had all but gone, and the park looked eerie in night's shadows.
He was in a state of shock, and still not fully cognisant of the events that had shattered his already fragile mental state.
He was a murderer!& and on the run from both Wizard and Muggle authorities alike. He had nowhere to go.
All of these things were hovering in the fog that shrouded his shattered mind. It was all too much to take!
For the last week, ever since Dumbledore had revealed the prophecy, Harry had been weighed down by the realisation of just what his destiny was: to become either the victim or the victor. His fate was sealed: he would have to kill or be killed.
Now, so soon, the prophecy, more of a curse really, had already claimed him: he was a killer!
Harry had struggled, throughout the last week, to come to terms with his fate. He had almost convinced himself that he had no choice: killing that foul monster, Voldemort, in self-defence, was nothing of which he should be ashamed& nor was it to be feared.
Self-preservation was a perfectly natural human behaviour.
But how could Harry explain this? Muggles would never believe him, and the Wizard Ministry, especially Fudge, had already shown its hand, with the Dementor attack, this time last year.
Harry's only fear was failure, for failure would mean a particularly slow and painful death, and not just for Harry, but for everyone that he'd ever come to know and love.
Now that too seemed inevitable: Harry knew he'd never be able to defeat Voldemort, without the support of the rest of the Wizarding world.
As if that wasn't enough to be going on with, there was the pain of knowing that everyone he'd ever come to loath and despise: Draco Malfoy; his father, Lucius Malfoy; Snape, now more than ever; Wormtail, Peter Pettigrew; Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort himself& all of them would be happy and victorious.
With what had just happened in number four Privet Drive, there was no hope for Harry, and none for the friends he loved. He had no future in either the Wizard or Muggle worlds. He was on the run, nothing short of a murderer. At least he would be, in the eyes of the authorities, Wizard and Muggle alike!
Harry had left Privet Drive in such haste that he'd only grabbed the bare essentials: his money, his broom, his invisibility cloak, his wand and, for some strange reason, his map.
The first three items were invaluable; the wand?& he was not so sure about that. He wondered if it could be used by the Ministry of Magic to track him down. As for the Marauder's Map& well, it wasn't of any real use; after all, it only worked at Hogwarts, and he wasn't going back there any time soon, if ever. But the cloak and the map had been his father's, and they were the only tangible links that Harry had to either of his parents&
No they weren't!
Suddenly Harry remembered his photo album, which Hagrid had given to him at the end of First Year. Harry had left it on his desk, back in his room, or, rather, back in Dudley's second bedroom: Harry never really thought of it as his own room.
Harry contemplated going back to get the album, but decided that it was not worth the risk, even if it did contain the only photos he would ever have of his parents& and Ron and Hermione.
"Are the Wizarding authorities even aware that anything has happened tonight?" Harry asked himself.
He'd originally thought Dumbledore's letter was from the Ministry: a reprimand for his earlier burst of magic.
His anger suddenly flared again, this time at Dumbledore.
Why did that meddlesome old fool have to interfere? If he hadn't written that stupid letter& but Harry knew that was not true. He'd already had his first Wild Magic episode up in his room, before the owl had arrived.
"Fuck!" Harry cried, "Hedwig!"
He'd forgotten his own owl! He cursed himself again: how could I have been so&
Hedwig was still locked in her cage, back in the room!
"So& what do I do now?" was Harry's one thought, his most urgent dilemma. Did he dare go back? Did he have enough time?
The Muggle authorities would be there in a matter of minutes, once Petunia and Dudley came out of their shock, enough to start screaming.
As if on cue, Harry heard a police siren, then an ambulance; they were approaching from opposite directions.
As they neared Privet Drive Harry pulled his invisibility cloak back up over his head, and sat still, listening to the growing commotion in the distance.
Blinking back a tear, Harry began to imagine some of the terrible fates that could befall his precious familiar, especially at the hands of his aunt and cousin. He imagined them abusing the bird, simply because she was his.
The chains supporting Harry began to rattle, and he could feel the seat vibrate, as the swing almost hummed in resonance with his Wild Magic.
The chains glowed with a faint blue light, and his fingers tingled. Traces of the lightening that had killed Vernon Dursley began to snake over Harry's fingertips. They dissipated with a faint hiss and sizzle, into the warm night air, through the silken folds of his invisibility cloak.
Slowly, angrily, Harry recognised something that he'd been trying to ignore for the last half hour: he was out of control and fatally dangerous.
He didn't know who to turn to, for he didn't want to endanger the few he considered.
The horrible reality gradually sank into Harry's befuddled mind, as he clawed back control of his Magic: he was on his own and, like it or not, he had to make the best of his lot without endangering anyone else.
Harry sat under his cloak, on the swing in the darkened playground, and considered his options&
Dumbledore and Hogwarts were out: Harry doubted that he would ever be able to return to the Wizarding World. To do so would be to face a fate worse than death itself: having his soul sucked out of his body by a Dementor.
Not even the great Albus Dumbledore could protect him against the Ministry, last year's fiasco with Umbridge had proven that.
The Muggles were already on the case, so Harry was officially on the run. But he still had a few aces and a wild card up his sleeve.
His wand was the wild card; he was afraid that it would lead the Ministry to him, even if he didn't use it. But he wasn't really sure about any of that.
Harry snorted sadly& Hermione would probably tell him that he should know, because it had been covered in class, only last term, or some such thing. Merlin, he wished she was there to scold him, right then, at that very moment. And Ron, of course; he missed them both.
Another tear threatened, but Harry blinked it back ruthlessly. He couldn't allow that to happen, just as he couldn't allow himself to see either of his best friends again.
He was a danger to everyone who'd had contact with him...he always had been...and now he was even more so.
The Muggles might already be on the case, but Harry had one advantage, besides his invisibility cloak and broom& they had no photograph of him.
With all the snaps of Dudley that littered the house, it was perverse irony that there was not one of Harry. His horrible family had unwittingly given him anonymity in their world.
But Harry knew that it would be only a matter of time before the Ministry provided the Muggle authorities with a recent Wizarding photo. Well, at least that would take some time&
Harry suddenly remembered his album again, though this time it was not with nostalgic regret. In it were the only snaps of Harry in the entire Muggle world, and recent ones to boot!
Harry had no choice, with Hedwig and his album still in the bedroom, he had to return to Privet Drive and retrieve them.
When the flurry of noise from the direction of Privet Drive had died down, Harry hopped off the playground swing.
The sirens had stopped, but he could still see the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance, as they were reflected off the tall tree outside of number seven.
Straddling his broom, Harry rose above the playground until he could see the flap of activity back at the Dursleys'.
He pulled the cloak off his head, and let what little breeze there was, at that height, cool him down. The entire evening was fast becoming a blur, and Harry could barely recall exactly what had happened with Uncle Vernon.
Eventually Harry decided that he must be in shock; he slowly cleared his mind, and tried to rationalise. He had to go back, to get Hedwig and his album& now!
Harry glided across Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. He could see people milling around the end of Privet Drive, so he pulled his cloak back over his head.
A crowd of sticky-beaks had gathered opposite the Dursleys' house, and the police had already cordoned off the property, the crime scene, with blue and white chequered tape. Two young bobbies stood on either side of the front lawn, to enforce the cordon.
Harry hid his broom under a bush at the edge of the Dursleys', then he ducked under the tape. He was about to cross the lawn and slip behind the nearest bobby, when another uniformed officer came out of the front door.
Harry froze as the young copper headed straight for him. But to his great relief the fellow walked right past him to speak to his mate. Harry eyed their name tags, as he eavesdropped on their hushed conversation.
"Fuck me, Mike," rasped PC Young, "weirdest shit I ever seen."
He shook his head incredulously, then leaned closer to his colleague, and whispered&
"The great blimp was roasted from the inside out. I thought `e might have been blown up like that, as a result of the attack& y`know? But one look at `is kid& besides, all `is clothes still fit `im."
"Jesus, Martin," rebuked the other young officer, PC Mike Stanford, "have some respect for the dead."
"Yeah, well, it's really weird, y`know?" whispered PC Young, as he leaned closer, "great `oles and burn marks all over `is body."
He shivered uncomfortably.
"The room looks like it was `it by a bloody `urricane, y`know?" he added, "and `ere's the really barmy bit& "
Harry strained to hear what came next, as the two bobbies leaned closer.
"There's glass all over the floor, right?" PC Young whispered, "but the only broken glass was from the frames of ev`ry snap in the room."
The other officer shook his head.
"So?" he asked, with a bewildered look.
"So, this is in the lounge& y`know?" said PC Young, "mirrors, light fittin`s, glass dressers, telly, windows, china& and not one of `em even cracked& but& "
He looked at PC Stanford deliberately, then added, almost conspiratorially&
"ev'ry picture frame was shattered, and the kid's saying that nobody touched the snaps, they all exploded at the same time! Every photo was ripped out of every single frame, and the kid reckons that it was `is cousin what done it, just before he went totally nuts and nuked his dad!"
PC Young nodded, finally, as if to say, what do you think of that?
"Sounds like something out of the X-files," replied his colleague.
"You watch too much of that Yank rubbish, it's bollocks," groused PC Young.
"Maybe," was PC Stanford's reply, "but it sounds like this caper," he nodded towards the house, "would make a bloody good episode."
"True `nough," his mate conceded soberly, "and that's not the `alf of it."
Stanford snorted disbelief, and this prompted Young to nod vehemently. But then Young shook his own head, to register his reluctance to believe what he'd just seen inside the house.
"I'd swap for a minute, to let ya get a butcher's, but you know what the guv's like: `this is not a bloody circus!'"
They both grinned at Young's impersonation of their commanding officer.
PC Young nodded back at the crime scene again.
"The guv's been on the blower to the chief super, and `e's sent for the Special Branch& flying someone down from London, an` all& should be `ere any minute now. Driving up from Guildford, with the chief super, as we speak."
"It must be real serious then, to get the Yard down so quickly," his mate conceded.
"Yeah," replied PC Young, "an` speak of the devil& "
He nodded towards the police car that had just pulled up, sans siren or lights, outside number six Privet Drive.
Harry nearly cried out, with the shock of seeing who was with the Chief Superintendent&
Appearing very uncomfortable, in a pathetic attempt at impersonating a Muggle, was Percy Weasley; he was dressed in tweed, and looked like he'd just tumbled out of a Sherlock Holmes novel.
If Harry had not been so on edge, he might have laughed. The other two were magical as well, but they were far less obvious.
Harry hadn't recognised the second wizard initially; it was three years since he'd seen him last. He was Jack Chesney, the last Ravenclaw Seeker before Cho Chang. He was Muggle-born, from memory. Last Harry had heard, he was training to become an Auror.
But Harry didn't know the witch; she looked much older than the two wizards.
That the Ministry was cooperating with the Muggle authorities so soon, caused Harry to panic momentarily. He wondered if rescuing Hedwig was too risky, but he quickly dismissed the thought: he could not abandon her.
Already ashamed that he'd forgotten his owl in his panicked flight, Harry became doubly angry when he recalled that he'd almost let her out of her cage when they'd first arrived back there that evening. But he'd foolishly decided to wait till after dark, to avoid attracting any attention. He seethed with the bitter irony of it all.
Why Hedwig hadn't made a sound when Harry had gone back up to the bedroom, he could not say. Surely she couldn't have slept through all that noise?
Harry wondered if he would have heard Hedwig, even if she had been squawking wildly; he'd been so confused. He couldn't even remember going up to the room, after& after& and he didn't want to remember what had happened downstairs in the lounge room.
But Harry must have gone back upstairs, because he had his valuables on him now, and he'd changed into his jeans and a proper shirt, and his trainers even had laces.
He realised, suddenly, that he must have been at least partly rational when he'd left the house. That, strangely enough, came as a surprise, and Harry found it all very disturbing.
PC Young turned to his mate, then grinned.
He marched briskly towards the new arrivals, and saluted his superior.
"Good evening, Chief Superintendent," Young smiled, "I'm PC Martin Young. Detective Inspector Carmody is expecting you."
Young eyed the magical trio hesitantly.
"And the other officers, Sir," he added hastily.
Harry found it hard not to snort, while trying to suppress a laugh. But the cruel reality of the situation ensured that his amusement was fleeting.
"Thank you, PC Young," replied the chief super, "lead on."
Harry braced himself, then headed towards the front door, in the wake of the others. He followed them into the hallway, but not the lounge room.
The broken glass would have given him away; and with two Aurors only feet from him, he dared not use his wand to silence his footfalls.
Of course, there was another reason why Harry did not enter the lounge: he could not bring himself to look at his uncle's body.
The stench of burnt flesh still polluted the air, and Harry struggled not to gag. He almost panicked.
"What if I throw up now? What if I lose control of my Magic again?"
He knew he was a fool, but he decided to push on, despite the risks that seemed to be mounting with every step he took.
Fortunately, most of the other police officers seemed to be out in the kitchen, with the ambulance officers, Aunt Petunia and Dudley; so Harry had little trouble hearing the initial conversation.
"Brian," the chief super greeted his colleague gloomily, "this is a nasty business."
He looked around the room, finally settling on the bloated carcass of Vernon Dursley.
"Yes, Sir," replied the other officer equally grimly, "that it is."
The Chief Superintendent turned to the wizards and witch, then back to Carmody, whom he addressed.
"Detective Inspector Brian Carmody, this is Miss Esmeralda MacLeish, and Messrs Percival Weasley and Jack Chesney."
"Pleased to meet you," replied Carmody.
He shook their hands in turn.
"I'm sorry," he went on, "but I thought you were Scotland Yard, Special Branch?"
"That's my fault, Brian," said the chief super, with a grim smile, "I should have warned you; this actually came from Downing Street, very hush-hush!"
He turned towards the magical trio.
"Miss MacLeish is in charge of their investigation, and Mr Chesney is your liaison, Brian."
Brian Carmody nodded stiffly, as the chief super continued&
"Their brief is to make a preliminary inspection of the crime scene and to conduct private interviews with each of the witnesses, immediately. They will not interfere with the evidence, unless absolutely necessary."
He turned to cue Jack in.
"Thank you, Chief Superintendent," replied Jack.
The young wizard smiled at Carmody.
"We would like to begin with a quick examination of the lounge room, Inspector," he said amicably, "including the body of the deceased. Then we would like to interview the witnesses, upstairs, I think, before we conclude our investigations back down here."
"I'm afraid only the boy is available, just now," replied Carmody. "Mrs Dursley is under heavy sedation; she is about to be transferred to hospital for observation. The boy is in the kitchen."
"Thank you, Inspector."
Jack maintained his pleasant demeanour.
"In that case we will begin."
He moved into the centre of the lounge, with his two colleagues.
Harry wondered what he could do to hear what the witch, the Auror and Percy were saying, but he still did not dare cross onto the glass-strewn floor, nor use any magic.
The two coppers moved back into the hall, forcing Harry out of their way, momentarily. They stopped, a few feet down the hallway, as Harry backed up towards the lounge door.
Harry positioned himself so that he could watch the Aurors while he listened to the two senior police officers.
"John," Detective Inspector Brian Carmody addressed his superior in hushed tones, "with all due respect, this breaks every protocol in the book. Who are these people, if they're not from The Yard?"
"I'm afraid I can't tell you that, Brian," replied the chief super soberly, "because I don't know myself."
"Well they don't look like MI5, or MI6 for that matter."
Carmody sneered with distaste.
"More like boffins if you ask me. I don't like it."
The chief super sighed in frustration.
"I agree with you completely, of course, but whether they contaminate the crime scene or impede the course of justice, it's out of our hands, old man."
Carmody could only grimace.
"They've agreed not to touch anything," added the chief super, "unless absolutely necessary. But beyond that they have carte blanche. The directive came straight from the Home Secretary."
"Well I still don't like it, John," grumbled Brian Carmody, "but I've got to admit: this case is so far beyond anything I've ever seen, that I'll accept help from anyone."
The chief super adopted a really glum expression.
"I wouldn't hold out any hope that these people are going to provide you with information, Brian& at least nothing of value. Their agenda has little..."
"Shit!" cried PC Young, as he ran into Harry.
Only with the strength of Merlin had Harry managed to suppress his own scream; he backed away, into the alcove at the end of the hall, and pressed himself hard against the wall.
PC Young had brushed up against Harry's invisibility cloak, when he had entered the hallway from the kitchen.
He jumped back in shock, into the centre of the hallway, where he began to flay his hands and torso frantically, as if he had walked into a giant cobweb.
Fortunately for Harry, PC Young hadn't managed to catch the silken fabric in his fingers; but what terrified Harry was the fact that it might happen again, at any moment.
Rescuing Hedwig was just one more stupid venture into which Harry had flung himself pell-mell, without weighing up the consequences.
"When," he wondered, "am I EVER going to grow up!"
Yet Harry refused to run. Stupid and dangerous as it was, he vowed to complete the rescue of his beloved owl.
However, Harry was now confronted by another dilemma: for here, before him, were the very people who would almost certainly determine his fate.
He could not resist the urge to try to discover what conclusions the police, and especially the Aurors, would reach. So he hung back in the alcove and listened.
Harry felt sorry for PC Young, who couldn't have been much older than him; two, maybe three years, he thought. He wondered, briefly, how old you had to be to join the Bill.
Then he fidgeted uncomfortably in confusion and shame: how could he even think about something so trivial, when his uncle, the man he'd just killed, was lying only feet away?
Looking more closely at PC Young, Harry decided that the bobby looked like Cedric. He estimated that, if Cedric was still alive, he'd be about the same age.
PC Young flushed with acute embarrassment, then he immediately gathered his wits and saluted the chief super smartly.
"I'm sorry, Chief Superintendent, Sir!"
He then saluted Inspector Carmody.
"Explain yourself," barked the chief super, as he peered at the officer's name tag, "PC Young!"
"Sorry, Sir," came the timid reply. "I swore `hat I'd walked inta a spida's web, righ'there& "
He pointed to the spot&
"Know it mus'sound weird an'all, Chief Superintendent, Sir, but this `ere `ole case is weird."
He smiled apologetically.
"Well, PC Young," said the chief super, staring hard at the young officer, "if you find yourself unable to react calmly in a crisis, you might be better suited to a desk job."
"Yes, Sir," replied a crestfallen PC Young, "I mean: NO SIR!" he blurted in a panic.
Then, in defeat and confusion, Young looked to his boss for a way out.
Detective Inspector Carmody obliged his young officer.
"Is there a reason for this interruption, PC Young?" he demanded.
"Oh, yes, Sir," came the relieved reply, "the ambos `ave finished with the lad, and they're ready to take the wife. They wanna know if they're rig'ta go, Guv."
Carmody indicated that the ambulance could take Aunt Petunia.
As PC Young turned to walk back into the kitchen, he darted his eyes cautiously to where Harry had been standing.
Once the constable was out of earshot, Inspector Carmody leaned towards his superior.
"I wouldn't be too hard on PC Young, John," he said calmly, "he was right, this case is weird& in the extreme. I wish the Yard was sending a team down, I could have done with the help. This has Special Branch written all over it."
Just then, Jack Chesney came out of the lounge room.
"Excuse me, Inspector Carmody," he said soberly, "we've finished our preliminary inspection, and we would like to interview the boy in his bedroom, now."
"Certainly," smiled the police inspector, who maintained a rigid but professional demeanour.
As they began to organise this next phase of the investigation, Harry decided that this was his best chance to free Hedwig.
He moved quickly but quietly up the stairs, once the others had moved into the kitchen.
Harry was amazed to find that the snaps and framed portraits of Dudley, which had lined the upstairs hall, had all been shattered, just like those in the lounge.
He navigated his way around the broken glass fairly easily, as there were fewer photos and much less debris than downstairs.
Once in the bedroom, which was still in darkness, Harry quickly closed the door, then whipped off his cloak.
He soothed Hedwig with his gentle words. She responded with a muted hoot and a quick nod, followed by an elated ruffling of her feathers, as soon as he released her from her cage.
Harry did not turn on the light, nor did he dare use Magic. He navigated his way across the room to his desk, with Hedwig on his right shoulder, using only the light from the street.
Grabbing a sheet of parchment from the shelf, Harry penned a quick note, in his distinctive scrawl.
The red and blue flashing lights of the emergency vehicles reflected off the walls and the ceiling, strobing the scroll as he scribbled.
"Please take good care of Hedwig, I wouldn't trust her to anyone else. I'm giving her to you. You'll know why soon enough.
"She'll be good company for Pig, and he can take it easy, for a change.
"P.S. Don't try to contact me, I've obliviated Hedwig, and she doesn't even know I exist. I'm leaving the Magical World for good.
"P.S.S. Tell Hermione I'm sorry."
Harry tied the note to Hedwig's leg, as a tear tracked its way down his cheek. He smeared the back of his hand across his face angrily.
Then he raised his arm for Hedwig, and she obliged, hopping onto his bare forearm, without leaving so much as a scratch with her razor-sharp talons.
"I'm sorry, Girl," Harry whispered to his owl, "I've got to go away, and I can't take you with me."
He scratched her behind her ear, then he kissed her head.
She replied with an indignant squawk.
"Shh!" Harry hissed at her, in a sudden panic, "I'm in trouble, Hedwig, and I need you to do what I ask. Take this note to Ron. He's your new master now. I've told him that I obliviated you, so you have to pretend to forget me, okay?"
She gave a sad but obedient hoot.
"Good girl, Hedwig," he soothed her, "this is as much for your sake as mine. I can't risk being found, and you'd unwittingly give me away. If anyone thought you knew where I was, they might hurt you to try to get that information. That's why I told Ron I obliviated you, okay?"
She gave another pained hoot of acknowledgement.
"Bye, Hedwig, take good care of Ron for me," Harry whispered huskily.
The lump in his throat made it difficult to keep his voice down.
He raised his arm, and she glided silently out of the open window and into the dark night sky, with the note firmly in her talons.
Harry hurriedly grabbed his cloak, as he heard the thud of the stairs and approaching voices. He heard Percy's familiar tones above the others.
"This is Potter's room?" he asked.
"No," Dudley's petulant voice replied, "it's my second bedroom."
"Where is Potter's room then?" asked Percy.
"He doesn't have a room," came Dudley's slightly belligerent reply.
"So where does Potter sleep?" whined Percy testily, in his best Head Boy voice.
"But you just said..."
"That's all right, Dudley," soothed a voice that had to belong to the witch, "this is the room that Potter slept in, but it is your second bedroom," she confirmed.
Harry immediately snatched his photo album from his desk, then wrapped himself in his cloak when he heard Percy announce that he wanted to see the room.
He scooted across the floor and eased himself into the narrow gap between the wardrobe and the wall, just as the door opened.