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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> The Road to Freedom by Gatonio

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
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Title: The Road to Freedom

Author: Gatonio

Word Count: 9,275

Story Summary: Harry makes a hard choice. He chooses to run away. How will this affect his friends, the wizarding world and the war? Will he come back?

Chapter Summary: Wherein Harry makes the decision to run away and irons out his plan. He reconciles with Dudley and goes for his first teenage party. He listens to his Slytherin side and successfully hoodwinks his guard.

Ships: None

Chapter Cast: Harry, Dudley, Vernon, Petunia, Remus, Tonks, Moody, Goblins, two OCs

Period: Started in the summer between GoF and OoTP.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately I don't own Harry Potter or Bon Jovi, no copyright infringement is intended; although I wish I did.

Beta: MarieEsmeraldaDumbledore-Black (My guardian angel! Big thank-you to her!)

PROLOGUE

IT'S MY LIFE

It's my life

It's now or never

I ain't gonna live forever

I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)

My heart is like an open highway

Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"

I just wanna live while I'm alive

'Cause it's my life

It's My Life ~ Bon Jovi

Slightly grey with a tint of yellowing, that was the colour of the ceiling above his bed. The young boy, no, man, stared at it intently, squinting his eyes to discern the intricacies of the pattern above him. He was lying on a small bed whose sheets looked like they hadn't been washed in a long time, but that didn't seem to bother him. His hands were crossed behind his head as he lay partially on the mattress with the lower half of his body dangling of the edge. Lazily he moved a stray strand of hair away from his eyes and settled it back into the mess of a black mop that adorned his head.

This young man looked completely normal, everything about him was nondescript and akin to any other teenager, though, granted he was slightly smaller in stature than most teenagers.

However, there was one powerful difference between this young man and the other residents of Little Whinging. He was a wizard. Not just any wizard, but Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived.

Harry sighed lightly; he had been in the same position for two hours now. The whole time trying to wrap his mind around the concept that two dementors had just attacked him and his cousin. Two soul-sucking creatures had nearly gotten the best of him. But he survived; he had a knack of doing that, surviving that is. When others die, he miraculously always survived.

Harry sat up and his shoulders slumped, the same thoughts invaded his mind as they had done since the beginning of summer, thoughts of another young man, his name was Cedric Diggory. Prefect, handsome, excellent in all his classes, but still a modest person, someone who deserved everything good life had to offer, but never would see it. The reason behind Cedric's death was none other than Lord Voldemort, the same man who had been trying to kill Harry since the age of one. Cedric was unfortunately just another victim caught up in collateral damage.

Harry had survived that encounter against a newly embodied Lord Voldemort, like he always did, but at what price? Harry shifted on the mattress till his back was pressed against the wall, he tilted his head upwards but his eyes were still closed as he contemplated that question. At what price?

Harry jumped out of bed and walked to his desk, covered with haphazardly strewn papers, quills, and inkwells. He fished out a thick sheaf of yellowing parchment-like paper that was printed on with tiny text and animated photographs. It was a copy of the wizarding daily, The Daily Prophet. Despite being worth next-to-nothing in Harry's mind, he knew that most of the people in the wizarding world took The Prophet very seriously. Unfortunately the rubbish being spouted by it as of late had been very disturbing.

Harry may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed like Hermione, but the Sorting Hat didn't consider putting him in Slytherin for nothing. The tides had turned against him and he could only begin to imagine how horrid the upcoming school year was going to be.

School year…

Harry couldn't help it; as he stood in the middle of his tiny room with The Prophet in his hands, his slumped shoulders started shaking with his restrained laughter. It still hadn't sunk into him that there might not be a school year this year, at least not for him. The Ministry would snap his wand and with the public outcry for his 'delusional and attention-seeking ways' to be curbed, he could only expect the worst possible outcome.

What could Dumbledore do having been knocked off his positions of authority as well? Especially being considered a senile old man and having more and more lies printed about him daily. Would Harry be allowed to go back as Hagrid's assistant? Is that what Dumbledore did for students who got expelled, turn them into Groundskeepers?

Harry involuntarily cringed at the mental image of him living in the same hut, with an exceptionally long beard, entertaining new students with tea and rock cakes. He loved Hagrid and always would, but being in his position was something Harry never imagined himself to be in.

That abruptly ended his moment of black humor, Harry trudged back into bed and sat down heavily, his head facing upwards, staring ahead blankly at the same slightly grey pattern with a tint of yellowing. All he could do for now, was wait.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The sound of scratching on the tiny window in his room broke Harry out of his reverie. He scuttled out of bed to open the window and allow a very ruffled Hedwig inside. Despite her disheveled appearance, the snowy owl looked inordinately pleased with herself as she stuck her leg out for Harry to take his letters from his friends.

Harry carefully extricated the letters and then reached his hand inside the bag on the far side of his table to pull out a few of owl treats. Hedwig hooted gratefully as she ate and then headed into her cage for a long-awaited rest.

Harry shook his head at the antics of his moody owl and sat down to see what new dismissive missive his supposed friends had sent him.

The first letter he knew immediately was from Ron, his illegible scrawl made it very easy to place his identity from the moment Harry's eyes fell on the words. However after reading the words, his mood did not improve at all.

Hey mate,

Dad just told us about what happened. I hope you're okay; we're all dead worried about you! Don't worry; it will all be over soon.

Ron.

PS: Your ruddy bird nearly chewed my hand off, put a leash on her!

That's it? THAT'S ALL he had to say?

Normally Harry would be seething by this point, but after a summer full of lack-luster letters and especially the ordeal he had just gone through, Harry could neither spare the energy nor the care to be angry.

He then opened the second letter, which he knew would be from his other best friend: Hermione. He also knew that it would be as frustratingly vague as all the other letters he had received this summer.

Dear Harry,

Mr. Weasley just told us about the attack, are you okay? I nearly had a panic-attack and Ron had to calm me down so I didn't start hyperventilating. Why is it that you always get into these situations? Don't worry, Dumbledore promised us that you won't have to stay there for long, I'm dreadfully sorry I can't tell you more, but I will see you soon.

Also Hedwig seems unusually agitated; she was very aggressive for longer replies. I'm sorry again Harry.

Love,

Hermione.

Harry smiled his first real smile this summer. It may seem unbelievable, but the letters he just read were the longest letters he had received from his friends. He eyed Hedwig and then proceeded to give her another owl treat. Hedwig, in a half-dreamy state, just hooted gratefully.

"Good work girl, I'm very proud of you, next time, claw their faces if necessary."

Harry placed the letters on his desk with the other dismissive ones he had received from his friends (although he was increasingly tempted to call them erstwhile friends with the way things were headed). He then went back into bed and continued to stare at the ceiling, thinking he could do that until sufficient time had passed and he was tired enough to fall asleep.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

A gentle knocking on his door interrupted his fruitless activity again. He stared at the door in consternation, why would his relatives want anything to do with him? His Aunt had explicitly just sent him back with no permission to leave the room whatsoever. Perhaps she would tell him who had sent her that odd howler, "Remember Petunia", it said ominously, who in Merlin's name was that?

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Harry sighed as he turned his head to face the door and called out, "If the doors unlocked you can come in Aunt Petunia."

Harry turned his head back and tried to lose himself again.

A low creaking sound was heard as the door was hesitantly opened and a large frame, much larger than Aunt Petunia appeared in the doorway.

"Um… It's not Mum, it's me, Dudley." Came a gruff but still hesitant voice.

Harry's head snapped in the direction of the door, his eyes narrowed perceptibly and a slight sneer adorned his face.

"Look Dudley, I wasn't doing anything to you, those dementors would have killed you had I not done anything." Harry said determinedly, he was ready to explain himself in order to avoid a confrontation with Dudley, which would lead to another confrontation with his Uncle, and he had enough on his plate as of now.

"I know…" Came Dudley's reply.

"I–" Harry abruptly closed his mouth, whatever reply he was expecting, it certainly wasn't that. "Well, good, then. Um… you know, so, um… yeah." He said lamely.

Dudley rolled his shoulders as if squaring his courage and then said what seemed to be a well-rehearsed speech, "I, uh, spoke to Mum after she sent you up and Dad went out to get some medicine. I, uh, needed to know, see, what were those things that attacked me? Mum was right scared, but she told me, she, um, remembered it as something that, uh, um… Aunt Lily…" he paused hesitantly, "…had once told her. So, I, uh… wanted to just say," he took a deep breath and seemed to exhale it out of him, "Thanks."

Harry was pretty sure that right about now, his mouth was hanging open, in abject shock. Dudley just… thanked him. Funny, he never associated Dudley, thanks, and himself in a positive context within the same sentence ever before, it was unfathomable. Seeing Dudley squirm under his unflinching gaze, Harry closed his mouth and looked away.

"Er… You're welcome I guess. Just… uh… did she tell you who sent the letter?" Harry asked, trying to curb his burning curiosity to solve that mystery.

Dudley's hesitance momentarily vanished and was replaced by annoyance, "No, she normally tells me things when I ask her, but she was so… firm, she's never said no to me before."

Harry deflated at that, but still he was thinking that this entire conversation was a bit too surreal for his tastes.

"Well… Uh, I guess thanks for telling me what you knew anyway." Harry shrugged.

Dudley looked uncomfortable too, he mumbled something and was about to leave, but then stopped at the doorway. Harry looked at him worriedly, internally hoping that he would just leave and end this torment of discomfort that they both were experiencing at trying to hold a civil conversation with each other.

Dudley swallowed and turned around, "Can I… um… ask you something?"

Harry shrugged.

"Is Mrs. Figg, one of the fr… um… one of your people?"

That was a really good question. Harry should have just denied it, but figured if Dudley was honest with him about Aunt Petunia, he could be honest too, "I didn't know till today either," he replied, "she told me she was sent here by Dumbledore to keep an eye on me."

Dudley nodded, but he still didn't seem to want to leave.

Harry was losing his patience now, "Was there something else Dudley?"

Dudley was again looking tongue-tied, there was a look of intense concentration on his face but it ended up making him look constipated,

"Well, those dementum thingies," here he shuddered, "they made me feel cold and… horrible. Mum said they make you feel the worst experience of your life, I heard… I heard Mum being tortured, it was terrible."

He then looked at Harry expectantly and Harry was floundering, a simple thank-you was hard enough to digest but this, this was sharing personal information with the very same cousin who had tortured him his entire childhood. There were certain lines that he was not going to cross no matter what.

"Yeah, they do, do that, I mean. Horrible, wretched things dementors." Dudley figured he wasn't going to be forthcoming with details so he just shrugged and let it pass.

"Listen, um… I don't how to say this, but um… You're always on edge, just try and take a break, if you need something, then… uh… just ask me, and I'll… see what I can do."

Okay that was enough, either the dementor had sucked his soul out and Harry was having a weird otherworldly experience, or this was a polyjuiced Death Eater.

"Dudley why are you offering me help and advice? What happened to hating the freak?" Harry spat venomously but Dudley seemed unfazed.

"You saved my life Harry, it's the least I could do."

With that said, Dudley finally left Harry alone. Unfortunately Harry's thoughts were all over the place. He then spent the next fifteen minutes pinching himself till his skin was red to ascertain he wasn't dreaming or hallucinating, since this was him after all.

Yet it seemed Dudley was being genuinely honest.

"Huh…" Harry said to no one in particular, "That was unexpected."

A little more time passed uninterrupted, Harry had moved from staring at the ceiling to staring at the wall adjacent to the door. It was pale beige, though he assumed the plaster was once white, faded with time. He was in between of counting the cracks in the wall when a sudden thought hit him and broke his musings.

Why?

Why me?

It wasn't an angst-ridden, emotion-filled exclamation; it was just an honest musing. Every time, Harry was specifically targeted, no matter what went wrong and he just wondered why him?

Harry purposefully went towards his desk and pulled out a fresh piece of parchment. After dipping his quill in his inkwell, he began a letter that would hopefully provide some answers to the one man that Harry knew had all the answers.

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

I was reflecting on all the events that have passed since I came into the magical world and, although this may seem immodest, it feels like everything boils down to me for some reason. I was just wondering if there is something… more to it. You once told me you would tell me why Quirrel couldn't stand my touch, why my scar was connected to Voldemort and why He came after me in the first place when I was older. I now am older and I want to know, I need to know.

Harry Potter.

"Bloody HELL!" Harry said angrily as he threw away another batch of futile letters from his friends. It was their usual tripe, but by the state of Hedwig's ruffled feathers, he knew that she had followed up on his request to scratch their faces if necessary. Still, it stood to yield no fruitful results except to assuage his feelings of rage and betrayal towards Ron and Hermione.

What happened to sticking together no matter what?

Harry sighed trying to relieve himself of his pent-up frustration from the last few days. You would think that after a dementor attack, they would get him out of here, but all he got was, 'soon Harry, really soon you'll be with us'. What irked him even more was that they were all together! In the meantime he was the only one out of the loop and kept away. Also it had been three days since his letter pleading his case to Dumbledore had been sent and he still had no response.

That was why a very pissed of Harry Potter went down to the kitchen for a glass of water. Ever since the dementor incident, his relatives (excluding Dudley) seemed to give him a wide berth. Aunt Petunia stopped noticing his existence altogether and Harry didn't even bother pestering her about the letter, it was her business. As long as it kept a roof over his head, who was he to complain? Uncle Vernon looked at him with silent rage, all the time, it was quite disconcerting, but he kept it to himself for some unknown reason. Whatever his reason maybe, Harry wasn't one to look a gift hippogriff in the beak. Dudley was the only notable exception to the norm that his parents had set. He would go out of his way to get Harry to be comfortable, whether that be by not picking on him at all, leaving him alone, or even slipping him some chocolate from time to time. Harry didn't know what to make of Dudley, so he just stayed on-guard whenever his cousin was in the room.

But this afternoon he was just too frustrated to care and his newly concerned cousin picked up on it immediately.

Harry sat at the kitchen table with a glass of water, holding the glass with much more force than strictly necessary. Dudley looked around carefully and seeing neither of his parents in the vicinity, he approached Harry.

"You okay?" He asked from three feet away.

Harry just grunted; he was not in the mood to 'talk', especially not with Dudley.

Dudley seemed to sense this; he screwed up his face into his patented concentrated-constipated look as he thought something out, very slowly. His face then broke into a huge shit-eating grin.

"Hey, uh, Harry," he asked carefully, "you seem pissed and, um, some mates of mine are meeting me later, not Polkiss and his troupe, other guys from Smeltings whom you haven't met ever; we'll be having a pint or two. You look like you could use it."

Harry was really taken aback, he momentarily forgot why he was angry, but then like a bucket of cold water it hit him that whether it be Polkiss or not, Dudley and his type of friends will stay the same. Being around them when they were sober was dangerous enough, when they were drunk, well… Harry would rather cut his losses.

"Uh… Thanks Dudley but I think I'll pass."

Was Harry hallucinating (again?) or was there actually a brief look of disappointment on Dudley's face?

Dudley just shrugged, "Think it over, you look unhappy over something and well, I've found that pissing yourself away may not be a permanent solution, but it sure is fun."

Harry just shook his head and was leaving when Dudley called from behind, "I'm heading out at seven, meet me down here if you change your mind."

Harry was just speechless and he wished he would have saved Dudley's life years ago, he could have missed out on years of Harry-hunting that way.

Once back in his room, Harry flopped down on his bed and began reading The Prophet. That turned out to be a bad decision; he ended up binning (whatever was left of) it. Harry was beginning to get restless, he opened his trunk and pulled out some old books and began revising, if only Hermione could see him now, she would be so proud.

Harry was halfway through revising inanimate to animate transfiguration (turning a pincushion to a pig, why would he ever need to know that again?) when he heard a tapping on his window. He turned his eyes to see an ordinary barn-owl there. Harry opened the window to allow it inside and let it settle in Hedwig's cage (who had disappeared as soon as she delivered his 'friends' letters and seen his temper tantrum). He gave it a treat and some water before settling down in his rickety old chair and opening his missive.

It was a plain parchment, folded closed. He unfolded it and tried ironing out the wrinkles in the paper with his hand. Satisfied with his effort he began reading it and knew instantly that it was Dumbledore; he had to visibly restrain himself from getting too excited.

Dear Harry,

You are right, I did promise you that I would give you the answers to your questions when you were older. Unfortunately information of this nature is very sensitive and you can understand my concerns with not wanting to write them down in a letter. However, that said, I do not think that when I said 'older' I meant when you were barely fifteen years old Harry. You are not yet ready and when you are, the information I possess will be yours to know.

Sincerely,

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

(Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Grand Sorcerer, Order of Merlin First Class, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards)

Now, Harry was past seething. He threw the letter in the bin with the tatters of the Prophet and the previous letters from his friends. THAT DOES IT!

Harry was so at ends that he could barely concentrate on his transfiguration anymore. He descended to the kitchen to have a few scraps of dinner only to find Dudley near the main door putting on his jumper. When Dudley saw him come down, he broke out into a grin and said, "I knew you would change your mind."

Harry wanted to snap at him, wanted to just walk away, but he just stood there staring, considering how the repercussions would be for attacking his cousin because Dumbledore was a smarmy git and his friends were disloyal pigs.

"Coming or not?" He asked holding out Harry's hand-me-down jumper that had been hanging on the coat-rack since his return to Privet Drive.

Harry sighed, dispelling some of his anger and taking the jumper. Obviously his friends and Dumbledore were not concerned about his well being, why not take his chances with Dudley's friends, they couldn't be worse than Voldemort and Death Eaters after all.

Dudley informed Petunia that he and Harry were going out and not to wait up. Petunia was justifiably concerned and Dudley quelled her fears and the two were on their way (with Aunt Petunia staring holes through Harry's head from the kitchen window watching them walk away till she could no longer make out their outlines in the darkness).

Once Number Four was out of view, Dudley sighed in relief, "She always stares," he said to Harry who was barely listening.

Dudley fished for something in his jumper and finding it, pulled it out and smiled again, "want one?" he asked offering an open pack of cigarettes.

Harry was surprised but he just shook his head 'no'.

Dudley just shrugged and pulled one out for himself, he lit it with a lighter that he placed in the pack and then took a nice, long drag.

"That hits the spot." He said exhaling smoke from his nostrils, Harry, never having been so close to someone smoking before, just stared in fascination.

They walked in silence and Dudley noticed Harry's furtive glances to his cigarette, "have you ever tried one before Harry?"

Harry narrowed his eyes, "Uh… not really, never had the opportunity to be honest."

Dudley gave the same shit-eating grin and pulled out the pack again, he took the lighter and a cigarette out and literally forced it in Harry's hand.

"You've got to try everything at least once Harry, life's too short not to."

That sentence hit a chord with Harry; he stopped struggling with not wanting it and just placed the cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He then turned to Dudley for directions and Dudley just chuckled

"You inhale it Harry, but be careful, first times a–" Harry started violently coughing, "Well that…" Dudley finished lamely.

Harry was about to shove it away but Dudley told him to pull through it, the second puff was equally bad and left a bitter aftertaste, but Harry soldiered on because it meant not having to maintain a conversation with Dudley. By the sixth puff, it stopped feeling terrible and started giving Harry a slightly light-headed feeling. He caught Dudley as his head swam a little bit.

Dudley just chuckled seeing his alarmed but bemused expression,

"Yeah, good times, the first time." Dudley said happily.

By the time Harry finished his first-ever cigarette, they had arrived at their destination, Iain Thomas' house. Dudley explained that Iain was a few years ahead of him at Smeltings and graduated a while back and was now in Uni. He was throwing a house party, so the drinks were free, hence, he was popular, tonight.

Harry had never been to an unmonitored muggle teenage party before, hell, he had never even been to an unmonitored wizard party, so there were many more firsts for him. Loud, heavy music was playing in the background and there were several sweaty people gyrating against each other in the middle of what Harry assumed was the main foyer of the modest home. To the side was a table ladled with drinks that Harry had never seen before.

Dudley pulled him towards the table immediately and began going through the assorted drinks. Harry was cautious around them but when he saw Dudley pick up a suspicious bottle named 'Jack Daniels', pour it into a tiny glass and then drink it at one go, he was interested. Dudley then poured himself another glass and one for Harry. They cheered the glasses and gulped. Scorching hot but horrible tasting liquid descended his throat and Harry gagged but Dudley held his face, chin-up, and forced him to swallow it down.

"Why would people drink that?" Harry asked when his bearings returned to his control and only a fractional aftertaste was retained in his mouth.

Dudley just laughed, "Because of the high Harry, nobody likes the taste, well except for some blokes, but it's what the drinks do to you is what matters."

A picture of some hags stumbling along The Leaky Cauldron from Harry's third year came to mind and Harry shuddered involuntarily. He quickly placed his glass back on the table.

"I think I'll pass." He said loudly, hoping Dudley could catch his voice above the cranked up volume of the new song.

Dudley introduced him to a few of his friends and Harry knew, off the bat, that these 'friends' were exactly like Polkiss, bullies through and through. Harry chose to get lost in the crowd for some time and was mindlessly observing the people in the small room in the semi-darkness.

He was standing against the wall at the back, where none would see him unless specifically trying to. He finally breathed a sigh of relief.

"Hey there," someone said from his immediate left.

Harry jumped in the air and whipped to his side, expecting an impending confrontation only to look into dark green eyes, somewhat similar but still different than his own.

Harry tilted his head and answered, "Uh… hi."

She giggled, so it was definitely a girl! (it was quite dark after all)

"Beth," she said loudly extending her hand.

Harry took it in his own and answered, "Harry."

They then stood there awkwardly after letting go of each other's hand, neither knowing what to say next.

"Um… Want to go outside in the garden?" She asked tentatively.

"What?" Harry asked loudly, the music was getting louder.

"Want to go OUTSIDE?" She yelled over the din.

Harry shrugged and nodded. She led the way and he followed her, locking eyes with Dudley on the way who gave him a thumbs-up and Harry just became more confused.

The garden outside was strewn with empty beer cans and paper glasses, at a certain distance, Harry was quite sure he even saw someone puking…gross.

Beth and he sat down at the far side of the garden, where the lights were considerably dimmer.

Harry tried to see her features properly but under the diffused lighting it was hard, she was a bit shorter than him, her eyes were distinctive, she appeared to have shiny metals pierced in her ears and nose and her tight top made her breasts very distinctive.

Beth just sighed and leaned back, in the evening summer air, her top pulled up just a bit to show off a sliver of skin and Harry's breath caught in his throat.

"So…" She said breaking their awkward silence, "Is there a reason you're all brooding and quiet?"

Harry blushed at her direct comment and just nodded, "Well, you see… um… I…" He didn't really know what to say.

Beth, sensing his hesitance, pulled out a flask tied to her thigh, she opened the lid and took a long sip, she then offered him a drink.

Hesitant at first, Harry accepted it anyway. Mindful of the bitter taste but not surprised Harry had a longer sip; he gagged a bit, but took it down anyway.

That's how they spent the next fifteen minutes, in silence, drinking. When the flask was empty, Beth turned it upside down and a few drops fell out, she shrugged and tied it back to her hip.

"So," she started again, "brooding… why?"

The drink having an effect on loosening his tongue, Harry started telling her more than he ever told anyone before, in abbreviated details of course.

"Let me get this straight," she said after his rant, "A classmate died because of some bastard and you blame yourself?"

He nodded.

"And they want you to do something about it and you rather not?"

Harry thought about her question, his alcohol-addled mind a bit confused, "Well, I would want to… but…"

"But" She asked leaning closer.

"I wish it wasn't my problem," he finished.

Beth giggled, "Then walk away." She said simply.

And there it was. The simplest, most obvious answer that Harry had no response for.

He was pondering her question so he didn't realize when she leaned in closer and her alcohol breath washed over him, "You think too much," she said and then swooped in and kissed him, right on the lips.

Harry was shocked at first, not knowing how to react at all, his first-kiss ever, but Beth seemed undeterred. He soon melted into it and responded, their lips a little awkwardly smacking against each other. He was even more shocked when after a few minutes of blissful snogging, Beth's hand snaked down to his pants and rubbed him… there. Harry Jr. was at full attention.

Harry froze and Beth pulled back and smiled slyly.

"Let's loosen you up a bit," she said.

As if in a dream, Harry dumbly watched as she unfastened his belt and pulled him out, exposing his erect member to the cold night air. Harry muttered incoherently but that stopped abruptly when Beth swooped down and… Merlin he couldn't believe what she did next.

Slopping, slurping, sucking; Harry's hands unconsciously tangled into her hair, which he realized were a vivid shade of blue, but right about now, he couldn't care. Beth was bobbing her head in his lap with her hand wrapped heavenly round him, doing more than any wank could have ever done.

Harry's eyes rolled back and he splattered himself in her mouth.

When he came to his senses, he looked at her spitting…it… out to her side and wiping her mouth.

"That was…um…fast," she said.

Blood rushed to his cheeks as the implications of what she said struck home.

"Sorry," he said in a small voice, "I've never…um….well."

She chuckled and pulled his pale face towards her own lips and they continued with heavenly snogging.

What started out as a terrible day, ended up being the best night of Harry's young life.

Pain, heavy, terrible pain was all Harry felt as he slowly came to the world. The first thing he did was shielding his eyes against the onslaught of sunlight pouring through the window of his tiny bedroom.

For the first time, Harry wished he had curtains.

Hedwig hooted quietly from the side somewhere and Harry shoved his face under his pillow in an effort to block out the light and noise. His head was surprisingly empty and light-headed. Unfortunately, this made him painfully aware whenever there was even a small sound anywhere in his room. Never before was the slight creaking of floorboards on the staircase under his Uncle's heavy frame so distinctive, never before was his Aunt's high-pitched 'morning voice' so grating on his nerves, never before were Hedwig's hoots sounding like a saw creaking against metal. It was quite painful.

An indeterminable time later, the door creaked open and Harry cringed at the noise, Dudley came into his room and laughed at his predicament of hiding his head under his pillow.

"Congratulations cousin! For the bird last night and your first hangover." He whispered,

"There's some food in the refrigerator for me, you can have it when you're up to it." He said as he shuffled out and closed the door silently.

For the first time, Harry was grateful Dudley was his cousin.

When Harry felt the pain in his head begin to recede, he felt another pain in the pit of his stomach; he needed food, badly. Carefully he got out of his bed and headed straight to the kitchen where he checked the refrigerator for the promised treats. His cousin had in fact left him some beans on toast, to be popped in the microwave, heated and devoured, which Harry promptly did. His hunger sated Harry wondered where his Aunt and Uncle were, since the house was unusually quiet. Shrugging his shoulders, he gathered it wasn't his problem to begin with.

Harry was about to return his room when he realized how plainly awful he smelt; hence he detoured to the bathroom. A liberal hot water shower later, he was squeaky clean and happy to settle in his room for some quiet reading.

No matter how much he tried, his mind constantly went back to Beth and the way she had kissed him and Harry Jr., especially Harry Jr. Harry went cross-eyed with bliss just thinking about it and by the feeling in his pants, Harry Jr. concurred.

Harry hadn't been this happy in a long time.

After two hours of fruitlessly reading 1001 Herbs and Where to Find Them, Harry replaced the book in his trunk and sat at his desk. He placed both his elbows on the tabletop and rested his head in his hands, sighing happily at the brilliance of the previous evening. His eyes turned and stared fixedly at the bin to the side.

Like a thunder shock, all good humor evaporated as Harry stared at the letters he had thrown away from those who supposedly cared for him. The guilt of Cedric's death came whipping back like never before. He felt disgusted with himself for doing what he did with Beth last night when Cedric's death was still just a month old. He berated himself for thinking life could be simple when the threat of Voldemort was still looming in the air.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, the nagging voice that he often ignored asked the same question again: Why? Why me?

"Then walk away".

Like a jolt Beth's words came surging back to him. He sat up straight and seriously considered what she said; he couldn't do that, as everything he had was here.

Friends who don't correspond, a mentor who ignores, a Dark Lord who never rests, a Godfather who hasn't written once, a school where he fights for his life every year…

Harry grimaced, it was true, taken altogether, it all seemed pretty… terrible. With the way things were going, could he afford to walk away? Dumbledore did tell him there was a reason Voldemort was after him. But if Dumbledore withheld the truth from him so blatantly, why should Harry constantly place his unyielding faith in the Headmaster?

It all boils down to one question, could he actually do this? Should he do this? Simply walk away from it all and never look back?

No. Yes.

'What about my friends?' Harry argued with himself.

'The same ones who left you to fester all summer?' The voice shot back.

'But, they are still my friends; they still support me, with the Philosopher's Stone, with the Chamber of Secrets and even with Sirius in third year. They are loyal and probably have a good reason to not talk to me all summer, Dumbledore forbade them and I know I would've listened to the Headmaster had the situations been reversed.' He reasoned.

'But you faced Quirrel, you fought the basilisk, you braved a hundred dementors, the horntail, Voldemort, you're being driven through the mud in the press, not them.' The voice echoed back and Harry had to agree.

'Their safety means the world to me even if it puts me in jeopardy,' Harry mused.

'But should you stay on and suffer when they don't need you?', Came a counter, 'They have families and support systems; you have the Dursleys… Your friends would be fine if you leave, in fact better since they are no longer linked to you. It would be in their best interests.'

Harry was surprised with himself that he actually justified leaving his friends. In his internal alarm, he scoured for another reason.

'What about Sirius?' Harry thought viciously, 'My godfather, he braved through Azkaban for me!'

'Well, he braved through Azkaban to kill Pettigrew,' Came a snide response.

'But still! He wants to take me in when his name gets cleared–'

'If his name gets cleared.' The voice interrupted.

'I still won't leave him,' Harry said stubbornly, 'he's the only family I've got left that matters'.

'True enough, so will he be next?' The voice said neutrally.

'What?' Harry asked not understanding.

The voice elaborated, 'Whenever Voldemort came for you, someone died: your parents, Cedric, will it be Sirius next?'

Harry sat in shocked silence.

'Or will it be Hermione? Ron? The Weasleys perhaps?' The voice continued.

'What about the wizarding world?' Harry asked now desperately, his hands gripping the edge of his desk so tightly that his knuckles turned white, 'I have a role to play regarding Voldemort, Dumbledore is most insistent about it, but what? Could I abandon the wizarding world too?'

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Harry saw an owl screeching against the window, he rushed to open it and ushered the owl in. He dropped a Knut in its pouch and removed his copy of The Prophet. He carefully unfurled the periodical hoping there would be some mention of a resistance to Voldemort. His hopes were in vain.

The front-page read:

BOY-WHO-LIVED OR THE BOY-WHO-LIED?

DUMBLEDORE: MAD OR EVIL?

MINISTER FUDGE'S STATEMENT: ALL IS WELL

Harry narrowed his eyes in anger as he threw The Prophet into his bin with all the rubbish.

'You were saying?' The voice muttered.

Sod the Wizarding World!

Harry cleared his desk in one swift motion; he pulled out a parchment and a quill and started a title:

The Road to Freedom

Harry Potter had made up his mind.

Two weeks had passed since Harry had devised what he considered his 'ingenious' plan. With endless time to sit and rot alone in his room, Harry employed his considerable intellect on his one sole project: freedom.

The first thing Harry did was to decide whether he wanted to continue living magical or go muggle? That answer was simple since he was searching for a life of anonymity and simplicity. He chose muggle. He went to his Aunt and retrieved his passport. He was in luck because she still kept it with her. One would wonder why his Uncle even bothered commissioning him one. Years ago, when the Dursley family was heading to Majorca, they couldn't get Mrs. Figg to take Harry in for the three weeks they were to go, so Uncle Vernon grudgingly got him a passport. Fortunately for them, Mrs. Figg recovered from her flu just in time to agree to take care of Harry, but his passport had still come in.

It was with considerable happiness that Harry placed that passport in his trunk with his other valuable belongings.

The voice, which Harry was beginning to think was his inner, suppressed Slytherin, was amused by his plan and gave him full support for it.

The next thing Harry had to do was secure his funds and that would be impossible without venturing through Gringotts. After debating and planning for a considerable time, Harry decided to follow his gut and see where the chips lie.

He sent a letter to the over-emotional Weasley matriarch,

Dear Mrs. Weasley,

How are you? I haven't heard from you in a while and I miss your cooking immensely. Nothing beats the famous Weasley treacle tart, that even the Hogwarts elves envy. I was wondering if you could ask Hermione if she could send me some of her fifth-year books on Charms and Transfiguration since she mentioned that she visited Diagon Alley earlier for her shopping. I'd ask her myself but Hedwig is unwilling to take letters to her for some reason.

With my impending trial and the attitude of our society as of now, I am quite sure that I'm not returning to Hogwarts. With the way Professor Dumbledore is insisting I stay protected, I fear the worst, so I was hoping to pass my time studying but didn't want to buy my own copies, since they would go to waste after they snapped my wand.

I hope to see you soon,

Harry.

With a flourish Harry signed his name and sent it with Hedwig telling her specifically to give it to Mrs. Weasley and no one else.

Harry's plan was a long-shot, but it was the only thing he could come up with. He could only hope that Mrs. Weasley's over-emotional mothering instincts would get the better of her and she would take him to Diagon Alley herself.

He didn't have to wait long, Hedwig returned with a reply the very next morning.

Harry dear,

I am shocked to hear such negative thoughts from you! You will return to Hogwarts come Hell or Heaven if it's the last thing I do.Also I will not be sending you Hermione's books because you will get copies of your own as you will come out of this trial just fine and nobody will dare touch your wand, let alone snap it!

I have spoken to Professor Dumbledore and he tells me that you will be leaving your relatives early next week, but after hearing my concerns, which I relayed to him in a calm, rational manner, he agreed to set up a small guard to take you to the Alley and finish your shopping tomorrow itself.

Also Hermione is very proud of you that you are taking your studies so seriously.

Think positive dear and the world will bend over backwards for you,

Molly.

Harry chuckled to himself; he could only imagine what "calm, rational manner" means when it comes to Molly Weasley.

His laughter abruptly stopped when he thought about what he was doing. He just used Mrs. Weasley as a means to an end. He was planning to abandon her and her family, is that fair?

Harry shook his head, he was not going to have a moral debate with himself again, he had made up his mind, it was not an easy decision, but he was doing right by himself for once in his life.

As Harry entered Diagon Alley from The Leaky Cauldron with Remus, an Auror named Tonks and the real Mad-Eye Moody as his guard, he couldn't help but smile seeing the familiar site. The place was buzzing as usual, with witches and wizards running all over the place and for once no one would recognize him. At his insistence, he had Remus cast a glamour on him and hide his identity, an idea Moody thoroughly approved of (CONSTANT VIGILANCE and all that).

Making their way through High Street, Harry noticed his first destination, The Trunk Shop.

"Professor Lupin?" Harry asked hesitantly.

"Please Harry, call me Remus or Moony, I'm no longer your Professor," He said for the umpteenth time.

"Sorry," Harry said flushed, "Could we go to the trunk shop for a better trunk, my old one has seen better days."

"Shouldn't we go to Gringotts first and withdraw some money?" Tonks asked suspiciously, or maybe not but she seemed suspicious and Harry was on edge as it is.

"No I have enough to get a new trunk with me," Harry said clapping his money bag which jingled with galleons, "and after Gringotts I need to go to Flourish and Blotts and Madam Malkin's which is on the other side of Gringotts, it would make little sense to go back and forth since I have enough now as it is."

He conceded he may have been rambling but his argument was sound and his guard just shrugged and allowed it. Moody and Tonks waited outside while Remus and Harry went inside The Trunk Shop.

Harry noticed a multitude of different trunks in the shop, some simple with standard sizes and one compartment like his old one and then other, more complicated ones that literally had entire mansions inside. He needed one that was somewhere in between.

Remus left Harry to browse and went looking through the shop himself; Harry couldn't have been more relieved.

He went straight to the Sales Clerk, "Excuse me sir, I'm looking for a specific type of trunk."

The Clerk who looked to be in his mid-thirties with graying brown hair and tiny spectacles looked up from his copy of The Prophet and regarded Harry shrewdly.

"Hogwarts?" he asked quietly.

Seeing Remus on the other side of the shop, Harry shook his head,

"No, I'm moving to France, my entire family is," he lied smoothly,

"We're emptying our Gringotts vault and need a trunk with an expanded-space charm that could handle a modest fortune."

"Why not ask the goblins to facilitate the transfer?" The Clerk asked curiously.

Yes, why not? It was a valuable enough suggestion.

"Um… you see," Harry stuttered until the answer hit him like gravity, "high transfer taxes and all, the English goblins are having a bit of a tiff with the French ones and it's spilling over onto our affairs. Transferring it ourselves made more sense in the light of it all." He finished waving his hand.

The Clerk nodded understandingly, "Yes, that makes sense, well we have a specific type of trunk for that," he said pointing to the one at the far end, mahogany-looking but the same size and dimensions like Harry's old one, "It has two compartments, one normal for muggle purposes and the normal compartment determines the weight of the entire trunk and the second one has the expanded-space charm to hold enough gold that even the Malfoy's would have a hard time filling it." The Clerk finished smiling.

Harry nodded, "How much is it?"

"50 galleons," The Clerk responded.

"I'll give you 65 if you add a wand-sensitive shrinking charm on the top," Harry continued.

"Absolutely, it will take a few minutes, kindly count up the coins as I finish work on your trunk." The Clerk said.

Within a few short minutes, Harry walked out of The Trunk Shop with a miniature trunk in his pocket and instructions that one tap on the lock opens the first compartment and two taps opens the second one, three taps, shrinks and/or enlarges it. Easy as pie.

The quartet entered the large imposing bank of Gringotts and Harry's glamour fell away as they crossed the threshold of the building. Alarmed but unsurprised, his guard just tightened themselves around him.

Harry presented his key to the goblin teller and then was escorted to his vault, he asked his guard to wait for him and they agreed, seeing as none of them wanted to use the Gringotts carts. Moody created a fuss but was satisfied when the goblins ensured that Harry's safety was guaranteed within Gringotts.

One nauseating cart-ride later, Harry stood inside his trust vault, he asked his escorting goblin if having a trust vault meant he had another vault which was his family vault? The goblin calmly answered that because Harry was a minor, his vault was his trust vault, when he attained his majority at 17 the same would be his family vault.

The goblin waited outside as Harry entered his vault and beheld his considerable fortune. Though not exactly as rich as the Malfoy's or Blacks, the Potters were a modest pureblood family with a decent amount of money. Harry dropped his shrunk trunk on the floor, tapped it three times with his wand and enlarged it. He then tapped the lock twice and opened his enlarged-space compartment.

Then he started grabbing. Piles upon piles of gold and jewelry were thrown inside of his trunk and stored. He was timing himself; he didn't think he needed to take it all, but enough to take care of himself if the need arose. After ten minutes of solidly packing his trunk, the vault was three-fourths bare, he spent another two minutes emptying it and then placed the last vestiges into his money bag for the money he was supposed to withdraw.

When he emerged from the vault with his miniaturized trunk once again in his pocket, his accompanying goblin looked at him strangely but didn't say a word. When back on the main floor of the bank, Moody accosted him and demanded an explanation for his severe tardiness.

"I was seeing my vault thoroughly for the first time. I was wondering if my parents left me anything in there like a library, weapons, secret diaries, pensieve memories, portraits of themselves, that kind of thing." Harry said defensively.

All three of them looked at him sadly but Remus was the one who answered him, "Harry, Gringotts is a bank, not a storage facility, they keep money and valuables and handle assets for liquidation if the need arises, books and weapons are generally forbidden and definitely not portraits."

Harry nodded sadly, he knew that, but he needed to say something to assuage Moody after all. Before leaving he exchanged about half of whatever he withdrew in his moneybag into pound sterling. It amounted to about five thousand pounds, which he kept in his pocket separately.

His minders asked him for the vast muggle money he had taken and he explained that his cousin and he had been bonding recently, but wherever they went, Dudley paid for him, this way he could pay back Dudley for his kindness and pay for himself from now on. No further questions were asked.

After a quick trip to Malkin's and then Flourish and Blott's, the quartet returned to Little Whinging and dropped Harry off at his relatives. Before leaving, Remus pulled Harry aside and spoke to him.

"Harry, I know living here is hard and what's been said about you recently in the Prophet and by the Ministry is unreasonable, but we are with you and we will get you through this, no matter what."

He then hugged Harry who weakly returned the gesture and apparated away.

Harry was choking up, his plan was on schedule, but… he seriously doubted going thru with it now, could he do this? Should he do this? Does this selfishness become of him?

Harry shuddered and suppressed those thoughts, his decision was made and only death would stop him now, considering his experiences so far, it wasn't much of a foresight to believe it couldn't happen.

The following morning, Harry got up earlier than usual. He opened his new trunk's first compartment and carefully and meticulously placed everything of value into it from his old one. Whether it were books or memoirs or even knick-knacks. When satisfied that all his things were in order, he went to Mrs. Figg's house to figure out who was his guard was for the day, he was hoping it would be Mundungus Fletcher, the same one who had disapparated when the dementors attacked.

Mrs. Figg was kind enough to inform him that Fletcher was banned from "Harry watch" and Moody was on alert as of now and it would be Tonks in the evening. Harry cursed under his breath because Moody could see through his invisibility cloak, but he could possibly get away from Tonks. He thanked Mrs. Figg and went back to Number Four.

"Aunt Petunia?" He asked her hesitantly when he saw her in the kitchen.

She looked surprised he was speaking to her and made a disgusted face, "What do you want?" She spat at him.

"I have a question." He asked carefully.

"Well get on with it!" She said dismissively.

"Do you know how to get to the Airport from King's Cross?"

She looked at him questioningly, "Why do you want to know that?"

Harry racked his brain for a suitable response, why had he not anticipated this line of questioning, "We're having an exchange program at Hog–" she flinched at the name, "at my school and we're headed to France for a few months after term begins."

"Why would your people use an airport?" She asked incredulously and more than a touch suspiciously.

"Our transport services are attached to the airport," Harry made up wildly, "it makes it easier for customs and such," he piled on, "I was just curious."

Petunia seemed unconvinced but just nodded, "You could just take a cab from King's Cross or catch the night bus, it's not hard to get there."

Harry nodded and retreated to his room as fast as he could. Once inside, he picked up the pieces of parchment he had kept ready and started writing his letters. It wouldn't do to disappear without a trace after all.

Now all he had to do was wait.

When night fell, Harry was casually looking out of his window as if looking to the sky, his ears wide open. He heard a faint 'crack' and knew it was apparition. From his vantage point, he saw Tonks hurrying to the bushes overlooked by his room and then he saw Moody retreating. It was only seven o'clock; he had time.

At ten o'clock, he saw that Tonks seemed to be ready to doze off out of boredom. Harry took it as his moment. Carefully gathering his shrunken trunk in his pocket, his passport, some galleons and some pounds in the other. Harry adorned his invisibility cloak and stealthily went down to the kitchen, he dropped the three letters he had written to the Dursleys, one each, as well as a package of letters for his friends on his desk in his room.

Cautiously Harry let himself out the front door and walked. He continued walking till he was a considerable distance away from Number Four. He then held out his wand and flagged the Knight Bus.

Pulling on a jumper and bringing up his hood, Harry hid his scar from the conductor and after paying two galleons was on his way to King's Cross.

In twenty minutes he was at his destination, he then hailed down a cab and got to Heathrow Airport in forty-five minutes. Once there, Harry walked up to the closest teller, made his inquiries, bought his tickets and was in the boarding area in an hour.

At five minutes past one o'clock in the morning, Harry Potter left Wizarding and Muggle England.

At twenty minutes past one o'clock, a very intricate machine in

Dumbledore's office stopped spinning.

At forty minutes past one o'clock, Dumbledore entered his office and checked his instruments. When he saw the lack of rotation, he sat down heavily in his chair and put his face in his palm.

What have you done Harry?

Tada! That was the completed Prologue, hope you liked it.

Notes:

1. Because I had some confused reviewers (btw, thanks for reviewing, you guys are awesome!), Harry is NOT headed to France, that was just a cover-story he created off the top of his head to throw off the Sales CLerk at The Trunk Shop. He will not be attending Durmstrang or Beauxbatons for obvious reasons mentioned in the chapter: he is planning on going muggle, attending a magical school (albeit a different one) will be opposite of pursuing that goal.

2. To "mosh" (whoever you are), kindly log-in so I can email you and answer your question next time:

(1) n. A shit eating grin is a very wide and, to the outside observer, stupid looking grin, usually showing smugness, self-satisfaction, or inner humor. The term is most often seen in the expression "Wipe that shit eating grin off your face!", usually said by the aforementioned outside observer. This observer-based definition makes "shit eating grin" the negative counterpart to "You look like the cat who ate the canary." While the two expressions describe the same grin, they have very different connotations. This definition has nothing to do with the term "shit eater". (2) n. Someone donning a forced smile in an uncomfortable, embarassing, or compromising situation could be said to have a shit eating grin. Because an uncomfortable situation is much more closely related to "eating shit" than smugness, it is plausible to assume that this is the first definition, although far from the most common, and that the above definition is a result of drift from this one. Both of these uses are documented in the Oxford English Dictionary no earlier than 1957.

(1) Upon telling Elaine he knew a secret, Jerry donned a shit eating grin and refused to reveal it.

(2) Forced to admit defeat, the politician managed a shit eating grin as he called for and end to "bipartisan rhetoric".

Next chapter: People's reactions and their letters. The biggest question of all: Where is Harry Potter?

Drop a REVIEW and make my day.

~ Gatonio.

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