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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> Chapter 1: Hello Goodbye 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: 14,138 words

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 the Dursleys learn the fate of the famous blood wards, the Order of the Phoenix discusses their options and some letters are read. Finally Harry's location is revealed and his reasons for going there as well, along with the beginning of his new training.

Ships: None

Characters: Petunia, Vernon, Tonks, Remus, Moody, Sirius, Dumbledore, Snape, Arthur, Molly, Dudley, Mrs. Figg, Harry, some OCs

Period: Started in the summer between GoF and OoTP.

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

Beta: Demactica (Big BIG thank you to her!)

CHAPTER ONE

HELLO GOODBYE


You say 'yes',

I say 'no',

You say 'stop',

And I say 'go, go, go',

Oh no.

You say 'goodbye',

When I say 'hello',

Hello hello.

I don't know why you say 'goodbye',

I say 'hello'.

Hello Goodbye ~ The Beatles

6.30 AM

Beep. Beep. Beep.

A long, bony hand moved with practiced ease and lightly pressed the button atop the alarm clock. Once the required three beeps were sounded, the hand retracted and retook its place beside the body of its owner. A pale, horsey face with lanky brown hair pulled back in rollers sat up in the bed.

The woman took a deep breath, pulled back the blanket and then placed her feet on the floor, her left foot going into her left slipper and right foot going into the right… carpet. Where was her right slipper?

She looked around wildly and found it on the other side of her left foot. She placed it on her right foot, while internally cursing the day. Nothing good would happen now.

Petunia Dursley hated when her morning ritual was disturbed.

She swiftly put on her morning robe, headed to the adjoining bathroom and brushed her teeth, flossed, and took an invigorating shower. Sufficiently groomed and maintained to look the part of the perfect housewife, Petunia promptly headed down to her kitchen to start preparing breakfast for her two men.

Once inside, she took a moment to gaze at her safe haven, her kingdom. The reason behind her gaze was simple: the freak was home and she needed to make sure he didn't steal any food or utensils whilst she was otherwise occupied. Everything seemed in order and Petunia smiled to herself.

She proceeded to the refrigerator and removed the various food items she would need to make breakfast; she was in the mood for bacon and eggs today. She left the eggs on the kitchen table as she decided to start with the bacon first.

She carefully but quickly set the pan down in its proper spot and was about to turn back to the stove, but stopped in her tracks. She turned around suspiciously to see three nondescript-looking envelopes lying on her gleaming tabletop. Each envelope had a different name written on the front.

She gingerly picked up the one that said 'Aunt Petunia' in what she knew to be her nephew's somewhat legible scrawl.

She sat down on her white chair in her clean kitchen as she opened the envelope only to grimace upon seeing that freakish parchment-paper fall out. Honestly, you would think for all their supposed greatness, these… wizards… would upgrade to the twentieth century.

She picked up the parchment, however disdainfully, and turned it over to see the short but honest message written there:

Dear Aunt Petunia,

I hope this letter finds you well. By the time you read this, I should probably be far, far away from England and definitely Little Whinging. If it stays up to me, I will never be returning to your home again, so you should take this moment to celebrate because I'm gone for good.

Despite all the things you put me through over the years, I will still thank you for taking me in on that morning when I was dropped at your doorstep. You didn't have to, but you did.

I wish you and your family the best of luck and would like to warn you that when my minders learn of my absence they will take your home by storm and turn it upside down. Consider it my parting gift for all that we've been through together.

Harry Potter

Petunia squished the letter in her left hand, her right now gripping the table's edge to keep herself steady.

The freak was gone, forever, by the looks of it; but now what about her family? His magic and her blood protected all four of them from that cultist leader freak, and now that Harry had declared he was leaving (and had in fact already left) permanently, where would that leave her?

Bits and pieces of information started adding up in Petunia's mind.

"Aunt Petunia, may I have my passport?"

"Do you know how to get to the airport…?"

The boy had left the country, without a trace! By now he could be halfway around the world!

All good humor evaporated and Petunia shot out of the kitchen chair, running up the stairs and careening into her room at breakneck speed. She pulled open her armoire and started pulling various articles of clothing at the top. Helter-skelter fell various clothes, shirts, pants and skirts as Petunia determinedly searched amongst it all. A few tense minutes later she found what she was looking for. She gingerly pulled it out of the little slot she had placed it in all those years ago: an envelope, with a letter inside written on that same type of parchment-paper.

Petunia hesitantly opened the letter and read it. As if all the life had been drained out of her, her face grew paler and paler to an unhealthy white. A sheen of nervous sweat covered her brow and she unwillingly sunk to the ground, the letter falling from her fingers as the implications of what she saw therein were absorbed, her eyes staring forward at apparently nothing on the wall of her bedroom.

7.00 AM

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Vernon Dursley grunted unhappily as his daily alarm went off, his large frame rose up in bed, the supports straining under his whale-like frame. He deftly smacked the alarm off, a practiced ease born from years of routine. He squinted his beady eyes and wiggled his moustache, then parted his lips into a large yawn. His meaty arms were raised in the air as he stretched his tired joints and brought himself to attention.

His mind immediately moved to thoughts of breakfast and what his dear wife would have prepared for his breakfast today. After all, it is the most important meal. The bed strained threateningly as Vernon placed his feet on the ground beside him, putting on his bedroom slippers and raising himself, the bed rising from the absence of his weight.

Vernon rubbed his eyes and was about to move to the bathroom for a thorough cleanse, his morning stubble beginning to bother him, when he noticed something out of place. On the other side of the bedroom, in front of a half-open armoire, with various pieces of clothes lying haphazardly around, sat Petunia. She seemed to be in a daze, her face stretched into an expression of blankness, her left hand lying lifelessly away from the rest of her crouched body, a large sheath of paper beside it.

"Petunia, are you all right?" Vernon asked uncertainly, his voice a bit raspy in the morning.

She didn't even move. Vernon's eyebrows furrowed in consternation, his face pulling into an expression of confusion mingled with worry and mounting fear: something was bothering his darling Pet.

He lumbered towards her and crouched down beside her with considerable effort, placing his hands on his knees, he moved his head towards her and tried again, "Pet, love, are you all right?"

Still nothing.

Vernon took one of his meaty palms and placed it firmly on her shoulder and shook her. Petunia seemed to break out of her stupor and turned to Vernon with wild eyes.

"Pet, what's wrong?" He asked worriedly.

"Vernon, dear Lord, we need to get out of here, fast!" She said rapidly. "He's gone, he's upped and left, the freak! We need to leave before they get to us!"

Now Vernon was even more confused, "Pet, calm down and explain what happened to me." He said trying to placate her.

Petunia pointed towards the paper lying nearby with a shaking hand. Vernon gingerly picked it up and ironed it out, then began to read.

Dear Petunia,

I wish this letter would bring better news, but unfortunately, it is my duty to inform you of something rather tragic. Your sister, Lily, has died.

A most evil wizard by the name of Voldemort attacked her and her husband, James, last night. Miraculously, your nephew, Harry, survived this ordeal. Both your sister and brother-in-law, fell prey to a most vicious curse called 'The Killing Curse,' it is unpreventable and considered Unforgivable. None have ever survived this curse - that is, before Harry. The only remnant of Voldemort's attack is the distinctive lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.

Voldemort is not completely dead, and in my opinion, he will return someday, and when he does, he will aim to attack your nephew, and by extension, yourself and your family.

Lily, the remarkable woman that she was, enacted a sacrifice most powerful in her final moments. The magic she wrought from her sacrifice has created a protection of blood around Harry. As long as Harry is living with one who shares his mother's blood, the protection of his mother will blossom and shroud those of his home from any ill intent. Its potency is at a level that even Voldemort, when he returns, will be unable to breach.

As long as Harry Potter calls Number Four Privet Drive his home, you are protected.

Below is a sample of Lily's enchanted blood. It is advisable you store this letter. As long as Lily's blood is visible, you will know that the protection she gave Harry is alive and functioning.

Sincerely,

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

Vernon finished the letter with a raised eyebrow, he knew this letter; it had accompanied the freak when he had been unceremoniously dumped on his doorstep. He also remembered the shocked outrage and distaste that both his wife and he felt when they saw a large rectangular slab of red at the bottom of the letter - his late sister-in-law's blood.

There was no such slab there anymore. It was gone.

Which means, which means… Dear Lord! The protection is gone!


She walked as if in a daze, her eyes crossed in worry, her lips quivering as if she were ready to break out in tears at any moment. Her cheeks held evidence of tearstains and she walked at a sedate pace behind a wizard with a stump of a leg.

"There's no point in blaming yerself, lass," the retired auror said gruffly.

He had not turned his head, but she knew he had seen her through his skull with his enchanted eye.

The witch nodded glumly and shuffled on. She still had no idea how this could have happened on her watch. She was supposed to mind him. She was supposed to keep a lookout and she failed. The Boy-Who-Lived was missing and it was all her fault.

She didn't even notice when she had walked through the door of the kitchen, she stood listlessly in front of the chair she normally occupied as she was absorbed in her thoughts of guilt and regret, oblivious to the sympathetic looks and furtive glares (mostly from Molly Weasley) shot in her direction.

"Nymphadora!" A calm, clear voice pierced through her gloomy thoughts, and Tonks shook her head, her hair changing of its own volition from a mousy black to a more normal (for her) dark violet.

"Yes?" She responded, half-confused, half-angry. She looked up instead of at the ground, looking for the one who dared to call her by her first name. Despite her lack of cheer, she would still skin anyone alive for doing that.

"Perhaps you would like to take a seat," finished Professor Dumbledore.

Tonks blushed. She would skin alive anyone for calling her by her first name, except Professor Dumbledore.

She quickly got into her seat, knocking over the cup of tea kept ready for her. She swore furiously under her breath as the first instances of sniggers filled the room.

"It's all right Tonks," Remus said gently. "I'll get you more tea. Sit down."

Tonks smiled thankfully and took her seat (miraculously) without further incident.

Remus bustled around with the kettle of tea while Dumbledore regarded her with a keen look. Tonks squirmed under his gaze. When Remus returned with her cup, set it down beside her, and had retaken his seat, Dumbledore broke his unblinking gaze and turned to the group at large.

"As some of you already know, we meet today under unfortunate circumstances. Despite a round-the-clock watch, Mr. Potter has managed to hoodwink the Order and run away. With–"

"–Or he was kidnapped," came a resolute voice from Dumbledore's left.

Every eye turned to face the speaker. Dumbledore just sighed.

"Sirius, I understand your sentiments, but I speak with incontrovertible evidence. The Wards around Privet Drive have failed, utterly. There are only two precedents of that happening: either Mr. Potter is no longer in the land of the living or he has irrevocably severed his ties with his relatives and their home by running away with no intentions of ever returning. Seeing as my indicators monitoring Mr. Potter's health are fully-functional and showing him to be in peak physical condition, we must defer to the latter option." Dumbledore explained, his expression looking pained and aged.

Sirius look torn, but his lips were set into a thin line and his hands crossed in front of his chest. No matter what, he refused to believe his godson would even think of running away.

"Why am I not surprised that the son of a Marauder decides to pull a prank in even such serious times," came a silky voice from the back of the room.

Severus Snape sneered, and the look on his face was a mixture of reserved confusion and disdain.

Sirius slammed his fist on the table in front of him and swirled his head to look directly into Snape's eyes. "Look here, Snivellus, Harry would never run away! It's obvious something nefarious is afoot."

"As the Headmaster pointed out, Black, the evidence of his running away are incontrovertible and secondly - 'nefarious,' I must commend your efforts at widening your vocabulary, I am truly surprised you're capable of complex thought." Snape finished viciously.

Sirius snarled and stood up, his wand pointed towards Snape, and Snape copied his movements. Both wandtips glowed red with anticipation.

"ENOUGH!" boomed Dumbledore. "Sirius, Severus, as I have asked you before, I ask you again, leave your childhood nemesis in the past and join the world of adults once and for all. We have to find Mr. Potter rather than argue amongst ourselves! Now put away your wands and sit down!"

Resentfully, and glaring daggers at each other, both men did as instructed.

Dumbledore then resumed his seat and, without looking at her, indicated with his hand for Tonks to rise.

Understanding the implication, Tonks sat up straight in her chair, took a deep breath and stood up. The chair she was sitting on toppled over behind her.

"Cor," she swore lightly as she turned around and picked up the chair and while doing so knocked over her second teacup in five minutes.

"Really, Tonks, you ought to try to be more careful," Molly Weasley said, annoyed, as Remus cleaned the mess with a swish of his wand.

Thus, it was a considerably mollified Tonks that recounted her experience from the night before.

Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine…

Well that was as far as she could count streetlights from her vantage point in the bushes, especially in the night. Tonks was rather proud of herself because last time she spotted only twenty-five.

She sighed irritably. This was not what she considered to be a glamorous use of her free time. She initially joined the Order of the Phoenix to do some good and be effective in taking the war to You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters despite the inefficiency of the Ministry. Spending three nights a week in a bush 'guarding' a morbid teenager was not what she had in mind.

Nevertheless, she had chosen the Order on her own free will, and Dumbledore was a great man for a reason. If he deemed the Boy-Who-Lived a number one priority, then so be it. Who was she to argue? After all, this was the Harry Potter.

Yet some nights, like this one, Tonks couldn't help but curse the fruitlessness of her job. If only she knew why a not-even-fifteen-year-old had better security than even the Minister of Magic. Alas, these questions warranted answers that her station was not privy to.

'Suck it up, Tonks,' she reminded herself as she got comfortable in her sleeping bag and re-applied a warming charm. 'This is important, no matter what you think…'

Time passed, slowly but steadily and Tonks was finding it harder and harder to keep her eyes open. At one point she shook her head quickly when she felt herself nodding off yet again. She stood up and stretched her legs, then did a quick sweep of the area as Moody had suggested and then checked the time.

It had only been three hours; her shift still had not ended…

'Merlin help me!'

Tonks resettled herself into her customary position and started counting streetlights again.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten….

Tonks yawned loudly and rubbed her tired eyes.

Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, six-sixteen, sev-ven-te-teen… eighteen…







"NYMPHADORA! CHECK THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY!"

Tonks was jostled awake by a loud voice and she looked up, her wand ready in her hand pointing towards the source of the noise. What she saw was a blinding silvery-white phoenix patronus with its wide wings spread in an intimidating pose, its shimmering body hovered regally in midair, and lit the surrounding area in an eerie glow. Its empty grey eyes regarded her shrewdly with its beak open as if crying.

"NYMPHADORA! CHECK THE PREMISES AND DETERMINE MR. POTTER'S WHEREABOUTS!"

Tonks got to her feet within seconds, wand clutched in one hand. She made a mad dash towards Number Four, all vestiges of fatigue long gone. As she approached the front door, she silently cast a disillusionment charm on herself and then silenced her body using a modified Silencio. With a mentally incanted 'Alohomora', the door clicked open and Tonks raced up silently, not even hitting or knocking over anything in her wake; too alert and worried out of her mind to make such a mistake.

She careened into the smallest room and wrenched open the door. The sight was not heartening.

An empty trunk, which she knew to be Harry's old one, was lying open at the foot of the bed, which was stripped of its sheets, and the pillow gone as well.

Tonks rushed towards one of the two other pieces of furniture in the room: the cupboard. One of its doors was cracked open, like someone had not closed it properly while in a rush. She swiftly pulled it open, hoping at this point to even be confronted with haphazardly thrown-in clothes. Unfortunately, on inspecting the tiny cupboard, Tonks discovered that all of Harry's clothes were gone, even the spare sheets and blankets that his Aunt stored were missing.

Tonks started walking backwards as the implications of what she saw began to set in. Her breath became erratic and she clasped her hands together in front of her chest as her fear mounted.

'No, no, it couldn't be, definitely not, not on my watch, impossible!'

Two large steps back and Tonks hit the back of her leg to Harry's old trunk. She squeaked and turned with her wand drawn, her hand now shaking. Seeing the trunk she exhaled with relief and looked inside. The trunk had few things inside, some broken artifacts: a Sneakoscope, some worn-out quills, old and mouldy socks, and the like.

There was nothing in there worth keeping. No books, no personal effects, nothing, just junk. Rubbish you would throw out when separating… oh Merlin; Tonks' hand flew to her gaping mouth… when separating what's important from what's not, something you do when moving.

Her mouth still covered, Tonks' eyes moved to the tiny table and rickety chair in the corner. The table was covered with papers, a small sheaf of parchments were neatly stacked on one side, Tonks was about to inspect it when her eyes were inexorably drawn to the one large parchment lying on top of everything else.

This parchment had a lot of writing on it, a lot of things written and then crossed out, and replaced with more writing. There was a finished list of bullet points at the bottom of the sheet; all the points were ticked to signify completion. But what caught Tonks' attention and confirmed her biggest fear was the title on the parchment: The Road to Freedom.

Tonks sat down heavily on the bare bed with the large parchment now clasped in her shaking hands as she read and reread what was written. It was a series of systematic ideas and instructions to escape promptly before any suspicion was roused. By the looks of things, it had succeeded.

Time passed, every second moved on frustratingly quicker than the one before and Tonks was running out of ides to try and fix this mess.

Tears leaked out of her eyes: she thought she was above Harry-watch, she wanted something more glamorous, and now, her own negligence could cost the Light the Boy-Who-Lived.

All because she couldn't stay awake.

With tears staining her face, Tonks sent off a Patronus to Professor Dumbledore. He would get the message within a few moments, but the situation was still bleak.

Tonks sat back in the bed, the lower half of her body dangling off the edge, her position eerily similar to the previous resident of the very same room as she considered what she could do.

She didn't have any ideas…

Merlin help them all…

Finishing her report was harder than she would have imagined it to be. As she sat down, she risked a look in Sirius' direction. He was huddled up against himself and his lips were constantly muttering at a very low decibel, as if talking to himself, his head shaking in disbelief every few seconds.

The others in the room were silent as well, each of their thoughts introspective as they considered the gathered evidence.

Dumbledore cleared his throat after a considerable time had elapsed and then produced the same parchment that Tonks had mentioned.

"This is what Nymphadora had located in Mr. Potter's room and confirmed what we fear to be his plan of escape from his relatives' home." He said, passing around the said parchment to his immediate left.

When it was in Mr. Weasley's hand, he gave it a cursory glance, but then his breath caught in his throat as he read point two and then point eight.

Dumbledore looked at him worriedly, "Is there something you've discovered, Arthur?"

Arthur nodded heavily as Molly held onto his hand tightly, encouraging him to speak.

"He mentioned regaining his passport from his aunt and then heading to an airport as his leaving point." Mr. Weasley said in a whisper.

Tonks' eyes widened as the implications of what he said sunk in. She had read the paper before but what was written never really registered, her eyes were glued just to the title at the time. Looking around the room, she noted several looks of confusion instead of horror.

"Perhaps you would care to elaborate, Arthur?" He asked in a deceptively calm voice.

Arthur nodded, "When muggles travel beyond England, when they wish to visit other countries, their documentation of their nationality and such is determined by means of an official-looking booklet that is different for every country, called a passport. The swiftest way of international travel today among muggles is through an airport, where they use airplanes to fly. If Harry has indeed gone through with his plan, it is safe to assume he is no longer within the British Isles and we have no magical means to track him."

Dumbledore sat back in his chair, his head lowered perceptibly as he pondered this new development.

A small chuckling sound was heard from the back and everyone turned to face Severus, from whom the sound was emanating. "The boy does have something in that head after all. Wouldn't his Gryffindor father be proud of his very Slytherin-esque escape?"

Sirius growled as he jumped out of his chair and lunged towards Snape, his hand clasping around Snape's neck in an effort to strangle him. Before Snape could even reach his wand, it was knocked away by the impact of Sirius' landing. Both men fell to the ground, Sirius on top, and struggled with each other, with the chair Snape had just been forced to vacate topping over to the other side.

Two flashes of red light were shot from Dumbledore's wand and they were both summarily stunned. Dumbledore shook his head tiredly as they were levitated and dropped outside of the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.

"Is there any way to track him, Arthur?" Dumbledore asked finally.

Mr. Weasley, still dazed by the rather sudden brawl that was equally anticlimactically ended, turned to Dumbledore with a pensive expression. "Muggle authorities are very organized with their work. They probably have the paperwork of where Harry is headed. However, with the Ministry's position as it is towards yourself and Harry, I find it hard to believe they would expend any resources to find him."

Molly spoke from his side. "Albus, what about his trial? When The Prophet learns of his absence, they will have a field day, the kind of things they will say about him are unprecedented. We would be lucky if he ever came back after such declarations."

Dumbledore nodded with a deep frown on his face, "I know, Molly, I know, but there is only so much we can handle at one time. I will look into some of my contacts with Muggle authorities to try and locate our wayward Mr. Potter. It isn't much, but any help or lead would be helpful as of now."

A few more matters were discussed; Voldemort's unusual quiet was also briefly touched upon.

"Professor Dumbledore?" Tonks asked, as it seemed the meeting was coming to a close.

"Yes?" He looked at her kindly.

"What about the Dursleys? Is the watch at Number Four still in effect?" Tonks presented her query.

Dumbledore didn't answer as he considered his options, "Seeing as we are already stretched thin with monitoring Voldemort and now also searching for Mr. Potter who could be anywhere, we can no longer keep a strict watch on them. We must hope for their best, and that is all we can do."

In other words, their death warrant had been signed.

"Molly," Dumbledore said, "will you kindly reawaken our friends outside? I have some assignments for them that they must be aware of."

Molly nodded absently and stood from her seat to head outside the kitchen. Her mind was still reeling with the idea that Harry had run away and that they had no way of tracking him - no way whatsoever, unless he used magic.

Once outside, she swished her wand and with two quick 'Ennervate's. Snape and Sirius were awakened and bid to enter.

Molly too was about to re-enter when the fireplace in the Main Hall blazed alive with green flames.

"Is anyone there? I have an important message to deliver!"

"Dudders, go get your things and hurry down." Petunia said in her loud voice as she submerged her hands in yet another box to place more items within.

Dudley sighed as he was forced yet again to abandon his favourite past time (watching the telly) to go to his room and bring down more things to pack.

Walking up the stairs rapidly (he didn't want to give his mother a chance to give him more work after all), Dudley entered his room and began picking up another armload of clothes, magazines and various knick-knacks he wanted packed.

It was odd really; his cousin had disappeared without a trace and the next day his parents planned a move. It had barely been three days, what if Harry returned only to find them gone? At this point, he didn't really know what to think about his cousin, he thought they were getting along fine; maybe he could have just left a message, something. It was only polite if he planned on disappearing. But he had left without a trace or even a goodbye.

Dudley calmly walked towards the staircase only to stub his foot on something on the ground and have his things cascade down as well. He cursed under his breath and began loading things again, his musings returning to his cousin. From the corner of his eye, he saw one of his favorite miniature footballs (a souvenir from the World Cup his father took him to) roll away and into his parents' room.

Dudley sighed tiredly and followed the rolling ball inside. He deposited his belongings on his parents' bed and bent over to reach for the ball that had rolled under it. Stretching his hand, he clasped the ball firmly in his grip and then withdrew with it in hand.

He got onto one knee to heave himself up and rested his left arm on the bedside table to give himself support. That's when his hand came in contact with a familiar yet odd kind of paper.

Once back on his own two feet, Dudley looked at the paper with a creased brow, wondering what it was. He picked it up and began to read:

Dear Aunt Petunia,

I hope this letter…

Dudley's eyebrows shot to his hairline. So Harry had left a letter behind, and his mother had blatantly lied to him when he asked. He read his cousin's letter to his mother and was disappointed to note that it held no clues as to where he was. However, his cousin's implied message of his people searching the house never came to fruition. Maybe they didn't know he was gone yet? They'd be worried sick if he never went back to that school! Then they would come investigating and see the Dursleys gone as well.

Dudley knew then that he had to do something.

He put the letter down from where he picked it up only to notice two more letters lying there, one addressed to 'Uncle Vernon' and the second simply said 'Dudley.'

Smiling slightly, Dudley gingerly raised the letter meant for him, his anger towards his mother doubling for hiding it from him.

He took out the inner parchment and sat down on his mother's bed, then began to read:

Dear Dudley,

Sorry mate, I didn't tell you I was leaving. But the whole point of running away is going away unannounced so I hope you understand.

As far as where I'm headed is concerned, let me just say that I'm headed far, far away from England and all the mess that I've left behind there. I sat down one night and thought about it, and realized that me being gone would be in everyone's best interests. At least your mum and dad would agree.

I was hoping you could do me a favour, Dudley, like for your parents and you. I left a stack of letters for my friends on the side of my desk in my room. When my minders come a-knocking, just make sure they get them.

Thanks a lot Dudley, for everything.

I hope we meet again someday.

Your cousin,

Harry

Dudley blinked owlishly as he read and reread the letter addressed to him. So his cousin was actually gone, for good.

Well, he would do well on the favour his cousin asked of him. But his minders never came, so what about those letters he left for his friends?

Of course!

Dudley shot out of his parents' room, leaving all his things still lying on their bed and swept into his cousin's old room. Once inside, he headed straight for the desk and looked around carefully, mindful to not disturb anything.

Just like his cousin had mentioned in his letter, off to one side of the desk was a thick sheaf of parchments, each one folded, some thicker than others with a name printed on the top.

Dudley carefully picked up the entire sheaf. Making sure he didn't forget any letter, Dudley ran down the stairs, the floorboard reverberating and groaning threateningly under his weight as he opened the front door and headed to the one person whom he knew was associated with 'them.'

Three quick raps on the door and he heard a faint "coming" from the other side. A few minutes passed as Dudley tried to catch his breath form the run that he had just made. The door creaked open and in the doorway stood batty Mrs. Figg.

She had two shawls draped around her shoulders (even though it was in the middle of the afternoon in summer) and a weird-looking white cat in her arms. Her eyes looked drawn and tired and her face sallow.

Upon seeing Dudley at her doorstep she seemed surprised.

"Mr. Dursley, this is awfully unexpected. What may I do for you?" She said in her wobbling old woman voice.

Dudley, having finally caught his breath and calmed his pulse, answered, "Mrs. Figg, I know you were keeping an eye on Harry and are with those… um… people."

If this worried her, she didn't show it.

Dudley calmly handed her the parchments, which she accepted with only a slight frown.

"I don't know if you're aware, but Harry ran away, he's been gone for a while. Mum and Dad are packing, we're moving. The morning after he left Dad went in and asked for a transfer, we're moving to Australia where Dad is going to be the head of a new branch of his company. Harry left these letters for his friends, he asked me to make sure it got to them when they came searching the house, but they never came and I thought I could pass it on to you." Dudley rambled on.

Mrs. Figg's eyes widened in surprise and she regarded the letters with a sort of shock, then she schooled her features and nodded in thanks.

"Thank you Mr. Dursley. I will make sure these letters get into the right hands."

Dudley nodded uncertainly, disappointed by her lack of reaction. As she closed the door, Dudley turned around and headed back to his home to finish packing. He would have words with his mother later about hiding letters that were meant for him.

Upon closing the door, Mrs. Figg dropped her façade of calm and rushed to her fireplace. She threw in her floo-powder and shouted for Order Headquarters. Sticking her head in the fireplace she called out to the House. Someone would hear her.

"Is anyone there? I have an important message to deliver!"

Molly turned around and rushed to the floo.

"Arabella? Is something the matter?" Mrs. Weasley asked.

Through the green flames she saw Mrs. Figg regard her with relief, "Molly, thank goodness you're here, Harry's cousin, Dudley, just came by. It seems Harry left behind letters for his friends, and there might be a clue to finding him! Now, you must hand them to Dumbledore."

Molly's jumped at the news, "Pass the letters through, Bella, we're having an Order meeting now! I'll just pass it on immediately."

With a nod and a quick word of thanks, Mrs. Weasley dashed back towards the kitchen with the letters in hand.

"Albus!" She called in her loud voice, the talking and whispering around the table ceased and Dumbledore turned towards her with questioning eyes.

"Is something the matter, Molly?" He asked calmly.

She held up the letters and her hand shook with anticipation, "Harry left letters for us all, Arabella just passed them on."

Chaos broke lose and people got up and rushed towards Molly to take a look at the letters, Sirius leading the charge and Snape remaining unmoving with only the barest hint of a smirk on his face.

"Back off!" Molly said threateningly, pointing her wand at them as if they were wolves, "He's sent them for his friends and those he considers close, we get to read them first!"

Dumbledore came forward and made sure everyone was back in his or her seat, he then turned to Molly who still stood with her wand pointed and breathing heavily.

"To whom has he addressed letters, Molly?" Dumbledore asked tranquilly.

Seeing that the danger had passed, Molly sat down again and began leafing through the envelopes.

"There's one for Ron, another for Hermione, and one for the twins. Here's one for you, Remus," she said, handing Remus his letter. Lupin gladly snatched it and began reading avidly.

"Sirius," she said absently passing one to the man to her right who began reading the letter like a man finding an oasis in a desert.

"Arthur," she said calmly, handing him his and then she took the next one for herself and kept it aside.

"This last one's for you, Albus," she finished, and Dumbledore took his letter as well.

With those with letters reading and those without twiddling their thumbs, Molly took a deep breath and picked up her letter.

She charily opened her letter and began to read.

Dear Mrs. Weasley,

I don't know what you must be thinking of me right now, and I'm sorry if I've disappointed you.

I've been doing a lot of thinking this summer and I came to the decision that leaving was the best option. Voldemort is after me, and there is literally a sign carved on my head marking me as his target. Everyone I'm around and associate with is in jeopardy.

If that's not enough, the Ministry seems adamant in making me out to be a liar and attention-seeker. I remember my days in Second Year when everyone thought I was the Heir of Slytherin – it was a difficult time. Even Ron and Hermione were cold-shouldered for months for staying on my side. I don't want to put anyone through that experience again. I don't want to be victimized by the Ministry for acting out in self-defence against Dementors.

Thank you for accepting me into your home with open arms and no preconceived notions. I will always value you for all that you've done for me and for letting me be a part of your family.

I hope to see you again someday without the threat of Voldemort looming over my forehead and the tension of war making our lives hard.

Please don't search for me, and try not to worry either. I'll find my way wherever I am.

Love,

Harry

A few tears unconsciously fell from her eyes as she reread the letter. Now they knew for sure, Harry was indeed gone.

"These letters are a forgery!" Sirius opposed vehemently.

Dumbledore silenced him with a look, he then removed his wand, and swirled it around his own letter, and it began to glow and settled to a calm blue.

Dumbledore sighed, "This letter is genuine and was not written under any form of duress or pressure."

Sirius growled angrily, he clutched his letter tightly in his hand and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

"Well, did the lad leave any clues to find him, Albus?" Moody asked, losing his patience.

"Nothing to indicate so in mine. His letter was rather, well, honest, and just said goodbye. Nothing more." He then turned to the others. "Molly, Arthur, Remus, anything useful in yours?"

Molly looked up from hers and shook her head in the negative. Arthur and Remus followed suit.

Dumbledore placed his hands on the table in resignation.

"We have no choice then but to look as best as we can for young Mr. Potter." He raised himself in one elegant sweep from his place and moved towards the fireplace in the Main Hall.

Thus, however dishearteningly, the Order meeting was concluded.

He sat back in his chair and regarded the seedy room with only slight distaste. It was an okay sort of place, really, calling it "seedy" was being unfair, but there still was an undertone of danger in this place.

A modest single bed was pushed to the side; a large, empty floor-space dominated the main area of the room that was covered in bits and pieces of parchments and various books. To one side was a sink with a newly purchased toothbrush and toothpaste lying in a plastic cup. To the other side was a door that led to an exit from the small room. All things considered, it was still bigger than his old room, if only marginally.

He sighed lightly and stretched in his chair. He had been reading up on the country and its culture all night. Needless to say that his young appearance roused considerable suspicion on arriving here, but with the right amount of money and in an obscure enough motel, there wasn't much opposition to his presence.

He turned back to his book, the book that had given him the idea of coming to this place to begin with - the very same book that he had never looked at since first year: A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot.

The passage read:

No diplomatic crisis has ever had consequences as far-reaching as that between the Magical Ministries of Britain and Romania. In 1776, Gorvick the Terrible killed an entire contingent of British wizards travelling in Bessarabia, the British ministry's ultimatum for redress was ignored and in response, the British Ministry deported all Romanian Nationals and barred their further entry.

Thus started a seemingly never-ending war of wills and snubs between the two countries. What started as a resolvable diplomatic crisis, turn into a two century long silence and tension that continues to this day.

The deterioration of relations has reached the extent that there is no exchange of communication or news between the two countries, each existing peacefully and entirely separately from the other.

Perhaps someday, the burnt bridge can be restored.

Further reading on Romania and their magical history, see page 1,037.

That was all the prompting Harry needed.

He closed the book and stood up form the chair, stretching himself out some more because it had been an exceptionally long night.

He moved towards his bed and quickly fell asleep.

It had been a week since his departure, one entire week since he severed his ties with all that was old and familiar and treaded into an unfamiliar world.

When the sun came up, Harry rose, stretching his body and yawning deeply, dark circles were visible under his eyes, but it wasn't like he could do much about it.

After taking a quick shower, he grabbed his quills and parchment and stuffed them in the backpack he picked up at the Romanian Street of Magic. He said a quick 'bye, I'll be back in the evening' to the patron of the inn at the front desk and headed out back. Buying some crisps and a bottle of water on the way, Harry had had a satisfactory breakfast as he quickened his pace. He stopped in front of a large statue in the middle of Bucharest. It was still early and no one was about. Three quick raps on the hindquarters of the statue and it shook and opened and Harry descended.

After arriving at Bucharest airport, the first thing Harry did was convert his money into Romanian lei. He then started his search around Romania.

That first night out in town, Harry roamed around the city. There were quite a few people there who spoke broken English, so it wasn't half-bad. A little time exploring, some more spent sight-seeing, but Harry was slowly coming to a stark realization: he had nothing to do and no one to turn to.

The plan to run away was all well and good and the idea to start a Muggle life somewhere was even better, but how was he supposed to cope? He had no useful skills as a Muggle, in fact, before his Hogwarts letter; he was pretty useless at school as well.

So now what?

It was during this deep musing on his first night out that Harry was roaming around in one of the seedier parts of Bucharest.

Walking and thinking, he didn't even realize when he ran into someone.

Taking a few steps back, Harry looked at the unfortunate soul he knocked down and helped him up, "Um… Sorry about that."

The person, looked like a child, but his face was that of a man. He got up angrily and dusted himself off, looking in Harry's direction menacingly. He had vibrant purple eyes and was approximately Flitwick's height. At first Harry thought he was part goblin, but on closer inspection, Harry knew he was just a Muggle, with dwarf-like height.

The little man growled in his direction and said something in Romanian; Harry didn't understand a word.

"Um, right, I'll just be going." Harry said uncertainly, he turned around only to bump into someone else, someone who was most definitely not a dwarf.

Harry gulped involuntarily as he was sandwiched between the two men, he dug his hands in his pockets and took out the little money he had with him and offered it without question.

The dwarf snatched his money from his hand and began counting. He seemed surprised by the sheer amount by didn't comment further.

The dwarf then nodded to the troll (yes, he was that size) and the two were walking away.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief; only it was too soon. Just when he thought he was in the safe, the dwarf turned around and socked him hard in his gut. Harry doubled over in pain and fell to his knees and the troll kicked him on his back, landing him on the ground in a pained heap. Harry groaned as the two disproportionately sized men kicked him, and then, laughing, walked away.

He wasn't sure how long he remained lying there, but he knew it had been some time. He could feel the unsteady rise and fall of his chest. When he felt the pain recede or at least become bearable, he tentatively felt his body with his hands gently. There seemed to be a few bumps and more than a few bruises, but thankfully, nothing was broken.

Nervousness of having a repeat performance of what just happened to him rising, Harry unsteadily got to his feet and shakily made his way back to the inn. As he approached the place, there were more people around him and for some reason that made him feel a lot safer. The Inn he was staying at was nothing special to look at. It was the usual, if a bit on the shady side. An old, but still well maintained, sign was propped up above the front entrance that announced its name, something he couldn't pronounce. The inside lobby wasn't posh by any stretch of the imagination, but it was decent and the patrons, though not bursting with their optimism and honesty, didn't seem too bad either.

It was thus a bruised and battered Harry Potter that made it back to his room to figuratively lick his wounds for the night.

As he lay in his bed, afraid to move in fear of exacerbating his wounds, Harry came to a running conclusion: it was all well and good to believe that he could go Muggle, but it was quite another to actually do so.

Harry wiggled in his tiny bed and nearly cried out in pain, when he felt himself turning a bit too sharply and paining his side on a particularly nasty bruise.

As he squinted his eyes and counted to ten, he couldn't help but remember Madame Promfrey. She probably would've fixed his wounds without breaking a sweat. He wouldn't even be in pain right now and would have been asleep with only Voldemort's nighttimes terrors to worry about.

He couldn't go Muggle, not due to lack of trying, but because he wasn't one. He could try and pretend, but that's what it would always be - a fib, nothing more. He would always stay what he was on the inside no matter how much he denied it, and what he was, was a Wizard.

As Harry emerged in the magical street of Romania, he smiled to himself slightly; he loved the sight of it. It was eerily similar to Diagon Alley, but with many subtle differences, culminating into a completely different culture and way of magic. The witches and wizards of Romania also wore robes, but they were of an older fashion, they too practiced magic, but in a subtler way. Romania was a magical land utterly immersed in the study of artistic magic and understanding the nuances of magical energy.

Harry always wondered how magical paintings were made, and now he knew. They were generally commissioned to be made by Eastern European magicals, those whose primary focus of study has been Transfiguration, Enchantment and Ritualism since two millennia. It was really fascinating what you could learn about a place if you just sat down and read A History of Magic.

Harry walked onwards in the direction of his destination. On the way, he passed by one of the only two apothecary's and potion shops in the entire magical district: Stefan's.

He knew that shop because he owed a lot to the Russian potions master.

Harry carefully tapped the hindquarters of a statue of the horse being ridden by Ceauşescu, the deceased Romanian President who was killed in a revolution. Of course what is not very well known was that Ceauşescu was a wizard, who had studied at Durmstrang alongside Grindelwald. He also believed in the same Muggle-hating policies, as many purebloods do, so when push came to shove, his public had overthrown him.

However, the contributions that Ceauşescu made to magical Romania had left him as something of a martyr in their culture. He created the first magical street of Romania and hid it behind his statues. Unfortunately, most of these entrances had to be remapped because all of his statues were decimated shortly after, yet Harry was lucky that this one had survived and served as a memorial of sorts.

Entering the street, Harry immediately started exploring the vicinity. His first order of business was to find a Gringotts Bank (or whatever the equivalent was) to exchange some Galleons into Romanian lei (after all, he had been robbed). He squinted his eyes in pain as his body was still tender from some of the kicks and bruises sustained from the night before.

On his way to the Bank, which he saw was on the other side of the community, he came across a small potion's shop, the only he had spotted up until now.

Stefan's was tiny and looked run-of-the-mill. The place was old with its slightly dusty signboard and creaking door but it still was well maintained.

Harry entered to see a very clean and scrubbed apothecary with a single, old man working behind the counter. He wasn't really sure what had drawn him to go inside the store, but his instincts were screaming at him to look inside. Indeed the store was a great find.

Looking at the display in the window alone Harry saw several potions that he had never seen in the Apothecary's at Diagon Alley. There was a potion to make your blood thicker, and more viscid. Harry figured that most rituals needed blood in their essential make-up and such a potion would be very useful. There was another potion called a wit-sharpening potion that gave the drinker the ability to concentrate and see details more effectively, which could be useful for any number of situations.

Looking around at the various potions vials in the shop itself had Harry quite intrigued. A lot of it was standard potion-making ingredients and some ready-made everyday use potions, but there were others like the blood thickening potion that seemed odd to Harry, some even out-of-place. But then again, Harry didn't recognize more than half of the potions there as the signs were in Romanian and whatever he understood was pure conjecture using his limited potion skills rather than anything else.

He heard some unintelligible words being directed towards him. Harry turned to face the old man with a confused smile, "I don't speak Romanian, sorry."

The man looked puzzled for a second but then nodded, "It has been long time from ven I spoke English."

Harry's jaw dropped and then he broke out into a large smile, "Really, you speak English! Thank Merlin!"

The old man smiled at his enthusiasm but just nodded in response, "I did uchenichestvo in America after parents taught me."

Harry was thrown by his last comment, "Um, what's a ucheni… uh that."

The man seemed uncomfortable. "Uchenichestvo, hard to explain, it is studying under elder of subject, for me potions. It is vat ve say in Russia."

It clicked in Harry's head as another thing he had read in A History of Magic, "An apprenticeship, then?"

The man smiled when Harry said that, "You speak not Romanian?"

Harry shook his head.

The man whooped. He turned around; leaving an even more confused Harry in his wake and began searching in his stores for something. A few minutes of hemming and hawing later, he pulled out an old vial which had something written on it in Romanian.

"This is potion to learn language. Drink and listen to people, in one day you vill learn."

That he did.

Harry smiled as he passed by Stefan's and went on to his final destination. The translation potion, as he had learnt its name to be when he went back to thank Stefan profusely, was meant to learn the language of a place immediately. Stefan had been most helpful in that regard and now Harry was much more comfortable running around the city and making himself comfortable.

Yet, Harry would have to agree that the one person who had helped Harry out the most had appeared seemingly out of the blue: Amanta Schimba cel Cumplit.

It had now been two days since Harry had discovered Magical Romania and he couldn't have been happier. No one seemed to recognize him because his black hair was common enough and his green eyes were nothing more than pretty. As far as his scar was concerned, it was permanently wrapped under a bandage. If any one were to ask, it was due to an accident (which was true enough). Especially now that he spoke their language, he was virtually one of the crowd. It was what he had desired all his life.

Yet he had new problems to face. Although he was part of the magical world, he couldn't continue learning. At first he thought about going into the local bookstore and buying as many books as he could, only to realize that although he could understand the language, he still couldn't write or read it - he was essentially illiterate. He then considered going back and studying the books he already had; brushing up on his abilities. That's when problem number two emerged - he still couldn't practice magic as he was under-age. He also didn't know what the laws for under-age magic users were in Romania, and the last thing he needed was to garner attention to himself. He was trapped, surrounded by magic but unable to use it.

The only option he had was to study potions, and Harry had a deep-seated hatred for that subject. If he turned up completely without options at the end of the week, however, he would ask for Stefan's help and start learning potions.

Harry spent most of his days trying to find anything in English in the entire area, but to his intense disappointment found that the diplomatic crisis of the 1700s had precipitated to the point that the government banned any English texts.

What to do?

On this particular day, Harry was lurking around one of the seedier parts of the Romanian Magical district (their version of Knockturn Alley) to find something, anything to help him, when it happened.

"Back off!" Came an angry grunt from around the corner.

Harry immediately pulled out his wand. Knowing he couldn't use it didn't mean he couldn't threaten to use it.

Harry surreptitiously turned the corner and pulled out the Invisibility Cloak from his pocket and hid himself under it.

Walking slowly, so as not to make a noise, he saw what the commotion was about.

Off to the side, near a deserted square, were five men surrounding a tiny, but annoyed-looking, middle-aged woman.

"Hand over the money, lady," said the ruffian that seemed to be the leader of the troupe, with his wand-tip burning at the woman's neck.

The woman flashed her eyes towards the man and Harry had his first good look at her. She seemed old, but not as old as he had originally anticipated. Her hair was black and straight, tied into a bun, her face was lined with some wrinkles, and she was tiny - about half Dumbledore's height, and a bit plump. Yet her small stature seemed insignificant in comparison with the angry expression on her face as she glowered at the man who had manhandled her.

The third man behind the leader held two wands and Harry knew that they had disarmed her, otherwise, she seemed ferocious enough to take care of herself, because despite the situation she was in, she didn't seem scared - just angry; really, really, angry.

"I will never sully myself by stooping to your orders, child, now unhand me and I will show you mercy," she intoned, a sharp edge to her tone.

The gruff backhanded her across her face and Harry was sure he saw blood spout from the side of her lip.

Hermione did always say he had a 'saving people thing'.

Without thinking twice, Harry, still invisible, rushed forward and ran headfirst into the man, knocking him off balance. The other four men looked around, startled, and pointed their wands in formation, in four different directions. The leader stumbled but turned around and narrowed his eyes, searching for his assailant. Harry had wisely chosen to back off and wait till he had another moment to attack.

When the four men pointing their wands seemed to relax, Harry picked up a rock and flung it at the man holding the old lady's wand. He then fled his original vantage point and moved to the opposite side.

The man yelled in pain as the rock's aim held true and hit his head, causing him to drop both wands and hold his head to ease the pain. The other three men immediately began a steady volley of spell-fire in the direction of the attack. Harry, at the other side of the street, could hardly suppress his laughter.

Creeping slowly, Harry walked forward and crouched beside the man holding his head, eyes still closed. Carefully, Harry picked up the man's and the old lady's wand and hid them under his Cloak. He then turned around and walked towards the old lady.

"My wand is gone!" the man yelled suddenly, distracting the others.

The leader growled, "Whoever you are, reveal yourself, or I'll kill her!" He said, pressing his wand-tip into the lady's side.

Harry stood helpless as he eyed the situation. What to do now?

The man was clearly losing his patience. He muttered a weak severing charm and the old lady cried in pain as her side ripped open and blood dripped out. She clamped a hand on her wound and promptly slapped the man across the face with the other hand.

The leader pushed her to the ground and positioned his wand above her head.

"Reveal yourself! I won't ask again!"

Harry crept forward; there was only so much he could do. That's when an idea struck him. It was so ridiculous and simplistic that he just had to try it.

"FOOLS!" Harry intoned in a deep, baritone voice.

He then rushed to the other side as spell-fire impacted his previous spot.

"YOU DARE TO ATTACK CEAUSESCU'S GHOST! I OUGHT TO HANG YOU FOR YOUR BETRAYAL!" He proclaimed in a voice as majestic as he could manage.

Two of the four wizards didn't dare raise their wands, their eyes wide in fear. The remaining two, including the leader, seemed shocked, but attacked nonetheless.

Yet again, Harry moved just in the nick of time. When positioned in a new location, he calmed his breathing and tried one last time, while inching his way towards the old lady who was on the ground sporting a bemused expression.

"LEAVE, CHILDREN, LEST I SUMMON THE SPECTRAL ROYAL GUARD AND TORMENT YOUR SOULS FOR ALL ETERNITY!"

No spell-fire accompanied this last message, and he was close enough to the woman. He bent down, hoping to pass on her wand without startling her, but to his intense surprise, she grasped her wand firmly before it was even completely out of his Cloak. She pulled it out and hid it under her robes.

The five men seemed very uncertain. The two who initially hesitated and the one who was injured seemed cowered enough.

"Maybe we should comply, Vlad?" one said.

The leader seemed torn and his moment of indecision was all that was necessary.

The old lady stood up, and, in a flourish, disarmed him. She grasped his wand in her hand and used a silent blasting hex to push the thug away. While the other three (the fourth still not in possession of his wand) attacked her on pure instinct. She smiled with apparent expectation. The leader was knocked out on a piece of rubble a distance away, and the remaining three, no matter what they threw at her, were surprised by the level of her shield's defence.

What they could not see as they were so busy keep a constant stream of attack up, was that the way the woman was silently summoning random pieces of rubble and rock from the ground and transfiguring them into the form of shield. Every time their spells seemed to cause a crack and break the shield, five times more rock was summoned and transfigured.

In one minute flat, the woman had presented a veritable barrage of transfigured shielding in front of her. What she was using as a shield was a type of metal that had an odd sheen to it, but Harry had no idea what it was.

The woman then waved her wand and whispered an incantation that Harry barely caught.

From around her, various pieces of transfigured metal broke from the shield and were transformed back into rubble. These pieces were clamped together into three entities and formed wolves - realistic animate wolves! Perhaps the most remarkable part of it all was that she had achieved this feat of transfiguration in less than a minute and her assailants had no idea what she was doing.

With a flourish of her wand, she unleashed the wolves that attacked the three wand-wielders with unbridled ferocity. What followed was, put lightly, a massacre. Although the wolves didn't kill the wizards, they did appoint grievous physical harm. They bit and chewed and pulled apart their skin as the men screamed, their spells and hexes dodged expertly.

Five minutes later, all of the men were bound and unconscious, (bound by a silent Incarcerous, but unconscious by very Muggle means). She cast a whispered healing charm on herself and eased the wound caused by the leader's severing charm. When satisfied with her healing wandwork, the witch levitated the thugs with a silent Mobilicorpus (or at least, Harry assumed so) and began walking away from the street, her wolves prowling around her in a feral, protective manner. She stopped suddenly and turned to Harry, her eyes boring into his and it was as though the Invisibility Cloak was not there at all.

"You may come out now," she said in a deep, aged voice.

The memory of the massacre (he didn't think it was fair to call it a battle) still fresh in his mind, and mindful of the fact that his Invisibility Cloak seemed unable to fool her, Harry revealed himself with a guarded expression on his face.

"Thank you, young man. Your imminent assistance is much appreciated." She said, nodding regally. "Is there anything I can do to return the favour?"

Harry's initial request was to leave him unharmed and he'd be eternally grateful. But squashing his inner coward, he asked for the one thing he knew he needed more than anything else.

"Can you teach me? I want to learn to fight like that." Harry was quite sure that his determination sounded wavered and his voice was unusually high, but it was entirely involuntary. After seeing this woman duel, anyone would be intimidated.

She regarded him with keen, unflinching eyes, as if assessing his worth and value. After an indeterminable passage of time, during which Harry was consciously trying to stop his legs from shaking, she gave a small, barely perceptible nod.

"I will teach you the Magical Arts of Transfiguration and Enchantment, and it will be difficult. It shall be your responsibility to remain worthy."

Harry nodded, barely believing that he managed to get a chance like this.

"What should I call you?" Harry asked uncertainly.

"Amanta Cumplit, Amanta Schimba cel Cumplit," she said clearly. "And you are?"

Harry bit his lip. For some reason, lying to this woman didn't seem like a viable option.

"Harry Potter."

Her eyes widened for a mere second and if Harry hadn't been specifically looking for a reaction he would've missed it, but it was gone as soon as it came. She nodded and walked off with her entourage levitating behind her.

"Well, what are you waiting for, Harry?" she called without turning. When Harry still hadn't moved; "we have a lot of work to do if I am to teach you."

He followed her quickly as she was still waiting for him, when he caught up, she held out her hand, "Pass me your wand."

Harry was hesitant but her encouraging nod urged him on and he reluctantly placed his wand in her hand.

She extricated her own wand, waved it in some complicated patterns and muttered a few incantations under her breath. They were in an old Slavic language that Harry could not understand. She returned his wand.

"You are now officially my student, Harry," she said simply.

Harry stood there dumbly and then followed her unquestioningly when she started walking. He stared, amazed, at his wand and a small smile perked his lips. He had magic in his life again.


Harry smiled to himself at the memory of that first encounter. Indeed, learning from Amanta Cumplit had been the best thing to happen to him. She was a Mistress of Transfiguration and Enchantment, as he had come to learn. She also had very high standards. It had barely been four days since he had started training with her and she had already deemed his skills "disgraceful." Harry frowned at the memory of the way she had reprimanded him in her home and told him that his ability was pitiful at best.

As he had come to learn the hard way, Enchantment was simply the more the advanced form of Charms, but he was to never, never equate the two as one in front of Amanta.

"Saying that that deplorable off-shoot of the mighty art of Enchantment is actually the basis of my art is the greatest insult you could hurl at an artist. Enchantment is a subtle craft, not mindless waving of wands to a specific spell for a standardized result. The difference between the two is like staring at Ceausescu's Palace and staring at an image of it - similar at a glance, but vastly contrasting in magnitude."

True enough, Enchantment was much harder than Charms. Charms was about learning a spell and wand-motion and following through with it, Enchantment was about reducing the spellwork and making it all about the spell - achieving the same result (if not a more powerful one) with reduced, concentrated effort.

He began the first day of his lessons sitting in front of a quill, trying to make it fly without the swish-and-flick of his wand. He held it steady and straight and concentrated and concentrated. After hours of uninterrupted work with only the occasional comment or instruction from the Amanta, Harry could levitate his feather with moving his wand at all, after which he was allowed to stop.

This, as he learned somewhat to his horror, was only the beginning.

It was after this display of control over the spell, the Amanta asked Harry to make the quill fly, he flourished his wand and made the quill zoom across the room and do cartwheels, he rolled his wand with practiced ease, then tap-dance, once again he swished his wand from side-to-side as Professor Flitwick had instructed. She then asked him to all that without moving his wand at all.

And so it went.

Amanta had said a time would come when it would make sense, when the intricate workings that differentiated Enchantment as an Art from Enchantment the Science would "click" in his head, but until then, he had to practice, he had to learn and he had to do it perfectly if he ever wanted to move on to Transfiguration.

He finally reached his destination after his walk. It was a small home, modest by all accounts but reasonably well maintained. There was one room, a kitchen area, and a main hall, which substituted as his training room whenever he was there. Today he had to continue with his work on the summoning charm till he could summon things by will rather than by incantation and wand movement.

He entered her home and said the ritual greeting.

"Good morning, Amanta."

"Good morning, Harry."

Today, for some reason, was different. Today, instead of setting Harry to practice the discussed charm as they had been doing for days on end, she had him come with her to the back garden.

The garden was a part of her house that he had never really seen before. It was vast and rather beautiful, filled with sweet-smelling flowers and bushes. Of course it didn't hold a candle to the Hogwarts greenhouses, but it was still easily appreciable (the noticeable lack of flesh-eating plants was a welcome change).

"Today, Harry, I want you to work in the garden; plough the seeds for some new plants, water the others, and add some manure, which is done to each plant individually," she said, fondly gazing at her garden.

She walked to one side where a watering can and a few bags of manure and seeds were kept. "I want you to plant one seed of this specific rosebush every three meters from the one before along the entire stretch of land ten meters up and three meters wide, beginning at the base of the oak," she said, pointing to the towering oak tree to one side, "till the end of the sunflowers," she said, pointing to the last row of sunflowers.

"I need you to plant ten of these seeds. But each seed has to be planted with an exact fifteen-minute gap. If you miss the mark, you will have to start again," she continued. Harry had already taken out a quill and parchment to jot down these instructions - there was no way he was going to remember them otherwise.

"In the fifteen minute wait between seed-planting, I want you to water all the flowers individually. Remember that this is concentrated holy water; so only use ten millimetres per flower, and nothing more, nothing less. Remember that if you start watering a bush, you have to finish watering the entire bush. The same principle abides with all the flowers. You cannot leave it left half-completed. The spell on the holy water will be blurred and rendered useless if you do. When the watering is done successfully, the plant is engulfed in a bluish glow so you know you can move on." She gestured to the watering can and the measuring cup beside it. "Lastly, when all the watering and planting is done, I want you to fertilize the five fig trees and my pride and joy, the oak, with sufficient fertilizer. One quarter bag, and a little more if you think it is necessary."

"No magic is to be used in garden. The successful growth of plants requires a human touch, so keep that wand away at all times." With that, she walked back to her house.

With a swift but soft click the garden door was closed and Harry was left facing a most tedious and laborious task.

Wonderful.

Harry planted his first seed near the base of the oak. Once planted, he looked at the small clock to the side and calculated when its fifteen minutes would end. He then took the watering can and set to work on the magnolias. Measuring out ten millilitres of water, he poured it at the base of the first flower. This process continued until he was halfway through the first bush - who knew there were so many flowers? It certainly didn't appear so at first glance. When he was more than halfway through with the bush, he looked to check the clock and saw that he had only three minutes until the fifteen-minute mark was up. Speeding up his efforts, Harry tried to get through the remaining magnolias at break-neck speed, only to realize that he was not hitting the exact ten-millimetre mark on the measuring can. With the last flower hastily watered, Harry ran back to plant the next seed. He was barely through digging another mound for the second seed when he noticed that he was two minutes too late.

"Bloody hell!" He cursed loudly.

He then got up, turned around and dug out the first seed. Keeping his eyes on the clock, he replanted it and then headed out to continue watering the second bush. Deciding to be faster rather than careful his time, Harry tried getting through the entire bush and did so with three minutes to spare. With that time in hand, he returned and waited beside the dug up mound to plant the second seed in. He fell into a pattern and was now fast approaching the fifth seed at the end of one side of the trail.

Harry reached the end of the sunflowers and realized that there was no way to fit a fifth seed and still keep a three-metre distance. After some rather difficult mental math, he realized that it was mathematically impossible in a ten-metre strip to have a set of five seeds three metres apart. It couldn't work out. But what should he do now?

Seeing that he only had a minute to figure something out, lest he start the entire process over again, Harry decided that there was nothing he could but break the rules. He moved up two meters beyond the end of the sunflowers' trail and dug in a mound and planted the fifth seed.

He wasn't aware how long he worked in his way, but he was aware that it had been a long while. Previously he was used a marked scale in the garden to measure an exact three metre width and length before plantation. He also used the watering cup to measure an exact ten millimetres each time. This finished; he picked up the manure bags. He distantly remembered that he had to use a quarter of the bag per tree, but couldn't bring himself to measure anything. He was too frustrated at this point. Using his hands and a basic approximation, he put manure down at all the fig trees and the precious oak tree.

Harry sat at the base of the oak tree and overlooked the entire garden. It was beautiful in the afternoon sun, each bush of flowers glowing an ethereal blue with the effects of holy water. In front of his eyes, he saw the beginning of the growth of the rosebushes he had just planted. Magic can do wonderful things when it comes to Herbology.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Harry jumped a meter in the air and whirled around with his wand pointed at the source of the voice. It was the Amanta. He breathed deeply and lowered his wand upon recognizing her. She had only an amused expression on her face.

"You can be very easily excited, young man," she said, only half-joking.

Harry just shrugged and turned to look back at his hard-day's labor.

"Did you follow my instructions properly?" She asked quietly.

"Um…" Well, what should he say? No I got tired and threw caution to the winds and just did it anyway? "…somewhat."

The Amanta chuckled in her deep voice, "Ah, Harry, of course you didn't, I can see it obviously."

Harry turned around with his eyes lowered, "I'm sorry, I should have tried harder."

"Nonsense," she said casually, "Why, if you had succeeded, I would have been even more at a loss on how to train you. Tell me, did you realize how I knew you failed to follow my instructions?"

Harry looked back at the garden and then at her and just quirked his eyebrows in genuine curiosity. "Not really."

She chuckled again and sat down beside him. "Look at the rosebushes, Harry, are they all growing at the same, steady rate?"

Harry did as he was told but already knew the answer: they weren't growing at the same, steady rate, because up until the fifth seed he was actually keeping to the fifteen-minute warning. When he got impatient with the sixth seed, he planted it in the fourteenth minute and the last four were similarly skewered. That could be seen evidently, as, instead of growing in uniform bursts, as the roses were sprouting on the first five bushes simultaneously, whereas on the latter five, they were following a completely different tune and pattern, sprouting erratically.

Harry nodded sheepishly to the Amanta.

"What about the flowers you watered, Harry? Do you notice anything different about the bushes' glows?"

Harry looked towards the bushes and, lo and behold, she was right again. Each bush was glowing blue, but the intensity of the glow was varied. Where one was literally shining, the others were slightly lit and some others were in between. It was like a lighting show. Harry also knew why this had happened. His policy of watering with an exact ten-millimetre sprinkle was thrown out the window when he reached the fourth bush, and he merely began an approximated sprinkle after that.

Again, Harry nodded sheepishly to Amanta.

"What about the fig trees? Look at the leaves and colour of the bark."

Indeed, while two trees had a dark, rich bark and bright green leaves, two others had a lightened brown with shimmering leaves, and the last one had an almost-black bark and dark, stark green leaves that could be spotted from a far distance. His approximations with the magical manure were at the root of this.

"I'm sorry, Amanta, I should have been more careful," he intoned in sadness. And to think he was proud of his work.

"But Harry," she said calmly. "If everything was done as perfectly as I had instructed, do you agree that it would have been beautiful?"

Harry creased his brows in consternation but simply nodded, the picture in his head of the uniformed glow of the flowers and the simultaneous bursts of roses on the bushes and the similarly glowing trees was definitely alluring.

"Look back to what you did, Harry," she said brightly and Harry complied, looking at the garden he had worked on. "Is it still not beautiful?"

Harry sighed, "It is beautiful, Amanta."

"That it is, Harry." She said, then got up and went into the house, leaving Harry to his musings.

The garden is beautiful and it stays beautiful no matter how he measured out the ingredients. It wasn't impeccably done, but the imperfection had luster to it that Harry couldn't place.

It was beautiful anyway.

Beautiful anyway…

Beautiful anyway…!

Harry stood up, his eyes wide in understanding. He turned around and ran into the house, calling the Amanta at the top of his voice.

He screeched to a halt in the main hall, where she stood with a quill.

"Yes, Harry?" She asked with a wide smile.

"Magic is beautiful anyway, it doesn't matter how perfectly we try to shape it or word it - we are imperfect, but the magic perfects everything for us, and it's beautiful as long as we try to make it so," he said in a rush, everything appearing so much clearer to him now.

"What about the Arts?" she asked with mock-confusion.

Harry considered for a second and the answer came to him. "Imperfection creates originality; everyone can produce the same result, but few can do so with the same mistakes. Enchantment is an Art because the spellwork is complicated enough to not be standardized or perfect, but the mistakes are varying enough to allow individual spell-casters to create mistakes of their own and mark their spells differently."

Amanta clapped her hands and then raised them above her head and clamped them in fists, doing a small dance in a quick rotation. "Exactly, Harry! Congratulations! You've just discovered for yourself the Universal Law of the Magical Arts!"

Harry smiled and considered copying Amanta's dance. "I understand it now!"

After a few peals of laughter, the Amanta led him to the sitting area and handed him a cup of tea, which he gratefully accepted.

"What now, Amanta?" he asked excitedly.

She took a long sip of her tea and the spoke. "You just realized the difference between Enchantment and Charms. Now you will learn how to do Enchantment."

Harry was thrilled but it began to melt away in the face of the fierce expression the Amanta was sporting.

"Oh, child, realize one thing. What you've been doing until now was introductory, and the full extent of your training begins now."

Harry gulped. Suddenly he didn't seem all that thrilled anymore.

Author Notes:

1. The passage from A History of Magic is an AU idea.

2. The Russian accent was written after reading stuff online so don't blame me if I got it wrong.

3. Stefan is a common Russian name.

4. Uchenichestvo is Apprenticeship in Russian.

5. The Translation Potion is an AU idea.

6. Nicolae Ceauşescu (26 January 1918 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian politician who was the Secretary General of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, President of the Council of State from 1967, and President of Romania from 1974 to 1989.

Ceauşescu's second decade was characterized by an increasingly erratic personality cult, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union. Ceauşescu's government was overthrown in a December 1989 revolution, and he and his wife were executed following a televised and hastily organized two-hour court session. One of the executioners later said: "it wasn't a trial, it was a political assassination in the middle of a revolution."

7. Vlad is a common Romanian name.

8. Amanta Schimba cel Cumplit is a collection of Romanian translations. Amanta is Mistress, Schimba is Change, cel Cumplit is an ancestral, royal Romanian last name meaning ferocious.

9. The Universal Law of Magical Arts is an AU idea.


"Luckykas" concens:

a) Why did Harry readily accept a potion from a stranger?

Ans. Harry has a tendency to trust first and ask questions laster. He liked Stefan and he always goes with his instincts whether good or bad. This led to Sirius' death in OoTP and his extreme suspicion of Draco in HBP. He trusts his gut which gave an 'okay' to the Potions' Master. Maybe he is wrong, maybe not.

b) What was the Amanta doing in the 'seedier' parts of Magical Romania?

Ans. That will be revealed in due time.

c) Was it a set-up to get an apprentice?

Ans. No, Harry's surprise entry was a shock to her and so was her subsequent acceptance of him as her pupil.

d) What is Harry paying for his tutelage?

Ans. There is a history of the Romanian teachers (that will extend to include most Eastern European Magical Artists) and the way they interact and teach their pupils. They hold themselves to a standard and that is why she accepted Harry as a student. Will be explained in detail by Chapter 3 or 4. (its a minor thing, so not given much importance).So that's the First chapter, any all feedback is appreciated.


If you notice any grammatical errors and such, let me know and I'll fix them because my Betas haven't gotten back to me yet. Just write the error in a review or PM me.

Drop a REVIEW and make my day.

Thanks for reading,

~ Gatonio.

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