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Chapter 3 - Escape from the Dursleys
Charlus Potter was not a happy man, Forget the fact that from his point of view he had lost both his wife and son, but now that he had his position in the Wizengamot back, it was time to see what he could do for his other son, the one he took in as a teenager who had an execute-on-sight order hanging over his head despite never having had a trial. Charlus strode into the Ministry of Magic like he owned the place. There wasn't a queue of people waiting to get past the Ministry's welcome wizard, so he just strode up and placed his wand on the desk to say 'I'm in a hurry and I don't have time for you.' The welcome wizard took the wand, set it on the device, and checked the wand's particulars against the information Charlus had given him. Then Charlus was let into the Ministry.
His first port of call wasn't to deal with Sirius but to deal with Harry. Charlus strode into the Department of Wizarding Children. Their main focus was actually a sub-level, the Department of Education. They were mostly concerned with setting the standards for the OWL and NEWT exams and writing and marking the actual tests. However, the department as a whole was also the one that dealt with legal disputes over who was a child's legal guardian. As Charlus intended that to be himself going forward, he had to file a dispute in the office, which ended up being as quick as signing a form saying that he was doing so, for what minor, and who currently had guardianship. The department would then look into whether there was any point in going forward, and if there was then they would send Charlus a small novel of parchment work to fill out.
Charlus was done quickly and then made his way to the DMLE. There was a witch sitting at the reception waiting to deal with any members of the public who were coming to the DMLE, most likely to report a crime.
"I need to speak to whoever is in charge of the DMLE," Charlus said before she could launch into some pre prepared speech.
"Uh… do you have an appointment?" She asked, probably knowing he didn't as if someone had one she probably would have been informed.
"No. Just tell whoever it is that Warlock Charlus Potter is here to see him on a matter of urgency.
The receptionist really didn't want to go to her boss, who she referred to using female terms, which surprised Charlus because of all the departments in the Ministry the DMLE was notorious for being difficult for women to advance in. The head of department had been a man for as long as he could remember. Not that it mattered to Charlus, as long as they did their job and helped with his son, then she could be a leprechaun for all he cared. However, despite the fact that the receptionist didn't want to go to her boss, Charlus was still a member of the Wizengamot and so she couldn't give him the brush off. The reluctant woman disappeared for five minutes to go check with her boss, but when she came back it was with an appointment for him in an hour.
Charlus sighed, he should have come here first and then he could have filled the wait in the other department. Alas, he had nowhere else to be, so he sat down to wait. As a member of the Wizengamot, Charlus could call on the Ministry elves when he was in the building the same way the heads of departments and the senior staff of the Minister could. The elves were limited in what they could do for him; he wasn't their owner, just a guest in their house, but that was enough for what Charlus wanted.
"Elf." He stated to the air and there was a little pop next to him. Charlus didn't see anything but that was the way with the Ministry elves.
"How's can I be serving you?" A little voice asked.
"Tea, Darjeeling if you have it, double sweet, with milk please," Charlus ordered.
"Right away sir." There was a little pop as the elf disappeared to get him a cup of tea.
A minute later there was another pop and there was a steaming cup of tea floating in front of Charlus. He took a sip and smiled. "Good tea, thank you." Charlus heard a happy little squeak and then the elf popped away to go do some other task. Charlus felt a little sorry for the elves who were bound to the Ministry instead of a family. Elves loved being a part of a family, and apparently the emotional connection families have with their elves affects their magic, which in turn affects their mood. People don't get emotionally attached to Ministry elves.
After an hour of waiting, a second cup of tea, and a trip to the restrooms, it was time for his appointment with the head of the D.M.L.E. He was shown through the department, past the room where the aurors had their desks for doing paperwork, and to the office of the director. Charlus was surprised to see the name of Amelia Bones on the door. She had been the auror that Sirius trained under when he joined the force after leaving Hogwarts. She was a few years older than his boys – boy, he remembered James was gone – but she was still young to get the position of a head of department.
Once he was shown in by Director Bones's secretary, he looked around the room trying to pick out what kind of person Bones was. No pictures of her with influential figures, so she probably wasn't a brown noser and most likely got her job by being good at it. Very few personal items, in fact everything except a brightly coloured mug and a framed photo of the director and a young girl with a strong family resemblance was functional and easily replaced. This told him Director Bones was here to work and she wouldn't appreciate being sucked up to. Good, he could work with this.
"Warlock Potter, my receptionist said you were quite insistent on seeing me. What do you need help with?" She asked as she sized him up.
"I'm here to talk about Sirius Black."
"Do you know where he is? I'm sure you want to see justice done for your son." Charlus could hear the slight shift in her voice that spoke of an old anger. Did she also feel betrayed by Sirius?
"Funny you should mention justice for my son. Tell me, Director, have you ever read the transcript of Sirius's trial?"
"Well no, I was on compassionate leave when Sirius was arrested, my brother and his wife had died and I had to take in my niece. When I got back to work after six months, I was told what Sirius was convicted of so I'm well enough aware of the charges, and I felt no need to go digging in the files."
"Well that's a pity. Here, perhaps you should read my copy." He handed her a rolled up scroll of parchment.
Director Bones cast a quick detection spell on the scroll before taking it. She unrolled it, glanced at it, and then rolled it back up and held it out to hand it back. "I think you handed me the wrong piece of parchment, this one is blank."
"No, that's the right one and it's a completely accurate recounting of the trial, because there wasn't one. Not only that, I know for a fact that Sirius wasn't the secret keeper for my son. Peter Pettigrew was the secret keeper, and he was also the one who led the Death Eater attack on my home that killed my wife and trapped me in a God Damned Time Storm for the past twelve and a half years."
That statement had shocked the director and after a few minutes while she processed the information, then everything he wanted started to happen.
Harry was having his usual summer filled with chores. Petunia had entered her garden in some competition so she was working Harry hard to get everything to her liking. They had already made five trips to the garden centre for what Petunia called 'bedding plants' that Harry had had to plant around the garden. His aunt was so focused on this competition that even Dudley was having to help for an hour or two each day, though he was helping Vernon build a new patio and fire pit.
The one thing that made this summer more bearable than any other though was Hermione. She would call maybe three times a week and they would chat for maybe ten to fifteen minutes. Her phone calls were only spoiled by Vernon insisting that he talk to Hermione's parents for a few minutes and by Dudley trying to tease Harry for having a girlfriend. Dudley soon stopped trying to tease Harry though when he would just laugh and say that Dudley was just jealous that Harry's school has girls while all Dudley had to look forward to was months of nothing but big sweaty dudes, but who knows, maybe that's why Dudley liked his school so much.
Harry had been back at the Dursleys for two weeks now and he was starting to worry about Sirius. His letter had said that he would pick Harry up in two weeks, but those two weeks had passed and nothing. Harry asked Hermione if she had heard anything every time she called, as she was having the Daily Prophet delivered every day, but the paper hadn't said anything and the both of them were sure that if Sirius was captured or if he was found innocent then, either way, it would be front page news.
As much as those phone calls helped to keep Harry calm, they were over for at least the next week as Hermione's parents were taking her to Italy for a week. She was excited to go but had admitted that she was going to miss talking with him. Harry was going to miss talking to her as well, doubly so given that all Harry would have to talk to was the Dursleys.
Charlus was sitting in the family room with Sirius after a hard day of cleaning up the house. While Charlus was suspended in time, the house wasn't, and thirteen years had left their mark. All the plants in the house had died, and along with spoiled food and decomposing bodies there was mould and rot throughout the house. A lot of magic had been needed to reverse the damage, and even then a lot of the soft furnishings had needed to be vanished as they were just beyond repair. Over the last week and a half, they had restored the house to a home, even if it was somewhat unfinished right now.
The next step would be to replace what was beyond fixing, which meant going shopping. There was one problem with that, so far they had kept it out of the media that Charlus was alive, but if word got out there was a good chance that someone would assume (correctly) that the still-on-the-run Sirius Black was at Potter Manor and would come after him. They wanted to keep his return quiet until after the next meeting of the Wizengamot, where Charlus could officially demand a trial for Sirius.
A tapping at the window got the two men's attention, and Sirius put down the book of law he had been reading in preparation for his trial and went to let the owl sitting on the sill in. The owl hooted in thanks, flew over to Charlus, and held out the letter that was tied to its claw. Once relieved of his burden, the owl gave a soft hoot and flew straight back out the open window.
"Who's it from?" Sirius asked.
Charlus flipped over the letter that was addressed to him and examined the seal. "Ministry," He said as he popped the seal. Instantly the envelope became much bigger and heavier as it became large enough to hold an entire file of parchment work.
Charlus pulled out the cover letter and after a few moments to read it he grinned. "They have awarded me custody of Harry and someone from the DMLE will be here tomorrow so I can go get him." He looked through the letter quickly. "Ah it's okay, Amelia Bones is the one coming. She cited the sensitivity of anything related to the 'Boy-Who-Lived' required her personal attention. What a thing to call Harry. I will have to see what I can do about this nonsense."
Sirius relaxed as Charlus said the DMLE representative would be Amelia. His old partner had come to the Manor with Charlus after he had told her about his lack of trial. She had wanted to hear it in his own words, and she had Sirius swore an Unbreakable Vow to remain under house arrest or to go where she told him until they were able to secure him a trial. "So the pup will be here tomorrow?"
"Unless something unexpected happens," Charlus confirmed.
"Then I will go make sure that his room is ready for him." And with that a very excited Sirius forgot all about his fatigue and went to start getting Harry's room ready for him.
Director Bones, Sirius, and Charlus Portkeyed into a thick strand of trees that were part of a park in Little Whinging in Surrey. "Is this really what muggles wear now? I preferred the sixties, they at least had some colour then," Charlus grumbled as he examined his muggle suit that Amelia had transfigured for him. Sirius had transfigured his own robes into a pair of jeans and a black tee-shirt, but Amelia had then transfigured the tee shirt into a polo shirt.
"Yes that's what muggles wear now, and we need to blend in," said Amelia who was wearing a womens trouser suit in a dark purple. They walked from the park to Privet Drive. Amelia had a map of the area that they kept referring to, but eventually they found it after going in the wrong direction at first.
It was Amelia who knocked on the door, and soon it was opened by what they assumed was a human as it was walking upright, even if it looked more like a baby whale.
"Hello?" The whale pretending to be human said, asking them who they were and what they wanted by his tone.
"Hello, are you Vernon Dursley?" Amelia asked, checking some of the paperwork in her hands.
"Yes, that's me. What is this about?" His tone was both curious and cautious.
"We are here to talk to you about your nephew, one Harry James Potter." Amelia answered him. What she didn't know was that she had done an excellent job of disguising them as muggles. Vernon had looked them over, and after not having found anything unusual about them had decided that they couldn't be magical. When they said they were there to talk about Harry, Vernon thought that they were with muggle authorities and so he turned and shouted into the house. "Boy! Get your ass in here! What have you done now?"
Harry came into the hall from the other end and with a slight tremor in his voice said, "I haven't done anything. I have been helping Aunt Petunia with the plants all day." The dark earth on his hands told Amelia that the boy was telling the truth.
"Mr. Dursley, we are not here to accuse your nephew of anything. Maybe we should talk to you and your wife inside?" Amelia placated the large man before the situation devolved into a domestic disturbance.
Vernon, who still hadn't worked out that they were magical, nodded and invited them in. Soon a smiling Harry, who had recognised Sirius and had worked out why they were probably here, was making everyone a cup of tea as they sat or stood around the kitchen.
"My name is Amelia Bones. I am the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement." Vernon shot Harry a look but Amelia pressed on. "This is Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, and this is Warlock Charlus Potter, the head of the House of Potter and Harry's paternal grandfather."
There was a sudden loud crash and everyone turned to see that Harry was staring at Charlus, a pile of broken China at his feet.
Harry heard his uncle bellow from inside the house and went rushing in. "I haven't done anything. I have been helping Aunt Petunia with the plant all day." And he had been, his aunt had taken Harry to the garden centre again today and had him carry about a dozen trays of plants and the same amount of solar powered lanterns. His aunt apparently had decided to make the lights a feature by putting the bedding plants around the lights to draw the eye. Or at least that was how she had described it. And since they had gotten home, Harry had had to install the lights and plant the trays of flowers around them. He hadn't had time to do anything that might have upset anyone.
Then Harry saw who was at the door. He didn't recognise two of them, though they both looked vaguely familiar. He did recognise Sirius who put his finger on his lip in a shushing gesture while Uncle Vernon was looking at Harry, so Harry didn't say anything. He was surprised when his uncle invited three magicals into the house, but was much less surprised when he was ordered to make the tea. He quickly asked everyone how they liked their tea and set about making it.
"My name is Amelia Bones. I am the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement." Vernon shot Harry a look but Harry ignored it. If he was right he would be out of here before his uncle could do anything. "This is Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, and this is Warlock Charlus Potter, the head of the House of Potter and Harry's paternal grandfather."
Grandfather. The word echoed in Harry's head, and he didn't even notice he had dropped the teapot he had just pulled out of the cupboard. He had a grandfather. That couldn't be true, Harry was the last Potter; he had been told that a lot and he said as much to them while staring at Charlus. If he was Harry's grandfather, then where was he all Harry's life and why had he abandoned Harry here?
It was Sirius who answered Harry's questions, both the ones he asked and the ones he hadn't. "Harry, do you know what a time turner is?" Harry said he did and Sirius continued. "Well, the sand in a time turner isn't regular sand, and it can be incredibly dangerous. Just before the attack on your parents, Peter Pettigrew led an attack on your grandparents. Your grandmother was killed, and Uncle Charlus here was caught in a time storm when he tried to use a time turner to escape and the turner was hit by a spell meant to kill him. I found him still caught in that time storm only a few weeks ago."
Charlus picked up the thread. "Harry, from my perspective it was only a few weeks ago I was reading letters from your dad where he was gushing about you learning to walk and complaining about you calling him Pongs as you struggled to say Prongs. I know I missed a lot, but I'd love the opportunity to try and catch up. What do you say?" Harry saw that the older man (who looked like he was in his fifties but judging by the way magicals aged was probably in his eighties) was just as worried and unsure of the situation as Harry was, but held out his arms for a hug despite how uncertain he felt. Harry did the only thing he could, he gave his grandfather a hug. As hugs go it was quick and over in a few seconds, but both of them considered it a starting point to build from. Harry went back to making the tea, not even noticing that Amelia had fixed the teapot while Sirius had been talking.
Over tea, it was revealed to Harry and a too-scared-to-be-rude pair of Dursleys that the Ministry of Magic had awarded custody of Harry to Charlus as his nearest living magical relative. It had also been found during the investigation that the legal steps to put Harry into the custody of the Dursleys hadn't been done, and as such, while Petunia was considered Harry's next of kin at the time whoever had placed Harry there, had done so illegally. Petunia wasn't in trouble over that, but they had asked who had brought Harry here. That had led to the story of how Harry had been left on their doorstep overnight with nothing but a letter telling her that her sister was dead. Petunia fetched the letter and gave it to Director Bones.
While the Dursleys spoke with the director, Sirius went with Harry to retrieve his belongings. A quick spell was enough to open the cupboard under the stairs and Harry was careful to make sure his godfather didn't see the inside of the cupboard while Harry withdrew his trunk. He just wanted out of this house as soon as possible, and all letting Sirius see that would do is slow things down and make Harry talk about stuff he would rather forget.
Next it was upstairs, where Harry collected his clothes and of course Hedwig, who was asleep in her cage. Sirius frowned as he looked around the room that was still full of broken or half-broken things. "Aren't you going to grab the rest of your things?"
Harry shrugged. "None of it's mine, it all belongs to my cousin. Most of it's broken anyway, I think the only thing that's not broken are the books. Dudley isn't the type to read." Harry quickly walked past his godfather and down the stairs before Sirius could start asking questions.
Harry was back in the kitchen just in time to see his aunt hand Director Bones an old letter that was written on parchment. "That was the only thing we had from you lot until Harry was eleven, and that was only his school stuff." Aunt Petunia didn't sound happy.
The Dursleys almost happily signed some parchment work and it was done, they were no longer Harry's guardians. Harry didn't live there anymore, he was free. The two Potters, Sirius, and Director Bones all left as soon as politeness would allow, though Harry knew that for once the Dursleys would have preferred to ignore manners and have them just walk out without saying a word. Harry did ask his uncle that if Hermione called if he could tell her he had moved and that he would send her a letter. His uncle agreed, but they both knew it was so he could have one last shot at selling them dental drills.
"OK Harry, we are going to be travelling by Apparition, have you ever done that before?" Charlus asked.
"No sir, I haven't," Harry answered honestly.
"I would prefer you called me grandfather, at least for now. Sir is way too formal for family. Now, side-along apparition is easy for the passenger, that's you. All you will have to do is hold onto my arm and I will do the rest. It will feel… uncomfortable, but it won't hurt. You may feel a bit woozy afterwards, but it will only last a few seconds. OK?" The older man, who's hair (though grey with age) was as untidy and messed up as Harry's own, smiled reassuringly at harry.
They walked to the park, Director Bones explaining why. "While witches and wizards can Apparate from anywhere to anywhere else in their range, the further you travel the more energy it takes, and wards can stop you leaving or arriving at a place. It's considered the height of rudeness to Apparate in or out of someone else's home or business, so we need to find a spot that can't be seen by any muggles. There is a convenient bunch of trees and thick bushes in the park that we can leave from."
They got to the trees and Harry took his grandfather's arm while Director Bones took Sirius's. Harry's grandfather was right about one thing, Apparition was uncomfortable as hell, but he soon forgot that as he looked at the red brick building in front of him. It was huge; not Hogwarts huge, but it was a mansion by any definition of the word Harry knew.