AN: Welcome to my story. It's been a long time since I've posted anything, but I recently caught the writing bug, and hope to bring you an interesting story. I want to warn you though, that this story deals very seriously with abuse, and I know that can be difficult for some readers. Without giving too much away, it won't be the focus of the whole story though, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
A few other notes before we get started. Harry's treatment will have affected the way he grew up, and the way his personality developed. He will be different than in canon, and as such, events will have unfolded differently. We are beginning at his 4th year, but I will do my best to make it clear how events have happened differently. It'll be a slow burn to the romance portion, and for that, I apologize. I don't like it either.
Constructive criticism is very welcomed, as I am well and truly rusty at this.
One last thing. I could use a beta. This will be very much character driven, and I'd love some help making sure everybody is acting as they should, as well as just general beta help. Shoot me a pm if you're interested. Thanks!
Way back in the day I think every story needed a disclaimer, so I'll throw one on here now too. I don't own Harry Potter or any of that biz.
It had been a long summer for Harry Potter. It wasn't that long, terrible summers were uncommon for him, but this one felt especially long, and especially terrible. His room was dark, the only source of light coming from the moon. He lay on his bed, exhausted after yet another difficult day with his relatives, but sleep eluded him. He couldn't help but replay the end of his last term at Hogwarts in his head once again, wishing it had ended differently.
He had met his Godfather, Sirius Black, at the end of last term, and had been offered the chance to live with him when they turned in the traitorous Peter Pettigrew. His short lived dream was ruined when Peter managed to escape. He had felt especially downtrodden getting off the Hogwarts Express at the end of last term, though he tried to keep it from showing. Although he knew the Dursley's to be muggles, he could swear they had a near magical ability to pick up on anything that made him feel bad, and make it worse. He knew better than to mention to them that Sirius was his Godfather. Especially after Uncle Vernon's tirade last summer after he had seen Sirius in the news as a wanted criminal. Harry grimaced at the recollection.
Harry's days during the summer were normally regulated to non-stop chores and cleaning, if he was lucky. If he was not so lucky, he garnered the attention of his cousin, or worse, his uncle, who both enjoyed reminding him violently that he wasn't wanted in their home. Most days he got breaks for food, and the Dursley's typically left him to his lengthy list of chores, and avoided interaction with the source of their greatest shame.
During Harry's 'prison time', however, they worked out an extremely detailed schedule, broken down to half hour blocks. Along with his new stringent schedule, his uncle had fashioned 'nightsticks' from branches that were as thick as Harry's wrist. Uncle Vernon and Dudley would discipline him if he was lagging behind on his schedule, though Dudley would also hit him if he got too bored.
Eventually the grueling schedule, coupled with the prison-like meals he was receiving, caused him to fall too far behind. A full day of 'discipline' from being so behind caused him to finally collapse under their blows. They eventually relented just shy of any broken bones, as they typically did their best to avoid hospital trips. There were always questions asked when he had to be taken in due to his injuries, which Harry deflected with practiced ease. When he'd been younger, he had told the doctor the truth, that it was Dudley who had broken his arm. His Uncle had deflected the doctor's further questioning, saying that it was merely a "friendly wrestle gone wrong." Harry had paid quite dearly for implicating his cousin when they had gotten home. It had been made crystal clear what he should and shouldn't say to the staff at the hospitals.
Harry was given nearly a full week to rest and recover, a week which he enjoyed, despite the constant aches and pains. His bruises gradually faded, and he was able to return to his chores, which had piled up during his recovery time. He'd have given anything to have some of Madam Pomfrey's potions to speed up the process, foul as they were.
He was broken out of his painful reverie by what sounded like a soft rock hitting the window. Repeatedly. He shot out of bed like lightning, and threw open his window. A brown blur flew inside, and began hooting at him, flying around his head. His sense of self-preservation took over, and even without his glasses, he snatched the blur from the air before it could wake the Dursleys. They wouldn't be happy to be awoken by wizard mail. He kept his hand clamped over the small bird as he froze, listening for any sound of of movement from the house. A creak from the house settling made him jump out of his skin, but the sound of Uncle Vernon's snoring never wavered. He walked over to his bed, and grabbed his glasses from the floor next to it. Putting them on, he examined the quivering mass in his hands.
The very small brown owl was squirming, trying to get Harry to let him go. There was a small letter attached to the owl's leg, though the owl made the letter look huge. Harry felt his heart begin to pound rapidly, his breath coming in short quick bursts. He had simply told his friends that he couldn't get owls during the summer,and to only owl him if it was an emergency, and to only do so at night. His hands shook as he took the letter from the owl. A list of possible emergencies flew through Harry's mind, and at the top of the list, sat Sirius. Had he been found? Trying unsuccessfully to calm his nerves, he quietly opened the letter, and held it up to the moonlight to read. He recognised Ron's untidy script at once, and quickly read the letter.
I'll keep it short, since Pig can't carry any normal sized letters. Dad got tickets to the Quidditch World Cup! It starts in two weeks, and we have a ticket for you and Hermione. Mom said he'd send a muggle letter to your Aunt and Uncle to see if you can come. If you can, we'll be there Sunday to get you, so we can leave on Monday. If you can't come, we'll be there on Sunday anyway. Send your answer back with Pig. Mom reckoned that it'd be polite to ask your family if you could come, even though we're coming to get you anyway. Hermione is already here. She says to tell you hi, and to ask if you've been keeping up with your required summer reading. Don't worry about answering any of that rubbish though, just send your answer about the world cup as soon as you can.
See you soon
Harry re-read the letter, making sure that he hadn't missed anything about Sirius, or anything else of major importance. He sighed, and looked at the small owl in his hand.
"Pig huh?" he whispered to it, sitting down on the edge of his bed. "Trust Ron to think quidditch is an emergency."
Harry loved quidditch more than just about anything, but it certainly wasn't an emergency. He'd have to figure out a way to talk to his friend about appropriate emergencies, without letting slip too much about the Dursleys. He had told his friends in general terms about the Dursley's dislike for magic, and anything related to it, but had left out their treatment towards him. He had spent the first eleven years of his life without a single friend, and didn't think he could stand it if they found out how he was treated. Deep down he knew it was probably a ridiculous thought, but he had always been afraid that if they knew what he went through, they too would realize that he deserved it, and was as worthless as the Dursley's thought him to be. Just thinking about it felt like he had been plunged into a bath of ice water.
He had been invited to stay with the Weasley's for some of the summer holidays after their first year, but Harry knew better than to ask the Dursleys for anything. They would enjoy not having to deal with him for a few extra weeks, but they would know that going to the Weasley's house would bring Harry great joy, and that was unacceptable. He had warned Ron off finding a way to smuggle him away from the Dursley's, as he knew that sneaking out would bring dire consequences when he had to return the following summer. The summer after his first year had been the worst he'd ever endured. Not because his relatives were any more horrible than usual, but because he knew what it was to have friends, and learn magic at Hogwarts.
His only company had been the tiny house elf Dobby, who had tried to convince him to stay away from Hogwarts. The elf had alluded to some mortal danger that was being planned for the school, though he had tried to smash his head on things with just about every other word. Having had some experience with being made to punish himself, Harry had been able to calm the elf down, though the sight had made Harry's heart race, and adrenaline course through him. He had told Dobby, surprisingly frankly, that he would rather be wounded at Hogwarts, than leave the school to be safe. The elf had threatened to interrupt the Dursley's business party that was taking place down stairs to get him expelled. Before he could think about it, Harry had bent down do grab the small house-elf, and was pleading, on his knees, to leave the Dursleys alone. It took a lot of convincing, but in the end Dobby had relented.
"Harry Potter and Dobby have much in common," Dobby had said sadly, his big bulging eyes full of tears. "Dobby knows what it is like to wish for freedom. Be safe Harry Potter." The house-elf vanished without a whisper after that, and Harry hadn't seen him since.
Harry shook his head, trying to refocus. He looked back down at the letter, and wondered what life at the Weasley's was like. Ron and the twins tended to complain about Mrs. Weasley's overbearing manner, though it was typically while talking about being overfed, or given their colored christmas sweaters. Harry had been mortified when he received his sweater for Mrs. Weasley, as he had promptly burst into tears. It had been overwhelming to receive a christmas gift for the first time at eleven, and he just couldn't help it. Ron had mumbled about sending his mother a letter about Harry likely not receiving any gifts, and Harry's jumble of emotions at receiving the sweater had shifted largely to shame. It had been a slightly awkward morning after that, though Harry had immensely enjoyed the chocolate that Ron had given him. Harry didn't wear the sweater, as looking at it still gave him conflicted feelings about a gift given out of pity, but he kept all the ones he was given in his school trunk.
There was no way the Dursley's would grant permission for him to leave, and sneaking away would result in his worst summer yet come next year. However, the Quidditch World Cup did sound exciting, and the thought of leaving the Dursley's to spend time at the Weasley's was certainly tempting. He decided he was glad Ron had sent the note. It gave him the opportunity to intercept Mrs. Weasley's letter to the Dursleys. He glanced down at Pig, who had settled down considerably, likely exhausting itself in its struggle to get free. He slowly opened his hand on the bed next to him, letting Pig walk around.
"Sorry I don't have any food or water for you," he whispered to the bird, who seemed to be looking around for just that. "I'm not allowed to keep my owl here." He didn't want to think about what his Uncle would do if he brought Hedwig home with him. His familiar had to spend the summer flying free, rather than with him, but Hedwig always found him again at the beginning of every school year.
He grabbed the pencil he had stashed under the loose floorboard under his bed, just in case he had been able to sneak some of his school books out from where they were locked up. He sat on the floor under his window, using the moonlight to see by to write his letter. He missed the lavish rooms at Hogwarts, with their four poster beds and canopies. His spartan room at Privet Drive had only his bed in it, a closet for all Dudley's old clothes that he was allowed to wear, and a small clock to wake him up. He scrawled his response on the back of Ron's letter.
I'd really love to go to the World Cup, but I'm not sure how you'd come and get me. You would need to arrive after 9 o'clock Sunday night, so we don't disturb my Aunt and Uncle.
They have a big business thing early the next morning, and can't be disturbed. I'll need a hand getting my things from where they're kept if you find a way here. They're locked up to keep them safe, so someone will have to help me get them. My room is on the second floor, first window closest to the front door.
Hope to see you soon,
"At least he remembered to send the letter at night," Harry mumbled to the Pig, as he tied the small letter back to the owl's leg. He tried to quash the guilt he felt at the minor lies he had to put in his letter. "Please take this quickly back to Ron," he urged the small owl as he carried it back over to the window. The owl twittered quietly, looking around a last time for something to eat or drink.
"Sorry," Harry said again, holding Pig out the window, and watched it fly, with difficulty, into the night.
Harry let out a sigh of relief that the excitable bird was out of sight, and settled back into bed. He placed his glasses on the floor, hoping to dream of flying on his Firebolt in the World Cup.
Harry awoke with a strangled cry. He clamped his hands over his mouth to keep too much sound from getting out as he groaned. His forehead felt like it was going to split open. His scar throbbed painfully in time with his racing heart. As he sat there, he tried to recall the horrible dream he had been having. As he tried to remember, he felt the images slipping from his mind in the way only important dreams can. He glanced over at the small clock next to his bed. It was the only furnishing in his room besides his bed, and served to make sure he woke in time to begin breakfast for the Dursleys. He saw that he still had a little over an hour to sleep, and knew he should make the most of it, as he would have to be extra vigilant on his lookout for Mrs. Weasley's letter. He flopped back down, with his left hand rubbing at his scar. The pain was subsiding quickly, and soon he was asleep once more.
He awoke just before he was meant to begin breakfast, and hurried downstairs as quietly as he could, trying to make sure his relatives didn't know he was running behind. He pulled out the necessary cookware for the morning meal, and began cooking. He spent the time trying to figure out how he was going to get Mrs. Weasley's letter before either his Aunt or Uncle saw it. Harry didn't usually get the mail, and any deviation from the norm would likely arouse suspicion. He knew better than to draw any extra attention to himself. He thought hard, and opted for a simple solution. It would be easy to stay by the mail slot in the front door if he were doing the interior chores. There were plenty that he needed to do, and a few of them would have him by the front door.
He plated up the Dursley's breakfast as they trudged down the stairs. Dudley came down last, the stairs groaning under his immense form. In the time Harry had been away at Hogwarts, Dudley seemed to have somehow surpassed his massive father in weight. Both Uncle Vernon and Dudley's chairs sagged as they sat down at the table, eyes looking hungrily to where Harry was finishing the meal. They never said much in the mornings, which was why Harry had quickly become a morning person. They never had it in them to be properly horrible until they'd had enough fat and protein.
He quickly ate his small breakfast, and ran to the hall closet to grab his cleaning supplies before the Dursley's could assign him other tasks. He began sweeping the floors, keeping an eye on the dining room table to be sure he could quickly grab the dirty plates when they finished. He felt a pang of longing for Hogwarts, where the plates magically cleaned themselves, and the food just appeared on the tables.
He knew the mail would be arriving soon, and began sweeping toward the front of the house. He silently thanked the mailman for his obsessive punctuality. As he rounded the corner to the front hall, he heard the mail slot open, and saw a few letters and a magazine fall through.
Lying partially buried under the magazine, was a normal sized letter, covered completely with stamps. He quickly slid the letter into the back pocket of his pants. The pants, like all other clothes he owned, used to belong to Dudley. The large back pocket could likely have held a phonebook with room to spare, and the letter slipped in completely and was hidden. Harry almost couldn't believe his good fortune. He gathered the rest of the mail, and went back in the kitchen. He placed the letters next to his Uncle, earning him a grunt in response. He put down the fashion magazine next to his Aunt. He went back to sweeping as he waited for them to finish.
It didn't take long before his Uncle was dressed, and headed out the door to his job at Grunnings. Beyond his grunt, his Uncle hadn't said anything to him all morning. Harry hoped that the last few days before the World Cup would be just as good, and he'd be able to keep his head down and free of injuries before the Weasleys arrived. The day went by quickly with the thoughts of seeing a professional Quidditch game in person in his head. He could feel himself getting excited about it, but quashed the feeling, making sure his Aunt didn't pick up on his excitement, and ruin his plans. She wasn't nearly as physical as Uncle Vernon was, but she had no qualms about workin him to collapse, then complaining to her husband when he got home to work about how Harry had slacked off all day.
He cleaned the inside of the house all day, only stopping for lunch. He was used to the meals he got, but this summer it had been more difficult to keep his energy up with what he usually was allowed to eat. He noticed that he had been growing a little taller, his already slightly thin frame appearing to stretch a bit further. He knew he'd never be as tall as his friend Ron, but he wasn't too worried about it, his light weight made him extra quick on his broom during the quidditch matches at school. He wondered if he'd grown past Hermione, who had gotten taller than him in their second year. He had taken to sneaking down to the kitchen at night to eat a little more food, so he wouldn't be quite so hungry the next day. He just had to make sure he went down after Dudley had finished sneaking snacks up to his room.
That evening, after grabbing his quick midnight snack, he pulled out Mrs. Weasley's letter. Giving in to his curiosity and boredom, he opened the letter, and read by the moonlight.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dursley,
We haven't been properly introduced yet, but I'm sure you've heard from Harry about my son Ron. As I'm sure Harry has mentioned, the Quidditch World Cup takes place this Monday night, and my husband Arthur has managed to get top-box tickets. We would love to take Harry to the match with us, as it's been years since Britain hosted the cup.
We would be happy to have Harry stay with us for the rest of the summer, and take him to the Hogwarts Express with us.
Please have Harry send a letter by owl, as I'm not sure we can receive mail the Muggle way.
Harry smiled at the letter, not sure he could wait until Sunday when the Weasley's would come get him. He glanced reflexively out the window, hoping that the strange, small owl had made its delivery. He slid the letter into the hiding space under his bed, breathing a sigh of relief. He was beyond relieved that he had been able to intercept the letter. If Uncle Vernon had survived the fit he would have at the mention of Quidditch, the Hogwarts Express, and owls, it would have been very bad news for Harry. They were especially intolerant of anything to do with the wizarding world, and Harry learned very quickly to avoid anything that even sounded like it was magical. He suspected the only reason that he was even allowed to go to Hogwarts, was because of the Dursley's prevailing fear of Hagrid, from just before his first year. Harry snickered at the memory of Dudley's tail that Hagrid had given him.
He lie awake for a little longer, planning out what chores he was going to be doing the next day. He knew he would have to be in top form if he wanted to avoid any discipline from his Aunt or Uncle. They usually laid off a bit before the beginning of term, so that their precious 'image' would be protected. He didn't want to have to tell the Weasleys that his cousin roughed him up a little so they wouldn't ask any difficult questions. He didn't like lying to the people who had been so nice to him.
The next few days went by as slowly as they possibly could. Harry tried his best to forget about the World Cup, but try as he might, he couldn't completely quell his excitement. After 3 grueling days, it was finally Sunday evening. He put on his best fitting pair of clothes, something Dudley hadn't been able to wear for many years, and waited. Nine o'clock came and went, and his heart began to sink. He wasn't sure if he could bear another few weeks with the Dursleys after freedom had been so close. Especially not after the disappointment of not being able to live with Sirius. Just as he was about to take off his clothes and lay down, there were two soft cracks, and suddenly Mr. Weasley and Fred, or George, Harry wasn't sure, were standing in his room looking around. Mr. Weasley caught sight of Harry, staring open-mouthed at them, and smiled kindly at him.
"We got your letter Harry," he said, glancing quickly around the room, eyes lingering briefly on the bed and clock, a small frown taking the place of his friendly smile. Harry felt his face grow hot with shame. He was glad for the darkness. "I brought Fred with me to help you with your trunk."
"My Aunt and Uncle are sleeping, so we'll have to be quiet," Harry said, his voice cracking slightly from disuse. He was happy that Dudley snored so loudly from the next room over, it helped mask the noise their appearance had made.
"George and I drew straws to see who would come help Dad." said Fred. "Where are your things? Ron said you'd need help getting them out." the twin asked him. Harry showed Fred downstairs to the cupboard under the stairs where they kept his things, being sure to point out the squeaky stairs. Harry began to look around in the dark kitchen for the key that unlocked his old cupboard. He didn't get far, before he heard a small click from behind him. He turned back to Fred, and saw the older boy leaning down to open the cupboard with a triumphant smile on his face. "It's a good thing I came along," he said as he gently helped lift Harry's trunk from it's resting place, "I'm better at muggle lock-picking than George."
They quietly made their way back to a waiting Mr. Weasley, and set the trunk, along with Hedwig's empty cage, gently on the floor.
"I must admit Harry," Mr. Weasley said after a moment, "I don't like the idea of secreting you away in the night from your family. We had planned to come by Floo, to finally be able to meet your Aunt and Uncle."
"They have an electric fireplace inside their regular one, sir," Harry said, hoping the mention of an electric fire would distract Mr. Weasley, "I don't expect you'd be able to make it out of the fireplace if you came that way." He glanced up quickly to Mr. Weasley's face to see if it had worked. He saw the older man's face light up with interest.
"An electric fire?" he wondered aloud. "Is the fire itself electric? No, that couldn't be right...but how does the electricity actually start a fire?"
Fred laughed quietly at his father's interest, before motioning to Harry's things. "Let's go Dad. I'm sure Mum is beside herself waiting for Harry to arrive."
Mr. Weasley nodded, abandoning his musings. "Hold onto my shoulders," he said, placing a hand on the trunk, "I'll apparate us back to the Burrow."
Harry felt a very bizarre twisting sensation, and very suddenly, saw the lights of a strange house in front of him. He smiled as he took in his first sight of the Burrow and let out a large sigh of relief. He was free.