A/N: Hello everybody! In answer to a few questions, the binding spell is not removable, emotional pain and hunger will not be included in the pain Harry feels as a result of the spell (I just think that would be difficult to write, and a bit obvious). As always, enjoy!
"I think I'll read, Nymphadora." said Remus.
Tonks' hair turned a violent shade of red. "Remus!" she hissed. "I told you not to call me that!"
"Oh- er- sorry! I forgot!"
Tonks snorted, handing him the book, "Yeah, you forgot."
'Dobby's Warning,' Remus read, frowning. "Warning? Warning for what?" he turned to Harry, "You don't do something dangerous again, do you?" he asked.
"Oh… well I… um…"
Ron sniggered, "Did you really just ask that? This is Harry we're talking about!"
Harry glared at him and Remus looked nervous again. He had hoped that Harry's second year wouldn't be as hard on his nerves. "Well," he sighed, deciding to take the optimistic view on things, "At least it can't be worse than your first year."
Harry avoided his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. Ron chuckled as everyone else who saw him paled.
"What the bloody hell is worst than last year?" asked Remus, unable to hold his shock. He could think of plenty of worse things than what Harry had gone through, but nothing the boy should be expected to be able to deal with at the age of twelve.
Harry opened his mouth, but Sirius cut across him. "If you're going to tell us that 'we'll find out eventually' than don't even bother."
Harry closed his mouth, looking slightly embarrassed, because that was, indeed, what he had been about to say.
Harry managed not to shout out, but it was a close thing. The little creature on the bed had large, bat-like ears and bulging green eyes the size of tennis balls.
"A house elf?" asked Tonks with raised eyebrows.
"My house elf." grumbled Malfoy, but Viola glared at him, not permitting him to speak. Normally, had anybody else looked at him that way, he would have told them off, but looking into his fellow Slytherin's eyes, he just couldn't bring himself to do so.
Harry knew instantly that this was what had been watching him out of the garden hedge that morning.
As they stared at each other, Harry heard Dudley's voice from the hall. "May I take your coats, Mr. and Mrs. Mason?"
Fred and George mimed throwing up on the floor, and Ginny giggled.
The creature slipped off the bed and bowed so low that the end of its long, thin nose touched the carpet. Harry noticed that it was wearing what looked like an old pillowcase, with rips for arm- and leg-holes.
Hermione looked furious, and Ron rolled his eyes, bloody SPEW.
"Er — hello," said Harry nervously.
"Harry Potter!" said the creature in a high-pitched voice Harry was sure would carry down the stairs.
"Oh no…" murmured McGonagall, clutching her hands together in worry.
"Harry… what happened?" asked Sirius slowly.
Harry was panicking slightly, but he kept his head. "Nothing much." he lied easily.
Ron and Hermione exchanged looks, "'Nothing' he says." whispered Ron.
"As if!" said Hermione. This was one of the things that she was most grateful for that the books gave them, though it was probably what Harry hated most; every time Harry had told her and Ron about the more horrible things he'd been through, she knew he would always leave the more 'drastic' parts out. She wanted to know what her best friend had really gone through… she wanted to understand…
"So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir… Such an honor it is…"
"Th-thank you," said Harry,
Mrs. Weasley smiled.
edging along the wall and sinking into his desk chair, next to Hedwig, who was asleep in her large cage. He wanted to ask, "What are you?" but thought it would sound too rude, so instead he said, "Who are you?"
"Always the gentleman." said Ginny, clinging to Harry's side.
"Dobby, sir. Just Dobby. Dobby the house-elf," said the creature.
Malfoy grumbled. He had never found out why his father had freed that stupid elf.
"Oh — really?" said Harry. "Er — I don't want to be rude or anything, but — this isn't a great time for me to have a house-elf in my bedroom."
"It really isn't…" said Angelina worriedly.
Aunt Petunias high, false laugh sounded from the living room.
The elf hung his head.
"Not that I'm not pleased to meet you," said Harry quickly,
"Don't want to hurt the elf's feelings?" Malfoy sneered; he had never liked that elf.
"No, I didn't." said Harry firmly, and a few girls smiled dreamily. Romilda Vane was batting her eyelashes at him, but much to her disappointment, he did not notice.
"but, er, is there any particular reason you're here?"
"Oh, yes, sir," said Dobby earnestly. "Dobby has come to tell you, sir… it is difficult, sir… Dobby wonders where to begin…"
"Sit down," said Harry politely, pointing at the bed.
"Uh oh." said Malfoy, before cursing himself. Uh oh? Uh oh? He refused to believe that he was worried about Harry. He knew what Dobby was like, he had lived with him for years, and asking him to sit down would likely cause a noisy outburst. If Harry's Uncle heard… not that he was worried for Potter, of course… but if his Uncle heard… what would that mean for Harry? Not that he cared… but…
To his horror, the elf burst into tears — very noisy tears.
Malfoy winced, and a few people groaned. Couldn't Harry ever catch a break?
"S-sit down!" he wailed. "Never… never ever…"
Harry thought he heard the voices downstairs falter.
People were holding their breath. "Guys," laughed Harry. "I'm right here."
"Yeah, but you can live through a lot." said Hermione weakly, thinking of all the pain Harry had to go through. Just because he was sitting there with them didn't mean he hadn't been… she shuddered.
"I'm sorry," he whispered,
"Don't apologize!" cried McGonagall. "You were being polite!"
Umbridge rolled her eyes; when was all this sappy crap going to be over? When was Potter brat going to feel the results of the binding spell?
"I didn't mean to offend you or anything —"
"Offend Dobby!" choked the elf. "Dobby has never been asked to sit down by a wizard — like an equal —"
Hermione shot a glare at Malfoy, who didn't look the least bit ashamed.
Harry, trying to say "Shh!" and look comforting at the same time,
A few people chuckled, amused at how concerned Harry was of hurting the elf's feelings.
ushered Dobby back onto the bed where he sat hiccoughing, looking like a large and very ugly doll. At last he managed to control himself, and sat with his great eyes fixed on Harry in an expression of watery adoration.
"You can't have met many decent wizards," said Harry, trying to cheer him up.
Dobby shook his head. Then, without warning, he leapt up and started banging his head furiously on the window, shouting,
"What's he doing that for!" cried a first year muggleborn.
"He spoke ill of his masters and house elves can't-
"Never mind why he's doing it, Hermione!" cried Sirius, a little hysterical, "The book said he's shouting! Harry's relatives will hear!"
Hermione paled. She didn't know what had happened this summer, Harry had only told her about Dobby and Ron coming to 'rescue' him in their Ford Anglia. She was starting to get worried. It seemed very likely that the Dursleys were not going to be pleased with all the racket he was making…
"Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!"
Ron shook his head, Harry was pleading with the elf… it was scary when Harry pleaded, because he never begged for anything unless he was absolutely desperate. He risked a glance at his best friend, Harry must actually be frightened of what his Uncle would do to him… Ron shivered at the thought of Harry being scared; whenever that happened, you know the outcome won't be good.
what are you doing?" Harry hissed, springing up and pulling Dobby back onto the bed — Hedwig had woken up with a particularly loud screech
"You have the worst luck of anybody I have ever met!" said Lee with wide eyes.
"Trust me," grumbled Harry, "I already know this."
and was beating her wings wildly against the bars of her cage.
"Dobby had to punish himself, sir," said the elf, who had gone slightly cross-eyed. "Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, sir…"
"The wizard family Dobby serves, sir… Dobby is a house-elf — bound to serve one house and one family forever…"
Hermione tutted while shaking her head and tapping the toe of her shoe hard against the floor, not bothering to look discreet. Her annoyance was obvious among those who saw her.
"Do they know you're here?" asked Harry curiously.
"No…" growled Malfoy, though Viola couldn't help but notice that he didn't really seem angry at all.
"Oh, no, sir, no… Dobby will have to punish himself most grievously for coming to see you, sir. Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this. If they ever knew, sir —"
"But won't they notice if you shut your ears in the oven door?"
Now Malfoy looked slightly uncomfortable. No, they wouldn't notice…
"Dobby doubts it, sir. Dobby is always having to punish himself for something, sir. They lets Dobby get on with it, sir. Sometimes they reminds me to do extra punishments…"
"You complete arse!" snapped Hermione at Malfoy, glaring with her arms crossed. Perhaps Malfoy had learned from experience not to mess with an angry Hermione, because he just flinched and turned away.
"But why don't you leave? Escape?"
"A house-elf must be set free, sir. And the family will never set Dobby free… Dobby will serve the family until he dies, sir…"
Now Hermione was grinning, rather evilly I might add, causing many people to look a tad bit frightened. Dobby was free now, she thought triumphantly.
Harry stared. "And I thought I had it bad staying here for another four weeks," he said. "This makes the Dursleys sound almost human.
People looked at Harry in disbelief. "I said 'almost'." said Harry quietly.
"You do have it bad staying there!" cried McGonagall. "If I had known…" evidently, whatever she was going to say was not appropriate for the students' ears, because she did not finish.
"Not as bad as Dobby though," argued Harry, and when people continued looking at him incredulously, Harry added, "I've never had to shut my ears in an oven door! That's low, even for my Uncle!"
"'Even for your Uncle'?" asked Sirius, his teeth clenched. Harry still hadn't told them directly what Harry's Uncle had done to him, he had been frustratingly vague on the subject. Sirius hadn't pushed him, as he had seen that Harry was extremely uncomfortable and anxious when it was even brought up, but he thought, or rather hoped, that Harry wasn't treated as horribly as Sirius was imagining. The fact that Harry wasn't telling anyone what actually happened made him all the more panicky, and his imagination was running wild to absurd possibilities… at least, he hoped they were absurd.
Harry, as always, quickly changed the subject. "So, Mr. Weasley, did you know your car runs wild in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts?" And, as always, Sirius sighed, Harry was successful.
Hermione narrowed her eyes as Mr. Weasley burst into an exciting and rather animated discussion with Harry; Harry was always good at directing the attention away from himself. She'd have to pay closer attention to this.
Can't anyone help you? Can't I?"
"Merlin's pants, Harry!" said George.
"You're so… so…" added Fred, though he was apparently unable to find a word amazing enough to describe Harry, so he just sighed.
The teachers were gaining a new respect for the boy.
Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn't spoken. Dobby dissolved again into wails of gratitude.
"Please," Harry whispered frantically,
Ron frowned, this was starting to make him uneasy. Harry was pleading again…
"please be quiet. If the Dursleys hear anything, if they know you're here —"
"Then what?" asked Sirius directing the conversation back to Harry.
"You'll find out." Harry sighed.
Sirius stiffened. "I don't want to 'find out', because that means that whatever it is actually happened! I want you to tell me, please."
Harry wondered if there was a casual light-hearted way to tell Sirius that his Aunt and Uncle liked to starve him and lock him in his room every now and then… thinking of none, he decided to just not answer.
Sirius groaned in frustration. "You'll be the death of me, Harry!"
Harry paled and Hermione and Ron sent Sirius a death glare.
"Sirius!" admonished Remus.
Sirius looked around until he saw Harry's pale face, and he cursed himself. Idiot! Have you learned nothing about Harry in the past few days? Don't say anything like that around him! He wanted to make clear what he meant, that he was only worried, and that it was just a figure of speech, but Remus had already started reading again. Sirius just watched Harry sadly as Ginny rubbed his arm comfortingly.
"Harry Potter asks if he can help Dobby… Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew…"
Hermione glared at her; she hated that foul evil bitch! She would never forgive her. Never. Not after all she had done to Harry, making him cut open his hand every night, making him miserable... For only the second time in her life, Hermione felt the strong urge to attack, not in defense, but for the savage pleasure and satisfaction of revenge.
Harry, who was feeling distinctly hot in the face,
"You modest git." George grinned at Harry, and he grinned back.
said, "Whatever you've heard about my greatness is a load of rubbish.
The Hall was silent, and then everyone burst out laughing. They laughed even harder at Harry's red face, quite similar to the one just described to them in the book.
"Rubbish?" asked Fred, gasping for air. "Blimey Harry! Don't you realize all you've done? And just in your first year, too!"
"It wasn't me, really, I wouldn't have been able to-
"Do yourself a favor mate," advised Ron, "Shut up."
Harry glared at him while everybody snickered.
I'm not even top of my year at Hogwarts; that's Hermione,
"Ooh, Harry," said Hermione, blushing, "Thank you, Harry, that was really-
"Well you are," said Ron, feeling slightly uncomfortable. "I would've said the same thing if it were me. Everyone knows you're the top of our year."
"Oh, why... thank you, Ron." said Hermione, looking quite confused, yet pleased.
Harry and Ginny exchanged knowing looks.
she —" But he stopped quickly, because thinking about Hermione was painful.
Hermione frowned. "I'm so sorry, Harry-
"Don't." said Harry. "I know it wasn't your fault."
She nodded and smiled a little hesitantly, wishing she could have been there for Harry that summer, even if it was just in the small comfort of a letter. She knew though, she thought with a sigh, that a letter was more than just a small comfort to Harry. A letter would mean the world to him after ten years of having never received one.
"Harry Potter is humble and modest," said Dobby reverently, his orb-like eyes aglow.
"Well, Dobby has spent about a minute with Harry, and already he knows him to a T." said Neville, smiling. Many people nodded in agreement, and Harry blushed harder.
"Harry Potter speaks not of his triumph over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named —"
Snape started; this was true... he had never heard the boy brag... he had been thinking him to be an arrogant fool like his father, and yet, not once had he ever heard a smidgen of eccentricity in him, not even in his thoughts, which, thanks to this book, were now all revealed.
"Voldemort?" said Harry.
May people cringed, but Harry noticed with pride, not as many as before.
Dobby clapped his hands over his bat ears and moaned, "Ah, speak not the name, sir! Speak not the name!"
"Sorry," said Harry quickly. "I know lots of people don't like it. My friend Ron —" He stopped again. Thinking about Ron was painful, too.
Ron frowned, he really had missed Harry... really...
Dobby leaned toward Harry, his eyes wide as headlights. "Dobby heard tell," he said hoarsely, "that Harry Potter met the Dark Lord for a second time just weeks ago… that Harry Potter escaped yet again."
A few people groaned. "Don't remind us!"
Harry nodded and Dobby's eyes suddenly shone with tears. "Ah, sir," he gasped, dabbing his face with a corner of the grubby pillowcase he was wearing. "Harry Potter is valiant and bold!
"Again, Dobby knows you quite well, Harry." said Neville.
He has braved so many dangers already!
Nobody commented as the truth of this statement sank in. Giant trolls... a jinxed broom... a giant three headed dog... man-strangling devils snare... violent chess sets... a deranged Defense against the Dark Arts teacher... and Voldemort himself. They shuddered. They had all, at one point in their lives, wished that they were the famous Harry Potter. They would play games and reenact Harry's victory over You-know-who when they were younger, always wanting to be him. They supposed they had never really realized the fear and danger and responsibility that came with the title... Harry had a lot to bear on his shoulders... more than many full grown wizards had ever had.
But Dobby has come to protect Harry Potter, to warn him, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door later… Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts."
"WHAT?!" shouted Sirius. Staying at Privet Drive was one of the worst things that could happen to Harry. Hogwarts may be dangerous for Harry, but condemning him back to a full time life at the Dursleys was cruel.
There was a silence broken only by the chink of knives and forks from downstairs and the distant rumble of Uncle Vernon's voice.
"W-what?" Harry stammered.
"That was scary..." muttered Harry, thinking of the panic that had settled in him when he had heard those words. He would never return to Privet Drive if he had the choice. Life without Hogwarts... he couldn't imagine it... actually he could, but he preferred not to because it was so startlingly unpleasant.
"But I've got to go back — term starts on September first. It's all that's keeping me going.
The people of the Hall looked at Harry questioningly, and he looked down, not denying the words.
You don't know what it's like here.
Sirius shifted uncomfortably. He was getting a pretty good idea... and he didn't like it.
I don't belong here. I belong in your world — at Hogwarts."
"I don't know what I'd do without Hogwarts," said Harry, shuddering. "I don't think I could stand a life at the Dursleys if I knew about magic... I'd probably leave... but I don't know where I would go..."
"You'd come to our place of course!" piped up the twins.
Harry smiled gratefully at them, and they returned it.
"No, no, no," squeaked Dobby, shaking his head so hard his ears flapped. "Harry Potter must stay where he is safe.
Sirius snorted, as if the Dursleys was safe.
He is too great, too good, to lose. If Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger."
"Isn't Harry always in mortal danger?" asked Luna as she examined the ceiling.
Ron sniggered and Hermione rolled her eyes, though neither of them denied it, making Sirius groan. He may need a potion for his nerves for the rest of the book... perhaps he'd ask Madam Pomfrey.
"Why?" said Harry in surprise.
"There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year," whispered Dobby, suddenly trembling all over. "Dobby has known it for months, sir. Harry Potter must not put himself in peril. He is too important, sir!"
"What terrible things?" said Harry at once. "Who's plotting them?"
"And so it begins!" sighed Hermione, remembering that the same, or something similar, had been said at the beginning of Harry's first year.
Dobby made a funny choking noise and then banged his head frantically against the wall.
"All right!" cried Harry, grabbing the elf's arm to stop him. "You can't tell me. I understand. But why are you warning me?" A sudden, unpleasant thought struck him. "Hang on — this hasn't got anything to do with Vol — sorry — with You-Know-Who, has it?
Ron snorted, "'A sudden, unpleasant thought'?" he asked with amusement. "Really, Harry? Unpleasant? Is that all you consider You-know-who?" Harry reddened, but Ron wasn't finished. "Other wizards admit they're 'terrified' or 'panicked' at the thought of him, but you just find him mildly unpleasant?"
A few people laughed, and Harry turned even redder.
"Oh, be quiet Ron!" said Hermione, though Harry saw her mouth twitching, as if she were trying to resist a smile.
You could just shake or nod," he added hastily as Dobby's head tilted worryingly close to the wall again. Slowly, Dobby shook his head. "Not — not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir —"
"What?" asked Ron, confusion evident in his tone, "But I thought-
Harry quickly covered his best friend's mouth, but the damage was done.
"What?" asked Remus and Sirius faintly. "You have to face him... again?"
Harry sent a glare at Ron before reluctantly nodding.
"You're an idiot." said Fred to Ron, as though commenting on the weather.
"Seriously, like, not even joking." added George in the same tone, both he and his twin were smiling pleasantly.
But Dobby's eyes were wide and he seemed to be trying to give Harry a hint. Harry, however, was completely lost.
Judging by the looks in the hall, he wasn't the only one.
"He hasn't got a brother, has he?" Dobby shook his head, his eyes wider than ever. "Well then, I can't think who else would have a chance of making horrible things happen at Hogwarts," said Harry. "I mean, there's Dumbledore, for one thing — you know who Dumbledore is, don't you?"
Dobby bowed his head. "Albus Dumbledore is the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had. Dobby knows it, sir. Dobby has heard Dumbledore's powers rival those of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the height of his strength. But, sir" — Dobby's voice dropped to an urgent whisper — "there are powers Dumbledore doesn't… powers no decent wizard…" And before Harry could stop him, Dobby bounded off the bed, seized Harry's desk lamp, and started beating himself around the head with earsplitting yelps.
"Oh no..." said Ginny with a worried look at Harry.
A sudden silence fell downstairs.
Many people closed their eyes, as if hoping to make what they heard to disappear along with their surroundings, yet it was quite unsuccessful.
Two seconds later Harry, heart thudding madly,
Jaws dropped. What would cause Harry to react like this?
The ones who knew that Harry was abused were all tense. If they touched him... if they hurt one hair on his head...
Sirius' imagination was reeling again; what would his Uncle do? Would he, perhaps, smack him? Would he punch him? Harry had not clarified in what his family had done to him, only that he'd been 'physically abused' and that it was bad enough that people would notice because they only did it on vacations. Sirius did not realize he was shaking until Remus put a comforting hand on his shoulder before reading on.
heard Uncle Vernon coming into the hall, calling, "Dudley must have left his television on again, the little tyke!"
"Quick! In the closet!" hissed Harry, stuffing Dobby in, shutting the door, and flinging himself onto the bed just as the door handle turned. "What — the —devil — are — you — doing?" said Uncle Vernon through gritted teeth, his face horribly close to Harry's. "You've just ruined the punch line of my Japanese golfer joke…
"Such a shame..." said Fred faintly, in an attempt at a joke, but his tone was so tense and full of worry, that it did not work very well.
One more sound and you'll wish you'd never been born, boy!"
Harry turned white, thinking of times, before he had gone to Hogwarts, when his Uncle had threatened that very same thing. It had never ended nicely for Harry.
Ginny, noticing this, tightened her grip on his arm, doubting that she would be able to let him go for the remainder of his second year. This was going to be hard... on both of them.
He stomped flat-footed from the room.
Shaking, Harry let Dobby out of the closet.
Shaking. Harry had been shaking, Ron realized. That meant that the threat wasn't empty. Harry's Uncle had threatened him before, and he had carried through. Ron looked at his best friend. How had Harry kept it from him until this book? How had he been stupid enough not to notice how Harry must've been treated?
Hermione was thinking along the same lines. She wanted to talk to Harry about this, and about the information he kept from them, but he looked so distraught that she knew she wouldn't be able to bring herself to do it, not at the moment at least.
"See what it's like here?" he said. "See why I've got to go back to Hogwarts? It's the only place I've got — well, I think I've got friends."
"You do..." said Hermione, but her throat was so tight, she doubted anybody had heard.
"Friends who don't even write to Harry Potter?" said Dobby slyly.
"Wait a minute..." said Katie Bell, catching on. "He didn't!" she cried.
"He did." said Harry grimly.
"What?" somebody asked, and Remus read so as to answer him.
"I expect they've just been — wait a minute," said Harry, frowning. "How do you know my friends haven't been writing to me?"
Dobby shuffled his feet. "Harry Potter mustn't be angry with Dobby. Dobby did it for the best —"
"Have you been stopping my letters?"
"Dobby has them here, sir," said the elf. Stepping nimbly out of Harry's reach, he pulled a thick wad of envelopes from the inside of the pillowcase he was wearing.
Harry could make out Hermione's neat writing, Ron's untidy scrawl, and even a scribble that looked as though it was from the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid.
"Wondered why yeh never wrote me back, Harry." said Hagrid.
Dobby blinked anxiously up at Harry. "Harry Potter mustn't be angry… Dobby hoped… if Harry Potter thought his friends had forgotten him… Harry Potter might not want to go back to school, sir…"
"Being friendless at Hogwarts would still be better than Privet Drive!" grumbled Harry.
Harry wasn't listening. He made a grab for the letters, but Dobby jumped out of reach.
"Harry Potter will have them, sir, if he gives Dobby his word that he will not return to Hogwarts. Ah, sir, this is a danger you must not face! Say you won't go back, sir!"
"No," said Harry angrily. "Give me my friends' letters!"
"You could have lied." said George.
"Pish posh!" said Fred. "He doesn't lie to his friends, and he obviously likes Dobby."
Harry frowned. He did lie to his friends... but only to spare them from the horrible truth...
Ron and Hermione noticed Harry's frown and sighed. They would find out everything from the book, but seeing Harry's face, they weren't sure if they wanted to know anymore...
"Then Harry Potter leaves Dobby no choice," said the elf sadly.
"What did he do?" asked Sirius when Harry grimaced.
Before Harry could move, Dobby had darted to the bedroom door, pulled it open, and sprinted down the stairs.
"Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no..." Mrs. Weasley was muttering again, and everyone was sitting quite still in anticipation.
Mouth dry, stomach lurching,
"You... you're actually scared." said Malfoy in shock.
Harry shuddered. "Of course I was. You would be too, if you lived there..."
Harry sprang after him, trying not to make a sound. He jumped the last six steps, landing catlike on the hall carpet, looking around for Dobby. From the dining room he heard Uncle Vernon saying, "… tell Petunia that very funny story about those American plumbers, Mr. Mason. She's been dying to hear…"
Harry ran up the hall into the kitchen and felt his stomach disappear.
"That's rather strange, you know." said Luna smiling, oblivious to the tense atmosphere in the Hall.
Aunt Petunia's masterpiece of a pudding, the mountain of cream and sugared violets, was floating up near the ceiling. On top of a cupboard in the corner crouched Dobby.
"Merlin's pants..." mouthed Sirius, face pale, unable to form comprehendible words, as his throat and lungs seemed to have stopped working properly.
"No," croaked Harry. "Please… they'll kill me…"
Now everyone was looking rather pale and sickly, knowing that Harry probably wasn't exaggerating much.
"Harry Potter must say he's not going back to school —"
The entire Hall held its breath.
"Say it, sir —"
"I can't —"
Dobby gave him a tragic look.
"Oh crap..." said Neville in an oddly high voice.
"Then Dobby must do it, sir, for Harry Potter's own good."
The pudding fell to the floor with a heart-stopping crash. Cream splattered the windows and walls as the dish shattered. With a crack like a whip, Dobby vanished.
Fudge was looking disgruntled. Potter had been telling the truth. It had been a house elf. A house elf. He was looking extremely embarrassed, but everyone was too immersed in the story to notice, accept Madam Bones. She was glaring at the Minister, obviously furious with him. She believed him now. The thought was not comforting, not at all, but she believed that You-know-who was back. She was finally convinced.
There were screams from the dining room and Uncle Vernon burst into the kitchen to find Harry, rigid with shock, covered from head to foot in Aunt Petunia's pudding.
"You're going to be in so much trouble..." fretted Tonks, shifting constantly in her worry as she was unable to sit still.
At first, it looked as though Uncle Vernon would manage to gloss the whole thing over. ("Just our nephew —very disturbed — meeting strangers upsets him, so we kept him upstairs…") He shooed the shocked Masons back into the dining room, promised Harry he would flay him to within an inch of his life when the Masons had left,
So wasn't that proof? Sirius was still shaking. This one sentence had told him what he'd been wanting to know.
"W-within an i-inch of your... life?" squeaked Hermione, terrified for her friend.
Harry shook his head. "Not this time; he decided to take a different approach with my punishment-
"'Not this time'?" she squeaked even louder, more hysterical.
Harry frowned, he really needed to choose his words more carefully...
and handed him a mop. Aunt Petunia dug some ice cream out of the freezer and Harry, still shaking, started scrubbing the kitchen clean.
Uncle Vernon might still have been able to make his deal — if it hadn't been for the owl.
Madam Bones glared at Fudge. She had a pretty good idea what the owl was from.
Aunt Petunia was just passing around a box of after-dinner mints when a huge barn owl swooped through the dining room window, dropped a letter on Mrs. Mason's head, and swooped out again. Mrs. Mason screamed like a banshee
Fred stood and dramatically gestured to his twin with a flourish of his hands, "My dear brother would like to give a demonstration."
George grinned. It was their job, after all, to ease the tension. They were the ones who were supposed to be able to raise the spirits of everyone at anytime. Looking at all the distraught and scared faces around them, now would be a good time. "I would be happy to, Fred." George stood up as well. "Would you care to assist?" he asked professionally as he rubbed his hands together.
"Why yes, I think I shall."
So Fred and George, much to the amusement of everyone, began screaming wildly, waving their arms above their head, as they ran around in circles.
Eventually there were some hesitant smiles, and finally laughter broke out.
Fred and George, their job done, sat back down looking rather pleased with themselves. "That was absolutely marvelous, Fred." said George.
"Quite. Absolutely spiffing!" said Fred. "We should do it again sometime."
"Yes, lets." replied George.
Remus let the laughter carry on for a bit, not wanting to ruin everyone's mood by reminding them of Harry's situation, but after a few minutes, he reluctantly continued.
and ran from the house shouting about lunatics. Mr. Mason stayed just long enough to tell the Dursleys that his wife was mortally afraid of birds of all shapes and sizes, and to ask whether this was their idea of a joke.
Harry stood in the kitchen, clutching the mop for support, as Uncle Vernon advanced on him, a demonic glint in his tiny eyes.
All the relief and laughter that had been there a moment before was gone. There was not a trace of it left, not even from Fred and George.
"Get. Away. From my. Godson." growled Sirius.
"Read it!" he hissed evilly, brandishing the letter the owl had delivered. "Go on — read it!"
Harry took it. It did not contain birthday greetings.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school. (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non magical community (Muggles) is a serious offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy.
Enjoy your holidays!
IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Many glares were sent towards Fudge. "IT WASN'T HARRY!" the school bellowed as one.
Harry looked up from the letter and gulped.
"Oh great." said Harry softly, remembering how terrified he had been at that moment.
"You didn't tell us you weren't allowed to use magic outside school," said Uncle Vernon, a mad gleam dancing in his eyes. "Forgot to mention it… Slipped your mind, I daresay…"
"What are they going to do?" asked Sirius, but nobody answered.
Ron, Fred, and George, the only ones who knew what had happened to Harry, were glaring fiercely at the book.
He was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. "Well, I've got news for you, boy… I'm locking you up…
"WHAT?" bellowed Sirius, but Remus wasn't finished.
You're never going back to that school… never… and if you try and magic yourself out — they'll expel you!" And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Harry winced, feeling a tight pain in his left forearm. His eyes widened. He finally understood. These pains he'd been feeling, they were not coincidence. He was not imagining things. He was feeling what his book self was feeling. He looked around nervously, hoping nobody had noticed his wince. His Uncle had dragged him up the stairs by his left arm, Harry knew, because he felt the pain as if it were happening right then.
Harry sighed. Nobody had noticed, and the pain subsided as Remus continued, once his Uncle let him go. How long was this going to last? Why was it even happening? I need to tell someone... Dumbledore... or Sirius, or Ron and Hermione... but Harry was starting to panic. What would he have to feel? What was happening? At the moment, he was too scared and freaked out to tell anybody, so he kept it to himself. He would tell them, he thought, just not yet...
Harry did not notice Umbridge's satisfied smile, looking immensely pleased with herself. Seeing his panicked expression when nobody else did (they were all too engrossed in the story), she knew he had figured out what was happening. She savored the feeling. She took a deep breath, enjoying watching the brat struggle.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to fit bars on Harry's window.
Mrs. Weasley started to cry. "I-I thought you had been joking!" she cried to her three sons. "I didn't know you were serious!"
"We would never joke about something like that." said Fred sternly, and George and Ron nodded.
He himself fitted a cat-flap in the bedroom door, so that small amounts of food could be pushed inside three times a day. They let Harry out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around the clock.
"Sirius, now- now calm down- Sirius!" Remus called.
Sirius was whipping out his wand and he headed for the doors. "I'LL KILL THEM!" he bellowed.
Then something Harry had not expected happened, the rest of Hogwarts stood up. There were various yells of approval at what Sirius was doing as they made to follow him out.
"Slowly though!" called a Slytherin.
"Maybe we can demolish their house first?" someone suggested.
"We should turn them all into animals and sent them to a farm."
"Settle down!" said Dumbledore, his voice magically magnified.
Everyone stopped moving, turning to look at the Headmaster.
"Students, take your seats." his tone left no room for argument; he was radiating a sense of power that made them all instantly obey. "Sirius, you too. But-" he added as Sirius protested, "We will do something about this, don't worry."
Grumbling, unsatisfied, Sirius sat back down next to his godson, crossing his arms.
Three days later,
Madam Pomfrey screeched and Mrs. Weasley cried harder. "THREE DAYS!"
"I'm fine, Madam Pomfrey." Harry murmured.
"Hardly!" she retorted, though her tone was softer. "You're a stick potter! A mere twig! It's no wonder you're so skinny..."
the Dursleys were showing no sign of relenting,
and Harry couldn't see any way out of his situation. He lay on his bed watching the sun sinking behind the bars on the window and wondered miserably what was going to happen to him.
Hermione sighed; she could tell him all she wanted not to brood, but she knew it would be in vain, it's just what Harry does.
What was the good of magicking himself out of his room if Hogwarts would expel him for doing it? Yet life at Privet Drive had reached an all-time low. Now that the Dursleys knew they weren't going to wake up as fruit bats, he had lost his only weapon. Dobby might have saved Harry from horrible happenings at Hogwarts, but the way things were going, he'd probably starve to death anyway.
Many shuddered and looked at Harry in shock. "Why do you have such dark thoughts?" asked Angelina, shivering.
"I... well... can you blame me?" answered Harry.
She frowned. "No... I can't."
The cat-flap rattled and Aunt Petunias hand appeared, pushing a bowl of canned soup into the room. Harry, whose insides were aching with hunger,
Harry noticed that he was not hungry. Had the pains been coincidence after all? Or did hunger not count in whatever crazy situation he was in? Not that he was complaining, but he was as confused as ever.
jumped off his bed and seized it. The soup was stone-cold, but he drank half of it in one gulp.
Ron was looking traumatized. Always having been one to get three full meals a day, he could not imagine eating so little. How Harry could stand it... well, he thought gruffly, it's not as if he had a choice.
Then he crossed the room to Hedwig's cage and tipped the soggy vegetables at the bottom of the bowl into her empty food tray.
Nobody could keep the sad smile from creeping onto their faces. Even when he had so little, he was thinking about his owl.
She ruffled her feathers and gave him a look of deep disgust.
Harry smiled. He loved Hedwig...
"It's no good turning your beak up at it — that's all we've got," said Harry grimly.
"It's all you have... and you give her half of it..." said Mrs. Weasley, sniffling.
He put the empty bowl back on the floor next to the cat-flap and lay back down on the bed, somehow even hungrier than he had been before the soup.
Sirius started to chew on his lip. How much more of this could he bare? He thought he had it bad at Grimmauld Place, but he now knew that Harry had it much worse...
Supposing he was still alive in another four weeks,
Harry's friends frowned; they hated when he thought like that.
what would happen if he didn't turn up at Hogwarts? Would someone be sent to see why he hadn't come back? Would they be able to make the Dursleys let him go?
The room was growing dark. Exhausted, stomach rumbling, mind spinning over the same unanswerable questions, Harry fell into an uneasy sleep.
Many sighed. This was horrible... and yet it was in the past, and there was nothing they could do... it was an agonizing thought.
He dreamed that he was on show in a zoo, with a card reading UNDERAGE WIZARD attached to his cage. People goggled through the bars at him as he lay, starving and weak, on a bed of straw. He saw Dobby's face in the crowd and shouted out, asking for help, but Dobby called, "Harry Potter is safe there, sir!" and vanished. Then the Dursleys appeared and Dudley rattled the bars of the cage, laughing at him.
"Weird..." someone mumbled.
"Stop it," Harry muttered as the rattling pounded in his sore head. "Leave me alone… cut it out… I'm trying to sleep…"
Ron snickered. Harry whacked him for good measure.
He opened his eyes. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window. And someone was goggling through the bars at him: a freckle-faced, red-haired, long-nosed someone.
Ron Weasley was outside Harry's window.
"Ron, Fred, George," said Mrs. Weasley, "I want to apologize." The twins' mouths dropped open. "I fully and completely agree with your going to get Harry now... even if you did steal the car." she added grudgingly.
A/N: Whew! That took FOREVER! Siriusly (haha) Hope it was worth it, looking for some good feedback, so review! Oh, by the way, I was just wondering if any of you ever noticed; in my very first chapter, that Umbridge got the books from the Room of Requirement. Nobody said anything, and I'm just curious to know if any of you caught on to the whole seventh floor and the pacing back and forth thinking of what she needed. Well, that's all, hope you enjoyed it!