Harry woke with a start. His awareness of his scar was brought immediately to the front of his mind as it flared in pain, and his uncle beat on the wall between their rooms demanding peace from the whimpers of pain that had escaped him as he woke.
He never fully understood what was going on with his scar. It hurt, it didn't hurt, it bled, it didn't bleed, whatever it did, it was as though it refused to let him believe for a minute that he was anything but what his uncle had always claimed: a freak.
He couldn't see more than a foot or so in front of himself with any clarity, but he didn't need his glasses to recognize that fact that his scar was leaking his life blood down his forehead again. As was his custom at this point, he wiped it off with his finger. Leaning over the side of his bed and removing the loose floorboard with his other hand, he used the blood on his finger to add another tally to the growing number of times he had woken to the same pain and anger that had seemed to follow him all summer long.
After he finished and returned his (morbid, even by his standards) reminder of what could only be the rise of Voldemort to the floor, he leaned back into his bed and paused to think for a moment. A voice from the back of his head that sounded suspiciously like his bushy haired friend said he should be telling someone about this. His response was to tell the voice to shove it.
After his one glorious hour of believing he didn't have to return to this prison at the end of the last year, he had given up almost any hope of things getting better or changing. Ten years of abuse followed by three years of nearly dying and being forced into angering and surprisingly dangerous classes were enough, he figured, to drive anyone spare.
Help, he had further resolved, was not coming from the outside. That was why he had made his own way so far this summer. Telling his... he refused to say family or even relatives... housemates that the dangerous man who had been on the telly for nearly the whole year was his godfather and loved him had been a stretch at first. He knew Vernon wouldn't believe him, which is why when Sirius' first letter arrived on the back of what could only be a macaw parrot (he remembered the name from the educational programs he used to sneak watching when they thought he was in his cupboard as a child) he brought it to their attention. There were only so many men named Sirius Black, and he had mail inquiring after his health from one. That shut the Dursleys up.
Vernon had been paying attention to the news that year, it seemed, as he had immediately turned white and sent Harry to his room for a family conference. It turned out that Fudge's ham fisted way of dealing with the escaped criminal had been to turn the media machine amongst the muggles to eleven, making everyone believe that being a raving psychotic was the least of Sirius' talents. Vernon believed in the news and the whole bunch of them had left Harry to his own devices the whole summer so far, and seemed like he might leave him alone for the whole time.
Harry suspected that being tired was the only reason his uncle had even yelled for quiet, just now. He had even been fed this summer, something which had rubbed Dudley the wrong way all summer long. He had finally made baby whale status, and Smeltings had evidently been no longer able to give him new uniforms as they no longer stocked anything in a size that could even be altered to fit him.
Harry had taken the greatest pleasure in the fact that he finally had more on his plate at the table than Dudley did.
But outside how this condition had improved, it largely remained the same for him. The merest hint of what he did in his room sent his uncle out of whatever room they were in with a face so purple Harry suspected he should have been working at an art company to provide inspiration for new colors rather than Grunnings.
He found that he didn't really have it in him to tell anyone of the vision he had or of the pain and blood, or of the fact that it had been happening more and more all summer long. He found that after all the time he had spent here at Chateau Dursley, only his actions had ever helped him, and he had to threaten someone with something that wasn't even the whole truth to do it.
He didn't know what that said about him, but he knew the result of it was that he had enough to eat outside of a Hogwarts feast for once in his life. Having reached this, well he guessed if you squinted at it from pretty far away you could mistake it for a conclusion, he decided to just go back to sleep.
It was a long time in coming, and like most of the other times he had added a bloody tally to the board beneath his bed, it was filled with nightmares, but it was what it was and Harry found that he didn't much care.
Harry's whole summer had progressed in a very monotonous way, one day being much the same as another, especially given the Dursley's reaction to his godfather based threats. The arrival of a different brightly colored tropical bird every week or so was enough to drive his guardians mad, and served to increase the extent to which they ignored him.
These birds often found Harry studying though. Without any other thing of any significance to do, and without hours of near backbreaking labor, Harry fell back on his books which he had finally been allowed to keep out of his old cupboard.
Inside of a week Harry was bored enough to start on his transfiguration essay, which despite being difficult seemed to make the most sense. As he found it, the difficulty of the transfiguration was based almost entirely on the way you mentally constructed the problem. The more parallels you could draw mentally between the hedgehog and the pincushion, the easier it was for the magic you worked with to make the transition between the two. His fourth hour staring at the pages of his book brought forth this conclusion, and with it firmly in place he dealt with the rest of the assignment with ease.
Charms quickly followed, falling to his intense concentration on his only recourse from boredom in a matter of hours. Potions, despite its complications and overall, well, dickishness, also fell before his academic might the next day. History of Magic took him longer, but that was due to the heat lulling him to sleep between tales of Ulric the Un-Holy sacking the town that would later become Hogsmeade and exactly how the goblins of Gringotts had come together follow the final rebellion of the 1780s.
His dreams during the three day war he waged against History of Magic went from fun (goblins playing quidditch in full wizard robes with him) to worrisome (Dobby and himself playing strip poker with Neckwringer, chief of the goblins of Gringotts during its formation). He did claim victory over the papers and facts of Binns, and with his lust for academic violence thus sated, he decided he needed something new to read.
Harry's friends had been sending him mail again, Ron's largely quidditch related and Hermione's largely being reminders to do his summer homework. On his birthday, Hagrid had been kind enough to send him a gift of a fanged wallet which, while he didn't know how to use it without getting a pair of fantastic puncture wounds, still struck him as better than a book about the Chudley Cannons and a homework planner and sugar free candies.
Dumbledore had sent him nothing, on reflection it wasn't crazy that he had done so, but it still rubbed him the wrong way that the man who had sent him to live here in the first place didn't even have it in him to send him a warm wish for his birthday. Sirius had sent a wish for a happy birthday, but in all honesty Harry couldn't shake a small part of himself that was angry Sirius had not been there for him when Hagrid had moved him to Privet Drive. He knew that sentiment was stupid, but he couldn't help himself from being peeved that he hadn't taken his duties as a godfather a little more seriously than his desire for revenge.
Harry's correspondence with Sirius was good for him, though. Sirius decided to not say anything to give away his location in the letters, but that decision did not preclude him from telling Harry a lot about his parents and their friends. Sirius told Harry small anecdotes about parts of the castle and his grandfather Charlus. He also mentioned the Longbottoms, which surprised Harry. He had never known they had been the next in line after Sirius himself to take care of Harry, and Harry wondered why he had never heard more of them. He knew Neville lived with his grandmother, but he certainly had never mentioned his folks. Sirius in a later letter mentioned exactly why, and Harry was nearly ill reading about it.
Having one's parents tortured into insanity was worse, he decided, than never knowing them. Failing all else in Harry's life, he knew his parents were beyond suffering. Having your parents still be alive but unable to even recognize you was much, much worse. Sirius's comments on what the death eaters who had done it said at night in the darkest hours in Azkaban didn't help anything.
Harry never knew he and Neville could have been connected so closely in a world without old Voldy, and his mum being Harry's godmother made them... god-brothers? He couldn't quantify it, but he knew for damn sure that he would try to make Neville a lot more than a passing acquaintance. They were almost family, separated by the dark work of a group of fanatics, and Harry pledged then and there that group would not separate the two of them now.
There had only been one interruption to this pattern of daily boredom based study and letters over the whole summer, and it had surprisingly been the Masons again. In the second week of Harry's 'break' in the Dursley house, Dudley was finally returning from Smeltings, and Vernon had managed to down play the 'freakishness' of the Mason's last visit, back when Dobby had been trying to save him. Harry couldn't imagine how Vernon found the tact to convince them to come by again, but there it was he supposed.
Vernon had approached him several days before and had, in a surprisingly respectful manner, told him to count on buggering off for the whole day before and after their visit. Just in case he said. Harry privately agreed that with his luck things would go sideways again should someone come over and he would likely just be expelled instead of warned this time. To that end he took off one night with a pocket full of galleons and rode the Knight Bus to Charing Cross and the Leaky cauldron.
Tom had been gracious enough to put him up for the duration Vernon needed him out of his hair, and since this glorious visit and chance at a contract for Vernon had come almost as soon as Dudley had arrived home, Harry figured that he might as well take his chance here to grab some things from Diagon Alley to keep him from crawling up the walls the whole summer long.
Flying was right out, and most of the other ways he could think of amusing himself required either overt magic use or another person. Really that left him books, which while being entirely Hermione's thing, wasn't really what he would consider a fun summer. Still, as he had found so often in his life, beggars cannot be choosers. So he went to Flourish and Blotts looking for something interesting to keep up the trend of study and post he had established.
He left the Leaky Cauldron wearing his school robes and a vivid orange Cannon's knit hat Ron had gifted to him at some point. His scar thus covered, he entered the store and immediately began looking around for both something he could do without his relatives getting on his case, and something that wouldn't prompt Hopkirk from the Underage Magic office to send him any more love mail.
He ended up perusing most of his core subjects for hoggy old Hogwarts, but he was almost entirely unable to find anything of use to him for back at the Dursley's. After snagging some high end transfiguration books that talked about the transfiguration of edibles and about the conjuration of objects (something that had always seemed so sci-fi to him that he was eager to try it when he got back to school) he decided to give up for the day and headed to the counter.
By the time he had his books place up on the counter, the man behind it had placed him from his time the previous summer spent on the alley.
"Mr. Potter, sir! It's an honor to have you back here, and it's good to see you in one piece again after all that nastiness with Black," the man said in a voice that carried through the shop.
From all around Harry people looked up and tried to find who was talking to whom. Harry hurriedly put his finger to his lips in the universal sign for silence and hissed out in a whisper, "Please keep it down, sir. I don't need to have a hundred people across the alley know I'm here. I'm just stopping by quickly and especially with Black still out there," Harry felt both clever and ashamed to use his godfather as an out like this, "I don't need people knowing where I am. I can't even use magic to defend myself since I'm out of school like this!"
His fierce whispering seemed to grab the man behind the counter who immediately looked at all of his clientele as though any of them could be Sirius in disguise, looking to kill the boy before him.
"I see your point, Master Potter. Here, follow me to the back room for a moment."
Harry honestly didn't know where the man was going with this or why he wanted him to go into the back room with him but with everyone in the store still looking around for him suspiciously, he decide he might take the better part of valor and follow the man away
"My name is Bernard Blott, young master, and by way of apology, I think I may be able to help you," He turned his back to Harry and walked to a nearby shelf, continuing as he ran his fingers across the titles, "Something that not many know is that the ministry is only able to track magic either done through a wand or with the signature of a wand attached to it. That does mean you may not be able to use your wand to defend yourself, but it does not mean you can't use magic to defend yourself."
With a short "Aha!" Blott pulled a blood red leather volume from the shelf he had been looking through, "The ministry doesn't like this book getting out to any but those seeking masteries in wanded subjects, but I believe I may make an exception here for the boy-who-lived."
Harry bristled internally at the man, who first gave him away in a crowded shop then went on to call him the one identity he most despised.
"This book, the Arcanum de Manus, is a copy of a late 12th century manuscript written by an order of French monks. At the time they were a very secretive group who had assembled in an effort to understand the strange power they seemed to share, and without access to the greater magical community, they developed their own entirely wandless method of spell casting and spell crafting. Their technique takes much concentration and meditation, but can unlock in almost anyone the ability to cast spells without a wand. Very handy for casting without being tracked by the ministry, and even handier if one is hiding from a psychotic murderer," he said to Harry with a pointed look.
Harry's opinion of the man quickly reversed.
"If I follow what I read here, I could use magic without a warning from the ministry?"
"Yes, dear boy, but be careful and guard this knowledge jealously. This is a rare book, and beyond that is would be quite illegal should you be found with it."
Harry collected the tome with a worried look, and with the rest of the books he had picked up, quickly paid and left the shop. He had a new goal and something to work on for the summer. Maybe something to save him the next June when he would inevitably be attacked by a manticore or sent to an alternate dimension or back in time or something. Harry reflected on the fact that something that rated very high on his weird-shit-o-meter (he picked that phrase up from one of the movies he had listened to from his cupboard) happened like clockwork every June to him for the last few years.
His remaining time at the Leaky Cauldron was spent nose deep in the books he had picked up, learning the basics of the meditation techniques these strange French monks had espoused and trying to internalize the directions they had for channeling magic through himself.
The monks seemed to hold that magic flowed internally when one cast a spell, and while their techniques seemed to take more out of a person than the same spell cast with a wand, they were still astounding in their ease of use and simplicity. Notes in the margins of the book, written in a variety of hands, all seemed to compare their ideas with wands use and surprisingly the monks were not often found wanting. Harry, under the cover of the magic done all around him in the Cauldron, cast a couple small hover charms in an attempt to feel how his magic flowed with that spell. It took him a number of tries, over the time he had to spend away from privet drive, and not just a few hours waiting for an owl to expel him, before he found the feeling and as the monks prescribed and followed it down into himself.
As he chased what he perceived to be a small golden tingle down his arm and into his core, he slowly shut his eyes without realizing it. As he followed the tingle deeper and deeper into himself, he slowly came to see the place inside himself that tied him to the elemental force of magic
The tie at the absolute center of him glowed gold and green, like a freshly minted galleon and the green he saw in his eyes in mirrors. It seemed to spark and dance and swirl before him, its currents weaving in and around each other before plunging into the tangle of power at the center of himself. As soon as he saw its splendor, he forgot the golden tingle he had been chasing and lost his connection that place.
The mirror of the wall of his room called out in an accusing tone as he reopened his eyes, "What the hell, kid! What do you think you're doing, levitating everything in the room like that! If I had drifted even a little while you lifted me I could have fallen and smashed, then where would I be, huh?"
The mirror continued to hurl minor abuses at him while he processed those first statements and the things he had seen. He looked back to the book. It said what he saw was his own magical core, the thing inside him that made him special and separated him from the mundane world and its inhabitants.
The monks wrote of how this technique could be used by some of the muggle members of their order, and while they could not find a glowing core within themselves, they did find that the meditation was useful in centering themselves. It sped up their reaction times and bringing them peace of mind in dark times.
As he read it, he felt it inside himself. Finding his center, finding his core, had calmed him almost unnaturally. He thought he may have found a way to interact safely with the Dursleys, Malfoy and Snape too, come to think of it.
He raised his right hand towards the chair across the room from him, just a rickety wooden affair, but nonetheless his target. He tried to reach down into that place he found like the book described and to replicate the golden tingle he felt with his wand.
He stared at the chair for a solid fifteen minutes while he searched for the feeling, and when he found it finally he had to increase the tingle to a feeling of almost a physical itch before the chair took flight. Of course as soon as it did he scared himself into releasing it, but with the deed done and the concept proven Harry thought he may just spend all summer figuring out wandless magic.
Time passed and Harry was again "welcome" at the house of Dursley. He kept to his new habit of study and eventually on his birthday his present to himself was completing his first wandless transfiguration.
The next morning found the final interruption to his routine at number 4 Privet Drive. The mailman, who Harry had greeted at the door even without his uncle's prompting (he guessed his old habits died hard), delivered a very strange letter addressed to the Dursleys. The man had found it funny that it had been covered entirely in stamps, and given that Harry found a distinctly Weasley scrawl put in for the address, he was inclined to agree.
He brought the letter to Vernon and stayed behind for the results, which were sure to amuse if nothing else. He found his sense of humor had made a drastic turn towards the sarcastic this summer, and he was surprised to find that overall he did not mind the change.
Vernon understandably, Harry supposed, had left the room turning what Harry had taken to calling 'Uncle's Rage Red' for about twenty minutes before returning to actually read the substance of the letter instead of just the byline. After a few minutes perusal he found that he could be rid of his... freakish (he kept that moniker to himself given the murderer the boy had on a leash) nephew, and despite its source welcomed the letter. Harry had received a softball sized owl to the face the previous day, so he suspected he knew the contents of the letter and had waited.
"Boy! These Weasleys seem to want you for some sort of frea... er... sporting event. You're leaving with them this Sunday... right?"
Harry enjoyed watching his uncle suppress his desire to mock him, but decided to let it go to make the event easier for everyone, "I'll be leaving with them then, yes. Then you can all return to your normal lives here."
Vernon had a huge fight internally over whether or not he should dance over being rid of his horrid relation, or cry and buy weapons against the imminent arrival of those... people, all the while his face turned a rainbow's worth of colors further enforcing Harry's art company theory.
"Good. Be ready. I don't want them here for any longer than necessary."
Harry took his victory while he could, and choosing to again relieve the stress in the process, retreated to his room to finalize his packing. He would be going to the Weasley's place, which was an improvement despite having to deal with the adoring gaze of Ginny and what he was sure would be Ron's incessant quidditch talk. He loved the Weasleys, he thought, don't get him wrong, it's just that Ron was a messy insensitive berk most of the time, and Ginny was almost constitutionally incapable of speaking more than two words in a string to him.