I don't own Harry Potter
Yes... I know it has been much too long since I updated any of my stories. To my defence, I started studying law last autumn, which meant I hardly had time to sleep ever since, let alone write. Therefore, I don't know how frequent I'll be able to update this story, but I really miss writing so I decided to give it a go again. Hope you like the next chapter:)
Harry was curled up on his side, trying to decipher the writing on the old sheet of parchment in front of him in the dim light that shone through the air vents of his cupboard. From the living room, he could hear bits and pieces from the News on TV, every now and then interrupted by Uncle Vernon's angry voice. Dudley had already returned home and Harry knew that this meant that soon, the lights would be switched off, leaving him completely in the dark, unable to continue reading his mother's school certificates.
The Christmas holidays had turned out nearly as bad as he had feared, but fortunately, he would return to school in two days time. Even though that meant he'd have to face the Dementors again, Harry preferred being imprisoned in a castle rather than at Number 4 Privet Drive. Well, at least his relatives had allowed him out of his cupboard during most days, even if it was only to do chores for them.
Harry didn't dare to think about next summer yet, when he would have to stay there two whole months. Uncle Vernon had made it perfectly clear that under no circumstances, Harry would be allowed back into Dudley's second bedroom, not after what he had done to Aunt Marge the previous holidays. However, even after only twelve days of sleeping in a cupboard that had seemed small when he had started Primary School, Harry's back and legs were aching constantly. Perhaps once he was back at school, he should try to get his hands on some Polyjuce and hairs from the tiniest firs-year he could find, the boy thought gloomily. That might make the summer a little more bearable.
The only positive thing Harry could say about this years' Christmas Holidays was that, once Aunt Petunia had run out of chores for Harry to do, she had come up with the idea that the attic needed to be tidied up. She and her husband had agreed that this was a brilliant plan, as it would keep 'that boy' out of their way on Christmas Day. And so, after he had been presented with fresh cleaning rags, Harry had spent a rather lonely Christmas locked up in the attic.
And there, stored away in the farthest corner, he had found it: An old suitcase.
Harry still didn't know what had possessed him to open the rather nondescript looking piece of luggage, but he was eternally grateful that he had listened to his instincts. The trunk, it had turned out, held (amongst other things) the very school report of one Lily Evans he was currently reading.
How it had come into the Dursleys' possession, Harry could only guess. But he assumed that after the death of their parents, the two estranged sisters must have gone through the Evans' things, taking anything that was of value with them. Though why it hadn't been his mother who had taken the reports from her first few years at Hogwarts but her magic-hating sister, Harry had no idea.
It was possible that Petunia hadn't known what had been inside the trunk, but somehow, Harry doubted this, as besides the school reports, there had been various other items that had taught him more about who his mother had been than any of the (admittedly few) stories he had heard about the bright young witch.
Lily Evans had, by all intents and purposes, been a genius. In comparison, even Hermione paled against her.
While his mother's grades hadn't been quite as perfect as the bushy-haired third-year's, she had participated in a huge amount of extra-curricular activities such as an alchemy and a charms club, she had studied Latin to get a better grasps on spells, had won a few competitions against students many years above her and had even invented some neat little spells on her own. Harry hadn't even known that this was possible – that you could create new spells by studying the theory behind it and being creative in your application of magic.
Harry shifted as the pain in his legs became more intense. Trying to distract himself from the thought that he would have to spend another eight hours in a crouched position, he focused on the bottom line of his mother's report card.
'Estimated Magical Strength: 70 to 75 out of 100'
Harry blinked, and read again. He had never paid much attention to anything except his grades when receiving his own reports, but he knew for a fact that at the end of his second year, he had only gotten 25 to 30 points – which had already been an improvement of about five compared to his first year.
Due to Hermione's constant ramblings about grades, he knew that the girl herself had scored at about 50 to 55, and that with these numbers, she was amongst the top three of their year. But it wasn't the gap between him and Ron on the one hand and their female friend of the other hand that shocked Harry – he had always known that Hermione was much better at anything (except flying) than he could ever hope to be. No, what really got to Harry was that until this very moment, he had always thought that your magical strength and ability would develop over time, and thus he hadn't worried about being at the bottom end of the entire year.
But here was the proof that his own mother had been far more powerful than even Hermione when she had only been – Harry scanned the head of the sheet of parchment – when she had only just completed her first year.
If Hermione had been right in her mentioning that Dumbledore had a magical strength of about 85 to 90... that meant that either Lily Potter had been a reincarnated Merlin, or that your magical strength didn't develop with time. That you could only practice your spell-casting and become more used to using magic, but that your overall ability wouldn't improve.
He hated to admit it, but Harry was quite certain that if the first option had been true, someone would have told him that he was the son of a witch that even Dumbledore was no match to.
If the conclusion he had drawn was correct, though, this would mean that the wizarding world had chosen a fairly weak boy as their saviour. That they thought that a boy almost as weak as Neville had defeated a wizard who was said to be as powerful as Dumbledore himself.
Harry thought this was quite stupid.
However, now that he knew how adapt at magic his mother had been, Harry was able to make sense of some of the teacher's obvious disappointment in him. It was quite likely that they had expected that the son of Lily Evans had inherited the late witch's magical talent. As far as he knew, his father had been a rather good student, too, which must have only heightened the expectations the teachers had had about Harry Potter.
But despite his lack of magical power, Harry wasn't stupid. At primary school, he had learned the basics of genetics, so he knew that he was supposed to be rather similar to both of his parents. And he already knew that, as far as his physical appearance and both his talent on a broom and the (questionable) talent of landing himself in trouble were concerned, this was true. Why was it that his magical power of all things seemed to be an exception?
His heart-rate quickened when he thought about the implications of the most recent revelation. Was it possible that Lily and James Potter were not, in fact, his parents? Or that maybe his mother...
But when he thought matters through more carefully, he realized that it didn't make sense for him to be practically a clone of his father and quite similar to him in other aspects, too, when he wasn't, in fact, a Potter. If he hadn't been the child of Lily and James Potter, he wouldn't have his mother's eyes, would he?
Of course, it was possible that there were others, more permanent means to change a person's physical features, besides Polyjuice.
Frustratedly, Harry turned to his other side, sighing. A sharp knock on the door of his cupboard was the answer.
"Keep quiet, boy!" his Aunt, who had just passed through the corridors on her way upstairs, shrieked.
"Sorry," Harry mumbled back, not wanting to antagonize his relatives needlessly. So far, he only had sustained a few bruises, and he intended to keep it this way. Additionally, he had just realized that maybe, just maybe, his Aunt could provide him with a few answers about all the mysteries in his life, and for that, she'd better be in a good mood. Well, if a woman like Petunia Dursley was actually able to be in anything resembling a good mood, that was.
It was the next day after breakfast when Harry was presented with an opportunity to do something he hadn't even bothered to try in many years: Asking questions.
Dudley had left the house to hang out with some of his friends, and Uncle Vernon was, of course, at work. So even if his Aunt reacted negatively (well, more negatively than he hoped she would anyway), at least no one would beat the shit out of him – not right now, that was.
"Ehm, Aunt Petunia, I was wondering whether you could tell me a few things about the first few years I stayed with you." Not wanting to give her an opportunity to refuse right away, he hurriedly continued, "Was there anything strange or unusual about me when I was little? Apart from the accidental ma- accidents with my freakishness, of course?"
Petunia just stared at him for a few seconds, unable to believe that her nephew had dared to disobey the rules they had laid down for him in such a blatant fashion. Then, she glanced over her shoulder and out of the window, as if to make sure that no one was listening in on them.
"You know perfectly well that you aren't to ask questions," she snapped, "just wait until your Uncle hears about this!"
Harry's heart sank. Well, so much for returning to Hogwarts with just a few bruises on his arms. However, now that he already was in trouble anyway, it wouldn't make any difference if he annoyed his Aunt a little more.
"But it's really important," he insisted, "you don't have to tell me anything about magic – I know that all magical children have bouts of accidental magic when they are little – I just need to know anything else. Like whether my appearance changed, or whether there was something peculiar about me when you found me, if you ever doubted that I was you sister's child..."
At his last words, Petunia stumbled.
"Everything was strange about you," she replied after a few seconds, her voice sounding furious, "you were a freak, right from the beginning. Hardly ate anything during the first two weeks, no wonder you're such a runt. We actually had to take you to a doctor, the neighbours already started to comment on how sickly you looked. At least you had the decency not to practice your freakishness actively until your were about 6 or 7. That blasted mother of you already started to torment us when she was just a toddler. That woman that came to us when she turned eleven told us that it was normal for a child to make freakish things happen when they were still young. Normal – don't make me laugh! Told that the frequency of doing such – such freakishness normally reduced when children were about five or six. Well, even amongst those freaks your are abnormal, aren't you?" here, his Aunt gave Harry a nasty look.
Harry didn't know much about accidental magic, but one thing he was certain about: That younger children did make things happen much more frequently than older ones.
He had always attributed the fact that he couldn't remember many occasions on which he had performed accidental magic to the fact that he couldn't remember much from his early childhood anyway. The notion that there simply hadn't been any magic he could possibly remember had never crossed his mind. He was an average wizard, after all, wasn't he? And everyone had bouts of accidental magic.
"So I didn't do, ehm, freakish stuff when I was little?"
"No, nothing at all. For a while, we actually hoped that we had beaten it out of you, that you might be normal. My sister, she once mentioned that there were cases like this, where the child of freaks would be normal. But of course we weren't so lucky." his Aunt glared at him as if it was Harry's fault that he wasn't a Squib.
Well, that settled it, then. Once he was back at school, Harry would search the library for books about accidental magic. It was a pity that he and Hermione were barely on speaking terms any more, he was sure that the bright witch knew practically everything about accidental magic. But well, it was his own fault, really.
"Was there anything else? Anything about me that was different to my mum?" Harry hurriedly asked when his Aunt produced a list that apparently held his chores for the day.
"Nothing I'm aware of," Petunia snapped impatiently, "now, boy, you'd better have completed your chores by the time your Uncle comes back, he'll be furious enough as it is."
Harry bit back the angry reply that she could just keep silent about Harry having broken one of the most important rules of the Dursleys' household. She was right, he didn't want to add to his Uncle's wrath needlessly. His Aunt might not punish him physically herself, but she had no calms about letting her husband do the deed if she felt that her nephew deserved it.
Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, the resident potion master revelled in finally being able to spend an entire day in his potion lab, with no students or headmasters interrupting his brewing.
Two days ago, they had finally completed the re-warding of the castle, but not before the dementors had been allowed access to the school in order to make sure that Black really wasn't hiding in one of the armours. While most of the wards had to be taken down and re-cast by Dumbledore, the heads of houses had had their fair share of work to do, too. But while this whole procedure had been rather tiresome, Snape would choose this type of work over having to look after students who seemed to think that the holidays were a good opportunity to drive their teachers into insanity any time.
Unfortunately, the little pests would be back in only two short days, but until then, nothing could stop him from doing what he enjoyed the most: working with experimental potions.
But today, his deliberations on whether newt or frog eyes would be the better choice to reduce the tendency of the mind-altering potion he was currently working on to make the person who had taken it lose all of their inhibitions, were constantly interrupted by one particularly annoying student. Only that rather than annoyed, Snape was more curious – and perhaps a little worried – about the one students he had always thought about whenever he wanted to really frighten one of the Hufflepuff first-years.
The potion master refused to admit that it wouldn't be until Harry Potter had safely returned to the castle that he'd be able to breath more freely again.
Apart from the worry about what his relatives might do to him, Snape really needed to speak to the boy, as he had found some rather disturbing information in one of the books he hadn't dared to even look at for more than ten years.
As a teacher of a compulsory subject and head of house to boot, Snape had unrestricted access to all of the students files. And yesterday, he had finally found the time to peruse Potter's folder in more depths. What he found had shocked him. Of course, he had already known about the Gryffindor's tendency to land himself in trouble (and consequently in the infirmary), and it hadn't been the boy's many detentions that had upset him either.
No, what really got to him was that apparently, the boy-who-lived had about the same level of magical power as Crabbe and Goyle, two of the weakest third-years in Slytherin.
And while a few months ago, Snape would have been smug that he had been right about the boy all along, that he was a pathetic and inapt wizard who only managed to get average grades in all subjects except potions because of his fame, now, this revelation had deeply disturbed him.
Despite the hatred he still felt towards James Potter, the head of Slytherin was well aware that the man had been one of the most powerful wizards in their year. And Lily, of course, had been simply brilliant. The witch had even been more capable than Snape himself.
How was it possible that a witch and a wizard of such magical strength had such a weak child?
Oh, Snape knew that all those nonsense about purebloods was complete and utter rubbish. Quite often, it were the muggle-borns and halfbloods who turned out to be the strongest wizards. However, it was still true that powerful wizards and witches generally produced more powerful offsprings than those who didn't possess the same capability.
So either Potter had the misfortune of being an exception to this rule, or there was another reason for the boy's weakness.
Most people would simply have shrugged their shoulders, perhaps pitied Potter for his fate, and then carried on with their lives. Not Snape, though. Not if so much depended on the boy, not if the man's own fate was irrevocably intertwined with that of this very child. Not after everything else he had learned about Potter during the last few weeks.
And so, the head of Slytherin had rummaged through a drawer he hadn't opened for years.
So many times had he read the books about dark and darkest curses that it had taken hardly any effort to find the correct place. And there is was, in black and white, unmistakeable:
One of the very few things that could permanently affect a wizard's magical strengths was prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus Curse.
Snape had already been halfway on his way to the infirmary when he remembered that the medi-witch was one of the staff-members whose presence hadn't been required during the re-warding of the castle. She wouldn't be be back from her holidays for another day, and so, he would have to wait to interview her about the only other child that had been exposed to the Cruciatus curse he knew of: Neville Longbottom.
Briefly, the potion master pondered on going to McGonagall instead, but he quickly discarded the idea. The head of Gryffindor had never paid much attention to personal matters of the students in her care. It was unlikely that she knew more than the basic facts about the long-term effects the attack on Longbottom and his parents had had on him, facts that Snape himself was familiar with.
During the summer before the Longbottom-heir was due to start school, the headmaster had made sure that all the teachers knew about the boy's difficulties with his magic and what to look out for during lessons in order to prevent any accidents from happening. The head of Slytherin also knew that the medi-witch checked on the clumsy Gryffindor every two or three months. Thus, he was positive that she would be able to tell him whether, from a medical point of view, there were any similarities between the two boys.
Snape desperately hoped there weren't. He desperately hoped that his theory was wrong.
The next morning dawned brightly. The potion master had just arrived in the Great Hall, muttered a gruff 'Good Morning' to his assembled colleagues and reached for the coffee when a buzzing sound (considerably quieter than when school was in session) announced the arrival of the post-owls.
A rather large brown owl landed in front of Snape's plate, a 'Daily Prophet' clutched in its talons. When he deposited the Knuts in the small pouch tied to the bird's leg, he mused that it was a pity that he couldn't have such a relaxed breakfast on a regular basis. No students that misbehaved, no worries about how many explosions he would have to deal with during classes today... Snape took a sip of his coffee and opened the papers.
Only the iron control he had over himself prevented him from spitting the whole mouth full of coffee on the newspaper fresh from the press.
There, on the front page, was a large picture of the very boy his thoughts had revolved around the entire holidays.
For a few moments, Snape just stared at Potter. On the picture, he looked even more awful than in reality. Did the Prophet had taken to alter the images in order to emphasis the messages they wished to convey?
So absorbed he was in his thoughts, Snape hardly noticed the whispered conversations between his fellow teachers, who had been quicker in deciphering the headline that accompanied the picture of the boy-who-lived and the (rather short) article below. Only when the transfiguration professor let out a screech and descended on a shaken-looking Lupin ("Bellatrix Lestrange, Remus?! Seems as if you have forgotten to mention this little detail when you told me about Harry's breakdown in Defence!"), the head of Slytherin tore his gaze away from the dark circles under Potter's eyes and focused on the headline.
"Harry Potter's Hidden Harm" read the title – rather melodramatic, in Snape's eyes. His contempt quickly gave way to shock, though, when he scanned the short text below.
Apparently, a reporter from the sensationalist tabloid – Rita Skeeter, to be precise – had somehow discovered what forms Potter's Boggart had assumed during that fateful DADA-class. However, this wasn't everything. Whether someone of the boy's classmates had babbled or whether the woman had only made a lucky guess Snape didn't know, but the short article summed up pretty much everything that the potion master had wondered about himself over the past few weeks. Of course, Snape would never use such disgustingly pathetic expressions, but he couldn't deny that he agreed with the mere facts of the text.
He himself thought that it was a very real possibility that, after Potter had already witnessed how the Dark Lord had murdered his mother, Death Eaters had captured and tortured the boy once they had realized that a baby had somehow defeated their leader. This would at least explain how it was that Potter feared Bellatrix Lestrange, that he knew the Cruciatus Curse and whatever other horrors that were still locked inside the Gryffindor's mind.
What really made Snape shudder, though, were the last lines of Skeeter's scoop.
"This leaves us with one question: Why haven't those criminals just killed the conqueror of their Master? Perhaps because they believed that Harry Potter was the key to bring he-who-must-not-be-named back?
There are those who constantly assure us that He is not gone for good, that He has taken measures to ensure that he will be able to return even after his apparent defeat. Amongst certain groups of our society it is common knowledge that it is indeed possible to 'cheat death', as some call it.
Those responsible better hurry to examine the memories the boy-who-lived has about the hours after the attack on him and his family. They could provide us with crucial details about how to ensure that He-who-must-not-be-named never returns and throws our world into another war.
And of course, the whole wizarding world wants to see those monsters responsible for torturing an innocent baby brought to justice."
Several hundreds miles away, two red-headed adults used the opportunity of their brood of children sleeping in to discuss Rita Skeeter's most recent piece of writing, and whether some of her claims were true.
Unbeknownst to them, the pet-rat of one of their sons was sitting under the kitchen cupboard, listening intently to the humans' conversation. And so, nobody saw the flicker of fear in the rat's eyes, which quickly gave way to determination.
Next chapter: Harry returns to Hogwarts where he meets his potion professor, who is determined to have a much needed talk with the Gryffindor