"Potter!"

Harry looked up quizzically.

"Professor?"

"Don't take that tone with me, Potter! That's 10 points you've lost for Gryffindor."

"Yes sir" replied Harry meekly.

"And another 10 for getting your potion wrong. It should be orange, not red."

"But sir, it is nearly orange, as soon as we add the dragon tooth shavings it will. . ."

"Granger, I was under the impression I was teaching this lesson, and not you? 10 points for your cheek as well."

Hermione reluctantly fell silent, though Harry could tell she was bursting to tell Snape exactly how their potion was going to turn out perfectly. Snape smirked.

"No witty retort, Potter? Your brains obviously come from your father's side of the family."

Oh yes, here it comes. . .

Harry's eyes blazed, but he remained silent.

"As did your inability to follow rules, your constant arrogance. . ."

Harry was biting his tongue so hard he thought he would scream from the pain. Snape's eyes gleamed maliciously as he tried to make Harry react.

Might as well make it a round 50 points from Gryffindor before the end of class. . .

"Though it doesn't seem as though you have picked up any of your mother's good points either."

Where the hell had that come from?

The whole class watched as Harry began to shake. A light glass vial fell to the floor with a crash, the effect of his raw magic.

"Please have the respect not to talk about my mother, sir. She did nothing to hurt you."

The boy's words were civil, but he ground them out from between his teeth. The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees, and Harry looked Snape straight in the eye.

Anything could have happened next, but the bell rang for the end of the class, and with a sharp hand gesture Snape waved everyone away. With a final contemptuous Harry turned on his heel and left.

"Longbottom, 20 points from Gryffindor, and it'll be 100 next time you ruin another cauldron."

But Snape's heart wasn't in it. Why the hell hadn't Potter reacted? Baiting the Boy-Who-Persistently-Lived was Snape's favourite pastime but the stubborn, arrogant little sod was refusing to react. Did he know that was the one thing he could do to really anger Snape? Probably. Pesky little bugger.

********************************

Harry strode down the corridor, his robes billowing out behind him. He didn't have his wand out, but every so often little cracks would appear in the walls, characters would flee through their paintings, and on one occasion a thin door actually snapped in two with an anguished scream. Harry was so intent on pacing furiously that he didn't even notice Albus Dumbledore until he walked straight into the headmaster.

"Good morning, Harry" said the wizened wizard with a smile. "Would you like to come with me?"

It wasn't a request.

Harry followed Dumbledore up to his office, and shook his head at the proffered lemon sherbet. He knew the Headmaster had called his here for a purpose, but wasn't sure what that purpose was.

"Now, Harry, I was sitting in my office, writing yet another letter to Cornelius Fudge, when the strangest thing happened. Do you know what that was, Harry?"

Though his voice was serious, Dumbledore's eyes twinkled merrily at him over the top of the glasses. Harry swallowed, and said softly,

"Would that have been the alarms telling you that Hogwarts was decaying too quickly from the inside?"

"Right you are, Harry! So, naturally, I followed the stone chippings and splinters of wood, and they led me straight from the potions classroom to you."

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but relaxed slightly when Dumbledore smiled.

"I haven't called you here to shout at you. Had I wanted to, I would have employed Professor Snape's admirable wit for the task." Seeing Harry tense slightly at the sound of his hated teacher's name, Dumbledore continued more gently.

"You two are still having problems, hmm? I do wish he would let go of his silly grudge against your father; but I am afraid you two simply annoy each other naturally. It may not surprise you that I have, again, had to intervene to prevent you from being failed in potions?"

Harry sighed.

"No, professor, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It's not that I'm not interested in potions; half the time, my potion is ruined because Snape. . ."

"Professor Snape, Harry"

"Yeah. . .because he's insulting me and my parents." Harry's voice broke slightly and he stared at his hands. In doing so, he missed the look of surprise that came of Dumbledore's features.

"Your. . .parents? Both of them?"

"Yes. He never talked about my mother before. He wasn't even horrible about her, he just said that I hadn't picked up any of her good points. But it made me so angry! Then he finished the class, and I didn't even realise things were breaking!"

Harry's voice had been getting progressively higher and faster through his diatribe. Dumbledore tilted Harry's chin up, and looked into his eyes.

"I'm afraid I cannot stop professor Snape from insulting your father. However, I understand your distress over him mentioning your mother, and I will of course speak to him on the matter."

The old man's eyes twinkled mischievously.

"I could also ask if he would be willing to give up some of his free time to offer you extra potions tuition. . ."

As Harry nearly fell off his chair, face paling in horror, Dumbledore laughed outright.

"I'm only joking, my dear boy. Now, you had better hurry or you will miss dinner altogether."

"Yes sir. Thank you, sir"

And with that, Harry left, to have what would be his last good meal in a long time.

****************************

"Can you believe it? Term's over and we haven't been nearly killed by Voldemort or anything!"

"Ron!" scolded Hermione. "Don't tempt fate, and don't speak with your mouth full!"

Harry laughed at his two best friends.

"We even passed potions! Though Dumbledore told me he'd stepped in to stop Snape failing me. . ."

"Greasy git" mumbled Ron through a mouthful of food.

Hermione jabbed him in the ribs, hard, and he spat out the partially chewed potatoes.

"Mr Weasley, manners please" admonished McGonagall as she walked up to the staff table, and Ron pulled a face at her back. Harry laughed again. He would miss his friends this summer.

*******************************

As they got off at Platform 9 and ¾ and walked though the barrier, Harry caught sight of Mrs Weasley.

"Harry! How are you? How was your year?"

"I'm fine thanks" said Harry, though he was slightly distracted by Uncle Vernon who really was a very dangerous colour of purple.

"Umm, I think my Uncle's waiting for me. . .maybe I should go"

Mrs Weasley gave him a big hug, at the same time putting a bag of chocolate frogs in his pocket. Ron clapped him on the back, also adding some Every Flavour Beans, and Hermione gave him a kiss on the cheek, which made him go almost as red as his uncle, before whispering she'd send an owl with some snacks soon.

Sadly Harry moved away from his friends, and towards his carers. Dudley leered at Hermione, who looked slightly nauseated and quickly walked over to her parents.

"That your girlfriend? Quite hot, for a freak"

Harry bit his lip hard. He would not let Dudley see how much that annoyed him. He didn't like Hermione for anything other than a friend but it still hurt like hell to hear her talked about like that.

************************************

Harry was obviously not popular at No 4 Privet Drive. He had been confined to the cupboard under the stairs again, however this time there was a small pot in the corner - obviously no bathroom privileges - and his school stuff was upstairs, completely inaccessible as the door to the cupboard was kept locked. Harry was just reflecting he could use a pin to unlock the door at night when he heard an ominous crackling noise.

*Oh god, no, please don't let it be. . .*

He craned his neck as hard as he could. Everything he owned was being burned. Thankfully. . .or not. . .there were no magical supplies there. But every piece of homework, his quills, ink, and robes, were all going up in smoke. Not even caring about the consequences, he hammered on the door, screaming at Vernon to stop. Petunia was happily fanning the flames which consumed his invisibility cloak, and Harry couldn't stop the tears from coursing down his cheeks. The last contact he had with his father had gone.

As he watched, Dudley picked up his photo album and opened it. He dropped it with a shriek.

"Mum! Mum! They're moving!"

Petunia screamed and kicked Harry's only pictures of his parents into the fire. As flames consumed the smiling and waving photographs, Harry slid down against the door, resting his head on the wood. The crackling echoed in his head until he wanted to scream.

The door opened, knocking him backwards, and his Uncle stood on the threshold, a wicked grin lighting up his piggy features.

"Did you see all of that? All of your freakishness, and your parents freakishness, is gone. You'll never be going back to that school again. You'll never see your weird friends again. Is that clear?"

"No! You can't stop me going back!"

"Do you really think so?" asked Vernon, advancing on Harry. "Do you really think you are more powerful than me, without a magic stick?"

"My Godfather will come and kill you. He's done it before. . .I'm sure another life will make no difference to him" said Harry, trying to keep his voice steady.

"Really? He'll save you if I do this?"

Harry tasted blood as his uncle's meaty fist connected with the side of his face. Vernon stood grinning over Harry for a few seconds.

"Oh dear. Doesn't look like your dear Godfather's coming, does it?"

Harry leaned against the wall, praying for someone to help him. Anyone. . .

**********************************

"Severus! Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

Snape nodded curtly at the headmaster.

"Yes thank you, Headmaster."

"Glad to be free of the students?"

"Indeed."

"I had an interesting conversation with young Harry the other day. . ."

Dumbledore had the pleasure of seeing Snape's veins stick out a bit.

"Really" ground out the potions master.

"Yes. I must ask you, Severus, not to talk about his mother." Albus' eyes looked like chips of ice now. "We made an agreement, do you not remember?"

Snape nodded reluctantly.

"I said I would not tell Harry about your past with Lily, on condition you never used her name against him. Do not force me to reveal your past to Harry, Severus."

Snape nodded. He wished Dumbledore would leave him alone. Pictures of Lily rushed through his head. Her laughing, smiling, her at her wedding with James, her and her son.

Severus Snape had been in love with Lily Evans for some time, and until James had arrived on the scene she had loved him back. And then Mister Arrogance had stolen his girl, and had given Lily a child. He had no wish to remember Lily, still feeling love for her, and was more than happy that the Potter boy should never know that his greasy potions master had nearly married his mother.

After all, that would give Potter a link with Severus, and the less time he had to cope with any Potter, past or present, the better.

********************** 6 weeks later *****************

Harry lay staring up at the ceiling of his cupboard. He could imagine how he looked, having not eaten anything since his last Every Flavour Bean (which had been pickled cabbage) which had been 3 days ago. He was allowed one glass of water a day, and given 10 minutes a day to empty his pot, wash it up, and wash his water glass. Then he was locked back in the cupboard. Every so often Vernon or Dudley would come in, laugh at him and insult him, and hit him a few times. It wasn't much, but the bruises seemed to be much more frequent. Harry didn't know if it was because he was so tired that he had lost count of time, or whether the beatings were more regular. But it wouldn't matter.

Harry Potter was not going back to Hogwarts.