A/N: Alright folks, this is my first fanfic so go easy on me. It'll be a Harry Potter + Daphne Greengrass pairing, with maybe some Luna or Susan + Neville later on. Warning, there will be Dumbledore bashing and Weasley bashing, along with some others. I try to keep each chapter around 5,000 words and uploaded the first 4 all in one go so you have something to start with. I'm thinking the total story will end up with around 150,000 words. Updates will be every Sunday. Warning: lots of cliches, but I wrote it that way on purpose. Thanks, and enjoy!
Chapter One: Midnight Journey
Harry James Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, savior of the wizarding world, survivor of the killing curse, leader of Dumbledore's army, and wizard extraordinaire woke up in the smallest bedroom of number 4 Privet Drive on a Tuesday morning in serious pain. His head pounded, his back ached, and his chest sent shooting pains through him with every inhalation. He was almost positive he had at least one broken rib, maybe two, and possibly a concussion.
That wasn't the worst of the pain, though. Physical pain was fine, he had been dealing with it ever since he could remember. The days of being held by loving parents were long gone and all he had known since was the brutality of life that was living with his muggle relatives. No, the real pain was purely emotional. Sirius Black, the only man who had ever treated Harry like a loving relative, the only one who gave hope of a happy, pain-free future, was dead. Gone. Never to return. And it was all his fault.
If only he had worked harder at his occlumency, had known that the vision Voldemort had sent was fake, had listened to Hermione when she tried to prevent him from leaving, had worked harder at school so he could protect his friends, had stayed closer to Sirius, or had known about the bloody prophecy beforehand, Sirius might still be alive. They could finally be a happy family. They could be together again. If only.
Harry angrily sat up, hissing in pain. It was all his fault. Cedric, Sirius, all those that had been killed by a resurrected Voldemort. All his fault, and the worst part was, there was nothing he could do about it. They were dead, gone, and never coming back, and he couldn't even help anyone else at the moment because he was stuck in the "safety" of Privet drive at Dumbledore's orders.
Harry gave a humorless laugh. Safe hardly described the environment he lived in, and ever since the order had threatened Vernon Dursley at Kings Crossing a week before, life had been one constant string of chores and beatings, not necessarily in that order.
And why was he stuck here instead of safely tucked away at Hogwarts or the Burrow, laughing with his friends and eating all the food he could manage? Two reasons, really. The first was the blood wards, supposedly erected through his mother's sacrifice and love. As long as he stayed at Privet drive the wards would keep out any death eaters and even Voldemort himself, though Harry wasn't so sure.
After doing some thinking, (after all, he had plenty of time to do that), he had realized that Voldemort now had Harry's blood running through his veins. If the wards that kept him "safe" were based on his blood, would they still keep out Voldemort if he had the same blood? He certainly hoped so. The events at the department of mysteries had showed him just how unprepared he was, and this was after spending all year training. Of course, if Voldemort did show up maybe this whole thing could finally be over and one could kill the other.
Neither can lives while the other survives. That line, and the other lines of the prophecy, had been running through his muddled brain constantly ever since Dumbledore had told it to him, just hours after Sirius had died.
Dumbledore. The name once spoken with respect and awe now held a tinge of bitterness and anger. He knew. He knew the whole time. And he kept it from me. Anger was the only emotion that made it through the fog of depression that coated his mind. How dare he?! What gives him the right to keep controlling my life, to keep my almost certain death a secret? I thought he was on my side, the great Albus Dumbledore, defeater of Grindlewald, supreme Mugwump, and all those other bloody titles, protecting little helpless Harry Potter, the bloody Boy-Who-Lived.
Harry snorted, ignoring the pain in his chest the movement caused. Some life I've been living. And when he'd asked why the prophecy had been kept from his, Dumbledore had had the gall to say it had been for his own good, to give him a normal childhood. Harry may not know a lot about a normal family, but he was pretty sure that living in a cupboard and being starved and beaten wasn't a "normal childhood". But did that matter to Dumbledore? No, nothing Harry said ever did.
Banging on his door pulled Harry out of his morose thoughts and back to the depressing reality that was his life. "Get up boy! Vernon will be out of the shower in ten minutes. Breakfast had better be ready by then!"
"Yes Aunt Petunia," Harry said obediently. When he was younger he had tried being brave and defiant, telling his relatives what he thought of them and their treatment. He had quickly learned that that just led to even poorer treatment and worse beatings. Ever since then he had learned to keep his head down and do as he was told. It was the safest choice.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Harry clutched at the mattress and gently pushed himself upright. For a few moments the room swirled and spun in a nauseating pattern and his stomach threatened to reject the meager meal he'd snatched from the kitchen two days before. He took several deep breaths, focusing on the movement of the stale air. In through his nose and out through his mouth. In the nose, out the mouth. In. Out. In. Out. Slowly the world returned to some semblance of order and he was able to walk gingerly out the door and down the stairs. Putting on a rasher of bacon and scrambling some eggs, Harry focused on the view out the window, the flowers in the garden, anything but the undeniable hunger emanating from his body.
Thuds on the stairs signified the arrival of one of the two great whales that lived there. Sure enough, Vernon Dursley came waltzing through the door not seconds later, eyes eagerly examining the kitchen, hoping to find anything out of order that would reflect poorly on "the boy".
Sadly, he found nothing, and simply grunted and sat at the table, opening the paper and completely ignoring his nephew. A few minutes, four slices of toast, five eggs, and 9 slices of bacon later Aunt Petunia walked in the room closely followed by the other resident whale, Dudley Dursley, who immediately fell on the food and practically inhaled it all. Petunia stood nearby, making sure her ickle Duddikins had everything he needed.
Seeing them all together like this, Harry wondered for the millionth time how anyone as horrid as these people could be related to him. They didn't even look alike. Petunia strongly resembled a horse with plain brown hair and eyes, nothing like the beautiful young redhead that had been his mother. As for Dudley, he looked just like his father, from the sandy blonde hair to the size, almost as wide as he was tall. The only visible difference was the youngness of his face and the lack of a large hairy mustache that Harry was sure had been stolen from some poor squirrel and glued onto his uncle's face with super glue.
The kindness of his mother, as several sources had described to Harry, was completely opposite the cruelty of the Dursleys. The laughing face of his father nothing like the serious, pudgy look on Vernon's face, hardly visible through the squirrel tail on his lip. No, he couldn't understand how he was related to people like this at all.
What seemed like an eternity later Vernon had left for work, Dudley for school, and Petunia for bridge club, and Harry was finally left alone. Glancing at the obscenely long list of chores that had been left for him, Harry decided they could wait and instead took the opportunity to take a hot shower, which he was not permitted to take when the Dursleys were home.
Stripping off his shirt Harry winced as scabs were ripped off and cuts were reopened. Glancing in the mirror he grimaced. A colorful collection of bruises adorned his chest were Dudley had hit him the other day for 'looking at his superiors'. The fact that his friends had gleefully joined in didn't make things much better. He was pretty sure it was Piers' boot that had given him the concussion and left a bright green bruise just to the left of his famous lightning-shaped scar.
Turning, Harry winced as he took in the blood smeared flesh that was his back. He had been preparing dinner last night, steak and potatoes, when Dudley had walked by and elbowed him in his chest, right on his broken rib. Reflexively Harry's hands flew to his chest, dropping the bowl of mashed potatoes as a result. The potatoes hit the floor and splattered everywhere, including right into Uncle Vernon's stolen mustache.
His uncle had gone nuts, screaming about how Harry was trying to starve his family and how the good for nothing freak had no respect for the people that had took him in and fed and clothed him. Unable to stop the comment before it left his lips, Harry had muttered "what food? What clothes?" Needless to say his uncle hadn't taken that too well and had herded Harry upstairs for his punishment- 50 lashes with his belt. By the time he'd finished Harry was unconscious and covered in blood. At some point in the night he had awoken and dragged himself onto the bed, but that was about it.
Shaking his head despairingly he stepped into the shower, hissing as the jets of water massaged his sore flesh. Still, Harry had learned from an early age that even if it hurt, cuts needed to be cleaned ASAP so as to ward off infection. Once when he was seven he had been left in the cupboard for two days after a belting and the wounds had become severely infected. His aunt had found him, screamed about him being a disgrace, and then forced him to drink some disgusting liquid that he assumed was medicine so that the neighbors wouldn't talk. Ever since he had been diligent about cleaning the cuts and his aunt tended to look the other way when he did so.
Ten minutes later he was clean and dressed in some of Dudley's hammy downs, which were several sizes too big and peppered with holes but still 'good enough for a freak like him', as his aunt had told him. Heading down to the kitchen he scarfed down his breakfast, half a piece of toast and half of a very brown banana, and got to work on his chores.
Hoping to avoid the worst of the summer heat he started in the garden, weeding the flower beds and mulching, and then moved on to mowing the lawn. After taking a quick water break, which he got from the hose out back, he moved on to cleaning the garage and then applying a fresh coat of paint to the already perfect shutters.
He had just finished washing the floors inside when his cousin arrived home and tracked mud all throughout the house. At that point his aunt arrived back from him outing and gave him a firm cuff on the ear for making a mess. After he rewashed the floors he was sent to his room without supper.
He had just sat down when he heard a car in the drive and his uncle walk in, crowing about a successful deal he'd made at work. "I'm taking the whole family out to dinner to celebrate! We'll eat at the nicest place we know, how's that sound my boy?"
My boy. Amazing how different the words sounded when spoken warmly, with love, instead of as an insult. Harry briefly wondered what his parents would have called him had they lived. Baby? Honey? Maybe even my boy? Dudley making an affirmative noise shook Harry out of those thoughts. Man I must be tired. That's twice in one day I've zoned out like that. Deciding he should go to bed early, he waited until the herd of stampeding elephants, or at least that what it sounded like, had left and then slowly drifted off to sleep.
Harry was awakened by a loud noise at the window. Rolling over, Harry first noticed that it was dark and quickly calculated that he must have slept for at least five hours, not waking at the Dursley's return. The second thing he noticed was a frantic Hedwig, who was pecking at the window and screeching like a banshee.
Worried, both about his familiar and about his uncle hearing the noise, he jumped out of bed, ignoring the pain, and rushed to open the window. Instead of quietly flying to her perch like she usually did, though, she started fluttering around Harry's head, squawking loudly.
"Quiet Hedwig! You'll wake uncle Vernon!" Her only response was to screech even louder. "Shh, Hedwig! What is it? What's wrong?" She hooks her talons into his shoulder, firmly but not painfully, and pulled him towards the window. He obediently followed, hoping if he did as she wanted she would quiet down.
Once they reached the window Hedwig launched herself into the air and flew out, going about ten feet before circling back, landing on his shoulder, and tugging again. "You want me to follow you girl?" She bobbed her head frantically and took flight again, once more returning to his shoulder after a few feet. "I can't, Hedwig! The Dursleys will kill me if they see!"
She screeched even louder yet and pecked him none too gently on the head. "Ow! Alright, alright, I'm going! I'm going!" He quickly walked to the door and put his ear to it. Hedwig quieted immediately, allowing him to hear three sets of snores.
Cautiously opening the door Harry crept out and lightly walked down the stairs, avoiding all the creaky places. Double checking the alarm wasn't set he quietly snuck out the front door, shutting it softly behind him. As soon as he stepped out into the moonlight Hedwig swooped low in front of him and then took off down the road, towards the park.
Harry followed at a fast walk that soon become a jog as Hedwig became more violent with her urgings for him to keep up. An hour later, just as Harry thought he would collapse, Hedwig banked into a small forest that bordered the suburb of Little Whinging and slowed, waiting for Harry to catch up. Breathing heavily, and rather painfully, Harry fell to his knees and sat there, gasping for air.
After about five minutes he was able to get back to his feet. Hedwig looked him over, bobbed her head once in approval, and then slowly headed into the trees. Harry hesitantly followed, trying not to jump at the shadows or noises of the night. It was so dark there that all he could see of Hedwig was her iridescent amber eyes. After about fifteen minutes of a gentle walk she suddenly gave a little chirp and landed next to a lump of wood.
Walking warily forwards Harry knelt behind the wood and gently touched it. It was soft to the touch, and slightly warm. Confused, Harry knelt closer, trying to make out its form. When his face was about three inches away two startlingly bright yellow orbs appeared.
"Ahh!" Harry fell backwards and let out an "oomph" as the air left his lungs. Hedwig chirped disapprovingly and swatted Harry on the ear with her wing. "Sorry girl, just wasn't expecting that."
Sitting back up, Harry returned his gaze to the form on the forest floor. The two yellow orbs were still there and upon closer inspection proved to be eyes. Suddenly things clicked in his head and Harry realized that what he thought was a lump of wood was actually an owl, and judging by its position it was probably injured.
Scooting closer Harry gently ran its hands over the animal, hoping it wouldn't attack him. Yellow eyes watched him warily but made no move to stop him until he reached the right wing. A sudden chirp and a peck that drew blood alerted Harry to a broken wing. "Poor thing, is your wing broken," he asked in a soothing voice. "That must have been frightening, being hurt and all alone and knowing no one's there to help you."
He spoke from experience this time, and his voice seemed to age ten years as he continued. "I've been there, too, but it gets better, you'll see. You just have to rest lots and let it heal. Eating helps if you can get the food but your magic should keep you alive otherwise." Suddenly a thought occurred.
"Do owls have magic, though?" Thoughts began to race through his mind. How fast do owls heal? How will she eat? Is it even a she? Who does it belong to? How does it know Hedwig? It's not like she goes many places, just the Weasley's, the Grangers, and … Hogwarts! They must have met at the school owlery! But there are hundreds of people in that school, not all are even students. How will I find the owner? Will they even know their owl is missing? What should I do until then? I could take it home but Uncle Vernon could hurt it if he finds out, and then hurt me, too. But I can't just leave her here like this! Maybe I can hide her in the garden shed and take care of her while everyone's gone. I'm the only one who goes in there and if she's quiet it should be fine. Then I can contact her owner and they can come get her. Or can they? Should I give away my address? What if the owl belongs to a death eater? Would the wards hold up? Or what if she hasn't got an owner? I don't need two owls and I most certainly can't keep her in my room, Uncle Vernon would throw a fit!
The owl cooed pathetically and closed its eyes, making Harry's decision for him. "Alright Hedwig, I take it you want me to take care of your friend?" Hedwig bobbed her head in agreement. "Alright, then I'll need your help. I need to splint this wing. Can you find a piece of string or something to tie a splint with? I'll find the two sticks." She flew off immediately and Harry cast around on his hands and knees in search of two small sticks to splint the wing with.
He found them after a few minutes of searching and made his way back to the injured owl, which looked up at him warily. "Alright, you're wing is broken and I need to set it and then put it in a splint. It's going to hurt but it needs to be done. Alright?" He stared hesitantly at the bird, who could easily turn his hand to hamburger if it wanted, and then breathed a sigh of relief when it hooted softly and offered him a better angle to its wing.
Slowly he stretched out the wing, wincing as the bones scraped against each other and the bird screeched in pain. Then it was done; the bones snapped into place and Harry blew out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, wiping his face with two intact hands. Hedwig arrived soon after with a piece of red string and carefully he splinted the broken wing and then scooped up the bird, carrying it in a sling he'd made of his shirt. He just hoped no one was around to ask questions about his back, but he figured it was dark enough that no one would see.
"Alright Hedwig, take us home." Maybe it was the time of night or lack of adrenalin but the way back seemed much longer than the way there. Poor Harry was almost asleep on his feet when he was finally able to recognize his surroundings, and he still had to set up a temporary home for the bird.
Thinking of the bird he looked down into the sling that stretched across his chest. The injured bird was sleeping easily, its wing extended awkwardly but not painfully. He smiled at it and continued walking. By this point breathing had become almost impossible, his feet hurt, and his head was throbbing so loudly he could barely hear anything else. Still, he kept moving, knowing that if he was gone when the Dursleys woke he'd be a dead man, quite literally.
What seemed like hours later Harry finally stumbled up the walk to number 4 Privet Drive. Too tired to do much else Harry snuck as quietly as he could, (which wasn't all that quiet since he was breathing so loudly), back up to his room, hid the sling with the owl still in it in the closet, and then collapsed onto the bed.
When his Aunt Petunia pounded on the door the next morning Harry seriously considered barricading himself in and going back to sleep, but even his sleep-deprived mind realized that was a bad idea, which is why he was up at six in the morning cooking breakfast. It took all of his focus and willpower to not burn the bacon or toast and by the time the food was done he was exhausted.
Just a little bit left and then you can sleep. Come on Harry, you can do it. Go to the fridge. Good. Now pull out the orange juice. Excellent. Find a glass. Perfect. Now pour. Oh, oops, cap needs to come off first. Alright, now pour. Things were almost done, almost perfect. He was so close. And then Dudley hit his arm. Again.
Now, over the past decade plus of living with the Dursleys Harry had developed very good reflexes, especially when it came to Dudley. This was partly why he was such a good seeker; he needed those reflexes to avoid a punch or jab or bludger, to him it was all the same.
He'd had these instincts since the toddler years, but sleep deprivation affects things like instincts. It was almost like his brain was filled with fog and the signal took extra-long to get through it, which is why Harry didn't move his arm until after Dudley hit it, effectively pouring orange juice straight down his uncles front.
Instincts. Harry had a lot of those. Dodge when something, like a fist, comes towards your face, always have an exit strategy, stay silent and unseen, etc. One of these instincts was to watch his uncle's face. You see, his face gave everything away.
If it colored blush red on his cheekbones he was angry and would respond with insults. If it colored blood red all throughout then he was angry and would respond with yelling. Dark red, almost purple, mean pure fury and Harry would receive a punch or two. The vein twitching made it a punch or six. If the squirrel tail, which Harry, in his sleep deprived state, decided to affectionately call "twitchy", began to twitch, he was going to get the crap beat out of him and/or end up sleeping outside. If the vein pulsed and twitchy twitched and his face looked like a plum he should run, and run fast.
Somewhere in the back of Harry's mind, beneath all the fog, an alarm was going off. Run! Run away, far away! But Harry was too tired to notice. The world was coming in a choppy series of images. Sounds couldn't be heard over the throbbing of his head. Flash. The first image of an enraged Vernon's mouth moving, his face the color of a plum, orange juice dripping off a now soggy mustache. Flash. A hand coming at him. Flash. He was in his room now. He wasn't sure how he got there but he was so glad to see the bed he didn't care. Flash. He was on the floor. It was cool. There was some liquid beneath him but he didn't care. Some part of his mind recognized this went past sleep deprivation. Maybe that combined with the concussion? Wait, what was that? A belt? Who cares, he was on the floor and he could finally sleep. So he did.
Harry's sleep was riddled with flashes of colors and sounds. The sickly green of a killing curse, the cackling of Umbitch, the bright red of the curse that sent Sirius through the veil, Cedric's lifeless eyes, his uncles fist raised above him, the prophecy being told, Snape's pensieve. It all jumbled together, all the worst moments of his life. There were many.
The image of a small broken wing in the shadows brought him to awareness. Opening his eyes he saw bright, early morning sunlight and was momentarily confused. He was never allowed to sleep past sunrise. Sitting up Harry noticed a small pool of blood on the floor and suddenly the events of the previous day (at least he assumed it had been the previous day) came flooding back through his mind.
Sitting up he took inventory. A few new bruises and scrapes but nothing bad. The blood on the floor was mostly from the cuts on his back reopening. They didn't even feel too bad. His head felt a little better after a long rest and his breathing was slightly easier.
It was odd; he should have been feeling like shit but he actually felt pretty good. Did his uncle decide to postpone the punishment until he was conscious? Or maybe this was some new type of psychological torture? Thinking about it for a moment, Harry shrugged. If he was feeling alright now, why bother making things worse?
Smiling slightly, though a little uncertainly, he headed to the door so he could use the bathroom and get some water for the owls. Reaching the handle he found that it wouldn't turn. He tried pulling, pushing, jiggling, and anything else we could think of. It wouldn't budge. He sat down heavily, the conclusion he'd come to an unwelcome one, to say the least.
His uncle hadn't skipped his punishment, he'd changed it, and this was worse. A few bruises he could handle. Being locked in his room for who knows how long would be horrid. No food, no water, no bathroom, no nothing. And even if his uncle only waited three days before letting him out to write the order their required letter, (which Harry had found the previous week was the only time Hedwig was able to send mail), that was still enough time to do serious damage, not necessarily to him but to the owl he was caring for.
Remembering the owl Harry got up and opened the closet, finding two very angry yellow eyes glaring at him. "Sorry it took so long. I'm afraid I slept through yesterday." The owl looked less than impressed with his excuse. Still, it allowed him to remove it from the sling and place it on Hedwig's perch with only a scratch or two on the hand.
Sensing her friends state Hedwig came soaring through the window, glancing at the injured owl and then hopping over to preen Harry's hair. Letting out a soft chuckle he patted her fondly. "Thanks girl. This might be as close to a shower as I can get these next few days." She gave him a look. "Uncle Vernon," he said simply, as if that would explain everything. And apparently it did because she looked at him, cooed sadly, and then returned to her preening.
Looking over the water dish Harry saw that it was about half full. "Hedwig, you'll have to get drinks from outside. This little guy, or girl, will need all we have here." Hedwig hooted in agreement. "Speaking of you," he said, now addressing the injured owl, "how about we try to find your owner?"
Harry thought for a minute before fetching a pen and parchment. Last week he'd tried to send his best friends, Hermione and Ron, letters asking how they were doing and apologizing for the DOM event. After the third time Hedwig had returned with unopened letter it became apparent that someone, most likely Dumbledore, had but a block on his mail.
When he'd attempted to owl the order two days later everything had went fine, leading Harry to several conclusions. The first was that Dumbledore hadn't learned anything from his explosion in his office after hearing the prophecy. The second was that he could only send mail either once every three days or only to the order.
Either way he wasn't very pleased. Why can't they just leave me alone?! All I want is to be normal but they just won't let me be! And who the hell do they think they are, blocking my mail, sticking me with my relatives, and keeping important things from me?! And then they have the gall to tell me to stop acting like a child? Maybe I would if they stopped treating me like one!
Pushing away his angry thoughts, Harry turned his attention to the task in front of him. Alright, guess I can't really address it to anyone but hopefully Hedwig can find the owner anyway. Probably shouldn't include my name, seeing as how half the wizarding world wants me dead and the other half wants me locked away "for my own safety". Maybe just James, like my father? That's not entirely a lie and won't be suspicious or anything.
What about my address? I can't exactly meet them somewhere, seeing as how I'm locked in. Guess I'll have to face my chances. If Voldemort finds out, well, he's going to kill me anyway, now isn't he? Guess this'll just make things a bit easier for him. Snapping out of his morbid thoughts, he dipped his quill in the bottle of never-dry ink Hermione had given him for Christmas and began to write.
To whom it may concern,
Hello. I've sent my owl out with this letter in the hopes that it will make its way to you. You see, I've found your owl. It's alive and everything, but it has a broken wing so it can't fly home. I've put a splint on it but I don't have any healing potions and so can't do much else. It would be best if you could come and get it. I'm in muggle London, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging. Just come to the back window on the left and I'll be happy to return your owl. Thanks.
"Hedwig, can you take this to this little guy's owner?" Hedwig stuck out her foot in response and Harry tied it on. "Good luck, girl." He crossed his fingers and watched worriedly as his first gift, first friend, and first familiar flew off into the distance.
Hours later a young woman was startled out of her reading by a large, white owl tapping at her window. Neither she nor Harry had any idea how this little action would change the course of their entire lives.