DISCLAIMER: Any and all familiar characters and story lines are the property of the wonderful Joanne Rowling, in whose world I am honoured and privileged to have an opportunity to play for a while.
Chapter 1: Back to the Dursleys
Harry Potter pulled his heavy school trunk from the boot of the car, careful not to scratch the bumper. His Uncle Vernon might be wary of his nephew now that he had a year's training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Harry doubted that his nervousness would prevent him from punishing Harry if he damaged the company car that was Vernon's newest pride and joy. His arms protested the weight, but he managed to ease the case to the ground without marring the paint job. Wearily, he grasped the handle and began to pull his trunk up the pathway to Number 4, Privet Drive's front door. He noticed someone – probably Dudley, had shut it. He tried the handle.
Sighing, he knocked. He could hear the telly playing inside, an evening programme blasting loudly in the sitting room. It seemed his aunt and uncle couldn't hear him. With a sense of foreboding, he reached for the doorbell and pressed the little button down.
The door swung open seconds later, and Harry found himself yanked roughly inside, the tender muscles of his arm protesting sharply as the trunk was pulled in after him.
'What,' his uncle spat, through gritted teeth, 'Could you mean by ringing the bell, boy? Are you trying to tell the whole neighbourhood you're back, then!?' he ranted, his face purpling dangerously.
'Sorry,' said Harry hastily, taking a step back against the closed door now that his uncle had released his grip on his shoulder. 'I'm sorry, Uncle Vernon. The door was locked. I did try knocking.' He watched warily as his uncle's pulse receded from the vein in his temple.
'Hmph.' Vernon huffed out. His gaze was drawn into the kitchen, where Harry could tell from the muffled noises that Aunt Petunia was fixing dinner. 'Well. Put that stuff upstairs then, and go and help your aunt.'
Harry nodded and dragged the trunk toward the staircase as his uncle headed out of the hall. He turned his back to the stairs, and had just grasped the handle with both hands to haul the thing up when heavy footfalls warned him that Vernon had returned. He glanced up to see the man's face dangerously close again, and immediately leaned back a bit.
'And I'm warning you, boy,' Vernon said, his voice low but no less frightening for lack of volume, 'You keep that funny business out of this house while you're here. I'll not have my family exposed to that freakish mumbo jumbo. And you're to do your chores and mind your aunt this summer. You'll pull your weight while you're here, or you'll get out! And keep that… those… keep your school things,' he spat the words viciously at Harry, who saw bits of spittle hit his glasses, 'In your bedroom and out of our sight, you hear me?'
Harry nodded quickly as Uncle Vernon finished his diatribe, and let out a long breath as the man disappeared through the swinging door into the kitchen once more. He grabbed for the trunk again and, with considerable effort, managed to hoist it up the stairs to the first floor landing. He rolled it resignedly toward his room, rubbing a light layer of sweat from his forehead as he went, and pushed open the door. He was greeted immediately by a quiet hoot from his chest of drawers.
'Hedwig!' He said with a smile, rushing over to open the cage door. The snowy owl hooted again, this time in a forlorn sort of way. Harry was confused, until his fumbling fingers noted a tiny padlock on the door of the cage.
'Oh, Hedwig,' he said sadly, trying in vain to tug the little lock off the cage door. It wouldn't budge.
Harry had found it strange when his uncle had exited the car on their return from Kings Cross, immediately taken the cage from Harry's lap, and told him to gather his trunk. He'd never considered that Uncle Vernon had taken the owl out of consideration for Harry – indeed, he had assumed that his uncle wanted to minimise the possibility that anyone from the neighbourhood might notice the owl entering the house. But he hadn't considered the fact that Vernon might lock Hedwig in the cage permanently while he was lugging in his trunk.
'I'm sorry, girl,' he apologised to the owl, stroking her head through the bars of the cage. She gazed reproachfully up at him, but he took it as a good sign that she did not attempt to nip his fingers. 'I'll try and work on him, if I can,' he promised her. The owl gave a little hoot of understanding, and turned her head to the water dish for a drink. Harry sighed and drew his fingers back.
'Boy!' He heard his uncle bellow from downstairs.
'I'm coming!' he called back, whirling for the door again before his uncle could get angry enough to come up after him.
Fifteen minutes later found Harry sitting at one end of the square table in the kitchen, trying valiantly to avoid his aunt and uncle's gaze as they talked across it. He picked moodily at his bangers and mash. It wasn't much – certainly less than Dudley was served – but he considered it a stroke of good fortune that he hadn't had to cook tonight. By the time he'd come downstairs, his aunt had nearly finished browning the meat and merely jabbed a finger at the cutlery drawer, indicating that Harry should lay the table. The sausages were a bit bland, and Harry, in his desolation over his return to Privet Drive, wasn't feeling overly hungry. Dudley eyed the food on Harry's plate greedily, having finished his own portion ten minutes ago.
'Mum, aren't there any more sausages?' Dudley whinged at his mother.
'I'm afraid not Diddy-dums,' Petunia simpered back, breaking off her conversation with Uncle Vernon midstream. 'But mummy has more potatoes if you want them, darling.' Dudley held his plate out wordlessly to her, and Petunia bustled away from the table to scoop another helping of mash for her son. Harry looked down at his half-eaten sausage for a moment, then pushed the plate across the table at Dudley.
'You can have the rest if you like,' he said as he slid the food. Dudley reached out eagerly to snatch it, but Uncle Vernon flung out a hand to catch Dudley's wrist.
'Petunia's cooking not good enough for you, boy?' he spat nastily at Harry. 'Gone off it, with whatever they're feeding you up at that freak school?'
Harry felt his temper rise, but swallowed down the retort he longed to fling at his uncle. 'No,' he replied, in a tone of forced calm. 'I'm just not hungry. Tired from the trip.'
Uncle Vernon grunted, but allowed Dudley to pull Harry's plate toward his place as Aunt Petunia re-joined the family with the extra potatoes. Dudley dug in immediately, and Harry returned to his dead-pan at the table top.
'Well, boy,' Aunt Petunia put in, as she reclaimed her seat, 'If you're that tired, you'd better get on up to bed then. Go on.'
Harry nodded quickly and excused himself from the table, slipping out before his relatives could change their minds and decide he'd better stick around for the clean-up. He'd much rather remain in his room, with Hedwig and his school things, then sit on pins and needles in the kitchen with his aunt and uncle.
Bounding up to the first floor, Harry stopped in briefly to brush his teeth and wash his face in the loo, then changed into his pyjamas. He snuck Hedwig a bit of sausage he'd managed to pocket at dinner, and watched her for a moment as she ate. She was quiet for now, but Harry knew she'd grow restless if she wasn't allowed out to fly soon. He sighed in defeat. A problem for later, he supposed.
He flopped onto his lumpy bed, staring up at the bland white of the ceiling and thinking longingly of his four-poster in Gryffindor tower. Two months. Two long months until he would finally be able to return to Hogwarts. Two long months until he could, at last, go home.
Harry doubted he could make it.