For all you new readers, hi and I hope you enjoy the story, but for all of you who have read this before, you will need to re-read it since I have significantly changed it, especially in the first few chapters.

Also this is un-beta'd, since my sister who would usually do it now works for a big publishing company and ironically is too busy editing to edit for me, so anyway I'm dyslexic so if you spot any mistakes as there will undoubtedly be some, please let me know through a PM message. I will be getting this beta'd ASAP, but I made a promise to myself to not leave all you wonderful darlings waiting any longer, so I will be reloading them once they are sorted, but in the meantime you'll have to put up with my poor grasp of grammar, spelling and all that jazz. Sorry!

So, to sum it up: if bad spelling and grammar interfere with your enjoyment of this story, please wait until I re-upload them when they've been beta'd. Thank you!

Disclaimer: I in no way shape or form own Harry Potter and no money is being made from this. It's simply for enjoyment. However, since this Caitlin Moran thing happened a couple of weeks ago; no one can use or post this work anywhere else without my express permission.

Warning, in this fic there will be: rape and sexual assault, child abuse, torture both physical and psychological, gore, panic attacks, self-harm and all sorts of other nasties. Not for the faint of heart. Enjoy!


There were few people who could say that they hated summer more than Harry Potter.

While most rejoiced in the sunny days and warm temperatures, Harry glared resentfully at the clear skies and greenery. To him sunny days meant back breaking work in the garden with no breaks or water to drink, and always getting sunburnt. The greenery meant weeding and worn, bleeding hands because he was never given any gloves. Days most families would spend outside together would mean him alone in the house cooking, cleaning, keeping silent, trying not to do anything wrong for fear of the punishment that came with it. But there was always something his 'family' found fault with.

To Harry Potter summer meant the Dursley's, and he honestly wasn't sure if he'd survive them this time: he'd only been back two weeks and already things had become so much worse than they'd ever been before.

Just for starters they seemed to take the changes in his physical appearance as a personal insult.

Good food and exercise had helped Harry grow a little and he could no longer be considered short, although he'd probably never break 5'8" due to suffering from such malnutrition for most of his life. New glasses flattered his face and were finally the right prescription.

Then there was his hair: Ron had explained to him that there was an old tradition of the head of the family growing out their hair, both males and females. Some families still did it while some, like the Weasley's, didn't. It explained why so many men in the wizarding world had long hair and deciding to embrace that side of his life Harry decided to let his own hair grow, as he was the head of his family, but found himself dreading the stage when his hair would be in an awkward bob and wished it would just skip it. He'd gone to bed that night mind made up and had woken the next morning feeling a little strange. After staggering fuzzily into the bathroom and starting his normal morning routine he'd glanced in the mirror and promptly spat his toothpaste everywhere. Flowing down his back were long, wavy locks, which Harry had a hell of a time getting used to (to his embarrassment he'd had to go and talk to the girls initially as he found it difficult to even pull it back into a ponytail) but everyone was very taken with it and complimented him on his wandless magic.

However, to the Dursley's his long hair seemed to scream to the world about what a freak he was.

Vernon had been waiting in his usual place outside King's Cross, not wanting to be seen near 'those aberrations'. The large man had frowned when Harry had approached him before his eyes widened in shock, finally realizing who was standing in front of him. Spluttering and a little intimidated at the cold expression he was being given Vernon turned away and marched to his car with Harry grudgingly following behind.

Any caution was quickly dispelled when Harry had quietly done what was ordered and Vernon was soon back to telling the teenager that if he didn't behave and do exactly what he was told then he, Vernon, would lock 'that bloody bird' under the stairs and leave her there to starve.

Aunt Petunia had shrieked when she saw her late sister's son standing in the hall, and had started babbling about what the neighbours would say if they saw him looking like a criminal with his long hair.

Dudley hadn't been in when Harry had arrived back at 4 Privet Drive. According to Petunia her 'ickkle Duddiekins' was working out at the gym with his friends, something which Harry seriously doubted as the only exercise Dudley had ever done in his life was 'Harry hunting'. So, when Dudley had casually walked back in around dinnertime, coated in sweat and no longer fat but instead looking like a heavy-weight boxer – which, Harry was to find out to his misery, he was - Harry almost had a heart attack and just managed to stop himself dropping the roast potatoes. Dudley himself had frozen near the table when he saw his smaller cousin staring at him, wide eyes filled with shock.

Harry had watched Dudley's face go through a series of expressions before settling into something unreadable, before he silently sat down at the table. He then proceeded to sneak glances at Harry throughout the meal, and, at one point, had purposely dropped his knife so that Harry had to bend over to get it. As Harry had straightened up he could have sworn that Dudley was looking him over with that indecipherable emotion once again in his eyes.

Dinner had progressed as was normal in the Dursley household with Vernon and Petunia using every excuse to insult their nephew while Harry stood behind them, having to wait until they were finished before he could eat his own meagre portion in the kitchen.

As was normal for his first day back, by the time he had finished cleaning up he had a pounding headache. He knew better than to ask for any pain relief medication and instead went to the bathroom.

Pulling off his t-shirt he turned on the cold tap and proceeded to wash his face, before scooping small handfuls of water and running it over the back of his neck, where his tension headaches usually originated from. The cool water worked wonders and the pain died to a more manageable throb.

Relieved he stood up, water droplets running down his spine and absorbing into his jeans, and a few wet strands of hair he hadn't been able to keep out of the way stubbornly clinging to his skin.

Glancing in the mirror he was shocked to see the bathroom door open and Dudley leaning on the doorframe, eyes fixed on him.

While very disconcerting Harry found himself more worried that Dudley would tell his mother and father to the last change to his body, which was his tattoo: Harry would freely admit that he'd got it illegally, as he wasn't of age even in the wizarding world, but after reading about the properties of magical tattoos he thought it a good idea and Fred and George had been more than delighted to help him out, leading to the beautifully intricate black dragon tattoo that wrapped around the top of his left shoulder and down over his shoulder blade, ending almost at his waist. It was something only the twins knew about and Harry kind-of considered it his ace in the hole. He hadn't even told Ron or Hermione and so having Dudley find out about it before his two best friends was a bitter moment.

There was no way Dudley could miss it, but the boy seemed to be staring at more than just the tattoo.

Harry flinched, almost physically able to feel the weight of his cousin's eyes as he slowly ran them over the length of his body. Yes, Harry had finally got some muscle tone from all the hours of Quidditch training and he'd bulked out a little, but did Dudley have to stare like that?

"What the fuck do you want?" Harry snapped at his cousin, hoping the coarse language and hostile attitude would snap the other boy out of whatever trance he was in. Dudley's eyes re-focused.

"You'll find out soon enough," he leered, letting his eyes rove slowly over his cousin's body one last time before pushing off the doorframe and walking away, leaving Harry shivering, and not just from the cold water running down his back.

The next day Petunia woke him up by banging sharply on his door as she was heading downstairs.

By the time Harry had pulled himself up off the mattress on the floor (Vernon had seemed to think that his nephew was having it too easy by sleeping on a proper bed), yanked on a ratty pair of jeans, a T-shirt and ran a brush through his hair before tying it back in a plait, his aunt was already screeching for him to hurry up from the downstairs.

The Gryffindor slunk into the kitchen quietly, so quietly in fact that his aunt didn't hear him, so when she had turned around to find him standing behind her she screamed and dropped the frying pan, sending burning hot pieces of bacon over the tiled floor.

Vernon went ballistic, grabbing Harry's arm and twisting it cruelly behind his back until the boy hissed in pain.

"You're going to clean up the mess with your bare hands and then make us all breakfast, you got that boy?" Vernon snarled spitefully in his ear before letting him go and slapping him brutally across the face. It was nothing new to Harry though, so with a bruised cheek and burnt hands he started his daily chores.

Several hours later, Harry was out weeding the garden when Vernon had walked up behind him and grabbed his plait, yanking his head back.

"Your aunt and I are going up to Marge's for a couple of days. We've left you a list of things to do and I expect them to be complete when we get back or there will be serious trouble, boy. Dudley has kindly said that he'll stay here to keep an eye on you. A warning to you brat, if you threaten him with any of your abnormalities you'll find yourself out on the curb before you can say 'freak'."

And with that lovely parting gift Vernon and Petunia left leaving Harry alone with Dudley.

As evening began to draw in, Harry was bending over to pull the last weed from a bed of tulips, when two strong hands grabbed his waist and flipped him over, efficiently pinning him to the ground.

Dudley stared down at him, his eyes filled with those previously un-nameable emotions that Harry now, unfortunately, recognized: greed and lust, a smirk on his lips in the face of Harry's shock.

"Now," the bigger boy began grinding his hips against Harry's. "You're going to play nice. God knows how you became so enticing over the course of a year, but I want you. I want to see all of you spread out for me."

Harry gaped in shock at Dudley for a few seconds before he felt a deep, terrible rage fill him starting from the pit of his stomach and spreading throughout his body until he was practically vibrating with it. Hadn't he been through enough? He hadn't even had time to mourn Sirius properly before someone was messing with him again. And he was scared; beyond scared actually. Apart from Cho he'd never had any type of sexual experience and the few sloppy kisses they exchanged could hardly be called even that.

Desperately he struggled like a cornered animal under his cousin, but the bigger boy's substantial weight kept him from pushing Dudley off and his hands were pinned, he couldn't even stretch far enough to head butt that smirking face and he soon collapsed panting against the ground.

Harry's panic quickly turned to abject horror, when he realised that all his struggling had only aroused his cousin further. A sweating and gasping Harry seemed to appeal to the spoilt boy very much.

So Harry used his last resort, not giving a damn about the consequences if Vernon found out.

"I used magic to make my hair grow, Dudley," he hissed, desperation making his voice shake slightly. "I used a wizard sport to tone my body; a sport played on broomsticks in the air. My tattoo had magical properties. You don't want to touch me when I'm soaked in magic, do you Dudley? When it's in my very blood?"

It had entirely the wrong effect. Dudley, if possible, got even more aroused, and snickered, leaning in to bite Harry's neck brutally, not caring or rather enjoying that he was leaving a mark before whispering hotly in his cousin's ear.

"Dad told me to punish you as I see fit if you used either of those words, so I'm going to punish you very badly, Harry."

With that Dudley got up, pulled Harry to his feet, almost simultaneously delivering a debilitating punch to Harry's stomach then yanking his arms behind his back so that he couldn't get away. Harry was left gasping for breath, barely able to struggle with his heading spinning and spots dancing across his vision as Dudley yanked him into the house and up the stairs to his room.

Once inside a hard shove sent the still winded Harry to the floor while Dudley turned and locked the door before putting the key on his computer desk. Next he turned on his iHome and a heavy techno beat blared out at full volume, the intent of it clearly to mask any noise from the neighbours.

All of that had taken mere seconds and Harry was still trying to take a deep breath when he was dragged up again and thrown onto the large bed.

He looked up to see his larger cousin advancing towards him, unbuckling his belt as he went, face twisting into a leer that took him from ugly to almost demonic and Harry found himself frozen; pinned under the weight of a type of fear he had never dreamed he could experience.

It was only when Dudley was on top of him that his throat unclenched enough for him to scream.

Afterwards Dudley had clutched Harry to him like a twisted prize before falling asleep. Harry spent the whole night trying to acknowledge the horror of what had just happened to him, but every time he did his vision went white and a ringing filled his ears and before he knew it, it was morning.

The brute beside him stirred, opening piggish eyes and staring at him as though he was the most delicious dessert he'd ever seen, before he leaned forward and indulged himself once more.

Harry would never admit to himself just how much he sobbed, begging for Dudley to stop.

Once finished, Dudley had disappeared, leaving a silent Harry to clean himself up as much as possible. He couldn't look in the mirror of the bathroom as he hid himself in the shower, and refused to acknowledge what it was that was making the water around his feet pink. He scrubbed himself so hard his skin was left raw in places and he still felt dirty, as though the filthiness of the act itself had wormed its way under his skin and would never come off, no matter what he did.

His first task after leaving the bathroom was to fling open the windows in Dudley's room, the smell making him gag. Then he changed Dudley's bed, stripping the blood and semen stained sheets with his eyes closed. Unable to bare touching them any longer Harry had shoved them behind his cousin's wardrobe and left them there before rushing out of the room.

He painfully started to carry on with the jobs he still had left to do, getting at least half of them finished before the inevitable happened; Harry was carefully polishing the hideous brass trinkets in the living room when he heard the door slam and several voices.

"So where is he then?"

"He better be as gorgeous as you say."

"Of course he is, on the outside and the inside."

"That's not fair, man. You got him all to yourself!"

"Well, of course, dumbass, he's my cousin after all."

Harry would have given anything for his invisibility cloak in that moment but he just stood there with an ugly brass ornament in one hand and a polishing cloth in the other, frozen to the spot.

"Ah! Here he is!" Dudley called and pushed open the living room door.

Two other boys followed him into the room. Both had similar builds to Dudley, making an intimidating picture as they filled one side of the room. Together the three of them stood there, leering at Harry appreciatively.

"Well, I see you were telling the truth, Dudley," the one with dark hair said.

"Yeah," the other, a redhead – the colour exactly the same shade as the Weasley's - added. "Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. S'weird to think of another guy like that, but that's the only word that really fits."

Harry remembered afterwards thinking that they sounded like they were discussing a piece of art; something to be admired, but of course had no feelings of its own. He took a step backwards. The three trollish boys grinned nastily and closed in on him.

"He's got the most delicious tattoo on his back," Dudley helpfully supplied.

"Can't wait to see it then," the redhead grunted as he reached for Harry with a large hand.

Stupidly, the boy left a gap and, with almost inhuman speed, Harry slipped under his arm, dropping the cloth and brass, and bolted out of the room and up the stairs.

He would never know why he didn't just go for the front door.

Bursting into his room he grabbed a quill and parchment, hearing the confused yells from downstairs. Quickly he jotted a desperate note to Ron, folded it and yanked Hedwig's cage door open when he heard the pounding of feet up the stairs. Hedwig had hurriedly stuck out her leg, sensing her master's urgency and Harry tied the letter to it.

"Go Hedwig! Take this to Ron, quickly!"

Hedwig was just stretching her wings when the door burst open and Dudley tore into the room. In one glance the larger boy took in the situation and sprang after Hedwig, grabbing her leg and pulling her from the air before she was even halfway to the window, which Harry had left open the day before. Outraged the white owl screeched and sank her sharp beak deeply into Dudley's hand making the boy bellow in pain.

When Harry looked back later, everything that had taken place after that instant appeared to have taken place in slow motion; everything becoming that much crisper and clearer, every sense in Harry's body taking in the most minute detail and burning it into his memory.

He had jumped forward to try and free his bird, but Dudley had already raised his free hand and grabbed her snowy head.

Then Dudley grinned at Harry and twisted her head to an angle even an owl wouldn't be able to cope with.

The crack of breaking bones filled the room, followed by a terrible silence.

Harry stared at his beloved Hedwig lying limply in Dudley's big blood covered hand, the letter for Ron still tied to her leg.

With a casual toss Dudley dropped the broken bird and kicked her to Harry's feet.

He had knelt down and cradled the small body of his loyal owl who had never failed a delivery except her last. He wanted to weep, but found he couldn't. Maybe it was shock, or maybe it was a sort of numb acceptance for another pointless tragedy.

When Harry looked up, Dudley, the dark head and the red head were all standing in the room. Dudley had shut the door and was standing in front of it to stop Harry escaping again, a twisted smirk winding its way over his face while the other two walked over, their arousal's apparent and completely unfazed by the dead owl in their targets arms.

And just like that Harry was done.

He impassively closed his eyes and hung his head as they grabbed him, forcing him to drop Hedwig, and flung him onto the small mattress.

Maybe he deserved it, he thought as the brunet straddled his stomach, pushing up his shirt and running his hands greedily over the smooth muscles.

After all his idiotic and selfish decisions had cost good people their lives, he thought bitterly as the red head pulled off his tattered trainers and socks. Then, the bigger boy reached up and undid Harry's belt and slipped a large hand under the waistband of his jeans.

Harry managed to switch his mind off, something he had perfected years before he had discovered he was a wizard when life became too much for him, but he could still feel what the two larger boys were doing to him. So, when the red head roughly entered him with no preparation and only some quickly drying spit to ease his way Harry bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, barely feeling the thin trail that ran down his chin.

Dudley, becoming too aroused to carry on guarding the door swept down on Harry, hungrily devouring his unresponsive mouth with his own, apparently unfazed by the blood as he forced his tongue inside and feeling the texture and taste of the smaller boy.

Harry's glasses bumped Dudley's nose, so the blond boy yanked them harshly off his cousin's face and dropped them at his feet, promptly stepping on them as he moved closer, but none of the boys looked up at the crunching sound; Harry, because he couldn't and the other three were too involved with his body to care.

They all forced themselves inside of Harry, barely giving the boy before time to pull out, their actions made easier after the first time as his passage had been lubricated with blood. Each and every thrust, even lubricated, continued to do damage, tearing Harry a further and soon thick rivulets of blood wound their way down his legs to pool under his knees.

Harry, no matter how detached his mind was, found himself hard pressed not to sob and scream as the pain hit him in unceasing, rolling waves, which made his head swim. Eventually his body could take no more and Harry gratefully fell back into the peaceful world of unconsciousness. When he next opened his eyes it was to find that he'd casually been dumped back on the bed, clothes haphazardly forced back on him and the room thankfully empty.

Hedwig was still lying on the floor so, after he painfully attempted to pull his aching body off the now stinking bed - which was covered with three boy's seed and a terrifying amount of blood - and failed, he slid off the edge onto the floor and crawled towards her, his head feeling as though it were trying to go three way at once. Why he wasn't dead was beyond him and he found himself wishing that he hadn't woken up at all.

One shaking hand bumped against something soft and the agonised boy realised that he'd reached Hedwig. He gently picked the owl's body up and managed put her back in her cage by levering himself up by use of his chest of drawers.

Afterwards, Harry fuzzily tried to find his glasses, but after weakly crawling and fumbling about all he found was a broken frame and a few pieces of smashed glass. They weren't fixable unless he used magic, which he wasn't allowed to do, so Harry would have to go without.

Then Harry heard the sound of a car pulling up the drive and remembered that he hadn't finished the jobs he had been meant to do.

"Dammit," was all he said, and then he sat down in the middle of the floor to wait for what would definitely come, which it did, a little sooner than he had expected.

"Boy!" Vernon's voice bellowed as the huge man stormed up the stairs.

The door to Harry's room burst open and Vernon tore in like a rampaging bull.

After the man had shouted himself hoarse at the boy, who had numbly been staring at the wall, trying his hardest not to faint, Vernon realised that his words had just washed over Harry without him paying the slightest bit of attention. So, with a bellow like a wounded elephant, Vernon launched himself at his dazed nephew and punched the fifteen year old across the face as hard as he could. The force threw the silent boy to the floor, clutching at his jaw.

Harry stared up at his uncle with dull eyes; used to the semi-regular beatings Vernon had given him from as far back as he could remember. What his exhausted mind and body couldn't deal with was a beating on top of what had just happened. But Vernon didn't hold back and left him barely conscious on the floor, where he stayed for the rest of the day and all through the night.

The next day Vernon dragged his trunk from the room, leaving just a few changes of clothes, reattached the locks on Harry's door and the same routine that had been laid down in Harry's second year was reinstated: Harry was allowed to leave his bedroom every morning and night to go to the bathroom, and food was pushed through under the cat flap at the base of his door once a day. The only difference from his second year was that Vernon didn't attach bars to his window, but jumping from there would likely result in a broken leg.

Harry wondered dully how his uncle had missed Hedwig's obviously dead body and all the blood on his bed and his clothes before Vernon had 'disciplined' him, but then put it down to the fact that if Vernon had wondered, the big man would have reassured himself that his son had been dutifully punishing his freak of a nephew and had pointedly ignored the strong smell of sex in the room.

It truly was amazing how some people could absolutely refuse to see what was right in front of them - their brains somehow blocking it out; there was no starving beggar on the street corner, there was no man snarling abuse at his sobbing girlfriend in the restaurant, there was nothing that would threaten their perfect little world balancing on an eggshell.

That night Harry carefully took Hedwig's cage, wrapped some string he had found at the back of a drawer around the handle on the top and gently lowered it with Hedwig's body within out of the window and into the dense bushes at the base of the house. As he couldn't leave to bury her, that would have to do until he could. If he ever left, that was.

Lowering the heavy cage made his ribs, several of which were at least fractured, throb badly so afterwards he just remained in the same position staring out at the moon, wondering if he was going to survive this summer and trying to ignore the small flare of something deep within his chest that hoped he wouldn't.

The next day, Vernon nailed his window shut, muttering that he wasn't going to waste any more money having further bars fitted.

Vernon had also come up with a simple plan to stop Harry getting his mail: shutting every window in the house except one in the downstairs kitchen, he waited. As this was the only accessible window, owls would fly in drop their post on the kitchen table. Then, if any birds remained, awaiting a response, Vernon would drive them off and then burn the letters and packages the next morning.

The other, more crucial difference was that Vernon gave Dudley, not Petunia, the key to Harry's room whenever he went to work, so all Dudley would have to do was complain to his mother about a new video game or accessory that his friends had and he didn't to send the horse-faced woman rushing from the house, desperate to keep her 'ickkle Duddiekins' happy. Then Dudley would be free to make his way to Harry's room at his leisure, unlock the door, stroll across the floor to the blood-stained mattress where his cousin would be huddled, trying not to move until his injuries healed, and slip his hand under Harry's chin, forcing his head up. Dudley would then lean in and kiss Harry, if the one-sided action could be called that.

He would always start that way, in a twisted parody of affection, before raping Harry yet again then leaving the smaller boy lying broken and empty-eyed, satisfied for a few more hours.

And so this living hell went on for weeks with regular beatings from Vernon, even more regular rape from Dudley and sheer blank-faced avoidance by Petunia, which was oddly enough the worst of the three.

Now, the night of Harry's birth approached.

Harry woke on the last day of his fifteenth year feeling …strange and couldn't deny the hope that his body had finally received one injury too many on top of too many days with next to no food and was giving up on him, not that he was going to fight it if it was.

He had read about people's experiences on what it felt like when their body was starting to die and he couldn't recall anyone describing it anything like this: it was as though he could actually feel his blood humming through his veins and his bones shifting and groaning with every movement.

Other than that the day went normally for Harry; slipping easily into its grey routine.

He was let out to use the bathroom and allowed his weekly shower, slumped on the floor of the tub as he no longer had the strength to stand for very long.

A few minutes later Petunia banged on the door, shrieking that he was wasting water and he sluggishly turned off the shower and pulled himself from the tub, using a semi-clean t-shirt to dry himself as he wasn't allowed to touch the towels before pulling it on with his boxers. There was no point in wearing any other clothes and in some distant part of his mind he enjoyed the look of horror that appeared momentarily on Petunia's face when he emerged from the bathroom and she saw his emaciated, bruised and scabbed legs and arms before she swiftly looked away, falling back into her usual 'if I can't see it, it's not happening' routine.

He wondered what the expression on her face would be when she found his body.

Not even having the strength to give her more than a flat look he limped back towards his prison of a room, body trying to preserve a little of the warmth the hot water had given him.

He felt cleaner than he had in days, but he could never quite shake the sickening smell of Dudley from his skin, no matter how much of the cheap soap he used.

As the door shut behind him and he heard the locks click into place he glanced around the tiny room and found himself a little sad that this would be where he would perish.

Ever since he had first understood what death was he had always hoped to die outside and to go down fighting. It was ironic that even before he had been told of Voldemort he had somehow known that his life would inevitably be filled with battles, or maybe it was simply because his biggest fear when he was younger was to die, broken and forgotten in that tiny cupboard under the stairs; brought down by hands he couldn't fight back against because they were too big and strong, locked away in a small, dark cell.

It was almost funny how, at six, when all the other kids in class had been afraid of the imaginary monsters under their beds, he had been afraid of a very real monster outside of his 'bedroom' door.

Now that monster along with the one it had created, were doing just what Harry had feared more than anything for so long: killing him piece by piece while he rotted away in a cell of a room. He would soon be nothing more than a number added to a graph; another tragic statistic.

It was almost laughable: the great Harry Potter, defeater of Voldemort, slayer of a Basilisk, Quidditch hero, always fighting back with a sharp retort on his lips; brought down by two pathetic bully's; muggles with not an ounce of power, magic or intelligence to their name and with him not even attempting to stop them.

Wearily he pulled himself across the room and fell onto the cleanest bit of the mattress he could find.

It took more effort than it should have to roll himself over so he could stare at the blurry ceiling and he found his thoughts drifting to his parents.

How different would his life have been if they had lived?

He had stopped putting them on a pedestal this past year, finding out to his cost that no parent was perfect, but he still believed he would have been loved by them.

There were a couple of very vague memories, but he was convinced that he had made them up when he was younger to try and give himself some form of comfort, however, even if they were false he still treasured them as they took him away to a better place.

The first was of bright red hair and a soft voice singing indecipherable words to him. The voice itself wasn't amazing, but it was very pleasant to listen to and the tune would loop round and round in his head, giving him something soothing to fall asleep to.

The second was being held in warm, strong arms in the snow and a black-haired figure murmuring to him softly, pausing every now and then to look up at the bright moon.

Harry knew he would never really know if they were real memories or fake but they were the only comfort he had presently and he would rather die lost in pleasant, although possible false, memories than facing hopeless reality.

The day passed with Harry lying unmoving on the mattress letting the memories pull him away and evening set in, the minuscule portion of cold soup lying unheeded by the cat flap.

Through a small gap in the boards over the window Harry could make out the moon rising and shifted slightly to see it better. Pain jolted through his body, reminding him that he was still far from healed and he stilled.

He was vaguely aware of the sounds outside of his room as the Dursley's had dinner, watched television and retired. Thankfully Vernon did not see fit to visit him tonight meaning he could stay in this trance-like state, mesmerized by the pale light shining through the gap, simply waiting for his body to stop.

Time wore on, the house became silent and the moon drifted from view. A glance at the dully glowing clock on the desk, really the only thing he had in the room to entertain himself with, showed that it was well past midnight and approaching two o'clock. It had been his birthday for two hours and he hadn't even noticed.

Congratulations, Harry, he thought to himself, you're sixteen. Now let's see how long you can remain sixteen.

Sixteen was an important age in the magical world, he had learned, and because of what happened it was the age a child was officially recognized as an adult in the eyes of the law.

On their sixteenth birthday was when a child's magical power manifests itself completely inside of them, propelling them to their full potential and giving the child a substantial growth in power that they had the entirety of the sixth year to learn to control.

Harry remembered when Ron had turned sixteen a short while after their O. . The Weasley's had made a big fuss over it and he had received not only an unusual amount of gifts from a family that could afford so little, but also presents from distant relatives that he barely knew and many a tearful letter from Mrs Weasley going on about how her youngest boy was now becoming a man and stepping into his 'Inheritance', which, Harry was told, was the official term for what happened.

After Ron's sixteenth he had been a lot more powerful in class and found spells he had struggled with much more simple. However, unused to the amount of power he now had Ron had had poor control as he'd put the same amount of effort and power into casting spells that he used to and more often than not would there would be several smoking craters in his desk by the end of the lesson, and then Harry had dragged him to the Department of Mysteries while knowing that Ron wasn't confident in his spells.

Still, even with the power boost several of them had gained on turning sixteen, they were still all useless when they went to the Ministry, led by Harry's own foolish stubbornness and Sirius had paid the price.

Harry glanced at the clock again, saw that two o'clock had now passed and wondered at what exact time he had been born, as that was supposedly when the power manifested. He, of course, had no way of knowing as he wasn't even aware of whether or not his birth certificate even existed. Did wizards have birth certificates? If so then it had probably been destroyed along with the Potter home in Godric's Hollow.

If his body could live though the power surge he had no idea what would happen to him: Ron had become much more proficient at charms and had explained that it ran in his family, while others sometimes exhibited unusual magical traits that could skip generations.

So what might he inherit from his parents? He didn't really know a thing about them except that James had been a bully at school and that Lily had hated him for some time and been friends with Snape. After learning what he had from Snape's memories he had looked on everything Sirus and Remus had told him about James (which admittedly wasn't much) with scepticism, wondering if they were looking back on their memories of him through rose-tinted glasses, as people often did for dead loved ones.

From the comments he had received from students and teachers alike in the last few days of term as well as a rather badly written piece in the Daily Prophet, Harry knew everyone expected him to become powerful. Very powerful. As in powerful enough to take on Voldemort in a one-on-one battle and triumph, and Harry knew that Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle had been one of the most superb students Hogwarts had ever seen.

How on earth could people expect him to live up to that when he wasn't even in the top ten of his year?

Harry took a deep breath to let out a sigh and his ribs blazed to life in an angry aide-mémoire of his injuries, causing him to choke it off and reminding him that the magical community could gossip and wish about him all they wanted because it wasn't his problem anymore, or at least it wouldn't be very soon and then they'd have to find some other poor sap to 'save them'. He just hoped it wouldn't be kind-hearted Neville.

He had just closed his eyes to try to sleep when suddenly an all-encompassing pain came from nowhere making his muscles spasm and his brain overload. His flailing body fell from the mattress to the floor, fingers desperately clawing at nothing and gasping for breath as his lungs locked. His bones hard turned into a burning hot liquid iron, twisting themselves into impossible shapes. His muscles were all stretching, tearing and reknitting themselves, his internal organs were dissolving, his blood was boiling and there was an agony behind his eyes, making it feel like someone was slowly pushing a red-hot pin into the back of each orb. It was a pain few could imagine, even worse than the Cruciatus and he desperately wanted to scream but couldn't.

It was the end; there was no way he could live through another second of this pain.

Then as suddenly as it had started the pain stopped, leaving Harry gasping, shaking and dry-heaving on the floor.

He didn't know how long he lay there trying to gain some semblance of control before he realised that, despite feeling horribly shaky, there was not the smallest hint of pain in his entire body.

The complete absence of pain almost pushed Harry back into shock as he had mentally, physically and emotionally adjusted to being in some sort of discomfort permanently over the past few weeks and for it all too just vanish so suddenly was almost too much for him to handle.

Cautiously he sat up and on finding no resistance pushed himself to his feet and looked himself over, hardly daring to believe it.

Every injury, every bruise, cut and scrape he had received since entering this damned house was gone, leaving just a few white scars.

Then he became aware of the fact that he could clearly see the scars he was scrutinizing even though he wasn't wearing his glasses and was in a near pitch-black room.

Frantically he looked around, noting with rising hysteria that he could see the entirety of the room almost as clearly as he would be able to in the middle of the day; everything was very faintly tinged blue though. He could even see a tiny moth fluttering around near the ceiling.

Ron hadn't mentioned anything about being able to suddenly heal wounds, or senses being sharpened to a ridiculous level.

Desperate to find out if anything else had changed Harry screwed his eyes shut and focused on his other senses.

First came his sense of smell and he had to double over as he dry-heaved again, the smell coming from the mattress of rotten blood and semen horribly overpowering.

Stumbling away from it and nearer to the door he was able to smell other things: the strong smell of the cold soup, the perfumed scent of Petunia's nightly mud mask and the smell of the dinner from earlier along with many chemical cleaning products.

Overwhelmed he pinched his nose shut and the loss of one sense made him aware of how much he could hear: there was the faint fluttering from the moth as it bumped against the ceiling, the dripping of water coming from the shower down the hall, the snuffling and heavy snoring coming from his aunt and uncles bedroom and the unmistakable sound of someone trying to creep down the corridor, pausing whenever a snore sounded.

Harry backed away from the door, familiar dread rising in his chest, knowing it was Dudley and knowing that he was definitely not heading to the bathroom.

As he did this he realized one final thing about himself: he was hungry. So hungry in fact that it hurt, but the pain was not in his stomach, so how Harry knew it was huger he couldn't explain. It was all over his body, as if each muscle and vein was slowly being suffocated. A dull cramp was starting to follow the strange feeling and Harry instinctively knew that this pain was something to be very concerned about and that it would grow until it killed him, but a glance at the cold soup by the door told him that that was not the type of food he needed.

The bitter scent of his own blood was suddenly much more noticeable than the other smells and it was making his teeth itch.

Outside the door, he heard Dudley pull the key from his pyjama pocket; the smooth metal rasping loudly on the cotton material to Harry's newly sharpened ears. He could almost hear the blood rushing through the other boy's veins; could smell it, could taste it.

Without thinking Harry ran his tongue over his teeth and almost had a heart attack, for, where a human's usually rather blunt canines were, there were now two very sharp and very long fangs.

Everything suddenly clicked into place as survival instinct took over, pushing down the rational part of Harry's mind that was screaming that what was happening was impossible.

There was only one answer to all of this and he could panic about it later: he was now a vampire or something similar, and he needed blood desperately.


Dudley slowly pushed open the door.

The large boy didn't want to admit it, but he was infatuated with his cousin; dreaming about him every night, and every day when he couldn't touch that mellifluous skin was torture. He knew his cousin was, in his magical world, somehow considered powerful, important and that thought alone – that he, Dudley, with no fancy spells, could bring someone as magnificent and influential as Harry to his knees …well, that thought alone had brought him to orgasm on the nights he couldn't make it to Harry's room.

His two friends from the boxing gym, Tommy and Keith, had wanted to come back and have another go with Harry. But Dudley had told them what his father had done to him, beating him badly and leaving him 'useless'.

The blond had told them that they couldn't touch Harry again until he was completely healed in case they damaged him beyond repair and his friends had reluctantly agreed, willing to wait if they could see the desirable boy again.

Dudley had gleefully run home, happy to have Harry all to himself for several weeks at least and now tonight Dudley had woken up and had glanced at his high-tech clock, spotting the date and remembered that today was his cousin's birthday. So, he decided to sneak along to Harry's room and give him a little 'present.'

Before he even realised it he was silently unlocking the freaks door and pushing it open.

The second he stepped inside and turned to see Harry standing straight and tall in the middle of the room he knew something was wrong.

A little intimidated, Dudley looked Harry up and down, for the first time that summer not looking at him through a haze of lust and what he saw pushed intimidation into terror.

Gone was the broken pretty boy with dead eyes. In his place stood what was clearly a predator, still small and unhealthily thin, but the way he stood and the confidence and assuredness around him screamed threat to the high heavens.

Shakily Dudley raised his eyes to Harry's face and almost bit off his tongue in shock: the boy's eyes were glowing silver, piercing him through the gloom with a hatred that was almost unfathomable, pinning him to the spot.

"W-what the hell are you?" Dudley whispered.

"Why should you care," Harry spoke softly. "You'll be dead soon."

The casual threat forced Dudley's feet to life and he stumbled backwards, groping for the door, but the other was too fast.

With inhuman speed Harry pulled him away and slammed him against the wall, rattling all the furniture in the room, and held him there with impossible strength.

Harry grinned wickedly and Dudley could just make out the gleaming fangs, causing him to whimper pathetically.

"I'm going to bleed you dry, scum. Believe me, I wouldn't be poisoning myself with your rotten blood if I weren't so hungry, but I'm going to enjoy watching the life fade from you as much as you did me."

And truly, for the first time in his life, Dudley knew what it was to stare death in the face.


Harry wanted to toy with his hated cousin some more, but the cramp was starting to cause his legs to shake, so with little care he freed one hand, leaving the other to keep pinning the bigger boy to the wall, and used it to wrench Dudley's head to one side, exposing his neck.

Harry didn't like the idea of biting such an intimate area after what Dudley had done to him, but if he went for Dudley's wrist there was a chance he might wriggle free. Like this he could use his own body weight to keep pinning the other in place.

With his now excellent night-vision he could clearly make out the carotid artery pulsing gently beneath the other boy's skin. Leaning closer and letting his breath ghost over the intended area he felt Dudley give a shudder, mostly out of fear but still somewhat out of arousal.

"Oh, so you can get off on me even when I'm about to kill you? You'll love this then," Harry sneered, disgusted, and without further ado he lent forward and plunged his fangs as aggressively as possible into Dudley's neck.

The incisors were perfectly designed to rip through the flesh easily, which they did, but then Harry purposely yanked them out at an angle so as to widen the already capable holes. Blood immediately gushed out and Harry instinctively pressed his mouth over the wounds, gulping down the life-giving blood and feeling the cramp fade.

Dudley groaned loudly under him, but Harry was much too involved to care that the noise might carry to his aunt and uncle sleeping next door.

The blood running down Harry's throat was, quite simply, the most extraordinary thing he had ever tasted; instead of the nauseating bitterness he had been expecting it was almost sweet with a complimentary tang to it. It would be very easy to live on, in fact if all blood tasted this good then it would be very hard to stop.

"What are you doing, boy?" A voice bellowed from the doorway as the light was switched on.

The sudden brightness momentarily blinded Harry and he recoiled from Dudley into the nearest corner faster than the eye could see.

Vernon and Petunia stood gaping in the open doorway, hardly daring to believe what they were seeing as Dudley slid down the wall, blood gushing from his neck, with a little moan.

"Dudley!" Petunia shrieked and threw herself across the room to her dazed son, not even hesitating as she used the sleeve of her nightgown to stem the blood flow.

Vernon stared at Harry, obviously building himself up into a ferocious temper until he lurched forward with a roar and threw himself towards the boy.

Harry looked up, fangs retracted and eyes once again back to normal, so much duller and emptier than they had been at the start of the summer, but now a grim, steely glimmer shone - something that hadn't been there that morning - he'd long since had enough and finally he had the strength to show it.

As his uncle sent a huge, meaty fist flying towards his face Harry reached out a hand and caught it mid-flight, stopping it dead in the air.

Vernon stood there, opening and closing his mouth like a fish, his brain not wanting to process the information it had just received.

"Im-impossible," was all he managed to choke out.

Seeing his uncle for the first time in his life truly at his mercy Harry felt a sadistic grin spread across his face.

"I assure you, Vernon, it's very possible."

In one swift movement he let go of his uncle's fist, grabbed the huge man by the collar of his night-shirt and lifted him completely off the floor.

"Now," he hissed, "how shall I inflict on you all the pain you gave me over the years?"

Vernon grabbed in vain at Harry's hand, staring at the murderous boy with terrified eyes.

"You made every day for me here a living hell," Harry continued conversationally. "And for what? Because I was different? You made me suicidal by the age of seven, before I even understood what death was – I just wanted to stop to get away from you. You were killing me this summer and you didn't give a damn. Tell me, what were you going to do with my body? I mean, you must have realized that I was dying, even you can't be that stupid not to, so you must have had a plan to fool my kind when they came looking for me."

Vernon didn't answer and Harry gave him a shake, making the man make a small blubbering sound.

"Answer me."

"I-I-I had heard about those masked freaks. I was going to put you in my car then burn it and say they did it," Vernon babbled, eyes crazed.

Harry had to admit he was surprised when he felt a tiny bit disappointed; his uncle was a monster, yes, but it seemed that deep down Harry had been holding on to some faint hope that, while Vernon had no problem starving and beating him, he would never take that final step and try to kill him.

In that moment Harry could almost physically feel any lasting ties he had desperately held on to in the want of something to call a family fall away and he looked at the man who had been his uncle with dead eyes.

"So why should I do any different to you?"

"Please," a voice sobbed from behind Harry. He turned, still holding Vernon in the air, to find Petunia kneeling by an unconscious Dudley with tears streaking down her thin face.

"You are my sister's son, and she would never have hurt anyone. Please, out of respect for your mother, put Vernon down and please, please don't harm any of us."

He was about to snarl a retort, saying something along the lines of how she was his mother's sister and she had never had any problem with either hurting him or looking in the other direction, when her words somehow got through the murderous fog clouding his mind.

Out of respect for his mother.

What would his parents say if they could see him standing there, hateful and preparing to murder three far from innocent but still defenceless people?

Harry's eyes landed on Dudley. He could see even from across the room the wound had almost completely closed over, cutting off the blood loss and saving his life, but if Vernon and Petunia hadn't come in when they had he would have carried on bleeding Dudley until he had died.

The red mist started to clear from his mind and Harry felt something inside him scream in rage as he lowered Vernon to the ground, leaving the man gasping for breath and backing away.

Harry stood there, ignoring the two fearfully staring at him for the moment as he fought an internal battle.

He wasn't safe. He needed to hide away somewhere until he could control himself and figure out just what the hell receiving his Inheritance had done to him. Gaining control over the drive to just carry on feeding was paramount though; what if he lost it in front of Ron or Hermione, or any of the other people he treasured? He could easily kill them with his new strength alone. It was bad enough that they were permanently a target simply from being friends with him, but for them to be in danger from Harry himself? No, he would not risk them. They were all he had after all.

Decided, Harry looked up and met two petrified gazes.

He sighed, running a frustrated hand through his hair knowing he needed to do something about them; then felt the energy and power running through him and figured that if it was ever going to work it would work now.

Concentrating he waved at hand at Vernon and then Dudley.

"Oblivisci," he murmured, focusing strongly on the past hour, then watched in satisfaction as the spell hit them both, causing no noticeable effect on Dudley, but causing Vernon's eyes to flutter and fall shut, making him slump to the floor.

"What-what did you do?" Petunia quavered.

"I made them forget this past hour," Harry said grimly. "They should wake tomorrow with no recollection of any of this," then his gaze sharpened, pinning Petunia in place. "And that's where you come in."

"What? Why don't you just make me forget like them?" she really looked quite desperate, the want of having the past few traumatic minutes whipped from her mind obvious.

Harry strode over to her and crouched down, bring his face level with hers and causing her to lean backwards fearfully, which at any other time would have looked quite absurd; a grown woman cowering away from a gaunt teenager who looked like a stiff breeze would blow him away, clad only in boxers and an overly large t-shirt.

"Oh, but I want you to remember, Petunia," Harry sneered. "I want you to remember every time you looked away and pretended you didn't see anything. I want you to remember how many time's you've failed your sister's son over the years," he leaned in, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "And most importantly I want you to remember that I remember too. So, when they wake up in the morning I want you to tell them that you let me go because you were disgusted with what they were doing to me, let's see how they react to that shall we," he grinned wolfishly and Petunia shuddered. Facing down both Vernon and Dudley's wrath would not be easy but Harry had no sympathy for the woman.

"Lastly," she jerked her head up; hopes dashed that that was all he would ask of her. "People will come looking for me. You will simply tell them that I left after receiving my Inheritance, as that is the truth in all honesty. You are to tell no one of what you saw here though, just keep mentioning my Inheritance."

That should take care of any curses or truth potions she might be given and it would probably cover any torture she might receive as well as he said it was the truth. That was all that mattered really - that she believed she was telling the truth. He wasn't quite finished with her yet though.

"And Petunia," she looked up and Harry smiled quite pleasantly. "If you fail to do any of these things, especially the first ones, I will find out and I will be forced to return and make good on my promise of killing you all."

What little colour had returned to her face vanished instantly and she looked like she was about to faint.

"Right!" Harry said rather jovially, standing up. "Now that that's out of the way, let's take care of these two."

At Petunia's choked whimper he rolled his eyes and grabbed the back of Vernon's collar, beginning to drag him towards the door and taking no care in being gentle.

"I meant get them back to bed," he called over his shoulder as he stepped into the hallway. "You deal with that one; I'm sure as hell never touching him again."

It was the work of a moment to drag Vernon into his room and to sling him on the bed, leaving it to Petunia to cover the vile man. He made his way back out into the hall and headed for the stairs, passing his aunt as she dragged Dudley's unconscious body from Harry's former prison, struggling to move him at all with her feeble strength.

Before going down the stairs Harry glanced back to check the holes in Dudley's neck and was pleased to see that they had completely closed over and looked more like bee stings now than bite wounds. His new teeth must secrete some type of healing liquid as they pierced the skin, making it so he could drink at his leisure but wouldn't have to worry about the human bleeding out when he finished.

On reaching the bottom of the stairs Harry took a sharp right and headed for the familiar little door under them, wrenching it open and snapping the lock in one quick move.

His trunk was where he'd thought it would be and he pulled it out and opened it, grabbing the first jeans and trainers that he could find and pulling them on before digging through a side pocket and yanking out a hairband, quickly tying his hair back in a messy ponytail.

He paused for a moment, debating whether to pick up his wand before deciding against it and closing the lid; there wasn't much he could do with it anyway with the Ministry tracking spells except summon the Night Bus and he wanted to avoid as many people seeing him leave as possible.

Hoping it would still work he waved his hand over the trunk and muttered a shrinking spell Hermione had shown him. To his delight it succeeded and the trunk shrunk down until it was the size of a matchbox which he picked up and pocketed.

Now that he had everything he needed he headed straight for the kitchen. He didn't want to go through the front door in case anyone was watching the house and the kitchen had an exit that suited his needs perfectly.

It was easy with his tiny frame to slip through the open window and he pushed it shut behind him knowing that Petunia would lock it; then he slunk up the little alley between the houses the window had deposited him in and reached a familiar bush.

The smell was quite overpowering but Harry wasted no time in reaching down and pulling out Hedwig's cage, her decomposing body still inside; there was not much left of her now as the maggot and other insects had mostly done their work, but her white feathers still gleamed under the light of the moon.

Once he had her Harry cut back and carefully jumped the fence into the neighbour's garden.

Keeping a sharp eye out he crossed the grass and jumped the far fence, landing him by the edge of a small wild area that Petunia had complained about for years. It was too densely grown for anyone to really venture there so it was perfect for what Harry intended.

After a while he came to a small area that matched his purpose and he set down Hedwig's cage.

Holding out his hand he whispered "defodio," and watched as the earth carved out a hole to his liking before he picked up Hedwig's cage and reverently set it inside. Another wandless spell sent the earth back, covering his owl's body and cage completely in a matter of seconds and he stood there for a moment, wondering if he should say anything. Nothing really seemed to cover the depth of his gratitude towards her being in his life, or his guilt for letting her down so badly.

"I'm sorry for failing you," was all he could come up with before turning away.

Instead of heading back the way he had come, Harry pushed on through the trees, knowing that he would come to the main road that was on the other side of the wild area.

Sure enough a few minutes later he stumbled out and found himself next to a familiar strip of tarmac. Then he puzzled over how to get to London and the Leaky Cauldron as the Night Bus was out and he had no muggle money. He could steal a car, as the drive was only an hour and a half, but he didn't know how to drive and after watching Ron's disastrous effort in second year he was quite put off attempting to get behind the wheel himself.

Frustrated he started off in the direction he knew led to London at a light jog, hoping something would come to him as he moved. However as soon as his body started moving he took note of just how fast his 'light jog' was. Curious he sped up to a run, then a sprint and watched in detached surprise as the world streaked past him at an inhumanly fast speed. At this rate if he could keep it up he would get to London in a few hours and he was grateful that there were no people on the road. As he got closer to the city though he had to take to the fields and side streets as more traffic started appearing.

Once in central London he slowed to what felt to him like a snail's pace after the speeds he had reached but to anyone else it would look like a brisk run and started looking for familiar landmarks, knowing he was in the right area of the city.

All in all it had taken him less than three hours and he wasn't even out of breath.

Spotting a familiar street Harry jogged down it and it wasn't long before he was standing in front of the Leaky Cauldron.

Glancing around and spying no one he tried the door and it seemed a little stiff before a firm twist had the door swinging open. He stepped inside, relieved to find the smoky room empty although that was no surprise at this early hour.

Just as he was wondering if he should just make himself comfy in one of the more hidden corners a door behind the bar burst open and the innkeeper, Tom, jumped out, wand raised threateningly.

Harry immediately sank into a ready position, feeling the red mist start to rise in his mind as he tensed.

"Mr Potter!"

The wand was lowered but Harry remained in his stance, no longer prepared to trust someone just because they looked like they weren't about to attack.

"Hello, Tom," he said warily.

"Well, this is a surprise. Can't say you're who sprung to mind when my alarm went off. How did you get past the wards and the deadbolt? It's mighty early, is everything alright?"

Surprised, Harry glanced towards the door. There was from this side a certain look of stress in the wood around the lock, but that didn't explain why the wards hadn't stopped him. Maybe they hadn't because he had meant no harm.

"Er, I may have broken your lock but the wards didn't stop me. I'll cover any damage, sorry Tom. Everything's fine, I just had a bit of trouble getting here," Harry tried to say casually, still rather tense. The older man seemed to buy it beyond giving the door a slightly baffled look and pressed no further.

"So, I guess you'll be needing a room then? None of the shops will be open for a few more hours."

Harry nodded, warming to the idea of sleeping in a proper bed in a private room.

"Yes, that'd be great, thanks."

"Well, I've got your usual room open right now."


Tom beamed at Harry, making his face wrinkle like an old prune and plucked a key off the mismatched stand before making his way around the bar.

As he approached Harry, the boy noticed a strange look come over his face; his pupils expanded until there was only a tiny ring of brown around them and his eyes glazed, leaving him with a slightly slack-jawed expression. The closer he got the more affected he seemed to be and he reached out a hand towards Harry.

Suddenly Harry was no longer in the inn with Tom shuffling towards him but back in that horrible little room, reeking mattress behind him and Dudley walking towards him from the door, eyes glazed with lust and large hand outstretched and reaching.

"Stay away!"

Harry blinked and the room vanished along with Dudley and he found himself back in the warm bar space of the Leaky Cauldron with Tom rubbing at his eyes looking a little confused.

"Terribly sorry, Mr Potter, don't know what came over me there. Must still be half asleep."

Harry clasped his hands behind his back, trying to hide how badly they were shaking and tried to give a reassuring smile.

"It's fine, Tom. Would you mind taking me to my room now?"

The remnants of whatever-it-was cleared from the old innkeeper's eyes and he led Harry to the stairs, clearly relieved to fall back in to a familiar routine.

Soon they were both standing in front of a door with the slightly wonky '11' plaque and Tom inserted the key in the lock, turned it and swung the door open, before handing Harry back the key.

"Here you go Mr Potter, just let me know if you need anything."

"Thanks, Tom," Harry said as he slipped past the man and for a moment Tom's eyes glazed over again and he swayed forward slightly. Harry instantly shut the door, trying not to slam it in his haste, and locked it securely before putting his ear to it and listening.

At first all he could hear was Tom's slightly strained breathing, but then the man gave a slight grunt, muttered that he was getting idiotic in his old age and shuffled away. Only then did Harry let out the breath he had been holding and he let his head fall back against the wood of the door with a little thump, closing his eyes in relief.

If even kind, if-a-little-slow Tom could scare him so badly that he had a flashback then he didn't really know what to do: if he wanted to disappear then he had to get some supplies from Diagon Alley, but that meant interacting with lots of other people, which was looking to be a serious problem.

Harry gave a groan in frustration, before opening his eyes and glancing around the room; looking for some sort of inspiration. It was exactly as he remembered; as though the passage of time for the room had simply frozen between his last visit and now.

Moving over to the bed he slumped on the edge of it, staring blankly at his tattered trainers.

The only thing he could come up with to make the experience as painless as possible was to head into Diagon Alley as soon as the shops opened, before the worst of the crowd arrived.

Grudgingly decided Harry pulled the tiny trunk from his pocket and placed it on the wooden boards by his feet: once enlarged he opened the lid and dug through; absentmindedly noting how few clothes were in there.

His searching fingers brushed the spine of a book and a little more digging revealed what he was looking for: his most recent edition of 'Defence Against the Dark Arts'.

He had several hours to kill as he was still buzzing with energy before the shops opened so his first course of action was to confirm whether or not he was a genuine vampire or if it was just some bizarre part of his Inheritance.

Making himself comfortable he opened the book on the index and ran his eyes down the page until he found 'Vampire, lamia.' Checking the page number he flicked though the pages until he found the section on them, noting rather dryly the large, gothic script pronouncing 'Vampire – the deadliest bloodsucker' as the cringe-worthy title.

The text underneath was little better and continued in the same over-dramatic style, the author stating several times that he thought they were the most deadly of all the monsters and most of it seemed his own personal musings rather than historic fact. Harry was surprised such a text was part of the school curriculum.

Through the inane babble he managed to pick out a few traits vampires were supposed to possess: the blood-sucking was a given, but Harry didn't particularly feel like he could turn into a bat. Nor did he have no heartbeat or breath; he pushed a hand to his chest just to make doubly sure and felt the reassuring rhythm under his fingers. The 'deathly pallor' was slightly true in that Harry was very pale, but it was no surprise after spending weeks locked in a room with no sunlight. His nails had not turned into 'claws like that of a lion' but he could put a tick besides incredible speed and strength. There was also something about having the ability to entrance or hypnotise potential prey/attackers leading the author to go on a long rant about the importance of never looking a vampire in the eyes.

Then the book delved in to how to go about defending against or killing a vampire, however there was a thick block of text beforehand stating that vampires were incredibly treacherous and to simply run if you ever encountered one as attempting to fight one would ninety-nine percent of the time lead to dying quiet horribly. However, when there was no other choice the list went in to quite gruesome detail on how to go about 'inhuming' a vampire: beheading and staking through the heart should work on anything not just vampires, so too extreme blood loss, but holy water? Or a crucifix and biblical verse? Was he Dracula or something? And what was this about him apparently bursting into flames in direct sunlight? He couldn't exactly confirm whether that was true or not for another couple of hours and, while he was quite convinced that it would not happen, the not knowing unsettled him.

Harry slowly made his way through the chapter, taking time to memorize as much as possible, and the sun was just starting to appear over the rooftops in the view from the window when Harry read the last paragraph where the author summed up his opinion on vampires: that they were all evil, bloodsucking monsters, utterly beyond redemption and had all gone over to Voldemort as they enjoyed killing and torture. The author's last line was: 'Such a species has no place in our world, but how to tackle, as a whole, such dangerous beings and see them wiped from the face of the earth? If you are interested in finding out more about this, please purchase my book "Evil in the Blood".'

Feeling a little disgusted Harry put the book to one side. He still couldn't say for sure if he thought he was a vampire or not, but he'd never really considered the extent of the way the human witches and wizards looked down on other magical races and it made grim reading of an author calling for genocide in a book given to children.

Realizing that he felt grimy physically as well after his night's activity and that he still had just over an hour to kill he rose from the bed and headed to the shower.

The warm spray did wonders and he felt like he was cleaner than he had been all summer.

Finally able to indulge - something that had been a rare treat even at Hogwarts when sharing a bathroom with four other boys, he took his time and emerged feeling much less panicked on the idea of being surrounded and potentially touched by many people.

On emerging he pulled on a pair of worn boxers and dug through his trunk, trying to find something that wasn't falling apart to wear. Finally he found a t-shirt and pair of jeans that had fewer holes than the rest and admitted that while in Diagon Alley it would be wise to buy some more clothes.

He dug out his battered old wallet and seeing how little money was in there knew Gringotts would be his first port of call.

As he stood he noticed that the daylight was starting to brighten the space as the sun had now risen over the rooftops and cast directly into his room. Glancing at the beam landing on the far wall he thought he better quickly test out whether he would burst into flames on direct contact with it or not in the relative privacy of his room, rather than on the street where anyone could see.

A little hesitantly he made his way over the wall and paused, then, before giving himself time to reconsider, he thrust his hand into the light.


He gazed at his hand, noting how ghostly it looked, before stepping into the light fully, so it covered the upper half of his body.

Still nothing: most certainly no bursting into flames.

Checking to see if his wandless magic still worked he summoned his hairband from across the room and it flew obediently into his hand.

As Harry tied his still wet hair back into a plait he realized that while the magic had worked it had somehow felt a little muffled.

Deciding to check again he waved a hand at the lid of his trunk and it closed. Again, while there was no resistance to the spell, his magic felt like it was more sluggish.

Frowning he stepped out of the light and waved his hand again; his trunk lid popped open. The feeling was still there but noticeably less. He supposed it was more than possible that his powers were stronger in the dark as it was not unheard of for a magical being's powers to be stronger at a certain time and weaker at another which was why so many spell and potions were set around certain times of the year.

Now satisfied that he would at least not burst into flames he glanced around one last time to ensure he had everything then picked up the key and unlocked the door before cautiously stepping out.