Chapter one.

It was already three weeks into the school holidays, but for one particular boy, the passing of time was meaningless, irrelevant, and as such, he paid it no heed. Harry Potter sat cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom at number four, Privet drive, his green eyes dull and lifeless, as though the once vivid colour had seeped out along with his salty tears. The t-shirt and black jeans which hung off his thin body were filthy, caked in the sweat and stench of two weeks wear and his hair hung over his eyes in greasy clumps. His school trunk sat in the corner, opened, but still fully packed except for the quill, ink and parchment that sat on the bedside table, his only contact with the world he had once felt he belonged to.

This room had become his retreat, his haven, since his return, and nothing his Aunt or his Uncle said had broken through the defensive shields he had placed around his emotions. Whilst inwardly, he died a little more each day, consumed with guilt and sorrow, outwardly, his face remained a blank slate, all signs of any suffering carefully hidden from view. Nightly, he relived the death of his Godfather in his dreams, and nightly he reached out desperately, trying to save the man who's final expression of horror would forever be etched on his mind, a permanent reminder of his fatal mistake. Startled out of his reverie by a sharp knock on the door, Harry scrambled unsteadily to his feet as the door flew open, revealing a vastly large man, ruddy faced and bearing more than a slight resemblance to a mountain troll.

'Are you deaf, boy, or did you not hear your Aunt call you down to dinner?', the oversized man snarled, entering a few feet into the room.

Stepping back slightly, Harry stared blankly at his Uncle, as though not even seeing the man at all. It was the same scenario every day, at every mealtime, when either his uncle or his aunt would barge in, make some pathetic attempt to coerce him to eat, then depart with some smart remark about his health.

'I've told you before, I'm not hungry. How many times do I have to tell you that?', Harry said quietly, slipping over to his bed and sinking down onto the threadbare mattress. Absentmindedly, he plucked at the loose fabric of his jeans as his uncle remained inside the doorway, glaring at him with barely concealed anger,

'Just remember this, boy. I won't be carting you off to the hospital if you get sick. You can sit here and starve to death for all I care, but your Aunt and I will not be held responsible, so just you make sure you tell those freaky friends of yours that. Damned if I'll have them marching into our home accusing us of mistreating you'.

As the door to his room slammed shut violently, Harry lay back on the bed, staring at the many cracks and abrasions that marred the ceiling above. So often had he lain in such a way, that he had each area of the decrepid surface mapped out, the memorised pattern a testimony to his incessant lassitude. Rolling over onto his side, he gazed blankly at the wall, whilst painful thoughts danced across his mind, reinforcing the guilt he had already hoarded up. If he suffered, it was only what was due to him. It was his penance for the foolish mistake that had forfeited his godfather's life and placed so many of his friends in grave danger. As far as he was concerned, it was now safer to maintain an emotional distance from those he might inadvertently harm, and he had over the last weeks toiled incessantly to lock his feelings firmly away. Sure, he still experienced torrents of extreme anger, extreme pain and extreme self-hatred, but he had learnt, in the main, to efficiently conceal these.

Sitting up slightly, Harry turned his gaze towards the window. Darkness was rapidly drawing in, throwing him into shadow, but he made no motion to turn on the light. He had come to appreciate the darkness, as long as he was awake and not trapped in one of his nightmares. As he glanced to the empty cage standing beside the wardrobe, a sharp tapping heralded the arrival of it's occupant, most likely with the latest response from Remus. Sliding off the edge of the bed, he shakily made his way to the window, opening it as quietly as he could. The snowy owl flew in, circled the room once, then came to rest on the boy's shoulder, offering her leg obediently. Removing the parchment, Harry gently stroked the owl, whispering his usual words to her,

'I'm sorry, girl. I haven't got any food for you tonight either.'

The owl hooted once, nibbled his ear, then flew to settle on the window ledge, watching her owner pensively. Clutching the missive tightly, Harry closed the window and made his way back to the bed, perching on the very edge With fumbling fingers he unrolled the parchment, laid it on the blanket beside him and leant over to read the few lines of neat script.

'Dear Harry,

I am glad to hear you are managing alright at your relatives. It has been decided that you should spend the remainder of the holiday with the Order. Professor Snape and myself will therefore be collecting you in four days time from your current location. The reasons for your removal will be explained to you then. I look forward to seeing you again.

R. Lupin.

This may have been exactly the kind of letter Harry would have wished to receive at the same time last year, but not now. Now, all he wanted was to be left alone, to not have to face those who had also been witnesses to Sirius' death, who had been privy to his error of judgement. Gritting his teeth, he snatched the parchment up and screwed it into a small ball before hurling it across the room. He couldn't go back to that house and face the absence of the one who by all rights should still have been there. Every picture, every room, every inch of that place would serve to remind him that he was now entirely alone and that it was his fault. No, it was imperative that he remain where he was. With this thought in mind, he scrambled over the bed to sit cross-legged before the bedside table, reaching out to snatch up his quill and uncap the ink-bottle. A piece of blank parchment was already laid out and quickly, he scratched out his response, hoping it would be enough to stall the two Order members. As he checked over the finished note, he silently cursed his shaky hands, wondering if Remus would notice the difference in his handwriting.

Dear Remus,

I've been doing some thinking, and actually, I would much rather spend the remainder of the holidays here. The Dursleys are treating me really well and I don't want to be moved. I am sure that it is just as safe here as at Order headquarters, considering the number of wards in place. Maybe I can see you once the new term has started or something?


Hurredly. He rolled up the parchment, bound it with a small length of string and attached it to the awaiting owl's leg, stroking her head gently before she flew off into the night. Alone once more, he stood for a brief moment in the shadows, gazing out upon the myriad twinkling lights in the distance, wondering if he could ever be a part of that life; if he could ever simply be a normal teenage boy.