Disclaimer: J.K.R. owns Harry Potter and co., not me (I wouldn't mind owning Sev though).  This story is slightly (basically bits of the plot ideas; just technical stuff) inspired by Minnionette's A Gutter Rat's Tale and Dauphin's Let History Repeat Itself.  Niamh O'Feir, Jardin, Mika Davids, Darcorn's, and anything else you don't recognize belongs to me.

Chapter 16 – What a Dratted Summer…

"Get up!  Up!  Now!"

Harry groaned and shifted on his cot in the cupboard under the stairs.  It was just three weeks after he had arrived at the Dursley's, fresh out of his first year at Hogwarts.  He had found three friends, a fourth in his raven (who could talk and was over a hundred years old), and defeated the most feared Dark wizard since Grindelwald for the second time in his life.  And yet, here he was, stuck in a broom cupboard with a rickety cot and a thin blanket with only the spiders and a disgruntled Jardin for company.

"Get up you mangy little brat!"

Okay, now he was awake.  And angry.  Harry threw the blanket aside and shoved the door of the cupboard open, ducking his head as he stormed out, moving past his Aunt Petunia into the kitchen.  His uncle and whale of a cousin were already there, sitting at the table.  Dudley stuck his tongue out at him and Harry scowled in return, earning a box on the ear for it.

Petunia snapped in her fingernails-on-chalkboard voice, "Cook the bacon, boy!  And don't burn it!"

Harry, still scowling, complied.  Aunt Petunia had told him already that if he wanted to return to that 'freak' school of his, he'd have to work for it.  Or he wouldn't be going back.

Harry snorted at the thought.  It would be simple enough to break his way out of the cupboard and run with Jardin.  He had smartly kept his wand with him when he had put all his other things in his trunk – even if they had been told not to use magic over the holidays.  Certainly if he ran he wouldn't have his trunk but he could get other books with the money in his Gringotts vault.  He had also smartly kept his father's invisibility cloak with him.  It, his wand, and Jardin were his most prized possessions – not that he actually considered Jardin a possession; more like a friend.

Speaking of which…

AH!  Breakfast!

Harry wasn't the least bit startled when Jardin's voice had echoed through his head.  If he had, he'd be sporting severe burns on his hands.  He had gotten used to the raven's voice since he had gotten him Christmas morning.

Jar, what in the bloody heck are you doing?

Catching breakfast.  There are some delectable looking spiders in here.

Harry grimaced.

Jar.

Yes?

That's gross.

Correction.  …gulp…  That's breakfast.

Harry rolled his eyes and laughed mentally at the raven before taking the bacon out of the pan and putting it onto plates.  He carried them to the table and handed one to his aunt, uncle, and cousin then sat down with his own.  Under his aunt's piercing gaze he finished it quickly then went back to the cupboard, giving the rinds and a piece of toast to Jardin.

Ah!  Bacon rinds and a slice of toast.  Such a wonderful breakfast you had.

Shut up, Jar, snapped Harry then turned to take the list of chores from his aunt.  She looked down her nose at him in a way that reminded him rather of Malfoy and snapped, "I want those down by this afternoon.  No exceptions!"

Harry nodded and set to work.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/

"Gods…"

Jardin hopped from his perch on one of the narrow shelves in the cupboard to Harry's back.  Harry had come in just a moment before, moaned, and collapsed facedown on the cot.

Something wrong?

Yeah.  All the sodding work I have to do.  Have you seen my cousin?  My aunt should get him to do some of the work.

And your uncle?

He's actually not that bad.  Terrified of Aunt Petunia though.  I think she's a relation to Malfoy.

Jardin laughed in both their heads and said, Perhaps.  She has the face for it!

Harry lifted his head and looked over his shoulder to grin at the raven standing on his back.

"Good poin'."

"Shut up!!"

Jardin jumped and gave a startled squawk.

"And keep that bird quiet!"

Harry was half tempted to tell Jardin to squawk again but didn't dare risk it.  He had the feeling his aunt could get rather testy and he was not in the mood – nor would he ever be – to be beaten again.  Argil had been enough.

Thinking of Argil started him thinking of Tyls and he wondered where his friend was now.

Harry?

Go to sleep, Jar.

Ah, but there is a very large spider crawling on your leg.

Harry looked down and flicked it off.  It hit the wall with a soft splat and fell to the floor.  Jardin flapped down after it and as Harry turned over onto his back, he heard the sound of the raven gulping something down.

Thank you.

Welcome.  Now go to sleep.

Hmm.

Jardin hopped back up to nestle down on the pillow beside Harry's head as the boy pulled the ragged blanket over himself and fell asleep.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/

As July 31 rolled around, Harry began to wonder if his friends had forgotten about his birthday.  He thought he remembered telling them about it but couldn't remember for certain.  And shouldn't they have sent him a letter by now?  Maybe he could sneak Jardin out tonight and send something to Niamh.

Quirking a smile at the thought, Harry brushed the sweat off his brow and went back to weeding the garden.  It was blazing hot outside and he had taken off his shirt, revealing his scars, which showed white against his pale skin.  He was sure he saw the old woman who lived across the street wince when she had walked by earlier.  Shrugging, he dug the trowel deeply into the dirt.

And a voice sprang out at him.

"Stupid human!"

Harry jumped and watched as a small black snake with sparkling black eyes slithered out from behind the plant he had been trying to dig up.  He peered at it and said, "Was tha' you?"

The snake blinked and looked up at him.

"You can understand me?"

Harry jumped again and fell back onto the ground, staring at the snake.  He sputtered, "I' was you!"

"Of course it was," said the snake irritably, reminding Harry of his Head of House, Professor Snape.  "But I have never heard a human speak back to me."

Harry snorted and said, "Well, I 'aven't talked ter a snake before."

"Hmm.  Strange.  What were you doing?"

"Weedin'.  Me aunt makes me."

"Why?" asked the snake.

Harry shrugged.  "I doan know.  Jardin thinks she's a relation ter Malfoy."

"Who is Jardin?  And Malfoy?"

"Jardin is me raven – he c'n talk as well.  An' Malfoy is a bloody bastard who goes ter me school."

"I see…," said the snake.  "Could I perhaps stay on you while you weed?  And talk?  I have not talked in anyone in so long…"

Harry nodded and said, "Sure."  He let the snake wrap around his wrist then continued weeding, talking to it all the while until Aunt Petunia stormed out of the house and shrieked, "Boy!  Get inside!"

She then spotted the snake and started towards him, rage flashing across her face.  Harry staggered for a moment in surprise but stood his ground, eyes flashing.  Aunt Petunia pointed at the snake and hissed, "And get rid of that thing, you little freak."  She slapped him hard then turned and went back into the house.

Harry rubbed his cheek, feeling the bone underneath ache.  As summer had progressed he had grown a few inches and his cheekbones had become more pronounced, making him look like a corpse Aunt Petunia said.

Looking down at the black snake he asked, "Did ye hear her?"

"Yes, I did.  She is not a nice woman.  She has killed many of my kind."

"I'm sorry."

"It was not your fault.  I shall go now."

Harry placed the snake back on the ground and asked, "Will I see ye again?"

The snake looked up at him and replied, "I do not know.  Perhaps we shall meet again.  Until then."  With that it had vanished into the grass.

Heaving a sigh, Harry shrugged back into his shirt then put the tools back into the shed before heading inside to find out what Aunt Petunia wanted.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/

When he was eating lunch, Uncle Vernon suddenly said, "Mr. and Mrs. Mason are coming over tonight for dinner.  If everything goes well, this could be the biggest deal of my career."

Aunt Petunia smiled and said, "That's wonderful, dear!"  She then turned to Harry and snarled, "And you, of course, know where you'll be?"

Harry nodded and glumly replied, "In me cupboard na makin' a soun'."

"And if you do anything to ruin this, you know what will happen."

Harry nodded again, knowing full well she was talking about his going back to Hogwarts or not, then sent a furious scowl at Dudley for laughing at his accent.  He then dumped his plate in the sink and went to finish his chores.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/

Just before the Mason's arrived, Aunt Petunia shoved Harry towards the cupboard and hissed, "Remember what I said, boy.  One sound out of you or that bird and you won't be going back to that freak school of yours."

"Yeh, Aunt Petunia."

She sneered at him then left.  Harry sighed and headed for the cupboard.  As soon as he reached the door Jardin's voice blasted into his mind.

HARRY!!!

Harry winced and snarled, I'm right here, Jar!  What in the sod did you yell for?

We've got trouble.

What? snapped Harry irritably, hearing Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia greeting Mr. and Mrs. Mason in the next room.

It's a house-elf.

A WHAT?!

A house-elf , replied Jardin.  A rather…bouncy house-elf.

Is that bad thing?

In a house full of Muggles?  Yes.

Harry cursed under his breath then said, What does he want?

I would not know as I can't speak to house-elves.

"Oh, bloody 'ell," hissed Harry under his breath then shot into the cupboard as Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon began to lead Mr. and Mrs. Mason towards the dining room.  He closed the door as quietly as he could then turned to see a little creature with large, bat-like ears and tennis ball sized green eyes.  It was wearing what looked like an old pillowcase.

"Um…'ello," said Harry uncertainly, glancing at Jardin.  The raven looked back at him from his perch and shrugged.

The creature said in a high voice, "Harry Potter!  Dobby has waited long to see you!"

Harry heard the voices from the dining room falter and whispered, "Thank ye but…who are you?"

"Dobby, sir.  Dobby the house-elf."

"Okay.  I 'ave ter tell ye, this is na a good time fer me ter have a house-elf in my – erm…"

Cupboard? suggested Jardin.

Shut it, you, spat Harry, annoyed.

"…my bedroom, I guess."

Bedroom?  Ha!

Jar… growled Harry warningly, giving the raven the Evil Eye.

Harry turned back to Dobby and asked, "Erm – is there any reason why yer 'ere?"

"Yes, sir!" cried Dobby, "Dobby came to tell you something, sir…very important, sir…  But Dobby does not know where to start…"

"The beginnin'?" suggested Harry, listening to the voices drifting out of the kitchen.

"Dobby has come…Dobby has come to warn Harry Potter!"

"Warn me?  Warn me abou' wha'?"

The house-elf bounced up and down, his eyes shifting back and forth.

"Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!"

Harry looked taken aback.

"But…I 'ave ter go back.  Tha's my world.  I doan belong 'ere!  I can'na stay 'ere!"

Dobby shook his head wildly and squeaked, "If Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger!"

Jardin snorted mentally and said, When is that not so?

Harry glared at the raven then asked, "Wha' danger?"

"A plot, Harry Potter!  A plot to make very bad things happen!  Harry Potter must not go back!  You is too important, sir!"

"Terrible t'ings?" said Harry, arching an eyebrow.  "Who's plannin' them?"

Dobby's eyes went wide and he made a choking sound before beginning to bash his head against the floor.  Harry jerked him off it and looked at Jardin.

What in the bloody hell was that about?

House-elves are bound to wizarding families.  If they say something bad against their family, they must punish themselves.

Bound?  Like me and you?

There was a pause then Jardin said, Something of the sort.

'Something of the sort' he says… grumbled Harry then let go of Dobby, who was hiccoughing.

"Shhh," he whispered, straining his ears to hear for voices in the dining room.  They had faltered at the sound of Dobby bashing his head against the floor then slowly rose again.  He sighed with relief then turned back to Dobby.

"Okay.  Ye can'na tell me, I get tha'.  But does i' 'ave ter do with Voldemort?"

Dobby clapped his hands over his ears and moaned, "Do not say the name, sir!"

"Okay, okay!"  Harry waved his hands frantically and took a deep breath.

"Okay, does i' 'ave anything ter do with You-Know-Who?"

Dobby shook his head and said, "Not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir.  No, no, no…"

Harry frowned then said, "But who else cou' make somthin' 'orrible happen at Hogwarts?"

Dobby bounced on his feet some more, eyes wide as though he were trying to give Harry a hint.

"Nothin' c'n happen a' Hogwarts, Dobby.  Dumbledore's there."

"Albus Dumbledore is a great Headmaster.  Yes, sir.  But there are things he…things no decent wizard…"  He suddenly began to pound his head on the floor again, at the same time shrieking, "Bad Dobby!  Bad!"

Harry grabbed a sock and shoved it into his mouth to stop the sound.  He heard the voices from the dining room falter then pick up again.  Sighing with relief, he removed the sock from Dobby's mouth.

"Okay.  So, somthin's goin' ter happen.  But I still can'na stay 'ere, Dobby.  Think of me friends!"

"Friends who do not send you letters?"

Harry blinked then scowled down at the house-elf.  He snarled, "How do ye know me friends 'aven't been writing ter me?"

Dobby reached into his pillowcase and pulled out a wad of envelope's, shaking all the while under Harry's furious scowl.  "Harry Potter mustn't be angry at Dobby…"

"Ye've been stoppin' me letters?" growled Harry in a low voice dripping with rage as he recognized Hermione's neat writing, Ron's untidy scrawl, and Niamh's spidery hand among the letters.

"Harry Potter must forgive Dobby…he thought – he thought if Harry Potter thought his friends had forgotten him he would not want to go back to school…"

Harry was becoming angrier by the minute.  Jardin cautioned in his head, Easy, Harry.  Easy.   But Harry wasn't listening.  He made a lunge at Dobby, who jumped nimbly away, clutching the letters to his chest.

"Harry Potter will have them if he promises not to go back to Hogwarts."

Harry snapped, "I already told ye, I can'na stay 'ere!"

Dobby looked sadly at him and said, "Then Dobby is sorry, sir."  The house-elf dashed out of the cupboard.  Harry cursed and followed him, Jardin flapping after him.  He darted into the kitchen and saw Dobby crouched on a shelf.  Aunt Petunia's pudding was floating in midair.  Harry looked up at it then at Dobby as Jardin came to land on his shoulder.

"Dobby, please…"

"Harry Potter must promise!"

"I can'na!"

"I am sorry, Harry Potter," said Dobby mournfully and disappeared with a loud crack.  The pudding crashed to the floor, sending glass and cream splattering everywhere.  Harry sputtered and spit some out of his mouth.  On his shoulder, Jardin made an indignant sound.

Suddenly Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon charged into the kitchen.  Aunt Petunia saw the mess and glared at him.  Striding forward, she grabbed him by the collar and hissed, "Clean this up, boy.  And you won't be going back to that freak school of yours anymore."  She threw the mop at him then dragged Uncle Vernon back into the dining room.  As Harry started scrubbing the kitchen clean, a huge barn owl suddenly swept into the kitchen through the dining room, earning a shriek and a run from Mrs. Mason.  He clearly heard Mr. Mason saying something about his wife being afraid of birds then the slam of the door.  A moment later Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon entered the kitchen again.

Aunt Petunia pointed at the barn owl and the letter tied to its leg.  She hissed, "Read it."

Harry cast a look at Jardin, who was standing on the counter cleaning his feathers, then walked over to the owl.  As soon as he untied the letter from its leg, it flew off.  He opened it and read it out loud.

Dear Mr. Potter,

We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.

As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree of Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).

We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non-magical community (Muggles) is a serious offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy.

Enjoy your holidays!

Yours sincerely,

Mafalda Hopkirk

IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE

Ministry of Magic

Harry swallowed hard and Jardin said solemnly, A deep puddle we are in now, my friend.

Aunt Petunia gave him a feral grin and said, "Forgot to tell us you can't do magic out of school, didn't you?  Must have slipped your mind, aye?  Well, you won't be going anywhere anymore, boy."

"Petunia, perhaps…" began Uncle Vernon.

"Shut up, Vernon."

Uncle Vernon closed his mouth and gave Harry a rather sad, pitying look.  Aunt Petunia snarled, "Finish cleaning up the kitchen then back into your cupboard, boy."  As she started to leave the room she yelled, "And get rid of that bloody raven!  I don't want to see it in my house again!"  She stormed out of the room, followed a moment later by Uncle Vernon.

Harry sighed then turned to look at Jardin, who was preening on of his wings.

Jar.

I heard, Harry.

Go to Ron's.  Tell him to come get me the hell out of here.   I don't care what it takes.  I want out.

Jardin bobbed his head in a nod and said, I will.  Good luck.

Go, said Harry, ducking his head.  He heard Jardin fly out the open window in the dining room then silence.  Sighing, he set back to cleaning.