Disclaimer: Harry Potter and the wonderful world of J.K. Rowling.. are quite obviously not mine. It's hers. I have tried in many respects to stick with the cannon, but must confess that I no longer recall where the cannon ends and fanfiction begins. Therefore, if I swipe some element that is neither mine nor Ms. Rowling's, I apologize, please be flattered, it is only because what you have written was so good that if has ingrained itself as cannon in my mind.

Author's note: I have been haunting the halls of Hogwarts Fan Fiction for some time now. This however is my first attempt at contributing to the tradition, please be kind. ( R&R praise and constructive criticism both appreciated.

"" = speech

* * = thoughts

Fall of Shadows – Chapter 1 – The Start of the Fall

A small boy lay motionless, huddled on a dirty mattress that had been thrown half-hazardly in the corner of the small room. A thin line of light lay across his body from the crack in the door. The rest of his beaten body lay shrouded in the shadows of the small space. The air of the room was stagnant, smelling in that subtle way that goes entirely unnoticed when one is exposed to the smells every day. But to the new comer the smells of blood, sweat and tears was all too apparent, overwhelming and horrifying...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FLASHBACK~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

When Harry Potter returned home for his fifth summer since finding out his true heritage, he never imagined that his situation at the Dursleys could become worse. They hadn't taken kindly to the threats made by Moody and the rest of the Order. And without the threat of Harry's godfather around, there was little to motivate them to treat him decently. The Dursleys had been only too happy to rub his nose in the letter from Hoggwarts that told of Sirius' death at the Department of Mysteries.

"Convict of a Godfather can't help you now, can he boy!?!" Uncle Vernon had shouted as he thrust him into the back seat of the Dursley's car.

"How's it feel to be responsible for your own Godfather's death?" Dudley had crowed as he drove his elbows into Harry's sides as they rode back to Privet drive from Kings' Cross Station.

But Harry had been too numb to care he had lost one of the few things he had had that was worth fighting for. What point was there now. He had conveniently driven away what few friends he had left, endangering them yet again. Harry though to himself that he was glad that Ron was still speaking to him enough that he had agreed to take Hedwig home with him until Harry could guarantee that Hedwig would be safe at Privet Drive for the summer. Harry hated to admit to himself that he wouldn't have blamed the red head if he had refuse.

And so Harry Potter had arrived at Number 4 Privet Drive, only to be roughly shoved into his cupboard. HE listened to the sound the lock clicking into place. A few minutes later he heard what could only be his trunk clattering down the stairs as it was unceremoniously shoved into the basement. Harry groaned quietly as he fell back on to the bare mattress that had served as his bed for the first ten years of his life – things were not looking good if he was back in the cupboard under the stairs. As he lay in the quiet of his cupboard his thoughts drifted back to Sirius and he fell into the numb disconnected state that had consumed so much of his time over the past weeks.

The next morning Harry was awakening as the door to his cupboard was thrown open and a swift kick caught him between the shoulder blades.

"Get up, boy!" Roared Uncle Vernon –"Make breakfast, and then you have 10 minutes to get cleaned up in the bathroom."

When Harry was slow to rise, he was yanked to his feet by his hair and thrown into the kitchen. He went to the stove to make the bacon and eggs,

*looks like Dudley's off his diet again* though harry

He snitched a piece of bacon, knowing that once the platter hit the table he would never be allowed to have any. No sooner, however, had the bacon touched his lips than he was grabbed by the neck by a beefy hand. Another hand grabbed him by the wrist and his own small hand was shoved dangerously close to the burning coil.

"You will not steal from us, boy, or you will find your hand IN that fire!" Vernon growled. "Now hurry up and finish with that before you bathroom privileges are revoked entirely."

The large hands released him and Harry Struggled not to stumble as he regained control over his own body.

*Oh yeah* thought Harry *this is going to be a Greeeeeaaaat summer*

The rest of the week progressed similarly with Harry getting up early to make breakfast, then showering quickly with cold water while the Dursleys ate. The only advantage to showering last was that when the hot water ran out, and it always did, he couldn't logically be blamed for it. That didn't mean that he wasn't both blamed and punished for it, but at least he knew that the blame was unfounded.

Harry would then return downstairs to clean up the breakfast dishes consuming whatever scraps had been left behind – which were hardly ever were - and then collect the impossibly long list of chores that would need to be accomplished before Vernon returned from work around six. Despite the impossible length and ridiculous nature of the chores on the lists – encompassing everything from weeding the garden to re-roofing house to making Dudley's bead – Harry did his best and was usually finished by the time that Vernon made it home.

Petunia usually took pity on him around mid-day as long as he had managed to stay out of her hair for the morning. He'd get some toast and a small hunk of cheese. The only food that he was likely to see on a given day. And on really good days, Dudley would be off wreaking havoc with his gang instead of sabotaging Harry's attempts to complete his chores. Of course this meant that on bad days he ate nothing and Dudley managed to undo most of what he had done before the day was done.

But as far as Harry was concerned it was par for the course and he truly deserved nothing better. After all it was better than he would be seeing in Azkaban, and that was where he probably belonged. After all he had now gotten two people killed, who knew who was next.

Oddly, the never ending work pleased Harry, it kept his mind off of Cedric, and Sirius, and Voldemort, and the atrocious way he had treated Dumbledore at the end of the term. He could only imagine how horrible next year would be once the headmaster told his head of house about his behavior. Snape wouldn't be the only one giving him a hard time. There wouldn't be a professor in the entire school who was willing to speak a civil word to him after the way he had behaved.

But none of that was importatn while he was working. He had to focus on the chores before him if he was to finish them without injuring himself, much less finish them at all, and in Harry's mind that was a good thing.

Of course, Harry's performance was never good enough to please Uncle Vernon, but then that was no surprise. Vernon would come home, immediately inspecting the multitude of chores he had laid out for his nephew. When the work was in some way lacking, Vernon would privately cheer an evil smile creeping over his large face, and he would know Harry upside the head and about the shoulders for the lack of attention to a particular deed before sending him to his cupboard without dinner. When the work was perfect, the punishment was much worse as Vernon would fly into a range whipping to Harry with his belt until all Harry could do was crawl into his cupboard, happy for the little solace and safety he would find in the small space.

Harry was working out in the yard later that week when he was startled by the sudden weight on his shoulder. He winced as the snowy bird tightened he nails on his already bruised shoulder in an attempt to gain his attention.

"Hey Hedwig." Harry murmured, briefly running his fingers in the soft feathers of the bird's chest.

It was late afternoon and Harry glanced around nervously. If Vernon caught Hedwig out in the open like this he was likely to blow a gasket. Only then did he notice that there was a separate note tied to each of the bird's two feet. He untied the smaller of the two first, finding a brief not from Ron scrawled.

Hey Harry,

I thought I'd see if you were ready for Hedwig yet.

She's been asking for a note every day and I figured

that you'd probably need her anyway in order to send

a note off to the old crowd. Your supposed to be writing

– remember. ( Mum said to remind you so don't look at me like that!!!)

We're spending this summer you-know-where again,

so you can reach us there.

Mum's been pushing Dumbledore real hard to have you join us,

but Dumbledore said that there is no chance of you coming

before your birthday. So maybe you can visit after that.

Here's hoping.

Anyway, I gotta go, Mum's hollering – she's trying to get Ms/ Black off the wall again....

Later

Ron

P.S. Remember to write or you'll have Moody on your doorstep...

and if you thought the fake Moody was bad....

Harry sighed, *there's no way I'm going back to 12 Grimmwald place. Not this summer, not ever!*

Hedwig hooted nibbling at his ear, holding out the note tied to her left leg. Harry reached up and untied the note, grimacing as he raised his arms, the bruise from Vernon kicking him awake every morning made raising his arms above shoulder level annoying at best.

"Sorry Hedwig, I don't have any treats on me" Harry said sadly, hoping the owl would understand.

Hedwig just hooted softly and remained on his shoulder, waiting for her small master to read the letter that was now in his hands.

He opened the stiff parchment revealing a letter sealed with a green S. As he unfolded the letter, he glanced to the bottom and grimaced again as he saw the name Professor S. Snape scrawled in slivery black ink at the bottom. Glancing further up, he noted that the letter was written in his Professors typically angular writing, and sarcastic style.

Potter –

I would remind you that you have been instructed to write every three day this summer.

If you fail to do so, you will not enjoy the consequences.

While I am sure that you believe you are above such requirements,

I ensure you that your compliance with these instructions is not optional.

Should Dumbledore, Moody, or myself not hear from you by day's end,

appropriate actions will be taken.

-Professor S. Snape

*Great he thought, nothing like a threat from one's 'favorite' professor to brighten up one's day* Harry thought bitterly.

Sighing he thought *Is there anyone who isn't threatening me these days?*

He moved over to the corner of the yard, transferring the large bird on a low branch of one of the trees.

"You'll have to wait here while I get a pen and answer this, Hedwig" Harry whispered.

~~~~ Harry walked quietly in to the kitchen, knowing that there was a can with pens near the telephone in the kitchen. He had just palmed a pen when he heard someone enter the kitchen from the living room.

"What do you think you're doing inside boy?!" His aunt screeched.

Harry knew that he would have to think fast, he glanced up and noticed that he was right below the cupboard that held the cups.

"I was just going to get a glass of water, Aunt Petunia... it's hot work painting the garage, and the fumes were starting to get to me" Harry lied.

"You will do no such thing" Petunia spat grabbing him by the ear and dragging him to the back door.

"I won't have you paint covered hands all over my cabinets, if you want water, that's what the hose is for."

And with that she shoved him, still hiding the pen he had swiped, back outside.

Harry sighed, making his way to the back of the garage where Hedwig was hidden in the tree. He flipped over the not from Snape and sat below the tree as he contemplated what to write. Ultimately he ripped the parchment in half, writing a short note to Ron on the back of one and a note to Snape on the back of the other.

Ron –

Thanks for keeping Hedwig. I'm afraid that Uncle Vernon is still

unwilling to have her around here, so if you'd just send her back

every three days or so around noon that would probably be best.

I'll pay you back for owl treats and what-not when I see you.

Don't worry much about me visiting, I'm not really all that keen on

going back to Sirius' house anyway. I've gotta go because I have to

write my letter to the old crowd and I want to be done and have

Hedwig gone before Uncle Vernon gets home from work.

Harry

There he thought – he'd written a perfectly normal letter without writing anything to arouse suspicion or any lies. He was proud of himself. Now to write his update for the order.

Dear Professor –

I am well. I have not had any visions since the end of term.

While I do not see the need to update everyone as often as every

three days I will comply with the headmasters request. I only ask that

you allow one day's leeway in case Hedwig gets caught up in travel.

I will be sure to update you sooner should anything important happen.

-Harry

He knew that the letter wasn't exactly the greatest, but once again he had gotten away with being truthful while still not revealing anything of any importance. He hadn't mentioned the nightmares or the Dursley's behavior in the slightest. Harry paused to dig a small hole depositing the pen at the base of the tree he was seated under and covering it up before standing up. He smiled slightly as he tied to note to Hedwig's feet instructing her to deliver one to Professor Snape and the other to Ron.

"And Girl, you'd better wait for me back here from now on, it wouldn't do for Uncle Vernon to hear about Owls in his yard."

He turned to release Hedwig into the sky. In doing so, Harry missed seeing the outraged Vernon launching himself across the yard towards him. Harry turned, heading back to painting the garage, only to meet the meaty fist that punched him in the face.

* end chapter one*