Disclaimer: This story is based on the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is not mine.
For the third time this week a skinny, short black haired, bespectacled boy was weeding the garden of his Aunt, Petunia Dursley at Number Four, Privet Drive. Most people paid no attention to the nearly teenager who worked from sunrise to sunset regardless of any pain or exhaustion he may be feeling. All of them knew he was nothing more than a troublemaker.
How wrong they were.
Harry Potter wasn't like most children his age. Besides the scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightening, Harry was a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A school that nearly all Muggles (non-magic folk) had never even heard of. None of them knew that he was a wizard in training or even the fact that witches and wizards exist which was why Harry's Aunt and Uncle lied to everyone about where Harry actually went to school.
Usually Harry was proud of his heritage but not this summer. One week into his summer vacation he had received a phone call from his friend, Ron Weasley. Unfortunately, his Uncle Vernon had answered the phone. After nearly an hour of yelling at how dare those 'freaks' call and prove their 'abnormality', Harry was punished…severely. He still had bruises from that punishment.
The night after the phone call incident Harry had sent his owl, Hedwig, off to stay at Ron's. The last thing Harry needed was to anger his uncle more. Since then Harry had been given a strict chore list and was punished if he didn't complete it by dusk.
That was three weeks ago and the chore lists were only getting longer.
In addition to the heavy chore work, Harry also had homework which his aunt and uncle would punish severely if they caught him doing. That left the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning when everyone else was sleeping, times when Harry desperately needed to rest.
Harry let out an exhausted sigh as his wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve. Today, like every day for the past week had been scorching hot. His uncle was currently at work while his aunt and cousin, Dudley, were out doing whatever they usually did during the day. No one bothered keeping Harry informed and Harry really didn't care. Just as long as they weren't bothering him.
Finally finishing the garden, Harry sat down on the lawn, wincing in pain as he did so, and pulled out the list of chores from his pocket. It was late afternoon and he still needed to clean the garage and make dinner. If the wizarding world could only see me now, he thought bitterly.
Knowing he couldn't wait much longer, Harry put the list back in his pocket and slowly stood up. The garage was going to take at least a few hours, possibly longer considering how sore his ribs were today. It amazed Harry how quickly three people could mess things up. Cleaning the garage was a weekly chore.
Harry let out another sigh as he slowly limped to the garage, his right leg throbbing in pain. He was certain Uncle Vernon had broken a bone and since it had been 'Harry's fault', medical attention was out of the question. Deep down Harry was starting to wonder if it was indeed his fault. His uncle had been strict and harsh before but never like this. How could one simple phone call push a man to the extreme?
Entering the garage, Harry didn't notice a pair of blue eyes watching every painful move he made, wanting nothing more than to rush to the boy's side and tell him everything but knowing he needed to be patient. This boy was nothing more than a slave and sooner or later he would need help. That much was certain.
Just like every night, Harry served dinner for his 'family' then went outside to eat a sandwich he had made for himself. He knew better than to hope for any leftovers, especially with Dudley eating like he was. Despite his diet, Dudley was still as fat as ever and didn't look like he would be losing any weight soon.
Lying down on the lawn and looking up at the stars, Harry silently told himself that it could always get worse. He knew he was going to have a hard time explaining his injuries as it was. How many people would believe the 'I fell down the stairs' excuse?
Harry was about to take a bite out of his sandwich when he felt like he was being watched. Ignoring the pain and sore muscles, Harry sat up and looked around. He was about to hurry inside when the sound of an animal whining in the nearby bushes caught his attention.
Slowly and carefully, Harry approached the bushes and knelt down. His head was screaming at him to leave the possibly dangerous creature but something in his heart told him to help the animal. He needed to help this animal.
Pushing the bushes back, Harry looked down to see a large black dog laying down in the brush and was looking at him with sorrowful blue eyes. The dog let out another whine but didn't move. Odd behavior for a dog.
"Er—hello," Harry said nervously. "Are you lost?" Stupid question, Harry. Really stupid. He really didn't know what to do or say to a stray dog. Moving to a more comfortable position, Harry ripped his sandwich in half and offered one portion to the dog. "It's chicken," he said softly. "Dog's like chicken, right?"
The dog finally moved. Harry watched as the dog slowly took the offered food and ate it. Eating his own portion, Harry kept an eye on the dog whose gaze remained on Harry the entire time. Harry didn't know if the dog was trying to figure out something or debating whether to eat him or not.
After his third bite Harry couldn't take it anymore. "You know this would be a lot easier if you weren't looking at me like that," he said truthfully. "I know you're hungry but this is all I'm going to have for dinner. I can try to bring out more for you after they've gone to bed but my uncle can't know about you. Deal?"
The dog crawled forward and rested his head on Harry's lap, looking up with the 'puppy dog eyes' that made Harry groan in frustration. He really didn't have the strength to fight a one sided battle with a dog tonight.
"Look, I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "But my uncle—I really don't know what's wrong with him. He's so angry this summer. I can take it but I'd hate to see him take his anger out on anyone else."
Without even realizing what he was doing Harry started to pet the dog. Even though he had just met the dog there was a strange familiarity that Harry couldn't ignore. He didn't know why he felt it now and not before but at the moment Harry could care less. He needed to talk to someone and right now this dog was the only thing that would listen.
"Some times I wonder if my life was cursed the night Voldemort failed to kill me," he said all of a sudden. "Every year it just gets harder and harder. I lived in a cupboard under the stairs for ten years, found out that I'm—er—different, then go off to school where I end up fighting for my life every year. I mean, how many times can Voldemort try to come back?"
The dog looked up at Harry in surprise but Harry was too deep in thought to notice. "I guess it's my own fault," Harry continued. "I went searching for the stone and I went into the Chamber on my own accord. I guess I felt like I had to be the one to stop him. He killed my parents. He's the reason I'm trapped here…with them."
Harry let out a sigh and shook his head slowly. "This is just sad," he said mostly to himself than to the dog. "I shouldn't feel sorry for myself like this. It only makes everything seem worse. I'm just scared. How can I hide this from my friends? How can I hide it from Dumbledore? If they knew what it was really like here…"
The bellowing of his uncle's voice made Harry let out a frustrated groan. He quickly finished the rest of his sandwich then looked down at the dog. "Stay hidden," Harry said softly. "I'll bring out what I can when they've gone to bed."
To say Harry was surprised to see the dog hurry into the bushes and hide was an understatement. It was almost like the dog knew exactly what he was saying but that was impossible. Dogs couldn't understand human speech, at least entire sentences and reasoning.
Uncle Vernon's shouting voice brought Harry back to the present. Standing up, Harry was unable to suppress a wince as pain flared from his ribs. Not wanting to endure any more yelling or punishment, Harry hurried back into the house where he spent the next hour and a half cleaning the kitchen. He knew the routine by now. If the kitchen wasn't spotless, he was punished. Basically, if Harry did anything besides acting like an obedient house elf, he would be punished.
He had finally finished only to hear the Dursleys heading upstairs for the night. Letting out a sigh of relief, Harry made a few more sandwiches as quietly as possible. He really didn't know how much to feed a stray dog but as thin as the dog looked Harry figured the more the better.
Ignoring his own exhaustion, Harry snuck back outside and limped over to where the dog should be hiding. The dog must have noticed him approaching and slowly came out. It was strange that something so simple as a stray dog could make a teenage boy happy but this dog brought some sense of normalcy. To the dog, Harry wasn't a freak or the-boy-who-lived. Harry was just Harry.
They sat there in silence while the dog ate. It seemed rather odd for a dog to slowly eat when it appeared to be starving but Harry didn't voice his opinion. He was too afraid to lose his new friend.
Realizing that it was extremely late, Harry knew that if he didn't start his homework he wouldn't get anything done tonight. He still had Potions, History and Transfiguration to complete which were bound to be stressful and confusing. Professor McGonagall was strict and demanding for Transfiguration, Professor Snape was unfair and mean for Potions and Professor Binns was annoyingly boring for History of Magic. Not too much incentive for Harry to jump in and complete his assignments.
The feeling of something wet brushing his hand brought Harry out of his thoughts. He quickly looked down and saw those big blue eyes staring at him worriedly. "You know, if you're going to stick around I should think of something to name you," Harry said with a grin. "What do you think of Midnight?"
The dog barked happily, forcing Harry to quickly look up at the bedroom windows. Thankfully no one had heard the noise. Rubbing the back of his sore neck, Harry returned his attention to Midnight. "We need to be quiet," he said softly. "I don't want Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia to see you. They'll probably punish me for just having you on their lawn."
Midnight let out a growl which made Harry laugh. "I don't like them very much either," he said candidly then turned serious. "It's kind of hard to like someone who treats you like dirt. It's times like this when I wonder how my mum and aunt could be even remotely related. People tell me how kind and smart she was. I wish I could remember her. I wish I could remember both of them. At least then I would know for sure if anyone ever loved me."
Harry let out a sigh and shook his head. He really needed to stop thinking about his pitiful life. It was only making him feel worse and right now that was the last thing Harry needed. He needed to figure out how to last for another month without too many more punishments.
Staring off in the distance, Harry didn't notice the sorrowful look in Midnight's eyes. At that moment the dog knew his plans had changed. He had heard enough to know there were more pressing matters. He would do everything in his power to make sure that fool, Dumbledore, found out the truth of what was happening at Number Four, Privet Drive.
For the remainder of the week it was difficult to see Harry without his new companion, Midnight, while he worked on his chores during the day. Harry brought the dog food whenever he could and spent any free moment he had with the devoted animal. Every night Harry would vent his frustrations and even tell the dog about what he had been through. For some strange reason Midnight seemed to enjoy it.
It had only taken two days for Harry to give into the 'puppy dog eyes' and sneak Midnight into the house. From then on, Midnight slept on the foot of Harry's bed. Harry couldn't explain it but he just felt safer with the large black dog there although it was the dog's safety Harry worried about every moment of the day and night. He meant what he told Midnight. He could take the punishments but he couldn't stand to see anyone hurt because of him.
Harry's increasing chore lists didn't help matters either. It was becoming a habit for Harry to doze off at odd times only to be woken by Midnight licking his hand. His muscles were always sore, he felt weak and he was starting to have hot and cold flashes which were annoying to no end. Seeing his reflection every morning, Harry knew he was getting sick. The problem was Uncle Vernon didn't care. He still demanded the chore lists to be completed on time.
Deep in sleep Friday night, Harry didn't notice the bed shake as Midnight jumped off. He was too exhausted to notice anything. He was shivering from fever which caused him to wince as pain flared from his injured ribs. Harry bit his lower lip as he whimpered. Years of neglect and experience embedded in Harry's mind told him not to cry out. It would only anger Uncle Vernon more.
A gentle hand touched Harry's face like it had for the past few nights. It felt cool in contrast to his burning face. He leaned into the coolness as fingers ran through his hair. If Harry had been awake he probably would have been frightened to see a stranger in his room and he probably would have been even more frightened by the condition the stranger was in.
Wearing a tattered black cloak over his ragged striped clothes, the man stared at the battered teenager with guilt. He had been horrified to hear of how difficult the boy's life had been so far. Living with a family who hated him, knowing nearly nothing about his parents, facing Voldemort twice in as many years, and even killing a basilisk were things a child shouldn't be doing. The man had desperately wanted to take the boy into hiding just to keep him safe but knew that could never happen. He couldn't kidnap the boy now despite how justified it was.
The boy had a broken leg and at least a few broken ribs on top of the countless bruises and sore muscles from the slave labor he was put through every day. He was surprised when he first saw the boy who was so small for his age but after a few 'stories' it was clear that the boy was indeed abused (physically, verbally and emotionally) as well as neglected. It angered the man to hear of someone acting this was towards a child, especially this child.
Harry Potter was a kind and compassionate boy who needed someone to love him. Why hadn't anyone seen this? Why hadn't anyone been by to check on the boy or his living conditions? Anyone who knew anything about Lily Potter's family would know that Petunia Dursley hated anything connected to magic. Why would anyone leave Harry Potter here of all places?
"Don't worry kid," the man said quietly. "I'll take care of everything. I promise."